Looking at the European and local election results there are real reasons both to celebrate and to worry. The rise of both the Eurosceptic right and the Neo Nazi far right throughout Europe is worrying. UKIP offers little in the way of constructive engagement with any of the real issues facing the UK or Europe, let alone humanity and the biosphere. The rise of Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary represents something altogether scarier.
However in England & Wales we can at least celebrate the election of three Green Party MEPs. Previously there were just two, I’d hoped for five or six, but three is still better than two. Keith Taylor in the South East Region, and Jean Lambert in London, were both re-elected. Molly Scott Cato is our new MEP, the first ever Green MEP to represent the South West Region, and a leading green economist. She will be a great asset to the European Parliament, and a great voice for the people of the South West of England. Well done Molly and all who helped her and voted for her!
Here in the West Midlands Will Duckworth failed to get elected as our Green MEP despite getting 71,000 votes. Thanks to all who voted for him. However the Green Party in the West Midlands continues to make steady progress at the level of local councils. In 2009 we had just three councillors on three councils, now we have twenty-three councillors on nine councils: five straight years of steady increase. In Solihull the Greens have ten seats and are now the official opposition.
Overall, for the Green Party in England and Wales, this is slower progress than I’d like, of course, but still worth a bit of a celebration!
For a different, and very interesting, angle on the UK part of the Euro elections see http://makewealthhistory.org/2014/05/27/is-britain-a-post-democracy/
It’s only 48 hours till polling day. For me the anticipation is palpable. These Euro elections are really important, yet apathy, disengagement and anger seem to be the dominant public response. Turnout is predicted to be very low and the Tories, LibDems and Labour are all predicted to do pretty badly. UKIP are riding high, exploiting pubic fears and anxieties about immigration and economic woes. The Greens are also predicted to do pretty well.
These elections are fought under a system of proportional representation, so there is more reason than ever to vote Green: we do stand a very good chance of getting some very good people elected to the European Parliament, and Europe does matter hugely to us all. If we are to tackle the vast problems facing humanity we simply must get supranational organisations to function better than they currently do and the Greens are active in helping do this.
I’ve voted Green, or for the Ecology Party as the Greens were once called, at every election since the mid 1970’s. I’ve been a member of the party on and off. I am now, and would urge my readers not only to vote Green, but also join the party. For those of us committed to working for a more ecologically sustainable and socially just future they really are the only party worth voting for. In a way if UKIP is the party of fear, the Greens are the party of hope.
Alex Andreou wrote a very good piece in the Guardian about why he’ll be voting Green, and for him the anti immigrant rhetoric that UKIP has drawn all the other parties into espousing is the key issue. For me it is about Climate Change, Social Justice and a host of other big issues. For some people it is specific things, like the Green Party’s commitment to the NHS or to the Railways, or to opposing the latest trade deal that favours corporations over local communities. There really are a lot of issues on which the Greens simply do have better policies.
Here in Herefordshire we are part of the West Midlands Region which will elect seven MEPs on Thursday 22nd May. The lead candidate for the Greens is Will Duckworth, a stalwart campaigner on issues of social justice, who’d make a great MEP. Please do get out and vote, and help him get elected. Currently the Green Party of England and Wales has just two MEPs, with luck, hard work and your vote we could end up with half a dozen after Thursdays vote, including Will. That would be something to celebrate!
Alex Andreou in the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/08/voting-green-european-elections-why
West Midlands Euro-elections http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/euroelections2014
Green Party in the West Midlands http://greenparty.org.uk/elections/west-midlands.html
Last night I was at a screening of the film Gasland organised by a lovely group of people in Upton Bishop. A very pleasant evening with a good turnout of the local community and lots of homemade cakes! The film was way too long at 107 minutes and very short on accuracy or factual detail, but did have some interesting interviews. Most of the people in the hall last night were already convinced of the case against fracking. For those who simply came to find out more it was not a good place to start and contrasted poorly with the February evening in Ludlow where Prof Michael Rosenbaum gave a very good introduction to the subject.
Rather at the other extreme from the film Gasland are a couple of weighty reports which are worth a quick look, and which I referred to last night. The Hughes Report ‘Drill, Baby, Drill: Can unconventional fuels usher in a new era of energy abundance?’ gives masses of detail on the geological potential and the difficulties of extracting this resource, while Ingraffea et al focus more on the climate change implications. In August 2013 I wrote the following paragraph in a previous blog
There has been some good coverage of the threats to groundwater and the wider environment caused by fracking. (eg, Prof Ian Stewart BBC 2 Horizon programme ‘Fracking: The New Energy Rush’ and the Ecologist TV video ‘Fracking Hell: The Untold Story’) The cumulative impact of these local disasters will have enormous economic consequences as the law suits pile up. However the fact that fracking is probably even worse than coal from a climate change point of view gets very much less coverage. Three Cornell professors, having analysed the climate change implications of fracking sum up the situation with the warning that “shale gas is not a suitable bridge fuel for the 21st Century”.
Hughes Report http://shalebubble.org/drill-baby-drill/
Ingraffea et al http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-012-0401-0
The Frack Free Herefordshire site is also well worth exploring. http://afrackfreeherefordshire.blogspot.co.uk/
Climate Change week ran from 3rd to 9th March. Looking back, what did it achieve? Well, it’s always hard to say. Here in Hereford we had our display in All Saints Church, film evenings, a public meeting, a march through Hereford and we lobbied our MP. How any of this changes peoples thinking and behavior, or political policies, is very hard to say. It’s a cumulative and subtle process. Sometimes one person in an audience of a hundred is inspired to make some changes which over time are really significant and yet those of us in the room on the night may never be aware of how this pattern of change has unfolded. I guess for me the best thing to come out of it is that our MP, Jesse Norman, has agreed to meet on a regular basis with a small group of us to see how we can make progress on this agenda. That feels positive to me. Several people have come up to me in the street and said they have seen the photo and articles in the local papers, or watched John Llewellyn Perkins YouTube video of the demo. It’s all part of that cumulative and subtle process of change.
One of the key changes that we need is to improve the media coverage of climate change. Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, writing in the Telegraph has said “The debate isn’t whether global warming exists- it’s what to do about it.” Unfortunately much of our media still give credence to the barmy army of skeptics, which causes great confusion for many people, not least some of the journalists on our best selling newspapers. Vanessa Spedding, via 38 degrees, has an excellent petition to improve media coverage of the issue. This petition currently has 1,735 signatures. Please add yours now.
John Llewellyn Perkins video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9mJ3oAOSNE&list=PLBFFA4A153F976B23
Vanessa Spedding’s petition on media coverage of climate change https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/to-the-media-please-debate-the-constructive-responses-to-climate-change-not-its-existence
Climate week runs from 3rd to 9th March. Here in Hereford we’ve a number of events planned. I’ll be speaking, along with Michael Goodfellow-Smith and Victoria Mason, at an event organised by Concern Universal titled ‘Flooding- The New Normal?’ at 7.00pm on Tuesday 4th March, St John’s Methodist Church Hall, St Owen’s Street, Hereford. There is also an exhibition organized by Climate Action Now in All Saints Church that’ll be running all week, a group of us will be lobbying our MP on Friday 7th and there will be a march on Saturday 8th and a couple of films. For more info see the poster at http://bitz.me.uk/Climate_Week_final_totally_Green_Cumulative_poster.pdf
As part of the display in All Saints I was asked to write a few bullet points for people concerned about climate change, which I’ll paste-in below
Concerned about Climate Change? What you CAN do!
1, Take action politically! Realize you are not alone in caring. Link-up with others and get organised. Join groups such as Climate Action Now, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, your local Transition town or other community based environmental group. Join online activists Avaaz & 350.org. Try and influence your political party to get serious about Climate Change, or join another one that is.
2, Putting your money where your mouth is! Through what we choose to buy and where we choose to put whatever money we have, we do have some influence. Disinvest from any company or organisation that supports the fossil fuel based economy. Bank with an ethical bank and invest in the kind of economy you want to see.
3, Choose how you move! Do you really need to fly? Still own a car? Gradually shifting to a more flexible use of walking, cycling, buses, trains, using the internet to replace journeys and joining a car sharing club for those times when a car really is of use…this mix really is the way to go!
4, Your built environment. Your house, office or school are probably pretty energy inefficient. What practically can you do to improve this? There is a lot of advice and help around (but not of course as much as there should be) to help you draught proof and insulate your house, and by linking up with colleagues you may be able to improve things at school or work.
5, Eating to save the Planet! Try eating a gradually higher proportion of local and organic food, and a lower proportion of meat, especially industrially produced meat. We have lots of good sustainable producers in Herefordshire!
6, Make lifestyle choices! Many of the things that help you cut your carbon footprint will also save you money, and often be more fun than anything the high consumption lifestyle has to offer! Reducing the amount of stuff we buy liberates us. Freedom is often understood to be rooted in letting go of craving and the desire to excessively consume. Improved wellbeing and happiness are at the heart of any vision of a green future.
7, Positive Information. The mainstream media and political parties are trapped in a very negative discourse. There is much going on that is inspiring. Seek out this solution focused thinking and action. Technologically and philosophically there is much to celebrate!
Hi and a ‘Happy Christmas’ to all my readers! At this time of year one really wants something to celebrate and I can think of nothing better than what Sharenergy is achieving. Sharenergy is a tiny and rather wonderful organisation based in Shrewsbury. They organise the setting up and operation of community renewable energy cooperatives. I’m a member of three of them: Leominster Community Solar, Neen Sollars Community Hydro and Woolhope Dome Community Woodfuel. It feels good to be part of really democratic organisations that are producing low carbon electricity, and in the Woodfuel project case, heat. These organisations really do bring ‘power to the people’.
The last few months have been very busy for Sharenergy, with lots of new projects at various stages of development. Three of them have just completed successful share offers: Wedmore Community Solar, Dingwall Wind and Llangattock Green Valleys Hydro. Each of these three share offers was oversubscribed, mainly from the local communities. There is an interesting increase in scale and ambition as success builds on success. So for example Leominster Community Solar was a 49KW rooftop system costing £150,725 which completed its share offer in December 2011, whereas Wedmore is a 1MW field scale ground mounted system costing £1.1 million and it completed its share offer in November 2013. Dingwall Wind also completed its share offer in November 2013, raising just under one million pounds needed to install a 250KW wind-turbine. Llangattock Green Valleys has just completed its first share offer, raising £270,000, and are now planning a second hydro-turbine with this share offer due to commence in March 2014.
Congratulations are due to all the local communities involved for getting themselves organised and getting on with these excellent projects, and of course congratulations are also due to the team at Sharenergy for making it all possible. They continually have exciting new projects on the go, so do check-out their website from time to time. One wonders what they’ll be doing in a few years time if the number, scale and range of different technologies continue to grow. Wouldn’t it be great if larger, technically cutting-edge projects, perhaps like the 240MW, £650 million Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon that I blogged about back in August, were either wholly or partly in community ownership!
Do explore the Sharenergy website http://www.sharenergy.coop/ There are links to all six of the Sharenergy coops I’ve mentioned in this blog, plus others, and especially to new ones seeking funds to go ahead.
I started this ‘Global Problems: Global Solutions’ blog in January 2010. The central message is that humanity could manage its affairs a whole lot better than it does. We are faced by a complex network of problems, the most critical of which is Climate Change. A network of inter-related solutions exists, at least in theory, but political will is the missing ingredient. Between 2007 and 2011 I devoted a lot of time to writing a manuscript for a book that remains unfinished and unpublished, but out of which has grown this blog, lots of talks, classes, reports and actions. After Bill McKibbens 2008 Schumacher Conference speech I got involved in 350.org and helped organise a big day of action in Hereford on 24th October 2009, that linked-in with similar actions in about 189 countries around the world. Last week I again heard Bill speaking, this time about the Carbon Bubble and Disinvestment Campaign. Do check-out 350.org’s website via the link below. They’re doing great things all over the world. In Herefordshire Wendy Harvey, Cathy Monkley and Erika Lyons have set-up CAN, Climate Action Now, and have worked with the 350.org team to organise a local petition, which I strongly urge my entire local readership that live in Herefordshire to sign. If you live elsewhere why not work with 350.org to set-up a similar petition to lobby your local politicians.
As I write this the CAN petition has 305 signatures. Let’s see how many we can get. We will then present the petition to the 58 Herefordshire Councillors and our two MPs. This will of course tie-in with other things going on within the county, such as the Re-energising Herefordshire Charter which was launched at the Courtyard on 15th October. There are many opportunities for beneficial change if we grasp the challenge of decarbonising our economy. We need to build a better informed conversation with our local politicians and this petition is a vital step: do sign it!
The global work of 350.org http://350.org/