East Midlands Green Party Blog


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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.

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Now it’s Fracking Bribery

The cynicism of the Con Dem government is staggering. It has deliberately driven Councils and Communities to desperation by cutting their budgets, and now it is bribing those same struggling Authorities to give permission for fracking that local communities have clearly rejected. If they do as the Government demands, turn a blind eye to the hazards, and the opinion of the electorate, they will be rewarded with extra cash from the fracking companies. Like some medieval torturer who, having starved his victim allows the smell of a succulent meal to drift into the torture chamber, so the Government waves the promise of cash at these desperate Councils. Inevitably this action will weaken further the trust between Councils and their electorate, as the Tories intend – residents will never be sure if a permission was given in the best interest of the community and country, or for the cash.

Cameron is now just acting as the industries mouthpiece. On the very day Total, the French energy company who are unable to frack in their own country because the French Government has banned it, announced a £30 million stake in UK fracking, he turns up at a drilling depot in Gainsborough. It just happens that Total have taken a stake in the companies that have exploration licences in Gainsborough. Doing the job of a company PR spokesman, he dutifully reiterated the claim that fracking will produce much needed investment, create jobs and lead to energy security, and that our robust regulations make it completely safe. There is no justification for any of these claims. They come from, a report commissioned by the frack company Caudrilla, headed by his friend Lord John Browne, ex of BP, that suggests that Britain can benefit by £3.7 billion a year extra revenue and 74,000 new jobs. These figures are just guesses. The 74,000 job claim included the extra staff needed in local shops to serve the security guards buying sweets! One wonders just how many of these 74,000 people will be security guards, such has been his governments and the industries failure to convince the British public that we need fracking.

To talk up the robust environmental regulations in the UK is to ignore the fact that the Conservative Party is doing all it can to abolish these regulations as ‘red tape’. It also conveniently ignores the fact that if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations with the USA that they are so keen on, does get the go ahead from Europe, then all such regulations will prove to be useless. Governments will do all they can to minimise green regulations for fear of being sued by corporations for loss of profit.

The dash for gas is a high risk strategy, not one that can lead to energy security. It is not known how much gas can be won or at what price. The demand for water will be colossal and will lead to escalating domestic water bills and water shortages. The cost of the disposal of trillions of gallons of polluted waste water is unknown and we can’t be sure that we, the tax payer won’t be left with the disposal bill. The same applies to the costs of the pollution incidents that will inevitably occur. And the gas will run out but we will be tied to a gas energy infrastructure, then what?

The one claim, that Cameron didn’t make and that has been quietly dropped by the industry is that fracking will lead to cheap energy. It will do nothing for energy costs since the gas, if it is ever produced will be sold on the open market just as the North Sea oil was, and we British consumers will have to pay a premium price, as we did for North Sea oil, so that the big energy companies can maintain their bloated profits.

In all, this is a thoroughly bad deal for the British energy consumer and tax payer. The only beneficiaries are the big energy companies and their shareholders who will send their profits off shore. It is an even worse deal because there is a real deal available that would give us affordable and secure energy. This is to use the free energy that blows over our heads, laps on our shores and shines in our faces. Yes, the wind, the sun and the tides are free energy, all we needed to do was invest in the infrastructure to capture them, store the energy as necessary and distribute it. No big deal any of that, just use the technology that’s already there. But, no one can take a monopoly on the wind, the waves or the sun, no one can threaten to divert it or switch it off if they don’t get their own way. No one can put it in a barrel or down a pipeline and sell it back to us at a profit. So this Government of millionaires, for millionaires isn’t interested.

There is only one Party seriously opposing fracking and that is the Green Party. We also have a clear and workable alternative energy strategy that would end fuel poverty and our reliance on fossil fuels. The only thing that will make the main parties rethink their fossil/nuclear energy [policies is a big green vote. Work with us to make this happen.


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The Wrong and the Right in Energy Policy

The following is the voice of our indomitable Mike Shipley in which he presents a Green Party vision of vital, workable, sustainable energy policy in alternative to the wasteful and socially and environmentally reckless government energy agenda which subsidizes and gives tax breaks to trillion pound Big Oil companies and under-funds renewable alternatives:

The Wrong and the Right in Energy Policy

The International Energy Agency has warned the world that by 2017, we will have a better than even chance of being locked in to a 2C rise in temperature.  This is a result of the investment decisions now being taken that will determine global energy infrastructure for the next 30 years or more. Unless someone, somewhere starts to make a serious commitment to the decarbonisation of  energy production, we will experience at least 2C of global warming by mid century and be on track for at least double this by century’s end.

Who will take that lead?  The International community, bought off by oil interests, have shelved any decision on cutting carbon emissions until 2020. This is too late to stop a 2C rise without truly massive emergency investment.  The British Government has also signalled that it has abandoned any pretence of showing leadership, with a policy portfolio dominated by private interests.  In his last budget statement George Osborne handed tax breaks to oil and gas companies to encourage a new round of exploration in the North Sea and to open the door to gas fracking.  Coupled with his slashing of feed in tariffs for renewables, his energy policy is to lock the UK into high carbon and increasingly expensive fuels for the next generation.  Even the pilot CCS project at Long Gannet in Scotland has been abandoned through lack of support by the private sector.

Osborne is always quick to point out that there isn’t the money available to radically change the UK energy infrastructure.  Oh yes there is.  The trouble it is in the hands of the big oil and gas companies and they won’t pay their taxes or even invest in the next generation of renewable fuels.  As a result of Osborne’s ill timed policy of giving tax breaks to the worlds richest companies, nearly £26 Billion will be invested in North Sea exploration 2011 – 2013.  This is the money that was desperately needed to invest in our sustainable energy future.  Of course the industry and Osborne herald this as good investment, generating jobs and tax revenue.  Except that the investment comes as a result of promise of taking less tax and the industry is globally shedding jobs.  This investment is about private wealth. The Scottish Government estimates that there is £1.5 trillion of oil to be won from the UK Continental Shelf, these companies are investing to get that wealth quickly, and they can only earn it if they burn the oil and release the carbon dioxide.  Osborne has slammed the door on 2C and opened the one marked 4+.  Thank you Gideon!

The oil companies have become untouchable, they sit on mountains of cash and are using it to enrich their shareholders and senior executives, they give vast sums to politicians and organisations that will look after their interests and promote climate change denial.  The top 5 oil companies, which include BP and Shell, made $1trillion in profits in the decade 2001-11.  In addition they receive public money as subsidies and tax breaks,  the richest of them all, Exxon-Mobil, pays a mere 18% tax rate.  If any finance minister has the nerve to demand a higher share of that profit to help a struggling local economy or to build national infrastructure, they pull out and go elsewhere.  This happened in the UK when Gordon Brown increased taxation on the oil sector, in response oil companies reduced output to reduce their tax liability until they got an oil friendly Chancellor.

All this new investment sends a clear signal to the financial markets that the safe place for money is in the fossil sector, Government support for renewables is lukewarm and hedged with uncertainty, therefore it is unattractive to investors, so it is starved of cash.  Investors want maximum and quick profits. The oil that will flow as a result of these tax breaks will be burned adding to the still rising levels of carbon dioxide. Yet as we know that 80% of existing oil reserves needs to remain unburned if we are to limit temperature rise to a level we can reasonably hope to afford to live with. With men like Osborne in control, delivering the policy demanded by Big Oil, that is not going to happen.

 But it doesn’t have to be like this.

At our Spring Conference, a draft policy paper for Energy was presented.  This policy shows how it would be possible to implement an energy strategy that addressed the real issues that are ignored by the Liberal Democrat Conservative Government.  It presents a strategy that enables the full decarbonisation of both energy and transport by mid centuryA strategy that will end fuel poverty, that will create sustainable business opportunities and skilled jobs, that will invest in research and the development of new technologies so creating significant export opportunities.  A strategy that will give the UK a long term affordable, reliable, sustainable and largely indigenous energy supply.  The Green Energy Strategy would turn the UK into a global showcase, demonstrating how a technology based civilised society can operate within the carbon budget required to cut carbon dioxide to a safe level of 350ppm.  Now wouldn’t that be a better policy option than making the richest companies and people in the world even richer while consigning us all to a very unstable and hazardous future?


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Getting ‘There’

Green Train                   Transport_Lower_Fares           green bike co2 footprint

“I can’t take my chauffeur everywhere” past Conservative candidate for Tottenham stated when he was caught for drunk driving. That comment by Derek Laud could be argued to sum up government attitudes to public transport; that it is simply not on their radar even when it is irresponsible not to consider it.  Successive governments have lacked the will to prioritize public transport and invest the time and money needed to update services and improve access. Labour’s John Prescot promised in 1993 that “any privatisation of the railway system which there is, on the arrival of a Labour government will be quickly and effectively returned to public ownership”.  Promises broken. The Luis tram in Dublin connects the city efficiently and safely. We can shoot across Sweden, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Germany, France and yet for us progress crawls and is often derailed by indifference.  The Green Party understands that an integrated, affordable, reliable green public transport system is part of the structure that can help build resilient, healthy economies and communities. Public transport is a tool for people and planet. It also plays an important role in supporting enterprise. Businesses large and small rely to some extent on public transport systems. It is needed by local food networks, producers and shops. This month our regional website recorded Green Councillor Richard Mallender, of Rushcliffe Borough Council and Green MEP candidate Katarina Boettge’s reactions to uneven public transport  expenditure: eastmidlands.greenparty.org.uk/news.html/2013/02/01/greens-slam-hs2-proposal. This post is an opening up of that debate.

While an increasing amount can be dealt with in the virtual world, via internet and satellite, there are times when human to human contact is the missing link. Meetings and conferences like the  Green Party Spring Conference and 40th birthday celebration this week rely on public transport beyond one high speed link. Local and regional services should not suffer for one high speed line.

Mobility for many is limited by inadequate public transport, often coupled with economic injustice, with isolation posing threat to the physical and mental well-being of many. Those reliant on public transport include the elderly, those with disabilities, students, young people and parents with young children. Buses and trains form vital life-lines to shops, post offices, places of work and study, play and social groups. These services are often unreliable, infrequent, expensive, vanishing. Instead of such retraction of service we need to broaden access and appeal. Air quality, public and planet health are adversely affected by congestion and over reliance on cars. Fuel poverty increases with over use of fossil fuels and energy security is threatened. Cycle lanes, walk-ways and better rail and bus networks with lower fares offer a healthful, sane and regenerative system in place of the predominant congesting crawl of cars squabbling over parking space. People are travelling ever further from home to work as local communities, economies and eco-systems are undermined.

If we are to support the strengthening of our communities and the building of a sustainable and durable economy we need efficient, affordable public transport. We need it to connect people; to empower ethical enterprise and those at risk of isolation, poverty and social exclusion. Improving services such as bus and trains creates and secures more jobs. This is needed in these times of economic insecurity. Improved air quality protects our health. Good public transport, efficient, green, safe, affordable, accessible is win-win. We are told it is not a priority. Frankly, what of importance does seem a priority in much of mainstream political rhetoric at the moment? The NHS, schools and other public services are struggling through cuts while we spend billions on weapons and millions on creating new roles in management. It is not a matter of lack of money as much as irresponsible lack of vision. Let us not allow those who rely on chauffeurs to dictate our direction and those who break their word to define our reality.

Happy travels and blue skies in this season of no leaves on the line 🙂


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Dealing with Denial, some thoughts & ideas

climate-change better world for nothing cartoon

I felt drawn to writing something  about how to deal with climate change denialism  – with the help of cartoons from Joel Pett, Chris Maddon and others. This is also written to help address ‘there is no alternative’  and ‘green is a luxury’ ideas. I think the above cartoon says a huge amount about how central and beneficial green policies are and how unprogressive and self defeating the will to deny the problem is. The fact is that by addressing climate change in sensible ways you have a host of benefits. It makes me smile to see the idea of denial incapulated in the phrase ‘What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?’. Then, simply, we have a better world.  There is much evidence, like the Stern Report, for example, that counters denial of climate change. Desertification, more flooding, less habitable land – including London. Some may argue how habitable parts of London are, but allowing it to be underwater seems a little extreme. More locally much of Lincolnshire could also become sea.  Fear can turn for some into depression and apathy takes hold which can lead to sticking heads in the sands or thinking it is someone else’s problem. However, large and small everyday things we can do make real, positive change together. The evidence is in front of our own eyes already, as these cartoons illustrate:

flood-bridge climate change

We’re here in 2013 when many thought we would not be, so we can be hopeful as well as realistic. We have the capacity to make life better. So how do we move forward with hope and action and not get drowned in fear and apathy? Green policies, I believe strongly, form a vital part of this. Green is often seen as a luxury. It is not, and with rising food and fuel costs, increasing natural disasters and price wars over finite raw materials and food, we cannot see green choices limited to consumerism. A little green hedonism can be good and ethical business plays an important role but changes in the way we think are vital too. Better insulation in homes has economic, social and environmental benefit for example.

polar bear climate change

To the ‘there is no alternative’ brigade the only answers can be that present policies are not working and that, as Einstein said, ‘we cannot solve a problem using the same kind of thinking that created it’. There is no alternative is caveman thinking. There are those who say it is a choice, us or the trees and little furry creatures. However, without trees we have no life, no clean air, no shelter to keep soil fertile, no food, no thriving eco-system of which we are part. Personally, I make no excuse for valuing the majesty of life and that the balance of life matters. I also add a favourite contemporary quote from Jarred Diamond’s ‘Collapse: How societies choose to fail or survive’:

‘Elimination of lots of lousy little species regularly causes big harmful consequences for humans, just as does randomly knocking out many of the lousy little rivets holding together an airplane. (Diamond, J, 2005, P.489)

I also add that I am a proud tree hugger and I love many creatures, large and small, with and without fur, including humans. So I conclude that green people and life centred policies are the only way forward. Green policies that call for creation of green jobs and a fairer, more honest tax system, that call for better insulation, a living wage, decentralized, empowering, sustainable energy and food production and protection of our public services. There are, always of course, alternatives. Whatever the future is, our hands help form it. I leave you with these thought provoking cartoons:

climate-change-cartoon-IDS Noah's-Ark-climate-change

Written by Antonia Sara Zenkevitch for East Midlands Green Party