Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Green on Brown...

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Responding to Gordon Brown's Labour conference speech, Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, said: "Brown talked of Labour's onward march of fairness and justice - but we have a wider gap between rich and poor after 12 years of Labour. Labour has had 12 years to change the voting system, to restore the earnings link to pensions, 12 years to work for nuclear disarmament by axing Trident, to make the Post Office sustainable, and to provide fair wages for working people. And they have not."

"Brown talked of free education and expanded university places, but Labour has been the government to introduce tuition fees and rising student debt."

The Green Party welcomed Brown's aim for 250 000 new green jobs, and up to
10 000 green job placements for youth. But Caroline Lucas said that: "We cannot have a green economy with Labour promises of nuclear power and new coal plants at its core."

Lucas continued: "Unfortunately, Gordon Brown has a track record of grandly announcing projects that led nowhere -- whether it was midnight football, citizens' juries, or a NHS Constitution that ended up having no new enforceable rights."

Lucas also commented on the proposal that 16 and 17 year parents on public support would be sent to a new network of supervised homes: "We strongly object to the idea of forcing all 16 and 17 year-old parents on taxpayer support into a network of supervised homes. It would be a form of paternalistic, 21st-century workhouse. Teen parents flounder, as we've had 12 years of Labour without support for carers, and childcare provision that has been very patchy across the country. We need projects that encourage teen self-esteem and sex education, not punishment after the fact for teen mothers and fathers."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Indigenous Perspectives Conference, Pierian Centre - Monday 12th October: 9.30am–4.30pm

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This from Bristol's Pierian Centre: One of Britain's leading adventurers, Benedict Allen, is to open the Indigenous Perspectives Conference on Monday 12th October. Allen is the author of 11 books, but is probably best known for his TV programmes of exploration and endurance. His first-hand experience of indigenous people in jungle, tundra and desert qualifies him to speak with authority and warmth at this one-day conference at the Pierian Centre.

The Indigenous Perspectives Conference brings together representatives of indigenous peoples from all over the world together with campaigners and academics specialising in different aspects of indigenous culture. It celebrates the 2nd anniversary of the U.N’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – and it is a unique opportunity to hear the indigenous voice in all its variety, and to find out how close to silence and extinction it’s being pushed.

The cultures covered include the Jumma of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the Mapuche of Chile, the Emberá of Panama, West Papua, Tibet, the Kiribati islands of Micronesia, and the Yagan and Kawesqar peoples of Tierra del Fuego. Speakers range from senior academics to individuals who have been jailed and beaten for defending their culture.

Benedict Allen has narrowly escaped death six times; arguably no-one has more experience of living continuously isolated in as many remote environments.

Last seen on our screens in March presenting BBC’s Travellers’ Century, Allen paved the way for the current generation of TV adventurers. As The Sunday Times put it: “Filming whatever actually happens, without all the hidden paraphernalia of a film crew, and whether in danger or lonely or undergoing various exotic rituals, he has effectively taken the viewers’ experience of adventure as far as it can go.”

Allen himself looks back on his earlier journeys over 25 years ago, saying “I belonged to the last generation that might pass through a wilderness for months on end and not encounter a single person of my own culture. It was a privileged time: never in all those years can I remember coming across a single other foreigner, whilst out on a trek.”

The conference falls with heavy irony on Columbus Day (12th October) – and also coincides with the 40th year of Survival International’s invaluable work. If you’re interested in attending please contact us on or 0117 924 4512.

In addition to plenary sessions reviewing issues like the impact of climate change on indigenous peoples, there will be small-group seminars on the experience of military force , the role of tourism, the impact of historic genocides on surviving peoples, the relationship with the land, sustaining cultural identity in exile, and the tensions between traditional and democratic authority.

The Conference is on Monday 12th October, 9.30am–4.30pm. It takes place at The Pierian Centre, 27 Portland Square, St Pauls, Bristol BS2 8SA. The delegate rate of £45 includes lunch and refreshments – with limited concessionary places at £25 for low income, and £12.50 for students.

Monday, September 28, 2009

In praise of...tap water

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Drinking tap water cuts both your bills and your carbon footprint - and more of us should be drinking it wherever we are, including in restaurants, at work and at home! Just look at these killer facts (provided by Wessex Water's website):

*Bottled water costs 500 times more than tap water.

*One in five people are too embarrassed to ask for tap water in a restaurant.

*The average person drinks 37.6 litres of bottled water each year.

*2.7 million tonnes of plastic are used to bottle water each year.

*22 million tonnes of bottled water are transferred from country to country each year.

*Three out of four plastic water bottles are still not recycled.

*Bottled water has a carbon footprint up to 300 times higher than tap water.

Friday, September 25, 2009

More action on climate change from councils - give them power and responsibility

Very happy to support this Friends of the Earth campaign to get the Government to give councils the power and responsibility to do more about climate change. I sent off their suggested email to John Denham MP, the current Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.


The UK is committed to achieving CO2 emissions reductions of 34% by 2020. To do so will require radical action by local authorities in their areas.

I support the Government's view that local authorities should have a greater role in tackling climate change.

But I believe that this greater role means that all local authorities should have more responsibility for tackling climate change in their area. At the moment, only a few local authorities are taking real action, and most local authorities are doing very little.

The Government must set the bottom line for councils. There must be a mechanism ensuring a minimum standard of action on climate change for every local authority - so each has short term targets, or local carbon budgets, to reduce the emissions in its area in line with the latest science.

Each council should produce a plan of how to make the emissions cuts, and they should not be achieved through offsetting - either trading between councils and businesses, or buying international carbon credits.

Not acting can no longer be an option for any council if we are to meet the UK's climate targets and avoid dangerous climate change.

Local authorities need more support from national government as well. I support the following proposals:

- A requirement for all local authorities to prepare a plan setting out how they will reduce the carbon emissions in their local area (in line with the Climate Change Act targets and carbon budgets)

- A new regional technical advice body on Climate Change to help provide the information-base for action on climate change at local level.

- Giving councils the flexibilty to use innovative mechanisms for positive climate solutions.

- A strong role for local authorities in coordinating funding streams e.g. more jurisdiction in working with energy suppliers, and for energy suppliers to supply data to local authorities on energy use.

- More community engagement in developing local climate solutions The best councils moving ahead isn't enough. We don't have time for partial measures. According to the IPCC, world emissions have to peak by 2015 to give any chance of avoiding a 2 degree temperature rise. All the latest science suggests even this may be too optimistic.

This is a shared responsibility. All local authorities need to act, not just the minority that are currently seriously prioritising the issue.

Today is Earth Overshoot Day 09 (ecological debt for the rest of the year)

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News from the Global Footprinting Network that today is Earth Overshoot Day '09. This means that 'Just like any country, company, or household, nature has a budget – it can only produce so much resources and absorb so much waste each year. The problem is, our demand on nature exceeds its capacity to generate resources and absorb CO2,a condition known as ecological overshoot. We now use a year’s worth of capacity in less than 10 months. Our calculations show that if we continue with business as usual, according to moderate U.N. projections, in less than 25 years humanity will require the regenerative capacity of two planets– a level of demand that is likely to be physically impossible to meet.'

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

News on rethinking how we assess and measure progress

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These two pieces of news, on rethinking GDP (which happens to be the topic I completed my MSc dissertation on in 1998/9) and establishing new eco footprint standards, from the Global Footprint Network could turn out to be very important for our future:

Sarkozy Urges GDP Rethink

Global Footprint Network Comments on Stiglitz Report

During the year and a half since French President Nicolas Sarkozy established the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, it has focused on one challenge: How can we move beyond GDP to broader measures of a nation’s economic, social and environmental well-being?

Global Footprint Network applauds this effort and congratulates the Commission for taking a crucial step toward answering that question through its release of the Stiglitz Report. The report synthesizes the complex field of economic performance and social progress indicators and substantiates the voices of early pioneers like Hazel Henderson and Hermann Daly.
With this report, there is now wide agreement that humanity’s success in the 21st century depends largely on robust navigational tools. The report has built a productive platform for further discussions. However, there is still much work to do. The report points out that there is no consensus yet as to which indicators provide the greatest value, and how they should be applied in guiding public policy.
More >


New Footprint Standards Released

Global Footprint Network is pleased to announce the release of the Ecological Footprint Standards 2009. This document builds on the first set of internationally recognized Ecological Footprint Standards, released in 2006, and includes key updates – such as, for the first time, providing guidelines and standards for product and organizational Footprint assessments.

Monday, September 21, 2009

To protect the green belt, or not to protect the green belt...

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I totally agree with letter writer Nicola Harold that we must act urgently to save our green spaces (‘Time to save green spaces is running out’, Post, Sept 21 2009). I have to say that the fight for green spaces is not helped by those politicians who, it appears, face in two opposing directions. We need clarity of principle, policy and action but aren't getting it.

I recently asked Lib Dem Councillor Jon Rogers Bristol’s Executive Member for Transport and Sustainability whether large scale development should be be permitted on green belt land around Bristol…He replied, ‘My colleagues and I have campaigned and won in the recent election with a pledge to “fight the loss of Green Belt” and that remains our policy.’

However, Lib Dem leader of Bristol City Council, Barbara Janke has given her wholeheated and active support to the idea of building a new Bristol City football stadium. Where? In the green belt that separates Long Ashton from Bristol!!

So, what happened to fighting the loss of green belt?? They want to have their cake and eat it!

Lament for St Peter's in Knowle? Andy Sheppard plays in call for hospice to stay open

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This from the Save Our Hospice group I'm active in (15 Addison Road, Victoria Park, Bristol, BS3 4QH,

Press release:

Andy Sheppard plays in call for hospice to stay open

Renowned jazz musician, Andy Sheppard, is supporting the campaigning group urging St Peter’s Hospice not to close their hospice in Knowle. He will accompany members of the local group, Save Our Hospice, when they present a petition to Keith Bonham, MBE, the Chair of the Trustees, at St Peter’s Hospice, Charlton Road, Brentry on Tuesday, 22nd September, at 5.30pm.

Together with many other well-known musicians, Andy Sheppard is very aware of the excellent care provided by the hospice in Knowle, because of his working association and friendship with Heloise Osborne, a long-time producer of jazz concerts, tours and festivals, who died there last November. Nod Knowles, Chief Executive of Bath’s International Music Festival and another close friend and colleague of Heloise Osborne’s said today: “The hospice meant so much to Heloise – it helped her with essential care and effective pain relief and provided friendship and shared understanding with other terminally ill patients in the day centre. Crucially, because it was in South Bristol, she and her loved ones were able to get there without too much difficulty.”

As St Peter’s Hospice have already decided to close the hospice in Knowle, Andy Sheppard will be playing a lament on his saxophone for all the people who may be denied specialist in-patient pain relief and hospice care as a result of this decision. Save Our Hospice invite you to photograph, film and listen to Andy’s playing.

Save Our Hospice has written to all the Trustees urging them to reconsider their decision, and the letter has been tabled for discussion at the Trusteees’ quarterly meeting next Tuesday.

Paula Davis, a member of Save Our Hospice, says: “£300,000 is what is required to repair the Knowle hospice and bring it up to standard. Once gone, it will cost many millions to launch a new hospice in South Bristol and it will probably never be replaced. This is a valuable resource and we really cannot afford to lose 10 hospice beds, especially when the Bristol PCT has set a target of reducing the number of people who die in hospital unnecessarily by 10% each year for the next three years. Where will these people go if they require specialist care? Come on St Peter’s Trustees and Chief Executive! Start an emergency fundraising appeal and we will all support you. It’s easier to keep the Knowle hospice than to start again.”

For further information please ring 07929 897149 or email to speak to:

Paula Davis
Glenn Vowles
Dr Chris Fox, a GP in south Bristol supporting the campaign

*Online version of our petition to be presented along with our paper version:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The value of North Street's local shops

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Excellent film!! It gives a clear voice to loads of people and makes a clear, strong case. Will people from certain quarters automatically criticise this in the same way they automatically criticise their 'political campaigner' stereotype??

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lord Mayor of Bristol and MPs form giant human clock for Bristol ‘Global Climate Wake Up Call’

MPs and Councillors certainly need to wake up and act on climate issues - along with the rest of us!! This from Oxfam South West:

At 12:18 pm on 21st September, Oxfam South West is hosting the Bristol ‘Global Climate Wake Up Call’ at Arnolfini as part of a global wave, starting from New York, to wake the world up to the urgency of action on climate change.

A giant human clock, formed by the Lord Mayor of Bristol Christopher Davies, local MPs, councillors, Unaiti Jaime of Oxfam Mozambique, and climate change campaigners will ring out at 12:18 to mark the Bristol ‘Wake Up Call’. The call is drawing the worlds’ attention to the 12th month and the 18th day when the vital Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, which opens on 7th December, is scheduled to finish.

“This event is part of a worldwide wake up call which is thrilling in its variety,” says Roger James of Oxfam South West. “A gathering in Ethiopia will beat drums to sound the alarm, monks will chant prayers. People everywhere, from Bristol to Buenos Aires, will sound alarms on their mobile phones, flood their governments with phone calls and make a tremendous noise at 12:18 pm local time to push for action on climate change.”

The images, sounds, and videos from around the globe will be stitched together overnight for presentation to world leaders the next day at the United Nations to press the urgency of securing a fair and safe global climate change deal.

Oxfam South West is teaming up with Arnolfini, which is presenting 100 Days of exhibitions, performances, screenings and debates around issues of climate change to mark the countdown to the Climate Change Summit opening in Copenhagen.

“We are delighted to team with up with Arnolfini to mark the global countdown to the world’s most significant climate change conference in history,” says Roger James.

At the event, Unaiti Jaime, who is the gender equality officer at Oxfam Mozambique, will talk about her experience of climate change and will be celebrating Bristol’s twinning with Beira in Mozambique, as well as Bristol’s leadership in climate change action.

Other guest speakers include the Lord Mayor of Bristol Christopher Davies, Arnolfini director Tom Trevor, and Roger James of Oxfam South West.


For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Karen Lindsay
Oxfam Media and Campaigns South West
0117 916 6477 /

Notes to editors:

More on the Global Climate Wake Up Call can be found at the following link:

Information on Arnolfini’s 100 days can be found here:

Oxfam works with others to overcome poverty and suffering.

Oxfam GB is a member of Oxfam International and a company limited by guarantee registered in England No. 612172.
Registered office: Oxfam House, John Smith Drive, Cowley, Oxford, OX4 2JY.
A registered charity in England and Wales (no 202918) and Scotland (SCO 039042)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

...the crust presented by the life of lies.../A Beautiful Lie

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While I was clearing out some paperwork the other day I came across a print out of an email with the quote below from The Power of the Powerless by writer, former dissident and politician Vaclav Havel. Its a great piece of writing that makes me think of how industrial society and our rapidly industrialising world have yet to confront the truth of climate change and act accordingly.

For the crust presented by the life of lies is made of strange stuff. As long as it seals off hermetically the entire society, it appears to be made of stone. But the moment someone breaks through in one place, when one person cries out, 'The emperor is naked!' - when a single person breaks the rules of the game, thus exposing it as a game - everything suddenly appears in another light and the whole crust seems then to be made of a tissue on the point of tearing and disintegrating uncontrollably.

My daughter had the song A Beautiful Lie by 30 Seconds to Mars playing at the time. They seem to go together so I've paired them here. See what you think.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Climate tipping point...

Many thanks to Graham Davey for passing on the link to this excellent animation. The website a page with the full script of the film plus supporting references.

Wake Up, Freak Out - then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo.
It turns out that the way we have been calculating the future impacts of climate change up to now has been
missing a really important piece of the picture. It seems we are now dangerously close to the tipping point in the world's climate system; this is the point of no return, after which truly catastrophic changes become inevitable

Wake Up, Freak Out - then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Caroline become the Green MP for Brighton Pavillion

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News from the Greens: Caroline Lucas officially launched her bid last night to become the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, at a special event held at Brighton's
Fabrica Gallery.

Dr Lucas, who is also leader of the Green Party and a Green MEP, used
a speech at the event - hosted by BBC Radio 4's Marcus Brigstocke - to
unveil core Green Party campaigning themes around the economy and
public services.

In a stinging attack on the Government, the speech highlighted
Labour's poor handling of the current economic crisis and its
systematic failure to regulate the activities of banks and other
financial institutions.

Highlighting issues of concern both at a national level and specific
to Brighton and Hove, Dr Lucas also used the speech to reinforce the
Green Party's commitment to building a fairer society and to tackling
a spiralling inequality that sees as many as one in five UK children
living in poverty.

Caroline Lucas said: "In recent years the Green Party has gone from
strength to strength, securing unprecedented victories in both the
European Elections and local by-elections, and now we intend to secure
the first Green seat in Westminster for Brighton Pavilion.

She added: "Greens are about delivering a dynamic economy, and one
that benefits people waiting tables at restaurants in Preston Street,
or those working in Brighton and Hove's unique digital media sector -
not just a handful of people in the Square Mile.

"Greens are also about defending the Royal Sussex hospital as a local,
free-at-the-point-of-delivery public service - so that everyone can
access decent healthcare, and so that we aren't paying extortionate
fees to private shareholders."

She continued: "With the economy and public services in crisis, and
traditional Westminster politics perpetually mired in sleaze, only the
Green Party offers the people of Brighton and Hove - and beyond - a
future built around honest politics and common sense policies."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Free Eco Team training event, 26 Sept, Bristol

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Received the email below today and am passing on the message to those who follow this blog, as promised:

Dear Sir or Madam

Global Action Plan is an environmental charity that delivers tangible environmental, social and financial improvements by working practically and creatively with hundreds of thousands of people from all sections of society. In homes, the workplace, schools and the wider community we help to make the small changes that have a big impact on the things that matter.

Global Action Plan's EcoTeams programme helps households to reduce their impact on the environment and to save money. EcoTeams are groups of 6-8 people who meet once a month for approximately 5 months. At each meeting, EcoTeam participants decide together on the environmental actions that they are able and willing to do at home, and share experiences of the actions they have already taken.

Currently we are running a major national project with the goal to reach a minimum of 20,000 households over the next 2 years. In order to achieve that goal we will be running a free training event in Bristol on the 26th of September 2009.

Please find attached further details concerning this. [*See below]

We would be very happy if you could help spreading the information throughout the community and promoting signing up for the event. Would it be possible for us to post an entry in your Blog?
Kind Regards
Nicole Linke

*Invitation to become an EcoTeam leader

Come and join the 20,000 households across England taking part in EcoTeams.

We are offering you the opportunity to attend one of our free events and receive training to become an EcoTeam leader. You will learn how to set up your own EcoTeam, how to tackle your environmental footprint and just why it is so important.

EcoTeams are groups of people – neighbours, friends, colleagues – who work together to make positive changes; from minimising the energy they use to cutting down on the stuff they throw away.

With the support of a trained team leader, team members agree their own goals and how to achieve them. At the end of the exercise, they can measure how their actions have benefitted both the environment and their pockets.

A household taking part typically:

· reduces CO2 emissions by 16.6%
· reduces heating energy consumption by 21%
· reduces rubbish by 20%
· reduces water use by 15%
· reduces energy & water bills by £170 a year

We are currently running training events in:

London 5th September 2009

Bristol 26th September 2009

Leeds 7th November 2009

Further venues and dates to be added soon.

Register for an event or join online anywhere in the UK at

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Significant stats (3): International Aid $120bn/yr; Revenue lost to developing countries $160bn/yr

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That's $40 billion arrears to poor countries due to international tax dodging! Extreme poverty could be tackled with this money!! Join me in the Outlandish Revenue Service and do something about this. Send a letter to Chancellor Alistair Darling with some 'final demands' in it.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Imposed goals or goals that emerge from the community?

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I'm off to the Knowle West Futures Conference at The Park in Daventry Rd tomorrow representing the perspective of the Sustainable Knowle group I coordinate (I also have a strong personal interest as I'm from this area and because I'm now lecturing in environmental decision making in addition to my usual environmental science/technology/studies lecturing work). My key hope is that what happens in Knowle West emerges from the work of the community and not due to a set of goals that come from outside, though the signs are not good on this. There is a good deal about the regeneration of Knowle West isues on the council website (here and here especially). The conference organisers say,

'We would like to invite you to take an active part in shaping the future of Knowle West. The Knowle West Futures conference is the first in aseries of events where we from Urban Initiatives, working on behalf of Bristol City Council, need your ideas, knowledge and feedback to make the best possible plan for Knowle West.'
It will be a busy day as there is a lot on the agenda and many interrelated issues will arise, including issues of green space use that were not discussed at the local Area Green Space Plan meetings and issues of decision making processes...(Knowle and Windmill Hill wards were discussed at several meetings but we were told by council officers that consideration of Filwood ward would have to wait - so Filwood's green spaces are not being dealt with by the same process as the other two Neighbourhood Partnership wards).

Friday, September 04, 2009

Climate change...after all is only weather (?)

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The appropriately named Bob Bull, thinks climate change is just 'hype' (‘Don’t believe all that climate change hype’, Post, September 2). But something that has been repeatedly subject to rigorous scientific investigation in ever more sophisticated ways, scrutinised and debated by all manner of people over decades, surely has to be much, much more than the promotion, advertisement and exaggerated claims that Bob says it is! I guess this is the same Bob Bull that is Bristol spokeman of the Association of British Drivers and that his interest is unduly colouring his ‘interpretation’ of the facts – he refers to ‘political zealots’ taking over but through his own words shows that there are such zealots on all sides of the climate debate!

It could be that Bob does not bother with science and the facts at all. How else could he come up with the phrase ‘…climate change, which after all is only weather.’ ? If he bothered to look it up he’d find that weather is the state of our atmosphere short term whereas climate is a long term view of weather patterns. This is a distinction that is crucially important to understanding climate change. The fact that Bob does not understand this fully explains why he feels able to give the statement ‘temperatures have not risen since 2002’ as good evidence against global warming. If what he said was true it would not be relevant because it’s the long term pattern that we should be concerned with. In any case both the NASA and Met Office websites agree that the ten warmest years since modern records began have all occurred since 1997!!

Not only is Bob wrong in thinking that climate and weather are the same, he is also obviously wrong to say its ‘only weather’ and ‘weather is weather’. The weather and how it changes is crucial to: water supplies, including flooding and droughts; crop yields, including food and timber supplies & food availability to raise animals; health and disease, including aspects like rate of spread and heat stress; energy consumption eg for air conditioning; tourism levels; rates of coastal erosion; occurrence and severity of impact of air pollution such as photochemical smog; and more!!

Finally Bob’s view is that ‘green’ and ‘climate change’ campaigns impoverish the world. However, I’d point out that there few if any governments around the world are genuinely green and tackling climate change – and its very much our persistence with the current greed-based, un-green economic system that has brought both economic booms and busts and serious environmental degradation requiring urgent action!