Saturday, 28 January 2012

Unique interdisciplinary Masters in Environmental-Sciences-and-Humanities launching at UEA

I helped put together this exciting new programme; let me know if you are interested in being one of our first cohort of students!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

#Norwich event: Plan B [vs. Plan C...]


Compass are having a ‘Plan B’ event in Norwich on Wednesday 7th March. Do come!


It will take place from 6PM to 7:30PM at the Unite building (39 Thorpe Road). Speakers already confirmed are:


Anna Coote (nef)

Alan Finlayson (academic, UEA)

Clive Lewis (Labour candidate for Norwich South)

And myself.


See for my general take…


Boris-Island: The real reason why we are even talking about this:

I studied Philosophy at Oxford University with London's Mayor Boris Johnson. I have watched Boris's career since then with interest, including his stint as MP for Henley, near Heathrow. I find his proposal for a massive, madly-expensive new airport in the Thames Estuary to be nothing more than a piece of envioronmental vandalism. The real reason that this location is proposed is obvious: it is so that Boris's friends in Henley dont have so many planes flying over them...
It's great that there is to be no 3rd runway at Heathrow. But: Why should the people of Essex have to suffer more noise, pollution and traffic congestion than there is already? Just so that rich Tories living west of London can have a quieter life?!
It is crystal clear now that there was no environmental reason for the no-3rd-runway-at-Heathrow decision. . .
Lets put the vast sums of money that would be spent on this proposed eyesore in the Thames Estuary to better use, to making the quality of all our lives better, right here and now. Lets take the pressure off our roads and invest in a better rail network here in the East, rather than loading more pressure onto those roads by going ahead with this insane and retrograde proposal for a mega-expensive new airport in the estuary.
Among all the Political Parties it is only the Green Party that is prepared to tell the truth on this one. The last shred of environmental credibility has been thrown away by this Government, and the quality of life of people in the Eastern Region of this country is now hanging by a thread: all so that the government's rich friends living in and to the west of London dont have to suffer more overflights...

Saturday, 21 January 2012


A message from Sandor Fulop, the Hungarian ombudsman for future generations, in support of my guardians proposal [This message was read out at the event launching my report in Westminster, last week]:
It is my great regret that I cannot take part in this event because of organisational and financial reasons. My heart is with you and I fully support the idea developed by Mr. Read about the guardians for future generations.
To my view, first of all we should not refer to the future generations as "they", since actually we ourselves are future generations, too, as we would like to enjoy liveable urban and rural environment, drinkable water, edible food etc. in 5 or 10 years from now. However, our decision-makers, when ruling over huge sums of money on nation-wide bureaucracies, seldom think ahead even for that long. The next closing of the fiscal year, the next report to the Parliament or, the longest possible, the next election represent their horizon. Naturally, when our societies follow this rather short-sighted practice, they pay absolutely no attention to further future generations, that is to the fate of our children and grandchildren, whom we do love otherwise. Isn't this a really unnatural, schizophrenic situation?
But let's put aside our nearer or further future for a few moments, and let's deal with here and now. Climate change delivers already with orders of magnitude more frequent extreme whether phenomena than a century ago. Every 20 minutes we lose one living species from the world – and we never lose just one of our mates: every creature exists in complex systems, every loss strikes an irrecoverable wound on the network, whereas more and more elements will fade away soon. We use tens of thousands of chemicals, while we do not fully know their effects on the environment and on the human health. Some of these chemicals are abandoned at poorly insulated landfills, or are illegally treated, others get incinerated potentially with even worse effects. Our arable lands and forests are disappearing, even in Europe in a single country, Hungary we lose 100 hectares green surface per day as an average.
Whose task is it to estimate these tremendous threats on us and to plan our fight for survival? Our governments? They are overwhelmed with our days' short-term problems, which are important, but not the only problems a reasonable society should tackle with. Nevertheless they close these problems into the quarantine of environmental ministries or inspectorates, where a couple of committed bureaucrats try to cope with tiny parts of the enormous system of environmental and connected social, economic problems. Should environmental NGOs, think-tanks estimate the threats and plan how to survive them? They usually have the proper attitudes and approaches, but are too small and lack resources to act effectively. They have seldom broken through the perception threshold of our societies so far. Our only hope is if all the interested and concerned organisations and persons form national and international networks. These networks in turn shall develop new institutional solutions and this way further strengthen themselves. The new institutions should be based on a logic that is different from the existing ones: their primary task should be to confront our societies with the facts of environmental disasters and their consequences, and also to organise and empower networks that might be able to help our societies and cultures to survive.
The Hungarian Ombudsman for Future Generations, the New Zealand environmental parliamentary commissioner, the Israeli and the Finnish parliamentary commissions for future generations, the New Jersey chief environmental prosecutor, the Austrian and Canadian regional/national environmental ombudspersons, similar organisations planned in Wales and Malta were, are and will be good examples for such institutional solutions that seem to spread out in the world. Even more important, if they could get a global counterpart, a guardian or high representative for future generations somewhere in the organisational structure of the United Nations, and also in some of the regional administrations, such as the EU.
I am convinced that we shall keep fighting for more such institutional innovations in the name of intergenerational justice and also in the name of our present constitutional values and the basic human sense and interests. Our ancestors were able to live in peace with nature and with their past and future generations. We have to learn it again and to recreate these functions and institutions that serve our survival. This is our only chance – we should not miss it.
Budapest, 9 January 2012
Mr. Sándor Fülöp

Thursday, 19 January 2012

@CarolineLucas on BBC Question Time, tonight!

Caroline will appear on BBC Question Time at 10.35pm this evening, alongside
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, co-chairman of the Conservative Party, Stephen Twigg
MP, Labour's shadow education secretary Green MP, Germaine Greer, feminist
writer and academic, and Charles Moore, columnist and former editor at the
Telegraph and the Spectator.

The programme will be available to watch again here once it has been

Watch me on Beeb on 'Boris-Island'

BBC TV last night: Go 8 minutes in to see my take on the government's airport expansion plans:

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

What is liberty?: A podcast

A talk given by me to UEA's undergrad philsoc today.
Warning: large file, will take some time to download...

Friday, 13 January 2012

Cafe Conversations, Spring 2012

Philosophy Series 2 January 25th to 28th February - Marzano's, The Forum

A second series of evening cafes organised and hosted by UEA's School of Philosophy (Rupert Read and Chad Ryan) has been announced for January and February. Discuss, debate and discover in an informal setting with a variety of expert hosts. Topics include why we feel emotion for fictional characters and why we seem to have lost our sense of magic in the modern world. For the full programme click here.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Podcast of my Parliament talk yesterday on breaking the culture of political short-termism

Warning: This is a VERY big file you need to download, to listen to my talk and to the discussion... But it's worth it! It was quite an event...

Podcast of 'guardians of the future' talk at COMPASS!

Have a listen to my talk at yesterday's Compass 'Progressive Alliance' meeting, on the 'guardians for future generations' idea.
[Download, and then play. [Warning: this is a very large file!]]

'Guardians' on Liberal Conspiracy - have a read!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

ONEWORLD NEWS: Welcome to 2012!

[For more, goto ]

As the struggle for global resources - energy, minerals, agricultural land, water - increases we'll look at the the widespread pressure for social justice and protection of the earth. As the corporate control of the world tightens (1%), we'll reflect on the collective people's movement for democratic change, that began in 2011, with the (99%) protesters of the Arab Spring, continued with the indignados of Spain and Greece, and the Occupiers of Zuccotti Park in New York and hundred of cities around the world.

As the government continues its austerity drive and support of the City of London and the banks, we'll keep supporting those involved with land rights, community ownership, and defence of our public services. As well as facing the hard and difficult issues, we will include the positive moves that are changing the restrictive patterns within our social fabric. We'll be looking at the grassroots movements that create an alternative infrastructure as the global economic systems falter, a "downshift" culture of sharing resources and skills: neighbourhood energy schemes, community kitchens and CSAs.

We will looking at the bigger picture set within a local framework and highlighting subjects that are often ignored or minimised in mainstream culture, from climate change to nuclear energy. We will be making links between all these subjects in order to further strengthen our common intent to bring about a fair, sustainable and connected OneWorld. Hope you will join us!

Writing on the Edge, 2011

In 2011 we relaunched ourselves as a blog with a party at the EPIC Media Centre in Norwich and decided we would keep posting our columns each Saturday and also invite guest writers to contribute and include occasional news and events posts.

We started the year reporting from the front line of the cuts, as February demonstration in Norwich rallied on the steps of of County Hall. Guest writer, Andrew Boswell wrote about the closure of essential child protection services, Jan Ainsley about the threatened NHS and Mark Watson about the Lowestoft Against the Cuts Public Workers Strike Rally later in November.

2011 was an activist year, in which progressive groups came together as never before. and though we continued to write on traditional OWC issues, such as military and nuclear power, there were unexpected events started to appearing in the world and in our columns - most strikingly the people's movements in the Arab nations and the Occupy movement in the West. Trevor Philips wrote from the squares in Athens, Charlotte Du Cann from Hay Hill about Occupy Norwich. It was a year where the word capitalism no longer belonged to the rhetoric of the left. Everyone started to look at the economic system by which we have lived our lives, about systemic collapse. about ethical responsibility and solidarity. Mark Crutchley reflected on financial tipping points and peak oil, Rupert Read asked: Are we a consumerist or a producerist society?

None of us had any anwers.

But one thing we knew: like all civilisations. who have risen and fallen, our future will be determined in terms of our relationship with food and energy. As land grabs increase in Indonesia, Africa and China and climate change destabilises the growing patterns of many of of world's staple crops, we looked at the depletion of fish in the oceans, the diminishing water tables. protests against the proposed introduction of GM farming into Britain and the agricultural lobbying that goes on behind the scenes. We looked at the way food is considered as a commodity and speculated on in the global markets and the warning signs of collapse in the decline of bees and the negative effects of factory farming on our collective health and well being.

Some of our 2011 posts concerned peak oil and looked at the accountability of the companies still making huge profits from fossil fuels the cost of the environment, the climate and local people. At the same time we celebrated the resistance to this, such as the KEYSTONE XL Pipeline campaign. This protest against the unconventional tar sands oil had its first success last year as 10,000 people surrounded the White House and the proposal for a pipeline from Canada-Texas was delayed, awaiting further research. This was the biggest environmental protest in the United States since the 1970s and over a thousand people were arrested including 350.0rg organiser Bill McKibben and James Hansen, NASA's top climate scientist.

There was also widespread protest mounted against "unconventional" shale gas extraction using a process called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", which halted excavations in many places in the US and also in Britain where the process is being trialled in Lancashire. There were several national campaigns launched, as the countryside came under further threat for housing and road development (not least in the local NDR proposals) and bio-mass and biofuel power stations planned to be built around the British coastline. Increasingly it became clear that these moves were sparking a popular re-engagement with politics and ethics, that had almost disappeared from contemporary culture. Reflecting on these shifts, we considered putting ourselves on the line and creating an alternative to the mainstream media that insists that the world will thrive when economic growth returns in a business-as-usual paradigm. We know it won't.

But it might just thrive for other reasons.

If you would like to contribute news or features to the OneWorld Column please get in touch at oneworldcolumn AT

Occupy Earth poster at Keystone Pipeline protest outside the White House; the ST Valentine's Unneccesary Massacre; Chevron lawsuit in Ecuadar, Amazon Watch; at Lowestoft Fair Pensiions rally; the AIRPLOT at Heathrow, reclaiming the field by Grow Heathrow

Saudi's Hidden Energy Crisis

Now it gets interesting/terrifying...:

Chatham House, Independent thinking on international affairs

Middle East and North Africa Programme Analysis
MENAP banner

The Energy, Environment and Development Programme at Chatham House has published a new report on energy security in Saudi Arabia:  

Burning Oil to Keep Cool: The Hidden Energy Crisis in Saudi Arabia

Programme Report by Glada Lahn and Paul Stevens, December 2011.

Key points:

  • Domestic energy demand growth in Saudi Arabia is cause for international concern. If it continues at the current rate, it could jeopardize the country's ability to stabilize world oil markets.
  • Given Saudi Arabia's level of dependence on oil revenues, excessive consumption will cause economic and social pressures long before oil exports end – within a decade if nothing changes.
  • Current policies are not enough. Planned additions of renewable power supply would help maintain the fiscal balance for an additional two to three years; given the lead times nuclear power would have little or no impact.
  • Huge economic, social and environmental gains from energy conservation are possible in Saudi Arabia but the long period of low prices and the bureaucratic structure of the state present several challenges to implementing effective pricing policy and regulatory measures.
  • Fear of confronting these challenges has deterred meaningful government action in the past. However, some immediate, targeted investments could produce effective results even in the absence of price reforms.
  • Raising prices is politically difficult but international experience can help in preparing society through a range of efficiency, educational and infrastructure adaptation measures to smooth the transition. This must be done within a package of measures that increase private-sector employment for Saudi nationals.

Read the full report >>

Further Resources

Future Trends in the GCC Countries | MENA Programme Project
We are starting a new stream of work focusing on future scenarios for the political and economic development of the GCC states, and this webpage brings together our most recent analysis and reports on the region.


Keeping it in the family | Article for Foreign Policy by Jane Kinninmont | November 2011
Senior Research Fellow Jane Kinninmont explores the dynamics of the Saudi royal succession.

Investing in Renewable Energy in the MENA Region: Financier Perspectives | Energy, Environment and Development Programme Working Paper by Kirsty Hamilton | June 2011
This paper finds that there is significant interest in investing in renewable energy in the MENA region, but financiers would like more clarity on policy from regional governments.

The Political Outlook for Saudi Arabia | MENA Programme Workshop Report | May 2011
This report summarises discussions which covered both Saudi domestic politics and Saudi Arabia's position in a changing Middle East.

About the Middle East and North Africa Programme

The Middle East and North Africa Programme carries out in-depth research and convenes discussions on the politics, societies, economics and security of the region.

View more information on:

For further information about the MENA Programme, please feel free to contact Kate Nevens on or +44 (0)20 7314 3624.

The MENA Programme on Twitter
Follow our official MENAP account at @CH_MENAP, as well as our Yemen and Egypt projects @Yemen_Forum and @EgyptDialogue

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Copyright © Chatham House 2010


Film of the last major sea surge

The East Anglian Film Archive has just released on the web a thirteen minute film of the 1953 East Anglian Sea Flood. It can be viewed by going to  Check out the first couple of minutes of it!
This will bring back memories of fifty-nine years ago to many mature people, and hopefully act as a stark warning to those who are now aiding and abetting the loss of our sea defences...
[H.T. Pat Gowen.]

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

My 'Guardians' proposal in the GUARDIAN

My new 'guardians for future people' proposal [that Caroline Lucas will be hosting a meeting on next week with me in the House of Commons] is in The _Guardian_!:
['Guardians' in The Guardian ; makes sense, I guess...!]
Do comment below the story there, if you have a comment. (Especially a nice one! ;-)

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

My report launching at 'Green House' Parliamentary event next week

   Radical thinktank report calls for institution of 'guardians' for future generations


In a new report to be launched at the House of Commons on 10th January 2012, Green House think tank Chair Dr. Rupert Read (that's me! ;-) will propose radical constitutional reform to Parliament in order to create strong 'guardians' to protect future generations' basic needs. In order to actualise this, the 'Guardians for future generations' report suggests creating a 'super-jury', picked by chance (as juries are) from the population at large, charged with preserving the basic needs of future generations, to be placed above the upper house.


The Guardians' central powers would be a veto over new legislation that would damage / compromise the basic needs of future people, and a right to force a review of existing legislation that is already damaging their basic needs.


·         The 'Guardians for future generations' report will be launched at 5pm [for 5.30]on January 10th 2012, in Committee Room 5, House of Commons. The meeting will be hosted by Dr. Caroline Lucas MP, Leader of the Green Party, and will also be addressed by Jon Cruddas MP of Labour and by Government Minister Norman Baker MP. Representatives of the 'Alliance for future generations' and the 'Intergenerational Foundation' will also be on hand to offer backing to the issuing of the report.

·         The guardians report can be purchased here: . By Jan. 10, it will be available for free download online at the Green House website.

·         Further information about Green House think tank can be found at


Summary of report findings:


'Democracy' means 'government by the people'; but who are 'the people'?

Society exists over time and decisions taken today can have significant consequences for people yet to be born. This report argues that the interests of future generations should be formally represented within our existing parliamentary democracy. In other words: Future people should be included among 'the people'.

Building on the precedent of Hungary's innovative office of Ombudsman for Future Generations, the report proposes the creation of a new legislative structure – Guardians of Future Generations. The members of this body would be selected by sortition, as is current practice for jury service, in order to ensure independence from present-day party political interests.

The Guardians would have a power of veto over legislation that was likely to have substantial negative effects for society in the future, and perhaps also the right to review major administrative decisions which substantially affected future people and the power to initiate legislation to preserve the basic needs and interests of future people.

[The report argues that two facts make the proposal especially timely; first, the government's intention to become 'the greenest government ever', contrasted with its closure of institutions designed to maintain our ecosystems for the future; second, the current process of radical constitutional reform (most notably, potential democratisation of the House of Lords).]

1. 2. 3. Rupert's Read: January 2012 4. 12. 15. 18. 19. 20. 21.

Rupert's Read

22. 23. 31. 32.