Thursday, May 31, 2012

Businessman Mayor ?

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A BRISTOL businessman is the latest candidate to put himself forward in the race to become the city's first elected mayor. Andy Thorne, managing director of Thorne Security, the long-established locksmith and security firm...(full story)

Businessman Mr Thorne talks about waste, taxpayers money, effciency and how Bristol is not developing because planning gets in the way. This is clearly a right of centre agenda, though what he says is very light indeed on indicating any clear policies. He does not talk about education, transport, social services, housing, environmental quality etc as priorities, which perhaps tells a story.

Not sure what Mr Thorne would make of it but I've just sent in this suggestion for adding to the Manifesto for Bristol....Surely the manifesto needs to say something about sustainability? How about including this, which attempts a reasonably complete and operational definition of sustainability, in the vision: Develop a city that: respects environmental limits; builds strong, resilient local communities; meets city needs now and in the future; has a focus on both local and global fairness and equality; strives for ever greater resource efficiency; replaces finite resource use with well managed renewable resources; uses health, wellbeing and quality of life as the indicator of progress; works through an evidence-based, reasoned, systems-thinking approach.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Steiner and science

A group of parents and teachers have launched a campaign to create a new free school. The Bristol Steiner Free School group announced...that it would bid next February for government approval of the project. Free schools are state-funded but independent of council control and set up in response to demand from groups of parents....[The group said the school would have] a strong academic element, specialising in environmental sciences...The Steiner School movement emerged from the ideas of early 20th century educationalist Rudolf Steiner. (full story).

Steiner (pictured) claimed direct experience of the 'spiritual' world. He was a philosopher, occultist, social reformer, architect, esotericist. and founded Anthroposophy. Anthoposophy claims to investigate the spiritual world and believes it can attain precise and clear conclusions in the same way that science concludes about the physical world.

I've been an active green for 30 yrs and I teach environmental sciences  (which is simply the proper application of scientific methods to the environment). I do not support Steiner's ideas or Steiner Free Schools and would point to the British Humanist Association concerns about them (see ).

Like others commenting on this Post report I can’t see how Steiner's ideas are at all consistent with modern science and its methods and so I am as concerned about Steiner Free Schools setting up with public money and support as I am about certain other kinds of Free School with a significant ideology behind them instead of openness, questioning and reason.

Background on Steiner:  and  

Love the local

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Bedminster has been named as the region’s only successful bidder in the first round of the Government’s ‘Portas Pilots’ – an initiative to get TV retail guru Mary Portas to help revitalise town centres....‘Bemmie’, as it’s affectionately known in the city, will now get a £100,000 grant and the expertise of Mary Portas and the project team (more here). Might as well have given Bedminster a bag of peanuts because that's all that £100,000 is. The focus on the issue of local shopping areas, and high streets, and the availability of some expertise, is welcome, provided it goes beyond govt public relations - but the amount of money is really tiny. What's really needed is a strategic, genuinely participative approach, backed by appropriate amounts of money which starts to shift the whole economic emphasis towards the local, regional and national economy and de-emphasising the global economy which is the source of so many problems.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


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On the journey of the Olympic torch I'm in firm agreement with Post commenter LeighWoods1 who said 'One thing, closing one of the main arteries to the city [Bristol] for what is essentially the procession of a large zippo lighter is a huge waste of resources and I would like someone to assess the impact upon our economy of this silly and pointless exercise.' (more here)

And as for the massive news coverage of this torch - we have weeks and weeks more of it to go yet and its already very tiresome and wasteful. Its torchure.

@ raverbaby1 - "finding all the negative comments a bit shocking really - can i assume you all feel we should have disregarded history and tradition..."

No, just wanting a decent sense of proportion, perspective, good sense and a proper sense of priorities. Many people have gone far over the top with claims about what staging the Olympics can do for our country - its something that is easily said but very hard to demonstrate historically and with hard facts, especially economic ones

@ Bristoldjsuk - “I am excited for the olympics and the sports etc, however the torch spectacle is a bit odd. The corporate band wagon and advertising is becoming increasingly tedious and I feel it's detracting from the actual point of the olympics, the sports. It's still months away, yet we are being hyped into a frenzy as if it's tomorrow..."

Yes, absolutely. I'm dead keen on the Olympics but purely as a sporting event. It shows us the excellence that can be achieved by human efforts - if we have the motivation and discipline we can all harness our talents, sometimes with support, sometimes because we are not supported. We may gain as people from the example and experience of this. What I dont buy and am opposed to is the weeks and months of hype, the waste of resources, the possibility of overall economic gain due to staging the event, the sponsorhip and corporatism - and the misplaced nationalism.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nuclear no no

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No-one would disagree (would they?) that burying waste from today's nuclear power stations leaves a very big set of social, economic and environmental problems for many generations to come. Since sustainability is about dealing with risks and costs now and not passing problems to future generations it therefore follows that burying nuclear waste is inherently unsustainable. The following question alone demonstrates this: with waste that can be active for thousands of yrs how can it be possible to guarantee that the institutions needed would be stable beyond periods which have so far proved to be whole lifetimes of civilisations?

Despite the logic above the UK plans to build more nuclear power stations (if the huge economic cost obstacles can be overcome) and the ' for an underground storage site for high-level nuclear waste is likely to go ahead in Cumbria after a poll showed residents are in favour.

In Copeland, the local authority area encapsulating Sellafield [pictured], 68% of people backed entering formal talks with government on hosting the repository.

Across Cumbria as a whole, 53% are in favour and 33% opposed...'
(full report here).

Monday, May 21, 2012

Petty politics

The mud has begun to fly in the race to become Bristol's first elected mayor, says this Post report.Where is the substance in this bit of local politics? Nothing that Bristol Labour Party are saying is evidence based. Only Mr Ferguson knows exactly why he resigned when he did  - and I have to say, as someone who is not one of his fans, that he has always been an independent person.
Purely personal criticism as in this story is hardly going to take the debate forward at all. Its policies and leadership that should be the focus. This may be a problem for months yet though because no potential candidate is talking much about policies at all !!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ferguson favourite

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Architect George Ferguson has emerged as the early favourite to become Bristol’s first elected mayor. He is quoted by Ladbrokes at 2/1...(full Post story here).
George Ferguson is a pretty canny operator. He does have a decent chance of becoming the first Mayor of Bristol, though I don’t see how the odds make much sense at this very early stage. Arguably he already has a national standing which no other potential candidate currently in the picture can equal.

It will be interesting to see the policies George and his team come up with - and what the Lib Dem position on selecting a candidate is. Other independent candidates may emerge and the Greens may put someone up too.

Some background on George Ferguson here and here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Stop BRT2

1 comment:
Passing on details of this site and campaign. I'm preparing some emails to send to the relevant cabinet members and councillors asking questions and opposing the scheme.

We want BRT2 stopped because
It will not achieve its primary goal of addressing Bristol's transport problems and needs.
It will not achieve its goal because it is a flawed plan, badly designed, too expensive, and will have adverse effects on the city, the environment, and local people.

STOP BRT2 | . . . there are better ways

Leadership lite

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Architect George Ferguson has launched his campaign to become Bristol's first elected mayor.
In a speech at the Tobacco Factory in Southville last night, he told supporters he would stand as an independent candidate campaigning under the banner Bristol First.Although he did not outline policies he would introduce...(full Post story here).

George Ferguson has some strong views and therefore already has policies in mind I'm sure. That he is not putting them forward now is, I suggest, part of his electoral strategy. He is perhaps intending to appear to be all things to all people. If he wants to lead the city then lets see him begin this process by telling us where he stands and what principles or rules will guide his decisions  ie give us some indicative policies and show that there is some substance and weight to his candidacy.

Snippet of the debate I'm involved in on the Post website:

@PJ1979 '" the election is in November, so the policy issue should be parked until Aug/Sept.
Also what is wrong with a focus group"

Hmmm...little indication of any policies at all when you've gone to the trouble of appearing in the media, delivering a speech and launching your candidacy. No - its clear that if he is to lead all of Bristol he should give us a much better indication of what principles and rules will direct his decisions. The thing is that George Ferguson does have policy positions - he is a former Liberal, he's been a councillor, he's contested a general election, he is a director of the think tank Demos, he's been involved in a number of other words he occupies a distinct political position but is saying little about it. Why? Well, I assume its the political tactic he's chosen to use.

As for focus groups - they are a selection of group members. They may exclude some members of the community and not be representative. They require proper facilitation and serving - and can be time consuming. There are quite a few ways in which they can be manipulated to get the outcome favoured all along, or at least to get an outcome that is not hostile - surely the decade of Blair/Brown government taught us that. I'm not opposed to consultation but it has to be genuine.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bristol Blogger

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The Bristol Blogger is back, according to this post here. I do hope that this is the case and on a similar basis to the previous excellent, educational and entertaining Bristol Blogger site. With ongoing shennanigans on the council, all sorts of strife in the country and around the continent - and the first ever Mayoral elections due to take place this November, including one George Ferguson as one of the contenders - surely the pot is in great need of stirring?

The Bristol Blogger | My name is Legion: for we are many.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Carbon con

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Work has restarted on the groundbreaking "green" homes project at Hanham Hall on the outskirts of Bristol... Developer Barratt Homes won the contract to build the pioneering one, two, three, four and five-bed homes which are expected to set the construction industry's benchmark for "green" living... so they meet the new 2016 Zero Carbon Building Regulation standards...(full story)

Thing is that the houses, whilst having many interesting features, won’t actually be zero carbon. Now, you'd think that 'zero carbon' is pretty clear cut - but what the Govt have done is change the definition of 'zero carbon' to make the standard easier to meet!! (See here and here for some of the past debate).

HCA head of area David Warburton said: "It has been our long-held ambition to deliver an exemplar, energy efficient community at Hanham Hall, which local people will be proud to live in.

"This is now one of two projects of its kind in the country. It is great news that local people will soon see evidence of the bold vision for the project coming to life when work progresses on the delivery of a fantastic new modern and sustainable community at Hanham Hall."

I certainly want to see truly sustainable homes being built but they won’t be if they are not zero carbon. And when I read comments like the one above I also wonder whether they have given much thought to social sustainability, including making homes affordable and having a decent mixed community and facilities etc? Economic, social and environmental factors must work together for proper sustainability to be achieved.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Greenery = healthy

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More evidence that green spaces are good for you (see here). More access to green spaces means: less liklihood of developing asthma or allergies; lower levels of stress; greater likelihood of a more active lifestyle; greater opportunities to mentally and physically engage with the natural world. Promoting good health was always one of the key reasons why Bristol should be protecting and increasing its green spaces not flogging them - and protecting its green belt from inappropriate developments like the proposed South Bristol Ring Road/Link and the Bristol City stadium (picture shows Ashton Vale green belt)  .

"Urbanisation is a relatively recent phenomenon, and for most of our time we have been interacting in an area that resembles what we now call the natural environment," he said.

"Urbanisation can be seen as a lost opportunity for many people to interact with the natural environment and its biodiversity, including the microbial communities."

While it was not possible to reverse the global trend of urbanisation, he said that there were a number of options.

"Apart from reserving natural areas outside of urban areas, I think it is important to develop city planning that includes green spaces, green belts and green infrastructure," Dr Hanski suggested

Friday, May 04, 2012

Nuclear liability

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The eye-watering expense of nuclear power | Jonathon Porritt | Environment |

The coalition wants us to depend more and more on nuclear power, but quite simply, it is too expensive to be able to deliver...

Democracy dead?

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Bristol has said yes to an Elected Mayor - just  - 53% Yes, 47% No, with the majority a mere 5152 votes, see here. Just one person in ten voting at worst and one in three voting at best is a very worrying statistic however (see here). Everyone involved in any way in politics and outside it should be thinking hard about what can be done to change things and get people enthused about and involved in the decisions that affect their lives and those of others.

I’d like to see whoever gets elected as the first Mayor of Bristol commit themselves to consulting the people directly on a lot more issues. The technology now exists to make this easy and cheap to do eg via laptop or mobile...

If the numbers voting stay low or decrease further perhaps we should make voting compulsory? I'd be happy to see this, provided ballot papers had a box with 'none of the above' where voters could put their cross. As it is people are entitled not to vote and that's our democracy - though problems of legitimacy must arise as the numbers voting fall.

If 'none of the above' was an option we'd have to decide what would happen if that option won the election though!