Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Speech to Manchester People's Climate March

Watch it on Youtube

We are all part of the largest mobilisation about Climate Change ever.

Believe me, there is nothing we could be doing that is more important than being right here, right now.

Five years ago, after the last UN meeting to discuss Climate Change in Copenhagen, the G77 described the outcome as “a suicide pact”. We must do better this time.

So today we make history, because otherwise our civilization becomes history.

Here, in the Northwest of England, the key battle in the fight against Climate Change is fracking. If we can win this we will have killed off a new fossil fuel before it has even got going. That will be something.

Photo Steven Speed
Those of us at Barton Moss last winter were in the front line of that fight. We did well. I don't think Igas are coming back to Manchester in a hurry.

But the amazing thing to me about all this is that whilst we’ve had Direct Action like at Barton Moss, we’ve had rallies like this, we had people camping out through the worst weather imaginable, we had people in front of lorries every day for four months, we had an entire community rallying round to support the Protectors, we had the police bending the law in every way and apparently inventing a terrorist attack to frame us, but we have never had a political debate about fracking. Salford City council would not debate our petition. Trafford Council would not debate their motion. If you want to pay £350 for a ticket you can go along to Media City on Friday to meet the fracking industry, but they don’t really want to meet you.

Two thirds of the country is at risk of fracking whilst Climate Change will affect the whole world. The first step to beating the latter is to ban the former. The science is quite clear on this and we, the people are quite clear. But like so much of British politics, it seems we don't have a voice.
The Labour Party Conference will not decide the Party policy on fracking because that’s not what Party Conferences do any more. Wherever the meetings are being held to discuss the issue, you’re not invited. 

Frankly Britain, this is rubbish. You should not have to stand in front of a lorry or pay three hundred quid to make your voice heard in a debate of national…international importance. Politics should be more than just money talking to power. 

We have been locked out of the politics, and as Plato said the penalty for not being engaged with politics is that you end up governed by your inferiors.

So the Labour Party must listen to us on this one. You cannot bring a new fossil fuel online in the next decade and still keep our promises on Climate Change. You cannot condemn two thirds of Britain to air and water pollution and still pretend you are the same party that introduced National Parks and the Greenbelt.

Yes, that was the Labour Party. Clement Attlee’s 1945 Ministry.

Let me give you a bit more history, there’s plenty of it here in this, the first city of the Industrial Revolution, where the our first canal was dug, the world’s first railway station constructed, where the atom was first split and the first stored-program computer built.

The Midland Hotel, where the party conference is taking place, is where in 1904 Charles Rolls first met Henry Royce. Together they revolutionised the British car industry, something which barely exists today. 

It seems an unusual meeting now. Rolls, the money man, came up from London to meet Royce, the engineer with a factory in Trafford Park. I don’t think it would happen that way round today.

Today the City rules and manufacturing, which made this city great, has been liquidated executive bonuses. 

Today we have an economy that is prepared to sacrifice the climate in order to save the banks.
But today we make history. Today we stop saying what we don’t want and start to demand what we need to survive the future.

We need a new Industrial Revolution, one that will provide the wind turbines, the solar panel, the trains, the electric cars and the other technology that will give us a cleaner, brighter future.
We want an economy that will provide jobs, real jobs, not the temporary work for a few international contractors that the fracking industry offers, but jobs for Trade Union members like those who are supporting this march today.

To make that happen we need to reclaim politics for the people, because when you put a big decision like how to beat Climate Change in the hands of the many, there are many winners but if you let just a few decide, nobody wins. It just becomes a case who loses first. 

The first step in reclaiming the politics is reclaiming the Labour Party, the party that in 1945 really was the Greenest Government Ever. Climate Change is the issue that will tell us whether they have listened. When they agree to oppose Tory plans to frack under our homes without our permission, when they agree to ban fracking, and when they agree to give us One Million Climate jobs instead, then we will know we have reclaimed the power.

It will happen, because we are the people and when we use our voices in the right way we are unstoppable.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Frack Free Labour

'The greenest government ever'. How David Cameron must regret those words.

But if we all agreed that this government is a shade of mucky brown, who really was the Greenest Government Ever?

My vote is for Clement Attlee's 1945 Labour administration. His government built on the pre-war campaign for access to the countryside that had culminated in the 1932 Kinder Scout Mass Trespass and introduced the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. Our first National Park, the Peak District, appeared in April 1951 and appropriately included Kinder Scout.

The Attlee Ministry also brought in the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act, the legislation that
brought in the Greenbelt in order to hold back urban sprawl. The Greenbelt has been under attack ever since, but it is still holding in there, a lasting legacy of a government hat genuinely cared about the British countryside. 

Attlee also did a few other things too, such as create the Welfare State and give India its independence, and thanks to that their Green credentials get overlooked. As people, his Cabinet were anything but a Metropolitan elite. They were men who had come up from the Trade Unions or provincial universities, they were more likely to be seen on bikes than in the Granita.

And by contrast, what did New Labour do? The Right to Roam, I'll admit, but apart from that? Well, allowed BP to drill for new oil West of Shetland using the technology that failed in Gulf of Mexico, tried and fail to get us to grow GM crops and planned a new generation of coal fired power stations. And all this happened whilst Tony Blair flew round the world in his private jet asking us to take Climate Change seriously. Seriously.

Well Labour. You've got to do better.

You used to be the Party of the people, but on this on the people are far ahead of you. On Sunday 21st September people will march in Manchester to demand action on Climate Change. Two thirds of the country is at risk of fracking whilst Climate Change will affect the entire world. The first step to beating the latter is to ban the former. On this we are quite clear, the scientists are quite clear and the IPCC is quite clear.

But like so much of British politics, it seems the people don't matter. The party conference will not debate the Party policy on fracking because that has already been decided. Wherever the meeting was held, you weren't invited. The people with power met the people with money and agreed to do everything they said.

Local government is not much better. Salford council were presented with a petition asking them to debate fracking, but they wouldn't. Trafford Council were presented with a motion on fracking by their Labour group, but the debate was adjourned.

The nearest the people of Manchester will get to an actual debate is something called the Fracking North Conference which is happening in Media City the week after. At this, for a mere £350 a you can meet the movers and shakers in the industry and maybe have a chance to let them know what you think.

Frankly Britain, this is rubbish. You should not have to stand in front of a lorry or pay £350 to make
your voice heard in a national debate. As Ian Hislop might say, "if that's democracy I'm a banana".

So who benefits by keeping democracy out of this huge decision? In the long run, nobody.

There really is wisdom in a crowd. When   power is concentrated in the hands of the few, only a few people benefit, but when many people speak we all benefit. When money talks to power, both sides tend to only hear what they want to. The reason democracies still exist is because they make better decisions than oilgarchies. The Poll Tax, the invasion of Iraq; these were decisions taken by party leaders in defiance of the people, and ultimately both Thatcher and lair paid the price for not listening.

The Labour Party must listen on this one. You cannot being a new fossil fuel online in the next decade and still keep pour promises on Climate Change. You cannot condemn two thirds of Britain to air and water pollution and still pretend we are a Green and Pleasant land.

The Labour Party must oppose the government's plans to allow fracking under our homes without our consent. The must fight the next election with a manifesto pledge to ban fracking and build climate jobs instead.

We, the people, are telling them this, and if we use our voices in the right way they will listen.

Join Frack Free Greater Manchester's Lobby of the Labour Party

Friday, 12 September 2014

The Biggest Rock Band in the World

So summer is gone, the festival season over, and which band ruled?

Well for me it was the Australian Pink Floyd Show, who played a sublime set in at Cropredy where the rain made the lasers sparkle. Definitely the best band I've ever seen featuring a giant inflatable kangaroo.

However for the rest of the UK it was Thrash legends Metallica that dominated, playing Glastonbury and Knebworth. They also toured Poland and a few other places, and thanks to a gig last year in the Antarctic they entered the Guinness Book of Records as the only band to have toured all seven continents. Crowd surfing in the Antarctic is probably difficult.

It wasn't entirely clear what the Glastonbury audience made of thrash anthems such as For Whom The Bell Tolls, but they were certainly a hit with the critics. It was a pretty big year for a band that has had quite a few big years and confirmed that they are indeed The Biggest Rock Band in the World.

And in rock this is important. Jazz may have survived the last fifty years in dingy clubs and Folk has been a cottage industry as long as I've been alive, but Rock just has to have a Biggest Rock Band in the World.

It's an important accolade, awarded not just for popularity, earning power, critical acclaim and all that, but also for cars in swimming pools, TVs out of windows and other assorted mayhem. Indeed, excess all areas is pretty much essential if you are indeed to be The Biggest. And that's a funny thing about Rock too. Just as avowed Communists can turn a blind eye to wealth inequalities in football  those of us who declare war on Bankers bonuses just find it funny when Fleetwood Mac admit to blowing $3 million in three years but not being able to remember what on.

Size matters

The first Biggest Band in the World was probably the Beatles, then it was the Rolling Stones then possibly The Who as the Sixties ended. 

For most of the Seventies The was Led Zeppelin, although Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and The Eagles gave them a run for their money. Punk shook things up a bit, but by the end of the decade Pink Floyd were sitting pretty at the top of the heap thanks to The Wall.

Business as usual returned in the Eighties with Queen, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and others all doing their best to live up to the accolade, however by the decade's end there was clearly only one band in town who could walk the walk and talk the talk, Guns 'n' Roses.

In the Nineties Guns 'n' Roses descended into silliness and the decade was dominated internationally by U2 and REM, Nirvana and the grunge in the USA and Oasis and Britpop in the UK.

Then the Noughties...well, that's were it all gets a bit hazy. Did we still have a Biggest Rock Band in the World? Surely it couldn't be..Limp Biskit?

Satan calling

Meanwhile Thrash had been doing its own thing. Thrash took the attitude and angry lyrics of the California hardcore punk scene, spliced in the dress code and guitar hero riffs of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and played it all at 90mph to a double bass drum. Metallica were pioneers of the sound and were part of the Big Four of Thrash.

I remember their fans turning up for Thrash Hour at the start of the rock disco I used to help run in Leicester. Skinny teenagers who'd lied about their age to get in and who'd persuaded their mums to sew '666' into the back of their denim jackets. I was a skinny teenager myself at the time, but my mum had sewn Led Zeppelin's The Hermit onto my jacket indicating that I am deep and spiritual and not afraid of Blues and Folk influences in my music...and also that she didn't approve of that Satanic imagery on clothing.

These days Thrash has spawned more sub-genres than there used to be punters at our Thrash Hour and is listened to by aging bikers, scary Scandinavians and political rebels in Iran, where it is an underground protest music against the Mullahs, apparently.

But in 1990 Metallica transcended the genre - or sold out, depending on your point of view - with a untitled album known variously as 'Metallica' or 'The Black Album' and containing such tracks as Enter Sandman, Wherever I May Roam and the first Thrash ballad Nothing Else Matters.

Releasing an album with no cover art has been pretty much their only Spinal Tappism and, touring like it was going out of fashion, they started to popular with former Led Zep fans like me and eventually from the wider music community.

They played Donnington when it was Donnington and again when it was Download. Having headlined the big festivals across music it was only a matter of time before they came to Worthy Farm.

The result was a fantastic show which, if nothing else, postponed further moaning from the likes of me about the state of Rock.

As long as we have a Biggest Rock Band in the World then The Death of Rock has not happened. So keep thrashing please Metallica, at least until someone comes along to take your crown.

Talking of which, The Black Keys tour Europe next year....

Monday, 1 September 2014

Green Internationalists

An American, a German and Geordie walk into a bar.

Nope, not another rubbish joke, but just a night out with Greenpeace. Okay, maybe not a typical night out as we're in Germany with seven and a half other supporters as part of an international rally against an open cast lignite mine and a few of us are down the local pub enjoying the common language of beer...and Status Quo.

But Greenpeace is an international organisation and eco-warriors are a fairly international bunch. Our own UK party for example included representatives of most of the nationalities of the United Kingdom; English, Welsh, Cornish and, as I have already said, Geordie, as well as a UK resident Yank, a German, a South African, and a Swede.

Perhaps Greenpeace is a little unique amongst environmental groups. I don't expect a national gathering of the Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England is quite as diverse. However we were also a fairly cosmopolitan group on Barton Moss I remember, even though Boris now claims he is actually from Bolton and only picked up his accent on his travels.

There is a bit of a tension here though, is there not, given that these are the people holding up the building of Heathrow's Third Runway and trying ban short haul flights? Lets 'unpack' this a little as they say.

"Show me an environmentalist and I will show you a hypocrite"

As George Monbiot said, in the absence of government action, environmentalism is, and always will be, for other people.

Eco-warriors travel, some rather more than others. I've not been on a plane for thirteen years, but when I last flew it was from the runway I'd tried to stop the building of. I have driven over every road I ever protested against too, and done most of them in Greenpeace vehicle. A former Greenpeace ED used to take his holidays in the Pacific.

We may have travelled twenty hours on an overnight coach with the two most cheerful drivers in the Midlands in order to get to Germany, but the flying environmentalist is just as real as the anti-nuclear activist who'll tell you about the danger of getting cancer from Sellafield whilst smoking a roll up.

Streuth, with us trying to save the world we don't really need anyone trying to destroy it, do we?

The Anti-UKIP

But, as fans of bypasses and short haul flights tell us, travel isn't all bad. It broadens the mind, brings nations and cultures together and generally makes the world a better place all round. I think most of us would respect someone who's well travelled rather more than one who's never left home and spends his spare time knitting organic yoghurt, and with good reason.

I mean, the western nation whose citizens are least likely to travel abroad is the USA. Nuff said. 

And it seems Greens are generally pretty well travelled.

A survey by GlobalWebIndex in May this year revealed that people who'd vote for the Green Party were more likely to eat foreign food and more interested in other cultures and countries than people who would vote for any other party. At the opposite end of the spectrum were, surprise surprise, UKIP.

The survey has a pretty decent sample group of 7504 overall including 282 Greens and also reveals that we are less optimistic about the environment, less interested in personal financial investments and more interested in equality than voters for the other parties, which all makes sense.

Not that I can claim to be all that cosmopolitan myself. From my English breakfast to my pint of mild, my Elgar CDs to my Led Zeppelin records, my taste in food, drink and music would probably even be regarded as a bit conservative even by George Orwell, a man who was radical only in his politics. However I can claim friends in or from most of the EU, so maybe something is rubbing off even on me.

The world on your desktop

So how do we square this circle of wanting to part of the community of nations whilst cutting down our fossil fuel use? Electric trains, planes and automobiles doesn't entirely solve the problem, even if they were available now, which they mostly aren't.

One clue is in the GlobalWebIndex survey, which shows Green voters are more likely to use social media. However having facebook friends around the world is all very well, but eventually you're going to want to visit them.

The reality is there is no way round this. Our heads and our hearts are pulling us in different directions. Whether it's Tradable Energy Quotas or a Carbon tax, Acting Local will make the globetrotting that results from Thinking Global very difficult for us.

So I guess I should be very grateful that I was able to meet so many international friends in person. In years to come, when I'm sitting in the dark round the wood burner, pedalling hard to get enough power to work the internet and calculating how many more TEQs I'll have to save up to get a train to Germany I'll perhaps look back at these days of cheap travel and wonder why I didn't see more of the big wide world whilst I had the chance.