31 May 2007

Global Peace Index - UK is 49th

Norway is officially the most peaceful nation in the world.

A new index (the Global Peace Index, created by the Economist Intelligence Unit) was released on Wednesday. The index was compiled based on 24 indicators measuring peace inside and outside of a country. They included the number of wars a country was involved in the past five years, how many soldiers were killed overseas, how much money was made in arms sales, the level of violent crime, relations with neighboring countries and level of distrust in other citizens.

The UK was 49th, and the United States ranked 96th out of 121 nations.

The US was, obviously, pulled down by the number of wars it is involved in, large numbers of soldiers killed on the battlefield and high defence spending, but also by having the world’s largest prison population per share of overall population.

1. Norway
2. New Zealand
3. Denmark
4. Ireland
5. Japan
6. Finland
7. Sweden
8. Canada
9. Portugal
10. Austria

If Canada has troops in Afghanistan, how come it made the top 10?

US Homeland Security Directive - HSPD-20

I don't know what freaks me out more: the content of this proclamation by the executive wing of the US government, or that they're already up to proclamation number 20.

"Market Forces" from Talking Birds

Coventry's market has an average of over 85 000 visitors a week.

Coventry has had the right to hold a market since 1346, and in 1958, the city saw the start of the first indoor, circular market in Europe. It has more than 180 stalls, many of which have been in the same family for generations and sell everything from fruit and veg to meat, clothes and ‘fancy goods’.

Talking Birds, a local artist group, will be in residency in Coventry market from the 4th to the 23rd of June.

Look out for them, since they say that "they will be making pieces of work inspired by the building, by those who work here, and by those who shop here."

29 May 2007

Upcoming MP Surgeries - Coventry South

Jim Cunningham (Labour) is the MP for Coventry South (the wards of Binley and Willenhall, Cheylesmore, Earlsdon, St Michael's, Wainbody, and Westwood).

His next few surgeries are:

- June 1st (530 to 630pm, Earlsdon Methodist Church, Earlsdon Ave South; 7pm to 730pm, Woodside Avenue Methodist Church, Woodside Avenue), and at these locations on 6th July, and 7th September.

- June 8th (530pm to 6pm, Finham Park School, Green Lane; 630pm to 7pm, Canley Social Club, Marler Road; 730pm to 8pm, Lime Tree Club, Templar Avenue), and at these locations on 13th July, 14th September.

- June 15th (530pm to 6pm, Phoenix Room, St Peter's Community Centre, Hillfields; 630pm to 7pm, Charterhouse Working Men's Club, David Road; 730pm to 8pm, Mara House, Whitley Abbey Community School, Abbey Road), and on 20th July, 21st September.

- June 22nd (530pm to 6pm, Ernesford Grange Community College, Princethorpe Way; 630pm to 7pm, St John The Divine, Robin Hood Road; 730pm to 8pm, Cheylesmore Social Club, Quinton Park), and on, 27th July, 28th September.

It's first come, first served.

Phone 02476 553 159 for more information.

Early Riser with Liz Kershaw

Liz Kershaw does the 7am to 10am slot on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire, and each morning, they have someone doing their paper review as their "early riser."

I had to arrive this morning at 640am, and go through the tabloids and broadsheets and select out stories to highlight.

Some of the ones that I did were an Endemol-produced programme in Holland where folks compete for a kidney transplant, the new "stop and question" police powers from John Reid, climate change and its effects on the developing world, and the amazing powers of seasonal strawberries.

28 May 2007

News and Dates

- The third week in August will see a "climate change camp" take place near Heathrow, in protest at the government's policy on aviation expansion. Last summer, 600 people camped in Yorkshire in an attempt to shut down the Drax power station, the UK's single biggest emitter of carbon dioxide.

- Fruit and vegetable purchases, excluding potatoes, were 7.7% higher in 2005-06, the largest rise in the last 20 years, while confectionery purchases fell by 6.1%.

- On the Coventry City Council website, you can find a variety of meeting dates and times. Gary Ridley, the cabinet member for Climate Change, Housing and Sustainability will have meetings on 18th June (3pm to 430pm), 16th July (3pm to 430pm) and 3rd September (3pm to 430pm).

- Greens in London have demanded a 20mph speed limit across the capital. Safer streets means more onroad cycling and more onroad play for children.

23 May 2007

The Nuclear Option

Alistair Darling, the Trade and Industry Secretary, was on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4, this morning. John Humphrys was trying to get him to admit that they're underfunding renewable energy and energy efficiency projects (a bottom-up solution), and opting instead for a new generation of nuclear power stations (a top-down solution).

Which, of course, they are.

Each nuclear power station will take billions of pounds to build. The renewable energy grants that the government does offer are only a few million pounds per month, and they are vastly oversubscribed.

A nuclear power station is not low-carbon. You have to mine uranium. You have to transport it to Britain. You have to build the station itself (lots o' concrete). You have to dispose of the nuclear waste.

A nuclear power station will take years to build. We don't have the time to wait. We have a window of a few years before we reach a tipping point of climate change producing "feedback" effects (permafrost in Siberia melting, producing methane, which powers the greenhouse effect more). In contrast, loft insulation, or triple glazing, or insulating your boiler, or replacing all lights in your house, or very energy efficient white goods (your fridge, your dishwasher, your stove), or solar panels on your roof, can be installed/replaced tomorrow.

Finally, we don't have the technology to safely dispose of highly toxic radioactive waste for 250,000 years. That's the waste we already have, not the waste from a worldwide expansion of the nuclear industry (not just Britain, but India/China). It's immoral to impose this kind of nuclear disposal legacy on future generations.

Edited to add:

Here's a good Greenpeace blog entry about the other flaws. (Their quotes are from Blair's article to The Times, 23rd May):

"Nuclear power accounts for about a fifth of our electricity"

Sneaky. Nuclear power provides 19 per cent of our electricity but - much more importantly for both climate change and energy security - only 3.6 per cent of our energy. By just talking about electricity instead of energy, Blair's ignoring all the energy that's used to heat our homes, businesses and water, mostly provided by gas.
"We can meet our carbon dioxide emissions targets, but only if we are willing to think ahead... and give serious consideration to nuclear power."

Replacing our whole fleet of nuclear power stations would reduce our carbon emissions by just four per cent. Some time after 2024. Far too little too late to tackle climate change (and that four per cent would be wiped out by emissions from aviation expansion alone).

A new nuclear power station has never been built on time and on budget, anywhere in the world. In fact, the average nuclear power station is finished four years late and 300 per cent over budget.

Building a new fleet of new power stations will cost, based on past experience, between £20 and 40 billion - and that's ignoring the billions that will be spent on operation, waste management and decommissioning.

Research from the US found that every pound spent on nuclear would deliver 10 times the cut in carbon if it was spent on efficiency instead.

22 May 2007

Stop The War Protest at Warwick

Last Sunday, 70 Stop The War protesters attended the Labour Party hustings for Gordon Brown and the six dwarves, I mean, six deputy leadership candidates.

I hear that there were lots of "Gordon Brown's been sent to Coventry" chants.

40 of the hustings delegates signed their petition calling for Brown to set an early date for troop withdrawal.

As the national news picked up, one protester managed to get past the security and into the hall, where she was able to interrupt Brown's speech with a call for troops out.

To give you an idea of the critical roasting that Brown received from Labour attendees, party members gave him a standing ovation at the start and finish of his one-hour Q&A session.

Not enough, they should throw rose petals at his feet!

Upcoming Ward Forums

Here are the next few ward forums in Coventry. Strangely, whilst other wards seem able to book venues in their ward, two of the first three Earlsdon ones have been outside the ward.


Date: Thursday 24th May 2007
Time: 7.00 - 9.00pm
Venue: The Precious Blood and All Souls Catholic Church, Kingsland Avenue, Coventry, CV5 8DX.

Date: Tuesday 5 June 2007
Time: 7.00pm - 9.00pm
Venue: Finham Park School, Green Lane, Coventry, CV3 6EA

Date: Wednesday 6th June 2007
Venue: St Pauls Community Hall, Foleshill Road, Coventry. CV6 5AJ
Time: 7.00pm to 9.00pm

Date: Thursday 7th June 2007
Venue: Jaguar Sports and Social Club, Browns Lane, Allesley, Coventry. CV6 3LL.
Time: 7.00pm - 9.00pm

Date: Tuesday 12 June 2007
Venue: The Butts Park Arena, The Butts, Coventry, CV1 3GE
Time: 7.00-9.00pm

20 May 2007

Mental Health in Coventry

The mental health charity, Mind, has published a report entitled "Ecotherapy -- the green agenda for mental health."

Mind describes ecotherapy as "getting outdoors and getting active in a green environment as a way of boosting mental well-being".

Mind's chief executive Paul Farmer: "Ecotherapy is a credible, clinically-valid treatment option and needs to be prescribed by GPs, especially when for many people access to treatments other than anti-depressants is extremely limited."

One study cited by Mind (108 people studied by the University of Essex) found that 94 per cent said green activities had benefited their mental health and lifted depression, while 90 per cent said a combination of nature and exercise had the greatest effect.

A few of the report's recommendations:

- GPs should consider referral for green exercise as a treatment option for every patient experiencing mental distress.

- Inequality of access to green space should be addressed as a human rights, social justice and discrimination issue.

- All health, social care and criminal justice institutions should be required to ensure access to green space.

Pressure Sales Tactics and Renewable Energy

National Energy Action in the West Midlands is warning people about renewable energy companies that target vulnerable consumers with pressure sales tactics.

A recent incident in the West Midlands suggests that some companies may be demanding payments of up to nearly £4,000 as an initial deposit as part of a larger overall sum, in excess of £10,000. The salesman is typically kind and friendly but puts pressure upon the client to sign immediately even though the householder has stated that they wish to discuss it further with family.

Saran Jarvie, Project Co-ordinator in the West Midlands, said: “We have heard a very unfortunate story where one very elderly gentleman had his credit card charged for £3,900, with another £6,200 to pay within four weeks and in the small print it states that this is whether they install the system or not."

"We are extremely saddened that some opportunistic people are taking advantage of the current interest in renewable technology which can bring so many advantages to a household."

"Do not be afraid to say “no I’ll think about it” and do not feel pressurised into buying something on the spot. Any legitimate company will be happy for you to check things out and have time to think about it."
You can always call advice centres run by the Energy Saving Trust for more information - including where to find an accredited installer and to find out which technology is right for you.

Their freephone number is 0800 512 012.

17 May 2007

GreenLight Campaign

The GreenLight Campaign focuses on Coventry City Council being a signatory to the Nottingham Declaration on climate change, and for a reduction in energy use, especially on lighting by businesses in the city centre.

Stephen Trinder, from the Campaign for Dark Skies, got in touch with myself, and John Verdult from Coventry Friends of the Earth, in April, and we participated in an article on this for the Coventry Times.

The chief problem with the city council's current "Switch it Off" is that it is dreadfully underfunded. Coventry city council contributes £5,000 for publicity, and 5% of one staff member's time, and 1% of their 2 media support officers time.

This is not proportional to the challenges that we're facing. We need to be far more proactive in reducing energy consumption.

You can tune in to Liz Kershaw's morning programme tomorrow, from 7am to 8am, as her "early riser" will be Stephen. He'll be helping to review the morning papers and chat about the campaign.

We'll also have some sort of joint stall in June with the Greens and Coventry FOE trying to get signatures from people to support these goals.

14 May 2007

Oil, Water, War and Refugees

So, NATO is going to hire itself out to countries and companies who need their oil and gas defended.
The likely measures would involve providing sea-borne rapid reaction forces to combat attacks on facilities, hostage taking and piracy in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. "In NATO, we are looking very actively at using our maritime resources ... to see how we can link up with oil companies," Shea told a conference in London. Shea said he had discussed the issue with Royal Dutch Shell Plc and London-based BP Plc, the second and third-largest western oil companies in the world. NATO is also in talks with Qatar about how it could help secure the Gulf state's large liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities.
You might remember Jamie Shea from his wonderful press conferences during the Kosovo war.

Camilla Cavendish, in the Times, outlined recently the coming struggles over both oil and water resources in the Middle East and Africa.

Finally, Christian Aid figures that 1 billion people will be displaced by either conflict or climate change between now and 2050.
By comparison, 66 million people were displaced across Europe by May 1945, in addition to the many millions more in China. Today, there are an estimated 163 million people worldwide who have been displaced by factors like conflict, drought and flooding as well as economic development projects like dams, logging and grain plantations.
We need to start understanding how our unceasing demand for petrol, for oil, for energy use, is linked to climate change and struggles over scant resources in Africa and Asia.

- Personally, I missed the decision that this was the new role for NATO, to be an international mercenary force able to be hired by Shell or BP when they're in time of need. We need to keep consuming our petrol, and we're going to send our crack military troops to ensure it.

- We will require new international structures to be put in place if we are anticipating hundreds of millions of people being displaced from their home countries, or internally displaced, around the world.

- We have to stop making baby-reformist-steps towards climate change strategies, both locally and nationally.

New Council Cabinet for Coventry

Ken Taylor (Con-Earlsdon), as leader of the council, has announced his cabinet colleagues for the next year.

What's interesting is that Gary Ridley (Con-Sherbourne) has been reshuffled from "Culture, Leisure and Libraries" into a newly created portfolio, with the grand title of "Climate Change, Housing and Sustainability."

Ridley will be responsible for Agenda 21, the council's climate change strategy (once it's announced), "carbon footprint," conservation, "energy conservation and renewal," green travel, the housing strategy, the Nottingham Declaration and sustainability.

Energy renewal? I guess they mean renewable energy. Unless he's found a way to reverse entropy.

My first reaction was that it's a good move.

The second reaction was that it excludes community economic development, value for money, procurement and transport.

My third take on it was that you need some way for the other 7-8 portfolios to need to run each and every decision (like Gordon Brown's Comprehensive Spending Review process) through Ridley, to make sure that their activities fit into a coherent climate change strategy and council-wide monitoring of the carbon footprint.

11 May 2007

Reflections On The End Of Blair

- The BBC coverage of Blair's resignation, on the 10pm news, included his clip from Comic Relief with Catherine Tate ... but no visuals of Dr. David Kelly.

- Gordon Brown, in an interview this month with Time magazine, said, "I take responsibility, as does the whole of the cabinet, for decisions we made on Iraq. There will be no sense in which we seek to walk away from decisions we made." Great new start, Gordon. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg described the "planning, preparation, initiation or waging" of a war of aggression as the "supreme international crime." Until Brown faces up to his role as the war and occupation's paymaster, it will be hard to re-establish trust in Labour leadership, especially about international threats to Britain.

- Finally, have they learnt nothing about public antipathy towards spin? Each of these items were released on the day of Tony Blair's resignation, as good a day to "bury bad news" as it gets.

* A report on the soaring bill for ID cards: figures published by John Reid disclosed that the cost of the scheme has risen by £840m in just six months.

* The Department for Work and Pensions announced the closure of three debt centres with the loss of 380 jobs.

* The number of under-16s whose genetic information has been added to the national DNA database has passed 500,000

* Patients are still being treated on mixed-sex wards in nearly 20 per cent of hospital trusts, 10 years after the Government promised to abolish this

* Record numbers of people were declared bankrupt in the first three months of 2007

Activity Since The Election

Our next monthly meeting is on Tuesday, the 15th May, at 730pm, at the Grapevine Centre, Doe Bank Lane, in Spon End.

All are welcome. We'll be discussing our election results (what went well, what we've learnt for next year) and upcoming campaigns.

Media-wise, we've been busy bunnies this week:

- Bryn wrote a letter, published earlier this week in the Coventry Telegraph, about how the Tories need to put some real effort into fulfilling all their "vote blue, go green" hot air; he cited the example of the Green efforts in Kirklees towards insulation and central heating improvements for 11 000 homes.

- Bryn also went for an interview on Mercia FM on Thursday, on incineration

- I've written to the Coventry Telegraph (thanking Green voters in our 8 wards and inviting everyone to our next monthly meeting), to the Independent (on cuts per household for renewable energy grants), to the Guardian (on co-op housing), and to the Coventry Times (on Gordon Brown being inextricably linked to the Iraq war and occupation).

- Finally, I've been invited to be one of Liz Kershaw's "early risers" on the 29th of May (chatting with Liz on the BBC Coventry breakfast show, reviewing a few stories from the newspapers).

07 May 2007

Peace Wins! Peace Wins!

It took a penalty shootout, but Peace FC (from the University of Bradford's Peace Studies Department) beat War Studies FC (from Kings College) in footie on the weekend.

To misquote Alan Green (from his Treble-winning radio commentary): "the War Studies players don't know what's hit them ... Peace hit them!"

You can see some photos from the match here.

Bradford's Peace Studies department, founded in 1973, is the largest such academic centre in the world, with 400 students from 40 countries.

04 May 2007

Coventry Election Results

There's good news and bad news.

The good news

- 13 of us gathered at my place (a good mix of party members and folks helping out) for a briefing and get-to-know-each-other chat (Bryn entertained everyone with stories of accidental property damage whilst leafleting)

- We then went in convoy to the vote count (car sharing is the new black), met up with three others, and went to our respective tables to observe the count

- Emma received 8.5% in Wainbody (with roughly 33% of the vote at the polling station in Ramphal building at the University of Warwick)

- I managed 13.4% in Earlsdon (with 24% at the polling station at Gilbert Richards Centre and 20% at the station at Earlsdon Methodist Church Hall)

- other wards (Bablake, Longford) where we achieved over 5% without having a leaflet

The not-so-good-news

- It was gutting to finish just behind the BNP in Cheylesmore, despite our ward-wide A5 leaflet.

- We managed just over 800 votes in Earlsdon last year, so we're down 150. In our two strongest polling stations, we were down as well. The Lib Dems didn't have a leaflet, yet managed over 400 votes. I was optimistic, as we had canvassed areas of the ward we didn't last year. Our leaflet was an A4, rather than A5, and it had lots of content on it. It's very possible that people took a punt on us, and now that they're more informed on where we stand, our vote is slightly down. That's a good thing, as now we have a better sense of what, and where, our "core" vote is.

- Elsewhere, the Socialists lost St Michael's, and Respect received 3.5% in Foleshill.

- The BNP received 10% or better in Binley and Willenhall, Henley, Holbrook, Lower Stoke, Radford, Westwood, Woodlands and Wyken.


Bablake (37.7% turnout)

Grimalda Gianluca, Green, 249 (5.6%)
Kelsey Brian, Conservative, 2126
Mutton Mal, Labour, 1147
Simpson Peter, Liberal Democrat, 510
Stone Michele Jean, BNP, 401

Binley and Willenhall (32.4% turnout)

Beech Denise, Conservative, 1010
Clarke David, BNP, 561
Lakha Ram, Labour, 1733
Sewards Geoffrey Brian, Liberal Democrat 306
Wattebot Cathy, Green, 126 (3.4%)

Cheylesmore (36.4% turnout)

Foster Kevin John, Conservative, 1803
Hughes Zoe Gale, BNP, 350
Jackson Jean, Labour, 1342
Kenny Terence, Liberal Democrat 423
Tittle Bryn, Green, 325 (7.7%)

Earlsdon (41.96% turnout)

Felvus-McCarron Joanne, BNP, 189
McKee Vincent John, Liberal Democrat, 427
Redding Scott Gordon, Green, 652 (13.4%)
Taylor Ken, Conservative, 2364
Youett Christopher Nicholas, Labour, 1241

Foleshill (44.47% turnout)

Asif Mohammed, Conservative, 1359
Johnston-Wilder Susan Jane, Liberal Democrat, 155
Jones, Thomas Paul, BNP, 105
Khan Abdul Salam, Labour, 2577
McKenna Caron, Respect, 156
Murdoch Andrew, Indepedent, 17
Walker Penny, Green, 92 (2.1%)

Longford (29.23% turnout)

Bigham, Linda Joyce, Labour, 2073
Grana Natalia, Green, 213 (5.8%)
Stone Val, Conservative, 1079
Wagstaff Leisel Dawn, BNP, 286

Radford (27.64% turnout)

Anderson Dave, Independent, 132
Finnan, Daniel Joseph, Green, 144 (4.4%)
Johnson-Wilder Peter Jonathon, Liberal Democrat, 282
Skipper Tony, Labour, 1663
Whitehouse Tracey, BNP, 359
Williams Jane Marie, Conservative, 670

Wainbody (35.3% turnout )

Biermann Emma, Green, 358 (8.5%)
Ijoma Joe, Labour, 981
Penlington Napier, Liberal Democrat, 524
Sawdon Tim, Conservative, 2324

03 May 2007

Election Day

I spent yesterday morning and early afternoon leafletting the polling station centred on Earlsdon Methodist Church Hall. Then, John helped me do the polling station centred on Stivichall Primary (A45/Kenilworth Road area). The idea was to drop reminders off at houses which we had canvassed as yes/undecided, or they hadn't been in when we originally called. I'm shattered!

I think that there are a number of organisational factors that will help us this year: a better leaflet, a photo that looks like me (ha ha), being the first leaflet to people's houses, and reminding undecided voters in this way. More broadly, I talked with one woman as she washed her car last night, and she used the phrase, "carbon footprint", and that wouldn't have happened last year on the doorstep. The environmental coverage in the Echo throughout the year (and front-page stories in broadsheets every other day) has led to a broader environmental awareness. Plus, I've talked with a number of people who have said, "oh, I've seen your letters in the Telegraph."

I've tried to use a blog, in last year's election, and since July 2006 with this one, to outline how we would use our first seat on Coventry City Council to introduce different policies, put issues on the agenda, and propose resolutions that other parties would not.

The important thing about election day is to vote for a party whose policies you believe in. It's rather frustrating to hear on the doorstep that I disagree with these four key policies of "my" party, but I'm going to vote for them out of "habit." Vote for a party whose policies you want to see extended and deepened.Vote in a positive way today, whether you are voting in Earlsdon for the Green Party, or for the Tories, Labour or the Lib Dems.

01 May 2007

Canvassing Update

- In the last few days, we've canvassed most of Avondale Road, Broadway, and Earlsdon Ave North and South, as well as the north half of Broad Lane. Broadway, last night, was especially positive!

- We've got 17 people signed up to come to the election count for us (six of our eight candidates, plus a number of friends). Goodness knows what will happen with postal ballots this year!

- The Echo has come out with their "election profiles" section in their May issue. It was interesting that the Lib Dems didn't get a profile in for Earlsdon, nor the Tories for Whoberley.

- A number of people are asking on the door about if it would be hard to be a lone councillor amongst 53 others. I would use the opportunity to bring more attention to Green politics and positions over my four years. If I do that effectively, I'll have another councillor or two joining me in 2008, and a few more in 2010. As well, if I were to win very very early on Friday morning, Lambeth and Bristol are other councils with lone Green councillors, so I'd have some people to ask how it was for them, tactics, strategy, etc.

May Day

Labour unrest in Chicago began on 1st May, 1886, culminating on the 4th of May. The issue was the 8-hour work day becoming law, and 350,000 workers nationwide went on strike at 1,200 factories.

Annual commemorations began in 1890. Then, in 1904, the International Socialist Conference meeting in Amsterdam called on "all Social-Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on May First for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace."

It's not just about a long weekend.

- Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley have an article in the Guardian about the merger of the T&G and Amicus trade unions, who together, have already signed an agreement to seek a merger with the United Steel Workers of the US and Canada. The first transatlantic trade union!
- Do you shop at Asda? Read this link. Human Rights Watch is coming out with a report on the union-busting tactics of Wal-Mart, which owns Asda.

In a breach of US law, Wal-Mart has allegedly banned union organisers from distributing flyers outside its stores and has confiscated literature found on the premises. Healthcare programmes are often limited to "catastrophic coverage" for accidents and emergencies, rather than preventative medicines. The company faces the biggest class action lawsuit in US history in which 1.5m women claim the company discriminated against female staff in pay, promotions and assignments.