Friday, 31 August 2007

Speed kills, speed cameras save (destroying cameras = more road deaths)

I must respond to the story ‘The Toughest Speed Camera in the World’ (Bristol EveningPost, 30 Aug) detailing the large number of cameras in Avon and Somerset that are damaged/destroyed and also to the several people who commented online on this story on the Posts website, condoning, excusing and/or failing to condemn this gross irresponsibilty. Compare and contrast the website of those celebrating destruction http://www.speedcam.co.uk/index2.htm (Motorists Against Detection really are MAD in more ways than one) with those wanting cameras for road safety (http://www.roadpeace.org/index.shtml).

‘On average, nine people are killed and 85 injured each day on the UK's roads. This figure would probably be higher if safety cameras were not used. By reducing speeding and making the roads safer, they save about 100 lives a year.’ (http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/TrafficManagement/DG_10025598).

All those who deliberately damage speed cameras (better called safety cameras) show great insensitivity as they are often put up at locations of death and injury. ‘Safety cameras are generally installed on roads: with a history of road traffic collisions; where there is evidence of a speeding problem; or where there is local community concern. The Police may also use cameras to enforce speed limits.’ Why don’t these extremely anti-social people acknowledge the thousands killed and and tens of thousands injured on UK roads each year? http://www.roadpeace.org/index.shtml

Safety cameras are practical memorials where people have been killed. Every time someone vandalises a camera, they are showing their contempt for the people whose death may well have led to the camera being there in the first place. Presumeably they don’t care about the individual stories of pain and tragedy which these cameras are trying to stop from being repeated. Speed should not come before life and metal should not come before before flesh. Personally, I find it shocking that our society has often waited until there are deaths to take action, instead of being more proactive and preventive. It is a logic which we would never accept to the same extent for other modes of travel.

Road casualties should not be the forgotten victims in society. Road violence should not be a forgotten crime. There are far more road deaths than murders in a major city, yet the law on speeding is very weak indeed. Cars driven dangerously are potential killing machines, yet the police spend far too little time dealing with dangerous driving. Horrendous road deaths and injuries are not simply twists of fate, but preventable acts of social neglect.

Brown's target's will mean the disappearance of more open, green spaces

Does the government really value open, green spaces?? The governments own words confirm what I have feared all along about house building targets.

A story in yesterdays Bristol Evening Post described how the government will have to build houses at a faster rate than local authorities want if Gordon Brown’s target of 3 million homes by 2020 is to be met (‘Green belt is under threat from Brown’, Bristol Evening Post, 30 Aug.).

Apparently treating green belt land as ‘inviolate’ and ruling out development ‘cannot be consistent with government policy’, according to a government-appointed inspectors report on housing in the south-east.

Funny that – what is green belt for if it’s not to rule out development in certain places!!

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Praise the milkman!

Following recent letters in the local press on the recycling of plastic milk bottles/cartons I’d like to sing the praises for my local milk delivery. Ok the milk costs a bit more but the service is great, other food/drink can also be delivered and the glass milk bottles are reused dozens of times – by far the most environmentally friendly option. Go to
http://www.milkdeliveries.co.uk/doorstep/ for more. We must not get over-hooked, as the council and government often are, on the idea of recycling as the greenest option.

Sam Weston’s letter to the Bristol Evening Post (‘Where can I recycle plastic milk cartons?’) first drew an editors comment and then several letters (‘Recycling’, Bristol Evening Post Soapbox, August 28) including from Janet Peacock, Mrs M Brannigan, and City Councillor Judith Price, who is the Executive Member for Neighbourhoods and thus has responsibility for waste management. All gave useful comments on plastic recycling but not one person pointed to the delivery of milk in reuseable glass bottles as the best option – Cllr Price in particular would have performed a good public service if she had pointed this out. Shifting to having milk delivered cuts down on plastic bottles massively. The council should be doing a lot more to promote waste reduction and reuse as the two best options.

I acknowledge that many things come in plastic bottles and other plastic containers or wrappers however. Its best to try to avoid these as far as possible (not always easy I know!) and the government should be doing more, legislating as required, to cut the use of plastic in short-life ways down to a minimum right at the source. This reduction approach is by far the best environmental option compared to going to the financial and environmental costs of collecting light, high volume plastics for recycling. However, since this is just not happening on a sufficient scale, the council could be doing more on plastic recycling as the next best option.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Renewed focus on environmental education is needed

One of my current activities brings together three interests - science, the environment and education. I currently have a petition on the Bristol City Council website
( http://www.bristol.gov.uk/item/epetitionview.html?PetitionID=191 ) which is about enhancing environmental education and awareness through school/college environmental charters. I've written and used environmental charters in several of the places I've taught and they can work well.

My petition says:

The petitioner requests that, consistent with objective 10 in the Bristol 'Green Capital' pledge list to 'enhance environmental education and awareness', Bristol City Council circulates a 'Model Environmental Charter' to all Bristol schools and colleges, accompanied by a letter to governors urging them to adapt the model charter to suit, adopt it asap and agree to annually review progress related to it.

The model charter referred to goes like this:

The students, staff, governors and all friends of ...school/college will work to make annual improvements in:

* developing and improving grounds and buildings in a green way (like ponds, wildflower areas, tree planting, vegetable plots...)
* keeping the school and grounds clear of litter
* saving energy for example by sensible use of heating and lighting
* reducing waste, reusing and recycling
* using healthier, environmentally kinder products
* using recycled products and locally produced products
* efficient use of all resources, such as water, food, paper...
* travelling to and from school in low impact ways, like walking, cycling and public transport
* teaching care and responsibility for the environment, people and community, guided by a clear environmental education policy dealing with education about, education in and education for the environment

My experience tells me that schools and colleges need a focus for their environmental education work. Adopting an environmental charter can provide this focus in a school/college. It also takes forward the Bristol 'Green Capital' objective of 'Enhanced environmental education and awareness'.

Environmental education's profile surely needs to be substantially raised in all schools and colleges given that we all need to live more sustainably. In my view all of Bristol's schools/colleges should carry out environmental education: in and through the environment as a resource; about the environment by imparting knowledge; and for the environment by encouraging students to formulate caring values, attitudes and practical actions in their environment; and by developing the skills needed to study the environment in students.

One interesting development is that my petition has drawn a response from Kate Campion, Program Director, Children and Young Peoples Services, Bristol City Council, who wrote this in the discussion section of my petition:

All schools are expected to include environmental education as part of their citizenship agenda. Curriculum coverage is monitored by OfSTED inspections. The LA promotes environmental education through the work of a consultant, working with schools to develop the curriculum to ensure learning is about the environment, in different environments and through the environment, about 'real world' learning. Bristol City Council also provides support for schools to become Eco Schools and the Council has made a pledge to support the 'Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto'. An Outdoor Learning Policy and strategy is currently in draft format. Within our new secondary school building programme, the council is seeking every opportunity to ensure environmental standards are being met and that the building programmes and the subsequent maintenance of sites can be used as a tool to support learning. We are also promoting school travel plans. Over 90 schools now have a travel plan that highlights the benefits of environmental awareness and positive action towards environmentally friendly options. Much of this work is also promoted through the Healthy Schools programme, for which BCC holds 'Beacon' status. We agree that all schools should be encouraged to be environmentally friendly, promote environmental education and ensure learning is of high quality. To this end we work with schools to promote the agenda. Each school must make a decision about how this work is undertaken, by becoming an Eco School, a bespoke charter is created which directly relates to a particular school. We think this is the best way of promoting and sustaining environmental education and practice.

This is a very interesting contribution which I will shortly be discussing with her. From what I know about getting eco-school status a school applying would need something similar to an environmental charter (or some other sort of statement of environmental intent at least) in order to be successful in their application (http://www.eco-schools.org.uk/). I thus hope that the council will agree to circulate a model charter, consistent with their policy of supporting schools to become eco-schools, encouraging schools to be environmentally friendly and promoting environmental education.

I do agree very much that each school must make its decision on how environmental education work is undertaken. Its important that each school, or in fact any team or organisation has ownership of its policies and action plans. This is why the petition says that schools/governors use the model charter as a basis, adapting it to suit them...

On the other hand by circulating a model charter I think the council would be signalling that they want schools to develop a renewed focus for their environmental education efforts, saying that they should have some sort of overarching statement on the environment. Some local schools will have an environmental charter or equivalent statement, sometimes a fully developed and operating specific environmental education policy (including one school and one college where I have worked as a science teacher).

I think all schools should be in this position however, and hope the council agrees, because of the critical importance of environmental issues. Why shouldn't all schools become eco-schools of their own design? In fact the model environmental charter could easily be adapted for all sorts of organisations.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Incompetent city council brings forward tree demise

Bristol City Council deserves condemnation for allowing a situation to develop where approx 30 Poplar trees on the former Imperial Sports Ground in Knowle now have to be urgently removed for safety reasons. http://www.bristol.gov.uk/ccm/content/press-releases/2007/aug/dangerous-poplars.en

Its no longer disputable that the trees are unsafe. Why are the trees now in a dangerous state?

The council has allowed developers to work in such a way inside the sports ground that they have significantly changed soil levels and conducted excavations that have damaged tree feeding roots. This, combined with a lack of good council maintenance and past heavy pruning has brought the demise of these trees forward by several years.

The report by independent contractors, Silvanus Services Ltd, today published on the city website clearly makes the expert observations this condemnation is based on, see the extracts below:

Redevelopment works in progress, with highly significant changes being made to soil levels in the rooting environment of all of these trees.
Excavations have damaged many of the feeding roots throughout the group, which were evident during our visit.
5 No. specimens had suffered complete stem failure at around 6 – 8m, with remnants of the failed stems in evidence within surrounding scrub.
A number of fungal brackets (probably Polyporus squamosus and Perenniporia fraxinea) were observed growing on several specimens. NB: Control or eradication measures are not available with such fungal colonisations.
With evidence of past (heavy) pruning works, these specimens exhibit many failed truncated major limbs and stems, with such dysfunctional tissue affecting major unions.
At approximately 90 years of age, these specimens must now be considered to be over-mature, with over extended major limbs that overhang both the sports field and the Wells Road. This, combined with the hazardous conditions noted

in the list above, presents an unacceptable level of risk.

This group of trees undoubtedly represent a major hazard and an unacceptable risk to both the users of the athletic field and the adjacent major trunk road(s) and pavements/public walkways.
As many of the hazards observed during our inspections have arisen as a direct result of past (heavy) pruning operations, it is inadvisable to continue with further (even heavier) pruning works as this would result in an increased level of major wounds (and resultant decay entry points) throughout the crowns of these specimens. Given the presence of the bracket fungi, the altered soil levels within the rooting environment and the extensive root damage, it is our recommendation that these trees be removed as soon as possible and replaced once the ground works have been completed.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Carbon sums of Bristol International Airport dont add up!!

Spokesman for Bristol International Airport James Gore (one assumes no relation Al Gore!) might have a stronger case for airport expansion and more flying if his carbon sums added up but they don’t (‘Flight path to a greener future or flying in the face of climate change?’, Bristol Evening Post, 14 August).

The beneficial effect of the doubling of aircraft fuel efficiency he refers to is far outweighed by the massive growth in numbers of flights, passengers and goods carried, and total distance travelled. Growth in air travel is exponential, thus total fuel consumption and consequent carbon emissions wont be kept down without addressing this growth. This is clearly demonstrable in figures.

I have been annually calculating my three person household’s ecological footprint, along with my students, for the past seven years. This year the figure was 10,400 square metres of land, with no flights taken. If we flew on just one 10,000 km round trip holiday from Bristol Airport (a common travelling distance), this footprint would rise, according to the EcoCal computer model used, to 14,400 square metres – a 38% increase. The single round trip would then be the biggest contributor to our footprint at 28% of the total, approx the same as all household heating and lighting for a year and slightly more than the impact of household travel by all other methods.

Any carbon savings that might result from people travelling shorter distances to their regional airport as opposed to going to London are trifling. After all people are travelling tens or hundreds of kilometres to the airport but are then getting on a plane to travel thousands or tens of thousands of miles. Its obvious that to tackle climate change one should first address the issue of encouraging the travelling of the greatest distances.

The same argument also applies to any carbon savings made from the various environmental plans and targets to do with airport buildings, renewable energy, and aircraft operational procedures. I don’t dismiss these and we should save all carbon emissions where we can - best, of course, to start by prioritising the biggest emissions sources first ie ever more flying!

EasyJet spokeswoman Sara Pritchard feels that low cost airlines are not more polluting, citing the use of newer, cleaner planes, and a code of environmental conduct. She is backed, not surprisingly by BIAs spokesman James Gore who states that the ‘low-cost mode is inherently greener’. I’m not against cleaner planes, however, both James and Sara fail to mention the effect of a very key factor – cost. The law of supply and demand says that the lower the cost of a product the higher the demand. Since EasyJet offers very low cost air travel then it stimulates very high demand! This is obviously neither low pollution or inherently green since we need to lower demand to achieve these ends.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Statements in favour of expanding airports and more flying are uncontradicted in unbalanced report

I'm very disturbed at the lack of balance in the story ‘Flight path to a greener future or flying in the face of climate change?’ published in todays Evening Post

No-one from Stop Bristol Airport Expansion, http://www.nobristolairportexpansion.co.uk/ or others against more flying like the Green Party or Friends of the Earth is quoted. Statements in favour of expanding flying such as from Bristol Airport Spokesman James Gore (obviously no relation to Al Gore!) remain uncontradicted by anyone - but on all counts he and others quoted from the airlines are wrong, as best science and good sense economics easily shows. Why are no balancing quotes included?

The UN have gathered together the best expertise the world has on climate change (The IPCC, http://www.ipcc.ch/) and they find that it is real, serious, urgent - and we are the cause, not least our habit of flying more and more. Denial of reality or not caring is getting us all into deep trouble. Just look at the people of Gloucestershire last month for one.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Air pollution killing over 100 Bristolians each year

I’ve just posted an online comment on a story in todays Bristol Evening Post (‘Pollution Hot Spot’) about Bristol being in the UK top ten for most polluted air. As it is to many others so the story is no surprise to me (and I suppose its no surprise that I have responded to it – I’ve been highlighting the issue and proposing solutions for over 20 yrs now!).

Comment:

Bristol's extremely polluted air has been known about for decades but nothing has been done to sort it out. I've been expressing concern in Knowle about traffic pollution from the congested Wells Rd and Bath Rd for some time, as people can see from my blog (numerous entries).

For Greens like me part of the solution is a congestion charge/road pricing. This would raise money which should be ringfenced to invest in public transport, walking and cycling, thus cutting pollution. Not to have the charge is costing lives - 24,000 people nationally equates to over 100 deaths a year within Bristol.

Friday, 10 August 2007

The value of trees in our city...signs that the council may be forced to back down on felling all poplar trees

Knowle's Dennis Stuckey is absolutely right to put the council straight on the issue of the 30 poplar trees threatened with felling ('Trees should never have been felled', Bristol Evening Post Soapbox, Aug 9). The council position on the poplars and city trees generally is poor.

Bristol City Council is: removing trees rapidly; does not discuss and consult with the public on trees well; has no proper strategy for city trees - points well made by Vassili Papastavrou from Bristol Street Trees http://www.bristolstreettrees.org/ . One Green Party member has reported an instance when it was requested that two obviously dead trees should be removed from the front of a sheltered housing scheme but the council then removed a further nine despite no signs of disease! This was a very hasty reaction indeed, perhaps due to a misplaced fear of insurance claims.

Thanks to the work of people like Dennis and Vassili pressure is being applied to protect and promote the value of trees in cities. They cool cities, save energy by up to 10% by moderating climate around buildings, shade people, act like air conditioners and pollution filters, divert storm water, and add to our mental as well as physical wellbeing, as well providing wildlife habitats (see http://www.kew.org/ and http://www.treesforcities.org/default.asp ). We need a strategy for more trees here, especially forest shade ones like oaks, planes and limes, which can withstand the harsh conditions and are long lived.

In the case of the threatened poplars it looks like the council may have to think again about cutting them all down ('Popular poplars may avoid axe', Evening Post, Aug 9). The Green Party will continue joining others to watch that the council gets its assessment of these trees right - no healthy trees should get the chop.

Also: see the recent report of the London Assembly Environment Committee on tree loss at -
http://www.london.gov.uk/assembly/reports/environment/chainsaw-massacre.pdf

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Our lifestyles here affect those far away

For a first hand, eye witness account of the effects of climate change, and thus our lifestyles here, on the Arctic I strongly recommend watching Inuit Leader Aqqaluk Lynge's message:

http://www.nobristolairportexpansion.co.uk/aqqaluk-lynge

Monday, 6 August 2007

Does a tree preservation order mean anything?

Locals just outside the Knowle Ward have received a letter from the City Council describing plans to chop down around 30 Poplar trees inside what I still call the Imperial Sports Ground just off Wells Rd/Callington Rd on 'health and safety grounds' (there is at the same time some development happening on the sports ground - just coincidence or is there a connection?).

The planning application number is 07/03351/VP (Council Officer involved the case is John Bowm, tel 9223545). The trees have a preservation order on them (number 669).

No surprise that this has caused a bit of a stir, with locals getting media interest and quickly organising a decent sized gathering of people expressing concern. Good for them! What is the meaning of a tree preservation order if the trees are not protected, instead being cut down en masse!! The council needs to look very closely at each and every threatened tree to assess its health.

The Evening Post, BBC and HTV were today at the gathering of concerned people, including myself, other Greens and quite a few locals, including councillors from wards in the area. Coverage in the next few days should be good and help to apply pressure to decision makers.

To express concern call the council's John Bowm on 9223545.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Housing and road development threat to Bristol's open, green spaces

Great to see a celebration of Bristol's fantastic open,green spaces ('City with natural charm', Bristol Evening Post feature article, August 4). We need to keep our city green - in fact there are many reasons to create more green spaces and plant more trees, not least to protect ourselves from heavy rainfall and its effects.

I'm entirely unconvinced however, by the reassurance given at the end of the article by the city's parks manager that we wont lose some open, green spaces to housing developments. We are after all talking about many thousands of houses. And housing is not the only threat - how could the proposed South Bristol Ring Road be built without destroying spaces valuable for our health, climate, security from flooding and our wildlife?

Friday, 3 August 2007

Authorities not good at environmental information and education

Why has no-one from the local council’s who’ve introduced new recycling systems replied to Rob Ashbee’s perceptive questions and observations about waste (‘Household waste disposal’, Bristol Evening Post Soapbox, July 21)? I can only conclude from this and from what Rob said, that the authorities simply aren’t trying hard enough, or performing adequately enough, to communicate the full benefits and reasons for the new recycling systems, which are substantial, as detailed below.

Rob said ‘To help me decide on the real value of recycling in the list priorities of actions….I would love to see a summation of the benefits to our planet…Somebody please provide this to help convince me.’. The information required to answer his request is easily available and is fully accepted science but he got a deafening silence instead. This totally ignores the immense value we would get from good quality environmental information and education.

Rob is right to say that government and councils are not doing enough to tackle waste at source. Waste reduction and minimisation should be top priority and is the most environmentally friendly option (reuse of objects is second and recycling third priority). He is right to say that household waste is a relatively small proportion of total waste – in fact its less than half the 20% he suggests and not enough is being done about industrial and commercial waste. He is also right to say that if we were all genuinely concerned we would focus our efforts first on the most environmentally damaging activities, correctly listing driving and flying as examples, to which I would add the type and source of the food we eat. Contrary to popular conceptions in a recent opinion poll whilst recycling does help fight climate change quite well its not the most effective action one can take. A truly green approach would do all that Rob suggests but then we only have token green action or ‘greenwash’ at present.

Rob is wrong to suggest that burying waste in landfill sites and burning waste in incinerators may not be such a bad option after all (environmentally these are bottom of the waste management priority list). One can see why some reach this conclusion if environmental information is not regularly and effectively communicated though.

Having said that recycling is third in the waste priority list and not the most environmentally friendly option, it is still most definitely one we need to take because of the clear and substantial benefits, especially in comparison to landfilling and incineration. Recycling massively conserves energy and water resources, thus cutting air and water pollution. Figures in Kevin Byrnes book ‘Environmental Science’ (2001), state a 90–97% reduction in energy use and air/water pollution for aluminium recycling. There are cuts in energy/water use and air/water pollution of 47-85% for steel, 23-74% for paper, and 4-50% for glass. There is also a 97% cut in mining waste by recycling steel and an 80% cut in mining waste by recycling glass.

Recycling materials makes ‘virgin’ resources last longer and reduces UK reliance on resources from other countries. It cuts waste disposal costs and thus the council tax and creates jobs in a developing sector of the economy. Participation by everyone raises environmental awareness and responsibility for waste production.

There are practical issues with the recycling systems to work on certainly, and we don’t yet have a genuinely green and coherent approach to resources, but the overall benefits of recycling are undeniable. Come on local council’s – why aren’t you writing this!!