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…

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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.

Where is our clean energy future?

Last week it was announced that Tory led government are reducing onshore wind farm subsidies by 10%. Ed Davey the Energy Secretary reportedly lobbied hard to against the treasury who were pressing for a 25% reduction in subsidies. In the Guardian it was reported that if Mitt Romney is elected to the White House he will completely scrap all subsidies for the wind industry.

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All of this hostility against renewable energy is plainly bizarre and highlights the cosy relationship between the fossil fuel industry and leading politicians.

The real question has to be; what is driving this hostility towards renewable energy sources. In the UK it wasn’t so long ago that the Conservative party were changing their logo to a tree and telling voters; “vote blue, go green”. The Treasury continues to talk of up the green economy but actions like cutting wind subsidies contradict this rhetoric. The FT reported that George Osborne in a letter to Ed Davey revealed that the government would use “renewables trading” to hit its 2020 target for carbon emissions cuts rather than generating all the green power domestically.

It was recently revealed that Osborne’s father in law ‘Lord Howell’ a former Energy Secretary under Thatcher is the president of the British Institute of Energy Economics (BIEE), which is sponsored by Shell and BP. In an article by the Independent it was also revealed that Osborne hasn’t met with a single representative from the renewable energy industry, whilst he has found time to meet with 8 representatives from the oil and gas industry. Behind Osborne’s clear scorn for environmental concerns is the Tory obsession with the un-conventential gas extraction of Shale Gas better known as ‘fracking’.

Fracking has been widely explored in parts of America leading to wide spread environmental damage and latterly partly due to Josh Fox’s film Gasland wide spread protest. Fracking has been proven to contaminate rivers and drinking water so that people can set tap water on fire. It has also been found to  cause earthquakes and will scupper any attempts to meet our carbon emission reduction targets. And the extraction of shale gas is only the start of this dangerous dash for gas, almost more worrying is the plans to burn coal bed methane.

As a member of the Green Party, I’m proud we are opposed to fracking. Back in April Caroline Lucas perfectly summed up the danger posed by fracking. Caroline said; “If carbon capture and storage technology is not in place, burning just 20% of the gas which Cuadrilla claims to have found in its licence area in Lancashire would generate 15% of UK’s total CO2 budget to 2050”.

In the summer issue of the New Statesman, Michael Brooks has written an article called: We need to talk about fracking. One of the points he makes he raises is; Do we want to be part of a generation that doesn’t even bother trying to meet carbon reduction targets? Cuadrilla the main company carrying out fracking are expecting government permission to start extraction any day now.

Personally I’m scared by the short sighted approach to our energy future the government are adopting and fracking is a dangerous carbon intensive form of energy production. So what can you do to stop fracking happening in an area near you?

I recommend getting in touch with activist group Frack Off who have been organising opposition to fracking in communities across the UK and have a comprehensive website full of facts about fracking and plans for extraction. They are really great group of people and happy to come and speak to local groups about the dangers of extreme energy extraction.

With Osborne and the government firmly in bed with the oil and gas industry; we are going to have to unite in communities across the country to oppose fossil fuel energy extraction. Creating the low carbon future we desire will be difficult and will require, local campaigns, direct action and brave politicians prepared to stand up to the fossil fuel industry. Because one thing is for sure currently this government isn’t showing any signs of doing that.

Notes:

1) Watch a free online version of Gasland

2) Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono protest song ‘Don’t Frack my Mother’