In perspective column

Remembering the Bristol bus boycott

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Fifty years ago this month a few committed activists from Bristol's 3,000-strong black community launched a remarkable and ultimately successful campaign. As in the rest of post-war Britain, housing was difficult to find. A "colour bar" existed in many places with signs in windows proclaiming "No Blacks or Irish". Young black men on a night out would run the gauntlet of "Teddy boys".

White women who befriended black men would often be shunned by their white friends, and even be labelled as prostitutes. The depth of this racism was a product of Britain's imperial past, whereby black and Asian people would be considered as uncivilised children, and portrayed as near savages in general public discourse. As in some other cities, such as Coventry and West Bromwich, the colour bar in Bristol extended to employment on the buses.

Silent Spring

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The publication of Silent Spring 50 years ago in September 1962 caused shockwaves through an America dominated by the belief that, through technology, humans could dominate nature in their own interests. The book and its author, Rachel Carson, are credited with inspiring the modern environmental movement.

Born in 1907 Rachel Carson had been a biologist working for the US Fisheries Bureau, but became a full-time writer in the 1950s. Her trilogy of books on the sea explored ocean life and had been bestsellers. In Silent Spring she examined the growing environmental problems caused by pesticides, locating the problem in the wider interaction of humans and the natural world. It was a book that was rooted in growing environmental awareness, particularly public understanding of the dangers from radiation.

An inspector doesn't call

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Simon Hester looks at the government's attacks on health and safety laws

Forty years ago the Robens Report laid the foundations of modern health and safety legislation. 1972 was a highpoint of workers' struggle, and Robens, a former boss of the National Coal Board, sought to take health and safety out of the arena of industrial relations.

The subsequent Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 put the onus on employers to minimise risk, gave workers basic rights to consultation and representation and established the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

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The death of Adrienne Rich leads Colin Wilson to recall the lesbian feminist politics of the 1980s

Adrienne Rich, who died in March, will be remembered chiefly as a poet who was part of the radical movement.

Her writing recorded the personal impact of the struggles of the 1960s, such as those against racism and the war in Vietnam. Rich came out as a lesbian and depicted love between women in her poems from the mid-70s on. In her seventies she continued to be politically active - opposing the war in Iraq - and to publish poetry.

Extreme Energy

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The panic that ensued when tanker drivers threatened to strike recently brought home the absolute centrality of oil to our modern economy.

Oil has been in the news recently, not least because the first few months of 2012 saw some of the highest ever prices for crude. The threat of war on Iran, instability in oil-rich Nigeria and the ongoing economic crisis combined to push prices above $125 a barrel. This is below the record of $147 set in July 2008, but the weakness of the pound and euro means that, in reality, the price is much worse for European consumers.

Fighting for the right to ramble

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The right for working class people to roam Britain's countryside was won through struggle. Mick Mulcahy looks at why we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the mass trespass of Kinder Scout.

This month is the 80th anniversary of what is indisputably the most important event in the movement for free access to Britain's countryside. The mass trespass of Kinder Scout in Derbyshire's Peak District in April 1932 paved the way for the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act.

An Arab 1848?

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In 1848 popular revolutions swept across Europe. The lessons from these events can help us to understand the revolutions in the Middle East today.

The sheer scale of the Arab revolutions has sent commentators searching through the historical record to find parallels to help make sense of events and guess where they might lead. Repeatedly they turn to the revolutions that swept Europe in 1848. It's not hard to see why.

The myth of crony capitalism

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Those who suggest that we are witnessing a crisis of "crony capitalism", rather than capitalism itself, are wrong, argues Jack Farmer

Suddenly everyone seems to be talking about the "crisis of capitalism". This matters - it's one thing to say that the current economic mess was brought about by a failure of regulation, finance, greed or state interference. It's quite another to admit that the system itself might be fundamentally prone to generate destructive crises.

China's migrant women

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Breakneck industrial expansion has transformed women's lives in China over the last generation. They live very different lives to their mothers and grandmothers but face enormous hardship in China's huge factories

If you are reading this article online the chances are that some part of the technology you are using will have been produced at one of the Foxconn factories in China.

This company made the international news last year due to a number of suicides among its workers. One of the largest Foxconn factories is in the city of Shenzhen in South East China. Between 300,000 and 450,000 workers are employed in this massive industrial park - a walled campus within Shenzhen dubbed "Foxconn city".

From small beginnings

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The Kyoto Protocols are set to become an empty shell following the 17th meeting of the UN Convention on Climate Change ("COP 17") in Durban.

The limited progress since 1997 towards achieving a legally binding agreement on carbon emissions will be scrapped in favour of a voluntary pledge and review process that to date has only resulted in increased carbon emissions.

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