East Midlands Green Party Blog


2 Comments

Breathless – our right to breathe

Taken by Antonia Zenkevitch at The Blue Wave March against Climate Change.

Taken by Antonia Zenkevitch at The Blue Wave March against Climate Change.

Successive government policies are failing in safeguarding the rights of many to breathe. Fracking plans are part of a long line of health threats being created. The Green Party is different.

3 people a day die of asthma in the UK, 200 a day are rushed to emergency care. Although triggers are diverse, some of these deaths are warning signals that the air we breathe is not safe.  Exhaust fumes, for example, can trigger an attack that leaves the airways inflamed, constricted, obstructed, twisted.  Air pollutants, harsh chemicals in the home or work place and stress are some of the triggers, as are extremes of temperature.  Areas of the world where fracking is underway show rising  asthma and other health crisis. Texas, where drilling is heavy has a 25% asthma rate in young children compared to national average of 7%.  The government fracking plans could raise mortality rates in the UK. Asthma rates already rising with connections to climate change, air quality and poverty arguably triggers. Resistant virus strains and threats to basic well-being and immunity also factors.

You may ask how is this related to the Green Party? I would answer it is related in every way.  The Green Party policies are generally cleverly designed and focus on protecting the things that provide well-being.  A good public transport system, green industry and a safe and funded NHS for example are fundamental to general well-being. These are also things that could save lives and dignity.  The Green Party shows the way in these areas within the political arena. No other party does. Asthma rates are political because they spur us on to re-examine political priorities. The government on the other hand seems to be gaslighting – playing a game of smoke and mirrors. Under the new De-Regulation Bill the Con-Dem Government would remove any requirement for councils to produce assessments after designating air quality zones. As there are unsafe air zones it strikes me as vital that assessments should be made and protection put in place. The De-Regulation Bill is also designed to ‘remove burdens on business’ (to be ethical?) and ‘repeal legislation no longer of use’ (according to whose priorities?). This bill paves the way for fracking for example in a similar way to fracking being made exempt from The Clean Water Act in USA. It is one of the ways the Com-Dem government risks lives and Labour gives no opposition.

I am a wheezy Green. Ours is one of the one in five homes in the UK affected by asthma. A quarter of a million people have asthma so severe that medicine available does not work for them and even mild asthma can be fatal.  In 2011 alone asthma rates rose 12 %. Child asthma rates are rising most steeply (as is child poverty) with more young systems unable to deal with hazards in the air.  I have had a couple of nasty attacks recently, have pneumonia  and am trying to get my airways working properly. Many of us also contend with airborne, food and other allergies.   The body under duress sometimes mistakes friend for foe. As I work in the underfunded voluntary sector it cost me a large proportion of wages in prescriptions after my becoming ill just to make sure I can keep breathing. How many cannot afford to breathe?

The privatisation of our NHS by Labour, Conservatives and LibDems in successive governments also endangers lives. (It also takes jobs and so destablises society and the economy). It takes longer to be treated. We are inundated with consumer choice and lacking in patient care. A friend of mine from University days has worked some years in a hospital blood testing lab.  Her hours are long, her weekends rare, the staff were just 4 to one large hospital. She tells me a ‘Super Lab’ with the same number of people serving 4 hospitals is the new way of apparently ‘putting patients first’.  This for me illustrates the vampiric nature of commerce coming before care.  Even the term ‘superlab’ seems crass.

Social injustice costs lives. Of the deaths caused by asthma and many other diseases, rising healthcare costs and decreasing benefits to those who need them play their part. There is systematic dehumanisation of so many in and out of paid work who cannot afford to eat well or heat their homes. So many literally cannot afford the cost of living.  If you can’t afford to heat your home the cold air can be rejected by asthmatic lungs.  Fear or emotional trauma can also trigger an attack. With so many struggling to make ends meet in a prevailing political culture of divide and rule, this increases the health threats to many. Under extreme pressure many people are more likely to smoke more, less likely to look after themselves and more likely to put their own and other’s health at risk.  A struggling single parent said in Life’s A Drag: Women, Smoking and Disadvantage, Hilary Graham, 1993 “I smoke more if I’ve got bills coming in, I tend to get worried. Like Christmas is coming and I’m not able to afford the things I want.” Then there is the hunger for so many, with Foodbanks needed ever more.  Poverty and austerity – that poison masked as medicine – are killers.

Climate Chaos and poverty are closely related threats. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, includes in its research the effects of Climate Change on health threats rising and continuing to rise. Asthma is one disease on the rise, together with respiratory allergies, airborne diseases, heart-disease and stroke, cancer, foodborne and waterborne diseases, human development defects, neurological disorders, mental health and stress related ill-health, heat related morbidity and mortality … The list goes on. Our Governments answer is willful ignorance unchallenged by Labour. Plans for fracking, licences for dangerous pesticides, erosion of safety measures to protect clean air ‘zones’, new airport runways all carry threats. You do not have to look for the tsunamis, droughts and ash clouds to see climate change take life. It is there in the silence after a fatal asthma attack takes a child on a day you can taste pollution in the air. Behind closed doors, in homes, climate chaos costs lives. Those it often takes are those with problems accessing or affording care.

Our health security relies on a great number of things; saving the NHS, tackling true causes of poverty, protecting land and water, investing renewable energy and clean air targets. These are all things central to Green Party policy and for the most part fundamentally lacking in the other parties. I choose to focus this post on asthma because, if you pardon the pun, I had something to get off my chest and the issue is literally close to my own heart. It is one issue that shows how politics based on the common good can change lives.  The idiocy and arrogance of successive governments literally leaves millions breathless.   The Green Party is challenging itself and the UK to be the very best it can be. Now, that to me is a breath of fresh air! For me personally being ill was a reminder that fighting for The Green Party and its policies is in so many uncountable ways a fight for life.

Antonia Zenkevitch 2014

References and Further Reading include:

http://greenparty.org.uk/policies.html

http://www.catskillmountainkeeper.org/our-programs/fracking/whats-wrong-with-fracking-2/air-pollution

http://www.asthma.org.uk/knowledge-bank-smog

http://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/about.htm 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Money, Money, Money – Must be funny

All pain no gain GP postertax bankers not bedrooms

This month East Midland’s Greens are putting banking and debt under the microscope. There are more posts to follow with this one giving an overview. In this age of globalised markets and globalised debts we need to re-examine the nature of money. In the USA there is a partial government shutdown as Republicans and Democrats battle out what to do about mounting debt. Their decisions may be behind closed doors and across the ocean but waves will be felt near and far.  Here in the East Midlands, at the time of the harvest we examine our national economic harvest of the year and the forecast ahead. Did you know for example that under the coalition government in the 2012 -2013 financial year borrowing had gone up £300 million, while at the same time the total debt had risen to 75.2% of our gross domestic product (GDP), up from 71.1% of GDP at the end of May 2012? These figures were reported by among others, BBC News Business, on 21/06/13. Such figures did not lead to a good economic yield at the year’s Autumn.

75 % of the UK economy is debt as borrowing rises. That is not a good harvest, with most of the crop spoken for. Much of this extra borrowing is subsidising banks and big business. Meanwhile public services are being cut and in certain areas shredded. Bankers bonuses are back in the billions while our national and personal debts are rising. Many people rely on payday loans with typical  apr at 3000 – 4000 % and more.  Amelia Gentleman’s article ‘Buy Now Regret Later? The Secret of Brighthouse’s Success’ The Guardian, Friday 4 October 2013 illuminates this culture of a society fueled, not by credit, but by debt.

Far from getting ourselves out of debt we have an economic system based on debt.  Our ability to pay off personal debts is being undermined. Thanks to savage cuts there are less full-time or secure jobs and more zero hours contracts, particularly for young adults, offering the most uncertain present and future. Students start their  working lives with huge debts and less employment prospects. It is no coincidence that one of the largest and ever growing proportion of homeless population are young people. Another group with rising debts and homelessness is families. Bedroom tax hits low income families, among many others, as do skyrocketing house prices. Austerity is increasing debt, with the cost of living far greater than a growing number of people’s ability to pay for even the most basic costs of shelter and survival. The Charity Crisis reports a 31% rise in homelessness in 3 years. This is attributed to rising debts, due to benefits cuts and rising house prices and living costs. Broken homes can become more common, along with domestic abuse. In the Independent 03/09/13 and The Mirror on 04/09/13 article accuse The Police (operating on decreased numbers and funds) of referring less domestic violence cases to Crown Prosecution  Service while allegation numbers rise by 10 % and prosecution dropped by 11.1% last year. This is one example of the harvest of our broken economic system, with police force targets having to be met under a 20% decrease in funds and a new level of red tape; Police Commissioners dictating regional priorities. There is toxic irony in the Tory’s rhetoric on family values when they are delivering policies across the board which raise the debts and threats to the majority of families, both in and out of paid work.

These insane policies are enabled by the Liberal Democrats, with inadequate opposition in Labour policies, with the nation remaining controlled by rising debt and a failing banking system. Credit Union Empowerment, measures to encourage responsible lending and banking reform are core Green Party policies.  The Green Party and Green Group Europe have long called for financial reform, including a Robin Hood Tax, or financial transaction tax which means bankers would help pay for high risk banking practices. This would encourage a more responsible approach and one in which cost of failure is not predominantly levied on citizens as it so far has been. This sensible taxing of bankers is something the coalition government are working against in both the UK and Europe. The government are not protecting a stable economy. They are ensuring one of high risk, imbalance and increasing debts and insecurity for most people. Citizens are being pushed into paying national debt by getting into more personal debt and it is not working.

The Green Party do not believe the poorest should be getting poorer while the rich get richer , nor that this is inevitable but a symptom of a broken system that needs fixing. One that has not been fixed by successive governments, each too lacking in vision and courage. Austerity is failing in its promise to build productivity in the private sector; small and medium sized businesses are not secure or significantly growing.  Foodbanks are growing. Rajesh Mirchandani reported for BBC Newsnight on 11th July 2013 that ‘the Trussell Trust, which runs food banks, reported a 21% rise in the number of people who said they did not have enough money for food because of problems with benefits. “A clear link” exists between the reforms and the increasing popularity of food banks, the Trust’s boss said. Conservative minister Lord Freud has said the two factors are unrelated.’

harvest

The Financial Times articles are often scathing about Government’s blinkered Economic Policy. One such article by Trevor Greetham is dated  02/09/13. Greetham states that ‘in encouraging a housing boom the government are forcing the next generation into debt in the hope the government can improve its own financial position.’ I personally wonder if it is so radical to suggest that a government should serve the interests of its citizens? We appear to have an inverted system under current policies. Trevor Greetham notes the failure of the government’s economic policy to recover the private sector and predicts people will have greater debt, not less, when recession does end. This will guarantee future turmoil.  The article recommends jobs creation and improvement of infrastructure to overcome the ‘economic stagnation’ caused by delays in recovery and unemployment.

Austerity is costing jobs and creating unemployment and an atmosphere of despair and blame.  The Green Party have long been calling for a Green New Deal of job creation, protecting and building valuable skills, sustainable infrastructures and lessening levels of unemployment  instead of increasing unemployment then using those without paid work (or not enough to live off)as scapegoats. We are calling for risky practices by bankers to be taxed in order to discourage and absorb  shocks and imbalances in the financial sector. The debt must not continue to rest on the shoulders of those least to blame and least likely to be able to carry the burden.  Current government policies are increasing debt for most people now and ensuring debt for most people in the future. We need not be tied to a cycle of debt. There is an alternative and the Green Party is at the heart of it. Be part of it.

Join the Green Party Link: https://my.greenparty.org.uk/civicrm/membership/joining

If you like it please share this blog post on Facebook, Twitter or WordPress.

The Voice / Soundtrack – just for fun:

Forbes is among the publications that has drawn parallels between the Great Depression and today’s crisis. There is a song from those bygone days by Bob Miller that is disturbingly appropriate today. This inspired me to write a soundtrack to banking reform.

Soundtrack for Calling for Bank Reform:

  • Bank Failures – Bob Miller
  • The Man that Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo – Music Hall Classic
  • I Need a Dollar – Pixie Lott (original Aloe Blacc)
  • Umbrella – Rihanna
  • Hands – Jewel
  • Stand and Deliver – AntMusic
  • Money, Money, Money – Abba
  • With a Little Help From My Friends – Beatles


2 Comments

No to the Bedroom Tax

tax bankers not bedrooms

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fKaoTKr9aw

The above video displays only one of the outcomes of the bedroom tax. People with two or more homes are stating that children with disabilities must share bedrooms with other siblings or their families will have benefit cuts. This effects the safety and health of any disabled child, their siblings and their family. It is also economically unworkable, the cost of moving families with disabled children and re-equipping homes with the most basic tools to allow even the minimum safety and mobility would be far greater than any saving made. Single parents, recently bereaved families and those with children away at university are also targeted in these cuts.

Human rights are being violated with this and other unnecessary and unequal cuts.  80% of cuts are to come. Calls for tax justice and fair pay are being increasingly replaced with those in poverty turning on one another in response to government spin-doctoring, which Natalie Bennett at Spring Conference called ‘deeply derisive workers verses shirkers rhetoric’. Blame is placed on those driven into unemployment by public service cuts and economic failures of a system where organisations making cuts often make people redundant before looking at turning off the lights at closing time. Responsibility is placed at the door of those whom accident or illness made too ill to work. International workers often used as cheap labour, hardly surviving on their pay, are hated by those who lose their jobs or take pay cuts to compete. Losses are taken by small and medium sized businesses collapsing under unjust tax laws and other financial inequity. Young people and vulnerable groups pay increasing ecological and economic bills while many become blinded to the real issues.

Be seen to be Green with me on the 16th March at 1pm at Brian Clough Statue off Market Square, Nottingham. Our policies, including for a living wage and for the top of an organisation to be on no more than 10 times the salary of the lowest paid employee, of bank and tax reform and cutting carbon not welfare are important in these times. They are the only concise alternative to austerity.

Please join us for this and other peaceful demonstrations. Please share this with others and use this blog and our facebook group to let us know your thoughts and any relevant local campaigns.

With Thanks,

Antonia