Monthly Archives: November 2009

News media and the logic of commerce: The rising tide of “churnalism”

In his groundbreaking and highly influential book first published in 1983, Benedict Anderson suggests that nations are socially constructed and imagined into existence. The title of the book is now just about a cliché: Imagined Communities.

One of the major contributing factors in the emergence of nations and nationalism in the era of the industrial revolution, Anderson argues, was the development of mass communication – books and newspapers – which he refers to as “print capitalism”. It was this new means of regular communication among and between people who had never met each other which was critical to the development of the imagined community of an entire nation.

The continuing power of communication media to determine how we understand ourselves and engage with each other in both the public and private sphere is well recognised. But degree of this power is difficult to assess accurately. In particular, we might ask – to what extent does the media report political events and to what extent does it control and shape them?

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Filed under capitalism, David

What is the true meaning of climate change?

At national and international levels climate change policy is in a state of almost total paralysis. There is much talk, but very little substantive action.

In part, this paralysis stems from the different ways in which society makes sense of the phenomenon of climate change. Naming and characterising these competing frames is enormously useful in understanding – and perhaps doing something about – the policy paralysis.

In a New Scientist opinion piece (here), Mike Hulme gives a brilliant, concise sketch of four key “myths” about climate change. But these are not myths in the sense of falsehoods, says Hulme – they are myths in the sense of stories that embody deeply held beliefs about the world:

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Filed under climate change, David, social justice

Shell to Sea campaign vindicated

In February 2008 I wrote about the 10-year long campaign in Co. Mayo, Ireland, opposing pipeline construction in relation to Shell’s development of the Corrib gas field.

It is great to be able to report that the campaign has been vindicated by a recent decision of An Bord Pleanala (The Planning Board). The Bord describes the risks to people living close by the intended pipeline route as “unacceptable”. See the report in the Irish Independent, here, and analysis of the decision by campaign supporters here.

Of course, the struggle is far from finally won. But as a result of the campaign, and the decision of An Bord Pleanala, Shell has to submit a new plan.

There is much inspiration to be taken from this campaign. The patience, tenacity and commitment required for successes in such situations is considerable; mutual support and solidarity is essential; maintaining the vision throughout is absolutely critical.

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Filed under David, social justice, sustainability

Growth, inequality, and the environment – evidence from the UK

Measuring fossil resource inequality – A case study for the UK between 1968 and 2000 (Eleni Papathanasopoulou and Tim Jackson, Ecological Economics, 2009, 1213-1225)

In this paper the authors examine inequalities in fossil fuel use among different income groups in the United Kingdom between 1968 and 2000. They find that fossil fuel use inequalities have risen faster than expenditure inequalities, and conclude that policy to reduce fossil fuel use needs to pay careful attention to distributional differences. Further, I would argue, with a little unpacking evidence such as this calls into question the dominant mainstream narratives around the unquestionable desirability a) of ‘growth’ and b) of  decreasing the progressivity of income tax regimes.

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Filed under Barry, climate change, economic analysis, social justice