Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Vote green for: boosting the local economy; a stable, secure and healthier life; communities that can be sustained; fresh politics!

Copy of my letter below (published in today's Bristol Evening Post), as sent recently, urging voters to reject tired old politics and vote Green. Its a very big day for the Green Party with voting taking place across the country tomorrow (see http://votegreenparty.org.uk/ and http://sianformayor.org.uk/). Greens are on the up - with over 700 candidates standing, a major national newspaper (The Observer) calling for voters to support Sian Berry for London Mayor, and high hopes for continued and even stronger performance in places like Stroud, London, Norwich and elsewhere - so watch this space later this week for comments on results.

______________________________



It should be no surpise that food prices are rising, causing many problems here and around the globe, especially for those already extremely poor of course. The problem is that in practice countries have done nothing to create economies that can be sustainable, economically and environmentally. World population has more than doubled since 1950, stimulating demand.


Consumption in countries like the UK and USA is sky high, whilst consumption is very rapidly rising in places like China, India and elsewhere, resulting in fuel use which has more than quadrupled since 1950. More demand for fuel means higher prices.


We have speculation in the wheat market by 'investors' (gamblers). Growing world meat consumption and the use of land to grow plants for biofuels and bioplastics instead of food, in the deeply mistaken belief that it is a green action, has pushed food prices up by stimulating demand.


More people, more fuel use, more resource consumption, more land taken for farming, emissions and inefficiencies due to rising meat consumption and the rise in transport intensive lifestyles has resulted in climate change. In turn droughts and floods from climate change have lowered food supplies in key places, putting upward pressure on food prices.


Yet despite what seems to me to be a viscious circle the big political parties continue to promote the same old economic expansionism, high and growing consumption and increasing global trade. In contrast it is economic localisation that we need here and around the world. A stable, secure and affordable economy would result from this approach, creating a conserver society. Our health and general wellbeing and that of our environment would also be much better in such a society and it could be sustained on into the future and around the globe. Voters should thus reject the same old politics, advocating the same old economics from the same people and parties.

More on economic localisation here.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Bragging on: love, music, hate, racism...

Really enjoyed seeing Billy Bragg in concert at the Colston Hall last night. I'm a long time listener to and admirer of his music and share his liking for the work of people like Woody Guthrie.

I agree with many (though not all) of his political views, not least opposition to fascism, racism, bigotry, sexism and homophobia. He has many interesting things to say about reform of the House of Lords, Independence for Scotland (which he, and I, favour), a Bill of Rights (great idea!)and national identity...

He of course had plenty to say during the concert (!), including outlining how he'd been supporting teachers in their recent strike action (they do have a point in my view - we need to ensure we are able to recruit sufficient, well qualified people to teach), the alternative St Georges Day concert and plugging the Love Music Hate Racism 30th Anniversary Carnival due to take place this Sunday, 27 April in Victoria Park, London (more details on the carnival here).

More on Billy Bragg and his work here.

Here comes the...solar power??

Had a message from Friends of the Earth's Christian Graham the other day saying that 'Germany has 200 times more solar power than England'. Quite a stat!

The message explained that this is because 'German households and businesses get paid a renewable energy reward for the solar power they generate. This is known as the 'feed-in tariff' and has helped make Germany a world leader in renewable energy'.

Why cant we have the same here? We should be told!! http://www.solarplayoff.org/

More on this issue:

http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefing_notes/feedin_tariff.pdf

http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefing_notes/renewable_energy_tariff.pdf

I was very happy to lobby my MP Kerry McCarthy on this issue by sending the email message suggested by Friends of the Earth (below):

The UK's record on renewable energy is a national disgrace. Germany has more than 200 times more solar power and ten times more wind power installed than the UK. Germany has a quarter of a million people employed in their renewables industry. We have only 7,000 in the UK.

One of the reasons Germany is so far ahead is their adoption of a feed in tariff policy which pays consumers and businesses a long term, guaranteed, premium price for the renewable energy they generate. It is a renewable energy reward (sometimes also known as a feed-in tariff).

Please support New Clause 4 to the Energy Bill, to be debated in Parliament on 30th April. This would introduce a renewable energy reward into the UK. Failure to do so could delay the adoption of this transformative energy policy by three years.

We are near the bottom of the EU renewable energy league table. No further delays are acceptable in adopting the policies which will deliver a dynamic low carbon economy.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

A day in the life of an excellent MEP

Its well worth a look at this short film on the work of excellent Green MEP Caroline Lucas here:

http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/3384

She certainly covers ground and demonstrates her committment and leadership through work on a wide range of issues. It seems to me that when you elect a Green at any level of government you get really great value for your vote!!

More on Green MEPs here:

http://www.greens-efa.org/cms/default/rubrik/6/6270.greensefa_org@en.htm

http://www.carolinelucasmep.org.uk/

http://www.jeanlambertmep.org.uk/

No Chinese weapons for Zimbabwe: petition...

Just signed a petition calling for a to stop the Chinese weapons shipment to Zimbabwe. At this delicate time, the international community must rally to bring democracy and stability--not weapons--to Zimbabwe.

The more people sign the petition, the more powerful the international call will be--so please forward this link to friends:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/no_arms_for_zimbabwe/98.php/?CLICK_TF_TRACK

Thanks!

Monday, 21 April 2008

'Save Our Caretakers' - lets hope Labour live up to their fine words in practice as city reviews caretaking

Credit to Cllr Charlie Bolton for opposing the potential loss of residential caretakers and firmly backing residents in flats (see his blog entry here, published as the lead letter in the Bristol Evening Post on Saturday 19 April 2008) - and indeed unions, tenants...who have already very clearly made a stand to protect their security, wellbeing and quality of life. My great worry is that Labour wont live up in practice to what they (eg Dawn Primarolo MP and Southville Cllr Sean Beynon) have said in the very recent past about 'saving our caretakers' - the text quotes below are from the local Labour website. Lets hope Labour (and their current Tory friends and allies on Bristol City Council) remember the fine words below as the city review of caretaking proceeds.

Labour campaigns to protect 'essential service' for residents, 2 Feb 2007

Dawn Primarolo, Labour MP for Bristol South, today joined with local people to protest against Lib Dem plans which threaten the position of resident caretakers across the city. Labour's councillor for Southville, Linda Salter, and local activist Sean Beynon were also there to launch Labour's petition against the proposals.

Dawn met with residents at Chalcroft House in Ashton to assure them that Labour was on their side. Afterwards, she said:

"Caretakers provide an absolutely essential service for people living in blocks of flats across Bristol. We fear this Lib Dem policy is a sneaky first step towards getting rid of caretakers altogether. These City Council proposals seriously affect the terms and conditions of new employees, and even those staff who have given many years of loyal service will only be protected from the Lib Dem axe for a limited time".

Frank Baker, Chairman of Chalcroft House Residents Association, agreed:

"Lots of people in Chalcroft House gave up three bedroom houses in return for a promise from the City Council that we would have safe and secure flats. If we lose our resident caretaker, then the security of every resident will be compromised. There is also no way that off-site contractors could keept the communal areas of the block so clean and tidy. We are very lucky here to have a fantastic caretaker and we aren't going to give up without a fight".

Commenting, Linda Salter, who is also Labour's Spokesperson for housing in Bristol, said:

"The council's plan was rejected by trade unions, and tenants have shown overwhelming support for their caretakers. It's a shame that the Lib Dems teamed up with their Tory friends on the council to pass this policy, but residents and caretakers know that Labour will stand up for them".


Sean Beynon concludes:

"The council wants to carry out a shake-up of the whole system next year, so it's vital that we act now. We will keep up the pressure on the council, and have started to distribute petitions and 'Save Our Caretakers' posters to residents in flats across Bristol".

and

Labour condemns 'backdoor privatisation', March 2007

Hundreds of residents have joined Labour's Sean Beynon and Linda Salter in fighting the Lib Dem City Council's attack on resident caretakers in blocks of flats across Southville and Ashton.


"We're very concerned that this drastic cut in the benefits available to new employees is actually a sneaky first step in getting rid of the caretakers and replacing them with the lowest bidding off-site private contractor", Sean explains. "We don't believe these agencies would be able to provide the service that residents rightly expect, which is why we are fighting these plans".

Over two hundred flat dwellers have already signed Labour's petition calling on the Lib Dems to reconsider their plan to cut caretakers' employment conditions. "Most of these residents are older people who really value the caretaking service", Linda says. "But they can't fight the Lib Dems on their own. We're doing our bit to back them, but we need everyone else in the area to rally round and show their support as well".

If you agree with us and think the Lib Dem City Council should urgently think again, text* 'Save Our Caretakers', together with your name and postcode, to 07835 751538.

* charged at your standard network rate

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Great Knowle biodiversity asset

Great article about Arnos Vale Cemetry in the local paper ('New life among the gravestones', Bristol Evening Post, Saturday 19 April). What an asset to the biodiversity of Bristol (and Knowle!) this site is. Excellent work by Mary Wood and the Friends of Arnos Vale Cemetry, Arnos Vale Trust and others in the Wildlife Trust and at the City Council.

Want to know more? Contact Sarah van der Meer, telephone 07814 337766 or at
sarah_vandermeer@hotmail.com and Mary Wood, telephone 0117 972 1079 (evenings only) or at mailto:marywood@talktalk.net.

Friday, 18 April 2008

On that great democrat (!) Robert Mugabe

Enjoyed this poem on that great democrat (!) Robert Mugabe today’s local paper:

MUGABE'S FINAL WORD ON ZIMBABWE VOTE

18 April 2008, Bristol Evening Post


Now look, we don't like these numbers!
I think you must count them again,
Zimbabwe will not have such blunders,
Now go back and count them again.

Don’t talk about hyper-inflation,
Leave all the inflation to me,

If you want to avoid aggravation
Make sure that your vote is for me.

I'm giving the land to my cronies,
I'm taking away their past pain,
My opponents are all fakes and phonies,
They have driven me insane.

The problems are not of my making,
The British created the frame,

My enemies' boots are all quaking,
I'm dictating the rules of the game.

Now go back and recount the numbers
I don't want to tell you again,

Zimbabwe will not have these blunders!
I will not repeat this again!!

By Trevor Carter, (the Bard of Windmill Hill), Bristol.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Attorney General should not be given the power to override UK law when dealing with enquiries into corruption

A great decision by the High Court which has '...declared that the Government broke the law by cutting short a corruption investigation into BAE's Saudi arms deals ...' - vital defence of the rule of law in fact (details here). We are in signifiicant trouble when those that advocate and propose new law (our Government) are also acting to undermine it! Excellent letter (copied below) from Prof Paul Dunne and Graham Davey, Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Bristol Group, in yesterday's local paper, describing the issue really well:

Soapbox: BAE Systems Enquiry (Bristol Evening Post, 15 April, 08)

The decision of the High Court judges to declare unlawful the halting of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) enquiry into corruption charges against BAE Systems is clearly a triumph for common sense and the rule of law.

BAE Systems, a major local employer, has been under suspicion for many years of paying bribes to secure arms exports.

One of the arguments for stopping the enquiry was that the case would not succeed in court. In fact, the enquiry was about to gain important information about secret Swiss bank accounts, and this caused the Saudis to threaten to withhold information about potential terrorists unless the enquiry was immediately stopped.

This gave Tony Blair the excuse to cite "national security" for his intervention in the legal process, though it is more than likely that economic reasons were paramount - the possibility of the Saudis buying French aircraft, rather than the hugely expensive Eurofighter Typhoon that BAE Systems is involved in producing. This was despite the fact that in 1997, Britain had signed up to the OECD Anti-bribery Convention, article five of which specifically excludes national interest and economic considerations as justifying the termination of an enquiry.

Following the decision of Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Sullivan to assert that the Government is not above the law, the need now is to press for the SFO enquiry to be restarted. BAE Systems has given assurances of its full co-operation, and 125 MPs signed an Early Day Motion calling for the Saudi Arabian enquiry to be reinstated alongside the six other ongoing enquiries involving BAE.

Remarkably, the Government has now introduced draft legislation that would give the Attorney General authority to override UK law when dealing with enquiries into corruption. This must be resisted.


Excellent legal challenge by the Corner House NGO, and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, whose priorities are well worth supporting: end government subsidies and support for arms exports; end exports to oppressive regimes; end exports to countries involved in an armed conflict or region of tension; end exports to countries whose social welfare is threatened by military spending; support measures, both in the UK and internationally, which will regulate and reduce the arms trade and lead to its eventual end.

The public's concerns make the green case

From the Green Party website, the following comments about the latest local election broadcast:

'...real people were invited to discuss their concerns, making a compelling argument for Green solutions for a more affordable and fairer society...'

Great broadcast!! Can be viewed here: http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/3381 . Take a look!!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Incinerators propagate the waste problem not solve it!

According to the Environment Agency the UK currently produces 330 million tonnes of waste each year, a quarter of which is from households and businesses (construction, demolition, sewage sludge, farm waste, spoils from mines and dredging of rivers makes up the rest).That’s the weight equivalent of tens of millions of double-decker buses that, end to end, would stretch around the Earth many times. Its about 5.5 tonnes for every single individual living here, including hundreds of thousands of tonnes from West Country households and its literally a huge problem.

Thankfully there is a very useful concept which, if we can apply it properly and consistently, will tackle this waste mountain and so the multiple problems that go with it. The waste management hierarchy is a ranking of waste management options in order of efficiency and effectiveness.

Priority one is the prevention of waste through reduction/minimisation strategies. After reduction comes object reuse so that they do not enter the waste stream eg refilling containers. It is not until one gets down to the third level in the hierarchy that one gets to recycling and composting, which still give significant benefits particularly in terms of energy saving . The recovery of energy from waste by a whole range of methods (some much more environmentally friendly than others) is fourth in the list, just above waste disposal. Waste disposal is at the bottom of the hierarchy and includes final disposal to landfill and the incineration of waste without recovering the energy.

Given the clear message from the waste management hierarchy and the amount of talk we get these days about being green one would think that our local councils would be ready, willing and able to focus in on the top three options as a priority. Not so I’m afraid. The West of England Joint Residual Municipal Waste Strategy recommends that we build a so-called "energy from waste" plant (a mere fourth out of five in the ranking list) to process our residual waste from 2015 onwards. Moreover, it’s a huge plant that incinerates waste on a mass scale that is proposed, (albeit with electricity being produced). Such a monstrosity would, over the life of contracts lasting decades, demand to be fed huge amounts of waste when we are supposed to be heading in the opposite direction!! It’s a clear sign that we have so far failed to even approach the issue of waste properly and that its still waste maximisation that rules. To find out more visit the Bristol Against Mass Burn Incineration (BAMBI) website:
http://www.bambi-network.org.uk/index.php . To sign the petition against go to: http://epetitions.bristol.gov.uk/petition.php?id=180

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Bristol International Airport expansion - just who is it that is ignoring the crucial facts??

Its more than a touch rich for Bristol International Airport's James Gore to talk about facts being ignored, by anti-airport expansion campaigner Jeremy Birch, in his letter in today's Bristol Evening Post('Airport Campaigner gave only one side of the story', 3 April). After all, in the world James Gore and others who favour yet more airport expansion inhabit, this expansion apparently wont make climate change worse - despite what expert, nobel prize winning work by independent UN scientists says!! He needs to get real.