Tuesday, 29 January 2008
You’ll be interested to know that the council’s website would not accept my e-petition (see below) with the the figures ‘200 acres’ and ‘poss 400 acres’ of land to be flogged. Neither would they allow me to use the phrase ‘flog green space on a mass scale’. They said these were factually incorrect and misleading, so I had to redraft slightly before gaining approval…
Please sign up and spread the word to others to sign.
What a great local and e-democracy we have (NOT!). My view is that I had not used any insulting or illegal language in my original e-petition draft, which was clearly written and presented, and that what constitutes 'mass scale' is a matter of opinion. Is it not up to people to decide on the value and accuracy of a petition when they are considering signing?
Monday, 28 January 2008
The Petitioner....wants Bristol City Council to be genuine about its 'UK green capital' ambition and abandon any plans to sell off hundreds of acres of green space and parkland, instead adopting a policy of protecting and enhancing them.
Its recently been very widely reported in the local media and elsewhere (see http://vowlesthegreen.blogspot.com/2008/01/bristol-city-council-are-having-us-on.html )that there are plans to sell off acre after acre of green space and parkland to developers. It is the view of some that the figure could end up being even more than the reports in local papers suggest!! This intention to flog off green space acre after acre is completely inconsistent with the ambition to be the 'UK green capital' and many pronouncements on tackling climate change, enhancing human health and wellbeing, protecting wildlife and biodiversity, and making the city better able to cope with heavy rainfall causing serious flood risk. The plans are also at odds with what Bristol's people want, and expected, from the council following recent consultations.
Cycling needs a lot more investment - this pot is very small in comparison to other transport spending
See the vigorous reaction to the plans from Bristol East Green Party, Sustrans and the Bristol Cycling Campaign - all raise excellent and extremely challenging questions. Just consider these points from Sustrans for starters:
1. Has there been an evaluation of alternative on-road options to the current proposed route to Emersons Green? If so did this take into account net carbon benefits, economic cost benefit ratios, health impacts, impact on congestion and impacts on air pollution?
2. Why has the option of running the bus route along the A432 identified just a couple of years ago in the Greater Bristol Strategic Transport Study been discarded?
3. Has there been an evaluation of the loss of the very high levels of walking and cycling on the route, taking into account the already existing net carbon, health, congestion and air pollution benefits and how does this impact on the economic cost benefit ratio?
4. Have you modelled the benefits in terms of reduced car use if you invested the funding proposed for the BRT in improved walking and cycling infrastructure Bristol-wide, onroad provision of buses, and other smarter choices which, in combination, may bring about greater benefits. Attached, by way of example, is a proposal showing just how a small amount of the money currently proposed for the BRT wisely invested in improvements to the Bristol and Bath Path would significantly improve access for local people to the benefit of their health and our environment.
Sunday, 27 January 2008
I certainly hope he can and does do this. Services in Knowle will be one the big losers if there is loss of money. The activities undertaken are really important for personal development and family and neighbourhood life.
What a bizarre economic system we live under. Our very livelihoods depend upon the reactions of "the market", as though it were a supernatural entity hovering somewhere in an ethereal vacuum untouched or influenced by mankind.Let's get it straight - "the market" consists of "human" gamblers who wager vast amounts of money in their quest to make a quick buck.When they get cold feet, they withdraw their money by selling their holdings back to "the market" - very much like a poker player throwing in his hand.Their withdrawals are rapidly matched by their fellow gamblers, and very quickly panic sets in and the bottom falls out of "the market".This has been happening over the past month or two, and the effects are now being felt around the world. with the word "recession" being repeatedly heard.The media have been talking up a recession since the sub-prime mortgage problems emerged in America last September, and now their prophesies have borne fruit with the world's stock markets plummeting as more and more "gamblers" pull out.The upshot of all this is that millions and millions of people who have never gambled in this way are subjected to what is euphemistically called "market forces", and lose their jobs as the share price of their companies falls to such an extent as to make trading impossible.Meanwhile, until a warm feeling seeps back into the gamblers' bones and they start gambling again, the taxpayer gets stung to the tune of billions of pounds as governments use their money to subsidise the gamblers' losses in an attempt to lure them back to gamble their money once more.Margaret Thatcher once said, "you can't buck the markets", and this situation will continue until governments acknowledge that they have been elected to look after the interests of all of the people, and not just those who - through their reckless urge for riches - dictate economic policy across the world.
Tony Probert,Locking,near Weston-super-Mare.
You wonder what a life spent marvelling at the world about us has taught him about life. Is there - the only big question - a purpose? "None whatsoever!" he exclaims, leaning forward and banging the table.
On not crediting a Creator when commenting on wonderful pictures of hummingbirds:
He has drafted a standard reply [to letters], which asks why it is that people who suggest he should give credit to a Creator Lord always cite hummingbirds, butterflies or roses.
"On the other hand, I tend to think of an innocent little child sitting on the bank of a river in Africa, who's got a worm boring through his eye that can render him blind before he is eight. Now, presumably you think this Lord created this worm, just as he created the hummingbird. I find that rather tricky."
But what does he imagine will happen to him when he dies? "Oh nothing." So he's with Bertrand Russell, who said 'I believe that when I die my body will rot'? "Absolutely." Does that trouble him? "Not at all."
On whether consciousness distinguishes humans from other species (and on vegetarianism):
...he doesn't even accept the distinction, asking how we can prove that monkeys dont have it. In that case, why isn't he a vegetarian? "Because I'm designed to be an omnivore. I have teeth for chewing and the length of my gut is quite clearly not that of a vegetarian. But as a sentient human I ought to make sure that what I eat has been raised in a 'humane' way." Why? "Because its unfitting that you should dictate the living conditions of another sentient organism."
Well said David!! Certainly couldn't have put it better myself!!
Good posting on the Bristol Greengage site on this topic.
Friday, 25 January 2008
Dear Kerry McCarthy MP
Please add your name to a new Early Day Motion (EDM 736) that has been tabled by Nigel Griffiths MP on the Climate Change Bill.
The introduction of a legal framework for tackling climate change is a step in the right direction. The current targets in the Bill mean it will not lead to the cuts in carbon emissions scientists say are needed, which is a great worry though. We need to cut emissions by a factor of ten to adequately tackle climate change according to best science.
A United Nations report mentioned in EDM 736 says much the same thing. Recently leading scientists, including current and former heads of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, have signed a letter making it clear they agree too. This was published in newspapers. Even Gordon Brown has implied that the evidence is now that we need larger cuts than the targets in the Bill.
In opposition to the evidence the Bill as currently drafted has targets that are too low. Worse still a loophole in the Bill means emissions from international aviation and shipping will not be included – clearly its not that these don’t cause climate change is it?
I urge you to sign EDM 736. Press for changes to be made to the Bill, so that it is consistent with the evidence provided by the best available science. This would then be a Bill to be much admired.
I find the poetry and songs of Burns inspirational as I’ve said in a previous post (see another sample of his work below). We have a good deal to learn from what he expresses. A new book on the man, written by my fellow Open University lecturer Alan Jackson, ‘Robert Burns – Icon or Challenger’, discusses how Burns might view today’s Scotland, compared with how Scotland today sees him. Burns vigorously opposed materialism, yet much of the modern world, Scotland included, persists in the belief that material progress equals the good life. We gear our economy and society to the aim of material progress, while scientific evidence, not least on climate change and human wellbeing, amasses showing the huge problems this is bringing.
"Is There For Honest Poverty", by Robert Burns, more commonly known as "A Man's A Man For A' That", (standard English translation):
Is there for honest poverty
That hangs his head, and all that?
The coward slave, we pass him by -
We dare be poor for all that!
For all that, and all that,
Our toils obscure, and all that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The man's the gold for all that.
What though on homely fare we dine,
Wear course grey woolen, and all that?
Give fools their silks, and knaves their wine -
A man is a man for all that.
For all that, and all that,
Their tinsel show, and all that,
The honest man, though ever so poor,
Is king of men for all that.
You see yonder fellow called 'a lord,'
Who struts, and stares, and all that?
Though hundreds worship at his word,
He is but a dolt for all that.
For all that, and all that,
His ribboned, star, and all that,
The man of independent mind,
He looks and laughs at all that.
A prince can make a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, and all that!
But an honest man is above his might -
Good faith, he must not fault that
For all that, and all that,
Their dignities, and all that,
The pith of sense and pride of worth
Are higher rank than all that.
Then let us pray that come it may
(As come it will for a' that)
That Sense and Worth over all the earth
Shall have the first place and all that!
For all that, and all that,
It is coming yet for all that,
That man to man the world over
Shall brothers be for all that.
For more on Robert Burns, you could do worse than read this Guardian piece.
Thursday, 24 January 2008
SHOULD WE STOP CARING ABOUT GROWTH?
The European Commission has announced plans to make Europe the first "economy for a low carbon age". The measures will add around £10 a month to household and include a new emissions trading scheme and targets for producing energy from renewables. But how damaging will these measures be for European competitiveness against emerging markets in India and China - especially in a period of global economic uncertainty, when already many are expecting growth to slow, or halt altogether? A number of economists and scientists are questioning whether it is possible to tackle climate change while continuing to pursue a go-for-growth economic strategy. So do we need to give up on growth?
I posted my response to the story on their site:
Good to see the economic growth issue covered in a program. We definitely need more on this issue though. There wasn't enough depth in the treatment to do this very big issue and all that it relates to justice.
The kinds of economic growth we've had in the past have caused the climate problems science now details. They have been and are carbon-intensive.
What, if any, kinds of economic growth are consistent with fighting climate change? And indeed building general wellbeing?
Those economic growth patterns with the most promise of being consistent with wellbeing are presumeably likely to be much more controlled and selective than in the past: how?
It now seems clearer than ever that the achievement of a growing economy as the primary aim of governments of all political colours has been misguided - we've been seeing growth as equivalent to progress and improved wellbeing when the evidence shows a much more complex picture.
Can we beat Robert F Kennedy's words on growth as measured by GNP:
"The Gross National Product includes air pollution and advertising for cigarettes and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. GNP includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm, missiles and nuclear warheads.
And if GNP includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry, the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. GNP measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country…"
Part of the solution is to measure the right factors in our society and economy, as long as we dont at the same time get obsessed with and tied in by a rigid approach to measurement.
Wednesday, 23 January 2008
Sadly for us all, business and political leaders 'greenspeak' and 'greenwash' is about par for the course these days (and has been for yrs) - give the impression of concern and action but in reality its mostly business as usual.
More details on the police march here and here.
Tuesday, 22 January 2008
Dear Open Lines
Given the recently announced plans to turn the most popular cycle route in the UK (from Bristol to Bath), with 2.4 million journeys per yr, into a major bus route, its well worth reminding ourselves of just how ultra-efficient, healthy and green that great piece of technology - the bicycle - is.
Primary energy use in cycling amounts to just 0.03 megajoules per kilometre, nearly 50 times less than a single decker bus! Even walking, which consumes 0.14 megajoules, is not this efficient. The average for a car with average occupancy is 2.1 megajoules per passenger kilometre whilst domestic air travel is also 2.1 due to its higher occupancy rates.
Public transport fares better with figures of 1.1 per passenger kilometre for the average rail (about the same as a double decker bus) and 1.4 for a single decker bus, depending on occupancy rates. The most efficient forms of public transport, such as London Underground trains or certain forms of tram might achieve figures as low as 0.2 megajoules when fully occupied - still no match for the bicycle.
This makes the bicycle 70 times more energy efficient than the average car and 6 or 7 times more efficient than even the very best forms of public transport running under the most efficient conditions. So, in terms of efficiency its vital to invest much more in cycling and try much harder to create a cycling culture.
More is also needed for public transport but not at the expense of cycling - the plans to turn the Bristol to Bath cyclepath into a bus route simultaneously cut the capacity for cycling and walking there as well as destroying a large amount of pleasant, quiet and wildlife-rich green space.
We need a cycling culture for our health as well as our environment - a 10% increase in the number of people riding a bike regularly would lead to a 4% reduction in people with heart disease, saving hundreds of millions a year in healthcare. And it would create a more pleasant, greener environment.
Here are some examples, all taken from one single copy of the Bristol Evening Post on Friday 18 Jan :
*plans to turn the Bristol to Bath cyclepath into a major bus route - even though cycling is arguably even greener than walking as a transport mode, it is the most popular cyclepath in the UK and has 2.4 million journeys per yr (see the Bristol Cycling Campaign site to sign a petition opposing this)...
*political factors (ie different councils unable to work together in the common interest) still stand in the way of the establishment of a transport authority for the Greater Bristol area - a vital step if we are to have proper integrated and sustainable transport...
*yet more flood warnings given by the Environment Agency, especially to the South West and the Midlands, though the sw regional masterplan felt unable to comment on future flooding impacts here (!!!) from rivers or on the coast beyond appreciating local authority and Environment Agency work...
*waste to energy firm Compact Power, based in Avonmouth, called in administrators due to a cash crisis (buyers have since moved in though I believe)...
*the South Bristol ring road moved a step closer, with the regional masterplan approving the idea...
*over a hundred thousand more houses are planned in the Greater Bristol area...
*Bristol International Airport expansion plans moved a step closer due to regional masterplan approval...
*the region is highly likely to miss its 2010 target for renewable energy generation (35 to 52 MW of generating capacity in Greater Bristol)...
*the prospect of a Severn Barrage (or other methods of generating energy from the tides in the estuary) is not even mentioned in the regional development masterplan...
*a letter clearly contradicts the governments two main reasons for favouring more nuclear power stations, showing that nuclear does not help us fight climate change...
*locals express their views in letters opposing the confirmed decision to close Cadbury's at Keynsham, meaning that chocolate for the very large local market wont be produced locally (instead it will be produced in Poland and transported back here for sale, at great carbon and thus climate change cost)...
*Bristol Parks Forum express the belief that Bristol City Council have plans to sell off double the amount of parkland originally reported (ie more like 400 acres than 200 acres)...
*traffic levels in the Greater Bristol area have risen by 15% in the last ten yrs (higher than the 12% national average)...
*PM Gordon Brown said no to government funding for the proposal to reopen the Portisheaad railway line...
*my green friend and colleague Stephen Petter illustrates how the 'improvements' in education standards as shown by school test results is illusory (there is plenty of academic research to back up his good sense and reasoning, and I argued this point myself at length back in Nov 07 on the Bristol Blogger site,VowlestheGreen // November 28, 2007 at 7:00 pm)...
*an Ofsted report concluded that many pupils drop Geography (a subject that deals with many of today's vital issues and is very important in delivering environmental education) at age 14...
Yet this was only one newspaper, in one city, on one day. As for compensating 'good green news' - there wasn't any on this occasion.
Monday, 21 January 2008
We look for non-violent solutions to conflict situations, which take into account the interests of minorities and future generations in order to achieve lasting settlements.
Electoral politics is not the only way to achieve change in society, and we will use a variety of methods to help effect change, providing those methods do not conflict with our other core principles.
I would be considerably challenged in attempting to live up to some aspects of the pledge below (and it does have a distinctly religious feel to it in places that I'm not comfortable with) and so I'm sure does American society as a whole - its a pretty violent place.
PLEDGE OF NONVIOLENCE IN HONOR OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
IN HONOR OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.’S LIFE AND WORK,
I pledge to do everything that I can to make America and the world a place where equality and justice, freedom and peace will grow and flourish.
I PLEDGE TO MAKE NONVIOLENCE A WAY OF LIFE in my dealings with all people.
I WILL REJECT all forms of hatred, bigotry and prejudice, and I will embrace the values of unconditional, universal love, truthfulness, courage, compassion, and dedication that empowered Dr. King.
I WILL DEDICATE my life to creating the Beloved Community of Dr. King’s dream, where all people can live together as sisters and brothers.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=k04KzgYRKrE - this U2 song about King is one I've played a good deal for some time now.
Saturday, 19 January 2008
Dear Kerry McCarthy MP
I'm writing to ask you to support the Planning and Energy Bill being promoted by Michael Fallon MP. To do so you would need to be present in Parliament on Friday 25 January. If you cannot be present then I hope you will agree to support the Bill at other opportunities.
The Planning and Energy Bill is important because, in the spirit of the Sustainable Communities Bill which is now law, it enables local decision-making for new developments to:
* set high energy efficiency standards
* require local, on-site energy generation by green methods such as solar and photovoltaic panels, heat pumps and small-scale combined heat and power plants
This would be a great move for cutting carbon dioxide emissions, cutting fuel bills, creating jobs in neighbourhoods and building local sustainability.
I hope you will agree to support the Bill, am very interested in your views on it and look forward to your reply.
Further information from the Association for the Conservation of Energy (though today on their website they wrongly call Michael Fallon a Labour MP!!) and also the Micropower Council.
Thursday, 17 January 2008
The article was a very entertaining read, and the end - 'Knowledge is a strange thing. You now know what I know, and what we know is that much of what everyone thinks they know isn't worth knowing.' - was reminiscent of former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Remember when Rumsfeld said 'There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.'
Interesting thing is that the Evening Post article was written by the Reverend Henry Thomas, whose work is based on faith not knowledge.
Its excellent work by Local Works campaigners like Ron Bailey and Stephen Shaw (Local works now based at Unlock Democracy). They were assisted by the very many people who have persistently lobbied Government and their MP (see my previous postings supporting the Bill). The Government and some of its 'loyal' MPs dragged their feet on supporting the Bill, including my MP Kerry McCarthy. Campaigning achieved very large cross-party support however, and with some concessions (reducing the radical nature of the original Bill somewhat) it gained Government support.
leaving the car at home on a Tuesday, and walking, cycling, or taking the
bus instead. It was launched just a few weeks ago, with the enthusiastic
support of Bristol City Council.
Fast forward to the City Council's much hyped 'State of the City' debate
this last Tuesday. Lots of talk about transport, of course. Then
Councillor Barbara Lewis dared to talk about 'smart choices', asking all
those members who'd come to this 2pm weekday meeting in the centre of
town on foot, by bike, or by bus to identify themselves.
A smattering of hands went up, but most councillors just looked
That probably said more about the real state of the city than any of the
fine words in hours of debate.
Tuesday, 15 January 2008
Thursday, 10 January 2008
Wednesday, 9 January 2008
Assuming I'd won the Democrat nomination for US President against the likes of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and others (!!) and was generally as well qualified as my Republican opponent, 5 in 10 voters, according to polls, would then not vote for me because I don’t believe in god. Many more US voters would desert me than would desert a candidate because they were a woman, or black, a Mormon, Catholic, Jew or homosexual. No real surprise to me but it says a great deal about US people and politics.
Bristol 'UK green capital' would plan to sustain the total amount of open, green space not flog off millions of square metres
Bristolians are lucky enough to enjoy 38 square meters per capita of green space. The Bristol Quantity Standard proposes that Bristolians could get by with 27.8 sq m of green space - which allows a collossal 10 sq m per capita to be disposed of. My maths makes this: Population 400,000 x 10 sq m = 4 million sq m of land that could be sold for development.
I remember running wild in ‘low quality’ green space eg where Callington Rd and the Brislington Tesco now is, when I was a kid. There are a few other places within a few miles of me that were open/green but are now built over.
It seems that the council does not see sustaining the total amount of open, green space available as one key indicator of progress towards their ambition of being the ‘UK’s green capital’. So what does this ambition mean??
He has been asking questions of excellent quality on a wide range of extremely important topics for some time now and I have learned a lot from working with him. He deserves to be elected to the council where he would be in an even better position to keep this rotten, hypocritical council under pressure to do a better job.
He stood in Stockwood in 2007 and substantially raised the green vote to 20.49%, gaining second place ahead of the Lab and Lib candidates. This is a remarkable achievement given that before 2006 the Stockwood green vote was just 2.6%!!
Monday, 7 January 2008
Friday, 4 January 2008
Why protect biodiversity? Its worth reminding ourselves of the reasons, which are not often enough clearly and fully stated - even if you search around a bit you dont find that much that is reasonably plain. So here's my effort... Forms of life are beautiful and diversity itself is beautiful. It is morally right to protect species. The complex web of interactions in nature is harmed if we dont conserve species and we need the interactions. Nature is the source of the resources and services we use to build our economy and so biodiversity is needed to meet our needs, trade, do business and make a profit (depending on how you want to define economics). The variety of life is of very important educational value and is a source of leisure and recreation. It is very important for both our physical, social and mental health and wellbeing - a diminishing gene pool is for instance damaging, dangerous and impoverishing.
Thursday, 3 January 2008
Wednesday, 2 January 2008
For a more complete and accurate picture it should be noted that Dawkins view on the Bible, as expressed in his book The God Delusion, is that '...the main reason the English Bible needs to be part of our education is that it is a major source book for literary culture. The same applies to the legends of the Greek and Roman gods and we learn about them without being asked to believe in them.'
As for the Bible and what Richard Benson's letter refers to as 'the beliefs and values that underpin much of our history and culture', Richard Dawkins says in The God Delusion that '...the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and 'improved' by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unkown to each other, spanning nine centuries...unfortunately it is this same weird volume that religious zealots hold up to us as the inerrant source of our morals and rules for living.'
Its clear that whilst Dawkins does feel that some parts of the King James Bible of 1611 (Authorized Version) have considerable literary merit and should thus be studied so that people can better appreciate English literature, he is certainly not holding it up as a source of or guide to morality!!