East Midlands Green Party Blog


3 Comments

No Minister, this winter’s floods are not ‘Unprecedented’.

David Cameron was ill advised to brag about how much flood defence work has been done during his premiership – surrounded as he was by flood water in York. “Like much of the rest of what you have done as prime minister David, your actions on flood prevention have been demonstrably inadequate. That’s why you were surrounded by flood water!”

The line being taken by this lamentable government is that the floods of this winter were ‘unprecedented’. The impression that they want to leave with the public is that there was nothing that could have been done to prevent them and that they are a one-off event, unlikely to be repeated. “So, Environment Minister Truss” [who has repeated the ‘unprecedented’ line like well trained parrot] “were the floods of 2007 or of 2014 also ‘unprecedented’? Doesn’t ‘unprecedented’ mean ‘not happened before’?”

After the 2007 flooding in the West country, there was a Government review of flood prevention, yet the area flooded again 7 years later. Was the review implemented in full? Apparently not. The Government, both Labour and Tory, chose to bail out the banks so leaving thousands of people now having to bail out their homes. Flood prevention can be an expensive business and needs long term planning, so on taking office in 2010, the Tories, with their LibDem side kicks slashed the budget for flood defences in 2011, eviscerated the Environment Agency, and to please their developer friends tore up planning regulations to allowing more flood plain development – to ‘boost the economy’.

Failing to invest in flood defence is equally costly, £1.5 billion the estimates cost of the York floods alone. The difference being is that the cost of prevention falls largely on the public purse, that the Tories are deliberately shrinking. The cost of repairing the damage falls largely on private pockets, 99% of which are being rapidly emptied by Tory policy, and after all, disasters are good for the economy – nothing like a bit of destruction to stimulate business.

Enough cynicism – what should be done, what would the Greens do? First we remind everyone that extreme weather events such as we have seen in December 2015 were the predictable outcome of the failure to combat climate change over the last 20 years. The damage wrought by flooding and storms is the price of climate scepticism and the inaction that it spawns. While it is still not possible to ‘prove’ that the Christmas storms are a result of climate change, it is the increasing frequency of violent weather that is indicative of the changing climate, and underlines the need to take preventative action.

Flood prevention needs long term planning, by people who understand the whole water cycle. It is not just about dredging – which can make matters worse in some cases, or building up river banks. It needs to include a management plan for the whole of a river catchment. It also needs an understanding of future patterns of weather. We have to accept that the extreme weather events that we have been seeing over the last decade are not ‘unprecedented’ one-off events, but the shape of things to come. We have to plan defences that can accommodate such events on a regular basis.

Flood prevention begins in the uplands of the river catchment. Here land use needs to be designed to enable the land to hold water and to slow down run off so as to take the strain of drainage channels – streams, dykes and rivers. This will include tree planting and permanent ground cover, plant roots helping to hold soil in place and to increase the capacity of the uplands to hold water and release it slowly.

It will include the middle reaches of the catchment where natural floodplains need to be created where the rivers and streams are allowed to burst their banks and flood the land creating temporary storage lakes for excess water. Rivers need to be allowed to meander, so again increasing their capacity. Straightening rivers only increases the speed with which water is delivered to the lower reaches of the river, where most of our major urban areas are sited. There has to be a ban on building on designated floodplain. The designation of these areas of land has to be done by hydrologists who know what capacity is needed to avoid serious flooding and not by ministers in Whitehall offices wanting to hit house building targets or major infrastructure development for the purposes of boosting the economy.

We have to look now at adaptation to flooding. We can’t move our towns and cities that are mostly built on rivers and their natural floodplains. Move electric circuits above the 100 year flood level, because this level is likely to be reached each decade of this century. Treat walls so that they are less vulnerable to water and will dry out more quickly. Make it possible for ground floors to be cleared of valuables at short notice. Make effective temporary flood defences available to all in need – there must be something better than leaky sandbags for blocking off doorways. Improve local warning networks and properly equip and train local emergency services so that they can act quickly and effectively, something that the army is not able to do.

In the medium term we will have to grasp the nettle of giving up on defence work and allow some areas to flood, just as we will have to abandon some areas of coastline to erosion. But this needn’t mean that such land can’t be developed if that is necessary. We can learn from Venice and the bronze age lake dwellers. Build on stilts, let water run freely through the ground story, encourage such flood prone communities to be more self sufficient, so that being cut off isn’t a major problem. Local self reliance is going to become ever more important in a warming world. This doesn’t mean ‘survivalism’, it means building resilient communities with effective local government that can develop the needed long term planning and ensure that the resources needed in an emergency are there. Letting local government escape from the ‘one size fits all’ approach adopted by central governments of the last 30 years, able respond to local needs and local circumstances, not the needs of Ministers with an election to win. This is the Green view of sustainability and self reliance. Not isolationism of the ‘survivalists’, but liberating local communities, villages, towns and cities from the dead hand of autocratic government, enabling them to manage local resources, respond to local needs and adapt to the physical, climatic and biological changes that will be coming our way.


1 Comment

What Integrity is Left?

red and green

Greens are changing the political conversation with our push against the shift to the right of other parties. A sure signal of success can be seen in Labour’s uneasy recognition of the “Green surge”. They have created a national anti-Greens unit, headed by Sadiq Khan, to bring the left to heel. Instead of re-examining their abandoned roots they are using misdirection to discredit Greens, with highly dubious and hypocritical stabs at Brighton and Hove high on their agenda. As one of the East Midlands’ Green Party candidates (for Nottingham East), I thought hard and spoke to my family at length before standing. It was always going to be a challenging journey. For ever increasing numbers of us, striving within the Green Party is a stand we feel the need to make proudly, together. I knew we would battle being ignored and that, if we did well, we would be under fierce and sometimes personal attack. We are now under fire because our voices are being heard! Greens are a party run by its membership, on donations and by volunteers. We are surrounded by a political landscape of corporate funded parties, pro-austerity dogma and scapegoating. Without media backing and with limited resources we have soared up the polls as 4th party in front of Lib Dems. We aren’t avatar politicians with slick campaign machines and spin doctors. As a party we have integrity.

Other parties have regularly betrayed their own membership and core principles. Most Labour policies are no longer either fair or ‘left’. Greens are the only party fighting austerity and climate chaos left in the running. Labour’s Ed Balls and Rachel Reeves are among those recently reasserting the same tired, tried and failed agendas of continued deep cuts and placing focus on rising spending to cover shortfalls. This means rising personal debts and inequality for the majority of people, supposedly to pay the national debts fueled by that very same philosophy!

The right-wing is fracturing even as it grows and becomes more extreme. This is the time to push against it! Progressively, it seems the Green Party are the only ones not leaning ever further to the right. Some Labour supporters speak about splitting the left vote but I would argue they are no longer a party of either left or non-discriminatory policies. They would never consider standing down as they ask us to. It seems undemocratic and manipulating to suggest we should allow them privileges based on a distant, more ethical past. I believe parties need to earn votes with good policies and stay true to core values. Green policies are created and voted for by our membership which helps avoid the betrayal other parties have suffered at the hands of their leadership.

The rise of the Greens is due to an increase in people voting for policies they want. People who have become distrustful of the whole political system are also turning to us, adding to our collective voice. We are the only party talking about job creation, not job cuts. We are the only party standing against TTIP and fracking, for a public NHS and a fair taxation system that takes easily affordable amounts from those who can best afford it, instead of punishing the poor in economically and socially bankrupt ways or passing our debts on to young people. One analogy I like is a ‘shared’ dinner; it makes no sense for those who have eaten more and have more in their wallets to pay nothing of the bill leaving those still hungry and with empty wallets to pay for it all.

I could say a lot more, but all I want to put across is that no one owns your votes or is entitled to your support unless you feel it is earned. Question any party’s sense of entitlement of your vote. Question anyone who says your vote and voice don’t count. I’m not going to ask you to believe me. Instead I am going to ask you to make up your own mind and vote for what you believe in. I recommend this independent survey which matches people with preferred policies.

http://voteforpolicies.org.uk/survey/select
Antonia Zenkevitch, Candidate for Nottingham East


2 Comments

Greens share common grounds with farmers.

The Green Party recognises the fundamental importance of those who work on the land and the contribution that farming makes to the rural economy and to wider society. However, many farmers do not currently receive fair reward for the food that they produce or for the many other ‘public services’ that they provide. We believe that letting conventional market forces dictate agriculture policy, as successive governments have done, can’t lead to the sustainable supply of food that should be the principle aim of farming. The aim of Green food and farming policy is to achieve food security over the long term.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines food security as follows: “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. The FAO says further that: “The right to food is a human right. It protects the right of all human beings to live in dignity, free from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.” The current policies of the British Government have failed to do this, hence the rise of hunger in the UK and of food banks. It is frankly shocking that in the worlds seventh richest economy, there are people who can’t get enough to eat on a regular basis, it is a scandal that the response by our rulers to this is to blame the hungry and poor for their plight.

The Government approach to food security is to build a competitive economy to enable the UK to buy its food requirements on the world market. The role of agriculture is to contribute to the national balance of payments to finance this policy – so farming is encouraged to intensify and to maximise output like any other industry. Further, the Government looks to developing countries to supply more of the world’s food. This policy, supported by Labour, Tory and LibDems, expects the poorer countries of the world to feed the rich. This a high risk unsustainable policy that is morally indefensible, like much of the rest of free market ideology.

It is unfortunate that the current leaders of the farming community in Britain buy into this ideology, supporting further intensification of agriculture to maximise output and return on investment. At the same time they do recognise the need to preserve soil fertility, and that farming needs a healthy and properly functioning natural environment. They recognise the dangers of climate change, after this winters floods how could they ignore it? They understand the importance of sustainability. They want to see farmers able to make a decent living in return for their hard work. Yet they fail to see that the free-market economics, focusing on competition and ever growing returns is leading to irreversible environmental damage that makes farming practice unsustainable and is forcing thousands of farmers out of business.

There is an unfortunate tension between the farming community and Greens. This is over issues like animal welfare, access to land, industrial scale farming and hunting. We both need to get beyond these differences and look at what we have in common. This is what the Wildlife Trusts are successfully doing in their negotiations with local farmers over conservation. They accept that at present they can’t agree on badgers or foxes or hedgerows. But they recognise a common interest in maintaining a healthy and properly functioning environment, and that they can and need to work together. Greens and the farming community need now to adopt the same approach.

Our areas of agreement are far more significant that areas of disagreement. We both agree on the need for a healthy and viable agriculture sector to produce our food, and that that farmers need to be able to earn a decent living. We accept the idea of agricultural subsidies from the taxpayer in recognition of the importance of maintaining food supply, and because agriculture can’t operate like a traditional business due to the variable nature of the environment. We both know that farming needs a healthy and properly functioning natural environment and that farmers are well placed to implement long term conservation policies that are in the national interest, and that farming practice needs to be sustainable over the long term. We both want to see farming enterprises being an integral part of a robust rural economy supporting good and sustainable jobs.

And we both agree that farming faces critical challenges from Climate Change and that it must adapt to survive.

This is a lot of common ground and Green Food and Agriculture policy, together with other policy areas, fully addresses these issues. We firmly believe that our policies, based on sound science, need to be implemented if we are to maintain a sustainable food production capacity in Great Britain. Yes, we have our differences with some farmers, on GMO, on cloning, on intensive farming, on the appropriate business model for a healthy farming sector. But rather than trade insults over disagreements, we need to understand each other’s position and find agreement. These are vitally important issues to get right. They are not a matter of opinion, they can be answered through the proper understanding of science, which includes ecology, the science in which this Party is grounded.


1 Comment

Sustainability, am I a loony because I care about my daughter’s future?

We need to live sustainably, it’s a word commonly used by politicians but I wonder if they understand what Sustainability means. Looking at the internet, one gets various definitions in regards to environment, social and economic issues. I found the following definition the most useful:
Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.
Sustainability is important to making sure that we have, and will continue to have, the food, water, materials and resources we need for our well being and to protect our environment.
Basically sustainability means considering our future and ensuring that we do not destroy or use up the resources that we need for our comfort or even basic needs. Furthermore, if we think about our children and grandchildren and their future, we must ensure that we leave them a world that can provide for their needs.
I find it rather strange and difficult that as an environmentalist, I am perceived as an idealist or even a “looney”. Considering our children’s future should be a normal, caring and responsible thing to do. Looking after the planet for our children, is therefore, not an idealistic question but a pragmatic necessity. We hear that we must live within our financial means, otherwise we would be considered as short-sighted and selfish. Post recession, we were all blamed for the banking crisis by the ConDem government since we apparently have not lived within our means. It is absurd to blame us for the failure of a unregulated casino banking that gambled our money away. However, labour and ConDem obviously understand sustainability in a financial sense, because that’s what living within our means refers to. Money can be managed; if one system of economics does not work, we can change it (although with difficulties and some would suffer more than others from such a transition). However, we only have one planet, we cannot change that. We are currently living as if we had three planets, that is simply not sustainable!
Talking to people on the streets, I get the sense that most are not interested in environmental issues. I can appreciate that many are seriously struggling to eat and pay for heating, the environment may not seem a priority. But without the resources, it soon will become apparent how all prices will hike; extreme weather conditions, high energy prices will ultimately cause serious unrest world wide. We will be facing civil wars mass migration.
So being responsible and wanting to live within our means (environmentally speaking) surely should be an absolutely necessary priority. So why am I the looney? We appear used to the fact that politicians and corporations are looking after their immediate and selfish needs, all in the name of growth. Living as if there is no tomorrow for purely selfish reasons, should cause outcry, but no that is perceived as normal. And I am the looney? Strange and scary world, we are living in.


2 Comments

We have a choice, our children won’t

Kat Boettge, lead MEP candidate

Kat Boettge, lead MEP candidate

Science was once sceptical about climate change. Nearly 200 years ago, a few scientists, including John Tyndall, demonstrated that some gases in the air could absorb heat. This they realised was why the Earth was warmer than it should be considering its distance from the sun. So the inevitable question arose: what would happen if those gases changed in concentration? It was known that carbon dioxide was one of these warming gases and it was known that burning coal gave off the same gas. But the conventional view was that the Earth system was so big and complex that nothing we humans could do could have much effect. We surely couldn’t change the climate.

But the question remained, ‘what if?’ By 1938 it was possible to measure that the level of CO2 in the air was rising, so, it was reasoned, the temperature must rise. Science remained sceptical, if there was an effect it would take millennia to be noticed. By the 1960’s instrumentation had improved to a point that it was possible to measure average global temperatures. The work of the next decades demonstrated this rise to the point that science was won over. The argument was then about the effect and the time-scale. Was there cause for concern or was this a matter that safely lay in the long grass? Everyone hoped for the latter, global economic policy depended on it.

The work continued, concern rose, the evidence mounted, the temperature was rising, data from land, sea air and space told the same story. Science looked at all different explanations, that is how science works. The only explanation that explained the data was that greenhouse gases being produced by human activity, notably carbon dioxide, were the cause. That was the settled consensus of science by 2013. The remaining discussion was about the effect and the timing.

This week’s report from the IPCC goes a long way to providing the remaining answers, and they are not reassuring. The impacts on life on Earth does not lie in the long grass, they are right here with us now. As the atmosphere warms it becomes more unsettled. The behaviour of the atmosphere is what we call climate, as it warms so the climate changes to a more unsettled state. This is the prediction of the climate scientists.

It is not isolated events that indicate this change, these have always occurred. It is the frequency of extreme events, and each year is serving up a new set of broken records. This year we are off to a flying start with extreme weather events, from violent cyclones and rain in Indonesia, a polar vortex freezing much of north America, while California battled wild fires and drought in a record January heatwave, and of course the floods. What more will the year serve up, and at what cost in terms of lives and lost livelihoods?

The report makes clear that no one will be immune from the effects – except perhaps the super rich space tourists who can watch the unfolding events in their space hotels. But even they will have to come home and perhaps then they will realise what ‘only one Earth’ means. We have no other home in this universe, if it starts to crack up, everyone is affected. But as usual it is the poor, who have done the least to create the problem who will suffer the most. The rich will try to insulate themselves, but they are bound to fail. Storms will claim their luxury yachts, floods will invade their mansions, random climatic events don’t respect status.

But it is not just extreme weather that we will have to cope with at great cost. Food supply will be affected as drought take hold as in California and Australia now. Floods will make land unworkable as in southern England this winter. But also in a warming world, pests and diseases will spread into new territories, invading crops and herds that have no natural resistance. The so called ‘ecosystem services’ will start to break down as natural communities of plants and animals are affected by changing weather and seasonal patterns. These services include the control of soil erosion, of water run-off, recharging underground aquifers, regulating pest species, and moderating local weather patterns. All things that most people are totally unaware of – until the services are withdrawn, as in the great English floods of 2014. All things that are essential for the growing the food on which we all rich and poor, depend.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, science was sceptical about climate change. By the end the matter was settled, it was real and the effects measurable. That acceptance now has to move on to become the general consensus of all people. There is no time left for the antics of the deniers. The Greens have a programme that will enable us to reduce the impact of the inevitable change now built into the global climatic system as a result of decades of deliberate inaction. Our programme will also enable us to reverse those changes and bring the climate to the state to which modern humans, our crops and life-stock have become adapted. This programme will build a fair and humane society that lives within the natural structure of the Earth, leaving space for the multitude of life that makes up that structure. As a political party we have to convince people of both the practicality and urgency of this programme and counter the propaganda of those who seek to make personal capital out of the gathering climate disaster. These are the deniers, they have the power and wealth, defeating them will not be easy, but defeat them we must. The alternative, to condemn our children to live under their rule in a disintegrating world is unthinkable.

 


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 


2 Comments

A Cruelty Free Christmas

What does Christmas mean to us? Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, born in poverty to live a humble life among ordinary people. Other symbols are for example Santa which came from a Bishop St Nicolas from Turkey. He gave to the poor.
But this humble and religious aspect of Christmas seems now completely lost, its meaning has changed, but to what? Most people would say it’s about spending time with family, eating well, and an expression of love, which seems now to be in the shape of presents and good food. Experiencing my 13 year old daughter, and witnessing our society, it appears that we somehow measure our love and care for each other in the amount of money spent on gifts and food.
So Christmas has become a symptom of pure capitalism; and capitalism comes with victims. In order to produce endless items (cloths, cosmetics, electrical devises, jewellery, toys, etc) cheap labour, often in developing countries like China or Bangladesh is required. We know how these workers are treated and with few rights they are left vulnerable and exploited.
Production of consumer goods means the use of energy; this means burning fossil fuels that leads to climate change, more violent storms, loss of live and livelihoods. We are facing the biggest environmental catastrophe in our history, which we have been causing by our ignorance and greed for ever more goods.
Our exploitation does not stop here; animals are also paying a huge price for our Christmas tradition. Millions of turkeys are slaughtered along with ducks, geese, pigs, lambs and chickens. Puppies and kittens are given away as presents, then often neglected or discarded by new owners when the novelty has worn off. Prettily packaged cosmetics and toiletries make nice presents, but were probably cruelly tested on animals. Rabbits and foxes have their fur stripped from them to be turned into clothing and accessories.
So is Christmas a season for giving and caring? Not really. But it does not have to be that way. In my family we have a rule no presents for more than £5 per a person – except the children, they get “normal” presents exceeding our limit. We do allow some capitalistic expectation for them, since living in our society we want to avoid them feeling left out or neglected. However, we will discuss the original meaning of Christmas with them, and the madness of spending a lot of money as some sort of expression of love. Furthermore, we will spend some time at Christmas thinking and talking about people here in the UK and over the world, who are suffering as a direct result of our unequal, exploitative culture.
So let’s try and make this a truly “Merry” (for all) Christmas; lets reduce this madness of consumption, let’s spend time with others, think about the less fortunate and vulnerable people, and let’s try to make this a victim- free Christmas. And then we truly can enjoy ourselves.
Oh yes – and cruelty free, here is a wonderful vegetarian nut roast that can replace the turkey, and you can still have all the trimmings!
Lentil and Cashew Nut Roast [for 6 – 2hrs 40min]
75g finely chopped red peppers
2300g red split lentils
450 ml vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
100g unsalted cashew nuts
11/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small leeks, trimmed & finely chopped
100g mushrooms finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
75g mature vegetarian Cheddar cheese, grated
100g wholemeal bread crumbs
3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
1 free range egg, lightly beaten.
• Rinse the lentils in a sieve under cold running water. Drain, then tip into a saucepan. Add stock and the bay leaf, bring to the boil.
• Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes until the lentils are soft and pulpy and the stock has been absorbed. Stir briefly to prevent the lentils sticking, discard the bay leaf.
• While the lentils are cooking, put the cashew nuts in a non-stick frying pan and toast over a moderate heat until lightly browned, stirring frequently, set aside to cool, then roughly chop.
• Preheat the oven to 190C/375F
• Line the bottom of a 1.4 litre loaf tin with a piece of greaseproof paper.
• Add the oil to the frying pan and cook the onions over a moderate heat for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, leeks, peppers and garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Stir the lemon juice
• Tip the lentils and vegetables into a mixing bowl Stir in the breadcrumbs, cashews and 2 tablespoons of the parsley, followed by the grated cheese and the beaten egg. Season to taste then spoon into the loaf tin. Level the top and cover with a piece of lightly oiled foil.
• Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the bake comes out clean.
• Remove from the oven and leave to cool while set in the tin. After 10 minutes turn out and cut into thick slices
• Serve with all the trimmings and enjoy a cruelty free Christmas Dinner

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Kat


Leave a comment

FOR A GREEN AND PEOPLE’S EUROPE

Map showing Green Parties in Europe

Map showing Green Parties in Europe

 

An inspiring post and invitation from Peter Allen, Derbyshire Green Party. Help create a Greener Europe together.

Although the Green Party doesn’t believe that contesting elections is all that a political party should do, and spends considerable time and effort campaigning on a whole range of issues , it does believe elections are important and give people the opportunity to vote for policies which they approve of. Some elections are more important than others perhaps  and I believe next May’s European Parliament elections, not yet much talked about, are more important than most.

This may be considered to be a surprising view, particularly when it is combined with a recognition that the powers of the European Parliament are extremely limited, with real power in the EU in the hands of unelected commissioners and the leaders of the various national governments. The importance of the elections is in the message it will give to our rulers (governments, commissioners and corporations) about the popular mood in Europe, and in particular the strength of opposition and unrest that exists across the continent to  austerity programmes being carried out by national governments, with the support of unelected commissioners in Brussels, and to the failure of all of Europe’s leaders to address the growing global climate crisis.

Here in the East Midlands we hope that our excellent lead candidate Kat Boettege will be elected to the new parliament, on the basis of opposing austerity and demanding radical action to combat climate change . One of our central messages is that cuts in spending on services that people rely on (schools,hospitals, welfare benefits, care for the vulnerable) will not solve the economic crisis but will in fact make it worse (and already is). It is denying people the opportunity to work in secure employment (in which they would make a difference for the better in other people’s lives and contribute to tax revenues whilst doing so). It is condemning many to a life of poverty and even destitution.  A second message is that, with carbon emissions already at a dangerously high level Europe and the world can no longer delay taking action to transform our power generation, transportation and food production systems to drastically reduce our these emissions in the hope of avoiding global catastrophe.

We are also saying that the EU must be more democratic, with the power of lobbyists on behalf of corporations curtailed and decisions made by elected representatives rather than unelected commissioners. One issue which we will be raising is the threat to democracy posed by the proposed ( and little known) TTIP treaty which would reduce even further the controls on large corporations.

Campaigning on the basis of the above we are offering an alternative to the failed policies of the various ” grey parties”, and to the nasty politics of hate and fear as represented by UKIP. In an election under proportional representation we are hopeful of success providing we make a big effort. Why not join us in doing so ?


Leave a comment

Another Voice on Energy

In the finale of our month’s focus on energy a post written by John Youatt

Energy, the people and the planet

We depend on energy, In our daily lives, in business in our leisure time, we use energy and all too often we take it for granted.  Understandably people get cross if the power fails, or if the fuel they want gets too expensive.  Governments know this and energy policy focuses on security of supply and affordability.  The ConDem Government will claim that this is exactly what it is doing.  It is backing nuclear and a big push for gas to ‘keep the lights on’ as they keep saying, and the Tories want to scrap the green levies to keep prices down.  But this is all short term thinking, it is not costing in the full impacts of a nuclear-fossil fuel energy strategy, it is more about winning the next election than securing safe and affordable energy for the next generation.

UK is rightly and legally committed to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere and into the sea, by  15% by 2020 and by 50% by 2050. These are the minimum to avoid massive harm by erratic warming, melting, and climate chaos. Science says that, to achieve these targets, most ancient carbon (oil, coal and gas) must be left in the ground, and/or the carbon must be captured and returned to the ground.

It is tehnically possible to achieve these targets in the UK and internationally by carbon capture, and by harvesting wind, wave, sea current, solar and biomass energy. It’s unnecessary to look for more.

We now know beyond any remaining doubt (Cameron in the lower house October 2013), that the Tory-driven coalition government is determined to stay in power in 2015, by appealing to voters by short-term cost cutting: and by satisfying the right wing and global capital by massive investment in the unsafe carbon based technologies. This is a disastrous policy framework both for the majority of people and for the planet since it builds in rising prices and carbon emissions. It fails to establish a clear framework to support the development of sustainable renewable energy.

In the light of the science and even of the full economics of energy and climate change, (Stern), it beggar belief that any sane or logical government would be so stupid as to turn their back on renewable energy and back unsustainable fossil and nuclear. But we need to remember that, the carbon pirates are highly  persuasive, because of the massive power of the global capital invested in carbon by organisations and powerful individuals.

The UK is very well endowed with  renewable sources of energy, even solar, and we might think that the Government would grab the enormous opportunity presented to it, but it doesn’t.  Instead it does all it can to load the dice against renewables in favour of fossil and nuclear.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change, set up by Ed Milliband, raised the profile of climate change to primary cabinet level for the first time. Ed noted Germany’s Greens’-inspired successes, including the winding down of nuclear power and the use of tariffs and taxes to encourage renewables. Germany now has 300,000  jobs in renewable energy and already exceeds it’s 20% renewable target for 2020. The coalition government and Cameron, its PR spinner, works relentlessly to blame energy prices on green taxes through a compliant media, and is threatening to scrap them.  The Government and its media poodles regularly attack investments in energy saving that really help households and ignore the reality of global price rises for fossil fuels.  They also ignore the profits and dividends of the big energy companies that are effectively a cartel. Price rises by one are followed within a few days by similar rises by the others. Yet smaller energy companies  eg Good Energy (100% green) don’t get the support they need.

Despite the fact that the science clearly states that to avoid dangerous climate change – a global temperature rise of 2ºC, the Government annually pours over £2 billion in subsidies and tax breaks into the fossil fuel sector.  In addition it is backing extreme energies like fracking and Underground Coal Gasification with big tax breaks paid for by all of us.  And if all this wasn’t enough to rub fossilised salt in to our green wounds, the Government is now backing a new generation of nuclear power stations, built by French and Chinese state owned companies who will earn guaranteed profits paid for by us who will also have to clean up the mess of the abandoned reactors in 30 years time.

Government energy policy is leaving a dangerous legacy of rising bills, reliance on dwindling fossil and uranium supplies and a nuclear clean up bill that will dwarf the profits made. Green policy would end this nonsense.  Because we all depend on energy, its supply should not be used as a means to make massive private profits. Green policy to promote renewables and scale down fossil and nuclear, would secure a sustainable supply for now and for the future that will enable all to afford energy that does not represent a long term threat to the well being for either the people or the planet.

© John Youatt for DGP October 2103

Here is a brief account of the good energies – good for people and for our planet:

Solar energy 1            (Solar electric or PV panels; solar thermal panels; air, ground or water source heat pumps; thermodynamic panels; electric-to-heat-store transfer).

All arms of this industry have grown exponentially since Ed Milliband set up DECC. All take energy direct from the sun. They are supported by tariffs which have survived Government cuts, but have been atrociously managed by the coalition, jealous of the diversion of funds from the fossil fuel economy. Solar panels, despite the lack of Government support remain good value, whether funded from personal savings, from business plans or as rental installations.

Solar energy 2 : Biomass

Virtually all biomass can return photosynthetic energy from the sun as heat and/or electrical energy.  The main technologies are anaerobic digestion (AD); incineration of mixed wastes; and growing crops for oil, usually in place of food.  Huhne was this time not lying when he placed AD as the best of this bunch in the coalition agreement. AD is a managed natural process like brewing that produces heat, electricity and nutrients from material that would have gone to ground. The AD nutrients replace expensive high energy artificial fertilisers and reduce poisoning of ground waters. Wood burning as log or chip works locally, however the jury is out on large scale wood burning because of processing and haulage costs. Sadly, big business conned local authorities into signing 25 year contracts for incineration, which requires huge waste miles, and is far less beneficial than AD, and reduces recycling.  Greens do not support incineration.

Solar energy 3  Solar power stations .

Technically these have to be big, requiring low value land space and strong sunlight. They are not for low-sun, high-density states such as most of the EU, but could be good news for the Sahel region, provided a mutually benefit deal can be developed between the EU and the host nation.

Wind

There are broadly two categories of wind power generation

  • individual machines, usually of small to medium size, designed to meet the energy use where they stand (eg c.100kW capacity/25m height for a large dairy farm or 250kw/35m for a village). check These micro generators also save transmission costs (up to 20% in centralised generation) check by using networks ‘in the opposite direction’.
  • large machines, now typically 2mW/ 50m check often in groups or ‘arrays’ of up a hundred on land or out to sea.

They are both highly desirable components of the UK and world wide energy mix.

The Tories are obsessed by hatred of wind turbines in the landscape and of state support being given to them. It is true that there are extremes of views from moving sculptures, even ‘objects of grace and desire’; to a blot on a beloved landscape. Unfortunately the ‘antis’ use lies and spin to make their case, ignoring the absolute need for wind power in the UK energy mix, and their hatred, bred largely by big poorly designed and over greedy windfarms, leaks into the mindset and infects reactions to well designed schemes.  As a result, investors are discouraged and go abroad, and the UK has missed out on being a world leader in wind technology.

 

Waves and sea currents         It was of course Maggie that took against research into sea power why?  Ever so slowly, too slowly, investment is now going ahead, from private and public sources, into sea-current and wave power.

 

Carbon capture and storage (CCS)   Not a renewable energy technology, but a means of cutting carbon emissions enabling us to use fossil reserves as  bridging fuels to secure energy supply while the renewable system is developed. If carbon capture works (it’s technically and geographically possible, the doubt is cost) CCS should be promoted. A failure to do the research in the 1980’s was another of Maggie’s bad mistakes, this time perhaps allied to her war with the miners. Sadly, ‘clean coal’ is still part of the Tories hang ups. Carbon generators are still being promoted in the UK and world wide, without a precondition to install and retro fit CCS, and research into the technology has again stalled.


1 Comment

Extreme Energy – Extreme Risk

water on fire - chemicals in fracking

water on fire – chemicals in fracking

 

Continuing as part of this month’s focus on energy policy, Derbyshire’s indomitable Mike Shipley has written this post:

 

Extreme Energy – Extreme Risk.

 

Even though Governments and the oil industry will not admit it, the world has passed peak oil production.  This is important information that we should be informed about in order for us to be involved in the decisions necessary about our energy supply in the years to come.  But with so much investment and share value tied to oil and fossil reserves, the industry, financial sector and the governments they control are keeping quiet, behaving as if it’s all ‘business as usual.’  The markets do not like change, confirmation of peak oil from ‘reliable sources’ would send jitters through the market and weaken investor confidence in the dominant fossil sector.  Very rich people would find their investments and therefore their wealth, devalued.

 

So we don’t hear about ‘Peak Oil’ except from scientists and Greens, and they aren’t seen as ‘reliable sources’ by the market.  But it’s what the industry is doing that gives the game away.  The easy so called conventional oil and gas on land or in shallow water,  is running out.  Why else is this conservative ultra cost conscious industry investing so heavily in hard to win reserves known as ‘extreme energy’?  They are investing in high cost, high risk exploration, trying to find fossil reserves that will reassure the markets that fossil carbon remains a good investment.  These explorations include the very deep water drilling, up to 3 kilometres down,  off the coast of Brazil and in the Gulf of Mexico, the mining  of Canadian tar sands, mountain top removal for coal in the Appalachians, fracking and underground coal gasification [UCG] that is about to be launched in the UK.

 

These sources of energy, to which we can add nuclear, because of the uninsurable risk associated with nuclear accidents – come with a high price tag.  The technology needed is either in an early stage of development or it is being stretched well beyond its design capacity, as happened with the Deep Water Horizon disaster in the gulf of Mexico. Because of this the risk associated with extreme energy is much greater than with either conventional energy sources or with renewables.  However the industry will do everything it can to transfer this risk from its balance sheet to the customer and then the taxpayer as the insurer of last resort.  One way or another we will pay a high pricer for extreme energy.

 

Even if risk costs are externalised, that is: passed on to the community and tax payer, the cost of  bringing extreme energy to market remains high and will increase as reserves become more difficult to find.  For this reason the price of energy from fossil fuels will continue to rise in to the future.  The big six energy companies will use their dominant market position to protect their profits and therefore share and dividend value.  The age of cheap fossil energy is over and the only way prices of fossil energy can be brought down is through Government subsidy.  This is what the ConDem Government is doing when it gives tax breaks and cuts regulatory costs.  But even with this support the costs of extraction and processing is high and will be reflected in market price.

 

Without doubt, we need a secure and sustainable source of energy that we can rely on well into the future.  Fossil fuel is not this energy.  By its very nature is is limited in supply and is getting more expensive to find and is damaging to the global environment.  The energy future that can deliver reliability is renewables, it has to be, by their very nature, renewables are limitless.  The wind will always blow, the sun will shine the tides rise and fall somewhere all the time.  The technical challenge is to connect up these various technologies in to energy grids that cover large areas so that energy can flow from high generating areas to the becalmed areas.  Developing this super-grid and building the appropriate generating plant will initially be expensive, but developing this system is an investment in the future and once mature, it will deliver reliable and affordable energy.  This has happened in Germany where because of its investment in renewable energy generation, the wholesale cost of electricity is falling.  True that the retail price remains high because of green tariffs that are designed to pay for the switch from fossil-nuclear to renewable.  But as the technology matures and the grid is developed, tariffs will fall and so will prices to the consumer.

 

This will not happen in the UK thanks to the policies of successive governments.  In the future we will be paying a premium global market price for gas, having been made reliant on gas power generation by Gideon Osbourn.  The fracking venture will prove to be an expensive flop and underground coal gasification will rack up a huge price tag in environmental damage that we will all have to pay for. Nuclear will deliver profits to French and Chinese state owned companies at our expense, but again it will fail to live up to the hype leaving us instead with a very costly clean up bill that will be greater than the value of the energy generated, plus the ever present risk of a major nuclear accident.

 

Green Party Energy policy aims to move energy generation from this high risk strategy that is based on extreme energy to a secure and sustainable energy supply system based on renewable sources of energy.  It can be done, Europe’s most successful economy is dong just this.  Japan in taking a close interest in German energy policy and for obvious reasons is interested in following this lead.  However, this strategy does not suit the big energy companies, and for that reason, the ConDem government is promoting a fossil-nuclear policy based on extreme energy and extreme risk.