Tuesday 31 July 2018

Could the UK be Self-Sufficient in Food After Brexit?

With stories circulating about the British government stockpiling food, as part of a plan to cover the eventuality of a no deal Brexit, there is talk that the UK should become more self-sufficient in food once we leave the European Union (EU). Of course all this would take time, certainly longer than by our exit from the EU, which will happen in eight months’ time. But as a longer term objective, this would surely be a sensible thing to do. It would avoid tailbacks at ports and environmentally concerned people should welcome it, too. But is it feasable?

Britain has not been self-sufficient in food since the eighteenth century (when all of Ireland was included), and even then some foods were imported. During world war two the country was close to being self-sufficient in food, but rationing was introduced in 1940 and didn’t fully end until 1954. Some lessons might be learned from some of the practices employed, especially making more land available for farming, from this emergency period.

According to the UK government’s figures, in 2016, Britons consumed only 49% of the total food and drink consumed in this country, from UK food sources. Of the other 51%, by far the biggest imports (30%) came from the EU. Some of the food produced in the UK is of course exported, but this only amounts to about 25% of the total produced. So, even if we stopped exporting food, we would still have about a quarter of what is needed to make up. The trade deficit in food, feed and drink increased in 2016 to £22.2 billion, up from £20.9 billion in 2015.

So replacing this amount of imported food would take some doing, but I think it is possible to get close to it. It will require a massive restructuring of UK farming in particular though, but it would also need a complete change in the culture surrounding food consumption, from the British people themselves. We have become so used to getting unseasonal food when we want it, and have long had a taste for fruit, tea and coffee, that is difficult to grow naturally in the British climate.

Agriculture in the UK uses 69% of the country's land area, (43 million acres) but this includes land used for growing biofuels. It is certainly possible, with the will, to increase this amount land with more small holdings, in cities and towns, and people could be encouraged grow their own food in gardens and allotments. Organic farming in Cuba has moved in this direction since the collapse of the USSR, when chemicals and pesticides stopped being provided to Cuban farmers.

Britain is an island of course, and so has access to fishing, and we don’t eat nearly enough locally caught fish at the moment. But people’s tastes have moved towards warmer water fish, like tuna and monkfish, myself included. There would certainly be extra capacity in UK off shore fishing, but will people want to eat it? In world war two just about the only food that wasn’t rationed, was fish and chips, but people got fed up with rationing generally. That was over sixty years ago, and much has changed in food fashions since then.

There is no doubt, that a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or even low meat diet would make food self-sufficiency much easier to achieve. Beef and dairy farming especially is an unproductive use of farming land. But again, the popular food culture of Big Macs etc, make for a huge barrier to reducing the demand for beef products.

With the average age of a farm owner now 59, and with the difficulties getting crop pickers etc as we leave the EU, it doesn’t look as though the British like farming much anyway.

I can’t see why we couldn’t be more self-sufficient while remaining within the EU, since we sell off 30% of our fishing quota to all bidders now, for example. Brexit may well force this issue onto the agenda though, but is self-sufficiency in food the likely outcome? I have to say I think not, at least in the medium term. People want things to carry on exactly as they have done. The demand will be filled mainly from North America, Australia and New Zealand, (probably with lower hygiene standards) rather than from our closest neighbours, Ireland, France and the Netherlands, as currently.

There is no reason why ecosocialists and greens should not campaign for more food self-sufficiency, but we should at least recognise that it is a mountain to climb, mainly because of the British people’s prevailing cultural attitudes to food. It would be easier to keep our existing arrangements with the EU, but that may not be possible.             

Sunday 29 July 2018

Hottest Four Years Ever? 2015. 2016. 2017. 2018?

Wild Fires in the Arctic Circle in Sweden July 2018

First published at Common Dreams

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2018 is on pace to be the fourth hottest year on record. Only three other years have been hotter: 2015, 2016 and 2017.

"The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle," Michael Mann, a climate scientist and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, told CNN.

"We are seeing them play out in real time in the form of unprecedented heat waves, floods, droughts and wildfires. And we've seen them all this summer," he said.

Even more than extreme weather, climate change is best exemplified by the consistent rise in temperatures year after year.

New NOAA data released Friday shows:

NOAA shows that the first half of 2018 was characterized by warmer to much-warmer-than-average conditions across the Earth's land and ocean surfaces. Record warmth was present across portions of the global oceans as well as parts of the Mediterranean Sea and surrounding areas. New Zealand and small areas across North America, Asia and Australia also had record warm year-to-date temperatures. Cooler-than-average conditions were limited to the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean, central tropical Indian Ocean, the North Atlantic Ocean, and parts of western Russia and eastern Canada. No land or ocean areas had record cold January–June temperatures.

Averaged as a whole, the combined land and ocean surface temperature for the globe during January–June 2018 was 0.77°C (1.39°F) above the 20th century average and the fourth highest since global records began in 1880. The global land-only temperature was the fifth highest on record at +1.19°C (+2.14°F). The global ocean-only temperature of 0.60°C (1.08°F) above average was also the fifth highest on record.

Five of six continents had a January–June temperature that ranked among the ten warmest such period on record. Europe, Africa, and Oceania had a January–June temperature that ranked among the five highest since continental records began in 1910.

Climate scientists sounded alarms this week as reports circulated of extreme weather and record-breaking high temperatures all over the globe, with dozens of deaths and thousands of hospitalizations reported in some countries—while one journalist with a major platform on corporate cable news admitted the news media's failure to give serious attention to the link between the climate crisis and such events.

"There is no doubt that the prolonged extreme temperatures and floods we are witnessing around the world right now are a result of climate change," said Caroline Rance, climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland. "Temperature records are being broken across the U.K. and globally, exactly as climate science has long warned, and with devastating consequences."

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Will the British Public Really Blame the EU for a No Deal Brexit?

Jeremy Hunt, the newly appointed British Foreign Secretary, claimed yesterday on a visit to Berlin, that the British public will blame the European Union (EU) if Britain leaves the organisation without a post-leaving deal. He said, should this be the case his ‘real concern is that it would change British public attitudes to Europe for a generation.’ He perhaps means the older generation, but would this really be the case generally?

There is no doubt that the British government would try to shift the blame onto the EU, eagerly aided and abetted by the right wing media, of Mail, Express, Sun and Telegraph. Members of the public who are fans of the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, will probably take this line too, but this not the vast majority of people.

What of the 16 million people who voted to Remain in the EU two years ago? What about the 27% of registered voters who didn’t bother to turn out to vote, and those who were not registered to vote? What of the British nationals living in the EU? What about British businesses who will lose money and their workers who are made redundant? What of those people who voted to leave, but now regret their decision?

These groups are much less likely to blame the EU, and more likely to blame the British government. Even amongst leave voters who still want Britain to leave, might some of these people blame the Tories for botching the process of leaving through incompetence? Especially, if the dire predictions of chaos on 30 March 2019,come to pass.

You have to remember that there was no clamour for a referendum on leaving the EU in the country, only in the Tory party. Yes, UKIP were picking up votes, at that stage mainly from the Tories, but they didn’t win any seats in Parliament, other than from a defector from the Tory party. Our membership of the EU has been a running sore in the Tory party for at least since the early 1990s and the arguments over the Treaty of Maastricht. John Major’s Tory party was riddled with division about Britain signing up.

This is why David Cameron had to offer a referendum when he became leader of the Tory party and prime minister. Cameron was of course in coalition with the pro EU Lib Dems at the time, and thought he would never have to follow through on the referendum promise, because the Lib Dems would block it. Surprisingly, he won an outright majority for the Tories in 2015, and had to hold to it.

The handling of Brexit has been a textbook exercise in rank incompetence, as the in-fighting in the Tory party continues, while the country is going to the dogs. The Tories don’t care about the country though, only their own fixation with the EU. If things do go terribly wrong, which is certainly more than a possibility at the moment, I think many people will know who is truly to blame. For the sake of unity in the Tory party, the nation is being torn apart in an almost casually reckless fashion.

But even if Hunt is right and I am wrong, how would this anti-EU sentiment materialise? Will the British stop holidaying in Spain, stop buying German cars and stop buying French wine and cognac? I somehow doubt it, although all of these things are likely to become more expensive. Some people though may turn to violence against EU nationals, even if they have become British citizens, but people like that should not be placated.

Hunt’s comments could be taken as an encouragement to act violently, which is another example of the government’s reckless approach. Hate crimes have already rocketed since the referendum which the government’s style in the handling of Brexit has surely played a part. I just hope we are rid of this government before it is too late to salvage the situation, which in practice probably means by the autumn.  

Sunday 22 July 2018

Can Housing Struggles lead to Ecosocialism?

An anti-gentrification protest in Haringey north London

Written by Anitra Nelson and first published at Progress in Political Economy

The ‘housing question’ to which Engels famously contributed and that raged in the 1870s in Germany, has returned, especially in global cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne. Such challenges are often framed as ‘unmet demand’ with calls to stimulate housing supply yet price trends are more complicated than simple scarcity of housing in an era marked by a significant number of empty dwellings.

Last century households shrank from 4.5 to roughly 2.5 people per dwelling in Australia as the average size of new dwellings grew to break international records. Housing reflects, and creates space for, over-consumption. Growing indebtedness and consumption force us to become more integrated within, and therefore to perpetuate, capitalism. Competing for rentals and homes is commonplace.

Commodification and financialisation of the housing market triggered the global financial crisis and contributes to the global environmental crisis of which climate change is just the tip of the iceberg. Buildings contribute around 30 percent of world carbon emissions. The housing crisis is a multi-headed monster.

Left responses

Left responses include more public or social housing, regulated rents, shelters for the homeless, taxes on empty buildings and banning foreign investment in housing (Madden and Marcuse 2016, 200). Instead, I advocate ecosocialist principles for, and ideal types of, housing and various anti-capitalist strategies for achieving them. Ecosocialists focus on meeting our needs fairly and sustainably within the limits of Earth’s regenerative capacity — replacing individualistic, bourgeois society with a collective and creative sense of humanity.

In practice, permaculture, degrowth and simple living movements have used alternative housing and household practices as strategies for, and illustrations of, post-capitalist economic and political relationships. As such, Australian permaculture co-originator David Holmgren (2017, 2018) has argued that such strategies marry social with environmental solutions, and everyday means with revolutionary ends.

A main aim of Small is Necessary: Shared Living on a Shared Planet — just published by Pluto Press (London) — is to show that struggling for affordable and environmentally sustainable housing can cradle grassroots governance, collective sustainability and one planet footprints. ‘Collaborative housing’ models discussed range from shared households, dwellings and land co-owned by three or more non-related people to cohousing in numerous attached dwellings and apartments, and ecovillages that include productive farming to achieve substantial collective sufficiency. Cases of ‘eco-collaborative housing’ drawn on include housing solutions realised by activists, such as squatters in Berlin and Barcelona.

Eco-collaborative housing and self-management

Small Is Necessary interrogates dwelling size historically and the future significance of ‘eco-collaborative’ housing. Characterised by sharing resources, spaces and skills and by collective governance — collaborative housing develops precisely those values, skills and relationships one would expect to proliferate in ecosocialism. Eco-collaborative housing, incorporating low impact living, can be considered a transformative hybrid, trialling and demonstrating viable post-capitalist futures.

Low impact living aims to create a relatively seamless inhabitation of land and water to minimally disturb natural landscapes. Based on varying levels of collective sufficiency, self-management, environmental and social values, developments typically use permaculture and do-it-ourselves mutual support, moving beyond housing to embrace livelihoods. 

Examples I focus on are about actively housing ourselves rather than relying on governments or developers to provide housing. Beyond the right to housing, a right to the city and a right to environmental justice, this is about a right for us to act in our own interests, in solidarity and collectively.

Eco-collaborative and low impact living

Both eco-cohousing and ecovillages economise on personal space in modest private dwellings to the benefit of well-used communal spaces and facilities. A cohousing project might have, say, 25 attached and small private dwellings with a common house with a big kitchen, function and guest rooms, common laundry and workshops. Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood (New Zealand) has 32 dwellings whose households share just 4 lawnmowers. Like the best eco-collaborative models, they share open space with the local neighbourhood community, run outreach environmental education programs and campaign locally for more ecologically-friendly suburbs.

Both cohousing and ecovillages involve participatory design, so residents have a much greater say in floor planning, style and the materiality of their dwellings than normal. They have more opportunities for self-building, other forms of sweat-equity and co-financing — making housing more affordable. Cohousing and ecovillages develop neighbourhood governance principles and processes that build personal and collective skills in grassroots democracy and consensual decision-making. Self-management enables and encourages residents to be more environmentally sustainable. I argue that all these socio-political skills in co-governance will be critical in creating not only sustainable neighbourhoods but also socialist futures.

The most inspiring cases are housing solutions with utopian drivers and outcomes dreamed up and realised by activists, such as the rural Twin Oaks (United States) that strives for collective sufficiency, and the cultural, community and sustainability based ufaFabrik (Berlin). Such grassroots groups unite in Occupy! style to form, typically ecovillages, independent of the state and market — drawing on rich socialist, feminist and anarchist traditions but with a contemporary concern to address climate change through radical innovations, frugal and convivial living. They have formed communities that point towards the ‘community-based mode of production’ referred to by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano.

Calafou was established by 30 or so ex-squatters who successfully sought a collective loan to create an ‘eco-industrial post-capitalist colony’, a peri-urban ecovillage. Ecovillages can be as large as thousands of residents and as long-standing as Christiania, the semi-autonomous Freetown of Copenhagen. Many, like the income-sharing Twin Oaks have around 90–100 residents.

Twin Oakers are around, say 80 percent, collectively sufficient and, thus, independent of the market. As a non-market socialist I argue that collective living makes substantial gains in as much as large households and neighbourhood communities of households are collectively sufficient and focus on social and environmental values rather than monetary values. Twin Oakers all contribute to their general product and take what they need from it. You can even earn work credits for some campaigning!


Now — when many leftists are depressed about the proliferation of single issue and identity politics — Small is Necessary shows that actively pursuing affordable and sustainable housing can incorporate a revolutionary focus. Some cases analysed even show that when people are actively involved in creating sustainable housing collectively, ipso facto, they become ecosocialists with grounded skills and knowledge for a post-capitalist future.

Anitra Nelson is an activist-scholar and Associate Professor at RMIT University’s Centre for Urban Research, author of Marx’s Concept of Money: The God of Commodities (1999), co-editor of Life Without Money: Building Fair and Sustainable Economies (2011), and her Small Is Necessary: Shared Living on a Shared Planet was published by Pluto Press (London) in January 2018.

Friday 20 July 2018

The State of Ecosocialism in the UK in 2018

Four years ago an American ecosocialist comrade from Solidarity US, which is part of the System Change Not Climate Change coalition, visited the UK for a holiday and also to meet with ecosocialist comrades in this country. He met with Alan Thornett of Socialist Resistance, and later met with a small group of us from Green Left in London. 

I remember that he told us that Alan Thornett had told him that there were only two truly genuine ecosocialist organisations in the UK, Socialist Resistance (SR) and Green Left, despite the newly formed Left Unity declaring itself, and some of its affiliated parties, to be ecosocialist, and that SR had only a little over a hundred members. I informed our US comrade that Green Left had around 300 members, and think probably little has changed with both these numbers today.

However, this not the full picture, (and wasn’t even then, of the extent of ecosocialist thinking in the UK). I think it is perhaps a good time to update this assessment, and please forgive me if I have missed out any ecosocialist groupings here in this post.

In terms of political parties, probably not a lot has changed, except for the formation, of Red Green Labour, in the UK Labour party. This grouping, similar to Green Left, who are a grouping within the England and Wales Green party, and formed, I think, by ex-Green Left comrades since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour party leader. The Labour party has, in general, moved in the direction of ecosocialism  too, but still has some way to go yet.

The England and Wales Green party has for a number of years been moving in the direction of ecosocialism, certainly ahead of the Labour party, and contains many members who, for whatever reason, are not in Green Left, but who would count themselves as ecosocialists. In Scotland, within the separate Scottish Green party, and across some other parties and individuals, there has been a similar journey.  

Outside of political parties, there are other ecosocialist groupings as well. The William Morris Society is a long standing example, as is the Red Green Study Group, whose website appears to be undergoing some construction at the moment. One of its members also runs a good ecosocialist blog, People and Nature. People and Planet, the largest student network in the UK campaigning for social and environmental justice, is also essentially ecosocialist. Some UK trade unions have also moved in an ecosocialist direction, but some haven't.

So things are moving, but of course ecological destruction wrought by the capitalist system is moving much faster, with 16 out of the last 17 years being record high temperatures, with each of these years being hotter than the preceding one. Pollution, including the vast dumping of plastic products has increased with species extinction also accelerating at an alarming rate.

Most of the solutions proposed to tackle the crisis from mainstream politicians fall short of addressing the root cause of the problem, that is, the capitalist system of accumulation and infinite growth, preferring attempts, mostly worthy, of treating the symptoms. 

The Paris Climate Agreement is a good example of this, which relies far too heavily on bogus targets for reducing carbon emissions and technological fixes that do not currently exist. But this is not confined to the UK, and is largely the global response (the USA has of course pulled out of the Paris Agreement, under Donald Trump’s presidency).

And this is the nub of the problem. People in the UK and pretty much everywhere else, are unable to think outside of the parameters of the capitalist system. This is what the now sadly departed ecosocialist thinker and writer Joel Kovel called the ‘force-field of capitalism.’ Also, there are still many on the left in the UK who cling to the idea we can have endless economic growth, but under a traditional socialist society, eco-destruction will naturally be resolved. History shows us that this not the case.

Some cause for optimism perhaps with advances in an ecosocialist direction over recent years in the UK, but there is still a long way to go before this turns into the mass movement that we need to truly challenge the dominant world ideology. Time is running out too.

Green Left in the UK has this blog and another one here as well as a Facebook group open to non-members here. Green Left Wales has a Facebook group here

Wednesday 18 July 2018

How Long Will Theresa May Survive as Prime Minister?

I must admit that Theresa May has survived much longer than I expected, after she called a snap general election last year, which went so disastrously wrong, as May lost the Parliamentary majority that she inherited on becoming leader in 2016. What May has managed to do, largely by fudging decisions on Brexit, is to keep most of her MPs onside. One painful day after another.

As was signalled by the so called ‘Chequers agreement’ though, the time for fudging decisions is nearly over. An agreement with the European Union (EU) on Brexit needs to be made by the autumn at the latest, if we are to have one at all. This is why May has finally shown her hand now with the strategy agreed with her ministers at Chequers, the prime minister’s country retreat. A Government Bill has been released reflecting this plan.

But the agreement unravelled within days, with hard-line Brexit Cabinet ministers and lower ranking ones resigning from their posts, and Tory MPs from the European Reform Group inserting amendments to Bill that pretty much scuppers May’s plan. To try to salvage the essence of the Chequers deal, the government accepted the amendments rather than lose the votes in Parliament on these amendments, with May claiming her strategy is still on course.

To make matters worse, the Tory rebels in the pro-EU wing of the party, who gave the Bill a tepid welcome, are in rebellious mode once again. It seems the prime minister can’t win whatever she proposes. She is back to fudging again just to get through to the summer recess next week, and try again when Parliament re-convenes in September. The idea apparently floated by Downing Street that recess be brought forward to avoid a challenge to the prime minister’s leadership, shows just how worried May has become.

Tory activists are also in open revolt against the Chequers agreement as this post from Conservative Home details. The public appear to be just as unimpressed with May finally showing her hand, with two opinion polls since the Chequers agreement, finding the Tories slender lead over Labour has disappeared and Labour are now ahead by 4 or 5 points. The bookies make 2018 as the favourite year for May to be replaced, or to step down. These are the odds from Coral, but all the bookies have similar odds.

Unless May can dream up some kind of Brexit that will please the majority of her party, and the only thing that will mollify the hard-line Brexiters is to crash out of the EU with no deal whatsoever, a leadership challenge is likely when Parliament returns in September. There may not be enough Tory MPs ready to back a challenger, but there are enough to force the issue, and to inflict a deep wound on May’s authority.

Margaret Thatcher in 1990 led on the first leadership ballot with the votes of 204 Conservative MPs (54.8%) to 152 votes (40.9%) for Michael Heseltine, her challenger, and 16 abstentions. But she was four votes short of the required 15% majority, on the then rules, and a second ballot became necessary. It never happened, a wounded Thatcher resigned instead.

If the hardliners don’t get what they want, they will be then left with no other option but to try and topple May and replace her with someone who will give them a no EU deal Brexit. No doubt there will be plotting a plenty over the summer and so it is likely a challenge will materialise in the autumn, unless May completely caves in to their obsession.

This will make pro-EU Tory MPs very unhappy, and they may find a challenger themselves, or decide that the Tory party no longer represents their view and leave the party, but they could cause a general election by supporting an opposition no confidence vote in the government, along the way.

Either way, a general election is made more likely, as any successor would be left with same problems and the same Parliamentary arithmetic as May has. Whoever might succeed May will need to change the complexion of Parliament to gain endorsement for their Brexit plan, if they have one.

It seems to me that we do need a general election, because the whole of politics in this country presently is a complete shambles, which the Tories have ownership of. A change of government is sorely needed, not a change at the top of the Tory party, which has proved to be totally incompetent.

Sunday 15 July 2018

Housing Developer Threatens London Council with Legal Action – Calls Democracy ‘Irrational’

The Australian multi-national corporation Lendlease, has threatened Haringey Council in north London with legal action if it cancels the contract for gentrification of its housing stock. The Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), was agreed by the council under the leadership of Claire Kober, who has now resigned as a councillor to take up a post as the new director of housing at Pinnacle Group, another housing developer.

Many of the Labour councillors who supported Kober and HDV have now stood down, and their replacements were all anti-HDV, along with most of the council’s social housing tenants. Indeed it was this very issue that forced Kober and her supporters out, just prior to this year’s local government elections in May.

HDV is a form of social cleansing, where social housing (where rents are around 30% of the market rate) is replaced with homes for sale or at full market rate rent. Lendlease have agreed to provide 1000 homes for ‘affordable rent’ (around 80% of the market rate), which amounts only about 10% of the homes in the new development.

We have previously reported about the HDV fiasco on this blog, here, here and here. HDV was challenged in the High Court, where Lendlease won, but is currently awaiting an appeal judgement.

The Chief Executive Officer of Lendlease, Dan Labbard, has written two letters this month to the new leader of the council, and the Chief Executive, one on 4 July (see here) and the latest on 9 July (see here). In the 9 July letter he says that ‘we will have no choice but to seek to protect Lendlease’s interests given very significant investment over the last two and half years.’ This includes no doubt the cost of defending the High Court Judicial Review and the appeal, but this is all part of the democratic processes in the UK, which the company appears to hold in complete contempt.

Labbard goes on to say:

‘It is important that in reviewing the HDV at the Cabinet on 17 July, the Council does not take any steps which infringes or damages Lendlease’s rights. Most obiviously, it is not open to the Council in such circumstances to attempt to abandon the procurement, in which Lendlease was selected and then confirmed as the successful bidder.’

He says the council:

‘Must not take any decision which would be irrational, in particular, in the context of the borough’s urgent need for housing – which requires very significant investment and capability.’

So there you have it. Lendlease is threatening Haringey Council with a lawsuit to recover costs and compensation if HDV is cancelled, and their reasoning is that the council would be acting irrationally if they did. There is no doubt that Haringey does have an urgent need for new housing, as does much of London, but HDV is not what is needed by any rational measure.

HDV would demolish thousands of social housing units and replace them with high cost accommodation, either for sale or rent. Most of the existing tenants would not be able to afford even the 10% of homes that would be available for ‘affordable’ rent, let alone the other 90%. HDV is nothing to do with addressing the borough’s urgent housing needs, but all about Lendlease making a big fat profit by throwing less wealthy people out of their homes and moving wealthier people into the new developments.

It is crystal clear that the previous Labour leadership of the council were kicked out of office (replaced by anti-HDV councilors), because the scheme is so unpopular locally, so why should this development proceed? Where is the rationally in that?

Similar developments are planned or happening in other parts of London, where they are unpopular too, precisely because they do not address the housing crisis in London in any kind of satisfactory way. The will of the people, to borrow a phrase from the head banging Brexiters, is being held in contempt here, so I do hope the new council tells Lendlease where to go.

There is a lobby of the council Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 17 July at 5.30pm at Haringey Civic Centre. Those who wish to observe the meeting will be able to do so from the council chamber balcony, but people should do so respectfully.

More information at StopHDV

Friday 13 July 2018

Trump London Protest - Photos and Report

There were two protests in London today, over the visit of US president Donald Trump to the UK. The Women's March was first assembling at 11 am outside the of the BBC in Portland Place in London and and marching to Parliament Square in the afternoon. The second protest marched from the BBC also and rallying in Trafalgar Square.

Big numbers attended for a Friday afternoon and evening, and some of the people I spoke to suggested that the way Trump has gone about insulting our Prime Minister and London's Mayor, so far, had swelled the numbers today. Trump has been extremely rude, considering the government have gone to great lengths to make him welcome. He arrogantly said in an interview in the Sun newspaper that he had man-splaned to Theresa May how she should go about Brexit negotiations, but she had ignored his 'advice.'

In London especially Trump is not popular at all. Londoners are rightly proud of the the city's diverse culture, a complete anathema to the president of the US. Here are some photos from today in London.

In the morning the Trump baby blimp was launched in Parliament Square. It drew a large crowd of protesters and tourists.

I was working when the Women's March and rally took place, but this photo is from The Guardian. Look at the huge numbers, estimated to be about 100,000 women.

The blimp made an appearance later in the day at Trafalgar Square. Like the president, it appeared to enjoy being the center of attention.

Trafalgar Square was packed, with people spilling out onto the surrounding roads, which were closed to traffic. The square holds about 50,000 people, but as I say, all the surrounding roads were also full. People came and went during the day, so there could well have been over been hundreds of thousands attending.


There was indeed a carnival atmosphere.

There was a visible police presence, with thousands hidden away in side streets, but all was peaceful whilst I was there.

A punch bag Trump.

Unfortunately I couldn't get anywhere near the stage, but a great day.

Thursday 12 July 2018

The Green’s Climate Campaign and Climate Activism

Written by Allan Todd

As some of you may know already, the Green Party has recently approved a national Climate Campaign, which will be put together over the next 3 months. In fact, George Monbiot’s Green Monday visit to Preston New Road (PNR) anti-fracking protest on 25 June was, in some ways, a field trial for what slogans and approaches to adopt. There was widespread approval from those present for the phrase ‘Climate Breakdown’ (to replace the less urgent-sounding ‘Climate Change’) and for the Pacific Climate Warriors’ slogan ‘1.5 (degrees centigrade) to stay alive!’

This really IS a campaign whose time has come. Since 2000, some regions of the UK have been hit by THREE massive floods: 2005, 2009 and 2015 - each one being described, at the time, as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ event.  Of course, this is no ‘coincidence’ - to quote Goldfinger’s comment to James Bond:

“Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence; but three times is enemy action!”

The main ‘enemy’ here is the fossil fuel industry which is the main cause of global warming, 16 of the 17 hottest years ever recorded have been SINCE 2000!  What is more, EACH one of those years has been hotter than the previous one’s record temperatures. As regards the UK - as opposed to average global temperatures - last May was the hottest since records began; and June is likely to beat that record.

Last month, the level of carbon in the atmosphere exceeded 410 particles per million (ppm) - the vast majority of climate scientists believe that, to maintain the largely stable (and life-friendly) climate we’ve had for the past 10,000 years, we need to keep carbon levels at around 350ppm.

So not too surprising, then, that only recently in the US, Moody’s Investor Services - a Credit Ratings Agency - has warned US cities they are very likely to have their credit ratings downgraded because of… the growing risks posed by climate breakdown. Yet this government - despite claiming to be serious about reducing the UK’s carbon emissions in line with the ‘commitment’ made by the previous UK government at the UN Climate Summit in Paris, 2015 - has just approved a third runway at Heathrow which, on its own, will make meeting those commitments impossible.

Several of these issues - and others - were touched on by Julia Steinberger, Professor of Ecological Economics at Leeds University, when she spoke at the 9 July anti-fracking Green Monday at Preston New Road [PR4 3PE]:

In particular, she pointed out how politicians and governments were simply ‘not joining the dots’ as regards rising carbon emissions from fossil fuels, global warming and ‘extreme weather events’ - such as this long heat-wave which, in Quebec, Canada, alone, has already claimed 33 lives.

As an extreme example of not doing joined-up thinking on climate breakdown, she pointed to the UK government’s hard push for fracking to be rolled out across the UK as quickly as possible - most recently, by changing planning laws so that fracking comes under ‘permitted development’ - thus removing the right of local councils to say ‘No!’ Below is a link to her speech:

In her speech, Julia also stressed the importance of activists campaigning on many different fronts - including by putting pressure on our elected representatives to show some climate leadership: especially as the government is showing none.

This can be surprisingly successful - even in the most unlikely places! Just last Saturday, 7 July, a small cross-party group was able to persuade, Trudy Harrison, Tory MP for Copeland (in Cumbria) to sign the Divest Parliament Pledge.

This was the culmination of a 3-month campaign which, following an earlier refusal to sign, had included a ‘bombardment’ of letters, emails and Tweets from constituents directly to the MP, along with letters and press releases to the local newspapers. In fact, that very week, the Whitehaven News published a letter - entitled ‘The clock is ticking on climate breakdown!’ - right next to Trudy Harrison’s regular Politics column!

Such work, of course, is not a replacement for direct action activism - especially on the question of fracking. As John Ashton - UK Special Representative for Climate Change 2006-12, and a frequent speaker at our PNR protests - pointed out as early as 2014:

“You can be in favour of fixing the climate. Or you can be in favour of exploiting shale gas. But you can’t be in favour of both at the same time!’

So please come to PNR - or go to your nearest fracking site - and protest and, if possible, frustrate the would-be fracking companies. In addition, though, don’t forget to call on the government, your MPs and your councillors to start doing some joined-up thinking on global warming and climate breakdown - before it’s too late. The clock is ticking!”

More information about fracking in Lancashire can be found at: http://frackfreelancashire.org

Allan Todd is a member of Allerdale & Copeland Green Party, an anti-fracking activist and a Green Left supporter