Free Range Activism Website
Welcome to the Free Range Activism Website – FRAW. Since 1996 this website has been maintained by Paul Mobbs as a resource for grassroots activists, and an archive of the activities of the Free Range Network. The site contains the publications and information produced by the Network, as well as housing Paul Mobbs' on-line archive of his investigations and research work.
Please note that this site is not intensively maintained – much of our content has been here for years. The purpose in maintaining this site is to make useful information available the public, campaigners and researchers. Back in the 1990s that consisted mostly of scanned government guidance and reports. Now that this is done by government itself we specialise in hosting technical/scientific information useful for campaigns and community organising.
Note that the content of the FRAW site – unless otherwise stated – is made available under non-commercial open licences. For more information about what this is, and what we encourage you to do with our information, goto the copyright/sharing page. If you'd like to get in touch with FRAW or the Free Range Network, goto the contacts page.
Free Range Themes
The Free Range Network has no particular "issue" – its interests range across those of its participants at any moment in time. That's because the nature of the environment and social issues cannot be reduced to just one or two factors – if we going to tackle the complex nature of human ecological issues, then we have to examine them as a broad set of inter-related factors. Consequently the focus of the Network, and this web site, is rather diverse.
To try and make sense of the resources we offer we've grouped the content of the site around twenty-one different "themes":
- ☮ Anarchism, Animal Rights and Decentralised Action –
- The Anarchism, Animal Rights and Decentralised Action theme covers a broad range of issues – from the theory of action and organisation through to animal rights, state surveillance and deep ecology – which intersect with a number of other Free Range themes. How we view the world and our place within it affects all other aspects of our interaction with the world; the respect and consideration for personal rights to expression, conscience and self-determination (whether human or animal) are at the roots of social justice. For that reason this theme ranges across a broad range of subjects because it's only through a holistic perspective to social justice and social structures that we can hope to truly realise our connections to the whole environment and all beings within it.
- ☮ Climate Change –
- The Climate Change theme covers not only the current debate over the science of climate, but also the politics and economic vested interests behind the "climate scepticism" lobby. For the Free Range Network the issue is not whether or not climate change is happening – clearly it is. The greater issue for us is that the environment movement have reduced all environmental issues to one, carbon; when in fact climate change/carbon emissions are only one of a number of ecological trends which demonstrate the unsustainability of the human system, and which will force change from the current economic/political consensus. Without tackling those other trends, action on climate change will not change the ultimate outcome for human society.
- ☮ Direct Action and Protest –
- The Direct Action and Protest theme covers both current actions/protests, and also the technical and legal aspects of campaigns involving direct action. We seek to provide not only information on past/recent campaigns to provide inspiration, but also resources which convey the deeper knowledge required to plan, develop and carry out direct action for change. Successful action is far more than seeking to provoke the authorities or getting arrested. By understanding how the system works, and then using the rules of that system to expose its own inherent contradictions, we create far more effective actions.
- ☮ Economics and Political Economy –
- In many states economics has become the unofficial state religion – which is why it's important to look at the political dimension to economics, not just the theory. The Economics and Political Economy theme covers economic theory, its application to the economy, but more important its political use to underpin the dominant neo-liberal ideology that's driving the world towards ecological extinction.
- ☮ Energy Resources and Consumption –
- The Energy Resources and Consumption theme examines the important of energy to the modern economy, and the current debate over energy resources and energy policy – it thus has a close relationship to other themes such as "extreme energy" and "peak oil". This section focusses in particular on general energy policy, production and consumption, and the statistical underpinnings of the energy policy debate.
- ☮ Extreme/Unconventional Energy and Resources –
- The Extreme/Unconventional Energy and Resources theme examines the emerging concept of "extreme energy" – a series of energy technologies (both fossil fuels and some renewable energy applications) which create greater ecological damage as the political economy seeks to maintain energy supply as energy resources deplete. Ultimately these energy resources are unsustainable, and therefore represent a distraction from the more critical trend of "the limits to growth".
- ☮ Food, Genetic Engineering and Agriculture –
- The Food, Genetic Engineering and Agriculture theme covers a broad area relating to food production and the environment – from the ecological impacts of agriculture, to the energy and environmental consequences of the human food production system, to the increasingly technological interventions in the environment (using genetics or chemical science). It also covers the alternative response to the food and environment debate, in particular organic/agroecological-based food production, as well as the greater debate about food and human population as the "green revolution" reaches the limits to growth.
- ☮ Free and Open Source Hard/Software and Gnu/Linux –
- The Free and Open Source Hard/Software and Gnu/Linux theme covers the issue of the "free" use of technology, and the development of collaborative projects to produce technology (both hardware and software) outside of conventional corporate economic/proprietary control. In particular, this theme looks at the Gnu/Linux operating system, the main alternative operating software for computers and other gadgets, as well as the recycling/reuse of technology using free and open source systems.
- ☮ Hacktivism, Digital Rights and On-line Activism –
- The Hacktivism, Digital Rights and On-line Activism theme covers issues related to the social and political use of technology – from the use of technology as a medium for campaigning ("hacktivism") through to the use of technology by corporations and the state as a means of surveillance and social control. Inevitably this means engaging with the legal and economic aspects of intellectual property rights, but also it encompasses the wider practical and philosophical issues of the use of technological tools by society.
- ☮ The Limits to Growth –
- The Limits to Growth theme covers one of the most prescient yet universally ignored critiques of modern industrial technology and economics – the 1972 report, "The Limits to Growth" and the subsequent research studies into ecological limits and alternative economics that this report initiated. For that reason this theme is closely related to others areas of the FRAW site related to "economics", "peak oil" – and in many ways, the ideas contained within "The Limits to Growth" form the basis of the current activities of the Free Range Network.
- ☮ Neo-Luddism and Primitivism –
- The Neo-Luddism and Primitivism theme covers a very controversial and often misunderstood aspect of the ecological movement – the critique of the modern industrial/technological economy and its impacts upon the Earth's biosphere. Understanding how to make human lifestyles requires that we take a critical scalpel to the technologies and practices which make up modern society – rejecting all those aspects which cannot operate within natural limits. That requires a critique of the social aspects of technology ("neoluddism") as well as a rediscovery of past sustainable human lifestyles ("primitivism")
- ☮ Nuclear Technology, Weapons and Safety –
- The Nuclear Technology, Weapons and Safety themes examines the broad and inter-related aspects of the nuclear industry – from uranium mining and nuclear power through to nuclear weapons and power politics. The nuclear issue is far more than just a debate over electricity supply; it links into debates over the arms industry, the political control over international political institutions, and the state manipulation of science to support these ends. This theme seeks to provide a broadly anti-nuclear viewpoint, although we also engage with the pro-nuclear standpoint in order to explore this fully.
- ☮ Land Rights, Countryside and Nature –
- The Land Rights, Countryside and Nature theme covers the broad area of the "outdoors" – land law and land rights, the planning system, nature conservation and development. All these are related; you cannot consider land law or the planning system without considering people's rights to access land, and you can't consider the value of nature and the natural environment without considering the rights of landowners to exploit these "natural resources". Taken together, our approach to development, land rights and nature is the baseline of the human relationship to the environment we inhabit.
- ☮ Peace and Anti-militarism –
- The Peace and Anti-militarism theme is intended to provide a bridge between peace studies, anti-nuclear action and technological/environmental issues. As we look forward, the increasing use of technology by military and security services creates a whole new dimension to campaigns on civil rights and the social harms of the global arms race. As we approach the ecological "limits to growth", the treatment of environmental issues are becoming interrelated/interchangeable with peace and geopolitical challenges – which is what the 'Peace and Anti-militarism' theme seeks to explore.
- ☮ Peak Oil –
- The Peak Oil theme focusses on one of the most critical (but deliberately ignored) economic and ecological issues of today – the global peak of crude oil production, the economic effects this is having on the global economy, and the more damaging alternatives to conventional fossil fuels which this trend is spawning. Peak oil is equally problematic to mainstream environmentalism (which promotes conventional economic solutions to environmental issues) as it is to the "business as usual" anti-environmental lobby. It preludes the great ecological collapse of "the limits to growth", and thus questions the whole basis for what constitutes "normality" in society today.
- ☮ Politics and Mass Media –
- The Politics and Mass Media theme covers not only political theory, but also political debates and the political use of the mass media. Politics is a human abstraction of our shared reality; and as competing economic and ideological interests seek to manipulate the facts of our everyday life, manipulation of the mass media is at the core of how political debates take place – not just by political parties, but also corporate and civil society lobbies. This theme encourages everyone to take a sceptical look at all mass media and seek the purpose and meaning behind the political message, not just its immediate content.
- ☮ Simplicity/Less –
- The Simplicity/Less theme has grown out of activities by the Free Range Network over the last decade. Whilst mainstream politics and environmentalism promotes mainstream economic and consumer solutions to our ecological predicament, research on ecological limits tells us that only a large-scale contraction of consumption globally can address the ecological collapse of our species. From pollution to species loss, it's the human demand for resources which is creating today's ecological catastrophe – in this theme we seek to outline how might consume "less", by living more "simple" lifestyles, to address our own part of this greater problem.
- ☮ Tools, Systems and Technology –
- In contrast to most other "technology" web collections, the Tools, Systems and Technology theme provides a critical analysis on current technology, information and computing trends – focussing in particular on the issue of ecological limits and the greater automation/reliance of human systems on rare resources, and the implications this has for pollution, resource consumption and human resilience. Although technological tools extend human capabilities, the "technology trap" is also leaving advanced human society more vulnerable; in particular to the foreseeable impacts of how ecological limits will perturb both the global economy and our use of the energy and mineral resources upon which human technology is based.
- ☮ Toxics, Pollution and Environmental Health –
- The Toxics, Pollution and Environmental Health theme covers the broad issue of human health and its relationship to the local/global environment. From industrial pollution, to waste generation and management, to physical or psychological stress, to chemical or biological contaminants, this theme seeks to explore how human health and well-being is inextricably linked to the health of the surrounding environment and its ecological balance.
- ☮ Transport and Movement –
- The Transport and Movement theme looks at the whole issue of moving things – both people, freight, resources, and other forms of communication – by a variety of modes of transport. Despite its significance in global energy use and carbon emissions, transport is often ignored in the ecological debate because there are few mainstream solutions to its environmental impacts. This theme seeks to examine the wider issues of the "movement" debate.
- ☮ UK Government and Politics –
- The UK Government and Politics theme covers all aspects of local, regional, devolved, national, European and international governance which have relevance to local social and environmental campaigns. This theme cuts broadly across many of the other Free Range themes, bringing together the government-related resources/articles/links into one section. As well as the political and administrative control of UK government, this section also deals with the ways in which activists/groups are seeking to challenge or circumvent the role of government agencies in order to achieve alternative social or political goals.
'Microsites' are small web sites/pages hosted on the FRAW site on behalf of other organisations, or individual Free Range Network projects. These are usually just a very few web pages or collection on files to allow a small group of people to have a web presence.
The microsites currently hosted on FRAW are:
- ☮ Banburyshire Rambles Photo-Journal –
- This is a site maintained by Paul Mobbs, documenting his rambles around 'Banburyshire' (the area on the boundaries of North Oxfordshire, North Buckinghamshire, South Northamptonshire and South Warwickshire); and occasionally further afield. Each walk is illustrated by photographs of the route, and the accompanying text explores the countryside, life, the universe and everything – but mostly, the deep ecological intimacies of walking.
- ☮ Croughtonwatch –
- This site is devoted to USAF/RAF Croughton (and Barford St. John), the USA's communications and surveillance base on the border of Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire. Croughton is part of a global system of electronic communications, control and surveillance that works on behalf of the US military and intelligence establishment.
- ☮ Dinefwr Green Group & The Greenhouse –
- Dinefwr Green Group is a self-financing voluntary organisation, dedicated to protecting the environment, human rights, and developing sustainable lifestyles. Finance for both the running of the group and for donations to other worthwhile causes is derived from the collection of bric-a-brac and clothing, which is resold or recycled via our shop in Rhosmaen Street, The Green House.
- ☮ Ideas for a Change –
- Ideas for a Change are a group of like-minded people in the Banbury area who are working to address the imminent changes to our "modern" lifestyle that will manifest themselves over the next few decades. You might hear a lot in the news about climate change, but this is just one of a number of equally problematic development trends – such as peak oil, minerals depletion, soil erosion and population – that will constrain the development of the human species in the future.
- ☮ A Quaker Walk: Banbury, Adderbury & North Oxfordshire Quaker History Trails –
- A guide to North Oxfordshire's Quaker history – on foot! These pages (currently under development over late 2014/early 2015) detail walks around Banbury and North Oxfordshire, examining the extraordinary history of the Banbury area generally, and in particular the role of local Quakers in the history of the town.
- ☮ Extreme Energy in the Marches –
- A guide to extreme energy developments in Shropshire, Cheshire, Powys, Wrexham, and Flintshire. The Marches looks like being the next area where unconventional gas developers, with whole-hearted government support, are likely to start exploring over the next year or two. These pages have been set up by the Free Range Network, and are dedicated to collecting information and news on these developments, and making them available to the public in the area.
- ☮ Extreme Energy in the South Midlands –
- A guide to extreme energy developments in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Warwickshire. The South Midlands is being scouted for the development of 'extreme' sources of gas – shale gas (fracking), coal-bed methane and underground coal gasification. These pages have been set up by the national Free Range Network and the local network, Ideas for a Change, and are dedicated to collecting information and news on these developments, and making them available to the public in the area.
- ☮ Extreme Energy in South Wales –
- A guide to extreme energy developments from Pembrokeshire to the Forest of Dean. For more than a decade Government departments in Whitehall have been planning, with little public consultation, proposals for new "unconventional" fossil fuel technologies to produce natural gas. Although the national media has focussed on the situation in Lancashire and more recently in Sussex, across South Wales the Government has issued licences, and more recently local councils have granted planning permission for exploratory drilling, that will enable a whole new fossil fuel industry to spring up between the Pembrokeshire and the Forest of Dean. The problem is, in all the other places where they've tried these technologies around the world, the results have been highly polluting.
- ☮ Extreme Energy in the Thames Valley –
- A guide to extreme energy developments around the Thames Valley – from London to Swindon and from Oxford to Guildford. For more than a decade Government departments in Whitehall have been planning, with little public consultation, proposals for new "unconventional" fossil fuel technologies to produce natural gas. Although the national media has focussed on the situation in Lancashire and more recently in Sussex, the Thames Valley is being scouted for the development of 'extreme' sources of gas – primarily shale gas (fracking) and coal-bed methane. The problem is, in all the other places where they've tried these technologies around the world, the results have been highly polluting.