When you find yourself in times of trouble 19/12/2010

>> STOP PRESS 1: Stupid crowd-funders and crew will receive a charming email this week revealing the size of their share of this year's pie, more details below <<

>> STOP PRESS 2: Forgotten to buy Auntie Edith's Christmas pressie? Fear not, we've just reduced the price of the Age of Stupid DVDs to a mere 10 quid a pop and, if you order by midday Monday 20th lunchtime (UK addresses only), they'll still arrive in time for Xmas and your uselessness will go unnoticed for another year <<


The only line of school English literature I remember is from The Mayor of Casterbridge: "Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain". That always seemed backwards to me, as a healthy, optimistic person lucky enough to be born to attentive middle class parents in England in the 70s. (As Tim Minchin sings, "I could have a serious nut allergy and be shipwrecked on an island with a crate of snickers bars, a jar of Nutella and a fresh baked pecan pie"). But since you last heard from me in late September, there's been a flipping of the pain/happiness ratio, with a series of personal events affecting my closest family and friends. The worst of which happened, with stunningly unfortunate timing, in the very week of the release of the 10:10 video, with the result that I had to leave my 10:10 friends to hold the fort under very heavy fire. To them: thank you. And to everyone who emailed us for and against the video: please accept our apologies for not replying personally. If you've been involved with Spanner/Stupid for a while, you know that in any other circumstances we'd have done so.

It's not looking good on the global pain/happiness front either. NASA has confirmed that 2010 was the hottest year on record and 17 countries set new records for their all-time highest recorded temperatures. I'm guessing I'm not alone in feeling a small shiver of dread every time another drought, flood, fire, hurricane or famine is reported, in anticipation of the much greater horrors we'll all be facing in the coming decades. As for the UN Climate talks in Cancun last week (did anybody notice that they happened? it certainly seems a very long time since the days of the Stupid Show in Copenhagen), the media response has been surprisingly positive. But I fear that's because they're looking at expectation vs outcome rather than necessity vs outcome. Certainly it does look as though the negotiators managed to save the process, but will the process save the climate? Climate Action Tracker has worked out that the deal as it currently stands commits us to at 3.2 degree rise in temperature - which would result in large parts of Africa and Australia becoming uninhabitable, world food supplies critically endangered and hundreds of millions of refugees on the move. Not to mention probably triggering runaway climate change whereby two degrees leads to three to four to five to six... by which time it's about over for life on Earth. Oh dear. But as this article rather wisely points out: "The question is not "Did Cancun do enough?" – we knew the answer to that already – but "Does it make further action more or less likely?" On that there's no doubt." If you can bear to know more, see oneclimate's (= my Dad's team's) video round-up of the complete drama.

So it's not looking at all good folks. But at least with the collapse of the climate looking ever more inevitable, we can all stop worrying about the collapsing economy, eh? We won't be needing money or subprime mortgages where we're going... (I've only recently realised how wrong the whole "Why did nobody predict the collapse?" line is. There were plenty of articles and books from the likes of NEF doing exactly that in the years leading up to the excitements. The better question seems to me to be: why do we continue to listen - and give bonuses - to the bankers/economists/analysts who didn't forsee the collapse, rather than handing the reins to those who did?).

For the two people still reading this, the official winner of Bleakest Mailing List Message of 2010, and in the spirit of occasional happiness in the general drama of pain, here's some good things happening:

-> Lizzie's daughter Leila was born on 24th October and, without being the slightest bit biased, heaven forbid, has stormed straight to the top of the cuteness charts. (Apart from the two days when she had such bad acne that the doctor advised Lizzie to take her to A&E. Doesn't bode well for adolescence.) With the help of her partner Brendan and mother-in-law Susan, Lizzie has taken to shitty nappies and ear-busting screaming like a duck to water and is making the whole thing look far too easy.

Lizzie with the cutest baby on the block

-> Also joining the world recently: three-month-old Isaac is keeping Eugenie Harvey (director of 10:10) awake at night, Eva is doing the same for Duncan Clark (10:10's carbon maestro), as is Solomon for Leo Murray (Stupid's Alistair Campbell) and Rohan for Bryony Worthington (board member of 10:10 who managed to give birth two days after becoming a Lady in the House of Lords). Oh, and let's not forget the next next generation: Anthony Smith (who can't quite remember how he went from becoming an innocent Stupid crowd-funder after hearing Lizzie and me at a speaking event three years ago, to his whole life being taken over after we convinced him to become the inaugural Chair of the 10:10 Trust) recently welcomed his grand-daughter Charlotte.

On the subject of reproduction, when Lizzie first said she was pregnant a few people on this list asked why environmentalists would ever have children. Of course this is an ongoing debate, which is only going to intensify as climate impacts continue to increase and resources to do the opposite, but to me it's very simple: we're fighting to keep the climate habitable for human life because we value it above all else. And people who value human existence unsurprisingly want to be part of its continuation. It'd be like fighting to save a football club from closure and then not going to any of the matches. Or campaigning to get the clocks changed so there are lighter evenings (see below) and then sitting inside on your own with the curtains closed. Which of course isn't the same as saying environmentalists - or anyone else who'd like the planet to be able to support their children and grand-children - should pop out loads of little screamers: see Bill McKibben's book "Maybe One" for all the arguments about family size.

-> 10:10's Lighter Later campaign has unbelievably (given that we only thought of the idea a few months ago) managed to get the Daylight Saving Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons. Our main man Dan Vockins describes what happened:"The day started with huge uncertainty amid reports of MPs leaving London early because of the snow. With a poor turnout looking increasingly likely, it was all hands to the phones as hundreds of you sent last-minute emails and calls to get MPs into the chamber. At 10:10 HQ we were frantically doing the same. In the end, MPs turned up in their droves - including one who came back from paternity leave especially - and we won both of the two votes: an amazing 123 MPs voted to close the debate (basically saying they'd heard enough and were ready to take a stance on the bill), with the motion itself then being passed with a majority of 82 votes. Time after time, MPs on the floor said that it was all the emails, letters and calls in support of the bill which persuaded them to vote yes today. People power in action!".

Rebecca Harris MP argues the case for 10:10's Daylight Saving Bill

The Lighter Later big idea is to change the UK's clocks to align more closely with the hours of daylight, thereby saving lives (less road accidents), increasing health and wellbeing (more evening sport), boosting the economy (more leisure activity) and reducing carbon (less electricity used when the sun's out). Personally, the reason I love this idea is that, were it to happen, every single person in the UK would do something active to help combat climate change. OK, so touching a couple of buttons on your clock isn't much, but it would be the first step and such a bloody easy one that people might just start thinking that this changing your life to help climate change thing isn't so tricky after all. Action in a general drama of inaction, as it were. Anyhow, the next step for Lighter Later is to keep pushing the bill on its merry path through Parliament - see this rather interesting Government webpage which shows how the process works.

-> Lizzie is currently second sitting opposite me at my kitchen table - with baby Leila sleeping between us - working out the final totals for this year's Stupid crowd-funding pay-out. All you lovely crew, investors and contributors will receive an email in the next few days revealing the size of your share of the pot and then we'll be making the pay-outs early in the New Year. If you've changed your email address since last year - or if you don't get our email before Xmas - please have a look in your spam folder and then write to crowdfunders@ageofstupid.net. Lizzie's not quite finished her maths yet, but it's looking like the pot is almost three times the size of last year's. Hurray.

-> Glad you joined the crowd to help make Stupid? Another crowd is forming at the Old Weather website in order to trawl through log books from old ships "because if we wish to understand what the weather will do in the future, then we need to understand what the weather was doing in the past". Apparently there are billions of entries to be analysed - including sexy ones like from Darwin's Beagle - and so loads of volunteers are needed to sit in front of their screens at home in Surbiton and fantasise that they're sailing the seven seas. Computers can't be used to read the entries as too much rum had been imbibed by the sailors - or perhaps the oceans were too rough - and so the writing is only readable by good old-fashioned humans.

-> I love this story of a man who has decided to give away all his earnings above the amount he needs to live a good life in Britain (18,000 quid - the median British income) - for his entire lifetime. He's so far persuaded 64 people to join his Giving What We Can movement: "We have realised how easy it is to do large amounts of good in the world and have made a commitment to give 10% of our income to the most effective charities we can find. For a person earning £15,000 per year, this means saving 5 lives every year, or leading to 100,000 fewer missed days of school due to illness. These incredible sounding feats are within most people’s reach."

-> If you're not quite ready to join those 64 hardy souls, but are feeling inspired to use a bit of your cash to increase happiness/decrease pain, perhaps you could flex your debit card in the direction of Lighter Later? I just asked Dan how many people worked on the campaign this year to pull off their amazing achievements: putting together a 60-strong coalition of organisations including everyone from the AA and RAC to the British Beer & Pub Foundation and The Model Power Boat Association (see bottom of this mail for full list), getting shedloads of front-page media and, now, getting the bill through its first two stages in Parliament. What do you reckon? 12 full time? 20? 35? Nope, it was just Dan himself, together with 10:10's press guru Maddy working less than half time, and one intern, Sion. The whole campaign has so far cost less than 15K and when they ran out of cash in October Dan's parents very kindly stepped in and offered to pay his salary till the New Year so the whole thing wouldn't collapse before their big day in parliament. When they're working on that kind of shoestring, ever tenner helps, so please help out with 10, 100 or 1000 quid if you possibly can: donate here.

-> On 10/10/10 (= 10th October 2010) 7347 local carbon cutting events took place in 188 countries, including 53 out of 55 African countries, all 51 American states, every State and province in Canada and Australia, 20 out of 20 Latin American countries and at 850 universities in China, India and America. Video here and photos here.
-> While TIME magazine goes for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg as their Person Of The Year, we have chosen Sandra Antonovic as our Top Human of the Previous 365 Days. After much deliberation and chocolate biscuits, the committee comprising Franny and Lizzie were unanimous in their decision and issued the following statement: "Frankly we don't believe that Sandra can be just the one person, as it is impossible to comprehend how anyone could have pulled off this lot in one year: * Started 10:10 campaigns in 24 countries from Russia to Greece. * Organised 5,000 schools to plant 50,000 trees. * Signed up cities including Zagreb, Krapina, Nicosia and Pula (eg the town of Krapina in Croatia is modernising their street lighting and the City of Pula in Croatia are turning on/off city lights 15 minutes later/earlier each day and providing citizens with free coloured garbage bags to increase recycling levels). * Produced the first 10:10 checklists in braille. * Persuaded a board game manufacturer to produce a 10:10 board game. * Persuaded a regional TV company to produce the pilot of a 10:10 TV show which will feature 10 families competing to cut their emissions."

Anyone got any thoughts for Sandra/Sandras' (if she has indeed cloned herself) prize? Got something suitable you'd like to donate? Bearing in mind she's in Zagreb and it would have to be posted there if it's not virtual. Or, should you be so moved, you can send fanmail to sandra@1010global.org

The plot thickens: I just went to Sandra's Facebook page to try to find a pic and stumbled across this... evidence of the cloning in process?

-> Laugh you may well, but to me the fact that our local council has introduced a community composting scheme represents a tiny ray of hope for all of humanity. No, really. Now we Camdeners merrily collect our kitchen scraps in our cute little kitchen mini-buckets and then empty them into the bigger ones in the street ready for collection. Which means my towering pile of worm-riddled slime (=attempt at a compost heap) is fast becoming a distant memory and, just to make the whole thing even more inspiring, the new scheme was initiated by 10:10's very own Alexis Rowell (the man who single-handedly signed up 45% of all the UK's local councils, meaning that ~30 million people are getting their services with 10% less emissions than last year). And in case that wasn't impressive enough, Alexis's new book, "What we can do if Governments won't" has just been published. What a star he is.

-> The Boris Bikes (well, Ken Bikes really, but alliteration beats accuracy every time) are genuinely a transport revolution on the streets of London. I can't think of the number of times I've been heading wearily into battle on the tube or bus and then remembered the magic blue key in my pocket. Hallelujah! The future is here! Not all decisions by all politicians are completely useless! And you don't have to remember your lights or helmet or lug heavy locks around either! (Just as London finally gets its act together, Paris races ahead by announcing its self-service electric car hire scheme. Ken/Boris - please take note for the next round.)

-> Here in the UK, we seem - at last - to be entering a new Just Say No era: the student protestors, the campaign to save the NHS, the fantastic Uncut group (who are trying to shame the corporate tax dodgers into paying their share) and the ever-humbling Wikileaks. Of course it's a good/happiness thing that all these people are getting off these arses to protest, but it's also a bad/pain thing to realise that everything they're fighting against didn't exist this time last year, before the Tories/whatstheirnames got in. Hmmmm.

That's all I can think of. If anyone knows of any other good things going on, please send them over (hit reply to this email) and we'll try to collate them and send them back before we all jump off our nearest cliffs.

Wishing you a Happy Christmas and hoping your personal pain/happiness ratios are skewed to the latter,
Franny, Lizzie, baby Leila and Benny the dog

PS. Anyone in need of an office in Camden? Since we disbanded Age of Stupid, there's a big open plan space going, which is either going to be rented out to one group or as separate desks (there's space for about 10-15). Contact office@ageofstupid.net if you'd like to know more.

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The Lighter Later alliance - how impressive?
10:10, Tourism Alliance, The AA, The FA, Lawn Tennis Association, Business Enterprise Scotland, National Farmers Union Scotland, Brake, The Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation, GEM Motoring Assist, The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Parentline Plus, Greenpeace, National Galleries of Scotland, Ebico, 38 degrees, People Developments, New Economics Foundation, 100 Months, Balppa, CIHT (Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation), Sustrans, British Beer & Pub Association, Living Streets, BRADA, PIRC (Public Interest Research Centre), Road Safety GB, National Association for Environmental Education (UK), Travelodge, Brighter Future, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Cumbria Tourism, Institute of Advanced Motoring, England and Wales Cricket Board, Cobra Martial Arts Association, Special Olympics Great Britain, Federation of Yorkshire Sport, Army Cadet Force, Association Institute of Groundsmanship, British Equestrian Federation, London Volleyball Association, British Kite Surfing Association, Business in Sport and Leisure Amateur Swimming Association, Energize Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin, Clay Pigeon Shooting Association, Exercise Movement and Dance Partnership, Professional Footballers’ Association, English Schools Cricket Association, BATD- British Association of Teachers of Dancing Northern Counties Dance, Teachers Association Volunteers In Sport West Midlands, The Model Power Boat Association, English Indoor Bowling Association, Royal Life Saving Society, UK Central Council of Physical Recreation, The British Horse Society, Football Association, Parkour UK Angling Trust, Rounders England British Gymnastics, Auto-Cycle Union, Stoolball England, Police Sport UK, Baseball Softball UK, The RAC

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