EDF are suing our daughter

February 27, 2013 at 6:51 pm (Civil liberties, climate change, environment, Free Speech, Human rights, law, profiteers, protest, science)

Above: EDF’s attempt to look lovable…

Our daughter Claire was one of 21 activists who spent a week up a chimney at West Burton power station to protest against the use of gas-fired power stations.

It was a peaceful protest to draw attention to the environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels for power. No one was hurt but now EDF Energy are suing our daughter and her fellow activists for £5 million.

We believe this is totally unfair and unprecedented. That’s why we have started a petition to call on EDF to drop the suit against our daughter and her friends, the West Burton activists. Click here to sign our petition.

Our daughter and her friends protested peacefully. They knew they would be arrested but were brave enough to accept this possibility. Peaceful protest has never before been followed by an injunction for costs like this. If EDF are successful in this suit it will set a dangerous precedent for the right to peaceful protest in this country.

We are proud of what Claire and her friends are trying to do. It’s heartbreaking to think that they are being punished for putting themselves at risk for the good of humanity. If EDF pursue this suit they will put my daughter and her friends in debt — possibly for the rest of their lives. For EDF it is a mere drop in the ocean, but for them it is a lifetime’s income.

EDF might think it can silence 21 activists but it has to listen to consumers. If enough consumers show they are outraged by EDF’s actions, the impact to the company’s brand will be worth more than £5 million and the suit will be dropped.

Please sign our petition asking EDF to drop this unprecedented legal assault.

Thank you,
Russ and Barbara Fauset

NB: ‘Will EDF become the Barbra Streisand of climate protest?’ – George Monbiot in the Guardian

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Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power: Fukushima one year on

March 11, 2012 at 10:30 am (climate change, environment, green, Jim D, nuclear power, science)

The first anniversary of the tragedy resulting from the Japanese earthquake may seem an inappropriate time to suggest a reappraisal of the left’s traditional hositlility to nuclear power. But, paradoxically, the Japanese events and their aftermath suggest that our worst fears are not justified.

The only rational conclusion, as a result of the ” Fukushima test,”  must be that the benefits massively outweigh the risks.

Les Hearn wrote the following shortly after the earthquake, and I think his analysis has, so far, been vindicated:

The terrible events recently in Japan have resulted in at least 15,000 deaths, of which those attributable to the overheating cores and hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant amount to… zero.

However, the situation at the power plant is potentially more serious if it is not controlled. What has been happening?

Some time ago, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) decided to build nuclear power plants in an earthquake zone. They judged that their design was robust enough to withstand a powerful earthquake. They judged that safety measures were adequate in the case of interruption of the electricity supply to the coolant pumps. They hadn’t considered the possibility of a large tsunami.

The plants are Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) — sort of giant nuclear kettles. The core contains fuel rods of uranium-235 (235U) and plutonium-239 (239Pu) which undergo fission (atom-splitting) reactions, releasing neutrons, radiation, heat and fission products. The neutrons are fed back into the fuel rods in carefully controlled amounts to sustain a chain reaction, releasing heat which is continuously removed by superheated water under 70 times atmospheric pressure. This is allowed to boil, high pressure steam being used to drive electricity generators.

The radiation is absorbed by the core and cannot escape. It eventually contributes to the heat of the core.

The fission products are smaller atoms, usually radioactive. Most dangerous are caesium-137 (137Cs) and iodine-131 (131I). They are contained within the fuel rods, paradoxically making these more radioactive for a while than the original U or Pu.

So what are the safety features of the Japanese BWRs? If the electricity to the pumps cuts out, the chain reaction must be stopped to prevent the release of more heat. This is done by inserting boron control rods into the core. These absorb neutrons so that new fissions cannot occur. Then residual heat must be removed from the rods. The fact that the coolant water is at about 300 ºC shows that the core heat is considerable. If current is cut to the electric pumps, back-up diesel pumps come into operation. If these fail, batteries operate the pumps electrically. Before these run out, TEPCO assumes the main or diesel pumps will be working again.

What actually happened on 11 March and after was as follows. The buildings withstood one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history and the control rods were automatically inserted into the core. However, the electrically powered pumps were disabled when the earthquake felled power lines. Diesel pumps kicked in but were then swamped by an unexpectedly large tsunami. Then the shed-load of batteries took over for a few hours but, when they ran down, neither had the electricity had been restored nor the diesel pumps restarted. The core started to overheat.

This risked damage to the fuel rods, resulting in emission of caesium-137 and iodine-131. The risk of damage was increased as the heat of the core made it difficult to cool it with the seawater that the plant workers and emergency services were trying to dump on the reactors. The water was instantly boiling and being driven off as steam. The danger of the fuel rods melting and emitting even more radioactive substances was growing. It is not clear that this would lead to a more catastrophic breach of the steel containment: this would require temperatures exceeding 1500 ºC. But it would increase the danger to the workers of excessive radiation, and risk spreading radioactive caesium and iodine in the surroundings.

The problem of these substances is two-fold. Caesium compounds are very soluble and chemically similar to compounds of sodium and potassium. Caesium rapidly spreads through the environment and is absorbed by plants and animals which may be part of the human diet. Its half-life is about 30 years, meaning that it takes about 100 years to decay to 10% of its original level. However, except locally, it is unlikely to be particularly hazardous. Iodine is more problematic. It is absorbed easily and passed on to humans in food. The body then concentrates it in the thyroid gland, converting a low general dose of radiation to a much higher specific dose to one tissue. It has a half-life of eight days, making it more radioactive atom for atom than caesium-137 but dropping to less than 1% in two months. Preventative measures can easily be taken, minimising the risks.

It is not clear whether the reactors will be brought under control without substantial emission of radiation. It is clear that TEPCO should have sited the back-up pumps higher to avoid inundation by tsunamis. It is less clear but arguable that an earthquake zone was not a wise choice.

Nevertheless, the minimal injuries and absence of deaths compared with the effect of the earthquake and tsunami should help to put nuclear power’s risks in perspective. And we’re not talking about another Chernobyl.
Update on Chernobyl

According to the UNSCEAR report 20 years after the Chernobyl accident, 134 people got acute radiation syndrome. Of these, 28 died soon after the accident, and 19 subsequently, mostly from illnesses that are unconnected to their exposure.

More than 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer have occurred among people, predominantly children, exposed to radioactive iodine (131I). Not all but the vast majority of these are thought due to this exposure. This resulted from contamination of milk but was not an inevitable result of the Chernobyl accident. As the UNSCEAR report notes drily, “prompt countermeasures were lacking [which] resulted in large doses to the thyroids of members of the general public”.

Iodine is needed to synthesise the hormone thyroxine, which controls metabolism in adults and, crucially, growth in children. It is efficiently extracted from food and concentrated in the thyroid gland. Grazing cows would have eaten grass on which radioactive iodine had fallen and incorporated it into their milk which, of course, would have been drunk fresh largely by… children.

The countermeasures are simple: flood the system with ordinary iodine (127I, since you ask) by giving people tablets containing iodine salts. This was not done by the incompetent bureaucrats of the former Soviet Union and the result was that low whole body doses of 131I were converted into high doses in the thyroid.

The good (or, rather, less bad) news is that thyroid cancer responds well to treatment and only 15 of the 6000+ cases have died. There is also little evidence of more than a slight increase in other cancers. Thus the total of deaths proven to be caused by the worst accident in the history of nuclear power is not many more than 43.

* United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, Vol II Annex D Health Effects due to radiation from the Chernobyl accident, 2008 (downloaded from the IAEA website).

NB: George Monbiot changed his position on nuclear power some time ago.

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Monbiot backs science against superstition on nuclear power

December 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm (climate change, environment, Green Party, Guardian, Jim D, nuclear power, science)

“Anti-nuclear campaigners have generated as much mumbo jumbo as creationists, anti-vaccine scaremongers, homeopaths and climate change deniers. In all cases, the scientific process has been thrown into reverse: people have begun with their conclusions, then frantically sought evidence to support them” – George Monbiot, The Guardian 6 Dec 20112

The outspoken environmentalist George Monbiot, in his regular Graun columns and elsewhere, has for some time now, been writing a lot of sense about nuclear power. Unlike most Greens (including the British Green Party and its overrated leader Ms Lucas) he is willing to examine the evidence and not fall back upon anti-nuclear superstition. In fact, he starts his column today with a startling admission:

“It’s a devastating admission to have to make, especially during the climate talks in Durban. But there would be no point in writing this column if I were not prepared to confront harsh truths. This year, the environmental movement to which I belong has done more harm to the planet’s living systems than climate change deniers have ever achieved.

“As a result of shutting down its nuclear programme in response to green demands, Germany will produce an extra 300m tonnes of carbon dioxide between now and 2020. That’s almost as much as all the European savings resulting from the energy efficiency directive. Other countries are now heading the same way. These decisions are the result of an almost medievel misrepresentation of science and technology. For while the greens are right about most things, our views on nuclear power have been shaped by weapons-grade woo.”

His comments about the potential of integral fast reactors (IFRs) are particularly important and must be taken very seriously by all rational people.

Read the full article here ; The ignorant, hysterical comments that follow on CiF and Monbiot’s replies are also most instructive.

Another voice of reason: Les Hearn at Workers Liberty.

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Tea Party UK will be built on anti-science

August 2, 2011 at 5:04 pm (BBC, capitalist crisis, climate change, Cuts, Green Party, Guardian, Jim D, Obama, populism, Republican Party, science, United States)

“The founding fathers built a constitution of checks and balances believing reasonable men would agree.; how could they have foreseen Sarah Palin, Michele Bachman or Glenn Beck?”Polly Toynbee in today’s Graun

Following Obama’s humiliating capitulation to the right-wing loons of the Tea Party, the Graun‘s Polly Toynbee (not one of our usual favourites here at Shiraz) speculates on the likelihood of such a movement arising in the UK and is generally fairly optimistic with regard to mainstream politics:

“Whatever you think of the Tory party, it is not shot through with US craziness,
not on stem cell research and gay marriage, or even really on abortion – though
they will toughen its conditions. Steve
Hilton’s cunning plan
to abolish all consumer, employment and maternity

rights got a dusty answer, while his green passions are at least tolerated. Most
Tories are driven by Thatcherism, with its shrink-the-state, on-your-bike thirst
for deregulation. But although Oliver Letwin‘s
parents were Ayn Rand disciples, the American right’s call of the wild is no
closer to Tory core sentiment than is Labour’s ritualistic singing of the Red
Flag once a year. Britain is more rightwing than mainstream Europe, our media
more strident, but we haven’t crossed the Atlantic – yet.”

I think Toynbee’s right about British politics – UKIP and the Tax Payers’ Alliance remain thankfully marginal forces with little popular support and well-deserved reputations for wackiness. That could change, of couirse, but for now I agree with Toynbee that the main arena for irrational, paranoid and reactionary populism in Britain at the moment is science – or, to be precise, anti-science.

Professor Steve Jones’ recent report on BBC coverage of scientific matters showed how even the good ol’ Beeb’s much-vaunted “impartiality” in practice has played into the hands of irrational nutters, flat-earthers and fanatics, by giving their nonsense equal coverage to the overwhelming consensus of scientific opinion.

Jones cites the examples of climate-change, the MMR/autism row and GM crops, as exaqmples of the BBC giving “false balance” between fringe fanatics (or, in the case of climate-change deniers, paid lobbyists) and the overwhelming weight of international scientific opinion. I would add the Green Party’s and CND’s irrational objection to nuclear power to that list.

But the recent story about threats to scientists working on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is, perhaps the most dramatic recent example of at least some people’s paranoid consumerist hostility to rationalism and objectivity in science:

British researchers looking at the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome have received death threats from protesters angry at their focus on possible mental triggers, a report said Friday.

Several scientists researching the condition, which is also known as myalgic (ME), say they are being subjected to a campaign of harassment and abuse, the BBC reported.

Professor Simon Wessely, a scientist based at King’s College London, told BBC Radio that he now scans his mail for suspect devices after receiving “maliciously unfair” threats of violence.

“It’s direct intimidation in the sense of letters, emails, occasional phone calls and threats,” Wessely said, adding that those behind the abuse were also making official complaints to British medical bodies.

“I think sadly some of the motivation here comes from people who really do believe that any connection with psychiatry is tantamout to saying there is nothing wrong with you, you are making this up… That is profoundly misguided.”

The causes of are currently unknown but symptoms include severe and debilitating tiredness, muscle and joint pains, and .

A doctor representing sufferers in Britain said there was anger about the way the condition was being probed.

Charles Shepherd, medical adviser to the ME Association, said threats to scientists were “completely unacceptable” but called on the British government to support more research into the possible biological causes.

“I think you need to put this into the context of the fact that we have about 250,000 people with this illness (in Britain). A very, very tiny minority of these people are involved in this sort of behaviour,” he said.

A major US study in 2009 claimed that a mouse virus was the cause but researchers later said its findings were wrong and likely based on contaminated lab samples.

Toynbee closes her piece with a quote from Chief scientist John Beddington, arguing that  society must become “Grossly intolerant of pseudo-science, the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and scientific method”. That’s the best – in fact, the only – defence we have against Tea Party thinking, whether from UKIP, the Greens or climate-change deniers.

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25 years after Chernobyl: time to review our attitude to nuclear power?

April 26, 2011 at 3:47 pm (climate change, environment, Green Party, history, Jim D, Russia, science)

“Closer to home the energy secretary Chris Huhne is mulling over the collapse of the ‘couldn’t happen here’ argument. It may have washed with Chernobyl in Soviet Ukraine but will not survive if the worst-case scenario plays out in high-tech Japan. That may still not happen, and if even the mix of an 9.0 magnitude earthquake, an accompanying tsunami and a hydrogen explosion does not cause lethal melt-down, then the balance of the rational argument could conceivably be more in favour of nuclear in a month’s time than it is today.” - Guardian editorial 15/03/2011

“All over the world, from China to Germany, governments are halting their nuclear power station programmes because of Fukushima.. But what is that supposed to ‘put right’? Whatever went wrong in Japan must have something to do with laying a chain of obsolete reactors precisely along a famous tectonic fault. But the German reactors at Unterweser or Neckarwestheim are nowhere near an earthquake zone, so why has chancellor Merkel shut them down for three months? It’s about as rational as the grand Chinese salt panic: hoarders have snatched it off every shelf in China, after a rumour that Fukushima had turned the salt of all the oceans radioactive.” - Neal Ascherson in The Observer 20/03/2011

Five-year-old Alec Zhloba, who suffers from leukemia, is held by his doctor in the children's cancer ward of the Gomel Regional Hospital, Belarus. His head has tracks from medical procedures, March 19, 1996
Chernobyl: never forget the human cost

Today may not seem an auspicious date upon which to suggest a favourable re-assessment of nuclear power. Twenty five years ago the world’s worst ever civil nuclear accident happened, and the people of Chernobyl are still suffering the effects. Children are still being born with genetic abnormalities and dying of thyroid cancer due to exposure to radioactive iodine contained in contaminated milk. As we discuss nuclear power, we must never forget this: it’s the single strongest argument against.

And now, of course, there’s Fukushima, which appears to have given the Greens and other anti-nuclear power campaigners another powerful argument. But has it? Just as the obsolete Soviet-era design and lax (to the point of non-existent) safety factors at Chernobyl make that disaster something that simply could not happen in an advanced capitalist democracy, so the poor design and siting (in an earthquake zone) of the TEPCO Fukushima plant is n ot something that would happen in Western Europe.

As the Guardian editorial (above) speculated a month ago,  “if even the mix of an 9.0 magnitude earthquake, an accompanying tsunami and a hydrogen explosion does not cause lethal melt-down“…then maybe the Japanese earthquake, far from destroying the case for nuclear power, has actually vindicated it.

Certainly, a number of environmentalists and green-leftists seem to be coming round to that viewpoint, including George Monbiot, in a brave article that enraged a number of his erstwhile friends in the green movement. And Les Hearn, in a recent edition of  the AWL’s newspaper Solidarity argued that we should…

Get nuclear power’s risks in perspective

The terrible events recently in Japan have resulted in at least 15,000 deaths, of which those attributable to the overheating cores and hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant amount to… zero.

However, the situation at the power plant is potentially more serious if it is not controlled. What has been happening?

Some time ago, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) decided to build nuclear power plants in an earthquake zone. They judged that their design was robust enough to withstand a powerful earthquake. They judged that safety measures were adequate in the case of interruption of the electricity supply to the coolant pumps. They hadn’t considered the possibility of a large tsunami.

The plants are Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) — sort of giant nuclear kettles. The core contains fuel rods of uranium-235 (235U) and plutonium-239 (239Pu) which undergo fission (atom-splitting) reactions, releasing neutrons, radiation, heat and fission products. The neutrons are fed back into the fuel rods in carefully controlled amounts to sustain a chain reaction, releasing heat which is continuously removed by superheated water under 70 times atmospheric pressure. This is allowed to boil, high pressure steam being used to drive electricity generators.

The radiation is absorbed by the core and cannot escape. It eventually contributes to the heat of the core.

The fission products are smaller atoms, usually radioactive. Most dangerous are caesium-137 (137Cs) and iodine-131 (131I). They are contained within the fuel rods, paradoxically making these more radioactive for a while than the original U or Pu.

So what are the safety features of the Japanese BWRs? If the electricity to the pumps cuts out, the chain reaction must be stopped to prevent the release of more heat. This is done by inserting boron control rods into the core. These absorb neutrons so that new fissions cannot occur. Then residual heat must be removed from the rods. The fact that the coolant water is at about 300 ºC shows that the core heat is considerable. If current is cut to the electric pumps, back-up diesel pumps come into operation. If these fail, batteries operate the pumps electrically. Before these run out, TEPCO assumes the main or diesel pumps will be working again.

What actually happened on 11 March and after was as follows. The buildings withstood one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history and the control rods were automatically inserted into the core. However, the electrically powered pumps were disabled when the earthquake felled power lines. Diesel pumps kicked in but were then swamped by an unexpectedly large tsunami. Then the shed-load of batteries took over for a few hours but, when they ran down, neither had the electricity had been restored nor the diesel pumps restarted. The core started to overheat.

This risked damage to the fuel rods, resulting in emission of caesium-137 and iodine-131. The risk of damage was increased as the heat of the core made it difficult to cool it with the seawater that the plant workers and emergency services were trying to dump on the reactors. The water was instantly boiling and being driven off as steam. The danger of the fuel rods melting and emitting even more radioactive substances was growing. It is not clear that this would lead to a more catastrophic breach of the steel containment: this would require temperatures exceeding 1500 ºC. But it would increase the danger to the workers of excessive radiation, and risk spreading radioactive caesium and iodine in the surroundings.

The problem of these substances is two-fold. Caesium compounds are very soluble and chemically similar to compounds of sodium and potassium. Caesium rapidly spreads through the environment and is absorbed by plants and animals which may be part of the human diet. Its half-life is about 30 years, meaning that it takes about 100 years to decay to 10% of its original level. However, except locally, it is unlikely to be particularly hazardous. Iodine is more problematic. It is absorbed easily and passed on to humans in food. The body then concentrates it in the thyroid gland, converting a low general dose of radiation to a much higher specific dose to one tissue. It has a half-life of eight days, making it more radioactive atom for atom than caesium-137 but dropping to less than 1% in two months. Preventative measures can easily be taken, minimising the risks.

It is not clear whether the reactors will be brought under control without substantial emission of radiation. It is clear that TEPCO should have sited the back-up pumps higher to avoid inundation by tsunamis. It is less clear but arguable that an earthquake zone was not a wise choice.

Nevertheless, the minimal injuries and absence of deaths compared with the effect of the earthquake and tsunami should help to put nuclear power’s risks in perspective. And we’re not talking about another Chernobyl.

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Towards a Common Sense Policy on the Environment

December 10, 2009 at 7:46 pm (climate change, Max Dunbar, social ecology)

This is a guest post by the Coalition for Common Sense on the Environment 

We are a non-partisan, non profit making pressure group that seeks to provide a counterpoint to environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth that, although undoubtedly well meaning, have brought an alarmist and hysterical tone to the debate on the future of our planet. Our members include several academic scientists as well as experienced business leaders in fossil fuels and writers for publications such as the Spectator and the Daily Telegraph. Our Board of Trustees includes Professor Ian Plimer, the writer and polymath Christopher Booker and the provocative columnist James Delingpole.

We have become increasingly concerned that environmental debate has become dominated by the ‘green lobby';  and that the voices who shout loudest are often well-heeled aristocrats such as Zac Goldsmith or George Monbiot who, despite their intelligence, have little comprehension on the challenges that ordinary people as well as nations face in a global recession – and that for struggling taxpayers, the environment may not be a high priority. We have additional concerns about the effect of trade and emission caps at a time when our economy is in turmoil.

We are not against ‘saving the planet’ – far from it. We simply feel that the debate has taken an ideological tone that is antithetical to the scientific method, and that concern for the environment can be balanced with other considerations.  The closed scientific and media ‘consensus’ is healthy neither for the environment, nor for democracy. Scientists of all people should make judgements based on the evidence – especially evidence that shatters every dogma held by the environmental lobby, and indeed will change the way that humanity perceives the world.

The CCSE has obtained secret documents from the Institute of Climatology at Lampeter University that prove conclusively that the Earth is not, as the green myth has it, a rotating sphere in orbit around the sun, but in fact a level plain, around which the celestial bodies revolve.

The picture of our true Earth is displayed below:

The picture Al Gore doesn’t want YOU to see.

Many of us in the CCSE have pointed out inconsistencies in the ‘Round Earth’ theory before. For example, if our planet was actually a sphere, the continents would simply fall off as the planet rotated. Additional problems would be presented by the fact that water would inevitably drain off the sphere into the inky abyss of deep space. Despite what the scientific ‘consensus’ would have you believe, it is difficult to understand how a spherical Earth could support human life.

And yet for years dissenting voices have been mocked and marginalised. Not one so-called climate scientist has accepted an invitation to publicly debate the CCSE. Not one scientific journal has agreed to publish our findings. You have to ask – are these people scared of debate?

I remember a family barbecue when my young son commented on the fact that the sun was setting in the east. He said to me: ‘Dad – the sun always seem to come up in the west, and goes down in the east – does that mean the sun goes around the earth?’ My son is four years old, yet he displays an understanding of the universe far beyond that of our most distinguished ‘intellectuals’. Of course the sun goes around the earth – it’s just common sense.

Lots of different cultures understood that the world is flat, including Ancient Egypt and pre-classical Greece. It seems that our ultra-secular society has forgotten the wisdom of the Babylonians. We have forgotten – and we have been duped by a conspiracy going back centuries.

For, how do we truly know that the earth is round? Because of satellite photographs of the planet. People point to these photographs and say: ‘Look, that proves it, the world is definitely round.’ 

In fact, the photographs prove the exact opposite. This is the famous Blue Marble photo taken from Apollo 17:

A color image of Earth, as seen from Apollo 17

To the untrained eye the image appears to prove that the earth is a sphere. But look closely – the image is two dimensional. It actually shows the world to be a circular disc, seen from directly above.

Make no mistake – you have been fooled, brainwashed by the liberal elite who for hundreds of years have used the ‘Round World’ myth to raise taxes, ban Top Gear and prevent people taking cheap holidays. The evil plan will reach its conclusion on December 18 when President Obama will use the Copenhagen summit to establish a communist world government.

We urge you to write to the Prime Minister in support of our demands:

1) The ‘earth’ should be renamed the Disc, with public literature amended to reflect this.

2) The politically correct schoolroom ‘globe’ must be destroyed, and replaced with a disc model, which is much cheaper to make anyway (simply cut out our photo of the true flat earth and put a cocktail stick through it – tutorials available from the CSCE website)

3) A massive stone dome should be constructed around the planet, to keep out alien immigrants as well as to prevent sailors from falling off the edge of the planet. There should be chutes installed so that human waste and litter can be deposited into deep space.

4) The practice of recycling to be made a criminal offence. 

5) All taxes or trade caps of any kind to be abolished.

With our five-point plan we can bring common sense back to a debate increasingly dominated by doomsayers and ideologues.

Excelsior!

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Copenhagen: sometimes, middle class tossers are right

December 7, 2009 at 10:35 pm (class, climate change, green, Jim D)

Something  just and sensible may or may not come out of  the global summit in Copenhagen. But , at least, the anti-science storm-in-a-teacup of the East Anglian emails seems to have made little impact, despite the best efforts of the ultra-reactionary oil lobby eminating from both Texas and Saudi Arabia. The fact remains that climate change “deniers” (when they’re not simply Saudi and Texan oil men) are a bunch of cranks, conspiracy theorists and ultra-right nutters who blithly ignore what  95% of reputable scientists in the world have to say on the subject.

It’s unfortunate, however, that the bulk of the green movement, in Britain and internationally, is made up of  middle class readers of the Guardian and similar publications round the world . That doesn’t mean they’re wrong: just that their failure to address the concerns of working class people plays into the hands of the deniers. Similarly, most of the reformist and revolutionary “left” (just like most bourgeois politicians) refuse to acknowledge that effective enforcement of  emissions requires a global enforcement reime, with the power to override national sovereignty: both US right-wingers and the  anti-EU “left” recoil from that.

But. most important of all, workers in Britain and the “developed” countries must not be driven into the hands of the anti-environmental backlash by middle class Guardian readers and ruling class parasites of the Zac Goldsmith variety. Nick Cohen (back on form) has some good stuff to say about this.

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Legal protection for irrationality

November 5, 2009 at 8:11 pm (climate change, Jim D, religion) ()

This week’s Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling in the case of Grainger Plc & Others v Mr T Nicholson is surely a landmark decision.

Mr Justice Burton decided that, “A belief in man-made climate change, and the alleged resulting moral imperatives, is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations.” 

While it was good to see Mr Nicholson (who claims he was selected for redundancy because of his environmentalist views regarding man-made climate change) win the right to bring his claim to an Employment Tribunal, using the 2003 regulations, the ruling opens up some bizarre possibilities. As one legal expert told the Guardian: “It’s a great decision. Why should it only be religions which are protected?” Why, indeed? The problem is that the way the 2003 Regulations are worded is, in fact a recipe for irrationality, dogmatism and superstition. Protection can only be granted to religions and (now) beliefs that are founded upon a similarly irrational basis.

In his written judgement Mr Justice Burton outlined five tests to determine whether a philosophical belief could recieve protection under the 2003 Regulations:

1/ The belief must be genuinely held.

2/ It must be a belief and not an opinion or view based on the present state of information available.

3/ It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life.

4/ It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.

5/ It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

Humanism was cited as an example meeting the criteria, while belief in a political party or Jedi knights, apparently, do not. But why? As has been pointed out in some letters to the Graun today, this ruling creates an “epistemological nightmare”, encouraging dogmatism and (see especially point 2 above) irrationality.

I fail to see how points 3 and 5 can be consistently or objectively applied or how (for instance) members of the BNP or Hizb ut Tahrir can be denied legal protection for their beliefs as a result of this ruling.

Mr Nicholson’s environmentalist views may be admirable, and his selection for redundancy by nasty property developers, unfair (that last matter will now be decided by an Employment Tribunal), but this decision is a nonsense. It’s true that it never made any sense to give religion protection under the 2003 Regulations, while denying protection to political and philosophical beliefs. This ruling has ironed out that inconsistency, but in doing so exposed the 2003 Regulations as ridiculous, irrational nonsense . They were, of course originally motivated by New Labour’s desire to appease religious fundamentalists who were campaigning to get religion placed on a par with race in the eyes of the law and society as a whole.

There is only one way out of this “epistemological nightmare”: get rid of the Religion and Belief Regulations altogether.

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Vestas day of solidarity, Weds 12 August

August 11, 2009 at 6:08 pm (anonymous, climate change, Jim D, unions, workers)

Vestas leaflet GENERIC.doc (43KB)

Dear friend,

Thank you for the support you have given to the campaign to save the jobs at Vestas, Isle of Wight, making wind turbine blades. There is still a lot you can do! Although the occupation ended on Friday 7th August, that was far from being the end of the campaign. The Vestas workers now intend to picket the plant at Newport, Isle of Wight, to prevent Vestas from taking back complete control of it, and the machinery and the turbine blades that are still inside.

The Vestas workers and their supporters are stepping up their campaign to put pressure on the Government to intervene to save these green jobs. This coming Wednesday 12 August has been declared a national day of solidarity with Vestas workers.

Supporters around the country are organising their own rallies and meetings, and, ideally, attempting to get workers to stop work for a time, on that day. You can keep up to date with what is planned on the Save Vestas blog http://savevestas.wordpress.com/travel-noticeboard/. If you would like help organising or advertising a protest, please let us know. Email savevestas@googlemail.com. We have a sheet of tips on how to organise protests.

Attached with this email there is also a general leaflet that you could give out to the public.

At the East Cowes Vestas factory a group of supporters are staging a rooftop protest. You can keep up to date with that on our blog. They are in touch with Vestas workers to discuss how they can coordinate their activities.

It is possible to win this campaign, through keeping up the momentum and contacts made already during the occupation. There are suggestions for ways you can help below. The main focus will be to build and maintain the picket, but meetings and fundraising can help to do that, through encouraging people to visit or paying for transport to the Isle of Wight and for the expenses of those supporters who are staying on the Island to help maintain the picket.

Please circulate this message to anyone that you think might be interested. Thank you.

 

Save Vestas campaign

http://savevestas.wordpress.com / savevestas@googlemail.com

 

Ways you can help

h/t: Vicki

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Vestas solidarity

August 5, 2009 at 10:48 pm (Champagne Charlie, climate change, environment, green, unions, workers)

If you can organise a protest, however small, let us know about it – email savevestas@wordpress.com and we can advertise it and make it bigger!
 

Wed 5 August

  • BRIGHTON The Cowley Club, London Road, Brighton Support for Vestas Workers meeting, 7pm, tel: John 07845 183407

Thurs 6 August

  • LONDON DECC, 3 Whitehall Place, rally, 6.30pm, organised by CACC

Fri 7 August

  • SOUTH LONDON Sayes Court Club House, 341 Evelyn Street, Deptford SE8 5QT, 3pm, picket Joan Ruddock, climate change minister, tel: 07951 450370

Sat 8 August

  • MANCHESTER 1pm, Market Street, street stall; 3pm, march from Market Street to Piccadilly Gardens for a rally, tel: Hugh 07769 611320

Wed 12 August

  • LIVERPOOL Casa (the dockers’ pub), 29 Hope St, 7pm, RMT, dockers and Merseyside TUC meeting to set up solidarity campaign, tel: 0151 709 1786/07940 244718/07930 870934, email: j.tilley@rmt.org.uk
 
In the event of eviction:
Bristol: demonstrate 5.30pm same day at Bristol fountain
Manchester: 5pm same day in Piccadilly Gardens and organise a protest at 8am the following day at Vestas HQ in Warrington
 

Sat 19 September

  • LOCATION TBC 12-6pm, Workers’ Climate Action conference

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