Thursday, July 31, 2008

Windfall tax the massive profits of oil and gas companies - part of a 'Green New Deal' to tackle the credit crunch, oil price hike and climate crisis

Oil and gas companies have in recent days announced a huge rise in profits. Frankly I think the level of their profits, £6.7billion first half profits from BP and £4 billion three month profits from Shell, is obscene particuarly at this time of rising food and fuel prices. We need money to invest in making our society more efficient, renewable, green, fair and healthy and so why the Government have not put a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies beats me. A windfall profits tax is certainly part of Green economic plans, including some detailed and ongoing work on a 'Green New Deal', to tackle the credit crunch, soaring oil price and the climate crisis. Its poor leadership for the Government not to take this step.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mass incineration of waste for Bristol? Its living in the past.

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The decision by a council committee yesterday to debate Bristol’s waste strategy more fully is most welcome. I was one of several people/groups who put in a statement to the committee. Those who feel incinerating waste is a good idea are living in the past.

Its vitally important to get decisions on waste right as the consequences, financially and environmentally, will last for several decades. Deciding in haste to build a mass incinerator would be a very backward step – it would demand to be fed with many thousands of tonnes of waste for several decades and is by far the worst option in terms of its very high contribution to climate change.

Bristol’s Labour administration have reacted to the decision for more debate not with rational comment but with the scare tactic that we may lose out on money because of ‘delay’ (‘Waste plan delay could cost £200m’, Bristol Evening Post, 30 July). Its not delay its democracy and concern not to land Bristol with a bad deal.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Love is a human right - oppose homophobia.

Human rights campaigner and fellow Green Peter Tatchell, who has previously attempted a citizens arrest on Robert Mugabe for human rights violations, has again been making headlines with his work (see the extract below from the Belfast Telegraph). I think he is a very courageous man and I very strongly agree with the stand he has taken - love him or hate him he has highlighted a serious homophobia problem yet again, this time in part through giving the Amnesty International Pride Lecture, as part of the Belfast Pride festival being held this week.

A Northern Ireland MP who branded homosexuality an abomination should resign, a gay rights activist said last night.

Peter Tatchell said Iris Robinson would have faced calls for her head had she criticised any other minority in similar terms.

The Strangford DUP MP has defended her assertions with her Christianity.

Mr Tatchell said: “There is no doubt that if Iris Robinson had made those remarks about the black or the Jewish community she would have been outed from public office and forced to resign.

“People would have said that such comments are totally unacceptable.

“The fact that many are making excuses for people saying that her conscience or religion gives her an excuse for making these remarks I find unconscionable.”

More on/about Peter Tatchell and his work here and here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Huge Scottish Nationalist win over Gordon Brown's Labour

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Well done you scots!!

(image from Lakelander's site)

While I'm using Lakelander's image of one Labour leader I must show you his very amusing Tony Blair/Radovan Karadzic combination in a post entitled 'Notorious war criminal to stand trial'.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Subsidised booze for MPs (in unlicensed bars with no restrictions on hours)!!!!

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Great posts on this issue on the Guido Fawkes and the Bristol Blogger sites.

What breathtaking hypocrisy we get from our MPs!!

Malago Greenway e-petition

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Please consider signing the petition to prevent a Bus Rapid Transit Route running over the biodiverse green space that is the Malago Greenway.

Renewable energy systems planned for Hengrove Park developments, especially the Olympic-sized pool???

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Its today been reported that 'Bristol to get new Olympic-sized swimming pool' (Bristol Evening Post). Somewhat sensationally done since we've known about the proposed developments at Hengrove Park for some time now (see previous post on the issue here).

New health, education and leisure facilities, especially the big pool, are great, but we should also be retaining local facilities such as Jubilee Pool in Knowle and others (and I dont agree with the PFI method of financing this development). I agree with Simon Wilkins, club coach of Bristol North Swimming Club, who said, in the Bristol Evening Post that he

...felt that the new pool would be a boost to the city, but would not compensate for the loss of so many other pools in Bristol.

He said: “It is a great idea to have a 50m pool in the area.

“Bristol really should have had a 50m pool 10 years ago.

“It has been a long time coming, and hopefully it will attract bigger competitions and more swimming to the city.

“But the number of pools being built does not compensate for the number that have been shut down in recent years.”

We need more sources of healthy exercise not less. Local facilities are an important community feature, especially for those who find it most difficult to travel, such as the elderly and families with young children.

I'd also like to see renewable energy systems used in the new leisure centre, especially to heat the water in the new pool (which would otherwise consume a massive amount of polluting and non-renewable fuel). I've sent the email enquiry copied below to the City Council Sustainable Projects Team ( and will post again on any reply I get (I had no reply to my last enquiry on this topic):

Can you tell me if there are any plans for the use of renewable energy systems in any of the developments planned for Hengrove Park? The glossy leaflet I received describing the development some time ago refers to 'the highest level of design and sustainability standards' and so I'm hopeful that you may be able to answer positively. It seems to me that the heating the very large amount of water in the proposed swimming pool would be ideally suited to renewable energy and would otherwise consume a very large amount of polluting fossil fuel. Hope you can help.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Money saved and choices gained through energy thrift

In times of rising prices its always nice to save some money, so I was very pleased to be able to contact my electricity and gas supplier (RSPB Energy) this morning and arrange for/confirm: a reduction in my monthly gas and electricity payments; a refund into my bank account of the balance of the two accounts. This is all basically down to being very heavily insulated and highly energy conscious (helped a little in recent months by being part of the Knowle West Carbon Makeover project). Far from affecting what I'm able to do its given me additional choices due to a little more money being available. For me its never acceptable to waste resources where avoidable, whether they cost a little or a lot, though no doubt many more people are now looking for savings due to the additional motivation from rising prices.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The reality of violent crime

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I'm for putting a lot more resources into crime prevention and restorative justice processes, whatever the crime but in particular violent crime.

Government is due to announce new measures to tackle knife crime next week. Use of restorative justice processes has increased in recent yrs though they very often still not available as an option in many situations. They are pretty popular with victims of crime and they work (see more).

We need to get people who commit knife/gun crime to confront reality, realise what they have done to all those who've suffered due to their actions. Where appropriate get them meeting face to face with victims, their families and others in communities who've suffered.

Get them to take compensatory action as far as is possible, as part of their sentence. It might sometimes be appropriate to get them working with teachers and pupils in schools or talking with key groups in communities. Its the beginning to positive change in the criminal and it can help victims and communities .

Its wrong-doing on a different level of course, but whilst teaching I've seen a lot of success with this kind of approach applied to bullying in schools.

A kind of local community level restorative justice project was being initiated in Knowle West this yr but with the loss of Neighbourhood Renewal Funding, money for it may be in short supply now.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Motoring: cheaper now than in 1988 ! Sure helps to explain ongoing climate change, road deaths, air pollution, congestion, parking chaos...doesn't it.

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The RAC's annual report on motoring shows that ' now costs 18% less in real terms to buy and run a car, including fuel costs (and 28% cheaper excluding fuel costs), than in 1988.' (see reports here and here). This is despite the large and rapid recent rise in fuel prices, though figures I dug up on the history of petrol prices show that even these aren't that unprecedented. I've long been pointing out that motoring has become cheaper not more expensive and made the point again in the recent debate online about residents parking (in fact seeing the RAC figures reported today sent me hunting through my archive of old news clippings - thus the two scanned illustrations in this post). Contrary to the facts most car owners (60% according to the RAC) think motoring costs have risen, though their view has probably been skewed a lot by sudden fuel cost increases.

Cheaper motoring is why we have more people than ever owning a car and more two car and three car households. One report on the RAC pronouncements says '...the number of households with a car has grown 39% over the past two decades from 14 million to 19.5 million. The number of households with two or more cars has almost doubled from 4.3 million to 8.4 million, and the number of drivers has increased to 33.7 million from 26.1 million.'

Not only has motoring become cheaper but at the same time travelling by bus and train has become very much more expensive (by around 50% in real terms has been reported - see here for an example). The fall in the cost of motoring is not news to me. The rise in the cost of public transport isn't either (I remember quoting a 50-70% rise in bus/train travel costs from the Dept of the Environment graph, scanned in here, when campaigning in the 1990's for instance).

It should be no surprise to anyone, given this key incentive to own and run a car (along with key factors such as cheap flights...) and disincentive to take the bus or train, that we are continuing to fail to address: climate change; air pollution; noise pollution; land take for roads; congestion; parking chaos; deaths on the road...and more. Carbon dioxide emissions are 1-2% higher now than when the current Labour Govt came to power, they plan to build hundreds of miles of new roads, plan to widen motorways and are seeking a delay in meeting the latest EU air quality requirements.

People are still highly attached to their cars. The govt see this of course and are wary of upsetting voters (Gordon Brown may abandon or delay the planned 2p rise in fuel duty just before the Glasgow East by-election for instance). Few issues stir people up, as recent debates and demos show, more than the cost of fuel or the cost of parking...Seems to me that far too many people (politicians and the public) are not facing the truth either about the reality and urgency of issues like climate change or about what the cost of their motoring is or what it should be. The incentives are upside down - we need much cheaper public transport and much more expensive motoring.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

No leadership on climate change, food and fuel prices...from G8 summit

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The story goes that Nero fiddled whilst Rome burned in the great fire of AD 64. Its not a story however that our leaders at the G8 summit are neglecting priorities whilst the Earth hots up due to climate change (see clip above). It was sickening to see them all planting trees in their suits at today's photo opportunity for the media.

The so-called leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States at the G8 summit aren't in fact leading at all: their proposed 50% cut in greenhouse gas emissions is conditional on action from developing countries like China, India and Brazil and so nothing at all may happen in practice; the % is in any case too low compared to what the scientists at the IPCC say is needed; the cut apparently would be from emissions levels in year 2000 and not from lower 1990 levels which would be tougher (IPCC called for cuts from 1990 levels); no targets for reductions between now and 2050 were agreed and so there is nothing by which to measure if we are on track even if actual reductions were seriously attempted (little sign of this anyway).

They dont seem to have connected climate change with food and fuel prices and short/medium/long term economic stability either, saying that they remained positive about the long term resilience of their economies. They have not to date explained what is causing high food and fuel prices, have offered no plan for solving problems and achieving a stable, secure and affordable future and are highly suspect on aid/development committments, especially on Africa. The summit goes on...but what is it achieving??

Monday, July 07, 2008

Why is thrift far less common these days? Why is there so much waste?

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So, Gordon Brown has finally woken up to the fact that we waste massive amounts of food. Speaking as someone who, unless ill, never leaves food and hates waste of all sorts (its part my nature and part the way I was brought up I think), I agree that the situation is indeed atrocious.

I've read what he has said today (see here, here, and here) but have yet to see a list of actions he will now take to ensure that his Government are taking all the appropriate action they can on this. Is he just lecturing? Wanting to appear to be doing something? Or is there more?

Its bizarre isn't it that there is so much concern about rising petrol and diesel prices and yet there is so much speeding, erratic driving and poor car maintenance, which raises fuel consumption, costing the driver more. Gas and electricity prices are rising but many of us still waste energy, dont switch off and have not adequately insulated. Likewise there is concern about rising food prices but 33% of the food we buy is thrown away (equivalent to one bag in every three).

Of course not all those who complain of or worry about rising prices will also be wasteful but levels of fuel, energy and food waste are so high that there must be a good deal of hypocrisy out there. My view is that this is a problem of plenty and of affluence - where shortage and poverty are greatest waste is highly likely to be smallest, but shortage/poverty is generally not the case now and so wasteful habits and cultures have grown.

I have to say that, though I'm not a fan of big supermarkets, I dont fully buy the argument, common in the media today, that supermarkets are largely to blame for food waste. They are a part of the problem certainly but for me there are waste and efficiency issues all the way along the food chain from soil to plate to soil again and each of us must take some responsibility. Now I'm feel free to put me straight if my attitude is not justified !!

Great tips and advice on cutting food waste, saving money and enjoying food from here:

Message from Spiderman

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Received this message (below) today from Spiderman. Please do all you can to call for tough, urgent action on climate change.

My Friend,

Our climb for the climate continues.

Today the G8 meet in Japan for days of more talk on global warming. Sadly, the chances of them agreeing to any kind of target is very low.

That's why I am climbing in Germany, where the G8 met last year.Since then, Germany have become one of the world leaders, by setting a 40% emissions reduction target by 2020. It's brave,ambitious and essential.

We need world leaders, not world losers. My climb today is to remind the rest of the G8 of Germany's brave target and to remind them that global warming kills more people than a 9/11 everyweek. And of course to remind them that The Solution Is Simple:

1 - Stop Cutting Down Trees. Plant More Trees.

2 - Make Everything Energy Efficient.

3 - Only Make Clean Energy.

My heartfelt thanks go to the thousands of you who have already sent messages via our website

...Together our message is stronger and by the time the critical global warming summit takes place in Copenhagen 2009, our number and our message will be undeniable.

You are world leaders and we climb on.

My deepest thanks.

Alain Robert

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Save Grove Woods protest tomorrow

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As you will know if you've read previous posts relating to trees and/or the city council, I have little faith in a lot of what they do and decide on, particularly with respect to trees. I've signed the petition to save Grove woods and sent in an objection to plans. Thought I'd also pass on details about this protest against the council decision to allow 27 trees to be cut down (albeit a bit last minute!).

"Mourn for decision to destroy 27 trees" tomorrow.

Event: Mourn for decision to destroy 27 trees"show of strength"

What: Protest

Host: Save Grove woods, Snuff Mills, Bristol

When: Tomorrow, July 7 at 5:30pm

Where: Snuff Mills Car park (no 4 and 5 buses have stops nearby))

Further information:

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The working class are more environmentalist than the middle class...

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As someone with very strong working class roots I get very cheesed off with the standard 'criticism' that environmentalism is just for the well-off, a middle-class luxury. This is rubbish. Just look at the environmental activity at the Knowle West Media Centre for instance, as well as my own 25 yr history of activity (see here), the rise in the green vote across Bristol South (including 15.6% of the vote in Knowle itself in 2007) as well as the latest poll data (below). The Bristol Blogger often trots out a class-based criticism of greens, so I sent him the message below this morning.

Blogger - sounds like that Mark Lynas is having a go at you and others who share your view when he says,

'Environmentalists are constantly accused of being middle-class lifestyle faddists, who don't understand the day-to-day financial pressures faced by "ordinary" working people. But the number of people who thought that environment should be the government's priority rather than the economy was substantially higher (56%) among the lower income, less well-educated DE demographic than among the better-off ABs (47%). Lower-income social groups also have a much lighter environmental footprint overall: only 42% of DEs took a foreign holiday over the last three years, whilst 77% of ABs did. Better-off people also own more cars, as you might expect – only 5% of DEs have three or more cars, whilst 15% of ABs do.

So perhaps anti-environmental class warriors like the editors of Spiked need to find a new cause to champion. The working-class people who they claim "can't afford to be concerned about climate change" actually care more about the future of the planet than the rich – and are doing a lot less damage to boot. So next time you hear someone defending motorway expansion or cheap flights on behalf of the British poor, ask yourself the question: whose side are they really on?'

As a very active environmentalist who was born, brought up and educated in Knowle West and who still lives in Knowle I think Mark Lynas has a strong point. The figures in the poll back him up.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Stop the scandal of MPs pay and expenses: find out what MPs needs are and meet them, no more and no less

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I strongly object to the way MPs pay and expenses are handled. Its not independent and its not ethical by any acceptable standard (see 'MPs scrap plan to cut expenses', Bristol Evening Post, 4 July). We need to stop the scandal of MPs pay and expenses: find out what MPs needs are and meet them, no more and no less.

I recently posted about the work of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation who looked at what various categories of people need in order to live at an acceptable standard and participate in UK society. I propose that this sort of method should be applied to all MPs, including members of the Government - get a fair, independent body to examine what is needed for MPs to do their jobs well and also live decent, reasonably rounded lives and pay them and/or provide them with appropriate facilities as required.

If I was ever elected as an MP (I wish!!) I would certainly work on this basis, whether or not this kind of system was the official one. Are any local MPs willing to have an independent body go over what their actual needs are? Are they happy that the following will still be happening (as listed by The Guardian) after the recent House of Commons vote:

• MPs can continue to claim for furniture and household goods for their second homes, known as the "John Lewis list" as the Commons only authorises payments in line with the prices charged by that retailer;
• Additional costs allowance will remain, and not become an overnight expenses allowance with a £19,600 ceiling;
• No outside audit of MPs' expenses;
• No receipts for claims under £25;
• Claims for outer London MPs will not be cut.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Jamie Cooper, Campaign for Justice

If you are on Facebook please consider joining the Campaign for Justice group to get fair and just treatment for local teenager Jamie Cooper and all military service personnel. Whether its the way people are treated after getting injured or when disabled, or suffering a range of conditions as a result of service, or what they are paid, or how they are sometimes (mal)treated during training, or how they are housed or how they are equipped...they are getting a very raw deal.

You could always join Facebook specifically to support this campaign. Find out more from this report in todays local paper ('Facebook support for Bristol soldier', Bristol Evening Post, 3 July). Jamie cant even get a council tax reduction from Bristol City Council at the moment.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Needs and luxuries: what are they??

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Really interesting work by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on the minimum needed for a decent life in the UK, where the standard of living is acceptable and people are able to participate in society. It shows, not surprisingly, that we need to do much more to raise the income of those on the lowest levels, with the BBC website saying:

'According to the calculations, a single person working full-time would need to earn £6.88 an hour to reach the weekly minimum standard - which is more than the current statutory minimum wage of £5.52.

A single person on Income Support would get less than half this amount.

An out-of-work family would get in state benefits two-thirds of what the JRF regarded as the minimum requirement, but pensioners on Pension Credit reached an acceptable level of income, the charity said.'

All this at a time when the gap between lowest and highest incomes is high and growing - under a Labour Govt! There are more rich and super-rich people than ever. I'm certainly in favour of raising the minimum wage and I'd like to see wealth radically redistributed by taxing the wealthiest more. This is fair and just. I'm for meeting everyone's needs, a key pillar of sustainability, putting needs before wants and for narrowing the income gap and so the Joseph Rowntree Foundation work is of real interest. I'd also like to see us measuring poverty in a different way, not least because of the outcome of this research which seems to establish what a decent life is in a much more rounded way. Interesting that it concluded that a car was not a necessity unless living in a rural area.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Climate change denial

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More climate change denial in my local paper, via the letters page this time...

Michael Maddock is wrong in his assessment of the evidence on climate change ('Exploding the myth on climate change', Bristol Evening Post Open Lines, 1 July). Climate change is not a myth as the headline suggests it is. In fact the (Nobel Prize winning) UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( does exactly as he suggests scientists should. It continually looks at all the latest and most expert scientific research on climate change. It then periodically issues major assessment reports containing the best available evidence. There have been four assessment reports so far and its fair to say that each time a new report has come out the evidence has pointed out even more strongly the fact that human-caused climate change is real, serious, and requiring urgent action from everyone, lead by governments. What more could we all want than that??

Contrary to what Michael says, many scientists clearly do not state that climate change is not caused by carbon dioxide. If they did it would be in the IPCC reports. In fact what the scientists say is the complete opposite! Its not true to say that warming always happens first, followed by carbon dioxide rise. It has sometimes happened this way but it also, as now, happens the other way around, with carbon dioxide emissions rising, followed by warming. This is a natural feature of the tightly coupled systems that affect our climate. What it points to of course is that the warming we are causing now with our carbon dioxide emissions, will itself go on to cause even more warming on top of warming caused by further carbon dioxide emissions! There are several mechanisms by which it will do this eg warming melts ice/snow, which means the white area reflecting energy back into space is lower, which means more energy is absorbed, causing warming...This feedback effect amplifies human impact along with others.

Scientists will continue to question, investigate, and gather evidence as Michael suggests they should. What concerns me greatly is that Michael, and many others with him, are, despite the very strong evidence, in denial about climate change (see ). The sooner we face up to the facts the better. Time is slipping away and it will get harder and harder to reduce the worst effects of climate change the longer we put off what we all know we have to do ie adopt efficient, renewable lifestyles that stay within environmental limits, something that will also make our lives more affordable as it means bigs cuts in our use of increasingly expensive oil.