31 October 2006

Network Rail Admits Ladbroke Grove Guilt

The first day that I spent in England was the day of Ladbroke Grove. I was coming in from Dover to Charing Cross, and the tannoys kept announcing that there had been a major incident just outside of Paddington. It wasn't just a head-on collision between commuter trains, or a head-on collision that led to a fire gutting entire carriages, but it was due to a Signal Passed At Danger, something so common that they had an acronymn for it, SPAD.

Network Rail has finally admitted that it was guilty of "health and safety violations" on the day, and it faces a stiff fine. Well, whoop-dee-doo. A fine won't bring 31 people back to life.

It's incomprehensible that, in the wake of Ladbroke Grove, Hatfield and Potters Bar, Labour has not brought in stronger corporate manslaughter charges, or rail renationalisation.

Monbiot Plan To Turn Stern Report Into Reality

An interesting series of letters in the Guardian this morning:

On Friday, Stephen Ladyman, the minister for transport, announced that £371m was to be spent to turn the reminder of the A3 into a dual carriageway. This is in addition to £1.9bn that is planned to go into road and motorway development in the 2007-08 financial year. And despite the fact that the fastest-growing source of CO2 is air travel, the government - anticipating that the number of annual passenger flights will triple from 180m to 501m by 2030 - has given the go-ahead to a second runway at Stanstead, a third at Heathrow and big regional air expansion.

Dr Derek Wall, Green Party, Windsor

and George Monbiot's column in the same paper is essential reading. He lays out a 10-point plan to turn the economic analysis of Stern into practical and swift action:

1. Set a target for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions based on the latest science.
2. Use that target to set an annual carbon cap, which falls on the ski-jump trajectory. Then use the cap to set a personal carbon ration.
3. Introduce a new set of building regulations, with strict energy-efficiency requirements on all major refurbishments (costing £3,000 or more). Landlords would bring their houses up to high energy-efficiency standards before they can rent them out. All new homes in the UK are built to the German Passivhaus standard (which requires no heating system).
4. Ban the sale of incandescent lightbulbs, patio heaters, garden floodlights and other wasteful and unnecessary technologies.
5. Redeploy money now earmarked for new nuclear missiles towards a massive investment in energy generation and distribution.
6. Promote the development of a new national coach network.
7. Oblige all chains of filling stations to supply leasable electric car batteries.
8. Abandon the road-building and road-widening programme, and spend the money on tackling climate change.
9. Freeze and then reduce UK airport capacity.
10. Legislate for the closure of all out-of-town superstores, and their replacement with a warehouse and delivery system.

Vote on Iraq Inquiry

The government may be defeated today over calls for an inquiry into the Iraq war.

The Conservatives are calling for a Franks (post-Falklands) style inquiry, in the next parliamentary session, with inquiry members being drawn from outside politics.

If the government doesn't support this, they are hinting that they could vote with the SNP and Plaid Cymru for the following motion:

"That this House believes that there should be a select committee of seven honourable Members, being members of Her Majesty's Privy Council, to review the way in which the responsibilities of government were discharged in relation to Iraq and all matters relevant thereto, in the period leading up to military action in that country in March 2003 and in its aftermath."

30 October 2006

Coventry Peace Month Continues

From Tues 31 Oct until Tues 14 November, the arts group Talking Birds has travelled to Coventry's sister-city Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) to curate an exhibition of video, sound, print-making, photography and mixed-media work, from artists working in both cities in 2006. Coventry and Volgograd were the first cities to be twinned in 1944. Do they have anything common today? What impact does a city have on the art that is produced there? Contact Talking Birds on 024 7622 9816 (www.talkingbirds.co.uk)

On Wed 1st November, 630pm to 830pm at the Guildhall, Tamara Rabinowitz from Israel, and Ayesha Aktam from Palestine will both speak of their personal bereavements, which happened through the Israel / Palestinian conflict, and how they met each other and became involved with the Parents Circle: Families Forum and the impact which this organisation has had on their lives, and those of hundreds of other Israeli and Palestinian families. If you would like to attend, contract Sandra Daniels on (024) 7683 1091 or e-mail Sandra.Daniel@coventry.gov.uk.

On Thurs 2nd November, the Lord Mayor's Annual Peace Lecture (7pm to 9pm) will be given by Aaron Tovish, international manager of the 2020 Vision Campaign organised by Mayor's for Peace, which calls for nuclear disarmament. It will be at the Guildhall. He will be talking about the campaign, its origins and progress and what others can do to help. Contact Jane Barlow on 024 7683 3047 or Penny Walker on 024 7666 4616 for details.

Keeping Fit

Went tonight for a 500m swim with two friends from work, Dan and Lachlan at the Coventry Sports Centre.

I also received a very nice birthday present from my wife (a new mountain bike) in September.

I used to be really into both swimming and cycling. I cycled each day to secondary school, as well as to and from work for 10 months in Germany and a year in London. In Canada, I used to be a lifeguard (after taking swimming lessons year on year growing up) for two summers.

Swimming is a great all-around exercise, and it has a lower impact on the body than jogging on pavement. It's about £3 a visit at the Coventry Sports Centre, and they have monthly rates as well.

Cycling is extremely affordable (compared to the monthly expenses of operating a car). My bike was bought on a special between Warwick University and Albany Cycles in Earlsdon, it was £140 all-in (bike, helmet, mudguards, front and back lights, check-up after 6 weeks). Of course, you can get bikes used for half that. It takes me 30 min to walk to work, and it's only 15 minutes to cycle.

Release of Nicholas Stern Report

I suspect that the review by Sir Nicholas Stern will be published on this website.

It will be published at 10:30am, and he'll also be appearing on Radio 4's Today Programme in their 8:10 interview slot.

The BBC's Business Editor, Robert Peston, goes over the implications in this article. He's had a 30-page executive summary of the report for the last day or so.

Stern wants to stabilise the amount of carbon dioxide (measured in parts per million) at 550. In pre-industrial times, it was 280, and today, this figure is at 420.

What's horrifying is that the report assumes that if we spend 1% of global GDP now, it will only address the global warming that will occur from 2050 until the next century. All the carbon that will warm the planet until 2050 is already in the atmosphere, or will be emitted even with drastic cutbacks from now until then.

29 October 2006

Mixed Race Footballers

The Observer has an interesting story today on racism and mixed race footballers in Britain:

You have only to look at England's World Cup squad this summer. Six out of seven of the players described as 'black' were mixed race, but this was not mentioned on TV or in the written press. Theirs is the fastest growing ethnic minority in the country and yet 'mixed race' was included in the UK census for the first time only in 2001. The very different stories of the six World Cup players gives an indication of how diverse that term can be - from David James's and Theo Walcott's experiences of growing up in predominantly white rural areas, to Rio Ferdinand's and Ashley Cole's urban experience of multi-ethnic London estates.

Cole is a good example. He isn't offended by being described as black. 'But,' he says firmly, 'I call myself mixed race.' Cole was raised by his mother in east London. 'It was a predominantly white home environment. I didn't really see my black family. At home we ate English food; when we went to parties we didn't listen to soca or reggae, it would be English music. But in football you're just seen as black or white; I don't think people realise the difference.'

28 October 2006

Dealing With Climate Change Now vs Later

Global warming could deliver an economic blow of between 5% and 20% of GDP to world economies because of natural disasters and the creation of hundreds of millions of climate refugees displaced by sea-level rise. Dealing with the problem, by comparison, will cost just 1% of GDP.

A wacky Green idea?

Nope. That will be published in a report on Monday from Sir Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist at the World Bank.

Car Adverts Should Show Emissions

It's an idea from a Labour MP, Colin Challen. He wants a quarter of the space in car ads given over to environmental impact data. It's an idea that makes a lot of sense. How else can we make choices that are truly informed? Car adverts, indeed, all adverts, should be about the costs/benefits of a product, not how an inanimate lump of steel, plastic, cloth and rubber is something you need for sexual and career success.

25 October 2006

Cycling and Cycle Repair

Here's a great list of cycle shops in Coventry and Kenilworth, courtesy of George Riches and his blog.

You can find the website of the Coventry Cycling Campaign here.

As well, Coventry City Council runs courses for teaching pupils how to cycle safely.

Car Makers and Fuel Inefficiency

Only 5 of Europe's top 20 car brands are on track to meet fuel efficiency targets pledged to the EU in 1998. They had promised to reduce the average CO2 emissions for new cars to 140 grams per kilometre by 2008. This represented a reduction of 25% over 1995 levels. Only Fiat, Citroen, Renault, Ford and Peugeot are set to meet this. The worst five car makers, with 40% or less of the target met so far, with only 2 years to go, are Volvo, Audi, Mazda, Suzuki and Nissan.

An Inconvenient Truth - Warwick Arts Centre

It's the most influential Powerpoint presentation in history. After the stolen election in 2000, the former US VP Al Gore has devoted himself to raising awareness around global warming.

Tickets are £6.25, and the screenings at the Warwick Arts Centre are as follows:

- Fri 3 Nov 6:30pm
- Sat 4 Nov 8:45pm
- Sun 5 Nov 4:00pm
- Mon 6 Nov 8:45pm
- Tue 7 Nov 6:30pm

After the 3rd November screening, there will be a post-film discussion.

24 October 2006

2007 UK School Games

Following on from the hosting of the International Children's Games, Coventry has been awarded the 2007 UK School Games. Glasgow hosted it last year (the first time it had been tried).

The idea of a low environmental impact for the games needs to be built in from the very start:

- utilizing low or no emission vehicles to transport athletes/teams around Coventry
- requiring athletes to not fly to Coventry when they travel to the competition
- involving the community in all levels of decision-making around the games
- creating local jobs
- the use of a well-located site convenient for walking, bicycling, and public transportation
- procurement of goods and services from local environment-friendly businesses
- minimising the waste of food and beverages
- using recycled content for badges, for paper
– installing energy-efficient appliances at venues
- encouraging the free use of public transportation by waiving the fares for people attending the sports events

We Say We Want Integration ...

but what are we doing to actually encourage it?

The Learning and Skills Council is increasing its budget but cutting back on a programme that helps integration of newcomers to the UK: ESOL courses (English as a Second or Other Language).

The CNV trade union in the Netherlands is proposing that Eid (the holiday to mark the end of Ramadan) should become a bank holiday. I don't hear any UK trade union floating the idea, and it would be the kind of gesture that would indicate a multicultural Europe, rather than this idea of constitutionalising it as Christian.

The BBC's Zubaida Malik tried out wearing the full veil (the niqab) and writes about in the Guardian.
On the street it takes just seconds for me to discover that there are different categories of stare. Elderly people stop dead in their tracks and glare; women tend to wait until you have passed and then turn round when they think you can't see; men just look out of the corners of their eyes. And young children - well, they just stare, point and laugh.

After a few hours I get used to the gawping and the sniggering, am unsurprised when passengers on a bus prefer to stand up rather than sit next to me. What does surprise me is what happens when I get off the bus. I've arranged to meet a friend at the National Portrait Gallery. In the 15-minute walk from the bus stop to the gallery, two things happen. A man in his 30s, who I think might be Dutch, stops in front of me and asks: "Can I see your face?"

"Why do you want to see my face?"

"Because I want to see if you are pretty. Are you pretty?"

Before I can reply, he walks away and shouts: "You fucking tease!"

Then I hear the loud and impatient beeping of a horn. A middle-aged man is leering at me from behind the wheel of a white van. "Watch where you're going, you stupid Paki!" he screams. This time I'm a bit faster.

"How do you know I'm Pakistani?" I shout. He responds by driving so close that when he yells, "Terrorist!" I can feel his breath on my veil.

22 October 2006

Youth in Coventry

The IPPR think-tank has found that 65% of Germans would be willing to intervene if they saw a group of 14-year-old boys vandalising a bus shelter, compared with just 34% of Britons. Britons were also three times more likely to cite young people "hanging around" as a problem than they were to complain about noisy neighbours. The rhetoric is that youth don't face any consequences for their actions, but record numbers of children are going to court, and over 2000 ASBOs have been issued since 1999.

Pam Hibbert of Barnardo's: "Young crime in itself has remained fairly static in the last 10 years - it is a minority that cause problems and retaliate. The demonisation of children and young people in some sections of the media and when politicians refer to youngsters as yobs - that breeds the actual fear."

A spokeswoman for YouthNet - an online charity which provides information, advice and guidance for people aged 16 to 24 through two websites - said young people's achievements were often overlooked: "While young people acknowledge that a minority of their peers can be anti-social, they'd like to point out that not all young people are the same and the majority, who contribute to society, work hard and have fun without being destructive, are often overlooked because the good things they do don't make news."

The Full Veil Debate Continues

When I watched Question Time (Thurs, BBC 1) this week, I learnt two rather surprising things.

One, the Muslim teaching assistant, who lost her employment tribunal case this week over wearing the full veil, works at a Christian faith school. Two, most of the rhetoric has focused on how her full veil is a barrier to her teaching her children. Well, she takes off her veil when teaching. What she objects to is wearing the veil in the presence of adult male staff.

It's indicative of the media debate that despite being soaked in news stories about the case, I was unaware of either fact.

The debate is becoming focused on: "those damned Muslims, why can't they be just like us ... if 97% of Express readers think the veil should be banned, they why shouldn't it be banned?" It's revealing a dangerous level of intolerance towards Muslims, any Muslims with any headgear, in British society.

And another thing, why is all the rhetoric focused on Muslim attitudes being the barrier to integration?

The Lancaster University study, commissioned by the Home Office, examined the attitudes of 435 15-year-olds on race, religion and integration. Nearly a third of pupils at a predominantly white school believed one race was superior to another, compared with a tenth from a majority Asian Muslim school and fewer than a fifth at a mixed school. The study found that about one in 10 of white students had any interest in learning about other religions, compared with four in 10 Muslims.

Andrew Holden, of the University of Lancaster, said: "White children seem to benefit more from mixed schooling in encouraging positive attitudes to other ethnic groups. A lot of attitudes from the white children seemed to reflect their parental influences. We have discovered a lot of findings that challenge those assumptions that Muslims are a problem. It does fly in the face of what ministers have been saying."

21 October 2006

Clowning Workshops for Refugees

Professional circus performers will teach young refugees and asylum seekers at the Belgrade, beginning this week. The workshops are aimed at 12-25 yr olds and are intended to boost confidence and social skills.

Perhaps predictably, the scheme was criticised by a Tory MP (Bob Spink, whose constituency is in Essex).

Refugee children and adolescents in the UK have been exposed to high levels of violence, and loss of, or separation from, family members. Studies show that up to 40% may have psychiatric disorders, mostly depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety-related difficulties. In light of this, why is it controversial to spend £2000 for clowning workshops for refugee youth in Coventry?

The workshops are bringing youth from a wide range of countries together. After trauma, it’s a small price to pay forpeople to learn to laugh again, to learn to make others laugh.

When you have a Tory MP criticising an innovative project, and the Sun and Daily Mail doing negative stories on it, I'd expect a council leader like Ken Taylor to speak up on behalf of the Belgrade's work.

19 October 2006

UK Opposes Ban on Cluster Bombs

Over a million unexploded cluster bombs remain in Lebanon (90% of which were dropped in the last 3 days of the conflict) after this summer's war, but the UK has blocked a proposed a worldwide ban on cluster bombs at arms talks in Geneva. Britain has extensively used cluster bombs in Kosovo and Iraq, so it's sadly not surprising.

The real effects of the government's move: Lebanese schools, roads, houses, and gardens are still littered with unexploded devices. Farmers have not been able to safely harvest what was left of this summer's tobacco, wheat, and fruit; winter crops will be lost because farmers will be unable to plough their grains and vegetables.

18 October 2006

Lunchtime Peace Month Talks at the Herbert

As part of Peace Month, new students at the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies at Coventry University will be telling their personal stories of living through conflict and helping to build peace in their societies.

The series of events will take place at The Herbert. On Friday 20th October, from 1230-130pm, two Palestinian students, Yasser Alashqar and Hitham Kayali, will talk about their lives under occupation and their involvement in peace building/conflict resolution. Future dates include the 27th October (Cambodian students) and 3rd November (students from Sierra Leone).

For more information, contact Natalie Heidaripour, the Project Officer for the Peace and Reconciliation Gallery, at The Herbert, 024 7678 5320.

Coventry's Music Venues

Coventry was the home of 2-Tone, and we need to encourage live music -- both bands and the venues that support them. I spoke a few weeks ago with Chris, the manager of The Jailhouse (on Little Park Street), and his frustrations included restrictions on leafletting (needing a license to leaflet, leaflets needing to be in colour) and not having one-point of contact within the council to address queries/complaints to.

A Green councillor for Coventry will seek to help talented local bands who play smaller venues, with help with the business aspects of their work, in order to enable them to earn a decent living from their music. For music venues, we will push to reduce licensing fees for having live music and encourage leafleting and promotion. At a national level, we would zero-rate live performance for VAT purposes.

A Green councillor will also support community radio initiatives, such as The Hillz FM (Hillfields) or short-term FM licenses (such as radio stations at Coventry University and Warwick University); youth not in education, employment or training can be re-engaged through training projects centred on media and new media.

Whitefriars Gardening Awards / New School for Stoke Aldermoor

Two recent stories in the Telegraph:

Whitefriars residents were recently awarded for their gardening efforts at a ceremony at The Brittania hotel.

A new school is planned for Stoke Aldermoor which will include wind turbines and a ground source heat pump.

It would be the first school in Coventry to do away with boilers and heat classrooms by pumping water 100m underground, warming it up with natural heat and pumping back up again. The system will cost £112,000 to install but is expected to pay for itself over time through cheaper heating bills.

17 October 2006

Norman Kember in Coventry

Coventry Peace Month continues:

Norman Kember (held hostage in Iraq when he joined a Christian Peacemaker Team in November 2005) will speaking at Queen's Road Baptist Church on Thursday night at 730pm. For further information please contact Alan Betteridge, Queen's Road Baptist Church on 024 7641 9206 or 024 7652 0621 or by email: office@qrbc.co.uk.

On the 20th, the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies at Cov Uni will have students telling personal stories of living in conflict and helping to build peace in their societies. That's 1230 to 130pm. For further information please contact the Herbert reception on 024 7683 2386.

On Saturday, the 21st, at the bottom of Hertford Street, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade has a stall from 10am to 12noon. For further information, please contact Penny Walker on 024 7666 4616.

On Sunday, outside Civic Centre 1 on Little Park Street, there will be a Peace Festival from 9am to 2pm, with stalls and activities which will help us all to be better informed in understanding issues such as resolving personal conflict, nuclear weapons, the arms trade, land mines, prejudice, human rights, harmony and looking after the earth.

Apple Day in Longford Park

This will take place on Saturday, the 21st of October, 10am to 12noon ... there will be a display of English apple varieties, freshley squeezed apple juice, free apple tasting, a "Longest Peel" competition, free craft activities for chidlren, tree and plant sale, Warwickshire beekeepers stall and information and recipes for apples. For more information, contact: 024 7678 5508.

Here is some more information on apple orchards from the sprawling web pages at the BBC.

16 October 2006

Food in Hospitals

A survey of catering at 95 NHS trusts has revealed a need for the NHS to pull a "Jamie Oliver" and provide better nutrition for patients. 37% of patients left a meal uneaten because it looked, smelled or tasted disgusting. 80% of patients were not given the opportunity to choose meals in advance,

Sharon Grant, national chair of Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health said: "Proper nutrition is essential to recovery. Food should be of good quality and enjoyable - if it's not, it won't be eaten, and this seems to be borne out by our findings."

Nationally, the Green Party would want to establish a Ministry of Food (incorporating some of the functions of DEFRA) with the primary objective of the production of healthy, humanely produced, local food. The Ministry of Food would set short and long-term goals for the quality of the food supply. Urgent attention would be given to the quality of food for pregnant women, nursing mothers, babies, infants and children, patients in hospitals, those in residential homes, and prison populations.

Carbon Emissions and Small Businesses

Less than 30% of FTSE 250 firms surveyed have a formal plan in place to minimise emissions and improve their energy efficiency.

There are a number of concrete, quick, things that all businesses, small and large, can do to limit carbon emissions:

- Sign up to change over your electricity provider to one that promotes and invests in renewable energy
- become a Fairtrade employer by buying some fairtrade instant coffee in a tin or a big bag of fairtrade tea bags
- use less paper
- when you need to print something out, use recycled paper
- when your toner cartridges are finished, have them reconditioned at shops like Cartridge World (43 Earlsdon Street)
- turn off computer monitors at night
- enable energy-saving functions on all your firm's computers during the day, e.g. "hibernate after 10 minutes of non-use"

14 October 2006

TV and Radio from now until Tuesday

Some interesting items coming up in TV/radio:

- Saturday late night (435am) on Channel 4, their "Unreported World" series takes a look at the huge rise in illegal immigration from Zimbabwe and other African states and an increase in South African racism and xenophobic violence

- on Tuesday, File on 4 (8pm) looks at the record of the NHS and private companies so far, and asks whether there should be any limit on private sector involvement

What Greens Are About

As green activists, we need to emphasise that our solutions, both for everyday life and for the working of local government, are common-sense.

We want to create cheap, renewable electricity sources.

We want strong local economies with well-paying jobs.

We want to avoid spending half of our lives in traffic jams.

We want to reduce overcrowding on trains and buses.

We'll work for public transit that's easy to use.

We want a world based on endless peace, not endless war.

Gardens and Allotments in Coventry

Which? Magazine has a number of good news reports on allotments and gardening.

This article has five-six tips on what to look for in an allotment.

- Fertile, well-worked soil is a real help - some sites are now organic
- Convenient water, such as a handy water tank, as hose-pipes are not always permitted
- Good security is an advantage as vandalism and theft can be a problem on some sites
- Access for compost deliveries is helpful and some sites will organise this on behalf of members
Some sites have the benefits of a club hut, sheds for individual plots, and tarmac access roads

13 October 2006

The Costs of Climate Change

Friends of the Earth have come out with a new report on the long-term financial impact of climate change.

- It will cost the global economy £10.8 trillion a year by the end of the century.
- The Thames Barrier might not be able to cope
- A 4C rise in temperature would mean much hotter summers, droughts, a doubling of the number of people at risk of coastal flooding to 1.8 million and the need for a cooling system on the London Underground.

The Friends of the Earth report was compiled by economists at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University in Massachusetts in the US. Institute director Frank Ackerman said:

"The climate system has enormous momentum, as does the economic system that emits so much carbon dioxide. Like a supertanker, which has to turn off its engines 25km before it comes to a stop, we have to start turning off greenhouse gas emissions now in order to avoid catastrophe in decades to come."
To turn around the "supertanker", all wards in all city councils need to make efforts to reduce our energy use and reduce our carbon emissions.

If we have a library to be built in Whoberley, the design has to keep the supertanker in mind. If we have a PFI contract for food catering in primary schools, we need to keep carbon emissions (long-distance food transport versus local organic sourcing of food) in mind.

If the idea of Coventry congestion charging is floated, we don't need the council's leader, Ken Taylor, saying that if people oppose it, he won't bring it in. We need a new kind of leadership in Coventry.

Grameen Bank Wins Nobel Prize

Well, well, a pleasant surprise.

The Nobel went to the Grameen Bank, which has pioneered micro-credit lending schemes in developing countries, notably Bangladesh. 97% of its clients are women.

As the citation from the Nobel committee shows, they are committed to the broadest possible definition of what societies can do to achieve stability, democracy and peace:

Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights. Muhammad Yunus has shown himself to be a leader who has managed to translate visions into practical action for the benefit of millions of people, not only in Bangladesh, but also in many other countries.

Micro-credit has proved to be an important liberating force in societies where women in particular have to struggle against repressive social and economic conditions. Economic growth and political democracy can not achieve their full potential unless the female half of humanity participates on an equal footing with the male.

10 October 2006

Green Housing Solutions

A former shipyard and industrial site in Malmo, Sweden, is being turned into a green residential area based on 100% use of renewable energy. It sounds like a good model for elsewhere in the urbanised developed world.

It is nearly all pedestrianised and has frequent buses - running on a natural gas/biogas mix - to connect it to the rest of the city. The area has an open drainage system which traps rainwater on numerous living green roofs, in courtyard ponds and open channels. The pond and canal in the area provide habitats for wildlife. A 2MW wind turbine provides much of the electricity. Solar collectors on 10 of the buildings provide 15% of the heating, but a more important source is a heat pump connected to aquifers 90m (297ft) underground. For recycling there are waste separation units close to home and a centralised system of vacuum waste chutes.

Peugoet Changes Its Mind about Ryton

Peugeot has announced that it will now close the plant at Ryton six months early. Unions have strongly criticised the decision and say they will maintain a campaign urging customers to boycott Peugeot and Citroen vehicles.

Dave Osborne, T&G national secretary: "Peugeot built hopes up that there would be work well into next year if people wanted it ... But they have dashed those hopes and, worse, denied our members the chance to look for work in the knowledge there was a reasonable income coming in."

I suppose a "traditional" Green position would be to celebrate the loss of car production, but the real problem is that the shutting down of Ryton means the loss of high-wage unionised work. We need to keep that type of manufacturing base in the city.

Considering that the largest windfarm in Europe is being developed outside of Glasgow (140 turbines to power 200 000 homes), we could retain the engineering/production knowledge at Ryton by pushing for a smaller windfarm here in Coventry/Warwickshire, say, 50 turbines to power 25% of the homes in Coventry (75 000 households), instead of this incessent lobbying by the city council for a supercasino.

09 October 2006

Candidates for Nobel Peace Prize

The winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on 13th October.

Who might/should win?

It's all guesswork, but the three "lead" candidates are rumoured to be:

- Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish President who brokered a peace deal in Aceh; he's also the UN Special Envoy to determine the final status of Kosovo
- Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Indonesia, again, for Aceh, and as well, for his response to the Boxing Day Tsunami
- Rebiya Kadeer, prisoner of conscience in China for Uigur rights (in the north-west of China)

One possible solution would be to give a joint award to Ahtisaari and SBY.

There are a whole lot of other people who could win:

- a joint award to Bono and Bob Geldof, for their ongoing work on global poverty
- a joint award to Stephen Lewis (UN envoy on AIDS) and Zackie Achmat/Treatment Action Campaign
- Betty Bigombe, in recognition of peace in northern Uganda
- Romina Picolotti, Argentinean lawyer and human rights activist
- Gao Zhi Sheng, a prominent and outspoken defence attorney of the practitioners of Falun Gong
- Lida Yusupova, a lawyer and spokeswoman for victims of the war in Chechnya
- George Ryan, former U.S. Governor and anti-death penalty campaigner
- Marguerite Barankitse, for setting up children's shelters after the Burundian civil war

October and November Green Party meetings

Our next monthly meeting will be tomorrow night, 730pm on 10th October, at The Grapevine, Doe Bank Lane, Spon End.

We'll be planning autumn canvassing to raise awareness of both the Green Party itself and options around switching to green electricity providers. We have a guest speaker scheduled, Elise Smithson, of Coventry University. If you have any suggestions for future guest speakers, email me on sgredding2003@yahoo.co.uk or give me a call, 07906 316 726.

The 2nd Tuesday in November will be the 14th.

Selling Renewable Energy Back to the Grid

Ofgem, the energy utility regulator, is now saying that households that install energy generation systems such as solar panels and wind turbines could be guaranteed a minimum price for selling their spare power back to the electricity networks. In other words, mainstream electricity suppliers now face the risk of legislation unless they take action to make it easier for households to sell their surplus power.

Programme for Coventry Peace Month

It can be found here.

Some of the first events:

Saturday 14 October

- Multi-Faith Forum's Annual Peace Walk (10am to 130pm)
- an ecumenical service (230pm) at Coventry Cathedral (organised by the Churches Network for Non-Violence)
- Diwali Light Switch on (at Edgwick Park, 7pm)

Sunday 15 October

- Inspiring Peace, Coventry Peace House, 311 Stoney Stanton Road, 11am – 3pm (An exhibition of images and text explores how people promote peace. Against this backdrop a wide range of people with different experiences will tell stories and give testimonies of how they have contributed to peace.)

08 October 2006

Jack Straw and the full veil

For such an experienced politician, I don't think Jack Straw realises what he has unleashed. I mean, he may understand that he was talking about the full veil (niqab), but it'll be used by the white far-right as a statement against all Muslim headgear, hijab, everything.

As soon as possible, I think he has to denounce any vigilantism done in his name.
The far-Right British National Party is hoping to cash in on the mounting anger. It is drawing up a battle plan to split Mr Straw’s support at the next election. BNP spokesman Dr Phil Edwards: "We have been saying this about Muslim dress for some time," he said. "It’s all part of the problems of a multi-cultural Britain that he and the Labour Party helped to create."

Ibrahim Master, a member of the Labour Party who played a key role in 60-year-old Mr Straw’s last election victory, said: "We feel it is very difficult to take because it comes from a man who knows a great deal about the Muslim community. It’s like a family member going against us. This is a very sensitive issue and he has said it publicly without any form of consultation. The Muslim community feels angry and let down."

Yesterday’s protest was told how a young Muslim girl wearing a niqab in Blackburn was confronted by three angry youths on Friday night. One of the trio threw a newspaper at the terrified girl and shouted at her: "Jack has told you to take off your veil." And in Toxteth, Liverpool, a 49-year-old Muslim woman had her veil snatched from her by a white man in his 60s. Inspector Saied Mostaghel, of Merseyside Police, said: "She was left feeling shocked and upset."

06 October 2006

Aviation Offsets in Bullyard

The Co-Op's travel firm, Travelcare (which is at Bullyard, here in Cov) is starting a pilot programme for travellers who want to "offset" the environmental impact of their flights, i.e. if you were flying to Australia, you could buy a £50 credit towards environmental projects that would compensate for the aviation fuel burnt.

In an ideal world, we need people who make 12 flights year, to shift towards making 8 flights a year in 2007, and 4 flights in 2008, using videoconferencing if you're a business traveller, or seeing more of Britain if they are tourist flights, whilst also buying into the idea of these carbon offsets.

Renewable Energy and Football Stadiums

The City of Manchester Stadium will become the first stadium in the world to be solely powered by renewable energy.

From 2007, it will have an 85m high wind turbine, which will also produce enough energy to power 1250 other homes in Manchester. Any home or business in Manchester will be able to tap into the surplus and buy environmentally-friendly power from Ecotricity at the same price as from their regional supplier.

In a similar way, the new stadiums for the World Cup this past summer had a variety of environmental features:

- a commitment to reducing waste, energy and water use by 20%
- containers for collecting up to 1,000m3 of rain water for watering the pitch areas
- car-park surfaces treated to allow water seepage

Just as every other sector of the economy has to address energy use, carbon emissions and reducing waste, football should as well. I noticed, when in town for the Green Party autumn conference, that Brighton's city council has stars of the Seagulls advertising recycling initiatives. There already is a Green Travel Plan in place for events at the Ricoh, but many of these features could have been incorporated into the stadium when it was built, or they could be retrofitted now. Seeing the Ricoh powered by a wind turbine could easily lead to tens of thousands of supporters considering a switchover to a green electricity tariff as well.

04 October 2006

Carbon Emissions and Aviation

A letter in today's Guardian by one of our two Green MEPs, Caroline Lucas:
Ken Livingstone is right (Green moves on buses and fuel , September 28): aviation's greenhouse-gas emissions must be brought to the centre of the debate on climate change, as flying is the fastest-growing source of emissions.

But his party, the Tories and the Lib Dems seem wedded to the largest expansion of British airports in a generation.

The renewable-energy initiatives announced in Manchester last week will come nowhere near solving the problem unless we rein in aircraft emissions, something neither the Westminster parties nor Richard Branson are seriously prepared to do. It seems Branson is just the latest airline executive to promote "green-sounding" measures to ensure the issue is tackled by self-regulation and not mandatory emissions reductions.

To simply add aviation into the current emissions-trading scheme will allow airlines to buy up CO2 emission rights from other industries and prolong the illusion that flying can continue to increase without consequence.

A much more effective way forward is the one I presented to the European parliament, overwhelmingly adopted by MEPs this summer: to establish an airlines-only emissions-trading scheme alongside a package of complementary measures to reduce aviation's non-CO2 greenhouse-gas emissions.

Black History and the Industrial Revolution

Sistertree Theatre Company will show their new work, "Black Inventors - We Were There" at St Peter's Community Centre, in Hillfields, CV1 5NP, 6th October, 730 to 9pm. It will focus on the role that black people played in the Industrial Revolution. To reserve a place, call 02476 632877.

03 October 2006

The Amazing Mrs Pritchard

I watched the BBC's "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" tonight, since I can't help myself, I'm a political junkie. I was curious as to how plausible it would be, and remarkably, it was. I mean, man-management at a supermarket being applied to a local MP's campaign ... backbench MPs defecting to an insurgent Independent campaign ... a high-profile woman frustrated at the glass ceiling in the shadow cabinet defecting to become the Chancellor-in-waiting ... a Terry Leahy/Anita Roddick amalgram lending £10 million to the campaign ... all reasonably plausible.

Ross Perot did get over 20% in one of his two runs at the US presidency. Insurgent Internet-led campaigns (South Korea, Howard Dean, Jesse Ventura) have all led to success. When you have voter turnout being 60% in general elections and 40% in local ones, there is a vacuum to be filled.

Bus Routes in Cheylesmore

Residents of Cheylesmore are being asked for their views on new bus routes.

The proposals relate to the 21 route along Mile lane, Queen Isabel's Avenue and Daventry Road. The proposals include making bus stops more wheelchair-friendly with raised kerbs for easier boarding, more tree planting and junction alterations to ease traffic flow and make turns easier for buses.

The Centro bus for consultation will be at the following locations:

- John Grace Street on Wednesday 4th October 2006 between 2.00pm & 7.00pm
- Quinton Park/ Cecily Road on Saturday 7th October between 10.00am & 3.00pm

If you wish to give your views about the scheme please telephone Nick Richards on 024 7683 1112.

Adnams Warehouse and its Green Roof

Adnams brewery in Suffolk has built a distribution centre with the largest green roof in the UK.

Solar panels will provide 80% of the hot water, reed beds purify their waste water, and the building blocks are made from lime, hemp and quarry waste. Whilst the cost of the building is 15% higher than normal, they say that the "additional investment is justified in the long term by significantly lower energy usage and greater efficiency."

That's the right kind of attitude, the right kind of leadership, on environmental design.

02 October 2006

A New Library for Whoberley

Early in September, I wrote to Gary Ridley, the Coventry city council cabinet member in charge of libraries, to enquire about the environmental features of new libraries planned for Tile Hill and Whoberley.

5th September

Cllr Ridley,

I am pleased to hear of the increased investment inthe Coventry library system, coupled with plans for new library buildings in Tile Hill and Whoberley.

Can you give my party a commitment, in light of the recent city council cabinet decision to sign the Nottingham Declaration, that the design of the two buildings will be as low-energy and environmentally-friendly as possible?

Specifically, will features, such as a living roof(http://www.livingroofs.org/), natural lighting, solarpanels, and a miniature wind turbine be incorporatedinto the design?
The good news of his response: whilst the Tile Hill design is finalised, the Whoberley one is still at the "briefing" stage, which sounds unfinalised. He also mentioned pilot projects in local schools to incorporate a green roof and rainwater harvesting.

The less good news: he didn't give any details of the Whoberley library design, and his letter was peppered with phrases such as "sustainable methods of design and construction that are both energy and cost efficient" or "operating within the available resources."

When we are being inundated with reports each fortnight that say we only have 5 years to turn the carbon emissions "supertanker" around, it's this short-term cost focus. Environmental designs are more expensive, since less people use them! If everyone used them, the extra demand would lower costs.

Francis Maude and Investing in Adult Entertainment

Francis Maude has a bit of a problem. How do you square being party chair of the Conservatives with being an investor in porn DVDs? In a company producing porn DVDs that had a "condoms optional" policy for its filming?

The party boss is the £15,000-a-year non-executive chairman of Jubilee Investment Trust plc that bought into the sordid business of US porn star Jill Kelly.

Mr Maude is a leading figure in the campaign to get more women into the Tory party, and boasted only last week: "Our party is changing. We’re more family-friendly."

Confronted by the Mirror on the opening day of his party's conference, the 53-year-old Tory party chairman tried to claim his company's investment was “ancient history”. He was left speechless when we pointed out that Jubilee had actually increased its stake in the Kelly business from 5.6 per cent in 2003 to 21 per cent by last year.

Despite once owning more than 4,000 Jubilee shares and signing off its annual financial statement, Mr Maude blustered: "It's not my company."

01 October 2006

Top Gear and National Road Safety Week

Stephen Ladyman is Labour's roads safety minister. He's been dropped by the organisers of the launch of National Road Safety Week, since he made comments saying that Richard Hammond was an "adventurer" and that Top Gear doesn't encourage speeding amongst young men. Turns out that Ladyman has been caught three times by speed cameras and once had nine points on his licence.

I think that the BBC, as a responsible employer, shouldn't allow its employees to drive at 100 mph, let alone 300 mph, as part of programme production. The BBC receives a huge whack of license fee to avoid the need to chase ratings, so why do they chase ratings by having ever-more extravagant stunts on Top Gear?

The Dangerous Idea of Non-Violence

One book to watch out for in the coming months is Mark Kurlansky's "Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea" ... Societies promote warfare and glorify violence. But there have always been a few who have refused to fight.

Governments have long regarded this minority as a danger to society and have imprisoned and abused them and encouraged their persecution. Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and, most impressively, the Menonites and the Quakers - all have passages in their major teachings rejecting warfare as immoral. In this brilliant exploration of pacifism, these points of view are discussed alongside such diverse non-violence theorists as Tolstoy, Shelley, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Aldous Huxley, Erasmus, Confucius and Lao Tse to show how many modern ideas - such as a united Europe, the United Nations, and the abolition of slavery - originated in such non-violence movements.

The Conservative Vision for the NHS

Have you noticed how David Cameron never mentions privatisation? It's all about a "revolution in social responsibility" ... or "trusting people" or "look at me in my kitchen on my videoblog."

In contrast, Oliver Letwin has been a bit too honest about what "social responsibility" means for Conservative plans and the NHS.

Oliver Letwin has outlined plans for a huge increase in the use of private companies in healthcare provision. His vision would reduce the NHS to a commissioning body, with many patient services provided by a range of businesses. Letwin, chairman of the Tories' policy review, said that contracting out healthcare was in the best interests of patients ... Letwin said the Tories would have “no hang-ups” about use of the private sector in healthcare, although the NHS would remain free of charge.

Asked if there would be any limits, he said: "No limits, no. Let the commissioning bodies decide where patients can best be cured. If people can provide services under the NHS which are good services — social enterprises, private bodies or NHS foundations — if they can satisfy the commissioners within the NHS that the best way is through them, then they should be part of the show."