This analysis was published in several places: TNI, Links Journal and Red Pepper
In the famous Hans Christian Anderson fable, The Emperor's New Clothes, a weaver famously plays on an emperor's arrogance and persuades him to wear a non-existent suit with the argument that it is only invisible to the 'hopelessly stupid.' The moment of truth comes, as we can all remember, when a child in an otherwise silent crowd yells out, “But he is not wearing any clothes!” What we don't always recall is that the naked Emperor suspects the child may be telling the truth, but carries on marching proudly and unclothed regardless.
The story is a rather apt parallel for the Cancun climate agreements that were signed last week. Only one dissenting nation, Bolivia, dared to voice its dissent with the agreement. Yet their voice was silenced by the gavel of the Chair and by the standing ovations of 191 countries. They, like the Emperor, must know that the deal is naked and without substance, yet they march on proudly regardless.
This joint article with South African environmental lawyer, Cormac Cullinan, was published on TNI.
Psychology has become a fashionable tool in the climate world to try and understand the levels of climate denial exhibited most vocally by the rowdy cohort of climate naysayers. With the conclusion of climate talks in Cancun, a more relevant question seems to be whether our climate negotiators suffer from an even worse form of denial – one that accepts the climate science but knowingly signs agreements that do nothing to stop our rush towards runaway climate change.
That certainly seems to be the conclusion if you followed the UN climate negotiations in the first two weeks of December. For 11 days, there were no shortage of powerful speeches by all countries, warning starkly that nature would not compromise and that entire peoples were at risk from inaction. Yet on the final night of negotiations, the same figures were leading standing ovations and gushing with praise for an agreement that includes no new commitments for emission reductions and no new financing for adapting to climate change. As the the Bolivian government, the sole dissenter, noted this was a very “hollow and false victory.” 
This was published in my local newspaper based on some interviews with three inspiring local figures
Reduce, reuse and recycle. Not only is that the mantra for the environmental movement, it's a good way of summing up the contributions of three Davis residents who will be honored next week as Eco Heroes.
The trio — Ben Pearl, Larry Fisher and Derek Downey — will be recognized for their efforts to incorporate sustainable practices into our everyday lives by the Cool Davis Initiative, a coalition of residents, community organizations and the city of Davis. The awards will be presented at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10, as part of the Cool Davis Green Festival at the Veterans' Memorial Center, 203 E. 14th St.
In the aftermath of the dismal outcomes of the Copenhagen climate summit, US chief climate envoy Jonathan Pershing was quick to blame the failure on the UN's inclusive approach and proposed that some future meetings should be restricted to major countries. “[It is] impossible to imagine a negotiation of enormous complexity where you have a table of 192 countries involved in all the detail,” Pershing argued, adding that “We are not really worried about what Haiti says it is going to do about greenhouse gas emissions.” For the US, apparently, too much democracy and inclusion is a bad thing.
Bolivia, which along with 160 countries, had been excluded from last-minute talks on the Copenhagen Accord took the opposite approach at the recent World Peoples' Conference on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth held in Cochabamba, 19-22 April 2010.
I have just published this article on TNI about my experience of working with the Bolivian government at the UN Copenhagen Climate Conference.
It was 3am on Saturday morning – a time you might expect to be heading home from a good party, certainly not waiting for a international diplomatic meeting to begin. Yet that was the reality on 19th December, as I sat with the Bolivian delegation in the main plenary of the UN Conference on Climate Change. Bolivia's negotiators however did not seem tired; rather furious and incredulous. For whilst we waited, the US and EU were out at press conferences celebrating a global UN accord on climate change that Bolivia and most of the world had not even seen.
The accord had been drawn up in a private meeting by the major powers with the token participation of a few other developing countries but had no mandate from the whole UN. To make matters worse, when the Danish Chair of the Conference eventually opened the session, he asked everyone to read the Accord and clearly expected everyone to approve it. Commotion broke out on the floor. Rene Orellana, the normally quiet-spoken Bolivia's Minister for Water and the Environment, angrily denounced the Copenhagen Accord in no uncertain terms: “This is no way to decide the future of humanity and the planet. We can not in one hour decide on the future of millions of people. We will not accept a document imposed by a small minority that does not respect consultations over the last two years with peoples and amongst governments.”
Thanks to the courage of Bolivia and a few other nations – and against huge pressure and threats to sign the deal - the UN did not endorse or adopt the accord but instead were forced to use the much weaker and vacuous language of “noting” it.
Here is a blog I wrote for the San Francisco Bay Guardian after attending the UN Conference on the Global Economic Crisis in New York last week....
Maybe I was being a naïve activist, but I thought I would be covering an important and consequential event. The world is facing a devastating economic crisis, accompanied by a toxic mix of crises of climate chaos, food prices and even flu outbreaks, so surely the world's eyes would be on the UN as 192 nations gathered this week to supposedly develop a smart, effective response to these pressing and interconnected issues.
Yet, here I am on the second day of the UN conference on the Global Economic Crisis and its Impact on the development, and for the press it is as if the meeting did not exist. Until Michael Jackson’s death, the latest dull exploits of US celebrity misfits Jon and Kate - famous mainly for their ability to reproduce- were the only stories staring out at me on most front pages.
I have had the following post published in the weekly, the San Francisco Bay Guardian. My final edits didn't get through into the final piece so if you want to use it, please use the version below.
Top Democratic Party pollster Stanley Greenberg rolled into San Francisco last month to promote his latest book, Dispatches from the War Room – In the trenches with five extraordinary leaders (2009, St. Martin’s Press). The slight, bespectacled man spoke at the Commonwealth Club, sharing what he hoped were “honest and frank” accounts of working with leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton.
While he happily pontificated on the lessons these experiences held for President Barack Obama, he was a bit more defensive on why he had proudly featured in the book Gonzalo “Goni” Sanchez de Lozada, former President of Bolivia who is currently wanted for his role in a massacre of 67 people in October 2003.
There isn’t an eye patch or hook in sight, but three young computer geeks and a businessman have recently made piracy very sexy in Sweden. The four founders of a popular file-sharing service called Pirate Bay, become instant underdog cyber-heroes as they took the stand in court in February 2009 against US media giants such as Sony and Warner Brothers. The four potentially face up to two years in prison and fines of up to $180,000 dollars if they are found guilty of infringement of copyright laws.
Cross and bone flags flutter outside the court, every utterance is blogged and twittered and new members are flooding to a Pirate political party that has overtaken the Green Party in terms of members. The contentious file-sharing website – www.piratebay.org – continues to taunt the music industry reps with insults and the spectre of lost profits as an estimated 22 million users swap files from U2’s latest album to Oscar-winning films like Slum Dog Millionaire.
I have had the following piece published for TNI on the approval of Bolivia's new constitution. The photo is by Ben Dangl of upsidedownworld which has some good coverage of the build-up to and the day of the referendum.
On 25 January, three days before the world’s business and political elites gathered for the World Economic Forum in Davos, a very different crowd was forming in the Andean capital of Bolivia. Whilst Davos’ leaders appeared bereft and lost at the failure of their prized economic model, Bolivians danced to mark its defeat. The occasion was the celebration of the country’s new constitution, which in its opening words “puts behind us the colonial, republican and neoliberal state” and which commits itself to building a state “based on principles of sovereignty, dignity, complementarity, solidarity, harmony and equal distribution and redistribution of social goods.”
Against a barrage of opposition media propaganda funded by Bolivia’s elites, the new constitution was approved with 61% of the popular vote. Given the extent of the financial crisis in the US and Europe, the clear lack of popular confidence in Bolivia in the free market model is unlikely to have ruffled many feathers, but it is none the less very significant. Bolivia was once the prized pupil for its wholesale application of policies encouraged by the IMF and the World Bank. Now it is one of the countries articulating an alternative.