History

In 1996 Edinburgh University decided to close the Centre down, but it continued independently, and the MSc continued from 1999 accredited via the Open University, while the Centre continued developing research, consultancy and other projects with a range of partners. The Centre hosted a number of distinguished speakers including Jane Goodall, Vandana Shiva, David Abram, and George Monbiot.

 

1996: Edinburgh University decide to close the centre. The University court cited a failure to create a viable future framework as the reason for this decision, but the move is widely believed to be political, with George Monbiot stating that “some of its funders were very uncomfortable with the Centre’s findings”. Following this decision, a meeting of students, directors and staff decide to continue the work of the Centre outside Edinburgh University, forming a limited company with charitable status.

 

1996: The Centre continues its lectures, now independently of Edinburgh University, with ‘The Politics of the Real World’ series.

Universities and the Real World: Robin Grove-White, Director, Centre for Study of Environmental Change, Lancaster University & Board Member, Greenpeace UK- “We’re all working with different idioms for change in the world; the central problems are the shrunken assumptions of what human beings are like. Therefore we are all responding to issues raised by the same barren-ness”.

Economics of the Real World: Michael Jacobs, London School of Economics- In ‘Politics of the Real World’, the manifesto and economic policy agreed by Britain’s 31 leading environment and development charities, Michael Jacobs challenges our growth-oriented economic behaviour and reveals its implications for the environment, employment and quality of life.

The Social Contract Rediscovered: Roger Levett, CAG Consultants- Roger Levett will argue that neither markets nore mutualism offer an adequate politics for sustainability. Roger will argue for the almost-forgotten ‘social contract’ view that politics is about voluntary acceptance of individual restraint for the sake of the common good – and for a rediscovery of the central, indispensible role in sustainability of that unfashionable institution, representative democratic government (both local and national).

Changing Consumer Behaviour: Ann Foster, Scottish Consumer Council

Climate Change the Leveller: Real World to Real Politics: Aubrey Meyer, Global Commons Institute– GCI played a pivotal role in international negociations on global climate change, forcing acceptance of the principle of equity as fundamental to co-ordinated inter-governmental policies. Curbing global warming, Aubrey argues, requires ‘contraction and convergence’ of human consumption.

Poverty and Sustainability: Damian Killeen, The Poverty Alliance

Real Politics: A Scottish Perspective: Linda Gray, Scottish Education and Action on Development

Sustainable Politics? : A Public Debate: Scottish MPs- The Real World Coalition, representing millions of Britons, has issued a challenge to politicians: stop paying lip service to the sustainability agenda, and start making imaginative decisions that will improve our lives. Is it really that simple? The main Scottish political parties are invited to answer our questions.

1997: The Isle of Eigg residents successfully mounted a community buy-out of the land in 1997, supported by the Centre. The Centre’s assistance with Local Agenda 21 groups helped to catalyse many projects for local community and ecological restoration.

1997: Spring Lecture series: The Politics and Ecology of Food

Porridge? The Politics of Prison Food: Thomas ‘TC’ Campbell (‘Innocent Imprisoned’) Through 100-day hunger strikes and his refusal to eat prison food, TC Campbell
protested his innocence in his case of alleged firebombing of the Doyle family in the
so-called ‘Glasgow Ice-Cream Wars’ in 1984.

During Thomas ‘TC’ Campbell’s last hunger strike in prison in Glasgow, CHE Fellow Tara O’Leary had promised him a pint in the sure belief that Michael Forsyth would give the go-ahead for his case to be reviewed. Tommy has protested his innocence for twelve years, focusing attention around hundred-day hunger strikes and refusal to eat prison food as his sole weapon in an assertion of human rights. Fortunately, TC didn’t have long to wait, as he was released on bail pending review of a possible miscarriage of justice over his alleged firebombing of the Doyle family in the Glasgow Ice-cream Wars in November 1996.

Tommy opened our Spring lecture series with an inspirational account of his years in solitary confinement. Several years of legal scholarship have helped TC to refine his analysis of police corruption of our legal system, but his intellectual clarity does not make TC a dry speaker. After some encouragement, TC recited some of the poetry that helped him preserve his sense of personal integrity and love of life through his years of imprisonment. We were left in no doubt that TC has an important story to tell, and that he will tell it his way despite the sensationalist offers of the tabloid press. March 2004: Campbell’s and Steele’s convictions are quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh.

Transitions to Organic Farming: the Changing Face of the Countryside: Julian Rose, Soil Association: Julian Rose is on the Council of the Soil Association and farms 300 acres in Oxfordshire with cereals, beef and dairy cattle, sheep, a horticultural enterprise and a farm shop. Julian Rose took us as far from Glasgow prison as we could manage. Julian owns a farm in Oxfordshire, and is a Director of the Soil Association. His talk on ‘Transitions to Organic Farming’ described the complexity of the changing character of the countryside, and sparked a lively debate considering whether organic farming really can make a difference. Julian’s interest in theatre, and his conviction that we need to explore creative ways to create a culture which enjoys and celebrates food, was one of the gems of the evening.

Does the UK need an Independent Food Agency? Mike Rayner, National Food Alliance. Dr Mike Rayner is head of the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group (University of Oxford), and a trustee of the National Food Alliance, Chairing its Food Labelling & Marketing Working Group. He took us on an informative tour of UK Food Policy.

Small-Scale Food Producers: Safeguarding Biodiversity for Global Food Security: Patrick Mulvany, Intermediate Technology Development Group. Patrick Mulvany is ITDG’s food policy campaigner. He argues that the spread of industrial production systems has decimated small-scale producers who now need Rights, recognition and reward for their role in creating sustainable, biologically-diverse agricultural systems. Patrick took us to the heart of the debate on international equity and international food growers rights.

Our Planet on a Plate: the Impact of Modern Eating: Vicki Hird, Safe Alliance. The SAFE alliance is a coalition of 33 farmer, consumer, environment, development and animal welfare organisations committed to creating a more sustainable farming system. Vicki Hird has been SAFE’s Co-ordinator for 2 1/2 years. She talked of the Safe Alliance’s broad constituency campaigning for safe food in Britain, serving up a feast of suggestions for solutions.

McWorld on Trial- Taking on the Multi-Nationals: Dave Morris, ‘McLibel’ trial & campaign vs. McDonalds corporation. The ‘McLibel’ trial is the longest running civil case ever in British history. McDonalds corporation is suing the ‘McLibel Two’ over claims they made in a flyer campaign. Defending themselves, and calling on a vast array of expert witnesses, the trial has highlighted the many and complex issues concerning multinational corporations.

Dave brought CHE’s biggest ever attendance. 170 people crammed into Friends house to hear about the ‘McLibel’ trial ‘from the horse’s mouth’. Dave’s theme was ‘McWorld on trial: Taking on the multi-nationals’, and he spoke with unblunted conviction of the longest civil trial ever in Britain that has already eaten up four years of his life, but fashioned him and Helen Steele, his co-defendent, as an international cause celebre. Several newspapers picked up on his visit, and Dave reported that “It was a great trip – resulting in people coming together, discussions and debate, protests and loads of media publicity”.

A Marine Stewardship Council: New Hope for World Fisheries: Laura Cooper, World Wide Fund for Nature Endangered Seas Campaign.

Following extensive consultations, a Marine Stewardship Council will establish a broad set of principles for sustainable fishing and set standards for individual fisheries. Only fisheries meeting these standards will be eligible to use an ‘eco-label’.

Laura gave us a unique insight into the politics of establishing a Marine Stewardship Council. Working with Unilever and other key stake-holders, Laura is convening regional workshops world-wide in an attempt to protect the ecology of our seas. Her personal conviction that ‘social issues’ cannot be left out from such discussions meshed well with our knowledge of the decline of fishing communities in Scotland, and the need to involve local people in the creation of any ‘solution’ to what must be one of the starkest examples of humanity’s on-going rape of nature.

1997: Autumn Lecture series: Consumerism and Sustainability

Consumerism as the new Idolatry: Scotland’s most controversial theologian, Rev. Prof. DONALD MACLEOD of the Free Church College argues that we still worship Mammon- In partnership with Commonweal for the Alternative Commonwealth Heads of State Conference, Edinburgh

The Spell of the Sensuous- Why Reality doesn’t come in Packets: Prize-winning US author and eco-psychologist David Abram says that experience of sensuous reality- not accumulating possessions- is what being alive is really about.

What’s Need, What’s Greed? Paul Fitzgerald, of Manchester-based anti-consumerism campaign Enough!, co-ordinators of Buy Nothing Day, asks what would happen if every human had a western standard of living, and how campaigners against our unsustainable excesses avoid being seen as hair-shirt puritans.

Shop til you drop: the Shopaholics tale: Richard Elliot, Reader in Marketing, University of Oxford School of Management studies addictive and dysfunctional consumer behaviour.

I am not a free man, I am a consumer: Steve Miles, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Plymouth, author of ‘Consumerism as a Way of Life’, says that despite knowing it’s wrong, young people get their identities from ‘stuff’.

Come to Cancer Country: Alex Gardner, psychology professor, smokes out the manipulators of the tobacco industry and blows the fog from around the mind-bending techniques used to advertise it and other goods.

Shopping Mall-aise: Polly Ghazi and Judy Jones, authors of ‘Getting a Life: A Guide to Downshifting’ tell us how to abandon the rat race and live happier, more fulfilled lives.

 

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