East Midlands Green Party Blog


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Election 2014: the untold stories:

sunflower

Our wonderful lead candidate did not win but The Green Party of England and Wales has beaten the Liberal Democrats into fourth place in the European elections for the first time. In pre-election polls, as we past them in popularity, you would have thought this would be massively news-worthy. Mainstream media, including the BBC implicitly undermined The Green Party through omission. Greens have been referred to anonymously as one of the “other” parties (where they have not been completely ignored) in the lead up to elections and in much reporting of results. This is undemocratic and offensively undermining, not only of the party, but of many of the voices of Britain and the democratic system itself. (The Guardian is the main exception to this criticism). The Greens were polling higher than we have for 25yrs. That shift was reported by most, not as a Green Party achievement, but as a failure of everyone else.  These polls were reflected in results.  We are now the official opposition in Liverpool, Norwich and Solihull. Brighton and Hove Council remain Green. We have Green voices in Labour councils of Islington and Lewisham. In the South West, where I grew up, there is celebration over another Green MEP being added to the indomitable two we already have.

The story in the news is the success of UKIP, but just as the success of The Greens has been underplayed, the success of UKIP is overplayed.  A deeply worrying movement in public thinking but 90% of the electorate did not vote for them. Many did not vote at all and that, more than anything, helped them win the seats they did. The Greens didn’t win as many new seats as UKIP, but we did not field as many candidates. Nor have any of our candidates been suspended for extreme raciest, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and ablest comments as a growing number of UKIP candidates recently have. We are not funded by large corporations as UKIP is. 99% of the party is run by volunteers and we have less funds than other parties to paper the world with flyers so we focus on target wards. The more members and support we gain the more we are able to build on this; to field more candidates so that everyone who wants to can vote Green. If recent polls and social media trends are read correctly, a growing wave of people are voting Green and even more want to.  In the north of the UK UKIP support thins out. In Manchester Greens came second in terms of the popular vote, with 21%. Yet parties with less of the popular vote gained seats and they did not. This is a strange aspect of our system meaning we have to fight even harder than mainstream, better funded parties to succeed. Yet we are truly in the game now, a rising voice of hope working against the rising voice of hate. It has never been more important to stand together.

Much damage may have been done by Russell Brand’s call to not vote. Many with preference to Green policies and disillusioned by mainsteam parties have not voted. However, on social media and in person I have heard many others say they voted Green for the first time. Many say it is the first time they ever voted. Others say it is the first time they voted for what they truly wanted. With the general elections only a year away this can only be the beginning of the surge. Hope has tenacity and strength and we have much to strive for and protect for the common good. We must strive against voter apathy, scapegoating and hopelessness and tell the world about our policies.

So what can we do now? Complaining to the BBC for its biased reporting of the elections is one thing we would very much suggest. Please see the petition against BBC news media blackout of The Green Party. What we can all also do is tell another story. There are parts of the country where Greens got a large percentage of the popular vote. There are parts of the country where we became official opposition. We held seats and gained seats, both in councils and the European Parliament. We did this in spite of media bias lumping us together in the category of ‘other parties’. We saw surges in the polls and on social media in spite of a mainstream media determined not to report positive stories. A party run by volunteers with policies so many want but fear they cannot have became a rising voice in this election.

My story, as social media bod for the East Midlands, is the over 24hrs in which #VoteGreen2014 was showing as one of four most popular hashtags on Twitter. At one point it appeared the second most popular hashtag. The other party people were talking about voting for was, unfortunately, UKIP. Occasionally Labour was also one of the popular discussion points. This means everyone seemed to be talking about voting either UKIP or Green. On Facebook, I saw people who once would have dismissed us sharing Green Party flyers and talking about our policies. I remember saying to my husband as he waved tea in front of my face while I continued my role in the growing team keeping Green seen, that this was democracy awakening. More people were not just voting for the usual suspects. Those voting in fear included those fearful of economic and job uncertainty. It is our combined job now to continue to convince people that Green Party is the party fighting austerity and for job creation and bank reform; measures that will protect them. We have to fight the wave of hatred and the excuses for bigotry. Humanity has been here before. The ugly fact is that hatred has won seats and the map has new shadows across it. The good news is that Greens are in a stronger position to strive for the common good.  We need all hands on deck to build on this.

Find the Petition against BBC Blackout of Green Party in the Elections at:

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/bbc-news-stop-this-media-blackout-of-the-green-party?bucket&source=facebook-share-button&time=1400968778

Antonia Zenkevitch, MA Human Security

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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.


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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


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East Midlands at the heart of Green Party’s 40th Year!

East MIdland Conference Centre

As we wish one another a healthy, hopeful 2013 we can feel happy that the East Midlands is playing host to The Green Party Spring Conference in February. Our party has evolved over 40 years; one generation, through many changes locally, globally, regionally. Those of us here now form the torch-bearers of the next generation.

From the 22nd to 25th February 2013 East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham becomes the hub of The Green Party of England and Wales. This gives local party members an opportunity to be at the very heart of the next stages of flourishing and sustaining. Attendees will collectively be involved in the progression of policies within the party. There will also be fringe and training sessions, special panels and birthday celebrations.

Our neighbours in the West Midlands saw the seed of the Green Party planted in Coventry  by Tony and Lesley Whittaker, Michael Benfield and Freda Sanders. Then called the ‘PEOPLE’ party it grew into The Ecology Party and ultimately The Green Party. During this time it has weathered many storms and influenced change. It has stayed true to core values. I extend an invitation to you to tell some of the stories of our last four decades, how lives and futures have been shaped,  what we have faced and are facing. What are the greatest challenges ahead? What inspires you? What have you been part of? Is it the party’s stance on creation of green jobs and a living wage or their questioning of unjust wars? Is it continued work in building sustainable energy supplies and sharing economies or the contribution to animal rights that fire your loyalties? Has it been our call for better insulation in homes or empowering local producers? Is it the greater gender equality within the party that excites you or their stance against injustice in the present tax and banking systems? We have come far and have far to go!

So, as we toast in 2013, we may remember to say ‘happy birthday Green Party, many happy returns!’ For more information on the conference and to book please follow this link: http://greenparty.org.uk/conference.html.  

written by Antonia Sara Zenkevitch for East Midland’s Green Party