Sunday, 28 October 2007

No major issues from twenty yrs ago are currently forecast to get better: the evidence.

Just in case you still dont think there is enough clear evidence of serious and urgent environmental problems interrelated with socio-economic (and therefore political) ones go to the major report: GEO-4. It says that no major issues raised twenty yrs ago are currently forecast to get any better!!

'... the latest in UNEP's series of flagship reports, assesses the current state of the global atmosphere, land, water and biodiversity, describes the changes since 1987, and identifies priorities for action. GEO-4 is the most comprehensive UN report on the environment, prepared by about 390 experts and reviewed by more than 1 000 others across the world.
It salutes the world's progress in tackling some relatively straightforward problems, with the environment now much closer to mainstream politics everywhere. But despite these advances, there remain the harder-to-manage issues, the "persistent" problems. Here, GEO-4 says: "There are no major issues raised in Our Common Future for which the foreseeable trends are favourable."...'

Great green building design in Knowle West

Just back from a week's break in Cornwall and today had a go at playing the green building design game on the kwmc site. See if you can establish what all the environmentally friendly features of the Knowle West Media Centre's new building design are by playing this game: http://www.kwmc.org.uk/game/

Friday, 19 October 2007

Walking: a highly effective health, transport and environment policy all rolled into one!

Today I stumbled upon a copy of a letter I'd written to the Bristol Evening Post back in June 2004. It could have been written yesterday! Where is a proper, effective and well funded strategy for walking?

10 June 2004, Bristol Evening Post Open Lines, Soapbox: Growing obesity problem demands a full strategy -

Obesity is a growing problem and the government must have proper strategy to address it, so I have a lot of sympathy for the views of C Gay and Mrs KM Borek concerning food and supermarkets ('Government must address obesity', Open Lines, June 4).

However, I would add that obesity is not just to do with the amount and types of food we put into our bodies. There is also the level and type of activity to consider.

Take the way we move around for example. About 100 yrs ago the average distance travelled per person in the UK was approximately 1,600 miles per year. Of these 1,300 miles were travelled on foot.

In contrast today we travel 10 times further, approximately 16,000 miles per year, but of this distance only 300 miles by foot.

The healthiest, most efficient and pollution-free way of travelling is on foot - but most car journeys made are less than five miles. More kids should be walking to school and more people should be walking to work.

Also, more goods and services should be available within easy walking distance.

A national walking strategy is needed to make this happen, though no political party, the Greens aside, has taken this remotely seriously, despite the fact that it would be a highly effective health, transport and environment policy rolled into one.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Restorative justice in South Bristol

Restorative justice is something Greens are very keen on. Green Party policy on it currently says:

CJ114 We will introduce the principle of "restorative justice", which while denouncing the crime, deals constructively with both the victim and the offender. The primary aim will be to restore and, if necessary, improve the position of the victim and the community; the offender will be required to make amends. (Manifesto for a Sustainable Society)

I posted the question below about it on Chief Inspector Andy Bennett's blog in Sept.

What is your view on work being done by the community in Knowle West on restorative justice? Can you give us some background and rationale on it?

At the time he asked me to 'watch this space' because it would be the subject of a future blog. This blog has now been posted and responds fully to my question. The work being done and being planned on restorative justice in South Bristol, as described by Andy Bennett, sounds excellent. I'm keenly interested in justice and its adminstration and will follow this development closely - I hope money for the work is forthcoming so that next yr plans are put into practice.

Further background on restorative justice from the home office.

Vital, valuable work of the United Nations

Wednesday 24 October is United Nations (UN) Day. If we are to solve global problems a strong and effective, well respected UN is vital. The UN Association UK will be lobbying on UN day , to 'promote dialogue between voters and MPs about the UK ’s contribution to the UN’s work in maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights and promoting sustainable development' - very valuable work indeed.

The focus of the lobby this year is:

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Award winning climate change photo exhibition in Bristol soon - shows climate change happening here, now...

Preview some fantastic photos (here) from the climate change communication award winning National Trust photo exhibition. Exposed: Climate Change in Britain's Backyard will be at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, Nov 10th to Dec 9th 2007. Judging by the preview the exhibition of around 90 photos, showing climate change affecting us now, is well worth seeing.

The International Visual Communications Association, who gave the award this yr, said of the exhibition, produced by The National Trust, with Magnum Photos and True Design:

'Beauty, sophistication, innovation and impact are what make this well conceived and implemented initiative a worthy winner. By applying the fine art of photography to illustrate how a global challenge is having a damaging local impact, the National Trust not only brings climate change to life for its own visitors and members but also to a wider arts community.'

If you cant get to the exhibition of photos there is also a poster show in many National Trust properties.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Easy Jet; the law of supply and demand; and the real truth on carbon offsetting

Yesterday my blog focus was on Ryanair's boss Michael O'Leary. Writing that blog entry reminded me of a poster I'd seen recently whilst walking to work to deliver a tutorial (ironically about climate change and ecological footprints). Near the junction of St Lukes Rd and York Rd I saw a large orange poster advertising an easy Jet offer 'Bristol to Madeira from only £24.99'. This sends out exactly the opposite message of the one I would want and I dont see it as ethical. Flying is not in fact even remotely like a low cost activity (see here for an excellent description of why by George Monbiot - who is speaking in Bristol soon) and therefore should not be priced as such or facilitated by expanding airports.

By the law of supply and demand offering flights at very low cost means that demand for them is likely to be very high (exactly what we are seeing), unless some other powerful factor is in operation to deter people. Easy Jet's website has an environment page detailing things like being efficient on the gound, efficient in the air, carbon offsetting, aircraft design and its Corportate Social Responsibility report. The trouble is that the factors they describe are, in terms of environmental effects, completely outweighed by the company's main aim of getting vast numbers of people to fly more and more often !

Easy Jet might respond by saying that people can offset their carbon emissions but planes emit more than carbon (eg water vapour, nitrogen oxides, particulates...) and there are many problems with offsetting, as I've discussed previously. According to the easy Jet carbon calculator flying Bristol to Madeira emits, per person, 195kg of carbon dioxide and that the
offsetting cost per person is £2.54. If only tackling carbon emissions was that straightforward!!

Government advice to business and individuals is 'that carbon offsetting is not a substitute for reducing emissions at source but is: the ‘next best’ solution for mitigating remaining emissions from essential activities after all practical steps have been taken to reduce them' I tried extremely hard to find comments like this on the easy Jet site , looking at all the pages, following links to other pages and documents, but could not find anything like them at all - no surprise really.

Easy Jet want to give the impression that carbon offsetting is a better, much more environmentlly friendly and effective option than it really is of course. They simply aren't going to tell people that they should take 'all practical steps' to cut emissions before considering offsetting the rest - because this would mean not flying at all or flying fewer miles or on fewer occasions!!

Monday, 15 October 2007

The good, the bad and the ugly - comparing and contrasting concerns about climate change

That great advocate of the meeting needs not greeds, and the ethics of future generations, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary (!!) flew into Bristol International Airport by private jet to front the announcement of new routes last week. In the process he told people campaigning against the expansion of Bristol Airport to 'get a life'. He went on to say, of campaigners against more flying, 'They badger us and bang on about how the end of the world is nigh because of global warming - but its not....' . Well, thanks for those highly responsible personal actions and warm words of informed and concerned social responsibility Mr O'leary. He is of course a person with no vested interest in airport expansion and the current very rapid increase in flying, much to the detriment of our climate. I'm genuinely sure Mr O'Leary's business degree and experience of amassing huge amounts of money qualify him very well for assessing climate change dismissively as no real problem. I wonder why the UN went to the trouble of assembling the world's foremost expertise on climate (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, this yr joint winners of the Nobel Peace Prize) when they could instead, probably for a fee though, have gone to Ryanair's boss??

Contrast the views of Ryanair's Michael O'Leary, a man who has 'proudly declared that Ryanair intended to increase its emissions of carbon dioxide' with those of former US Vice President and joint winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize for his work on raising climate change awareness and concern, Al Gore, and with those of UK primary age children, who according to a recent report are said to be 'deeply anxious' about issues such as climate change, and you get my message.

Al Gore and the IPCC were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change".

The report describing children's anxieties says children themselves expressed a sense of "deep pessimism about the future", the study showed, with worries about climate change, the gap between rich and poor, and terrorism topping the list.
They were also anxious about issues closer to home such as traffic, graffiti, violence and gang culture. Some also said they were worried about 'what you hear on the news'.


The work of Al Gore and the IPCC in spreading the truth is good. The evidence says that unless we act decisively and soon the future looks bad (and our children, who obviously have a big interest in the future !, sense this). The views, behaviour and attitude of Ryanair's Michael O'Leary are rather ugly.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Twentieth anniversary of 'great storm' of 1987; science backs the Green case

Oct 16th is the twentieth anniversary of the 'great storm' of 1987. I'm sure there will be some focus on this in the Bristol/regional media in the coming days- Countryfile reported on it today and has some interesting links on its website. This storm may have happened even if climate change was not happening at all of course, but it certainly fits the predicted pattern of more weather extremes caused by the climate change we have caused. Its an event particularly marked in my mind especially because I'd just stood for the first time (age 25 yrs !!) in a general election, campaigning to cut pollution levels harming our climate, amongst other things.

Ewen McCallum, Chief Meterologist at the Met Office has said that only “flat-Earthers” refused to believe that the world was in the grip of climate change and that global warming would mean more stormy weather. This is very interesting statement, indicating that science backs the Green case (which has always been my view), when in the past Greens have themselves been accused of being anti-science and technology. This accusation was always something I found both odd and not entirely fair, especially as a Green with science degrees and a higher degree, as well as a science teaching qualification, 20 yrs science teaching experience and 6yrs experience of working in laboratories in industry!

Green solutions: better for individuals, communities and the globe.

Schumacher UK say it exists to challenge corporate power and economic globalisation to the detriment of local democratic self-determination, ecosystems, economies and communities. I agree with this aim - coporate power and economic globalisation have to be challenged successfully in order to improve to quality of individual lives, community wellbeing and global sustainability.

They describe the Bristol Schumacher Lectures as ‘Britain’s premier environmental gathering’. They have been taking place for some time here (29 yrs this yr) and do have a pretty impressive list of past speakers, including for example Jonathon Porritt, currently Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission, advising the Government, and George Monbiot, Guardian journalist, author, academic and activist.

This weekend’s event saw lectures from: Mark Lynas; Dr Vala Ragnarsdottir; Nicky Gavron; and Herbert Giradet. The points made by Mark Lynas are particularly strong. I agree with him that ‘changing our carbon-addicted lifestyles would actually be better for ourselves, as well as the planet’.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Really enact the principles: needs; and future generations - for our children, and theirs...

Yet more evidence that children are not being well served by the kind of society we have in the UK and the kind of world we live in. According to a major report children are deeply anxious about all sorts of things, from climate change, poverty and terrorism, to traffic, violence and gangs. The report gives even more weight to views I have previously commented on (a number of times in fact). All generations of children have their different problems of course, but many of the worries of children are well within our control to tackle if our priorities were different. The UK was found to be bottom of a Unicef league table for child well-being across 21 industrialised countries earlier this yr - its a position I hope we dont find ourselves in again in future.

Friday, 12 October 2007

C.diff and an NHS unresponsive to the people it serves: massive health issues. Lets address health, properly defined, in all its dimensions.

C. difficile is a massive problem for the NHS. At the same time the culture of the NHS is such that it is not responsive to the people it serves. The facts show this very clearly - and I, like many others, have recent, direct, personal experience of both C. difficile in a family member resulting in death, and poor responsiveness from the service. Technical capabilities in the NHS are often fantastic (though technical matters have 'gone astray' in places - overuse/misuse/abuse of antibiotics being the root cause of superbugs like C. diff and MRSA). Some very caring and committed people work in the NHS - BUT the emphasis on CARE as well as on prevention is in my view poor, especially for the elderly.

I want an NHS that pays as much attention to social and mental needs as it does physical ones, and medical/technical capabilities (it wont actually be adressing health, properly defined, if it does not do this, since health is about having a good physical, mental, social balance). I want it to be much more focussed on prevention of health problems than it is. I want services to be available to people locally. I want funding to enable all these things to be of a high standard and am willing to pay more in taxes, as required, to get it as well as being willing to advocate this politically. My view is that if people see the tax as fair and necessary and see that the income is used well they are willing to pay it.

Schumacher Lectures in Bristol, this weekend.

The arguments put by Mark Lynas in a piece in the Evening Post yesterday are very strong indeed. We do need to stop rising global carbon emissions within a decade; we are into deep water, great uncertainty and much higher risk if we dont; pessimists are really those who talk about 'politically possible' solutions and not those who indicate how grave the situation truly is; meeting the climate challenge can improve our lives at the same time; technology alone wont solve our problems; biofuels aren't the solution due to needing land for other purposes, like food production; we do need to lower energy demand as well as go for renewable energy; we do need to develop a far less growth-centred approach to economics...

Mark is giving one of the Schumacher Lectures, this weekend in Bristol, so I may well post more on the topics raised and any related areas in the coming days. I've been to several Schumacher Lectures but dont really feel comfortable with some of the views and attitudes I've experienced - probably because of my strong rationalist leanings (and possibly my working class background). I dont go in for all the 'spiritual' stuff in the way some fans of the Schumacher Lectures do, though I do agree strongly with most of the economic and technological ideas and have read and been inspired by E F Schumacher's books, like 'Small is Beautiful'.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Shock poll find - people are commuting into Bristol in their cars in very large numbers!! Is the glass half empty of half full?

Shock (NOT!) - a major poll reported on today has found that nearly half of all commuters to Bristol come by car!! Well that was something we didn't know already just by looking around us at the congestion, sniffing the excessive, unhealthy pollution in the air, and listening to the rumble of unwanted sound that can often drown out a conversation, wasn't it !!?

OK we need the data, apparently to be collected annually, to establish the current situation and then track changes over time (we should in fact have been doing this before now), but the basic transport situation in Bristol has been painfully obvious for many yrs.

The Big Commuters Count poll of 9000 people found that: about 47% travel by car (40.9% driving, 5.9% as passengers); 9.8% go by bus; 10.6% cycle; 20.4% walk; 5.1% travel by train; with less than 2% for park and ride, work from home, motorbike, moped/scooter, taxi/minicab and ferry.

One interesting aspect to this story is that the Bristol Evening Post angle on it is based on the idea that the figures show 'people were still firmly stuck to using their cars', whereas Bristol City Council's website says of the same results '...that many employees in Bristol are prepared to leave the car at home when they can, and use more sustainable ways of travel'. So, is the glass half empty or is it half full??

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Support blog action day on the environment, Oct 15th !!

The text below is copied from http://blog.blogactionday.com/category/resources/ in order to help promote: Blog Action Day

You can also click to watch the first and second videos promoting the day.

On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind. In 2007 the issue is the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.

We’re looking for bloggers of all nationalities and backgrounds, writing about all topics to join in.

Here’s what you have to do:

Publish on October 15th

Publish a post on their blog which relates to an issue of their own choice pertaining to the environment.

For example: A blog about money might write about how to save around the home by using environmentally friendly ideas. Similarly a blog about politics might examine what weight environmental policy holds in the political arena.

Posts do not need to have any specific agenda, they simply need to relate to the larger issue in whatever way suits the blogger and readership. Our aim is not to promote one particular viewpoint, only to push the issue on the table for discussion. So write in whatever way suits your readers and your blog, just relate it back to the environment and make sure it goes up on October 15th.

Other things you can do

You can also participate in Blog Action Day by posting a banner on your site (http://blogactionday.org/promote ) or by donating your day’s blog earnings to an environmental charity of your choice.

Register your blog

We are keeping track of all the blogs that have committed to participating on BlogActionDay.org and it would be very helpful for you to register your blog at http://blogactionday.org/commit
At this time the form is only available in English, but the form fields are as follows:
1 - Blog Title
2 - Blog URL
3 - Approximate RSS Subscriber Number(This will not be published. It is used to generate an approximate ‘reach’ for Blog Action Day. Simply enter an average, recent feed count from Feedburner or similar service. If you don’t know the audience size, just enter ‘0′. )
4 - Your Email( You will ONLY receive two emails. The first will be two days prior to Blog Action Day 2007. And a second in August 2008 about next year’s day.)
5 - The final field is to test whether you are a human or spam robot. Simply type in the number written there

Thank you for participating in Blog Action Day 2007! In future years we hope to have the entire site translated in many languages

'So it goes' - is the environment dying to give us biodiesel for the Earthrace powerboat?

So, the '...revolutionary biodiesel powerboat Earthrace arrived in Bristol Docks.As part of the Sound of Many Waters - Clifton Cathedral's year-long campaign of caring for the environment' recently (see the local story about the 'cross between a spaceship and a spider' here and more details on the boat and what its going to do here). Amazing design, technically very interesting, thrilling to be on, and so on....but is it really powered by truly green biodiesel fuel?? (I'll leave aside, for the present, whether spending all this effort trying to achieve a world record for circumnavigating the globe is the greenest thing to do with your time!!)

If the biodiesel put into the boat comes from large scale crop moncultures, which involves massive land, including forest, clearance and energy/chemical intensive production then its certainly not a green fuel. Far from being carbon neutral, the sums show that fuel from these origins is making climate change much worse, as well as taking land from food production and inflating food prices.

If the biodiesel comes from the recycling of used vegetable oil and fat, which some of it may do for this boat(??) (including some fat extracted from project founder Pete Bethune's own backside apparently), this is much greener.

Truly green biodiesel could be produced from all the waste veg oil and fat we produce in large amounts (its a waste disposal problem for goodness sake!!), but we aren't organising our society to do this at the moment - instead we seem to be going for the environmentally damaging production of biodiesel and other biofuels from large scale monocultures, with people wrongly still calling it green!! There are some very rich people out there getting a lot richer, making a lot of already poor people poorer, and over-exploiting the environment - and investing in bio-fuels produced by very un-green methods! So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut wrote (and the environment does seem to be dying to give us biofuel).

Sunday, 7 October 2007

My household and individual ecological footprint (more accurate).

Why post details of my household/individual ecological footprint? Well: 1. I have the information and have been calculating it in reasonable detail and with fair accuracy by the same method for yrs now, for both work and personal purposes; 2. People are increasingly interested in their footprint and growing numbers do a calculation eg via a website; 3. I've said previously I would publish a more detailed footprint document, having done some estimates using websites (see Sept 9 '07 posting); 4. As someone who has for yrs been campaigning to get greener society with much lower footprints and environmental impacts, people may be interested to see if I try to practice what I preach; 5. The information is quite interesting; 6. The figures show that you can lead a pretty normal life and have a low footprint - I have a car, I eat meat, I have holidayed abroad...ie I dont live in a teepee eating only leaves or in the latest high-tech, ultra-expensive green house...to get a low footprint, though I do aim to be very efficient and to prioritise.

My total 3 person household ecological footprint for 2007, was 1.04 hectares (10,400 square metres). This is 0.35 hectares (3500 square metres) per person. This amounts to approx 5 tonnes of carbon, or 1.7 tonnes per person per yr – about half the national average of 10.22 tonnes given on the direct.gov website

The 2007 footprint compares to a 1999 household score of 1.47 hectares (14,700 square metres), which is 0.49 hectares (4,900 square metres) per person. The 2007 figure is 29% lower (meaning annual cuts, from an already low base, of 4% per yr on average).

According to the Ecocal model software (http://www.bestfootforward.com/ ) a sustainable score for a UK household is 0.4 – 0.5 hectares per person.

A reasonably detailed breakdown of the score can be viewed here. I've placed a link just under About me and Biography in the right hand column of this blog site so that its conveniently available.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Biofuel plant approved for Avonmouth is not green.

Biofuels are still commonly seen as green. Some may see the plans to build the UK's biggest biodiesel plant in Avonmouth, just agreed by 'green' Bristol City Council, as part of the green development of that area. Biofuels certainly dont qualify as green if they originate from large scale monocultures however, with very large areas cleared for the energy and chemical intensive cultivation of single crops. (The same sort of argument applies to biodegradable plastics like the corn starch ones Bristol City Council wants to make available to line our brown recycling bins with).

Most biofuels, sometimes called agrofuels, are made from large-scale monocultures of oil palms, sugar cane, soya, maize, sugar beet, oilseed rape and jatropha. They should not be considered green as they contribute substantially more to greenhouse gas emissions by nitrous oxide emissions from fertiliser use and by land conversion, than are saved by burning slightly less fossil fuels. They are set to significantly accelerate climate change, something academic and green campaigner George Monbiot has written about with some passion (also see http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/).

Its not just climate impact that makes biofuels from monocultures distinctly non-green: bio-diversity losses, water and soil degradation, human rights abuses (including the impoverishment and dispossession of local populations) and the loss of food sovereignty and food security. The impacts seen today result from a less than 1% market penetration of biofuels in Europe yet the EU target is 10% by 2020 and the UK are aiming for 5% by 2010.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has called on governments to cut their subsidies for the sector, saying biofuels may "offer a cure that is worse than the disease they seek to heal."

The European demand for biofuels is pushing up commodity prices and thus encouraging multi-billion dollar investment in infrastructure and refineries linked to large-scale deforestation. The impacts of this investment could be irreversible and will open up tens of millions of hectares of virgin forest to land conversion and logging.

Greens support an immediate moratorium on agrofuels from large-scale monocultures - a period for scientists and policy makers in the EU and western nations to gain a greater understanding of the total impact on social, human and land rights plus climate and biodiversity impacts. The Green Party supports the Agrofuels Moratorium Call launched in July 2007 in Brussels (supported by over 100 organisations in its first week).

There should be no public sector incentives for agrofuels and agroenergy from large-scale monocultures. We need a moratorium on EU imports of agrofuels. All targets, incentives such as tax breaks and subsidies which benefit agrofuels from large-scale monocultures, including financing through carbon trading mechanisms, international development aid or loans from international finance organisations such as the World Bank should be suspended now.

The moratorium called for by the signatories applies only to agrofuels from large-scale monocultures (and GM biofuels) and their trade. It does not include biofuels from waste, such as waste vegetable oil or biogas from manure or sewage, or biomass grown and harvested sustainably by and for the benefit of local communities, rather than on large-scale monocultures. Such sustainable biofuels development may well be valuable - where local sources of food production and biodiversity are not endangered, soil is protected from depletion, industrial scale chemical fertilizer regimes and the use of any GM technology are banned. This means small-scale production units, eg on farms, which benefit the local communities.

See also: http://www.channel4.com/blogs/page/newsroom?entry=how_green_is_biofuel

Barrage might hinder 'green port' development

A powerful contribution to the public debate on the severn barrage/tidal energy from the Bristol Port Company today. They are concerned that barrage plans are not commercially viable, would cause real environmental problems and would hinder their plans for a deep water dock .

They claim that a deep water dock would cut lorry journeys (and thus carbon emissions) by allowing goods to be delivered closer to towns/cities.

I see their point about a barrage hindering the potentially 'green development' of the port.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Incredible biodiversity...including in common fruit & veg.

Isn't all that biodiversity incredible? From the genes in a species, the differences within a species, to the number of species making up a community and the variety of communities making up ecosystems (which are themselves of many types)...

Just look at some of the variation in one common vegetable:

B ertan
I nfinity
O nward
D anvers
I mperator
V alery (or St Valery)
E mperor
R edchild
S inclair's
I ngot
T humbelina
Y ellowstone

All the above are varieties of carrot. Carrots are not all orange either - they can be white, yellow, red, purple or black too!

Its a great shame that the 'choice' offered in supermarkets does not reflect such variety and indeed all edible biodiversity more, where appropriate. Take apples for instance - there are 2300 varieties of apple in the National Fruit Collection, but on sale in many supermarkets are perhaps 6 varieties (though some are working on improving the number offered).

There are over 20,000 edible plant species but fewer than 20 species currently provide 90% of our food. We rely on a very narrow range of varieties within species too, including wheat. This is fundamentally bad from a food security point of view.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Petition opposing cuts in higher education grants

Its wrong to cut higher education grants in the way Gordon Brown's government is planning. They want to phase out funding for students studying for qualifications equivalent to, or at a lower level than, a qualification that they already hold. It's clearly anti-lifelong learning. Please consider signing this petition.

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/HE-GRANT-CUTS/

Well done to the Knowle West Food Festival!!

The Knowle West Food Festival, well covered in the local media, did great job of promoting healthier and more environmentally friendly attitudes to food. A great example of the sort of community-based event we need more of.

I think the City Council should appoint a Local Food Officer to help to make these community-based events happen more often, in more parts of Bristol - and on a bigger scale and with more, related, follow-up developments too. There are few ways to become greener better than changing attitudes towards food, so much of our footprint is food-related - grow your own, cook your own, go local, go fresh and unprocessed, go organic, go high fruit and veg!!

Energy policy: go 'sexy' or go sensible??

A lot of very good points on the tidal energy debate are made here by Roger Crudge. I would add that we also must not forget that energy efficiency and energy conservation are the greenest, most cost-effective and most rapid way to fight climate change and build energy security because it lowers demand.

Many elected politicians seem to prefer to associate themselves with a big, sexy civil engineering project, probably linked to an awful lot of profitable (possibly unsustainable) ancilliary development, than with the most sensible energy option.

Support the Burmese people - sign the petition to urge China/UN to pressure Burma's rulers

Just signed another online petition to support the people demonstrating in Burma and the site produced the message below to pass on to people:

Burma is ruled by one of the worst military dictatorships in the world. This week Buddhist monks and nuns began marching and chanting prayers to call for democracy. The protests spread and hundreds of thousands of Burmese people joined in -- they've been brutally attacked by the military regime, but still the protests are spreading.

I just signed a petition calling on Burma's powerful ally China and the UN security council to step in and pressure Burma's rulers to stop the killing. The petition has exploded to over 200,000 signatures in a few days and is being advertised in newspapers around the world, delivered to the UN secretary general, and broadcast to the Burmese people by radio. We're trying to get to 1 million signatures this week, please sign below and tell everyone!

http://www.avaaz.org/en/stand_with_burma/tf.php?cl_tf_sign=1

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Inaccurate, unbalanced Evening Post story on major tidal energy report by the Sustainable Development Commission: Why??

Todays Bristol Evening Post story about the Sustainable Development Commission’s report into the barrage and tidal energy, released yesterday, is inaccurate and unbalanced. It chooses to focus in on one small part of the major report, tidal lagoons - just one alternative to the barrage - omits several key points emphasised by the Commission, and doesn’t even get the number of pages right (it actually has more than ten times the pages stated in the story). Accuracy and balance are obviously valued qualities in a good news story, doubly so for a major and complex issue like the barrage.

For the record:

1. The Commission emphasise that the barrage would have to meet tough tests to be considered a sustainable, green project. Not mentioned in the story.

2. The report states that the barrage would have to comply with environmental legislation protecting the estuary. Not written about by the Post.

3. The report emphasises that very large scale compensatory habitat creation should be seen as an opportunity. Not a dicky bird in the story on this though.

4. The report says that going for tidal power should not result in ignoring the dramatic reductions in our energy consumption, increased energy efficiency and decarbonisation of our energy supplies, that are needed. No coverage of this vital point though.

The Post’s story does cover the Commissions view, challenging the government position, that any barrage project should be publicly led and owned – perhaps the key economic issue – but does not put this in what should be its proper place, at the head of the piece, instead putting it in the middle.

What’s more, the story’s main line, that tidal lagoons are considered no better than a barrage by the Commission, is not based on an accurate reading of their report. Their report in fact says that not enough is currently known about the practicalities of tidal lagoons to make firm decisions, so pilot work should be done on them to find out more.

Informed readers following this issue may be wondering why comments from barrage sceptics, like the RSPB and Green Party, accurately included in the story, broadly welcome a report apparently criticising one of their more favoured tidal energy options! This is because the RSPB and Green comments reflect the report accurately and the Post’s story does not.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Dose of realism from the Sustainable Development Commission in its tidal energy report brings us back down to earth

The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) report released today represents a good dose of realism for the government on the tidal energy issue, after it decided to announce an investigation into 'the Severn Barrage' in the middle of a party conference where it would gain maximum publicity and green 'kudos' - not the most balanced start for a major project.

The SDC says that the barrage must pass tough tests to be considered sustainable. Quite right.

SDC comments should be very broadly welcomed because they bring us back to properly weighing up the alternatives, in the context of energy strategy as a whole, which should have energy efficiency as its leading concept.