Category Archives: International

Nuclear Legacy – When will they ever learn?

ButterflyI have just read a report that the Fukushima leak is much worse than we were led to believe.  The Japan News / October 3, 2013 reported that the former Prime Minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizume, said that Japan should abandon nuclear power.    In his speech in Nagoya he said “I’m calling for zero nuclear power … The 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which triggered a nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant, should be taken as an opportunity to build a resource-recycling society without nuclear power”

Since the reactor cores melted down in 2011, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has been struggling to deal with the consequences.   In August this year, the Japanese nuclear energy watchdog raised the incident level from one to three on the international scale after Tepco admitted that around 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank on the site.

According to the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23779561) Dr Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has examined the waterButterflys around Fukushima and is quoted as saying:   “Once it gets into the ground water, like a river flowing to the sea, you can’t really stop a ground water flow”.  

It won’t happen here – You might think that what happened in Japan can’t happen in the UK.  But according to an article in the Guardian, as many as 12 of Britain’s 19 civil nuclear sites are at risk of flooding and coastal erosion because of climate change.  Nine of the sites have been assessed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as being vulnerable now, while others are in danger from rising sea levels and storms in the future.  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/mar/07/uk-nuclear-risk-flooding

The sites include all of the eight proposed for new nuclear power stations around the coast, as well as numerous radioactive waste stores, operating reactors and defunct nuclear facilities.  According to David Crichton, a flood specialist and honorary professor at the hazard research centre at University College London, sea level rise, especially in the south-east of England, will mean some of these sites will be under water within 100 years.

Radioactive waste, especially “high-level waste” is one of the biggest problems the nuclear industry faces.  No man-made container can survive the tens of thousands of years it will take for high-level waste to decay to safe levels.  No country has yet implemented a long-term solution to this problem, although Finland and the US have plans to build repositories deep underground in areas identified for their geological stability. This solution is one of those under consideration in the UK. 

ButterflyThe Government’s proposal to build more nuclear power stations is leaving a dangerous legacy for future generations.  It is inevitable that radioactive waste will leak into ground water at some point over the thousands of years that it will take the radioactivity to decay to safe levels.  And to top it all, the Government also wants to add fracking to its bag of risks!

Green Party policy is against building new nuclear power stations and in favour of investing in sustainable renewable energy.  Some people complain about wind farms and solar panels being a blot on the countryside.  Personally, I would much rather live with a wind or solar farm on my doorstep than an unseen risk of radioactive or polluted water under my house, or even worse, like the residents of Fukushima and Chernobyl, to have to leave my house and all my possessions behind in a radioactive wasteland.  If in 50 years time a better/cheaper way of creating sustainable energy is found then it would be easy to take down the wind pylons and take out the solar panels.  There would be no lasting damage to the countryside.   The same cannot be said for nuclear power plants or fracking sites. There would still be a lasting risk and an ongoing need to contain the unseen for thousands of years.

I was inspired to write the following poem when I read about the mutations in butterflies caused by exposure to radioactive material released into the environment from the Fukushima disaster.

Butterfly’s Wings

Blue butterfly’s mutated wings
Fukushima’s legacy sings
Sea levels rise on Britain’s shores
Posing threats to nuclear cores
Nature’s powers of erosion and flood
Hammer the nuclear ark’s hot crud
 
Sanctum’s sought for a deadly stash
Cathedral for a cryptic cache
Miles of aisles in underground tomb
An epoch-lasting toxic womb
To trap a nuclear god obscene
Behind bare hermetic chancel screen
 
One slight fault in this granite vault
Leeching life-blood is hard to halt
Slowly seeping, creeping unseen
Seeking subterranean streamButterfly
Filtering up through strata’s blue veins
Earth-changing ripple of a butterfly’s wings

© Jean Macdonald

Helen Caldicott, a long standing opponent of Nuclear power, has a very interesting site on this subject:   http://nuclearfreeplanet.org/categories/fukushima.html 

'Only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria'

Caroline-LucasSpeaking in the debate on Syria in the House of Commons last night, Caroline Lucas echoed the sentiment of the majority of members of the House in condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

‘I have no doubt that we are all united in complete condemnation of the deplorable chemical attacks on civilians in Damascus. The gut-wrenching images of those attacks are etched on all our minds as we sit here tonight.’

She went on to recognise the importance of opposition to another military intervention in this volatile region, recognising that the force of public opinion and the opposition in Parliament had stayed the Government’s hand and forced it to recall Parliament rather than fall in line behind the American determination to mount a military attack.

‘It beggared belief that, once again, we could have been about to embark on military engagement, without apparently having learned any of the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan…. As Hans Blix pointed out earlier this week:

“If the aim is to stop the breach of international law and to keep the lid on others with chemical weapons, military action without first waiting for the UN inspectors report is not the way to go about it.”

Caroline went on to express her concern that once again it seemed that Governments were prepared to flout international law in taking military action without the full support of the UN.

‘… both the US and our Government are indicating that they are prepared to act against Syria without a UN mandate. For all that the Government’s motion talks of making “every effort” to ensure a Security Council resolution, the bottom line appears to be that they are happy to proceed without one.’

She outlined work that has been undertaken by Madeline Albright and others to clarify the legal position on military intervention in sovereign States and said that the clear conclusion was that explicit UN approval was essential.

‘ The conclusion from all this is clearly, if inconveniently for the Government, that military action against a sovereign state, other than in self-defence, without the authority of the Security Council cannot be justified under the responsibility to protect.’

Acknowledging the views of other members of the House, she said :

‘…we have an opportunity now with the new regime in Iran and we should be responding to a more moderate leader there, yet by going ahead and giving a signal that military action is the direction in which we are heading, we absolutely undermine the authority of that new leader in Iran.’

Referring to the wider consequences of any attack, Caroline expressed concern that these clearly had not been thought out.  She pointed out that in being asked of the likelihood of Assad taking retaliatory action in the event of an attack, Nick Clegg had no answer.

 ‘It was put to him [on radio] that Assad could well retaliate against an attack, but when he was asked what we would do in the face of such an escalation, answer came there none.’

Expressing serious concern of the implications of yet again taking military action that flouts international law she warned:

‘As the law of the jungle takes hold, it will be increasingly difficult to condemn similar actions by others. I am increasingly convinced, therefore, that only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria and by extension hold its spread beyond the region. That is why I will not support the Government’s motion.  Only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria ‘ 

[for a full transcript of Caroline’s speech, see:http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debate/?id=2013-08-29a.1479.0 ]

‘Only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria’

Caroline-LucasSpeaking in the debate on Syria in the House of Commons last night, Caroline Lucas echoed the sentiment of the majority of members of the House in condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

‘I have no doubt that we are all united in complete condemnation of the deplorable chemical attacks on civilians in Damascus. The gut-wrenching images of those attacks are etched on all our minds as we sit here tonight.’

She went on to recognise the importance of opposition to another military intervention in this volatile region, recognising that the force of public opinion and the opposition in Parliament had stayed the Government’s hand and forced it to recall Parliament rather than fall in line behind the American determination to mount a military attack.

‘It beggared belief that, once again, we could have been about to embark on military engagement, without apparently having learned any of the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan…. As Hans Blix pointed out earlier this week:

“If the aim is to stop the breach of international law and to keep the lid on others with chemical weapons, military action without first waiting for the UN inspectors report is not the way to go about it.”

Caroline went on to express her concern that once again it seemed that Governments were prepared to flout international law in taking military action without the full support of the UN.

‘… both the US and our Government are indicating that they are prepared to act against Syria without a UN mandate. For all that the Government’s motion talks of making “every effort” to ensure a Security Council resolution, the bottom line appears to be that they are happy to proceed without one.’

She outlined work that has been undertaken by Madeline Albright and others to clarify the legal position on military intervention in sovereign States and said that the clear conclusion was that explicit UN approval was essential.

‘ The conclusion from all this is clearly, if inconveniently for the Government, that military action against a sovereign state, other than in self-defence, without the authority of the Security Council cannot be justified under the responsibility to protect.’

Acknowledging the views of other members of the House, she said :

‘…we have an opportunity now with the new regime in Iran and we should be responding to a more moderate leader there, yet by going ahead and giving a signal that military action is the direction in which we are heading, we absolutely undermine the authority of that new leader in Iran.’

Referring to the wider consequences of any attack, Caroline expressed concern that these clearly had not been thought out.  She pointed out that in being asked of the likelihood of Assad taking retaliatory action in the event of an attack, Nick Clegg had no answer.

 ‘It was put to him [on radio] that Assad could well retaliate against an attack, but when he was asked what we would do in the face of such an escalation, answer came there none.’

Expressing serious concern of the implications of yet again taking military action that flouts international law she warned:

‘As the law of the jungle takes hold, it will be increasingly difficult to condemn similar actions by others. I am increasingly convinced, therefore, that only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria and by extension hold its spread beyond the region. That is why I will not support the Government’s motion.  Only a political and diplomatic solution will solve the war raging in Syria ‘ 

[for a full transcript of Caroline’s speech, see:http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debate/?id=2013-08-29a.1479.0 ]

Brussels Biofuels Debate coming to a Head

Steven Roddy blogged on the RSPB website that “The next few months will be crucial as the European Union debates a change to EU biofuels law. We know how to fix this problem in a way that will stop the harm being done to nature and the climate, while still allowing innovative industries to bring new, genuinely beneficial, technologies to the market.”

The Green Party has been saying this all along.  Jean Lambert commented on the Climate and energy package back in 2009: Jean pointing 501234567“The adoption this week of the new climate and energy package has been hailed as ‘historic’ by some, but it remains to be seen how history will judge this week’s vote. … I sincerely believe that if it were not for the very strong presence of Green MEPs in the intense negotiation process the package may have completely derailed and the outcomes would have been much weaker.”

On 10 March 2013, Molly Scott Cato, the Green Party’s top candidate for the south-west in the 2014 European Elections stated  “The decision by MPs to continue to offer subsidies to crops that can be burned in power stations to create electricity is quite irrational and will cause more environmental harm than good.  … The fundamental problem arises because the government is allowing subsidies for industrial scale burning of biofuels, yet setting a low rate for the Feed in Tariff for new domestic and small-scale generators. This encourages the global market in biofuels rather than supporting local community renewables development.  Read more here:   http://southwest.greenparty.org.uk/news.html/2013/03/10/biofuel-subsidies-irrational-top-euro-green/

Why do Greens oppose biofuels?  In order to satisfy the world’s insatiable demand for fuel in the face of declining oil output and rising oil prices, huge areas of land are being turned over to growing fuel crops.  It is simply not possible to meet current demand for fuel oil with biofuels – there isn’t enough land.  Growing fuel crops in the absence of a determined push to reduce fuel use can only lead to biofuels being used as well as oil, leading to greater carbon emissions. 

Biofuels 800px-Greenpeace_biodiesel_demonstrationThe growing demand for biofuels is leading to massive clearances of land including tropical rain forest, as is currently happening in Indonesia, resulting in the choking smogs of Singapore.  These clearances will lead to the total destruction of rainforest unless strong action is taken.  With rising demand and high profits to be earned, we cannot hope for sufficient strong action to protect this vital ecosystem. 

Sugarcane mechanized harvest operationIn addition thousands of small farmers, the mainstay of local food production, are being forced off the land to make way for industrial scale biofuel plantations.  This will lead directly to the collapse of local food markets and therefore yet more hunger.  Diverting land from food to fuel is simply wrong and is leading to rising global food prices.  This leads to big profits for food companies and starvation for millions. 

A final objection to biofuels is that, on the back of the drive for more fuel crops rides a drive to use GM crops.  This is happening in Argentina, where the Government has been persuaded to embrace GM technology and in its drive to get into the biofuel market.  GM crops will become established in global agriculture, contaminating the whole human food chain with completely unknown consequences.  We also suspect that the biggest drive to develop biofuels is coming from the military, who fully understand the consequences of peak oil.

Every year the UK burns enough food crops in our cars to feed 15 million people. Following action from the IF campaign, for the first time ever, land grabs were put on the G8 agenda. Trial partnerships with a small number of developing countries were also agreed, which show progress towards preventing land grabs that leave poor people hungry. Development Minister Justine Greening also spoke for the first time about biofuels affecting food security.

459px-Rape-seed-field

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds say – “Using food for fuel when millions of people are starving is wrong. But it’s not just people who are suffering because of the global demand for biofuels, nature is too.  What you may not realise is that the UK’s landscape is also changing and our green and pleasant land is becoming covered in ever more yellow rape-seed oil.”

How you can help – A key parliamentary committee, the Environment Committee, will be voting on the biofuels issue on Wednesday 10th July.  The RSPB are asking people to email or write to their MEPs about these concerns.  Read more and take action on the RSPB Community website: http://clicks.dbgi.co.uk/DC/ctr.aspx?6C6164=31393033303233&736272=$$EfwYGGq81T08EEE&747970=6874&66=30

Fair is Worth Fighting ForGreen policy does recognise that biofuels can play a limited part in the supply of liquid fuels in a post oil world, but they must be from either certifiable sustainable crops grown close to the point of use, or be from non-recyclable waste. 

Image

SoundBite – Yes to Peace

SoundBites No to War

International Aid: Waste of Taxpayers’ Money or essential to Britain’s national interests?

Fair is Worth Fighting ForWhipped up by right wing media propaganda, public sentiment is turning against overseas aid.  In a recent public opinion survey 70% of respondents thought that aid was a waste of taxpayers’ money and should be spent at home. Inevitably in times of financial hardship people take the simplistic view that ‘charity begins at home.’

Aid has often been conceived in a paternalistic and economically colonialist fashion. Instead of serving the needs of the poor in poor countries, it continues to be used by donors as a means of furthering political, economic or military objectives, including the promotion of business interests.  The preponderance of donors, each with its own agenda, has also tended to reduce coordination and transparency, increasing the politicisation of aid, heightening the risk of corruption and placing a significant management burden on aid-recipient countries. Genuine participation of local people, let alone local control or oversight of aid expenditures, rarely occurs in practice, despite donor rhetoric. Similarly, while ‘sustainability’ has become a buzzword within the aid system, it is generally framed in terms of ‘sustainable economic growth’; defining poverty in terms of income alone and failing completely to prioritise equity and environmental quality, or to address ecological limits in the design and implementation of aid programmes.

East Midland Hunger Summit 2013

On the 7th June as a prelude to David Cameron’s Hunger Summit at Downing Street, an East Midland Hunger Summit 2013 has been arranged.  The venue will be Derby Cathedral 18-19 Iron Gate, Derby, DE1 3PG

The Summit will feature contributions from:

  • The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, former Secretary of State for International Development
  • The Rt Rev’d Dr Alastair Redfern, Bishop of Derby,
  • The Rt Hn Pauline Latham OBE MP,
  • Jahangir Malin OBE, the UK Director of Islamic Relief
  • Fiona Twycross, the “Hunger Tsar” to the London Mayor
  • The IF Campaign
  • Christian Aid
  • Fare Share UK

The event will also host the launch of “Fare Share Derby and Derbyshire” supporting the County’s many food banks with a new multi-million tonne supply chain. 

The programme begins at 3.00 pm for 3.30 pm.  5.30 pm Summit reception.  6.00 pm Evening lecture and discussion with the Re Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, hosted by Mrs Pauline Latham OBE MP.

Participants are welcome to come for some or all of the time.  The event is FREE but you are asked to visit www.hungersummit2013.evenbrite.co.uk to book and for further information.  You can also use twitter:  #HS2013

The Green Party’s aim is to secure, in the long term, greater economic independence of poor countries so that an aid system need only respond to emergencies.  You can find Green Party Policies on Aid at http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/ip

 

Saving our best soils for growing food

On my doorstep in Mickleover, Derby, developers have submitted an outline planning application for 300+ new homes on Hackwood Farm.  This area is not in Derby’s Preferred Growth Strategy and at least 70 local residents have submitted written objections to the plans.

View of Hackwood Farm

Hackwood Farm

Safeguard our Soils, Mr. Pickles!
Because of the deliberate weakening of local planning control by the Coalition Government, greenfield sites all over the country are now at risk from private development.  Many, possibly most, of these sites at risk are on good agricultural land. In response to this, Carole Shorney, who is Secretary of SE Essex Organic Gardeners launched a petition, “Safeguard our Soils, Mr. Pickles!” following advice from the CPRE and Soil Association, the full text of which is below.

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Safeguard_our_Soils_Mr_Pickles/?launch

The following is taken from information given by Carol.  She states that this petition is asking Mr Eric Pickles MP, the Secretary of State for Communities and LoSave our soilscal Government, to include a specific direction in the NPPF to plan positively for the future use of Best and Most Versatile agricultural land (BMV) for benefits beyond food production. Areas covered should include increased biodiversity and an increased level of resilience for agriculture in order to maximise UK production sustainably. As  things stand, this valuable, productive land has very little protection against development.

We must accept that Britain cannot go on relying on world markets for our food. Global demand is rising, prices are rising and with the effects of climate change becoming apparent, harvests are declining.  Britain therefore needs a stable, secure food supply, with short distance from field to plate.  Over the next 50 years, food and farming face the stark challenge of providing better nutrition for more people in spite of rapid environmental change, while cutting our diet’s impact on natural resources, ecosystems and the climate. This calls for changes in our eating habits, reductions in food waste and improvements in food production. We want to make sure organic and other agro ecological approaches are at the heart of efforts to achieve this.  We must therefore protect our best agricultural land.

It used to be the case in England that the grade of agricultural land was a prime consideration for planners and local authorities in allocating sites for development.  However, changes to planning policy in the late 1980’s downgraded the importance of agricultural land classifications in planning, in response to the more globalised market for food that had developed.  This level of attention to quality of land was no longer needed.  The DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) report http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=9905_SP1501finalreport.pdf demonstrates that before the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Local Planning Authorities didn’t have the tools they needed to protect our best agricultural land from development – and the NPPF has done nothing to improve planning policy to address this.

As Green Party supporters, we need to be aware of the threat to good agricultural land in Derbyshire, particularly close to main centers of population, and campaign to oppose major development. This is another example of how short term private gain is being put ahead of the long term interests of the rest of society and future generations. We need change before any more agricultural land is offered to/bought up by developers.

Jean Macdonald

Don’t forget to sign the petition
http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Safeguard_our_Soils_Mr_Pickles/?launch

Enough Food for Everyone

IF_logo_banner_2_420x210

Caroline Lucas reported in her News bulletin in January that a new campaign was launched in Parliament called Enough Food For Everyone: IF, which aims to use this year’s G8 to focus attention on tackling the fact that one in eight people around the world go to bed hungry every night.  Caroline said that she will be campaigning alongside groups like Oxfam, to ensure development and environmental issues are at the top of the agenda. The British Government is to host the next G8 Summit at a hotel and golf course complex at Enniskillen in Northern Ireland on 17th – 18th June 2013. 

The G8 is short for “Group of Eight – a group of rich, northern hemisphere, mostly white, countries.  Membership of the Group is by invitation, its workings highly secretive, its decisions affecting the whole world.

The eight members in order of their rotating hosting responsibilities are: France, United States, United Kingdom, Russia (as of 2006), Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada.  Among G8 leaders to attend this year will be British Prime Minister David Cameron, United States President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Since 1975, the heads of state or government of the major industrial democracies have been meeting to deal with the major economic and political issues facing their domestic societies and the international community as a whole.  In the past, the G8 Summit has dealt with big issues like international trade, and relations with developing countries, questions of East-West economic relations, energy, and terrorism. The Summit agenda has now broadened considerably to include social issues such as employment and the information highway, transnational issues such as the environment, crime and drugs, and a host of political-security issues ranging from human rights through regional security to arms control.

While some say that G8 helps build personal relations and allows for quick co-ordinated responses to a crisis, G8 can also be seen as an exclusive and powerful club which defends and promotes free-market capitalism and Western style democracy.  Many view it as an attempt at forced globalisation by the rich West and undemocratic because developing countries are excluded.  Free-market capitalism has not delivered on its claim that it is the best way to enable developing countries to be emancipated from their poverty.  Consequently non-governmental and civil society organisations and the Green Party are critical of the G8.  We use the media interest created around G8 meetings as an opportunity to advocate our concerns and to promote an alternative agenda. We are scandalised that the G8 makes decisions that affect many other nations and economies that are not represented such as the major ‘new’ economies like China and India.

The ENOUGH FOOD FOR EVERYONE IF campaign tackles 4 issues head on: aid, tax, land and transparency. The IF Campaign argues that IF we all act together, we can make the world leaders change the future by tackling the four big ‘IFs’, each of which relates to the major topics on the G8 agenda: 

AidIf we make the right investments to stop people dying from hunger and help the poorest people feed themselves.  The UK government has committed to spending 0.7% of its national income on aid. We must make sure they keep this promise.

Tax – If we stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries.  Too many unscrupulous businesses and individuals manage to avoid paying the taxes they owe in developing countries. They’re dodging millions of pounds every day.  Yet taxes are the most important, sustainable and predictable source of finance. The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) estimates that developing countries lose three times more to tax havens than they receive in aid each year.  That money could help millions of people to escape from hunger. We can help stop this tax dodging if our government steps up to close the international tax loopholes.

LandIf we stop poor farmers being forced off their land, and use crops to feed people, not fuel cars.  The poorest farmers are losing their land to giant corporations. These companies don’t care that the land is already being used by local people to grow food. Stopping them would help millions of people get enough to eat.

TransparencyIf we force governments and big corporations to be honest and open about their actions that stop people getting enough food.  Transparency and accountability are vital in the global food system. Decisions that can affect millions of people are made behind closed doors, without the participation of those affected. Corporates and governments must be more transparent about their affairs so that citizens can hold to account powerful players in the food system.

The IF Campaign recognizes that these are big IFs, but argues that if we press our leaders to make these happen, and IF they do, there really will be enough food for everyone.  

That’s why Caroline Lucas is joining with other organisations in a campaign to tell our leaders that if they take strong action to tackle the structural causes of hunger, there will be enough food to meet the needs of earth’s 870 million hungry people.

Because the venue for the G8 is in Northern Ireland, a Week of Action is scheduled to take place in London from 10-14 June.  You can join tens of thousands in Hyde Park, London on 8 June for one unmissable event to demand action on world hunger. More information on:   www.oxfam.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/our-campaigns/if

Donald and Jean Macdonald 

Nuclear Weapons in an Age of Austerity

Why is the government planning to force through devastating cuts which are hitting the poorest the hardest, destroying the welfare state and worsening the economic crises when it could save us over £100 billion by scrapping Trident?  The money could be better spent on housing, jobs, pensions, education and health.

bruce_kentRecently I listened to Bruce Kent at Derby Cathedral talking about Nuclear Weapons in an Age of Austerity.  Bruce Kent is a British political activist and a former Roman Catholic priest. He has been active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) for many years.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Kent – cite_note-1

For the month of April, Bruce, now in his 80’s, is hitting the road on behalf of CND, spreading the Scrap Trident message across England.  He is working with a range of different organizations, including the Green Party, to highlight the wasteful spending on Trident when so much investment is needed to eradicate poverty, boost people-friendly development and make our world a safer and more peaceful place to live.

aldermastonThe Green Party Leader, Natalie Bennett and Green MEP, Keith Taylor joined together in a round of speaking at the annual CND Easter protest at Aldermaston on 1st April.

The Scrap Trident campaign is trying to put across the connection between the £100 billion to be spent on Trident and the savage cuts that people are being exposed to.   It is important to campaign now to stop plans for the replacement of Trident being progressed. It will be too late to wait for the next General Election as whoever is in government will be under pressure not to back out for economic reasons.  If we go ahead and replace Trident it will mean Britain possessing nuclear weapons until nearly 2060 – 90 years after we agreed to disarm.   

Please help the campaign – to see a snappy video and add your name to a petition, follow the link http://www.cnduk.org/scraptrident

If you are one of the people who think we need nuclear weapons as an insurance policy consider how non-nuclear countries view this.  If Britain shows the world that we think our security depends on us having nuclear weapons far into the future, then other countries without them, such as North Korea, will want them too. So the dangers of accidents or crises increase.

It’s a deep hypocrisy to say “we can have them but you can’t” I quote from Bruce’s website: “Our obligation, as a country is to negotiate the elimination of all nuclear weapons. If we replace Trident, in any shape or form, other countries will take the message from us that we think nuclear weapons improve our security. It’s an open invitation to get their own. It’s hypocrisy to say we can have them but they can’t”.

Scrap Trident – Vote Green X

Jean Macdonald for the Derbyshire Green Party

European Union

Defence of Human rights

The demand for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union does not come from the majority of the British people. We have had our say and we said yes. Nevertheless, some argue, that since the last referendum was in 1975, people might have changed their mind, and there is a new generation of voters who must have their say. But the logic of this is that the matter of membership of the Union can never be settled, we must have a referendum on the EU every generation. Until, that is, the people give the answer that the Euro-sceptics want – the answer that will suit their vested interests, that will give them the freedom to do as they please in our country.

Since 1975, we have been subject to an endless propaganda campaign by the billionaire owned right wing press that has used distortions and half truths to paint Europe black on every occasion. Now they sense that their propaganda is beginning to turn the tide in their favour, that this time, we will give the answer that they want.

But what is this anti-European sentiment all about? Can it really be the backwash of the endless conflicts we have had with our near neighbours throughout our history? Surely not. The British love going to Europe, many go to live there, they love the Mediterranean life style, guzzle gallons of European wine, eat more pizzas than Yorkshire puddings. Growing numbers of us count ‘Europeans’ as our friends, romance flourishes across the leaky borders of the EU. So why the hostility?

Most European countries have a strong sense of civil society, most strongly seen in the Scandinavian countries, but not at all exclusive to them. There is a greater acceptance of the role of the state in peoples’ lives. Continental people are more community minded, there is greater material equality coupled with equality of opportunity. Local authorities provide and maintain high quality public spaces and facilities, and people use them, and in so doing interact with each other more, developing that sense of community. Of course, all this provision comes at a cost, on average, taxes tend to be higher. And there lies the crux of the argument.

The right wing of this country are heavily influenced by America and from there, they acquire a visceral hatred of taxation and of public ownership They are obsessed with private ownership and provision. They have no interest in democracy or of the general well being of majority of us. They want to accumulate vast personal wealth and use it to control the political process to ensure that government governs on their behalf. They see the European Union as an obstacle to achieving this dictatorship by wealth.

In the face of this threat and the reality that in the UK as in the USA, private wealth can and does buy political favours and electoral results, we need some political presence that can act on behalf of the general interest. Since Parliament has abandoned this role with MP’s meekly following the diktats of the Party managers, we increasingly must look to the European Union to secure our human, social and environmental rights.

The EU is far from perfect or democratic and the Green Party is calling for a serious reform of its institutions to increase democratic accountability, and to reduce bureaucratic waste. We do not want to see further centralisation of economic powers, rather we want to see a devolution the other way, not only from Europe but also from Westminster. We want to see self reliant regions, neither dictated to by the EU or by the national government. We are not wanting isolationism, we want to foster cooperation across national boundaries. We want to see all levels of government focusing on securing a sustainable future for us all, recognising and fostering good practice where ever it might be in order to enable us all to live full creative lives.

This is not the vision of the Euro-sceptics. They want to withdraw from the Human Rights Act, to scrap the Working Time Directives and the minimum wage, they want their businesses to have the right to hire and fire us at will and on their terms. They want to pay us lower and lower wages so that they can pocket bigger profits to build their economic and therefore political power. They want to scrap environmental legislation because they think they can insulate themselves from environmental degradation with their wealth. It matter not to them under what conditions we live, we are nothing more than economic units of production and consumption.

The European Union was born out of a vision of far seeing people. They were shocked by the waste and destruction of two European wars that spread out to engulf the world. They wanted a better future for their descendants, a future in which people could live without fear. The Constitution of the European Union, much hated by Euro-sceptics, commits the Union and its member states to the promotion of peace and the well-being of its people. Its core values include non-discrimination, equality between women and men, tolerance and justice, the eradication of poverty, the protection of human rights, in the particular the rights of the child, sustainable development and the development of international law that respects the principles of the United Nations. Further, any member state that violates these principles shall be suspended or expelled. It is little wonder that the Euro-sceptics want to withdraw the UK from the European Union. And if we allow them to have their way, will we, the ordinary people, be better off?

© Mike Shipley

Politics is People

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It is so easy to lose sight of people. We are bombarded with statistics, figures on the economy, on levels of debt, on unemployment. This year is he wettest, the hottest the most floods the most fires. The figures can be overwhelming and we can so easily lose sight of the people that make up the figures. The person who must go home and tell her family she had lost her job, the impact of the repossession letter on a families life. The people who are mopping up again after another flood, and those who can only stare in disbelief as their home is engulfed by a wild fire. All these peoples lives turned upside down by political decisions, decisions that hide behind endless statistics.Jean Macdonald’s poem reminds us that politics is about real people and about what we all do.

Politics is people
What you do is what you believe
How you live and react is politics
How you run your house
Do your shopping
Where you buy your tea
No one can opt out of politics
Without opting out of life

Politics is people
People say ‘Charity begins at home’
We cannot isolate ourselves in this way
Our present lifestyle  demands
Resources from other countries
Bananas coffee tea
Oil for our cars and aeroplanes
We need to trade fairly

Politics is people
People living in poverty will be drawn like a magnet
Towards countries where they see riches
Putting up barriers to keep them out
Will only work for a time
Like a cracking damn the barriers will fail
We must decrease the levels between rich and poor
Then barriers will be needed no more
Politics is people

People say ‘They are taking our jobs’
Doctors, nurses, taxi drivers
Many less appealing jobs
Why don’t our own people apply
Perhaps it’s the low wages
Why blame those who do the jobs
Blame those who cream off the profits at the top of the pile

Politics is people
Banks encouraged us to borrow money we could not pay back
The debt got bigger and bigger
Governments and businesses joined in the great debt party with gusto
Borrowing from the earth
The resources cannot be replaced
Sooner or later the credit will be called in
We will all suffer the consequences of our overspend

Politics is people
People have become lethargic.
It’s easier to blame someone else
Politics has become privatised
No longer the business of everyone
Left to the chosen few – the politicians, the government
We know that power corrupts
But it’s easy to criticise from the sidelines

Politics is people
People who take responsibility
People who ask questions
People who have an open mind
People who look out for others
People who work for justice
People who work for peace
Politics is for everyone

Copyright Jean Macdonald
24th September, 2006
Adapted November 2012

Waking the Giant

In his book ‘Waking the Giant’ Professor Bill McGuire says, ‘Human interference in the natural world has consequences that are usually surprising and often unpleasant.’  As we consider the future scenarios of climate change that he spells out in his book, we might think this something of an understatement.  The unpleasant surprise that he has in store for us is the link between climate change and geophysical responses – earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes.

After the Asian tsunami in 2004, some tried to label this tragedy as a climate change event, wanting to use the shock of the destruction to wake people up to the potentials dangers ahead. This was probably misplaced, and it enabled sceptics to dismiss such warnings as alarmists.  Since then, geologists have looked seriously at whether climate change can affect the earth’s crust, what they have discovered, as summarised in Professor McGuire’s book, does not make comfortable reading.

First, to remind ourselves of the context: heat trapped in the atmosphere by increasing levels of carbon dioxide causes changes in the behaviour of the atmosphere, which in turn will cause changes to the water cycle.  In other words, the climate will change.  As James Lovelock has shown, all events, biological, chemical and physical are interlinked, so it is reasonable to ask whether a change in the climate, can have an effect on the solid Earth.  While such a link seems at first glance unlikely, Professor Bill McGuire has shown convincingly that there is a link.  His conclusion is clear, in a warming world there is a greater risk of seismic and volcanic activity, even small changes in climate can trigger significant geological events.

Through studying the geological record we now know that CO² levels in the atmosphere are as high as they have been for 15 million years and they have risen within the last 200 years.  Global average temperature is now within 1°C of its highest for 1 million years.  2010 was the hottest year on record.  Climate scientists are generally accepting that the likely rise in the global average by 2100 will be 4-6°C.  In the high latitudes, this may be as much as 10-14°C.  With this temperature rise, the ice caps and many of the world’s glaciers can’t survive.  As a result there will be a significant transfer of water from the arctic and antarctic, where it mostly sits on land to the worlds ocean basins. This represents a transfer of weight from the ice-covered land to the oceanic crust.  This weight transfer is how climate can affect the solid crust and the semi-solid mantle below.

At the end of the last ice age, 52 million cubic kilometres of ice melted, transferring the weight of this water to the oceans.  This amount of ice exerted great pressure on the land and pushed it down into the earth’s mantle.  It also suppressed movement in fault lines and volcanic activity.  Free of this great pressure the land began to recoil, rising up and releasing the tension that had built up in geological faults causing earthquakes.  Some of these earthquakes triggered huge landslips into the sea, causing tsunamis.  This recoil effect will happen where ice is retreating leading to the heightened possibility of earthquakes and volcanoes.

Melt-water entering the oceans will put added pressure on the oceanic crust forcing it down.  Between rising land and sinking seabed there will be a zone of tension where fault-lines will be subject to increased pressure, one such fault running parallel the coast is the San Andreas.  Many of the world’s volcanoes are in coastal regions.  Sitting under them are pockets of magma.  Rising land and/or falling seabed squeeze these pockets up towards the surface, making it more likely that the volcanoes will blow.

One of the most rapidly warming areas of the earth is Alaska, and here the level of seismic activity is rising.  The Bagley ice field has lost 1 km of ice over the last 20 years, the land is recoiling, triggering earthquakes.  As the permafrost melts, landslips become more frequent and glacial lakes drain rapidly as the natural earth dams give way.  In 2005 50 million cubic metres of rock and ice broke off mount Steller in southern Alaska travelling 9km at speeds of up to 100 metres per second.  Fortunately, there were no communities along this path.  Others have not been and will not be so lucky.

If the retreat of ice in the Arctic continues, it will trigger increased seismic and volcanic activity across the whole region. In 2010 the eruption of just one volcano, Eyjafjallajökull caused major disruption to international flights with a knock-on effect on the economy.  As the ice retreats, more such events are likely.  With ice and permafrost melting, sediments around the coast could become unstable, vulnerable to earthquakes.  A major slippage of this sediment could trigger a massive tsunami, as happened at the end of the ice age, 8,500 years ago, sending a major tsunami crashing into the east coast of Scotland.

These changing conditions raise a further concern that the so-called gas hydrates that lie in deep cold water and under permafrost, could be disturbed and start to break down.  Gas hydrates form when some gases, mostly methane join with water to condense as a solid under cold high-pressure conditions. If the conditions that keep them stable begin to change, through warming for example, they will break down, releasing their methane to the atmosphere.  Methane remember, is about twenty times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  Submarine landslides, triggered by earthquakes and melting permafrost, could also disturb the hydrates, resulting is a sudden explosive release of methane. Such sudden releases have been implicated in rapid climate change events in geological history.

There are between 10 to 30 years to save the arctic from irreversible melting that will trigger increased seismic and volcanic activity, with unknown impacts.  In 2010, CO² emissions rose 6%, despite the global recession.  The global economy is now going bust for growth and there is no significant or coordinated action to limit carbon emissions.  As a result of big oil lobbying of the Durban Climate Change meeting in January 2012, no international action is planned until 2020.  Climate change will happen because we are doing nothing to stop it.  We can now add geological havoc to climate chaos.  As Professor McGuire said ‘Things are going to be bad, if we do nothing they will be worse.’  Take your choice.

[based on a talk by Professor Bill McGuire Professor of Geophysical & Climate Hazards, UCL, given at the Peak Climate Festival 5th May 2012.]

Waking the Giant – How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes, by Bill McGuire, Oxford University Press,                               ISBN13: 9780199592265

 

The Carbon Bubble

In 2010, the Climate Change conference in Cancun adopted an agreement that carbon emissions should be limited so that the rise in global mean temperature should not exceed 2°C.  In addition, it was recognised that this rise might need to be reduced to 1·5°C.  Although the sceptics didn’t notice, that conference accepted the science of Climate Change.  What it didn’t do was to understand the economic implications of restricting temperature rise.  It’s not simply calculating the cost, Nicholas Stern did that, it’s around 2% of global GDP and rising.  We now have to understand the grip carbon assets have on the global economy and find ways of loosening it.

If we are to limit temperature rise to 2°C, the Potsdam Institute has calculated that global carbon emissions in the period 2000 to 2050 will need to be limited to 884Gt CO². In the first eleven years of this century, thanks to the inaction of political, economic and business leaders, the world has emitted 321 GtCO², leaving a carbon budget of 565 GtCO² up to 2050.  At present, despite the global recession, emissions are rising and the 2°C carbon budget will have been ‘spent’ by 2027.  After then, we leave the 2° world and enter 3°+.  At the last Climate Change conference in Durban in January, there was a behind the scenes acceptance that we will have to adapt to 3°C of warming.  That is not a comfortable prospect and millions of people will suffer as a consequence.

The reason why global leaders find it so difficult to implement the policies that will limit temperature rise to less than 2°C is not due to scepticism but because the global economic structure is built on unsustainable practices and resources, notably carbon based fuels.  Limiting temperature rise to 2°C or less requires a switch to sustainable practice, and a switch away from fossil fuels.  We know this, so why isn’t this happening?

A report called Unburnable Carbon, by the Carbon Tracker Initiative showed that the top 200 oil, coal, and gas companies have reserves that will emit 745 GtCO², these reserves represent their market value, and the market naturally assumes that these fuels will be burned.  In addition, these companies continue to prospect aggressively, needing to replace reserves that underpin share price.  Around 50% of the valuation of a fossil fuel company lies in its declared reserves.  When Shell announced a 20% reduction in its reserves its market value fell by £3 billion in a week.  Naturally, these companies try to secure new finds as a buffer to maintain their value, profits and dividends.  In the oil and gas sector, this now means ‘unconventional’ sources like tar sands and shale gas.  To finance these explorations, investors continue to pour money in to the carbon sector, assuming that this investment will yield burnable reserves that will secure a return on their investments.

Exactly how much carbon, and therefore warming potential, private companies have on their books is difficult to estimate because of confidentiality.  Further, the private sector accounts for only about one third of global carbon stocks, add in state enterprises and total reserves would yield 2,795 gigatonnes. Steve Waygood of Aviva Investors has estimated that if all proven and probable oil and gas reserves are burned, CO² levels will rise beyond 700ppm, leading to 3.5°C to 5°C of warming.  Add in the proven coal stocks and the planet becomes uninhabitable.

The problem lies not with science but with economics, and all the human failings that are associated with it. The world economic system is built on carbon.  This is not simply our reliance on carbon fuels to drive economic activity; global assets are built on the value of fossil fuel companies.  Between 20% and 30% of the value of the London Stock Exchange is based on fossil fuel.  Fund managers invest heavily in fossil fuel companies, seeing them as a safe haven for investment with above average returns in the short term.  The funds invested in fossil fuel assets include pensions, life assurance schemes, and personal savings plans.  A majority of people in the western world have their future security tied to the fortunes of these carbon rich companies.  We are indeed all in this together.

If we are to restrict the rise in average global temperature to less than 2°C, the rate of burning of fossil fuel will have to be restricted.  Sequestration technology is not going to be ready in time.  To achieve this target, only 20% of known reserves can be burned over the next 40 years, and this might have to be reduced further if feedback loops begin to kick in.  That means that 80% of the assets of fossil fuel companies are un-burnable.  None of the unproven and unconventional reserves that are now being prospected for at great expanse can be burned.  There can be no return on the investment in 80% of reserves and in all new prospecting. This is the carbon bubble.  Depletion of fossil reserves isn’t the issue, it’s the fact that they can not be used.  The wealth of some of the worlds biggest and most powerful companies, and therefore of stock exchanges, is based on an unusable asset.  If these companies had to devalue their reserves by 80% the carbon bubble would burst – remember what happened to Shell with a mere 20% downgrade.

The heavy investment in carbon assets also explains the reluctance of governments to back renewable energy.  Renewables coupled with efficiency measures can replace fossil fuels, and without nuclear power.  With a range of technologies like wave power waiting in the wings, existing technologies can more than cope with efficient demand.  But if governments promoted these technologies, the value of carbon rich companies would decline.  It isn’t just scepticism that stops the deployment of renewables, or that stops agreements to limit temperature rise, it’s vested interests and their control over the political process.  We can suppose that those who profess scepticism, like many MP’s of the ruling Coalition, have heavy investments in carbon rich assets.

Denial of climate change is a smokescreen that hides the real denial that lies at the heart of global economics: the denial of long-term consequences.  Economics does not think in the long term, profit today is the mantra, tomorrow is somebody else’s problem.  Greens keep focusing on the scientific argument, refining their arguments with ever more facts, trying to convince the so-called sceptics with the sheer weight of the evidence.  Apart from the lunatic fringe, most of these sceptics may well accept the science, however, they are not interested in science and statistics, what they are interested in is how they maintain their position of wealth and privilege in a warming world.

There are ways to break out of this carbon strangle hold.  To do so we need:

  • political action to require long-term accounting.
  • investors to take the decision to begin the switch to low carbon assets.
  • everyone who can afford it, to accept lower returns in order to secure the only long-term investment that matters: the future health of our planet and all who live on her.

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King has responded to the concern expressed by Carbon Tracker and others and is considering whether over exposure to carbon assets represents a risk to market stability.  A small step and it remains to be seen whether investors will similarly take note.  However, a globalised economy needs international agreement to require climate change to be factored into market valuation.  The markets will not do this until it is too late.  A strong political lead is required.  We can help this process by being informed about the dangers of another asset bubble bursting, by being aware of our own exposure to this danger, and by demanding effective preventative action.  We can also work to help the Greens promote a new, low carbon and sustainable economy.

Mike Shipley

Business as Usual at Davos

In a statement released ahead of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos in January, the leaders of the world’s major financial institutions made a remarkable ‘admission of sorts’. They recognised that the policies of austerity that they have been forcing on governments across the world carry serious risks and on their own, are not likely to work. In stead, they are calling for governments to adopt policies that will boost jobs, tackle inequality, and green the global economy.

Note who made this call, Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund, Robert Zoellick of the World Bank and Pascal Lamy of the World Trade Organisation. They were joined by the heads of eight other multinational and regional organisations including the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation, and the UN World Food Programme.

The people who have forced governments to adopt austerity cuts with the claim that they were necessary to ‘solve the global economic crisis’ have woken up to the fact that such cuts, unequally applied across society as they are, risk damaging social cohesion, and as they say, lead to ‘negative economic and social consequences.’ They are now calling on governments to reappraise their aggressive deficit reduction programmes appealing to them to apply what they call ‘fiscal consolidation’ in a ‘socially responsible manner.’

Of course this is not an open admission of guilt or a full recognition that the austerity packages were misguided. To do that would risk destabilising those governments that have, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, adopted such policies. Rather than execute the necessary U-turn and encourage Governments to start investing in the green economy, they want to see public-private financial partnerships to generate the investment they see as necessary to secure economic growth. In other words, they want to see private companies given access to what remains of the public coffers. Their focus remains on public sector finances and they fail to acknowledge that it was corporate and private sector debt driven by the needs of the consumer economy that precipitated the crisis. They fail to see that the private investor needs a strong ‘steer’ from Governments’ own investment programmes. They think that pious calls to all to play fair by the rules of globalisation to secure ‘growth’ will avert the bigger crisis that most new recognise is yet to come.

It would appear from reports that the World Economic Forum was itself dominated by concerns for the Euro-zone and public finances, and who was throwing the best parties. Here the real business of Davos was conducted, deals made that would make the rich richer, and projects floated that would further deplete the world stock of natural capital, and that would continue to leave millions of people desperate for the basic means of survival.

The Davos jamboree is a sham, it will not find solutions because it is a product of the problem with its exclusivity and shameful conspicuous consumerism. It has nothing new to offer and its only idea is ‘growth’ demonstrating how still economists fail to grasp the fact that the Earth is round not flat. If Christine and her colleagues are serious about equality and greening the global economy, they are wasting their time and damaging their digestive systems at Davos.

But in truth, Davos isn’t about finding solutions, despite the pious ‘statement’. It’s about power. About ensuring that the economic power that underpins political power is held firmly in private hands. It is about ensuring that by the time policy comes to the floor of democratically elected parliaments, it is already decided – like the austerity packages. Better solutions are available, and if they were implemented the economy would respond – because the economy isn’t the problem, it is the means to deliver the agreed programme. At the present, the agreed programme is private wealth and the control of global power. Davos Man may be starting to recognise that climate change, mass unemployment, water, food and energy shortages are a threat to his world, but he is not prepared to do anything effective to counter them, he prefers to fiddle with the economy while the world heats up.

Once again, it is down to us, the affected majority, to take things forward, each of us taking small steps, a myriad of small steps globally creating an unstoppable forward momentum. Once again world leadership, this time in the guise of the World Economic Forum, has failed us.

[Mike Shipley, February 2012]

The Judgement of History.

As one year changes to another, we reflect on what has passed, the highs and lows, and on what might be to come, the hopes and fears. What will history make of 2011, what will it know about 2012, and what will be its judgement? Which events will the historians of the future pick out as important, which will they consign to the footnotes, which events deemed not worthy of comment? This last category will include nearly the entire output of the popular media, just about everything that has occupied the pubic mind in 2011 and again in 2012. The footnotes will pick up most of the rest. The wheeler-dealing over the global economy; the posturing politicians who thought that they were cementing their place in history; the antics of media personalities. All of this will be seen as transient when people of the mid twenty-first century try to understand the origins of the situation that they will find them selves in and try to understand why nothing effective was done to prevent it. What, they will wonder, were the people of our time doing?

The one event that will interest them from 2011 hardly made the press let alone the headlines: the Durban Conference of the Parties number 17. They will then turn straight to number 18 in Qatar, having read with incredulity about COP16 in Copenhagen. How could the world leaders so callously ignore the clear evidence of science and willingly accept a temperature rise of 3°C, in the full knowledge that this would surely trigger a further rise to 4°C with a strong possibility of a resetting of the global thermostat at 6°C above the long term Holocene average. The people of 2050 will be living with the reality that CO2 levels will not have been stabilised at 550ppm and they will know then that that level was far too high, as a majority of scientists in 2011 warned.

What will not be hitting the headlines in 2012 is the end of the first accounting period of the Kyoto protocol, which started in 2005. This period should have seen the developed nations cutting their emissions by 5% of 1990 levels. It should have seen emissions beginning to stabilise and a new accounting period launched in 2013 to see emissions brought to a level consistent with no more than a 2°C rise in average global temperatures.

What has in fact happened is that global emissions have grown by 49% since 1990. Last year, despite the global recession and 20 years of so called ‘climate negotiations’, they grew by 5.9%. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are now higher than they have been for 800,000 years and the climate is responding.

Even if all the pledges that have been made at the plethora of international conferences were kept, the journal ‘Nature Climate Change’ found that emissions would continue to rise at about 3% per year. These ‘pledges’ – including America’s ‘pledge of a 2-3% cut’ – are totally inadequate, and our leaders know it. Ahead of the Durban talks, the International Energy Agency, by no means a green organization, said this: ‘The world has only five years to seriously start replacing fossil fuels by low carbon energy and energy efficiency. Failure to make the required investment by 2017 would ‘lock in’ high future emissions to such an extent that the 2°C goal would become unattainable

Those politicians and lobbyists who set out to frustrate negotiations and block the required action, have closed the door on stabilisation at or below 2°C. They have also closed the door on the second accounting period from 2013, the corporate capitalists did not want it and they rule the planet. Even though they didn’t actually manage to kill off the Kyoto treaty in Durban, which is what they wanted, it is as good as dead and there will be no binding agreements until at least 2020. Nothing will happen by 2017, 2°C is unattainable. Our leaders have failed us, they have rolled over in front of the corporate capitalists and their lobbyists, preferring self interest instead of the welfare of humanity. They may be feeling pleased with them selves, living their lives of sumptuous luxury, but history will not be kind to them.

And our response, the response of the people whose lives will be most affected by the failure to curb carbon emissions? That is something that those who read history in 2050 will also be interested to understand.

Consider our own judgement of people who lived amid the gathering clouds of crisis, in 1930’s Europe for example. Why, we might wonder, did most people of the time do nothing? Why did they turn away as neighbours were dragged from their homes, why didn’t they ask about those who disappeared? How could they voice agreement with the lies and deceit of their governments, or merely sit silent, witnessing the manifest wrongs, but doing nothing. What, we might ask, would we do among the gathering clouds of crisis? What are we doing amid the lies and deceit of the climate denialists who control most of popular media? What are we doing when given the clear information that contemporary political policy is flawed and risks serious conflict in the future. What happens when we are given the choice at elections, the choice of business as usual or the choice of a clear programme that would head off the danger? What happened in 2010 in the UK, in 2011 in Spain, Italy and Greece? The electorate turned to the right and ignored the warnings, voted to hold on desperately to their own comforts and conveniences, choosing to ignore or deny the crisis that the next generation will have to face.

The ordinary people of Europe in the mid 1930’s possibly thought that they were acting in the best interests of their children, how could they have thought otherwise? But through their inaction and denial, they condemned their children to the bloodiest war ever fought over the face of the Earth. People today make similar claims, we must protect jobs, we must protect the economy, cutting emissions is just too costly, holds too many risks with jobs to be able to address at this time. So they condemn their children to face the frightening possibility of escalating temperatures, to the spread of uninhabitable regions, and to the unknown experience of ecological collapse.

This is one version of future history – it is the outcome of ‘business as usual’. But there is another version of history, a version that must be written by the actions of ordinary people. We must not sit passively by and let this global catastrophe unfold, we have to challenge the deceit of the denialists and take action to counter the ineptitude of our leaders. The sheer courage of ordinary people across the Middle East gives us an inspirational lead. Throughout history small groups have similarly acted with courage to confront the wrongs of entrenched and powerful interests. From Tolpuddle and Peterloo to Occupy Wall Street, those self-serving interests have been, and will be forced to concede ground to the demands of ordinary people. But they will give nothing willingly.

Time is running out, the storm clouds are gathering. Our false political leaders and their commercial puppet masters have made it abundantly clear over the last 20 years that they are not going to do anything other than continue to con us into believing that they are acting in our best interests. It is up to us now to fight the battle to prevent dangerous climate change, to close the ever widening gap between the super rich and those in poverty, and to bring about the necessary political and economic change.

Green minded and fair minded people know that there is a better way forward, together, but only together, we can, we must, take that path. Our actions can and must determine history.

[Mike Shipley January 2012]

 

Time to take the Tesco out of Food Policy

Green Party food policy supports the production of healthy and humanely produced food, giving priority to local production for local needs, integrated with habitat conservation.  Greens also call for a fair price for family farm businesses and greater support for the provision of allotments and local markets.  A Ministry of Food should oversee policy delivery.  To stimulate greater home production, Government must make agricultural land available for sustainable production.  Where possible, this land should be held in Trust for the community, preventing it falling into the hands of the big, intensive landowners.  Government can lead the way by identifying underutilised public land, including that held by the Ministry of Defence – food security is an integral part of National security.  It should also require that the Royal Estate follow its lead.

Local Authorities need powers to take over the management of under-utilised land, similar to the powers they have over vacant private housing, making this land available for allotments or smallholdings.  They have to be empowered to rebuild the local market infrastructure that the supermarkets have destroyed.  Schools and colleges should work to develop knowledge, interest, and skills in growing and preparing food, so encouraging young people to see agriculture as a worthy career.

When Peter Kendall, President of the National Farmers Union addressed his Union’s conference this February, he roundly criticised government’s failure to adopt a serious food policy.  He said their approach was ‘leave it to Tesco’ – to leave it to the markets and rely on food imports to make up the growing food deficit.  Greens support his warning that this is ill advised in a world where a combination of both rising population and prosperity and the increasing frequency of so-called ‘natural’ disasters, is putting pressure on food supply.  He might have added that the reliance of western style agriculture on oil was adding a further twist to the rising spiral of food prices.

Historically the UK government has run a cheap food policy the purpose of which has been to underpin the low wage strategy that the captains of industry have wanted to pursue in order to minimise their costs and maximise their profits and dividends.  In the days of Empire this involved importing cheap food notably wheat from North America and sugar from the Caribbean to provide adequate calories for the workforce.  Now, this policy of relying on imports and letting the supermarkets use their muscle to force down prices, is failing.

Governments the world over have learned that if the workers get hungry they get upset and may riot.  Inadequate food supply has been an underlying cause of the revolutions taking place across the Middle East.  The World Bank acknowledges this and says that global food prices are at a dangerous level.  In response, the G20 will meet to discuss the economic and political impact of food and commodity prices.  French President Sarkozy, currently chair of G20, has blamed commodity speculators, and indeed, it is shocking that human beings will manipulate food prices for personal gain, consigning hundreds of thousands to hunger and misery.  But the problem lies deeper than this naked greed.

The problem lies in the ‘commodification’ of the earth’s resources – turning everything into something for sale and then leaving supply to the market.  Markets will always sacrifice long-term benefit for short-term gain; their interest is in profit not people.  Governments have a duty to look after the long-term interests of the people, and they are failing to do this.  They are in the position to develop policies that will deliver an adequate and balanced diet to their citizens.  However, these policies will require a fundamental shift in methods of food production and distribution; it will require standing up to the powerful interests that are manipulating food and agriculture policy.  It will require curtailing the dependence of food supply on oil.

There is no real food policy in the UK.  The last Government began a tentative process to look at the issue spurred on by the rise in oil prices and the global food riots of 2008.  Professor Tim Lang, a leading thinker on food policy and then advisor to the Cabinet office, exposed some revealing thinking underpinning entrenched government attitude to food supply.  Defra was of the opinion that self-sufficiency was neither possible nor a desirable goal for a trading nation.  They also took the view that the UK could and should buy on open markets.  National food security was relevant for developing countries they conceded, but not for the rich countries of Western Europe.  The Labour Government did not complete its policy review and we can presume that under the present administration Defra has returned to this default position.  If it does recognise a problem, it will doubtless listen to industry lobbyists and see the solution in more intensification, mega-dairies, and GM technology.  More reliance on increasingly scarce oil in other words.

Since Defra questions self-sufficiency, it is fair to ask if it is possible. This question was asked in 1975 by Kenneth Mellanby, founder Director of Monk’s Wood Ecology Research station, which of course has now been closed.  His answer, given in a book ‘Can Britain Feed Itself’ was a clear ‘Yes!’  More recently, Simon Fairlie, editor of ‘The Land’ revisited Mellanby’s work in the light of today’s population and land-use.  This time he gave a qualified ‘yes’.  We could do it, but meat consumption would have to decline by about one half.

A stunning demonstration of what happens if you take oil out of food production is to be seen in the film “The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil” about Cuba after it lost Russian oil and still not able to afford other sources.  In its 2006 Living Planet Report, the WWF named Cuba as the only sustainable country in the world.  This was largely due to its system of organic food production, made necessary by its lack of oil.  Cubans enjoy a high standard of health with a life expectancy of 78, equivalent to any developed country.

Pioneers in the UK are showing the way.  Around the country, Transition Communities are looking seriously at local food security, developing the important concept of ‘food catchment area’.  With rising prices set to continue, their work is less academic and increasingly urgent, made even more so by the inability of Government to address the matter.  In Manchester, Unicorn Grocery specialises in ethically grown and wholesome fruit and veg.  The cooperative business has bought 21 acres of prime growing land at Glazebury, Warrington.  Its intention is to lease out plots to organic growers and provide the outlet market for the produce, bringing healthy, locally grown food to urban south Manchester.  It is initiatives like this that government needs to foster, not GM and mega-dairies.

[Mike Shipley February 2011]

Drought hits the Amazon – again.

In 2005, the Amazon basin experienced what at the time was called a ‘once in 100 year’ drought.  Changes in normal rainfall patterns were at the time attributed to unusually warm seas in the South Atlantic.  As a result of the drought, large areas of rainforest began to die back and as they did so, began to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  The Amazon basin, one of the worlds great carbon sinks, became a carbon emitter.  In all it was calculated that five billion tonnes of carbon dioxide were released.

In 2010, it all happened again.  Two ‘once in 100-year’ events within 5 years prove nothing, yet it is cause for concern.  The 2010 event was more intense than the 2005 drought with rivers dropping to record low levels disrupting the life and economy of Amazonia.  Preliminary calculations indicate that the resultant dieback will release even more carbon dioxide than the 2005 drought – an amount equivalent to the annual release by the USA.  Some tree deaths will be a long-term result of the 2005 drought that left many weakened and unable to tolerate further drying.  By the same argument, the final impact of the 2010 drought will not be felt for several years, the climate over the next decade will determine the fate of trees weakened but not killed last year.

A joint team from Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Research Institute and the University of Leeds, which has just produced a report on the drought, is carrying out research into the impact of these droughts.  Dr Simon Lewis, from the University of Leeds, who co-authored the report with Dr Paulo Brando of AERI, said, “Having two events of this magnitude in such close succession is extremely unusual, but is unfortunately consistent with those climate models that project a grim future for Amazonia.”

The Amazon rainforest is one of the world’s great carbon sinks covering an area approximately 25 times the size of the UK.  Scientists at Leeds have previously shown that in a normal year the forests absorb approximately 1.5 billion tonnes of CO2.  However, for 2010 – 11, they predict that Amazon forests will switch from a carbon sink to a net emitter, releasing more than 5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide over the coming years.  In addition to this figure, there will be the release from the continuing logging operations and forest fires that may well be more frequent following the drought.  Suddenly the world has been joined by another USA.

Over the last three years the Southern hemispheres has seen a succession of extreme events.  The Brazilian droughts, the fires in Victoria, record floods in Queensland and the biggest tropical cyclone ever recorded in Australia.  The monsoons that caused the flooding in Pakistan were under the influence of the southern oceans.  None of this should surprise us.  The southern hemisphere is the blue hemisphere, dominated by its oceans and these extreme events are attributed to ‘abnormal’ warming of the oceans.  Climate is intimately tied to oceanic conditions; oceans are the heat store, exchanging energy with the atmosphere, so driving weather patterns.  In a warming world, it is the southern hemisphere that will experiences climatic changes first.  However, the world has one integrated climatic system – where the south leads, the north will follow.

[Mike Shipley.]

The Equality Trust

The Equality Trust was established by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, authors of the book ‘The Spirit Level’ which presents their research into the influence of inequality in developed countries.

The Trust aims to disseminate this information through a programme of public and political education designed to achieve:

  • a widespread understanding of the harm caused by income inequality
  • public support for policy measures to reduce income inequality
  • the political commitment to implementing such policy measures

The Trust is non-partisan and calls on all political parties to prioritise this issue.

Why More Equality?

The authors thirty years research shows that in rich countries, a smaller gap between rich and poor means a happier, healthier, and more successful population. They produced an index of health and social problems, amalgamating comparable data collected by agencies within 21 developed countries in Europe, the USA and Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The index combined scores for 10 factors:

Life Expectancy                  Maths and literacy

Infant mortality                 Homicides

Obesity                             Imprisonment

Mental illness & Addiction   Trust

Teenage pregnancy            Social mobility

More equal countries performed well for each of these indicators. With the combined results plotted against income equality, countries with higher levels of equality performed better than countries with lower levels of equality. The most equal countries were Japan in first place followed by the Scandinavian countries, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.    The countries with the highest scores for the above factors were Japan, again in first place, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands [9th for equality] and Switzerland [13th for equality] Finland and Denmark had slipped to 6th and 9th place respectively.

At the other end of the table, the least equal country was the USA followed by Portugal, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. For the combined index, the USA was again on the bottom followed by Portugal, the UK, Greece, and New Zealand. Considering each of these 10 factors separately and plotting each against equality, the USA, the most powerful and therefore presumed by some to be the most successful country in the world, was consistently on the bottom, with Japan at the top. The UK closely followed the USA.

The Authors have shown that more economic growth in developed countries will NOT lead to a happier, healthier, or more successful population. In fact, there is no relation between income per head and social well-being across rich countries. People doing similar jobs in Japan and Scandinavia, generally earn less that they would in the USA, but they have a higher sense of well-being.

With greater equality in the UK, the authors conclude that we would be better off as a population. For example, the evidence suggests that if we halved inequality here:

– Murder rates would halve
– Mental illness would reduce by two thirds
– Obesity would halve
– Imprisonment would reduce by 80%
– Teen births would reduce by 80%
– Levels of trust would increase by 85%

Not just poor people do better. The evidence suggests people all the way up would benefit, although it’s true that the poorest would gain the most.

These findings hold true, whether you look across developed nations, or across the 50 states of the USA.

For more information, resources and up to date news, visit the Trust website:

http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/

Or, read ‘The Spirit Level’ by Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett, published by Penguin Books.

It should be noted the policies of the ConDem coalition would lead to an increase in inequality, with the cuts hitting the least well of and the big business sector resuming bonus business as usual. Performance of the UK in the above 10 indicators, can be expected to decline. 

The Price of Oil Addiction


This is the price we are paying for our near total dependence on oil.

Global consumption is approaching 86 million barrels per day, 2% up on 2009. Reserves are dwindling; new finds are becoming rare.  This is why the “Deepwater Horizon” exploration rig was drilling in mile deep water, stretching its technology to breaking point.

The ‘easy’ oil has gone.  Exploration and development has to turn to difficult and hazardous fields, some in politically unstable areas, others in ecologically sensitive areas.  Areas like the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, or off the coast of Brazil in mile and a half deep water.  Off Newfoundland amid icebergs and storms.  In the Niger Delta where civil war threatens.  In Iraq.  All of this is a symptom of ‘peak oil’.

And what is the response of our politicians and economists?  Consume, increase demand, burn more in the relentless pursuit of profit and power.

And the price we pay for this madness?  More ecological and human disasters.  More wars over resources.  More release of Carbon dioxide driving climate change.  Higher global temperatures.  All bad news for the future, just so we can cling on to our convenient lifestyle for a few years longer, just so today’s politicians can cling to power.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

The Green Party has proposed a series of policies that can deliver a good life-style for all, that will not cost the Earth.

•    Invest in demand reduction, insulation and energy efficiency.
•    Invest in renewable energy.
•    Invest in reuse and recycling.

All of this will create sustainable jobs, will help build a sustainable economy that is not held to ransom by the oil-men.

Help end our addiction nightmare, help build a sustainable society.

Support the Greens!

Please download and distribute our leaflet

The Crisis In Afghanistan

This week we registered a new stage of crisis for the NATO occupation of Afghanistan.

The dismissal of General McChrystal by President Obama is not a case of personal animosity, or of military arrogance towards civilians, although these factors undoubtedly are present. At the heart of the incident is a conflict of policy.

Last year, at the time of Obama’s review of US strategy in Afghanistan, McChrystal suggested that there should be an immediate deployment of 40,000 of troops, and a further 40,000 after that. The assumption was that an extended occupation was necessary. This was in line with the views of Senator General John McCain, who had spoken of an occupation that could last a 100 years.

In response, Obama agreed a surge of 30,000 additional troops. But in a concession to domestic concerns, Obama stated that by July 2011 a process of withdrawal would commence.

In practice then, McChrystal has been carrying out a policy that he did not agree with. But the implementation of the Obama policy was by a plan jointly drawn up by McChrystal, and his replacement, General Petraeus.

In his West Point speech in December 2009, Obama outlined the 3 themes which made up the new US strategy: “…..a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that re-enforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan”.

Six months on, all three elements seem to be failing. The military effort involved a combination of counter insurgency with the “Afghanisation” of security by a massive build up of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP).

The counter insurgency operation had its first big test in Operation Moshtarak where the aim was to inflict a defeat on the Taliban in the area around Marjah. Despite the deployment of 15,000 NATO troops and five brigades of Afghan forces, no effective engagement was achieved with the Taliban.

A spokesman for the Taliban said: “We have withdrawn tactically from some areas. We never flee”. TheTaliban claimed minimum causalities, despite the strength of the deployment against them.

Counter insurgency theory suggests that one solider is necessary for every 50 civilans in an area of operation. The area of operations in Marjah had a population of around 30,000. This operation involved a ratio of one solider for every two civillans, and was still ineffective.

McChrystal had notoriously claimed that after a military victory in Marjah, he had a replacement local government “in the box” which could be established to counter a return of the Taliban.

Three months after victory has been declared, the Taliban remains active in the area; McChrystal has characterised Marjah as “a bleeding ulcer”; and a stable local government remains “in the box”.

Nor has the process of the “Afghanisation” of security registered any success. The ANP is known to be corrupt and demoralised. McChrystal stated that only 25% had received any basic training.

However, the army was supposedly a more effective organisation. Yet on June 14th 2010, a Time Magazine report found:

“9 out of 10 Afghan enlisted recruits can’t read a rifle instruction manual or drive a car, according to NATO trainers. The officers corps is fractured by rivalries; Soviet-era veterans vs. the former mujahedin rebels who fought them in the 1980s, Tajiks vs. Uzbeks, Hazaras and Pashtuns. Commanders routinely steal their enlisted men’s salaries. Soldiers shake down civilians at road checkpoints and sell off their own American-supplied boots, blankets and guns at the bazaar – sometimes to the Taliban. Afghans, not surprisingly, run when they see the army coming.

Recruits tend to go AWOL after their first leave, while one-quarter of those who stay in service are blitzed on hashish or heroin according to an internal survey carried out by the Afghan National Army(ANA). One NATO major from Latvia stationed in the north, complained to a Time video team that when a battalion’s combat tour was extended, three Afghan officers shot themselves in the foot to get medevacked out.”

At the time when no military progress is being made, there can be no reinforcement via a “civilian surge”. There have been no increase in NGO or NATO reconstruction on the ground. One anecdote best illustrates this. All the tabloid and broad sheet newspapers in Britain, extensively covered the operation by the British Army to deliver a turbine to the Kajaki dam which would mean, we were told, the people of Kandahar receiving hydro electric power.

In its June 26th issue, months after the operation, the Economist reports: “Alas the turbine dispatched for this purpose, in an operation involving 5,000 British troops, still lays in the Kajaki dirt, the Taliban having made it impossible to truck in cement to install it”.

And the third theme, the greater involvement of the Pakistan Government, and military, has not led to the border becoming more secure. Despite intense pressure from the US, the Pakistan military has not launched a major offensive in North Waziristan.

But there are many signs of Pakistan assuming a greater influence, independently of the US Government. A spokesman for the Pakistani Army, Major General Athar Abbas said “The American time table for getting out makes it easier for Pakistan to play a more visible role”.

Indeed this assertiveness runs to the Pakistan Army outlining a policy which is decidedly out of line with US policy. A policy of negotiating peace with the insurgents is being actively pursued by the Pakistan Army.

In three trips to Kabul, Afghan officials have confirmed, that Pakistan Army General Kayani and General Pasha had offered to broker a peace deal involving the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Haqqani fighting force. This is not what Obama had anticipated.

Can we expect a difference approach from Petraeus? Although he drew up the current plan with McChrystal, Petraeus is a position to move away from Obama’s compromise.

Of immediate concern must be that Petraeus may set aside McChrystal’s policy of “courageous restraint”. This placed limits upon NATO utilising night raids, bombing and pursuit into populated areas and villages.

Although the number of civilian causalities reached its highest point in 2009, this is down to the general increase in fighting. If Petraeus sets the policy aside, the first change that will be registered will be a further escalation in civilian causalities.

Petraeus has not ruled out an increase in troop numbers. McCain recently suggested a further 10,000 US troops may be necessary. All surge troops will be in Afghanistan by summer, amounting to 105,000 US troops and 48,000 from NATO allies. So additional troops will be on top of these numbers.

Petraeus is probably of the view that an extended occupation is necessary. When asked this week whether he supported the July 2011 drawdown date, he offered a “qualified yes”. Obviously he could not blatantly contradict Government policy, but the qualification did so implicitly.

Obama himself is moving away from his previous policy. On June 24th, when questioned about the deadline, he said: “we didn’t say we would be switching off the lights. We said we would begin a transition phrase that would allow the Afghan Government to take more and more responsibility”.

This wriggle away from the commitment runs counter to government policy. Vice President Jo Biden gave a recent interview where he said: “….in July of 2011 you are going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it”.

Obama and Petraeus had indicated that there would be a “strategic assessment” of policy in December 2010. In the meantime the crisis deepens. June 2010 was the deadliest month since the war began for NATO troops, 79 killed so far, in comparison to the previous record of 77 in August 2009.

There have also been serious set backs for Obama with the Afghan political process. The clearest expression of this is the weakened connection to the Afghan Government.

In April, within the space of a week, President Karzai met twice with President Ahmadinejad – of Iran – and once with representatives of the Chinese Government. This prompted an unscheduled flight by Obama to Kabul to meet Karzai. Iran and China are the two border states to Afghanistan that the US administration believes have no role in its future.

Karzai has also publicly claimed that the US tried to fix the presidential elections in 2009; claimed that the US fired rockets at his Peace Conference; said he might end up joining the Taliban; sacked the two most pro-US Ministers, intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh and Interior Minister Hanif Atmar. These Ministers have been vocal in their public opposition to the Iranian and Pakistani Governments influence.

Karzai also lobbied Obama to retain McChrystal, presumably because he feared the loss of the “courageous restraint” policy.

In this growing assertiveness of Karzai and the Pakistan Government, we can see, albeit in a highly mediated manner, the strengthening of anti-imperialist forces in the region.

But if we are entering a new stage of crisis, there is no automatic resolution. The current issue of the Economist is titled “Losing Afghanistan”, this does not mean Afghanistan is yet lost for the occupiers. But it does mean that the anti-war movement must considerably step up its activity in Britain and the US.

There is the sense of growing disengagement internationally. The Netherlands Government are withdrawing their troops in August. The Canadian Government is committed to withdrawing combat troops by next summer. On Thursday 24th June, the acting President, and likely victor in Poland’s Presidential Election, Bronislaw Komorowski, asked the Polish Government to prepare for a Polish withdrawal by 2012. In all cases the US administration is seeking a reversal of policy.

In Britain, the election of the Coalition Government has brought out more in the open some tension about the future of the intervention.

From the point of view of the Coalition, there is a hole of £36 billion in the defence budget in the next decade. This in itself is a prompt for examining an intervention in Afghanistan which is running at around £5 billion a year.

But the Conservatives have always had a more pragmatic and business like attitude to colonial wars. This comes from the hundreds of years of accumulated experience of colonialism which exists in the Tory party. Labour politicians are much more concerned about ridiculous issues like being seen as unpatriotic, or weak on defence.

Consequently, the last couple of months have seen the first signs of real disquiet in Government. At the end of May, The Independent on Sunday quoted “senior military sources” as saying that talks were underway with US Commanders on scaling down the British commitment to war.

On the 9th May, the Times published the conclusions of an investigation with senior military figures, politicians and civil servants on the move of British troops to the south of Afghanistan in 2006.

The report said that the MOD and Whitehall departments had grossly under-estimated the threat from the Taliban. Warnings of inadequate troop numbers had also been ignored.

The original move was to send 3,300 troops to Helmand for 3 years and at a cost of a billion pounds. John Reid famously said, from military opinion given, that they would be able to leave: “without a shot being fired”. Four years later there are 8,000 British troops in place, along side 20,000 US Marines, with hundreds of causalities.

This sense of disquiet exists amongst Tory MP’s. Last year, Adam Holloway MP, in a report, wrote of an “ill conceived mission” and that “attempts to impose a central Government…..are over ambitious and likely to fail”.

Recently, Patrick Mercer MP said that it is “unsustainable for this number of troops to be in Afghanistan and Pakistan for an indefinite period”. This is true of course, but also is an admission of British Special Forces operating inside Pakistan.

Julian Lewis MP a former Shadow Defence Secretary, has spoken of “…..pointless patrols creating target practice for the Taliban”.

It is clear this disquiet is having an impact upon the Coalition Government too. In early June, Cameron held a strategy review. He has since ruled out increasing the number of British troops – a statement of inflexibility which reeks of concern about the future.

Cameron has also indicated that withdrawal from next year may be possible, in line with Obama’s initial policy. Cameron stated that Britain “cannot be there in 5 years times”, further reinforcing the impression of disquiet about the future.

The most obvious expression of policy tension in the Government came on a trip to Kabul by Ministers. Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary said “we are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education of a broken 13th century country. We are there to see our global interests are not threatened”.

This clearly came as news to Andrew Mitchell, the Development Secretary, who said at the same time “….providing basic education and health care facilities was crucial”.

The lack of coherence in the coalition Government is likely to become more pronounced as the crisis of the occupation becomes more apparent.

The Parliamentary Labour Party continues to lag behind the deepening crisis. Some on the right of the party, such as Eric Joyce MP and Denis MacShane MP, have realised how hopeless the intervention now is. But, of the potential leaders of the party, it is only Diane Abbott who has clearly called for withdrawal.

Yet the anti-war movement must be aware of how vital it is to increase its activity. Parliament is full of new MPs, many of whom can be placed under real pressure by organised lobbying.

In the coming weeks, facing a potential offensive in Kandahar, and perhaps a more aggressive pursuit of military goals, the anti-war movement is necessary now more than ever.

Support the Green Party and the Stop The War coalition.