22 August 2006

Domestic Wind Turbines in Leamington

Janet Alty (of the Leamington Green Party) was on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire this morning, talking about her planning application for a 1KW domestic wind turbine. It was great how she emphasised that the use of renewable energy had to go hand-in-hand with using less energy, and how she plans to use specific forms of energy at specific times, i.e. sun's been shining, use hot water, wind's a blowin', time to use the vacuum.

The British Wind Energy Association has an informative website, complete with information about grants from the Low Carbon Buildings Programme.

21 August 2006

Captive Radio in Rugby

Warwickshire's newest radio station is in Rye Hill Prison, near Rugby. At a certain point, with such a high per capita prison population, one of the highest in Europe along with Russia, England needs to face up to preparing inmates for life after release and drastically scaling down our prison population.

Prison director Alan Bramley said: "This is a wonderful learning project, for students of media and journalism in the prison, who can work alongside our writer in residence." He added: "We want to rehabilitate offenders, give a sense of social responsibility and help them prepare to reintegrate into mainstream society on release.
I've followed the work of prison radio as a way of training inmates for life after release at HMP Wandsworth. At "Radio Wanno," inmates are paired with a mentor on release from prison.

This person is there to provide general support and advice in the crucial first 6 months/year of release. Sponsors recruited from young broadcast journalists and postgraduate journalism students help the prisoners working on Radio Wanno by providing them with outside material to make their programmes throughout their BTEC qualification, a nationally recognised award in broadcasting. As part of their course and the running of the station, prisoners make packages and documentaries, not only about aspects of prison life, but about issues outside prison which affect their lives and their families. Sponsors gain useful contacts and work experience that open doors to interesting programming opportunities and they also gain valuable work experience for their CVs.

Geothermal Heating - Iceland and Earlsdon

I'm off later this week to my sister-in-law's wedding in Iceland. Is she Icelandic? No, she's from Salford. I guess she just likes Iceland. In Iceland, 45% of their energy is from geothermal sources, all those geysers and volcanoes.

In Reykjavik, for example (population 145,000), hot water is piped in from 25 kilometers away, and residents use it for heating and for hot tap water.
In Coventry, we have one of the UK leaders in geothermal heating technology, Geothermal International. Their systems help heat and cool schools, as well as Gloucestershire Police HQ.

Four to six feet below the earth's surface, temperatures remain relatively constant year-round. A geothermal system, which typically consists of an indoor unit and a buried earth loop, capitalizes on these constant temperatures to provide "free" energy. In winter, fluid circulating through the system's earth loop absorbs stored heat and carries it indoors. The indoor unit compresses the heat to a higher temperature and distributes it throughout the building. In summer, the system reverses, pulling heat from the building, carrying it through the earth loop and depositing it in the cooler earth.

Plastic and Incineration

A persistent issue in Coventry and Warwickshire is incineration. Oh, but don't call it incineration, the Conservatives call it a "Waste to Energy" plant. Is burning plastic, rather than strongly encouraging people not to buy plastic in the first place, the way to govern Coventry? Linking electricity generation and waste leaves Coventry dependent upon burning plastic.

It remains to be seen how much a local incinerator will devalue your house, despite recent rebranding. Incinerators are now ERFs (energy recovery facilities) or EFWs (energy from waste plants), focusing on their capacity to capture heat and electricity from the calorific value of rubbish.

Audaciously, this electricity is sometimes referred to as 'renewable', but it's a funny renewable energy that requires a perpetual supply of plastic made from non-renewable petroleum. Setting fire to the evidence of a throwaway society also rather scuppers the prospects for reducing, reusing and recycling.

20 August 2006

The Causes of Islamic Radicalism

Jason Burke in The Observer today looks at the causes of Islamic radicalism in Britain.

"People who think kids do it because they are poorly integrated are wrong," said Mark Sageman, former CIA officer and terrorism expert. Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist, has studied the backgrounds of hundreds of militants and concluded that there is no "terrorist type or personality" nor evidence of psychological illness. Instead, Sageman points to small group dynamics as a key trigger. "Kids get together. They talk the talk. A few decide to act. These are self-organised groups of volunteers. Al-Qaeda is like Harvard. It doesn't need to recruit."

Imams at universities talk of widespread and profound anger and disaffection, as well as a deep cynicism towards political institutions. "For five years young Muslim people have been trying to influence a policy that they are profoundly opposed to without success," said one. "Naturally they are losing faith in the democratic institutions of the country. That means that their anger and frustration is more likely to be channelled elsewhere. I have had young people literally crying with frustration in front of me."

Ashraf Miah, 34, civil servant -- "There is no conflict between British and Muslim values. There are obvious differences in lifestyles, but that is an issue of choice - and regardless of which choice you make, it doesn't mean you can't be British ... it's a question of understanding and of dialogue. There are huge problems with the impact of the government's foreign policy on the Islamic world, but this isn't a conflict between Muslim values and British values; it's a conflict between an ethical foreign policy and an unethical one."

John Pilger Film Festival

The Barbican in London is having a John Pilger film festival from the 14th September to the 21st of September. They will be showing 17 of Pilger's 50 documentary films on issues ranging from Burma to Iraq to Coca-Cola to the IMF/World Bank.

16 August 2006

UK Foreign Policy and Jihadist Recruiting

The cabinet's reaction to a letter co-signed by organisations across the Muslim community, in the wake of the alledged "mixing liquids in the plane loo" terror plot, was disappointing.

The message seemed to be: if you criticise our foreign policy decisions, you let the terrorists win. It's very condescending to say to Muslims in Britain, "how dare you give us an opinion on foreign policy."

Ignoring the drivers of extremism:

- Britain accepts Russian war crimes against Muslims in Chechnya (we need the natural gas, don't you know, Lord Owen's now on the board of Yukos)
- We accept the stalemate over Kashmir
- Britain continues to occupy Iraq
- The UK has stood shoulder to shoulder with the US over Lebanon

won't make it go away. Foreign policy is not the recruiting sergeant, but they make the jihadist recruiting sergeant's job much easier.

Food Miles

Disturbing story in the Observer this past Sunday:

Most Britons do not care where the fruit and vegetables they buy come from, are not motivated to buy British and don't consider 'food miles' in their purchases ... 61 per cent are not concerned which country their produce came from, with only 9 per cent describing themselves as 'very concerned' ... only 36 per cent of shoppers know what 'food miles' are - the distance goods have travelled to reach the British shops.

Changing this is part of a long-term struggle to ethically embed consumer purchases. Hopefully, the Fairtrade movement is only the first step in a wider shift.

It's important if industrially-grown onions with pesticide-residues come from a continent away, versus local organic onions from farms that pay a living wage.

If you want to support one kind of society over the other, make more choices (read labels, choose independent providers, consider buying organic) when you do a weekly shop in a local store in Coventry.

Tony Benn in Coventry - 2nd September

Tony Benn is coming to speak in Coventry on Saturday evening, 2nd September, 7.00 pm in the Methodist Central Hall, New Union Street.

The subject of the meeting is "Iraq - why it's time to go."

Linda Holmes, whose son is serving in Iraq, will also speak on behalf of Military Families Against the War, as well as John Rees from Stop the War Coalition in London, and Yvonne Ridley from the Islam channel.

07 August 2006

Herbert Gallery Seeks Input for Anti-War Exhibits

Natalie Heidaripour of the Herbert Art Gallery is looking for input from anti-war activists in the Coventry area. She's looking to hear from anyone who has been involved in recent demonstrations or ongoing peace activity. It's part of the ongoing expansion of the Herbert to include a permanent Peace and Reconciliation Gallery.

Themes will include War and Forgiveness exploring memories of the Second World War and International Friendship looking at different countries’ experiences of conflict and peace. Conflict and Peace Work will focus on Coventry’s peace work and links to wider national and global movements. A live online forum will encourage global debate with communities around the world.
She can be reached on 02476 785320, or email her at natalie.heidaripour@coventry.gov.uk.

Monthly Meetings of Coventry Green Party

The Coventry Green Party meets monthly on the 2nd Tuesday of the month. Our next meeting is tomorrow night (8th August, 730pm, Earlsdon Methodist Church Hall).

For our September meeting, our guest speaker is Penny Walker, from the Coventry Peace House (speaking on refugee issues and co-op living), and tentatively for our October meeting, it's Elise Smithson from Coventry University (she is one of their Estates officers, speaking on energy use).

Coventry Women and Peace in Middle East

Two recent stories in the Evening Telegraph highlight local activism on the issue of peace:

Mary Simpson went to Israel on a peace mission but was locked up, interrogated and ordered out of the country.

She was among a delegation taking children's books and messages of goodwill to groups of women in Bethlehem and the Palestinian town of Ramallah.

Avril Newey has been so incensed by the Israeli bombings of Lebanon that she began a one-woman protest at the back of Cathedral Lanes, between Holy Trinity Church and the cathedral ruins. The mother of one, of Belvedere Road, Earlsdon, said:

"I was watching the telly and was so moved by a Lebanese woman who talked about the destruction of her land that I decided to do something. I'm ashamed of how little our government is doing to stop the conflict. I believe what Israel is doing is wrong and I think much more should be done to try to create peace. I was ready for some criticism but everyone who has spoken to me has been supportive of my stance."

01 August 2006

Currys To Sell Solar Panels

Currys is to sell panels costing £1,000 each at three stores (West Thurrock, Fulham and Croydon) from tomorrow.

According to Currys, it would cost around £9,000 to install sufficient panels to halve the consumption of an average three-bedroomed house.

Mike Childs, campaigns director at Friends of the Earth, said it had to be good news in improving accessibility and raising awareness, but he said electrical retailers could help customers more by labelling appliances with how much energy they consume, and said householders should first install insulation and double-glazing, which would save more money than solar panels.

Green Party Positions on Crime

Plans drawn up by Norwich Green Party to fight crime include more bobbies on the beat and housing schemes designed to bring communities together.

Norwich is a good example of a local party that campaigns and campaigns and doorknocks and doorknocks and wins people over to Green positions. All of a sudden, they have nine councillors!

The Greens promise to lobby for more police on foot and on bikes, with a permanent bike-based police unit in Norwich, and pledge to use planning policy to promote co-housing schemes to enhance social interaction and cohesion and cut crime. They will also call for a review of late licences granted to pubs and clubs, and if necessary, 'zoning' to remove late licences altogether from areas where anti-social behaviour is resulting from boozing late into the night. Greens will also monitor conditions inside Norwich prison to ensure prisoners are treated humanely and are being actively rehabilitated.

Lobbying Local Hotels

The Mount Nelson hotel in Cape Town has its own worm farm to help slash waste and tackle climate change.

Three local hotels that you could contact to encourage them to dispose of their organic waste are:

The Leofric, Broadgate, Coventry, CV1 1LZ, 024 7622 1371
The Britannia, Fairfax St, Coventry, CV1 5RP, 024 7663 3733
The Ramada, The Butts, Earlsdon, Coventry, CV1 3GG, 024 7623 8110