We’re back!

After winter hibernation, The Notorious G’n’T are back!

Check out Tom’s latest blog here. He vents his frustration about being bombarded with adverts asking for support for airport expansion.

Gwen will be releasing a blog soon too, where she talks about the links between fracking, human health and the 1%. *shakes fist*

Tom and Gwen

Find us both on Twitter @TPashby and @EcoGwen

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Airport expansion means more climate refugees, obviously

Before Christmas when I was working as an intern near Westminster, I’d often walk through Westminster tube station on my commute. One of the biggest things that struck me was the extent of advertising from both Heathrow and Gatwick Airport. They were and are locked in a battle of who can get the most support for their respective expansion plans, especially from parliamentarians.

Aside from the constant advertising on the tube, which has pissed off a cross-party selection of parliamentarians e.g the Conservative Zac Goldsmith MP and Labour’s Baroness Worthington, they also love to fill my Twitter feed with adverts. Effectively graffiting public spaces with their stubborn determination to increase noise and air pollution, and their commitment to increasing the human impact on global warming with aviation related CO2 emissions.

 

Airport expansion would mean, unsurprisingly, more people flying, which means more fossil fuels are burned, and they will reach capacity again in the future and demand further expansion. We simply can’t go on like this in a finite world; there are limits to growth.

Unfortunately, humans aren’t exempt from the natural world that we’re changing.

Climate change doesn’t mean that the world just gets a bit warmer. Even a seemingly small 3 °C increase in the global average temperature will likely mean an increased frequency and intensity of powerful tropical cyclones and more severe extreme weather like droughts and floods.

Fortunately for us in the Western World, especially those in the South East of England, those things won’t directly affect us for at least a couple of decades, though it’s possible that we’ll see more events like the flooding of the Somerset Levels in 2013-14. It’s the poorest and most vulnerable in the world that it already is impacting. An academic paper published in 2010 estimated that climate change might lead to more than 200 million people, largely from Africa and Asia being forced from their homes. It stated that existing governance mechanisms are not equipped to cope with that level of migratory movement.

So when Gatwick’s press team says ‘Everyone Benefits’ from airport expansion – I strongly recommend that they re-evaluate their statement. They should take a moment to reconsider the millions of pounds they’re spending on advertising.

Tom

Find me on Twitter @TPashby

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A call to action

Below is an email I’ve sent to my local Councillor.

Dear Steve Drury,

I am writing to you to ask for your commitment to urgent action on climate change.

This weekend I, along with tens of thousands of people across the globe – including the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, will be marching in the streets to demand our leaders take concerted action on anthropogenic global warming. More information can be found here http://peoplesclimate.org/global/.

97% of climate scientists agree that global warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities (http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/). As a leader elected to represent me, I hope you’ll act upon the phrase “Think globally, act locally” as coined by the Scots town planner Patrick Geddes.

The UK may represent a small proportion of the global population and and total emissions, but it is only with ambitious leadership that we will avoid the catastrophic effects which we are yet to see. We’re already experiencing more intense weather events more frequently, but with projected increases in temperatures from our still increasing greenhouse gas emissions, we can expect these to get far worse.

Please will you reassure me that as my representative, you’ll raise this issue with your colleagues and ensure that both Three Rivers District Council and Hertfordshire Council Council enact responsible environmental, energy and waste policies.

It’s simply not good enough that the Liberal Democrats support the extraction of shale gas via hydraulic fracturing, as this will only help maintain our dependence on fossil fuels. It will not reduce consumer energy bills to anything near the extent that your colleagues and the industry would have the public believe.

Only through hugely better supported renewable energy, energy efficiency and other demand side-response schemes will we have any hope of saving ourselves from the very worst impacts of our own stupidity.

I do appreciate the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto commitments to a greener future. But you must go further.

You are elected to protect me and the rest of your constituents. I’m 22 and I expect to live long enough to see the end of cheap fossil fuels. I don’t want that transition to result in (increasingly) widening gaps in inequality, (more) resource wars and mass extinctions.

I have next to no faith in you taking this seriously enough to do anything about it. Prove me wrong.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Pashby

Tom 

Find me on Twitter @TPashby

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Carswell is Right

Yesterday the MP for Clacton in Essex rejected his membership of the Conservative Party, defected to UKIP and resigned as an MP. He has also stated his intention to run in the subsequent by-election as the UKIP candidate.

His stated reason for his recent actions is that he wants to see a “fundamental change in British politics“. This view is shared by vast swathes of the British public including myself. In the May European elections, the few who voted voted for a Party which promised was offering a real alternative to the Westminster establishment.

Unfortunately for Carswell and the millions who voted for UKIP in May, they aren’t a real alternative. They are excellent at pretending to be one, but in fact they’re more Tory than the Tories and will always put corporations and profit before people and planet.

UKIP – a Party known for it’s opposition to any policy or institution which threatens the sovereignty of the UK, doesn’t oppose Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which spells disaster for the UK’s public services, social and environmental wellbeing.

UKIP says that it’s a Party run by the people for the people, not by the ‘establishment’. The Conservative Party’s primary objective is to protect the deregulated free market so that the City of London can flourish, and continue to evade responsibility for the 2007 Global Financial Crisis.

The self-defining anti-Establishment Nigel Farage – UKIP’s leader and Parliamentary Candidate for Thanet in Kent, has spent his life within the established elite. He went to private school and worked as a commodities trader in the City of London.

It’s no coincidence that this is a story of a Tory defecting to UKIP, rather than a LibDem or Labour member.

The only Party to offer a real alternative to the current quagmire of Westminster politics and crippling austerity is the Green Party. The Green Party is the only mainstream Party to oppose TTIP and is the only Party to fundamentally prioritise the wellbeing of people and the planet above the profit of corporations.

#VoteGreen2015

Tom

Find me on Twitter @TPashby

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Free money! Gwen contemplates Universal Basic Income

Eradicating extreme poverty in the UK, narrowing the wealth divide, a fairer society for all: this is what advocates of Universal Basic Income are preaching.

Natalie Bennett – leader of the Green Party, has recently declared Universal (or Unconditional) Basic Income (UBI) as a key manifesto point for the 2015 general election. It provides a guaranteed income to all adults to cover basic living costs, regardless of being in work or unemployed.  Every adult would be entitled to UBI – yes that’s right, free money! The idea has been floating around for a while in various European countries and further afield, and like most people who hear of this scheme for the first time I considered it too good to be true, how could it possibly work? So I set myself a little task to discover more about UBI and share my findings with you.

Positives of a UBI system include:

  1. Rethink why we work; you do not need to be fixed in a job you dislike just to keep the money coming in, by having a UBI workers would have the power to stop work and better themselves.
  2. Better working conditions; UBI would act as a safety net so workers can challenge their employers if they find conditions unfair or degrading.
  3. Downsize bureaucracy; UBI is a very simple benefit model so will reduce all the bureaucracy surrounding the shambles of our current welfare system.
  4. Reduced incentive to commit fraud because everyone is treated equally.
  5. Reduce inequality; shockingly the UK is one of the most unequal countries in the developed world. Austerity measures in Britain continue to hit the poorest families hardest, with a wealthy elite seeing their incomes spiral upwards,  this inequality has grown under successive governments over the last quarter of a century. UBI would share the wealth produced by society to all people thereby reducing growing inequality.
  6. Providing a more secure and substantial safety net for all people; no means testing or awful “fit-to-work” tests would allow everybody automatically have their rights guaranteed.
  7. Less working hours and better distribution of jobs; people will be able to reduce their working hours without having to worry as much about sacrificing their income. Therefore they can spend time doing things that they find meaningful, for example spending time volunteering to increase career prospects or spending time with family. This in turn will induce a better distribution of jobs because people reducing their hours will increase the jobs opportunities for those currently excluded from the labour market.
  8. Rewarding unpaid contributions; a huge number of unpaid activities are not recognised as economic contributions, for example caring for an elderly parent, or volunteering at a charity shop, a basic income would reward these activities.
  9. Strengthening democracy. As everyone will have a level of security and spend less time worrying about financial issues there we can expect innovation in political, social, ecological and technological fields.
  10. Ending financial poverty. One food bank charity handed out 913,000 food parcels last year, 51% up from the previous year, with delayed welfare benefits and sanctions being the likely culprits. In the last five years at least 7,800 people have died every year due to fuel poverty. This is not a UK I am proud of, by adopting UBI we could see the end of financial poverty in the UK.

This might sound amazing but like any revolutionary idea there will be criticisms and potential flaws. However what was interesting to me is that when I was researching for this article I actually found it very hard finding pieces against UBI. With the majority of arguments against taking emotional points of view rather than a fair argument, such as, why should people get something for nothing? And why should the rich get more money? All people should get UBI for the reasons listed above, and the rich should get UBI because if they were excluded they would be unlikely to campaign for it, and hey, you never know they might do something nice with their UBI like donating it to charity. More justified examples are a worry about inflation, UBI would need to have anti-inflationary measures.  To the argument saying there would be a loss of work incentive I would say that the majority of people I know like having ‘nice’ things, you would still need to work to afford luxuries such as holidays, cars, and mobile phones.

I’ll now answer the question everyone is thinking: how could the UK afford to give everyone a basic income? From first-hand experience I can assure you that the current welfare system is a complete shambles, it is full of ineffective money-wasting, time-wasting bureaucracy. £7000 a year could be allocated to every UK citizen through the removal of the over-complicated benefits system and staff. The Citizens Income Trust estimate that £10,000 for everyone could be achieved through these measures and adjustments elsewhere such as returns on publicly owned enterprises and tax. It is estimated that currently the UK economy loses £120 billion per year on tax avoidance and evasion, namely by large corporations. What if that tax went to a UBI and helped to eradicate extreme poverty in the UK, decreasing the wealth divide and gave freedom to people to follow their dreams and become the best version of themselves that they can be?

What we need now is comprehensive research into the feasibility of bringing in a UBI. Though it sounds radical, the idea of a UBI has been around since the 16th Century in Thomas More’s work Utopia. In December the people of Switzerland gathered 100,000 signatures calling for a vote on UBI, therefore a referendum on UBI will be held – and the result is binding. If Switzerland is the first country to introduce a UBI it will be really interesting to see the positives and pit-falls of the system.

If like me you’re intrigued by the possibility of UBI here are a few steps to spread the word:

  • The Green Party are the only party to support a UBI, but only have one MP and three MEPS. Write to your MP and MEPs to tell them why you think they should take UBI seriously, Write to Them is a fantastic tool to contact your representatives easily
  • Sign this Avaaz petition to facilitate research into UBI in Europe
  • Check-out Basic Income UK and follow them on social media
  • Spread the word! Tell your friends and family about UBI

Gwen 

Follow me on Twitter @EcoGwen

 

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My response to the Government consultation on fracking under our homes (found here https://econsultation.decc.gov.uk/decc-policy/consultation-on-underground-drilling-access/consultation/intro/view, responses must be submitted before tomorrow afternoon)

4. Should the Government legislate to provide underground access to gas, oil and geothermal developers below 300 meters?

No

The government should realise its’ duty as the protector of society, the economy and the environment, and act accordingly.

Continued investment and political support for fossil fuel exploration, especially more extreme forms like shale, will only serve to keep society and the economy dependent on fossil fuels – which are going to run out, quite possibly before I die. I don’t want to be left with a country hopelessly dependent on a fuel source which no longer exists. The Government is behaving irresponsibly towards the carbon bubble and the wellbeing of their own offspring.

Access to geothermal resources is an entirely different issue, and would be far more preferable as it is renewable, although I am not well informed as to the geology of the UK in respect of geothermal energy resources.

5. If you do not believe the Government should legislate for underground access, do you have a preferred alternative solution?

Yes

You need to take concerted action on both demand side policy and in electricity market reform. There needs to be investment geared towards supporting renewable energy technology advancement, capacity building in the national grid and support for community ownership.

After totally overt pressure from the Big Six, you’ve completely failed at an attempt to legislate in demand side policy responses with the getting rid of ‘all the green crap’ in the form of the ECO payments. How can government think people take it seriously on energy and environmental policy?

You must make sure that renewable energy technologies are given a favourable investment climate and ensure that consumers receive as much support as possible in reducing their energy use.

You also need to upgrade the national grid to make provision for energies which are widespread and not single large installations like coal power stations.

6. Should a payment and notification for access be administered through the voluntary scheme proposed by industry?

No

Any system for administering community benefits from the fracking industry needs to be mandatory and regulated. Given the level of secrecy already in the Government report on the impacts of fracking (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/337654/RFI6751_Draft_Shale_Gas_Rural_economy_impact_report.pdf) – it’s clear that the industry has a long way to go before they can gain a social licence.

If you’re reading this before the afternoon of Friday 15th August, there’s still time to submit your response! And I’m interested in what you have to say about the consultation and fracking. Please leave a comment. 

Tom

Find me on Twitter @TPashby

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My day out with Baroness (Jenny) Jones of Moulescoomb

Last week, I joined the Green Party’s parliamentarian in the House of Lords, and London Assembly Member – Jenny Jones, to find out what a Green Lady does.

I got to City Hall and was shown up to Jenny’s office, and I was introduced to Darren Johnson – the other Green Assembly Member, and the staff team working for the Greens in the Assembly. We then left for a plenary session, where the Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture was scrutinised, and a series of motions were put forward for debate. The majority of votes split the Parties (Labour, Conservative, Green and LibDem), but a motion put forward by the Greens on cleaner air, gained unanimous approval.

After the plenary and lunch, there was a briefing on Jenny’s activities and we went off to Westminster, where we attended an All Party Parliamentary Group AGM called Justice on Our Roads; a group working to improve safety on roads for cyclists and pedestrians.

As we had some time to spare before a reception with the Campaign for Better Transport, we went for a look around the Houses of Parliament, including the cupboard where Guy Fawkes hid gunpowder, and the various bars and libraries. Jenny explained the voting system in the Lords, whereby members must enter either the Content or Not Content corridor, line up and have their name crossed off a list.

We found our way to the reception and met the representatives from the Campaign for Better Transport, including Green Councillor Sian Berry. The Campaign focuses on lobbying policy makers into implementing more sustainable and responsible transport policy. A variety of policy makers including Parliamentarians and civil servants were there discuss better transport options.

As a member of the Lords, Jenny had to keep an eye out for the time, to ensure she could attend any important debates or votes. It just so happened that there was a debate on the new emergency law the Government was trying to pass – DRIP, or Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014. Here members from across the House spoke, largely for it, with only Jenny speaking to oppose it’s passing.

It was a fantastic experience and I’m hugely grateful to Jenny for inviting me to shadow her.

You can find more about her at the links below:

https://twitter.com/GreenJennyJones

http://greenparty.org.uk/people/jenny-jones.html

https://www.london.gov.uk/mayor-assembly/london-assembly/members/jenny-jones

http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lords/baroness-jones-of-moulsecoomb/4297

Tom

Find me on Twitter @TPashby

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