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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

2011 has been an eventful year by any standards. And here it is from a Green perspective. It began with the death of Pete Postlethwaite the face of the Age of Stupid – I’ll never forget his words as he tells us that we are busy watching and monitoring the collapse of our planet but taking very little action in the face of known calamity – at least the Mesopatamians and the Romans didn’t quite watch their demise as we do!

In February, we saw Queensland, Australia, being hit by floods perhaps another sign of more extreme weather events. It was also the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring with the resignation of Mubarak in Egypt. This wave of events was not surprising in the face of a declining world economy and high prices for food and other basic goods. We welcome the change and hope that better governance may make a difference.

In March, it was the Japanese tsunami and the risks of nuclear contamination that took up the headlines. People turned to the Green Party in Germany for an alternative. We must push ahead with the real Green alternative – energy saving and renewables – as we recognise the risks with nuclear.

From April to early August, the US right caused chaos with the Republican dominated Congress refusing to lift the debt ceiling throwing the US into crisis and reducing its credit rating. Whilst the US President tried to avoid crashing the economy, here the government continued soldiering on – whilst ordinary people wonder if we are under the command of another Haig.

Things went terribly wrong in the UK in August when one police shooting in Tottenham led to violence flaring up around the country, scaring all of us
as we suddenly realised the fragility of what we took for granted. A thirst for consumer goods combined with a lack of hope for the future and a lack of respect for the current order, led to looting and rioting. Mindless violence in some cases, but moe often it seemed chancing it and petty theft in others.

All this time, in East Africa people starved as famine continued to rage. The dusty land no longer seems able to offer sustenance, and people walk miles and miles to camps in the desert and in the blinding sun.

The Occupy Protest that began in September seemed like a welcome relief – at last people were regrouping, it seemed, determined to push for change. The Arab Spring continued into the Autumn and Gaddafi was killed in October.

In November, the Localism Act is enacted and we worry what this means for stable social housing. For how long will people in Council flats safely be able to regard them as home? And the government then makes its Autumn Statement. The Tory offensive will continue and there will be more public sector cuts to come ….. until the green shoots are forced out of the rocky
ground.

And finally, December – the Durban talks produce no firm commitments though there are signs that China and India see the need for change. The next day Canada pulls out of Kyoto. We all sink into what could be despair, but isn’t
as we are all optimists who believe that things will change. At last we have had the CERN breakthrough – almost seen the God Particle whatever that may mean – even if it comes along with flooding in the Phillipines and children being swept away with the water.

All this time the Greens made an offering of a positive means for change. Caroline Lucas MP amongst many others visited St Paul’s. The solution is investing in our long term future and moving away from the short-termism of the markets. It’s about challenging the inequality, that in an insidious way weakens our society, by making sure the corporates pay their taxes and making sure that the best paid employee does not get more than 10 times the lowest paid.

The solution is about breaking up the companies and banks that are too big to fail – smaller at least is better. It’s about greater local self-sufficiency combined with an internationalist outlook.

It’s about a focus on well-being and unlocking our huge creativity– instead of all the tat of Christmas and all the hours spent shopping, we’d be making things with the community, with our families.

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There was a very useful and serious meeting tonight at the town hall as the Scrutiny Review for Road Safety in the borough heard evidence on how to improve safety on Camden’streets. The meeting has been prompted by an extremely concerning spate of road deaths in Camden and particular concern around the Kings Cross/York Way junction that recently claimed its second life this year.

The Culture and Environment Scrutiny Committee heard evidence from Camden Cycling Campaign’s Jean Dollimore, the ‘cycling champion’ councillor Paul Braithwaite and Tom Kearney, a resident of Hampstead who had first-hand experience of a serious traffic incident. The councillors present were clearly sincere and keen to address the problems the borough faces; let’s hope the other bodies they will need to work with can step up with the same vigour.

Jean Dollimore’s extremely useful presentation laid out some simple facts. Road speeds kill. Compare the 90% death rate of collisions at 40 mph with the 2.5% rate of those that take place at 20 mph – a direct argument for reducing the speed of traffic in Camden. Jean explicitly talked about rolling out far more 20 mph speed limits to protect cyclists, pedestrians and, yes, drivers.

It’s difficult not to get angry when you hear that Transport for London (TfL) has made commitments to improve the danger spots in Camden since 2004 and yet no action has been taken. Indeed the Kings Cross junction looks set to become more dangerous rather than less unless public pressure can prevent the dangerous proposed changes.

The specific junction at York Way/Gray’s Inn Road has a high average speed and heavy traffic use and yet not only is there no cycle lane the road lay out gives room only for two vehicles side by side and then forces them to merge mid junction – of course it’s dangerous! Simple measures, like forcing the merge well before the junction and the introduction of a cycle lane would cost almost nothing but would immediately make the junction safer for cyclists.

Councillor Linda Chung made an impassioned plea that “one of the problems is the police and how they work” with a very strong statement about how the Metropolitan Police is falling well short when it comes to investigating deaths and serious incidents on Camden’s roads.

Councillor Braithwaite made a number of very useful points in his presentation including the lack of safe pedestrian crossing along Euston Road (which can take an age to cross), the lack of action on the ten most dangerous junctions in London, the cycle super highway (or blue paint on the road to you and me) and also the fact that the Kings Cross area has had a new college, a concrete blocking plant and is building new housing in the area and yet there has been little to no action on road safety despite the fact that they are coming under more and more pressure.

Braithwaite declared he had real sympathy with those who called for TfL executive members to be charged with corporate manslaughter for the “carnage” on the roads.

Finally Tom Kearney made a very moving presentation on the very real personal cost of TfL’s road safety statistics. He powerfully stated that if TfL’s roads were a factory then the death rate would have had them shut down years ago.

He made particular reference to the way the school run for the private schools in the borough created a Grand Prix situation on the roads with parents driving their 4x4s like mad things to drop off the kids making the roads too unsafe for all the kids. He suggested a school run tax to be levied on private schools to force them to deal with the issue. It’s a nice idea – I wonder if it’s possible?

Certainly these parents don’t seem inclined towards walking buses or cycling with their kids to school making the roads more dangerous for everyone – we need new ways to encourage better behaviour. In his words they pay for their 4×4, they pay the school fees, well they can pay for danger they pose on the roads too.

Well said.

Sadly one negative theme was the difficulties people were having working with the police and TfL. We need to find more leverage where staff can’t or won’t help us improve safety.

The committee meets again on December the 5th and it was very pleasing to see how seriously the councillors concerned took the issue. Let’s hope that we can collectively pressure TfL to help us make our communities safer.

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To to be held in Camden Town Hall’s Chamber (opposite St Pancras station), starting 5pm on Monday 21st November (until 8.30pm).

Top-notch speakers including
* Isabel Dedring, London’s deputy mayor for transport
* Professor Frank Kelly, Director of the Environmental Research Group, King;s College
* Simon Birkett, founder of Clean Air in London (CAL)

There will be exhibitions stands too.

Signup through airquality@camden.gov.uk or by phoning: 0207 974 6981.

More about air quality in Camden.

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by Natalie Bennett

A fascinating time was had at the apple day, particularly in learning about scores of varieties that you never see in the supermarket.

My favourites, by history anyway, included:

Dumelow’s Seedling (also called Dumeller’s Seedling, Dumelow’s Crab, Normanton Wonder and Wellington) – one of the most widely grown culinary apples of Victorian England, known for its flavour and keeping quality. (Pre cold-stores of course!). Very acid, and cooks to a rich puree. A recipe suggestion was to prepare with a sweeter cooker that keeps its shape, such as Wolf River, so the puree flows around the shape.

And the Old English Pearmain, along with the Costard the first recorded Norman apple (in 1204).

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http://www.winkball.com/video-embed-web/?guid=72b2c591-0aa8-47c0-a19f-9e2d41416a16

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* London’s Housing Crisis: An open meeting hosted by the Green Party
Thursday 16th June, 7-9pm, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Holborn. All welcome

London faces a chronic housing shortage, with hundreds of thousands of families on council waiting lists – and more than 6,000 council properties standing empty. Also rents are climbing, and a recent survey showed those hoping to buy do not expect to do so until they are 38. Where do we go from here? What is to be done to help renters and first-time buyers, and stop buy-to-let landlords cashing in?

Speakers: Rachel Orr – Shelter; Dave Smith – London Citizens; Katy John – Priced Out; Robert Taylor – Camden Federation of Private Tenants
Chair – Alastair Milne – West Central London Green Party

Also
* Environmental Films at Open City London Film Festival, Friday, June 17, from 6.15pm at Torrington Place, Bloomsbury. More.

* Join Transition Belsize, Transition Primrose Hill and other local groups and churches for a Midsummer Picnic to celebrate the summer solstice. Bring local homemade food to share on Sunday 19 June at Primrose Hill, More details at http://www.transitionprimrosehill.org

* Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association: Environment and Human Rights Day on Saturday 25th June – open to all in the morning, youth focus (workshops) in the afternoon. More

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We’ve had a lovely weekend at what was Camden Green Fair – although this year it has had a well deserved promotion to London’s Green Fair no less.

Large numbers of attendees came to Regent’s Park and enjoyed the fair in the baking sun most of yesterday and in, well, more varied weather conditions today. The Green Party had a stall as usual with quite a few of the local activists helping out through the weekend.

It’s good to see so many people interested in green ideas and wanting to make a positive difference to their community and planet. It’s also good to see the great variety of ways people are finding to make their own little difference to the world. We certainly don’t agree on everything but we certainly all agree that we need to get active for change and that we need to focus on the practical steps weneed to take.

Lots of people, lots of sun

Green Party activists hard at work at the fair

Jenny Jones, Ken Livingstone and others regale us with their thoughts

A cycle powered gig taking place

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