Friday, 30 January 2009
My follow up to this has been looking for examples of football clubs who have used or attempted to use green principles, designs and technologies.
Some interesting findings (below). Bristol City have the option of following good, green practice – will they take it? It would fit well with Bristol's green capital ambitions and compensate to a degree for the loss of green space.
Dartford FC – living grass roof, solar electricity and heating, rainwater collection and low noise and light pollution design.
Ipswich Town – carbon neutral scheme.
Renewables in football clubs information.
Middlesborough – solar roof and wind turbines project.
Man City – community involvement, transport and waste initiatives (wind turbines were planned but sadly now abandoned).
Thursday, 29 January 2009
The 'right to rent' should be enshrined in law. Any home owner who ultimately cannot pay their mortgage and is threatened with repossession should have the right to sell, in whole or part, to the council. They should then be allowed to continue to live in the property and pay rent. This would avoid the social and economic disruption of repossession and in many cases the need for councils to find new homes for families.
Government should also ensure free insulation for every home that needs it, beginning with those most in need. Insulating every home properly cuts fuel bills in the average home by up to half. This would help everyone struggling to make ends meet due to the recession (and solve one of letter writer John Tanner’s problems with insulation, ‘When insulating your loft can be too expensive’, Open Lines, January 28). Free insulation would bring simultaneous environmental benefits. Carbon emissions from homes amount to approx a fifth of total UK emissions and a free insulation programme alone can cut these emissions by a quarter.
Tuesday, 27 January 2009
Monday, 26 January 2009
Lots of talk about tidal energy and not enough debate and action on having a proper energy strategy. A correctly prioritised energy strategy would put energy efficiency top of the list - why not insulate all homes at no cost to the occupiers (such a scheme quickly pays for itself in saved energy, and thus lower bills, and rapidly reduced carbon emissions)??
Its good news that tidal lagoons will be considered. They offer large amounts of affordable and renewable power at low environmental cost to the estuary.
Its bad news that tidal reefs/fences are not on the list (though they will apparently get money to develop the idea). They too promise lower impacts.
Its even worse news that the Brean/Weston-Super-Mare to Cardiff barrage is on the shortlist. Its environmental impacts are huge and amount to destruction of the estuary. This fails the EU Directive on Habitats and Birds.
More here: http://www.stopthebarrage.com/
Petition: BBC should reverse its decision not to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee Gaza aid appeal
"Reverse BBC decision re: DEC"
I really think this is an important cause, and I'd like to encourage you to add your signature, too.
Friday, 23 January 2009
It reminded me of the longstanding Green Party policy (quoted below) to establish a widespread and well supported community banking system.
In order to help bring about the democratisation of the banking system, and in pursuit of our policies to support the growth of local economies, a network of local Community Banks will be established. These will be democratically accountable non-profit-making trusts, which will be able to provide low-cost finance both at district and regional levels. Any operating surplus arising from these Community Banks will be reinvested in their local communities. Community Banks will be empowered to create credit in the same way that commercial banks currently do, and will be given favourable conditions for doing so by the central bank. They will also be able to create their own local currencies**, to operate alongside the national currency, where this is supported by the local community.
The Manifesto for a Sustainable Society continues...
In order to bring about a more socially equitable society, it is important that poorer citizens have access to affordable credit, which can give them an opportunity to increase their basic living standards. Alongside Community Banks, measures to help facilitate this will include the promotion and support of credit unions and micro-credit schemes in which small groups of people cooperate to provide guaranteed small loans to each other.
**As for the idea of local currencies, the advantages are very well expressed by the extract below from the Schumacher Society.
...local currencies are a legal, but underutilized tool for citizens to support local economies. Local currencies function on a regional scale the same way that national currencies have functioned on a national scale—building the regional economy by creating a protective “membrane” that is defined by the currency itself. Local businesses that accept the currency are distinguished from chain stores that do not, building greater affinity between citizens of the region and their local merchants. Individuals choosing to use the currency make a conscious commitment to buy locally first, taking personal responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their community, laying the foundation of a truly vibrant, thriving local economy.
Also see these sites describing examples of local currencies in the UK:
Thursday, 22 January 2009
Bristol Airport has revealed its expansion plans. I've made a few contrbutions to the online debate, including commenting here on a local newspaper blog.
By expanding air travel we are encouraging money flow out of our economy - the difference between what Britons flying abroad spent in other countries and what visitors to this country spend here produces an £11 billion a year deficit! Its important at all times but especially in a recession, that people spend money supporting their own economy.
There are huge subsidies to the airports industry hidden in government funding for regional development, roads and airport infrastructure. The UK economy loses around £9 billion a year in taxation because aviation fuel is tax-free and all aviation transactions are VAT-free.
The most frequent flyers are in the top 10% of income-earners. They benefit most from the current tax concessions. In a typical year: less than 50% of the population flies at all; the poorest 10% hardly ever fly; of those that do fly, only 11% come from poorer backgrounds; even on budget airlines, 75% of the trips are made by the upper and middle classes.
Aviation is a very rapidly growing contributor to climate change. Planes are very heavy users of fossil fuel. The way that jet engines burn fuel produces nitrous oxides and high level clouds - tripling climate change impacts. Flying contributes 3.5% of climate changing emissions world-wide now, rising to perhaps 15% by 2050 on past trends. If expansion plans continue aviation emissions will scupper Government targets on climate change in the Bill that only recently became law.
Ecosystems, buildings and people’s health are at risk across the country. Air pollution around airports will continue to rise. Expansion is also generating more car traffic and invariably new or wider roads are proposed and built – adding to impacts in both construction and use.
The noise experienced by people living around airports or under flight paths will grow. There is no prospect of significantly quieter planes coming on-stream over the next 30 years. Already people under the flight paths to the busiest airports have to endure a plane every 90 seconds. They say it is 'like living under a sky of sound.'
The impact of aviation expansion on poor people in the developing world will be devastating unless we act. These are the people who: are worst affected by the changing climate; have few rights; have little choice about where they live; who are the least likely people on the planet to set foot aboard an aeroplane!!
The Government has said that it expects the number of passengers using UK airports to nearly treble by 2030. To meet this demand means new runways are needed at Stansted, Heathrow, Birmingham, Edinburgh and most likely Glasgow. Many of the country's other airports would see significant expansion, such as that proposed for Bristol. Government has provided a charter for the aviation industry and developers to proceed with airport expansion despite its new legislation on climate change, with a target of cutting emissions from 1990 levels by 80% by 2050!!
Wednesday, 21 January 2009
The idea is to build a map of valued quieter spots eg green spaces, in the city. The noise consultation will feed into the noise action plan for the city and help in developing a noise strategy for Bristol. Its worth noting that actions needed to lower noise pollution will also help create safer streets and will contribute to tackling air pollution and climate impact eg through speed reduction, encouraging walking and cycling and (hopefully) using shared space principles. This is the way to go to achieve better health, wellbeing and quality of life.
Monday, 19 January 2009
*Reduce noise through better planning and design, ackowledging that growth in Bristol’s population, housing, air travel and traffic presents great challenges
*Seek to make the most of redevelopment and refurbishment eg through high density, mixed-use developments with quiet outdoor, green spaces
*Establish a Bristol award scheme to promote excllence in relation to design and noise
*Encourage quieter transport eg walking, cycling, electric vehicles
*Build noise reduction into day-to-day traffic management and integrating noise considerations across all council policies – cutting speeds, reducing congestion, reducing stop-start driving where appropriate, smoothing traffic flow, allocating street space better
*Protect existing quieter spaces eg open, green spaces
*Create quieter spaces like: open, green spaces; home zones; 20mph areas; pedestrianised areas
*Seek funding for developing targeted traffic noise reduction projects and for experimentation with fuel cell buses, hybrid-electric buses
*Extend support for the encouragement of smoother and thus quieter, safer, cleaner and cheaper driving eg via driver training
*Maximise the use of noise-reducing surfaces across all roads where they would be effective, primarily faster roads, along with less disruptive and better reinstated streetworks
*Where impacts are highest, protect wider areas from road and other noise using appropriate noise barriers (if/where the issue cannot be immediately tackled at its source) and investigate the integration of photovoltaic power generation into barriers
*Seek the cessation of night flying across the city via lobbying
*Lobby for a national noise strategy which was promised years ago and has not been delivered
and request that councils be given a remit to tackle traffic noise, as is the case in many EU countries.
Saturday, 17 January 2009
Picture a city totally enclosed by a transparent dome. The city’s people would obviously be unable to survive for long inside it unless they had access to air, water and other essential resources from outside. Think through how far the dome would have to extend in order to keep the city going indefinitely given a certain level of consumption, energy and resource supply and technological development and you are ecological footprinting. London was found to have a footprint of 49 million hectares, about the land area of Spain (!) in a study by Best Foot Forward in 2002. You could also picture a dome totally enclosing a person, a house, factories, offices, a country, group of countries – or indeed a planet! You could draw a boundary around various products, say beef or cars, and assess the ecological footprint of the product’s lifecycle.
An ecological footprint is the total land and sea area required to supply the resources and safely absorb the wastes and pollutants from a certain lifestyle and can be thought of at a range of levels. The unit of land area used is global hectares, where one global hectare is equal to one hectare (2.47 acres) of world average biological productivity with current technology. Some, like WWF, use ‘planets’ as a unit, which is good because any footprint greater than one immediately illustrates the unsustainability, excess demand or ecological debt (world footprint is now 1.3 planets and if current patterns are not changed we are heading for a 2 planet footprint by 2035). Land and sea is needed for: crop, animal and forest products; for housing and infrastructure; to absorb carbon emissions from fuel burning; biodiversity preservation; human wellbeing and quality of life.
William Rees came up with the ecological footprint idea, publishing the first academic paper on the subject*. Personal Environmental Impact Accounting, a concept closely related to ecological footprinting, was developed in the early 1990s by Don Lotter and released in 1992 as EnviroAccount software which became Earth Aware software in 1996 (still available as a free download from the internet). Rees worked on footprinting with Mathis Wackernagel in the early 1990’s at the University of British Columbia, Canada, the two publishing a book Our Ecological Footprint in 1996 explaining the concept. Much work has since followed eg the book Sharing Nature’s Interest published in 2000, written by Wackernagel, Nicky Chambers and Craig Simmons.
Footprinting’s methodology for the national level is detailed in the 2006 Living Planet Report and the Global Footprint Network's method paper. The Global Footprint Network has clearly indicated how research should be used to improve the method. This is important because different methods have been used in various studies with respect to: sea area; fossil fuels; imports and exports; and nuclear power. Data sources used have varied. Whether to use average global numbers or local numbers when looking at a specific area has been an issue. Including space for biodiversity has been debated. Footprint standards, are bringing methods closer together, making data more consistent and comparable. EU assessment of footprinting has been positive and ackonwledges the work being done to perfect methods.
When consideraring footprint data it is important to remember what they don’t tell us in addition to what they do. The footprint concept is itself inevitably a simplification of reality. The computer models used to calculate footprints are further inevitable simplifications. This is both a plus and a minus of course. Footprints do not deal with that which it is difficult or impossible to convert to a land area: pollutant toxicity; health impacts; the depletion of non-renewable resources (though it does account for the energy, land and resources needed to process them); socio-economic impacts; noise and visual impacts, for instance.
Keeping in mind its limitations, ecological footprinting is an excellent tool for awareness raising, getting a sense of the overall scale of unsustainability by comparing it with actual land area. The biological capacity of an area indicates resources that can indefinitely regenerate without depletion or degradation. Most industrialised countries have insufficient capacity to support their population eg Netherlands (average footprint 4.8 gha/person, land area 0.8gha/person in 1999) unless they have large land areas and low population densities eg Canada (footprint 2.7 gha/person, land area 8.8 gha/person, in 1999). The world as a whole went into ecological debt (where consumption exceeds regerative capacity) on 19 Dec 1987 and because of unsustainable living we enter into this debt earlier every year – in 2008 we went into debt on 23 Sept!
Friday, 16 January 2009
Thursday, 15 January 2009
Petition to the UN Security Council, the European Union, the Arab League and the USA:
Wednesday, 14 January 2009
However, there is no such plan available from Gordon Brown's Labour Govt.. Where is what should be top priority, a plan to insulate all homes free of charge for instance (its something that self-evidently pays for itself in saved energy and thus lowered bills)!?!?
Looks like PM Gordon Brown's plans are pefectly consistent with his past actions as Chancellor doesn't it - definitely more Brown than green!
Monday, 12 January 2009
The figures Gil gives are certainly credible estimates, with the greenhouse gas contribution from animals raised for food (18%) being higher than the greenhouse gas contribution from all transport (13%). Its not just the methane emitted by the animals that is the problem - meat production makes intensive use of fossil fuels, chemicals, drugs, land, plus money, and the international trade in meat only makes this worse! http://www.vegsoc.org/environment/index.html
Meat production is inherently inefficient. A food chain involving meat is longer, with more links. The ecological rule of thumb is that there is a 90% energy transfer ‘loss’ (used for the organism's life processes or lost as heat to the environment) at each link in the chain! On average a meat eater’s diet uses twice as much land per person as a vegetarian’s and five times as much as a vegan’s. Over two thirds of UK land is used for farming, most of this being used for meat. Around two thirds of the vegetable crops grown in the UK are fed to farm animals.
According to the book ‘Sharing Nature’s Interest’ the ecological footprint of meat is 6.9 to 14.6 hectare years per tonne, depending on the type of animal rearing (pasture-fed animals have a lower footprint than grain-fed ones). Comparable figures for other foods are: non-aquaculture fish 4.5 to 6.6; fruit and vegetables 0.3 to 0.6; milk 1.1 to 1.9; grain such as wheat and rice 1.7 to 2.8; and pulses such as beans and peas 3.6 to 2.8. Even allowing for the fact that these are broad estimates the comparison is stark and is rooted in basic science.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s figures show that meat consumption has tripled since 1961. World meat consumption is now well over 230 million tonnes per year. By 2020 demand for meat will surge nearly 60%. Meat consumption has been and still is a feature of a ‘developed’ country given that someone living in a developed nation consumes three times as much as someone in a ‘developing’ one.
Put the facts on methane emissions and land/energy/chemical use from meat production together with fast rising meat consumption and you can see that we have trouble – not just in terms of climate change but also in economic terms, with food and fuel prices reaching very high levels during 2008 helped by high and rising demand. You’ll note that I’ve not even touched on the ethical/animal welfare issues or the health and disease issues involved in eating animals in large quantities!
So when Gil writes ‘Perhaps governments should be encouraging people to cut down on their meat consumption…’ I’d agree (although this should be in addition to tackling the environmental impacts from transport, energy generation and use, and so on which are many, varied and significant). It is especially important to tackle a meat industry parts of which, as Gil says, are clearing forests to create farmland for cattle rearing, boosting climate damage from cow methane, releasing carbon dioxide from the soil, rapidly releasing carbon dioxide when forests are burned and cutting the extraction of carbon from the air by forests simultaneously (more here).
I’ve spent some time describing the evidence and the problems. Solutions wont be easy. Action is needed across a wide range of policy areas, from environmental and health education informing personal food choices, to UK and EU action on personal and household carbon budgeting, to international agreements on deforestation and global trade…Would I advocate that we all go vegetarian or vegan? No, and I’m not a vegetarian myself, though I would strongly advocate that people consider a low meat diet, making dietary choices to stay within a carbon budget, and taking into account health, disease and animal welfare issues. Its certainly environmentally friendly to eat less meat whilst at the same time being cheaper, healthier and more ethical.
Sunday, 11 January 2009
Suzanne correctly identifies the growing stockpiles of waste collected for recycling as a problem, giving Recycling UK figures of 100,000 tonnes of waste paper and cardboard currently in warehouses, growing at 8,300 tonnes every week – meaning a stockpile of 200,000 tonnes within months!! (It must be said that some feel the stockpiling reports in the media have been 'overblown' however).
She makes some very pertinent suggestions about what we should be doing as a priority eg legislation or systems of taxation to ensure that manufacturers don’t use so much packaging in the first place; not exporting waste to China and elsewhere, instead using the materials better in the UK; shops providing bags made from recycled cardboard and paper; using recycled materials to make packaging.
Yes, yes, yes – have you been reading the waste section of my blog Suzanne or perhaps the Green’s manifesto?? Some of her list of suggestions are being taken up but far too slowly and far from comprehensively. To set up the most efficient and the most sustainable systems of resource use and waste management you need to ‘complete the circle’ ie have a complete cycle of: cutting out resource use that is unnecessary; using and reusing products and resources efficiently; having localised and national reuse and recycling facilities; widespread production using reused products and recycled materials; making the consumption of products made from recycled materials commonplace and preferable…
We dont have law and taxation favouring this. We don’t have much infrastructure for doing all this. We have not had much investment in this. We’ve not had the total systems thinking needed. Masses of new jobs could be created by setting up local reduction, reuse, recycling economies and a low waste, even zero waste, national economy/society. What better time than now for putting in the government money needed (see the Green New Deal report)? It will be a massive lost opportunity if we don’t.
A report to the council's Quality of Life Scrutiny Committee meeting on Monday says the recession would have an impact on the 'rate of progress' of the plan.'
Green spaces are one of the most popular and desirable features of the city - and we certainly need them if we are going to build sustainability and enhance the quality of our lives. This city is supposed to have green capital ambitions after all!
Worryingly there is growing evidence that Bristol City Council is not fairly and uniformly applying its green spaces policy process of establishing Area Green Space Plans through consultation in the same way across all wards in Bristol.
The meetings that were called to deal with the Neighbourhood Partnership area involving Knowle, Filwood and Windmill Hill excluded discussing Filwood. This means that Filwood will be handled separately and with very considerable pressure on it for housing development - I'm told that consultants not present at the other meetings will be present at meetings about Filwood for instance.
On the Bristol to Bath Railway Path the council have a sham consultation on a land sale loaded with leading questions instead of bringing forward the Area Green Space Plan process for the location.
Filwood Park was sold off within hours of the adoption of the new policy on green spaces, The Parks and Green Spaces Strategy - outside the spirit of the policy entirely.
Friday, 9 January 2009
With properly directed investment though we can be positive and hopeful. I believe we need a Green New Deal * which would involve:
- Massive investment in renewable energy and wider environmental transformation in the UK, leading to,
-Building a new alliance between environmentalists, industry, agriculture, and unions to put the interests of the real economy ahead of those of footloose finance
Going green is the best way to fight the recession and get a healthier society with ongoing decent quality of life - ask an ever growing number of economists!! After all we have worked hard to mess up the environment for decades which means there is a lot of work to be generated in stopping this and putting things right!
Colin Hines,Co-Director of Finance for the Future, former head of Greenpeace International’s Economics Unit,
Tony Juniper, former Director of Friends of the Earth,
Jeremy Leggett, founder and Chairman of Solarcentury and SolarAid,
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MEP,
Richard Murphy, Co-Director of Finance for the Future and Director, Tax Research LLP,
Ann Pettifor, former head of the Jubilee 2000 debt relief campaign, Campaign Director of Operation Noah,
Charles Secrett, Advisor on Sustainable Development, former Director of Friends of the Earth,
Andrew Simms, Policy Director, nef (the new economics foundation).
The mass incineration they seem so keen on is the thinking of the past - why keep recycling it ??
We need central and local government investment in waste reduction, reuse and recycling.
Now is the time to direct govt money this way - to create jobs and build a greener economy for the future!
Wednesday, 7 January 2009
Its notable that Justin Davies, First's MD locally is keen to stress the company committment to sustainability, including its waste management programme and climate change strategy via the side issue of recycled shoes (not that its a bad idea to make shoes from such recycled materials). Of course the major thing First can do to show their committment to sustainability is to run bus and train services of good quality, on a decent number of convenient routes, and at affordable prices! This is not something they are doing at all well at present and the production of shoes from recycled buses wont go anywhere near making up for the poor service !!
Should First be running our bus and train service at all?? No, lets have community ownership and establish a democratically run transport authority for Bristol and the surrounding area.
Tuesday, 6 January 2009
Note that a 31 page, 13,000 word document of complaint was sent to the Local Government Ombudsman by me this morning saying: that Bristol City Council has not followed its own green spaces policy and procedures; that senior officers have taken ad hoc decisions; that prominent figures with a vested interest in developments have had undue access to officers and influence over decisions; that officers and councillors did not respond adequately and promptly to communications; that the decision on not conducting an environmental impact assessment on the 'cycle house' plans may not have been taken on a proper basis; that dealing with my complaint was consistently delayed, lacking in detail, lacking in references, lacking in explanation and lacking in direct response from those with the most specific expertise; that current consultations are sorely lacking compared to official policy.
I've been compiling this document as the issue has developed over weeks/months and every time I've thought it was complete another relevant development has occurred eg the 'consultation' referred to in the question below (very ably criticised by the Bristol Greengage and Green Bristol Blog).
Q. Consultations have begun over the sale/lease of land on the Bristol to Bath Railway Path to property developers Squarepeg, though the process appears to be a very, very poor substitute for the Area Green Space Plan process laid out in official policy, the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy and appears to focus in much more on the development issue via leading questions than on the land sale/lease: can you explain why the Area GreenSpace Plan process, now underway in several parts of Bristol, was not brought forward for the locality encompassing this land ??
Follow-up questions to Cllr Mark Bradshaw on transport issues in South Bristol also submitted to the same meeting:
Q1. In response to questions I put to the November Cabinet [see C2, C3, C4 on the link] meeting about the South Bristol Link you informed me that estimates of the impact on air pollution and congestion in the Knowle/Brislington area had not been released: what are your thoughts on the importance of information such asthis being made widely available asap during a consultation period??
Q2. In response to questions I put to the November Cabinet meeting you confirmed that you may use Cycling City cash to buy land along the Callington Rd Link (intended to be part of a strategic road network): will cash be returned to the cycling budget if a road is built there??
Further detail on previous green spaces and transport questions here and here.
Sunday, 4 January 2009
Saturday, 3 January 2009
*Animals are sentient and can suffer.
*Animals’ welfare needs must be respected.
*Animal cruelty must end for good.
What will it achieve?
The adoption of a UDAW by the United Nations would:
*Establish animal welfare as an international issue.
*Encourage governments to improve and enforce national animal welfare legislation by providing a benchmark.
*Recognise that animal welfare is a key factor in humanitarian and environmental policy making.
*Encourage industries which use animals to keep welfare at the forefront.
*Acknowledge the risks to animals caused by environmental factors such as climate change, habitat loss and pollution.
*Create a more compassionate global attitude to animal welfare, including their needs and habitats.
*A declaration would also enhance the lives of over 1 billion people who rely on animals for their livelihoods, and the countless others look to animals for companionship.
*A UDAW would work for human health – animal welfare contributes to sustainable farming systems and the improvement of human food safety.
One voice together protecting workers rights, ensuring equality and fairness and fighting privatisation. Working towards a better way
Full blog can be viewed here
Well its getting close to Crunch time . Management have submitted there final proposals for Caretaking Services... you can find them here (Click on caretaking halfway down the page).
What does this proposal mean :
· All caretakers face a cut in pay and benefits.
· These cuts range from approx 2.54% - 33.52% (£7,433). See appendix D of the report.
· In fact these figures will be larger as the value of current benefits to residential staff is disputed . Management state the average difference between the figures they use and the real value is approx £800pa . this will be an immediate loss to effected workers that will not be recognised or protected.
· This means roughly 50% of staff will not have had a pay rise for 6 years!!!
· Only two residential caretakers per area.
· The final decision will NOT be made by councillors , but by the head of paid service.(Is this the cabinet bottling out?)
· Demoralised and unmotivated staff.
· More chiefs and less Indians .
· Caretakers and their families becoming further in debt and forced into bankruptcy.
We have a full mandate from the work force to ensure the devastating proposals set out by management are rejected by any and all means .
The workforce has the right to be angry . Especially as they were told by management that they would probably be better off working for MacDonald's.
Please support your caretakers , contact your MP and local Councillor, write to the papers and come to a rally being held at 1.30pm at the council house on 8th of January ......HR committee meeting will start at 2pm .
The time for action is now.
p.s. HAPPY NEW YEAR . (if you can afford it)