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Paul Mobbs &
Mobbs' Environmental Investigations –

Work Archive:

Articles

I've worked primarily with community groups for many years – mostly in the UK, but also in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. The materials produced from that work have relevance not just to the people who commissioned them, but many other communities too. For that reason I maintain an on-line archive of my work.

For details of the licensing restrictions on using these resources, see the Copyright and Sharing page.

Work Archive:
Main Index

Articles

Handouts

Infographics

Media Coverage

Podcasts

Presentations

Ramblinactivist

Reports/Research

Themes

Video and Audio

See also:

Musings

Ecolonomics

Writing, Articles and Books

For those outside the mainstream journalism rarely pays the bills, but it's a great way to get ideas to a larger audience. In the current media environment, where paid-for and public-relations 'cut-n-paste' fodder dominates, being able to get articles into the media covering issues such as resource depletion and ecological limits is also a very rewarding use of time.

This section of the archive contains a number of 'irregular' articles, mostly one-off commissions. My regular columns for The Ecologist and other publications are republished in the Musings section.

If you would like to commission an article, please get in touch.


Articles Archive:

inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'For all its faults, 'fracking' is not the issue here...'

31/01/2018

Approaching my tenth year of research on unconventional oil and gas in Britain, it has become clear that the true struggle has little to do with regulations, or technology, or the pursuit of fossil fuels, and everything to do with the failure of our national political dialogue.

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92.8 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Methane clathrate – the last desperate hope of the fossil fuels industry'

04/08/2017

"Extreme Energy" is a term which encompasses many different forms of 'unconventional' energy resources. From fracking, to tar sands, to some types of renewable energy which take more energy and carbon to produce than they save, these 'extreme' energy sources represent the last hope of the global energy corporations. Why this is so tells a much greater truth about the global commitment to address the issue of climate change.

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141.7 kilobytes

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1.7 megabytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Whitehall's 'Fracking' Science Failure – How the Government has misled Parliament and the public on the climate change impacts of shale oil and gas development in Britain'

24/05/2017

As the Conservative Manifesto portends a planning 'free for all' for shale gas, Talk Fracking launches its new report demonstrating the flaws in the Government's case on fracking and climate change. Research published over the last 18 months, outlined in Talk Fracking's new report, questions the accuracy of the data used in the Mackay-Stone report. As a result of this new information Whitehall's scientific case has arguably collapsed.

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109.1 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Mobile Phones, WiFi and Cancer – Will Trump's budget cuts zap ground-breaking 'electrosmog' research?'

14/03/2017

Amidst concern over President Trump's emasculation of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and cuts to the USA's climate research, other ground-breaking areas of environmental research are being ignored. For well-over a decade, at a cost of $25 million, a US National Toxicology Program study has been assessing the links between the use of mobile phones and rare, though increasing forms of cancer. Unfortunately, before the results of this study are published, it may be 'lost' in the coming cuts.

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110.6 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Fracking, Austerity and Brexit – why 'grey-haired' activists must support direct action today'

14/03/2017

Of late I've been trying not to sound like Monty Python's 'Four Yorkshiremen' sketch. I'm trying to communicate the idea that while some things in the world of direct action have not changed, some things – particularly the law – have changed for the better.

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70.3 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Why contaminated land continues to haunt UK government policy – and poison an unwitting public'

05/09/2016

In the early hours of 8th February 2014 near Chertsey, Surrey, during the floods in the Thames valley, seven year-old Zane Gbangbola was overcome by gas in his bed and died. His father was paralysed as a result of his exposure. This week, almost two and a half years after the event, the Surrey Coroner will finally deliver a verdict on the case.

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428.7 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Beyond failure at COP21, environmentalism has its own shortcomings to address'

14/01/2016

Consider this: can we "save the planet?" That's a critical question if you're an environmentalist – though it requires an understanding of what 'saving' and 'the planet' means. And if those founding definitions are not based upon realistic information, what would be the result?

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428.7 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Fracking distractions – why shale gas is a proxy for a more damaging ideological agenda'

21/12/2015

After more than five years of delay, relaunches and circuitous consultations, the Department of Energy and Climate Change's 14th Landward Licensing Round concluded last Thursday. DECC's Oil and Gas Authority awarded the final 132 exploration and production licences; overall none of the 159 licences applied for were refused. Arguably though, this announcement was a cynical act of misdirection.

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113.4 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: ''Death by landfill', part 2 – did the Government cover-up information on toxins liberated by floodwater?'

14/12/2015

Almost a year ago I wrote an article for The Ecologist entitled "death by landfill". The article focussed the case of 7 year old Zane Gbangbola, who was killed in his bed during the floods of February 2014. Not by water, but by poison gas. Given the lack of information at that time, the article focussed on how John Major's Conservative government of the early 1990s reneged on a promise to introduce strict laws on contaminated land. These would have required historic land contamination to be tracked down and, where appropriate, made safe. Had they been enacted they may have prevented Zane's death twenty years later.

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91.5 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'UK Government attacks the public's right to affordable environmental justice'

28/11/2015

empty

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70 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'The Terror Dividend – how traders and lobbyists made a killing from the Paris attacks'

25/11/2015

The scenes which emerged from Paris almost two weeks ago ago were horrific, and undoubtedly only scratch the surface of the true devastation upon the families and friends of those involved. There is still little detail about how the attacks in Paris were planned. Given the close association of those involved in the attack, it seems unlikely that high-tech 'command and control' via encrypted communications from Syria were an essential component of the planning process. Likewise the source of the weapons for the attack probably has little to do with the Syrian conflict directly. They are most likely the legacy of the NATO-led conflict in the the Balkans two decades ago. The fall-out from the present conflicts in Libya, Syria and Iraq – given the large stockpiles of conventional arms those states had amassed – are also likely to create regional instability for some years to come.

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76 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'An activists' guide to the 'Snooper's Charter' – and what to do about it'

10/11/2015

The so called "Snooper's Charter", the draft of which was introduced to Parliament by the Home Secretary on 4th November 2015, has created a media furore. It may appear to be threatening, anti-democratic and downright repressive, especially if you use technology as a de-skilled 'consumer' – without questioning how it works or what private information you exchange when using it. In practice, for those who have a working knowledge of communications technologies – certainly trained terrorists, organised criminals and fraudsters – many aspects of the draft bill are not threatening at all. If you use the technology in a certain way you can, to a certain extent, hide your on-line life from surveillance.

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129.5 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: ''Credo': If economics is a belief system, are we being ruled by religious fundamentalists?'

03/11/2015

Brian Davey's new book, Credo: Economic Beliefs in a World in Crisis, is an analysis of economic theory as if it were a system of religious belief. It's a timely book. The simplistic, perhaps 'supernatural' assumptions which underpin key parts of economic theory demand far more attention. It's a debate we've failed to have as a society.

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153 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'The price of British justice – subjecting those without adequate means to 'trial by ordeal''

22/06/2015

One of my favourite films is Terry Gilliam's Brazil. In the final scenes a guard, strapping the hero into an evil-looking torture chair, advises him – Don't fight it son. Confess quickly! If you hold out too long you could jeopardize your credit rating. In Brazil, I always found the bizarre world of a repressive bureaucracy entertaining – in part because I've spent a proportion of my working life involved in public inquiries and regulatory processes where sometimes bizarre, self-justifying administrative actions are commonplace. Unfortunately, I believe that such aspects of the film are fast becoming a reality in Britain.

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82.2 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'More manipulative media misinformation from DECC can't mask the Government's fanaticism on fracking'

15/06/2015

The Department of Energy and Climate Change – DECC – and the Environment Agency jointly issued a press notice[1] last Sunday. On a Sunday? Obviously someone at DECC is really annoyed about recent criticism!

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91.7 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Behind the spin of the Magna Carta celebrations Britain's 'dictatorship of the 1%' takes shape'

11/06/2015

What do academy schools, fracking and international trade negotiations have in common? They're all part of the Conservative Government's agenda to roll back the ability of the public to question official policy, and to allow business interests to press ahead with their questionable economic projects unchallenged.

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81.5 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Fracking's collapse heralds the arrival of peak oil – How economic fundamentalists spun a tale of technological progress to hide the statistics of "peak oil's" ecological overshoot'

06/05/2015

A few weeks ago tremors rocked the world of "fracking" in the USA – though few heard them. The US Energy Information Agency (USEIA) had issued its latest Monthly Drilling Report and the news was not good. It wasn't simply the economic failure of fracking (covered in The Ecologist last December) and the subsequent collapse in drilling (covered in January). The news from the USEIA was far more grim for those who understood its deeper meaning.

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82.5 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'The hell-fires of UCG threaten Tyneside and the North Sea… and we're paying for it!'

03/04/2015

The dumping of colliery waste and power station fly ash, from Lynemouth in Northumberland all the way down to Seaham in County Durham, once despoiled the Tyne and Wear coastline and damaged the ecology of the North Sea. Now another mining technology, underground coal gasification (UCG), threatens new dangers to human health and the environment – with the full backing of the Government.

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183 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Medact's new report – ban fracking for five years'

30/03/2015

Medact, the UK-based public health group concerned with the social and ecological determinants of health, have published their long-awaited report on the impacts of fracking upon public health.

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57.2 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Chris Smith, the frackers and the 'astroturf' consultancy – 'engineering consent' for unconventional gas in Britain'

18/03/2015

What we're talking about here is the spectacle of a 'shadow play'; an illusion of form operated invisibly by people behind the scenes. What creates those elusive images is the craft of public relations; in particular the use, since its formalisation in the mid-Twentieth Century by Edward Bernays, of public relations techniques to convince the public of supposed certainties which are objectively misleading.

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85.9 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'When is "fracking" not "fracking"?: Do the EAC's plans for a 'fracking moratorium' go far enough?'

26/01/2015

Today could be an interesting day for the future campaign against unconventional oil and gas in Britain. Today we potentially turn a corner – or, quite possibly, not, if the fossil fuel lobby within the government get their way.

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66.9 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: ''I can see the Stooges but where's Iggy Pop?': The Government's shale gas policy and the PR manipulation of the 'fracking' debate'

19/01/2015

During the 2000s the 'fracking boom' in the USA was fuelled by speculative Wall Street finance. When that bubble burst in 2008, the dodgy finance was cut off and the number of drilling rigs collapsed by over 50% within a few months. Last December, I wrote in The Ecologist of how the 'funny money' from quantitative easing was once more fuelling the number of drilling rigs, supporting the Ponzi-style 'shale bubble'. Just over a week ago I wrote of how that junk-debt-fuelled house of cards was being shaken by the fall in oil prices. Now Baker-Hughes, the US drilling services company which monitors industry trends, has announced the biggest weekly decline in US drilling activity since 1991; and the decline over the last six weeks – the decommissioning of 209 rigs – is the largest since their records began in 1987.

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70 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: ''Death by Landfill' – how weak politicians and brow-beaten regulators endanger present and future generations'

21/12/2014

I've been a professional 'environmental investigator' for over 22 years now. Over that time I've seen some awful offences against the environment; I've also witnessed some inspiring action from the individuals and communities affected. After seeing so many outrageous cases it's easy to become desensitised to the more everyday environmental offences – even if they are, of themselves, dire to those involved. Every now and again though you come across something that jerks you back to stark reality; something that touches a raw nerve.

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89 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Will Wall Street kill-off the fracking industry before the protesters do? – as the shale gas Ponzi scheme teeters, will it cause a wider crash?'

16/12/2014

Brought about by the recent fall in oil prices, investors are beginning to review the economics of unconventional oil and gas. For the last few years there have been a number of damning reports about the economics of unconventional fossil fuels. Now it seems those long-ignored observations are being taken seriously by the money-lenders of Wall Street.

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93.4 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Journey's end, and new beginnings – Musing on the road travelled and the path ahead'

17/07/2014

I'm sitting in the café at St. Mary's Church, Putney. When travelling to London there are a few non-corporate cafés I frequent. Normally Friends House, or few places on the edge of central London. On my recent travels through London I've been trying to get here as it's a nice place to sit and ponder – with its own unique and prophetic story to tell.

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101.9 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Misdirecting the public's attention from fracking's radioactive footprint'

26/06/2014

As the facts about unconventional gas emerge around the globe the UK Government and the on-shore oil and gas industry have been pulling-down the shutters on their grand project. Increasingly reports are "being seen to be written rather than written to be seen". For example, last week Public Health England launched the final version of their report on shale gas and health – on the same day that the Jimmy Saville inquiry results were reported. That pretty much ensured there would be no room in the schedules for any critical analysis of it.

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58.7 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: '"Fracking" – The fact is, you are not important'

24/06/2014

You are not important! I'm sorry if that's an unwelcome reality, but if we look at some recent developments in the battle over fracking in Britain (and/or the USA, Canada, Poland, South Africa, Australia, etc.) we can conclude little else.

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44.4 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Exposing the British Government's "dodgy dossier" on the climate impacts of fracking'

30/05/2014

As Charlie Chaplin said, "Wars, conflict, it's all business... Numbers sanctify." That was certainly the case with the UK Government's approach to shale gas. They hoped that they could whitewash the climate effects of fracking with some fancy formulas. Instead what they produced was another "dodgy dossier" – a straightforward denial of the uncertainties and the likely effects of what unconventional gas will do to the climate.

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69.3 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'SLAPPing campaigners for telling the truth – the underground coal gasification lobby turns even nastier'

18/05/2014

SLAPP – a "strategic lawsuit against public participation". SLAPPing is a tactic often used in the USA, where companies intent on environmental destruction pre-emptively sue leading local campaigners in order to quash the local opposition. That tactic raised its head in Britain last week in relation to a technology that makes "fracking" look reasonable.

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54 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: '"2 + 2 = 0" – How Public Health England whitewashed the potential health effects of shale gas on public health'

06/05/2014

Last October, Public Health England (PHE) released their "draft" report on the health impacts of shale gas[1]. They looked at all the evidence on the likely effects of shale gas extraction on public health – evidence of hazardous environmental impacts[2], gender-bending chemicals disrupting our metabolism[3], and of toxic and radioactive contamination of the air, soil and water[4] – and concluded that – "Public Health England anticipates a low risk to public health from direct releases of chemicals and radioactive material if shale gas extraction is properly operated and regulated."

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49.2 kilobytes



inc image Snake Oil: how fracking's false promise of plenty imperils our future

20/03/2014

A review of Richard Heinberg's book, 'Snake Oil', for The Ecologist. "Fracking is just another step on the fossil fuel treadmill, according to 'Snake Oil' by Richard Heinberg. High costs, diminishing returns and growing pollution will ultimately nail its future. Paul Mobbs urges readers – give a copy to your MP before it's too late!"

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354.7 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'The Quiet Militarisation of West Wales' Skies'

18/03/2014

In rural West Wales, the Ministry of Defence and its private sector partner QinetiQ are about to launch a new era in Britain's engagement with drone technology. Paul Mobbs outlines how the skies of West Wales are being forced into the debate on the legality and democratic accountability of drones and mass state surveillance.

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179.2 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: 'Three years on, the Fukushima meltdown continues around the world'

12/03/2014

Three years ago today we first learned of the on-going meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. TV screens showed long lens shots of concrete buildings exploding in showers of dust, yet worsening the burdens of one of Japan's worst natural disasters in recent times.

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37.7 kilobytes



inc image Mobbsey's Musings: '"A fistful of train tickets" – Eight months travelling for an explanation of the rush to develop unconventional gas'

12/02/2014

For five years Paul Mobbs has been working on 'unconventional gas' (aka. 'fracking') in Britain. Over recent months that work has taken him to communities across England and Wales. What he has discovered along the way is that the political support for unconventional gas is not just about energy; it reflects the greater ecological crisis at the root of our current economic woes.

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68 kilobytes



inc image Drones, cyberwarfare and democracy

October 2013

The draft chapter for the book, 'World in Chains: The Impact of Nuclear Weapons and Militarisation from a UK Perspective'. The essay looks not simply at drones or surveillance, but the more critical technological framework within which these uses of technological capabilities take place. More importantly, if we look forward to the foreseeable changes in digital technologies over the next decade or two, we can see that these technologies will become more powerful, and able to be wielded against the interests of democracy and human rights by the most powerful states with the capability to develop them.

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1.3 megabytes



inc image To 'Camp Frack', and beyond!

May 2013

Attending the "Camp Frack" event in Lancashire in May was heartening because, after our efforts over the last few years, things are starting to take-off. There is a real buzz in the movement as people get informed, network with other groups around Britain/the world, and pressure both the government and the energy lobby to justify the wild claims being made about unconventional gas.

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27.4 kilobytes

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27.4 kilobytes



inc image 1652 Country Pilgrimage Development Weekend

March 2012

In 2011 I was involved in the re-enaction of the walk of John Woolman around Britain. As a results of that I was asked to attend the weekend at Swarthmoor on planning Quaker pilgrimages, and this was my report back to my Area Meeting.

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1 megabytes



inc image Face up to natural limits, or face a 70s-style crisis

January 2010

The Ecologist, January 2010. The original, unedited text of my 'Comment' article that outlines the parameters that will define our energy future. Recent gas shortages may have made politicians focus on energy security once more, but the deeper systemic problems of Britain's energy economy go far deeper than the limited capacity of our gas importation system. Energy represents far more to the economy than just a fuel source; understanding the biophysical limits on our future use of energy, and how this affects the general economy, is essential if we are to create a strategic vision that can address the ecological crises of the Twenty-First Century.

file icon Face up to natural limits, or face a 70s-style crisis (HTML version)
36.2 kilobytes

file icon Face up to natural limits, or face a 70s-style crisis (PDF version)
422.5 kilobytes



inc image Uranium Supply and the Nuclear Option

May 2005

Oxford Energy Forum (journal of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies), May 2005. A short paper on the global availability – past, present and future – of uranium, and the critical limitation that the likely future shortage of uranium represents to the much trumpeted "nuclear renaissance".

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22.4 kilobytes

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66.8 kilobytes



inc image Turning the World Upside Down

December 2004

Published in The World Today, the journal of the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House), vol.60 no.12, December 2004. An article I wrote for Chatham House, to which they added the snappy introduction, "Could you live with the same amount of energy now available to those in the third world? A dramatic change such as this is likely within fifty years as present energy sources are used up. So future generations will have to manage with just a third of the energy we use now."

file icon Turning the World Upside Down (HTML version)
15 kilobytes

file icon Turning the World Upside Down (PDF original draft)
127.1 kilobytes



inc image Wilf's First PC Build Day

2003

Wilf has been using Linux since he was nearly three. From nearly four he has been able to boot-up a Linux system and log into his user account. Now, at five and a half, he's going to build his first PC (with a little help from his Dad)

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308.5 kilobytes



inc image New Labour and the Planning Agenda

Spring 2000

An article, written for and published by Corporate Watch, on the way that New Labour has sought to restructure the planning system to favour corporate interests and keep out the public.

file icon New Labour and the Planning Agenda
83.5 kilobytes



inc image The Detractor's Convention: Identifying the future of community-based campaigning

January 2000

This pamphlet is all about managing change. Change can be problematic. The way to make change less problematic is to understand it, and through understanding, take what you can from it to assist and reinforce your own position. This process of characterising the effects of societal change on organisations and individuals, and then creating responses to this, can create divisions. The differing ideas and approaches on responding to change are especially likely to create divisions within larger organisations. Divisions can then go on to affect how people operate, and distract them from the real objectives they commonly hold.

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102 kilobytes



inc image The Internet, Disintermediation and Campaign Groups

January 2000

Written for ECOS, the quarterly journal of the British Association of Nature Conservationists, p25-32, Vol.21 No.1, 2000. A study of the development of the Internet, its effects on grassroots campaigning, and the future prospects of the larger campaign groups (adapted from an earlier work I wrote for the Free Range Network, The Detractor's Convention).

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106.1 kilobytes



inc image Sustainable Waste Management – Possibility or Pipe-dream?

17/02/1994

An article on the meaning of the word 'sustainable' as applied to the term "sustainable waste management" – written for The Recycling Council's annual seminar in Birmingham, 17th February, 1994 (and published in the proceedings of the conference, Why Recycle?, A.K.M. Rainbow [editor], A.A. Balkema publishing, 1994). Please note that this report has been converted from a now redundant file format and so the pagination has been lost, along with any graphics.

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95.6 kilobytes



inc image AEA Harwell – Nuclear and Environmental Hazards

April 1990

Written for Southern Campaign to Resist the Atomic Menance (SCRAM), an article on the hazards of the Harwell Laboratory site in Oxfordshire

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889.6 kilobytes