On Monday 25 March, Ben Powrie, student activist from People & Planet Reading attended a demonstration with 300 staff and students in opposition to the privatisation of services at Sussex University. That day a large group of people decided to … Continue reading
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By Matthew Franklin, University of Birmingham & Toby Munnion, Newcastle University Newcastle University are currently engaged in discussions with Adidas regarding a massive sponsorship deal. In what Adidas officials describe as a “first of its kind” the deal is likely … Continue reading
Written by Helen Spring, Birmingham People & Planet member It is difficult to understand how the University of Birmingham can perceive Tony Hayward as a ‘Distinguished Leader’. As the Iraq war approaches its 10-year anniversary, Tony Hayward, the former CEO … Continue reading
Blog post written by Isobel Edwards, Environment & Ethics officer, University of York With most UK universities linked with fossil-fuel investing banks, putting pressure on Student Unions and Universities themselves to switch to ethical banking sends a powerful message to … Continue reading
Yesterday (on Thursday 1st November 2012) the University of Birmingham committed to affiliation to the Worker Rights Consortium. This places Birmingham amongst the first 10 universities in the UK to take a firm stand on garment sweatshops in their supply chain.
Affiliation to the WRC will help to guarantee effective monitoring of conditions in garment factories across the world. With the cooperation of affiliate universities abuses of workers’ rights can be dealt with effectively, ensuring none of clothes purchased through the university are produced in sweatshop conditions. At the University of Birmingham, we would like to praise the management for taking a strong stance on ethical procurement. We have run this campaign for the past 3 years, and hope that this decision will send a powerful message to other universities that workers’ rights in supply chains matter.
It is also important for student campaigners to be aware that however difficult it may seem it is possible to make significant gains for workers of the university regardless where in the world that they may be. For everyone who has helped Birmingham People & Planet with this campaign over the last 3 years, the decision which has now been made demonstrates that the time and effort which you all gave can achieve real victories, which will make vital differences for those working in garment factories for the university.
I would also encourage everyone who has spent a long time campaigning on the WRC, or even those new to it, that winning significant goals can happen quicker than expected.
Matt Franklin – Birmingham P&P and Buy Right Steering Group
My name’s Ruth and I’m the new Corporate Power Intern at People & Planet this year. I was previously a member of Sheffield People & Planet, working on campaigns such as the Big Green Makeover and Tar Sands Free (see picture, left), as well as helping to get Sheffield University signed up to the Workers Rights Consortium.
My role this year will be to support People & Planet groups in their drive for more ethical procurement at their Universities, and I’ll be working with students to increase the number of Universities affiliated to the Workers Rights Consortium.
I can be contacted via email at email@example.com, or Facebook at facebook.com/ruth.fox.311. Do get in touch if you have any questions on the Buy Right Campaign or affiliation to the Workers Rights Consortium (or any other People & Planet related issues).
Looking forward to working with all of you soon!
Written by Joanna Wilson, Aberdeen People & Planet
The waiting is over, the eagerly anticipated Green League results are out! And with a shock result for the University of Aberdeen. As somebody who spends most of my time, not studying, but lobbying the University on Green and Environmental issues, imagine my disappointment to find that the university has fallen a whopping 49 places. This takes Aberdeen from a First Class degree to an Upper-Second Class, and makes them one of the biggest fallers this year! When last year’s results were published I remember feeling proud that my beloved university held the same beliefs as I did, that environmental issues should be a top priority. However, this time around I can feel no such feelings. In fact all I can feel is a distinct disappointment.
Looking back over the year it is, perhaps, easy to see how the University has fallen in the ranks so badly. With the (surprise) rise in tuition fees for overseas students, lecturer strikes, job losses and occupations demanding the Principle speaks out against pension reforms and even that he return his unbelievably huge bonus, perhaps it easy to see why environmental issues have been put to one side. This, however, is not an excuse! In today’s climate, the only realistic way forward is in a green economy and the university should not only be promoting this in their environmental endeavours but also setting an example to its students who will be the future of this country.
Let’s end on a high shall we? As the Environment and Ethics Officer for the next academic year I say that students at Aberdeen should band together and lobby our university to aim to climb back up to a respectable First Class degree! We, as students, are expected to after all! We know now that the university has the capabilities for this, we have been there before, let’s hold them to account and Green up our Uni!
Characterised as a ‘democratic awakening’, the movement has challenged the narrative spun by the financial sector and governments that presented the economic crisis as the result of some mysterious mathematical failure in the financial market, a couple of greedy individuals and/or some irresponsible governments. Occupy, in turn, recast the crisis as the result of a system that persistently allows a few to accumulate wealth over the back of many. Rather than asking ‘how can we manage this system better in order to continue Business As Usual?’, they ask ‘how can we change social relations and tackling existing inequalities?’.
Answers to this question will shape the movement’s priorities for 2012. But of course there are as many answers as people involved: engaging a bigger percentage of ‘the 99%’; scrutinising current social problems and possible alternatives through educational activities; articulating demands against the powerful few in politics and business; creating autonomous institutions, like social centres, activist collectives, alternative media, credit unions and co-operatives in which different values and lifestyles can take shape.
For many, it’s the means of the movement that constitute the ends. Occupy tries to be a ‘movement’ in the very sense of the word: a reflexive experiment in communication, decision-making and collaboration in which new ideas, plans and solutions are continuously generated and another world is prefigured. When I celebrated New Year’s Eve with OWSI was surprised by how many times I heard people expressing the word ‘hope’. That night, people tore down the police fences put up around Zucotti Park after the eviction on the 14th of November. As people danced on the fences piled up in centre of the square, the night felt epic and revolutionary. At 2am this came to a sudden end when the police decided to assert their authority and evacuate the square with a force of hundreds.
2012 will be a new phase. In the midst of Burns’ Night festivities, Occupy Edinburgh packed up their tents at St. Andrews square after more than 3 months of occupying. But, ‘you can’t evict an idea’, the Occupy Edinburgh blog states. 5 days later, a new camp was pitched on the Meadows. At the same time, public brainstorm meetings are underway to roll out ‘Phase Two’. Ideas are floating around for flashmobs and ‘roaming occupations’ around the city focused on public engagement and education. OWS is taking a similar path by occupying Zucotti Park every day with ‘culture and ideas’. Eric Light, involved with organising these events: ‘It is with food, music, humor, games, political theatre, creative activities, think tanks and so on that we can continue to inspire and involve others’. OWS is simultaneously working on ‘pop-up’ occupations on squares all over New York. Occupy Glasgow, as well, decided to disband their camps in December and focus on outreach and direct action. The same course, in fact, has been chosen by many Occupy’s globally. But in London, Occupy LSX is still camping at St. Paul’s cathedral while fighting eviction before court. Their ‘Tent City University’ outside of St. Paul’s is a hub of activity. On the 30th of January, LSX’s ‘Bank of Ideas’ was forcefully evicted. Housed in an abandoned office block in Hackney, it was open to the public ‘for the non-monetary trade of ideas to help solve the pressing economic, social and environmental problems of our time’.
As the movement is running the risk of fragmentation, global action is in the pipeline. On the 25th of January, Adbusters called out for a ‘showdown’ this May in Chicago where the G8 and the NATO are holding a simultaneous summit. ‘With a bit of luck’, they wish to pull together the ‘biggest multinational occupation of a summit meeting the world has ever seen’. Here, the movement is set to depart from its current course and make more explicit political demands: a ‘Robin Hood Tax’ (on the financial sector), a binding climate change accord and a three-strikes-and-you’re-out-law for ‘corporate criminals’ are suggested in the Adbusters’ call-out. Other demands will be proposed through General Assemblies and a ‘global internet brainstorm’. If these demands are not met, Adbusters writes that together they ‘…will shut down stock exchanges, campuses, corporate headquarters and cities across the globe.’
Occupy thus plans to resort to more drastic tactics in 2012. American Politics professor Jason Adams has argued that occupying time would indeed be a better strategy than occupying space, since our economic system is foremost a matter of time, of delivering goods and services ‘in time’ and of ever-increasing production speed for lower labour costs and higher profits. Instead of a ‘disruption of space’, as the occupations were, a general strike is a ‘barricade in time’, Adams writes, following Paul Virilio. Then, Occupy might be able to lift the economic crisis from an issue dealt with only in closed-off international summits to a street-level emergency. An emergency demanding responses far more democratic than the current wave of austerity measures imposed in Europe, the US and other countries. Then, rather than going from bad to worse, things could change for the better.
Wikipedia still lists 2818 Occupy groupings on all continents, while some wither away and others spring up as you’re reading. Whether Occupy will indeed occupy 2012, we’ll have to wait and see. Or, better, we could join the dialogue, the decision-making and the action and help move this movement towards its open ends – as, in the end, we too are the 99%.