Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Political Games

Some poorly played politics at the last Council meeting in 2008 with the 'surprise' LibDem motion looking to comment on the 'rationalisation' of the former Waters & Robson by Coca Cola.

My views on Coca Cola's take-over are spelled out in this blog and I would have liked to rehearse them in Council - but the way the LibDems brought forward the motion and refused pointblank to discuss it beforehand when asked leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

And - why single out Coca Cola? There are enough jobs under threat elsewhere - particularly with the new (LibDem-run) unitary council (probably 15-20 times the job losses with Coca Cola)

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Climate Change - is it natural or manmade?

My twopenn’orth on whether climate change is natural or manmade - drawing on climate models from geological history remembered from a Geology degree thirty years ago.... (OK – it won’t convince someone who believes the earth was created just a few thousand years ago – but you’ve got to start somewhere)

Earth seems to develop negative feedback systems to return its surface conditions to a steady state when disturbed – this is the (non-mystical) basis of the Gaia hypothesis.
Forget carbon dioxide levels varying over the past thousand, ten thousand or hundred thousand years (and try to ignore the suggestion that we are about 40,000 years overdue for an ice age on past indications), we are talking about processes taking tens if not hundreds of millions of years. I’m thinking of the Carboniferous Period (354-290 million years ago) and the Cretaceous Period (144-65 million years ago). From what we can glean from the geological record (it’s called ‘palaeo-climatology’) both were marked by small or non-existent ice caps, extensive shallow seas and higher average temperatures than now.
And both Periods are named for mechanisms which absorbed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and trapped it in the earth’s crust.
In the Carboniferous, 'trees' from mangrove swamps were buried over tens of millions of years forming coal (oil and gas were formed in a similar way - though not from trees).
In the Cretaceous, micro-organisms flourishing in the warm seas deposited chalk and limestone trapping the carbon as calcium carbonate – again over tens of millions of years. I’m interpreting this in each case as periods with high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and a negative biofeedback mechanism which trapped it in the crust and – eventually – reduced CO2 levels, the earth cooled and the sea levels dropped as ice caps grew again.

So – it’s a natural process?

Trouble is – what we’re doing, by burning fossil fuels, is releasing carbon dioxide that took tens if not hundreds of millions of years to deposit in a matter of a one or two centuries (and that’s not counting carbon dioxide released when we make cement or concrete from limestone). This is simply too fast for the earth to develop new feedback systems!
We're getting the 'greenhouse effect' – global warming, ice caps melting, sea levels rising – including dramatic weather during the (geologically brief) transition period.
And this may well be enough to put paid to what we call ‘civilisation’ – and maybe also to the human race.
But unless the process is so extreme that the earth loses a lot of its water into space (in which case Earth will become like Venus), I think we can rely on negative biofeedback mechanisms developing to remove the carbon dioxide naturally, though it make take a few hundred million years!

To summarise – even though we are releasing carbon dioxide in one-millionth of the time it took to deposit it, it’s likely that biofeedback mechanisms will develop to re-trap the carbon dioxide naturally – but over rather a long time. It is not really the earth that is at risk from climate change – it is humans and human civilisation.

Oh – and a thought about offsetting carbon emissions by planting trees. It took the mangrove swamps of the Carboniferous – hundreds of millions of years, thousands of millions of generations of trees growing over most of the planet – to trap enough carbon as coal to make a difference to CO2 levels. Planting trees will trap a little CO2 while the tree is actually growing, though not when it reaches maturity – but unless the ‘offsetters’ have plans to turn their trees into coal – its nothing like a longterm solution.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

And pop go the jobs...

I see Coca-Cola is now looking to ‘rationalise’ Waters & Robson with a probable 49 jobs being ’restructured’. This follows on from Sanjay Guha (Coca-Cola GB President) saying (14-Nov):
“No business of course can offer cast-iron guarantees about jobs, particularly when there is bound to be an overlap between departments and functions” … “Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) will be considering how best to integrate the Abbey Well business within the CCE portfolio, and this integration may include job losses.” … “Our hope would be that this could lead to job opportunities for as many of Abbey Well employees as possible.”

And in a follow-up letter (28-Nov):
“The integration could mean job opportunities for many ‘Abbey Well’ employees, however we cannot rule out some job losses.” …. “We believe we have a responsibility to the local [Morpeth] community and we want to continue to make a positive difference.”

So – I guess they’ll offer a number of staff a move elsewhere in the country (world?), and make them redundant if they don’t want to move.

Doesn’t do a lot for the local Morpeth economy, does it?

Friday, 12 December 2008

Local Trains - Sunday Service

Northern Rail is running local rail services on Sundays in the run-up to Christmas again. And this year, they are running trains from Alnmouth - and including Sun 28th Dec.
Train services run from Alnmouth through Acklington - Widdrington - Pegswood - Morpeth - Cramlington - Newcastle to Metro Centre and back.
I hope that people will be using these trains to come into Morpeth for Christmas (and sales) shopping as well as going into Newcastle and to the Metro Centre
Train times:
Alnmouth 11:05 Acklington 11:12 Widdrington 11:19 Morpeth 11:29 Cramlington 11:38 Newcastle 11:50 Metro Centre 12:05
Morpeth 13:12 Cramlington 13:20 Newcastle 13:31 Metro Centre 13:42
Newcastle 10:14 Cramlington 10:25 Morpeth 10:33 Pegswood 10:37 Widdrington 10:42
Acklington 10:49 Alnmouth 10:56
Metro Centre 12:14 Newcastle 12:22 Cramlington 12:35 Morpeth 12:42
Metro Centre 16:05 Newcastle 16:13 Cramlington 16:28 Morpeth 16:35 Pegswood 16:39 Widdrington 16:45 Acklington 16:51 Alnmouth 16:59

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Trespassers will be prosecuted?

English Partnerships (or are they 'Homes & Communities Agency' yet - anyway), the owners of the old St George's Hospital site is suffering another bout of possessiveness.
They have put up 'no trespassing' and 'private property' signs all around the St. George's site, across Cottingwood Common and throughout the Bluebell (Howburn) woods.
Their security guards have been told to forbid dog walkers from the area - though the guards themselves think this is crazy and are on good terms with most of the regular dog walkers.
The people of Morpeth have had access to Cottingwood Common and Bluebell Woods for at least the best part of a century - and we need to get rights of access sorted and confirmed before things go much further.