…… 30 October 2013
When someone with interesting things to say is granted a high-profile media platform, it is wise to listen to what is being said and ask why they have been given such a platform. Comedian and actor Russell Brand’s 10-minute interview by Jeremy Paxman on BBC’s Newsnight last week was given considerable advance publicity and generated enormous reaction on social media and in the press, just as those media gatekeepers who selected Brand to appear would have wished.
The interview was hung on the hook of Brand’s guest-editing of a special edition of New Statesman, the ‘leftwing’ weekly magazine owned by the multimillionaire Mike Danson. In a rambling 4500-word essay mixing political comment, spiritual insight, humour and trademark flowery wordplay, Brand called for a ‘total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic system.’
‘Apathy’, he said, ‘is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people’. He rightly noted that the public is, however, ‘far from impotent’, adding:
‘I take great courage from the groaning effort required to keep us down, the institutions that have to be fastidiously kept in place to maintain this duplicitous order.’
These were all good points. But one of these institutions, unmentioned even once in his long essay, is the BBC.
Last Wednesday, from the safe confines of the Newsnight studio, Jeremy Paxman introduced his Russell Brand interview in archetypal world-weary mode like some kind of venerable patrician inviting a precocious, innocent upstart to join an exalted circle, just for a few moments. Paxman began by characterising Brand’s New Statesman essay as a ‘combination of distaste for mainstream politics and overweening vanity’. A Newsnight professional then flicked a switch and the prepared interview ran, filmed in an anonymous luxury hotel room. Paxman’s line of attack was that Brand couldn’t ‘even be arsed to vote’. It continued like this:
Jeremy Paxman: ‘Well, how do you have any authority to talk about politics then?’
Russell Brand: ‘Well I don’t get my authority from this pre-existing paradigm which is quite narrow and only serves a few people. I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity. “Alternate” means alternative political systems.’
JP: [Sceptical look] ‘They being?’
RB: ‘Well, I’ve not invented it yet, Jeremy. I had to do a magazine last week. I had a lot on my plate. But here’s the thing it shouldn’t do. Shouldn’t destroy the planet. Shouldn’t create massive economic disparity. Shouldn’t ignore the needs of the people. The burden of proof is on the people with the power, not people doing a magazine.’
JP: ‘How do you imagine that people get power?’
RB: ‘Well, I imagine there are hierarchical systems that have been preserved through generations.’
JP: ‘They get power by being voted in. You can’t even be arsed to vote!’
RB: ‘That’s quite a narrow prescriptive parameter that change is within the…’
JP: ‘In a democracy that’s how it works.’
Of course, Paxman’s establishment-friendly remarks may be attributed to playing devil’s advocate. But it seems clear that Paxman really does believe we live in a functioning democracy. Certainly, the BBC man has an embarrassing faith in the good intentions of our leaders. In 2009 he commented of the Iraq war:
‘As far as I personally was concerned, there came a point with the presentation of the so-called evidence, with the moment when Colin Powell sat down at the UN General Assembly and unveiled what he said was cast-iron evidence of things like mobile, biological weapon facilities and the like…
‘When I saw all of that, I thought, well, “We know that Colin Powell is an intelligent, thoughtful man, and a sceptical man. If he believes all this to be the case, then, you know, he’s seen the evidence; I haven’t.”
‘Now that evidence turned out to be absolutely meaningless, but we only discover that after the event. So, you know, I’m perfectly open to the accusation that we were hoodwinked. Yes, clearly we were.’
It is indeed ironic, then, that the gullible Paxman should cast himself as a hard-bitten realist challenging a well-intentioned but naïve fantasist.
As we’ve noted before, the notion that we live in a proper democracy is a dangerous illusion maintained by a state-corporate media to which Paxman himself is a prominent contributor. Brand confronted Paxman directly about the limited choice of policies and politicians offered to the public:
‘Aren’t you bored? Aren’t you more bored than anyone? You’ve been talking year after year, listening to their lies, their nonsense – then it’s that one getting in, then it’s that one getting in. But the problem continues. Why are we going to continue to contribute to this façade?’
But that was about as far as Brand went. He had nothing to say about the insidious role of the BBC in maintaining support for the crushing economic and political system that is, as Brand stated, destroying the planet, creating massive economic disparity and ignoring the needs of the people. By agreeing to enter the lion’s den of a BBC interview, edited and packaged as a high-profile 10-minute segment on Newsnight, knowing that he would likely boost viewing figures amongst a target younger audience without drawing attention to these parameters, far less criticising them, Brand let a major component of state-corporate power off the hook. He effectively contributed to the illusion that the BBC is a level platform for reasoned, vigorous and wide-ranging debate on the most serious issues affecting people and planet.
This matters because, as we have noted before, the most effective propaganda systems provide opportunities for some dissent while the overwhelming pattern of media coverage strongly supports state-corporate aims. And the BBC, regarded by many people as the epitome of all that is good about Britain, is arguably the most powerful media institution in this equation. After all, the BBC is still the news source for the majority of the public, and thus the establishment-friendly window through which the population views domestic and world affairs. An opinion poll published in May 2013 showed that 58% of the British public regards the BBC as the most trustworthy news source, far higher than its closest rivals: ITV (14%), Sky News (6%), Channel 4 News (2%) and the Guardian (2%).
The irony is that Brand referred in the interview to the safety ‘valves’ that allow steam to be let off, keeping an unjust system in place. But he was only referring to recycling and driving ‘greener’ cars like the Prius which ‘stop us reaching the point where you think it’s enough now’. So when is it ‘enough now’ to draw attention to the destructive role played by powerful elite news media, most especially the BBC?
More than once, Brand backed off from putting Paxman and the BBC in the spotlight:
RB: ‘The planet is being destroyed. We are creating an underclass. We are exploiting poor people all over the world. And the genuine legitimate problems of the people are not being addressed by our political class.’
JP: ‘All of these things may be true…’
RB: [Interjecting] ‘They are true.’
JP: ‘… but you took – I wouldn’t argue with you about many of them.’
RB: ‘Well how come I feel so cross with you. It can’t just be because of that beard. It’s gorgeous!’
The trivial diversion to the topic of Paxman’s beard meant that Brand’s question, ‘Well how come I feel so cross with you?’ was left hanging in mid-air. This is the point where Brand could, and should, have gone on the offensive about Paxman’s privileged position as a supposed fearless interrogator of power, the BBC man’s connection with the British-American Project once describedas a ‘Trojan horse for US foreign policy’, and then extending to a critique of the BBC itself. There is no shortage of examples of BBC propaganda that could have been raised.
None of that happened.
A Menagerie Of Mockers
Brand’s espousal of popular views on Newsnight was sufficiently unsettling, however, that reactionary voices from the media class were quick to mock, denigrate or patronise him. Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook explained why this is the case:
‘What indicates to me that Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald and Russell Brand, whatever their personal or political differences, are part of an important social and ethical trend is the huge irritation they cause to the media class who have spent decades making very good livings being paid by the media corporations to limit our intellectual horizons.’
Tom Chivers, the assistant comment editor of the Daily Telegraph told his readers that Brand is an ‘unnecessary revolutionary’, and that basically the current system of capitalism works fine apart from a few ‘pockets of regression, little eddies in the forward current’.
David Aaronovitch of The Times declared via Twitter:
‘In what way was Russell Brand not an anarchist version of the maddest kind of UKIP supporter?’
‘If you’re angry enough it absolves you from actually thinking anything through. That’s what I got from the Brand interview on #newsnight’
Cook provided other early responses from ‘Britain’s elite journalists in Twitterland’ which ‘illustrated the general rancour they feel towards those who threaten to expose them as the charlatans they are.’
Media commentators continued to spring up to take a pop at Brand. Robin Lustig, who until last year presented The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4, asserted that Brand is ‘not only daft but dangerous’. Lustig said dismissively of Brand:
‘The truth is that he has nothing to contribute, other than the self-satisfied smirk of a man who knows he’ll never go hungry or be without a home.’
Joan Smith exhorted Brand in the oligarch-owned Independent on Sunday:
‘Go back to your lovely home in the Hollywood Hills and leave politics to people who aren’t afraid of difficult ideas and hard work. You’re one celebrity, I’m afraid, who’s more idiot than savant.’
Just last month, Smith was bemoaning the MPs who had voted against a possible war on Syria or, as she called it, ‘intervention on humanitarian grounds’. She had written:
‘We believe in universal human rights; our laws, treaties and political leaders say so.’
To be this openly credulous, to declare a belief in something because ‘our leaders say so’, is a remarkable admission for an ostensible journalist.
Simon Kelner, editor-in-chief of the Independent newspapers, acknowledged that Brand ‘articulates a strain of thinking among a growing number of young people’.
‘there was just the sense, when Jeremy met Russell, that some of the old certainties may be shifting.’
True enough. But Kelner made sure his readers knew that Brand’s call to overthrow the system of capitalism that is killing the planet is ‘Spartist nonsense’.
In the Observer, pro-war commentator Nick Cohen even went as far as an insidious comparison between comedian Russell Brand and fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, and slyly suggested that Brand was calling for a violent revolution. Not true. Somehow Cohen had mangled Brand’s peaceful call to ‘direct our love indiscriminately.’
Cohen then added:
‘artists have always made a show of being drawn towards fanaticism. Extremism is more exciting and dramatic, more artistic perhaps, than the shabby compromises and small changes of democratic societies.’
For Cohen, the ‘shabby compromises’ include neverending support for Britain’s participation in bloody wars and violent ‘interventions’ in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan…
Back To The 1980s
When the media commentariat have to resort to smears and insults you can be sure that fear of the public is playing a part. Readers may feel, then, that we are being a tad harsh on Brand. Didn’t he make many cogent points, and more than hold his own against Paxman, the BBC’s famed rottweiler? Indeed, yes. Brand rightly pointed out that politicians are not taking the necessary action on pressing issues such as climate:
‘They’re not attempting to solve these problems. They’re not. They’re attempting to placate the population. Their measures that are currently being taken around climate change are indifferent, will not solve the problem.’
‘What I’m saying is that within the existing paradigm, the change is not dramatic enough, not radical enough.’
But is this really any different from what environment and social justice campaigners have been saying for decades? Go back to the 1980s, and weren’t we hearing the same thing from Jonathan Porritt and the Greens, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and other campaigners? In many media alerts over the years, such as here and here, we have pointed out that the corporate media has long suppressed, marginalised and diverted any radical challenges to the status quo. Campaigners and activists, of whatever hue and driven by whatever issue, can no longer ignore this crucial issue.
Even in Brand’s 4500-word New Statesman piece, he had very little to say about the corporate media. There were two passing mentions of ‘media’, but no mentions of ‘press’, ‘journalism’ or ‘television’. Perhaps we should not be surprised that the well-intentioned Brand, a former ‘MTV journalist’, presenter of Big Brother’s Big Mouth and an actor in big-budget movies, should have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to the corporate media.
George Monbiot declared on Twitter, perhaps only with part of his tongue in cheek, that:
‘The realisation that Russell Brand (@rustyrockets) is in fact the Messiah is disorienting on so many levels.’
Others applauding Brand on social media included Alain de Botton and Jemima Khan. But few prominent supporters of Brand’s ‘revolution’, if any, have said anything that is genuinely critical of elite power; especially of the corporate media, including the BBC. We have, for example, discussed de Botton’s corporate-sponsored ‘branded conversations’ here.
It is understandable that there was much praise for Russell Brand’s Newsnight interview and New Statesman essay. To a large extent, this signifies the desperation of people to hear any challenge to the power-protecting propaganda that we are force-fed every day. But two crucial factors here are that Brand was selected to appear by media gatekeepers; and that media institutions, notably the BBC, escaped serious scrutiny. If Brand was a serious threat to the broadcaster’s projected image as a beacon of impartiality, he would not have been chosen.
Noam Chomsky has a cautionary note on high-profile exposure in the corporate media:
‘If I started getting public media exposure’, he once said, ‘I’d think I were doing something wrong. Why should any system of power offer opportunities to people who are trying to undermine it? That would be crazy.’
Given all that, how likely is it that the BBC would really provide a launchpad for a revolution?
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7.00pm Thursday 31st October 2013 at theThe Railway PH at the bottom of Station Hill
ALL WELCOME (Especially new members!)
- Welcome and Introductions
- Apologies for Absence
- Minutes and matters arising
- Officers’ reports (Andy/John/Neil)
- Councillor feedback (Kathy)
- Elections – Wales GP positions/target ward /Euro campaign
- Campaigns update – Fracking (Andy/John/Rozz); PAAA (Andy/John); Bridgend Against the Bedroom Tax (John/Trish/Andy/Gareth/Delyth); Gagging Bill (Andy/John/Trish).
- AOB (e.g. End of year social)
Lack of air pollution action now ‘utterly unforgivable’ says MEP
A Green member of the European Parliament has called for increased urgency in the fight for clean air after the World Health Organization (WHO) labelled polluted air as carcinogenic. This has been endorsed by Wales Green Party’s lead MEP candidate, Andy Chyba.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the WHO, pointed to data confirming that 223,000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide in 2010 resulted from air pollution. 
Air pollution, which is primarily caused by emissions from vehicles, has already been linked to other lung problems as well as heart failure and premature death. In the UK alone 29,000 people every year die because of air pollution. 
Despite air pollution’s impact on people’s health the UK Government has been accused of trying to water down European laws which could reduce the levels of the noxious fumes in the air. 
Keith Taylor, the Green Party’s MEP for the South East of England and a leading campaigner for clean air, said:
“The evidence from the WHO suggests that the risk from air pollution is similar to that from second hand tobacco smoke. Surely then we should expect controls on air pollution from transport similar in strength to those brought in to protect the public from passive smoking. With this new evidence being published it’s clear that failing to act on the air pollution problem would be utterly unforgivable.
Try as it might the UK Government can no longer pretend that the air pollution problem can be ignored, not when the World Health Organisation classify it as a group 1 carcinogen.
It’s time for the EU to adopt stronger air pollution laws that fall in line with World Health Organization guidelines and it’s time the UK Government works on behalf of the health of its citizens and stops trying to undermine this vital legislative programme.
I’ll continue to campaign for clean air across and fight against any moves to weaken vital air pollution laws.”
In the Bridgend County context, as Chair Bridgend Green Party, Andy Chyba, is dismayed at BCBC’s apparent complacency on the issue. Bridgend is one of very few local authorities with no Air Quality Management Areas, despite acknowledged concerns at at least five locations . Such is their complacency that there appears to have been no proper review since 2008. 
Chyba says: “This is yet another example of Bridgend’s Labour administration not taking environmental issues seriously enough. Complacency on such issues costs lives and they need to be held more accountable”.
- “Air pollution is a leading cause of cancer”- http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/17/us-cancer-pollution-idUSBRE99G0BB20131017
- Government report on deaths in UK linked to air pollution: http://www.hpa.org.uk/ProductsServices/ChemicalsPoisons/Environment/Air/
- Blog post by Keith Taylor (with links to government proposals to weaken air pollution laws): http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/keith-taylor/air-pollution-kills_b_2457096.html
- Concerns have been raised about air pollution near Ewenny Cross, the western end of Cowbridge Road, at Tondu Road on the western end of the Bridgend Cross Valley Link Road, at Kenfig Hill adjacent the opencast coal site, and at Wern Tarw, Pencoed, adjacent to Rockwool Ltd. http://www1.bridgend.gov.uk/media/99179/Jun___2008.pdf
- The Pollution Control Team at BCBC published regular reports between 1999 and 2008, but there has been nothing on air quality since. http://www1.bridgend.gov.uk/services/public-protection/environmental-health/air-quality.aspx (this page was last updated in August 2013 so is presumably accurate).
WORLD leaders must focus on providing more decent work for women and young people as well as eradicating poverty and hunger, London MEP Jean Lambert has said.
In a message for International Day for the Elimination of Poverty the Green Euro-MP has called for the UN to step up efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals – and really make poverty history once and for all.
She said: “The Millennium Development Goals gave us a great framework for reducing global poverty, by adopting the targets of halving the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day, achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people, and halving by 2015, the number of people suffering hunger and malnutrition.
“While the first target has been achieved, we have a long way to go if we are to achieve the second and third by 2015: unemployment is rising across much of the world – especially among young people – and there are estimated to be as many as 800 million people going to bed hungry each night: 100 million of them children under the age of five.
“Greens have worked tirelessly to promote work designed to meet these targets: here in the EU, for example, we have championed the idea of a Youth Guarantee – a promise that everyone aged under 25 in the EU will have either a job or a training place – and, just today, we are hosting a discussion with the European Anti-Poverty Network on how best to ensure social goals are built in to the EU’s financial regulations.
“But eradicating poverty is a matter for all of us – all over the world. Austerity measures following the 2008 financial crisis means poverty is, more than ever, a truly global problem – and not just a development issue – and inequality is growing, dividing societies even further.
“Just last week I saw for myself the impact of ongoing poverty on the lives of Londoners during a visit to a community food bank in the capital.
“I hope we see a renewed focus on tackling poverty and inequality from world leaders today, in the UK and EU as well as in the developing world.”
Jean Lambert is one of eight MEPs representing London and one of two UK Green representatives in the European Parliament. Jean was first elected Green Party Member of the European Parliament for London in the 1999 European elections and was re-elected in 2004 and 2009.
FROM DEREK VAUGHAN (Labour MEP for Wales)
Thank you for your email.
I supportedthe current version of the Zanoni report in the recent vote on this matter.
Thank you also for the detailed information on fracking. It is very important the UK and other countries analyse carefully all the implications it may have for health and the environment. Contacting your local MP and the UK government would also be worthwhile Andy.
Please also find below Labour’s position on shale gas.
Once again thanks for taking the time to write to me on this important issue.
Derek Vaughan MEP
4th Floor, Transport House
1 Cathedral Road
Tel: 02920 227660
Labour & Shale Gas
The Shadow DECC Team’s Position:
Gas has a role to play in a future balanced energy mix, along with renewables, nuclear and CCS. However, shale gas is unlikely to be a game changer for consumer bills or energy security and there are important regulatory questions which must be answered before large-scale extraction can begin.
Environmental Regulation and Monitoring
• Concerns about the safety and environmental impact of shale gas extraction are valid. The appropriate response to such concerns is to ensure that we have the right regulatory and monitoring framework in place before large-scale fracking begins.
• It is not just the robustness of the regulation, but the comprehensiveness of the monitoring that is important. Assurances are required from the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency that they will be able to carry out such monitoring.
• Labour have set out 6 regulatory conditions that must be met before Shale Gas extraction can proceed:
1. Evidence of seismic activity led to the suspension of operations in Lancashire in 2011. As Labour set out in an article for Business Green on 7 March 2012, baseline conditions should be assessed prior to any exploratory work with micro-seismic monitoring, in order to discriminate natural from artificially induced seismic events once the drilling begins. An early warning detection system should also be implemented, similar to that used in the Netherlands and Germany, which would allow measures to be taken before seismic activity has a noticeable impact.
2. There has been a lack of transparency and control in the USA on exactly what is being used to fracture shale rocks and extract the resulting gas. In the UK, the chemicals used must be restricted to those that are proven to be non-hazardous. Further, there should be mandated disclosure of all the chemicals to be used in fracking, including their toxicity levels.
3. The integrity of each shale gas well must be assured to prevent water contamination. An independent assessment of the well design, the cement bond between the casing and well bore, in addition to the composition of the casing to determine its ability to resist corrosion, is essential.
4. The level of methane in groundwater should also be assessed prior to any drilling. Methane can occur naturally in groundwater, but there is concern from the experience in the USA that it may occur as a result of fracking. In each case, that needs to be assessed prior to any activity, so there is robust baseline information to monitor against.
5. All potential shale exploration sites should be subject to screening for an environmental impact assessment – at present, those below one hectare do not need to undertake such an assessment. This assessment should include the level of water used, how much can be recycled and the availability of water in each case.
6. All of the monitoring activity referred to above should take place over a twelve month period, to allow sufficient time to gather all of the evidence required to make an informed decision on whether to proceed with exploration.
• Since Labour announced this position, the Government has conceded on 4 of the 6 points we made last December. They have not included the baseline survey of methane being assessed prior to drilling, and they have not specified that the monitoring activity should take place over a 12 month period. Further, concerns remain, particularly regarding the effectiveness of the monitoring process and the capacity of the relevant bodies to undertake that monitoring if there is further exploration of shale gas.
• To date, only a small number of exploratory licenses have been issued. 3 onshore exploratory wells have been drilled.
• Shale is covered by the normal UK regime for all oil and gas exploration and development. A UK Petroleum Exploration and Development licence (PEDL) allows a company to pursue a range of exploration activities, including exploration and development of unconventional gas, subject to necessary drilling/development consents and planning permission.
• A separate license will be required for full-scale fracking, meaning that it is unlikely that Shale Gas could be extracted in meaningful quantities before the next general election.
• George Osborne has announced that has production profits from shale will initially be taxed at just 30%. At present, gas production profits are taxed at 62%, rising to 81% in some North Sea cases when the Supplementary Charge and corporation tax are combined.
• Labour does not believe that announcing tax breaks before properly addressing legitimate environmental concerns is an appropriately proportionate and cautious approach to shale gas.
• The Chancellor argues that these tax incentives are required to stimulate a market dealing with a number of unknowns – size and recoverability of resources, regulatory framework, etc – while Labour argues that it is precisely these issues that need to be clarified before there is any consideration of advantageous tax treatment. The economic cost of extraction of shale is one factor which companies with licences will need to consider. The case for differential allowances for marginal fields, as in the North Sea, may be relevant for atypical fields but should not be the norm.
The Example of the US
• Shale Gas extraction in the US has driven down the cost of energy for consumers and businesses, providing a competitive advantage to some industrial sectors and therefore to the wider economy.
• However, this has in part been the result of the fact that the US is not able to export gas. As supply increases in this closed market the cost correspondingly decreases. By contrast, the UK is well-connected to the European gas network. The cost-reducing benefits of an increase in supply will be shared with the rest of the continent, dissipating the impact, particularly as extra-Europe demand for gas is likely to increase rather than decrease.
• The benefit to the UK is more likely to be in relation to energy security as an indigenous source of energy will make us less reliant on foreign imports, particularly as our own North Sea gas reserves are declining and we now import more gas than we produce – a position which has changed over the last 10 years.
• The geography of the two countries also makes exploration less likely than in the UK. Many of the areas in the US where production does take place are largely deserted, however in the UK we are more densely populated which will impact upon exploration and extraction permissions from local authorities.
• So a simplistic extrapolation of the US experience of shale gas is not an informed contribution to the debate.
Shale Gas and Renewables
• A frequent objection to shale gas is that it will divert investment from renewable energy and lock the UK into a fossil fuel industry.
• The Government have perpetuated this line of thinking by establishing a false opposition between shale gas extraction and renewable investment, suggesting that they back ‘cheap gas’ over ‘expensive green’.
• The Labour Party reject this dichotomy. Gas will continue to play a part of our short and medium term energy mix and meeting this obligation will require some investment. There is no reason why this should preclude heavy investment in renewable generation, which represents the long-term future of our energy sector.
• This is also why it is important that there are other signals from the government towards a low carbon generation mix, and why we are committed to a 2030 decarbonisation target.
• Possible extraction of shale gas is not inconsistent with the binding carbon targets the UK has legislated for – we will continue to need gas for peaking capacity, and as a source for heating.
The Case for Shale Gas
• Despite these concerns, Shale Gas nevertheless remains a positive potential opportunity for the UK, one that we should not dismiss.
• With around 80% of houses using gas for heating, we will continue to need gas in the UK for some years to come.
• Shale gas is not the silver bullet for all of our energy needs as the Chancellor and others seem to suggest. Nor is it likely to be extracted in great volumes in the immediate future. However, while it is right to be cautious and proportionate in our approach to shale gas exploration, we should not rule out the use of an indigenous source of gas to replace the depleted North Sea gas reserves and displace some of the gas we currently import and improve our security of supply, so long as it can be extracted safely.
Dear Derek Vaughan,
RE: October 9 – Plenary vote on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive – amendments on shale gas and other unconventional hydrocarbons
Dear Welsh MEPs ,
On July 11, the Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee voted overwhelmingly (49-13) in favour of a report by MEP Zanoni on the European Commission’s proposals for a review of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive.
The Committee notably adopted proposals to adapt the EIA Directive to the arrival of a new type of industrial-size activities in Europe, namely the plans to explore and extract unconventional hydrocarbon such as shale gas in Europe. The negative environmental, health and climate impacts associated with hydraulic fracturing or fracking – the technique used to explore and extract such unconventional hydrocarbons – have been well documented since the shale gas drilling boom started a decade ago in the United States. The proposals in the Zanoni report allow us to take the necessary measures in order not to repeat the same mistakes observed in the US.
Therefore, I respectfully ask you to offer your support to the current version of the Zanoni report and to the unchangedprovisions on shale gas and other unconventional fossil fuels in particular amendments 31, 54 and 79 point (e). I also ask you to reject the amendments 112 and 115, and to vote in favour of deferring the final vote on the report and mandating rapporteur Zanoni to start negotiations with the Council.
These amendments are crucial because the current version of the legislation fails to guarantee a systematic and mandatory EIA before new unconventional fossil fuel projects commence:
· Unconventional fossil fuel projects have a maximum initial production rate of between 115,000 and 250,000 m3/day, which means they cannot meet the 500,000m3/day threshold set in the existing legislation.
· The systematic use of deep drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques throughout the entire process means that important environmental damage can already occur during the exploration phase. This is why not only the extraction phase but also the exploration phase should be included in Annex I.
The poor environmental record of the unconventional fossil fuel industry in the United States has taught us that:
· It is essential to engage in a systematic gathering of baseline data – with samples of air, water and soil quality – in order to be able to ascertain any air and water contamination that may arise from drilling operations.
· Such industrial developments should not take place without properly consulting the communities living around potential drilling sites.
If large-scale UFF operations are allowed to go ahead in an unregulated way, this industry will repeat the same mistakes as in the United States, with the same dramatic impacts for the climate, environment and public health. I believe it is absolutely vital that this recommendation receives strong support, and I look to you to represent my views in this matter for the good of our constituency and for the rest of Europe.
We in Friends of the Earth and the Green Party will be holding pro-fracking MEPs to account at next May’s elections.
In theory it is unlawful for fracking companies to drill under your home without your permission. In practice it usually proves hard to enforce unless you can prove some impact, but given the potential impacts everyone now has an awareness of, I think this is worth pursuing.
Search your postcode and join the legal block today to protect your home and community from fracking.
The ‘Not For Shale’ legal block is an interesting development looking to raise awareness and build support for a legal challenge to the trackers going underneath our property .
So, thank you for adding your voice to the growing number of people in Britain who are standing up to protect our neighbourhoods, countryside and climate.
Share this action with your friends, family and neighbours and invite them to join the ‘Not for Shale’ legal block.
I attended the one day Conference in Manchester that brought together people from a range of ecosocialist backgrounds.Ecosocialism 2013 was supported by the following organisations:
Alliance for Green Socialism
Wigan Green Socialists
The Eco-Socialist newspaper
Parti de Gauche (London)
GPEW Trade Union Group
among numerous others.
There were five main themes, supported by workshops, that attempted to produce ideas for action and a sense of priorities. It is fair to say the results are a bit of a mixed bag (ranging from a bit naff and obvious to very pertinent and far-reaching), but nonetheless the whole exercise was very worthwhile, as was the opportunity to meet and discuss/debate issues with people from other organisations.
The assimilated notes from the 5 workshops look like this:
BUILDING AN ECONOMY FOR THE 99%
a) Recognise the importance of communication and use a range of media, incuding coordinated use of social media.
b) Create a clear alternative narrative to neoliberal consumerism, based on values and realistic alternatives eg integrated public transport instead of cars.
c) Promote at national level for one million climate jobs and green new deal, working with other groups.
d) Endeavour to make people feel empowered so they believe change is possible
e) Use arts & culture to put our message across and draw people in eg local festivals like Wigan Diggers
f) Promote a major shift in trade union attitudes towards support for a green economy (eg transport unions) unions tend to be reactive; influence unions from the ground up.
g) Promote radical change and economic democracy, not just individual lifestyle changes.
h) Organise local action addressing immediate problems so as to involve people in change: food banks, occupy vacant houses, growing own food
LOCAL ACTIONS IN THE COMMUNIY
a) Promote sustainable energy: cooperatives (wind, food, solar); fund from Energy Companies Obligation; energy-saving community in derelict houses; promote solar-charged batteries; see communityenergy.org.uk
b) Grow local food: community farms; dig for victory on waste land; involve people with care budgets; bring communities together; edible environment.
c) Organise festivals & events: Salford; Bird Walk Barton Moss 20 Oct; tastier greener pie events; low key events (cake, tea, film, bookfair); free festivals.
d) Organise community services: free or cheap; involve isolated people; involve trade unions; breakfast/lunch clubs; affordable cafes; kids play groups; creative writing; libraries; community transport; therapy; English as 2nd language.
e) Promote community housing
f) Seek funding: lottery; trade unions
CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME ENERGY
a) Live well and differently, consuming less.
b) Promote local production, reducing shipping – cheap and plentiful energy is gone.
c) Produce a booklet/other propaganda materials on the economics of energy, making an anti-capitalism case, looking for demands to take local and single issue campaigning towards post capitalist solutions
d) Initiate a campaign for progressive electricity tariffs – linked to the development of community energy
e) Resist unsustainable energy.
f) Campaign nationally (as well as locally) against fracking, creating anti-fracking groups everywhere.
g) Promote wave power.
h) Support the 1 million Climate Jobs campaign
i) Campaign against the meat industry.
DEMOCRACY: WHAT IS IT, HOW SHOULD IT WORK, HOW TO USE IT
a) Support participation in today’s road blockade protesting against cuts in legal aid.
b) Campaign against fuel poverty – “Strike a light” – with braziers on the street and local house lights off.
c) Support national & global day of civil disobedience 5 Nov 13.
d) Stand candidates in elections.
e) Hold voter registration drives.
f) Push for electoral reform.
g) Get rid of the monarchy.
h) Explore openly democratic ways of organising society locally, nationally & globally.
i) Take back the cooperative movement.
j) Recognise the need for ideology (ideas & language) as well as action.
TOWARDS AN ECOSOCIALIST SOCIETY
a) Get involved in campaigns: fuel poverty; fracking; new climate jobs; bedroom tax; cuts.
b) Promote social ownership and cooperative ownership, including for renewable energy.
c) Learn from ecosocialist projects worldwide; link with developing countries’ campaigns to protect natural resources and challenge international capitalism.
d) Network among ecosocialists, including using social media.
e) Set up an ecosocialist think-tank to challenge international capitalism and address the ecological crisis.
f) Promote “ecosocialist” as a brand; label our involvement in campaigns, etc as ecosocialist.
g) Explain ecosocialism to trade unions and make links with unions (eg with green reps).
h) Explain and promote the idea of a “steady state economy”, including its application to developing countries.
i) Democratise/nationalise banking and financial institutions to ensure investments are directed away from fossil fuel and into renewable energies.
j) Promote political education, starting where people are at now, making links between local, national and international.
When? Saturday 12/10/13 from 11.00am to 1.00pm
Where? Outside Oxfam in Bridgend town centre
Who? Andy, John and Trish (behind the camera)
Why? To raise awareness of the the Government’s crude attempts to gag opposition from charities and campaigning groups.
Outcomes: 137 petition signatures in 120 minutes; raised profile for Bridgend Green Party; numerous pledges of support for the work of BGP and the campaigning groups affected, especially re fracking, NHS cuts, the badger cull and zero hours contracts. And hopefully a new member or two.
This really does speak for itself.
What should be done about it?
Post your thoughts, please.
See my fuller article here: https://bridgendgreens.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/bridgend-christian-school-ace-or-crap/
Alongside the PCS union that represents over 5,000 prison staff, Wales Green Party is calling for an independent review of prison privatisation. We would like this review to take into account issues such as:
- prisoners welfare in a profit driven environment
- value for money for the public purse
- the real costs of delivering these services effectively
- the moral question of whether state punishment should ever be used to make a profit for private sector companies
- the impact on public sector staff and local communities in these prisons facing privatisation
This comes in the wake of the recent furore over plans for a 2,000 inmate ‘superprison’ in Wrexham. Over and above the concerns listed above, the Wrexham proposals would site the prison on a former factory site close to residential areas. It is the scale and location of the prison that Andy Chyba, Wales Green Party lead candidate for next years Euro elections, takes issue with. He says:
“I recognise that this part of Wales currently has no facilities to house local prisoners, and we support the concept of local prisons, but this proposal is not about what is good for communities, nor is it about providing offenders with the best chance of rehabilitation. This is all about providing huge private companies the chance to profit from economies of scale and the inevitable squeeze on staff costs that always goes with privatisation of services that ought to be in the public sector”.
The Wrexham prison would dwarf Parc Prison in Bridgend, currently the biggest in Wales with around 1200 inmates. It is planned to greatly expand Parc in the near future, but as Wales only private prison to date, it has seen more than its fair share of controversy in its 16 year history.
G4S has always run the prison, and their reputation goes before them. When it opened it was planned to make it a high-tech prison with with computer systems, swipe cards and personalised voice identification equipment. By using computer and surveillance equipment, G4S hoped to cut down the number of staff needed in the prison and make it more difficult for prisoners to escape. The technology repeatedly failed. The inadequate provisions for young offenders led to sky high suicide rates. A 2004 Independent Monitoring Board report rated it the worst-performing prison in England & Wales, with staff morale especially highlighted as cause for concern. 
Chyba issues this warning:
“When you turn over this sort of service to private corporations, there is only ever one outcome. It always puts the emphasis on profit before people, and as unpleasant as some of them may be, prisons have to be about the people in them first and foremost.”
He goes on to cite the example of the most successful prisons in Europe – successful in terms of the lowest re-offending rates. He argues that these are the ones that provide the best value for money – as it is hard to actually put a value on salvaged lives. He points out that by far the best re-offending rates in Europe are at Bastoy Prison in Norway, which houses the full spectrum of offenders :
“This place has less than half the re-offending rates of UK prisons, and at more than £40,000 a year per UK prisoner, you do the maths. How does it do this? By giving people trust and responsibility and treating them like the decent human beings that we want them to become. You cannot do this in the human equivalent of a factory farm.”
You can sign the PCS petition calling for an independent review by following this link: http://pcslive.bluestatedigital.com/page/s/public-sector-prisons-not-private-sector-profit