Society: bigger feminist fish to fry

Yesterday I posted Alecia Lynn Eberhardt’s blog on Facebook about why as a woman, saying “I have a boyfriend” when you want a man to leave you alone is problematic. I agreed with it.

I’ve been accused of demonising all men by the actions of a few. In short, i’m “pitting women against men”, which is an “outdated mode of fighting inequality” and “us against them won’t get us anywhere”.

This stale adage which is starting to make my teeth hurt also cropped up:

“There are bigger fish to fry.”

There is ONE fish to fry. Inequality. I’m frying it on all sides.

I can talk about FGM in the same breath as the fact that Bear Grylls has made a TV show about surviving a desert island with men only (because “it’s about man’s modern struggle”), as both are important.

They’re both symptoms of an unequal society which sees women as commodities or not as capable as men. We should be talking about every element of women’s struggle to be equal. We have to fight everything together at once.

Rape (notionally worse than ‘lesser’ sexist behaviour) happens because our sexist society teaches us that women are beneath men and that assumption festers in every small, ‘insignificant’ inequality.

I will NOT pick my battles.

I will not let the little things go. When a man in the gym asks my male exercise partner if he’s done on the machine and ignores me (yesterday), I will speak up.

The Facebook criticism of Alecia’s blog was that it implies that “all men are predatory and assume a knowing dominance and that women need to defend themselves against men.”

Talking about the actions of predatory men is not the same as saying all men are rapists. Calling out the sexism and misogyny rife in society is not the same as saying all men are sexists.

So what about men who aren’t predatory? The ones who don’t rape?

What about them? Should I congratulate each and every one of them for respecting my rights as a human being?

Let’s apply a similar question to another subject, for fairness’ sake. Because, being one of those people who actually thinks women should have the same rights as men, i’m terribly biased.

“What about dog owners who don’t beat their dogs?”

If a blog about dog cruelty is posted on the internet, I don’t imagine i’d hear the sound of dog owners around the world indignantly typing, “excuse me! I’m a dog owner that respects dogs!” But there’s no such thing as the dog owner’s ego, as far as I know.

If you don’t like hearing that men hurt women, tough shit, it happens, get used to it. I’m not going to shut up about it.

If you don’t like me telling you that men rape, help me change the culture that normalises violence against women by speaking up like I do. If you think my battles are trivial, take up one you think is more meaningful.

Patriarchy hurts men as well as women. It doubly hurts women when they are more focused on protecting the male ego than calling out inequality.

Nigella Lawson arrives at court like a bias

Society: Why I’m #TeamNigella

I have loved Nigella Lawson since I was 17 years old. How To Be A Domestic Goddess was one of the first cookbooks I actually bought myself rather than raiding my mother’s bookcase (yes she has at least a whole bookcase of cookbooks and counting) and I spent many a weekend pouring over the indecently sugary pictures deciding what to make next.

Screen Shot 2013-12-07 at 2.11.49 PM

Baking became something of an escape for me during my agnsty teenage phase  and Nigella was a big part of that. She might not be the best chef out there, in fact some of her recipes kind of defy logic and I still can’t make them work, but she more than makes up for it with her can-do attitude and slightly slap-dash approach to baking. She shows women that being a domestic goddess isn’t about holding yourself to unachievable standards of perfection; it means making the best with what you have. Besides any woman who admits to eating chocolate mousse straight out of the fridge as a midnight snack is clearly one after my own heart.

That’s why I was so disappointed to see to British papers (I won’t link to the bastards) focusing on her alleged drug taking rather than celebrating her for having the strength to leave what was clearly an abusive marriage. Not to mention the hypocrisy of editors gleefully condemning her as a fallen woman for having once or twice tried cocaine when they probably snort a line each morning along with their Starbucks. Headlines along the lines of “Nigella Lawson admits taking cocaine” or “Nigella Lawson admits dating Charles Saatchi not very long after the death of her husband” (thanks Daily Mail) paint a sad and grim picture of the way traditional media likes to treat women, i.e. put them on a pedestal and then tear them down.

By being drawn into discussing these BS cocaine rumours, which were blatantly fuelled by her former husband’s PR machine, we’re just allowing him to perpetuate the emotional manipulation and abuse he tortured her with during their marriage. He allegedly told her he would destroy her if she didn’t go back to him. He also allegedly was so possessive that he gripped her by the neck and said, “I’m the only one you should be concerned with.” Let’s instead focus on how strong this woman is and how she is an inspiration to women everywhere. And also how she showed up to court looking like a boss.

Nigella Lawson arrives at court like a bias

That’s why, for what it counts, I’m still firmly #TeamNigella or #TeamCupcake as she likes us to be known. She’s handled a difficult situation with grace, courage and an outrageous amount of sass, which makes her even more of a hero to me than she was before. I can’t wait for her next TV show and cookbook and will be watching and buying alongside my mum and sister. Plus if my Christmas work party last night is anything to go by – I vaguely remember arguing with my colleagues over who loved Nigella more – the public still see her as a domestic goddess and Saatchi and every middle aged male newspaper editor can go fuck themselves.

Young men binge drinking

Society: Demonised and Degraded – My Home Town in the Media

I have recently been watching Bouncers, only because it followed the brilliant and sweet Educating Yorkshire, but i’ve laughed along at the coverage of a boozy Britain and the sensationalised portrayal of our culture of high street drunk and disorderliness.

Then I watched the most recent two episodes, filmed in Essex, around Colchester High Street and Clacton-on-Sea’s seafront bars. Suddenly 45 minutes of escapism became far too personal.

Young men binge drinking

After being born and starting school in North London, I moved to Colchester to be closer to my mum’s family, and that’s where I grew up. My mum and her family are from nearby Clacton, a small seaside town famed as a fading weekend holiday destination. It peaked as a resort town in the 1950s and the decline of tourism has seen the town hit with poverty and social problems. Cocaine is rife, which I find strange given that most people in town have no money to fund a habit. 41% of Clacton residents have no qualifications and Jaywick, an area of the town, is officially the most deprived area in the UK. It’s an easy media target, dubbed a “dumping ground for the poor“.

Here’s what Sam Wollaston said about Colchester, as portrayed in the Bouncers, in the Guardian:

“Colchester town centre on a Saturday night is a terrifying place. Fuelled by sambuca shots and Jagerbombs, predatory herds – of men, women, everything in between – prowl, searching for sex. Or failing that, a fight. Or both, in either order. As the evening goes on, the tension – and the volume – rises. Saggy-panted boys stagger out of doorways, then moon and shout at passing cars. Bottles, hands, voices, cocks, are waved in the air triumphantly. Arses are grabbed, and punches are thrown. The gutters run with piss and vomit and blood, and probably even worse.”

Google couldn’t tell me where Wollaston’s from. I’m guessing not Colchester, which he’s made clear he wouldn’t touch with a pooey stick.

Then, later in the week, Channel Four’s horrible through-the-fourth-wall viewer review show Gogglebox showed families watching footage, with one man exclaiming “I’d rather have a firework shoved up my arse than go to Colchester! What a shithole!” Even the family from Clacton laugh at the portrayal of their hometown, seemingly because they accept it as accurate.

It’s hard to defend it when that’s what’s being shown, and people are seen on TV to be enthusiastically defaming it. But it’s like when you complain about your family pissing you off and then someone else joins in. It gripes.

I recognise that I have been laughing along with Bouncers until it zoomed in on the ugly face of my hometown, and I realise the irony of only being angry now. But it’s not the first time Colchester has been held up as an example of Britain’s apparent degenerate culture. This is moral panic parallel to the media and the Tory’s portrayal of the London Riots, and i’m sick of my town being demonised and shown as an example to the rest of the country of how not to behave. I am sick of feeling like I can’t defend where I am from when people say “But isn’t it a bit of a dump?” What can I say when that’s all they see?

It is programmes like this that make me feel conflicted about talking about where i’m from. After watching how it’s portrayed on TV, I catch myself thinking “should I be proud that I made it out and i’m doing well?” And then I feel angry at myself for thinking like that when my parents moved to Essex to give me a better life, away from the area of North London we were living which is now another handy example of deprivation.

I guess the difference between showing the worst of what goes on in Colchester – which has been the target of many programmes on Booze Britain over the last few years, for example Booze Britain: Binge Nation – is that when we see it in Manchester, Newcastle or Cardiff, we are reminded of what these cities have provided in the arenas of culture, art, or sport. Colchester is shown as having nothing else of merit, other than the fact that it was once the Roman capital of Britain (but who gives a shit about that anymore?). It has been made a scapegoat for the UK’s problems, because it’s easy to show the activity of one section of society, so visible as it is on the high street. So to the viewer, it’s seemingly just a hellhole full of ASBOS.

My sister informs me that the one lad and his mates followed on a ‘typical’ night out in Colchester (containing one messy punch up, which I find hard to believe he has the stamina for every single weekend), was given £50 by the show’s producers and told to “get as drunk as you can.” Nice, Channel 4. I can imagine the producer gleefully rubbing their hands together at the sight of girls falling into the gutter with their skirts up around their waists, saying “GREAT STUFF, capture that!”

Call me defensive, but i’d like it to be known that Colchester is firstly a student town. Students are notorious for being awful, rowdy drunks. I know, I was one of them. And they come from all over the UK to study in the town. Secondly, it’s a military town. Squaddies reside here from every corner of the UK. And they love to fight. I know, I used to work Saturday night shifts in A&E. So think of a Saturday night in Colchester as cross-cultural, in that respect – an accurate snapshot of the UK’s boozy culture.

Colchester has a high street and it has bars, so people will get drunk and act like bellends, because that’s what they do. It has its problems like any other town in the UK. But as a country, it’s our alcohol problem we need to address. When planning a night out, young people on the show talk about deliberately aiming to get “paralytic”. They are drinking to paralyse their problems, whether they be family life or unemployment. They don’t want to think about them anymore. Let’s talk about that.

When I talked to my family from Clacton about the programme, they said it was an accurate description of the town; “It’s hell on earth!” In Clacton, the poor are vilified for acting as they do, when they are made to feel like they have nothing to feel proud of, with no prospects. So the rest of the country can watch it on telly, laugh and feel better about themselves.

If I was given the power to commission one programme for Channel 4 this year, i’d make one that saw business leaders go to Clacton and fund a start-up for a group of disadvantaged young people. The people of the town need to see their potential and something positive they can work towards in their own town, without thinking that escaping is the only way they can be successful. People drink and do drugs out of boredom and the fact that they think there is nothing else for them to do.

But look at the trends. Contrary to what the media would have you believe, binge drinking among 16-24 year olds is actually down. So, Channel 4, maybe it’s time for a change to the scheduling?

Image: The Observer (On a feminist note, search Binge Drinking in Google and 90% of images are of women…)


Society: This is Why I Shout

I just walked into the disabled loo in my office – yes I know this is frowned upon, but it has a full-length mirror – and overheard a conversation between two men outside the door. The first comment I heard as I walked in, and chose to ignore. The second man’s response I heard while I was in the cubicle. It took me a few seconds to register it, then a few seconds more to go over it two or three times in my head to ensure I heard it correctly.

First man (aimed at me): “You’re not disabled!”

Second man (aimed at first man): “She will be by the time i’m finished with her.”

Now I usually don’t blog about sexist remarks, cat-calling, that sort of thing. There are fantastic projects doing this on our behalves, plus, I don’t think it would make for particularly enlightening or insightful blogging.

However, this, I feel I need to put out there. Partly because of the shock I feel at hearing these remarks from men in my place of work, but also as a reminder to other women that they MUST speak up against these comments.

I cannot be sure of the intent of his remark, whether it was intended to imply that he would rape me so violently I would be left disabled, or that he would beat me so badly I would be left disabled.

I suspect it is the first. For two reasons: violence against women in the guise of beating is not generally considered to be appropriate to joke about between two men who are probably on acquaintance level. Most men, I think, would balk at another man saying he thinks it’s OK to punch a woman, for example.

Rape jokes are more acceptable. Because rape is normalised. Maybe the man making the joke didn’t even realise he was implicitly talking about rape. Maybe the other man was as shocked at me at hearing a guy utter such a disgusting thing. I hope so. I know most of my male friends would be.

I am disappointed and sad for a number of reasons, aside from the fact that the men made a comment about me when I work on the same floor of their office and have probably smiled at them when they have been in the queue for the tea machine, or even sent them an email.

I am also sad at the thoughts that ran through my head as I stood in the toilets:

1) “Be REALLY sure that’s what you heard. Could you have misheard it? You have to be sure…”

2) “No-one would believe you if you reported them. It wouldn’t be considered serious as it was said ‘as a joke’. There are two of them, they will defend one another and they will call you hysterical.”

In stopping to make sure I was totally convinced at what I heard, they walked off. I can never report them. I feel powerless.

I share this story partly for my own catharsis. I met up with my boyfriend at lunch to get a hug and remind myself of an amazing man in my life who supports my fight for equality and against a culture of rape. He was equally angry, but told me I need to forget this and move on. He is right. There’s nothing I can do now directly.

I can only urge women to speak out, try not to hesitate, report these things when and where you can. If no-one listens, at least other women will see you speaking out and think “I will do the same next time”.

Today, like on so many other occasions, I didn’t shout. I wanted to and I didn’t. And I hate that when something like this happens, I end up feeling disappointed in myself. I feel mute.

That is why I am sharing this story. Because I need to gather the strength to keep on fighting, to shout SOMEWHERE if I can’t do in the real world. I need to remind myself to put that anger into making a change.

Image from Ms Magazine.

Free Speech

Society: Freedom of Speech Debate – Insult me if you dare.







Free Speech

Guest post by Damien Clarkson

Imagine living in a society where you can be arrested for insulting a religion or where you could be ridiculed and hated for opposing a political party. It’s difficult to believe that the difference between this reality and ours is a small thing called freedom of speech, but are we really as free as we’re made to believe?

Freedom of speech is one of society’s most empowering human rights. It affords us not just the ability to live, but crucially it gives us the right to live and to be heard on any platform. Freedom of expression gives the individual the power to act on behalf of themselves and the press the opportunity to act on behalf of the public interest. As a fundamental human right it allows any citizen the right to share their opinions, and it’s long been protected and upheld in the UK by the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights.  Around the world, freedom of speech campaigners such as Amnesty International are actively trying to protect and encourage free speech in both the developing and western worlds.

The law states that freedom of speech is a right for all UK and European citizens, but the law is subject to limitations these are known in English law as: libel, slander, obscenity, sedition, hate speech and copyright violation. These laws represents a restriction on what we can say and may impede our right to free speech. They exist to protect the public against malicious-falsehood but they are often open to interpretation, it is the inconsistency and scale of these interpretations that make the topic so controversial.

As citizens of a modern western democracy most of us can email, call, or tweet at the touch of a button and send our opinions into the cyber-abyss. Many don’t think about the consequences of their opinions and say things that they wouldn’t say face-to-face. Celebrities have been offended, MPs have been ridiculed and religions have been undermined, but should we be able to insult people and claim it as a right under freedom of speech?

Reform Section 5 (RS5) is a campaign started by human right’s campaigner Peter Tatchell, and its aim is to change part of the Section Five of the Public Order Act that says you can be arrested for “insulting” someone. The campaign has had high profile support from MPs, celebrities and human rights organisations, including a video by famous British actor and comedian Rowan Atkinson whose videoed reception on RS5 to Parliament went viral on the internet.

In an article for the Huffington Post Tatchell describes why the law should not have the power to decide if a comment is or is not insulting. He says, “If we accept that abuse or insults resulting in likely alarm or distress should be a crime, we risk limiting free and open debate and criminalising dissenting opinions and alternative lifestyles that some very conservative people may find offensive and upsetting. The right to mock, ridicule and satirise ideas, opinions, people and institutions is put in jeopardy. Section 5 can, in theory, be used to criminalise almost any words, actions or images, if someone (anyone) is likely to be alarmed or distressed by them.”

Under the Act people have been arrested for swearing, with some of the offences venturing into the absurd, such as a man being arrested during a protest for calling a horse gay and a pensioner being threatened with legal action for displaying a sign that said: “Religions are Fairy Tales for adults”. The choice of whether to reform the law comes down to the Home Secretary Teresa May, she must decide if removal of the word “insult” will make the polices job harder. Then also weight up how much of the wording of the act limits free speech and if it is it to an extent worthy of amendment. The Government has been looking into changing Section 5 for several years after numerous attempts have been made to reform the Act. No definitive Government response has yet been published; Parliament says: “ it is considering all views and would respond “in due course””. Currently the right to insult each other is illegal in the UK, but where is the line drawn between what is insulting and what is merely banter between friends?

Authoritarian democracies and dictatorships around the world often criticise freedom of speech in the UK, and accuse the West of being hypocritical for purporting a double standard. Most commonly the West has criticised them for imposing severe criminal punishment for artistic expression and opposition to regimes or religious beliefs. Recently Qatar has been under the spotlight for imprisoning poet Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami for insulting the Qatari Leader Khalifa Al Thani in one of his poems. He has been charged for “inciting to overthrow the regime” and faces lifetime imprisonment. Amnesty International has spoken out for al-Ajami. They say, ‘”It is deplorable that Qatar, which likes to paint itself internationally as a country that promotes freedom of expression, is indulging in what appears to be such a flagrant abuse of that right.”

However, it is yet to be proven if the UK (a leading voice in the freedom of expression debate) can uphold the standards it expects from the rest of the world. In an article entitled The West’s Edited version of Free Speech, Shashank Joshi discusses this alleged hypocrisy. He says: “ Two years ago, why did we allow the Advertising Standards Authority to ban a satirical picture of a pregnant nun simply because it was “a distortion and mockery of the beliefs of Roman Catholics”? Why was France’s Catholic Church granted an injunction against a parody of da Vinci’s The Last Supper in an advertising poster on the basis that it was “a gratuitous and aggressive act of intrusion on people’s innermost beliefs”? Do we wish to live in a society where an arm of the state intervenes in the contents of our soul?”

Often it’s considered the place of Human Rights activists and journalists to hold the government and the powerful to account and expose wrong doing. Equally we are all members of a wider active society who use social media as another platform to express our opinions. This can be in many forms but currently the most popular way to do this is through twitter. However, many people are unaware that using social media also makes them more accountable for their opinions when faced with allegations of libel or defamation. It’s perhaps only this ignorance of the law that leaves people the freedom to comment, so what would it be like if we thought we were being watched?

The Communications Data Bill is a cause for concern for freedom of speech and privacy in the UK, dubbed by critics as the “snoopers bill”. The bill would give telecommunications companies the power to search through everything we send and receive online, see our browsing history, monitor phone-traffic and store that information for twelve months – although this would not include retaining data content unless court ordered. The drafted bill has been under severe scrutiny with the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg commenting that he would not pass it in its current form. However the bill has seen support from the Police as the Guardian reports: “Sir Peter Fahy, the Greater Manchester chief constable, said being able to monitor the basic details of who was talking to whom was “absolutely vital” in “proving associations between criminals”.

After the first draft of the bill came under scrutiny from the Communications Data Bill Joint Committee, the Committee concluded that the Home Office had failed to safeguard the misuse of the powers it proposed, and the bill will now need to be entirely rewritten taking into account their changes. However, criticisms have failed to venture too far into the realm of restriction of freedom of speech, Index on Censorship have expressed concern over the bill impeding on our right to freedom of expression. They say, “The UNDR [Universal Declaration of Human Rights] explicitly states that: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence. Monitoring and surveillance of this kind impacts directly and in a chilling manner on freedom of expression, inhibiting and restricting individuals in how they receive, share and impart information and encouraging self-censorship.”  The bill represents a need for the UK to tackle modern threats to security such as terrorism, and there is a recognised need for an improvement to help the Police hold cyber-criminals to account.  However critics have claimed that if not implemented properly the increase and shift in power between politicians and the police may lead to a police state. Eventually a compromise will have to be made but the issue that faces human rights campaigners remains: Will human rights be eroded if this bill becomes law, and if so is that an acceptable price to pay?

Britain’s press has long been a positive poster boy for freedom of expression, but as the industry is gripped by scandal after scandal is it at risk of restricting it’s already limited freedom of speech? Lord Justice Leveson has now published his findings into the phone hacking scandal, and practices and ethics of the press. The report covers all areas of press ethics and proposes a new regulatory system to replace the Press Complaints Commission (PCC). Once part of a self-regulated industry newspapers and magazines now face the possibility of statutory regulation of the press.

Many journalists and newspapers are opposed to statutory control of the press, which they believe would eventually encroach on the press’s right to freedom of speech – especially in a society where everybody is a citizen journalist. In an article entitled Statutory regulation of the press will hurt free speech, The New Statesman has commented about the dangers of statutory regulation of the press in an article entitled Statutory regulation of the press will hurt free speech. They say: “Journalism is one way in which people can exercise their right to free expression, and the danger with statutory regulation is that one can actually create separate levels of access to a right – giving the journalist less of a right to free expression than anyone else. That’s not how rights work. The Spectator has also taken a firm stance against statuary regulation of the press and see it as a first step toward state regulation of the internet. They say: “The more you consider the implications of statutory press regulation, the more unworkable it seems. Can you really regulate the press, but not the internet? And can you really draw a distinction, given that many newspapers will become digital-only in coming years? What happens to a new publication: does it apply for a license? What counts as a new publication?”
On the other hand it is likely that leading industry names such as this would oppose a system that is so different to the self-regulated haven they once enjoyed under the PCC. MP Kenneth Clarke is one of the supporters for statutory regulation of press, in evidence to Lord Justice Leveson the says: “I am not convinced, though, that a statutory underpinning of some kind would amount to state control of the press…This is not my endorsement necessarily for a statutory backing, but simply an observation that it would not be the freedom of expression Armageddon some commentators would have you believe. I am attracted to the idea of contracts, with the possibility (hopefully never used) of civil litigation if the contracts are broken.)

Since the Leveson Inquiry was published there has been an outcry from journalists who fear the worst from Statutory underpinning of the journalistic practices. However, as with many of the questions surrounding freedom of the speech the debate will continue to rage between the morality of restrictions allowed to journalists and the public, and the law which keeps order in a society where everybody has an opinion.

damien hobbit

Society: How Hobbits will survive 6°C climate change

damien hobbit

Guest post by Damien Clarkson

ciprofloxacin 50mg

I recently watched the film ‘The Hobbit’ and the thought struck me that it might be nice to live in their fictional home ‘The Shire’. Don’t get me wrong, I love a stroll through London Fields or a trip to Chatsworth market as much as the next East London dude. But despite the organic veg projects and love of cycling, it isn’t quite competing with the beautiful meadows and the gorgeous streams of the Hobbits fictional home. And I am sure after some very disapproving looks they would get the hang of making flat whites and find some far-flung American thrift shop to import bundles of plaid.

Well today looks like my fictional whim may actually become a reality thanks to horrific impacts of climate change. If our carbon emissions keep rising at the rate they are currently; the leading authority of climate science the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) believe we could experience 6 degrees increase in the earths average temperature in as little as 200 years. And alarmingly I have recently seen some predications of 6 degrees climate change in the next 100 years especially if Chinese emissions continue to rise at their current alarming rate.

The study has revealed that the result of a 6 degrees warming will be mass extinction for the survivors, humans, animals and insects, there will be a scramble to eat a diminishing and less nutritious food supply. This is addition to lower levels of fresh water and lower plant nutrition is caused by higher atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, rather than temperature itself. Plant growth experiments have shown that concentrations of both nitrogen and the protein Rubisco, which regulates carbon dioxide fixation, decrease under higher CO2 conditions, making many plant tissues less nutritious. So even us vegetarians wouldn’t be safe.

The good news is that if we evolve into hobbits we will have a better chance of survival according to 30 scientists looking at the vast fossil deposits in rock strata in Wyoming in the US, charting the period 55 million years ago when the Earth’s temperature rose suddenly – as it is expected to do this century.

Back then over a period of 10,000 years different species survived by evolving into dwarfs which scientists yet again believe is expected to be a successful strategy for the survivors, enabling humans, animals and insects to mature earlier with less food and so reproduce before they starve.

Dr Phillip Jardine, one of the scientists involved in the study, is a research fellow at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at Birmingham University. Was asked on the release of this data what effect a 6°C increase would have on the planet currently if not enough action to curb emissions is taken and he said; “For me this just shows how pervasive the impacts of altering the global carbon balance really are”, he said. “Even if future climate change isn’t a convincing enough argument to decrease carbon emissions, increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations has a very real possibility of reducing the viability of our own food supplies, by compromising the base of the food chain for ourselves and the animals that we farm and eat.

“If we acknowledge the presence of increasing temperatures then we have an additional factor that we would expect to decrease further the size of our farmed animals, and thus the amount of food that we can take from them. I would say that the impacts of this on a large and growing human population could be catastrophic, especially in the developing world and when changes in other resources, for example water, are factored in as well.” not enough action to curb emissions is taken.

So this doesn’t sound quite like ‘the shire’ lifestyle I was dreaming of but more like an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ with extreme weather. So what are our options? I would suggest firstly we get George Osborne to stop buddying up with to the fossil fuel industry in his reckless pursuit of shale gas and coal bed methane. A study released last week showed that methane leakage levels during fracking could higher than previously thought. Not to mention the air pollution, contamination of drinking water. Another great starting point would to be keeping the worlds most destructive oil company Shell out of the Arctic (see the Greenpeace ‘Save the Arctic Campaign’ just last week a drilling rig crashed on the rocks in the Arctic and had to be evacuated.

The lesson to take from all of this is either let’s start trying to find a way to become hobbits or get down to making politicians and businesses tackle climate change. The choice is ours.


Blog: Dear Australian Media, please don’t make excuses for 2Day FM



Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who had transferred the call from 2Day FM Summer 30 presenters Mel Greig and Michael “MC” Christian has  been found dead on Friday in her nurse’s residence. Saldanha had previously been on the receiving end of a “hilarious” prank call earlier in the week, when the two Australian radio DJs managed to get the hospital to reveal confidential patient information about the Duchess of Cambridge.

She leaves behind two teenage children.

Obviously targeting a sick pregnant woman and the people who are trying to care for her is hilarious, at least according to the radio station which has in the past courted controversy when DJ Kyle Sandilands askeda 14 year old about her sex life on air. In that case, the “harmless” prank backfired when the 14 year old revealed that she had been raped when she was 12. But never mind, how could the DJs or producers ever have guessed that it would have backfired like that? Clearly the station takes this view anyway, seeing as they are still on air.

The sad fact is that if these two DJs are fired, it won’t be because of the severity of their actions but because they are not as well known and popular as Kyle Sandilands who also got in trouble last year for calling a female journalist a “fat slag” on air and saying, “You haven’t got that much titty to be having that low cut a blouse. Watch your mouth or I’ll hunt you down.”

The radio station obviously cares more about ratings than ethics or integrity but they are also regulated by a lax system that is not fit for purpose. It is against Australian Communications and Media Authority regulations for a news broadcast to reveal private patient information, but in Australia, radio stations aren’t covered by the definition of a news broadcast, so despite being deplorable, the stunt wasn’t in violation of any rules. Perhaps the tragedy of Jacintha Saldanha will change this. I hope so. Even as criticism was mounting over the week about the sick violation of privacy, and an insincere apology by the DJs, both they and the station were still advertising the prank, even when the body had been found.

Unsurprisingly many people have reacted with anger at the news, inundating the website, Facebook page and Twitter account with criticism and calling on an advertiser boycott. The station and the DJs have bravely responded by deleting these accounts. I would have thought they would be happy with 10,000 comments on their latest Facebook post, since they’re so “controversial” and whatnot, apparently though the heat was too hot to handle.

Not all sections of the Australian media agree with public opinion however. Mumbrella, a usually respected online platform, in their infinite wisdom let the silly, overreacting public know that their tweets and posts were wrong. According to writer Tim Burrowes the pair “don’t have blood on their hands” and although they set the wheels in motion, aren’t responsible for the death. Many commenters have helpfully suggested the blame lies with the hospital bosses, who were probably disciplining her, despite statements from the hospital that they were not going to do anything of the kind before the tragedy. The royal family had also given statements to say they did not blame the hospital and were not going to take any action.

Burrowes likens Tuesday’s prank with an ethical dilemma his boss had faced as a journalist. A man had rung the publication he was writing for, begging for details of his trial not to be published. When the paper chose to publish the story anyway, the man killed himself. Burrowes contemplates the ethical issues faced by journalists and concludes that usually it is justified for a public interest story to be published, even if it causes harm to those involved.

The piece seems to miss the obvious point, one that many commenters have identified, these radio hosts are not journalists and their charming little prank was not a news story. There is a huge difference between journalists who report the news as it happens and a collection of little cretins (and yes they are cretins) deliberately seeking to invade the privacy of a sick pregnant woman, and not in the name of “news” but purely for entertainment. There is no public interest here and the fact that some journalists cannot see the difference is very disturbing.

This attitude of “get the story at any cost” has shown itself over time to be very damaging not only for the people who are the victims of press intrusion but for society as a whole. Yet still journalists put themselves on a pedestal crying out about the greater good and the public right to information. We’re in a dangerous spot when public interest justifies hacking a dead girl’s phone or where the private lives of celebrities are seen as news worthy. In an age where anyone with a smart phone or a laptop can start a blog or create a news story, I appreciate that traditional journalists want to maintain their authority. I would go as far to say that traditional journalism is in a crisis, although I don’t agree this is a bad thing.

Hopefully the British government will implement the findings of the Leveson inquiry and that the Australian Communications and Media Authority will change its regulations to bring commercial radio stations to account. In the meantime the rest of us have a duty to call the press out when they cross the line. Mel Greig, Michael Christian, the 2Day FM producers, execs and lawyers do have blood on their hands and we need to make sure they are not able to just sweep it under the carpet in the name of “journalism”. Because pranking is not really journalism is it? It’s bullying, and we all know that bullying can have tragic consequences.


Since publication another Australian news outlet, The Age has posted an article apologising for the DJs. Jill Stark says we should feel sorry for them since they were just doing their job and are now facing a barrage of abuse on social media. Stark writes:

“Every day we interview strangers, with little knowledge of what might be going on in their personal lives, or how well-equipped they are to handle the spotlight.”

So yet again, we have a journalist who can’t see the difference between a genuine public interest story and a cruel prank that preyed on busy nurses and a pregnant woman. Stark says that it wasn’t the call that caused the suicide but the subsequent media shit storm. Dear Jill and everyone else trying to shift the blame: they pranked the royal family, they knew this would cause a huge impact if they pulled it off, stop making excuses for them. Those responsible need to face the consequences of their actions, even if those consequences are more extreme than they ever imagined.