Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Breast Cancer site: click on 'donating a mammogram' for free

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Passing this message on from Jean.
A favour to ask, it only takes a minute....

Please tell ten friends to tell ten today! The Breast Cancer site is having trouble getting enough people to click on their site daily to meet their quota of donating at least one free mammogram a day to an underprivileged woman. It takes less than a minute to go to their site and click on 'donating a mammogram' for free (pink window in the middle).

This doesn't cost you a thing. Their corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate mammogram in exchange for advertising..

Here's the web site! Pass it along to people you know.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tony Juniper and Sir Jonathon Porritt call on people to vote Green

Former Director of Friends of the Earth Tony Juniper and Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission Sir Jonathon Porritt call for people to vote Green in Euro and local elections this June. Very influential support indeed.

Sustainable Communities Act suggestion scheme: various proposals submitted

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I've been going back over my blog and listing the various changes I've proposed or implied. Originally I intended to go through the entire site (over 500 posts to date), list all suggestions and submit them to Bristol City Council via their Sustainable Communities Act online form.

I found that after going through about 60 posts I'd already listed 21 suggestions, that it was taking a very long time and that the list could become very long!! I settled on submitting the first 21 (below) today. I have not had time to discuss the suggestions with friends/colleagues much and have had very little time to test them against the list of criteria they have to conform to.

When I went to the council briefing on use of the Sustainable Communities Act in March I found that many hurdles had been placed in the way of suggestions: 1. very little time was available for communities to organise and to formulate them (deadline 1 May !!) 2. guidance on the nature of suggestions was very limited 3.suggestions submitted have to jump through officer, local panel, local councillor committee, local Cabinet and Local Government Association hoops before they even get to the Secretary of State who has the final decision on implementation.
All of which makes you wonder how much genuinely local stuff will be left!! Local and central government do not respect the spirit and intention of the Act ie to empower local communities. Any guesses as to how far through the process my suggestions will go??

* A default speed limit of 20mph on all UK residential roads to be introduced in place of the current 30mph.

* Monthly, local and central government supported and advertised 'lights out' campaign to limit wasteful lighting and encourage energy saving.

*Carbon budgets to be allocated to all individuals/households/businesses and trading in carbon allocations facilitated.

*House building targets to be set by local authorities in conjunction with local communities as a replacement for imposition by regional/central government.

*Submission of 'before and after' biodiversity and eco-footprint data to be a compulsory part of all planning applications - the data to be a statutory consideration for planning committees.

*A code of conduct for all elected representatives at all levels (along with their key public officials), based on the Nolan reports 7 principles for standards in public life to be a part of the constitution of all local and central government bodies.

*Government to assess all technologies according to at least its: technical capabilities and limitations; environmental impacts now and into the future; cost-effectiveness now and into the future; employment impacts now and into the future; before supporting in any way.

*All major population centres to have integrated transport authoritiies, with a majority from the general public on the committees running them.

*Local, regional and national government to review all communications according to Plain English standards.

*The status of general public contributions to planning committee proceedings to be raised to equal that of council officers eg in terms of time allocated and facilities available for presentation and committee proceedings to facilitate two-way interaction between officers, councillors and the general public via a question and answer session(s).

*Government to publish a general welfare or wellbeing index, calculated by factoring in the external costs and benefits of achieving economic growth, alongside GDP figures (councils or another suitable agency to publish equivalent local figures).

*Potential loss of local community facilities to be assessed via the quantified total costs and benefits of any change, that is the social and environmental costs and benefits as well as economic.

*Developments permitted on any greenfield site to be required to fully compensate for the total ecological footprint caused.

*Transport policy and practice locally and nationally to be reviewed to ensure that walking and cycling are prioritised above and before motorised transport in principle and in practice.

*Empty houses and other properties that could be used to house people to be promptly brought into good use before building on green (or even brown) land.

*Government to allow immigration that equals emigration, achieving a net zero increase.

*Planning committees to be given a broader range of statutory considerations to apply to planning applications to decrease the likelihood that granting or refusing planning permission goes against the rational problem solving process.

*All public consultations conducted by all levels of government to be tested against a set of ‘fairness, openness and balance’ criteria before embarked upon.

*Transport costs to be directly related to the total costs of travel by factoring in external costs and benefits, fuel/tickets/fares to be adjusted accordingly.

*Those currently required to annually publish financial accounts to be required to publish social and environmental accounts alongside.

*Councils to annually publish their total ecological footprint, established via a standardised method.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Corn starch bag introduction: poor environmental decision making

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Councillor Gary Hopkins introduction of corn starch plastic bags free to all households that want them is a waste of £100,000 per year of our council taxes and is poor environmental decision making. I sympathise with many of the sentiments expressed by letter writers Bernard Seward, Ambrose Porter and Malcolm Leslie (Feedback: Corn Starch Bags, Post, April 28).

It makes little economic sense to have the council bearing the cost of introducing a manufactured bio-plastic bag into a recycling system where the vast majority of Bristol's public are already managing perfectly well wrapping their food waste in a free, otherwise waste, product. They use newspaper, other waste paper or empty cereal packets etc.

Its makes little environmental sense either, as the bags increase the total environmental impact of the recycling system itself. Even if the bags in isolation are carbon neutral, the farming of the corn to get the starch and the manufacturing and transport of the bags certainly are not. Additionally, land used to grow corn for the bags is land that could be growing food for people! Land may even be cleared to grow the corn, at a cost to wildlife.

Its worrying that environmental decisions like this aren't approached rationally ie by gathering full information and assessing it before deciding. Greens have persistently requested that data on total bag environmental impact should be gathered before their possible introduction. No attempt was made at getting even broad estimates. Poor and incorrect responses were given to questions. One council official claimed, with no supporting evidence whatsoever, that because the bags were made from biomass (material from living origins) they were carbon neutral -mahogany doors are made from biomass but no-one would suggest that its carbon neutral to cut down and process rainforest trees to get them!!

The idea of the bags is to get more people recycling food scraps, cutting council waste costs and cutting environmental impacts. However, since the total environmental impact of bag introduction has not been established we will not be able to calculate whether any environmental gains made from increased recycling fully compensate for the environmental cost of making the bags. Even if they did its a very inefficient and expensive way to cut impacts - £100,000 per year more for energy saving, getting people out of cars and onto bikes or getting people to grow some of their own food, can easily be shown as far better options. Less chance of 'green' publicity and kudos for Cllr Hopkins with these options perhaps?? Or is this all much more about saving money alone??

Monday, April 27, 2009

How not to use modern technology in political campaigning

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Are you more likely to vote Lib Dem or Labour after seeing their performance in the clips below? Scary stuff.

Government is missing key climate, energy and transport targets

1 comment:
Gordon Brown's actions do not match his words of promise. The UK Govt will fail to meet its climate change target because of continued reliance on coal and gas power stations, according to Cambridge Econometrics. It will also miss by a 'wide margin' its target for developing renewable energy, according to the UK Energy and Environment Report. The UK Energy Research Centre finds that the UK lags behind other countries in terms of sustainable travel like walking, cycling, car sharing. These things are hardly unconnected are they!!

Further information/background: here

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Budget: this Green is underwhelmed

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Greens have been calling for significant investment in the green economy, action on poverty and inequality, a real attempt to sort out the debt ridden money system, a switch to eco-taxation...and are distinctly underwhelmed by the budget - it's a massive missed opportunity. Alistair Darling failed to produce a budget that will address entwined economic and environmental problems thus missing out on massive job creation in emerging industries (see Green New Deal). Failing to invest properly in: energy efficiency; solar energy; wind and biomass energy; upgrading the electricity grid; in rail and bus travel; and in new skills training will cost us dear economically, socially, and environmentally.

A year ago borrowing this year was supposed to be £38 billion but by the autumn it was £118 billion, and today £175 billion is needed. The Chancellor persists with the same economic goals as before. The unprecedented borrowing figures illustrate well the folly of building public finances that rely on growth. We need to replace growth at any cost as the primary goal with stability, security and sustainability (more).

Previous posts illustrate how we already seriously lag behind other countries in the "greenness" of our green stimulus plan (if indeed it merits this description at all). We need a stimulus orders of magnitude higher than we have or we will never meet tough emissions targets or maximise job creation potential. The Government proposes £1bn on climate change including £435m for energy efficiency, £525m on offshore wind - far too little and needs to build up to be 10 to 15 times as much.

The Government trumpetted its budgeting of carbon emissions. Greens produced a carbon budget two years ago! 10% annual cuts are what the evidence says we need, not 1-2%. Money for carbon capture and storage demonstration projects is putting money into an untried technology which if it can prove itself is likely to arrive too late. Good sense tells us we need things that are tried and tested now, like insulation, wind, solar (more here). Government incentives to get more oil from the North Sea announced in the budget are bizarre when we want to cut carbon!!

The Government's own sustainability advisors, the Sustainable Development Commission, proposed a £30bn investment package very similar to the Green Party's Budget proposals (see yesterday's post for details of various recent Sustainable Development Commission reports). They calculated that this would create 800,000 jobs.

The budget outlined a £2000 subsidy for a new car if a car over ten years old is scrapped. This doesn’t actually help the environment or job creation that much, given the carbon cost of manufacturing the car. Ideally we'd build cars to last longer - designing them to be refitted and improved over time would reduce the associated energy and significantly increase the amount of labour involved, by comparison with new manufacture. The budget proposal will create relatively few jobs and a far cheaper and more effective way to cut carbon and help everyone is to invest properly in rail and bus travel and in promoting car clubs (more on transport here).

The budegt often simply did not go far enough. It included £1.7Bn extra help for jobseekers, but only £250m for training. Help with finding a job is no good if there are no jobs to find. Training though is a productive activity for anyone, especially unemployed people when jobs are short. £500m was allocated on new homes - not enough. Only £100m on council houses.

Darling announced a cut in public sector pensions. Average public sector pension is only £3000, reflecting poor pay. Greens want to see better pensions for all, and the foundation is a better state pension which should be set at £165 a week in the party's view.

Higher rate tax relief on pensions removed for those above £150,000 is a welcome development as it matches current Green policy. Introducing a 50% tax rate for incomes above £150,000 is also welcome but I'd only consider this a start - we really need to go much further, bring in genuine eco-taxation, introduce further tax bands on the super-wealthy and take low earners out of tax altogether.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sustainability and tomorrows Budget

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Three excellent posts on the blog of Sustainable Development Commission Chairman Jonathon Porritt. All relate closely to tomorrow's budget and I recommend looking over each of them:

Save Our Green Spaces and Green Belt, Bristol

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Read about this excellent film in yesterday's local paper, found it and watched it. The save the green belt message is expressed very movingly and powerfully in it. Please watch it. Tell your friends, family and colleagues to watch it. Do as the film asks and contact your MP, Councillor, Council and Government asking them to make designating land as green belt actually mean it is protected and conserved for generations to come - this land use planning concept is supposed to be used to retain areas of largely undeveloped, wild, or agricultural land surrounding or neighbouring urban areas.
More information:

The stated objectives of green belt policy are to:

*Protect natural or semi natural environments
*Improve air quality within urban areas
*Ensure that urban dwellers have access to countryside, with consequent educational and recreational opportunities, and
*Protect the unique character of rural communities which might otherwise be absorbed by expanding suburbs.

The green belt has many benefits for people:

*Walking, camping, and biking areas close to the cities and towns
*Habitat for wild plants, animals and wildlife
*Cleaner air and water
*Better land use of areas within the bordering cities.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Vowles backs Eddy's call for pool closures to be reassessed

Its welcome news that Jubilee Swimming Pool will remain open (along with Bishopsworth Pool) for a bit longer than originally anticipated (‘Delight at pools remaining open’, Post, April 15). I’m altogether opposed to Jubilee’s planned closure and regret that this reprieve, due to delays to work on the new Hengrove Park pool, is being looked on as merely temporary. I agree with Councillor Richard Eddy’s when he said ‘With this extra time I think their fate should be reassessed.’

Closing Jubilee and other pools may put people off going for swim, a very healthy physical activity, just when we are supposed to be trying harder to encourage it. It may be those who find it most awkward to travel further that are most put off, such as the elderly or families with young children.

Replacing a short, no cost, sustainable walk to the local pool with an unsustainable and more expensive car trip is not good in these times of all times. Swimmers in Knowle would have to travel further to swim after the closure, adding to air pollution and climate change.

I believe all local councillors should work harder to stand up for locally available facilities and feel very let down that Jubilee has apparently been given up on by some. I want the council to work hard to get a more rounded, balanced, less purely financial, greener and more democratic decision made on Jubilee Pool and other local pools. Other local community services and facilities should be similarly looked upon.

I would like to see them reverse the closure decision and go back to the idea of reviewing the situation once the new leisure centre at Hengrove Park opens. I don’t agree with a decision taken on purely financial grounds. Any review should not only be a financial audit but should also be a social and environmental audit, examining the total impact of closure and of alternatives to it. This should be combined with completely open discussions on what it would take to keep Jubilee Pool open with all its users and other interested parties locally. I feel people who really believed in fighting for local facilities would be strongly arguing for this within Bristol's Cabinet.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Zero Carbon Future

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Nice accurate, brief and concise video on how to build a zero carbon future, cutting imported energy, becoming much less wasteful, investing in renewable energy massively, from the Centre for Alternative Technology.

Zero Carbon Britain from Zero Carbon Britain on Vimeo.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Going for a good walk...

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Get Walking Day ’09, which aims to enable people to see the physical, mental, environmental and social benefits of walking is now being promoted by the Ramblers, Britain’s walking charity. They are inviting everyone in the south west and elsewhere to a free walking festival over the Bank Holiday weekend of 30 May and 1 June. A whole series of short walks (less than 5 miles) has been organised in many towns, cities and country areas, many of which have associated refreshments and special events. Further details from:

Consider the massive benefits of walking. It can be done at no cost or might even save you money spent on petrol or bus fares, brilliant given the economic downturn. It can easily be fitted into a daily routine and in periods of leisure and is available to the vast majority of us with no need for particularly special equipment or instruction.

It helps keep body and mind fit and healthy: exercising the heart and lungs; reducing body fat by efficiently burning calories; helping to improve bone density; increasing muscle tone; boosting metabolism; easing anxiety and stress; raising energy levels; improving sleep. It can help prevent illness if done regularly: reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, osteoporosis and arthritis.

Its environmentally beneficial, helping us use our cars less, reducing carbon emissions which contribute to climate change – and given that half of all journeys are two miles or less it can often, with a bit of planning, be practical.

It increases contact between people and enhances the vitality of our communities and so is socially beneficial. Get your friends and family to join in - it can be a lot of fun!

For more information call the Ramblers press office 0207 339 8531/32 or 07801 749 385 (out of hours),,

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Green Knight for Europe - elect Ricky Knight as an MEP for the South West Region

Below is a guest post written by Councillor Ricky Knight, the Greens lead candidate in the forthcoming European elections (June 4), who I am very happy to actively support:

I love this world. It’s so fragile and yet we don’t look after it as we should. I’m doing everything in my power to stop it from being destroyed bit by bit by apathy and indifference – and selfish greed. Fancy joining me?

I know that as first-time voters or as people who have never bothered to vote, cos ‘they’re all the same, waste of time, nothing changes’, it is difficult to find something to believe in, especially politically. But I know too that there are enough of you out there, like me, who do believe in the possibility and power of change.

Can you believe in a Green Knight for Europe? No, not the third in a comic film trilogy – it’s me, on my bike, all charged up and ready to represent you, for a change. I’m fed up with pretending there’s nothing we can do to change the world around us. We can do it.

I tried to become an MP – but the ‘First Past the Post’ system for Westminster makes it very hard. But Europe is different. I actually have a good chance of being elected – with your help. Your vote will not be wasted. Europe is where we can make this change happen together.

That’s why I am running to become the South West’s first Green Member of European Parliament. Bit of a mouthful, sorry - hence spreading the word this way, through the ether. Just imagine – you tell 10 friends, they each tell 10 friends and so on and by June 4th, 2009, all of your votes might actually count towards something you believe in.
You can contact Ricky here: or or tel 0117 3763742 or write to or call in at the campaign office 72/73 Old Market St, Bristol, BS2 0EJ. You can join his new Facebook Group of supporters here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

South Bristol Car Share website now live

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The South Bristol Car Share website has gone live. Many of us are car sharing with friends and family all the time. It makes good sense. This website make it easier to car share by bringing drivers who can offer lifts together with passengers who need them, with costs split in two. The benefits - lower travel costs, less congestion, cleaner air, improved access - are high and its well worth cosidering this option.

Traffic has grown massively and is forecast to grow still further. Cars pour out climate changing emissions and cause congestion that costs us dear - and every day there are millions of empty seats in our cars. Friends of the Earth put these figures on the benefits of car sharing:

*If average car occupancy was to increase by half - with 2.37 persons per car rather than 1.58 - it would lead to a one-third fall in traffic.

*If there was an increase of 10% - with 1.74 persons per car on average - this would reduce traffic on our roads by 9%.

*Over half of drivers would share a car to work if there was someone suitable to travel with.

*A 10% car occupancy rise would reduce congestion by as much as a doubling rail usage.

If you want to discuss travel/transport issues, including cycling, walking, car sharing, public transport, the benefits and drawbacks of car use...there is a workshop on 29 April, 6.30pm at Knowle West Media Centre.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

20’s Plenty For Us: Cutting speeds with no speed bumps

Large groups of us used to kick a ball around or race our bikes around the block in 1960’s and 70’s Knowle. Kids playing in the street is a much rarer sight now, not least because our roads are much busier. The current default speed limit of 30mph in areas where people live was set in 1934 when there were 1.5 million motor vehicles. Now there are a massive 33 million!!

Road traffic in the UK is the single biggest cause of premature deaths for boys and the second biggest cause for girls age 5-15. Every year in Bristol 500 people are killed or seriously injured on the roads, the burden falling hardest on the poorest, with 24 of every 100 child pedestrian casualties being in the most deprived neighbourhoods compared to 1 in 100 in the least deprived. At 20mph a pedestrian knocked over stands a 90% chance of surviving. At 40mph they stand a 90% chance of dying. 20mph in residential areas is clearly fast enough, and the new "20's Plenty For Us" initiative in the area is aiming to make this a reality.

Compare our residential street speed limit of 30mph with the speed limit in Northern European towns. Our limit is 60% higher than the 18.5 mph (30 kph) limits that they have for streets where people live. No wonder perhaps that 92% of pedestrian deaths are on urban roads in the UK and at 21% we have a higher proportion of pedestrian deaths on the roads than any of our European neighbours.

In Hilden, Germany, the setting of their 18.5 mph (30 kph) limit in the early 90's was the foundation of them encouraging cycling and walking. In fact now 23% of in-town trips are made by children and adults using bikes instead of cars.

Something has to change to bring us into the 21st century. Adults lead more sedentary lives in part because they spend more time in their cars. Children lead less active lives in part because we worry about the dangers posed by road traffic. The growth of physically inactive lifestyles in industrialised countries has led to what many are calling a major public health crisis. Preventable illnesses associated with inactivity and obesity include stroke, heart attack, certain cancers, diabetes, and depression.

Around 40% of people in the UK report being bothered by noise from traffic, nearly double the figure from the 1970’s. Children living near busy roads suffer significantly higher rates of asthma and West of England Partnership figures show that over 100,000 Bristolians live in areas where air quality is considered to be potentially damaging to health.

Cars travelling too fast in residential areas have helped to create social degradation. Neighbours across the road from each other don't talk to each as often as they used when I was kicking a ball about with mates, because a gulf is created by cars speeding past. As far back as 1969 Prof David Appleyard found that community was eroded on San Francisco streets with busier traffic.

A study by Kevin Leyden in 2003 found that people ‘living in walkable, mixed use neighbourhoods were more likely to know their neighbours, participate politically, trust others and be socially engaged, compared with those living in car-oriented suburbs’. Research on Bristol’s streets by Josh Hart at UWE showed that motor vehicle traffic is responsible for a considerable deterioration in residential community, measured by average number of social contacts, extent of perceived ‘home territory’, and reported street-based social activity. Several studies show that people whose homes had windows facing busy streets were more often depressed.

20's Plenty For Us was formed in order to work for the implementation of 20 mph as the default speed limit on residential roads in the UK, in place of 30mph. The balance is shifting towards roads and streets as public spaces for people rather than just motors – safer, cleaner, healthier and more civil. Quality of life would be better, with less noise, lower pollution, greater child mobility, walking, cycling and talking encouraged, better general wellbeing.

The Bristol 20’s Plenty group was recently launched to help build improved quality of life in local communities. 40 neighbourhood champions are already in place, including myself in Knowle. The target is 100 champions so if you want to be involved either as a champion yourself or as part of a team then phone us or send an email ( or check out the national and local websites for up to date news, reports, articles, action packs, support and resources (

20mph is an idea whose time has come, with growing numbers of cities doing it, including Portsmouth, Oxford, Norwich, Leicester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Islington has just decided to become the first London Borough to implement an authority-wide 20mph limit where people live and Hackney look set to follow. Transport for London is making funds available for all London Boroughs to set a 20mph default. Bristol will be piloting 20mph in some residential streets in the south and east of the city soon and so getting the council to go the whole way is deliverable – which is why 20’s Plenty are working in communities, urging people to talk to their councillors!
Research has shown that the vast majority of the public, over 80% in polls, would like 20 mph on residential roads. After all its where people live!! The Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety found that 70% of drivers want it too. Recent changes in Dept of Transport guidelines have relaxed the recommendations and in many residential areas 20 mph limits may be set without any physical measures at all – which means the cost of the change is small.

Portsmouth City Council has now created 1200 streets with 20 mph – and they did it with only 6 traffic orders, in just nine months without any speed bumps at a cost of £475,000, the cost of about two sets of traffic lights. Speeds have already reduced by an average of 3mph and the whole community has a collective commitment to sharing the roads better. The cost of 20mph in Bristol is likely to be approx £1.5 million as we are bigger than Portsmouth but this is a tiny amount considering that if a person is unfortunate enough to be hit by a car at 30mph they are likely to die whereas at 20mph they are likely to live! Further information:

email -

Contact: Steve Kinsella 01934 838624 The Old Forge Kingston Bridge, Clevedon, BS21 6TX