Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Crunch carrots, cut climate change

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We really need to be redoubling our efforts to tackle climate change. Just look at the blog entry before this one, where Stern says the problem is far worse than he'd previously described in his highly influential report - and the entry before that on government giving the cold shoulder to action on climate. Many think of efforts to tackle climate change in terms of flying less, driving less, using renewable, low carbon energy sources, insulating our homes, recycling materials...but adjusting our diet is not so commonly mentioned.

Changing to a lower meat, higher fruit and veg diet can in fact be one of the most effective ways of lowering carbon emissions and tackling climate change, especially if beef consumption is reduced or eliminated. Consider the estimated total eco footprint of meat compared with fruit and vegetables: 6.9 to 14.6 hectare yrs per tonne for meat (calculated using average global yield and embodied energy data - the range is due to pasture-fed vs grain-fed animals); as against 0.3 to 0.6 hectare yrs per tonne for a range of fruits, roots and vegetables (calculated using average global yield for a range of veg, with an allowance for transport, processing and energy for farming).

These estimates from the book Sharing Nature's Interest by footprint experts Chambers, Simmons and Wackernagel (2000) show the the environmental impact of meat is 11 to 49 times higher than fruit and vegetables. This chimes with the basic science because the food chain for meat is obviously longer, with many vegetables and grains being grown for use as animal feed. [Meat impacts are 1.5 to 8.5 times higher than grains and pulses too.]  Beef farming has a very high climate impact due to: rainforest clearance to create the farmland, perhaps by burning; grain feeding the animals; methane released by the cows metabolism, (and dont forget the long distance trade in frozen meat).

In short: crunch carrots more, eat meat less and you will contribute to cutting climate change! Whether the fruit and veg are chemically grown abroad, or locally and organically grown, they're going to have lower climate impact than any kind of meat. There are other benefits too as lower meat diets are cheaper and healthier. Carrots for instance - given that it was National Carrot Day on 3 Feb and that it will be International Carrot Day on 4 April  - have the highest vitamin A content of all veg and are loaded with vitamin B6, vitamin C and potassium too. Find out more from this amazing, if somewhat bizarre site: http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/    

Friday, February 01, 2013

Climate change: consummate concern

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Nicholas Stern: 'I got it wrong on climate change – it's far, far worse'. Author of 2006 review speaks out on danger to economies as planet absorbs less carbon and is 'on track' for 4C rise

Lord Stern, author of the government-commissioned review on climate change that became the reference work for politicians and green campaigners, now says he underestimated the risks, and should have been more "blunt" about the threat posed to the economy by rising temperatures.

In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Stern, who is now a crossbench peer, said: "Looking back, I underestimated the risks. The planet and the atmosphere seem to be absorbing less carbon than we expected, and emissions are rising pretty strongly. Some of the effects are coming through more quickly than we thought then."

The Stern review, published in 2006, pointed to a 75% chance that global temperatures would rise by between two and three degrees above the long-term average; he now believes we are "on track for something like four ". Had he known the way the situation would evolve, he says, "I think I would have been a bit more blunt. I would have been much more strong about the risks of a four- or five-degree rise."

He said some countries, including China, had now started to grasp the seriousness of the risks, but governments should now act forcefully to shift their economies towards less energy-intensive, more environmentally sustainable technologies... Full story from link below:

Nicholas Stern: 'I got it wrong on climate change – it's far, far worse' | Environment | The Observer

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Climate cold shoulder

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Here's an interesting Radio 4 program on what lies beneath widespread denial of climate change. Laurie Taylor talks to Sally Weintrobe, the editor of the first book of its kind which explores, from a multi disciplinary perspective, what the ecological crisis actually means to people. In spite of a scientific consensus, many continue to resist or ignore the message of climate communicators - but why? What are the social and emotional explanations for this reaction?
 
What is this climate problem anyway? The key stores in the global carbon cycle are shown in the image I've drawn (below, click to enlarge). The arrows representing the flow of carbon between key stores are annotated with the mechanism of transfer.
 
Key aspects to note: Chalk and limestone and fossil fuels are very large carbon stores formed over very long periods but when used they very quickly release carbon to the atmosphere. Burning forests and changing land use by logging and then farming beef or soya both very quickly releases carbon into the air and cuts the rate of carbon removal. Ocean capacity to absorb and store carbon is decreasing as it’s warming up, and oceans are acidifying. The result of this and more: carbon concentration in the atmosphere is rising. 
 
People, especially those living in the most economically developed societies, currently impact heavily on the carbon cycle. Total carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per person per year in the UK are now more than 10 tonnes, when a sustainable level is 2 tonnes. Elsewhere in the economically developed world it can be higher than this eg in the USA.
 
 In constructing homes, factories, roads...people consume huge quantities of fossil fuel and cement (see image). Extracting/producing, transporting and using fossil fuels and cement in itself releases large amounts of carbon.
 
In heating and lighting homes and using many gadgets people consume large amounts of natural gas and electricity (largely produced by burning fossil fuels in power stations).
 
In transporting themselves around by car and their factory mass produced and consumed goods around the globe by heavy lorry, planes and ships, huge amounts of petrol, diesel and aviation fuel are burned, emitting carbon.
 
Demand for land is high and growing eg to feed a growing world population and to meet high demand for meat. Beef farming in particular is land and energy intensive - large scale deforestation (see image) has occurred to make land available for it.
 
One reaction to all this: the UK Climate Change Act, 2008 under the last Labour Govt, which sets a carbon reduction target of at least 80% by 2050 from 1990 levels, and carbon budgeting. However, the Coalition Govt has, amongst a long list of green failures: dropped the pledge to cut EU emissions by 30% by 2020 and is instead getting the EU "back on track" to cutting energy consumption by 20% by 2020; abandoned a planned rise in the renewable energy target; axed a commitment to replace air passenger duty with a per-flight tax; severely limited the scope of green financial products supposed to enable people to invest in green infrastructure; favoured greater reliance on finite and climate change causing natural gas; favoured fracking for shale gas....see here for more. 

Find out more on climate change from: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate-change

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/sci_nat/04/climate_change/html/climate.stm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/hottopics/climatechange/

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Disavow Dumping

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Received from Stop Hinkley:



Councillors in the Lake District have volunteered as a potential site for a nuclear waste dump. Please sign the petition calling on them to withdraw from the process immediately. http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/no-nuclear-dump-in-the-lake-district
This petition is important as the Lake District is a very under-populated area and they are 
pushing the plan through because there are low numbers of locals complaining.  The Lake 
District is visited by people from all over the country and with this petition we have a voice.  
There is less than a week before the Council’s will decide if it will go ahead.
Nuclear waste storage is key to whether new nuclear waste should be produced, so it is important to the campaign to stop nuclear new build in the whole of the UK.

You can find out more about this from http://www.noend.org.uk/

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Steiner Secrecy??

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Excellent blog post here by Andy Lewis on the Steiner Free School that is being proposed in Bristol (see this Post story for the latest news on this here). Andy is rightly calling for the school's advocates to be fully open about what Rudolf Steiner (see left) and Anthroposophy stand for and whether/how this will be put into practice if the Bristol Steiner Free School goes ahead. Andy asks these pertinent questions:

1. Will you publish what associations you have with the Anthroposophical Movement?
 
2. Will you publish a full discussion of how Anthroposophy and Steiner’s work inspire teaching within the school?
 
3. Will you fully state how you ensure Steiner’s racial teachings do not influence the School?
 
4. Will you explain how Steiner’s work influences your teaching of science?
 
5. Will you publish what the spiritual and religious elements of your curriculum are?
 
6. What role does Anthroposophical Medicine play in your School’s ethos and how will you ensure parents are fully informed and the nature of any therapies or treatments given to students?
 
7. Will you tell parents about the gnomes?

You can read more views on Steiner and see links to many others from here: http://www.openwaldorf.com/steiner.html . Also see my previous post on the proposed school which expresses my particular concern that Steiner's ideas are highly inconsistent with modern science here.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Congestion charge case

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Bristol’s horrendous traffic continues to lower our health, wellbeing and quality of life. This will continue to damage present and future generations if we don’t do something soon that is effective. I’m therefore glad that Bristol's Mayor George Ferguson has not ruled out introducing a congestion charge for the city (see here and here).

Bristol’s transport problems are serious: every day too many vehicles are trying to use local roads; there are very limited possibilities for building more roads and in any case more roads bring more traffic and more damage; drivers spend half their time crawling in jammed traffic; congestion is costing business very large amounts of money; traffic congestion generates more air pollution and produces more climate change causing carbon emissions; congestion causes frustration and raises stress levels.

A congestion charge would ideally try to achieve: significantly reduced traffic in the most congested areas; similarly reduced delays; shorter journey times; reliable delivery times; the saving of many hours of journey time; the raising of large sums of money for re-investment in transport, especially public transport; switching to sustainable transport modes; a boost for public transport use; a system that pays for itself over time.

Lessons from London’s congestion charge should encourage us. Boris would have got rid of it altogether if it did not have merit. Congestion and traffic levels there would be worse without it. Numbers of cars and car movements would be even higher. Movements of buses, coaches and taxis would be more resticted. Tens of thousands fewer bus passengers would not enter the charge zone during the morning peak. Bus reliability and journey times would be worse and the time passengers wait at bus stops would be longer. Disruption on bus routes due to traffic would be worse.

We clearly have a serious problem in Bristol. We need to both provide a disincentive to car use and raise money to improve the public transport and other alternatives. If the details of any congestion charge scheme for Bristol are right, the decision making processes are fair and we can implement the scheme properly then I'm strongly in favour.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Co-operation and Cabinet

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Bristol's Labour Party could decide tonight not to accept places on the new Mayor's Cabinet or to advise the Mayor (see here) and impose a ban on all its members. I hope they dont [**see the series of updates below!]. Local govt co-operation between parties is eminently sensible – and it’s what people have voted for, so this should be recognised provided the new Cabinet is: committed to taking decisions openly and accountably; and its members are able, diplomatically, to speak their minds and not own every single Mayoral decision.

Each individual Councillor and Party needs to change mindset and both scrutinise, criticise and support as appropriate. Conscience first not party – that’s what they are supposed to be doing according to the code of conduct they sign up to in any case! This code includes ‘making decisions on merit’ and reaching ‘their own conclusions on the issues before them and act in accordance with those conclusions’.  Councillors have power through a vote on the council, through committee work and through lobbying the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Asst Mayors when in place. Hopefully some power will be properly and effectively devolved to local councillors and people in neighbourhoods soon too.

Labour were the party with councillors that got the most votes and in next May's local elections Labour are likely to make gains on the council - the Tory and Lib Dem vote has sunk and is unlikely to recover enough for them not to suffer councillor losses. I'm most in favour of people getting into the Cabinet on the basis of merit not party but having said that the Mayor should also take into account which parties the public are voting for.
______________________________
**
[Update 22 November: According to The Post Bristol's Labour Party last night voted against taking up three Cabinet seats offered to them and so have have refused the opportunity to argue for their policies directly with the Mayor and others. Its still unclear to me whether they voted to ban all members from taking part.]

[Update 23 November: According to The Post Labour Councillors in Bristol have agreed to join the Mayor's Cabinet and have gone against the local party vote. Its a good sign that Labour Councillors have asserted themselves. Its Bristol's voters they have to be listening to and not just the local party and they seem to have done that. Which Councillors finally end up doing what is not yet finaliised though.]

[Update 26 November (!!!): According to Bristol 24-7 and ITV West and The Post Labour's South West regional organisation, probably with some central party influence, has prevented Bristol's Labour Councillors from joining the Mayor's Cabinet. This has caused Cllr Peter Hammond the Leader of Bristol's Labour Councillors to resign. It remains to be seen whether individuals choose to defy this intsruction.]

Monday, November 19, 2012

Temperate tax rise

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I heartily approve of most of the early decisions that have been made by newly sworn in Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson. The biggest of these is that council tax may have to rise by around 2% (as reported by BBC Points West here). This is moderate, sensible, reasonably progressive thinking - and it would mean that the impact of  imposed Coalition Govt cuts on vital local services would be a little less severe.

Freezing council tax as some other candidates committed themselves to would have meant even more severe impacts on public services. Committment to a freeze over a number of years also showed a lack of realism given the dire financial circumstances.

More information here and here and here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Woman winner!

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Fantastic! A victory for independence, impartiality and ability to represent the whole community.

Newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset Sue Mountstevens brings a perspective and approach to the role that we really need. Second time today I've voted for an election winner!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-20353786

Congratulations and commiserations

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Many congratulations to George Ferguson and commiserations to the other candidates, especially to Marvin Rees. You have to work hard to become the first elected Mayor of Bristol - but the much harder work begins now. It's a new way to run Bristol with many uncertainties and it has to be made to work. I hope that people in all political parties will work well together and that George's cabinet has someone from each political party with councillors currently on the city council. I hope this is a victory for independent-minded thinking from political people inside and outside of parties. I hope that power is genuinely and effectively spread out into communities, with real opportunities to participate. I hope George's decent record on sustainable development becomes the norm for development in the city. I hope George takes full note of the very large number of votes given to parties (the Greens, Labour and the socialists) supporting the living wage and the fairness agenda and the good number of votes given to the only woman candidate, the Greens Daniella Radice (who was only one percentage point behind the Lib Dems). Feels good to have voted for someone who has won an election - after 30 yrs as a voter!

Very good, gracious speech from the new Mayor George Ferguson here and I agree particularly strongly when he said this,

"I want to use that mandate to go and ask the prime minister and the government in general for more powers for Bristol and for more resources. I think we deserve it.

"We have delivered what they wanted, now they have got to deliver what we want."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Voters: vote voluminously!!!

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Worrying signs - from postal vote numbers and numbers going to polling stations so far - that the voter turnout in the Bristol Mayoral and Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner elections could be very low indeed. People have been predicting a low turnout from the start due to the time of the year, very poor information availability, general lack of awareness and interest and the dwindling enthusiasm for politics - but its looking even worse at the moment. So, voters in Bristol - get out and vote in volume and prove that the predictions are wrong!

For Mayor of Bristol: I'm voting for Green Daniella Radice first preference because she has far and away the best policies and would bring a perspective and approach to the role of Mayor that we really need. My second preference vote goes to Bristol 1st George Ferguson because the second round of counting will be a contest between him and Labour's Marvin Rees. George has: excellent experience; a wide range of great achievements in the city already; very good national standing, respect and connections; independent-mindedness and openness to involving people of all parties in his cabinet; demonstrated through his work over decades that he gets and enacts sustainable development.

For Police and Crime Commisioner: I'm voting for independent candidate Sue Mounstevens as my first preference because of her experience as: a member of the current police authority; as a Bristol magistrate for 15 years; and as vice-chairwoman of the Independent Monitoring Board at Bristol prison. Her clear impartiality and ability to serve the people, not a political party or any one section of their electorate are very important indeed - as is the perspective and approach to the role she will bring. I wont be casting a second preference vote because all the other candidates are standing to represent political parties and I dont want a Commissioner who can be pressured by and who is answerable to a political party.

  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Men and Mayor

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Daniella Radice, the Green candidate  standing to become Mayor of Bristol, has produced the most comprehensive and detailed manifesto of policies of any of the candidates and has made a lot more sense than other candidates at the many hustings meetings held.  All the other candidates have been more vague, generalised, wishy-washy, incoherent and in some cases populist, where Daniella has offered real leadership. She is the only woman standing, which is a story in itself.

It’s important to discuss the fact that only one of the fifteen candidates for Mayor is a woman because: just 22% of MPs in the House of Commons and 20% of members of the House of Lords are women and women aren't in many positions of power and influence across society; 3 million women in the UK suffer rape, domestic violence, trafficking, forced marriage or other violence; 90% of local authorities do not have a rape crisis centre; of 109 High Court judges only 15 are women; women’s average net income per week in 2010 was £180 compared to £231 for men; 20% of people believe it is sometimes acceptable for a man to hit or slap his girlfriend; 36% believe a woman is partly responsible for being raped if she is drunk; 83% of experts cited in news stories are men; 19% is the proportion of women in news stories portrayed as victims, compared to 10% for men...Clearly our decision making would be better if women were present in positions of power and influence on a par with men.
We need to address the issue of disempowerment and the facts clearly illustrate why. Without strong and positive action it could take forever to achieve fair and balanced representation. We don’t get the best range of candidates for positions of power now because we have a system that on the whole continues to favour men and disempower women. We are wasting half the talent we have. The social system and within it the economic and political system is discriminatory, not always in the legal sense but certainly in the sense of culture/traditions. The right to fair and equal treatment that I'm arguing for is a human right that putting into action would benefit every person.

In broad terms I am saying that if there was no sex discrimination there would be many more women candidates for Mayor of Bristol. Some question this, saying there is no discrimination in the mayoral process itself: doubtless the rules would be illegal if they were directly discriminatory so no surprise there!! But the mayoral election does not take place in total isolation from the social, economic and political context – and we can’t yet say that there is nothing in our social system at all that deters and discourages women from coming forward as candidates (see list and link below). For instance: the costs involved in applying to become Bristol Mayor are a deterrent to many who might otherwise consider standing – however the high cost will discriminate more against women than men because women’s average income and other wealth levels are lower. Discriminatory social, economic and political context deters and discourages women. Some admit that discrimination exists but stick to the unsustainable, implausible position that it has no effect at all on women coming forward to stand in elections such as for Mayor!
In 2008 an Inter-Parliamentary Union reported said that these factors deter women from entering politics to at least a fair degree: Domestic responsibilities; Prevailing cultural attitudes regarding the roles of women in society; Lack of support from family; Lack of confidence; Lack of finances; Lack of support of political parties; Lack of experience in "representative functions": public speaking, constituency relations; Lack of support from the electorate; Lack of support from men; Lack of support from other women; Politics seen as "dirty" or corrupt; Lack of education. See
http://tinyurl.com/8px89md

Take nursing and primary school teaching as examples in addition to being a Mayor. Stereotyping of male/female roles due to sexism results in men and women tending to be deterred and discouraged from coming forward for certain jobs, for example women for Mayor of Bristol - and elected and other positions of power generally - and men for nursing and primary school teaching. It’s not uncommon to find some arguing that not all jobs are equally appealing because of 'natural tendencies' ie women aren't coming forward to be Mayor because they are not 'naturally' suited to it – ‘men and women are different, in most ways’  as someone said to me recently. Different yes but different in most ways no – and of course there are differences between people of the same sex! Men and women have a huge amount in common - they are equally capable for example of being Mayor, though some suggest otherwise. Sexists argue that we have one woman candidate in fifteen for Mayor of Bristol because men and women 'want different things' and therefore women don’t want to be Mayor and its all down to inherent reasons with no effect from sex discrimination in our society at all. What a load of utter nonsense.
The sexists are assuming that what men and women do is what they want; is where their talents and abilities are; that they have no latent, suppressed capacity for anything else; that this wont/cant and does not need to change...and that its only what men and women inherently 'are' that affects what they do ie there is zero effect from the society, the economy and the political system that men and women live in.

My favoured party – the Greens - do not knowingly or deliberately (and certainly not blatantly) discriminate against women in its processes but  it does exist in a social, economic and political context which does discriminate and this does have effects. It is working continually to do better, has a women leader, Natalie Bennett...its ex-leader and its first MP, Caroline Lucas, is a woman...the Greens fielded a good number of women candidates at the last general election (a higher % than other parties I think) compared to the 20% of MPs that are women  but the Greens must do better as other political parties and society in general must!! 100% of Green MPs and 50% of Bristol’s Green Councillors are women by the way :) but the party can only choose from those who come forward not from its whole membership.  Even in the Greens fewer women come forward because the social context deters and discourages them. There is no inherent reason why they would not come forward.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bell's backing

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Former BBC war reporter and independent MP for Tatton 1997-2001, Martin Bell - the first independent MP for 50 years and now a UNICEF Ambassador - has backed George Ferguson's campaign to be the first elected Mayor of Bristol.
Martin said of George and his campaign: “I don’t rush around the country supporting everyone running as an independent, but every now and then I come out of hiding when I feel there is a candidate really worthy of support.
“I have experienced how political parties work in Government, and the sheer power of the whips, and the extent with which they persuade people to go along with the party rhetoric.

“I knew there must be a better way to run our politics than this.

“When I heard that Bristol had decided it wanted a mayor and discovered that George Ferguson was running as an independent, I thought he was the perfect candidate.

“I am not denigrating any of the other candidates but here is a man who will simply represent the people, not just a political party.

“I hope he gets elected as mayor on Friday - I believe he will.”


Spurious spin

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The recent survey of mayoral voting intentions showed Conservative Geoff Gollop in 3rd place not second and a very, very large number of undecided people. The Tories now have just 14 councillors across Bristol compared to 32 Lib Dem, 22 Labour and 2 Green. The Tory led Coalition Government is hardly popular at the moment...and yet it is said (here by Kerry McCarthy MP) that there is a real threat from the Tories!! The facts have shown right from the start of this campaign that in an all-Bristol election the Tories cannot win or get close to winning and that's one reason why the bookies have never rated them as having a realistic chance. Labour have an electoral interest in talking down the chances of Bristol 1sts George Ferguson the person who IS a real threat to them because of the breadth of his appeal and thus his ability to pick up lots of second preference votes in the second round of counting. Tribalism from Labour may well get them lots of first preference votes but restricts their ability to attract the second preferences needed.

Monday, November 12, 2012

City Candidates

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We need a Mayor who meets tests of competence, credibility and coherence. Labour's Marvin Rees does not currently meet these tests: he's not sufficiently experienced or qualified; and keeps putting out firm committments that he clearly has not got proper coherent plans or costings for - this story about the Comonwealth Games being a case in point. There are plenty of other examples. He's been pulled away from being a more open and candid candidate by the tribal nature of Bristol's party politics and if he becomes Mayor his term will be clouded by it. It's likely to be Rees (Lab) vs Ferguson (Bristol 1st) in the second round of counting and Ferguson is far and away the most competent, credible, coherent, experienced and qualified person.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Obama's oratory

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Loved Obama's re-election speech and am really pleased that he won (and very relieved that Mitt Romney didn't!). My favourite part is this, from about nineteen minutes in, as he is coming towards the end...

'...I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you're willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We're not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states...' 

Tony for tribalism?

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Now that we are to have a Mayor I agree with actor Tony Robinson’s description of who/what is required, with its emphasis on personality, vision, skills, focus and understanding. He said,

‘...It needs one person with personality and vision to be able to push through the kind of things we have seen fall by the wayside time and time again...an intensely complex job to be the elected mayor which needs someone with a high level of skills...they will be hacking through the jungle with a machete rather than walking a well-worn path – that means they will need an enormous amount of focus and understanding ...’ (more here)
Where he is completely wrong is in thinking that a tribal party political person - such as his favoured candidate Labour’s Marvin Rees or for that matter the Conservative or Lib Dem candidate - is suitable to do the job. So, “Baldrick, you wouldn't see a subtle plan if it painted itself purple and danced naked on top of a harpsichord, singing "Subtle plans are here again!" (Blackadder, '88)

For me what Tony says is a great arguement for open, inclusive, more independent-minded candidates for Mayor, such as the Greens Daniella Radice (currently running ahead of the Lib Dems in fourth place on first preferences and first place on second preferences, see here) and Bristol1st George Ferguson (currently in second place on first preferences but who can win by gathering sufficient second preferences).   http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/SURVEY-new-Bristol-mayor-s-priorities/story-17257322-detail/story.html

Reality vs Rogers

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Bristol Lib Dem mayoral election spin (some might say lying) says 'Dr Jon Rogers is quickly emerging as the only serious challenger to Labour' in their latest leaflet, rather deceptively presented in a newspaper style entitled 'City News: Community News for Bristolians'. The spin goes on, saying 'Dr Rogers odds to be Mayor have rocketed reaching a high of 3/1 and second favourite to Labour'. It says that the Conservatives are out of the race and refers to a 'Jon Rogers surge..' describing how many Conservative voters are turning to the Lib Dems. It says the independent vote is split and many voters may turn away from Bristol 1st's  George Ferguson.

The reality is completely opposite to the spin, as the latest survey of voter intentions shows. Jon Rogers is still saying (here'any of the next 4 candidates could still overtake him [Rees] on a combination of first and second preferences' but the Lib Dem is not even in third place let alone second place on first preference votes! There are many undecided but even so this report says 'Labour's Marvin Rees...clear favourite, with 21 per cent. But this is nowhere near the 50 per cent required to prevent the election race going to a second round.The second and third favourites on first choice votes were George Ferguson (Bristol 1st) with nine per cent and Geoff Gollop (Conservative) with seven per cent'. The Greens Daniella Radice is in joint fourth and may be set to beat the Lib Dems in the way that Green Jenny Jones did in the last London mayoral elections.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Negligent Nadine

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Following MP Nadine Dorries shining example, boosting the reputation of MPs and the political system: Dear Open University [my employer] I’ll be taking up to a month off work and so won’t be doing my lecturing and research supervision role for a while. You will continue to pay me as usual [I wish!] even though I won’t be doing the work I'm paid for and will be earning extra money during my month off. Cheers!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Misleading mulling

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We have an erroneous way of thinking about land and using figures relating to it. This erroneous thinking is used to 'justify' unsustainable building over green spaces, the green belt, parks and playing fields, allotments, farmland...In Bristol, despite the fact that our eco footprint is several times the land area available, Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories on the council all orginally backed a policy of flogging off our green spaces. This was despite widespread public opposition across the whole city. The Lib Dem council adminstration are still incentivising flogging local green spaces now and several Mayoral candidates have plans that will cut city green spaces and green belt land. We need a Mayor who will listen to public opinion, genuinely involve people in decision making and not bow down to any party political line.

On the Daily Politics a while back Claire Fox from the Institute of Ideas (who you'd think should know better) attempted to justify the liberalisation of planning laws by saying that only 10% of land in England is developed. A New Statesman leader said this back in March this year:  

‘Only 10 per cent of England (and 6 per cent of Britain) is developed... The UK is 60 million acres in size, of which 41 million are designated "agricultural" land, 15 million are "natural wast­age" (forests, rivers, mountains and so on) and owned by institutions such as the Forestry Commission and the Ministry of Defence, and four million are the "urban plot", the densely congested land on which most of the 62 million people of these islands live...’ http://www.newstatesman.com/society/2012/04/land-government-million

In terms of whether to build on green land or not crude land area is not really the way to consider this issue. Look at these figures: average biologically productive area per person globally was approx 1.8 global hectares (gha) per capita in 2006. Average ecological footprint in the UK is 5.45 global hectares per capita (gha) (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_footprint). This means that not only have we used up all the available biologically productive land in the UK we are actually drawing greatly on large amounts of land from abroad as well as allowing carbon levels to build up in the atmosphere because there is insufficient productive land and water to absorb it fast enough. Our 5.45 gha/person ecological footprint is three times greater than the average productive land per person available worldwide.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Efficiency elide

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Debates on UK energy policy focus almost exclusively on energy generation/production and often neglect even to mention energy saving and energy efficiency. It’s always going to be cheaper to save energy and be efficient than it is to generate it - not only does it cut household bills and increase the profitability of businesses by reducing their outgoings, it also cuts pollution rapidly, is a very good job creator, can increase comfort, cut noise levels, and can sometimes be done using materials normally thrown away...So whilst we are so wasteful of energy why consider building large numbers of new power stations of any kind? Why is our primary focus not on creating a lower energy, energy thrifty culture? Basic, already existing technologies can be used but the challenge is to combine these with thrifty attitudes and behaviours.

The energy generation debate at present often zooms in on nuclear and wind. Nuclear power is low carbon emission in operation but we’ve had it since the 1950s and it has done nothing to stop climate change. The UK currently has nuclear 16 reactors in operation at 9 different sites - and it’s had more in the past. We've come to rely on fossil fuels and population has increased as has our level and intensity of consumption but expanding nuclear power for decades - and expanding power generation by all methods - has been part of unsustainable plans for industrial and economic expansion. This attitude still prevails. Until we change from unsustainable economic expansion to properly and fully applying sustainable development - including an energy policy with energy saving and efficiency as its primary focus - then we won’t tackle economic, social and environmental problems such as climate change.
The scale at which we waste energy is vast, so the scope for energy saving is huge. For example the Energy Saving Trust said that UK households waste £1.3 billion by just leaving TVs and other electronic devices switched on... http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/consumertips/household-bills/9355870/Energy-Saving-Trust-households-waste-1.3bn-for-leaving-gadget-switched-on.html#  . In hard economic times and with energy prices rising you'd think people would be more careful with their consumption but apparently they aren't, so we’ve made little progress towards a energy thrifty culture. Research in 2006 found the UK was top of the European energy waster league. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6075794.stm

Part of the problems is the fact that my local paper can’t even write a balanced and correct piece about nuclear power, let alone cover energy issues in the round as it should do. People are often ill-informed as a result.  Here's my case against nuclear power: http://tinyurl.com/c75rvbg .Here's  a  post arguing for energy efficiency, combined heat and power and decentralised energy: http://tinyurl.com/cxagb4o.  Some thoughts on local renewable energy developments here: http://tinyurl.com/bm5m764.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nuclear news

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The Post says 'Japan's largest industrial electronics maker has signed a £700 million deal to buy the UK's nuclear project Horizon, which will build new reactors at Wylfa, Angelsey, and Oldbury, South Gloucestershire...' (here). They should say is planning to build, subject to conditions being right and obtaining the various proper permissions.

Saying 'will build' is distinctly premature and it's bad journalism (again) from The Post not to give further details eg Hitachi has: not worked out exactly how much it would cost to build six new nuclear power plants in the UK; a government-guaranteed "strike price", or minimum price for nuclear generated power, has not yet been hammered out; it is not clear when the plants would be completed, nor who would operate them; the boiling water nuclear reactor system that Hitachi is keen to install has yet to be granted UK safety approval... http://tinyurl.com/8fn58rn

There are many ways to build energy security - most of which would generate more jobs and more efficiently and more quickly and without increasing the legacy of nuclear waste to future generations.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rees: remodeller?

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'I stand for change' says the leaflet just received from Marvin Rees. But the prescription is the same old stuff. Its party political, present day 'Labour' Party material. Being photographed next to Dawn Primarolo in another leaflet hardly suggests change either because Dawn has for decades been a key player in government - national and local - that has been a part of bringing our society its current social, economic and environmental problems.

The Rees/Labour prescription is often vague and populist, like that of many of the mayoral candidates (the Greens aside).  In the typical style of Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative Parties the prescription has policies that contradict each other eg Marvin Rees promises to 'make Bristol greener' but also promises to build 4000 homes without saying where they would be built or detailing how and favours a large development on green belt land (the proposed BCFC stadium) with its associated large supermarket developments.

When referring to a greener Bristol Marvin Rees talks about the stereotypical issues, like recycling, waste, ‘sustainable energy’. Typically his ‘environmentalism’ is a mere add-on. No joined up thinking. If he really got sustainable development he would successfully integrate his social and economic policies with his environmental ones and not end up having some policies that could make us more sustainable counteracted by many that make us less sustainable.   

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Candid Commissioner

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Given that the Electoral Commission has said: “The swearing of an oath will be an important symbol of impartiality, emphasising both the significance of this new role in local communities and that PCCs are there to serve the people, not a political party or any one section of their electorate.” can there be anyone to vote for as Police Commissioner for Avon and Somerset than a suitable independent?

Sue Mountstevens (pictured) looks like she will be the only independent standing in November's Police and Crime Commissioner election (a situation not helped one bit by the high cost - the deposit alone being £5000). She is well qualified to do the job: member of the current police authority; Bristol magistrate for 15 years; vice-chairwoman of the Independent Monitoring Board at Bristol prison. For me she says all the right things on her website too: http://suemountstevens.co.uk/ . Her Twitter site is here: https://twitter.com/sumountstevens

Who should I cast my second preference vote for though?

http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/Police-Commissioner-elections-need-know/story-17093457-detail/story.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19495673

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bust bigotry

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Its right to call for an end to topless women appearing on page 3 (see report here). Its not simply an exposed pair of breasts that's the issue as some seem to think however. Exposed breasts in some contexts other than as seen in certain daily newspapers, magazines are not an issue.

The thing is that women are being portrayed as mere sex objects much more often and in a much more narrow and ignorant way than men are. The evidence is common experience.

Would it make sense to approach it the other way and ensure that both men and women are equally seen only in a narrow, ignorant, sex object way?? Or should we instead try to ensure that all people are seen in a more rounded, fair and complete way?

Please sign Lucy Holmes petition on this issue here, and join over 47,000 other people (figure correct 17 Oct 2012 but growing fast!).
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2012/sep/17/sun-women

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

People paramount

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Bristol 1st indicates that the people of Bristol are paramount rather than any single political party. The logo marks out what mayoral candidate George Ferguson stands for: representing all Bristol's people and involving them in decisions - and involving in his cabinet, as a matter of principle, people purely on the basis of expertise and not party allegiance. I'm strongly in favour of this pluralist and inclusive approach.

See: stories here and here and Bristol 1st website here
http://www.bristol1st.com/

Member's means

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Many MPs have second jobs eg North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg received around £132,000 in the year to August from his company Somerset Capital Management. The Conservative MP works 35 hours a month in return for the cash...(story here). As a matter of principle shouldn't we expect MPs to work full time for their constituency? Mr Rees-Mogg for example has time and energy that he could direct into working for voters in his constituency that he is directing elsewhere. Surely there are enough problems and issues to work on in his constituency, the SW region, the country, the EU and the world to keep this (and other) representatives busy for a lifetime! Docking some pay from MPs with second jobs is perhaps missing the point - they should not have these jobs whilst being an MP to begin with, so make it a rule that they cant.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Wealthy = wrong????

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Its pretty 'rich' that George Ferguson has 'been criticised by some Labour backers on social website Twitter over his personal wealth for allegedly being motivated by money.' (see story and online comments here). Isn't Ed Miliband quite a wealthy person? And others in the Labour Party? And aren't many donors to Labour very wealthy?

Its not inherently wrong to be wealthy!! Its how you've come by/made your wealth/money perhaps...and what you do with it when you've got it. George has used his wealth to good effect it seems to me (see image of the Tobacco Factory http://www.tobaccofactory.com/) - and he could obviously make a lot more money if he did not have the restrictions that inevitably and rightly come with becoming Mayor of Bristol!

George is wealthy. George has been a Liberal supporter in the past. George is not always 100% PC with his language...These are all very weak and feeble 'criticisms' indeed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

'Successful' shooting??

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Joined in a debate on the cruelty, or not, of culling badgers  by shooting and whether supermarkets should label milk from farms involved in culling  here:

BCFCfinker - @Melindola
Quote from RSPCA link provided below
http://tinyurl.com/8wwklgk from pdant:

"In order to free-shoot a badger in a quick, humane way, there are two 'lethal' points which would need to be successfully hit."

Seems pretty clear to me. The RSPCA appear to acknowledge that shooting can be humane (or if you want to split hairs, not cruel).

_____________________________________________

Surely the crucial part of this RSPCA quote is the phrase 'successfully hit' ? Even with people shooting well they are highly unlikely to be 100% 'successful'. Where they are not 'successful' then the chance of inccurately shot badgers being in pain and suffering increases. This means that shooting cannot be free of cruelty.

The RSPCA briefing says there are 'severe welfare concerns'. It refers to 'untested culling methods' (shooting) and the 'untested delivery method' (farmers). It describes the: 'high risk' of wounding; the 'small margin of error' and the anatomical and behavioural features of badgers that make cruelty free shooting highly unlikely.

What would be wrong by having a system where customers can know fully what they are buying by labelling milk as from a farm involving badger culling or not involving badger culling?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Halfbaked Hopkins

1 comment:
In the ongoing online discussions on this Post story about the mayoral election Lib Dem Councillor for Knowle, Gary Hopkins chips in this spin,

by gary_hopkins ...Polling shows
1 Non voters and genuinely undecided in a clear lead.
2 Mr Rees in a narrow first preference vote in front of Jon Rogers.
3 The Tories nowhere with their voters either giving Jon First or second preference to keep out Labour.
The other overwhelming stat that comes back is that, liked or not ,George Ferguson is known to that tiny % of the chattering politically active classes but 95% + are completely unaware of him...
__________________________________________

My reply: What polling is this? Who is it conducted by? Please give actual figures and the source(s) - otherwise what you say is not backed by facts we can check out. Its quite a common practice for Lib Dems to state a so called 'fact' or a quote in the 'Focus'  newsletters without giving the source for it. Lib Dem materials very often skew figures via very dodgy bar charts and illustrations. If its deliberate its unethical if its not its very poor and sloppy thinking and communication.

By choosing to have a dig at George Ferguson the Lib Dems, a) show they have something to be concerned about and, b) reinforce Ferguson's credentials as a candidate independent from party politics.

[Update 14 Oct: Cllr Hopkins has been challanged three times to produce figures and sources but has not done so - in fact he's made things worse through more party politics and attempted point scoring. No surprise there then.]

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

People, power, parties

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Interesting to note that all the main contenders for Mayor of Bristol have committed themselves to 'more people power' (here). I really do hope such a thing actually comes about. What I'd say to the three bigger parties, however, is: why have we had no significant and effective empowerment of people in Bristol if it's really what you stand for? Consultations are often a sham, voters are disillusioned and opportunities for genuine, empowered participation are poor. I have little faith that the big parties really want to empower people - if they did they would empower people to be able to remove them from office between elections through a recall/petitioning mechanism. Political parties want power for political parties in my experience.

The better, more specific ideas on participation and empowering people are with the Green's Daniella Radice (here) and with George Ferguson (here).

Inequality disempowers people, so its also interesting that this issue came up in the online discussion/comments on this story. Lib Dem candidate Jon Rogers raised the matter. Here's a copy of my response: @CllrJonRogers - The gini coefficient which is a measure of overall income inequality in the United Kingdom is now higher than at any previous time in the last thirty years. See http://tinyurl.com/2wtjwcb . The Coalition the Lib Dems are in will be cutting billions more from public spending, including spending on welfare for the poorest, in the coming years. See http://tinyurl.com/8qs5bat . You, as a Lib Dem Bristol City Council Cabinet member have made well over £20 million cuts in council spending per year, including to services for the vulnerable.... See http://tinyurl.com/9oopcvo . Can you explain how all this helps to create a more fair and equal society?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Massive mudslinger

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Believe me I'm no fan of elites but this is a non-story, saying, One of Bristol's leading musicians has claimed mayoral candidate George Ferguson's membership of Bristol's elite Society of Merchant Venturers is a conflict of interests. Massive Attack's lead singer Robert Del Naja... (here). There is no substance to it at all. Its all pure supposition and mere accusation, in this instance by just one 'famous' person throwing mud. So a candidate(Ferguson, pictured) belongs to a society (Merchant Venturers) and even if he resigned from the society he would still have friends in it. So what? There must be many, many candidates who are members of various organisations and who would retain friends if/when they left in the event of getting elected. Now, it really would be a story if there was any evidence of undue and unjustifiable influence or unethical practices - but there is no such thing! Or can someone provide evidence....?

Come to think of it aren't members of political parties members of a selective society, with a lot of friends etc etc...

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Austerity applesauce

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Any new Mayor of Bristol will have very hard budget choices forced on them it seems, given that, 'One of the first jobs facing Bristol's incoming elected mayor will be to cut an extra £25 million from the city councils budget. The authority has revealed it faces making deeper cuts than first anticipated as funding from central government is reduced.' (see here). However, that should not stop whoever the Mayor is from giving voice to the growing numbers of people who see the complete folly of cuts and austerity economics.

Govt borrowing is up AND we've had savage cuts. In fact Govt borrowing is up in part BECAUSE we've had savage cuts. Cuts are depressing economic activity. Austerity policies, pronouncements, plans and actions have reduced confidence, reduced spending, reduced investment, increased costs to govt, reduced govt income...and have been a big help (!) in causing and then lengthening the recession we are still in (thanks to Dave, George, Nick, Vince and co). I support the case against austerity and cuts and for a Keynsian stimulus for our economy to get out of recession and going in a sustainable direction.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Party politics

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The national spotlight fell on Bristol's Labour mayoral candidate as he took to the stage in Manchester....(more here). But Marvin Rees's case lacks substance. He's either not able to or did not think of making the economic case for a living wage in this article for instance, to add to the moral/ethical one. It seems to me that he talks about the need for a plan for Bristol but then all he comes up with is warm words and attempted populist generalities. I want to see joined up thinking from him.
Taking 'pot shots' at his rivals too often could backfire for him. Labour in Bristol is already a very tribal sort of outfit, too high on pure party politics. Some of his rivals will attract votes by appealing for people not to back pure party politics so maybe he'd be better off sticking more to making a positive, policy-based case.