Searching for our Happy Lands

September 23, 2013

Review of The Happy Lands (directed by Robert Rae, 2013; a Theatre Workshop Scotland production).

This remarkable film is set in an East Fife pit village during the 1926 general strike and the lock-out of mineworkers that followed. It depicts communism as understood and practiced in a working class community. The story was put soupkitchen1together by, and re-enacted by, present-day East Fifers, in many cases grandchildren and great-grandchildren of 1926 strikers.

The Happy Lands is an amazing product of collective memory. Meetings were held in the former mining communities; people’s memories, handed down through the generations, were gathered, discussed and compared to written records; and the script was shaped collaboratively. About a thousand volunteers helped on the film – and make up most of the cast, which includes just a handful of professional actors.

The result is no piece of amateur dramatics but a vivid, moving, high-quality feature that speaks to the 21st century. The action starts in May 1926, when a plan by the government and mine owners to cut the wages of 1 million coal miners triggered the UK’s only ever general strike, called by the Trades Union Read the rest of this entry »

Cameroon land grab meltdown

September 20, 2013

A monumental and very slick land grab in Cameroon, west Africa by a US-based company appears to be heading for collapse. The Herakles Farm project “appears to have now gone off the rails”, the Oakland Institute, which monitors land grabbing, said in a press release.

“Herakles Farms had purported to herald a new era of ‘sustainable agriculture’ by replacing old-growth rainforest with palm oil plantations”, Read the rest of this entry »

Safety on the North Sea: back to business as usual

September 3, 2013

North Sea oil worker and activist NEIL ROTHNIE comments on the Super Puma helicopter crash on 23 August that claimed the lives of four workers. The incident has provoked a storm of anger among North Sea workers and communities, expressed on the Destroy the Super Pumas facebook page.

Here we are, after another four deaths in a helicopter disaster in the North Sea oilfields – the latest of five choppers to come down, with a total of twenty lives lost, in the last four years.

And now it would seem from press reports that the focus by the powers that be in the industry is on rebuilding the shattered confidence of the offshore workers (and their families) who regularly fly to work in the Super Puma.  And I thought they would be concentrating on replacing the fleet of aircraft that take us there.

But just maybe, behind the scenes, the real focus of the authorities is to come up with some explanation for the latest disaster and the death of four workers, and Read the rest of this entry »

Global warming: Pacific trends may explain hiatus, but the big picture has not changed

September 3, 2013

A study published by climate scientists last week argues that a slowdown in global warming over the last 15 years may be due to multi-year temperature cycles in the Pacific Ocean.

That means that – while some heat has been stored in the Pacific short-term – the long-term warming effect of greenhouse gas emissions continues.

800px-Pacific_Ocean_At_Acapulco_1The research, based on modelling at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the USA, was published in Nature. (There’s a good report on the Nature web site here, although the original article is behind a pay wall.)

Climate modeller Shang-Ping Xie, who led the study, said that it shows that cooling in the equatorial Pacific “turns out to be strong enough to offset the general rise in temperature induced by anthropogenic greenhouse gases”. The model also helps to explain regional trends – such as the Read the rest of this entry »

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