Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

Lies, damn lies, greenwash and statistics

January 28, 2014

David Cameron commented on the recent British floods by saying that “he thought they were probably due to global warming”. While a single incidence of flooding is not in itself evidence of climate change, extreme weather events are becoming more and more common – the flooding in the UK has been linked to a cold snap across the Atlantic and a shift in the jet-stream, which has brought the stormiest month to Britain since 1969. It seems that meteorological records are being broken routinely, and there is evidence that the planet’s climate is changing.

While Cameron’s remarks are infinitely more helpful than the homophobia and ignorance of the UKIP councillor David Silvester, who blamed the floods on homosexuality, this rhetoric is not matched in terms of Conservative party policy. Why are the Tories pursuing fracking and nuclear power so aggressively? Why can’t the money being used to buy more nuclear power stations and give tax breaks to companies pursuing fracking instead be invested in developing renewable energy?

Of course, the reason is lobbying of politicians by energy companies with vested interests in keeping the status quo, of making as much profit as possible from the remaining fossil fuel resources, without regard for the long-term necessity to stop global warming. We need to get rid of career politicians and elect people who will stand up for our interests. In Britain, Labour, Lib Dems and Tories are all wedded to the system of capitalism. New Labour are no different; papers have been released showing collusion between Blair and Thatcher to keep the Conservative’s neo-liberal, privatisation agenda alive and well throughout Blair’s tenure. There is no sign that Milliband offers anything different.

The evidence for human-induced global warming is overwhelming. We have known of the principle behind global warming since 1896, when the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius first put forward the science behind the theory. The warning from our own solar system, of the danger of runaway global warming is stark – look at the uninhabitable surface of Venus. Capitalism has had 100 years to do something about this, yet in the face of the over-riding desire to create profit for a few, the result has been over-exploitation of the world’s natural resources. What little is being done, is far too late to make any difference now. The best case scenario, if we managed to convert to a 100% carbon neutral economy, is a 2°C rise in global temperatures by 2100. This would still be catastrophic, displacing millions of people and destroying ecosystems.

A more likely scenario, put forward by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which represents the scientific consensus, is that our world will warm by 4°C by the turn of the next century. However, this still entails a sea-change in policy and a willingness for global co-operation which is unprecedented. With every international conference – Kyoto, Copenhagen, Rio – the result has been a fudge, with countries seeking to shift the blame onto others and mitigate their own responsibility, rather then looking to actually address the problem.

So what is the solution? We need co-operation on an international scale. We need to put the control of the economy in the hands of workers, not politicians. We need to end the rule of profit, and replace this with democratic decision making worldwide, so that decisions can be made in the interests of the many, not the few. We need to elect leaders who are accountable to us, not big business.

The CWI (Committee for a Workers International) has organisations in around 50 countries worldwide. We have just recently elected representatives in the Canary Islands, Spain, as part of the United Left, and Kshama Sawant as Socialist Alternative in Seattle. We are standing Donal O’Cofaigh as a candidate on an anti-fracking position in Ireland. We are offering an alternative to corruption, sleaze and politicians squabbling and dithering over vital issues like the environment. We are growing as a political force and around the world, protesters are calling for change. However, leadership from traditional parties and right-wing trade unions is woefully lacking and time is short – we must build the socialist alternative.

In Britain, we are looking to stand as TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) in as many seats across the country in the forthcoming local elections to offer voters a democratic, socialist alternative to this market-driven madness. If you agree with us, please support our campaign, and consider standing yourself as a candidate.

The Famous Sperm Whale (after William McGonagall)

December 31, 2013

‘Twas in the month of March, in the year 2013,
That a sperm whale was beached, due to plastic debris.
It had voraciously feasted, when it was at sea,
Not on plankton but on sheeting, meant to grow tomatoes for our tea.

Oh! it was a most fearful and beautiful sight,
But we must all be aware of the whale’s sad plight.
To see it lashing the water with its tail
Should make us all weep and wail.

They bravely cut up the whale without delay
And found 59 items of plastic in its stomach, all in disarray.
The stench was revolting, some would say
But most revolting of all was the stench of money.

So Aldi, Carrefour and Tesco,
Exotic fruits can’t be grown al fresco.
Consumers want their fruit out of season
So greenhouses use lots of plastic sheetin’.

And supermarkets know they can make plenty of profit
By ignoring health and safety, not caring about the vomit-
Inducing tale of the famous sperm whale,
Never more to lash its ugly and mighty tail.

Then the people did descend on the supermarket bosses
To make sure they did the right thing, never mind any losses!
The people were angry and put up a good fight.
Will the supermarkets ever listen, or care about our seas’ plight?

Then the people together in crowds did protest
Resolved to change this messed-up system, with civil unrest.
To protect our planet, as it’s the only one we’ve got,
To fight for a decent future for all, is that such a naive thought?

On the beach of beautiful Andalucia, the dead whale sadly lay
And so I will conclude this awful and terrible lay.
There’s a petition to be signed, which here can be reached
To protect our seas, no more whales to be beached.

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You can read some more of my poetry in ‘Little Red Poetry’. All proceeds go to build a new party for ordinary people, against cuts and privatisation. Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Copies are also available from Left Books

Water is more precious than oil

October 29, 2013

We need water for our survival. At first glance, it may appear to be hugely abundant. After all, seven- tenths of our planet is covered in the stuff! However, 97.5% of this is sea-water. Of the 2.5% of our water which is left, two-thirds of that is locked in polar ice and of the remainder, only 1% is accessible and suitable for drinking. Much of the rest is locked up in soil, or in deep, underground aquifers.

A few months ago, I went to a showing of the film Gasland. This is a shocking and highly personal account of the impact of ‘fracking’ in the US. Fracking and associated technologies such as tar sand exploitation and Underground Coal Gasification are termed “extreme energy”. As oil begins to run short of demand, energy companies are turning to less viable sources of fossil fuels in an effort to extract every last drop of the Earth’s resources. In many cases, precious water supplies are being contaminated in the process. Both fracking and underground coal gasification can pollute nearby water aquifers, with devastating effects on nearby farms, and localised increases in the risk of cancer.

Extreme energy sources are of poor quality and generally they are a grossly inefficient and dirty way of solving our energy needs. The only benefit is to large, multinational corporation. This will not deliver ‘cheap energy’ as our politicians claim. Moreover, this exacerbates emissions of greenhouse gases. It wreaks environmental devastation, involving the wholesale destruction of ecosystems.

Fracking involves the detonation of charges underground in order to release shale gas, which was previously locked away underground. As well as being a potential source of seismic activity, the process uses huge amounts of water, involves thousands of tanker trips and is an inefficient source of energy. ‘Fracking fluid’ contains many known carcinogens, which can find their way into water supplies.

Underground Coal Gasification uses heat, steam and pressure to convert coal to gas underground. The technology of Underground Coal Gasification cannot be tested in the laboratory. Therefore trials need to take place in situ, making us guinea pigs for a technology which is inherently risky. What happens if something goes wrong? Underground, fires can burn uncontrollably and they can last for centuries. In the former coal-mining town of Centralia, Pennsylvania an underground coal fire has been burning since 1962; the town is now almost abandoned, due to the very real risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. http://www.offroaders.com/album/centralia/centralia.htm

One idea put forward to combat global warming is carbon sequestration. However, this is highly speculative – while it may be possible to remove impurities in the gasification stage, no-one has been able to capture and store greenhouse gases post-combustion, despite huge amounts of money being invested in Norway. Surely, it would be more sensible to put the money into developing alternative, renewable energy sources? http://blogs.nature.com/news/2013/09/norway-scraps-large-scale-carbon-capture-plan.html

The counter-argument, that however distasteful these projects may be, it is still necessary to keep the lights on – we need to invest in oil, gas and nuclear power, because alternative energy is unreliable and untested on a large enough scale. However, why are we going into extreme energy sources which are inherently extremely dangerous and untested? Likewise for nuclear power, there is no safe way of storing nuclear waste in the long-term. Surely the money, the energy and the expertise going into extreme energy could be much better deployed in utilising sources of renewable energy? Taken together – tidal, wind, solar, wave, geothermal, hydroelectric power – could safely and renewably meet our energy needs

However, under the present system, companies are only interested in pursuing profit. Objectors to fracking in America have simply been bought off. Politicians of all main parties have been corrupted by energy companies. Dick Cheney, President of Halliburton, signed off the “Halliburton loophole”, exempting fracking from the need to safeguard water supplies. We need to build a party run democratically, in the interests of ordinary people, to break with capitalism and to fight for socialist ideas.

We also need to realise that water is more precious than oil. We need to nationalise our utilities, so that we commonly own our natural resources – they are not there to be exploited for the benefit of a few, but should be used for the benefit of all.

Medley

September 3, 2013

We’re fracking, we’re fracking – I’m gonna frack it with you.
Going underground, going underground,
I’m goin’ deeper underground.
Underground, overground, wombling free,
Like an atom bomb, about to oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, explode.

Two minutes to midnight – the hands that threaten doom.
One, two, three o’ clock, four o’clock, rock!
You – shook me all night long!
Sharia don’t like it – rockin’ the Casbah, rock the Casbah.
What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!

And I’m a heatseeker, gonna burn up your town.
I’ve got a fever of 103,
Ooooh, I’m on fire.
Frack, baby, frack, show me you’re real.
Dirty deeds, and they’re done dirt cheap.

Get up, stand up! Stand up for your rights.
Excuse me Mr Officer, murderer,
Don’t stop me now! I’m having such a good time.
Come and do the jailhouse rock with me. Let’s rock!
I stand in front of you, I’ll take the force of the blow.
Protection.

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You can help support the Socialist Party by buying a short book of my poems, ‘Little Red Poetry’: Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Class II

March 19, 2013

Knobbly, misshapen, not the right shade of green,
I fell into the wrong hole in the sorting machine.
An unkind accident of my vegetable life,
Deemed unfit to be chopped by a Michelin-starred knife.
On special offer, “Buy two get one free!”
A budding Picasso carves a cock into me.
Left alone on my pitch of fake, plastic grass,
All too keenly aware of my lower class,
A bright yellow sticker announces my reduced fate.
The shop’s clock ticks on, past my expiry date.
Left out to rot in the skip with the fruit,
A lonely cucumber next to some sad beetroot.
A victim of vegetable snobbery, I despair
Of this consumer society that just doesn’t care.

Note

90 million tons of perfectly edible food are wasted every year in Europe, while people starve. And they say the “free market” is the most efficient means of production?

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You can help support the Socialist Party by buying a short book of my poems, ‘Little Red Poetry’: Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Hot Air

December 6, 2011

This idea came to me on the climate change demo in London a couple of years ago (a little ironic as this was in December and the weather was completely freezing, but of course we shouldn’t confuse weather with climate) . I thought of it as a cartoon – with Hot Air emanating from the Houses of Parliament, as the Thames slowly submerges the politicians from below – if only!

 

Hot Air

 

Trains trundle to and fro; tired travellers.

Stuffed sardines stifle in squalor.

First-class fat cats with fatter wallets

Relax, remote from the raucous riff-raff.

 

Six hundred hypocritical half-wits howl hot

Air against applications; altercations arise –

Irate imprecations, impossible implications.

Wind turbines? Not In My Back Yard!

 

Motorway madness means mollycoddling motorists

Belching bellicose blasts, bloated back-benchers

Pork on parliamentary privilege,

Gigantic guffs of hot air.

 

If only Nature could be given wings

And the Earth’s glacial warming

Measured in a five-year term.

 

When the Barrier bursts open

And foetid, algal slurry laps

Around the hems of designer suits,

Ruining pairs of Jimmy Choos,

Then, maybe, they might begin to realise.

 

Or we could take power for ourselves.

We would not have to suffer

Yet more hot air.

 


 

You can read some more of my poetry in ‘Little Red Poetry’. All proceeds go to build a new party for ordinary people, against cuts and privatisation. Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Copies are also available from Left Books