31 August 2008
It was good chatting with other attendees, notably the folks from "v" -- about seed funding for volunteering projects in Warwickshire, and how the "v" team in Coventry may be able to help us find volunteers (newsletter editorial assistants, newsletter ad sales people, fundraising event assistants?).
Currently, there are a variety of opportunities for 16-24 year olds through "v" in Coventry:
- helping with an allotment at Henley College
- being an admin volunteer for the "Young Leaders" project at Terrence Higgins Trust
- doing events and fundraising work with the RSPB
- being a befriender at Coventry Refugee Centre
- or being part of Nature Force at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.
29 August 2008
In contrast, Obama, in his acceptance speech in Denver, said:
"Washington's been talking about our oil addiction for the last 30 years, and John McCain has been there for 26 of them. In that time, he's said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office."
"Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close."
28 August 2008
Coventry Green Party spokesman Scott Redding said:
"Plastic bags are more symbolic than anything. They might make up a small percentage of waste but cutting down on them might get people thinking in a different way."
"What's more effective is to get across the idea that plastic is oil and we should cut down on our use of plastic, full stop, by using glass bottles instead of plastic."
"Right now, the council is shying away from trying to reduce people's waste overall. They want to up the household recycling from 25 per cent to 50 per cent but they're taking 12 years to do it. In terms of non-plastic bag waste, they're setting their sights lower than they could."
27 August 2008
BBC's Midlands Today had a piece on a new MBT plant in Ludlow, South Shropshire. The plant opened in March 2007, and it is the first of its kind in the UK to process source-seperated municipal kitchen waste into biogas (renewable energy) and a biofertiliser (for local farmland). For more information, you can visit the website of the firm, Greenfinch, that runs it.
- To state the obvious, he's African-American. He's had to walk a fine line between being able to talk about race but not be "the angry black man."
- He doesn't have traditional pre-Presidential-race experience (he's not a second-term-or-more Senator, a state governor or the Vice-President).
- 12% of the country think he is Muslim (a further 1% think he's Jewish).
- He's under 50 years old.
- He's a "lifelong city dweller" trying to win over rural areas.
- He represents Illinois (the last fellow to run for President from Illinois lost the '52 and '56 elections for the Democrats). He was born in Hawaii, the first person to be his party's nominee to come from that state.
- His success will rely on turnout by young voters.
- It was an incredibly divisive battle against Hillary Clinton.
But, I think his main problem is that Obama keeps using high-falutin' words, like "specificity" -- he needs to keep talking about hope and change, but start talking far more about unemployment, about falling real incomes, and explain things in 10-word chunks that people in the check-out line at Wal-Mart can understand.
It's interesting that Obama's reading up on the convention speeches of Kennedy in 1960 and Reagan in 1980. Andrew Sullivan has also written a compare and contrast piece that examines the strengths and weaknesses of McCain and Obama.
26 August 2008
"Many containers storing the radioactive waste are made of second-rate materials, handled carelessly, and are liable to corrode. Through a combination of slip-shod management and lacklustre construction, 40 per cent of the containers are expected to fail, quite possibly before a long-term storage area can be built and sealed."Oh, and did you hear that Spain had a 90-minute fire at one of its nuclear plants on Sunday? It led to Spain going to "the pre-alert level of the country's Interior Emergency Plan." I wonder if that is Spain's version of Cobra. Greenpeace, and Ecologists in Action, have demanded the withdrawal of the operating permits, as well as a precautionary shutdown, for the three nuclear plants in Tarragona (the Asco-1, Asco-2 and Vandellos-2 facilities).
You might know IMBs better as "Boards of Visitors" -- they visit prisons and listen to detainees, not necessarily about issues like immigration problems, but issues like access to a solicitor, staff behaviour, living conditions, or food.
The National Council feels that the proposed Titan jails (at least 3 jails, with 2500 inmates each, on a site of 50 acres, at £350 million a pop) could be dangerous, that ministers have failed to explain why they would save money, and that ministers appeared to omit any concern for the importance of monitoring conditions in prisons.
Nacro, the Howard League, and the Prison Reform Trust are also against the Titan proposals.
The council said "there will be major and potentially dangerous consequences if services such as health and education are provided centrally, as it will be difficult to protect the most vulnerable prisoners from those who might cause them harm".Both Labour and the Tories favour expanding the prison population, a prison population already the highest per capita in Western Europe.
The council's president, Dr Peter Selby, said: "Most of our boards favour smaller units and have negative experience of large establishments and clustering of prisons to achieve efficiency, but at the cost of effective rehabilitation. We shall continue to emphasise and carry out our task of monitoring fairness and respect wherever people are imprisoned, and point out the major disadvantages of prisons of a size that present serious management problems."
This flies in the face of a recent study (July 2008) by Professor Carol Hedderman (University of Leicester; a former Assistant Director of research at the Home Office). She argues that the Carter Report (the idea of Titan prisons and expanding the prison estate) was largely "unevidenced." Her main conclusions were that prison reconviction rates have escalated as the population has increased, and that expanding the prison estate will generate, not satiate, demand.
Does that sound like the right way to protect society?
24 August 2008
He says it could be possible to continue opening 100 academies a year after 2011, when the target of 400 city academies is likely to be met. Furthermore, he now says they should become "akin to private schools," with strict disciplinary codes, a broad curriculum and 12-hour days.
The Green Party is against the idea of city academies. Education is for the public good, and should be publicly funded.
City academies empower private-sector sponsors to have control over admission policy and the curriculum. State schools should remain under the democratic control of local education authorities.
Neither the Tories, nor the Lib Dems, are opposed to city academies.
But more importantly, when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, did you think that key Blairite policies, such as city academies were going to be kept in place?
22 August 2008
- They've wrongly detained disabled children.
- They've had no specialist health services for children, no registered sick children's nurse, no "easily accessible" mental health services for children, and no children's counsellor.
- There was inadequate education and after-school facilities.
- They've kept inaccurate records.
- Some families had been transported to and from the centre in caged vans.
A spokesperson for the UK Border Agency described the entire situation as "necessary [as part of maintaining] a robust but fair asylum system."
It's interesting that the Rudd government in Australia has changed its policy in the last month. No more asylum-seeking children would be detained by Australia, and all asylum seekers will now have access to lawyers at the Australian government's expense.
The alternative for Britain was outlined back in July by the Independent Asylum Commission.
They called for an end to the detention of all child asylum seekers by the government. They found that detention was not necessary for the majority of asylum seekers, and that it should never be used for children or pregnant women. "Guardianship schemes for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children" could take the place of detention -- with the appointment of named individuals to safeguard their best interests.
- Water policy, with McCain being from down-stream in Arizona, could play a key role in the swing state of Colorado.
- Someone's trying to steal our clothes.
- I've lost count of the data losses in the last year of the Brown government. This time, they've lost:
- the names, addresses and dates of birth of around 33,000 offenders in England and Wales with six or more recordable convictions in the past 12 months on the Police National Computer
- the names and dates of birth, but not addresses, of 10,000 prolific and other priority offenders
- the names, dates of birth and, in some cases, the expected prison release dates of all 84,000 prisoners held in England and Wales
The Guardian points out that: "if it falls into the wrong hands it could leave some criminals with spent convictions open to retribution at the hands of victims, raising the possibility of the government being sued."
21 August 2008
- Three years ago, North and South Korea even contemplated having a unified team in Beijing. Sadly, it ended up that they didn't even march together into the stadium.
- Too much attention has been given to gold medalists. I'd like more attention to the athletes who came to Beijing and achieved personal bests. I think Louis Smith, winning the first individual medal in gymnastics for Britain since 1908, should get more attention.
- Speaking of medals, who are the top countries when you compare total medals to their country's GDP? (China, US, Britain and Russia lead the official medals table today. But, by this criteria, Russia is 34th, China is 40th, Britain is 49th, and the US is 71st)
It's a joint effort between Sustain and Andrew Whitley, an organic baker and author.
Britain produces almost 12 million loaves a day, but only 3% are produced by regional artisan bakers. The campaign's definition of "real" bread is bread made with flour, water, salt (not mandatory) and some yeast, either naturally occuring or industrial -- with no additives or added enzymes.
Most industrial bread is made by the Chorleywood Bread Process (CBP). Traditionally, most bread was fermented (allowed to rise) for many hours, often overnight. The CBP uses high-energy mixers and "a slew of chemicals" to make a very white loaf in double-quick time.
"In contrast, if you let dough ferment for long enough, natural and beneficial bacteria work to make the bread more digestible, nutritious and tasty. Most British bread is made too quickly for these bacteria to have a chance. Fermenting dough for six hours as opposed to 30 minutes removes around 80% of a potentially carcinogenic substance called acrylamide found in bread crusts, and long yeast fermentations conserve the highest levels of B vitamins in dough."The Real Bread Campaign aims to inform people about the state of modern bread and where to find the real thing.
"It will encourage bakers to improve their methods and to reward (with new customers) those who are already making great bread. We'll be campaigning for honest labelling of all ingredients. We want individuals, schools and other institutions to make their own real bread ... It's even been calculated that making a loaf in a home breadmaker uses less energy than buying one in a supermarket. Bake your own and save the planet? I see the beginnings of a joyful and healthy domestic economy."
20 August 2008
Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan, who chaired the Lords Science Sub-Committee on Waste Reduction, said: "It is time for the Government to remove its priorities from household waste to the far greater problem of industrial and commercial waste ... We would also like to see the VAT regime reformed so that products that have a long life cycle and can be easily and cheaply repaired are made economically more attractive."
The waste reduction report also criticises the Government's decision to cut the budgets of agencies such as the Waste Resource Allocation Programme, created to encourage more sustainable business practices.
The Times has a top 8 list of "pick your own fruit" farms.
For August, greengages, plums, early damsons, and blackberries are coming into season. Apricots, gooseberries, blueberries, cherries, loganberries, rasberries, peaches, and redcurrants are still in season.
18 August 2008
"Water scarcity - and its consequent problems - has leapt up the list of concerns of the military and defence world. We report from Mexico City - where water levels are dropping faster than Venice, Kenya - where it's estimated half the African continent could be suffering from 'water stress' within 25 years, and the West Bank, where water consumption has become one of the main obstacles to peace."
Here's his list for 2008, with myself at #14.
1. Two Doctors
2. Bean Sprouts
3. Green Girls Global
4. Kitchen Witch
5. Ruscombe Green
6. Peter Tatchell
7. Barkingside 21
9. Greenpeace UK
10. Stuart's Big Green Spot
11. Flesh is grass
12. Gaian Economics
13. Johnny Void
15. Jenny Jones
18. Hippy Shopper
19. Transition Culture
20. Alice in Blogland
15 August 2008
The idea that a DNA database is secure, that 12 months worth of ISP information or phone calls is secure, isn't credible.
In July 2006, the government introduced higher fees for biometric passports, 29% higher in fact, promising that it would be the most "secure ever produced by the UK." Instead, the encryption on biometric passports was cracked by January 2007. Passports are supposed to last 10 years, but the security protection only lasted 6 months. And it's not unaffordable. All you need is some software, a £40 card reader, two £10 radio frequency chips, and a publicly available programming code, and you can fake a passport in an hour.
Here's another example of how ID checks are not being used for security purposes. They are being used for control. Even four years ago, groups were speaking out about the construction of a global culture of surveillance.
£5.5 billion will be spent on the identity card scheme. Why spend £5.5 billion on a scheme which may facilitate criminal fraud, terrorism and potential state abuses of human rights?
We have an online petition that you can sign here.
You can also check out the Facebook group here.
This Saturday, we'll start collecting paper signatures to complement the online petition. We'll be going door to door in areas that surround the incinerator's current location (Cheylesmore and Lower Stoke).
If you want to help out, give me a call (07906 316726), and we'll be active from 12pm to 2pm.
If you're not free on Saturday the 16th, we'll also be doing this on the 23rd and 30th of August, and the 6th and 13th of September.
14 August 2008
Friends of the Earth's Keith Kondakor is firmly against burning rubbish, but has applied for the £83,000 director's job leading Project Transform, Coventry's future strategy to deal with waste that can't be recycled.
Mr Kondakor has even told the council he'll do the job for £44,000 less than its salary.
The campaigner says he applied for the job because the council is currently bidding for funding for a new incinerator but the public won't be consulted for at least another three years.
He said: "As a member of the public I will have to wait years before I can have a say at the planning meeting. This will be too late as they will have wasted £4 million by that point on the bidding process. We need to talk now about what is really needed for processing waste in the region. Applying to manage the project seems the only option available to discuss it at the top level."
12 August 2008
The Second Law of Thermodynamics is about order; the Universe is inexorably heading to increased randomness and disorder. For practical purposes, this does not have to be a problem because we can increase order locally by hard work, by expending energy. But in the process we create greater disorder (heat and waste) elsewhere. If there is plenty of energy and plenty of "elsewhere", then we don't have to worry. Indeed, for our whole existence, we largely haven't worried; in fact the whole world order, built on trade and economics, hasn't worried.
A recent study looking at Nicaraguan coffee production and processing showed that the total energy embodied in coffee exported to several countries - though not all - was not compensated by the dollar price paid for that energy. Essentially, the conclusion was that the country is exporting subsidised energy.
The orderliness required to plant, grow, harvest, process, pack, store, monitor, administer, transport, display and sell the produce in a supermarket is simply staggering, and the expended energy intense. As an example, tomato production in the US consumes four times as many calories as the calorific value of the tomatoes created.
Surely at some point, let's say between $50 and $500 per barrel of oil, it no longer makes any sense to simultaneously export and import food high in embodied energy.
Don't worry if you can't come, since we're going to be starting up a rolling programme of more social meetings (pub nights, BBQ and board game nights, going to the odd film), on top of the monthly meetings. You can give me a call on 07906 316 726 for information on future meetings.
We discuss one aspect of Green Party policy per meeting, and how it could be applied/put into place here in Coventry. Tonight, we'll talk about the Citizen's Income. You can read more about the economic policy of the Green Party here (especially section 730, on the Citizen's Income).
A Citizen's Income would replace tax-free allowances and most benefits. It would be sufficient to cover an individual's basic needs. It would be unconditional. It would be payable to each individual as a right of citizenship. It would not be subject to means testing.
There would be no requirement to be either working or actively seeking work. The idea would be to eliminate unemployment and poverty traps. People would be able to choose their own types and patterns of work.
We wouldn't have a welfare state as much as a welfare community, engaging people in personally satisfying and socially useful work.
It's this kind of policy that sets the Green Party apart from the Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. What kind of society will we have if we continue our obsession with working harder and harder, with less leisure time, for low pay? We won't have the level of social solidarity needed to address the challenges of climate change, so long as individuals have their basic needs under threat.
11 August 2008
- It's worth checking back every few days to look at Barack Obama's YouTube channel. They put up their TV ads, general campaign videos, and campaign videos specific to certain state-by-state races.
- Solar power projects in Burkina Faso (Christian Aid)
I am 24. Will there be a Green prime minister in my lifetime? And will it be you?
Helen Faulkner, Windsor, Berkshire
"Absolutely. After all, Labour went from their first MP to government in 24 years – and that was without the added urgency of external environmental pressures. But it's more likely to be someone from your generation than mine – maybe Norwich opposition leader Adrian Ramsay, who is likely to be our first deputy leader, and is just 26 – so I will be counting on him when I'm spending more time with my family!"
Why do so many British people still not believe in climate change?
Fraser Sullivan, Dorking, Surrey
"I think many people are genuinely confused – confused by a government that says climate change is the greatest threat that we face, and then gives the go-ahead to the largest expansion of aviation in a generation, and promotes the idea of more coal-fired power stations, like Kingsnorth."
What is the point of the Green Party when all the mainstream parties are embracing the environmental agenda?
Antonya King, Middlesborough
"All too often, other parties make 'green' all about 'taxes', and use it as an excuse to raise money from ordinary people. Any money collected through incentives to cut carbon should be invested in saving us money and energy, like Green councillors are doing by providing free insulation. Add to this the fact that the other parties also manage to have the wrong policies on everything from fighting inequality to preventing crime."
Scrunity Board 4 is reponsible for looking at policy surrounding community services, health, culture, leisure, libraries, and neighbourhoods/community safety. You can see more information on its membership and upcoming meetings here.
Under APMS (Alternative Providers of Medical Services) contracts, potential bidders - private companies, the voluntary sector or GPs - will be invited to run each surgery on a three-year contract.
The Coventry Telegraph reports:
The Local Medical Committee (LMC), which represents city GPs, is vehemently opposed to the "commercial-isation of general practice". It was represented at the meeting by secretary Dr Jamie Macpherson who warned that the cash came with "strings attached", in the form of multinational companies looking to make a profit. Socialist Cllr Rob Windsor raised concerns about some of the multi-nationals who could be potential bidders for the new Coventry surgeries. He said: "Inviting them in would be like inviting dingos to run a sheep farm. Let's have a proper look at these companies or we could see them denying healthcare to certain people."You can take a look at the report from the committee here (6th August 2008).
A number of interesting things upon close reading of the report:
1) The Scrutiny Board decided that:
"to suggest that general practice in its current form is somehow fundamentally different to general practice provided by a consortium of GPs, or even a private healthcare company, is generally not credible."
For the committee, for-profit healthcare is the same as GPs in their current form. Hands-up, who agrees with that? For-profit healthcare means that more profitable procedures/patients will get priority, rather than what local health necessarily needs.
2) The chair, Joe Clifford (Lab - Holbrooks) is the only member to attend all the meetings/visits/briefings listed at the end. The deputy chair, Altaf Adalat (Con - Foleshill), didn't attend any of them.
3) The committee disagreed (page 10 of the report) with both the Local Medical Committee, as well as local pharmacists (The Local Pharmaceutical Committee).
12. The LMC identified what it saw as the following general flaws:
- The APMS contract creates a business-based, profit-driven approach to health care, at the expense of the existing GPs’ service-based, patient-centred approach – Dr Wells, Vice-Chair of the LMC suggested that the new contracts might be "the end of general practice as I know it".
- Short term contracts interrupt continuity of care and the GP’s role as a patient advocate
- The procurement process creates barriers to entry for GPs, notably the significant cost of preparing a credible bid
- GPs are not, in isolation, an effective response to health inequalities
- The risk that new entrants will either destabilise existing general practice provision, or fail and leave the market, thereby wasting tax payers’ money, with the additional risk that damage to health care provision in the locality will already have been done
- There are fears for the terms and conditions of salaried GPs, and questions about the quality of the practitioners
- Private contractors will offer diagnostic services and undermine their provision at
University Hospital Walsgrave
13. The LMC’s overall view is that the existing GP contracts, the General Medical Services (GMS) contract, and Personal Medical Services (PMS) contracts are the appropriate means by which new services should be introduced.
14. The Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC), which represents the city’s pharmacists, came to a similar view. The LPC saw considerable risk and potential destabilisation of the provision of community pharmacy, if there was turbulence in general practice. The pharmacists feared the new practices would include so-called "100 hour" pharmacies which are exempt from the control of entry regulations. The LPC feared that these new co-located pharmacies could put existing pharmacies out of business, and reduce the provision of "High Street" community pharmacy.
09 August 2008
Each morning, the neighbourhood has a meeting that feeds back to the main site meeting through delegates. These meetings are based on non-hierarchical consensus techniques and have been efficient and productive. Any problems are resolved, tasks are divided and any camp-wide issues are discussed.
Workshops form an integral part of each day. They are wide-ranging, based mainly on participatory discussion rather than passive consumption of information.
They have focussed on political, technological and philosophical issues, and have included talks on the science of climate change, ecofeminism, the relevance of the miners strike, and the potential impact of a new Kingsnorth coal plant.
There have also been vegan cake making classes, banner making sessions and instruction in direct action techniques. In the evenings there is live entertainment, including performance poetry, a celidh and Seize the Day.
06 August 2008
- a video on the US coal industry's greenwash efforts
05 August 2008
Caroline Lucas, Green MEP for the South-East:
"The climate camp protest is a peaceful and legitimate demonstration against a proposed facility that many view as a potent symbol of the government's misguided commitment to highly polluting and unsustainable fossil fuels."
"Activists from far and wide have travelled to register their disgust at government support for new coal-fired power stations and at the lack of urgent action on climate change."
"As climate campers hold workshops and debate some of the key issues of our time – peak oil, economic downturn, food shortages – scores of police sweat in their riot gear on the other side of the fence. They all clutch a copy of a pocket booklet entitled "Policing Protests" - produced by the ominously titled "National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit" - which appears designed to provide endless ways of shutting down legitimate protests. One such tactic has been to smash the windows of vehicles parked outside the camp and to try to tow away cars under the Abandoned Vehicles Act."
"I am shocked by the violent and excessive attack on civil liberties meted out by the police here, as is my Green colleague on the London assembly and member of the Metrolitan Police Authority, Jenny Jones, who has already raised concerns with Met commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, and New Scotland Yard. We will be calling for any Met officers who have acted inappropriately to be reprimanded, fined or even sacked. It is crucial that we defend the right to peaceful protest, a right that is under threat from the government's disproportionate anti-terrorism legislation and anti-democratic amendments to its planning bill."
"Everything now hinges on stopping coal. Whether we prevent runaway climate change largely depends on whether we keep using the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel. Unless we either leave it - or the carbon dioxide it produces - in the ground, human development will start spiralling backwards. The more coal is burnt, the smaller are our chances of future comfort and prosperity ... Everything I have fought for and that all campaigners for social justice have ever fought for - food, clean water, shelter, security - is jeopardised by climate change. Those who claim to identify a conflict between environmentalism and humanitarianism have either failed to read the science or have refused to understand it."
03 August 2008
02 August 2008
"If Kingsnorth goes ahead, it will be operating by 2012, two years before the CCS [carbon capture storage] experiment has even begun. The government says that the demonstration project will take 'at least 15 years' to assess.
It will take many more years for the technology to be retro-fitted to existing power stations, by which time it's all over.
On this schedule, carbon capture and storage, if it is deployed at all, will come too late to prevent runaway climate change.
Kingsnorth will produce around 4.5m tonnes of CO2 every year; if all eight of the proposed coal plants are built, they will account for 46% of the emissions Britain can produce by 2050, assuming the government sticks to Brown's new proposed target of an 80% cut.
Aviation, using the government's own figures, will account for another 184% (these figures are explained on my website).
Even if we stopped breathing, eating, driving and heating our homes, the new runways and coal burners the government envisages would more than double our national greenhouse gas quota.
"The climate camp is designed to challenge not just the expansion of coal but the idea that progress can only be attained through growth and the extension of "free" market ideologies. We need new ways of thinking and acting that put people and the planet we all live on back at the heart of things. We need a just transition away from fossil fuels. That is the singular and urgent task of this generation and that's what the Climate Camp is all about."
"On Monday at 3pm, we intend to breach our bail conditions and join hundreds, maybe thousands of others at the climate camp. We do not take this decision lightly; the legal implications are very serious. We may be arrested and jailed for our determination to be at the camp. Scientists tell us that from this week we have just 100 months to solve climate change. That's not long; from this moment on every week counts."