Everything needs to change to reverse climatic and ecological breakdown. So let’s think big. Richard Priestley presents some ideas about how tens of trillions of pounds/dollars/Euros might be raised and spent globally to maximize human wellbeing and ecological restoration. 20th to 27th September the ‘Schools Strike for Climate’ are planning a week of Global action and asking us adults to participate, and Extinction Rebellion are planning something big for October. Richard would love feedback on the ideas he’ll be presenting, and to hear what local groups are planning for the Autumn, and how we can collaborate to achieve maximum effect.
Among other questions we’d like to consider – Should there be a second EU Referendum? Would a second referendum “help bring the country together” or would it do the opposite? And, how could a second referendum be achieved? SUBJECT TO CHANGE AS EVENTS UNFOLD!
There was standing room only on 17 July in Hereford’s Left Bank main hall for a talk on “Brexit – Where’s it going?” – by Green Party MEP and economist Molly Scott Cato.
Molly (pictured with Green county councillors Felicity Norman, left, and Ellie Chowns, right) the Green Party speaker on Brexit made a passionate and powerful plea for a ‘People’s Vote’– a second referendum.
“WOULD YOU BUY THIS HOUSE?”
She likened the Brexit saga to buying a house. You put in your offer to purchase but then you get the results of the structural survey which shows you are about to buy a load of trouble. To those claiming a second referendum would be ‘undemocratic’ she quoted (of all people!) former Tory Brexit secretary David Davis who once said: “If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy.”
So much more is known now than when the public voted in the referendum, she said. The government’s own studies into the impacts of Brexit show it will be disastrous for the economy. Molly, who is on the EU Parliament Agriculture Committee, said UK farming is one of the sectors that will be badly. Crops are already rotting in the fields of Cornwall due to lack of labour and lamb exports to the EU are set to be hit by a 40 per cent tariff when we leave ‘the club.’
“TRUMP AND PUTIN UNDERMINING EU”
Globally, Putin’s Russia is waging a cyber war against democracies and tried to influence the outcome of the UK referendum. Both Trump and Putin aim to undermine the EU.
At home, ‘dark money’ is influencing events. The ‘Leave’ campaigns – one headed by Michael Gove and cabinet chums and the other by UKIP’s Nigel Farage – have been found to have breached electoral law and fined with some organisers now referred to the police.
“It is quite clear the mandate for Brexit lies buried beneath countless occurrences of cheating, voter manipulation and electoral law-breaking, “ said Molly.
With the Tories divided, Labour mute and parliament deadlocked, voters should be given the opportunity to vote on the Brexit deal, she said, adding:“There is a growing chorus from all parts of the political spectrum – I believe momentum is really building for a people’s vote.”
The event, chaired by Diana Toynbee of Hereford Greens, featured a wide-ranging discussion with Molly Scott Cato answering many questions from the audience.
Asked “What can we do? Molly urged people to get involved with the local Herefordshire For Europe campaign whose organisers took part in the event.
Kate Adams (Wye & Usk Foundation) and Caroline Hanks (local farming advisor on soil and meadows) led the latest BGC and gave a fascinating presentation.
Their topic “LOVE SOIL – Healthy soil for healthy crops, healthy livestock and healthy rivers”
Since the intensification of farming, soil has not been managed well, but things are looking up. Instead of focussing so much on the Physics and Chemistry of soil, more emphasis is now being give to its Biology.
Under the EU Water Framework Directive, water authorities must measure overall water quality and the health of river wildlife. The Rivers Wye and Usk are about as good/bad as the average of British rivers. Phosphates are a well known issue, particularly for the River Lugg. About half the phosphates in Herefordshire’s rivers come from domestic sources, primarily sewage. Agriculture contributes roughly the same amount. Phosphate attaches to soil particles, so elevated phosphate levels in water indicates soil is being washed into rivers.
The negative impacts of poor water quality include:
poor appearance and taste of tap (drinking) water
lower quality agricultural produce
recreation (canoeing and fishing for example)
tourism (landscape, biodiversity)
Improving water quality means minimising the release of phosphates from agriculture – more accurate and targetted us of fertilisers, keeping stock out of waterways, and reducing soil run off. The Environment Agency uses satellite imaging to track fields left bare in the winter months and follows up with farmers to educate them on better practice and sanction them is necessary.
Caroline Hanks explained some of her work is helping local farmers introduce better arable farming techniques (eg. different rotations, use of cover crops, understanding soil biology, ) that will improve soil quality. See examples on Farm Herefordshire website here
Michael Gove’s recent announcements as DEFRA head on how UK agriculture might change after Brexit were briefly discussed. Some scepticism expressed that the walk might actually match the talk!
“Healthy soil underpins our agriculture, horticulture and ecosystems – but it’s a topic that’s often undervalued.
We will explore the importance of soil health and water quality to Herefordshire’s economy; what are the challenges and solutions and how we can influence those who manage this precious resource.”
Scientists are warning that soil erosion threatens UK capacity to produce food, e.g. Lord Krebs of Committee on Climate Change in 2015, “The most fertile topsoils in the east of England – where 25 per cent of our potatoes and 30 per cent of our vegetables are grown – could be lost within a generation,”
The recent extreme snow with drifting showed how soil is being eroded from fields – see pictures and discussion here.
Betty Hunter, Honorary President of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, spoke at April’s Big Green Conversation about Palestine and particularly how Palestinian children are treated by the Israeli justice system, police and military.
She said Israel signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, but effectively treats Palestinian children as terrorists.
Children suffer trauma, mental illness, and disrupted education – as a result of interrogation, detention and physical and mental abuse.
Most children who are detained are alleged to have been seen stone-throwing. They are protesting about land grabs and (for example) wanton destruction of olive trees. Their treatment by the Israeli justice system is akin to apartheid – the law enshrines discrimination against Palestinians, eg:
the maximum period of detention without charge is 40 days for Israelis, but 188 for Palestinians
the maximum period of detention without access to a lawyer is 48 hours for Israelis, but 90 days for Palestinians
After being arrested, Palestinian children are commonly held in solitary confinement – the average period in recent years is 13 days, the longest on record is 45 days. And nearly all children are interrogated without a parent or lawyer present. Almost all confess, because they know the chances of proving their innocence are so slim.
Betty went on to outline how her organisation works to support the Palestinian cause. PSC started in 2001 with a call to boycott Israeli goods. As well as generally raising awareness, they also now encourage divestment and argue for sanctions. “Companies that support the Israeli State are the targets, not British based ‘Jewish’ companies like Marks and Spencer”. Israeli football is also a target – campaigners argue that it is racist and should not be allowed to play within Europe.
Support among Israelis for their government’s treatment of Palestinians is far from universal. A group of ex Israeli conscript soldiers known as ‘Breaking the Silence‘ bravely report on what they experienced. Palestine support is growing in the USA – a group called Jewish Voice for Peace is promoting divestment.
Betty gave a short interview after the meeting – video here
Presentation by Betty Hunter (Hon. President of Palestine Solidarity Campaign)
7 for 7.30 @ de Koffie Pot, Left Bank, Hereford, HR4 9DG
Israel is denying the children of Palestine a future through military occupation and imprisonment. The international community must defend their rights.
Israel is the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes children in military courts – between 500 and 700 each year. The Israel Prison Service revealed that an average of 204 Palestinian children have been held in custody every month since 2012.
Palestinian children as young as 12 are routinely:
Taken from their homes at gunpoint in night-time raids by soldiers.
Blindfolded, bound and shackled.
Interrogated without a lawyer or relative being present and with no audio-visual recording.
Put into solitary confinement.
Forced to sign confessions (often in Hebrew – a language they do not understand).
Ahed Tamimi – pictured above when much younger – is a 16 year-old Palestinian child potentially facing over a decade in an Israeli prison because of an aggressive political campaign against her family and her village.
Here is a 5 minute interview with Ahed, and a video report showing how her family has been treated.
Our four busy and effective Green Party county councillors will talk about life on the council. Come find out about how they are making Herefordshire Greener. Includes discussion about the local elections in May 2019 and getting more Green representation on the council.
Join us for a Big Green Conversation about Europe and the environment with Jill Hanna. Jill has spent many years representing the EU at high-level environmental protection negotiations all over the world, including on reforestation, the safe disposal of chemical waste, and climate change. All welcome!
A NEW DATE AND VENUE FOR THE BIG GREEN CONVERSATION FROM HEREFORDSHIRE GREEN PARTY: Burgage Hall, Ledbury on Friday 1st June, 7.30pm.
Big Green Conversations are an informal, relaxed and sociable event to which all are welcome.
Join us for a Big Green Conversation about the research on economic inequality and its effects on people and society, as shown in Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s book “The Spirit Level – why equality is better for everyone”. We’ll be exploring the connections between inequality, over-use of resources, and climate change – and thinking about what we can do to change things for the better. All welcome on Wednesday 31st May 2017, 7 for 7.30pm at De Koffie Pot, Left Bank, Hereford. Please note that this is the event originally scheduled for 24th May but which has been moved due to a BBC Hereford & Worcester election hustings at Left Bank on the 24th.
Big Green Conversations are held monthly at De Koffie Pot, Left Bank Hereford, usually on the 4th Wednesday. They are an informal, relaxed and sociable event to which all are welcome.
Local activist and environmental blogger Richard Priestley presents a talk entitled: ‘Sustainable Transport, Local & Global?’ on Wednesday 10th May, 7.30pm at De Koffie Pot, Left Bank, Hereford. This is part of Left Bank’s regular Politics, Ethic’s and Ecology evenings most Wednesdays.
What might ‘optimal transport’ look like? Do some people suffer from excessive mobility and others from too little? Can global trade be sustainable? What are the latest technological innovations towards zero emissions vehicles and transport infrastructure? Individually and collectively, what can we do in Hereford? Richard Priestley will give a talk, show slides and take questions. He has recently written about the Cities and Cars here.
Hereford Sixth Form students from three political persuasions inspired a crowd of attendees at De Koffie Pot this week with their hopes for the future.
Mock Election candidates Anna Ricks (Green) and James McClelland (Communist) were joined by Campaign Managers Lily Andrews (Green) and Henry Jenner (Labour) to talk about their recent election campaign, what they had learnt, and their hopes for the future of politics.
They then joined in discussion at tables for a serious of topics including ‘What are the top worries for young people today?’, ‘What do we feel positive about?’ and ‘How do we engage young people more in politics?’.
Organised by Hereford Green Party but open to all, Big Green Conversations cover a wide range of political and ethical topics and take place every fourth Wednesday at De Koffie Pot at Hereford’s Left Bank. They are a relaxed, participatory and sociable event to which all are welcome.
Organiser Rob Hattersley said ‘These students were truly inspiring and a credit to their college and to Herefordshire. They understood the issues and although they had concerns for the future they also gave us a lot of hope.’
Top issues raised were not surprisingly tuition fees, student debt and poverty, and the need for better paid jobs in Herefordshire. Young people were also concerned about increasing division in education between schools who compete instead of co-operate, and a high-stress academic system which has implications for mental health as well as undervaluing vocational skills. They did however express real hope for the future of politics, with student Anna Ricks (Green) saying: “It seems that things need to get quite bad for people to get involved, so now we are seeing more young people engaged because it suddenly seems really important.”
Anna added: “We really enjoyed the evening. We felt very welcome and it was great to see older and younger people discussing important issues together and understanding each other.’
Henry Jenner, Labour supporter in the mock election added: “This is a great event which I’d recommend others to come along to, whatever party you support. In our election we actually found we had more in common with each other than we had thought.’
The mock election was won by Labour’s Adam Hill with 136 votes, second was Green Anna Ricks on 64, and third James McClellend (Communist). The Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates, who could not attend the event, came fourth and fifth respectively. It is run most years at the college with Labour winning last year as well, and the Greens the year before that.
To engage more young people in politics, the students suggested lowering the voting age to 16, and proper political education for all from an early age, both of which happen to be Green party policy. They also warned older political activists against trying to be too clever with social media! “It has to come from us”, they argued.
Green Parliamentary candidates Ellie Chowns (North Herefordshire) and Diana Toynbee (South Herefordshire) also attended the event and ended the evening congratulating the students for their inspiring input.
We’d love supporters to complete a quick and easy survey about our first six months of Big Green Conversations at De Koffie Pot – even if you’ve not come along yet. This will help us to plan the next six months! Head along here.
Big Green Conversations are a new kind of sociable and participatory workshop event looking at the big issues we face as a society. We hold them in the fabulous upstairs room at De Koffie Pot, Left Bank, and welcome supporters of other parties, and none. So far we have covered Brexit, progressive alliances, personality types and politics, why people won’t believe evidence on traffic, and fair votes. Have a say on the future of Wednesday Night Politics! Head along here.
Great turnout for a fabulous evening at Left Bank with Klina and Joe from Make Votes Matter, looking at what’s wrong with our electoral system and how we can put it right. We welcomed a number of Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters as well as Greens and those of no affiliation!
Interesting to see the link between countries with fairer voting systems and better progress on child poverty, inequality, environmental protection, and political engagement.
We also learnt about how the UK has one of the lowest percentages of public support for the government in power, so they lack a democratic mandate. Our current majority government only has support from 37% of those who voted and 24% of the electorate – but other governments with fairer systems get over 50% support.
Defenders of the current nineteenth century system used to say it stopped extremists, but the election of Trump under the US system which is similar to ours has put paid to that!
There was agreement that the current system means millions of voters are not represented in our national parliament. Millions of votes simply do not count, especially in safe seats such as North Herefordshire. Far from complicating things, a fairer system would mean that instead of trying to work through the complexities of who to vote for to keep who you don’t want out, you could, for example, simply number candidates in order of preference.
Surely even our MPs Bill Wiggin and Jesse Norman can count to five? Or perhaps they think we can’t.
Email addresses were taken, and a representative from Hereford will attend the MVM Local Groups Congress on February 5th in London. If a local group is set up, actions could include dramatic representations of the unfairness in High Town and lobbying our MPs.
The key issue is helping people understand how our antiquated voting system is holding up progress on everything else. Most people want to protect a public NHS, yet a government with only 24% support is dismantling, breaking up and privatising it.
An innovative Hereford discussion cafe event is hosting a top campaigner with Make Votes Matter, the national fair votes alliance, on Wednesday 25th January at 7.30pm.
Klina Jordan will be at De Koffie Pot to lead a discussion on different voting systems and how reform could ensure everyone’s voices are heard. Entry is free and those from all political persuasions and none are welcome.
This is the latest in a series of Big Green Conversations presented by Hereford Green Party. The events are relaxed, informal and sociable and take place upstairs in De Koffie Pot at Left Bank every fourth Wednesday in the month. Topics so far have included Brexit, Progressive Alliances, Personality Types and Politicians, and Hereford’s ongoing bypass saga.
Organiser Rob Hattersley said: “We’ve had great turnouts so far for these sociable events. The idea is to listen to each other and understand different viewpoints. With Klina from Make Votes Matter, we’ll be asking how we get majority government with only 24% of the vote, about voters feeling their votes are wasted in ‘safe’ seats, and how different voting systems could mean everyone’s vote really matters.”
The Big Green Conversation is switching to the 4th Wednesday each month from January 2017. We’re looking forward to welcoming KLINA JORDAN from Make Votes Matter – the fair votes campaign – to lead a discussion on why we need electoral reform in order to change anything else.
We will also look at how to make the link between fair votes and everyday concerns, and reduce the confusion about the different PR systems the UK could and does already use. Come along and learn enough to impress your friends with your encyclopaedic knowledge of different voting systems!
So that’s at De Koffie Pot, Left Bank Hereford, 7pm for 7.30pm on WEDNESDAY 25h January.