Welcome to the Climate Radio archive! We return in 2015 for what we hope will be several short series. We start the year with four hour-long programmes in March where we’ll be exploring some of big ideas for supercharging the climate change agenda. These will be broadcast on Tuesdays 4-5pm on Resonance FM and syndicated far and wide! For those of you wanting to catch up with Climate Radio’s most recent programming, our monthly shows for 2013 can be found here. As can our additional special programmes including new economics foundation fellow Andrew Simm’s keynote speech “Seeking Goodland”, coverage of the Reclaim The Power protest camp against fracking in Balcombe and an audio document of the Two Degrees festival of climate arts-activism. Thanks to Artists Project Earth, Resonance FM and New Internationalist for their support in 2013 and Network for Social Change for seed funding in 2015.
Owen Jones’ latest book, The Establishment: And how they get away with it (Allen Lane), is a pithy retelling of recent political scandals, studded with dozens of revealing interviews with power brokers.
It has hugely important things to say about the state of our democracy, the shocking pace at which the gains of the post-war settlement (the National Health Service (NHS), the welfare state) are being rolled back, and the extent to which bankers and corporations are now sitting at the very heart of power. It concludes with a call for a democratic revolution and sets out proposals for reform.
I interviewed Owen for New Internationalist online and reviewed his book for the October issue of the magazine. Read the interview here. Climate Radio looked at the rotten state of our democracy and the need for radical reform in a panel discussion in April last year which you can listen to here. Meanwhile Occupy London are calling for an occupation of Parliament Square from 17-26 October. Here’s some advance information about that:
“This is a highly effective, unpreventable form of non-violent dissent – and also a sensual, personal work of art in its own right.”
On Saturday, 12pm-4pm, Resonance FM & Liberate Tate joined forces for an alternative group tour of London’s Tate galleries facilitated by a special FM radio broadcast. Real life and radio combined as participants were guided through Tate Britain, onto the Tate Boat and through the Tate Modern by a sequence of guerilla audio guides created by leading London artists.
You can now listen to the archived broadcast above which includes live interviews with Gulf of Mexico residents testifying about the state Gulf four years after the Deepwater Horizon well was capped; as well as campaigners from the fossil fuel divestment movement and artist Ansuman Biswas. The last half hour was given over to a special panel debate on fossil fuel sponsorship of the arts chaired by writer and researcher Alice Bell.
The broadcast also includes three specially designed sound works explore BP’s controversial sponsorship of the Tate galleries. These were commissioned by Liberate Tate, Art Not Oil and Platform London as part of the campaign to end fossil fuel sponsorship of the arts. The works are by Ansuman Biswas (Tate Britain), Isa Suarez, Mae Martin and Mark McGowan aka The Artist Taxi Driver (Tate Boat) and Jim Whelton and, yours truly, Phil England (Tate Modern).
For full details see the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1521065414783006/
“The domain of art and culture presents us with a realm where we can explore issues we are hard-wired to avoid in a soft or mediated way or in a way that directly speaks to our unconscious. It was interesting then to see how a number of artists explored different ways of confronting extinction in an evening dedicated to performance programmed into the June Facing Extinction conference.”
“Facing the reality of our ecological crisis is one thing. Acting to stop it is another. To be effective, I would argue, requires having a political analysis that addresses the question of why governments are failing to respond adequately to the signals coming from the scientific community. It also requires artists to think about where to intervene in a complex system.”
Read the full piece at The Wire.
Legendary radical artist Gustav Metzger has become increasingly concerned the impact human activity is having on nature. In a rare interview, I spoke to Metzger about the two-day conference he initiated at UCA Farnham entitled Facing Extinction – which asks the profound question “What role can artists play in radically limiting the ongoing decimation of nature?” – as well as his formative experiences and a lifetime of radical artistic practice.
The interview took place on Saturday 31st May at Gustav’s studio in London Fields. Climate Radio also recorded the proceedings of the Facing Extinction conference (7 & 8 June) for a forthcoming series on Resonance FM which will be archived in due course. Update: The Facing Extinction series is being broadcast by Resonance FM on Wednesdays, 1pm-2pm.
A revamped alternative audio tour for Tate Modern explores why sponsor BP’s problems are deep and structural. By Phil England. Published by Platform London.
It was four years ago this week that the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded while drilling into BP’s Macondo oil well, killing eleven people. In a report issued last week, the National Wildlife Federation records that over 900 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead or stranded in the area since the disaster. Amongst other key species they noted an abnormally high number of dead sea turtles – around 500 every year. Respiratory problems and skin diseases continue to affect the human population and last month 300 pounds of tar balls washed up on a beech in Mississippi.
Fisherman Bert Ducote who helped with the clean-up effort in 2010 and has suffered with skin boils said, “The little amount of money they’re trying to give us, it’s never going to replace our quality of life, our health.”
It’s a far cry from the “temporary difficulty” that Tate director Nicholas Serota described his “friend” BP as having back in July 2010, while millions of barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico for the third month in a row.
In 2012 sound artist Jim Welton and I produced an alternative audio tour for the Tate Modern as part of a triptych of audio artworks taking issue with BP’s controversial sponsorship of the Tate galleries. One critic described it as “A highly effective, unpreventable form of non-violent dissent – and also a sensual, personal work of art in its own right.”
This week we launch a new version of the guide to accommodate changes in the gallery displays so that it now incorporates works by Derek Jarman and Pino Pascali. You can download the MP3 onto your mobile phone and listen on headphones or earbuds as you are directed through the gallery. Alternatively you can listen to the piece online at home.
Nicholas Serota’s belittling of the Deepwater Horizon disaster was offensive to those thousands of people whose lives and livelihoods were ruined by the spill and the dispersant used in the “clean-up”. We used his quote in the title of our piece – Drilling The Dirt (“A Temporary Difficulty”) – to draw attention to this misunderstanding and because it resonated in so many different ways. Most importantly we wanted to show that the problem with BP was not temporary and minor but deep and structural. Its business model is rooted in colonialism, puts profits before safety and is predicated on our collective descent into a world of climate extremes.
BP began life as the Anglo Iranian Oil Company after the British and French carved up the Middle East between them at the end of the first world war. Iran’s riches were expropriated at little benefit to the country’s population. In 1953 the UK and US even organised a coup to oust the democratically elected president Mohammed Mossadeq in order to keep the oil flowing. This colonial model continues today with BP “developing” the oil resources of poor countries in unfair deals that are maintained by supporting repressive regimes. Azerbaijan and Egypt are two cases in point.
According to the US Department of Justice’s lawyers currently prosecuting BP under the Clean Water Act, BP’s activities are underpinned by a “culture of corporate recklessness.” It’s nothing new. The investigation into the explosion at BP’s Texas City oil refinery in 2005 that killed 15 workers and injured 180 concluded that “organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels of the BP Corporation” were responsible. They traced this managerial malaise back to two major cost-cutting drives – mandated by the then CEO Lord Browne – in 1999 and 2004.
This month the accident-prone company spilled over 1200 gallons into Lake Michigan from its refinery in Whiting potentially contaminating the drinking water of seven million Chicago residents. Oops.
And as if these concerns were not enough, it is the potential of fossil fuel companies like BP to influence our energy future that should concern us most.
BP’s projections assume we will not take sufficient action to tackle climate change as a global community. As a company they are essentially betting against your future and my future. We now know that 80% of fosil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. If BP wins, we lose.
The tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico four years ago caused the company’s share price to nose dive and brought BP to the brink of bankruptcy and there’s still a possibility the disaster could end up breaking the company. The current CEO Bob Dudley has overseen asset sales worth around $50 billion. That’s resulted in a 20% reduction in oil and gas output and a loss in profits of about $5 billion a year. If the US [Department of Justice] [courts] determines that BP was grossly negligent under the Clean Water Act the company’s liabilities could rise by an additional $18 billion.
The final reason we subtitled our work “A temporary difficulty” was because we believe it is only a matter of time before the Tate cedes to public pressure and ends its relationship with BP. The campaign was given high-level endorsement earlier this month when Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for an Apartheid-style boycott of fossil fuel companies to help drive forward action on climate change. “People of conscience,” he wrote, “need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.”
The Art Not Oil campaign has achieved some notable successes recently. A group called Reclaim Our Bard brought an end to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s relationship with BP using the power of their pop-up dramatic skits while choral campaigners Shell Out Sounds were successful in singing Shell out of the “Shell Classics” concert series at the Royal Festival Hall. The idea that fossil fuel companies are suitable sponsors for the arts and sport is coming to an end and the longer Tate clings on to its relationship with BP, the longer it will be on the wrong side of history.
Download the Tate Modern alternative audio tour from www.tateatate.org or listen online below.
Press release * 18th April 2014 * For immediate release
Fourth Anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Explosion marked with Refreshed Tate Modern Audio Tour
It was four years ago this Sunday (20th April) that the Deepwater Horizon exploded killing eleven workers. The subsequent spill and clean up operation devastated ecosystems, wrecked the health and livelihoods of communities and brought the company within days of bankruptcy.
To mark the anniversary and honour the victims Platform is releasing an updated version of the Tate Modern alternative audio guide which takes issue with BP’s controversial sponsorship of Tate galleries.
As Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls for an Apartheid-style boycott movement against fossil fuel companies and their funders in order to tackle climate change, Tate’s relationship with BP is becoming increasingly untenable.
The work, Drilling the Dirt (A Temporary Difficulty), was originally produced in 2012 by Phil England and Jim Welton and has been updated by the artists to incorporate recent changes in the gallery displays.
Phil England said, “Tate director Nicolas Serota belittled the impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill when he described it as ‘a temporary difficulty’. Our piece gives voice to some of those who have been affected, not just by this disaster but also by BP’s activities across the decades. Our aim was to show that the problem with BP is not temporary, but deep, structural and ongoing.”
Kevin Smith of Platform said, “Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s comments earlier this month give a huge moral legitimacy to our ongoing campaign to bring an end to fossil fuel sponsorship of the arts. It’s time Tate started listening to the concerns of moral leaders, campaigners, artists and its own members.”
The work is part of a triptych of pieces collectively know as Tate à Tate. The other pieces are Panaudicon by Ansuman Biswas (designed to be played in situ at the Tate) and This is Not an Oil Tanker by Isa Suarez designed to be played in the on the Tate Boat that runs on the Thames and transports people between the two galleries. All three pieces were commissioned by Platform, Liberate Tate and Art Not Oil.
The piece is designed to be downloaded onto your mobile phone so that you can listen on headphones or earbuds as you are directed through the gallery. You can also listen to the work online in a setting of your choosing.
The tour can be downloaded from http://tateatate.org/
1. Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote in The Guardian on 10 April: “People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.” (“We need an Apartheid-style boycott to save the planet”)
2. Nicholas Serota told the Jewish Chronicle in July 2010: “You don’t abandon your friends because they have what we consider to be a temporary difficulty.” (“Interview: Nicholas Serota”)
3. More information about the audio tours and artists can be found at http://tateatate.org/