Scientists Warn of ‘Societal Collapse’ but I Want To Know More About Corbyn and the IRA

“Fossil fuel combustion and other human activity now overwhelm all of the natural cycles that have driven slow climate changes in the past. According to a new study, we are ‘causing the climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces.’ If we fail to change course sharply, the study warns we risk ‘abrupt changes in the Earth System that could trigger societal collapse.'” — ThinkProgress, February 14th 2017

Is there a correlation between the number of days to June the 8th and the frequency with which the name ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ is mentioned in the same context as ‘the IRA’?

If ever a proverbial horse has been beaten to death, then it would be the question of whether or not Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has any friends in Ireland.

During last night’s The Andrew Neil Interviews, Andrew Neil spent about a third of half an hour asking Jeremy Corbyn to condemn the IRA. Is there, at this point, anyone in the UK who does not believe that Mr Corbyn is a pacifist and a peace advocate?

Meanwhile, the first six months of 2017 have been littered with bad climate news. In February, a new report on climate change found that human activities cause the climate to change 170 times faster than what is historically (naturally, that is) normal. Importantly, areas which, by all means, should remain cold — areas such as the Arctic — are warming up faster than elsewhere. An article published by ThinkProgress points out that

“[c]limate models have long predicted that if we keep using the atmosphere as an open sewer for carbon pollution, the ice cap would eventually enter into a death spiral because of Arctic amplification — a vicious cycle where higher temperatures melt reflective white ice and snow, which is replaced by the dark land or blue sea, which both absorb more solar energy, leading to more melting. That’s why the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the planet.”

As this blog has discussed previously, a report released in September of 2016 by the Energy and Climate Change Committee stated that the UK, as things were going, would fail to meet its 2020 renewable energy target. Following the publication of the report, Committee Chair Angus MacNeil MP said that “the experts we spoke to were clear: the UK will miss its 2020 renewable energy targets without major policy improvements. Failing to meet these would damage the UK’s reputation for climate change leadership.”

Cause for alarm? Any reason to worry? Climate change, anyone? Renewable energy sources are not only cheaper than fossil fuels, they also constitute our best chance at reversing global warming. Surely, now is the time to get properly invested in this?

Well, maybe not. From a Conservative point of view, it makes total sense to discuss what Jeremy Corbyn did or did not say in the 1990s and exactly what it may have meant if indeed he said it, because the Tory manifesto pledges to give “unprecedented” support to high-carbon energy sources. So much for wanting “to lead international action against climate change“, eh?

Help avoid societal collapse — #VoteGreen2017.

At the very least, don’t vote Tory.

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It’s the (Green) Economy, Stupid. – Pt. 3.


”The proper names of leaders are distractions from concrete economic models.” – Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station


The economy has grown, but real wages have gone down by 10%. One in four British children lives in poverty. Disability benefits have been cut. The people on Britain’s Rich List have become 14% richer only in the last year. Welfare cuts and a lack of affordable housing have caused a homelessness crisis. Renewable energy sources are now cheaper than fossil fuels but the Conservatives prefer to back fracking and dirty energy. Spending per school child is set to fall by 8%. Foodbanks are increasingly in demand. The UK is currently set to miss its 2020 renewable energy targets. University tuition fees have trebled. The NHS is in a state of perpetual crisis.

Now, remind us, again: why is all of this good? (Strong and stable leadership? In the national interest?)

Let’s for a second forget about the fact that Theresa May polls well with people and that Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t — at least according to figures released in April — and consider instead, on the basis of the evidence given above, the concrete economic model that she represents:

1) it’s a model of neo-liberal capitalism in which human beings are seen, quite simply, as consumers, and in which ‘society’ is seen as little more than the market place on which these consumers act;
2) it’s a model in which citizens have few civic responsibilities (to participate in the creation of our society), and diminishing or weak civil rights (mass surveillance, the low status of mental health, the gender gap), and in which ‘society’ is ruled by economic movements rather than political decisions;
3) it’s a model which fails to value our natural environment for anything but its unlocked economic potential.

This is an economic model that has disappointed the millions of people who have suffered its consequences, and it is one that will disappoint millions more — unborn generations, even — as it fails to properly address the challenges of climate change. In January this year, “air pollution in London passed levels in Beijing”, which prompted Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to describe London’s air quality as constituting a veritable “health crisis”; and The Economist recently reported that the Arctic will, according to the most recent predictions, be ice free in the summer by 2040. Earlier predictions had indicated that this would not happen before 2070.

The climate crisis is as real as the poverty that affects 25% of British children, and the best way to face both of these problems is not by being passive, but by being realistic and active.

The economic model of Theresa May and the Conservative Party is unsustainable and to market it as “strong and stable” or as “long-term” or as “in the national interest” is to deceive. To vote for it is to vote for nothing to change. It is to bury one’s head in the sand and hope that, eventually, all the bad things will go away on their own. They won’t.

Generally speaking, ‘hope’ wins elections, and I believe that it was ‘hope’ in the Conservatives’ “long-term economic plan” that gave the Tories a majority in the General Election of 2015. In the General Election of 2017, however, I hope that ‘hope’ shall mingle with ‘fear’ and ‘realism’ to such an extent that the Conservatives will fail to renew that majority. Because as much as we need hope in order to believe that a better future is possible, we also need ‘fear’ and ‘realism’ to guide us away from false promises.

Luckily, there is an alternative. There is an option to the voice that says that the best thing is to just maintain the status quo, and to change nothing. There is a model that represents hope, but that also knows that — realistically — society needs to change, and to change quickly. That alternative is the Green Party.

The Green Party represents an economic model that is based on active political decision-making. It’s a model that seeks to end poverty by means of introducing a universal basic income, and to ensure greater welfare by introducing a more progressive taxation system.  It’s a model in which our political representatives will promote sustainble, low-carbon energy industries, and in which they will phase out unsustainble, high-carbon energy industries. It is an economic model that will promote technological innovation in the field of sustainable energy, and that will initiate the construction of an environmentally friendly, state owned transport infrastructure. It is an economic model that means taking control of the NHS, and rolling back previous privatisations. It is a model that means that education should be free, and that it should be of world class quality.

It is, in short terms, an economic model that will restore a sense of civic duty and a social contract, as well as greater civil rights. And, crucially, to market it as “strong and stable”, “long-term” or as “in the national interest” would not be to deceive.

Forget about Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas and the others. Instead, look closely at the world. Look at what you’re being offered. Don’t let yourself be distracted.


 

 

 

It’s the (Green) Economy, Stupid. – Pt. 2

In yesterday’s ITV Leaders’ Debate, Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said two things that struck me as particularly important. It also struck me as particularly important that none of the other leaders seemed to want to relate to the fact that she’d said them. One of the statements concerned the NHS, and the other had to do with the energy industry — but really, they both went back to the same thing, and it’s that one thing that the Tories keep saying that they’re so good at. The economy.

The NHS

The five leaders had been at it for what seemed like a rather long time when Lucas, almost as an afterthought, and seemingly surprised that none of the other leaders had yet raised the issue, pointed out that the very air we breathe is a large contributing factor to illness in the UK. Air pollution, said Lucas, not only makes people ill, but it also puts unnecessary pressure on UK health services. In 2016, a report published by The Royal College of Physicians suggested that poor air quality is linked to approximately 40,000 premature deaths annually in the UK. “Polluters,” the report recommended,

“must be required to take responsibility for harming our health. Political leaders at a local, national and EU level must introduce tougher regulations, including reliable emissions testing for cars.” 

Prof Jonathan Grigg, co-author of the report, said to the BBC last year that air pollution is “linked to heart disease and lung problems, including asthma”, and that

“as NHS costs continue to escalate due to poor public health – asthma alone costs the NHS an estimated £1bn a year – it is essential that policy makers consider the effects of long-term exposure on our children and the public purse.”

Interesting, eh? We’ll get back to all of that in a hurry.

Now, the second point made by Lucas concerned the energy industry.

Once again, she was the first and only leader to mention the fact that it is now considerably cheaper to get energy from renewable sources than from fossil fuels. Wouldn’t it, then, be wiser to focus more on solar and wind energy than on high-carbon industries?

In January this year, Michael Drexler — the Head of Long Term Investing, Infrastructure and Development at the World Economic Forum — said that renewable energy now “constitutes the best chance to reverse global warming” and that it “is not only a commercially viable option, but an outright compelling investment opportunity with long-term, stable, inflation-protected returns.

Alright, so as we put one and one together we can thus conclude the following:

1) it is cheaper to invest in renewable energy than in dirty energy
2) renewable energy is perhaps our best chance to reverse global warming
3) renewable energy will reduce air pollution
4) air pollution may cause as many as 40,000 premature deaths annually in the UK
5) preventing aforementioned deaths and would not only be a great victory for all human beings, but would potentially save the NHS ahuge amount of money

Now, then, where does all of this take us? I suppose it’s all pretty straightforward, isn’t it? The politicians have got their work cut out for them so it’s all just about getting it done. Let’s invest in a greener economy in order not only to save money, but also to save our health and the environment in which we live! Yay! No?

If it was only that easy, right?

Where Caroline Lucas and her Green Party have plans to focus investments on renewable energy and on creating more jobs in the renewables sector, and where they hope to sort out the NHS by 1) introducing a more progressive tax system, 2) by scrapping Trident in order to free up billions that could be spent on health rather than on weapons of mass destruction, and 3) by stopping the clutter that is privatised health services, the Conservative Party — in other words, the current government — have, unfortunately, absurdly, chosen to set a rather different agenda.

As Caroline Lucas said yesterday in response to the Tory manifesto:

“With the UK’s climate targets slipping further out of reach and biodiversity in free fall, it appears Theresa May has decided to bury her head in the sand.

“There is one paltry mention of the air pollution crisis, and no mention of the jaw-dropping cost reductions in renewable energy. 

“Fracking will be forced on local communities, whilst the dirty and expensive energy of the past will continue to receive lavish public hand-outs. The cheapest and cleanest energy once again loses out.”

Well, it’s no wonder Theresa May didn’t bother to show up to last night’s debate, is it?

The Conservative Party has no long term environmental plan, and it has no plans to tackle air pollution. At this rate, the UK will miss its 2020 renewables targets, and as the country leaves the EU it will potentially no longer deign to hold itself to the EU’s high standards and regulations on the environment. Rather than addressing the environmental problem and attempting to find creative, long term solutions, the Tories have chosen to neglect the advice of the Royal College of Physicians, and their call for tougher regulations on diesel-emitting cars.

Come June 8th, I hope that voters in Bristol, Brighton, Sheffield and in many more cities around the country will gather behind those candidates that will promote the idea of a greener economy to the House of Commons. #VoteGreen2017 to #ChangeTheGame and to support a new, greener way of doing things.

As Caroline Lucas has said: the economy will have to be green, or it won’t be at all.

Women’s Manifesto: Gender Equality and the Need For Legal Regulations

“The Green Party’s manifesto for gender equality is an important document, full of innovative as well as morally instructive policies. Many of these ideas are not politics as usual, and they deserve representation in the governing bodies of the UK. To #VoteGreen2017 is signal your support of these ideas, and to make sure that you’re represented in the House of Commons.”


“Legal regulation can accomplish its goals directly, through fear of sanctions or desire for rewards. But it can also do so indirectly, by changing attitudes about the regulated behaviors. Ironically, this indirect path can be the most efficient one, particularly if the regulation changes attitudes about the underlying morality of the behaviors.” – Bilz & NadlerThe Oxford Handbook of Behavioral Economics and the Law

On May 13, The Green Party launched its manifesto for gender equality at Yarl’s Wood detention centre. The manifesto suggests a number of policies that are meant to increase gender equality via different routes of legal regulation. I believe that legal regulation constitute of one the most efficient ways of facilitating wide-ranging behavioural and attitudinal changes, and I also believe that ensuring gender equality is essential in the process of creating a greener economy. To me, the most important aspects of this manifesto are therefore those that concern the safety and well-fare of women, as well as those that concern equality in the labour market. It is also my belief that the former category precedes the latter: namely, that we cannot achieve gender equality anywhere before the female body is worth as much as the male.

Why is legal regulation in the context of gender equality morally productive, and how does it benefit the (green) economy?

It is a commonly held view that human beings accept and follow laws which they believe to be just and reasonable. It is also commonly held that laws help shape and strengthen public perceptions about what is morally right. The law that ensures universal suffrage is one example of a law that encompasses both of these views. Although many 19th and early 20th century Britons may privately have believed in the moral benefits of allowing women to vote, legislative action was still required in order to render universal suffrage a publically accepted norm. A law that gives women the right to vote strengthens the perception that women and men are equals and that they therefore ought to have equal rights and opportunities to shape society. Conversely, where there is absence of law, perceptions of moral justice and injustice are undermined.

In the context of women’s welfare and safety, the Green Party’s pledge to de-criminalise prostitution presents itself as a particularly good example of how laws can serve to change moral perceptions and also protect certain members of society. The law that criminalises prostitution have two particularly damaging effects:

1) it effectively criminalises the right to own one’s body and, by implication, it labels prostitutes as deviants. In criminological terms, the concept known as labeling theory states “that deviance is a socially constructed process in which social control agencies designate certain people as deviants, and they, in turn, come to accept the label placed upon them and begin to act accordingly.” In other words: the criminalisation of prostitution associates women with a type of deviance that society purports to reject, and it therefore undermines the sovereignty of the female body.

2) it forces sex workers to operate outside of legally protected contexts. Their status as deviants imply that their physical sovereignty is compromised, to what end they risk physical and mental abuse by men who perceive them as without right.

To decriminalise prostitution is a measure that will protect the sovereignty of the female body, and it will remove the status as deviants from many women who have faced prosecution as a result of a legal framework that curtails their right to own their own bodies. It is my conviction that these kinds of measures will, in the long run, lead to changing perceptions about the status of the female body, and therefore I support this idea.

**

In terms of policies and legal regulations that increase equality on the labour market, the Green Party’s manifesto on gender equality contains plenty of promise on several fronts. Amongst these pledges, a few stand out as particularly exciting:

  •  1. The initiative to “create Green jobs for more women in STEM in renewables and sustainability. Currently, just 5% of engineering apprentices are women. The Green Party would ensure that the roll-out of Green Jobs would be accompanied by specific initiatives to train and encourage young women, in particular, to fill these roles.”

report released in 2010 by Raul Romeva MEP showed that female-dominated work sectors, such as retail and services, were among the worst affected by the financial crisis. These sectors generally tend to offer less job stability. As Britain becomes increasingly geared towards creating a greener, low-carbon economy, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that men and women have equal access to employment that will support this process. This pledge will see more women engaging in science, technology, engineering and math programmes, and will consequently serve to unlock unprecendented amounts of potential

  • 2. The pledge to guarantee parental leave rights, regardless of gender. 

One does not have to look far to realise that many people today hold the belief that men are more work prone than women, and that women are more family prone than men, and that therefore we don’t need to impose regulations that destabilise the framework that supports the gender gap. A law that encourages shared responsibility of early child care may just work to show why those people are wrong. As an article published in The Economist in 2015 argued:

“when childcare responsibilities fall exclusively on the mother, the effect is to depress women’s wages. Time out of the labour force deprives them of experience and promotions. When men shoulder more of the childcare burden, the effect is lessened.”

Paternal leave enables women to make greater career progress and to ultimately make more money. It effectively creates greater equality on the labour market and greater social equality, as both women’s influence on the work place and their purchase power increases. Measures such as these seem increasingly relevant and necessary when research shows that in three years from now, women will have lost “twice as much income as men due to the Conservative changes to our tax and benefits system”.

  • 3. To increase diversity with a “50/50 Parliament” through measures such as enabling MPs as well as other “full-time” politicians to job-share – a practice which has been shown to increase representation of women, disabled people and those from ethnic minorities.

Predominantly Conservatives and those on the right wing of the political spectrum will argue that laws that promote gender equality by means of quotas or affirmative action are insulting or demeaning. They will say that they support whoever is best suited for the job, regardless of gender or ethnicity. As much as that sounds perfectly fine in theory, one would have to say that most works places and public institutions today are not equally represented, either in terms of gender or ethnicity. Therefore, if one follows the logic of aforementioned right-wing thinkers, one would have to assume that it is mainly white men who fall within the category of best suited. Although I agree in principle with the idea that the best candidate should win, I do not believe that there generally is only one candidate that is suited for a particular position, and I do not believe that board rooms and work places are unequally represented simply because the best candidate always won. A 50/50 rule is an important measure directed as instigating much needed cultural change in public institutions. What better place to start than the House of Commons?

The Green Party’s manifesto for gender equality is an important document, full of innovative as well as morally instructive policies. Many of these ideas are not politics as usual, and they deserve representation in the governing bodies of the UK. To #VoteGreen2017 is signal your support of these ideas, and to make sure that you’re represented in the House of Commons.


N.B. In this blog post I have but scratched at the surface of what’s in the Green Party’s manifesto for gender equality. For further reading, click on the link below: