Monday, October 24, 2016


We have not only entered a new era, we may be in a new epoch 

Some interesting new organisations are emerging to address the complicated problematique of interlocking issues facing our planet and its human population. The first and second generation messages on climate change concentrated on doom and disaster. The message is now switching to interlocking solutions and what we can do to solve these problems in the near and far future. Alongside that, new concepts of 'solution journalism' and 'constructive journalism' are being adopted by an increasing number of editorial boards and newsrooms to create a better sense of balance in the news coverage they feed us.

For the last 12,000 years or so, since the end of the last ice age, there has been a geological epoch called the Holocene ("entirely recent"), a period of relatively stable climate which enabled human life  and civilisation on the planet to survive and thrive.

But  since the mid-2oth century, there has been a noted acceleration  of carbon dioxide emissions and sea level rise, the global mass extinction of species, and the transformation of land by deforestation and development
which has taken us into a  new epoch called the Anthropocene.

The term Anthropocene ("new man") was coined in the 1980s by biologist Eugene Stoermer but he never formalised it. It was independently re-invented and popularised in 2000 by the Nobel prize-winning scientist Paul Crutzen who, along with many other international scientists, is arguing that this new epoch should be formally recognised.

At the recent International Geological Congress held in Cape Town, South Africa, out of the 35 experts recognised as the Working Group on the Anthropocene (WGA), 30 voted for the declaration of the new epoch. 

 Jan Zalasiewicz, a geologist from the University of Leicester in the UK  who was the chair of the working group, told The Guardian. 

“The significance of the Anthropocene is that it sets a different trajectory for the Earth system, of which we of course are part…we have lived most of our lives in something called the Anthropocene and are just realising the scale and permanence of the change.”

There is still  debate as to whether the Athropocene should be an epoch in its own right or just the latest part of the Holocene. If it is a new epoch when did it begin. Some believe it should be marked some 5,000 years back when humans introduced agriculture leading to a rise in the concentration of methane n the atmosphere. 

Others point to the period between 1945 and 1963, when nations conducted some 500 above-ground nuclear explosions before the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty took effect  Richard Manastersky writes in Nature
'Debris from those explosions circled the globe and created an identifiable layer of radioactive elements in sediments. At the same time, humans were making geological impressions in a number of other ways — all part of what has been called the Great Acceleration of the modern world. Plastics started flooding the environment, along with aluminium, artificial fertilizers, concrete and leaded petrol, all of which have left signals in the sedimentary record.'
 There has to be a clear signal of a change in the geological record for a new epoch to be declared. Further research over the next few years will now be carried out to prove the scientific validity of the Anthropocene concept by determining which markers are the strongest and sharpest, by finding a specific location where there is a clear boundary between the geologic layers, and officially identify when it started. These findings will then be submitted to the International Commission on Stratisgraphy (ICS) for consideration, before it can be  formalised by the International Union of Geological Sciences.

Pau Crutzen believes the name change is overdue. In 2007, he identified what he calls the “great acceleration” of human impacts on the planet from the mid-20th century. 
He says: “This name change stresses the enormity of humanity’s responsibility as stewards of the Earth.” 

Sources: 'The Anthropocene epoch: scientists declare dawn of human-influenced age'
Damian Carrington The Guardian/29th August 2016

'Anthropocene: The Human Age' by Richard Manastersky [Nature 11th March 2015]



Anthropocene Magazine is a project from a US-based organisation called Future Earth. 
The development if the magazine is funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Subtitled 'Innovation in The Human Age', this is their pitch: 'We are a digital, print, and live magazine in which the world’s most creative writers, designers, scientists, and entrepreneurs explore how we can create a sustainable human age we actually want to live in.'
They describe it as an evolution from 'Conservation' magazine, which was run by the University of Washington and published from 2000-2014. All issues are online here.
There is also a in-built crowd funding membership system - what they call reader-supported journalism: 'That means that a significant portion of our operating costs comes from people like you—that is people who believe that it is time to start talking about environmental solutions, not just problems. Membership comes with benefits including high-end print editions, conversations with authors, and networking opportunities.'

Who is Future Earth?

'Launched in 2015, Future Earth is a 10-year initiative to advance Global Sustainability Science, build capacity in this rapidly expanding area of research and provide an international research agenda to guide natural and social scientists working around the world. But it is also a platform for international engagement to ensure that knowledge is generated in partnership with society and users of science. We are closely engaged in international processes such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and climate and biodiversity agreements (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity).Future Earth is built on many decades of international research on global environmental change carried out by projects sponsored by DIVERSITAS, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and the International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP). Over 20 projects, ranging from the Global Carbon Project to the Earth System Governance project, have joined Future Earth. From this intellectual base Future Earth is launching Knowledge-Action Networks to catalyze new research and partnerships around eight key challenges to global sustainability.Future Earth’s five Global Hubs are based in Colorado, Montreal, Paris, Stockholm and Tokyo and coordinate and catalyse new research for global sustainability. Regional Centres are operational in Asia, Europe, the Middle-East and North Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, while Regional Offices are emerging in Africa and South Asia. National Structures are also forming in countries across the planet.We are an open network for scientists of all disciplines, natural and social, as well as engineering, the humanities and law. We endorse world-class projects, networks and institutes who can contribute to our research agenda and are committed to transformation.The Governing Council of Future Earth is composed of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), the STS forum and members of the Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability. They include the International Council for Science(ICSU), the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the Belmont Forum of funding agencies, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization(UNESCO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations University (UNU), and the World Meteorological Organization
'The digital revolution has opened up new possibilities to connect people around ideas and technology that we could not have imagined even a decade ago. We start from this premise.
The co-creation of communications platforms and collaborative storytelling around global sustainability will be game changing. Innovative projects – whether they concern virtual reality, artificial intelligence or data-driven storytelling – can only emerge from a very open, collaborative and – to borrow a term from the MIT Media Lab – anti-disciplinary way of working.
Designing and creating such projects can and will help to bring science, art, design and technology closer together. Our theory of change is to create platforms and products that drive new types of connections between people and planet, to immerse people in the challenges of global sustainability and deepen their personal sense of involvement.
The Future Earth Media Lab is a partnership between people at Future Earth, Globa├»a and the International Council for Science. We are a space for projects that connect science, design, technology and art to change how people think about the planet they live on.
The lab is part of the Future Earth research programme. Future Earth began in 2015 and coordinates international research for global sustainability. Global sustainability is the science of people and planet. It is about the ice sheets and atmosphere, the waterways and soils, the rich diversity of life and cultures. It is about societies, politics, economics and global dynamics.
We want to create pioneering, experimental approaches to engage with science that can spread, inspire and spark new trends.'
See one of their websites;  Welcome to the Anthropocene

Source: Climatica

the ANTHROPOCENE project

The Anthropocene Project is a unique multidisciplinary investigation including a feature documentary from acclaimed filmmaking team Jennifer Baichwal, Nick de Pencier (Mercury Films) and Edward Burtynsky, marking the third in the trilogy following Manufactured Landscapes and Watermark; a fine art book published by Steidl and a museum exhibition including video, virtual reality and large scale Burtynsky photographs; and an educational, interactive website.

The Anthropocene film follows an international group of geologists — the Anthropocene Working Group — who are proposing the renaming of our current interglacial epoch, Holocene, to Anthropocene in recognition of lasting changes to the earth’s system, both positive and negative. Using high-end production values and cutting edge camera technologies, the filmmaking team has traversed the globe to document the most profound evidence of human planetary interaction and impact. Combining hard science with stunning visual sequences, the Anthropocene film documents an historic moment in human history and brings a visceral and unforgettable understanding of our species’ reach and impact.

The projected release date is Fall 2018.



This project “Seeds of a Good Anthropocene” is a collaboration led by McGill University in Canada, the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University in Sweden, and the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST) at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. It forms part of the initiative  “Bright Spots – Seeds of a Good Anthropocene,” a FutureEarth funded project in its first phase (2014-2016). 
OBJECTIVE: We aim to counterbalance current dystopic visions of the future that may be inhibiting our ability to move towards a positive future for the Earth and humanity. We will do this by soliciting, exploring, and developing a suite of alternative, plausible “Good Anthropocenes” – positive visions of futures that are socially and ecologically desirable, just, and sustainable. We expect that any “Good Anthropocene” that emerges will be radically different from the world as people know it today. Yet we also know that these futures will be composed of many elements already in existence, which we call “seeds’, which could combine in unique and surprising ways to create an almost unimaginable future.
APPROACH: The seeds of alternative good futures already occur in many places around the world. Identifying where these elements of a Good Anthropocene currently exist on the planet, and understanding how and why they occur, can help us envision how people might help these seeds grow into new, positive futures for the Earth and humanity. It is essential that we gather seeds from a diversity of disciplines, worldviews, values, and regions, even if we cannot hope to be represent all the great initiatives out there. Seeds are being solicited specifically from different communities of research and practice around the world, and more openly through this blog platform. The outputs of our project will include a database of seeds for analysis, a story-telling blog, scenarios and games, as well as academic and popular articles.
One simple example of a 'seed ' is 

'Fossil Fuel divestment is a rapidly growing campaign which aims to morally stigmatize the fossil fuel industry.  Divestment is the opposite of investment, it is the removal of your investment capital from stocks, bonds or funds, and recently a global movement for fossil fuel divestment, also called disinvestment, is demanding that key people and organisations halt their investments in oil, coal and gas companies for both moral and financial reasons. These organisations include universities, religious institutions, pension funds, local authorities and charitable foundations.   Previous divestment campaigns have targeted the tobacco and gambling industries and companies funding the violence in Darfur. Divestment is perhaps most well known for its role in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. ' 


'We support and connect journalists interested in doing solutions journalism, rigorous reporting about how people are responding to problems. We do this in three ways: (1) advising and supporting media outlets around the country in creating high-impact solutions reporting projects; (2) developing educational tools and resources to build journalists' skills in solutions reporting and editing; and (3) connecting and supporting those interested in how social problems are being solved.'

Based in New York City, SJN works with newsrooms all over the United States ans is beginning to branch out to other countries. Offers whole-newsroom workshops in Solutions Journalism; technical and financial support for specific solutions projects; web-based tools; database of 1,100+ examples; virtual and in some cities, physical networks of like-minded journalists; support and assistance for journalism-school professors.


Based at the Windesheim University in the Netherlands. Works with media and journalism schools on three continents: Europe, North America, Africa. Offers to Newsroom Journalists: Presentations, master classes and whole-newsroom workshops in Constructive Journalism. Research on CJ, research database, upcoming home for an international hub for constructive journalism: creating a network between media and journalism institutions working with CJ

  • adds a solution-oriented framing of news.
  • conveys a productive perspective about the future. And about our ability to get there. 
  • is critical but never cynical.
  • puts new questions to power, so-called victims and experts, inquiring about resources, collaborations and solutions on issues of high societal significance.
  • calls on the press to take its commitment to democratic participation and public debate seriously.
  • engages the public and possibly co-creates with them.
Thereby achieving a more accurate portrayal of the world, strengthened accountability and core functions of journalism.


First published in 2006 by Eden Projects Books, James Martin's weighty work has gained added relevance in the intervening years. These are extracts from Chapter 1: The Transition Generation.

‘This could be either humanity’s last century or the century that sets the world on a course towards a spectacular future.
‘Formidable problems confront us, but this is a book about solutions – many solutions. With these solutions, we will bring about a change in course, a great 21st century transition...A drastic change is needed in the first half of the 21st century to set the stage for extraordinary events in the rest of the century.
‘This interconnected set of problems has an interconnected set of solutions
‘In light of rapidly advancing technology...sustainability is not enough. We need to be concerned with survivability.
‘Today’s young people will be the generation that brings about this great transition...They are the Transition Generation. It is vital that they – all of them – understand the 21C Transition, so that they can understand the critical role they will play. For many, understanding the meaning of the 21st century will give meaning to their own lives.
‘Solutions exist, or can exist, to most of the serious problems of the 21st century. The bad news is that the most powerful people today have little understanding of the solutions and little incentive to apply them.
‘There are about a hundred momentum trends that can help us understand aspects of the future....Together, these high momentum trends form a skeleton of the future
‘To map the world in terms of trends having unstoppable momentum suggests a substantial level of predictability, but even among prediction trends, major surprises occur suddenly.’
‘A message that turns up repeatedly in this book is that we’d better listen to the scientists.’
‘I use the term leverage factor to refer to relatively small and politically achievable actions...that can have powerful’s one dramatic example. When women in poor countries are taught to read – a relatively easy and inexpensive project – they tend to have fewer children.
‘To address the many difficult problems...we need to identify effective leverage factors.
‘We need to separate in our minds the momentum trends and leverage factors from the overwhelming noise of smaller issues. By identifying them we can think about how to make the future better. There is an enormous amount that can be done to transform the journey ahead.
‘There can be new lifestyles of the grandest quality that heal rather than harm our global ecosystem... To avoid wreaking havoc around the planet, we need eco-affluence to be globally fashionable.
‘The future will be characterised by raid growths in knowledge and in new techniques for putting knowledge to work.
‘An important statement is that the world’s increase in wealth will be way much greater than its increase in population.
‘Part of the 21C Transition is a change in civilisations – different types of changes in different cultures.
‘What principles are right for the 21st century, when so much will change?
‘Society needs visions of a better future. We need a broader vision of the future’s diverse possibilities.
‘The 21st century presents an extreme dichotomy. In the stronger countries, it will be a time of great increase in wealth and a massive increase in what humans can achieve. In the weaker countries...many are actually destitute nations, or failed nations not developing nations...
‘We can ask: What is the right thing to do? Or can we ask: What is the most likely thing to happen?
[The right thing]: ‘there are clear fundamental answers. End poverty. Eliminate disease and squalor. Educate children. Teach women to read. In short, clear up the mess... This is not an impractical deal. It does not need a large amount of financial aid; it needs basic know-how put into place along with low-cost actions. The cost to the rich nations would barely be noticed.
[For destitute nations/most likely to happen]..the answer is an inexorable spiral into worsening conditions.
‘The most dangerous consequence of our activities may be that we upset the way our planet regulates itself.
‘At present, this totally isolated blue planet is in a period of natural warming. The Sun is slightly hotter than usual. It is bad luck that this is the time when human civilisation is causing artificial warming.
‘New energy technologies that will lessen damage to the climate are vital; technologies that facilitate the spread of weapons of ever more mass destruction should be stopped if possible.
‘This is the first century since our caveman days in which Homo sapiens could be terminated. Even if homo sapiens survive, civilisation may not.

‘The main theme of this book is an idea that should be taught and talked about everywhere: that the 21st century in unique in human history in that it will produce a great change which will enable humanity to survive.’
'Since 2005, Martin has donated $150m to the University of Oxford to set up a school to study the problems of the 21st century...He says that during his extensive travelling he had seen remarkable changes in the world – not all for the good. "I was getting more and more concerned about the problems of the planet," he explains. He began to make a mental list of all the subjects that needed in-depth study.

'The school now has 30 "institutes", composed of teams of about eight academics, each led by a professor. The subject of each institute can be divided into four broad categories: health and medicine, energy and environment, technology and society and ethics and governance. A key feature of the school is the multidisciplinary nature of its activities and each institute head is encouraged to find out about what other institutes are doing in order to stimulate the cross-fertilisation of ideas and techniques.... The overriding stipulation is that their work should have direct, practical bearing on the problems facing humanity in the 21st century.
 'He wanted to find the meaning of the 21st century, to discover what humanity needs to do to pull it through the coming bottleneck of problems caused by the "perfect storm" of population growth, climate change and shortages of food, water and resources.
'He set about re-inventing himself, writing a book that would become a manifesto for his philosophy. The Meaning of the 21st Century: A Vital Blueprint for Ensuring Our Future was published in 2006, a year after the initial launch of his school in Oxford. For Martin, the 21st century represented the point in human history when all the greatest problems will converge together, like a fast-flowing river flowing through a constriction in a deep canyon. He believed that the world will need to tap the intellectual resources of the best minds if we are to survive the coming transition.'
[Extracts from The $100 man:Why philanthropist James Martin gave away his fortune [The Independent/15th January 2011]


Source: Fife Direct

THE GENERALIST  has been harping about the new industrial/green technology/energy revolution since 1997 when I interviewed Amory Lovins, one of the world's leading energy efficiency gurus. See his TED talk here. 

Blog posts on this subject date back to 2005. The mainstream media still do not have a big picture view of what is happening globally. 

Here's a summary of an excellent paper, published on Carbon Tracker entitled 'The New Energy Transition: History is Bunk' by Kingsmill Bond, New Energy Analyst at the Research and Consultant agency Trusted Sources. In brief, the key points.  [Fuller version with charts here.]
'The orthodox view is that energy transitions are slow, and that this one will be no different. In reality, the new energy revolution will be fast, disruptive, and, above all, soon.
'The orthodox that incumbent energy producers need not worry too much about the rise of solar, wind or electric vehicles because their impact will not be felt for many years...[but]'there have been many examples where the arrival of new energy sources rapidly wiped out growth in demand for old energy.'
'Fossil fuels are available only in a limited number of places, and the more you extract the harder it gets.  Renewables are of course available everywhere, and the more you build the cheaper they get. 
'Renewables are being embraced everywhere.  Meanwhile, every country is seeking to reduce fossil fuel consumption, either in order to meet its COP21 commitments, or in order to reduce local pollution and enhance energy security.
Trusted Sources believes that : 'solar and wind supply [will] continue to grow at around 15-20% a year for the next five years' and that 'other non-fossil fuels – nuclear, hydro and biomass, [will] continue to grow at their slow and steady growth rate of around 2% a year.' 
In 2020, global demand for fossil fuels will start to fall, 'This will have hugely disruptive impacts across the global energy system.  And since energy is the foundation technology of the modern world, the geopolitical impacts will also be significant, and the consequences will be felt in every sector, from defence stocks to construction companies.'


 Thanks to my friend Gordon Adgey for turning me on to Gridwatch which provides an accurate near real-time view of  the various energy sources that power the UK's National Grid. It's put together by an electrical engineer, who writes:
Original National Grids 1933. Source: Photobucket
'Having expressed a desire for anyone to point me at a site for real world data on power generation, I was referred to the BM Reports website, where real-time - or near real-time - data is available on exactly what The United Kingdom's electricity grid is doing. That was a huge leap forward in actually gathering the data, as it has pages of latest statistics, but the ability to retrieve archived data and perform instant calculations as well its - frankly awful - graphical displays, was a real drawback.
So Gridwatch was born, first of all to scrape the data off the BM reports site every 5 minutes and inject it into an SQL database where it would be easy to perform specific searches and do statistical analysis. Then, in a rather retro and humorous way, to display the data in terms of analogue instruments and moving graphs. This is pure personal amusement, I like dials and graphs.'


Source: ZME Science
 My friend Steve Sawyer was the head of Greenpeace International and is now the Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council. He has done the maths to see whether we could power the world on wind energy alone.
The average annual global electricity consumption is 21,000 terawatt-hours. Divide this by 0.005256 terawatt-hours of annual wind energy production per wind turbine equals approximately 3,995,434 onshore turbines.
In terms of land use, those 3,9 million turbines would take up about half the size of Alaska if they were spaced close together or a land mass slightly smaller than Spain if they were more widely spaced.
For the purpose of this global calculation, Steve reckons the average wind turbine has an output of 2 MW of power and reaches its full power-generating potential 30% of the time. Multiply that by the 8,760 hours in a year and you get an estimate of the annual megawatt-hours of energy production each turbine can produce  - 5,265 megawatt-hours or 0.005265 terawatt-hours.
If we only used extremely efficient turbines (i.e. ones that create 4 MW of power at 40% capacity), about 1.49 million turbines could supply the world's electricity consumption.
Thanks to advancements in wind turbine technology, the cost of deploying wind energy has fallen by 90% since the 1980s.
 Offshore wind farms can offer three times the amount of power compared to onshore turbines, since there is more wind blowing over the sea than on land.
[Source: Business Insider]

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Fresh from a re-examination of the cultural and political youth revolutionary movements in or around the period 1966-1970 in the Previous Post, 'Walls Come Tumbling Down' picks up the story with a bumper 56opp oral history of British music and politics 1978-1992 through three important linked  progressive movements - Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge - that emerged to combat the rise of racism amongst the young and fight against Thatcherism in all its aspects.

Based on more than 100 interviews, this book could not be more relevant for the times we are living in now. Once more racism is on the rise in our country. There is a lot of talk about why there are no politics in music anymore. New movements will emerge and the valuable experiences documented in this seminal volume must be used, digested and put to work in a new wave of righteous indignation and great tunes.

If you were there at the time: READ THIS BOOK. Its like watching a movie and from Para 1 you're getting flashbacks, the metallic taste of speed, the grim remembering of the Thatcher years, Northern Ireland, the Miner's Strike, football hooliganism, the National Front alongside the shock and awe of punk, the bounce and brilliance of 2 Tone, the engagement of musicians in leading the charge for a better world, culminating in the massive Nelson Mandela concert that in no small way contributed to NM's eventual release. Thatcher went, the wall came down. 

If you weren't there at the time: READ THIS BOOK. You'll catch your breath in wonderment that such things were possible. Can it happen again? Over to you.

Rock Against Racism was triggered by Eric Clapton's drunken ramblings at a concert in Birmingham in 1976, reinforced by comments later in a Melody Maker interview, praising Enoch Powell as a prophet and called for effing "wogs" to leave the country - a musician whose work is based on black music and who has just had a big hit with Marley's 'I Shot The Sheriff'. 

Red Saunders, a cultural activist and Sunday Times  photographer, heard of the incident and quickly penned a  sharply-pointed letter which was published in all the main weekly music newspapers.It concluded: Rock was and still can be a real progressive culture.. We want to organise a rank-and-file movement against the racist poison in rock music.' 

You were encouraged to write to ROCK AGAINST RACISM. The spark became a fuse and, on cue came 'punk' - a movement that was finely poised - anarchistic, rowdy, offensive rock but with a violent edge, flirting with swastika armbands from the dressing-up box. RAR gigs which got bigger and bolder as the movement gained force, attracted disaffected frustrated youth of all persuasions, with a contingent of NF, a contradiction that peaked around Sham 69 and the Sham Army.


RAR along with the Anti-Nazi league [who formed  in 77 to defeat the NF electorally), Joe Strummer and Jimmy Pursey speaking out, won the day, as a punky-reggae alliance found common solidarity and carried the message across the nation, aided by the print shop and distribution network of the Socialist Workers Party. RAR were against authoritarian politics and dogmatic leftism. This was a movement driven by writers, artists and bands - analogous to the Prague movement in 1968. 

Its an inspiring and educational example of ground-up action as is the wonderful 2-Tone movement, brainchild of Jerry Dammers - out of the Midlands, black and white musicians together, The Specials, The Beat, The Selector, UB40 plus Madness plus girl bands adding their voices to a style and groove that rocked the nation, a rocket that crashed and burned with style when The Special's 'Ghost Town' was at Number One in the Charts.

Paul Weller and Billy Bragg joined forces and, in the summer of 1985, Red Wedge was conceived, a loose coalition of artists with a simple remit: to get Thatcher out of office and to return the Labour Party to power with Neil Kinnock at the helm, offering to do national tours under the banner  'Don't Get Mad. get Organised'. 

This populist movement which directly aligned itself to the Labour Party, aimed to change society from within. When Kinnock lost and Thatcher returned to power, their realigned work continued to lay the foundations for what became New Labour. Bad taste in mouth given what's occurred since but again a valuable movement that has lessons for Corbyn and Momentum.

Final Words in the book belong to Annajoy David, vice chair of the Youth Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND):
'This whole period put culture at the centre of politics and helped to define the language of politics in a way that the country hadn't seen happen before. You had thousands of young people out on the streets with something to say who had taken politics into their lives. It helped to define a generation who brought together culture and politics to stand up and say something about the government of the day. Was it better to do nothing and let the fascists go unchallenged? Was it better to do nothing and let Margaret Thatcher go unchallenged? Should we have stayed silent? Of course we shouldn't. We had a duty to stand up and call people to account. That's what democracy is about. Walls did come tumbling down.' 


'You Say You Want A Revolution?' is the book of the exhibition at the V&A, previously flagged up in an earlier post. This oversized extravagantly designed 320pp catalogue captures the spirit of the times with a cascade of stunning photos, graphics, posters, album covers. All that's lacking is a free giveaway tab of acid taped to the cover - but you can use your imagination.

Veterans of the period will have seen many of the classic images clustered here and the '60s have of course spawned a huge library of previous publications but, to their credit, the organisers have broadened the traditional focus and present much that has been rarely seen alongside the old chestnuts. The book, I would imagine, only contains a fraction of the material in the show as a whole. Have spent best part of two days at the kitchen table - the book being too unwieldy for my crowded desk - digesting and taking notes on the book's nine essays plus intro and epilogue, taking notes.

Here are the show's two curators Victoria Broakes and Geoffrey Marsh, fresh from their success with the Bowie show, now touring the world. 

Their Preface claims that the 1,826 days that make up the time period of the exhibition 'shook the foundations of post World War II society and undeniably changed the way we live today.'

The one million babies born in 1947 became teenagers in 1960; in 1967, one in three people in France were under 20. 

[A point I would make, which gives this period a fresher context, is that this period could be seen in retrospect as our Arab Spring. Discuss.]

They point out that 2016 is the 500th anniversary of Thomas More's 'Utopia'. References are made to William Blake and LSD and pride of place is given to the late Martin Sharp's wonderful 1968 Dylan poster 'Mister Tambourine Man'.

It's good to see the cover of the 1962 Port Huron Statement from the Students for a Democratic Society with the stirring quote: '...we seek the establishment of a democracy of individual participation governed  by two central aims: that the individual share in those social decisions determining the quality and direction of his life; that society be organised to encourage in dependence in men and provide the media for their common participation...' What about women you might well ask. The Port Huron Statement is famously referenced in 'The Big Lebowski' and there's a great post on Mental Floss about this.

[Left] Trocchi Photograph by Marvin Lichtner, 1967.

Interesting to see a copy of 'The Moving Times' [new to me] a broadsheet poster publication  
edited by Alexander Trocchi featuring text by William S. Burroughs and Kenneth White. The associate editor was Jeff Nutall, author of the seminal 'Bomb Culture'.

According to this source: "The Moving Times" served as number 1 of the Sigma Portfolio. Self-publishing was a key aspect of Project Sigma and the Sigma Portfolio texts produced by Trocchi were circulated on a subscription basis. Project Sigma, which was the focus of much of Trocchi’s work from 1962-1977, was an attempt by Trocchi to establish an international network of counter cultural activism largely focused socially based institutions perceived as limiting free expression such as the media, universities, and workplaces.'

 Doffing the cap to the curators for their no doubt strenuous efforts to make such a large scale exhibition happen (which by all accounts is wonderful and voluminous) their intro and contributions to the catalogue are the weakest part of the whole production. 

Section 1: You Say You've Got A Real Solution  is an essay entitled 'A Tale of Two Cities': London, San Francisco and the Transatlantic Bridge' by Geoffrey Marsh. This consists of 100 fictional diary entries written by two imaginary journalists. For many readers these are references to events that they will know little if anything about it. It's only when you get to the back of the book that the factual info is listed in detail. The section includes five double page spreads of album covers for each year, seemingly chosen at random, which become more disorganised as the spreads progress. They look colourful but lack meaning.
Jumping ahead, Section 6: You Say Yes is an essay entitled 'You Say You Want A Revolution - Looking at The Beatles' by Victoria Broakes. This is frankly awful and should have been written by Mark Lewisohn, given the centrality of The Beatles to this time period.

Moving swiftly on. Section 2: You Say You Want to Change the World. This essay is 'Revolution Now: The Traumas and Legacies of US Politics in the Late '60s' by Sean Wilentz, author of 'The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln' (2015) and 'Bob Dylan in America'.Now a professor at Princeton, Wilenz grew up in Greenwich Village and is the current historian-in-residence on Dylan's official website.

Source: No More Songs
This is an excellent march through the unfolding American revolution of the period. Great to see a photo and mention of Dylan's dark brother and rival Phil Ochs who, unlike Dylan, stayed political but drowned in his own depression, leading to him taking his own life in 1976. (Worth mentioning that one of the best pictures in the whole book is of Woody Guthrie in the 1940s, with his legendary 'This Machine Kills' guitar, looking like he's coming down from speed.
Above: The creator of the this 1960s magazine ad was
arrested by the FBI for "a crime of inciting with lewd
and indecent materials"
Below: Rare Edition of 'Earth Times' (May 1970),
a short-lived ecology magazine published by
Rolling Stone [The Generalist Archive]

We follow the student riots, the anti-Vietnam movement, the famous Civil Rights 'March Against Fear' in Mississippi at which Stokely Carmichael utters the phrase 'Black Power' that leads in 1966 to the formation of the Black Panther Party by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton.

On the 4th April that year Martin Luther King is assassinated and riots break out in cities across America, which Wilentz says is 'the biggest wave of violent unrest since the Civil War. On the 4th June Bobby Kennedy is assassinated. Then comes the brutality of the Democratic Convention in Chicago, the Exorcism of the Pentagon so brilliantly captured in Norman Mailer's 'The Armies of the Night' and the SDS split leading to homegrown terrorist attacks by the Weathermen.

Wilentz then documents the feminist reawakening, the birth of Gay Liberation following the Stonewall riots in New York in 1969 and the first organised national conservation movement in America's modern times leading to the the birth of Earth Day on 22nd April 1970.

The '60s movements linked the personal and the political but, says Wentz, it's too early to say who won or lost. These revolutions continue. In Lincoln's time,  America was 'a house divided against itself'. Wentz concludes:  'So it may prove that the revolutionary '60s produced in America another house divided, one whose fate - as one thing or another - has yet to be decided 50 years later, but that sooner rather than later will face a reckoning.'

For those interested, Wentz recommends three indispensable books: 'A Tale of Two Utopias: The Political Journey of the Generation of 1968' by Paul Berman (1997). 'The Sixties:Years Of Hope Days Of Rage ' by Todd Gitlin (1987) and 'America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s'                                                                                           by Maurice Issermnan and Michael Kazin (2000)


Section 3: You Say You Want to Change Your Head features 'The Counter-Culture' by Barry Miles, a personal friend and one of the most prolific authors on both the Beat and the Hippy Movements. Miles was in the thick of things with the Indica Bookshop and the early days of International Times, (IT)  the UFO club/Roundhouse etc. For my money his book 'In The Sixties' is a great atmospheric read.

Miles takes as his starting point the birth of CND and the annual Aldermaston marches (1959-1963), the rise of recreational drugs, the Underground, the Movement, the New Left and flips to the US where the counter-culture is a very broad church dominated by many strident males - the feminist movement emerged for good reason.

Miles locates the  true birth of the British counter-culture as being the International Poetry Incarnation at the Albert Hall on 11th June 1965 and the birth of the undeground press to the LA Free Press in 1964 which led to some 100 other papers emerging in the following decade. In the UK, IT was followed by OZ, Friends/Frendz, Ink and more than 100 local and regional papers in the UK.

Miles is right to highlight the fact that the counter-culture transformed graphic design (using analog technology I might add in those B.C. (before computers) world). Music was a transformative force and the Festivals pivotal events. He pays tribute to John 'Hoppy' Hopkins (whose great photos appear on several spreads in this book. See Previous Post on Hoppy's own photo book here) and Mick Farren but saves his biggest praise for Caroline Coon and Rufus Harris of Release, which helped busted freaks from the Beatles on down.

We romp through May'68 Paris, the San Fransisco Diggers, the Yippies and the deaths at Kent State. He concludes: The counter-culture brought a healthy distrust of the Establishment that continues to this day.' He sees the legacy of the underground press in

Section 4: You Say You're Experienced is a knowing and knowledgeable essay by Jon Savage entitled 'All Together Now' that focuses in on the effects of LSD. which the UK governments secret establishment at Porton Down had been experimenting with since 1953. 

Fresh from the production of his last major work - a hefty and detailed examination of the year 1966 [See Generalist review] he writes: 'By the end of 1966, the smart end of pop was defined by the use of LSD'.

Jon highlights the Stones' bust at Keith Richards' house Redlands in Feb 1967 and, a few months later, McCartney admitting on tv that he had taken LSD. A few days after that, The Beatles play 'All You Need Is Love' (25th June) on the first global tv broadcast. Albums sold more than singles for the first time that year and August saw the closing down of pirate radio.

LSD not only changed the music it helped form the idea of alternative culture, communities and communes. Jon describes the Notting Hill Gate and North Kensington area as the epicentre of counter-culture. He highlights the mass squat at 144 Piccadilly in London and the August 1970 Isle of Wight Festival at which 600,000 people gathered and the fences came down, making it free. [I was there, were you?]. For my money, Jon's take on that period is the best in the book, hence the larger type:

'...many late '60s ideas seem not time-locked or nostalgic, but still latent and powerful, waiting to be activated by a new generation'

 1966 poster by Garry Grimshaw

Section 5: You Say Everything Sounds The Same focuses on 'The Fillmore, The Grande and the Sunset Strip: The Evolution of a Musical Revolution' in an essay by Howard Kramer, former curatorial director at the Rock n Roll Hall of fame. 

It's a straight ahead account of what went down. As he makes clear these may be the highest profile 'scenes' of the time but right across America the musical revolution made itself 'manifest in a cellular organic manner'.  

There's some great posters here and good to see photo of the Family Dog crew and Bill Graham, who ran the Fillmore West and East with an astute belligerence. Personally I love the Detroit scene with the MC5 and Iggy - still amongst the greatest bands I've ever seen. 

Kramer concludes: 'The power and identity of youth is defined more by its music than by any other single characteristic.'                      

Section 7: You Say You Want Shorter Skirts features 'British Fashion 1966-70: A State of Anarchy' by Jenny Lister, curator of Fashion and Textiles at the V&A. This is not my bag to critique or illuminate in detail but the whole section seems a bit flat, a bit straight. The key quote for the piece comes from a piece in Nova (Sept 1968) entitled 'Fashion Is Dead, Long Live Clothes' by Brigid Keenan. It reads: 'There is a state of anarchy in fashion - a 'why not?' that has toppled all the unwritten rules that used to inhibit the choice of clothes....The questioning and rejecting is going on in more significant areas than fashion, but it is in dress that it shows most.' Jenny Lister concludes that there is 'less potential than 50 years ago to shock with clothes....Paradoxically, now that fashion is more available, it is less meaningful.' [For my money, the best source book is Paul Gorman's 'The Look: Adventures in Rock & Pop Fashion' (2006)
[Right: Detail from a beautiful  landscape poster from Biba in THE GENERALIST ARCHIVE. It's inscribed on the back: 'In memory of an era. Shoplifted from Biba. August 1975. JC]

Section 8: You Say You Want It Cheaper  contains what is for me the most interesting essay in the book - 'The Chrome-Plated Marshmallow: The 1960s Consumer Revolution and Its Discontents' by Alison J. Clarke, a professor of design history and theory. This seismic shift in the world of 'things' is an equally significant aspect of the late 60s/early 70s and a topic that broadens our understanding of the period. Things we no longer just utilitarian and traditional. A new fast-moving fashion conscious culture embraced the ephemeral and the new. As Clarke points out, in Europe there was 'growing disquiet over the vulgarising effect of an imported Americanised version of consumer capitalism.'

In the 1950s, an interesting exception to this was the views of The Independent Group, a network of artists, designers and architects 'who famously embraced the blossoming of consumer culture and invented the concept of 'pop'.

Clarke references Kubrick's 'Clockwork Orange' in which' 1960s modern art and design operate as signifiers of amoral dysfunction rather than social progressiveness'. In 1968, Jean Baudrillard's 'The System of Objects' talks of the 'dislocated relationship between people and things in the new information-led technological society.'

The roots of CAT lie with the alternative
technology magazine 'Undercurrents' from
which this book-length catalogue was born
in 1976 (Wildwood House)
[The Generalist Archive]
By the end of the 60s, the frothy novelty of consumerism was thrown into sharp relief by Vietnam, riots, assassinations and, writes Clarke, 'the lone voices and marginal groupings of dissent had concretised as a distinct critical body, a popular environmental and ecological movement spawning diverse counter-cultural responses, from the publication of the Whole Earth Catalog in the United States to the establishment of the Centre for Alternative Technology in Britain.' [It's great to see CAT recognised in this manner. Well overdue.]

The focus then shifts to the simultaneous revolutions not only in material culture but also in information culture which, in 1964, Marshall McLuhan characterised as a world 'not of wheels but of circuits, not of fragments but of integral patterns'. Clarke describes a 'confluence of counter-culture initiatives and emerging cybernetic technologies that would arise as a mode of 'digital utopianism...'

'The late 60s and early 70s boom in experiential design and media - with an emphasis on the individual psyche, alternative environmental politics and cyber-networked culture - generated the 'outside the box' creative entrepeneurialism defining present-day Silicon Valley culture.'

The essay then moves on to the writings of Vance Packard. His 'The Hidden Persuaders' was a critique of the advertising industry which was followed by 'The Waste Makers', an attack on the concepts of 'planned obsolescence' and disposable design; consumerism as indicative of a growing alienation within modern life.
'In one of the most prescient passages of 'The Waste Makers', Packard envisages a design culture driven by product designers reinvented as futurologists. The city of tomorrow, dubbed 'Cornucopia City' will ban the repair of any appliance over two years old; its supermarts feature conveniently located receptacles 'where the people can dispose of the old-fashioned products they bought on a previous shopping trip.' Over the next decade, Packard predicts, consumers will be encouraged to 'tingle at the possibility of using voice writers, wall-sized television screens and motorcars that glide along highways under remote control.'
Alison Clarke then moves on to the influential ideas of Victor Papanek who produced a radical critique of consumerism in 'Design for the Real World'. [Clarke is Director of The Papanek Foundation at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna.]  His design ethic was for the greatest number, appealing to social conscience rather than profit. He joined forces with Finnish activists to launch a socially responsible design movement.

It's interesting to see the occupation by protesters at the Milan Triennial, one of the design world most prestigious event, in May 1968. The Situationists were also active with Raoul Vaneigen's 'The Revolution of Everyday Life' (1967) which posited that we are seeing the death of the working class and the rise of the consumer whose only power resides in the act of shopping.

In the US the prestigious 1970 International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado was also disrupted by what
was called the French Group and a US environmental design group called Ant Farm. The following year the event was handed over to the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) who were radical ultra-progressives. They believed in the social and transformative possibilities of design, interdisciplinary thinking and utopian culture. Tom Wolfe attended that conference

Clarke's long and detailed essay deserves further study. She concludes: that Packard's designer/futurologist prediction 'chimes so poignantly with the anxieties of twenty-first culture. As technologies emerge ever more clearly as extensions of ourselves, our futures precariously intertwined, these designer-futurologist hybrids wield a magnitude of power that would have made 1960s anti-consumerists quake.'

Section 9: You Say You Understand Whole Systems?  consist of an essay entitled 'Computers & America's New Communalism 1965-1973' by Fred Turner, Professor of Communications at Stanford and the author of 'From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, The Whole Earth Network and the Rise of Digital Utopianism.'

THE GENERALIST has two Previous posts on Brand, One is the  interview I did with him in London for a piece in the Sunday Times  in December 1980.  The other is called  Stewart Brand: Reinventing Environmental Thinking, which includes details on Turner's book, the blurb of which reads as follows: 
  '...the previous untold story of a highly influential group of San Francisco Bay entrepeneurs...Between 1968 and 1998, via such familiar venues as the Whole Earth Catalog, the computer-conferencing system WELL, and, ultimately, Wired magazine, Brand and his colleagues brokered a long-running collaboration between San Francisco flower power and the emerging technological hub of Silicon Valley. Thanks to their vision, counterculturalists and technologists alike joined together to reimagine computers as tools for personal liberation, the building of a virtual and decidedly alternative communities, and the exploration of bold new social frontiers. Turner's fascinating book reminds us that the distance between the Grateful Dead and Google, between Ken Kesey and the computer itself, is not as great as we might think.'
A.D. [Architectural Design] was essential reading in the late 60s/early 70s.
Actually got to see Bucky Fuller lecturing at the American Embassy in London thanks to Colin Moorcraft,
another unsung pioneer, who produced a series of  British Whole Earth supplements for Friends magazine
[The Generalist Archive]

Original battered copy of 'Drop City' by Peter
Rabbi (Olympia Press. 1971).
Below; Original 1969 Anchor paperback
[The Generalist Archive.]
Turner essay begins with an account of the infamous Drop City commune, who lived in fairly ranshackle geodesics. He claims that in the early 70s, there were three quarters of a million people in the US living in some 10,000 communes. 

He compares the view of the New Communalists and the New Left, quotes material on Theodore Roszak's book 'The Making of The Counter Culture' [See Previous Post on Roszak here), mentions 'The Greening of America' by Charles Reich and talks about the influence of R. Buckminster Fuller and Norbert Wiener on the thinking behind the 'Whole Earth Catalog'. 

The article is accompanied by a big picture of Doug Engelbart, inventor of the Mouse and pioneer of personal computing. 
[For more on Engelbart and the role of LSD in the early history of computing see my post on 'What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry ‘, a remarkable book by the New York Times science writer John Markoff  which not mentioned by Turner]

He concludes that 'the deepest irony behind the lingering influence of the 1960s communes and their view of technology' is that 'the dream of using information technologies to create a global community of consciousness is in fact being realised - but by the very military-industrial complex so many young Americans once hoped to undermine,'

Finally Michael Sandell's Epilogue 'Where We Go From Here' doesn't actually go anywhere. He just says: 'We live in a time when almost everything can be bought and sold....Today the logic of buying and selling no longer applies to material goods alone but increasingly governs the whole of life. It is time to ask whether we want to live this way.'
I think we knew the answer to that a  long time ago.

The book closes with one final piece: An extraordinary diagrammatic map of Networks of Resistance: A snapshot of  the rapidly evolving groups of Rebels and Revolutionaries in the United States 1966-1070. A great work of scholarship by Elisa Bailey and great design by Yat-Hong Chow.