Category Archives: Environment

Water, water everywhere

It keeps being said, but reports like this indicate there is little action: we are destroying our planet. There are many headlines that drown the fact that polluted water resources are destroying life forms vital to our well being. The “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in portentous as the albatross guiding us out of trouble is shot as the wealthy nations and corporations continue control to exploit natural resources. Plenty of food but the world goes hungry. Plenty of water but our thirst cannot be quenched.
While emphasis has been placed on the degradation of major rivers of Africa and Asia the report belies self-satisfaction that those in industrialised USA and Europe have been cleaned up. Far from it. The author of the report says “he hoped the global report would highlight the need to address the root causes of the degradation of rivers. ‘We’re spending trillions of US dollars to fix a problem we’ve created in the first place. It’s much cheaper to treat the causes rather than the symptoms, which is what we do in the developed world today,’ Source Guardian.
Water has become another commodityused by the profiteers. You can turn it into sweet, sickly, poisonous beverages that sell bottles in billions. The life giving supplies dry up before they can reach araes once fertile and abundant with crops.

Arms industry crucial to economies of Capitalism. Morality doesn’t exist for them.

The US is pushing an arms deal worth $60bn for Saudi Arabia. It will create 75,000 jobs. On the other hand what will this do to hold back global warming, the ever present threat to life on this planet? Plenty of jobs could be created to combat that, but the US administration faces huge opposition to environmentalists.
What is the legacy of military intervention? The same edition of Al Jazeera reports torture and secrecy in Iraqi jails as the U.S. begins to pull out. Selling arms, security and other lucrative services and commodities is one thing. Considering what happens afterwards isn’t a factor. The comfort zones we have created for ourselves western “civilisation” just don’t bear scrutiny. Live today whatever is in store for our children. Yes it is not others far away who are threatened, it is our own lives and future which is at stake.

Expensive short cuts

Already evidence is emerging of risky short cuts to sink the oil well in the Gulf of Mexico which ended up killing 11 on the rig and spewing as yet uncalculated barrels of oil into the ocean. The cost to the environment both at sea and on land is also beyond estimate.
One lesson that won’t be learned is that Capitalism and the system it has spawned is not fit for purpose. As President Obama has found to his cost it is out of control. The mining disaster in the US was down to short cuts. Methane was trapped but the company took short cuts and didn’t allow venting so men died needlessly.
In the UK privatisation of the railways led to unnecessary risks with passengers’ lives. Those with many years experience of signaling and safety went and management was handed over to novices with little if any experience – or concern – in maintaining standards that were part and parcel of the existing organisation. In my experience when a business is taken over the management might go into the hands of an accountant. Knowledge of figures and profits is no substitute for the technical understanding from hands on experience which was carelessly tossed to the wind.
BP are determined to pay dividends to shareholders in spite of everything. The US government is doing what it can to ensure that compensation is paid out fully, if that’s possible in this case. It might have an effect on persuading others to take greater care, but we had the Exxon disaster before which didn’t prevent this bigger and better catastrophe taking place.

This is the ConDem Coalition at work in Birmingham. No wonder Labour did well here!

There was a large gathering today in the pleasant grounds of Hawthorn House in Handsworth Wood. The Business Transformation Scheme has it on its portfolio, so no messing Hawthorn House has to go. Business is business.
Consultation? I don’t know if that’s catered for in “Business Transformation”‘ ‘cos there hasn’t been any of that. However a few years back there were rumours circulating that Hawthorn House, where there is a local library, was due for the chop and a sizable petition was handed to the Council. Cllr Ray Hassell, then Cabinet Member for Leisure Services wrote indignantly, Who was it who dared to broadcast such a wicked and unfounded rumour? If he knew they would be told in no uncertain terms to wash their mouth out.
It’s a few years since local residents, including my wife, Vron, campaigned for this grade 2 listed building to be preserved since it, together with the grounds, could be put to good use as a community facility. Every time buildings closed down they were likely to be demolished and more homes would replace them. It happened at Island Dairies, where I was promised that this was industrial land and that it would be placed by light industry. The idea being that while people need homes they can also do with a job to pay for it. Land in Regent Road was ideal for play space for that area of the Ward but when I visited recently that is a housing scheme. Local residents campaigned for the former Handsworth Wood Girls’ School to be a community facility and funds were found to pay an architect who came up with a brilliant plan for multipurpose use for young and old, health, leisure, education. The site was sold and the building is now mothballed. Residents of Handsworth Wood Ward were once more empty handed. When my children were little they enjoyed the open space behind Elmwood Church, but when the church building was in need of modernisation that went for, guess what? Yes even more houses.

Continue reading

Snow in the Suburbs

Planning to go out but a fall of snow has delayed that a little. Very little compared to a friend I’ve just spoken to in Pembrokeshire and up north in Yorkshire where another friend hasn’t managed to get into work.
Just a little snow in the suburbs? Well a little flurry or to poses some bigger questions as we’ve been gripped in the cold for a week or more now. National Grid warns of shortages of gas and tells power suppliers to use coal. Can we now? We’ve got a huge supply of the stuff but although we continue to burn it most of it comes from elsewhere. It’s far dirtier than our own and quite a bit more costly. One of the effects of global warming is that the warming Gulf Stream could switch off making it much colder in UK. One commentator has asked “Is this it?”
First question – how far can we continue to depend on power derived from foreign sources? Which of course begs the question of how we pay for what we are now using given that the multinationals control supply and price.
The Guardian the power question quickly with that of the supply of food, with minister Hilary Benn issuing dire warnings about food sustainability.
Second question – how far can we continue to depend on the huge businesses that supply so much of the food we consume? Being New Labour the role of big business is not the issue so can remain unchallenged.

Continue reading

Copenhagen and the blame game

According to an eyewitness account Obama was on a hiding to nothing taking on the Chinese. The writer believes It was a deliberate ploy to discredit the US and leave the President empty handed while making it look like it was the fault of the US.
Presidents Chavez and Morales of Venezuela and Bolivia were also present and commented on the way documents were being circulated without allowing the possibility of discussion. Morales, who had arrived early in Copenhagen, referred to the lack of democracy being displayed at a high level. Chavez refers to this in his report back on the summit.
Does this let global Capitalism off the hook? At the conference I attended in Cuba in 2008 on Marxism in the 21st Century the question was asked whether China was following a socialist path or not. The consensus believed it was not. Interestingly Chinese delegates there appeared to come from marginal parts of the nation. They dodged the question.
What I saw of China in Zimbabwe and Botswana made it seem like a new colonial power. What was being offered to African countries in return for the loot seemed to be more destruction of the environment. Regrettably governments encouraged the Chinese imperial alternative.
The Latin American states included in ALBA had put climate change high on their agenda and President Lula of Brazil spoke of his frustration as the talks unfolded. So the refusal of China to accede to any formal agreements put forward at the last minute, including by Obama, were clearly against the wishes of the ALBA countries. Yet China is conspicuous by its absence from analyses of their spokesmen. The question of whether China is adopting a socialist course or copying the imperialism of the west is not being addressed.
Whether the blame rests with the USA, China or elsewhere is a matter of debate. In any case climate change will not be answered by vested self interest of western capitalism or a Chinese variant is painfully clear.

“If climate was a bank it would already have been saved”

Latin American countries, like African and many others feeling the effects of industrialisation most, have commented on the outcome of Copenhagen. Evo Morales of Bolivia spoke of the mandate given to him by the Bolivian people.
When Hugo Chavez. President of Venezuela arrived he found that a document had been issud but it appeared not to be available to everyone. He spoke about this. He referred to slogans written on walls around Copenhagen which included “If climate was a bank it would already have been saved” and “It’s not climate that needs changing, it’s the system.”
It appears that old habits die hard with the patronising attitudes of the powerful developed nations, ie the ones doing the damage to “Pachamama” (Mother Earth – Bolivian version). Members of the African delegation made the point first by withdrawing earlier on.

Watch the price of GM crops rise and rise along with Monsanto’s profits

American farmers are crying because the price of the genetically modified crops, which now account for most of the nation’s crops, has risen and keeps rising. Did we ever want them? Many have been warning about them and the unproven eefect they will have on the environment, but when it comes to the market then there are no arguments. Big business has the power to dictate and governments fall into kine. Often we discover that the politicians have brought into the shares anyway or may have been exposed to the influential lobbyists they employ.
Meanwhile back at the ranch DEFRA among others are pressing for the advancement of GM crops here. While there\s a moral argument, seems there’s a fairly big economic one to stop this crazy idea getting out of hand too. I received the following by e-mail.

Continue reading

More sell offs: British Waterways

The following has been sent to me and I urge your support:
Re; Sell-off of British Waterways assets:
Below are several news items that explain the government proposals for the sell-off and for those wishing to sign the petition the link is highlighted.
The basic political implications of this proposed sell-off is the fact that everything is now up for sale and that the need to privatise is the only policy that the mainstream parties have. This applies to everything in society, including education and health. SLP policy is completely opposed to such privatisation.

Help persuade government not to sell British Waterways’ assets

British Waterways cares for 2,200 miles of the country’s canals and rivers.
MONDAY, 16TH NOVEMBER 2009 05:04:26 GMT
Last Updated: Monday, 16 November 2009, 01:04 GMT

British Waterways will resist any Treasury proposals to sell off £500 million worth of properties it owns alongside the nation’s rivers and canals, chairman Tony Hales has indicated.
The property portfolio is understood to be under consideration for inclusion in a massive sell-off of Government assets announced by Gordon Brown last week, which is intended to raise £16 billion by 2014 to help bring down the national debt.
But Mr Hales warned that income from the property was needed to support the organisation’s work maintaining 2,200 miles of canals and rivers.
—– Original Message —–
From: david lowe
There is some concern that the government may consider selling off BW’s property portfolio and while this might provide a ‘pot of cash’ short term (if it went to BW and not to the Treasury) there would be less funding available from investments in the future to pay for waterway maintenance unless the government funded BW directly like roads and railways. If you wish to object please see below.
Best regards
David Lowe
Secretary, CBOA

Continue reading