The courage of Emily Wilding Davison

Emily Wilding Davison

Just over 3 years ago, David Cameron and Nick Clegg stood outside Downing Street smugly smiling in the May sunshine promising us a “new kind of politics”. Looking back it seems laughable that anyone even half contemplated this working given who we were hearing it from.

Today Nick Clegg, constantly looks as if someone has hollowed out his insides and force fed them to him, whilst David Cameron looks more ridiculously red every time he speaks. To be honest if I had to lie that much I would go pretty red as well.

Today, MP’s vote on the Energy Bill, an amendment has been re-introduced to the bill calling for the UK to decarbonisation our energy sector but 2030. Makes sense right?. We burn less fossil fuels, bring down our carbon emissions, reduce reliance of a finite resource, reduce bills and invest in green renewable technology one of the UK’s only growth sectors.

Well… Not in George Osborne and the Treasury’s eyes, our Georgie boy is addicted to fossil fuels and obsessed with fracking for shale gas and coal bed methane. It is no secret that 51% of Tory party funding comes from financial institutions in the city whose hedge funds are tied up in funds linked to the fossil fuel industry. The decision to delay a decarbonisation target until 2016 (after the election) is purely political and shows blatant cowardice from the Lib Dem’s and the Tories.

It is business as usual politics and it sucks…

The vote on the decarbonisation target is expected to be tight and the parliamentarians of 2013 would do well to remember an inspirational women in the Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, who threw herself in front of the Kings horse on an race day 100 years ago today.

There is much conjecture about whether Emily Wilding Davison meant to die when she stepped in front of the Kings horse on that fateful race day. What is beyond doubt is that Ms Davison was ready for death it that should be her destiny. Her bravery and dedication in the fight for suffrage should be reflected upon by those MP’s wondering whether to rebel against the government and back the amendment.

Ms Davison died so that we all can participate in a democracy however in-perfect it may still be. Today when politicians go to place their vote they should ask themselves. What would Emily Wilding Davison said? Would she have voted for what to right or what was politically convenient?

I think they will know the answer…

Did the left win the 20th century?

Another plane

Last week I received a complimentary 100th year anniversary copy of the New Statesman. I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the archived essay from John Maynard Keynes on the case for intervention and Will Self talking about his pessimistic outlook.  However the one feature which really caught my eye was politicians and political commentators discussing ‘Did the left win the 20th century?’

Having got over the shock of not being asked for my opinion directly by the New Statesman I decided I would quite like to write about this. I am quite unashamedly left wing in my politics, I believe in nationalised public services, government intervention in business, tax and spend fiscal policy and ending all fossil fuel subsidies and the need for a rapid transition to a clean energy system.

However I recognise that to tackle the biggest challenge our generation faces in my eyes ‘climate change’, we will need both sides the left and the right to work together to have any chance of seriously curbing our carbon emissions.

To date I would be correct in suggesting big business are standing in the way of tackling climate change at every turn. If capitalism is going to survive as the dominant politically ideology for the next 100 years, I believe it will have to evolve, retract, become a more local. We live on a planet with finite resources and a rapidly changing climate.

The businesses which help us becoming smarter and more efficient in the way we lead our daily lives, paying a fair wage to employees will be the ones which thrive. Those who continue to put profit before the wellbeing of their employers and those who currently buy their products will perish.

Did the left win the 20th century?

Oh, how I would love to answer ‘yes’ and say how in 2013 we live in a socialist paradise where everyone cycles and poverty in non existent. The truth is that as I type this I can hear the planes on route to City Airport and we stand on the verge of a triple dip recession. To boot we have a government who want to de-regulate and privatise and outsource everything, even through irresponsible unfettered capitalism was a root cause of the financial crisis. The neoliberal economics of Milton Friedman adopted by Thatcher then Blair and almost every western government since the 1970’s and has led to the current sad state of affairs, so it could be said the economic doctrine of the right sadly had more support at the end of the 20th century.

However the social ideals of the left certainly gained universal acceptance by the end of the 20th century. Things like for example an national health service, state pensions, acceptance of gay relationships, end to apathied, employment law, human rights act. These only came about because of the left.

So on reflection perhaps it was a score draw. What is clear the politics of the 20th century failed, the gap between the richest and the poorest grew wider. And although there were huge advancements in providing help for the most needy food banks are opening at a rate of 3 a week in the UK.

The next 10o years will need a different kind of people politics with ideas for change from business and government coming our communities not out of touch privileged politicians.

Regardless of who “wins” the 21st century political battle, lets hope it is the side which fights for social justice and wealth distribution and tackles climate change. That is the side I will be on.

Big oil schools

Get BP out of schools
Let me start with an obvious but true statement: “young people are impressionable”. If you think back to your own childhood, I am sure a whole wave of questionable life choices come flooding back to you. Luckily for most of us we managed to get over the bad girlfriend or boyfriend and realised Kickers shoes aren’t the coolest thing in the world. However some choices we make at that age are not so easy to forget, especially when it comes career choices and education.

Therefore I was incredibly alarmed to learn about BP’s extensive work in schools in the UK. In particularly one project whereby BP have been going into schools and conducting interactive sessions teaching children to be oil traders. I watched the promotional video which has now been removed by BP, where one BP employees was telling students: ” The trick is to buy oil low and sell it high”. And although their main schools roadshow which has already visited 700 schools has finished they are still operating their similar ‘Enterprise Trading Challenge

Let us remember BP are leaders in an industry that has ruthlessly exploited the worlds natural resources and people in the pursuit of huge profits over the past 100 years. BP irresponsible attitude towards our energy future has contributed to the climate change crisis facing us and future generations. And it was only 2 years ago that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill poured 200m gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico sea. This caused huge environmental damage which has led to BP already paying out $7.8 billion in compensation for the damage caused.

So to me it feels ludicrous to give BP the chance to greenwash their brand in the eyes of children. Is financial speculation with one of the worlds most precious but destructive resources something we want our kids to think is a future career? We need to remember the financial crisis was caused in part by reckless speculation by traders.

Companies like BP who exploit the planets resource in order to make huge profits with no regard for future generations have no place in our schools trying to make a career in destroying the planet seem glamourous.

However worryingly the oil industry in schools isn’t just limited to BP. Cuadrilla the company pursuing the highly controversial form of extreme energy extraction known as Fracking in Blackpool have started running competitions and giving away money to schools in the local area they are trying to destroy. Fracking has been highly condemned by most of the EU with the exception of Poland. In the US Fracking has been shown to cause water contamination, air pollution, cancer and is carbon intensive form of energy production. For a lowdown on Fracking and whether it is planned in your area check out ‘Frack Off‘.

I have heard stories from parents about Exxon Mobil sponsoring kids school bags and books. It appears the fossil fuel industry is following the example of Coca Cola, Mcdonalds and other ethically dubious brands in funding community based activities in order to encourage parents and children to turn a blind eye to the destructive activities of their industry.

If you’re a parent do you want your child to grow up to be an oil trader? Do you want them to live in a world with no summer Arctic Ice, where flooding and extreme weather are the norm and millions of climate refugees roam the globe? Well this is the future we have in store if oil companies like BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil continue in their ruthless pursuit of fossil fuels and profit with no regard for the future generations.

No matter what financial pressures are facing our schools, we need to stand up and say no to these dangerous organisations infiltrating our education system. Fossil fuel companies would have us believe their is no alternative to drilling in the Arctic or fracking for coal bed methane or exploiting tar sands. Allowing them into schools to promote this ideology to children is dangerous. Our generation has a great responsibility but also a great opportunity to harness the natural assets our planet is blessed with. Hydro, wind, solar and Carbon Capture Storage all offer great hope if we invest in the technologies instead of continuing to subsidise the fossil fuel industry. As the CBI reported last year green growth is  creating jobs and offers viable alternative future for the UK.

I would be really interested to hear from parents especially about whether oil companies have been to your children’s schools? If so, what did they do in the school? Do they sponsor sports teams, competitions, or are they teaching kids to trade oil? Please leave a comment or tweet me with your stories. Also there is a fledgling petition on 38 degrees which I urge you to sign to get oil companies out of our schools.

Israel and the inconvenient truth

I am feeling angry and deeply saddened by the latest attack by Israel on the people of Gaza.  Let us remember Gaza is a place with no army, no heavy artillery and no airforce to command. Gaza is essentially a concentration camp surrounded by Israeli checkpoints the the people of Gaza live in poverty, constant fear and terror. Palestinians are called Terrorists but it was the Zionist movement which launched a bombing campaign against the British to force the creation of Israel and the British to abandon Palestine.

Israel is a country born in blood despite the figures being fiercely disputed, what known is that in 1948 Israel Defence Forces ethnically cleansed hundreds of thousands if not millions of Palestinians. I believe Israel has never recovered from the horrific horrors of the genocide but now as they prepare for another ground invasion into Gaza they are overseeing another genocide of their own against some of the persecuted most vulnerable people in the world.

Never Ending War

“The situation in the Israel” “Israel Palestinian conflict” these are some of the terms used to describe the occupation and genocide of Palestinians by the western media. This culture of tolerance and blind support for the actions of Israel by our politicians and media needs to end. I was pleased to hear the Foreign Secretary, William Hague calling for a negotiated two state solution earlier today (20th November 2012).

But this is why I feel it will be a long time before we will ever see a two state solution come into fruition. Like in Orwell’s novel 1984 the ruling power in this case Israel wants never ending “war” with Palestine. By cultivating the illusion of being under constant threat Israel are able to justify a huge defence spend over 7% of GDP and exporting over $18.4 billion in tech exports, many of designed to aide terrorism counter surveillance. Being at constant war has become a way of life for Israel and the Palestinians are being seen as collateral damage to maintain a economically thriving country. Tonight whilst Palestinians in Gaza live in fear of their lives in blood bathed streets just the other side of the wall Israelis are living a very different existence.

This comment from the speech below by Chris Hedges the American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist pretty much sums it all up for me.

He said; ” The lesson of the holocaust is not, Jews are special, is not jews are unique, not that Jews are eternal victims, the lesson of the holocaust is that when you have the capacity to halt genocide and you do not. No matter who carries out that genocide and whom it is against; you are culpable”.

You can watch the full speech by Chris Hedges which sums up the situation in Gaza perfectly in my opinion.

Recommended related reading: http://dorkymum.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/we-need-to-talk-about-gaza/

Global Solutions, Local Choices

I believe tackling climate change to be the biggest crisis facing our generation. This announcement will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. But increasingly I feel the planet is sending us warning signals that we collectively as a society are failing to act fast enough upon. Recently we have seen record low ice levels in the Arctic and currently 80% of agricultural land in the US is facing drought. The Health Protection Agency reported this week that deaths in the UK from heat waves would rise from around 2000 a year currently to 11000 a year by 2080 as a result of climate change.

I recently met a very knowledgeable fellow campaigner, Kate Calvert from the Better Archway Forum. And during our group discussion she mentioned a quote by the renowned economist John Maynard Keynes, who once said; “Art and ideas should be global, everything else should be local”. Although personally I am strong supporter of a strong state and I would love to see the re-nationalisation of our transport and energy systems. However I do believe that if we’re to effectively tackle climate change, we will need people to create their own low carbon communities and people to stand up to local politicians and reclaim their environmental rights.

Over the past 30 years these rights have been slowly eroded; politicians have attempted justify this by pointing to increased GDP and shopping malls which apparently give us the freedom of choice.  Even a fortunate person living in London every day already faces the following environmental challenges:

  • Air pollution on London’s most congested roads regularly breaches EU legal limits on air quality. And over 4000 Londoner’s die prematurely every year in the London because of air pollution. This is more than from road accidents, obesity or passive smoking.
  • Our roads are dominated by cars despite the majority of people living in central London not owning cars. For example 60% of residents in the borough of Islington do not own cars.
  • Refusal by government to invest in fully electric buses and trains means many people are locked into fossil fuel dependent travel.
  • Constant noise and pollution due to excessive aviation, already we have 3 major airports serving London plus a number of satellite airports and the ludicrous City Airport serving only the richest in society.
  • Governments continue to burn fossil fuels locking future generations into a future devastated by climate change. Oxfam recently said; “Our planet is heading for average global warming of 2.5–5C this century. It is time to face up to what this means for hunger and malnutrition for millions of people on our planet.”

The fact that climate change is happening is a fact agreed upon by the majority of the world’s governments, leading scientists and increasingly the general population. It is agreed tackling climate change will require global collaboration on a scale we have never seen before. It will require business to de-carbonise their operations and find alternatives to their current fossil fuel existence. Governments will need to work closely together to create a renewable energy infrastructure built to serve the energy needs of whole continents not just individual nations. And as droughts across the world become a common occurrence, governments will have to make tough choices on how to feed a booming world population in the face of regular food famines.

This all sounds scary I know and it is easy to despair, however we can take the global solutions to tackling climate change and Keynes advice and apply them on a local level. Creating green spaces and de-carbonising our local communities should improve your health and general wellbeing as you develop a cohesive community around you.

Below are my tips for city dwellers looking to reduce their carbon footprint:

1)   Cycle/Walk: London is a fantastic city, why not soak up the views and get some exercise? Many tube journeys are actually quicker by foot and it costs nothing.

2)   Buy local food: Eating food from local farmers markets will mean you will be supporting local farmers and you food will have a lower carbon footprint.

3)   Cut back on meat: Cows and lambs are two of the main sources of methane a particular harmful gas contributing to global warming. This is without mentioning the soya and water used to raise these animals and the nitrous oxide admitted during the farming process. I’m not saying you have to become vegetarian but perhaps eat better quality meat and have it as a treat.

4)   Don’t buy bottled water: The profit margin on a bottle of water is about 99%. You may think that it is safer than tap water but you would be wrong, tap water has to be regulated much more strictly than bottled water. And in some cases bottled water comes from our main tap water system and is bottled up and sold back to us. Anyone remember Desani?

5)   Start a car pool: If you must have a car why not share a car with your friends, you could save a fortune on running costs.

6)   Train not plane: Most places in Europe are easily accessible by train and you get to soak up the beautiful scenery and relax.

7)   Food Waste: Only make what you can eat, if you think you will have too much food one evening, invite a friend around for dinner.

I hope this blog has made you consider whether your environmental rights are being infringed upon. And whether there is a way you can hold your local politicians to account and mobilise your friends and neighbours to create your own resilient low carbon community.

Note:

* I have been recently reading a book called; ‘How Bad are Bananas’, which is about making smart choices in all areas of life to reduce your carbon footprint, I have found it useful and would recommend it.

Dangerous Times Call For Radical Green Solutions


Following last week’s Green Party conference, The Guardian released the first in a series of videos focusing on the politic party conferences. Our video was called; ‘The Greens are turning into a force on the radical left‘. If I were being a bit pedantic, I would argue the choice of this title, as I believe we are turning into a broader political force not just one confined to one side of the political spectrum.

This years Green conference saw the newly appointed Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, give a powerful maiden speech. In her speech she did something you certainly wouldn’t hear David Cameron or Ed Miliband doing; she asked Green Party members to hold her to account on her promises made for her first 100 days in office. She also spoke on how Labour hasn’t changed and the coalition has picked up from where Labour left off. And I was also personally delighted to see Natalie invite dialogue with the trade union movement.

For me the Greens and unions working hand in hand feels like a natural fit, as we share the same desire to create a fairer society and strong public sector. We both wish to see efficient and affordable public services run with the interests of the general public at heart. We both believe in a fairer society whereby those who caused the financial crisis bear the brunt not the poorest in society. We both wish to see proper wages paid to those who get up every day and work for the benefit of the people not multinational corporations. I am talking about nurses, teachers, bus drivers, care home workers. These are the people who make Britain tick and these are the people the governments misguided austerity drive is failing to support. The Greens and Unions have that common bond of wanting to create a fairer society and this is a relationship I hope we continue to strengthen.

In her speech Natalie importantly also touched on how our planet is under attack. I know I am not the only green who has despaired in recent weeks at the bizarre discussions in government surrounding environmental issues. Our government are obsessed with airport expansion, cutting renewable subsidies like they have done with wind farms and pursuing fracking despite the European Commission publishing a report saying ‘drilling for shale gas poses “high risks”, worse than those posed by other fossil fuels’. All of this at a time where we recorded the lowest Arctic ice levels ever and 80% of agricultural land in the US is facing drought. And those environmental shining beacons of responsibility, Shell, head off the Arctic to drill for oil with no credible plan on how to stop leaks.

I feel excited about the potential of The Green Party under the leadership of Bennett. She wasted no time in attacking the neoliberal shock doctrine politics which binds the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems together. Yes us Greens may be seen as radical by the mainstream media, however we live in the time of an environmental crisis and we need radical solutions to the challenges we face.  If we’re to tackle climate change and create a low carbon future filled with green jobs, low carbon travel and sustainable local food solutions, it will require a radical reshaping of our economy and the ending of our obsession with growth. Recognising we live on a planet with finite resources and ecological limits is the first step to doing this. The Greens and many leading economists have recognised our growth obsession isn’t a long term strategy. The question is when will the other parties wake up and do the same?