East Midlands Green Party Blog


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Real Nappies

Considering the future of our planet – the home of our children and grandchildren, should be a must for us all. We are currently using up important resources, destroying our planet, creating far too much waste; all for our immediate and often selfish needs, as if there was no tomorrow. There are endless examples of what we are now take for granted, but which are simply unsustainable.
Getting involved in politics, meeting with business and very different people, I have learned a lot of things I otherwise would not know much about. For example, I have recently met with a company “Bambino Mio” who manufactures and distributes reusable or real nappies. So I learned about disposable nappies and the environmental impact of the production and disposal of nappies.
Disposable nappies use about 3.5 times more energy than real nappies to produce; using eight times more non-renewable materials. This is simply not sustainable.
Increasingly more parents are now buying reusable nappies for many reasons. Sometimes because of their environmental responsibility, but also as they can be cheaper (particularly if the parents have more than one child). By the way, they look very nice too.
Disposable nappies amount to around 5% of the UK’s waste, mainly ending up on landfills; each nappy can take up to 400 years to decompose, giving off methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas in the process. Currently councils, therefore the council tax payer, are carrying the full costs of disposal. The UK has agreed in principle to a EU Directive to adopt a zero-waste policy. Hence we must address unnecessary waste, and that means doing something about disposable nappies.
In some areas, councils have offered voucher schemes which make real nappies cheaper for parents. The costs saved from the waste disposal were basically covering the voucher scheme costs. Obviously everybody benefited from less waste, which otherwise will fill up our countryside with waste tips.
An alternative approach to this problem would be a Green Party policy where producers and distributors of any products would have to pay environmental levies that directly reflect the real costs of their products, including disposal. By real costs I mean the carbon footprint, the resources used and the environmental damage a product really causes to our shared environment. At the moment, these costs are carried by us and our future generations. We accept that such levies would partially be passed on to consumers and we want to ensure that family incomes are not damaged by such price hikes. But over time, these costs will level off leaving no long term problems for future generations to sort out. However, families as everybody else need to accept the need to change their consumer behaviour, since we otherwise will leave our future generations in difficulties. If all families switched to reusable nappies then they would become even cheaper. And finally, other Green Party economic policies would ensure a sound financial basis for families, to address the struggles that so many are finding under the rule of the free market ConDem Government.
I think I speak on behalf of most parents in saying that we want the best for our children both today and in to their future. Therefore, we owe it to them to live now within our means environmentally speaking, so we can leave them with an unspoiled world that offers them the resources they need.

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Commemorating workers memorial day

Kat Boettge, lead MEP candidate

Kat Boettge, lead MEP candidate

Remember also, those who gave their lives at work . . .

I am writing this on the first anniversary (24th April) of the fire in the Bangladesh garment factory that killed over 1100 workers. One year on their families still wait for adequate compensation and large retailers still “bring to the market” clothing made in unsafe conditions by over exploited workers in Bangladesh and elsewhere.

Monday April 28th is Workers’ Memorial Day, when trade unions across the world remember fellow workers who have lost their lives due to accidents at work, which have often been caused by a lack of health and safety measures by employers, and reaffirm their commitment to creating and maintaining safe working environments. As the TUC says on its website The purpose behind Workers Memorial Day has always been to “remember the dead; fight for the living” … the latter can best be done by building trade union organisations, and campaigning for stricter enforcement of health & safety laws with higher penalties for breaches.

Deaths at work due to poor Health and Safety measures are not confined to poor countries. In the UK of particular concern is the danger faced by workers on building sites. 760 site workers have been killed since 2001, more than the number of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined during the same period. In 2012-13, 5.2 million working days were lost due to injury at work and there were 148 fatalities. After a steady decline in recent years, there is a serious concern that deaths and injuries are showing an increase.

There has been a decrease in trade union membership with an increased casualisation of the workforce in recent years, something that is particularly strong on building sites. To compound this problem, the budget of the Health and Safety Executive was cut by 35% in 2011, which has resulted in fewer inspections and fewer prosecutions of negligent employers. This puts more workers lives and health at risk. The Green Party agrees with the TUC that we need a strong strategy on Health and Safety from the European Commission to raise standards throughout Europe. We also recognise that actions by politicians in Parliaments need to be combined with action by trade unions, fighting, like the Green Party, for the Common Good.

Vote Green 2014


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Health Rationing

Health Rationing,  perverted ConDem logic.

By Mike Shipley

I was horrified to read a press report that stated that the Government was considering a new policy that could see the elderly denied treatment.  NICE, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence, has been asked by the Department of Health to look at the guidelines covering the availability of drugs and treatments within the NHS.  Their aim of course is to cut expenditure and to make the NHS a more attractive prospect to the private health providers that they want to see eventually take over health delivery in the UK.

The Government wants the decisions about making treatments available to take account of the ‘benefits the patient may have in society’, rather than to focus specifically on the welfare of the patient.  The purpose of this wider consideration is to target treatments on those patients who will return to work to the benefit of the economy.  If the patient is unlikely to return to work the treatment will not be considered to give value for money and may be denied.

Just what sort of society is this ConDem government trying to create? If they have their way it will be one where the majority of human beings are nothing but accounting units serving the impersonal economy.  For them, the welfare of the economy is more important than the welfare of people.  In their world, a person only has any value if he or she is contributing directly to wealth creation. Not, it must be noted, wealth for the general good, but wealth for the minority, who of course will have no problems buying what ever treatment they need.

This is yet another example of the nasty, mean attitude of the Conservative–Liberal Democrat Government.  It is also another example of bad policy from the Treasury, which now runs the Government at the behest of private financial interests.  Just who do these people think they are to judge us, the people who legitimise their power, as worthy or not worthy of life or health?  How have we, the people of the UK allowed this situation to develop in which a millionaire sect decides who can have  treatment and who should be left to suffer and die?

I looked at a few statistics and found that the number of knee and hip replacements and cataract operations is now at its lowest for five years.  These are principally treatments for the retired sector of society, that is, according to this Government, the economically non-beneficial who cost the state more than they contribute.  We can see that treatment rationing for the elderly is already happening, to help to make up the shortfall in the NHS budget caused by the Governments £20 billion of cuts.  Cuts we might remember that are needed to pay for the bail out of the banks who messed up the economy in the first place.  Not that bankers need worry, they are still on multi-million bonuses and can afford to buy any treatment they need.

I said that this is typical Treasury short sighted policy, it is also grossly unfair.  Unfair because retired people have made their contribution to the nation’s wealth in good faith, paying direct and indirect tax throughout their adult lives.  If those who manage our economy, including the Treasury and the financial industry have squandered all this wealth, we can hardly blame the pensioners.  Neither are we going to see a miraculous recovery in the economy if pensioners were denied treatment.  If that were to happen, the cost to society would almost certainly be higher.

This is where the Treasury is short sighted.  It only sees people as units of immediate economic production.  But people are far more than that, and, once able to leave the formal economy, very many people make considerable further contributions to society.  How many grandparents take on the role of unpaid childminders for their grandchildren?  How many support in a wide variety of ways their stressed working children?  Cameron still babbles on about ‘Big Society’ without ever thinking about who is making this work.  It is the volunteer sector, and it is heavily dependent on the ‘economically inactive’,  those who the Treasury wants to dismiss as a burden on society, and who in fact are doing far more that this wretched Government to hold society together.

NICE has voiced its concerns about this proposal, and it is likely to be withdrawn as unworkable.  But we should not forget that it shows the true face of this Government and their financial backers. Please remember this face when you enter the ballot box.  It is us, the electorate who returned them in 2010, it is us who have the power to remove them in 2015.


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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