Britain is not particularly known for its revolutions. We have had riots (1381), civilised handovers of power (1688/9), and a civil war or two (1640s), but, in general, probably because of the rain, we donâ€™t behave like the French. Yet something is stirring, and that something is anger over rubbish collections.
In many ways rubbish collections epitomise the ideal of a modern, civilised society. Gone are the days when ordinary people would simply throw their rubbish into the street or the river. In todayâ€™s world, rich countries can afford to collect the rubbish of every household, while also providing facilities for the dumping of larger amounts of waste. A functioning sewage system completes the triumvirate. Apart from the obvious health benefits, it simply makes a country look nicer.
Six Greenpeace climate change activists have been cleared of causing criminal damage at a coal-fired power station in a verdict that is expected to embarrass the government and strengthen the anti-coal movement. The jury of nine men and three women at Maidstone crown court cleared the six, five of whom had scaled a 200m tall chimney at Kingsnorth power station at Hoo, Kent in October 2007.
The activists admitted trying to shut down the station by occupying the smokestack and painting the world “Gordon” down the chimney, but argued that they were legally justified because they were trying to prevent climate change causing greater damage to property around the world. It was the first case where preventing property damage caused by climate change has been used as part of a “lawful excuse” defence in court. It is now expected to be used widely by environment groups.
*Disclosure: I’m a monthly contributor to Greenpeace. I may increase my donations now)
“An extension of police powers to stop and search anyone near a protest camp in Kent is undermining civil liberties, two MPs and an MEP have said. South East MEP Caroline Lucas and MPs Norman Baker and Colin Challen have written to the Kent force with concerns about the policing of the protest. The Climate Camp is opposing plans for a coal-fired power station near Hoo.”
Meanwhile, reader Dave S has sent us this video of police and protestors at the camp:
Jonathon Porritt, environmental writer and campaigner complains of the silence on this issue and he’s right to. No one talks about it, and as soon as an obscure editorial in a niche publication like the BMJ pops up, the media hounds are onto it with their contrarian, supposedly anti-establishment drivel. But in good news, the media hounds in question were also from lesser known publications. Mercifully, something else had distracted the Daily Mail at the time.
John Guillebaud and Pip Hayes published the offending piece. The former is the emeritus professor of family planning and reproductive health at UCL and the latter a GP. The columnists and and voters in the BMJ poll thought that doctors shouldn’t be telling people how many babies to have. But no one said they should.
The authors of the editorial were as diplomatic and sensitive as one can be in the face of such a pressing and earth threatening issue. I think if we don’t talk about things now, we may very well see a future of forced family planning, Malthusian drills and Brave New World dystopias. The authors just wanted to discuss the possiblity of making contraception more avalible, as evidence showed that the more accessible it was, the higher the demand for it became. And also merely introduce the idea that doctors, as it is in their hands to advise on family planning, might simply want to alert people to the facts.
By telling wannabe mothers of the sevenfold increase in the world population since 1798, which is rising exponentially, and that, according to the Optimum Population Trust, each new UK birth will be responsible for 160 times more greenhouse gas emissions than a new birth in Ethiopia, it might get them to think again about popping them out.
Physics World has reported that physics in China is booming. Chinese scientists now publish more papers than the UK and Germany. In fact, at the current rate, by 2012 it will be churning out more physics articles than the entire number of science articles published by US researchers.
Werner Marx, an information scientist from the Max Planck Institute in Germany, said, “Usually scientific development in nations does not show such a strong acceleration as we have seen in China, so it will be interesting to see how it responds and develops in the future.”
Well, it won’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the impact of that strong acceleration will be. By the way, Angela is a friend and a new blogger, writing mostly about science. Go check out her blog.
Justin has started blogging for a new blog by Greenpace about nuclear power, called Nuclear Reaction. I contribute monthly to Greenpeace anyway, so happy to give it a plug. But his introductory post states this:
With nuclear, not a day goes by without a jaw-dropping news item. The industry news is chock full of â€˜NO WAY!â€™ moments. Much of it is darkly, surreally comedic. If you were to write a sitcom that involved some of the nuclear incidents Iâ€™ve blogged in the last few weeks, the show would bomb as too far-fetched.
Its good at least that high gas prices are forcing Americans to finally talk more loudly about diversifying away from oil. Of course, George Bush is trying his best to avoid that by calling for more drilling. In this Faux news discussion, author Naomi Klein (who’s book No Logo is one of my top books ever), does a good job of slamming his plans. Interesting though that these ideas are now becoming more mainstream.
Expect Brendan O’Neill to write an article in the coming days that anyone who wants to deny oil companies drilling for oil and destroying wildlife is an authoritarian bastard in the pay of “environNazis” who should be strung up alongside the Dalai Lama.
Brendan O’Neill is possibly the most vacuous robotic writer today. Though, Rod Liddle and Jon Gaunt come close. O’ Neill is the editor of Spiked-online, an online magazine that grew out of the ashes of Living Marxism – which died after being sued to bankruptcy by ITN for libel.
In their amusingly bad attempts to be contrarian for its own sake, they’ve now decided that ‘environmentalism’ is the greatest threat to humanity. Of course it is Brendan – are there bogeymen underneath your bed too? Oh, and look the BNP care for the environment so environmentalists must be nazis too. The guy isn’t beyond parody, he’s just an insult to everyone’s intelligence. Say loud and proud – I’m an environmentalist. That article is so bad he gives libertarians a bad name.
Having flown to Japan with a large numbers of hangers-on, The G8 leaders have decided to call for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, an agreement which is designed to replace the very (un)successful Kyoto treaty. This agreement comes shortly after Gordon Brown tucked into his six-course lunch and seven-course dinner while telling us to waste less food. Meanwhile, In Britain, MPs voted not to reform their expenses, agitated for a pay rise, while expressing concern over the financial state of the poorest in society (who are also amongst the most heavily taxed). To paraphrase Chris Dillow, our political class is increasingly beyond parody.
With the price of oil climbing ever higher, there is increasing anger at the level at which petrol is taxed in this country. Britain has the second most expensive fuel in Europe (Germany is top), and it is tax that accounts for the majority of the cost. Protestors want Gordon Brown to reduce the tax on fuel, while environmentalists urge him to resist in the hope that people will use less oil in the future, and/or switch to alternative fuels.
Despite believing that man is contributing to climate change, many people are justifiably suspicious that green taxes, which are theoretically designed to encourage people to adopt a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle, are just an excuse for the government to raise more money. A few people still think that man has nothing to do with climate change, but then they are just incestuous paedophilic kidnappers, according to the Bishop of Stafford.
Greenpeace are running a campaign to get the Indian company Tata from stop building a port in the Indian state of Orissa.
Orissa is one of the planet’s last places where highly-endangered Olive Ridley Turtles nest en masse. If the Tatas build a port here, the turtles could disappear, taking an entire ecosystem along with them.
You can go to their website and send a pre-prepared letter to Tata imploring their company to relocate. Do a good deed for the day!
LOLcat, if you don’t know, has become a popular internet phenomena where pictures of cats are given speech bubbles with funny messages in pidgin English. Sometimes, pictures of cats are super-imposed on random pictures too. See: Icanhascheezburger
I have a new suggestion. LOL-blair. In this game we find pictures of Tony Blair from his latest new and exciting plan to change the world, write funny captions, and then speculate on what he’s going on move on to next.
Here’s the latest in this saga. First he wanted to bring peace to the Middle East. We’re all aware what a great success that has been. Then he wanted to become president of the European Union, until Angela Merkel shot down that plan.
Now, it looks like he is going to sort out our global warming problem. This surely is evidence that we are all doomed and the environment is going to degrade faster than relations between Israel and Hamas.
Once again – best caption, preferably in pidgin English – wins a prize. This time I’ll actually mail you a book.
The Three Gorges Dam, then, lies at the uncomfortable center of Chinaâ€™s energy conundrum: The nationâ€™s roaring economy is addicted to dirty, coal-fired power plants that pollute the air and belch greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. Dams are much cleaner producers of electricity, but they have displaced millions of people in China and carved a stark environmental legacy on the landscape.
At the same time, Chinaâ€™s insatiable appetite for energy is mostly being met with a building spree of coal-fired power plants. Coal accounts for 67 percent of Chinaâ€™s energy supply. Just last year, China added 102 gigawatts of generating capacity, as much as the entire capacity of France.
To ease its addiction to coal, China wants 15 percent of the countryâ€™s energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2020, compared with 7.5 percent today. To do that, it is developing solar, wind and biomass projects so rapidly that some experts say it could soon become a world leader in renewable energy. Even so, forecasts show these sources will amount to less than 4 percent of the energy supply by 2020.
In a few decades people will probably look back and ask how China became such a huge industrial power. This is probably how. If the country becomes a leader in renewable energy then Europe and the US will be left even further behind.
A lorry driver recently bought a case to the High Court against Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, which resulted in the judge saying it contained some “errors”.
This is an extract from an interview with the lorry driver on BBC Radio 4′s World Tonight:
Stuart Dimmock (SD): Itâ€™s a political shockumentary, itâ€™s not a scientific documentary. BBC presenter Robin Lustig (RL): But youâ€™re not a scientist yourself, are you? SD: No. RL: Some people might wonder why you felt so strongly about this that you were prepared to take it all the way to the High Court, whether you have an agenda of some kind â€“ do you? SD: I have two young children. In my mind itâ€™s wrong that we push politics into the classroom. RL: Could I ask you one other question, Mr Dimmock? Itâ€™s not cheap taking a case to the High Court [The case cost Â£200,000]. SD: No, itâ€™s not. RL: Were you helped financially to do this? SD: The government have been ordered to pay my costs. [Unclear] Â£60,000 upfront payment. RL: But you didnâ€™t know that that was going to be the order until today, did you? SD: No, I didnâ€™t. RL: Who took the risk? SD: [Long, five-second pause]. Mmmm, Iâ€™ve had pledges of support. RL: May I ask you from whom? SD: You can ask from whom but Iâ€™m sorry I canâ€™t tell you because I havenâ€™t got the names of the people that have pledged their support. Itâ€™s through a website.
The whole item can be heard here.
So… who was funding and supporting him I wonder. Update: I’ve been emailed by Mr Eugenides pointing to this Observer article revealing who funded this lorry driver. Nothing to see here, move along!
Further update: Thanks to Douglas in the comments, Deltoid points out that the “errors” contained in the doc were not exactly errors, but disputes which were labelled as “errors” by the judge. Most journalists of course didn’t bother reading the whole ruling properly.
This is one jihad we can all support. A group of kids in Small Heath, Birmingham have declared a jihad against litter. The campaign, called Clean Medina, kicks off this weekend. Heh, brilliant. They have a blog here.
No really it is. Why, you ask? Oh that one’s easy. I went to the Icount march some months ago in London, a very large environmental protest which convened in Trafalgar Square. I remember I came right at the end and squeezed into the crowd that had gathered.
After the rudimentary speeches, I stood there in the middle of a bunch of hippies, listening to the latest in British Rock music being performed on the stage, whilst the crowd swayed and sang along. Did I feel out of place? Possibly, although I found it interesting to be witnessing my first mass live music performance as if I was at Glastonbury.
The New York Times has an interesting article about the hypocrisy of environmentalists over vegetarians. It points out:
The biggest animal rights groups do not always overlap in their missions, but now they have coalesced around a message that eating meat is worse for the environment than driving. They and smaller groups have started advertising campaigns that try to equate vegetarianism with curbing greenhouse gases.
Some backlash against this position is inevitable, the groups acknowledge, but they do have scientific ammunition. In late November, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report stating that the livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.
When that report came out, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other groups expected their environmental counterparts to immediately hop on the ‘Go Veggie!’ bandwagon, but that did not happen. â€œEnvironmentalists are still pointing their fingers at Hummers and S.U.V.â€™s when they should be pointing at the dinner plate,â€ said Matt A. Prescott, manager of vegan campaigns for PETA.
I think this applies more to the US than the UK since most environmentalists I know in the UK are also vegetarian, as they should be. But the hypocrisy of preaching vegetarians who don’t want to give up meat is well made. Being somewhat more biased towards animal-rights than the environment (I think) and being vegetarian, I know which side I’m on.
Tim Ireland (from Bloggerheads) and I met up today to head down to Climate Camp. We expected the place to be teeming with police and media but thankfully by the afternoon most had gotten bored and went off, leaving people at the camp to get on with things.
People were still arriving as we left late in the afternoon, after attending a workshop on student activism. Was surprised at how many of them did not say much about using the internet to organise themselves and make links with other people. And these are bloody students for god’s sakes.
[On the previous thread on Shambo, commenter mettaculture made a brilliant point that I thought should be highlighted. It's worth thinking about.]
The point is that we have a system of rules that deals with all communicable diseases in animals by quarantining or killing them. This is hardly scientific.
Treating (which prevents infectiousness in most cases) and vaccinating animals according to the basic principles of epidemiology (the science of measuring disease in populations and interveneing to prevent transmission) is almost never used in Britian and this is because animals are seen as a part of agriculture rather than public health.
So we mass cull badgers, cattle, sheep, foxes etc [because] that’s what the British do. Our plans for dealing with a rabies outbreak are mass slaughter of almost every wild living thing (foxes, bats, owls, eagles) that could possibly transmit Rabies.
Other countries vaccinate and treat index cases to prevent transmission, its more scientific and you get better compliance with farmers (who are likely to underreport anything if their whole herd is going to be slaughtered). Sometimes slaughter is necessary as is quarantine but we donâ€™t even examine alternatives.
The only reason we changed our ridiculous pet quarantine laws (allowing for vaccination) that traumatised animals and fed handsome profits to a government enforced business momopoly, was because Chris Patten wished to bring his pooches back from Hong Kong.
We have an irrational slaughter driven animal disease control policy enacted by blockheads and scientific ignoramouses and an inflexible inhuman and inhumane bureaucracy.
Don’t assume that Government policies are rational or effective or up to date scientifically just because they are there and an official says ‘rules is rules’.