Wednesday, March 28, 2012

CPRE Bristol

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A new CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) group is being set up in Bristol. This is good news. CPRE is a grassroots organisation, led by volunteers, but it has a powerful national voice – planners and politicians listen to them. I hope that this group will become a strong voice in Bristol to campaign for a greener city surrounded by a thriving countryside, using CPRE’s resources and planning expertise to set out a positive vision for change.

As part of this move CPRE are holding a public meeting at 7.30pm on Tuesday 3rd April at the Horfield Quaker Meeting House (300 Gloucester Road, Bristol BS7 8PD). All are welcome – entry is via the main entrance to the left of the building.

The new National Planning Policy Framework was published yesterday. It looks as though CPRE’s relentless lobbying and pressure on the Government has paid off to some extent, with additional safeguards for the environment now present, but it still removes a huge body of regulations that guided planning. Meanwhile, the Localism Act gives new powers to communities to plan development in their area.

CPRE  see both a threat and an opportunity – if the government is not going to control planning, then we should step in and reclaim control of our own neighbourhoods, and support others to do the same.

Its hoped that the Bristol group will take a special interest in Localism and local food – CPRE want to explore how communities can use neighbourhood planning to develop local food infrastructure and build links with local farming communities. But also want to keep an eye on the bigger picture, a vision of Bristol as a clean, green city circled by farmland, woods and water.

If you think you might like to join the new group or if you are interested in these issues and you want to hear more, please do go along on Tuesday. This is an open public meeting, so please pass this message on to others who might be interested.

Contact Joe Evans, Director, CPRE Avonside
07854 741130 for further information.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Anthropocene Animation

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A 3-minute journey through the last 250 years of our history, from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the Rio+20 Summit. The film charts the growth of humanity into a global force on an equivalent scale to major geological processes. The film was commissioned by the Planet Under Pressure conference, London 26-29 March, a major international conference focusing on solutions.  

For more go to

Carbon Centre

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At last! More serious attention is being given to the accurate measurement of carbon emissions. One might well ask why it's taken so long when our society has been committed  since the late 1980s - in words at least - to sustainable development. Sustainable carbon emissions are the number one performance measure within sustainable development...

A new UK facility aimed at improving measurement of carbon emissions and boosting development of clean technology is due to open. The Centre for Carbon Measurement will be based at the National Physical Laboratory in south-west London. It will raise accuracy of climate data, support better emissions monitoring to ensure a fair carbon market, and verify claims made about low-carbon products...more

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Technology tale

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I'm an advocate of scientific and technological thinking. Many currently define technology far too narrowly though - and most often in terms of applied science, business and commerce. For more effective problem solving and opportunity taking we should be thinking more broadly and making connections - its more creative and more likely to anticipate consequences or potential consequences of actions.

Technology is not just about rational problem solving either, there are political, organisational and psychological dimensions. Technology is the sum total of our practical knowledge and it predates science, industrialisation, capitalism...Its something we need to learn to be more selective and controlled about adopting, through proper, thorough technological assessment processes.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Budget below the belt

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Wouldn't it have been fairer, more just and better economics to keep the 50% tax rate and bring in additional measures to make sure that people could not avoid paying it so easily, if that's what is happening on a large scale? I thought we had debts to pay off and that the Govt needed the money for this.

There will be many well-off high rate tax payers who have circumstances such that they wont be liable to pay the additional wealth taxes in the budget, who will thus get a large net tax cut. Its a budget that George Osbourne's mates will like and benefit from I'm sure.

More on the budget here and here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Greenest government?

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Govt have clearly gone over the top with their greenwash and greenspeak. Just 2% of the UK public believe they live under the "greenest government ever", according to an opinion poll.

And only 4% want to see laws protecting the countryside weakened, as the government is expected to do this week.

Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to lead the "greenest government ever" on taking office in 2010.

Critics say that recent decisions on climate change, forests, badger culling, urban pollution and nature protection have undermined the claim...(more)

Mind you the real situation is much worse than the public think - 53% of people say the government is about average on green issues and 10% say it is greener than average. In fact its not green at all - its taking us in a direction opposite to a green one and we are missing out on building a healthier, economically stable, more energy secure and more food secure future as a result.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Baloney for Bristol?

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I'm not a fan of having an Elected Mayor of Bristol. I'm also not a fan of George Ferguson, who's a possible candidate if Bristolians vote to have a Mayor this May (see here). This would therefore be a 'double whammy' for me. George talks such baloney at times...perhaps its a qualification for doing what he does?

'...a city with a strong centre but then also a concentric city with lots of different centres...'

A classic example of George Ferguson's nonsensical foolishness. A concentric shape, by definition, has one centre. Thought this man was an architect!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Blackmailing Bristol?

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The Coalition Govt is attempting to coerce or force voters in Bristol into voting for an Elected Mayor. To coerce or force a particular action is called blackmail isn't it?

' BRISTOL is less likely to get new powers from the Government if it doesn’t agree to an elected mayor...Previously the official line from the coalition was new powers for local authorities like Bristol – to sort out the city’s transport for example – were not dependent on saying yes to an elected mayor in May’s referendum....Minister for Cities Greg Clark [pictured]...made it clear cities that had an elected mayor would be treated differently to those that didn’t.'(more)

Vote for an Elected Mayor because that's what central govt wants. If you dont vote for an Elected Mayor you wont get additional powers and will find it harder to get money from us. Do what we want or you will lose out - there's 'localism' for you !!! Cheers Greg.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Waste war

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Excellent work on food waste from Kerry McCarthy, Labour's MP for Bristol East. The Post reports that she has launched a campaign to prevent surplus food from supermarkets from being thrown away.

Kerry McCarthy was today due to introduce legislation that would place a legal duty on companies to donate excess food to charities.

Her Food Waste Bill, which was due to be presented to Parliament this afternoon, has already received cross-party support, including from Green leader Caroline Lucas and Tory Zac Goldsmith. If no objections are lodged, it will progress to the next stage of the legislative process.

Under the Bristol East MP's proposed changes, barriers that are stopping organisations from donating food, like fears over legal liability, would be swept away.

Incentives would be put in place to persuade smaller companies to take part, while food that is unfit for humans would be given to livestock....' (more)

Kerry’s Bill begins to tackle one part of the food waste problem but there’s still a lot to do on food waste as a whole. There is concern about rising food prices yet 33% of the food we buy is thrown away ie one bag in every three! I'm not a fan of big supermarkets. They are a part of the food waste problem certainly but it’s clear that there are food waste and efficiency issues all the way along the chain from soil to shops to home to plate to soil again and each of us must take some responsibility.
Of course not all those who complain of or worry about rising food prices will also be wasteful but levels of food waste are so high that there must be a good deal of hypocrisy out there. This is a problem of lack of awareness but also a problem of plenty and of affluence. Where shortage and poverty are greatest waste is highly likely to be smallest, but shortage/poverty is generally not now the case in the UK and so wasteful habits and cultures have grown. We need to establish a thrifty culture.

Great tips and advice on cutting food waste, saving money and enjoying food from Love food hate waste.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Forestry and fuel

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Biomass does, up to a point, have potential to supply us with some of our heat energy and electrical power. This could be direct, in our homes, via good quality wood burners using sustainably produced logs. It could also be through biomass power stations, preferably combined heat and power ones. Not all biomass fuels or power stations are environmentally friendly though - it depends how you define and obtain the biomass. I was interested therefore to see this story Go-ahead given for new biomass power station where Govt has permitted a biomass power station at Royal Portbury Dock.

'The DECC said the plant would be fuelled mainly by imported virgin wood, dedicated energy crops and locally-sourced waste wood.'

Why cant we expand out forestry industry and fuel this power station fully ourselves instead of importing virgin wood? Wouldn't that be combining good, job-creating local economic development with fuel security and more environmentally friendly practice?? An expanded forestry industry would also have the benefits of soaking up pollution as the trees grow and providing wildlife habitats and opportunities for recreation. Get a proper energy and economic strategy - join the dots!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Climate and carbon

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This week is Climate Week. I'm all in favour of raising awareness of climate change and the need for urgent action on a significant scale though I find that many of these sort of initiatives provide more opportunities for greenwash and greenspeak than real, concerted green action. I note that significant contributors to climate change such as Tesco, EDF, H&M...are sponsors of the week!!! I have serious doubts about the policies of Govt, councils and business on carbon reduction and climate change - they are too small scale and too slow and so dont match best science. We are missing out on good, sustainable economic development as a result too. Many approaches dont show joined up thinking eg more products are being marked with their carbon footprint but shoppers dont have any information to tell them what is too high or too low a footprint and there is no requirement for them to stay within a carbon budget in any case. Anyhow, here's a screencast I've made giving an essential guide to carbon footprinting - call it one of  my contributions to the week:


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People far too often resort to unjustified labelling in debate. Accusations of being a NIMBY (not in my back yard) are common in discussions for and against development for instance. Using the term implies that those accused hold narrow, selfish, short-sighted views in opposing change. I've found that people labelled in this way usually dont hold such views and often have a developed case with a range of reasons so, whatever the rights and wrongs of the instance, the label is unfairly applied.

Here's one example, involving  plans to redevelop a Network Rail site by building nine three story homes at Bellevue Terrace, Totterdown, Bristol. Just down the road from me. One commenter on the story thinks objecting to this development is '...the purest example of NIMBYism I've seen in weeks..' even though one resident, backed by her local councillor, describes how the space is green and good for wildlife. Suzanne Ferris said: "The former allotment site was a verdant space bright with nature in a heavily built-up area. The urbanisation of this wildlife pocket will remove forever part of the green corridor from the railway line to Arnos Vale Cemetery.”

You can have a look for yourself at the place here (and in the photos above). Its hardly the Amazon (!) but if we are serious about issues such as: the value of green spaces to our relaxation and health; obtaining and maintaining healthy populations of wildlife eg garden birds like sparrows and starlings; the value of green spaces as a temporary 'store and release' mechanism for water when it rains heavily; green spaces as carbon absorbing...then at some point we surely have to stop concreting over every bit of local, small-scale greenery?      

Opposing development that would change a space from pollution absorbing and biodiversity providing to pollution producing and biodiversity cutting is perfectly reasonable. Its not NIMBYism because all that would say is 'not here' in a narrow, selfish and short-sighted way and people in this area clearly have more reasons than that! If you are going to use the tactic of labelling people you need to give justification for doing so.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Marriage menace???

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More unreasonable rubbish is today being spoken against gay marriage with this: The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales is stepping up its campaign against the government's plan to legalise same-sex marriage. In a letter being read in thousands of parish churches, the two most senior archbishops say the change would reduce the significance of marriage, and that Catholics have a duty to make sure it doesn't happen. Archbishop Peter Smith told the BBC a married couple and their children "forms the basic building block of a healthy society". (more here and here)
Why on Earth would allowing gay men and women to get married be any threat to heterosexual marriage? How would it or could it hinder the Catholic view of marriage as being between a man and a woman who want to procreate? Our society is more than big enough to accomodate different perspectives on marriage though apparently some religions and religious figures are not. It seems to me that their overreaction is much more of a threat to the institutions they say they value than gay marriage is. Take a look at some of the arguments on this issue:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Parking proposal

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Plenty of whinges but not much in the way of constructive suggestions from commenters on this story 'Bristol businesses facing workplace parking levy'. Bristol's transport system has large and longstanding problems, such as from congestion and pollution. It costs city dwellers and workers a lot in money, health and environmental terms. What solutions do the whinging commenters propose?

For me the area shown in the map (above left) showing two possible boundaries for the workplace parking levy scheme is far too small and has many inconsistencies - and the city's proposals for 'sustainable' transport and 'green' taxes (if indeed they meet the proper definition of sustainable and green) are often too timid, unintegrated and lacking in coherence. A properly stategic approach is what is needed, so that all council policies pull in the same direction.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Greenest Government Grumbles

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Labour MP Michael Meacher takes the Cameron Govt to task on its green claims - and makes some decent points on renewable energy, energy efficiency, the Green Investment Bank...Two days ago Ed Davey, the replacement for Huhne as Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, repeated again the Coalition’s boast that it was the greenest government ever. Even by the standards of current self-congratulatory political rhetoric, that’s pretty vapid. It’s worth exploring the actual record. The Coalition Agreement proposed to increase the target for energy from renewable sources. In 2010 the UK was ranked third in the world for investment in green business, and investment in alternative energy and clean technology reached £7bn. However it has now been rated 13th, mainly because investment in wind energy fell 40% last year, with only one offshore wind-farm being completed. That reflected the Chancellor’s openly stated negative attitude to green energy, supported by the letter sent by 101 Conservative MPs to the Prime Minister deploring wind-power development both onshore and offshore...Friends of the Earth in their recent report...judged that they found little or no progress in three-quarters of the government’s 77 green policies that they examined. (more)  

Africa - action?

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Urgent action is needed to stop drought in West Africa's Sahel region turning into a humanitarian disaster affecting 13 million people, Oxfam says.

The charity says the international community waited too long to respond to famine in East Africa last year.

Oxfam has launched a £23m ($36m) emergency appeal to help reach more than a million of the most vulnerable...(more)

To donate to this Oxfam emergency appeal click here.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Safer speed

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Excellent news here: Bristol's residential roads to have blanket 20mph speed limit. At 20mph a pedestrian knocked over stands a greater than 90% chance of surviving. At 40mph they stand a 90% chance of dying! When traffic is slowed down to 20 mph, there is a 70 per cent drop in accidents to child pedestrians. A 20 mph speed limit on residential roads therefore makes a great deal of sense, so well done to all those who have brought this decision about. I hope all drivers will be responsible and adjust their speeds when they see the signs. See here for much more on the case for 20mph where people live.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Sculpture slipup

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Like, I suspect, many others I dont think substantial Art's Council funding for the Nowhereisland floating sculpture is money well spent, especially at this time of cuts. The benefits that could have been received by spending the half a million pounds in another way are very likely to be much greater. Someone has not looked into the opportunity costs properly - better arts alternatives have been forgone in order to fund this sculpture. It also strikes me the the environmental impact of producing and transporting this piece of art wont be small - yet I thought the Olympics this is a part of was supposed to be green! The project's website is here if you want to find out more about it. 

Monday, March 05, 2012

Rubbish reporting

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What are the journalists at the Evening Post on? There are no details at all to tell readers of this story why the animal rights people were protesting at Bristol Airport. Nothing on which animal rights group(s), of which there are several, including some very different outlooks and methods. Whatever the rights and wrongs of 'animal rights' and the tactics that have been used I'd like to know why exactly the protest occurred.

To make matters confusing the Post additionally reports - under the same headline - what seems to be an entirely unconnected protest in any entirely different place that had absolutely nothing to do with animal rights! The Youth Fight for Jobs story should have been given its own headline if they felt it was worthy of reporting.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Dinosaurs not extinct

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Dinosaurs are still alive and well in the UK today. There are various extinct, frequently large, meat eating or veggie reptiles of the orders Saurischia and Ornithischia that lived mainly on the land between approximately 65 and 200 million years ago. Then there are relics of the past, holding to hopelessly outdated, obsolete ideas and practices - such as some MPs and Cardinals.  A Conservative MP has described proposals to allow gay marriage as "completely nuts". In the House of Commons, Peter Bone urged the Church of England to block the plans, as it believed marriage had to be "between a man and a woman"...(details here).

The government's plans for gay marriage have been criticised by the most senior Roman Catholic cleric in Britain. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, said the plans were a "grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right"... (details here). 

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Environmental efforts

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Plenty more talk on sustainability and environmental issues coming this year - at the end of this month UK's Royal Society hosts Planet Under Pressure; in June the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, takes place 20 yrs on from the Rio Earth Summit; the IUCN World Conservation Congress, begins 6 September...Conferences have value of course but what we've needed for over three decades now is action from Governments, businesses - anyone and anything unsustainable - that produces significant change and outcomes. 

Friday, March 02, 2012

Confusion or clarity?

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The town green/new Bristol City football stadium in the green belt saga goes on. The latest Evening Post headline says that confusion reigns but the judge '...told the assembled legal teams that he was “minded” to approve the application for judicial review...The judge said he had fresh evidence that he wished to consider.'. This is clear not confusing. The judge is going to mull over some new evidence and deliberate just a bit more. Some journalists are 'easily confused' it seems!!

Food facts

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Extremely revealing photographs showing what people in different countries eat in a week laid out in full view '...see the difference between "eating to live" and "living to eat." Thanks to Ellie for the link to this.

Daily Kos: Global Food Disparity: A Photo Diary