28 December 2008

Israel Kills 250 In Gaza

Hardly any of the news broadcasts over the last two days mention the 6-month ceasefire by Hamas.

They hardly mention that wayward Hamas rockets, against a country with a world-class airforce and nuclear weapons, killed no one, and in response, 250 people get killed.

A few things to read:

- RandomPottins
- Madam Miaow
- Ewa Jasiewicz, in Red Pepper

Doctors at Shifaa had to scramble together 10 makeshift operating theatres to deal with the wounded. The hospital’s maternity ward transformed their operating room into an emergency theatre. Shifaa only has 12 beds in their intensive care unit, they had to make space for 27 today.

These attacks come on top of existing conditions of humanitarian crisis: a lack of medicines, bread, flour, gas, electricity, fuel and freedom of movement. There is a shortage of medicine – over 105 key items are not in stock, and blood and spare generator parts are desperately needed. Shifaa’s main generator is the life support machine of the entire hospital. It’s the apparatus keeping the ventilators, monitors and lights turned and the injured alive.

Shifaa’s head of casualty department, Dr Maowiye Abu Hassanyeh explained, ‘We had over 300 injured in over 30 minutes. There were people on the floor of the operating theatre, in the reception area, in the corridors; we were sending patients to other hospitals. Not even the most advanced hospital in the world could cope with this number of casualties in such a short space of time’.

An Extra Runway At Heathrow

Letters on an extra runway at Heathrow:
Will Hutton is wrong to claim that air travel has been democratised ("Travel is vital to halt prejudice", Focus, last week). Seventy five per cent of budget airline flights are taken by social classes A, B and C, while people in classes D and E occupy just 6% of all available seats ... Hutton wants more "mobility and modernity" - in the face of the evidence that all it achieves is harm to the global poor and vulnerable.

Prof Andrew Dobson
School of Politics, International Relations and Philosophy, Keele University

[SR - Andy was the 2005 Green Party candidate in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and came close to winning a seat in 2006 local elections]

Will Hutton thinks aviation should be encouraged because it will break down barriers and halt prejudice. Would such barriers and prejudice be lesser or greater in his globally warmed world, where hundreds of millions attempt to migrate from inundated low-lying lands to areas of heat and water stress, where agriculture is also in collapse? We all know the answer to that - humans have always fought to the death over limited resources and, if he gets his way, will do so in unprecedented scale in the future.

Jon Fuller

24 December 2008

Bishop Of Manchester On Credit Crunch

I'm in Manchester for Xmas (Worsley in Salford, to be precise). The Bishop of Manchester is wading in, as has John Sentamu, on the culture that led to the "credit crunch" ...

"What is happening globally to our finances threatens to disable our ability to use wealth in the right way. Desperate measures are needed to reverse the disasters of climate change, to cope with AIDS-related tragedies especially in Africa, and to end poverty across the world. The greed of the few who have corrupted our use of wealth becomes injustice for many."

"Health and happiness are, of course, aided by money. But in the end it is the things that money cannot buy that will rescue our economy and bring the joy and peace that we are currently much lacking."
Also read: The Bishops of Durham, Winchester, Carlisle and Hulme wading in to give New Labour a black eye.

21 December 2008

Labour, Bailiffs And Emergency Loans

Labour is considering offering workers who lose their jobs during the recession guaranteed work or a retraining place within six months. This would go hand-in-hand with the proposed mortgage holiday for those facing house repossession, deferring mortgage payments for up to 2 years if workers lose their jobs.

It sounds good, but ...

- Labour wants to remove centuries-old restrictions on bailiffs. If you have unpaid credit cards or loans, and the bailiffs see you move a curtain to peer out, or if they hear a radio, they'll have the right to force their way in, and the right to restrain or pin you down.

- Youth who don't go to university are facing an even tougher time than ever.

- When demand for emergency loans from government is up, Labour wants to shift these loans to credit unions. Instead of being interest-free, they'll be anywhere from 12.6% to 26.8%.

Labour simply isn't doing enough.

20 December 2008

Recyclable Waste Going To Landfill

Quite an incredible story in the Telegraph. 3 out of 4 councils are dumping recyclable waste in landfill or burning it in incinerators, rather than, er, recycling it. The hard numbers: 209 councils responded to the Telegraph. Leeds, whose local MP is environment secretary Hilary Benn, said it dumped 4% of waste earmarked for recycling every year. For people to buy into expanded recycling programmes, they need to know it's going to be actually recycled!


- If oil is replaced entirely with coal-based liquid substitutes (as opposed to renewable energy sources), we reach a 2 degree Celsius rise in global temperature 14 years earlier.

- A few more good-looking environmental appointees by Mr. Obama.

- A turbine in Northern Ireland has produced the highest power so far from a tidal stream system anywhere in the world.

- Leeds University students voted to ban bottled water last week! Slick website for the National Hydration Council, backed by Danone, Nestlé and Highland Spring.

- Watch the "Monbiot Meets" series of videos as soon as possible.

16 December 2008

Caroline Lucas On Heathrow

Caroline Lucas wrote an article yesterday for The Guardian's comment is free pages, on the direct action at Heathrow by Plane Stupid:

"It seems clear to almost everyone except the government that proposals for a third runway at Heathrow should have been scrapped months ago ... Expansion would lead to spiralling carbon dioxide emissions, unacceptable noise pollution and worsening air quality for millions living in London and the South-East – all at a time when the government says it is committed to substantially cutting the UK's carbon emissions."

Other things I've been reading:

- Amnesty International saying that only specialist police officers should carry Tasers (334 people have died since 2001, due to Taser use in the US)
- 1 million children in poverty in Britain don't qualify for school meals ... and this, supposedly, is the burning issue that motivates Gordon Brown each morning
- Nearly one in four children are obese by the time they start primary school

15 December 2008

The "Environmentally Unconcerned"

I found this article fascinating. It looked at the environmental attitudes of people in Redmond (inner-city affluent Bristol) and Basildon (one of the more deprived parts of urban Essex).

One group (Basildon) is behaving environmentally (cycling, using public transport, less likely to have a car), but not in traditional, council-measured ways (recycling).

The other group (Redmond) is doing all the tick-box activities (recycling rates, composting rates), so, on paper, they're doing great, but they fly more and drive more and have bigger homes to power and heat.

How do we speak to both groups at the same time, so they converge ... Basildon recycling more and becoming "environmentally concerned" ... Redmond consuming far less, a more simple green lifestyle?

14 December 2008

The Hooper Review And Royal Mail

Richard Hooper is a former deputy chair of Ofcom who was asked to look at the postal system (size and scale of distribution network, does it need to "modernise").

His report will be published this week, so look out for it.

Peter Mandelson is the minister who will make the decision. He's already told the Financial Times that he wanted to part-privatise the Royal Mail ten years ago, when he was head of the DTI. The current fear is that the government will take over the pension liabilities of Royal Mail (it has a £22 billion pension scheme), thus making it more attractive to buy.

Keeping the Royal Mail publicly-owned was a Labour manifesto commitment. Privatisation would also contradict the policy agreed by Labour’s National Policy Forum for a "wholly publicly owned, integrated Royal Mail group."

It's surprising that services that benefit everyone (the post, the railways, the buses) either remain in private hands, or may go that way, after 11 years of a Labour government.

Services that benefit everyone shouldn't be run for profit. If the Royal Mail is run for profit, there will be profitable parts of a city or a region and unprofitable ones. There will be profitable areas of postal delivery (next day business) and unprofitable ones. Large areas of the country (rural areas, more deprived urban areas) will lose out under part-privatisation, or a full sell-off.

How can that be a good thing at a time of economic instability?

12 December 2008

Martti Ahtisaari's Nobel Peace Prize Lecture

Given in Oslo, this past Wednesday, from Nobelprize.org:

"Wars and conflicts are not inevitable. They are caused by human beings. There are always interests that are furthered by war. Therefore those who have power and influence can also stop them."

"All conflicts can be settled, and there are no excuses for allowing them to become eternal. It is simply intolerable that violent conflicts defy resolution for decades causing immeasurable human suffering, and preventing economic and social development"

"In a conflict, one party can always claim victory, but building peace must involve everybody: the weak and the powerful, the victors and the vanquished, men and women, young and old. However, peace negotiations are often conducted by a small elite. In the future, we must be better able to achieve a broader participation in peace processes. Particularly, there is a need to ensure the engagement of women in all stages of a peace process."

Lush And Plane Stupid

Mark Constantine, co-founder of Lush, that cosmetics chain:

"Along with many other [businesses], we try to be responsible for our impact on the environment by cutting our dependence on air travel. We achieve this by reducing domestic flights and reducing the number of people travelling. We have also introduced an internal charge of £50 per tonne of CO2 emitted by our flights and are donating this to pressure groups such as the Campaign for Better Transport. It seems to me that as our government is trying to adapt its fiscal policies to get through the financial crisis, so it has a duty to reduce climate-changing gasses also ... Yet somehow unconstrained airport expansion seems to indicate a lack of any plan."

11 December 2008

Energy Infrastructure

What "Climate Man" and his sabotage of Kingsnorth, has demonstrated is that energy infrastructure is surprisingly unguarded. There are also "chokepoints" for energy infrastructure on a global level. Why should we deepen our attachment to unsustainable forms of energy (internationally-transported oil and gas), when the sun and wind and tides are here in Britain?

10 December 2008

1948 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Listen up, people, it's Morpheus:

Also read: What the UDHR Means To Me, Nazanin Boniadi, "Over 190 nations have ratified this declaration; and yet surveys show that more people can name 3 members of the Homer Simpson TV Cartoon family than they can name three of their basic human rights. You can’t defend what you do not know."

US Weapons At War 2008

This is an annual report, co-authored by William Hartung and Frida Berrigan, of the New America Foundation.

Hartung and Berrigan are calling on Barack Obama, and the next US Congress, to endorse/ratify treaties on landmines and cluster munititions, and to develop a new arms transfer policy that includes human rights and nonproliferation objectives.

Some choice facts:

- The United States accounts for 45% of all weapons transferred globally in 2007.

- During 2006 and 2007, the United States provided weapons and military training to over 174 states and territories, up from 123 states and territories in 2001.

- Of the 27 major conflicts under way during 2006/07, 20 involved one or more parties that had received arms and training from the United States.

£9 Million In City Council Cuts

Coventry City Council is considering £9 million in cuts in services.

They blame the rising energy/fuel prices for council buildings, the downturn in the housing market (a six-figure drop in revenue from planning application fees), and the need for 3% government efficiency savings.

- If we had shifted council buildings to having their own solar panels, and their own micro-CHP units, they would be "insulated" from energy price rises.

- I've sent an email to the council's head of "Finance and Legal" to see if their "corporate risk register," as of 1st Jan 2007, and as of 1st Jan 2008, had assessed the risk of a housing collapse. 5 times earnings, and 120% mortgages, were not going to go on forever.

- If central government can bail out corporate banks, why can't they give a "holiday" for a year to efficiency savings made by local government? Do you cut the fat when you're starving?

09 December 2008

Global Corruption

I worked for a year at a think-tank, looking at military corruption and military-run business. As such, stories like this one leap out at me. Today is the UN's International Anti-Corruption Day. Corruption adds up. $1 trillion is estimated to be spent each year worldwide on bribes, by firms and ordinary individuals. Christian Aid has issued a report on what the UK could do.

This would include:

- full compliance with the OECD's Anti-Bribery Convention,
- full implementation of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC),
- more resources to investigate and prosecute domestic firms accused of bribery overseas,
- the return of the billions in stolen foreign assets held in British banks,
- the freezing of assets of people in the UK, including foreigners, who are under investigation for corruption.

08 December 2008

What I'm Reading

- The Coventry Telegraph's latest Go Green supplement, 24 pages, in today's paper

- A market-led approach for "Next Generation Access" broadband may lead to 40% of the country being excluded -- "almost all of Scotland, most of Wales, much of Northern Ireland, large parts of south-west and north-east England, and rural areas throughout the length and breadth of England."

- Ann Pettifor, about the credit crisis myth: "The global economy is now sinking under a vast strain of debt, and the priority must be to deal with that debt. We are not faced with a savings crisis ... We are faced with a massive debt crisis."

Plane Stupid's Stansted Protest

On BBC Five Live's morning broadcast, they interviewed people who had "saved up for months for a girly day out to Bremen" ... when the average income of people using Stansted Airport is £48 340 per year (CAA; 2007). This was a peaceful direct action protest ... one morning of disruption to highlight the impact for decades of short-haul flights within Europe.

- The aviation industry creates a "tourism deficit" of £7 billion pounds each year ... this is the amount of money spent abroad by Britons flying out of the UK for leisure and holiday trips, compared with the spending by visitors to Britain

- Airlines receive over £9 billion in tax breaks each year because of tax-free fuel and VAT-free tickets and planes. That's the same as the tuition fees for 3 million students.

- In 2004, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee said that the government foresees the need for another Heathrow-sized airport every 5 years. Does this sound sustainable ... on carbon emissions grounds, on noise pollution grounds?

Why does one industry get to expand and expand and expand, when the rest of us will have to drastically cut our carbon emissions?

Also see: BBC video of the arrests
Also read: Leo, from Plane Stupid, chatting with the Guardian
Also read: Jess Worth, New Internationalist
Also read: Paul Kingsnorth, commenting on an article on the Guardian's website (616pm, 8 Dec)
Also read: Johnny, from Plane Stupid - Scotland, in his comment in a Telegraph article (624pm, 8 Dec)

07 December 2008

UK Youth Delegation In Poznan

You can follow a group blog of the UK Youth Delegation to the Poznan conference here.

One of the delegates, Casper ter Kuile, who is a student at the University of Warwick, gets interviewed here:

You can also see other videos from youth participants:

- Dian, from China
- Josh, from Canada
- Line, from Denmark

06 December 2008

"Poznan Needs To Head Off The Collision"

Kevin Watkins, senior research fellow at Oxford University's global economic governance programme:

"Put starkly, Poznan must head off a collision between the energy systems that drive our economies, and the Earth's biosphere. Ambitious targets must be at the heart of any agreement. But we also need a new institutional architecture for cooperation between rich and poor countries ... Over the past few months, rich governments have moved financial mountains to protect the integrity of their banking systems. What price the ecological integrity of our planet, the wellbeing of future generations, and our commitments to the world's poor?"

05 December 2008

Climate Change March On Saturday

The London event will start at Grosvenor Square at 12 noon. Beforehand, there will be a climate protest bike ride starting from Lincoln's Inn Fields at 10.30 am.

The march this year is part of a global day of action. You can read more about it here.

Speakers at Parliament at the end of the march will include Caroline Lucas (our party leader), Michael Meacher (ex-Environment Minister) and George Monbiot (Honorary President, Campaign against Climate Change).

The March on Parliament has four main themes:

1) No to a 3rd runway at Heathrow (the cabinet has postponed a decision on this until January 2009)
2) No new coal-fired power stations
3) No expansion of agro-fuels (which have a negative impact on climate and the world's food supply), and,
4) Yes to a renewable energy revolution and green jobs - a "Green new Deal"

Pilot Projects For Free School Meals

Green councillors in Brighton have won a vote to ask the Government for funding for a pilot scheme to provide all young people at the city's primary and secondary schools with free school meals. It would be a big help for low income families facing rising food prices.

04 December 2008

Copenhagen - UN Climate Head At Poznan

A climate change conference is underway in Poznan to begin a year-long process for an agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol. 10,700 delegates – from 187 nations – are gathering in Poznan. Kyoto only lasts until 2012, and the hope is that an agreement will be reached at a 2nd conference, in December 2009, in Copenhagen. Within the EU, Poland (93% of its electricity comes from coal) and Italy are opposing an agreement with tough new emissions standards.

Yvo de Boer, the UN's top climate official wants the right path to be taken for the next 15 years:

"What concerns me most is that the financial crisis will lead to a second set of bad investment decisions ... I hope that the second financial crisis is not going to have its origins in bad energy loans. We must now focus on the opportunities for green growth that can put the global economy onto a stable and sustainable path."

Copenhagen - EU Emissions Permits

This was the same process that preceded Kyoto ... water down and water down the agreement, and then still claim for the subsequent decade that Kyoto was too stringent and harmful:

Oxfam says that in tomorrow’s [5th December] Environment Council meeting in Brussels, European decision-makers must resist industry scaremongering if the EU is to lead the way at global talks. If the EU buckles, it will fail to deliver on its own objectives of avoiding global warming above 2°C and send the wrong signals to the UN Climate Conference now underway in Poznan.

In general, business groups are strongly opposed to the auctioning of emissions permits, saying they should continue to get them for free. They argue that paying for carbon permits will lead to higher costs, a loss of competitiveness and ‘carbon leakage’ as firms facing global competition will shift their operations to other countries which will not face a carbon price. In particular, the iron and steel, cement, oil refining and chemical manufacturing sectors have been lobbying intensely for continued free allocation – and they seem increasingly confident of winning concessions.

Elise Ford, head of Oxfam’s Brussels office: “Poor countries need at least $50 billion a year to adapt to the negative impacts of climate change and much of it could be raised by earmarking the revenues of auctioning carbon permits. This would be one of the most decisive contributions that rich countries could make to engender good-will and progress at the Poznan talks."

The Plan

After a good 90-minute group leaflet tonight, we only have 1500 leaflets to go in our first ward-wide effort at Cheylesmore. After meeting our two other signatories, I'm off to cut a cheque to pay our printer tomorrow at Nationwide. Then, I'm down in London for the climate change march on Saturday.

Our next meeting will be on Thursday, 11th December, at 730pm, at the Cheylesmore Community Centre.

We'll have a guest speaker, Anne Harris, on supermarkets and obesity in Coventry.

We're going to try and have speaker meetings once a month at various venues in Cheylesmore, and then have socials (both canal walks and other get togethers) apart from this.

In the new year, 2009 seems like such a big number, January and February will be devoted to following up our leaflet with some door-to-door canvassing in Cheylesmore.

01 December 2008

World AIDS Day - 1st December

I didn't want there to be a 20th anniversary of World Aids Day.

73 000 adults have HIV in the UK. 5000 more contract HIV each year, with Coventry having a higher rate than the rest of the West Midlands.

HIV prevention is straight-forward. If you're at risk of HIV transmission through drug use, there are a number of needle exchange projects near to Coventry. In straight or gay sex, men need to wear condoms. Women need more self-respect and confidence, so they can ask a male partner (whether for the night, or longer-term) to wear a condom. We need to value and protect ourselves.

If you need help and advice, you can phone THT Direct on 0845 1221 200 between 10am and 10pm on Monday to Friday, and from 12 noon to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday. Emails can be sent to info@tht.org.uk

Twitter Tweets

If you wish, you can get notification of new posts on this blog through Twitter. Each post is also a tweet.

Twitter played a key role in getting information out to loved ones, and even minute by minute reportage of what was happening, in Mumbai.

30 November 2008

Mumbai - The Threat Of A Hindu/Muslim Rift

Aatish Taseer:

"More than 4,000 Indians have died in terrorist attacks — the country is the second biggest victim of terror after Iraq and virtually every one of its big cities has faced a terrorist attack. Yet the government has no centralised terrorist database, its intelligence is abysmal and there is little evidence that the state knows who it is fighting."

"In dragging its feet, the Indian state does nobody a greater disservice than Indian Muslims. When there are no real suspects, arrests or trials, everyone becomes a suspect. Already an underclass, with low literacy rates, low incomes and poor representation in government jobs, Indian Muslims are increasingly alienated. There is also great pressure on them. Nobody wants to listen to genuine grievances about poverty, illiteracy and unemployment in the face of a real threat to the country. Many Hindus want Muslims to come clean on the issue of the jihad and to make clear whose side they’re on."

"India has the largest Muslim minority population in the world (13.4% of the population, or about 150m) but unlike Muslims in western Europe, they are not immigrants. They have been part of India for centuries. This is why all Indians — Muslims and Hindu alike — know that the deepening divide threatens the country’s existence."

28 November 2008

The Impact Of Mumbai

It struck me as odd at the time, but the bombings in Mumbai point out how misplaced the entire Obama European Tour 2008 was during the US election campaign. Why is it Europe that he needed to tour to prove his foreign affairs credentials? He just as easily could have visited Iraq and Afghanistan and kept travelling east, signalling that he would forge a new relationship with India and China as part of his term. Bush had already begun that process with the US-India civilian nuclear agreement.

A chief risk from the attacks is a hard-line Hindu backlash which would threaten the secular balance between Muslim and Hindu not only in Mumbai, but across the country:

"If Pakistan truly wishes to turn back the tide of fundamentalism in its country, and stop exporting violence overseas, then it must have proper support and assistance from India. Yet the concern is that if last nights atrocities in Mumbai turn out to be Islamic backed, violence and retribution could ignite across India. The nation possesses a larger Muslim population than Pakistan, and much of the area around the Crawford Bazaar in the heart of Mumbai remains steadfastly Muslim – Mosques and Minarets abound, as do bushy beards, skull caps and women wearing burkhas. Anti-Muslim feelings here if uncontrolled in the wake of these terrorist attacks would be devastating. Tens of thousands could die."

Vatican Installs 2400 Solar Panels

The Pope goes solar: "The system, devised by the German company SolarWorld, will allow the 108-acre city-state to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by about 225,000 kilograms (225 tonnes) and save the equivalent of 80 tonnes of oil each year."

Sentamu On Woolas

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, talking about Phil Woolas and his remarks on immigration:

"For any honourable member to suggest that someone who has made out reasonable grounds, and has succeeded in their appeal under the due process of law 'has no right to be in this country' is a worrying development ... May I be forgiven for suggesting that the honourable member in question does not advance his stated desire to have 'a mature debate about immigration' by this carry on?"

Attacks In Mumbai

I find it astonishing that the BBC News (Radio 4) didn't have the Mumbai terror attacks as their lead story at 730am today. Especially when it's still going on.

What's also depressing is that there has been a series of explosions (64 killed a month ago in Assam, 22 small bombs killed 49 in Ahmedabad in July; 63 killed in bombs in Jaipur in May), but it only gains world attention when terrorists single out Americans and British people in Mumbai.

27 November 2008

What I've Been Reading ...

George Monbiot: "Do we want to be remembered as the generation that saved the banks and let the biosphere collapse?"

Amnesty International UK: "Tasers are potentially lethal weapons which are already linked to numerous deaths in north America and that's why wide deployment without adequate training is a dangerous step too far for British policing."

Chris Goodall's 10 big energy myths: "Rapid innovation in the US means that the next generation of solar panels will be much thinner, capture far more of the energy in the sun's light and cost a fraction of what they do today."

IPS News: "Ocean acidification cannot be fixed quickly. It might take a thousand years for the oceans to regain their buffering capacity to prevent continuing acidification. Many species will not be able to adapt and there will be no place to hide."

Obama And Discontent Over His Cabinet

Keeping Bush's Defence Secretary might be a good thing for Obama to do. FlyOnTheWall makes the point that cabinet appointees execute policy. They work for the president. What has happened, for decades, is that the Pentagon's bureaucracy stalls and out-lasts civilian appointees. Instead, Obama is signalling that he will pursue the key reforms that Gates has tried to put in place. These include trying to stall/question the procurement of the F-22, the C-17, the CSAR-X helicopter, the Zumwalt-class stealth destroyer, and the $160 billion Future Combat Systems initiative.


"And defense spending is just the tip of the iceberg. On a wide array of issues including encouraging heterodox thought, promoting capable officers, reigning in inter-service rivalries, prioritizing the needs of soldiers in the field, and placing personnel ahead of technology, Gates has made important strides - a point I've already made at excessive length. Having him pursue the same agenda while working for a President who actually agrees with and supports his efforts is an exciting prospect."
We (anti-military activisits, whether Left or Green) continue to have a contradictory position:

- The military-industrial complex is all-powerful, it cannot be overcome, Blackwater is hiding under every bed, it's iron-clad, we'd doomed to the Pentagon buying £1040 wrenches

- Obama should sweep into office, appoint all progressive people to his cabinet, and throw out Gates, and the military, and military industry, will just fall in line, they'll love Obama, and on his own, he will change the world.

It's neither of these things.

Perhaps Carter and Clinton simply weren't effective (heck, Carter was leading by 30% in the summer of 1976, and he was one-term-and-out) since they came in and appointed people who didn't know what they were doing. Maybe it's more important to set overall policy, manage people (as opposed to Cheney/Scooter/Rummy going rogue), and get things done.

I'd rather Obama concentrate on making the Copenhagen conference a reality, to start getting the US out of Iraq, to begin an economic stimulus in the US, than stumble around for a year with ideologically pure appointees.

26 November 2008

Council Staff And The Incinerator

I wasn't able to go, but two members of CRACIN went to a local residents association meeting last night. Andrew Walster, from the council's waste services department, gave a presentation on the incinerator.

I continue to be worried about the slant that council staff give in presentations to ward forums and other community-level meetings.

For example, they say that Coventry is now up to 30% in its recycling rate. However, our level of composting is most of that, and our "dry" recycling rate is one of the worst in England. They continue to insist that there is no market for non-HDPE plastic. This is despite plastic reprocessing plants opening in Lancashire, in Lincolnshire, and two in Wales. Finally, they talk about the incinerator, but not alternatives to it. They talk about the incinerator, but not things like the £92 gate fee.

People pay their council tax so that council officers can give impartial advice about the pros and the cons, about trade-offs and benefits ... not just what reflects well on the council.

Caroline Lucas On Radio 4

Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green Party, will be on "Any Questions" on BBC Radio 4, at 8pm on Friday night. Her fellow guests will be Geoff Hoon, Vincent Cable, and David Willetts.

25 November 2008

Copenhagen - Coal And Poland

In advance of the climate change conference in Poznan, Greenpeace protesters clashed with Polish miners on Monday. According to the World Coal Institute, Poland (apart from South Africa) is the most coal-dependent country in the world, producing 94 percent of its electricity from coal:

"The Jozwin mine lies near Goplo lake, listed on the EU's Nature 2000 programme aiming to safeguard threatened species in the bloc ... Konin, the firm that operates Jozwin, also plans to open a second opencast mine in nearby Tomislawice but environmentalists say this could destroy Goplo, home to rare wildlife."

"Some Poles share Greenpeace's concerns but others say wealthier western EU states had built up strong infrastructure before embracing the environmental cause. Poland has begun to receive large-scale EU funds to modernise its dilapidated infrastructure, including roads."

Portugal And Electric Cars

Portugal, with the help of Renault and Nissan, want to build 1300 charging stations for electric cars by the end of 2011. Portugal has 10.6 million people. If the same initiative happened in a city the size of Coventry, it works out to 36 stations -- two for each ward. Tax incentives and reduced parking rates will also be offered to drivers of electric vehicles. Why can't we have some of that ambition in Britain?

2 Degrees Vs 3 Degrees

An interesting laying-out of the costs to produce various scenarios:

- If we keep things as they are, we're likely to face a 6 degrees Celsius rise in average global temperature. This would end life as we know it.

- If we invest $4.1 trillion in energy-related infrastructure and equipment, we're likely to improve our energy efficiency, save $7 trillion, and stabilise greenhouse gases at 550 parts per million in the atmosphere (a rise of about 3 degrees Celsius). This would make life very uncomfortable, and could still trigger run-away heating.

- If we invest $9.3 trillion (and have 36% of the global energy mix by 2030 be low-carbon), fuel savings will only be $5.8 trillion, but we could limit the world to a 2 degree rise in temperature.

The "common sense" option (going for 3 degrees, getting a net saving of nearly $3 trillion) shows why we can't evaluate economic options in the same old way.

Pre-Budget Report - The Day After

- Only £3 billion of the £20 billion "reflationary boost" of the pre-budget report is capital spending. If we want a long-term boost, for long-term economic benefit, this isn't the right way to proceed.

- Two Doctors points out that Brown's 2005 conference speech proclaimed Labour as the party of economic stability ... precisely when we had a housing bubble, and all the sub-prime-shenanigans were starting to build up.

- Hamish McRae, in the Independent, says that when Japan was in crisis, "the more the government borrowed, the more frightened people became and the more they felt they had to save." He goes on to express alarm that the government is talking up the crisis as unprecedented. "The danger of talking up perils is that people will believe them. It is the reverse of Franklin D Roosevelt's phrase that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – between them, Messrs Brown and Darling are trying to make us more fearful, not less." It's the need for a crisis that I talked about a few days ago. Once the crisis is over, people will turn to the soft/cuddly leader for "peacetime" - Cameron - rather than the Churchill/crisis figure of Brown. Brown needs to keep us afraid.

- There was no emphasis on grassroots financial arrangements (credit unions, co-operatives) in the Pre-Budget report. We need to get people saving in a sustainable way again. Instead, Labour are turning to the very institutions, High Street banks, that got us into this mess.

24 November 2008

Leadership Of The Scottish Greens

If you want to read about the leadership of the Scottish Greens (their new "co-convenor"), the Times had a profile of Patrick Harvie yesterday. He's the first openly bisexual party leader in British politics.

The Pre-Budget Report

You can read the entire Pre-Budget Report here. He's a tricksy fellow, this Darling. He talks about a green component to his stimulus package, but buried in the detail is an expansion of the motorway network, as well as (4.61) a "review of the regulatory framework for UK airports" so that "airport operators are incentivised to deliver timely, efficient and necessary investment in new airport capacity."

You can see the Green Party's response here:
Dr Caroline Lucas MEP, Leader of the Green Party said: "The Chancellor’s plan to cut taxes to promote a consumer-spending boom is short- term thinking in the extreme. Even if it works, it will simply ship money abroad, as most consumer goods are imported, rather than supporting jobs here in the UK. More seriously, it also represents a return to the vicious cycles of debt and over-consumption that caused the crisis in the first place ... By putting capital spending into increasing motorway capacity, diluting the incentive to buy more efficient vehicles, and encouraging more aviation, Gordon Brown has shown his environmental incompetence, as well as his economic recklessness."

21 November 2008

Boris Continues To Surprise

A lot of people predicted "dogs and cats, living together, total hysteria" when Boris was elected Mayor of London. He's not doing it Ken's way, and doom may still come, but in the last month, we've had the commissioning of a study for an illegal immigrant amnesty , the idea for 2012 food gardens across London by 2012, a pledge of 40% of new homes to be made available for social housing, and a pledge to eradicate rough sleeping in London by 2012.

Last Garden Waste Collection For 2008

It's next week's waste collection - the week of Mon 24th November. They will be halted until the week of 3rd February.

The city council says that: "a leaflet will be coming through the post letting people know all of the collection details for rubbish and recycling over the holiday."

The council's advice goes on to talk about how you can shred/recycle your real Christmas tree. We buy a real tree, but only every few years -- we just put it out in our back yard for the intervening 11 months.

Woolas On Asylum Appeals

The Labour government, in next month's Queen's speech, plans to block appeals to high court judges from failed asylum seekers facing deportation.

The immigration minister, Phil Woolas, has this idea that asylum seekers only try appeals to prolong their stay. In reality, the Refugee Legal Centre, the largest provider of legal representation to asylum seekers, wins 50% of its cases on appeal.

Earlier in the week, Woolas criticised lawyers and non-governmental organisations who work on behalf of asylum seekers, saying they undermined the law itself, "played the system," were an "industry," and for good measure, also said that most asylum seekers were economic migrants.

Simon Barrow, co-director of Ekklesia: "It is utterly astonishing that a senior government minister should dismiss a court decision in this way, blame lawyers and others who give vulnerable people access to justice, and try to say that there is something wrong in appealing against the state's attempts to kick you out of the country. People win appeals because the system has failed them ... Governments attack human rights workers when they have something to hide. The UK authorities have been rightly criticised for dawn raids, removal of children and other abuses of justice in relation to people seeking asylum - even refusing to accept the legitimacy of their own numerous legal defeats. It is this that needs public investigation."

Also: http://stopdeportationofguy.wordpress.com/

20 November 2008

A Tour Of The Blogs

- Two Doctors is frustrated at the SSP (in Edinburgh) and Respect (in Manchester) both opposing congestion charging.

- Caroline Lucas reports that MEPs have voted to support a ban on cluster munitions.

- The One Show's blog on consumer affairs examines the Warm Front grant scheme. One of the comments after the piece reads:

"I work as a Housing Inspector in the Local Authority and have dealt with dozens of clients who have applied for a warm front grant. My experience has been ,almost without exception, that the cost of the work through Warmfront is over inflated. Quotes for the work through local contractors consistently comes in at a THIRD TO HALF less expensive. Most of the people who contact me are pensioners who cannot afford to pay a large amount of money in order to get the work done and consequently end up remaining in cold houses. I am so pleased you have highlighted this issue on the One show, it is a NATIONAL SCANDAL."

Googlebombing E.ON

I've received a blog comment from Calvin Jones (he also has an email newsletter you can subscribe to) about the move to redirect Google searches for E.ON to www.nonewcoal.org.uk/.

The idea is that everytime you mention E.ON, you link to the nonewcoal website. Gradually, if dozens of sites do this, when people Google "E.ON" or "eon", then nonewcoal gets a higher and higher rating. It's now in the top 10 (#6 as of today).

Coal is the most polluting way of generating electricity. Every new Kingsnorth power station (E.ON) will produce the same amount of CO2 as Ghana.

Why should we keep, let alone expand, the world's use of coal? We need to boost renewable energy instead of continuing to use dirty coal.

- You can write to E.ON through Oxfam's website.
- You can write to your MP and ask them their position on coal and E.ON

"Kingsnorth is a terrible idea. One power plant with a lifetime of several decades will destroy the efforts of millions of citizens to reduce their emissions" - James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies

Copenhagen - Obama And Poznan Conference

In our year-long series of posts leading up to the Copenhagen climate change summit (end of Nov/start of Dec 2009), Barack Obama (below) sends a video message to a global warming summit in California. He is clear about his government establishing "strong annual targets that set us on a course to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them by an additional 80 percent by 2050."

19 November 2008

Obama And The US Military Budget

Katrina vanden Heuvel: "$213 billion could be cut from US military spending, and, even with this cut, the US would retain the largest military in the world and spend over eight times more than any of the next largest militaries."

In a world defined by global poverty, it's the kind of fact that should make the US a pariah state.

Protests Against Coal - E.ON In Rotterdam

Brown Needs A Permanent Crisis

Jonathan Freedland: "Brown needs it to be 1943 for as long as possible. He needs voters to believe the crisis is ongoing, that we are still in the emergency phase. Ideally, he would go into the next election as Dr Brown, still wearing his white coat, still administering medicine to the patient on life support."

18 November 2008

Our Next Ward Leaflet

It focuses on the incineration debate and the Green New Deal's boost for low-carbon employment training.

The advert artwork was passed along to me (through my wife) on Saturday. I scanned that, and did a final edit on Sunday. On Monday, I emailed our usual printer, and I didn't hear back. I called him up, and he hadn't received my email. I tried again. No dice. I tried his personal AOL account. Nada.

So, I've ended up having to send it on CD via the good old-fashioned post. Every day, in every way, technology is making our lives easier and easier!

17 November 2008

Pirates Hijack Oil Tanker Off Somalia

It will be interesting to see how this develops. It's more than one-quarter of Saudi Arabia's daily output.

Upcoming Events In Coventry

Tuesday 18th November, a film, "Rebellion: The Litvenenko Affair," Warwick Arts Centre, 7pm, £6.25 (£5.25 concs, £2.50 for Warwick Students, lucky ducks)

Wednesday 19 November - Ward Forum meeting for Westwood, 7pm-9pm, St James Church Hall, Westcotes, Tile Hill

Thursday 20th November - Campaign Meeting, Coventry Friends of the Earth, the Council House, 730pm

Thursday 20th November - Coventry Association for International Friendship, "Bethlehem’s ‘House of Peace’ at Rachel’s Tomb", Ann Farr will be a guest speaker on her visit to a peace project in an area of confrontation in Bethlehem, in the West Bank of Palestine, the Council House, 730pm

Saturday 22nd November - 18th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's resignation as Prime Minister

Monday 24 November - Transition Earlsdon will screen a film, "The End of Suburbia -- Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream," on peak oil. It's at 730pm, at St Barbara's Church Hall, Rochester Road, Earlsdon.

Tuesday 25th November - Ward Forum meeting for Binley and Willenhall, 7pm-9pm, Willenhall Education, Employment & Training Centre, Robin Hood Road, Willenhall

Thursday 27th November - Ward Forum meeting for Earlsdon, 7pm-9pm, All Souls and Precious Blood Catholic Church, Kingsland Avenue

Saturday 29th November - Hillfields Readers Group Open Day, Hope Centre, Sparkbrook Street, Hillfields, from 12noon to 4pm, with the Hillfields Young People’s Bollywood Dance Group, readings by Ann Evans and Jon Morley, a craft workshop, a book fair, stalls, and Imagination Cafe storytellers

16 November 2008

The Revolving Door

Sir David Manning is a former foreign policy advisor to Tony Blair (in the buildup to Iraq) and a former ambassador to the US. Sir David has now become a non-executive director of the British branch of Lockheed Martin (which sells jet fighters and missiles to Britain). He's also on the advisory board of Hakluyt, a firm which "once hired a former German agent to spy on Greenpeace on behalf of oil companies." Sir David only left the post of Ambassador to the US in October 2007. Most civil servants do their job in the name of public service. This job move gives the impression that high-level aides just wait for an eventual reward from the corporate sector.

14 November 2008

Police Trials For Violence At 2001 G8 Summit

The verdicts for police on trial for the violence commited against G8 protesters in 2001: "The evidence was overwhelming. There is no justice here. I feel sorry for Italy."

West Midlands European Elections In 2009

The West Midlands Green Party launched its European election campaign (for 2009) yesterday.

One focus of our campaign will be on using European institutions to help create millions of new green jobs, energy security and a stronger, more resilient economy.

The campaign launch happened at one of the success stories of green job creation in the West Midlands. In Rubery, South Birmingham, Strip Tinning Automotive, after the Rover collapse, diversified into making parts for solar panels.

Our lead candidate for the West Midlands (#1 on the Green Party list) is Felicity Norman.

If you want to hear Felicity speak, one of her next engagements is in Birmingham on the 27th of November. It's a public meeting ("How do we stop climate change?") at Birmingham Uni (Strathcona Building, Lecture Theatre 4) at 730pm.

13 November 2008

Copenhagen - Christian Aid's Countdown

This is the first in a year-long series of posts on the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen -- 30th November to 11th December, 2009.

The conference will negotiate, and agree, a successor treaty to Kyoto.

Here is a video from Christian Aid, laying out the issues at stake for the conference:

More Local Coverage On Incinerator

The Coventry Telegraph has a story today on the new YouTube video from CRACIN, and the Coventry Times has a front-page article on the controversy:

12 November 2008

Norway Tops For Gender Equality

Norway is #1 this year, but Norway, Sweden and Finland are the only countries who have been in the top 3 for 3 years running.

The UK has gone from 9th (2006) to 11th (2007) to 13th (2008).

The US has been 23rd, 31st and 26th over the three years. When you look at women and "political empowerment," the US was only in 56th place. Norway is also rated as the most peaceful nation in the world, unlike the US, which remains the only country to use nuclear weapons in warfare.

Ideas For Barack

The Guardian/Grist:

Bill McKibben, author, climate activist:

"According to the scientists at NASA -- your scientists, now -- the world doesn't work right above 350 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. Now that you're done with 270 electoral votes, that's the number that's got to focus your thinking."

Vinod Khosla, Silicon Valley investor:

"Don't focus on all things green. Instead look at the few things that can achieve 80 percent carbon reductions per mile driven in our transportation fleet and be low-cost enough to penetrate 80 percent of all transportation including in India and China. For electric power, go beyond current renewable fashion. Look at the technologies that can replace or clean up 80 percent of coal-based electric generation with 80 percent lower carbon kilowatt hours!"

Evon Peter, executive director of Native Movement:

"Barack, as you are aware, our world is in need of deep healing and a transformation of consciousness that will lead to tangible changes in policy and practice, shifting the fundamentally unsustainable and exploitative direction in which we are headed. This is not unlike the years leading up to the end of slavery as ideological forces conflicted and arguments over economics and political structure prevailed. We are entering an era of truth over politics and love over violence as a means to our survival."

Bring On The Wonky Aubergines!

20% of the British harvest is thrown away each year to comply with EU regulations on "perfectly shaped" fruit and vegetables. A vote is expected to abolish these "marketing guidelines" today.

11 November 2008

Pink's A Gardener

Q Magazine: "I have an organic vegetable garden with four raised beds. I grow cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, jalapeño peppers, spinach, kale and chillies. I also grow sunflowers, marigolds and herbs like basil and marjoram. I like to get out there in my wellies. It's very punk rock to be out in a yard growing your own food."

10 November 2008

The CRACIN Video On The Incinerator

Credit Crunch IV: The Voyage Home

- The nef has a new £4 pamphlet - 20 first steps to rise from the ashes - "This year has been finance-led capitalism’s 1989. It is now as broken as the old Soviet Union. Now there is a huge opportunity to develop a new model for a real economy that does work for people and the planet." Hat-tip to Greenman.

- China announced a £374bn economic stimulus package yesterday

- Some guy named Obama wants to crack down on tax havens as part of the "new financial architecture"

If we want to start talking about "reembedding the economy", it's time to start talking about Polanyi, not Keynes.

Finally, Mary Kaldor has a long, but interesting, article on the crisis - "Underlying the financial crisis is a deeper structural crisis in the real economy. It has to do with the mismatch between our social and political institutions and the profound changes in society wrought by the so-called 'new economy' ... Any stimulus must provide a sustainable outlet for the extraordinary gains in technological know-how of the last thirty years."

Green Party Meeting - 11th November, 730pm

We will start a series of community meetings in Cheylesmore on Tuesday evening.

It's at 730pm, at the Cheylesmore Community Centre (that's on Poitiers Road, right at Portsea). It's in room one.

We're about to send a 5000-copy newsletter to the printers, so we can have a final proof-read of that, but what we really need to do is plan outreach to attract people to future meetings, with guest speakers/films.

We also have a discussion each week about an aspect of Green Party policy -- this month, it will be migration/immigration, and you can see the party's full policy at: http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/mfss/mfssmg.html

09 November 2008

Maybe Size Really Does Matter

The Lib Dems are in control of 31 councils, with 62 MPs, 12 MEPs, and 4200 councillors nationwide.

The Greens are in control of zero councils (nearly the largest party in Norwich), with zero MPs, 2 MEPs, and 116 councillors (for England and Wales, plus 8 with Glasgow/Edinburgh councillors).

Now, consider that the Lib Dems only have 60 360 members, and the Greens (England and Wales) have 7440 members.

Either the Lib Dems are ultra-competent and ferociously disciplined, or there is a certain tipping point (Our first MP? 200 councillors? Control of our 1st council?) where you reach a critical mass of active members and you start achieving real electoral gains.

New Zealand's Green Party

In elections in New Zealand, their Green Party (with 6.4% of the vote) increased their seats from 6 to 8. They are now the third-largest party in their parliament!

One of the reasons why we want Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavillion), and hopefully Adrian Ramsay (Norwich South) and Darren Johnson (Lewisham), to be elected to Parliament is that Green MPs get things done.

Some of the New Zealand Green MP's achievements include:

- improving NZ's Emissions Trading Scheme, including creating a Billion dollar fund to make homes warm, dry and cost-effective to heat
- ensuring legislation for youth wages and flexible working hours
- helping to pass New Zealand's first energy efficiency legislation
- helping to pass New Zealand's first waste reduction legislation
- keeping commercial GM crops out of New Zealand's soil
- increasing New Zealand's commitment to overseas aid
- helping to keep New Zealand troops out of Iraq, and,
- increasing funding for public transport, cycling, and walking; vehicle fuel-economy labeling; and an agreement that fuel economy standards will be introduced soon.

08 November 2008

06 November 2008

Coventry City Farm Open Day

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is having an open day at the former site of the City Farm. It will happen on Saturday, the 8th November, from 12pm to 3pm.

It will include a DVD screening, a BBQ, and children/family activities.

WWT wants to turn the former City Farm site into a space that the local community want to use. They have a five-page questionnaire (which I presume will be available for people to fill out on Saturday) about the redevelopment. WWT has a temporary license to redevelop the former City Farm site until March 2009, so they want as much information/consultation as possible to make a decision on the next step for the former City Farm.

For more information, you can contact Izumi Segawa on 02476 302 912.

Fairtrade In The Workplace

Wood Pellet Boilers

Why are we burying fuel in landfill? Of the 7.5m tonnes a year of domestic wood waste (construction and demolition), 80% goes to landfill. Only some 4% becomes sustainable energy from biomass. Production plants for wood pellets are at varying stages of the planning process already.

Here are a number of examples of wood power at work around the country:

- Stroud District Council is encouraging home-owners to invest in wood pellet boilers

- A group called "Wood For Gold" wants the 2012 Olympic stadium's torch to be powered by waste wood. As well, the ash waste created by burning the wood "will be reused to create terra preta soils, an ancient method, favoured by indigenous South Americans, of mixing ash with waste to create extremely fertile soils"

- Worcestershire County Hall is powered by a wood boiler, and Exeter City Council is replacing all of its oil-fuelled boilers with ones that use wood pellets.

For more information, you can check out the "Log Pile" website.

05 November 2008

US Election News Roundup

- Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan ran as an independent against Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, and received 17% of the vote in a race for Congress

- In contrast, in state after state, Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney didn't receive 1% of the vote. In New York, McKinney received 12 000 votes out of 7 million cast. McKinney had only 180 donors who gave more than $200 to her campaign. The US has become more, not less, of a two-party state, despite the rise of the Green Party since before the 2000 election.

- Hispanic youth (30 years and younger) went for Obama by a 50% margin, i.e. 75% to 25%. More broadly, the youth vote margin was worth an extra 73 electoral votes for Obama.

- Obama won union voters by 22 percent; he won among those with members of unions in their households by 19 percent

- How Obama "branded" himself better.

- Trevor Phillips thinks an Obama can't happen here.

- Paxo vs Dizzy Rascal

- San Francisco had an interesting set of "Propositions" being voted on (local referendums):

Proposition B -- allocating funds to support affordable housing for seniors, families, those in danger of becoming homeless, disabled persons, those living with HIV or AIDS, and at-risk youth -- voted down by 50.54 percent of voters
Proposition H -- a deadline for San Francisco to be powered by 100% clean energy by 2040 -- rejected by 59 percent of voters
Proposition K -- the decriminalization of prostitution in San Francisco, and for the full enforcement of laws against assault or rape in cases involving sex workers -- defeated by more than 57 percent of voters
Proposition U -- no more further federal funding of armed forces in Iraq, except as used for withdrawal from the country -- passed by nearly 60 percent

- Newsweek has a behind-the-scenes look at the campaigns. A cyber attack from an "unknown entity" hit both presidential campaigns' computers during the summer. Obama's campaign had a piece of software called "Project Houdini" to keep track in real-time which people had already voted on election day.

- Women advisers will be key in an Obama administration.

Finally, Wangari Maathai (the Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner from 2004) writes on Obama as an inspiration not just for Africa's young people, but for African leaders too

The 2nd Illinois Lawyer President

The Obama Victory

You can spend some time zooming in and out (down to the county level) at this state-by-state map. Fun for ages 9 to 99.

The results in Virginia and North Carolina were probably the most satisfying.

The Guardian has a good gallery of election day photos.

Hannah has it right here: "Even if Obama wins, we have not 'won.' This isn't a movie and we can't toss every greedy lobbyist oil fatcat bigot down a reactor shaft. If we dedicate ourselves to the ongoing welfare of the country as much as we have to the outcome of this election, we'll have a much better shot at coming closer to the overwhelming good the liberals hope Obama will usher in."

Organized Rage:

"The most important is that for the first time in my life the American masses are investing in a US presidential candidate. One only has to see the TV pictures of the lines of people waiting to register to vote to understand that something new is happening. One working class black woman in her 40s said this will be the first presidential election she has bothered to cast a vote in; and she was far from being alone ... Obama will disappoint us, but his election alone will empower millions of Americans and inspire working class black people no end, They will know that someone with the same skin color as themselves sits at the head of the top table; and he will be conscious of these people blowing down the back of his neck demanding justice. It will also expose the lie that it is the US working classes that are racist to the core."

03 November 2008

Clarion Events And The Arms Trade

Another reason to dislike Top Gear.

Coventry Peace Month 2008

You can find a list of the remaining events in this year's Peace Month here.

Things that stand out:

- a Women's Peace Lunch (tomorrow, 12pm to 5pm, FolesHillfields Vision Project, 6 Paul Stacey House, Bath Street in Hillfields)

- the annual Peace Lecture (tomorrow, 7pm, St Mary's Guildhall), given by Prof. Jon Roper -- how contemporary memories of war, and defeat, have been moulded in American political rhetoric, culture and society

- Lunchtime talks of personal stories about peace (this Thursday, at the herbert, 1230pm to 130pm)

- A short film and discussion with forced and economic migrants (Thursday night, 7pm, at the Coventry Peace House)

- A series of events around the Stateless campaign next Saturday. From 11am to 5pm, a "roving band of informers and performers" will explain the position of stateless people, followed by a 10pm Saturday night sleep out in solidarity.

£8 Flights From Ryanair

£8 flights to the US from Ryanair. You have a 16-hour round-trip flight, that emits four times as much carbon as short-hops to Europe, costing less. Oh, and Stansted wants to double its passengers. People are up in arms about Enron-accounting, and derivative products that make the world economy go kablooey, but somehow, we're comfortable with the cost of aviation not reflecting the long-term environmental cost.

In other news:

Maybe we need Young Young Greens branches.

David Miliband had a rough ride from John Humphrys over the conflict in the Congo. Humphrys repeatedly put to him that the problem is the struggle over natural resources and that multinational corporations are complicit.

Do we want our nuclear bomb factories to be flooded?

Heavy drinking contributes to 25% of dementia cases in Britain. The price of alcohol, relative to our income, has halved since the 1960's. So, if we keep binge drinking like we do, we will have a wave of cases of dementia for the NHS to deal with in coming decades.

02 November 2008

Obama In Rolling Stone In Feb 2007

Rolling Stone published a profile of Barack Obama right at the start of his presidential campaign in February 2007. It's very revealing. Obama as a man "trying to pull a less-conventional trick: to turn his own person into a movement." His candidacy as "a kind of human Rorschach test ... People see in him what they want to see." His chief advisor, David Axelrod, saying: "we don't know exactly how Barack will respond. I'll be really frank with you: Barack doesn't know exactly how he'll respond."

I think that one way that Obama responded will, hopefully, change politics in Western democracies for the better.

He trusted the people joining his "movement" with responsibility.

Specifically, he used technology creatively to make them drive the process, neighbour-to-neighbour, house party by house party. Part of his election platform that has not received enough attention is how he'll continue that process of grassroots empowerment after a victory. Obama wants Cabinet officials, government executives and rulemaking agencies to hold meetings that are open to the public and transmitted with a live feed. He wants to use blogs and wikis to communicate policies with Americans and provide new subsidies for rural broadband access. He wants to provide raw governmental data to new mashup software tools to track influence and monitor corruption.

If you knock on 10 million doors, and then open up the machinery of government to people, you hopefully create a two-way dialogue, rather than a one-way mirror.

01 November 2008

Domestic Violence In Britain

Domestic violence accounts for one in six of all reported attacks, with more than one in four victims (27%) having been victimised at least three or four times. There are now 104 specialist domestic violence courts around the country, but there has been a wave of closures of much-needed support services and refuge centres. Around one third of local authorities have no domestic violence services. We can't continue to have a nationwide postcode lottery on domestic violence.

In other news:

Mark Mardell has a good post on post-WWII German identity. I'm tired of going into bookshops and the "German History" section is full of books on the Nazi regime, especially when the same shop has a seperate "WWII" section.

Right now, on the refinancing of PFI projects, profits are split 30% for the public sector and 70% for the private sector. The Treasury is now proposing for it to be 50-50, on any net gains over £3 million. The revised refinancing rules will applly to roughly 200 projects, worth £26 billion, which are expected to reach financial close before 2010.

This is what Americans call an "October surprise."

And, I won't miss 4 Poofs & a Piano.

Collecting Signatures For CRACIN

I spent the early afternoon with other members of CRACIN (the coalition against the incinerator), gathering signatures in Ball Hill. Obviously, some people brush past you, ignore you, and claim to be too busy. I didn't even have time to tell people I wasn't a charity mugger! But mostly, people were interested, and we gathered dozens of signatures. Ball Hill is more "Coventry" than what is planned for the Jerde-led redevelopment of the city centre. It's full of independent shops and caffs and charity stores. There's a new Tesco, which is jarring, but Coventry seems mad for Tesco (we have seven in the city, plus seven more within a 20-minute drive in towns in Warwickshire).

I'm off to a Green Party social tonight at Gianluca's house. We aim to have a monthly meeting, a monthly social, and a monthly canal walk (from the Peace House to the Greyhound), from now on. The host is making Italian pizza, and I can't decide whether to bring some pasta (orecchiette) with leeks and green pesto, or to make some pea/lemon risotto.

31 October 2008

JFK's Energy Revolution

"The Big Ask" And The Climate Change Bill

Mobile Phones And War

Everyone's worried about Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand ... meanwhile, 50 000 people have been burned out of refugee camps in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Think the conflict doesn't matter to you? Do you own a mobile phone? 80% of the world's coltan -- an essential component in all mobile phones -- is being struggled over in the DRC.

Salt, Bread And Heart Disease

Salt = heart disease. The Independent checked 84 breads made by Warburtons, Hovis, Kingsmill, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. Warburtons bread has 20% more salt than Sainsbury's. Reducing salt in all our food (especially takeaways) is in our long-term health interest.

A National Asbestos Survey

My father has an asbestos problem in his lower lungs (he used to work in a pulp and paper mill in the 1960s). Ucatt and the NUT want government to survey all public buildings for asbestos ... and to remove any decaying material that might cause a risk. With 13000 buildings possibly affected, this seems way past time.

30 October 2008

The Herbert's Peace And Reconciliation Gallery

The Herbert is having its official expansion opening. The refurbished gallery will have a permanent exhibit on Peace and Reconciliation.

"The permanent Peace and Reconciliation Gallery will combine contemporary and historic strands and will explore conflict and reconciliation in local and global communities. 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."

Obama's 30 Minute Informercial

If you're interested, here it is. He bought a half-hour on 7 US television networks (NBC, CBS, Fox, Black Entertainment Television, Univision -- the largest Spanish-language network, and MSNBC). 6 hours after its airing, over 320 000 people have already watched it on YouTube. I think it will come to what Dick Morris said back in June: if Obama managed to define himself as the defender of American values and individualism,he would win a landslide.

29 October 2008

Van Jones - The USA In Crisis

Van Jones is a very interesting man. In the same way that we can't impose democracy on other parts of the world down the barrel of a gun, environmental change will have to come from within the United States (5% of the world's population, consuming 25% of the world's resources). A green-collar economy in the US will benefit all of us. We have to figure out ways of supporting Jones ... and people like him.

"There is a mass pro-democracy movement in this country that has its origins back in Seattle that stood up to George Bush around the Iraqi invasion and put millions of people on the streets around the world. Not because of the party, but because people all across this country stood up and said they weren't going to take it anymore. The ones that suffered through the shame of Katrina, that propelled Al Gore to global fame and that Barack Obama saw and decided that its existence created a possibility for him. Barack Obama didn't create this movement. This movement created the opportunity for Obama. And we should never forget that."

Mandelson And Deripaska

Trevor Kavanaugh has a must-read piece on the Mandelson/Deripaska affair.

This is what happens when politicians don't keep their distance from shady business figures.

People focus on Mandelson or Osborne's judgement, but doesn't it say something about Gordon Brown's judgement? He brings Mandelson back into the Cabinet, and within a few weeks, this is what's happening?

Also see: US denied visa to Deripaska over alledged criminal connections

White Poppies

Wear a white poppy from now until 11th November. Or be like Jon Snow and don't wear any poppy at all.

Brussels sprouts, cranberries, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, and swede are now in season.

The number of data losses reported to the Information Commissioner has doubled in the last six months.

The 9th of November marks the 10th anniversary of the total abolition of capital punishment in the UK.

Finally, Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust: "Young mothers are still going to jail for the same reasons they were in Victorian times: poverty, debt, addiction and mental illness."

The UK's Ecological Footprint

Another story that shows it's not all about the credit crunch ... the Living Planet Report is the work of WWF, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network:

"In the UK, the 'ecological footprint' - the amount of the Earth's land and sea needed to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste - is 5.3 hectares per person. This is more than twice the 2.1 hectares per person actually available for the global population."

"The UK's national ecological footprint is the 15th biggest in the world, and is the same size as that of 33 African countries put together."

" 'The events in the last few months have served to show us how it's foolish in the extreme to live beyond our means,' said WWF's international president, Chief Emeka Anyaoku. 'Devastating though the financial credit crunch has been, it's nothing as compared to the ecological recession that we are facing.' The more than $2 trillion (£1.2 trillion) lost on stocks and shares was dwarfed by the up to $4.5 trillion worth of resources destroyed forever each year."

28 October 2008

Growing Labour Opposition To Heathrow

More than 50 MPs, including 23 from Labour, have signed an Early Day Motion against a third runway at Heathrow. Ann Keen, who is the MP for Hounslow, Osterley, Gunnersbury, Brentford, Isleworth and Chiswick, did a survey of local people. 90% of respondents opposed a third runway.

Interestingly, the Tory shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers is among the signatories of the EDM. Villiers is on record as being opposed to a second runway at Stansted as well.

"The Uncontrollable Fury Of Nuclear Weapons"

It's World Disarmament Week.

"It is my firm belief that the infinite and uncontrollable fury of nuclear weapons should never be held in the hands of any mere mortal ever again, for any reason."

- Mikhail Gorbachev

My 1000th Post

To honour the milestone, I thought I'd take a trip around green blogs here in the UK:

- Jim, at the Daily Maybe, has an interview with Jean Lambert, one of our two Green MEPs

- Peter talks about why we need more Green councillors

- Stuart is disappointed that Maidstone Borough Council has decided to prioritise economic growth over carbon emissions reduction

- Natalie describes an arts performance in St Pancras

- Croydon Greens look at the development of roof gardens

- Sue has two posts about trees in Lewisham

- Molly, at Gaian Economics, talks about the IMF, aka, the International Monetary Farce

- Charlie blogs about street lighting in Bristol, Philip highlights the Indie's story on GM in Britain, and Rupert shines a light on the new Green councillor on Mid Beds District Council

Finally, something we're all interested in, Adrian makes us aware of an upcoming conference on eco-retrofitting of housing in Brighton