Friday, January 30, 2009

New Bristol City Stadium - green design?

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I’ve previously reported my interest in Bristol City FCs consultation on its new stadium design. I sent off a completed consultation form a while back, including suggesting: abiding by the concept of compensation for loss of green space; a thorough ecological assessment of the whole area, at various times of the year; walking, cycling and light rail transport links; an unobtrusive external colour; use of ecological footprinting to measure impacts; permanently protected nature reserves around the stadium designed to maximise biodiversity; aiming to be a carbon neutral stadium; avoiding any 'sprawl' in design; being an example of sustainable design - promoting sustainable economic activity, the latest energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable transport technologies.

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, January 29, 2009

Right to rent and free insulation to help people make ends meet

1 comment:
Letter writer William A Jewell from Knowle makes an excellent point when he says that the Government should be doing more to help home-owners struggling to pay their mortgage through no fault of their own (‘Government should help hard-up homeowners’, Open Lines, January 28).

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, January 27, 2009

Privatisation and profit or people and public service??

First Great Western cancelled over 4000 journeys last year, we have the most expensive railways in Europe and when you can get on a train that is running on time you often can't get a seat! The 19 train operating companies between them cancelled 62,000 trains! Hasn't serious underinvestment and privatisation of the railways been great!?!

(If you are a shareholder privatisation has been great for your pocket though - with huge profits put before people travelling)

Let's run the railways (and the buses for that matter) with a proper public service ethos, put public transport into public/community ownership and give people an affordable, good quality alternative to car use (details here).

Bristol primary schools axed

1 comment:
Two Bristol primaries axed...This is a shocking decision. Bristol City Council's Primary School Review should be totally reassessed. It shows scant regard for the quality of educational relationships and experiences that children and parents get at smaller schools.

There should indeed be an extraordinary meeting of the whole council organised. There should be a vote of no confidence in the current Labour Administration. All political parties should be planning how the city will be run and by what party or arrangement between the four parties if Labour loses the vote. I'd certainly vote against this leadership and administration.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tidal energy from the Severn Estuary: Yes...but not at the price of estuary destruction!

The Severn Barrage issue is in the news, with the shortlisting of five tidal energy options. Its a mixed picture, with some good and some bad sides.

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:

Petition: BBC should reverse its decision not to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee Gaza aid appeal

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I wanted to draw your attention to this important petition that I recently signed:

"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.
Further information on the work of the Disasters Emergency Committee and to donate to the Gaza and other appeals:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Time for Community Banks??

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Very interested to hear Will Hutton, interviewed on This Week, say that the UK lacked banking capacity.

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, January 22, 2009

Bristol Airport expansion plans: flying into trouble


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!!

Further information:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bristol's tranquil places

1 comment:
I've now contributed both a general statement and a list of specific suggestions to the new Bristol City Council consultation on traffic noise. There is also an interactive map where people can add notes on their favourite quiet areas and indicate where/how places could be quieter. Photos and video can be added too. I've added some observations about some places I frequent. The more people that contribute to the consultation and map the better.

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.
Shared Space - a relatively new name for a concept emerging across Europe. It encapsulates a new philosophy and set of principles for the design, management and maintenance of streets and public spaces, based on the integration of traffic with other forms of human activity. The most recognizable characteristic of shared space is the absence of conventional traffic signals, signs, road markings, humps and barriers - all the clutter essential to the highway. The driver in shared space becomes an integral part of the social and cultural context, and behaviour (such as speed) is controlled by everyday norms of behaviour.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bristol City Council: adopt and enact a noise strategy

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You may be aware that I've previously expressed concern over the lack of focus on noise pollution in the environment and called for a noise strategy similar to London's to be adopted in Bristol. Many just dont realise the damaging health and wellbeing impacts of noise. A short while ago I contributed to the current Bristol City Council consultation on noise and I will now send in the list of more specific suggestions below:

*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.

More information on noise: Defra Bristol City Council

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ecological footprinting: living in a dome

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Copy of a briefing I've written on ecological footprinting for possible inclusion in a book:

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!

*Rees, William E.(October 1992). "Ecological footprints and appropriated carrying capacity: what urban economics leaves out". Environment and Urbanisation 4 (2): 121–130.

Friday, January 16, 2009

20 mph for Bristol: go for it!!

1 comment:
Bristol gets 20mph speed limits on roads.

Reduction in accident frequency and severity*, lower air pollution**, quieter and safer places... 20mph is a great idea! But lets have all residential areas covered, especially around schools, lets also lower speeds on other roads - and lets make sure that 20mph is enforced properly! I hope Bristol City Council goes well beyond tinkering with this green idea.
*At 20mph a pedestrian you knock over stands a 90% chance of surviving. At 40mph they stand a 90% chance of dying.
**Most energy is used in accelerating and braking, which happens more frequently in cities . Driving in any particular gear consumes more energy per mile the faster you travel. Driving steadily at 20 mph is more efficient and thus cheaper and cleaner.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Shopping local: the benefits


Update on Tesco's plans to convert The Friendship in Knowle into one of their stores. The campaign against the plans is developing very well and I'm very happy to be playing a decent role in it. To date the paper petition organised by local shopkeepers has several hundred signatures. My e-petition has a respectable 67 signatures so far and has I note fairly recently been signed by Cllr Mark Wright (who is also the Prospective Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol South). I have submitted two letters of objection, have helped other people to voice their opinions (for and against!!) and will submit a statement to the council planners on the benefits of local shops (below) today. I've written direct to Tesco Corporate Affairs Manager Juliette Bishop (who has yet to even acknowledge it let alone reply!). Several news stories have gained publicity for the issue (eg here and here) and letters have been published in the local paper (eg here). The resulting online discussion has been very lively!

With other local campaigners I've helped to get local councillors much more active on the issue, overcoming what appeared to be initial reluctance. To his credit Knowle's Lib Dem Councillor Gary Hopkins has now done some very useful work which I and others opposing Tesco's plans appreciate. The issue: has been given more time for consideration; will now be going to a planning committee (though no-one told any local that it was to have been delegated to officers!) probably on Tues 18 Feb at 2pm; its been made clear that the Tesco plan cuts across council policy favouring district shopping; a public meeting will be held to debate the issue on 16 Feb, 6.30pm, Redcatch Rd Community Centre and will hopefully gather together many locals, businesses etc. I plan to attend the 16 Feb public meeting to contribute and plan to make a statement and/or submit my e-petition to the 18 Feb planning committee meeting once details are confirmed.

It appears that the council have not yet informed local people about the changes to planning application deadlines and extended time available to comment/support/object!! Perhaps the local media will help to inform local people of the changes along with this blog.

There are concerns that unless shopping habits change, high streets, small ranks of shops and corner shops will disappear. Popping to the local shop for milk, bread or tea… will not be an option for many unless more shoppers change their ways. By supporting local shops we can help slow down and stop this decline and boost the local economy as well as help in the fight against climate change.

The Office of Fair Trading has looked at supermarket dominance, referring tha matter to the Competition Commission. Small shops are currently struggling to survive due to the power of the big supermarkets, with thousands of independent shops going out of business each year. Supermarkets power has become huge. The four biggest already control over three quarters of the grocery market. Tesco alone take 30 per cent and is still moving into neighbourhoods all over the country including Knowle (see:

The All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group warned in 2006 that many independent shops could be gone within a decade unless action is taken now to curb the power of the biggest supermarkets. Big supermarkets have announced plans to improve their environmental credentials, but shopping locally is still a better option, especially if you leave the car at home and buy locally-sourced food.

The range of benefits from local shops is excellent: greater likelihood of providing local food; they often offer a much more personal service; they keep money circulating in the local area supporting other local businesses; along with street markets they offer affordability without roping you via special offers and some slashed prices into more expensive purchases (a Friends of the Earth survey in 2003 found that apples were cheaper in greengrocers than supermarkets and in 2005 a study for the New Economics Foundation found that street markets in London were "substantially cheaper" than supermarkets for fruit and vegetables); they are more energy efficient than huge superstores – a study by Sheffield Hallam University showed that it would take more than 60 greengrocers to match the carbon dioxide emissions from just one average superstore (more here); a broad range of local shops provides more choice than one big supermarket.

The Competition Commission should enact measures to achieve a healthy balance between the big supermarkets and local shops – but consumers should not wait for such action because it could be too late for many local shops if they do.

Gaza: petition for a complete ceasefire, civilian protection, humanitarian assistance

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1000+ Palestinians and 13 Israelis killed. The death toll mounting daily. The Gaza offensive escalates. Action to end the violence and protect civilians is desperately needed. I've signed the petition (wording below) calling for robust international action to achieve an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and take further crucial steps toward a fair and lasting peace in the Middle East.

The message and numbers signing (which has already reached 500,000) will be published in US ads and delivered to key powers in the coming days:

Petition to the UN Security Council, the European Union, the Arab League and the USA:

We urge you to act immediately to ensure a comprehensive ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, to protect civilians on all sides, and to address the growing humanitarian crisis. Only through robust international action and oversight can the bloodshed be stopped, the Gaza crossings safely re-opened and real progress made toward a wider peace in 2009.

An adapted and edited version of the petition site.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gordon Brown's plans: definitely more brown than green!

Saw my MP Kerry McCarthy put this question to Gordon Brown at Prime Minister's Question Time today and its been reported on the local newspaper's website,

"Does he agree with me and the people of Bristol that green jobs and sustainable development are the way out of this economic downturn?"

The Prime Minister replied: "I look forward to visiting Bristol very soon. On the environment, she is absolutely right. I believe, coming out of this downturn, some of the triggers for further growth can be investment in the environment. We are going to invest in green jobs and environmental technologies."

I'd very much welcome a comprehensive and coherent plan to create a green economy. Growing numbers of economists eg the authors of the Green New Deal, and at the UN, are saying that investing heavily in efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable transport, reduction, reuse and recycling of waste, building stronger local economies and communities with local production for local needs, is by far the best way to direct our efforts. After all we currently have intimately entangled, mutually reinforcing economic and environmental crises.

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)!?!?

The lack of a real green plan is surely no surprise to anyone given that Mr Brown spent over a decade as Chancellor before his period as PM and we're certainly no greener now than when he came to power!! By the Government's own figures carbon dioxide emissions are higher now than ten yrs ago for instance. Current Brown plans in favour of building more coal fired power stations, the expansion of airports, the building of hundreds of miles of new roads, more nuclear power stations cannot considered green (more here).

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, January 12, 2009

Cows, cars and climate

Letter writer Gil Osman is right to indicate that there is nowhere near enough emphasis on the greenhouse gas methane as one major cause of climate change (here). It is generated in very large and rapidly growing amounts by human activity, beef and dairy farming in particular, because cows produce many litres every day (Gil says 40 litres but some estimates go into hundreds of litres)! Pigs, chickens and other farm animals make a significant contribution also (and methane is also generated in landfill sites and by growing rice and is released to global warming by various means eg as permafrost melts).

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!

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, January 11, 2009

Invest in creating a low waste economy: create jobs, boost efficiency, cut pollution...

1 comment:
Bristol Evening Post columnist Suzanne Savill is someone I’ve often disagreed with (see here and here). She is hardly an advocate of green living. However, in this weekends column, leaving aside some comments that have an unfair dig at recycling, I very strongly agree with the main thrust of her argument on waste. She said ‘…the EU has rightly identified the vast amounts of waste going into limited landfill sites as a concern, it does not appear to have recognised the cause of much of our waste.’ Spot on. To solve the waste problem we need to address its roots – and we haven’t! The focus has largely been on recycling and not much on waste prevention, reduction and reuse as I’ve long and repeatedly argued eg here.

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.

Bristol green spaces flogging delay

1 comment:
The Bristol Evening Post website today reports that,

'Plans to sell off 90 acres of parkland in Bristol will be delayed because the recession has seen land values plummet.

Bristol City Council could hold off for several years until land values rise again before pushing through its plan to sell parcels of green space.

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.'

Any delay should be used to reassess the policy of selling off green land. Its not right to have a kind of 'land sale target'. Other ways of funding improvements to parks must be more fully investigated.

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, January 09, 2009

Create jobs in Bristol by building a green economy

I doubt that anyone can say how many Bristol jobs will be lost due to the current recession with accuracy (the front page of today's local paper headlines 20,000 local jobs at risk). However, there's little doubt that the economic situation is bad and that jobs are going, with more job losses to come.

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,

-The creation of thousands of new green collar jobs

-Reining in reckless aspects of the finance sector – but making low-cost capital available to fund the UK’s green economic shift

-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!

* The Green New Deal Group is:

Larry Elliott, Economics Editor of the Guardian,
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).

Talking trash on Bristol City Council (again!)

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I see that Bristol's councillors have again been talking trash!

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.

We need much more investment in making things from recycled materials here in the UK - and we need consumers to preference buy items made from recycled materials once they are made more available (some background here).

Now is the time to direct govt money this way - to create jobs and build a greener economy for the future!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Shoes made from recycled bus seats and tyres


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, January 06, 2009

Further questioning Bristol City Council on green spaces and transport

1 comment:
The question below has been submitted by me to the next full Bristol City Council meeting (13 Jan 2009) for Cllr Rosalie Walker. It follows up on a series of questions I put to the November Cabinet meeting (see B1 on the list if you follow the link) and follows my complaint to the council that official green spaces policy is not being followed.

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, January 04, 2009

Totterdown Residents Environmental and Social Action

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I've been looking over the website of Totterdown Residents Environmental and Social Action (TRESA) after picking up their newsletter The Talk of Totterdown locally. Its a very intersting organinsation currently active issues like walking, cycling, plastic bags, planning, parks and open spaces, built environment...One issue I'm supporting them on is their campaign for a better route for pedestrians and cyclists along the A4 Bath and Wells Roads from Temple Meads into Totterdown and then Knowle (you can sign the online petition here).

TRESA is certainly one good model for local community groups to look at and learn from, including the Sustainable Knowle group I'm involved with (originally called the Campaign for the Achievement of a Sustainable Knowle) which has begun meeting regularly in recent months. I had some brief and helpful contact with TRESA when I first started thinking about setting up a community-based sustainability and quality of life group in Knowle.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare: petition

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Following a letter from Elizabeth Krammer in todays local paper I've signed this World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) online petition for a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare. I hope others will do likewise as ten million signatures worldwide are being sought to demonstrate the seriousness of the campaign.

According to the WSPA website,

A Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare would be an agreement among people and nations that:

*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.

Community Caretakers Action Group

1 comment:
Received the message below very recently and am passing it on. I wish the unions all the best with their campaign.

Community Caretaking Action Group

One voice together protecting workers rights, ensuring equality and fairness and fighting privatisation. Working towards a better way

Dear councillor / MP


Full blog can be viewed here

Review Update

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.

· No pay rise for three years.
· 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.

Unite Rejects these proposals and in conjunction with the GMB has submitted a counter proposal that still saves money , enhances the role of caretakers and protects terms and conditions.
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)