Friday, November 30, 2007

Greens vote for having a leader!!

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Jim Jepps, Cambridge Green Party and Electoral Returning Officer, has today announced: The leadership motion has been passed by more than the 2/3rd majority required. Votes against 27%. Votes for 73% !! This is excellent news, as I've previously said its long been my view that the Greens need a leader. All Greens now need to work together to elect the right leader and deputy leader (or co-leaders) and help them to set a fine leadership example: democratic, ethical, effective, participative, empowering, collegiate, inspirational and motivating in style, consistent with all green principles. The leader and deputy still, of course, need to be the right people, working on the right things in the right way. I'm confident that with people of the calibre of 'politician of the year' Caroline Lucas MEP likely to be in the frame for the role, the focus, direction, organisation and public profile of the Green Party will improve a good deal.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

When will we have real care for the elderly? Proper mandatory training for all people having contact with people who have dementia is vital.

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I very strongly support the call for mandatory dementia training for all home care staff made today by the Alzheimer's Society. In fact I'd like this training to cover all those who will have contact with those with dementia, including those in the NHS and elsewhere. The current situation of people with dementia is tragic, apalling and totally lacking in justice. In recent months I've had direct personal experience of how the NHS treats the elderly, with a death followed by a very significant illness in close family. Its been extremely upsetting to see first hand how the health and social systems (or lack of them) handle people with dementia, and elderly people in general. There just does not seem to be any real care for the affected people, except for a few notable individuals who stand out as unusual when you see and hear them at work. Its good to see the call for mandatory training widely reported.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Brown's 'green' policy = talk, talk, talk...

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Gordon Brown's recent speech on the environment is, for me, pretty well assessed by this article. The talk is there (as it was with Tony Blair) but the record of environmental achievements is poor eg UK carbon dioxide emissions higher now than ten yrs ago, eco targets missed or abandoned and as for real money and radical policies for key green developments like a mix renewable energies, energy efficiency, public transport in cities like Bristol...we have none!!

As for Brown apparently throwing his weight behind the campaign to get rid of plastic carrier bags doesn't the man realise he is the Prime Minister ? Why not just have them banned Gordon? Mind you I would not put the banning of these bags that high up my list of environmental action priorities would you? The media seemed to catch on to the idea, presumeably just what he wanted I suppose. Best to focus in the main on really tackling areas having the biggest impacts (thus the biggest potential for the large, rapid improvements we need in the next ten yrs according to best science) namely transport and energy.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Five words to sum up what makes us 'great'

I've just come from listening to Radio Five Live's very amusing discussion on five words that sum up what makes Britain/the UK 'great' (apparently PM Gordon Brown is looking for a five word motto). What caught my attention first was this suggestion: Dipso, Fatso, Bingo, Asbo, Tesco ! In the bit I listened to they weren't getting many positive suggestions from listeners, though I did like - We gave you The Beatles!

Just for a bit of fun I quickly came up with these ideas

*Conquered much of the world

*Oi! 1966 and all that

*Could have surrendered after Dunkirk

*The dirty man of Europe

*Our green and pleasant land

*Lets build Jerusalem here now

*Two rugby world cup finals

Some are more original than others obviously. Some are more positive and closer to the truth than others. Several are in fact more about England rather than Britain/UK of course. Some perhaps reveal the patriot/nationalist in me (dont know if I should I be worried about this).

I think the Dunkirk one is my best effort.

Comments and suggestions welcomed.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sustainability: reconciling the economy with our environment and shifting from a consumer to a conserver society. Necessary, desirable and inevitable.

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This blog site is now about a year old. If I had to pick out a single word that the site is all about I’d go for: sustainability. What do I mean by this though? I’ve always thought of sustainability as the reconciliation of our economy with our environment – because unless they are harmonised and made compatible problems, like climate change and global poverty, will build and ultimately we wont be able to keep human societies going. We need to change our consumer society into a conserver society, to deliver quality of life for all within nature’s means: protecting natural assets; keeping ecosystems healthy; maintaining nature’s capacity to deliver goods and services; keeping wastes and pollutants below environmental capacity; dealing with risks and costs now, not passing them on to people in the future; building social equality; seeking ever higher efficiencies; basing socio-economic activity substantially on renewable resources, managed so that use rate is less than the rate of replenishment.

Our economy clearly exists as a system within and dependent upon the natural environment, drawing its resources from it and emitting its wastes to it. As we’ve seen with
floods, hurricanes, droughts and forest fires, here and around the globe, the natural world can devastate human life and activity – human power is puny in comparison. It is desirable for us to achieve sustainability because human health, wellbeing and quality of life would be greatly improved and the stability and security of our world would be much enhanced. Science is clearly telling us that it is necessary to achieve sustainability, most notably with respect to climate change at the moment, and previously with respect to ozone layer depletion. Since many of the resources we currently rely on to sustain us and grow our economy are finite it seems pretty inevitable to me that we will at some stage have to achieve sustainability, if human life as we know it is to go on and improve, and the sooner we make progress the more successful we will be in our efforts.

People often use the terms sustainability and sustainable development interchangeably. I’m not that happy with this, at least not without spelling out what I mean by development.
Gro Harlem Brundtland, in her hugely important book ‘Our Common Future’, produced by the World Commission on Environment and Development following United Nations appeals, gives the most widely used definition of sustainable development:
‘… development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’. Its hard to disagree with this but it is a very broad, brief, ethically and not operationally focussed definition! Brundtland goes on to explain that by needs she meant particularly the needs of the poor, though the definition does not say how needs should be prioritised. Also the idea of
environmental limits is implied in the definition rather than explicitly spelt out – you cant meet human needs, especially of the poor, on into the future if environmental limits are exceeded on an ongoing basis.

Whilst the Brundtland definition certainly involves environmental concerns, it suggests that economic growth, the way we currently develop, is not incompatible with environmental protection, a very contentious idea for Greens though not for the bigger political parties. The pursuit of economic growth as the key goal of governments -
equating growth with progress - has certainly to date been a part of the problem. To become sustainable we need to achieve a set of economic and social goals that is not centred primarily on economic growth. Growth in the economy needs to meet conditions and be selective ie be of the right sort, in the right places, so that we attain and maintain economic stability and security.

Growing the economy in the way we have been, particularly its transport and energy intensive nature, is
reducing our capacity to live without undermining the systems that support life (another way of defining sustainability). Why? It is: decreasing the overall natural assets stock; damaging ecosystem regenerative capacity and their ability to supply goods and services; emitting wastes and pollutants into the environment at levels beyond its ability to safely process them; causing high levels of social inequality; leaving generations to come with a build up of risks and costs; consistently undervaluing both humans and non-human species; not switching resource use from finite, non-renewable to renewable types on anything like a sufficient scale or at a sufficient rate; not efficiency focussed; consuming renewable resources like forests, soil or fish…at a faster rate than they are replenished due to poor management practices.

There is a great deal more that could be discussed. Greens have built a whole
manifesto, covering all sorts of aspects of life, centred on building a sustainable society. If you are inclined to find out more the links below aren’t a bad start:

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Drive safely (unlike senior police officers and government ministers!)

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The 5-11 Nov is road safety week. I'd urge all drivers to sign up to the Brake pledge to drive safely.

Belt Up - front and back and ensure children are correctly restrained
Slow Up - abide by limits and only overtake if totally safe
Wake Up - never drive tired and take breaks every two hours on long journeys
Sober Up - 'just say no' to alcohol and drugs if driving
Look Up - look out for people on bikes, horses and foot
Wise Up - if it's night, bright, or bad weather, go slower
Buck Up - calm yourself before driving if stressed, angry or excited
Move Up - adjust head restraints so the top is level with the top of your head to help prevent whiplash
Sharpen Up - wear glasses or lenses if you need them
Shut Up - switch your phone to voicemail
Back Up - from the vehicle in front - it's your braking space in a crisis
Check Up - check brakes, tyres, lights mirrors and windows

Its shameful that recently both a government minister and a very senior police officer have not followed road safety charity Brake's advice. What hypocrites these individuals are. Remember these news items?

First, the speeding Chief Constable...

A senior police officer in charge of road policy for Britain's chief constables is facing prosecution for exceeding a 60mph speed limit.

Meredydd Hughes, chief constable of the South Yorkshire force, was allegedly clocked by cameras driving along the A5 near Chirk in north Wales.
He has been summoned to appear before Wrexham magistrates on 21 November.

And the Chief Constable has a history of speeding...

Mr Hughes has two previous speeding offences, but they were much less serious and, because they were committed more than three years ago, the six penalty points have been removed from his licence.

Plus the government minister who used his mobile phone whilst driving...

The Government's immigration minister, Liam Byrne, has been fined and had points put on his licence after admitting using his mobile phone while driving.Byrne, who has been a Home Office minister since 2006, was fined £100, ordered to pay £35 costs and given three points on his licence by Sutton Coldfield Magistrates' Court.

I dont think magistrates were tough enough on the government minister. I hope that the Chief Constable gets a ban if found guilty, because of his history of speeding and because he of all people should be setting an example and so has particularly badly let the side down. I'd like penalties for driving offences generally to be toughened because of numbers killed and seriously injured on a daily basis on the roads.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Green Party needs a leader....

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Received all the details of the Green Party referendum on whether the two current 'Principal Speakers' should be replaced with an elected Leader and Deputy Leader, or Co-leaders, today in the post. Green Party policies have to me always shown true realism and leadership. However, the party itself has certainly not had great direction, organisation and public image (all vital if you are to demonstrate leadership, win elections and run things like councils !). Its long been my view that the Green Party should have a leader and so I had no hesitation in voting yes in the referendum, to change the current situation, and supporting the case for a leader made by that most excellent Green Caroline Lucas MEP (and also Jean Lambert MEP and the current female Principal Speaker and candidate for London Mayor Sian Berry).

Surely more time studying = better performance at school ??

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My daughter's school had three staff development/training days added on to the recent school break, giving her a full two weeks off school in October. Towards the end of the recent school break I received a letter from the school stating that the next 'learning review day' is November 14 and reminding me that students dont attend school on that day. I dont need my twenty yrs experience of teaching 11-18 yr olds to conclude that my child would be far better off going to school for an extra four days this term ! The 'learning review' has never 'reviewed current performance and set targets for improvement' effectively and with real impact and should be completely integrated into day to day teaching and learning anyway. All staff developement should be organised in a way that allows children to continue attending school. Good sense tells me that, within reason, if students spend more time studying they will do better at school!