Tag Archives: environmentalism

We’re Paying For Big Brother

In an extraordinary turn of events, the Metropolitan Police have not just decided to troll the internet for criticism of them in advance of this week’s Climate Camp protest in London – the first since the ill-fated G20 protest in April. Or rather they’ve outsourced it – that’s right Big Brother is watching you, and you’re paying him to do it:

Police worried about the force’s reputation are scouring Facebook and Twitter for criticism and rumours, ahead of the imminent Climate Camp protest.

The force has hired 6 Consulting*, a firm of “social media monitoring and engagement specialists” for a one-month pilot to monitor the web for relevant chatter.

It follows a series of reports criticising the Met’s policing of major events, including the G20 protest earlier this summer.

A spokesman said that the deal was not part of any investigative or intelligence-gathering programme. “We are increasingly looking to the internet to get our message out,” he said.

He said the G20 protests had seen “unhelpful” rumours spread fast online, and the pilot would help Met communications staff be more proactive in addressing public concerns. It would not however react to specific messages on Twitter, however, where a special Climate Camp account has been set up to release police messages.

(via Marc Vallee)

The Met can address public concerns by guaranteeing they won’t be violently attacking innocent protesters again. They say “unhelpful rumours” at the G20 protest – unhelpful in revealing their media-blocking, peaceful protester-bashing behaviour perhaps. Maybe they should consider that there would be no need to spend thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money in the name of spin if they actually policed in the name of protecting human rights rather than wilfully trampling on them. We will shortly find out if their pre-Climate Camp charm offensive is all mouth, or if the lessons of G20 have actually been learned.

Does the Government Care About Wind Power or Not?

The answer is at the heart of why people, specifically young people, aren’t bothering to vote. They see bankers destroying their own industry through arrogance and greed, and being bailed out by the government with taxpayers’ money – despite not essentially changing their behaviour one iota. They see banks nationalised because, apparently, it’s in the ‘national interest’. When wind turbine producing firm Vestas goes to the wall however, the result is entirely different:

Around 30 workers facing redundancy took over the management suite at the Vestas factory on the Isle of Wight. Police reinforcements were brought in but workers claimed they would not leave until the government stepped in to save the factory and more than 500 jobs.

One of those barricaded in with sleeping bags and enough food to last days, gave his name as Michael. He argued that it was “crazy” for energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband to be making “statement after statement” about green energy but standing by as the factory closed down. “It would be a tiny step financially to keep this factory open, but it would be a huge statement about the government’s commitment to the green economy,” he said.

The Newport factory is due to close at the end of the month. The Danish company that owns it has refused to comment on the protest, but when the cuts were announced it cited a “lack of political initiatives” and an obstructive planning system.

Seumas Milne adds:

There are a string of ways in which the government could keep the Isle of Wight plant in the wind turbine business, from the nationalisation demanded by the workforce to taking a stake on the back of new investment to levering in another company. As Len McCluskey, frontrunner to be elected leader of Britain’s largest union Unite next year, argues: “Vestas is the clearest case for government intervention we could wish to see: 700 industrial jobs are being put at risk because of market failure in a sector the government is desperate to see expand. The workers are fighting for our economic and environmental future as well as their jobs.” In Scotland, a small turbine Vestas spinoff company was saved from collapse earlier this year by a Scottish government-backed takeover.

Whitehall insiders say the Vestas management wasn’t interested in cash support, blaming planning obstruction for the lack of a UK turbine market, and believe the government has already helped secure a Vestas offshore turbine R&D facility at the Isle of Wight site. Miliband, who announced greater control of planning and the dysfunctional privatised energy markets last week to drive green growth, insists: “We don’t think the market on its own will deliver the low carbon jobs of the future we need.”

So why doesn’t he intervene? The man himself adds:

We are unlikely to be a centre for onshore wind production, if up and down the country, and indeed on the Isle of Wight, onshore wind applications are consistently turned down. So we have to win a political argument that environmentally and industrially, onshore wind is part of the solution.

In the meantime, there must be a strategy for the Isle of Wight to do all we can to help and there is. Not just support for the workers who are losing their jobs, but a strategy to work with Vestas. They are keeping a prototype facility at the factory and we are currently considering an application from them for government help to test and develop offshore wind blades in a facility which would employ 150 people on the Isle of Wight initially and potentially more later.

Sorry Ed, but it’s not enough. Milne is right when he goes on to criticise your argument for a reliance on the market here, when your government was perfectly prepared to control the market in banking. Climate change can’t be the most important thing to tackle and not at the same time – the time for pleasing everyone is long past.  A ‘prototype facility’ is ridiculous when the jobs still exist, they’ll just be (again as Milne says) in Denmark and Germany, not to mention Colorado! Is Miliband prepared to underpin his agenda for green industries in the UK, both to combat climate change and to provide an environmentally sound industrial basis for pulling out of the recession, or not? Caroline Lucas correctly contrasts the absurdity of the government’s spending on ID cards (they aren’t going away), trident renewal (for what purpose exactly?), wars without end (with what strategy?) and road expansion (if you build them they will come), with their laissez-faire attitude to a market which is supposed to be important like no other. Jenkins however sounds a note of discord:

Meanwhile not a kilowatt is derived from the massive energy surging back and forth across estuarial Britain, because the start-up costs are high and there is no lobby for the rental subsidies that have made British onshore wind the most expensive energy source on earth. Water cascades unharnessed down mountains. Buildings leak energy. Vehicles sit burning fuel at badly phased traffic lights. Nobody cares because such energy conservation does not sit on an annual report like a photograph of a turbine.

I think this is an important point, and it does tie in to the criticism of Miliband’s position here. If wind power or tidal energy are going to be viable renewable energy sources, the Climate Change and Energy Secretary is going to have to intervene to make the renewables market work. That means acting where there is a need, and nationalising concerns like Vestas. Its main market is the United States? Fine, but the government has to decide whether or not the pressing needs of domestic energy diversification trump the need to maximise profits of a firm whose history has been to bully its workforce

A Third Runway? Please.

With the third runway at Heathrow most likely to be approved soon (it was supposed to be this week, but it’s curiously been shifted back), Simon Jenkins makes some excellent points:

The prime minister has again postponed taking a decision, but that will not stop him meekly championing the carbon lobby by parroting Matthews’s nonsense to reluctant Labour MPs. He will waffle about “insisting” that the airport and airlines “take steps” to reduce carbon emissions. He will promise that a third runway will not go ahead if they “breach air pollution and noise levels”, or if Heathrow fails a punctuality test.

What will Brown do if these conditions are not met? Will he come from retirement, break up the tarmac with a drill and rebuild Harmondsworth? This is infantile politics, but it will doubtless dupe the ever-spineless Labour backbenchers.

Brown will do what his predecessors have done, which is lie. In the 1960s ministers promised “for all time” that there would be no expansion of Heathrow. It expanded. When T4 opened in 1978 there was another promise of no expansion, and a cap of 275,000 flights. The pledge was broken within a year. At the time of T5 the cap was raised to 480,000, and the prime minister and cabinet agreed that a third runway would be “totally unacceptable”.

That promise is now broken. In 2006 the transport secretary, Ruth Kelly, promised that a new runway would be a short, domestic one, with flights only over countryside to the west. She also promised carbon and pollution limits. Those promises have been broken. The government wants almost to double the number of Heathrow flights to 700,000, an astonishing increase on the present chaos, and careless of the impact on west London or its infrastructure. This is an orgy of planning abuse. No Heathrow promise is worth a bucket of spit.

Ministers lie because they know they will be out of office, or out of sight, when their pledges are broken. They know that no government can bind its successor and that Big Carbon, like Big Pharma, always gets its way. When we were young we were told that new airports could go anywhere because new planes would be so clean and quiet that nobody would mind. It was all rubbish.

The biggest lie is that a third runway is about something called “the business economy”. The BAA lobby has conned the CBI, London First and even the unions into believing this, fobbing them off with a factoid that the runway would “create 50,000 jobs”. So would rebuilding Britain’s mental health infrastructure, which would thus also be “good for business”.

I am unsentimental about much economic growth. I would flatten a rare orchid or a natterjack toad or even Harmondsworth tithe barn if the wealth thus liberated were overwhelming. With Heathrow’s third runway nothing is overwhelming except the prospective environmental damage.

This is pretty much my own argument, and of course the ‘environmental  damage’ is already with us, and is already in breach of European standards:

Heathrow’s controversial third runway – due to be given the green light by ministers this week – is unlikely ever to be built because it will fall foul of new European pollution laws, environmentalists and senior government advisers believe.

The airport’s two existing runways already cause air pollution which breaches compulsory European Union air-quality standards, which Britain will have to observe by 2015. Neither anti-runway campaigners nor the Government’s Environment Agency see how these can possibly be met if the number of flights rises by 50 per cent as planned.

With the government hell bent on expanding Heathrow at any cost, Greenpeace has adopted an innovative tactic to prevent the expansion of the airport:

Greenpeace has bought a field the size of a football pitch and plans to invite protesters to dig networks of tunnels across it, similar to those built in the ultimately unsuccessful campaign against the Newbury bypass in 1996. The group also plans to divide the field into thousands of tiny plots, each with a separate owner. BAA, the airport’s owner, would be forced to negotiate with each owner, lengthening the compulsory purchase process.

Greenpeace believes that the longer the expansion is delayed, the more likely it is that the project will be cancelled.

Emma Thompson, the actress, Alastair McGowan, the comedian, and Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative adviser on the environment, were among those who signed the deeds to the site last Friday. They each contributed a small, undisclosed sum towards the purchase, but most of the £20,000 cost was met by a secret donor.

Ms Thompson said: “I don’t understand how any government remotely serious about committing to reversing climate change can even consider these ridiculous plans.We’ll stop this from happening even if we have to move in and plant vegetables.”

John Sauven, Greenpeace’s director, said: “Many thousands of people will be prepared to peacefully defend their field in person, standing in front of bulldozers and blocking construction. This site will become a focus for climate campaigners.”

I have joined up. For the sake of the environment, for the sake of the town of Sipson, and because noone’s presented a credible case for Heathrow expansion, I honestly believe you should too. And you can, here. So the government wants to buy us off with a high speed rail hub? Big deal, they should be doing that anyway. The expansion of Heathrow isn’t justified by the credit crunch – the construction will likely mostly be undertaken by foreign labour, which is all well and good, but won’t make a dent in the recession. If there really is a case for airport expansion (and I’d love someone to try to make it), I see no reason why East Midlands Airport, Manchester Airport, Birmingham International or any number of regional airports couldn’t be developed, and connected to London by a high speed rail service. This is second nature for other countries, why not Britain?

Homophobic Pope Shocker

If only we lived in a world where the ignorant words of an old man with too much time on his hands didn’t matter; they do. We live in a world where people like Mikey Causer are beaten to death for being gay. Yet again with Pope Benedict XVI we have the Vatican badmouthing homosexuality, transsexualism and every variance from baseline heterosexual behaviour and institutions:

Since faith in the Creator is an essential part of the Christian Credo, the Church cannot and should not confine itself to passing on the message of salvation alone. It has a responsibility for the created order and ought to make this responsibility prevail, even in public. And in so doing, it ought to safeguard not only the earth, water, and air as gifts of creation, belonging to everyone. It ought also to protect man against the destruction of himself. What is necessary is a kind of ecology of man, understood in the correct sense. When the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman and asks that this order of creation be respected, it is not the result of an outdated metaphysic. It is a question here of faith in the Creator and of listening to the language of creation, the devaluation of which leads to the self-destruction of man and therefore to the destruction of the same work of God. That which is often expressed and understood by the term “gender”, results finally in the self-emancipation of man from creation and from the Creator. Man wishes to act alone and to dispose ever and exclusively of that alone which concerns him. But in this way he is living contrary to the truth, he is living contrary to the Spirit Creator. The tropical forests are deserving, yes, of our protection, but man merits no less than the creature, in which there is written a message which does not mean a contradiction of our liberty, but its condition. The great Scholastic theologians have characterised matrimony, the life-long bond between man and woman, as a sacrament of creation, instituted by the Creator himself and which Christ – without modifying the message of creation – has incorporated into the history of his covenant with mankind. This forms part of the message that the Church must recover the witness in favour of the Spirit Creator present in nature in its entirety and in a particular way in the nature of man, created in the image of God. Beginning from this perspective, it would be beneficial to read again the Encyclical Humanae Vitae: the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against sexuality as a consumer entity, the future as opposed to the exclusive pretext of the present, and the nature of man against its manipulation.

It’s a whole load of unscientific, mostly meaningless garbage of course, but what’s important isn’t so much the content as who’s saying it. For some drunk in a pub to come out with such archaic nonsense is one thing – for the leader of one of the world’s organised religions it’s another. People do and will listen to him, and although I don’t believe for a moment that he speaks for all the world’s Catholics, when he legitimises bigotry through religious intellectualism, or even via the modern language of environmentalism, he is dangerous. Homophobia isn’t an inherent quality in human beings, it’s a value which is transmitted and legitimised, and people like Josef Ratzinger should know better:

It is an instructive exercise to take Pope Benedict’s latest homophobic outburst and substitute the word “Jew” for “homosexual.”

The Pope’s detractors are always quick to point to his service in the Hitler Youth as a teenager.

I fully accept that his Hitler Youth membership was probably compulsory, even that his views on homosexuality may not have arisen from his membership of the party – he has shown a propensity to over-intellectualise anything. But his unique position as Pope should make him particularly mindful of the origins of hate and the role his office can play in either fostering it or inhibiting it:

Gay people are a serious threat to the existence of humanity, as serious as global warming. Does any of that rhetoric sound familiar?

Even the most casual observer of history cannot help but be struck by the chilling parallel.

Yet instead he capriciously couches his homophobia in the terms of environmentalism to legitimise it to his wider audience. The last point is equally salient though, and more concerning. The leader of the Catholic Church actually uses the language of social Darwinism, of Nazism, that we’re ‘against God and nature’, to justify his attack on everyone who doesn’t conform to baseline heterosexuality. A man who has lived through the Holocaust should know better – such words will only help to justify the ignorance of those who hate us. Peter Tatchell remarks:

Free market capitalism, and its culture of greed and consumerism, is a far greater threat to the ecological survival of our planet than homosexuality or transsexuality.

Is the Pope ignorant or malevolent?

The suggestion that gay people are a threat to human survival is absurd and dangerous. It is poisonous propaganda that will give comfort and succour to queer-bashers everywhere.

Homosexuality is a part of human ecology. It has existed in all cultures in all eras. At a time of global over-population, by not having children gay couples contribute to population stabilisation and thereby reduce pressure on over-strained natural resources. We are an ecological asset to humanity.

He may rhetorically overstate the counter-argument, but he’s obviously right in slamming Benedict for linking environmental protection with ‘gender protection’. With capitalism uniquely responsible for the destruction of the environment, as well increasing poverty during this ‘credit crunch’, it’s a disgrace that the leader of the Catholic Church should find time once again to prioritise blaming us for the world’s ills. He has indeed learned nothing from his time as a Nazi.

Vote Paddick

It’s the London Election at last. All the lies, slander and garbage printed by the disgusting and disreputable Evening Standard can now get shoved to one side and the candidate who really is prepared to do what is needed the most in London can win. That candidate isn’t Boris Johnson. Even if you discount the racist and homophobic comments and articles in his past, it’s been conclusively proven that his platform is a lie. When pushed his transport budget is an outright lie. When pushed his sudden Damascene conversion to supporting diversity is a lie.

In my mind, Paddick’s priority of reforming the governance and operating culture of the Metropolitan Police is the single biggest issue for London. Crime isn’t getting better, whatever the statistics show. The Met isn’t getting any less racist or homophobic – the stats on the former show increasingly racist outcomes, the latter problem is known even by their Commissioner, who is at the least borderline corrupt for attempting to inhibit the investigation into the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes. Paddick insists his priority is to chair the Metropolitan Police Authority himself and thereby overpower Sir Ian Blair when he lapses into ‘old Met’ behaviour. Ken Livingstone, despite his many strengths and achievements, isn’t offering any change for the Met at all – merely to add more to their number. The days of them operating as a quasi-autonomous militia really have to stop, and Paddick has stated his intention many times in hustings I’ve attended to modernise and reform the way they operate.

Given that Paddick’s gay himself, it’s hard to imagine him not supporting the diversity which makes up London, the promotion of which has been one of Livingstone’s finest achievements.

Of course he hasn’t a chance of winning, but this is where proportional representation gets fun. Vote Ken for your second choice. There’s no way of letting Boris Johnson through in that way, don’t worry. When the first votes are tallied, all but the top two candidates are simply knocked out and their second votes are reallocated. Paddick 1 Livingstone 2 allows you to vote what’s right and get the right overall outcome too.

Don’t let the Tories screw this city up yet again. Ken’s done a lot in the last 8 years to fix the problems they caused, and he’s done extremely well. Environmentalism, poverty reduction, buses, an initial improvement in police numbers, innovations in housing, and support for London’s multitude of ethnic and subcultures – all of these have made London better after the hatchet job inflicted on London from the mid-80s. Does Ken have the answers to take it from here? Not enough of them I’d argue, but this was the Mayor who brought the Olympics to London not for the sport, but to tap into the vast regeneration funds to make this place better. He needs to continue what he started.

Isn’t PR fun, being able to support two candidates at the same time? And I’m going to vote Green till it hurts for the London Assembly. They can and have done wonders already at local level.

Butchery

The Japanese government says it kills whales for scientific purposes only, and should be allowed to do so. This (along with other pictures) puts paid to that lie, I think. And the interesting part is, as this article states, that the photos weren’t taken by Greenpeace or other environmental activists, rather the Australian government itself. After so many years in the political wilderness, Australia really is now leading the way and are putting their money where their mouth is on the environment, as Kevin Rudd promised when taking power. If he really is prepared to piss Japan off more than this spat, he’ll be an example for all his contemporaries. I live in hope.

A Salutory Reminder

Something I’ve been noticing this last week, whilst working for a second time with a charity for the elderly – Menzies Campbell was completely wrong in his assertions about age (he was 66) when leaving his post as Liberal Democrat leader. He missed the point entirely – as The Times pointed out, it was being old-fashioned which did him in. Acting leader Vince Cable, only two years younger, has connected immediately with the public by taking strong, no-nonsense, principled stances on issues which matter to people. Merely his refusal to meet with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia during his State Visit to the UK, on grounds of human rights violations, was enough to engage the public imagination with the Lib Dems more in one week than during Campbell’s entire tenure. Where Campbell asserted that age had become a negative characteristic in politics, Cable almost immediately proved the opposite. He isn’t alone.

Desmond Tutu has slammed the Anglican Church for its institutional homophobia. Aged 76 he has taken a principled stance on a fundamental matter of fairness between people – surely (as he puts it) the underpinning of his religion. Not just that, but he’s got together with other leaders of his generation and founded a group with the same mentality. Nelson Mandela, who ended apartheid, Jimmy Carter, principled advocate of human rights and the poor, Mary Robinson, voice for human rights in the developing world. Only embers of principle may be left at the core of Western politics, but it doesn’t mean principle isn’t there.

Bill Clinton at 61, despite his personal failings as US President, is now the leading international champion of the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS in the developing world to access cheap or free anti-retrovirals. Even Al Gore’s almost 60, now the leading advocate of environmentalist policies to inhibit climate change. Age, especially in the case of these two, has brought with it a deep attachment to principle alongside massive popularity. A distance from political office must have helped with the latter, but it continues to show not just that Menzies Campbell was entirely wrong. Environmentalism, human rights, equality and anti-poverty drives are far and away the most popular issues in the world today, and they’re being advocated the loudest by the elderly. In 2008 Gordon Brown will be the oldest of the UK’s mainstream political parties – if he wants things to stay that way he could do worse than to acknowledge the non-voting constituency who could (and should) effortlessly be his salvation.