Slavery on fishing trawlers

The Environmental Justice Foundation set out to investigate illegal fishing off the West coast of Africa, which is decimating fish stocks. They found a bit more than that: several trawlers with licenses to supply European fish markets were crewed by modern-day slaves. The men are kept in horrendous conditions, some with little access to clean water, confined aboard the trawler for months, even years, subjected to violence, their pay is withheld and their documents confiscated. You can read more from the Guardian here.

UK Courts Rule on What Counts as Philosophy

Rupert Dickinson was, he says, sacked for his Green beliefs. Today’s Guardian reports that

In today’s ruling, Mr Justice Michael Burton decided that: “A belief in man-made climate change, and the alleged resulting moral imperatives, is capable if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations.” Under those regulations it is unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of their religious or philosophical beliefs.

The written ruling, which looked at whether philosophy could be underpinned by a scientific belief, quoted from Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy and ultimately concluded that a belief in climate change, while a political view about science, can also be a philosophical one.

It’s excellent and ridiculous all at once! On the one hand, I agree with this:

Camilla Palmer, of Leigh Day and Co, said it opened doors for an even wider category of deeply held beliefs, such as feminism, vegetarianism or humanism. “It’s a great decision. Why should it only be religions which are protected?”

But on the other hand, a lollypop and a pony ride for anyone who can explain to me what the hell any of these mean:

In his written judgment, Mr Justice Burton outlined five tests to determine whether a philosophical belief could come under employment regulations on religious discrimination

• The belief must be genuinely held.

• It must be a belief and not an opinion or view based on the present state of information available.

• It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life.

• It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.

• It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

Carbon emission cutback and laundry

The New Scientist reports on a research about how the US carbon emission could be reduced by changing household actions.

If only Americans would hang their laundry out to dry – and commit 16 other acts of environmental kindness – they could slash US carbon dioxide emissions by 7.4 per cent by 2019.

Well. They didn’t read the article exactly right because it doesn’t speak of 16 clear cut actions like car pooling and line drying, but it speaks of 17 categories of actions, but that’s not why I got irked.

Other actions included in the article make complete and utter practical sense, like insulating houses, minding stand-by functions of electrical applyances and such. They do not take a lot of time and they don’t even diminish comfort of living. And I do think it is absolutely defendable that it would be better to give up comfort for the future of the planet, to some degree.

However, I am sure that if we would all go back to not just line drying – and why not go back to doing the laundry by hand altogether? – that would save a lot on carbon emission, but effectively, who are going to be the ones to end up doing that? Rrrright.

Sexist Cities

Apologies for my long absence from the blogosphere – I’ve been moving cities. I’ll be sure to take note, in my new residence, of how sexist my new city is. Yep, see here, for details of a study on how much town planning takes insufficient notice of recent gender equality planning regulations. Viv Groskop writes:

‘The report, by Dr Gemma Burgess of Cambridge University, concluded that the vast majority of town planners are ignoring the gender equality planning regulations that were brought in last year. This is significant, because if public spaces were designed with women in mind, they would look entirely different, with much more lighting, better-situated car parks and more areas where residential and office spaces are mixed, making it far easier to juggle work and childcare.’

 A good example of standpoint theory?

“Designers see themselves at the end of their pencil – or their mouse,” says Wendy Davis [of Women’s Design Service]. “Until about 15 years ago most architects and planners were men. They saw themselves moving through this environment. Because they were men and they were car drivers, they were interested in keeping commuters moving. It’s the same issue as with disability. They didn’t understand how a 15mm lip on a kerb could upset a buggy or a wheelchair. Not that they were being sexist – it just didn’t occur to them.”

Of course, important to distinguish the two issues: planning that accommodates primary care givers (easily accessible creches, walkways suitable for buggies), and planning that accommodates women (more space to accommodate an equal number of female toilets). And planning that will accommodate men and women: better lit spaces, seats that are not built for a narrow conception of what men’s bodies are like (6ft6).

Clara Greed, professor of inclusive urban planning at the University of the West of England writes:

‘what is good for women is good for everyone. It will create better cities for all’

Feminists destroy the earth!

No, we feminists don’t hate men. We just hate the stupid arguments that are sometimes wheeled out by anti-feminist men. Such as that provided by Angry Harry. Witness:

Argument for conclusion that feminists encourage traffic problems (this is a reconstruction. His far less well formulated argument can be seen in full here):

1.there is a very powerful group of dysfunctional people – feminists – whose main aim is to encourage family breakdown.

2. By living together – e.g. getting married – people can save on transport … Traffic congestion and pollution would be reduced enormously and time spent travelling would be cut.

C. By encouraging family break down, feminists are encouraging greater traffic congestion.

Introduced to this argument (at the excellent Fem08) by Damian Carnell from NDVF, as an example of the problematic men’s movements out there, Jender and I scoffed heartily. Ha ha! Why stick at that, why not add:

4. Greater traffic congestion means greater carbon emissions.

5. Greater carbon emissions contribute to global warming

6. Feminists encourage global warming.

Ha ha, reductio reductio! What a ridiculous argument.

But we underestimated Angry Harry – you’ve got to give it to him, he follows the premises through to their conclusion, and thus his bold conclusion:

Feminists Destroy the Planet!

 At least he has provided us with an excellent example to use in critical thinking classes (there’s lots more at his site). But perhaps Harry has indeed been too angered by the all those traffic jams. On yer bike Harry!

CFP: ‘Transformation and the Dynamics of (Radical) Change’


Dear colleagues,the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queen’s
University Belfast is seeking paper proposals for a two-day conference
(28th-29th November 2008) on the subject of ‘Transformation and the
Dynamics of (Radical) Change Insights from Political Theory and

Transformation is a seemingly ubiquitous concept within the field of
political theory and philosophy. Whilst some idealize transformation as a
source for progress and the improvement of the human condition, others
frame it as a disruptive and unsettling process which can damage the
social, political and natural elements of our world.

Paper proposals should include a tentative title, an abstract (200-300
words) and details of the author’s institutional affiliation and contact

Proposals should address any of the following issues/topics: Factors and
actors in transformation: Pluralism, nationalism, individualism,
collectivism, recognition, complexity.

Forces of transformation: Globalization, economic change, social change,
processes, transformation of conflict.

Objects and subjects of transformation: ideas; norms; values; ideology; the
concept of transformation itself; state and sovereignty; government;
governance; social structures and processes; environment and nature; human
beings, including the self.

Evaluations of transformation: theories, approaches, critiques and the
possibility of a broader discourse on transformation.

All papers should make an explicit contribution to the establishment of a
broader discourse on transformation and the dynamics of (radical) change.
The organizing committee welcomes papers from scholars in all fields and
also encourages submission from early-stage academics, as well as from
postgraduate students.

The deadline for submissions is JUNE 15th 2008. Please send your submission
to: transformations(at)

For further information, please visit:

Fabian Schuppert
School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy
Queen’s University Belfast