Thursday, 19 March 2009

The oxygen of publicity

I've received a number of queries about the BNP stall that appeared briefly outside the Town Hall yesterday.
They had not sought permission from anyone to be there - and the County Council, who are responsible for pavements (being the highways authority) are on record as saying they wouldn't give anyone permission to run a stall of that size on the pavement there. However the general opinion amongst the Borough Council Exec was that to take any action to 'move them on' would just have given them more publicity - the notorious 'oxygen of publicity' which the Thatcher government tried to deny the IRA.
Congratulations to the group of KEVI students who argued with them though - rapidly showing up the BNP in their true character.
We did send a Community Safety Officer along to keep an eye on things, and of course, the CCTV on the Town Hall entrance will have a full record. And - and not many people are aware of this - the Borough Council are required to submit regular 'tension monitoring' reports on political, racial and religious activity that could create 'community tension' - so this will be reported routinely to the Home Office.
Personally - I think the BNP would not make any headway if the mainstream political parties and media were doing their job and addressing the concerns of the public. Offering simple, single solutions to complex problems is a hallmark of fascism - but in a 'soundbite' world - the media tend to lead us to expect them.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Age of Stupid - take action now

I went to the premiere of ‘Age of Stupid’ at the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle last night. It’s a film looking back from 2055 to now and asking why we did not do anything about climate change while we still could.

The key message for me was the timescale we have to work with. It isn’t enough just to set a target of 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050 and work slowly towards that. Apparently, unless carbon emissions peak by 2015 and then are reduced rapidly – the global temperature increase will be enough to release greenhouse gases trapped in permafrost and the ocean depths, and climate change will be unstoppable.

2015 – that means action, not just commitments, need to be taken by the Government elected at the next General Election, by the European Parliament elected this June and by the current US President. It is the biggest threat we have to face and every political and policy decision taken from now on, must move us towards a local carbon economy.

The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, a multi-NGO the protest group backing ‘Age of Stupid’, are pinning their hopes on the UN Climate Change Conference to be held Copenhagen in December. And they are looking for people to lobby government.
I’m happy to support them – but I know the only real way to get politicians to take action is through the ballot box. If they feel their vote is threatened, they’ll listen. So my message is – vote Green in the upcoming European elections, in Mayoral elections, in local elections – at every opportunity. You might not get a Green elected (every time, though it sometimes happens) – but whoever does get elected should get the message.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Morpeth Goes Bananas

A hundred and sixty-three Morpethians ‘went bananas’ on Friday and Saturday. They all took part in the world record attempt on the greatest number of people to eat a Fairtrade banana within a 24 hour period.

The attempt was part of Fairtrade Fortnight 2009, and was organised by the Fairtrade Foundation to raise awareness of the plight of banana growers in the developing world. Over 370,000 people took part nationally.

57 people signed up in Price’s greengrocers on Newgate Street who were giving away free Fairtrade bananas all week to support the attempt. A further 65 people signed up at the Fairtrade coffee morning last weekend, and 24 at the Farmers’ Market this weekend. And 17 took part virtually, signing up through a Facebook event.

When so many people take part in an event like this, it confirms that Morpeth’s status as a Fairtrade Town is not just a tick-box exercise, but that people here are really committed to Fairtrade.

Thanks to everyone who took part, especially to Price’s greengrocers who have been loyal supporters of the Forum for over five years.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Nuclear Power a Red Herring?

So far most of the nuclear power discussion has been about grid electricity.

Even if the UK replaced all its nukes it would only offset a small proportion of current CO2 emissions (something like 5%) because other major energy consuming sectors use other sources of power than the grid eg gas home heating, industrial use of gas, coal and oil, aviation fuel for aircraft, petrol and diesel for cars and lorries.

The proponents of nuclear will actually achieve little or nothing in terms of emissions reductions (if they get their way) if overall energy consumption continues to rise - nukes will just provide the power taken up by the increased consumption.

What we really need is across the board demand reduction through a massive programme of efficiency improvements, new technologies and a switch to low carbon grid generation if we are to cut UK emissions substantially.

Nuclear is a red herring in this debate - and retains the serious drawbacks of risk, waste and its own form of non-renewable fuel – uranium. ‘Peak uranium’ looms in about a hundred years time at present consumption rates.