Monday, 30 July 2012

Scepticism squashed?

The BBC report that: A formerly sceptical climate scientist says human activity is causing the Earth to warm, as a new study confirms earlier results on rising temperatures...

...latest study, released early on Monday (GMT), concludes that the average temperature of the Earth's land has risen by 1.5C (2.7F) over the past 250 years.

...In a piece authored for the New York Times, Prof Muller, from the University of California, Berkeley, said: "Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming.

"Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I'm now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause."...

Full story and access to lot of data, analysis, comment and debate via the BBC report here. Arguably it is because Prof Muller et al had a moderate, practical, pragmatic scepticism that he reasoned that a change of mind was justified by the evidence. Long may moderate, practical, pragmatic scepticism reign.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Road reason

A blanket 20mph speed limit on all of Bristol’s residential streets will be in place by 2015 (full story and debate here).This is a very good decision. For me the case for 20mph limits is that residential roads are for living not driving in. See here for why 20mph - http://tinyurl.com/bptjkoh
Many of the Mayoral candidates have been advocating it and are backing the decision because they know that its popular with the public. In the 2010 British Social Attitudes Survey 71% of people asked were in favour of 20mph speed limits on residential roads - http://tinyurl.com/cx2r2ca.

Some persist in saying that here is no logical or proven reason for 20mph limits in residential areas  but in fact there's plenty of research around. See this analysis of the effectiveness of 20mph speed limits from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (http://tinyurl.com/bqbdogs) for instance. Those opposing 20 mph limits seem to be driven by something other than the evidence and reasoning upon it - see the debate on this story on The Post website here - with even more here - for plenty of examples of abuse, avoidance, denial, misinformation and misunderstanding...

Some repeat myths in their comments eg saying that air pollution would be worsened. Actually 20mph limits will NOT increase air pollution, as shown here  http://tinyurl.com/7gp2j89 and are a key feature of a more sustainable approach to urban living. The key is that the streets involved in this decision are residential streets ie people live there. Living there need not and most often does not exclude driving there of course but lets not forget that cyclists and pedestrians and not just motorised vehicles use roads and that all sorts of community activities can and should happen on residential streets if they are safe enough - and this brings me to another reason why I say streets are for living (by which I meant primarily for living) and that is that if the speed limit is 20 mph, in the unfortuneate event of a collision the people involved are much more likely to live than to die.

Some still argue that roads/streets, even residential ones, are primarily for cars and not pedestrians, cyclists and a range of activities, potentially. However, many of the roads/streets in Bristol were there long before cars were owned and used on a widespread basis and some go back even before the invention of the car. Mass car ownership did not take off in the UK until the 1950's and many things have happened on the roads/streets before and since. A good proportion of Bristol's roads/streets were never designed for cars. Roads are simply thoroughfares, routes, or ways on land from place to place - and in residential areas and in cities serve a wider purpose, including easement. Even where they were/are specially designed for car use why should we not choose, with general agreement, to adjust and manage that, especially in residential areas, so that the balance favours human beings not motorised machines running at a speed likely to kill or cause serious injury? See http://tinyurl.com/2vd7pq and also http://tinyurl.com/cgphzz7.

Others say introducing 20mph limits is a waste of money, can't be enforced and everyone will ignore it. They seem to have forgotten the evidence eg from RoSPA on their effectiveness. 20mph limits have saved lives where they have been introduced in Hull, London and elsewhere. See here. No-one has been able to dispute this evidence in the two lengthy online debates I've taken part in.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Daniella debate

Debate about Green Mayoral Candidate Daniella Radice on this post story eg by FOX_Joe - Out to lunch bunch of daydreamers! Living in a bubble would be wonderful, but we don't. The most out of sync with reality 'political' party; in short communists with a slightly better education.

My response: @ FOX_Joe - "Living in a bubble would be wonderful, but we don't."

Actually we do live in a bubble of sorts - the biosphere on our planet that provides all the resources that sustain our economy and society, has to take in all our wastes and pollutants and is the basis of our lives. Why call the people who plan to live sustainably and fairly in this bubble 'daydreamers' and unrealistic and not those who are squandering finite resources, blighting the world for future generations, building an economy that mainly benefits super-rich, corrupt and unethical bankers and their establishment politician and media friends and not general wellbeing...Your assessement is upside down FOX_Joe. Obviously I'm a green and so support Daniella and her policies but can you deny their rationale?

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Copies of some further contributions I've made to the debate, which is pretty lively:

@ Richard34 - Daniella is proposing to go much further with devolving power than the current Neighbourhood Partnerships. She advocates creating - and Mayoral working with - democratically elected neighbourhood councils, which of course we dont currently have.

Current transport plans are hardly revolutionary and many aspects of the 'Greater Bristol Bus Network' and bus rapid transit - especially using bendy buses - have rightly been heavily critcised. There's been a lot of talk about public transport improvements in Bristol for decades and we have still got a lot of problems and a long way to go - thus the Greens proposals to create a major transport hub for local bus and train interchange at Plot 6 next to Temple Meads station and to develop the local economy in such a way as to improve local job creation, local shops and community facilities such that the need to travel long distances is cut.

On education Daniella will lobby the government to transfer the secretary of state's powers over free schools and academies to the Mayor, not to the council ie central government dictates are being opposed and local democracy favoured.

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@ BCFC Finker - ok, still nothing on policies or principles, so no genuine substance to your comments. And dont forget that people will have two votes in the Mayoral election, one for first and one for second preference. People can therefore vote both with their heart and with their head. This may cause some interesting voting patterns, especially with the Lib Dems and Tories struggling due to the persistent failures of the Coalition Govt.
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@SouthvilleDav - Greens like Daniella and I have long been campaigning aginst biofuels - they simply aren't green at all - see http://tinyurl.com/88tf85o As for what you say on solar energy, you are absolutely right - and I'd go further and say that we should be investing in solar to grow the industry in this country so we can supply as much as we can for ourselves.
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@ Richard34 - you are arguing against greater democracy and against democracy being closer to people instead of remote and in the hands of a few eg a single individual as Mayor. Its partly because democracy is not in people's hands in their neighbourhoods that voters have become disillusioned and politicians self-serving and unethical. There's nothing woolly about what Greens are proposing on this as neither you or anyone else have been unclear on what the plans are.

The current bus station is clearly badly located and our whole public transport system needs a redesign, including creating a proper integrated transport hub at Termple Meads, which is beginning to go through a redesign process anyway. We need to be much more ambitious with our integrated transport planning or we will never make a dent in serious problems of congestion, delay, air pollution, carbon emissions...Current plans wont make a dent in these problems and in fact will make some of them worse!!

Thinking that the current education system is 'wonderful' is a very big mistake. Conservatives once told us we needed GCSEs for instance and now have gone full circle to tell us we dont need them we need the old O'levels or similar!! Greens are not just talking about a transfer of power from central government to the Mayor but to the Mayor working in a partnership with neighbourhood councils and the parents, teachers, governors and pupils/students themselves given that the system is for them and their community not for ideologues in any political party, certainly in a remote central government. Lets have some parent, pupil and people power in the system.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Green + Guidance

Congratulations to Daniella Radice, both on her selection as the Green Party candidate for Mayor of Bristol and for producing the most detailed and coherent statement of polices of any candidate to date and a promise of further detail in September. So, you get a Green plus guidance on what she will actually do if elected! Policies announced cover boosting the local economy, protecting and enhancing Bristol's environment, a fairer, more democratic city with power devolved to neighbourhoods, prioritising our health and wellbeing, and more...see Daniella's campaign website http://daniellaformayor.wordpress.com/. Also see local press coverage here and here and Bristol Greens website announcement here.

Speeding = stupid

Interesting how people try to defend speeding when news stories such as this one (Rise in deaths on Bristol's roads) appear - just look at some of the online comments. Of course we should want everyone - all child and adult pedestrians, all cyclists - to use good road sense but no-one should defend speeding or other irrresponsible forms of driving, not least because it contributes to one in every four deaths as a result road collisions (see RoSPA link below). Speeding is unacceptable, period - it is an avoidable cause of death and serious injury if people show some responsibility.

Inappropriate speed contributes to around 13% of all injury collisions, 16% of crashes resulting in a serious injury and 24% of collisions which result in a death. This includes both 'excessive speed', when the speed limit is exceeded but also driving or riding within the speed limit when this is too fast for the conditions at the time (for example, in poor weather, poor visibility or high pedestrian activity).
http://www.rospa.com/roadsafety/adviceandinformation/driving/speed/default.aspx

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Supplementary voting system for Bristol's Mayoral election

Bristol’s first Elected Mayor (and the city’s first Police Crime Commissioner) will be chosen this November using a voting system called the supplementary vote (though I suspect many Bristol voters are as yet unaware of this due to the very poor level and quality of information that’s been made available). This system means you have votes to cast for two candidates ie you can choose first and second preferences. At the count the electoral authorities start by totaling all the first preferencevotes. Any candidate achieving over 50% wins, though with many candidates standing – including all the political parties plus independents - this is unlikely to happen. If no-one gets 50% the authorities eliminate all but the top two candidates, and in a second round redistribute all the votes for everybody else by the second preference on the ballot paper.


This means you can vote for your absolute first preference without worrying about wasting your vote because you know they can’t win this time. You have your second preference vote to cast for whichever of the likely top two candidates you least object to being mayor or don’t mind them giving them a go. In Bristol the top two look like being independent candidate George Ferguson and the Labour Party’s Marvin Rees, at least for the present (you could vote for someone else as a second preference or not cast your second vote at all, but then would not affect the result at all).

Here’s the Electoral reform Society guide to the supplementary voting system: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/supplementary-vote/

Friday, 6 July 2012

City Deal

The £100-million Bristol Metro train network which will bring massive improvements to local railways is to go ahead with the first services running by 2016. It comes as a result of the City Deal agreed between local council and the Government which was announced yesterday...(more here).

Business rates to be kept in Bristol and used to raise more money for investment is very welcome. Plans to improve the local rail network are also welcome. Lets hope what is planned is effective and efficient. I do think there is a democratic deficit in all this thinking though and would like to see much greater and inbuilt opportunities for public participation, creating better openness and accountability - it wont be sufficient to simply lobby our authorities to use this money in the best way.

Details of the 'City Deal' for Bristol, according to The Post, are:

* A new growth incentive and the economic investment fund, which will allow West of England to keep 100 per cent of growth in business rates over 25 years to invest in projects, allowing authorities to deliver an investment programme worth £1 billion over 30 years.

*  Ten years of major funding allocation for the Greater Bristol Metro; flexible delivery for the Bus Rapid Transit Network which will allow savings to be recycled locally; and new powers over rail planning and delivery.

*— A Public Property Board will manage up to £1 billion of city council assets and an estimated 180 land and property assets to unlock more land for economic growth or housing and to lever in additional investment.

* A city growth hub with up to £2.25 million of government funding which will provide additional support to inward investors. This will be based in the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone and will work closely with UK Trade and Investment.

* The business community and local enterprise partnership will have more influence in skills provision in the city region, in particular the £114 million Skills Funding Agency funding for Further Education colleges for post-16 provision, to help capture employer demand.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Mother suckers

This story, on some breast-feeding mums 'flash-mob' protest at a Bristol cafe recently has generated significant online debate - including some wildy sexist and discriminatory rubbish from some readers of The Post. Breast milk is cheap, organic and local food - and it is what is best for babies and their mums. Our society should be doing all it can to encourage more breastfeeding of babies - including countering the ignorant and immature comments posted by some on this story who focus their criticism on stereotypes of people rather than on the facts and arguments. If you've got a decent argument why would you resort to unfair tactics instead??

The key, function of breasts is to provide milk for babies (believe it or not!). For tens of thousands of years there was no udder alternative - and those available now are really no match the amazing stuff they provide. See here for more:


http://www.lactivist.net/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breastfeeding

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breastfeeding_in_public

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breast

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Eco-Bristol?

Bristol will continue with its 'green' plans even though it suffered a Green Capital loss (see story here). One commenter on the story (YourLakeshore)  said "...it is great news that Bristol came 2nd in the whole of Europe - particularly as it had tough competition and Bristol has made it to the final twice. It also presents Bristol as being the green city of the UK..."

If Bristol is the green city of the UK why then is its ecological footprint only 17th best out of 60 in the country (see ranking and figures here)? Why is Bristol's ecological footprint set to rise with new road building, loss of green spaces, increase in population...? Doesn't there need to be a committment to cut this footprint significantly if Bristol is to be credible in its green claims? It is after all 2.9 times bigger than a sustainable level!

Also, its not really about being in competition with every other city in the 'whole of Europe' but only about competing against those who entered - and on criteria still a very long way from genuinely sustainable cities.