Imagining Other

Power and Protest/”People Power”:

(Social Movements in the 20th Century)


- the environmental movement –


Part 3 - Updates


(These are brief notes, arranged in alphabetical order of topics).


                                                     NB: there is a separate file for climate change – see Links:         Imagining Other index page

                                                                                                                                                                                      The environmental movement part 1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Part 2 - Climate change (including updates)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Part 4 - environmental issues in Australia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Part 5 - Val Plumwood and the crocodile



1. Topics covered (notes are in alphabetical order):


#acid rain     #agriculture  #air pollution         alternatives: see imagining other: part 3, alternatives                   #animals      #Attenborough (Sir David)

#badgers     #bees          #biodiversity         #biofuels       books: see section 2         #buildings

#Cancun      #carbon       #cars          #coal           #consumption - cutting down    #contraction and convergence    #coral reefs

          #CSR (corporate social responsibility)

#developed world's responsibility       #developing countries

#ecology (see also pp22environmentalism)             #eco-feminism       economy: see current issues: economics   #Ecuador     #energy     

          #environmental ethics and philosophy (see also pp22environmentalism)         #EU

#food          #food miles           #fracking     Fukushima: see #nuclear

#Gaia & James Lovelock (anti-green stance!)          #gm (Genetically Modified organisms)           #government         #green investment bank   #green party          #green politics

#homo sapiens timescale (evolution of species, and time-scale of agriculture and industry).

Lovelock – see Gaia

#media reporting of science      #microalgae          

#native peoples, conservation & biodiversity          #neo-greens          neonicotinoids see pesticides          #nuclear

#oil              #overviews  (link to 2004 Mark Townsend Observer article and notes on 2005 overview by John Vidal)

#pesticides #population

#rational optimist (Matt Ridley) #reform or revolution       #rights for Nature?

#sea   #Shell         #soil (biodiversity in)       #Soviet Union       #'standby'    #Stern Report   #sustainable development commission         

#value          #Vidal, John

#waste         #water         #wholistic approach      


2. #Books



Acid Rain:


We cleared up a lot of the problem in 1980s by switching from coal to gas (little sulphur), catalytic converters (reduce nitrogen), scrubbers in factory chimneys, and this led to an 80% cut in acid rain. In the early ‘80s, (?only) 3m tonnes SO2 were emitted p.a. in Britain. But the sea is acid in places, and China has dirty emissions and acid rain, so still a problem…


Acid rain is now known to affect the oceans: Acidification of the oceans (Green World 65, Summer 2009):

- the pH (the alkalinity – 7 is neutral, i.e. anything below 7 is acidic, and above 7 is alkaline or base) of the ocean’s open water has been 8.2 for millions of years, now (since burning fossil fuel for couple of centuries) is down to 8.05 (i.e. more acidic) – acidity goes down to 1,000 metres and in some places to 3,000 metres – ocean makes up 99% of planet’s living space – plankton control the carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle and part of the oxygen cycle – 3.6 billion yrs ago plankton began to produce oxygen, hence life could develop – every second breath we take is of oxygen from plankton

- pre-industrial levels of CO2 were 280 ppm by volume, and by mid-century is likely to be doubled to 560 – plankton makes less calcium in more acidic water – we don’t know what effect this will have

– acidification could lead to mass extinction: previous 5 such events were all accompanied by acidification (last time 65 m yrs ago, dinosaurs died out). Alanna Mitchell, author: The Hidden Ecological Crisis of the Global Ocean, pub: Oneworld. 




- useful and controversial piece by George Monbiot:

and replies in Guardian 7th March:


Air pollution:


John Vidal article, Guardian (G2) 20.03.13: – distressing to see that photochemical smog is still around... (my notes on this, at CSR Chapter 6 - the environment were originally written in the ‘70s and ‘80s – and the Clean Air Act goes back to 1955!!). There are 5.4 million people in Britain with asthma, and tens of thousands of others with respiratory diseases – yet the air quality in many of our major cities is still very bad. 29,000 people a year die from air pollution. The main offender is diesel engines... The cost to the NHS is up to 17% of its budget. London has 4,300 deaths a year (see next paragraph!). We could be subject to fines from the EU (air pollution laws were passed 13 years ago), and the WHO has warned that NO2 is harmful at even lower levels than set by Europe. ClientEarth has taken the government to court: the issue is that it is all very well having EU laws, but if there is no ability to ensure they are enforced what is the point?


London air pollution may have contributed to 3,000 deaths in 2005: Mayor Johnson has taken various measures (hybrid buses, smoother traffic-flows, cycling, opposing expansion of Heathrow), but nationally we are not doing anything. Caroline Lucas attacked govt for not meeting EU P10 limits (should have been met in 2005). Ecologist magazine, June 2009.




Declining bird population. David Adam, G 250509:

About 75% of British countryside is farmed.

During 1980s, farmers were paid a guaranteed price by EU for wheat, barley etc. àoversupply, grain mountains …

Cost of storing surplus grew, and cheaper to pay farmers not to use the land à ‘set-aside’ (“voodoo economics” acc. David Adam.

8% - 15% farming land set aside and policy continued for 20 years. During this time bird population flourished… (less chemicals, more weed seeds).

2007 policy dropped after poor harvests and rising food prices. More food needed, so farmers took set-aside land back into use. But if prices rise…

Decline in cereal prices àslight rise in unfarmed land – government plans to start set-aside again (because concern over wildlife?), giving subsidies. RSPB wants mandatory 4-5% of farmland to be out of production, while farmers want it left to them (they say they can manage the problem, and compulsory measures mean farmers don’t deal with it so thoroughly/effectively – others say if farmers don’t implement set-aside, they only have to forgo the subsidies – £240 per year for each acre devoted to conservation – while growing wheat would bring £130 profit per year according to John Cousins, farmer in Hadleigh nr. Ipswich, also head of agricultural policy for Wildlife Trusts).


Attenborough, David: in Observer Magazine, 28.10.12 talks about the environmental crisis – size of the world’s population is the main problem, but also working on a film on damage to the oceans (waste plastic especially). Has been criticised for not speaking earlier about global warming, but now has run up against Nigel Lawson for his arguments about melting polar ice (in an episode of his TV film Frozen Planet) – Lawson shows a complete misunderstanding of the global nature of the crisis we are facing (by picking on spots where the world has got colder!). He is ‘up a gum tree’.

Susanna Rustin interview:


Badgers: George Monbiot 23.10.12 a cull could, according to Prof John Bourne who led the government’s trial (cost 49 m) ‘make TB a damn sight worse’. In the 1960s strict quarantine rules and rigorous testing of cattle almost eliminated TB, but farmers complained and controls were relaxed...



May 2014. IFLS article, put on Facebook criticises a study by Dr Alex Lu as not proving what he claims – that neonics are a serious contributor to bee decline. A Public Health Bulletin summary is interesting:


29.04.13 European commission will suspend use of three neonicotinoids for two years – British government abstained in the first vote and then voted against a ban.

Damian Carrington report:


23.10.12 George Monbiot points out that other European nations have banned neo-nicotinoids, and a new study in Nature this week provides more evidence of the devastating impacts of neo-nics. However, as Monbiot argues, class interests work against doing the sane things about all this.


See also:


In January 2013 Damian Carrington reported that EFSA has said that imidacloprid should not be used on crops that attract bees. France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia have banned some uses of neonics. Prof. David Goulson of Stirling University welcomed the EFSA findings. (Guardian Jan 17th 2013).


Articles by Damian Carrington: - Britain and Germany abstained in a vote on a suspension of neonics which the European commission had recommended, after the European Food Safety Authority said they posed an unacceptable risk. Other countries voted against, led by Hungary and Romania – without a majority the proposal was rejected. With 13 in favour, 5 abstaining and 9 opposed, there was not a clear majority either way, so the appeals process may overturn this decision. John Gummer (former environment secretary, now Lord Deben) says the precautionary principle ought to guide our actions in this – opposing the view of the current environment secretary Owen Patterson.


A recent article by Damian Carrington – the importance of wild insects as well as bees for pollination:


Damian Carrington blog link:


- the latest from this blog:




In an article on 1st March Carrington points out that honey bees are not alone – and may not be the most important – in pollinating crops and flowers: wild bees and other insects play an important part, according to scientists at the Nation University in Rio Negro, Argentina. Pollination is needed for about a third of global food crops.

The research was published in Science journal.

In the 20th century in the US more than half the wild bee species were lost.


- a good Guardian editorial on bees and neonicotinoids:


From the Telegraph:



From Farming News: Friday 21 September 2012

Scientists from Fera [Food and Environment Research Agency – an executive agency of Defra, whose ‘overarching purpose is to support and develop a sustainable food chain, a healthy natural environment, and to protect the global community from biological and chemical risks’] and the University of Exeter have come to the conclusion that neonicotinoid pesticides may not pose as great a threat to bee populations as had previously been thought. In a study, published this month in the journal Science ,researchers  suggest neonicotinoid oilseed rape pesticide Cruiser may not be responsible for colony collapse disorder in bees, though two studies published earlier in the year in Science came to the opposite conclusion.

Neonicotinoids are among the most widely-used agricultural insecticides in the World; honeybees ingest residues of the pesticides as they gather nectar and pollen from treated plants. Previous studies had shown that sub-lethal doses of the preparations caused disorientation and other harmful effects in bees, leading authors to suggest the chemical could be linked to colony collapse disorder, wherein worker bees abruptly disappear from a colony.

In response to findings from April this year, which linked thiamethoxam, the active ingredient in Syngenta’s Cruiser OSR pesticide, to colony collapse disorder, the French government banned the chemical. Italy has since followed suit and environmental activists in the UK have called on the government to introduce a National Bee Action Plan and join the French and Italian governments in outlawing the pesticide.

The week, the UK government announced it would not act on the matter, following consultation with Fera and the Health and Safety Executive.  

However, the Fera study does not suggest that pesticides are in any way harmless. It merely points out that the authors of a previous French study had not accurately calculated the rate at which honeybee colonies recover from losing individuals or expand during the spring, when oilseed rape is blossoming. Previous research, led by French scientist Mikaël Henry, showed that the death rate of bees increased when they drank nectar laced with a neonicotinoid pesticide at concentrations which they would typically find in the field, the new study does not contest this.

Clarifying the results of his research, Dr James Cresswell of the University of Exeter who led the Fera study said, “We know that neonicotinoids affect honeybees. I am definitely not saying that pesticides are harmless to honeybees, but our research shows that the effects of thiamethoxam are not as severe as first thought.”

He said that his study merely showed that “there is no evidence that [thiamethoxam] could cause colony collapse; when we repeated the previous calculation with a realistic birth rate, the risk of colony collapse under pesticide exposure disappeared.”

Biodiversity: The State of Nature Report, compiled by 25 conservation groups, shows UK wildlife is declining: most species are declining and one in three have halved in numbers in the past 50 years. Report Guardian 22 May 2013. Damian Carrington article:


IUCN Red List (begun in 1996, but includes extinctions going back to 1500 – see Guardian display Monday 3rd Sep 2012. See

(International Union for the Conservation of Nature)




March 2013: on takeover of land for biofuels in USA


Jan 2008: Luiz da Silva: rich countries produce 65% of greenhouse emissions; Brazil has 45% renewable energy (worldwide ave 14%). Cut deforestation by 52% since 2003. Reduced emissions using ethanol (for 30 yrs…) Sugar cane not grow well in Amazonian area., so not a threat to forests; less than 4% of Brazil’s land used for ethanol – produces 18bn litres p.a., aim: 26bn by 2010. Global food stocks enough – problem is (distribution i.e.) lack of income of poor. Sugar earns $8bn p.a., creates jobs. Biodiesel prog based on oil seeds. Need rigorous certification etc. International Ethanol Forum.  But it takes more energy to produce fuel from corn, bean and seeds than the energy value of the fuel (letter NS 280108). Controversy see G 260108…

Buildings cause more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions Gdn supplement 05.12.07


Cancun conference, Nov/Dec 2010: Cameron has refused to attend (tho’ attended meeting on whether UK should host world cup!!!). Views (G 30.11.10): Michael Jacobs (climate advisor to G Brown 2004 – 10): doesn’t matter if no legal agreement so long as get all the major economies (along with most of the developing countries) to agree as in Copenhagen Accord. Caroline Spelman (Envt, Food and Rural Affairs Sec): Assoc of Brit Insurers point out that claims from storm and flood damage doubled between 1998 and 2003 (to over £6 bn). Tim Yeo: need (binding) performance standards for power stations which would stimulate CCS etc by showing future is in clean energy. Farrukh Iqbal Khan (Pakistan lead negotiator): Copenhagen agreed ‘new and additional’ resources for developing countries approaching $30 bn from 2010 to 2012, but in practice money/support provided is not new: ‘relying on voluntary reports from developed countries is a recipe for disaster and growing mistrust).




Aug. 2012: CCS - Carbon capture and storage – article by Simon Neville, Guardian 6th Aug tells how this no longer looks viable because the price of carbon is too low, owing to the credit crunch... Hey Ho, another success for marketisation!!!


Oct 2010: Carbon neutral city: ‘Self-sufficient and carbon-neutral city’: Masdar, on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi in UAE: see New York Times 031010, Nicolai Ouroussof: like a gated community, excluded from the rest of the world. ‘Ever since the notion that thoughtful planning could improve the lot of humankind died out, some time in the 1970s, both the megarich and the educated middle classes have increasingly found solace by walling themselves off inside a variety of mini-utopias.’


Jan 2008: Tom Burke, founding director of E3G (not-for-profit sustainable development organisation) (G 160108): scale of problem must be recognised: need avoid 2% increase but have already increased 0.7, and cannot prevent another 0.7… Must cut all CO2, including agriculture, deforestation, etc – no time to learn from our mistakes, and dwarfs anything we have faced before. Agrees must move to electricity, as CO2 from oil/gas cannot be stored (especially cars, also home boilers?). Only 3 sources: renewables, nuclear, fossil + CCS. Wind added 15 GW last yr – nuclear added only 2GW. Coal is main fuel world-wide, China plans 40 nuclear reactors, but this will only give 4% of its electricity. Must install CCS on all new and existing plants.

Jan 2007: Carbon footprint:  carbon reduction action groups (crag) aim to get members to reduce carbon footprint – can be penalized by the group if go beyond [how?!]. Andy Ross (in FoE) set one up in Warwickshire (Obs 21.01.07 – Cash section!). Targets UK personal average is 5 tonnes (or 11 if include industry emissions...). Groups go for e.g. 10% less per annum. Government target (in 2007?) 60% reduction over 40 years. Crags nay trade allowances between groups.

To measure footprint: take a year’s gas and electricity bills, estimate annual car mileage, divide by number of people in household. Sites that give methods to calculate: or (more complex) – also see (carbon reduction project – national and in US). Royal Society website has figures so you can compare with others: 




Myth of excessive taxation of drivers was put paid to by EU report: road accidents, pollution and noise from cars cost every EU citizen more than £600 a year. Report: The True Costs of Autonomobility, was by transport academics at Dresden technical University, led by Prof Udo Becker, and commissioned by the green group.


Even with drivers’ insurance payments discounted the total cost to the EU was £303 bn or 3% of the bloc’s entire GDP. (Peter Walker Guardian 26th Dec 2013). Total costs did not include costs of congestion or ill health caused by lack of exercise... UK drivers’ costs were second only to Germany, at £48 bn, or £815 per person per year.


Fuel duty (including VAT) and vehicle excise duty contribute around £38 bn a year to the Treasury - £10 bn less than the estimated cost.


They conclude that ‘internalisation of external costs is the essential thing in a market economy. It’s a prerequisite for everything – for individual behaviour and for innovation within the car industry.’ See also CSR chapter 6...



Examples of CO2 emissions by type: 

Low end:

A. VW Polo BlueMotion 1.4: <100 (g/km)

B. Peugeot 107 1.0: 101 – 120


C. Fiat Panda 1.2: 121 - 150

E. Renault Scenic 1.4: 166 – 185

High end:

G. Porsche Cayenne: 225 (some Porsches 300)


Average CO2 emissions in cars sold in EU: 160 g/km

EU target: all new cars must emit average 130 g/km by 2012.

Congestion charges: £10 a year for low; £8 a day for middle; £25 a day for high.

Most new models sold now fall into middle bracket, especially @ F: 186 – 225 (1,166 as against 193 in A/B range). Rest (C,D,E: 2,391). G: 799.

GLA says 33,000 a day in G category!!


China: accused by the US of ‘dumping’ cheap solar panels in the US, (cheap because aided by Chinese government subsidies) and undermining US production. In US solar power accounts for 0.1% of electricity generated. China accounts for 3/5 of world’s solar panel production, and exports 95% of what it produces.

Two US companies have gone bankrupt recently and others have cut production or laid off workers. China claims its subsidies are lower than those in the US – e.g. the US company Solyndra was heavily subsidised but still failed. New York Times/Observer 27/11/11.


Cutting down consumption: 25/5/11 G: Response, by Simon Fairlie – editor of The land -  - criticises George Monbiot for his support for nuclear power, when he doesn’t argue that we need (in the west) to reduce our consumption.



George Monbiot, 17th Dec 2013, has shocking figures for premature deaths from coal: 250,000 in China...

Extract: A study by the Clean Air Task Force suggests that coal power in the US causes 13,200 premature deaths a year. In Europe, according to the Health and Environment Alliance, the figure is 18,200. A study cited by the alliance suggests that around 200,000 children born in Europe each year have been exposed to "critical levels" of methylmercury in the womb. It estimates the health costs inflicted by coal burning at between €15bn (£12.5bn) and €42bn a year. Do you still reckon coal is cheap?

You're picturing filthy plants in Poland and Romania, aren't you? But among the most polluting power stations in Europe, Longannet in Scotland is ranked 11th; and Drax, in England, is ranked seventh. Last week the House of Lords failed to pass an amendment that would have forced a gradual shutdown of our coal-burning power plants: they remain exempted from the emissions standards that other power stations have to meet.

While nuclear power is faltering, coal is booming. Almost 1,200 new plants are being developed worldwide: many will use coal exported from the US and from Australia. The exports are now a massive source of income for these supposedly greening economies. By 2030 China is expected to be importing almost five times as much coal as it does today. The International Energy Agency estimates that the global use of coal will increase by 65% by 2035. Even before you consider climate change, this is a disaster.


John Vidal, Guardian 11th March 2013: coal-burning plants in India are causing 120,000 deaths a year, according to a report from Greenpeace, based on research by a former World Bank head of pollution. Millions of Indians suffer from asthma as well. There is hardly any regulation or inspection of pollution. India generates 210 GW of electricity a year, mostly from coal – there are plans to approve a further 160GW annually.


Friday 8th March 2013 – Daw Mill mine is closing as there is an underground fire which cannot be put out. 650 miners will be out of work. It is Europe’s largest coal mine and one of the few left in Britain. Terry Macalister adds that coal consumption for electricity has been growing by 30% year on year – coal is relatively cheap (cheaper than gas) New pollution controls don’t come in until 2015. 40% of electricity comes from coal, gas has 30% and nuclear etc have a much smaller share. Shipments of coal to Britain from US, Russia, Colombia rose by 50% last year. India and China are increasing their coal-burning power stations, but there are anxieties in China about air pollution (and see above re India). In Britain, suppliers have to fit filters to screen out nitrogen oxides etc.

A new industrial emissions directive from Europe came into force in January. Little has happened with regard to CCS (carbon capture and storage).


Aug. 2010:

Contraction and Convergence, and carbon rationing:


(from Ecologist mag, Nov 2008): Western countries must reduce (contract) their CO2 emissions, while some developing countries can be allowed to increase theirs until the world converges on a sustainable carbon footprint (between 1 and 2 tonnes annually [per person?] at current population levels.) The website for CRAG (Carbon-Rationing Action Group) has table showing how the average footprint of its members has reduced:  there are 650 members (2008) and a wiki-based site also…


July 2007:

Devised by Global Commons Institute – see Mayer Hillman letter G 090707. Greenpeace, FOE, WWF not agree? “Requires contraction of global carbon emissions to a safe level and convergence towards sharing them equally among the world’s population.”


Also on government price of “carbon” – see Paul Ekins, GuardianSociety second week in Feb.

Recently Brown and Stern have recommended we reduce CO2 by 80%, not 60%, by 2050, to prevent 2 degree rise – previous figures based in 1995 paper. Monbiot 04.12.07 calculates reduction needed is much greater (95 – 98%)!!! Currently ave prodn per person is 3.58 tonnes. See below on value/cost of carbon etc.


Also problem of feedback: as climate warms, sea and soil may produce more CO2, also tropical forests may die so envt may be less able absorb CO2. Taking CO2 from air is poss but expensive: @ £256 – 458 per tonne, 3 x cost of wind turbines, 2 x cost of nuclear power, slightly cheaper than tidal power, 8 x cheaper than domestic solar panels (govt figures). Kyoto has failed, as increase in emissions -  rate exceeds IPCC’s worst case scenario “no region is de-carbonising its energy supply” (Proceedings of US Nat. Ac of Sci)


Also Prof Rod May, Imp Coll: rate of growth of economy cause greater rate of growth of consumption of resources (each doubling period leads to as much consumption as all previous periods!!!).


How measure, who pays? G letter (071107) suggests that there should be “four protocols for green firms”: carbon footprint: direct emissions (by the organisation), indirect emissions (purchased from electricity generators etc) other indirect emissions (supply chain e.g. transport, waste disposal), and what about emissions caused by use of the product? At present, this is down to the consumer, but should be manufactured in such a way that minimal CO2 etc.

Consumer/marketing: 61% of marketers agree a company’s sustainability practices affect customers’ buying decisions (Marketing Trends Survey Autumn 2007). “Green marketing” one of the fastest growing areas of the sector, (Caitlin Fitzsimmons, mediaguardian 210108) Proctor and Gamble (Ariel), Innocent Drinks, Head of Eurostar: green marketing an imperative now, or cies will be left behind… Pitfall: accusations of “greenwash” and ASA critd Shell for claiming its waste CO2 was used to grow plants when this only 0.5% of its waste CO2. To avoid accusation, have to follow up on claims. Social marketing now part of the profession. Makes a cy good to work for, too. [and see on ethical marketing in CSR…]


Coral Reefs:


(New York Times, 031010, Justin Gillis): reefs are dying off, or at least bleaching or going into survival mode. Coral reefs are made up of millions of polyps (tiny animals) algae get nutrients from them and live in the reefs, in return the algae capture sunlight and carbon dioxide and make sugars that feed the polyps. NB a good example of symbiosis… The first eight months of 2010 matched the highest temperatures yet recorded, in 1988 (Jan – Aug). Reefs harbour perhaps a quarter of all marine species, even though they only occupy a small space in the oceans. Reefs of the coasts of Indonesia and the Philippines provide fish – and tourism. Bleaching occurs when the temperature causes the algae to create toxins, and the polyps react to ‘spit out’ the algae (it is the algae that make the colour of the coral). Worry is about Caribbean and Great Barrier Reef


Corporate Social Responsibility?


Meanwhile, airlines resist plan to include them in emissions targets!! IATA says 170 countries oppose the proposals to maker flights in and out of EU subject to caps that apply to power stations etc. America’s ICAO also opposes – says we need a global rather than regional system, and Europe should have a single sky agreement rather than trading (?)  Gdn 19.11.07 Financial. British steelmakers also want an opt-out….


Workplaces? National Trust HQ, Swindon: photovoltaic cells, woolen carpets from NT’s own sheep, recycling. Reduced running costs by £550,000. Other e.g.s: Ketchum (communications)


But Christian Aid report, by Andrew Pendleton 190207: only 16 of top 100 meet govt guidelines on greenhouse gas emissions – almost 200m tonnes missing from annual reports. Top 100 produce 12-15% of our emissions. True figures shld be 67% higher..


Consumers International and Accountability (includes National Consumer Council and Which) report, June 2007, says 40% distrust business claims about the environment, and 50% not sure. 60% believe scientists, 50% believe pressure groups. Family and friends are also trusted more than bus or politicians. Only 17% trust the media… Director of Accountability: Philip Monaghan (international non-profit making body). [Terry Macalister, G 190607.] Survey of consumers’ actions shows 60% often reduce e use, nearly 50% bought e-reducing light bulbs, but complaints about cost of environment-friendly products, and 1/3 “confused”.

Shell: sponsored conference on the environment, but still burning flares in Nigeria, working on tar sands in Canada (carbon-intensive) i.e. spending more on fossil fuels and PR instead of green action. Criticised by FOE, Green Party; Lucas said business is always asking for the lowest possible denominator on environmental measures. But Ken Livingstone defended business: working with EDF, British Gas: it is government that is holding things back. No new technology needed, just political will – need £15 carbon tax on air tickets. G 120607


Developed World:

George Monbiot, G 110510:  more to blame than developing world for environmental damage – not case that ‘only rich countries can afford to protect the environment’. Look at Gulf of Mexico disaster, and report: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which says deforestation between 2000 and 2005 was done mainly by US – least damage done by Democratic Republic of Congo (10 times less), with Indonesia in between (half as much damage as US). Moreover, it is western demand for oil, palm oil, timber, animal feed that damages Ecuador, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil. Our govt’s calculations of our CO2 footprint do not include that produced by manufacturers in developing world of goods that we import.

Cites The Dark Mountain Project (co-founded by Paul Kingsnorth) which claims that greens are trying to sustain the world at level of developed countries, advocating technologies that would damage wild places and the third world, trying to save industrial civilisation, when should be trying to save the biosphere. We should be ‘negotiating the coming descent [from our level of civilisation] while creating new myths which put humanity in its proper place.’ Monbiot believes the projections of the end of resources are alarmist – and no good waiting for civilisation to collapse without trying to change the way it operates. Need also to distinguish between technology that not seriously harmful (wind-farms) and that which is: oil…  note: forthcoming book from Dark Mountain Project, also festival May 2010.


Developing Countries:


Article on a pioneering researcher who is studying the genetics of food crops in the developing world – not to encourage GM but to facilitate cross-breeding of better plants:


A related article:


Obituary of Wangari Maathai, Kenyan winner of the Nobel prize for environmental efforts to help the very poor, first woman to head a university department in Kenya: Guardian 27th Sep 2011:  and a piece by John Vidal on Wangari: see also:

In 1977 she set up the Green Belt movement – poor women suffer the most from environmental degradation, she argued. Initially the movement planted trees, but then it took on issues of democracy. The tree became a symbol for democratic struggle. Set up Mazingira, the Kenyan Green Party and won 98% of the votes in her constituency, joined the coalition that overthrew Moi in 2002, and became a junior environment minister in President Kibaki’s government (2003 -5).



Larry Elliott G 091109: Tobin tax is right to redistribute from socially useless to socially disadvantaged… 0.05% tax on UK financial trades would raise about 100bn a year (study by Austrian govt) – would wipe out structural part of our budget deficit. Brown suggests half should be used for developing countries. Crucial is technology transfer: coal-fired CO2 emissions are rising, especially as India and China develop: our better technology could cut their emissions in half. Cost of improving to best possible for India would be from $5.2 bn to $8.4 bn (£3.1 – £5.1 bn).

See paper: Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change; why financing for technology transfer matters, by A. Ghosh and K. Watkins, for Global Economic Governance Programme, Univ. College, Oxf.

Note also how Brazil, India, China are refusing to give in to bullying of west at Doha talks etc.


Ecologist June 2009 (Khadija Sharife): dams are not helping Africans: more than 60% of Africa is reliant on dams for hydroelectric power, and in many countries it is the source of around/at least 90%. Drought has caused problems and many people survive on biomass, sunlight, paraffin and candles.   IPCC says Africa is the most vulnerable continent re climate change. World bank proposes more dams, even though these may worsen drought by altering hydrological cycles. Poor do not benefit: Mozambique generates 2,072 MW, but bulk is exported to neighbouring countries, rest goes to domestic corporations (Mozal, operated by BHP Billiton), and only less than 9% of the population have access to electricity. Lorri Pottinger, of International Rivers, says ‘Most often, large dams provide electricity for foreign-owned  industries, water for foreign mining companies and irrigation for large-scale firms.’


Dams in Africa causing problems because: large-scale projects lead to corruption, money supposed to be for displaced not reaching them (27,000 in Lesotho), migrant workers bring HIV to popn already impoverished by displacement: many orphans… Many dams have caused indebtedness, inequalities, environmental degradation, prevented small-scale projects, etc. Big dams proposed for Uganda (Bujagali - $800m) and Congo (Grand Inga - $80bn). World Bank and EU European Investment Bank support these projects… Gdn as above, Korinna Horta, Lori Pottinger


Asia most likely to be damaged by global warming, unless immediate action taken: working Group on Climate Change and Development’s report: “Up in Smoke? Asia and the Pacific” – more than 60% of world’s popn lives in Asia, many on coats, small farms, vulnerable to climate change. Western govts must make 80% cut in emissions by 2050. Need stop forest clearance for biofuels. West must cut its “luxury” emissions so that devg countries can have their “survival” emissions. Gdn Nov 19 07.





Eco-feminism: Val Plumwood, Australian environmentalist and feminist had a revelation when she survived and attack by a crocodile (see my copy of her piece at:

valplumwoodcrocodileattack.htm. A Wikipedia article on her says her position is neither ‘postmodern’ (i.e. respecting absolute differences) nor ‘deep ecological’ (i.e. merging self and the world) – rather she grounds ethical responsibilities in the continuities and discontinuities between subject and object, and people and nature. (Does this link up with Brian Easlea?) She also refers to ‘shadow places’ (source?). See below on ‘environmental ethc’.


Ecuador and its oil: especially the plan to ask the world to pay for the oil reserves under the national park where the Yasuni live- UNDP agreed to administer the plan, whereby if $100 million is raised by December, the forest will be left alone. Chile, Peru, Spain and Italy have agreed to help – Tutu, Gorbachev, DiCaprio, Muhammad Yunus et al., see




Book: The Quest: energy, security and the remaking of the modern world, by Daniel Yergin (Allen Lane £30) reviewed Observer 16th Oct 2011. Yergin won a Pulitzer prize in 1992 for The Prize, a political history of the oil industry.


Cost of changing to non-CO2 generation of electricity: Damian Carrington reports on study by Prof David McKay (Chief scientific advisor to dept of energy and climate change) using a ‘2050 pathways calculator’ – which shows that it would be no more expensive to convert than to continue with maintenance and replacement of existing power stations. See: - there are more articles by Carrington here, and the website looks good!


Fuel mix UK (2010): Natural gas 44.2%, coal 28.9%, nuclear 17.3%, renewables 7.9%, other 1.7% (from FoE campaign leaflet on the Big Six)


Green energy: a tipping point? Investment in green energy overtook fossil fuels in 2008 – according to UN figures (G 040609): $140 billion as against $110 billion for gas and coal. If include energy efficiency measures this goes up to $155 billion. Report: Global Trends in Sustainable Energy, by New Energy Finance consultancy for the UN.


Most growth has been in India and China (though elsewhere it is pointed out that China’s use of fossil fuel is not declining…). China more than doubled its investment in wind power. Europe spends a lot, but its growth is slow (+ 2% last year), and in the US investment is decreasing… (- 8%).


Microgeneration: DTI study says could provide 30 – 40% of UK’s needs by 2050, but would require millions of small turbines etc.  These more efficient than centralized generation which loses 2/3 of energy (waste heat, transmission) – and cannot receive e. back from small-scale generators… 16 European countries do this. G Feb 14 2007.  Combined heat and Power: CHP could be provided by small local power stations. But government policy is too piecemeal, grants (for research?) not generous enough to stimulate investment. Germany has many more solar panels (800MW installed in 2005). Govt says all new homes must be carbon-neutral by 2016. Local Authorities have taken lead: Merton set target of 10% onsite renewable e for all new major non-residential buildings… (“Merton Rule”). London: 20% reduction (1990 levels) CO2 by 2010, and 60% (relative 2000) by 2050, wants 40,000 renewable schemes, 665GW e and 280GW heat by 2010. 


Wave power:  Waves could provide 15 – 20% of the UK’s electricity (FoE). The ‘searaser’ is an interesting device for generating electricity by using waves to pump water up to a reservoir, from which it will flow down through turbines. See: and Ecologist June 2009 article by Mark Anslow.


Wind Power: From FoE leaflet: average wind farm will pay back energy used in its mfr within 5 months – given a life-span of 20 years that’s 17 years carbon-free energy. Germany gets 21% of its electricity from renewables, which has brought down the cost of power. (FoE)


Sep 2008: article by Michael Connellan in Technology Guardian about wind turbines failing – note this is said to be ‘insignificant’ by one insurance expert, and towards the end of the piece it is said that one of the turbines that failed was 20 years old... i.e. overall impression without reading in detail is that there is a problem, when I doubt there is:


Sep 2010: (Terry Macalister, Guardian, 13.09.10): Largest ever offshore windfarm to be built off coast of Kent – Thanet facility - cost £750m to build, 100 turbines, 300 MW, electricity for 200,000 homes.  Last week 10% of our power came from wind (at one stage) – and 4% from hydro. Proposed London Array will have 340 turbines. Off Whitstable is also Kentish Flats array. Target around 30% of electricity - legally obliged to find 15% of energy from renewables by 2020. Currently is only 3% per annum.


Nov 2012, Zoe Willaims on the dispute:

Hundreds of articles at: !!!

Environmental ethic:


“The very concept of dominating nature stems from the domination of human by human, indeed of women by men, of the young by their elders, of one ethnic group by another, of society by the state, of the individual by bureaucracy, as well as of one economic class by another or a colonised people by a colonising power.”

Murray Bookchin on social ecology 1990.


Is there a need for a new environmental ethic? Obit of Val Plumwood, Australian philosopher, G 260308: Feminism and the Mastery of Nature (1992) – a classic. Compare Arne Naess.. deep ecology. Environmental problems arise because of faulty attitude: only humans matter. Anthropocentrism rests on assumption there is a division between humans and nature – something sets us apart, i.e. the mind – mind vs. matter becomes reason vs. nature.




Targets set Jan 08: by 2020, 20% of Europe’s energy mix to come from renewables; most polluting industries to cut by 21% against 2005 levels by 2020. UK renewables target set at 15%, and currently only 1.3% is renewable. Cf. Germany: target 18%, actual 5.8% - and has 2/5 of Europe’s installed wind power. Sweden target 49%, actual 39.8%. France target 23%, actual 10.3%. Austria target 34% actual 23.3%. [G 240108].


UK is 18th out of 27 states in renewables league – biofuels proposals (10% target) need stick and must protect from land-grab etc, and main solution should be reducing speed of cars and re-designing cars (letters G) – 10% target is bad, and assumption that ETS (European Transfer Scheme) scheme will set high price on carbon is flawed (Oscar Reyes – co-editor of Red Pepper, writing book on carbon trading, G 240108). In 1st phase, EU was over-generous in allocations, so most plant didn’t use its quota of free credits – market value of credits collapsed.. companies made windfall profits by passing on imagined “costs” to consumer. Still are loopholes in 2nd phase – e.g. companies can import credits from global south.


UK contributes 3% of global CO2 according to Good Energy News Winter 2006.



Two books on food and development: Feeding Frenzy: The New Politics of Food, by Paul McMahon (Profile 12.99); A Hungry man in a Greedy World, by Jay Rayner (William Collins) reviewed in Observer 26.05.13. Latter argues that ‘food miles’ is not the most important aspect of deciding whether food produced is environmentally friendly (whoever said it was the only factor? We need to take into account things like the amount of fertiliser used, the costs of the technology etc. For example, lamb, apples and diary products shipped from New Zealand have a smaller carbon footprint than the equivalent products in Britain.

NB we throw away 30-40% of the food we produce, yet 1 billion people live in near starvation! Panic in commodity markets in 2008 and 2010/11 led to an increase of 30% in food prices. We produce enough food – why was there such a panic? (Led by Russia, according to McMahon). McMahon argues the market needs reforming.

I probably would agree with Alex Renton’s review, that a number of different approaches must be used: less meat-eating, less waste, and helping African farmers to be as productive as US ones by taking down trade barriers.


Meat production (and CAP): Meat production also counts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse emissions. (UN FAO).


Ecologist (June 2009): Taxpayers are subsidising intensive and factory farming to the tune of £700 million a year according to FOE – see Feeding the Beast. Via CAP England is paying subsidies for cereal-growing for feed, export refunds to keep prices high, intensive pig and poultry operations, diary farming and subsidies to encourage lowland grazing.


Organic food – could feed Africa:


John Beddington, government chief scientific advisor says (date?) we face a ‘storm of problems’ including food shortages. Others say this is not the case – and food is only short if crops are used inappropriately for biofuels, or animal feed.


Food miles: Do food miles matter?


See also Jay Rayner, previous topic. Concept first coined by Prof. Tim Lang of City University. Recent study: Comparative Energy/Emissions Performance of New Zealand’ Agriculture Industry by Caroline Saunders, Andrew Barber, Greg Taylor. (Cited by Jay Rayner Observer 26.05.13)


CO2 emissions in Kenya are 200 kg per head of population, in UK are almost 50 times this. Air-freighted food from Africa counts for less than 1/10 of 1% of UK’s greenhouse gas emissions – if boycott foods from developing countries, we damage them. Most of the cost of food miles (85%) comes from roads in the UK… Producing roses in the Netherlands can use more energy than growing them in Kenya. Need to take into account several issues, not just air-miles. (Gareth Thomas, minister for trade etc, NS 310308.




From the Guardian, 16th March 2013: letter from Lyn Summers, retired HSE nuclear safety inspector: millions of gallons of water, with added chemicals, are pumped down, the gas is taken up in half the water used, the rest has to be stored, treated and disposed of – it may contain complex hydrocarbons, heavy metals, as well as the chemicals used in the process. This is millions of gallons. The government and the Environment Agency will have to sort out a regulatory regime.


All these – together with fears of fracturing the rock layers and polluting the water table – seem to me to be ‘risks too far’.


Another letter says that it is wrong to say fracking is opposed by “opponents of fracking” – bodies and individuals who have said it is incompatible with meeting our targets for reducing greenhouse gases include: the parliamentary energy and climate change select committee, David MacKay – chief scientific advisor to the Dept of Energy and Climate Change, and the committee on climate change.


Yet another letter says that according to Le Monde Diplomatique, Sir David King has ‘noted that production at wells drops off by as much as 60-90% within the first year.’ US companies such as Eagle Fox in Texas, are having to drill ‘almost 1,000 wells in the Eagle Fox shale site every year just to keep production flat.’


On the other hand, Fred Pearce, author of The Last generation: how nature will take her revenge for climate change, says it is a ‘bridging technology’ which we need because there is far too much burning of coal. ‘The share of coal in the world’s energy supply rose from 25% to 30% in the past half decade.’ He only identifies two problems: one, that ‘there are plenty of places where fracking would not be a good idea, especially in overcrowded Britain’ – and secondly that what is proposed as a short-term solution can become ‘locked-in’ – and Osborne, as an opponent of wind-power etc, is not the person to trust (my words) not to get ‘locked-in’. See:


From Freedom March 2012: in Morgan County, West Virginia, a group calling itself Morgan Country Frack Ban is also trying to get the county declared an International Water Site. They say: ‘Ecology is the only economy that really matters. One cannot make a living on a dead planet; and one cannot drink money.’


Ian Sample, Guardian 17th Feb 2013: report by senior academics at University of Texas says that fracking is essential to the US, and found that many problems were common to all drilling, and water contamination could often be traced to surface spills, However, they were hindered by the industry’s not disclosing what chemicals it used in fracking fluids, and a widespread failure to sample and record baseline levels of water quality. US shale gas production rose nearly five-fold between 2006 and 2010, when it accounted for 23% of the nation’s natural gas.


Gaia and James Lovelock: June 2012 interview where he defends nuclear and fracking (!):  - argues we need fracking because methane is better than coal; suggests politics here works like a self-regulating system, the parties balancing each other out; the greens are a religion... Lovelock says he is influenced by EO Wilson in that the mega-city is the way of the future (seems to have little sympathy for those who fall out because of competition etc), sustainable development is meaningless drivel’

Full interview at:


Genetically modified organisms:


John Vidal in the Guardian, 20th Oct 2011, on the ‘Global Citizens’ Report on the state of GMOs’ – this groups together 20 Indian, South-east Asian and Latin American conservation groups, representing millions of people. The report casts doubt on the effectiveness of GM crops: more insecticides have to be used, and Monsanto, Syngenta and Dupont control nearly 70% of global seed sales, and are the three largest GM firms. Monsanto has control of over 95% of the Indian cotton-seed market and this pushes prices up.

250,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves over the past 15 years, mainly because of indebtedness. See: 


The Ecologist Magazine, Dec/Jan 2009 has article on Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, who has battled with Monsanto over the contamination of his crops with GM rape seed – he argues that it is almost impossible now to buy non-GM seed in Canada, and these seeds would not be acceptable in Europe. ‘There is no such thing as containment; there is no such thing as co-existence; there is no such thing as choice. Your yields drop and you end up using three to five times more chemicals. We now have superweeds in our towns, on our golf courses, in our cemeteries and on our roads. The chemicals we have to use on them contain up to 70% of the constituents of Agent Orange.’


The Ecologist June 2009: French govt has agreed introduction of labelling ‘fed on non-GM feed’ on meat and dairy products, a victory for group Que Choisir. In Germany a ban on GM maize variety (because when fed to mice they showed reproductive problems) has led to lawsuit from Montano…


The Ecologist May 2009: criticises the publication by ‘Sense About Science’ – ‘Making Sense of GM’, which appears to have been written by people with connections with the GM industry, viz: Prof. V Moses, head of industry-funded GM lobby group CropGen; 8 contributors from John Innes Centre, which receives funding from the GM industry; and a draft version, obtained by Private Eye, shows that one of the contributors – whose name was removed from the publication! – was toxicologist Andrew Cockburn, former director of scientific affairs at Monsanto (when he was invited to author part of a government review there were questions in parliament and one of the other panellists resigned).  More disturbingly, the publishers (directors of SAS) are part of the Living Marxism group, which also is ‘behind online magazine Spiked and the Institute of Ideas – the group promotes climate change denial, eulogises GMOs, human cloning and nuclear power, and portrays environmentalists as Nazis…’ (Jonathan Matthews in The Ecologist). LM lost a libel action against ITN when it tried to argue that new pictures of starving Bosnians were faked. The magazine had to close… See also Zac Goldsmith’s Guardian article:


Jonathan Matthews is the founder of GM Watch   


Government (UK): Sep 2007: govt aims take back initiative on envt (from other parties…): support Severn barrage ( = 6% of UK electricity). But skepticism abt green taxes. Has also: introduced mandatory renewable generation obligation for electricity cies; got airlines covered by EU emissions trading, by 2012 0 but supports expansion of airports etc, excludes aviation from long-term CO2 targets; pledged include 5% biofuel by 2010 – but backed off higher taxes when lorry drivers went on strike; car tax changed: most polluting pay £400 by 2008; floated idea of personal carbon rationing etc.

Monbiot: “greenwash” – Blair govt has failed: 2 targets: 12.5% reduction climate change gases by 2012 (Kyoto), 60% by 2050, latter to be made legally binding. But cuts so far look like 12 – 17%, when need 29 -32% of 1990 levels. 2020 target won’t be met till 2050.

Likely increase from tpt = 7 -13m tonnes (govt says 4m) [Prof Mark Maslin, UCL]. In 1998 car mfrs agreed reduce ave to 140g per km (from 190), in 10 yrs real figure likely to be 164. Difference in bands of tax for fuel usage needs to be more punitive i.e. at least £150 – top shld be £1,800 is 215). Ave diffrc between bands £35. Biofuels: Dutch study finds palm oil prodn ten times worse than petrol (? Petrol prodn?!). Flying: under Kyoto internat air travel not count… Govt admits some incr from more flight (says 10.5 m tonnes 1990 - 2020), but only counts half the emissions, because only half the passengers are from UK! And doesn’t count other than CO2

See also on microgeneration… Ashley Seager [G 060807] cf cost of widening M6: £3bn or £1,000 an inch. Stern’s call for more spending now was not heeded. Motoring has got cheaper, train travel more expensive – there are 2 models of car that can do more than 70 mpg and soon a diesel mini. Fuel tax too low to make people change. No tax on air fuel is absurd: need rise in APD (air passenger duty). Feed-in tariff for renewable e, as in Germany: sets guaranteed price for consumer-generated electricity. Govt is providing grants for low-carbon bldgs, but cut them to make sure £80m allocated up to 2008 not run out. Small mfrs of solar panels etc going bust because lack of cash flow. Btn’s use of renewables rose by 10% last yr, to 4.6% of all e – Germany rose faster, to 13% - G has 200 times as much solar e cpacity as Btn. (500MW to 12) Negligible chance of mtg EU target (20% by 2020). Renewables Obligation not send clear price signal and aimed at producers not consumers. 

Achievements of New Labour on Open Spaces: Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, New Forest and South Downs made national parks, Commons Act 2006. Downside: planning law changes (not implemented) would give landowners more rights to change paths); Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 used to make trespass a criminal offence. Clean neighbourhood etc Act 2005 intended to allow closure of back-alleys in towns, used to gate paths; Dartmoor still being used for military exercises including live firing. (Open Space Society Summer 2010).



Green Investment Bank (GiB):

see also: roundtable discussion ‘Keep the climate, change the economy’ from same day’s paper:


Green Party:


Local elections 2011 – see Spring issue of Green World… Went into election with 116 principal authority seats on 42 councils, and emerged with 130 on 43 – net gain of 14 seats, and new high.


First ever Green councillors in: St Albans, Kings Lynn & West Norfolk, Bolsover, Stafford.


Brighton Greens took 33% of the vote citywide, taking 23 seats out of 54 (+ 10 over last elections) – Conservatives have 18, Labour 13. And Brighton has Caroline Lucas as MP.


- in European Parliament now (2009 elections) has 48 MEPs – 2 for UK… (out of 736 representing 500 million people from 27 member states) – in alliance with European Free Alliance Group totals 55 MEPs, now fourth largest group in the Parliament, larger than European Conservatives and Reformists group (which Cameron joined). Greens were only party whose support increased across every region

- they have called for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty…

- now have 123 councillors on 42 separate authorities  (Green World 65, Summer 2009)


Green politics:


1. Dan Hind points out (Earthmatters) that people like Dick Taverne (“The March of Unreason”) accuse Greenpeace of being irrational. Yet Greenpeace has less than £10m a year, while advertising industry (excluding PR) has around $400 billion.


He also remembers tobacco executives saying in the 1960s “doubt is our product” (i.e. doubt that it will cause cancer).


2. ‘Greens are a puny force by comparison to industrial lobby groups, the cowardice of governments, and the natural human tendency to deny what we don’t want to see.’

George Monbiot, Guardian 21 09 2010

3. Andrew Dobson (letter, G 070711) argues that Mark Lynas and others are wrong to see the solution to the environment problem as being technological rather than political, and we don’t want a new environmentalism that is happy with capitalism (pace Susanna Rustin letter?, and mark Lynas whose ‘environmentalism’ is ‘market-friendly’) – especially when ‘the public’ is being blamed for the crisis, ‘any environmentalism worth fighting for must have equality, justice and the public good at its heart.


Another letter refers Lynas to e.g. Jay Griffiths, Alastair McIntosh and John Zerzan.


Homo Sapiens:


Note the time-scale below, and remember how recently we have used agriculture and industry – we have affected the environment without realising how short the time-scale of our existence is:


5.2 million years ago first hominids emerged in East Africa

2.6 million years ago first stone tools

2.3 earliest Homo genus

1.175 million – 350,000 Homo erectus

250,000 – 28,000 Neanderthals

1.6 Homo sapiens appears as a species, and 100,000 years ago anatomically modern humans appear in Africa

90,00 years ago modern humans reach Near East

72,000 y.a. first use of fire to modify stone tools, 70,000 y.a. earliest decorated stones

50,000 y.a. modern humans reach Australia

40,000 y.a. cave art begins, modern humans reach Europe

12,000 y.a. modern humans reach Americas

10 – 11,000 y.a. farming begins in Middle East

7,500 farming reaches Europe

6,200 y.a. earliest known city in Middle East

200 years ago industrialised society emerges.


In other words, industrialised society has existed for 0.000027% of the time humans and their ancestors have been in existence. Or: 8 generations out of 300,000.

(From Natural World, Winter 2009)


Media reporting of science: Robin McKie article: - but misses question of ‘end’ of science, and difference between climate change or MMR (which affect our lives) and theories of the origin of the universe (which presumably don’t!).


Microalgae - Good News?


China is working on a way of producing microalgae fed on CO2 from coal… Can be used to make biofuel, fertiliser or animal feed. Algae also absorb carbon far more quickly than trees. Research at ENN plant, Langfang. From Jonathan Watts, G 290609


Native Peoples and Conservation.


1. Yasuni John Vidal on Ecuador’s proposal to leave oil in the ground – Yasuni National Park has extraordinary biodiversity.

See also:


2. Mark Dowie, 03.06.09. Author of Conservation Refugees; The Hundred-Year Conflict between global conservation and native peoples, MIT – points out that originally (Yosemite and many other parks) native people were seen as a problem that had to be removed. Nowadays more recognition that they have conservation skills. However, some 20 million have been impoverished… At the same time we are faced with ‘almost 40,000 plants and animals facing extinction, and 60% of the ecosystem services that support life failing’.


Neo-greens: (Aug 2012)


Paul Kingsnorth argues this group tries to combine business, advanced technology, globalisation etc, with a post-modern outlook (nature as human construct) to solve the environmental dilemma. Groups: the Breakthrough Institute, Long Now Foundation, Copenhagen Consensus. Typical spokesperson Stewart Brand.  Favours megacities, GM crops. Mark Lynas promotes nuclear power; Emma Marris argues there is no real wilderness to protect; Peter Kareiva: nature should be managed for our benefit. Kingsnorth argues greens have ‘asked for’ this – as they have avoided the intuitive, emotional relationship with the wild world. Explore and value the local, he says (see books below).


Fukushima – aftermath of the March 2011 disaster (Fri 14th Nov 2014, Guardian):

The problem of radioactive water is enormous: each day around 400 tonnes of ground water flows from surrounding hills into the basements of three of the reactors, where it mixes with coolant water. Most of the contaminated water is pumped out into storage tanks – of which there are more than 1,000, holding 500,000 tones of contaminated water.

Work has begun on a barrier underground to prevent water from reaching the basements – it is 1.5 km long and will be frozen.

Workers are removing 1,331 spent fuel rods from reactor number four – and this should be completed by the end of this year. In the other three reactors radiation levels are still too high for humans to enter.

Decommissioning the entire plant is expected to take at least 40 years, at a cost of around £55 bn.


07.11.14 Guardian carried Ecotricity advert: Nothing Happened:

On Sunday Oct 19th four nuclear power stations shut down, and Didcot went up in flames – nine million homes-worth of electricity was lost, but our windmills carried on and provided almost 25% of the country with power.


Nuclear power:

Studies by Sustainable Devt Commission as well as Greenpeace and CAT show that Britain can meet its energy needs without nuclear, and reduce carbon emissions at the same time.  (FoE Stop New Nuclear campaign) It is expensive, takes a long time to get on-line, and diverts funds from renewables. It also has civil liberty implications because of security aspects. See


Feb 24th 2013: after-effects of Fukushima disaster - and: on the emotional and psychological effects.


Feb 21st 2013: Terry Macalister and Richard Cookson report that Paul Massara, RWE’s new chief executive has warned the government not to saddle the public with unnecessarily high bills by doing a deal with the nuclear industry behind the public’s back. The same piece points out that at least 15 people working for the nuclear industry or its consultants have been seconded to areas of government where they are responsible for policy or regulation. For example, EDF has seconded two staff to the Office for Nuclear Regulation at HSE. Rolls Royce and Atkins are also mentioned.


Feb 19th 2013: coalition is backtracking on its promise not to have the public pay for nuclear: it has pledged £240 m in subsidies for new nuclear power stations. This money says Professor Sue Roaf could be used to give each home in Britain £10,000 to supply solar heating and new boilers!! There is also a call for molten salt or thorium reactors, which are said to be cheaper than coal, and to produce short-lived and ‘valuable’ waste...


Feb 5th 2013: George Monbiot – argument in favour of nuclear power (because if we don’t build nuclear stations then more coal will be burned):


Feb 4th 2013: Highly critical report (Nuclear Decommissioning Authority: Managing Risk at Sellafield) published on management of Sellafield – (Terry Macalister) Commons public accounts committee, chaired by Margaret Hodge, saying ‘the public are not getting a good deal from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority arrangements with Nuclear Management Partners.’


It’s not clear how long it will take to deal with Sellafield’s waste, and last year the consortium got £54 million, despite only 2 out of 14 major projects being on track. Of the 14 projects, 12 were behind schedule, and 5 of those were over budget.


Every year some £1.6 billion is being spent on the site, where waste includes 82 tonnes of plutonium.


Oct 2012: Rupert Neate, Observer, reports the price of uranium has sunk since Fukushima (from $135 a pound in 2007 to $44) and has declined more since several governments have announced they will move away from nuclear. Japan has said it will get rid of nuclear by 2040. Germany and Belgium have also said they will stop, and Italy will not go back to it. France is scaling down (though it’s the most nuclear country in the world). But China is going to restart its reactor building programme aiming for 5% by 2020 (currently 2%), India hopes to have 50% nuclear by 2050 (last year was 3.7%), and there are 65 reactors being built, 69% of them in Bric countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China)...


Oct 2012, obituary of Crispin Aubrey – investigative journalist and green campaigner – note he published two books on Sellafield etc: Meltdown: the collapse of the nuclear dream; and Thorp (1991): the Whitehall nightmare (1993). He began his campaigning at Time Out in the 1970s.


March 2012: letters in the Guardian on news that the UK government is secretly lobbying the European commission for the abolition of future renewable targets. There is now discussion on the merits of nuclear, and one letter points out that a power station needs 3MW of cooling to keep the rods stable; and that nuclear power in a warming climate is unstable - the French have had to close down plants in hot weather because of shortage of cooling water [Prof Susan Roaf, Edinburgh].


Feb 2012: letters Guardian point out, in response to article on ‘prism’ reactor, said to be able to use up spent fuel: we have 25,000 tonnes of depleted uranium and 100 tonnes of plutonium; the Japanese spent $13 billion over four decades trying to develop fast breeder reactors unsuccessfully (Tom Burke et al).  Between 1955 and 1995 the UK spent more than £4bn on fast breeders with nothing to show but a radioactive mess at Dounreay (Walt Patterson).


Weds 1st Feb 2012: group of MPs and experts allege govt has distorted evidence and presented a false analysis of case for new nuclear reactors. Ron Bailey author of report... Govt commissioned research which began with assumption that 10 reactors would be built, then presented evidence as a case for this. The govt’s research also showed how Britain could cope without new nuclear investment. Report: A Corruption of Governance? By Unlock Democracy (director Peter Facey) and the Association for the Conservation of Energy. Endorsed by a number of MPs from all parties. Fiona Harvey, Environment correspondent. See also Leo Hickman’s blog: 


Nov 2011: thorium reactors – less dangerous as don’t produce plutonium; smaller (300 MW) and therefore cheaper – India is developing but says 6 years needed develop and build. Thorium more abundant and more energy-dense than uranium. Could be used by states with embargo on nuclear power.

Jan 2010: Dr Ian Fairlie replies to retired prof Wade Allison (not a radiation biologist nor epidemiologist) who, 11.01.10, minimised risks from nuclear radiation (esp. said that there should be a threshold, not a continual level of less risk from decreasing doses). LNT (linear no-threshold theory) is used by UN, International Commission on Radiological Protection, Health Protection Agency etc.

Recent German govt study found 22% increase in leukemia, 160% in embryonal cancer  among children living near all German nuclear reactors.

Data from Hiroshima not useful for slow long-term exposures. He also says there are ‘non-targeted effects of radiation’ – cause changes in cells temporally and spatially distant from the radiation… These are new effects which do not support current estimates of risk, and suggest dose limits should be tighter…


Jan/Feb 2010 (Guardian): at Sellafield there are 100 tonnes of plutonium – a ludicrous amount!!  The budget to clean up old nuclear sites is £2.8 bn per annum.


22.11.09 Obs:

Govt refusing to give details of five separate security breaches at nuclear power stations. These could include: unauthorized incursion, incidents involving explosives, attempted theft of nuclear materials… See the Office of Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS) annual report. Dai Davies MP tabled a question, but energy minister David Kidney refused to give details.


letter Gdn 09.01.08:

Risk of tumour/leukemia in children increases closer to plant (study of 41 districts near 16 plants in Germany 1980 – 2003); nowhere has solved problem of waste Nuclear Consultation Working Group. Tim Jackson, Economics Commissioner at Sustainable Devt Commission (G 160108): SDC report 2006 said cld save 4% of carbon by replacing all existing nuclear plants with new ones (7m tonnes), But: danger of waste, and of private involvement wh leads to “moral hazard” i.e. “under-insurance of public risk” - risk to public so high that public pays in the end. Also danger of “distraction” from reducing demand (wh the biggest issue); and concln: no justification for new nuclear programme. Why govt now in favour, when not a safer world, ecs. Not more favourable, and not much prog. made towards demand reduction. Cttee on Rad Waste Mgt: creation of new wastes leads to new problems. Latest white paper report barely refers to SDC, and claims wrongly that govt sees eye to eye with SDC on proliferation – wh nonsense. Govt assures commercial developers that nuclear liability will be capped.




FoE accuses Osborne of giving excessive subsidies and £1 billion of tax breaks to the oil and gas industry – he has expanded field allowances, first set up by A. Darling in 2009 to encourage the exploitation of small or technically challenging fields. Larry Elliott, Guardian 04.02.13


Gulf of Mexico oil spill: three oil industry titans blame each other during questioning by US senators. 4m gallons of oil polluting the gulf, troops on the coast of Louisiana to try to protect it. BP America owned the well, and blames Transocean who owned the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig and the blowout preventer, Transocean blames Halliburton who cemented the well… (Suzanne Goldenberg, G 120510).


Monbiot, G 17.11.09:

Two whistleblowers from IEA say it has deliberately exaggerated amount of oil still extractable. Research paper from Univ of Uppsala also argues IEA wrong (because impossible rate of extraction included). IEA World Energy Outlook forecasts demand to rise from 85m b/d in 2008 to 105m in 2030, and says that production will rise to meet this demand (including biofuels). Projections for 2030 have been falling, from 123m predicted in 2004. But even today’s numbers are too high says the whistleblower. Uppsala says 2030 will be 76m b/d.

Need therefore to be substituting other sources now (especially in farming…).


North Sea oil has peaked and is now declining: 30% down on 1999 – maybe be physically too difficult to extract more in 20 yrs. More than 50 other ctries’ production declining (exc. Sudan, equatorial Africa, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan). No new fields being found despite much investment in exploration. Is enough to sustain 1.85 pa growth for 25 yrs, but China and India demand + 10% pa. World therefore close to production peak. Govts are in denial abt this. Price of oil must go up, and ctries without it will decline. Need global energy conservation drive and pressure on US to economise, says Meacher.  US power stations waste more than is needed by whole Japanese economy. Only 15% of energy in a car actually gets to the wheels.” Andrew Simms: price hikes catastrophic for poor ctries, as 1974 was for Latin America… Need return to localism for food prodn, as 4 cies sell 70% of the food in Btn – high costs in tpt etc. 1500 shops feed half the ctry. Tim Lang: “Land around London that once fed the city now goes to stockbrokers’ ponies. It’s bonkers… Simply unsustainable” G 191005 (John Vidal, Ian Sample)

G 100905: (1) reserves running out – in 2002, 25 bn barrels used, only 8 bn new reserves discovered (total: 994 bn extracted, 764 remaining, 142 to be found). (2) supply unstable: politically/commercially/conflict… (3) tpt increasing its share to 57.2% in 2002 – esp air travel increasing – and UK white paper May 2007 says “majority (66%) our oil demand is for tpt, and which is expected to increase modestly over the medium term…” G 290507, Monbiot. (4) China now 2nd largest consumer of oil = 7.9% of global demand (5) US 5% of world popn uses 25% oil – imports 58% of its oil, and by 2025 likely import 68%. (6) refinery capacity reduced: Katrina, 9 refineries or 12% of US refining capacity.




(i) in 2004 by Mark Townsend, The Observer:  - despite the warnings we carry on as usual... where will it end?


(ii) in 2005: (John Vidal, G 211205):

* Climate change: 2005 one of 4 hottest since 1861 – heatwaves, droughts, greatest no. of hurricanes, tropical storms. Envt became G8 priority, Kyoto into force in Feb. Montreal agreement to extend Kyoto beyond 2012 and involve developing ctries in cutting emissions still not taking part. Local authorities more active than central govts. Warnings of Gulf Stream being weaker, tundra melting, glaciers still retreating. Awareness of effects on poorer ctries. Btn failed to meet 20% emissions cuts target – just on course to cut by 12% for 2012.

* Industry: trying to water down proposals in UK. Disputes over EU chemical legislation – not agree to substitute less harmful whenever possible, EU carbon emissions trading scheme started, but price of gas rose, so cheaper to buy carbon credits and still burn coal. Water cies cleaning up act. Oil cies trying to look green. Shell to court for gas-firing in Nigeria.

* GM crops: 80 m hectares growing, but four crops only and two traits (? Trials) – opposition less strong in Europe, but more in devg ctries. Swiss referendum rejects GM for 5 yrs. Jose Bove threatens large demos. EU pushed by WTO and industry to release some crops, despite members’ opposition. Brazil accepts GM, and Dept for International Development in Btn backed it.


* Conservation: money moved from farming subsidies to conservation in Btn, right to roam, future marine protection bill, reintroduction of some species in Btn (debate), tigers declining, rainforests being cleared for soya and palm oil. Elephants successfully saved in Africa, but causing damage. 794 species on brink of extinction (Alliance for Zero Extinction), badger cull? EU not supporting conservation or rural devt.

* Disasters: Katrina, the tsunami, etc. weather-related insurance claims £117bn, and some research linked storms etc to global warming.

* Air: Buncefield oil depot fire, but pollution not as bad as might have been. Worries abt air pollution in EU – cost £400bn pa by 2020? Proposed increases in air traffic: noise, pollution. Industry opposing tightening of air pollution legislation.

* Waste: local authorities scared into action by threat of fines – 23% of household waste recycled (more than previous year). But much waste going to China and east, and being sent illegally to devg ctries. Incinerators supported by LAs. St Edmundsbury, Suffolk: 50% recycled.

* Energy: oil prices rising because of rising demand, esp from China et al – oil peak approaching. Nuclear industry being supported by govt in Btn  - another energy review commissioned for three yrs time. Growing public support for wind power, but opposition in some areas. 19 new stations = 500 megawatts commissioned – inclg large offshore windfarm. Microgeneration getting support from business, but not wave/tidal, and govt halted start-up money for solar and other devts.



June 2014 report on neonicotinoids:


Other links:

Latest report on neonics (BBC):


Neonics – Damian Carrington (Guardian):




European Food Safety Authority report says neonics are a danger to bees (Jan 16th 2013): Sep. statement includes: ‘The govt has already put new research in place to explore further the impacts of neonicotinoids on bumble (sic!) bees in field conditions and to understand what levels of pesticide residues and disease in honey bees are normal. This work is due to finish in spring 2013.’


FoE call for National Bee Action Plan



Population: global growth: predictions for world population, from 6.5 bn in 2010 to 9.2 bn in 2050; consequences: 50 m new mouths to feed each year (= popn of UK/Italy); if China increasingly eats meat, then demand for grain will increase; perhaps also demand for biofuels. So: food prices increase – and hunger unless something done. See WDM report: The Great Hunger Lottery. (Patrick Collinson, G24.07.10) Also notes is likely investment in food is good bet – but speculation will increase prices further…

Book: Population Ten Billion, by Danny Dorling, (Constable) professor of human geography at university of Sheffield. See blog.


‘Rational optimist’ - Science writer Matt Ridley - The Rational Optimist 4th Estate May 2010 L20 – also author of : The Red Queen, about the evolution of sexual reproduction; The Origins of Virtue, 1996, on evolution of society in genes, animals and humans; The Genome: the autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, 2000 (just before human genome was mapped); Nature via Nurture….

In the Rational Optimist he argues that it is exchange of ideas, as well as artifacts etc that has made humans able to progress (animals don’t do it). Culture is the result of exchange, and this is what makes it evolve (while biological evolution depends on sex – bringing together different genes). (‘Sex is to biology as exchange is to culture’.) Consequently argues we have become better off over time, and doesn’t like ‘doom-mongering’ – yes there are limits to resources, but we can find ways round this if we exchange ideas. Is against regulation of commerce (things, services, etc) because it stifles progress; but admits that exchange of capital and assets is different and can cause bubbles. Shopkeeper has no interest in short-changing you if he wants you as a customer – this effect doesn’t happen in a market of capital and assets. Prosperity is a bottom-up thing – governments tend to see it as top-down.

Tends to rub e.g. Monbiot up the wrong way, presumably because of his optimism. Government has a responsibility to ensure redistribution, as the system is bound to produce inequalities.

Note: he was a non-executive chairman of Northern Rock, and got into trouble for not preventing the crisis… (people without expertise were wanted on the boards at the time…) but started off as a naturalist, then science editor for the Economist, then its Washington correspondent; is nephew of Thatcher’s cabinet member Nicholas Ridley, and owns Blagdon Hall… Also set up Centre for Life (life sciences centre) at Newcastle.


Reform or revolution?


J Freedland, Gdn 05.12.07: need a war on carbon as fierce as WWII on fascism. Two altv views: capm itself is problem, as for growth, whilst envt is ltd; or: capm fights back, e.g. CBI syas will do its part, 150 cies issued pre-Bali communiqué calling for binding UN framework.  Can be cynical,: “green” image is good; still push for more roads etc; only cutting their 370m tonnes of emissions by 1m tonnes over next three yrs. Some, do agree with 2006 Stern report, that bus will lose more from inaction than from action, one corp leader adding “we mustn’t kill our customers”… Also is much cash now in carbon cap-and-trade market: grew x 3 last year, now worth at least $30bn.  On Jan 1st 2005, EU put cap; if Cy gets allowance for 1k tonnes, but only puts out 500, can sell the remaining “rights” to another cy which would otherwise overshoot.  Puts an economic value on carbon (previously had “none”); and corps now have stake in reducing carbon. But EU cies prefer pay for their sins to changing… Climate Change Capital will sell credits to China – encouraging pollution in devg world? Or taking CO2 out, so what the problem? Also cheaper to reduce CO2 in China: CCC aims eliminate 70m tonnes of CO2, which equiv. to Denmark’s o/put. NB European emissions have risen by 0.8% since trading started… Also capm best at innovating… meter to show how much e household is using… promoted by SEED: social environmental enterprise + design. Revn will take too long etc.


Re-usable water – Swiss company sustainably made, and free from phthalates and Bisphenol-A, which can leach out in landfills.


Rights for ‘nature’?


Mother Earth:  11th April from the Guardian – by John Vidal:


A wonderful development, I think – using native beliefs, and building a law which gives rights to the natural environment…


“She is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos. She is comprised of all ecosystems and living beings, and their self-organisation.”


The 3.5 million-strong CSUTC de Bolivia (Confederacion Sindical Unica de Trabajadores) helped to draft the law – the biggest social movement in the country.

The indigenous Andean spiritual view is that Pachamama (Earth Mother) is at the centre of all life.


Ecuador has also given rights to nature, giving it “the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure and functions and its processes in evolution.” 


However, Vidal comments that the Amazon is still being destroyed by oil companies and others.


Sea: North Sea almost dead from over-fishing (Callum Roberts: The Unnatural History of the Sea, Gaia Books) Sep 2007

Dangers of encroachment into permafrost in Arctic:  Russian gas/ plants e.g. Sakhalin, Yamal, BP’s Alaskan Prudhoe Bay oilfield: closed after spill… Settlements also bring environmental damage and HIV… New St 13.08.07



On trial in New York May 26th 2009 (Ecologist Mag.) for complicity in torture and killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa and others in 1995.


Bringing gas ashore in County Mayo (article, Observer290511) Shell bought major stake after gas discovered by Enterprise Energy Ireland (1996); will bring raw gas ashore (new process0 to be refined at Ballinboy, 6 miles south; pipe will come ashore at Broadhaven bay, and will cross farmers’ land (could have gone across bogs?); gas will be at high pressure; Bay and nearby Carrowmore lake are EU-designated Special Protection Areas. At first, planning permission was denied, but then Shell and Enterprise lobbied politicians and decision reversed. Some farmers took compensation, others were obstructive, so a new law was passed giving private companies powers of compulsory purchase of land!!!


Opponents have served jail sentences – ‘Rossport Five’; a film has been made: The Pipe (getting awards around the world). Some fishermen gave up their rights in return for money from Shell, others fought against losing their livelihood – one was prevented from fishing by the Irish navy!!!


Soil: (NYT May 19th 2013): soil is crucial, not only to grow food and feed animals, but we get most of our antibiotics from it, and scientists are looking for more. Soil is rich in biodiversity: it contains almost one third of all living organisms, according to the EU Joint Research Centre. Only 1% of its micro-organisms have been identified. A teaspoon may contain billions of microbes, divided among 5,000 different types. Not to mention thousands of species of fungi, nematodes, mites etc. See the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative.


Soviet Union and the environment: Steven Rose (G 21.08.10) reviewing Red Plenty by Francis Spufford:
Points out how the ‘science’ of Marxism (esp. from Engels’s The Dialectics of nature, 1883, rediscovered in 1930s) was combined with ‘cybernetics’ (Norbert Wiener, 1948) – the ‘fourth law of dialectics’. Cybernetics – ‘circular causation’ – showed how systems could exhibit apparently goal-directed behaviour without consciousness.  Soviet Union kept trying to use this scientific knowledge, plus computers, but didn’t realise that ‘systems work best when self-organised from below, not centrally planned from above in a command economy.’


Key figures in soviet system: Abel Aganbegyan (economist), Raissa Berg (molecular geneticist), Leonid Kantorovich (Nobel winner, mathematician – calculated how to improve plywood production and then this method spread), Sergei Lebedev (designer of first generation of soviet computers). Example of problem: a machine breaks down at a viscose plant and it needs to be replaced, but that means the target for the factory that produces the machine has to be changed, and that requires re-planning the inputs into the machine tool factory… and so on, as everything is inter-connected. Only the semi-criminal ‘fixer’ can sort it out… 


What is the true position in regard to leaving computers etc on standby? and ecotricity sources for G 061007: average PC (desktop): 17p per day = £45 per year. (Lowest: £15, highest £84) ? for 24 hrs… Light bulbs: standard 100W = £34 per yr, energy saving: £ 6 (approx figures).

Stern Report – Oct 2006: cheaper to tackle issue than wait to deal with consequences – Global warming cld swallow up 20% of world’s GDP whereas cost of preventing cld be limited to 1% provided starts seriously in next 10 – 20 yrs. Critics e.g. Richard Tol of Ec and Soc Res Inst Dublin, and William Nordhaus prof of ecs at Yale, say warnings are alarmist (and wrong…). Main issue is effects of current policy decisions on future generations. Took into account small probabilities of effects being much worse than most likely – e.g. temp rise could be 3 degrees or 6… and positive feedback: mechanisms are poorly understood…


Link for Stern review:


See also on values below.


Sustainable development:

Comments on report by Sustainable Development Commission at: 


Transport: govt plans 2,500 more miles trunk rds, double capacity airports, has deregulated planning law.. At same time govt says will reduce need for oil! Relying on views of over-optimistic, and old, report from Int Energy Agency, set up by OECD after 1974! Monbiot, G 290507.



Valuing life and the environment: the problem of externalities in economics, and the limitations of cost/benefit analysis: George Monbiot (G 190208) the Stern Report uses a formula where he attaches a price “equivalent to a reduction in consumption” to measure the costs of climate change (some of which are quantifiable e.g. food prices, flood damage; but what about destruction of ecosystems, loss of life, refugees, disease?). Consumption is not just of material goods, food etc but education, health and the environment, which he admits “raises profound difficulties”. Still, he comes up with a figure of between 5% and 20% “equivalent reduction in consumption” should global temperature rise by 5 – 6 degrees. Apart from the absurdity of putting a money value on health and wellbeing in this way, it also follows from all this that the poor are less valued than the rich, since the “equivalent reduction in consumption” is lower!!!

Stern then calculates a “social cost of carbon” – but the government has simply turned this into a price, currently £25 a tonne: it then weighs up the savings from a new airport runway, by calculating passengers’ time saved, against the cost of damage to the environment in terms of CO2 at £25 a tonne. But we have to note that it is the poor, especially in the third world, who are most likely to be damaged as a result of climate change – and against their “value” the government puts the savings to wealthy travellers’ time!!!


In ‘Putting a price on the rivers...’ etc, 7th August, Monbiot takes the argument further. Link:

Reply from Alastair McCapra, Chief Exec, Landscape Institute, (letters 10th Aug) makes crucial point: ‘Valuing assets is one thing, but trading them is another.’

Vidal, John – Guardian environmental correspondent:




The average Briton throws away own body weight in rubbish every seven weeks acc. Wrap (govt-funded recycling agency). Estimated 30% cld be composted. [“Change” (Co-op) Spring 2007]


28th May 2007: David Miliband on waste:


Letters in today’s Guardian criticise Miliband for proposing to charge residents who produce a lot of waste.


Points made include:

- most waste is material the manufacturers produce, that we don’t want;

- the amount of food waste we throw away has not changed much over the decades and is nearer a fifth of household waste (as it was in the


- the bulk of the 100 tonnes of waste produced comes from industry and commerce;

- many people want to recycle but don’t believe that what the council collects will actually be recycled;

- in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the government gives grants to establish local recycling co-operatives, thus creating employment: the co-ops are paid

by the city for what they recycle, the co-ops pay collectors to provide them with recyclable material – result clean city and less unemployment as

well as saving energy and resources.


Why does this government insist on blaming the individual instead of dealing with the failings of business and industry? What has this kind of approach got to do with a “Labour” government?


24/9/2006: Waste food, and sell-by dates: from Lucy Siegle, Observer Magazine, 24/9/2006 – updated with figures from 8/4/07 issue:


In the UK we send 10 m tonnes of waste a year to landfill sites.


Of this, 60% is food (6m tonnes!).  (8/4/07 article says 3.3 million – is this just households?)


70% of produce is dumped by producers and retailers before it even gets to the stores.


Each adult throws away £420 of food a year (plus a further £470 in packaging).


A quarter of the food waste that goes into British landfill is reckoned to be edible.


The Charity Fareshare ( aims to feed some 4m Britons suffering from food poverty – and some retailers (M & S,

Sainsbury, Pret a Manger) donate food that is just within use-by date.


So, a question: are “use-by” dates a way of getting us to buy more (because we throw away food that reaches its use-by date, when maybe it’s still OK)?


And what does BOGOF really mean?  Is it “buy one get one free” or “buy one throw one in the bin”?


See:  Corporate Social Responsibility: The Consumer, on food: link, on “planned obsolescence”: link. 


More figures on waste, especially related to computers:


People get a new mobile phone on average every 18 months


Last Christmas more than 6 million PCs were left on standby in empty offices


1.5 million computers are thrown away each year, of which 99% work perfectly


Water: (Guardian 8th May 2012, Damian Carrington) water companies are not being asked to reduce leakage – the entire industry will only be asked to reduce leakage by 1.5% by 2015, and 11 companies have zero targets. Every day 4.3 billion litres of water leaks from the system.

The average water bill is now £376. Water companies made £2 bn in pre-tax profits and paid shareholders £1.5 bn in dividends in 2010 – 11.


Wholistic approaches:


Need for new kind of solutions to problem of excess rainwater/flooding: Chris Baines: need to look at whole rural landscape, find ways of slowing rainwater when it hits ground, holding it, delaying its release. Increase broadleaf woodlands on slopes, fewer animals, reinstatement of hedges, re-creation of reedbeds etc. Likely increase in rainfall: Autumn 2000 was wettest for 270 yrs, floods affecting thousands of properties, 1.3 m hectares of agr land on floodplanes in Eng and Wales, and 5 million people. Runoff is increasing, and erosion. EU water framework directive and proposed soil framework directive: joined-up approach. Paul Evans, Gdn, 23.01.08.



Mark Dowie: Conservation Refugees: The Hundred-Year Conflict between global conservation and native peoples, MIT


Paul Farley, Michael S Roberts: Edgelands...  (see Woolfson)


Tim Flannery: Here on Earth: a new beginning, Allen Lane 14.99 – reviewed Tim Radford Guardian 03.12.11. Life defined as: ‘self-choreographed extravaganzas of electrochemical reaction’ – looks at evolutionary and human history, extinction, climate change and the role of civilisations as super-organisms – we survive because we co-operate with other biological entities. We need to respect Gaia. We could feed 9 billion humans and save other species. (Tim Flannery is an Australian biologist and climate scientist).


Al Gore: The Future, WH Allen, 25. Reviewed John Gray Guardian 02.02.13: - ‘a tour de force that no government can afford to ignore’. Starts with 6 drivers making the world a different place – more globalised economy, planet-wide electronic communication and robotics, new political economy shifting to the east, unsustainable population growth and resource depletion, biological and biochemical advances that allow us to shape the fabric of life, unstable relationship between human civilisation and the environment (climate change etc).  Can we keep up with these changes? Warns against a mechanistic understanding of science and reductionism.   (Though does argue for America to find new leadership in the world...)


Richard Heinberg: Peak Everything


Kathleen Jamie: Findings... (see Woolfson)


Tony Jupiter: What has Nature Ever Done for Us? Profile, 9.99. Reviewed by Robin McKie, Observer 20.01.13. Nature underpins our productivity and our fecundity – it is not true that if we take care of nature we will have to slow down  our development. Shows value and usefulness of e.g. vultures in Inda, peat bogs, mangroves, soil itself. Review by Mark Cocker.


Brian Leslie, editor: Sustainable Economics, and author: The Party’s Over (2003)


Richard Mabey: The Common Ground... (see Woolfson)


Fred Pearce: The Last Generation: how nature will take her revenge for climate change


Matt Ridley - The Rational Optimist 4th Estate May 2010 £20


Roger Scruton: Green Philosophy: how to think seriously about the planet, Atlantic 12.99. Many ecological externalities e.g. river pollution can be sorted by a combination of free markets and common law. Opposes international organisations and state power. Tries to blame the loony left for any inconsistencies etc. (Jonathan Ree, Guardian 12.01.13


Andrew Simms and David Boyle: The New Economics


Jean Sprackland: Strands... (see Woolfson)


Esther Woolfson: Field Notes from a Hidden City: an urban nature diary, Granta 16.99. Olivia Lang, Observer 03.02.13 says there is a change taking place in how we view nature – more attention paid to, and books, on the ordinary... and on the creatures we live near to, some of which are seen as pests. Woolfson’s previous book: Corvus, 2008, an ode to the maligned crow family. This book is about why the urban wildness is important to us, and starts with her home-town, Aberdeen. Laing notes similar books by Farley, Jamie, Sprackland, Mabey (qv).  Note: she mentions rats’ apparent ability to empathise with each other. Questions the idea that ‘invaders’ should be removed.  See also: by Mark Cocker (we should take each case on its own merits). Woolfson: how everything would be changed if we lost sparrows!!