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Current Issues

 

Food Expert says “We are Nine Meals from Anarchy”

Dr Martin Caraher, a food expert from City University, said we had only 3 days food to feed us during a crisis. Speaking at a meeting in Huddersfield promoted by Kirklees Green Party and supported by Kirklees Environment Partnership, Dr Caraher challenged a Kirklees-wide audience to estimate the overall food stocks held by the UK.

He suggested that most food supplied to supermarkets, where most of our food is now bought, is delivered “just in time”.  As a result we hold little in reserve stores or in warehouses and are vulnerable to disruptions such as oil shortages.  Local food would be more secure. 

Dr Caraher was deeply critical of short-lived campaigns to improve diet which encourage local growing and physical activity, promoted by governments, Primary Care Trusts and Local Councils.  He said: “Short-lived … pilots that never continue long enough to prove their worth (and) without evaluation … means there are no effective local or regional policies on food issues emerging.”

Dr Caraher also challenged the audience on which form of retailing was most effective for investing in local areas – local and regional shops, or the large supermarkets.  Recent research in this area by the New Economics Foundation, an independent think tank, had confirmed that £10 spent at local shops was worth £24 to the local economy – since local takings, wages and so on were then spent locally.  For international supermarkets however the multiplier for was only £14.  Furthermore, “For every 20 jobs created by the “big five” supermarkets – 30 jobs are lost!” said Dr Caraher.

In contrast to the UK, French and Italian food markets were predominantly local and regional. This makes them more resilient than we are to food or oil crises - and responsible for a lower “carbon footprint” in a period of increased global warming.

Dr Caraher illustrated this by an analysis of patterns of global food movements between importing and exporting nations.  For many products, milk was one example, similar amounts were being exported as imported – milk from one EU country to the UK, literally passed milk from the UK on Channel Ferries going in the opposite direction.  Recently tens of thousands of tons of onions had been imported from New Zealand!

He suggested we look at Toronto, Canada for inspiration. Here French and Italian models of local and regional food production are being re-established. Regional boundaries are agreed as the limit for production of local and regional food supplied into city centre markets. “Toronto shows us that strategic regional policies for local and regional food can be achieved” he said.

Dr Caraher stayed overnight and at a second meeting organized by KEP he listened intently as 18 members of various local food groups across Kirklees described their work and the issues they faced.  There was a rich sharing of ideas and achievements including the development of Food Coops in Batley, a Local Bakery in Slaithwaite and a Fruit and Veg Cooperative shop in Marsden and the prospect of local small-holdings to supply local shops. 

Notes:

New Economics Foundation - see: http://www.neweconomics.org/gen/

The multiplier explained: http://www.neweconomics.org/gen/tools_lm3.aspx

Dr Martin Caraher, Reader in Food and Health Policy:, Department of Health Management and Food Policy at City University, London, works extensively on issues of food poverty, local sustainable food supplies, the role of markets in promoting health, retail concentration and globalisation. 

Transport thought for this week - next week on National Bike Week

Energy and equity:  a beginner’s guide to designing a zero carbon transport system

Currently there are about 750 million vehicles on the planet.  A prominent German forecasting organisation has predicted this will rise to 2.3 billion by 2030.  Ivan Illich wrote “Energy and Equity” in 1974 and demonstrated the absurdity of our dependence on oil for routine daily trips and the illogicality of human behaviour devoting 1600 hours each year to service the demands of the car in order to travel  7500 miles  at an average speed of 5mph. 

25 years later the absurdities noted by Illich are now global and intensifying with very large year on year increases in car ownership and use in India and China.  Each day our global mobility requires 5.8 million tonnes of oil and kills 3000 mainly poor and non-motorised citizens.

This is expensive and requires very large public subsidy and is intimately linked with poor health outcomes ranging from obesity to hospital admissions as a result of poor air quality. 

Professor John Whitelegg’s inaugural lecture explored the intimate geography of oil dependent transport, its global trends, its links with climate change and peak oil and explains its grip on society and decision makers and charts a new transport revolution that at a low cost will deliver socially just accessibility to our destinations at a zero carbon cost.

Delivered at University of York on Monday 18th May

Regional Euro election launch for new jobs

"Voting for the Green Party can make a positive difference to everyone's future" said lead candidate Martin Hemingway at the launch of the regional campaign to elect Green MEPs in Yorkshire & the Humber.

"Greens are pushing for common sense measures that will
benefit everyone in this recession. For example, insulating all UK homes will save energy, reduce fuel bills, cut carbon emissions and create thousands of skilled jobs.

"Creating green jobs is the most cost effective way of cutting unemployment quickly and Green MEPs are pushing governments across Europe to make the investment we need."

Candidates speaking at the launch at Kelham Island Indistrial musuem in Sheffield explained that the Greens have set out in their manifesto for the European Elections the costings for the jobs that would be created if all their policies for the Euro-elections were implemented. The total number of jobs comes to over a million.

To deliver these jobs urgently, the UK economy must be put on something like a war footing, say the Greens.  This is the only way to tackle the recession and the climate crisis.

The Greens insist that a major national effort is essential if Britain's economy is to be rebuilt and transformed.  The business as usual that the government is presenting with its failed car scrappage schemes and half-hearted, rewarmed proposals will not be enough to make a real change.

“The country, and especially Yorkshire, which is one of the hardest hit regions, needs a transformation of our economy and industry” said Martin Hemingway.
 
The Green Party has been pushing for a multi-billion-pound Green New Deal since last year - only to see the government produce its own version which speakers at the launch event explained is "neither Green nor, strictly speaking, a new deal" - as much of the government scheme involved cash already allocated by previous plans, and would create jobs only in many years' time.

New nuclear power stations sustain few jobs per megawatt compared to renewables and are certainly not "green". Since the announcements it has been shown that the government's "green stimulus" was in fact offering more cash to high-carbon than to low-carbon projects.

But the 100, 000 jobs the real Green New Deal will offer to Yorkshire and the Humber would only be a start, say the Greens - as kick-starting the Green industrial revolution would lead to:

  * The rapid growth of low-carbon industries like wind-turbine and solar panel manufacture.
  * The building of more trains, trams and buses to serve a revolution in public transport.
  * Jobs-rich Green waste management systems to replace jobs-poor incineration projects.
  * A revolution in UK agricultural output.

Only a vision like this, say the Greens, can provide the antidote to the current widespread sense of dissatisfaction and disenchantment with politics and insecurity over our economic future - including the effects on the global and British economies of climate change and peak oil.

Also at the launch Green Party councillors from Sheffield, (Jillian Creasy) and Bradford (Kevin Warnes) outlined their local achievements. 

Shan Oakes, second on the European list, talked about the lead the Yorkshire and Humber Green Party has been taking on encouraging women into Green Politics.

20 May 2009

Meeting on Gaza told justice needed as well as peace

Kirklees Green Party held a public meeting on Gaza, Palestine & the Middle East on Tuesday 20th January

 “The establishment of the peace process in Gaza will not hold unless it is accompanied by justice for the Palestinians” said Ibrahim Hewitt, chair of the trustees of Interpal, a humanitarian aid charity in Huddersfield on Tuesday. Speaking at a public meeting called by Kirklees Green Party, he said that “the devastation was nothing less than a catastrophe.”

Mr Hewitt was critical of the Israeli Defence Force strikes on United Nations’ buildings, sheltering refugees and causing a major fire at the main relief store of food and medicines. He said that the aid raised in Britain by Interpal had recently been channelled through the UN’s local agency.

At the start of the cease fire an estimated 400,000 people are without fresh water, 50,000 homes had been destroyed and health centres, schools had been razed to the ground, said Mr Hewitt.  The death rate, estimated at 1300 Palestinians killed by the time of the ceasefire, is creeping up as further bodies are found in the rubble of destroyed buildings.

He added that the Secretary General of the United Nations had strongly condemned the Israeli bombing of a UN school where children were sheltering and the disproportionate response he had witnessed on his visit this week. Of the 1300 Palestinians killed, over half were civilians including many children. Of the 13 Israelis killed, 3 were civilians.

The meeting also heard from Martin Hemingway, Green Party lead candidate for the European Union elections on June 4th He suggested that we should consider what we can do about British government policy that was strongly supportive of Israel and the USA. He suggested that a well supported policy of sanctions and boycotts which had worked to challenge South Africa’s apartheid policy should now be tried to challenge a similar “apartheid policy” applied by Israel to Palestinians.

He also explained the Green Group in the European Parliament was leading objections to the EU trade agreements that have recently given Israel preferential status. He reminded the audience that many of the public buildings destroyed by the Israeli army had been paid for by our taxes as they had been built with European Union funding. 

He said that though Hamas was elected by the Palestinian people in a fair election, the refusal by Israel, the EU and USA to recognise their representatives had created unstable conditions.  There are now 43 Hamas MPs in Israeli jails, feeding further Palestinian resistance.

Both speakers emphasised that though the ceasefire has been announced, there is fear of further Israeli action to blockade the population of Gaza, and that the attention of the world is needed to ensure that the ceasefire is followed by a lasting solution that requires a settlement of a 60-year old injustice that involves disputed land.

Insulation Scheme Planned for Scotland

based on Kirklees Green's pioneering initiative

In October 2008 the Scottish Green Party launched a campaign for an additional £100m per annum to be spent to insulate Scotland's homes. The scheme is based on the Kirklees Warm Zone which was the result of a successfully Green party amendment to the Kirklees Budget in 2007 . The party is calling for a free loft and cavity wall insulation programme, delivered area-by-area and door-to-door across Scotland, in line with the successful scheme delivered by Green Councillors in Kirklees. Greens also want Scottish Ministers to adopt the so-called RE:Charge scheme, again as demonstrated in Kirklees, to fund appropriate domestic renewables and more substantial insulation measures through loans which are only repaid when the property is sold.

In the debate on the Scottish Government's Budget, the Finance Secretary John Swinney committed to implementation of a properly-funded area-basedscheme of this sort, delivering insulation measures across the whole ofScotland over an "ambitious timescale".

Kirklees Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper said

" These Green Party initiatives are really getting the attention of politicians across the country in the absence of any real dynamic policies from the Labout Government on Climate Change. Insulation is the most simple cost effective measure you can take to reduce carbon emissions and would create thousands of useful jobs if adopted as a national free scheme."

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

"Our proposals to insulate all of Scotland's homes have been warmly welcomed by business groups, environmental charities, fuel poverty activists and many others. Energy efficiency is widely accepted as one of the most cost-effective ways to tackle climate change and fuel poverty, and the Green proposals are also designed to give a much-needed boost to jobs in to thebuilding sector and put money back into the pockets of every household in Scotland.

"John Swinney's announcements today show a willingness by the Scottish Government to deliver this kind of nation-wide transformation on energy efficiency. We have as a result voted with the SNP today, but there is still much more work to be done on the implementation of our proposals ahead of the final vote in two weeks' time."

Notes

1. See: http://warmscotland.org

2. See:
http://www.kirklees.gov.uk/community/environment/energyconservation/warmzone

/warmzonefaq.shtml

Labour's pro-privatisation views challenged by new Deputy Leader

Adrian Ramsay, the Green Party's first-ever Deputy Leader, launchied an attack on privatisation and patient charging in the health service.  The 27-year-old Norwich City Council opposition leader is aiming to unseat Charles Clarke in Norwich South and challenged the vocally pro-privatisation Labour MP to fight the election on public services.

In the closing keynote speech of the conference, Cllr Ramsay celebrated the work of Green councillors across the country in defending local economies, tackling homelessness and repossessions, and cutting energy bills and fuel poverty. He also reinforced Caroline Lucas' call for an energy windfall tax to kickstart a Green New Deal to tackle recession and the fuel crisis.

Cllr Ramsay said: "The government is now being offered advice on public services by Charles Clarke, and if they were to take his advice we would see even more social exclusion and even more privatisation when it comes to public services."

"Greens across the country have been working tirelessly protecting local shops and services, and standing up to large multinationals and supermarkets. Tesco is one of the most powerful corporations on the planet. It has a turnover of billions, the ear of the government and the top lawyers in the country. But, when Green councillors help communities organise, we can do what it takes to win."

Cllr Ramsay concluded by endorsing the Green New Deal - an economic and environmental plan co-authored by Caroline Lucas. He said:

"The overlapping events of the credit crunch, soaring oil prices and the costs of climate change threaten to develop into a crisis of a severity not seen since the Great Depression, with potentially devastating consequences.

"The solution, as Greens have realised, is investment in the things our country needs now. Renewable energy. Energy saving. Local food production. And the thousands of new Green collar jobs that these positive measures will create.

"Green Councillors around the country are securing investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. Greens are pushing councils to take carbon reductions seriously, putting in place annual target and effective strategies.

"But to promote the positive answers that the Green New Deal would provide, we need Greens in Westminster."