28 February 2009

Why Nuclear Power Isn't The Way To Go

Prof John Whitelegg is the Green Party's spokesperson on sustainable development. He's one of 12 Green councillors on Lancaster city council:

"It is true that a small number of Greens, feeling the urgency of the climate crisis, have suggested a nuclear re-think as a lesser of two evils. But it's also true that the Green Party overwhelmingly thinks they're wrong."

"A recent study showed that the UK nuclear industry has wasted £32 billion. It's the most expensive form of energy when we take into account its long-term waste costs, even if we ignore the potential costs of a nuclear disaster."

"[Greens] want to create a truly sustainable economy. That means viable jobs for huge numbers of people in sustainable industries. Studies have consistently shown that nuclear energy sustains far fewer jobs per megawatt than non-nuclear renewables."

"Renewable energy ... would also create huge numbers of jobs spread around the entire country, benefitting every local economy, for instance the jobs installing and maintaining microgenerators and servicing very large numbers of small-scale windfarms and biogas plants ... in the immediate term we have a recession to deal with. We need to create very large numbers of jobs right now. We can't achieve this by building nuclear power stations in fifteen years' time."

"If we achieved Denmark's rate of growth on wind energy, we could create something like 200,000 jobs in that sector alone by 2020 - faster than you could build nuclear power stations."

"And also, as a matter of priority, we could start straightaway with domestic and business energy conservation. Not only would this rapidly create many tens of thousands of jobs within a short space of time - it would also save as much energy as all the UK's nuclear power stations currently generate."

"So we simply don't need nuclear power to stop climate change. But we do need comprehensive Green policies, and we need them to be implemented now"

26 February 2009

"The Awesome Power Of The Word Clean"

Fairtrade Fortnight - Windward Islands Farmers

Renwick Rose, from the Windward Islands Farmers' Association, at the Fairtrade Foundation Conference (19th February) on "The global food crisis and Fairtrade: Small farmers, big solutions?"

24 February 2009

Upcoming Radio and TV

- I'm going to watch this tonight (the replay at 10pm) - the first Eastenders episode featuring an entirely black cast in its 23-year history. I prefer Corrie, but Eastenders gives the Patrick Trueman character good lines. Yesterday, he had "I don't want any of the chocolates, it would spoil the taste of the rum."

- Tomorrow, at 11am, BBC Radio 4, this looks good: "What Happened to the Working Class" - "Sarfraz Manzoor on how Manchester has reinvigorated itself through its working class youth culture."

- Thursday, at 915pm, Nightwaves, BBC Radio 3, they have a programme "devoted to exploring the culture and politics of the creation of the atomic bomb." They will review "Doctor Atomic," a new opera from American minimalist composer John Adams, about the morality of Robert Oppenheimer.

23 February 2009

A Green MP For Coventry

I've been the "prospective parliamentary candidate" (PPC) for Coventry South since the-election-that-never-was (when Gordon Brown nearly called it, in the autumn of 2007). We haven't really trumpeted it, but we're going to start.

Recent actions (January/February) as the PPC for Coventry South include:

- organising a visit to three venues in Coventry for Felicity Norman, our lead candidate in European elections this June (we need 10% to get Felicity elected; if you have a few hours to help out, contact Chris Williams in his office on Vyse St, in Birmingham, on 07811 428 682). We went to the Coventry Refugee Centre, to the Gaza sit-in at the University of Warwick, and to an electric van factory (out near the Binley Road and the A46)

- attending the first food sub-group meeting for Transition Earlsdon; speaking at one of the Gaza rallies here in Coventry; attending the Candles for Peace event on the 14th of February in front of the Council House; sitting in (more for my own information as a catch-up) on the latest meeting of CRACIN, the coalition against a replacement incinerator for Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull; dropping by the Remade Fashion Fair in Birmingham this past weekend

- trying out twitter as a new way of publicising not just our events, but events in Coventry and the region, as well as news stories that may get people thinking "Green" ... this has already led to a few international exchanges

- contributing a quote to a Coventry No2ID press release on WWII identity cards and the lack of a need for them now (no war, no rationining, no lack of census data)

- drafting a newsletter (to be sent around to small businesses in the constituency every few months) for 100 businesses to be distributed in March, late May, September, and December

- lobbying the city council on having smart meters able to be loaned from public libraries

- lobbying the city council on using storefronts left vacant from the recession for artist/farmers market spaces (the farmers market spaces have an obstacle; I've been informed that Coventry Market has a medieval charter that prohibits markets within 5 miles of its site)

- organising our monthly meetings for the Green Party (guest speakers on Transition Towns - January; on rape crisis centres and their funding - February)

17 February 2009

Veggie And Vegan Recipes

A diet which includes meat is responsible for annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to driving a mid-sized car for 3000 miles.

A vegetarian diet will generate 50% less emissions (1500 miles).

Going vegan (no animal products at all, no dairy, no fish, no milk) cuts the emissions released by around 87% (to the equivalent of driving just 391 miles).

Organic meat is nice and all, but an organic meat-based diet only reduces your emissions by around 8%.

You can browse some vegetarian recipes here, and some main courses that are vegan here.

From the two lists, the lentil-based recipes jump out: Red Lentil Balls and Spiced Lentils with Cucumber Yogurt.

Also read: 10 Surprising Reasons To Eat Less Meat

Film Awards Season

- "Hunger" by Steve McQueen won the "Novello" award for best first film at the Baftas. Previously, the film had won the Camera d'Or at Cannes, and the Discovery Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. It's about Bobby Sands and the 1981 hunger strike in Belfast's Maze Prison.

- We had a joint social with the Uni of Warwick Young Greens last week, and we went to see "Milk" at the Warwick Arts Centre. I've been to San Francisco twice (1995 and 1997), and it was nice to see a recreation of the 1970's Castro. Sean Penn really disappeared into the lead role, and Emile Hirsch was rather good as Cleve Jones. "I faked a lung disease to get out of P.E. So what? What are you, some kind of street shrink?" "Sometimes." Ben Summerskill, the chief exec of Stonewall, gave a film review in the Guardian. It's up for best actor, best director, best picture, and best supporting actor (Josh Brolin, as Dan White, the fellow city councillor who kills Milk and the mayor) at the Oscars. Click here for a view that says the film sanitises his life.

- It's always interesting to see which films get nominated for best documentary short and feature at the Oscars. The topics this year: MLK's assasination, 14-acre community gardens in Los Angeles, the aftermath of Katrina, and the photographing of people on their way to Khmer Rouge death camps.

Frightening People Into A Police State

Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has said that "we risk a police state" with the climate of fear sown by the government.

Rimington, speaking to La Vanguardia, said: "It would be better that the Government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism: that we live in fear and under a police state,” she said.

Her intervention comes just as the Home Office is about to public plans for the police and security services to monitor all of our emails, as well as telephone and internet activity. Since leaving MI5, Rimington has also spoken out about ID cards and on 42-day detention.

12 February 2009

Public Sector Should Lead On Climate Change

The chair of the Environment Agency has used a speech to call for far more public sector leadership on climate change:

- every public building in the country to be fitted with solar panels
- new public buildings to have ground source heat pumps
- public land used, where possible, for wind turbines
- children taught about climate change alongside literacy and numeracy
- one stop shops run by local authorities to help households fit renewables
- interest free loans to pay for micro-generators like wind turbines
- transport in local government by hybrid or electric cars, or video conferencing where possible

I think all of that would be a good start.

Remade Fashion Fair - 21st Feb in Birmingham

The Remade Fashion Fair will be held at the Custard Factory in Birmingham, 11am to 5pm, on Saturday 21 February 2009.

It's organised by Freedom Clothing, a "fashion think-and-do tank" here in Coventry. You can also follow Freedom Clothing on Twitter.

You can see a list of stallholders, and photos of their wares, here.

In their words:

"As we move into difficult economic times, there is obviously a moral imperative to support local producers and artisans. We're really passionate about encouraging people to buy - and perhaps even have a go at making - high quality recycled fashion. We are hoping that this event, which we believe will be the UK’s first exclusively concentrating on high quality recycled fashion, (or if not certainly in the Midlands), will encourage others to join the movement."

10 February 2009

Candles For Peace - Sat 14th February

Saturday 14th February is Palestinian Friendship Day.

People in Coventry, Palestine, Israel and worldwide will be lighting candles for peace in their homes, and in larger gatherings. This collective action is inspired by a Palestinian woman living in Coventry, Manal Timraz, who lost 15 relatives (11 of them children) in the recent air-strikes on Gaza. In response, Manal launched her One Million Candles campaign for peace, security and freedom for all humanity.

In 2009, the 14th February is a day for all peoples to join in friendship and solidarity as one voice, lighting candles for peace in our world.

People will gather to light candles from 530 to 630pm on the Coventry Council House steps.

Bring a "Peace Placard" with the name of your family or group (no war / atrocities banners today thanks!) or just come! Candles provided!

For more information, conctact Barbara Payman, bponemillioncandles@hotmail.co.uk, 07866 159675.

Obama And Rendition

The ominous part, so far, of Obama's foreign policy is that he's not speaking out about rendition. His administration is backing efforts by a subsidiary of an aviation firm, Jeppesen, to bar a lawsuit claiming the subsidiary played a role in the CIA's rendition programme of terror suspects. The suit claims that Jeppesen arranged over 70 flights for the CIA since 2001, and it involves Binyam Mohamed, the British resident held at Guantanamo (the kerfuffle last week over Washington threatening to stop cooperating with London on intelligence). Marc Ambinder was pulling out his hair when reporters didn't ask Obama about Jeppesen at his first televised evening press conference. Allowing the suit to go forward would be a way to open up the process around rendition, i.e. to stop it, and Obama's not taking it.

Malnutrition In Britain

Malnutrition in the UK is at drastic levels. If you are undernourished, you're vulnerable: less resistance to infection, slower healing of wounds, and reduced muscle strength. This is not a small problem. One study of 500 consecutive hospital admissions determined malnutrition in 40% of patients. 3 million people, mainly elderly, mainly in the community, are affected. The cost to society could be as high as £12 billion a year. Dr Mike Stroud gives a commentary around malnutrition here, but one of his key points is that doctors need better training to spot it.

We're Living In A Bathtub

Andrew Revkin at the New York Times has written an accessible (well, as accessible as it gets) article on why we live in a bathtub.

We're running water (carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases) into the bathtub, and, currently, we have a number of "sinks" that can absorb carbon, the drain from the bathtub. We're adding more carbon than is being removed, so the "water in the bathtub" is rising. As well, the "sinks" are starting to reach their limit in absorbing carbon (the drain is getting plugged).

If we get to a situation where global water in = global water out, we'll still have a bathtub with a lot of water in it. As Christian at Greenpeace puts it: "Turning the taps off doesn't solve the entire problem - because it's actually the amount of water in the bath which warms the planet, not how much the taps are on."

We have to stop running too much water into the bathtub.

Powerdown, Motorbikes And NZ Greens

- Call up your local university and ask if they are using "PowerDown" software in their 24-hour computer labs and 24-hour libraries. An average PC, left on for 24 hours a day but used for only 40 hours a week, uses 17kW of electricity, of which 13kW is wasted.

- Maybe my namesake could be using an all-electric motorbike by 2010. ZERO, Brammo and Quantya are all releasing all electric motorbikes. KTM, Honda and Yamaha have bikes in the pipeline for 2010.

- The Greens in New Zealand have won support from all parties for a pay freeze for MPs until a review in 2010. Makes for a change from the 2nd Home Secretary, no?

- Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is fire-resistant and water-repellent. It's used in food packaging and non-stick pans. Women, however, with high levels of PFOA in their blood, have a dramatically reduced chance of conceiving, and were twice as likely to be diagnosed with infertility. Are non-stick pans worth that?

09 February 2009

US Research At Aldermaston

The US Congress stops funding of the "Reliable Replacement Warhead" ... so what does the Pentagon do? Conduct the research in Britain.

It's the natural result of the Atomic Weapons Establishment being managed by three private companies, two of which (Lockheed Martin, Jacobs Engineering) are American. As well, this kind of British-US joint research into nuclear warheads has been going on for years.

Kate Hudson, of CND: "Any work preparing the way for new warheads cuts right across the UK's commitment to disarm, which it signed up to in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. That this work may be contributing to both future US and British warheads is nothing short of scandalous."

Also read: The Future of the UK’s Strategic Nuclear Deterrent: the Strategic Context (House of Commons Defence Committee, 2005/6)

08 February 2009

China And US To Partner On Climate Change?

This sounds rather encouraging. China and the US might team up to fight climate change. Hillary Clinton has announced her first overseas trip (Japan, South Korea, China, Indonesia): "She will raise the prospect of a 'strong, constructive partnership' to combat climate change on a visit to Beijing next week, and the President is seriously considering a proposal from many of his most senior advisers to hold a summit with the Chinese leadership to launch the plan."

06 February 2009

Basic Sanitation For Everyone

Power Shift - Youth Conference on Climate Crisis

You can find more information at: http://powershift09.wordpress.com/

If you would like to apply for any roles (descriptions on website), send an email (max 500 words) and your CV to: kate@ukycc.org by 5pm on FRIDAY 13th February (spooky!).

Please mark the position you wish to apply for and don’t forget your name, email and phone number. Explain why you would like the role and why you would suit the position using examples from your past experience.

Obama Environmental Report Card

Good - Obama has ordered the US Department of Energy to draft regulations to make ovens, vending machines, microwave ovens, dishwashers and light bulbs more energy-efficient.

Good - Camilla Cavendish in the Times: "The first two executive orders signed by the President were, he said, a “downpayment” towards the green economy. One tightened fuel-efficiency standards for cars, an issue once thought to be politically untouchable. The other gave permission to states to move faster than the Federal Government."

Good - Lisa Jackson, the head of the US environmental protection agency, has said that the government will no longer stand in the way of requiring coal and oil-fired power plants to install more stringent mercury controls.

Bad - The US Senate's version of the stimulus package has $50 billion in loan guarantees that could be used to build new nuclear reactors and liquid coal plants: "On Monday, twenty environmental and watchdog groups sent letters to the Senate urging the $50 billion loan provision be removed from the bill." Obama and liquid coal is not new. In January 2007, he introduced a bill (with Republican Senator Jim Bunning) to "evaluate the feasibility of including coal-to-oil fuels in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and provide incentives for research and plant construction." In an email sent out by his campaign in June 2007, he said he supported coal-to-liquid fuels, so long as they emit 20% less life-cycle carbon than conventional fuels."

Bad - Obama's stimulus package is skewed in favour of motorways. It has $30 billion for highway construction and only $12 billion for public transit. Greenpeace USA calculates: "If $30 billion were spent on light rail and repairing highways instead of building new ones, the greenhouse-gas emissions would be 10 to 50 times less, because highways tend to encourage more driving and sprawl."

Aid To Jaguar Land Rover

Especially over the last month, local media (papers in Coventry and Birmingham), the city council, and local Labour MPs, have been focused in securing aid for the motor industry (primarily Jaguar Land Rover).

I think we should walk more and cycle more, and use public transit more. But, I don't have a rose-coloured glasses expectation that people will stop driving. I do think the future of the car industry will be focused on the phasing-out of the internal combustion engine. As such, I don't see the point in aiding the car-industry-as-it-is, without attaching provisions to shift the car industry to how-it-should-be.

That is, aid to Jaguar LandRover if 20% of its production is low-emission by 2010, 40% of its production low-emission by 2012, 60% by 2014, etc. Or this idea, to give consumers a £2000 rebate if they trade in older inefficient vehicles for low-emission ones.

05 February 2009

Nuclear Power? No Thanks!

You can see a collection of photos from a Green Party protest in Berlin against a nuclear industry conference here.

Snow 118 118

- You can visit www.coventry.gov.uk/snowline for a full school closure list

- Stagecoach and
Mike DeCourcey bus services are called off. BBC Coventry and Warwickshire say that DeCourcey will review on an hourly basis.

- If today's your bin/recycling day, the city council is saying that "
waste bin collection has been suspended today due to the fresh overnight snowfall. Residents should put bins out at the same time next week."

04 February 2009

Britain And Guantanamo Bay Torture

David Davis wants the government to make a statement about how complicit Britain was in torture at Guantanamo Bay. He was just on BBC 5 Live.

Davis said that a senior Law Lord wanted to put information about torture in the public domain, but said they had not, as the US government (Bush Administration) threatened to change the intelligence arrangements with the UK.

It's in dispute what the Obama Administration's position is on the information being in the public domain. Davis wants to know that too.

Coventry And Dresden ... Over Twitter

The Green group on Dresden City Council started to "follow" me on Twitter yesterday. I answered back: "Freundliche Grüße zu meinen Kollegen in Dresden!" They responded saying that "it's fine to get in contact to the Greens of a city with such fateful relationship to Dresden." I've twittered back about peace groups in Coventry. This is what "web 2.0" is about ... 15 years ago, I just wouldn't have thought one day, hey, I'll pick up the phone and call the Dresden Green Party. If you're interested, you can find their Twitter account here, and their local website here. My German is horribly rusty, but I think their last two press releases are on tenants threatened by urban redevelopment, and 13 old chestnut trees being cut down beside the State Chancellery building.

Transition Earlsdon - Food Ideas

I went last night to a Transition Earlsdon meeting on "local food alternatives." The guest speaker was Karen Leach, from Localise West Midlands. The meeting was surprisingly well-attended, about 11 people in a small room at Earlsdon Methodist Church Hall. Karen cited a number of examples (notably in Leamington, Stroud and Middlesbrough) of community-supported agriculture. We also talked about using street planters to grow fruit/veg, communal ownership of allotments and using barter to share the harvest. For a follow-up food event, we agreed to have a "seed swap" at 11am, on the 21st of February, at Cafe Desire (Albany Road and Broomfield Road). For more information (if you want to get involved), call Jo Rathbone on 02476 678735.

02 February 2009

Roy Magee - 1930-2009

I've read on BBC news that Roy Magee has died. He was a Presbyterian minister in Belfast who helped to broker the 1994 ceasefire of Northern Ireland's loyalist paramilitaries. Magee said that he first made "loose" friendships and contacts in the early 1970s with people who became key figures in the Combined Loyalist Military Command. Money goes into war-making or short-term efforts at peacekeeping. Instead, we need to invest more in long-term peace building. If we want (domestically) stronger communities and less gangs, or if we want (externally) defused tensions in the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan, and Kashmir, it's not an overnight process.

EU Court Rules And Worker Unrest

Peter Mandelson was on BBC Breakfast this morning saying that the problem isn't the EU, or the actions of Total, but judgements by the European Court of Justice.

The judgements (Laval, Rüffert, Luxembourg, and Viking) were in December 2007 and April 2008. Laval and Viking, for example, stem from corporate actions as far back as 2003 and 2004.

In 2003, Viking, which is a Finnish company that runs ferries, employed an Estonian crew and cut its wages by 60%. Laval, which is Latvian, sent workers to Sweden to build schools in 2004. A Swedish construction union asked Laval to honour the existing collective agreement for the building sector. Laval refused, keeping to Latvian pay conditions that undercut the Swedish workers.

In both of these cases, the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of Viking and Laval. The court "effectively outlawed industrial action where unions are trying to win equal pay for migrant workers and banned public bodies from requiring foreign contractors to pay such workers local rates."

The EU shouldn't be a labour market where workers get the lowest common denominator.

Over the last 10 years, we haven't heard Labour talk about union conditions coming second across Europe. We haven't heard about the negative aspects of an economy dependent on more agency work, on an increase in short-term contracts, subcontracting, and the corporate sector using more people who are "self-employed". That's because they were fine with it.

As Jon Cruddas points out:

"Exploitation, precarious jobs and exploitative levels of pay could be offset by cheap credit and then hidden behind the sparkle of consumerism. Those times are over. With social insurance in short supply, people's key source of economic security was the rising asset value of their homes. That's gone. There is no cheap credit to make up for falling or stagnant wages."