Supermarkets spell the end of civic life

Today sees the publication of a report from the think-tank Demos which argues that supermarkets should be seen as an intergral part of creating the so-called ‘Big Society’. The report’s author said:

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Hay Festival: Cuba’s lessons in survival

Today, the UK and the US are living through challenging economic times. But, so far, we face nothing compared to the shocks endured by Cuba over the last two decades. It was uniquely unlucky at the end of the cold war, losing the support of one superpower, the Soviet Union, while keeping the animosity - and a comprehensive economic embargo - of the other, the US. Only now, years later, is there a suggestion of a thaw in relations.

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90 months and counting…

The fall of the Roman Empire was due to a large extent, writes the historian Adrian Goldsworthy, to a system of government that became inward-looking and weakened by internal dissent. Gone was the singular focus from the golden days of the Republic, when a small, trusted coterie of around 1,000 administrators ran the whole empire efficiently.

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Money matters: beyond banking status quo

Only a miserable 0.6 per cent of the government's stimulus package is going on green measures, to genuinely shift the way the economy works.

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Green shoots and radical reform withering in tandem

The recent talk of 'Green shoots' is now looking distinctly optimistic. A recent analysis by economists Barry Eichengreen and Kevin O'Rourke suggests that the world economy is following a worryingly similar pattern to the Great Depression. One year in, global output is declining at roughly the same rate as it was in the 1929-30 downturn (Chart 1).

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Civil liberties in a changing climate

Once again, civil liberties and climate change are crossing paths in the news. This morning, the Guardian released footage showing two activists being brutally manhandled by police at last year's climate camp at E.on's coal-fired power station in Kingsnorth, Kent. The film shows two female protestors, Emily Apple and Val Swain, asking unmarked police officers why they aren't wearing their numbers. More

Back from a permaculture siesta

I mentioned a while back that the practice of permaculture might hold some answers to our present predicaments around energy, climate change and looming food scarcity. Now, having spent two weeks in the Forest of Dean actually studying the thing, I feel knowledgeable - or foolhardy - enough to attempt to explain it here.

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Numbers to remember

The second number is 24.10.09, which stands for 24th October 2009. That's when the 'doing something' part really kicks off. Our friends at 350.org - the campaign headed up by Dr Hansen and Bill McKibben - have chosen 24th October as a day of global action on climate change. nef has some exciting plans for this day already (more of which to be revealed in due course), but for now, check out this little trailer and start dreaming up some actions of your own.

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Britain’s supplicant state

That was the rhetoric - a shift from top-down targets to individual entitlements - but when it comes to localism, Gordon Brown is the victim of a huge misunderstanding. Targets are targets, Mr Brown: you don't escape the huge inefficiencies they produce by having fewer of them, or by dressing them up as entitlements that people can enforce. More

89 months and counting

OK, so the audience did laugh spontaneously at that point. But what makes people cling so tenaciously to denial that they would entertain ludicrous feats just to preserve the status quo, rather than embrace relatively simple changes - like switching the energy system away from fossil fuels - and in the process create jobs and greater energy security and (even if they don't accept its reality) tackle climate change?

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