Friday, August 31, 2007
‘On average, nine people are killed and 85 injured each day on the UK's roads. This figure would probably be higher if safety cameras were not used. By reducing speeding and making the roads safer, they save about 100 lives a year.’ (http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/TrafficManagement/DG_10025598).
All those who deliberately damage speed cameras (better called safety cameras) show great insensitivity as they are often put up at locations of death and injury. ‘Safety cameras are generally installed on roads: with a history of road traffic collisions; where there is evidence of a speeding problem; or where there is local community concern. The Police may also use cameras to enforce speed limits.’ Why don’t these extremely anti-social people acknowledge the thousands killed and and tens of thousands injured on UK roads each year? http://www.roadpeace.org/index.shtml
Safety cameras are practical memorials where people have been killed. Every time someone vandalises a camera, they are showing their contempt for the people whose death may well have led to the camera being there in the first place. Presumeably they don’t care about the individual stories of pain and tragedy which these cameras are trying to stop from being repeated. Speed should not come before life and metal should not come before before flesh. Personally, I find it shocking that our society has often waited until there are deaths to take action, instead of being more proactive and preventive. It is a logic which we would never accept to the same extent for other modes of travel.
Road casualties should not be the forgotten victims in society. Road violence should not be a forgotten crime. There are far more road deaths than murders in a major city, yet the law on speeding is very weak indeed. Cars driven dangerously are potential killing machines, yet the police spend far too little time dealing with dangerous driving. Horrendous road deaths and injuries are not simply twists of fate, but preventable acts of social neglect.
A story in yesterdays Bristol Evening Post described how the government will have to build houses at a faster rate than local authorities want if Gordon Brown’s target of 3 million homes by 2020 is to be met (‘Green belt is under threat from Brown’, Bristol Evening Post, 30 Aug.).
Apparently treating green belt land as ‘inviolate’ and ruling out development ‘cannot be consistent with government policy’, according to a government-appointed inspectors report on housing in the south-east.
Funny that – what is green belt for if it’s not to rule out development in certain places!!
Thursday, August 30, 2007
‘Individuals, households and communities all have a crucial role in tackling climate change, according to a new blueprint for cutting down on carbon emissions. Ideas have been proposed in a 50-page document called Zero Carbon Britain, an ambitious blueprint outlined by the national Liberal Democrat leadership this week. It lays out in-depth details of ways in which governments, individuals, businesses, industry, energy providers and developing nations can tackle the issue…’
This is pure ‘greenspeak’. Such environmental policies are completely inconsistent with what Lib Dems have been doing around the country in practice. Green MEP Caroline Lucas (http://www.carolinelucasmep.org.uk/) put the point very well when she said,
‘…their record in power at all levels is one of supporting both airport expansion and more road-building, …The truth is that we can't cut emissions sufficiently by tinkering around the edges of society. We will only reach a zero carbon society - as we must if we are to avert the worst impacts of climate change - by changing the very ways we do business, live our lives and measure progress: now that would be a truly radical proposition. As long as the other parties remain committed to economic growth at all costs and ever-freer international trade, this necessary radicalism seems far from their thinking, whatever their leaders are saying this week.
Only the Green Party recognises that if policies to address climate change require a different economic paradigm, then that's to be welcomed, since the kind of materialism that is currently driven by contemporary consumer capitalism is leaving people unfulfilled as well as destroying the planet. Far from being a sacrifice, a zero-carbon society will be a healthier, happier, society, with warmer homes, better public transport, stronger local communities, more green jobs - and more free time. Put simply, the policies we need to live good lives are precisely the policies we need to tackle climate change - and that is what we need to articulate if we are to have any chance of achieving a zero-carbon Britain’
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
http://www.milkdeliveries.co.uk/doorstep/ for more. We must not get over-hooked, as the council and government often are, on the idea of recycling as the greenest option.
Sam Weston’s letter to the Bristol Evening Post (‘Where can I recycle plastic milk cartons?’) first drew an editors comment and then several letters (‘Recycling’, Bristol Evening Post Soapbox, August 28) including from Janet Peacock, Mrs M Brannigan, and City Councillor Judith Price, who is the Executive Member for Neighbourhoods and thus has responsibility for waste management. All gave useful comments on plastic recycling but not one person pointed to the delivery of milk in reuseable glass bottles as the best option – Cllr Price in particular would have performed a good public service if she had pointed this out. Shifting to having milk delivered cuts down on plastic bottles massively. The council should be doing a lot more to promote waste reduction and reuse as the two best options.
I acknowledge that many things come in plastic bottles and other plastic containers or wrappers however. Its best to try to avoid these as far as possible (not always easy I know!) and the government should be doing more, legislating as required, to cut the use of plastic in short-life ways down to a minimum right at the source. This reduction approach is by far the best environmental option compared to going to the financial and environmental costs of collecting light, high volume plastics for recycling. However, since this is just not happening on a sufficient scale, the council could be doing more on plastic recycling as the next best option.
Monday, August 27, 2007
( http://www.bristol.gov.uk/item/epetitionview.html?PetitionID=191 ) which is about enhancing environmental education and awareness through school/college environmental charters. I've written and used environmental charters in several of the places I've taught and they can work well.
My petition says:
The petitioner requests that, consistent with objective 10 in the Bristol 'Green Capital' pledge list to 'enhance environmental education and awareness', Bristol City Council circulates a 'Model Environmental Charter' to all Bristol schools and colleges, accompanied by a letter to governors urging them to adapt the model charter to suit, adopt it asap and agree to annually review progress related to it.
The model charter referred to goes like this:
The students, staff, governors and all friends of ...school/college will work to make annual improvements in:
* developing and improving grounds and buildings in a green way (like ponds, wildflower areas, tree planting, vegetable plots...)
* keeping the school and grounds clear of litter
* saving energy for example by sensible use of heating and lighting
* reducing waste, reusing and recycling
* using healthier, environmentally kinder products
* using recycled products and locally produced products
* efficient use of all resources, such as water, food, paper...
* travelling to and from school in low impact ways, like walking, cycling and public transport
* teaching care and responsibility for the environment, people and community, guided by a clear environmental education policy dealing with education about, education in and education for the environment
My experience tells me that schools and colleges need a focus for their environmental education work. Adopting an environmental charter can provide this focus in a school/college. It also takes forward the Bristol 'Green Capital' objective of 'Enhanced environmental education and awareness'.
Environmental education's profile surely needs to be substantially raised in all schools and colleges given that we all need to live more sustainably. In my view all of Bristol's schools/colleges should carry out environmental education: in and through the environment as a resource; about the environment by imparting knowledge; and for the environment by encouraging students to formulate caring values, attitudes and practical actions in their environment; and by developing the skills needed to study the environment in students.
One interesting development is that my petition has drawn a response from Kate Campion, Program Director, Children and Young Peoples Services, Bristol City Council, who wrote this in the discussion section of my petition:
All schools are expected to include environmental education as part of their citizenship agenda. Curriculum coverage is monitored by OfSTED inspections. The LA promotes environmental education through the work of a consultant, working with schools to develop the curriculum to ensure learning is about the environment, in different environments and through the environment, about 'real world' learning. Bristol City Council also provides support for schools to become Eco Schools and the Council has made a pledge to support the 'Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto'. An Outdoor Learning Policy and strategy is currently in draft format. Within our new secondary school building programme, the council is seeking every opportunity to ensure environmental standards are being met and that the building programmes and the subsequent maintenance of sites can be used as a tool to support learning. We are also promoting school travel plans. Over 90 schools now have a travel plan that highlights the benefits of environmental awareness and positive action towards environmentally friendly options. Much of this work is also promoted through the Healthy Schools programme, for which BCC holds 'Beacon' status. We agree that all schools should be encouraged to be environmentally friendly, promote environmental education and ensure learning is of high quality. To this end we work with schools to promote the agenda. Each school must make a decision about how this work is undertaken, by becoming an Eco School, a bespoke charter is created which directly relates to a particular school. We think this is the best way of promoting and sustaining environmental education and practice.
This is a very interesting contribution which I will shortly be discussing with her. From what I know about getting eco-school status a school applying would need something similar to an environmental charter (or some other sort of statement of environmental intent at least) in order to be successful in their application (http://www.eco-schools.org.uk/). I thus hope that the council will agree to circulate a model charter, consistent with their policy of supporting schools to become eco-schools, encouraging schools to be environmentally friendly and promoting environmental education.
I do agree very much that each school must make its decision on how environmental education work is undertaken. Its important that each school, or in fact any team or organisation has ownership of its policies and action plans. This is why the petition says that schools/governors use the model charter as a basis, adapting it to suit them...
On the other hand by circulating a model charter I think the council would be signalling that they want schools to develop a renewed focus for their environmental education efforts, saying that they should have some sort of overarching statement on the environment. Some local schools will have an environmental charter or equivalent statement, sometimes a fully developed and operating specific environmental education policy (including one school and one college where I have worked as a science teacher).
I think all schools should be in this position however, and hope the council agrees, because of the critical importance of environmental issues. Why shouldn't all schools become eco-schools of their own design? In fact the model environmental charter could easily be adapted for all sorts of organisations.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
On this occasion I also agree strongly with what RL Smith said in his letter supporting Cllr Davies idea (‘Police should support public-spirited initiative’, Bristol Evening Post letters, August 25). The comments from the police failing to wholeheartedly back the ban were, for me, a little feeble. Large benefits to the area would result from a ban compared to disbenefits that would be tiny, as statistics on the governments crime reduction website illustrate very well.
‘…40% of violent crime; 78% of assaults and 88% of criminal damage cases are committed while the offender is under the influence of alcohol.’ www.crimereduction.gov.uk/toolkits/ar020101.htm.
The website reports that 70% of people surveyed thought street drinking was a problem and 80% support a ban on drinking in some public areas. There could be ban enforcement problems but even so I don’t see why the police should be so hesitant here. These kind of problems require firm, rapid and decisive action.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Its noteable that he had no answer to my description of the environmental impact of the bags themselves, particularly set against re-using newspaper. He made no comment on whether land should be used to grow food instead of crops to make plastic bags. He had no reply to my point about even low waste paper households such as my own having sufficient unwanted paper to wrap up a bit of food waste. He did not respond to my point about recycling only being the third best option in the waste management hierarchy - reduce, and re-use first.
His main genuine argument seemed to be based on the idea of increased support for the brown bin system if bags are introduced. Whether there would be increased take up is debateable. Its a maybe - something we would not know for sure until we did it. In some places support rates rise but there is evidence that this is not always so. Its missing the point anyway because there is no way that recycling could increase enough to compensate for the increased environmental impacts produced by manufacturing the bags!
The point of recycling is to cut environmental impacts but food waste recycling with corn starch bag use would have a higher environmental impact than without them - somewhat defeating the object. If he's unsure about this point then why doesn't he, and in fact the council itself, agree to do a full environmental audit of the system with and without plastic bags. If it can be shown that total impact is lower with the bags I'll even sign his petition on them - to date the poor chap still has just three signatures, and one of those is his own!
His jibe during the debate about greens/me not addressing the 'real world' presumeably means his 'real world' where its better to grow crops to make plastic bags than food for the hungry!
It seem highly likely that the council's tree care and management will be heavily criticised and required to change due to the inquiry that has now been launched ('Inquiry as trees face axe', Bristol Evening Post, 17 August) headed by Knowle Lib Dem Cllr Gary Hopkins.
At least some good for Bristol's other trees may come out of this sorry situation. The Poplar tree felling will leave locals with a major negative change in their local environment for years, instead of properly managed, gradual change as the trees came to the end of their life
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Its no longer disputable that the trees are unsafe. Why are the trees now in a dangerous state?
The council has allowed developers to work in such a way inside the sports ground that they have significantly changed soil levels and conducted excavations that have damaged tree feeding roots. This, combined with a lack of good council maintenance and past heavy pruning has brought the demise of these trees forward by several years.
The report by independent contractors, Silvanus Services Ltd, today published on the city website clearly makes the expert observations this condemnation is based on, see the extracts below:
Redevelopment works in progress, with highly significant changes being made to soil levels in the rooting environment of all of these trees.
Excavations have damaged many of the feeding roots throughout the group, which were evident during our visit.
5 No. specimens had suffered complete stem failure at around 6 – 8m, with remnants of the failed stems in evidence within surrounding scrub.
A number of fungal brackets (probably Polyporus squamosus and Perenniporia fraxinea) were observed growing on several specimens. NB: Control or eradication measures are not available with such fungal colonisations.
With evidence of past (heavy) pruning works, these specimens exhibit many failed truncated major limbs and stems, with such dysfunctional tissue affecting major unions.
At approximately 90 years of age, these specimens must now be considered to be over-mature, with over extended major limbs that overhang both the sports field and the Wells Road. This, combined with the hazardous conditions noted
in the list above, presents an unacceptable level of risk.
This group of trees undoubtedly represent a major hazard and an unacceptable risk to both the users of the athletic field and the adjacent major trunk road(s) and pavements/public walkways.
As many of the hazards observed during our inspections have arisen as a direct result of past (heavy) pruning operations, it is inadvisable to continue with further (even heavier) pruning works as this would result in an increased level of major wounds (and resultant decay entry points) throughout the crowns of these specimens. Given the presence of the bracket fungi, the altered soil levels within the rooting environment and the extensive root damage, it is our recommendation that these trees be removed as soon as possible and replaced once the ground works have been completed.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
The beneficial effect of the doubling of aircraft fuel efficiency he refers to is far outweighed by the massive growth in numbers of flights, passengers and goods carried, and total distance travelled. Growth in air travel is exponential, thus total fuel consumption and consequent carbon emissions wont be kept down without addressing this growth. This is clearly demonstrable in figures.
I have been annually calculating my three person household’s ecological footprint, along with my students, for the past seven years. This year the figure was 10,400 square metres of land, with no flights taken. If we flew on just one 10,000 km round trip holiday from Bristol Airport (a common travelling distance), this footprint would rise, according to the EcoCal computer model used, to 14,400 square metres – a 38% increase. The single round trip would then be the biggest contributor to our footprint at 28% of the total, approx the same as all household heating and lighting for a year and slightly more than the impact of household travel by all other methods.
Any carbon savings that might result from people travelling shorter distances to their regional airport as opposed to going to London are trifling. After all people are travelling tens or hundreds of kilometres to the airport but are then getting on a plane to travel thousands or tens of thousands of miles. Its obvious that to tackle climate change one should first address the issue of encouraging the travelling of the greatest distances.
The same argument also applies to any carbon savings made from the various environmental plans and targets to do with airport buildings, renewable energy, and aircraft operational procedures. I don’t dismiss these and we should save all carbon emissions where we can - best, of course, to start by prioritising the biggest emissions sources first ie ever more flying!
EasyJet spokeswoman Sara Pritchard feels that low cost airlines are not more polluting, citing the use of newer, cleaner planes, and a code of environmental conduct. She is backed, not surprisingly by BIAs spokesman James Gore who states that the ‘low-cost mode is inherently greener’. I’m not against cleaner planes, however, both James and Sara fail to mention the effect of a very key factor – cost. The law of supply and demand says that the lower the cost of a product the higher the demand. Since EasyJet offers very low cost air travel then it stimulates very high demand! This is obviously neither low pollution or inherently green since we need to lower demand to achieve these ends.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
No-one from Stop Bristol Airport Expansion, http://www.nobristolairportexpansion.co.uk/ or others against more flying like the Green Party or Friends of the Earth is quoted. Statements in favour of expanding flying such as from Bristol Airport Spokesman James Gore (obviously no relation to Al Gore!) remain uncontradicted by anyone - but on all counts he and others quoted from the airlines are wrong, as best science and good sense economics easily shows. Why are no balancing quotes included?
The UN have gathered together the best expertise the world has on climate change (The IPCC, http://www.ipcc.ch/) and they find that it is real, serious, urgent - and we are the cause, not least our habit of flying more and more. Denial of reality or not caring is getting us all into deep trouble. Just look at the people of Gloucestershire last month for one.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Bristol's extremely polluted air has been known about for decades but nothing has been done to sort it out. I've been expressing concern in Knowle about traffic pollution from the congested Wells Rd and Bath Rd for some time, as people can see from my blog (numerous entries).
For Greens like me part of the solution is a congestion charge/road pricing. This would raise money which should be ringfenced to invest in public transport, walking and cycling, thus cutting pollution. Not to have the charge is costing lives - 24,000 people nationally equates to over 100 deaths a year within Bristol.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Blogger has taken quite a panning in the blog comments following his posting criticising me and Southville’s Green Councillor Charlie Bolton http://charlie-boltons-southville-blog.blogspot.com/ for wanting people to wrap their food waste in the already available newspaper, or indeed other waste paper that finds its way into your house whether you like it or not.
Blogger has yet to be joined by anyone else to defend making the plastic bags available – a position just like Knowle Lib-Dem Councillor Gary Hopkins whose one week old e-petition favouring the introduction of these bags http://www.bristol.gov.uk/item/epetitionview.html?PetitionID=190 has to date just one signature on it – his own!! And the only positive discussion comment to date is Cllr Hopkins' alone, with several negative ones.
Neither the Bristol Blogger or Cllr Hopkins (or Bristol City Council itself) seems to have properly weighed up the additional environmental impacts that will result from the introduction of these bags. This impact is very well hinted at by one of the discussion comments (copied below) on Cllr Hopkins e-petition, posted by Josie McLellan:
I can't help thinking it is a little irresponsible to promote the use of these bags without a full audit of their environmental impact. This would have to to take into account: 1. The resources used in the production and transportation of the bags, esp. water for irrigation, the oil used in fertiliser manufacture, production and shipping, and the chemicals used to stabilise the plastic. 2. The decrease in food production caused by growing the corn to make the bags. 3. Potential biodiversity losses involved in growing large quantities of corn. 4. Whether or not the corn used to produce the bags is GM free. 5. What, if any, by-products are given off as the bags biodegrade. 6. Any extra expense involved in composting waste wrapped in these bags. E.g. would the machinery have to be adjusted? It is hard to imagine that the environmental impact of these bags would compare favourably to using unwanted newspaper (e.g. the Bristol Observer) to wrap food
If the bags are introduced and people use them instead of or as well as the newspaper/other waste paper already in their homes, then the impact of the bags is added to that of the paper.
What we really need to do to be truly green with our food waste is to reduce then eventually remove the need for a collection system altogether (no lorries and no newspaper or plastic bags to contain waste) by building up household and neighbourhood composting. We are currently a long way from this yet however, with a vocal minority, yes minority (including the Bristol Blogger), having a go at the brown bin system and sometimes recycling itself – these people are hardly likely to be inclined to take full responsibility for their own food waste by composting it.
Friday, August 10, 2007
The value of trees in our city...signs that the council may be forced to back down on felling all poplar trees
Bristol City Council is: removing trees rapidly; does not discuss and consult with the public on trees well; has no proper strategy for city trees - points well made by Vassili Papastavrou from Bristol Street Trees http://www.bristolstreettrees.org/ . One Green Party member has reported an instance when it was requested that two obviously dead trees should be removed from the front of a sheltered housing scheme but the council then removed a further nine despite no signs of disease! This was a very hasty reaction indeed, perhaps due to a misplaced fear of insurance claims.
Thanks to the work of people like Dennis and Vassili pressure is being applied to protect and promote the value of trees in cities. They cool cities, save energy by up to 10% by moderating climate around buildings, shade people, act like air conditioners and pollution filters, divert storm water, and add to our mental as well as physical wellbeing, as well providing wildlife habitats (see http://www.kew.org/ and http://www.treesforcities.org/default.asp ). We need a strategy for more trees here, especially forest shade ones like oaks, planes and limes, which can withstand the harsh conditions and are long lived.
In the case of the threatened poplars it looks like the council may have to think again about cutting them all down ('Popular poplars may avoid axe', Evening Post, Aug 9). The Green Party will continue joining others to watch that the council gets its assessment of these trees right - no healthy trees should get the chop.
Also: see the recent report of the London Assembly Environment Committee on tree loss at -
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
http://www.bristol.gov.uk/item/epetitionview.html?PetitionID=190 - go to this address and post a discussion comment if you agree with my comments below.
Where is the sense in manufacturing something (like corn starch plastic bags) specially to throw away - even if its biodegradable? Apparently the bags often end up in landfill rather than being composted because they dont shred up well and have to be separated out. It just does not add up at a time when we are supposed to act green. Think of the land, energy and money needed to do this? Is this environmentally and economically appropriate?
It makes even less sense when we already have a widely available and suitable product for containing the waste we put into our brown bins for composting - its called newspaper and its there in quantity in our homes ready for reuse.
If people carefully wrap their brown bin waste up properly each day to make newspaper parcels, ensuring several layers are used and that there are no leaks in the parcels, then there should be few problems. Its what I've been doing and I've not seen a single maggot since the start of the system. To be double sure people could even line their bin with newspaper before putting in their waste parcels.
Is this significantly more effort than using a corn starch plastic bag? Better to appeal to people to use newspaper properly and to give out plenty of environmental information and educational material than to go for these bags.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Monday, August 06, 2007
The planning application number is 07/03351/VP (Council Officer involved the case is John Bowm, tel 9223545). The trees have a preservation order on them (number 669).
No surprise that this has caused a bit of a stir, with locals getting media interest and quickly organising a decent sized gathering of people expressing concern. Good for them! What is the meaning of a tree preservation order if the trees are not protected, instead being cut down en masse!! The council needs to look very closely at each and every threatened tree to assess its health.
The Evening Post, BBC and HTV were today at the gathering of concerned people, including myself, other Greens and quite a few locals, including councillors from wards in the area. Coverage in the next few days should be good and help to apply pressure to decision makers.
To express concern call the council's John Bowm on 9223545.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
I'm entirely unconvinced however, by the reassurance given at the end of the article by the city's parks manager that we wont lose some open, green spaces to housing developments. We are after all talking about many thousands of houses. And housing is not the only threat - how could the proposed South Bristol Ring Road be built without destroying spaces valuable for our health, climate, security from flooding and our wildlife?
Friday, August 03, 2007
Rob said ‘To help me decide on the real value of recycling in the list priorities of actions….I would love to see a summation of the benefits to our planet…Somebody please provide this to help convince me.’. The information required to answer his request is easily available and is fully accepted science but he got a deafening silence instead. This totally ignores the immense value we would get from good quality environmental information and education.
Rob is right to say that government and councils are not doing enough to tackle waste at source. Waste reduction and minimisation should be top priority and is the most environmentally friendly option (reuse of objects is second and recycling third priority). He is right to say that household waste is a relatively small proportion of total waste – in fact its less than half the 20% he suggests and not enough is being done about industrial and commercial waste. He is also right to say that if we were all genuinely concerned we would focus our efforts first on the most environmentally damaging activities, correctly listing driving and flying as examples, to which I would add the type and source of the food we eat. Contrary to popular conceptions in a recent opinion poll whilst recycling does help fight climate change quite well its not the most effective action one can take. A truly green approach would do all that Rob suggests but then we only have token green action or ‘greenwash’ at present.
Rob is wrong to suggest that burying waste in landfill sites and burning waste in incinerators may not be such a bad option after all (environmentally these are bottom of the waste management priority list). One can see why some reach this conclusion if environmental information is not regularly and effectively communicated though.
Having said that recycling is third in the waste priority list and not the most environmentally friendly option, it is still most definitely one we need to take because of the clear and substantial benefits, especially in comparison to landfilling and incineration. Recycling massively conserves energy and water resources, thus cutting air and water pollution. Figures in Kevin Byrnes book ‘Environmental Science’ (2001), state a 90–97% reduction in energy use and air/water pollution for aluminium recycling. There are cuts in energy/water use and air/water pollution of 47-85% for steel, 23-74% for paper, and 4-50% for glass. There is also a 97% cut in mining waste by recycling steel and an 80% cut in mining waste by recycling glass.
Recycling materials makes ‘virgin’ resources last longer and reduces UK reliance on resources from other countries. It cuts waste disposal costs and thus the council tax and creates jobs in a developing sector of the economy. Participation by everyone raises environmental awareness and responsibility for waste production.
There are practical issues with the recycling systems to work on certainly, and we don’t yet have a genuinely green and coherent approach to resources, but the overall benefits of recycling are undeniable. Come on local council’s – why aren’t you writing this!!