The Responsible Capitalism Agenda Needs to End Shell Hell

Climate Rush leave a message for Shell.

Today I published an article on the Huffington Post titled: The Responsible Capitalism Agenda Needs to End Shell Hell. The release of this article coincides with the start of ‘Occupy Oil’ which will see environmental activists across the UK standing up to oil companies , whose pursuit of profit at any cost jeopardises the livelihoods of the poorest people and the environment for future generations.

Already today, #occupyoil activists and Climate Rush have taken against Shell and I would urge you to spread news of these actions with your networks. And if you feel like joining in the activism through social media check out Climate Rush’s #Shellishell activity.

Activists taking action against Shell:

#ShellisHell oil graffiti – Shell must invest in renewables

#occupyoil pimlico shell garage morning closure


Cycle for London

Cycle For London (Toxic Fumes London)

If you are a Londoner it is more than likely at some point you have experienced the morning sardine run to work on the Tube, personally I am still scared by my 9 months of northern line hell whilst living in Chalk Farm.

This year I have started cycling to work and it is great, not only do I get to take some excerise keeping the doctor happy but  I am able to get around faster and carbon free, so lots of green karma points for me.

Most people I speak to like the idea of cycling but they feel intimidated by London’s frankly crazy traffic and lack of designated cycling lanes. Despite high profile media stunts around cycling TFL continue to allow our roads to be dominated by polluting vehicles, putting toxic fumes before cycling lanes.

Well we have a plan to tell TFL that our roads can’t take no more, next Thursday 22nd at 8 am, join me Climate Rush and other London cycling campaigns for an early-morning bike ride followed by a TFL roadblock.

Meet at 8am on the North side of Blackfriars Bridge before we make our way to TfL HQ..

Find out more by visiting the Climate Rush website

Tesco’s Green Package

On the few occasions that I wander into a Tesco store I feel agitated. There are a whole myriad of reasons for this; amongst them are the following:

1)      Self loathing because I am actually shopping there (rather than supporting small local businesses)

2)      The way they treat in store employees

3)      Poor quality vegetables from halfway across the world

4)      Greenwash (Tesco are main propagators of this)

5)      BUT most of all food PACKAGING!

Almost every item of food is caked in packaging in an attempt to try and entice us into purchasing the slightly more expensive product. You are encouraged to purchase bananas and courgettes in plastic bags and it seems that more packaging the more expensive the product. The main question this poses for me is why? I suppose the underpinning reason is profit.

Packaging itself has become a big business, with the global yearly food packaging industry  estimated to be worth around 100 billion dollars a year and growing at a rate of 10% a year.

Another reason for the amount of packing could be because as consumers we have become accustomed to excess packaging. Lack of packaging has become associated with cheap value brands in supermarkets. It appears we have become far removed from the food manufacturing process. If food is hidden in multiple levels of packaging it allows the consumer to detach themselves from buying inhumanely killed and processed food. Instead consumers go through the process of buying a package. Deep down we all know that to produce food on the grand scale that Tesco does and at the prices they can offer is going to mean some pretty unethical production.

Recently “Hugh’s Big Fish Fight” exposed Tesco’s reliance on unethically caught Tuna with the pressure leading to a switch to 100% pole and line caught fish for its own brand Tuna. This a prime example of unsustainable un-green practice Tesco specialise in.

However the even more disturbing fact is that Tesco promote themselves openly as an ethical and green organisation.  Recently they sponsored Climate Week alongside other organisations with a somewhat dubious green record, including RBS funding Tar Sands extraction  and EDF working towards a nuclear Britain.

Climate Rush again did an amazing job of highlighting Tesco’s un-green credentials with their TESCO2 stunt.

The inspirational founder of Climate Rush, Tamsin Omond summed it up perfectly after their Tesco greenwash expose saying “for all their talk about ‘Doing The Right Thing’, few companies are more committed to the status quo than Tesco. Rather than set itself ambitious short-term targets, matched with holistic, honest reporting, Tesco spends its energy on token gestures like sponsoring Climate Week and Green Clubcard points. Fighting climate change isn’t the responsibility of the PR department; it’s time Tesco committed to delivering real, long-term value for its shareholders and the communities on which it depends. You can’t make money on a dead planet.”

Tesco have an amazing opportunity if they wanted to be serious about being green as oppose to playing green. Packaging would be a great place to start, not just by reducing the amount of packaging on food items but using the packaging that does have to exist as a platform to warn people about the dangers of climate change.

I accept some packaging does have to exist on certain products (e.g. yoghurt, eggs etc). But in instances where it does exist three simple facts about tackling climate change on all packaging could make a massive difference in changing mainstream attitudes towards lowering carbon emissions.

3 carbon emission reduction tips:

1)      Only use as the exact amount of water you need when making tea

2)      Take shorter showers

3)      Walk or cycle when taking short journeys

These small actions are the starting points for many people in starting to live in a greener and more sustainable way. It wouldn’t cost Tesco much in the way of money to actually start raising awareness about a cause they claim to support. Of course the likely scenario is that they will continue to sponsor ‘climate awareness projects’ whilst continuing their whole array of unethical practices. They would do well to remember you can’t buy green, you need to be green.

Shocking Blue Doctrine

Recently I have been reading Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine and the more I read the clearer it becomes to me that we are experiencing a period of shock therapy with Cameron and Osborne administering the treatment.  The Shock doctrine we are being exposed to was developed by Milton Friedman a radical Chicago school economist responsible for devising a fundamentalist version of capitalism reliant on shocks, whether natural disasters, acts of terrorism or financial collapses in order to implement radical economic policy. Friedman’s teaching advocated pushing through radical reforms whilst the population is in a state of shock and unable protest.

Sadly Friedman has accumulated a batch of disciples since the late 70’s including Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Regan and George W Bush and as son’s of Thatcher it would appear the Cameroon’s.

According to Klein, Friedmanite’s stockpile free-market ideas and once a crisis strikes look to implement irreversible change on a crisis-racked society. Friedman estimated that a  “a new administration has some six to nine months in which to achieve major changes; if it does not act decisively during that period, it will not have another such opportunity.” Unfortunately these radical shocks are intended to transfer assets and wealth from the state into the hands of private organisations and individuals. Disciples of Friedman believe that business should be free to do as it wants and taxation should be low; and social state spending stopped. They passionately believe that free markets produce a perfect economy and perfect relationships.

Reflecting back on the first year of the Tory led coalition government it is clear we are currently in the process of being shocked as the government look to roll back the state and implement radical free market policies.

Writing in October George Monbiot warned us how ‘disaster capitalism’ is being used to reshape the British economy in the interest of businesses whilst trashing the public sector. Six months down the line and the government are furiously trying to shrink the state transfer wealth from the state to businesses.

Shock Therapy

I have plucked a couple of the recent coalition policies that have the fingerprints of Friedman all over them.

1)     Forests – The proposed forest sale was intended transfer the ownership of the forests from the public into the hands of private business. This would have led to more Centre Park style organisations putting the potential of profit ahead of the interests of those who enjoy free open spaces. Luckily due to some fine campaigning by organisations such as 38 degrees and Climate Rush this disaster was avoided.

2)     Expansion of academies programme– As a product of one of the 17 pilot academies rolled out under the Blair government In the 90’s, I know of both the benefits and negative sides of an “academy” education. But one thing they definitely do is shape young people for a career in business. Creativity and non conformity were not actively encouraged, obedience, conformity and success were the mantra of the school and the free market with little regulation was clearly expressed as a great thing to young students.

3)     Student fees– It is startlingly clear as more and more universities reveal they plan to charge the full tuition fee that is isn’t a policy which will benefit the majority of the country. This is a clear shock policy pushed through in the wake of the financial crisis aimed benefiting the richest in society and standing firmly against social mobility.

4)     Review of employment legislation–  George Osborne is aiming to carry out a wholesale review of employment legislation. In typical Friedman style this review benefits business owners and not the rights of employees.  Key points of the review include cutting redundancy notice period from 90 days to 30 days and tackle TUPE regulations, which safeguard employees’ pay and conditions.

5)     NHS reform – “Sticking with the status quo and hoping we can get by with a bit more money is simply not an option”. Excerpt from David Cameron’s speech on the NHS on 16th May. Friedmanite’s push through radical reforms to avoid the status quo. In this case the “status quo” is our national health service which has put the needs of the patients first since it was founded in 1945. What Cameron and Lansley’s proposals advocate is open competition between private sector companies and charities and social enterprise to deliver services currently delivered by the NHS. By outsourcing routine treatments to third party organisations we will see large private sector contractors like Serco delivering treatments like hip replacements. Their main concerns will be on price, turnaround and efficiency instead of patient wellbeing and quality of service.

On the left we need to work together to put forward strong arguments against these radical policies which are serving the interests of private business and wealthy individuals.  The biggest challenge we face is combating the elements of the media which support “disaster capitalism”. This is why it is important we blog, speak, tweet, march and confront these policies head on. If we fail to do in the coming months and years I predict we will continue to witness a dramatic shift in assets from the state into the hands of private business.

In Klein’s book she quotes a great extract from George Orwell’s classic 1984 “We shall squeeze you empty, then we shall fill you with ourselves”. Currently we are being shocked by the government into accepting their market obsessed ideologies, we must resist this shock treatment.

All aboard the double dipper

“I have spent my whole political life fighting to open up politics. So let me make one thing very clear: This government is going to be unlike any other. This government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state. This government is going to break up concentrations of power and hand power back to people, because that is how we build a society that is fair. This government is going to persuade you to put your faith in politics once again”.

Taken from Nick Clegg’s speech on the 19th of May where he set out the Government’s plans for political reform.

Well Nick you were certainly right about one thing this government is unlike any other. Eight months in to this coalition and the “transparent” politics we were promised seems like a sick joke part of an elaborate game devised by the government to see how much the public can take before we crack.

My vivid imagination can visualise odds being offered up in the cabinet meeting and an ensuing scuffle by cabinet ministers to place their bets. In my vision Dave’s Head Boy Gideon Osborne fights his way to the front and enthusiastically places the first bet; “I will take 2/1 on May, double dip time, double dip time” Turning to Dave “I am so excited can we tell them please can we”. To which Cameron responds “No don’t be silly my old friend, I know it is exciting but promised to tell the public the opposite of what we are doing and we must stick to our guns, It is in the national interest”.

Let’s look at some of the facts.

The Pledge

“I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”. Nick Clegg signing his now infamous NUS tuition fees pledge.

I don’t really need to go over this one in detail, short and simple a betrayal. A whole generation of young people will be priced out of education. Quickly to tackle the old argument I hear from ministers of “If you graduate earning £21000 you will pay back the loan at a slower rate”. Yeah true you will but you still will get charged interest, So you will pay roughly £50 to the Student Loans Company and roughly get charged £30 in interest. So appropriately £20 per month x 12 that adds up to £240 a year paid off, So making massive inroads to that £28000 student debt.

I just happened to be in the area

Helen Lewis- Hasteley wrote a great article in this week’s New Statesman titled Read all about them? Fat Chance. The article includes a great true story about how David Cameron just happened to be in his constituency and popped into a dinner hosted by News International Chief Rebekah Brooks, oh and James Murdoch just happened to be sharing a table with Dave. Well so much for not the government not being cosy with News Corp.

Can we forget about that 6 billion bill please Mr Osborne

Last year the government let Vodafone off of tax bill of 6 billion, So much for building a fairer society with a estimated 7 billion pounds worth of cuts lined up for Civil Society in April. Sadly Vodafone isn’t where it ends. Government advisor and Acadia group owner Sir Phillip Green dodged £1.2 billion in tax my transferring majority share holding to his wife who lives in Tina who resides in Monaco.

Memories start here

When the conservative government rebranded their logo in 2006 to include a picture of a tree it was a glimpse into the future whereby they would steal trees across the UK.  Caroline Spellman, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has recently been plotting to sell off our forests. Belatedly a public consultation has been hastily announced. So if you enjoy free access to forests in the UK write to Caroline Spellman and tell her we don’t want our forests to become Center Parcs

Emmm we forgot to add that bit

David Cameron has announced his plans to restructure the NHS, Silly Dave he must have forgotten to put a big thing like that in his manifesto or was it a small paragraph on page 46. Well so much for ring-fencing the NHS, this idea to give 80 billion budget to GP’s scares me they should be focusing on treating patients.

So when Cleggy promised change he was certainly right. We have moved seamlessly back into the 1980’s with a series of radical changes that are threatening the very fabric of our society. The student protest movement and groups such as UK Uncut and Climate Rush are showing the government that if they are incapable of transparency they will let the public know what is really happening and long may it continue. People are angry and there is going to be nowhere for this government to hide.