New Internationalist

Making a clean start

None of us should underestimate the importance of this evening’s meeting,’ pronounced Susan George, respected author and campaigner, as she addressed our Clean Start event on Monday evening. She had recognized the value of the debate the event had started, which we hope will continue below.

 The evening had brought together some of the world's most respected voices on global inequality and set them the task of working out how to build a fairer economy from the financial crisis enveloping us. With over 200 years spent campaigning for social justice between them, this was a group many people wanted to hear. We gave them 10 minutes each to give us their view on what must be done. If you didn't make it along you'll soon be able to watch their inspiring and insightful contributions on our website or, in the meantime, check out what some of them had to say in this month's magazine.

The debate raised lots of questions for those of us who want to use this opportunity to create a better world. Should we look back to the white wrist-bands of 2005's Make Poverty History campaign for a model of what to do? Or does the very fact it ultimately failed suggest a more radical, more political movement is needed? What sort of politics will lead us out of this mess to the fairer world we are struggling for? Political parties? Inspiring leaders? A non-hierarchical grassroots movement? Is the broad platform of 'economic justice' enough to rouse millions to action or must we have a single aim? Jubilee 2000 had a simple message of 'drop the debt', what single change would this campaign ask for? How does the even greater bio-crisis of climate change fit in?   

Many of these questions proved controversial. All need answering if we are to succeed. Monday evening's event was just the beginning of a debate which we invite you to join below. How do you think we should use this opportunity?            

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  1. #2 hannah schling 17 Dec 08

    Stop RBS-NatWest financing climate chaos: our window of opportunity to utilise, and push for, real national ownership

    Irresponsible lending by profit-hungry banks has brought about an unparalleled financial crisis in the global economy. As the world stands face-to-face with the prospect of an unstoppable climate crisis, the dirty lending of banks like RBS-NatWest, which function to expand the carbon frontier and extend the lifetime of fossil fuels, will undoubtedly make this prospect a reality.

    With the government now owning 57.5% of the Royal Bank of Scotland we have a unique opportunity to demand change as shareholders, setting a new precedent.

    Nature doesn't do bail outs - take action now! Email Stephen Hester and the UK government here:

    People & Planet's Ditch Dirty Development campaign has pledged to boycott RBS-NatWest in September 2009 if the bank does not enact a significant transition in its investments.

    To get more involved in the campaign email [email protected]

  2. #3 poshdave 19 Dec 08

    Fantastic evening, great start - could have been a bit cleaner.

    Surely we can't start the same thing all over again, even if we want to, because of climate change.

    But that's what the bail-outs and the 'fiscal stimulus' are intended to do.

    A shame, then, that there wasn't more about how the three crises (economic, social, environmental) relate.

    A shame, too, that there wasn't just a little bit more about what can now be done.

    We talk about 'nationalization' and the 'public interest'. But where in the world is there a government that anyone trusts?

    Most of them bought (still buy) into neoliberal orthodoxy; few have come up with anything significantly different.

    Even so, a great start - plenty still to do.

  3. #4 Helen Heathfield 06 Jan 09


    I agree that what we all need are actions. I found watching the video 'Money as Debt' made the issues much clearer for me, so I could come up with the following actions:

    1. Ring your bank and ask them what their fractional reserve is - the ratio of the money they lend to the money they really have. Most banks are on infinity to one. Some building societies or other banks like Co-op or Triodos might give you a pleasant surprise. If you don't like your bank's answer, why not move to a bank that has more responsible lending behaviour?

    2. Use hard cash for as many purchases as possible. The Government has more control over the flow of hard cash, than the flow of electronic cash, so boost the hard cash supply by using it.

    3. Get involved with your local Transition Town movement, or any local group that's setting up a community owned currency. Totnes and Lewes have done it so far. There's also some really good lessons to learn from LETS, time banks and other skills swap initiatives.

    4. Get involved with direct action - climate camp is a brilliant place to start.

    I'd love to know about more actions, and how people get on with putting these actions into practice.

  4. #5 Kathryn Cook 27 Jan 09

    How should the VCS use this opportunity?

    This sounds like a great event, which I wish I had been able to attend. Although many despair at the current situation, there is value in seeking a more positive element to it, as New Internationalist are doing.
    There is an increasing emphasis on the potential of investing time, money and belief in environmental developments in the current economic climate. Whilst it may not hold all the answers on how to build a stronger, more equitable future for all out of the ashes of the current system, there is a real chance now for the green movement to present itself as the option for the future and for regeneration. For example, investment in renewable energy options would generate jobs as well as widen the possibility of micro-generation (as highlighted by your article Homegrown Energy), which can itself hold much potential for community empowerment and shifting of social structures.

    How should we use this opportunity?
    This is something the voluntary and community sector in the UK should be thinking about. What options could a concept like a Clean Start or a Green New Deal ( present for charities? These, and other issues relating to climate change and the charity sector will be discussed on 5th March at Climate Change and the VCS-

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