MY EAST ANGLIAN ROOTS

People sometimes ask me where my roots are. I was brought up mostly in London, and I’ve lived in Norwich for a little over a decade now – but my family roots in this region go back much much further.

One branch of my family originated from East Anglia. My great grandfather was Francis John Thorn, born in 1873 in the small market town of March, Cambridgeshire. In 1908 he married Mabel Grace Thorn, née Morris, who was born in 1880. They married in the church in March in 1908. Together they ran the family grocery business and soon moved to Peterborough where they opened a grocery store. On March 21st, 1909, my great grandmother gave birth to Freda Frances May Thorn. She was the eldest of four children; her siblings were Leslie, Reg and Margaret. They all lived in half a manor house in Woodstone on the outskirts of Peterborough. Freda went to school in Peterborough and then went to St Peter’s teacher training college in Peterborough in the 1920s. So, when I visit Peterborough or Cambridgeshire on Green Party business, I always think of my Granny.

My great auntie Margaret is still alive, and lives at the very edge of the Eastern Region Euro-constituency, in the St. Alban’s area. Freda Lupton, the last of my surviving grandparents, died just last year, at the age of 97. By which time, she had become a Green voter, and very proud of her grandson’s civic role and Parliamentary ambitions…

Interview with RR in ‘The Crab Line’

The interview below is reproduced from The Crab Line, North Norfolk newspaper of distinction — to see the original, goto p.12 of http://www.crab-line.co.uk/download/issue_126_web.pdf

It May Well Be Two Years Away

Rupert became a Norwich City Councillor in 2004, representing Wensum ward, and was re-elected in 2007 with 49% of the vote. Rupert serves on the Joint Highways Committee of the City and County Councils, where he is a strong advocate of Norwich Green Party’s Transport Policy. He is the Green Party’s representative on Norwich Peace Council and has been a prime active opponent of the Government’s aggressive foreign policy. Rupert is also the spokesperson on Transport for the Green Party City Councillors.

Naturally Rupert has a great deal of groundwork to get his name out to the wider Norfolk community and to get his message out for people like you and I to end up voting for him, as MEP.
How Rupert are you going to do this?

I’ve always been a campaigner, and the Green Party is thriving all over the East of England because we campaign so extensively on local issues. People now see the advantages of having Green representatives in their city halls, district councils and parishes. We help block plans for new incinerators and unwanted supermarkets and we encourage greener and more socially responsible planning. But there are other wider issues that need addressing too; issues such as fair trade, international conflict and dangerous climate change; issues that ultimately can only be fully addressed at an international level. My message is that just as more and more communities are enjoying the benefits of Green representatives in local government, Norfolk could soon enjoy a Green representative in the European Parliament (By the way: since 1999 there has not been a single MEP who actually lives in Norfolk. I hope to change that!). Over the next two years I’ll be working hard to raise the profile of so many important campaigns and speaking out with those involved in important local projects, but also those who want to see similar change at the European level. I’ll be outlining ways in which better policies in
Europe will create a better life for those of us here in the East of England.

Rupert, we now live in a society that rabbits on and on about such issues as global warming and every time we fly anywhere or step into our 4 x 4 we are seen a environment criminals and feel guilty. What are we supposed to do, bearing in mind that the USA are still selling cars with 7,000cc engines and do not seem to care, while the Republic of China is hell bent on out polluting the rest of the world. What is the point in even starting to be more green and friendly against these international problems or do we simple let global warming just happen and start all over again in a couple of hundred years hopefully having learnt something ?

With the fight against dangerous climate change every individual and every community has to take responsibility. Unlike other global threats, such as nuclear proliferation and human rights abuses, we are all a part of the problem, and we all have to play our part in solving it. But that doesn’t mean we should have to take on the full burden of a 90% cut in emissions or else suffer with the guilt. We need government support at international, national and local level, to make these cuts realistic. Why should a parent with young children feel bad about driving their family into town when the public transport is so appalling, or a low income homeowner feel bad about the amount of gas he burns when he can’t afford proper insulation. Green politics means putting in place decent public transport, and subsidizing decent homes and proper insulation, to make it easier for us all to do the right thing. I am not denying that the carbon reductions we need to make is one of the greatest challenges we will ever face, but with a strong political will and a real set of initiatives it is all possible. And there is no greater evidence of this than in places like
China and the USA. Dozens of American mayors and States have signed up to the Kyoto protocol, and the country is pioneering all sorts of technology crucial to reducing our emissions. China is in the middle of building the world’s first carbon-neutral city. I remain confident that we can avoid the worst effects of climate change. But every one of us must make the make the available changes in our own lifestyle while demanding from politicians the right framework to help us all with the rest.

It has been said that during the 1980’s and 1990’s we became very much a “me me society” how does one get across any important issue, outside of the selfish attitude most of our society has embarrassed?

By showing people that change isn’t about sacrificing an old way of life, it’s about gaining a much better one. For example where the issue is massive over-consumerism, we shouldn’t talk of having to consume less, we should talk of consuming and enjoying better. The organic food market is booming right now. Part of this is due to concern with the environmental impacts of regular farming methods, but a lot of it is due to the realisation that local and organic food is healthier, tastier and offers a better quality of life. There are still many people who view it as their right to drive an oversized car and therefore they shall, and no amount of protest will stop them. These people have simply been swallowed by the prevailing culture of material possession. But the winds are changing; for the first time since their introduction, sales of SUVs are going down – big cars are becoming less ‘cool’. And people are realizing that smaller cars are easier to park and guzzle less petrol; or that cycling keeps you really healthy. I know I’m oversimplifying, and there’s much about out society that’s still moving in the wrong direction. But the roots of change are there and the proof is all over the mainstream media, with ethical brands and sustainable products now leading the trends.

Prophecies of doom?

It is sometimes said that greens have made ‘prophesies’ of environmental doom, prophesies that have turned out to be exaggerated. And some headline-grabbing greens have sometimes done a bit of this; but, mostly, the allegation against us here is simply untrue. Prophesising is not a rational activity, and never makes sense where what is concerned is human action. For we always have a choice as to what we do. What environmentalists have done is made _hypothetical_ predictions: If x isn’t stopped, then y will be much more likely to happen, etc. .

The problem with the argument that goes ‘There hasn’t been environmental catastrophe, therefore the greens are wrong’, is that the first time a hypothetical turns out very badly, very few people will be around afterward to have the discussion…

We only have one chance to get this world right.

What the controversial and brilliant ‘limits to growth’ analysis of 30/35 years ago said was that if human habits did not change, then there was likely to be a resource environmental crisis and then a pollution environmental crisis. They turned out to be too pessimistic on the resource crisis that they hypothesised– but too optimistic on the potential pollution crisis, judging by present trends. It looks like _if_ (that’s the hypothetical — one doesn’t prophesy) we don’t change our direction, _then_ a pollution crisis — chiefly, catastrophic climate change — will finish our civilisation, before most resource constraints have time to cut in seriously (though there will unfortunately be ‘synergies’ between the two – see e.g. my http://www.oneworldcolumn.org/132.html ). But if we manage to avert this catastrophe, then it would be unwise for people to argue that that shows that greens are wrong – on the contrary, it will be because people realised that we greens were probably right, and started to act accordingly… (As even Bush is doing, in a few respects, now.)

The precautionary principle makes clear that it is rational to act as if we are right, even if we might not be – see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDsIFspVzfI for a nice exposition.

The leadership that is necessitated by dangerous climate change is therefore of a subtly different kind than is needed in wartime: see my ‘The possibility of Green leadership’, at www.rupertread.fastmail.co.uk , for a full-length discussion of why. If we succeed, then the measure of our success will be that many people never had to face the pain of realising first-hand just how bad things would and could have got.

The nations of the world showed something of this leadership in dealing with the incipient ozone hole crisis, a decade or so ago now. The incipient climate crisis is far harder to deal with, because its driving pollutants are central to, rather than relatively peripheral to, the main levers of economic growth, to which our culture seems as addicted as ever.

So that is the issue: Can we prevent greens’ hypothetical prediction concerning preventable environmental catastrophe from turning out tails, rather than heads? If we do not prevent this, then, as I say, we won’t most of us be around in our old age to argue about it on blog commentaries. Or if we are around, we literally won’t have the time and energy to spend it on blogging — we’ll be too busy scrabbling together life’s necessities. Rather than, as we greens would wish, enjoying a life of plenty, of enough (See my ‘Generation Less’ post, below), a wonderful life that requires less economic and material inputs than our current wasteful and often deeply dissatisfying existence.

Green Councillors speak, on the leadership question

I am a local Councillor. In most strong local Green Parties, Green Councillors are our representatives in the governing of the land. Across the county, over a hundred of us are slogging their guts out to make the Green message a reality.

When as a Green activist you are looking to get a first Councillor elected, and when that wonderful moment arrives, and when your Group starts building in numbers, you want the national Green Party to be doing everything that it can to give more power to your arm. The Party nationally ought to be as robust and as media-savvy as our Parties with Councillors are locally.

That means Leadership. It means getting the front page of the _Guardian_ as often as we get the front page of the Norwich Evening News, the Brighton Argus, or the Lewisham News. It means having the same impact nationally, with a charismatic figurehead, that we do locally, through people like Adrian Ramsay, Keith Taylor, and Darren Johnson, who lead their Groups on their Councils.

Green Councillors want a Party that works well, that punches at and above its weight, a Party that will deliver the successes and the desperately-needed policy-changes –nationally — that Greens are already achieving all over the country, locally. So it is no surprise that so many of our leading local politicians want change. They want a Yes vote in this ballot.

Goto http://www.greenyes.org/quotes_councillors.html to hear the message from the mouths of some of the 75% of Green Councillors who are therefore going to be voting Yes, in the imminent leadership referendum. Hear and read what they have to say; and then I hope you’ll stop and consider how best you can offer them support.

Don’t put the clocks back yet!

I’ve been on the radio quite a bit and we’ve had national coverage too in the last 24 hours because of our call, as Eastern Greens, for an end to the silliness of putting the clocks back in October…
BST should be extended in England and Wales; Scotland can have its own devolved arrangements, should a longer BST period raise problems with mornings becoming too dark north of the border.
BST ought to be extended until at least mid-November and to start again by no later than mid-February in England and Wales.

If I get elected in 2009, one concrete result that I will try to bring home is a major change to ‘British Winter Time’: the outdated practice of putting the clocks back to Greenwich Mean Time, each October. It is unfortunately an EU rule that keeps our clocks back right through late into springtime: as an MEP, I would work to overturn that rule.

Putting the clocks back for 5 months or more each year means more lights on for more of people’s waking hours: it therefore creates unnecessary carbon emissions. And it is proven that many people suffer from light- and sunlight- deprivation in winter months: if we stayed with the clocks forward for more of the year, we would make a lot of people’s lives better.

There is also fairly strong evidence that keeping the clocks forward for longer would reduce road casualties.

This is a really clear one: it is time to let there be more light in people’s waking lives!

Eastern Green Party Euro-campaign officially launched!

The Cambridge LAUNCH of the Eastern Region campaign to get a Green MEP elected in 2009 was took place on Saturday the 20th. It went very nicely, even having a nice sunny day for it… See the launch photograph at http://rupertread.fastmail.co.uk/eastern%20region%20launch%20pic.JPG . In the centre are myself and the number two and three candidates on the Green Party list, James Abbott and Peter Lynn.

Hot news: UEA climate scientists announce disastrous decline in carbon sinks, today

A major news item today will be the uncovering by the world’s top climate scientists, at my own University (UEA Norwich), of startling new evidence of the failure of the world’s biggest carbon sink: the oceans. Basically, the study will point up extremely-worrying facts indicating the virtual total shut-down of the world’s biggest carbon sinks: so that from now on, virtually all of the CO2 emitted (except those bits absorbed by forests etc.) will go straight into over-heating our atmosphere…
What more evidence is needed? It is time for the world to go Green. We have the solutions — the grey Parties’ blind economic expansionism continues simply to fuel the problem.