This week's editor

Rosemary Belcher-2.jpg

Rosemary Bechler is openDemocracy’s Editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Nuclear disarmament: the case for engagement, not division

While understanding the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are key to acheiving disarmament, efforts for a new convention outside the nuclear non-proliferation treaty will only fragment the nuclear debate further.

In the carbon wars, big oil is winning

We humans have a choice: we can succumb to carbon’s gravitational pull and so suffer from increasingly harsh planetary conditions, or resist and avoid the most deadly consequences of climate change.

The wild west of surveillance

Here we have an anatomy of a surveillance world that grows more, not less, powerful and full of itself with every passing moment and technological advance, a national security world whose global ambitions know no bounds.

Fukushima’s future

When communities are devastated by disasters like earthquakes and nuclear explosions, how can they recover? In Fukushima, Japan, transformation may be the only option.

The Arctic disconnect

If long-term climate disruption is a reality, so is the prospect of short-term benefit for states such as Canada and Russia. But their governments' denial of climate change looks back not forward. 

Silence = death: Sarah Schulman on ACT UP, the forgotten resistance to the AIDS crisis

When the AIDS activist movement ACT UP was formed in New York in 1987, 50 per cent of Americans wanted people with AIDS quarantined, while 15 per cent favoured tattoos. An interview with Sarah Schulman on her film United In Anger: A History of ACT UP. 

Welcome to 'frackland': does a river have the right not to be polluted?

Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas or ‘fracking’ is one of the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet. Halting its destructive impact requires regulation and community control, but also something much deeper: the transformation of relationships between society and nature.

Contemporary challenges in medicines access

One of the most recent advances has been to successfully advocate for the adoption of a Socially-Responsible Licensing policy on intellectual property (including therapeutic agents) developed by University College London, the latest in a series of public research institutions to do so.

The politics of numbers in the age of austerity

The inherent power of numbers explains why all sorts of data, good or bad, can become a potent weapon to shape complacency and subservience in society.

Volatile, stable and extractive participation

At a conference on the theme of ‘Participatory Cultural Citizenship’ in Aarhus, Denmark last November, Participation Now asked keynote speaker Chris Kelty about questions posed by his current research project: Who gets to decide what participation should be like? Who should be deciding? How might they decide this? Interview.

Rethinking security: from projecting power to preventing problems

The embrace of corporate partners by science and technology departments and the erosion of distinctions between the military and the police have been at the heart of disturbing security trends in the UK and elsewhere. The root causes of insecurity meanwhile go unaddressed.

Towards a twenty-first century society of control?

These highly complex systems literally disintegrate the spatial and geographical unity of political subjects, that is citizens, into streams of rights-less digital bits of data flow. No democratic system can survive and thrive in this context. But there is no going back.

The Tar Sands and the World Tree – can Ragnarok be avoided?

Norse mythology tells of Ragnarok, a cataclysmic disaster akin to ecocide. In order to avoid this fate we need new stories that reunite human experience with nature.

Sharing our future: how the world can avert climate chaos

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report calculated a ‘budget’ for greenhouse gas emissions  if global average temperature rise is to be contained within 1.5-2C. Amid fractious debates between rich and poor at the UN climate talks in Warsaw, Phil England spoke to Christian Aid’s expert, Mohamed Adow, about how countries could agree to share the remaining allowable emissions.

Knowing your citizens, making publics

What sets public participation techniques apart from other ways for governments to know about citizens is the emphasis on deliberation between a small number of participants. Take fracking…

The nQuire young citizen inquiry

We want young scientists to develop a personal sense of wonder.

Mistaking omniscience for omnipotence

Everyone assumes the value of an increasingly para-militarized, bureaucratized, heavily funded creature we continue to call “intelligence,” even though remarkably little of what would commonsensically be called intelligence is actually on view.

Islam’s invented Golden Age

The introduction of print technology fundamentally changed the way one did scholarship in the madrasa. There were no manuscripts and margins, no reproduction and living engagement with a tradition of argumentation - one of a number of social, political, cultural, institutional, and technological factors explaining the current state of affairs.

Snowden and Socrates

In our liberal democracy, the democracy needs fixing before we can turn our thoughts to whether the liberalism needs fixing as well. The NSA should at last be able to jolt us into recognizing this.

‘Pessoptimism’ and the politics of Palestinian health

The development of culture-specific research measures takes time, but adding the dimension of human insecurity and distress to quality of life measures is a vital step.

Thinking like a plant

How can we act in ways that contribute to the evolving fabric of life, rather than to its dissolution? By “thinking like a plant.”

The end of Alzheimer’s “disease”

It’s time to re-inject some humanity into the unloving scientism and unjust capitalism of the contemporary dementia industry. 

Fossil fuel euphoria: Hallelujah, oil and gas forever

Senior government officials including President Obama have already become infected with this euphoria, as have top Wall Street investors - which means it will have a powerful and longlasting, though largely pernicious effect on US energy policy, industrial development, and foreign relations.

What chance of going gently into that good night?

Russia has an ageing population, a growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, and an inadequate system of palliative care for terminally ill patients that leaves Russians feeling betrayed. The failure of authorities to tackle the problems makes a bad situation worse, says Olga Usenko.

The data hackers: mining your information for Big Brother

Raytheon's latest product is a software package eerily named "Riot" that claims to be able to predict where individuals are likely to go next, and who he or she is likely to communicate with, using technology that mines data from social networks like Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter.

Cashing in on catastrophe: how to stop the climate crisis profiteers

New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina provides one of the most disturbing portraits and dystopian preludes of what the militarisation of climate change looks like. There is a hidden story here.

The NSA isn’t the only US government agency making privacy obsolete

Increasingly, the relationship between Americans and their government has come to resemble a one-way mirror dividing an interrogation room. So here’s a beginner’s guide to some of what’s happening on the other side of that mirror.

Our fossil-fuelled future 


What sort of fabulous new energy systems will the world possess in 2040?  Which fuels will supply the bulk of our energy needs?  And how will that change the global energy equation, international politics, and the planet’s health? 

The IPCC and new climate paths

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a unique public service that produces valuable scientific reports. But is yet another 1,000-page document what is needed now, asks Øyvind Paasche.

Revolt of the professors

In September Russia’s parliament votes on a highly controversial law to reform the Russian Academy of Sciences. As Aleksandr Chuikov reports, its supporters call it a bitter pill for the 21st century; its opponents, the kiss of death, and an attempt to curb academic freedoms.

How to redistribute authority: participatory knowledge matters for democracy

If collaborative science or participatory budgeting does not incorporate some openness to calamity and creativity, to the world pushing back, then it will not have the effect of generating ‘real life’ experience and redistributing authority. 

The final brick in the wall of the security state?

Why the digital commentator and technology adviser this week decided to call on Obama, Cameron, Clegg and the other 'architects of oppression' to dismantle the security state, using a quote the full irony of which he is well aware. 

The green machine of Copenhagen

When machines break down, don't throw them away, fix them. Anders Koefoed has declared war on “planned obsolescence.” This is the third video in our Everyday Stories series, showcasing people who are adding more meaning and sustainability to their lives. (Video, 5 mins)

Enlightenment values and the politics of transformation

Transformation implies renewing the core values of the enlightenment and placing them at the centre of political discourse.  

Totalitarianism as an object of fascination

The great public outcry and vehement criticism of American and British spy programs by western parliaments, NGOs, and the media clearly shows how great the distance still is between western democracies and the terrifying vision that Orwell described.

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