The Machine Is a Garden

In 1898, an unassuming London stenographer named Ebenezer Howard borrowed 50 British pounds to print a short book titled To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform. In the book, Howard laid out a plan to arrest the flow of people into great manufacturing centers such as London, whose squalid, disease-ridden slums repelled him. “It is deeply to be deplored,” he wrote, “that the people should continue to stream into the already over-crowded cities, and should thus further deplete the country districts.”

Enter the garden city. Drawing on the political thought of American economist Henry George, who believed the value of land should be common property, Howard described a planned community outside a major city that would combine the social and financial opportunities of the city with the “natural healthfulness” of the countryside. In a handful of simple, concentric-circle diagrams, Howard drew a city that would be home to 32,000 people who would enjoy fresh air, green space, and places to shop and relax. The city would be largely self-contained, with homes, schools, and factories encircled by an agricultural estate.

Howard proposed that a community trust, backed by investors, would buy the land for such a city. Rents collected would fund public improvements and services but would also go toward residents’ gradual purchase of the land. Howard was adamant that this be the case, so that the community could benefit from increases in land value — a principle known as “land value capture.”

Howard had no formal education past the age of 14 and was a classic Victorian tinkerer, but his powers of persuasion were remarkable. By 1903, he had won enough supporters to establish Letchworth Garden City, about 30 miles north of London. Welwyn Garden City would follow years later. Letchworth became the Berkeley of its day, with middle-class progressives moving into its cozy streets. It also attracted industry, which Howard wanted, knowing that a garden city had to provide viable alternatives to work in London.

The idea soon inspired a spinoff. A few years after Letchworth’s birth, a philanthropist named Henrietta Barnett hired that city’s architects to design London’s Hampstead Garden Suburb. The new project shared garden-city ideals, except for self-containment. The garden suburb, as it became known, proved particularly well suited to private development, and the idea spread to the United States, Mexico, Australia, Japan, Egypt, France, and Germany.

There were problems, however. It wasn’t always easy to get motivated groups of backers to establish true garden cities. Moreover, in practice, some ideals were never reached. Howard aimed to provide the poor with quality housing, but Letchworth’s workers’ cottages proved too expensive for many. And the city’s industry, centered on a corset factory, could never really compete with London’s draw. Over time, Letchworth was pulled into the capital’s orbit; today it is home to about as many people as Howard intended, and property values are high (though about half the housing has been made affordable through mechanisms such as reduced rent).

Garden cities and suburbs faded from the scene in the mid-20th century, as Le Corbusier-inspired “towers in the park” came into vogue in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, resulting in a wave of mega-scaled housing projects. It was the age of the automobile too, and compact suburbs became obsolete, while sprawling subdivisions multiplied. More recently, however, sprawl became seen as a menace for, among other things, encouraging people to spew carbon by shuttling around in cars. Tower blocks also fell out of favor, criticized for creating social isolation and breeding crime.

Today, as remedies, some government officials and urban planners in the United Kingdom are resuscitating the idea of garden cities. They see it as an attractive way to deploy green technologies, such as high-performance buildings and clean mass transit, while addressing the country’s housing shortage. (In England, between 2001 and 2011, 1.4 million homes were built, while the country’s population increased by almost 4 million.)

This year, the United Kingdom’s Wolfson Economics Prize awarded £250,000 to the entrant with the best proposal for a “new Garden City which is visionary, economically viable, and popular.” Five finalists were selected from 279 entries; One uses financial modeling to show how a small garden city would be feasible; another proposes doubling the size of an existing urban locale along garden-city lines.

In April, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that the government would accept bids to construct up to three new garden cities. “[W]e need to create planned communities: whole new towns with the infrastructure and amenities they need, communities where people genuinely want to live, and built where demand is high,” Clegg wrote in the Daily Telegraph in January. The garden cities will have at least 15,000 homes each. Their sites have not yet been chosen, but they will likely be in southeastern England. Separately, the government has said it wants to build another garden city at Ebbsfleet, in Kent.

Some critics argue that the fuss around garden cities obscures the real problem: the scarcity of housing in and around London, the European Union’s most populous metropolitan area. Urban redevelopment would accomplish more than building new garden cities ever could, according to Alexandra Jones of the nonprofit group Centre for Cities. “You might not have objections to a garden city in the middle of nowhere, but you might not have demand to live there either,” she wrote in June on the website Planning Resource, calling garden cities “the flavour of the month.” Critics also take issue with the relatively low density of the garden-city model, saying it will consume too many resources and actually promote car use by spreading out development.

The government is determined to reassure citizens of garden cities’ benefits and may even offer people tax breaks to accept construction near their homes. Still, local opposition and bureaucratic red tape could stymie development for some time. Meanwhile, Howard’s big idea has already found new life in other corners of the globe, including China. It’s here, however, that the promise and potential pitfalls of the garden city’s renaissance are most glaringly juxtaposed.

The cover of Paradise Planned, co-authored by Robert Stern, and an aerial photo of Jardim America — a community planned around the garden-city concept — on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil.


Flying bicycle seeks a second wind

The Paravelo is the brainchild of aviation-obsessed inventors John Foden and Yannick Read, the founders of XploreAir, located in suburban London. Ironically enough, the founders’ workshop is a short walk from the original site of the long-defunct Sopwith Aviation Company, builders of the World War I-era Sopwith Camel

Despite falling short of goal on the crowd-funding site, Foden and Read refuse to let financial headwinds ground the development of their bike-cum-ultralight aircraft. “Obviously, it makes things slightly tricky, because all these kinds of projects need money,” says Foden. “But we’ll keep plugging away.”

The Paravelo – an amalgam of “parachute” and “velocipede” –  flies through largely uncontested airspace, unless one counts prototypes such as Aerovelo’s Atlas or motorised ultralight paragliders. Along with its minimalist design, the Paravelo benefits from serious engineering chops through a partnership with British paramotor manufacturer Parajet (maker, incidentally, of BBC Autos’ most fascinating oddity of 2013, the SkyRunner), which is on board to build the machine when XploreAir obtains sufficient financing, Foden says.

The Paravelo’s main components are:

• a single-speed, aluminium-frame folding bicycle• an air-frame trailer fabricated from strong but lightweight aircraft-grade aluminium

• a biofuel-burning Parajet Volution two-stroke, 22-horsepower engine

• a three-blade propeller, with blades made from carbon fibre, encased in a collapsible aluminium frame

• a nylon parasail

Users can either ride the bike by itself or use it to tow the trailer while biking to aero-adventures. Fully assembled, the unit weighs about 50kg (roughly 110lbs) and folds into a space about the size of three suitcases. Its makers claim the Paravelo attains a top speed of about 25mph in the air, and can remain airborne for about three hours at altitudes up to 4,000ft. About 40ft of level, open land is required to take off.

Flight preparation is simple. The bike frame docks with the trailer, forming a para-trike configuration. Then a parasail unfurls behind the rider, filling with air and ultimately enabling take-off. A would-be aviator can also detach the assembly and merely wear the propeller and motor for a foot launch – and one doesn’t need a pilot’s license in most jurisdictions to operate the Paravelo, Foden notes.

Avid cyclists, Foden (who owns a design agency) and Read (who works at a transport business that designs electric cars and bikes) are keen to make airspace more accessible and affordable for the masses.

“Both cycling and flying inherently provide you with freedom,” Foden explains. “But flying isn’t accessible to everyone, because it’s expensive to buy and store a plane, plus you need a pilot’s license. The Paravelo removes those obstacles and provides practical and affordable flight.”

Freedom comes at a price, of course. Foden says the Paravelo will sell for £10,000 (about $16,300) – more expensive than most bikes, but still considerably cheaper than an airplane.

Does the Kickstarter shortfall portend a limited market for the Paravelo?

“One reason we didn’t reach our goal is that Kickstarter is quite new in the UK,” Foden says. “People in the States tend to look at projects and say, ‘That looks interesting and fun – I’ll pledge a dollar.’ People here look things and think, ‘Well, that’ll never work.’

“But we had 150,000 hits on our YouTube video alone, so if all those viewers had contributed 50 pence, we’d be on target,” he says.

For the time being, XploreAir plans to produce custom, one-off models of the Paravelo, which recently appeared on the cover of the widely circulated Hammacher Schlemmer gift catalogue. Beyond that initial plan, however, the fate of the Paravelo remains, well, up in the air.

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Part 2: Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace on Climate Change and War, Lessons from …

In our extended interview with Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International, he examines connections between climate change and U.S. war in the Middle East, and shares how his activism is shaped by his experience in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and much more.

Photo Credit: © Andreas Schoelzel / Greenpeace

Watch Part 1 of our interview with Naidoo.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. This week, world leaders have wrapped up a one-day United Nations summit on climate change with pledges to tackle global warming but no binding commitments. President Obama was one of the leaders who addressed the summit, calling for a global pact to fight climate change.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Five years ago, I pledged America would reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020. America will meet that target. And by early next year, we will put forward our next emission target reflecting our confidence in the ability of our technological entrepreneurs and scientific innovators to lead the way. So today I call on all major economies to do the same, for I believe in the words of Dr. King, that there is such a thing as being too late. And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate while we still can.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama addressing the U.N. climate summit, invoking Dr. Martin Luther King. That actually is very interesting for a number of reasons, among them, well, of course, Dr. King and President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, but this summit was taking place in the midst of the U.S. bombing of Syria and Iraq.

Our guest is Kumi Naidoo. He is executive director of Greenpeace International, usually lives in Durban, South Africa, here for the historic events of this week. Four hundred thousand people marched for action on climate change on Sunday here in New York ahead of the U.N. summit. What do you make of—what kind of connections do you make, Kumi, between this massive action on climate change and the fact that the U.S. is now once again bombing the Middle East?

KUMI NAIDOO: I think it’s extremely unfortunate. You know, in 2003, the CIA and the Pentagon commissioned a report which they presented to President Bush, and President Bush, as an agent of the oil, coal and gas industry, buried it. In that report, they said, in 2003, in the coming decades, two decades, the biggest threat to peace, security and stability will not come from conventional threats of terrorism, but will come from the impacts of climate change. Today there are sitting leaders of the U.S. military who are saying exactly the same.

Syria, for example, if you look at what was one of the major catalysts for people standing up to the dictatorship of Assad, was that in the last decade about 40 percent of fertile land, as a result of climate-induced drought, was wiped out. Now, I think that, you know, many people in the world are saying that ISIS is the U.S. and its allies’ creation, just as the Taliban was after the U.S. backed the Mujahideen and pulled out in ways. And so, right now to just continue to engage in addressing the conflicts that we have with more military intervention, without any sense of strategy, with putting so much of resource on the line, it really backfires, because actually what it shows is that life of people in the Middle East, whether you see it as Arab lives, Muslim lives or whatever, is dispensable because the number of civilians that have been killed in these conflict areas has just been completely, completely unacceptable.

So, yes, ISIS is a fundamental problem. For us to have allowed it to get to this point, I think the responsibility must rest with those that went in Iraq in an unjust, illegal war and created a situation which is now significantly worse than anything that we had with Saddam Hussein. Of course, Saddam Hussein was a dictator, but, you know, the U.S.—let’s be very clear: What people say around the world is that U.S. foreign policy is stuck in the old logic of, you know, when one of the presidents said, “Somoza might be a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch.” I mean, your previous guest, Abdullah, right? He is standing up against the very people, now, that are getting absolute support from the U.S. administration and other Western governments. And listen, if the U.S. government was serious about getting these journalists out of prison, and as well as the hundreds, actually thousands of others that have been put, they have the political and economic leverage to do it. And I find that the timidity of the U.S. government and its allies, who preach democracy, on the one end, but actually make deals with some of the most authoritarian governments, on the other, is completely, completely unacceptable.

AMY GOODMAN: You cut your teeth on activism in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Talk about how your experiences there inform what you do now around climate change.

KUMI NAIDOO: Well, the most important lesson from South Africa is that you don’t address a major injustice as if you’re at a Sunday morning picnic, that, in fact, whether it’s apartheid, whether it’s civil rights struggle in the United States, women’s right to vote, these struggles only move forward when decent men and women stand up and say, “Enough is enough, and no more. We’re prepared to put our lives on the line. We’re prepared to go to prison, if necessary.”

And so, right now, I would argue that climate change, as a global challenge, is more important than every other injustice we have faced in the world, because this is not about saving the planet. The planet doesn’t need saving, actually, because if we warm up the planet to a point that humanity cannot exist, the planet will still be here. It will be bruised, scarred and damaged by humanity’s actions on it. But, you know, if we cannot live here anymore, actually, the forests will replenish and so on. This struggle is about securing our children and grandchildren’s future. So, in that sense, I would say one main lesson is the power of civil disobedience, because all our political and business leaders seem to be suffering from the same medical condition, which is that they have a problem hearing the pleas of the people, and it is only civil disobedience and mass mobilization that actually sends a message for the urgency.

The second lesson is the power of alliance, that one of the things we succeeded in doing in South Africa is building an alliance of faith leaders, trade union leaders, women’s movement, youth organizations and so on. And that was the beauty of what we saw on Sunday, because, you know, for far too long climate change was seen as an environmental issue. Actually, it is much bigger. It’s a cross-cutting issue. It’s a issue of survival. And therefore, I am so, so—I’ll leave New York with such a wonderful feeling, that—you know, in the old days they used to talk about red-green tensions, for example, between labor and the environment. Now we can talk about red-green alliances.

We can talk about the indigenous peoples having their rightful leadership role in the struggle and so on, because one of the things I say very controversially, if you and I were the last two people on this planet, assuming we warm it up and go the way we’re going, and we were asked to write the history of this planet and put it in a capsule so that if life emerged again, we won’t make the same mistakes, it is quite likely—in fact, I know we will say—that actually those that were considered to be uncivilized, indigenous peoples, who needed the civilizing of the Western world, if you want, were actually the most civilized, and in fact those that sought to do the civilizing were the most uncivilized, because indigenous peoples, if we go to their wisdom of the critical importance of humanity being able to live in a mutually dependent relationship with nature, it’s critically important if we’re going to have live continue on this planet.

AMY GOODMAN: Kumi Naidoo, as the U.N. summit was happening at the United Nations, this climate week of massive activism was taking place not only here in New York, but around the world. Greenpeace activists were getting arrested in Britain?

KUMI NAIDOO: Yes. Basically, on the day of the summit, what we’re seeing is this cheap and very dangerous coal coming out of Russia and is going to U.K. power plants. We had a polar bear, a puppet, stop a train, with no risk to anybody. And then our activists basically got onto the train, and they had bags which said “return to sender, to President Putin,” and they were loading all the coal to actually send back. And basically, people need to understand that coal, oil and gas kills, and coal, in particular, is one of the biggest threats we have with regard to climate change. And, of course, there are different kinds of coal, but all coal is bad. The kind of coal that was involved here is particularly bad. And I think that that’s the kind of resistance that we need to see around the world, where every coal, oil and gas company is meeting resistance on a daily basis.

One of the things people ask, “What are you trying to do with Chevron and Shell and so on? Are you trying to shut them down?” Actually, these are energy companies, and they deliver energy at the moment through dirty energy means. We say to them, if you make the change fast and quick, as an energy company, to clean energy output and you wean yourself off dirty, addictive energy—oil, coal and gas—then you can exist. But if you think you’re going to continue with dirty energy, then we will do everything in our power to shut you down. It’s not our core agenda to shut them down. We would rather make them make the transition and make it quickly.

And coal is something that is having huge impact on people’s health, apart from climate change and emissions. In China, for example, communities around China are actually standing up. Or in Turkey, for example, people are standing up because their children’s lives are being attacked. The cancer rates are going up and so on. And people need to understand that the true cost of coal, when you factor in the health impacts and so on—leave climate change aside for a second—is far too expensive. And when you put that, then you’ll actually see that solar and wind and so on is actually much cheaper than the so-called market tells us.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn for a moment back to the U.N. climate summit. One of the most memorable speeches was by a poet from the Marshall Islands. Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s poem is actually a letter to her child.

KATHY JETNIL-KIJNER: Dear Matafele Peinam,

You are a seven-month-old sunrise of gummy smiles. You are bald as an egg and bald as the Buddha. You are thighs that are thunder, shrieks that are lightning, so excited for bananas, hugs and our morning walks past the lagoon.

Dear Matafele Peinam,

I want to tell you about that lagoon, that lazy, lounging lagoon, lounging against the sunrise. Men say that one day that lagoon will devour you. They say it will gnaw at the shoreline, chew at the roots of your breadfruit trees, gulp down rows of your seawalls and crunch your island’s shattered bones. They say you, your daughter and your granddaughter, too, will wander rootless, with only a passport to call home.

Dear Matafele Peinam,

Don’t cry. Mommy promises you no one will come and devour you. No greedy whale of a company sharking through political seas, no backwater bullying of businesses with broken morals, no blindfolded bureaucracies gonna push this mother ocean over the edge. No one’s drowning, baby. No one’s moving. No one’s losing their homeland. No one’s becoming a climate change refugee.

Or should I say, no one else.

To the Carteret Islanders of Papua New Guinea, and to the Taro Islanders of Fiji, I take this moment to apologize to you. We are drawing the line here, because we, baby, are going to fight. Your mommy, daddy, bubu, jimma, your country and your president, too, we will all fight. And even though there are those hidden behind platinum titles who like to pretend that we don’t exist, who like to pretend that the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Maldives, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, floods of Algeria, Colombia, Pakistan, and all the hurricanes, earthquakes and tidal waves didn’t exist, still there are those who see us, hands reaching out, fists raising up, banners unfurling, megaphones booming. And we are canoes blocking coal ships. We are the radiance of solar villages. We are the fresh, clean soil of the farmers past. We are teenagers blooming petitions. We are families biking, recycling, reusing; engineers building, dreaming, designing; artists painting, dancing, writing. And we are spreading the word. And there are thousands out on the streets, marching hand in hand, chanting for change NOW! And they’re marching for you, baby. They’re marching for us, because we deserve to do more than just survive. We deserve to thrive.

Dear Matafele Peinam,

You are eyes heavy with drowsy weight. So just close those eyes and sleep in peace, because we won’t let you down. You’ll see.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, that was Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s poem, a Marshall Islands poet. She got a standing ovation at the U.N. as she read this at the day of the U.N. climate summit. Kumi Naidoo, you weren’t actually in the hall, having trouble with security getting in. But I think that’s an interesting point: On the one hand, the power of people’s firsthand testimony; on the other is, what happens? It reminds me of Anjali Appadurai, who was the College of the Atlantic student who addressed the U.N. summit in Durban in 2011.


AMY GOODMAN: The next year, she was banned for the first week of the U.N. summit. And the question is: What happens next? Peru is the U.N. climate summit this year, and then the binding summit is supposed to be Paris in 2015. We were speaking with Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth on Democracy Now! this week. He was saying, “I can already write the press releases for both Peru and Paris. And they’re not very optimistic—unless something changes.” So, what is the strategy, you think, to deal with all of this?

KUMI NAIDOO: Well, in terms of the formal timeline, the best that Peru can do in December is deliver a clear framework for the agreement, with some commitments locked in. All governments are supposed to, by March next year, put the cards on the table to say what are their emission targets and what actions they are prepared to take. And then there will be multiple negotiations with the idea that there will be a deal in Paris.

I was in meetings yesterday all day with Asad and a coalition of organizations that are working together. And our assessment is that we would be foolish, as activists, to put faith in the formal process to deliver what the world needs to have, and therefore we are going to now intensify as much as we can on the resistance and mobilization, as well as go after those companies that are holding us back, because, see, the problem is, you know, President Obama can stand up and give all these nice words, but the bottom line is, you know, the U.S. democracy—like many other countries, but the U.S. is the most obscene in this way—is the best democracy money can buy today, and if you look at which money buys that democracy or buys that power, it’s oil, coal, gas, nuclear, military and a few other polluting industries. For every member of Congress, there are three—a minimum of three and a maximum of eight full-time lobbyists paid by the oil, coal and gas industry to make sure that no progressive climate legislation goes through.

And, you know, we must remind President Obama, he invoked Martin Luther King in this presentation when he talked about the fierce urgency of now, which was one of the things he said repeatedly in his first presidential bid. But there was another phrase that he use, apart from “Yes, we can,” and that was “a planet in peril.” If you go back and look at his first—he got it, right? “A planet in peril” was about climate change. And if we look at the timidity with which he has stood up to the fossil fuel industry, as a whole, it’s extremely disappointing.

So, we cannot take our political and business leaders solely on their words. We are saying we need to see actions, and we need to see them between now and Paris. And what we are saying to people: We must prepare for the long-haul fight. Yes, we will try everything in our power to put as much pressure to get the best possible outcome in Paris, but if we think that our political and business leaders are going to deliver what we need in Paris, then we are actually fooling ourselves.

And I think Sunday provides—the People’s Climate March on Sunday, provides has provided a base of support that we’ve never seen before, not just here in the U.S., but globally. And now we need to build on that base every week, every month, and so on, so that the power of the voices of ordinary people around the world, like the poet from the Marshall Islands—which, I have to say, completely drives me to tears up to now to just think about, because, you know—and we have to tell stories. And let me make a self-criticism of activism around climate. I think that we are partly to blame, because we did not focus enough on storytelling, letting people who are impacted, because the climate question is so complicated—emissions, targets, parts per million and so on—and we actually sometimes become as bad as the governments in the way we talk about it. We have to talk about this in more accessible ways and enable ordinary people who are affected by this to be able to actually engage in the conversation and get involved. We have to talk. We have to throw out the jargon. We have to talk with simplicity—and I’m not saying being simplistic, right? It’s very different. I mean, we have to be able to—I mean, that’s one of the things I learned from South Africa, that if you go there and you talked about constitutional provisions and so on, it just didn’t resonate. And ever since I came to Greenpeace, you know, I don’t talk about saving the climate or saving the environment. I say this about securing our children and grandchildren’s future. Just that phrase. Anybody who’s a parent, anybody who is a grandparent, hopefully, will sit up and say, “Well, this conversation is about me.” Right? And we have to make this conversation about everybody, whether you’re a worker, whether you’re a professional, whether you’re a CEO of a fossil fuel company. I say—when I meet with the CEOs of companies, I say, “Tell me something. How are you going to look your children and grandchildren in the eye and answer the question when they ask you 10 years from now, ‘When the writing was on the wall that we had to act, how did you not put my interests, as your child or grandchild, and act?’”

AMY GOODMAN: Explain to people who say, “Well, if there’s oil in the soil, if there’s coal in the hole, why shouldn’t we develop it?” Can you talk about how much the world can afford to have drilled out and how much has to stay in the ground?

KUMI NAIDOO: Well, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the biggest scientific enterprise probably in the history of humanity, has said in their last report that at least 80 percent of known fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground, if we are to have a chance to keep warming below, as far below, two degrees.

AMY GOODMAN: So it can’t be touched?

KUMI NAIDOO: It shouldn’t be touched. If we touch it, we’re gone. Right? It won’t happen tomorrow, but it will happen very rapidly. And let’s be very clear: The climate impacts are happening now. Right? We are seeing lives being lost now.

And, you know, Archbishop Desmond Tutu recorded a message, which was not shown at the General Assembly. He offered it. Because why? He said four things we need to do. Simple. One, no further fresh investments in fossil fuel exploration, because it’s senseless. Even what we know, we shouldn’t be touching. And he said all that money should go to renewables. Divest from fossil fuels, so anybody today who has a bank account, who has any investments, should be asking, if you care about your children’s future, “Are you investing in oil, coal and gas companies?” and try and get that—and rather invest it in renewable energies. The third he’s saying, we have to have a sense of justice. The Marshall Islands and these small island states, they’re almost zero carbon in terms of—it’s so unfair that people who have been least responsible for emissions are paying the first and most brutal price. And the fourth thing he said was, there has to be a climate liability, that those that have profited, those fossil fuel companies, must be held accountable to provide that support.

The thing I would say also to people of faith—and maybe I’ll put it in a light way. I was in Rome on a nuclear referendum, which we won, where the Italian people voted against nuclear a couple years ago. And I was in a studio sort of show on TV, and I said to the journalist, “You know, the pope”—because the Vatican was just around the corner, I said, “The pope and all our other religious leaders should come before us and ask us a simple question. They should ask, ‘To those of you who believe that God exists, do you really think God is so cruel?’” Because if you accept that God—for those who believe that God exists, God presumably knew humanity will need energy to survive on this planet. So did God scratch his head and say, “Oh, these people are going to need energy, so let me take the coal, put it deep in the ground, take the oil, put it deep in the ocean, and so on, so people will kill themselves trying to get to it and destroy things that actually humanity needs for its existence?” So, clearly, humanity has been looking—our religious leaders need to step forward now. And I’ll say that, yes, they are talking more now, but for far too long our religious leaders, their silence has been deafening on climate, right? I welcome the increased voices of the religious community now, because if you go with a religious philosophy, everything on this planet was created by God—our rivers, our oceans, our mountains and so on. So, clearly, our religious leaders should come and say, “Folks, you all have been looking primarily in the wrong direction. Rather than looking down for oil, coal and gas, you should look up and see that God gave you wind and sun to actually meet your needs.” You just have to be careful with that analogy, because some clever person is going to tell you geothermal also comes from below. So you should say, primarily we should be looking up rather than looking down.

And that’s what I mean about changing the narrative, right? We need to—and that’s why I’m so impressed with the trade union movement, globally and as well as in the United States. When Sharan Burrow, the first woman to lead the international trade union movement—in a meeting with Ban Ki-moon in Rio, she said, “Secretary-General, you might be surprised why me, as a trade unionist, where my main job is to fight for jobs and decent work, that I am so passionate about climate change, because, Secretary-General, I realize there are no jobs on a dead planet.” You know, I mean, fundamentally, short-term economic interest, which will kill the long-term interests of working people and so on.

And let’s be very clear: As Hurricane Katrina showed, when there is a major environmental disaster, it is the poor that suffer the most. Often—of course, I’m not saying that the rich are completely sanitized from it, but the rich have more options. They can jump in their cars and drive away, you know. The poor are stuck. And I still remember the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and when I saw that on television, while I was in Ghana when that happened. And I was sitting with a friend, who’s now dead, a Nigerian friend, Justice Egware in the anti-poverty movement, and we were both sitting there, and he said to me, “You know, in Africa, we might live with extreme poverty, but when our people die, we actually offer them dignity in the way we let them go. Look at those bodies, you know, wrapped around lamp poles, just hanging and floating there.” So, you know, what’s being challenged is our very sense of humanity. How do we think? How do we care?

And we must very clear: At the center of all of this is an acceptance that we have come—and when I say “acceptance,” not just the rich, but the poor, as well. We have accepted unacceptable levels of inequality. Part of what’s driving this, driving us to the cliff is overconsumption, overconsumption by the rich, and a total underconsumption by the poor. And we have to recognize, if rich people in the world care about their children’s future, they have to ask themselves the question: What level of wealth is acceptable, and what level of poverty is acceptable? Because everybody in the world says, “Oh, poverty is a bad thing. We shouldn’t have poverty.” But understand that poverty is there partly because those of us at the top want to have such a high level of income and such a high level of consumption without any real, meaningful care for those that are completely shut out of even the basic economic necessities.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about Latin America very briefly. The next summit is in Peru. You have countries like Ecuador and Bolivia, their leaders hailed by indigenous people when they were first elected to represent their interests, but now these countries, the indigenous people feel like they are, in many cases, at war with their government, because the governments, they feel, have turned on them. Can you talk, for example, about what’s happening in Ecuador, what the government, President Correa, tried to do, and then not succeeding, what he is doing now?

KUMI NAIDOO: Well, I think many of the governments in Latin America, those that were more environmentally concerned, concerned about climate, and also wanted to address the historical injustices that were done to indigenous peoples—and let’s be very clear, that redress has not even really started within the United States or elsewhere, but that’s another conversation which has to be addressed. But the reality is, you can get elected with those promises, and then you find yourself with the power of the fossil fuel industry, the power of developed governments who sometimes you might have reliance on aid, and those governments are saying to you, “If you don’t let X, Y and Z oil company from my country come here and so on, we’re going to cut your aid package and so on.” So, sometimes once you are in power, the amount of actual space you have to advance your agenda is very limited. Having said that, I’m not wanting to let those leaders off the hook for some of the things that they’ve actually done.

I should say Latin America also is a very tragic situation right now. Global Witness, a think tank out of London, just released a study a month ago, or six weeks ago, showing that every week two environmental activists are being killed. Just think about that—every week. Some of these folks might not self-describe themselves as environmentalists, but they are certainly engaged in defending forests. I spoke at the U.N. on forests with an indigenous leader from Brazil. I was very sad to hear him say—he said, you know, “Our people are literally dying to protect the forests.” Right? And most of these deaths, by the way, of this two-per-week average is in Latin America. It’s in Brazil, other Latin America countries, of course also Africa and Asia. And therefore—you know, there’s a new book, or not-so-new book now, that’s come out, I guess, called Green is the New Red, you know, where we are seeing that environmental activists are facing increasing repression.

But as I say, whenever—you know, like when our folks were in prison in Russia last year, the Arctic 30, and people were taken aback, I said, “You know, the one thing we should take comfort from is what Mahatma Gandhi once said. He said, ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight with you, and then you win.’” The fact that they’re not ignoring and laughing at us, the fact that they are fighting us so hard, I take a little comfort from that, because if Gandhi was right, let’s hope that we are just one step away from winning.

AMY GOODMAN: Kumi Naidoo, I want to thank you for being with us, executive director of Greenpeace International. He’s usually based in Durban, South Africa, though it seems the whole planet is his home. Thanks so much.

KUMI NAIDOO: Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

Kumi Naidoo,
executive director of Greenpeace International.


My other bicycle is an Aston Martin

The bicycle was once a humble contraption, simply a way for those of modest
means to get from A to B.

No longer. Inspired no doubt by Olympic success and all those colourful Tour
de France jerseys flying by, cycling is enjoying an unprecedented boom.

The bicycle has at the same time become a status symbol with state-of-the-art
gearing systems and ultra-light frames pushing the price of high-end models
up to £17,000 and beyond.

Gordon Ramsay and Lord Sugar are among this new breed of enthusiast, boasting
glittering, technologically advanced bikes, and the trend has reached
specialist retailers on the high street.

More than three quarters of a million people commute by bicycle each day in
Britain, with around three million more getting in the saddle at least three
times a week for the sheer enjoyment of it.

Spending on bicycles in Britain is now more than £1.5 billion a year, three
times the amount spent on motorcycles, and specialist retailers report a
dramatic increase in demand for finely engineered bikes with price tags over

Richard Smith, a retail expert at ActSmart, said: “The road cycling boom has
seen people flocking to the sport from other hobbies. Moneyed sailing, golf
and motorsport enthusiasts see £10,000 as pocket change.”

For the price of a family hatchback, enthusiasts are choosing hand-made bikes
soldered with precious metals and fitted with the most advanced components.

The Moulton Bicycle Company, in Bradford on Avon, which specialises in
small-wheeled bikes, now offers its most expensive model, the New Series
Double Pylon, at up to £16,500. The bike is hand-crafted in stainless steel
and brazed with silver alloys. The gears alone can cost £1,000.

“I see a very close parallel to the world of watches,” said Steve Harvey, of
Moulton. “You can spend £20 to £200 on a working watch, £2,000 on a special
working watch, £20,000 on a show watch and £200,000 on a collectible watch.
They’d all function perfectly well and the watch industry has banked on
people upgrading.

“I think this is happening in the bicycle world. The one massive benefit is
that these fine objects can get you to work, save on fuel bills and leave
you with the heart of a 20-year-old.”

He added: “A greater number of cycle owners choose to own more bicycles now.
There is a trend towards having three or four bicycles or more.”

Aston Martin, James Bond’s favoured carmaker, released a £25,000 bicycle
called the One-77 in 2012. It has a carbon fibre frame, electric gear
mechanisms, hydraulic disc brakes and a genuine Aston Martin leather seat.

Gretta Cole, co-owner of the Velorution cycling store in London, sells bikes
from £300 up to £15,000.

“People often want something that is collectible and iconic,
engineering-wise,” she said. “People want beautiful things just as they
would want to buy a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce.

“I’m seeing an increase in people’s awareness of what is available and the
choice in terms of more quality-build bikes with top-grade components. This
market is moving at the speed of light.”

Visit The Times’s dedicated leisure cycling page for news, kit
reviews and features to help you get the most from your ride at


Exercise detoxes body of depressive chemicals, scientists find

But it now appears that during exercise, the muscles begin to act like the
liver or kidneys and produce an enzyme which clears out a molecule linked to

The team is hopeful that eventually a pill could be produced which would
trigger the same effect to help the mentally ill.

“Our initial research hypothesis was that trained muscle would produce a
substance with beneficial effects on the brain,” said Dr Jorge Ruas,
principal investigator at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology.

“We actually found the opposite: well-trained muscle produces an enzyme that
purges the body of harmful substances. So the muscle’s function is
reminiscent of that of the kidney or the liver.”

Dr Ruas said cardiovascular exercise would probably have the biggest impact on
mood and reducing stress.

“It is possible that other kinds of exercise will also have an effect, like
resistance training such as weight lifting. But our results support the use
of aerobic exercise like biking and running.

“Skeletal muscle appears to have a detoxification effect that, when activated,
can protect the brain from mental illness.”

The study also demonstrates why people who do not exercise end up feeling
sluggish, depressed and are more prone to disease.

GPs can currently prescribe exercise for depression, but are far more likely
to prescribe anti-depressants. There were 53 million prescriptions were
issued for antidepressants in England alone last year, nearly double the
number prescribed a decade ago.

“Our modern, sedentary lifestyles that don’t include sufficient physical
activity, might have made us mode susceptible to diseases such as
stress-induced depression,” Dr Ruas added.

“Physical exercise is already prescribed as a therapy or co-therapy for
mild to moderate depression. We think that our findings will help support
the use of physical exercise in the prevention and treatment of depression.”

Researchers had known that the protein PGC-1α1 increases in skeletal muscle
during exercise but were unclear about what it was doing.

The team genetically engineered mice to have high levels of the protein and
then exposed them, and a control group of normal mice, to a stressful
environment of loud noises and flashing lights.

They found that after five weeks the normal mice had become depressed but the
engineered mice appeared to be protected.

It is thought that the protein produces an enzyme called KAT which turns the
harmful kynurenine molecule into harmless kynurenic acid which can be passed
easily out of the body.

Carmine Pariante, Professor of Biological Psychiatry at Kings College London
said the finding was ‘very important’ to the understanding of exercise and

“Exercise is always good for mental and physical health,” he said.

“This study shows one of the mechanisms by which exercise is beneficial but is
not the only one good thing – people should exercise anyway.”

The study was published in the journal Cell.


Pro cyclist interview: Ian Field relishing new ‘cross season

Three-time reigning British cyclo-cross champion Ian Field enjoyed his best season to date last time out and is relishing kicking off the new campaign.

Field will be leading an all-star cast in an elite cyclo-cross race at The Cycle Show, at Birmingham’s NEC Arena, which opens to the public tomorrow (Friday September 26).

The race, which takes place on Sunday, will serve as a form finder for Britain’s lone male representative on the UCI World Cup as he prepares for a season which includes a round of the prestigious World Cup at Milton Keynes.

Ian Field, Tabor, UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup 2013/14, round two, pic: Balint Hamvas
British champion, Ian Field, is hoping for another consistent showing at this season’s UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup pic: ©Balint Hamvas

And Field is keen to improve on a consistent showing last time out as he continues to establish himself in cyclo-cross’ top tier.

“My target for this season will be improving again in the World Cup series, with a big emphasis on the round in Milton Keynes because it will be a big deal,” he said. “I’m just looking for another consistent season with top-20 World Cup results along the way.

“I’m feeling alright. Training’s been going pretty well. I’ve had a decent summer and I’m just looking forward to that first race really to see where I am and get going with the real racing.

“I did four/five mountain bike races and a few road races over the summer, and the mix of the two is ideal really. Mountain biking gets the strength and the technical skills, while I get my speed and stamina from the road racing.”

Mountain biking gets the strength and the technical skills, while I get my speed and stamina from the road racing.

Milton Keynes will host the cyclo-cross elite on Saturday November 29 and – while it is not the first major event to be held on these shores – Field believes it is a marker of the recent boom in popularity of the discipline.

It is more than two decades since Leeds hosted the World Championships – following previous events in Birmingham and London – and Field hopes the Milton Keynes World Cup round will herald the start of a new era of elite racing in Britain.

“Having the World Championships was huge, but to put it into perspective I was five at the time of the last one! It was 22 years ago so it’s only really the veterans who were involved or even remember it.

“There’s no one riding who would have been competing back then, so the World Cup round will be really big. It will mark the progress that ‘cross is going through at the minute, it is a step in the right direction.

2013/14, UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup, Ian Field, Great Britain, Valkenburg, descent, pic: Balint Hamvas
Field hopes the Milton Keynes round of the World Cup will be the first of many (Pic: Balint Hamvas)

“I haven’t been down there. It’s all well and good to go down and have a look a field but until the course is set up and you can see the features and ride around it, you can not really gauge it.

“I’ve seen some pictures though and it looks like there will be a big gradient change, so I know it’s going to be hard. I’m just looking forward to it really.

“To a certain extent you need to see it as just another race and not put too much emphasis on it but I think the main home advantage will be the crowd rather than local knowledge.”

And Field, who is looking forward to taking cyclo-cross to the public during Sunday’s The Cycle Show race, has implored on the British public to come and support the event.

To a certain extent you need to see Milton Keynes as just another race and not put too much emphasis on it but I think the main home advantage will be the crowd rather than local knowledge.

“I think, over the past couple of years, cycling in general has taken a step forward and ‘cross is part of that,” he said.

“At the start of the season we have seen huge numbers at local league events, almost to the point where there’s so many people taking part they’re having to find new categories and new races. It’s a nice problem to have but it shows the sport is exploding.

“I really hope the Milton Keynes round is the first of many. It really depends on everyone involved in ‘cross buying a ticket, going down and showing how big ‘cross really is in the UK.

“To be honest, I think that’s what the UCI are looking for. The World Cup races last year in Holland, France and Belgium were good but the Rome one was just pathetic.

UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup round three - Koksijde - Ian Field
Field, pictured in action at Koksijde, has worked on his strength over the summer with a mix of road and mountain bike racing (pic: Balint Hamvas)

“There was literally one man and his dog watching. It was a huge anti-climax and it doesn’t look great on TV either. And so, you can see now, we aren’t going back there.

“I think if everyone turns up to Milton Keynes and shows their support, and the sponsors are there and can see that, it will really secure its future and possibly even get a look-in for having the World Championships again.”

First up though, national pride is at stake at The Cycle Show as Field dons the blue, red and white jersey for the first time this season.

And, he concluded, he is hoping a high-profile season will be the ideal curtain raiser for a big season in the offing.

“I think The Cycle Show will be nice to bring ‘cross to the people,” he added. “There will be a lot of guys from the industry there, but we can show it off – hopefully – in a glamorous setting to the public. It will be good.”

It is not too late to buy tickets for The Cycle Show, and RoadCyclingUK readers can use the discount code RCUK to get in for just £11.50 when booking in advance online.

Tickets are also available on the door for £16 per adult, with children aged less than 14 able to get in for just £1 with an adult. Concessions are also available.


Alternative New Forest cycle plans criticised

Bike in the New ForestAlternative plans to encourage cycling in the New Forest have been compiled by the National Park Authority

Alternative plans to improve cycling in the New Forest, following the rejection of a “Boris Bikes” hire scheme, have been criticised by campaigners.

The scheme was to have been part of £3.6m Department for Transport (DfT) funding for “family friendly” cycling in the national park, which has to be spent by March.

National Park Authority (NPA) members are due to discuss revised plans later.

Cycling blogger Tim Barry called them “a real setback”.

In August NPA members voted to abandon the £2m rural bike hire scheme, similar to the one introduced by Boris Johnson in London, after a report cited “anti-cycling sentiment” in the forest.

The authority said alternative plans would “help form a better network for cyclists in and to the National Park and provide benefits for a greater number of cyclists”.

Rhinefield Ornamental DriveProposed improvements to the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive will cost £1.27m

Among the proposals, more than £1.27m is allocated to the 6-mile (9.6km) Rhinefield Ornamental Drive road.

The authority said it planned to “upgrade road edges on both sides (without road widening), creating a consistent, high quality surface for cyclists to access this key scenic route”.

‘Real hit’

It also plans to spend £300,000 on improving cycling facilities at Moors Valley Country Park, outside the national park boundary.

“It provides a high quality cycling experience for over a million visitors a year and in particular for types of cycling not possible in the National Park such as the more extreme mountain biking,” the NPA said.

Mr Barry who runs the Cycle New Forest website, called the new plans a “glorified pot hole repair scheme” and urged a revival of the original bike hire scheme.

“It was such a good idea and now cycling has taken a real hit.

“In the wider cycling press the thinking is New Forest is anti-cycling. And yet the New Forest gets its main income from tourism”.

If agreed by authority members, the proposals will go to the DfT for ministerial approval.


Adventure Motorcycling Handbook Author Chris Scott Talks About His New Book

His new book is something different. It isn’t a guide book although I suspect there’ll be plenty of lessons to be learnt! 

Take it away Chris:

“The wrong kind of Adventure Motorcycling

I’ve written a new book. A motobiography called  Adventures in Motorcycling – Despatching Through 80s London about my occasionally badly behaved years as a motorcycle courier in London, thirty years ago. The book starts in the ‘sports moped’ era in the late seventies, before progressing on to despatch riding on everything from classic Brit twins and thundering Italian street racers, to East German mangles, demented dirt missiles and nitrox-injected dinosaurs. By the time I finished with that job I’d had many, many more motorbikes than birthdays.

If you rode bikes, lived in London, watched films, listened to music and had an opinion on Thatcher back then (as well as perhaps taking in a bit of rioting or protesting), you’ll find something to enjoy or wag a finger at in the new book. For a flavour of what it’s all about, scroll through the year-by-year galleries from those biking boom years which, among other things, brought us the great machines we ride today.

The kindle version will be out in early December (you can pre-order it off amazon now). The 300-page paperback is out in February. There’s a chance there may be some advance copies of the paperback before Christmas so pre-order the paperback off my website. (Free delivery in the UK.)

Or, forget all of that and if the old eyes are still up to it, test your skills of observation in the Spot the Difference competition on the website to win a free copy of a kindle or a paperback.

If you do the social media then  s p r e a d  the word!




Bradley Wiggins wins time trial at 2014 UCI World Championships in Ponferrada

Neither is Wiggins, as he proved with a trademark press conference afterwards,
fizzing off swearwords one minute and childhood memories the next, British
Cycling’s press officer simultaneously wincing and beaming on the sidelines.

“I didn’t have any time checks until 5km to go,” Wiggins said of his tactics.
“I thought it was very important to pace my own ride. I had a game plan in
my head as to what kind of power I was going for.

“I didn’t want to change after 12km depending on whether I was up or
down. I knew I could get the better of Tony if I could sustain 470-480watts
in the final. Then they told me I had 10sec on Tony and I s— myself.”

The Spanish translator looked inquisitively at him. “That means —- my
pants,” Wiggins added by way of clarification.

He may not be a machine but when he really sets his mind on something, and
gets his preparations just right, Wiggins has proved to be almost
unbeatable. And over such a variety of disciplines.

The world time trial title on Wednesday ensures that Wiggins becomes the first
rider to win Olympic gold medals (four of them) on both the track and road,
world titles (seven) on both the track and the road, as well as the Tour de

There are few peaks in cycling left for him to conquer, although a win over
the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix – unheard of from a grand tour winner over the
last quarter of a century – would be extraordinary. He came ninth this year,
having managed to get into the final selection.

Then there is the hour record, which has been reinvigorated thanks to Jens
Voigt’s exploits last week, the German setting a new – but eminently
beatable – benchmark of 51.115km in Switzerland. And finally there is the
long-term goal of ending his career as he began it, on the track, with team
pursuit gold.

Knock all of those off and Wiggins would certainly lay claim to being one of
the greatest all round riders there has ever been, if he is not already on
that list.

“I don’t think of it in terms of becoming one of great all-round riders,” he
said. “It’s not like I’m going from this to mountain biking or cyclo-cross.
But I’d love to win Roubaix.

“Obviously I was up there this year and I want to focus more on it next
year. And then off the back of that really focus on the hour record. Rather
than do it next week off the back of this, I want to really invest in that
and do it as a project and get the best out of that one attempt. Then it is
all about the Olympics.”

This, Wiggins added, would be his final world road race championships. Next
year, when the event takes place in Richmond Virginia, it will be less than
a year to go until Rio, while the following year, when the championships
head to Qatar, he will be 36 and “old enough for the Masters [event]”.

The future, he said, was for the likes of’ Tom Dumoulin, the 23-year-old
Dutchman who claimed bronze on Wednesday 40.64sec back. “I won my first
world title when he was seven years old,” Wiggins said with a laugh. “It’s a
funny thing. I grew up such a fan of cycling. People like Miguel [Indurain]
and Gianni Bugno, they were my heroes. And I’m inspiring kids now. Just
seeing the juniors on the course this morning, and the U23 guys, all wanting

“I guess without realising it, you are up there like Indurain was for me. And
then when you retire… just seeing Eddy Merckx walking around when we were
warming up. We’re just continuing that I guess.

“But your performances are what people remember you for the most. As for
the rest of it, it’s for other people to decide. Not everyone likes you. You
want to see my comments on Instagram sometimes!”

Not everyone does, but after a rocky patch last year when the fallout between
Wiggins and Chris Froome threatened to sour the British public’s
relationship with the 2012 Sports Personality of the Year, Wiggins is fast
returning to national treasure status.

“It’s been an up-and-down year,” he reflected of the way things have panned
out since June when he was dropped from Team Sky’s Tour de France squad.
“But this is amazing.”

UCI World Championships details

Men’s individual time trial; Ponferrada – Ponferrada, 47.1km:

1. Bradley Wiggins (GB) 56 minutes 25 seconds, 2. Tony Martin
(Ger) at 26sec, 3. Tom Dumoulin (Hol) 41sec, 4. Vasil Kiryienka
(Bel) 48sec, 5. Rohan Dennis (Aus) 58sec, 6. Adriano Malori
(Ita) 1min 12sec, 7. Nelson Oliveira (Por) 1min 22sec, 8. Anton
(Rus) 1min 30sec, 9. Jan Barta (Cze) 1min 43sec, 10.
Jonathan Castroviejo
(Spa) 1min 44sec.

Selected others: 20. Alex Dowsett (GB) 2min 35sec, 41. Nicolas Roche (Ire)
3min 51sec.


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