Friday, 14 September 2018

Has politics failed?

A few excerpts from Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General's speech this week:
"We face a direct existential threat.
"Climate change is moving faster than we are
"If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.

...

"And it is why I am calling on civil society, and young people in particular, to campaign for climate action."

Is the UN Secretary General effectively declaring that politics has failed?

I suspect so.

Just 18 months to prevent catastrophic climate change that will be an existential threat to human existence while Theresa May focuses on a corrupt and illegitimate referendum, Putin focuses on convincing the UK that his assassins were just tourists and Trump, well... This sounds very much like an utter failure of mainstream politics to me.

People need to realise that 18 month figure. Unless we do something radical and very quickly we can kiss goodbye to future generations. It is their existence that is threatened. The hot house Earth report set out why. 60m sea level rises and so on. Indeed, Guterres's speech mirrors some of that report.

Yes I know that scaring people doesn't jolt a change in belief or behaviour but the bus is going off the cliff as the drivers have gone quite mad.



Thursday, 13 September 2018

Do we need pre-emptive drone strike against Heaven?

North Carolina is about to be hit by a huge hurricane, no doubt one of those 1 in 100 year events that happens most years, so I am waiting for them to pass a law against hurricanes hitting them as they have done against sea level rises predicted by scientists.

The absurdity of this is difficult to comprehend. The Guardian reports that the state passed a law "banning policies based on such forecasts." Not only do they have their head in the sand but they have made it illegal to pull one's head out of the sand too.

Obviously this is based on political climate denial and while almost every country in the world could be accused of this when you consider the utter lack of action being taken to prevent catastrophic, runaway climate change, North Carolina's stance is at least fairly open in its denial.

Unlike the UN of course: "We are careering towards the edge of the abyss," said Antonio Guteres on Monday and there are just 18 months left to act to prevent the worst of it. Just 18 months, yet the UK is focussed on delivering Brexit which a small proportion of citizens wanted a couple of years ago based on an undemocratic referendum where the Leave campaign cheated. Yet the US has a climate denying president who is doing everything in his gift to screw the rest of the world. Need I go on?

Some of the small island states are shouting loudly, the ones who will be affected first. So why are North Carolina not taking it seriously too? They have a long, low lying coastline after all. Who know what is in the minds of their politicians.

So back to the hurricane, its expected storm surge and the evacuation of coastal towns. Obviously the hurricane can't be driven by climate change as that clearly isn't a "thing", so it must be an act of God.

I wonder at what point those acts of God will trigger reprisals? It think that Seize The Day said it quite well...

Monday, 3 September 2018

Divest now!

I'm on KMTV this evening talking about the latest investment figures from Kent County Council.
They have £165m invested in fracking industries (according to Platform London) and a whopping £267m in fossil fuels.

It's been 11 years since I started campaigning for KCC to adopt an ethical investment policy. A long and frustrating 11 years during which they briefly offered individuals an ethical policy but have never mentioned the take up of this. But the tide is turning. Waltham Forest became the first council to divest itself of fossil fuel investments and Southwark, Haringey, Hackney, South Yorkshire and Merseyside have followed suit. Claims that it would breach their statutory requirements to divest are clearly false.

I can imagine KCC being one of the last to do this, sadly, just as they were one of the last to remove  Section 28 anti-LGBT policies from its books (around 2006/7). They are not the most progressive of councils!

But in the 10 years that I've been calling for divestment the situation has deteriorated drastically. Last month's "Hot House Earth" report talked of a real threat to the survival of humanity and a real threat of cataclysmic climate change in a hundred or so years if emissions are not drastically cut now. We are truly in the Last Chance Saloon.

There is a petition that you can sign here.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

The Martian, life on a dying planet...

I watched the 2015 film, The Martian, for the first time last night. Aside from being a riveting story, albeit a bit silly at the end, the one thing that struck me was the fragility of life in a hostile environment.

I don't want to spoil too much of the plot in case you've not yet seen it however, the protagonist plays an astronaut stranded on Mars who has to learn to survive. There's not very much atmosphere, no water (in the film), the temperature is extremely cold at night, the "soil" is barren and lifeless, and all in all the planet is not tuned to life as we know it (Jim...)

It struck me that there are some significant comparisons with potential outcomes the Earth. As human animals continue to sterilise the planet through our use of pesticides, herbicides, GM crops, inability to stop dumping our crap in the seas, landfilling or burning it, or to stop digging up the remains of animals and plants long dead (oil, gas and coal) and then burning them to fuel our lifestyles while creating climate change, we are in danger of creating non-habitable zones on our lovely blue planet.

Watching the character, Mark Watney, try to survive in the hostile environment demonstrates quite clearly how ridiculous human behaviour towards our own planet is. As we create wastelands, knowingly or unknowingly, we are ensuring that the remaining areas are pushed harder. As we push harder on those remaining areas, they start to suffer and collapse. There is a vicious cycle, trigged by human action, that is grinding down our ability to survive.

Our only hope is survival and a good friend of mine described Green politics as the politics of survival. But long term survival doesn't feature in the minds of most people, most corporations nor most governments. They think about short term survival: will I keep my seat in the next election, do I have enough food this week, are we making a profit for the shareholders. The short term survival goals are important, they were very important for the character on Mars, but they cannot be allowed to override long term survival.

The concept of thinking about the impact of decisions on a seven generation basis is not new but it is almost never considered. Green Party friends of mine continue to campaign for the rights of future generations - an essential right that almost never gets airtime. How can we possibly survive in the long term if the impacts of decisions are only considered in relation to the hear and now / next few years?

The recent publication of the "Hot House Earth" scenario within a hundred years or so, along with a whole host of other information now surfacing, suggests our ability to prevent runaway climate change is rapidly fading but that doesn't mean that our decision making should remain short term survivalist. If anything, we must learn that the short-termism is to blame for our predicament and that we won't solve the problem by using the same type of thinking that got us here.

It is time to think 200 years ahead with every decision. How is what I'm considering going to play out for my 4 x great grand children? Most decisions we make won't affect future generations but some will. Knowing what we are doing to our descendants is an ethical duty that most humans seem to have forgotten.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Radical action is now necessary

What a title for a blog post. It sounds like I want to radicalize the world into action. Well I do.

Monday's report on the Hothouse Earth effect clearly demonstrates that humanity cannot be allowed to continue on our suicidal trajectory. It was so clear that even the BBC managed to report on it without "balancing it" with a climate denier.

There are some startling phased in the report but this is the one that should send shivers down our spines: "Hothouse Earth is likely to be uncontrollable and dangerous to many, particularly if we transition into it in only a century or two, and it poses severe risks for health, economies, political stability (especially for the most climate vulnerable), and ultimately, the habitability of the planet for humans."

Within our lifetime and certainly within the lifetime of those born now, our current trajectory is for the 2 degrees "safer" level to be breached in a few decades and for the tipping points of feedback mechanisms to start to push temperatures towards 5 degrees. In a couple of hundred years we are looking at 60m sea level rises.

The report is basically saying that we are not doing nearly enough to stop climate change and that the impacts are coming far harder and far faster than we thought.

Discussions about anti-semetism in the Labour Party, Islamophobia in the Tories, gender politics, even Trump's antics on the world stage, pale into insignificance against this threat. This should be permanently headline news.

But as yet there is no political will. There continues to be severe resistance from the corporate and media world and there is little engagement by the people as a result. If terrorism were threatening us this way there would be a concerted global action to rectify it.

It would be easy to think that governments across the world could take some immediate steps. Grounding non-essential flights. Banning fracking. Investment in public transport and insulation. A Green Marshal Plan for the world. But they are not and they are failing humanity and the Earth.

It is time to up our game.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Dear Labour Party

Dear Labour Party

The latest opinion poll puts you neck and neck with the Conservatives, both of you on 38%. While this is a reasonable vote share, you have known for many years that you need a significantly higher total vote than the Tories to gain a majority in the Commons and with the SNP now controlling Scotland an overall victory is even harder.

However, the impact of the proposed boundary changes, as calculated by Political Betting, would give the Tories 40 more seats that you for the same number of votes.

This is a perfect example of the failed electoral system that we have to currently endure. Seats in the Commons do not represent the votes of the people you claim to serve.

Proportional systems rectify this. The additional member system is widely used in our regional assemblies, a list system is used for our EU elections and other proportional systems are used in neighbouring countries.

So why do you continue to refuse to back electoral reform? Not only is it bad for the people, bad for democracy but it is bad for the Labour Party's prospects. I don't usually suggest politicians should campaign on their self interest but perhaps this is appropriate.

Kind regards

Stuart Jeffery

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Earth Overshoot Day

Letter to the Kent Messenger:

Dear Editor,
August 1st this year marks Earth Overshoot Day, the date when we (all of humanity) have used more from the rest of nature than our planet can renew in the entire year. We are currently using 1.7 Earths a year, a 70% overshoot. Every year this date moves a few days earlier. With our unsustainable levels of consumption and increasing population we use more ecological resources and services than nature can regenerate. A short video publicising this can be found here: https://www.overshootday.org/
The dangerous realities of the situation were summed up in “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice" In November 2017, over 15,000 scientists in 184 countries signed up in support of this.
Since then, a further 5,000 + scientists have backed the call. The sign-up to this warning has now been opened to the wider public and organisations, including environmentally concerned NGO’s. We would encourage political parties and public organisations of all kinds in the area to give their support: http://www.scientistswarning.org/please-sign/
The Green Party is happy to work with others to promote public policies and private actions that will help us escape what is an existential crisis. To be blunt, it will put problems caused by Brexit, hard or soft, in the shade.
Yours

Stuart Jeffery
Secretary, Maidstone Green Party