Something to ‘look forward’ to…

Dear Rupert’s readers; have you read Richard Heinberg’s ‘Peak Everything’ yet? Highly-recommended, if you want to be equipped for the true challenge of the 21st century.
As you will probably gather from Heinberg’s title (!), one thing he is onto is the point that the long crisis that we have entered into isn’t just about carbon, or oil — it is across the piste. So: we are going to need solutions (involving presumably some kind of rationing, in order to be fair to all while sustaining all) across the piste…
I am working on this problem, in my philosophical research at present, and will offer highlights of my proposed solutions, in posts later this year.

Plastic bags — and incineration

Plastic bags are a serious environmental problem, chiefly because of their impact on our landscape and and upon the seas, where many of them end up. It breaks my heart to hear stories of birds choking to death on plastic bags or dying from internal bleeding because of bits of plastic that they have eaten.
Especially, because this problem is so easily avoidable: Ireland has put a tax on plastic bags, and use of them has dropped by 90%; and a number of towns in England are now banning plastic bags outright (for example, Aylsham in Norfolk is considering doing so, which is excellent news).
Moreover, the more plastic there is, there more pressure there is from the government to incinerate them — and we in the Green Party are now joining with local residents across East Anglia to fight against incinerator proposals: in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. Every additional plastic bag means a little bit more pressure in favour of incineration; to stop incineration, we need to turn the tide of plastic bags…
Do your bit, today: never accept plastic bags from retailers, and always bring your own bags…

DECRIMINALISATION OF SEX INDUSTRY IS THE ONLY WAY TO PROTECT LIVES

News: Green Party of England & Wales
22 February 2008

In the wake of the life sentence handed down today to the Suffolk strangler Steve Wright for the killing of 5 prostitutes in Ipswich, Green Party Norwich councillor and prospective MEP for the Eastern Region Dr. Rupert Read calls for the complete decriminalisation of sex work so that the focus of police efforts can be redirected to protecting the most basic human rights of prostitutes: their life and their health.
Green Party policy called for the complete decriminalisation of prostitution on the “New Zealand model”, so that the focus for sex workers moves from evading arrest to their safety and wellbeing.

Dr. Read, a lecturer in moral philosopher at UEA, said: “The current system that criminalises prostitution just pushes street sex workers further into the twilight, further from traditional areas of relative safety and further into danger.

“Decriminalisation could mean that instead of hearing about prostitutes being murdered and attacked on the streets of our cities and towns, we would instead be talking about health and safety in sex work premises, which are already 10 times safer than working on the street.

“Criminalisation of actions associated with prostitution leave workers vulnerable to violent clients, and encourages police and other authorities to treat them as criminals even when they are in fact victims of serious crimes.”

Dr. Read also attacks the new Clause 124 of the Labour government’s Criminal Justice Bill, which introduces a new ‘order to promote rehabilitation’ for the offence of ‘loitering or soliciting for the purposes of prostitution.’

He noted that this was effectively re-introducing imprisonment for the offence of soliciting, which was abolished by a Tory government in 1982.

He said, “The government with this Bill is treating prostitution as though it were an illness, and one for which women and men should be punished. Of course we would hope that sex workers who want to get out of the industry, and who need help with that, should find it immediately – and for that the government needs to provide greatly improved funding for, for example, drug addiction treatment programmes. But women and men arrested for soliciting should not be forced into ‘treatment’ against their will.

“And the government should note that it is often its own policies – inadequate support for women with children, the withdrawal of recourse to public funds for failed asylum-seekers, that is forcing women and men into the industry.”

Dr. Read added: “Centuries of criminalisation have not wiped out, or even reduced, the level of prostitution. Instead it has left on our streets, and our consciences, the bodies of many murdered women and men.”

20mph zones coming to road near you?

Written by SAM WILLIAMS
Norwich Evening News 24
22 February 2008

Plans for a city-wide 20mph speed limit on residential roads have been made a priority for Norwich City Council for the coming year.

Councillors from all four political parties at City Hall unanimously backed the motion, raised as an amendment by Rupert Read, Green party councillor for Wensum ward, at the budget meeting earlier this week.

A feasibility study into the proposals are currently underway and while the findings will not be published until May the move has put the blanket limit as one of the council’s key aims for 2008/09.

Mr Read said the lower limit would improve safety and reduce pollution in the city.

He said: “When you have people on safe streets they are far more likely to walk or cycle on those streets. This is a consensual item across the chamber. The vast majority of us have thought for a long time the 20mph limit across the city should be put into place.

“I move that it should be put into place across all residential streets and that this should be a priority for the coming year.”

His comments were backed by the Labour administration.Brian Morrey, executive member for environmental impact and transport, said: “We have always campaigned for 20mph limits in residential areas and the feasibility study is still going on and we are waiting for the results.

“If we don’t have to drop anything else that’s more important it should be a priority for safety reasons. “In lots of housing estates people don’t travel more than 20mph anyway. I don’t see any need to travel more than 20mph in residential areas.”

But he said the final decision on speed limits would be made by the Norwich Highways Agency Committee (NHAC) – which is made up of representatives from the city and county councils.

Judith Lubbock, Liberal Democrat councillor for Eaton, and member of NHAC, said changing the limits would also save money by reducing the need for alternative traffic calming measures.

She said: “A 20mph limit will make huge savings because the council will not have to spend huge amounts on other measures like speed humps. One important thing is that it’s in this year’s service plans.”

Antony Little, leader of the Conservative group and Bowthorpe city councillor, also backed the move but said the lower limit would need to be properly enforced to succeed.

He added: “If it’s not enforced it’s not going to work so we need more consistent checking. It’s important it works in practice and not just on paper.”

British landscape under serious threat – FROM OUR OWN GOVERNMENT

[I don’t usually do this, but: this email brings such bad tidings of the true colours of our government, that I just had to publish it… . It is from Jason Torrance, of the excellent Campaign for Better Transport. SPREAD THE WORD!]

Soon the Government could tell us exactly how much the survival of this bluebell wood is worth, in pounds and pence. Our rivers and hedgerows, our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, all could be given price tags.

British landscape under threat
I think some things are priceless, so I find the Government proposal to assign a monetary value to our landscape hard to swallow. If you feel the same way, don’t despair: Campaign for Better Transport is fighting to stop it from happening.

The proposal comes out of the Government’s review of the way it assesses whether transport schemes (such as new roads) should go ahead. The transport appraisal process is heavily biased towards roadbuilding, so we’re glad it’s being reviewed, but we’re also very concerned about some of the Government’s suggested changes. We think they could make things even worse, leading us towards more roads and less public transport.

At the core of the transport appraisal process is the idea of cost-benefit analysis. The Government weighs up the costs of a proposed transport scheme (such as how much a new road will cost to build) against the benefits (such as the time it will save drivers) and comes up with a figure, either positive or negative, which determines whether the scheme goes ahead. So far, so good… until we looked a bit more closely at how these costs and benefits are calculated.

Our findings make for a shocking read. We’ve sent them to the Government, and I thought you should see them too.

What we found out
Our first shocking finding: If projections show that a scheme will result in more fuel being used, this is classed as a benefit. Yes, you read that correctly: the transport appraisal process favours schemes that lead to increased fuel use. Why? Because more fuel sales mean more fuel duty for the Government. This crazy logic means schemes that increase traffic, air pollution and CO2 get a big thumbs up.

Our second shocking finding: Cyclists and bus users are given a lower value than drivers, because it’s assumed that we make less contribution to the economy. I mentioned earlier that if a scheme saves drivers’ time, this is calculated as a benefit. Fair enough. But while one minute of a driver’s time is valued at 44p, a minute of a bus-user’s time is valued at 34p. And a cyclist’s minute is apparently worth just 28p. This chilling assessment of our worth gives the Government little incentive to spend money on us lowly bus-users and cyclists.

Our third shocking finding: The transport appraisal process already assigns a monetary value to CO2 emissions, noise pollution and even the lives lost in road accidents. Now the Government is proposing putting a price tag on our landscape too. In other words, things that should be priceless are cynically traded against fuel duty revenue and time-savings for drivers.

We’ve told the Government that these shockingly biased elements of the transport appraisal process must be changed immediately.

Spread the word: don’t let the Government get away with it
If you’re as shocked as I am by our findings, please do just one thing: forward this email to your friends. The Government’s crazy logic has gone relatively unchallenged up ’til now because very few people have known about it. We need to change that.

Forward this email to your friends now

Thanks for spreading the word!

Jason Torrance
Campaigns Director
Campaign for Better Transport

No more Steve Wrights

http://news.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30000-1304367,00.html As well as locking up the Sufolk strangler Steve Wright for a long long time, today, so that he can never do any more harm, we need to change the law such that prostitutes are never again an easy target for a serial killer. Green Party policy would make it significantly less likely that there will be more Wrights in the future.

The best memorial to all Wright’s victims would be to ensure that: Never Again.

[Here is the full G.P. policy on prostitution, from the national Party website:

Prostitution and the Sex Industry

RR550 The Green Party believes that the law should not seek to regulate consensual sexual activities between adults where those do not affect others. Where there are such effects, a balance must be reached. Adults should be free to do as they wish with their own bodies, and to practice whatever form of sexual activity they wish by themselves or with each other by mutual consent. This includes the freedom not only to engage in such sexual acts, but also to be photographed or filmed doing so, to make such images available to other adults with their consent, and to be able to view such images. That someone might receive payment for any of these activities should not affect this freedom.

RR551 Regardless of generally accepted standards of public morality in the past, no attempt to end various aspects of prostitution with prohibitive laws has worked. In addition, with the availability of sexually explicit material via the internet it is not realistic to expect that censorship laws will be able to stop access to such material in the future.

RR552 For the reasons given above, the Green Party believes that attempting to stop the sex industry by using prohibitive laws is neither desirable nor realistic.

RR553 Criminalisation of many parts of the sex industry leaves those working within it in a vulnerable position. They are often unable to turn to the law for help in cases where their rights are violated, and instead fall prey to criminal gangs and pimps.

RR554 Therefore, all aspects of sex work involving consenting adults should be decriminalised. Restrictions and censorship of sexually explicit material should be ended, except for those which are aimed at protecting children. Workers in the sex industry should enjoy the same rights as other workers such as the right to join unions (See WR410), the right to choose whether to work co-operatively with others etc. Decriminalisation would also help facilitate the collection of taxes due from those involved in sex work. Legal discrimination against sex workers should be ended (for example, in child custody cases, where evidence of sex work is often taken to mean that a person is an unfit parent).

RR555 The Green Party recognises that, although people should be free to engage in sex work if they wish, this is an industry which can be more exploitative than others, and those who work in it should be adequately protected against such exploitation. There should be zero tolerance of coercion, violence, or sexual abuse (including child abuse). Those who have been trafficked into the country and forced to work in the sex industry against their will should receive protection under the law (see MG450-454). There should be legal support for sex workers who want to sue those who exploit their labour unfairly, and access to re-training for those sex workers who want to leave the industry. As far as possible, public services, the Government and legal system should aim to end those social attitudes which stigmatise those who are, or have been, sex workers.

RR556 Regular health checks should be available to all sex workers, free of charge (see H300), to protect both them and their clients.

RR557 The use of commercial premises as brothels should be legalised, and such brothels should be subject to licensing by local authorities to ensure protection of those working there and clients from abuse, and protection of the local community from nuisance and abuse. Some prostitutes choose to work from home, or similarly in residential premises, like some other trades. Such use of primarily residential premises should be permitted without a licence being required, subject to the avoidance of nuisance and abuse. This exemption from licensing requirements should still apply if more than one person works in such premises, provided that such activities take place on a sufficiently small scale that they are not tantamount to a commercial brothel.

RR558 The decriminalisation of prostitution should not require all prostitutes to work in regulated brothels. Doing this would still leave a criminalized street prostitution market. Those workers whom regulated brothels chose to employ would work legally, and those who not so employed would still work illegally on the streets. In order to protect those street workers (often the most vulnerable) the law shall not criminalize their activity.

RR559 Laws against soliciting should be repealed, and issues of “public nuisance” should be dealt with under general legal provision against nuisance. In order to minimise any such nuisance, wherever possible particular areas should be designated where street prostitutes can work in safety without upsetting local residents and traders. Such areas should be decided by negotiation between the police, prostitutes and/or their representatives, and the residents and/or their representatives. Local authorities and the health service should ensure that such street workers have ready access to health facilities and advice about the health risks of their work. ]

Climate code red

[[This post is a ‘sequel’ to other recent posts, below, on Peak Oil and ‘Transition Culture’]]
Peak Oil will lead to / is leading already to a reaching for other more carbon-intensive forms of energy. Let me put it this way: The strains that would be put upon our society by a rapid energy-descent are almost the least of our worries. If we as a society avoid/postpone those strains by means of dipping heavily into carbon-intensive alternatives to oil, then we will buy ourselves another decade or two of energy-obesity, at a terrible cost. For we will initiate then a climate cataclysm.
It seems to me that this is highly-likely to happen, without enormous political will. It is highly-likely, in other words, that politicians will not face the challenge posed by Peak Oil head-on, soon enough… There will be a direly-strong temptation to soften the Transition: by burning the oil shales, the tar sands, the heavy oil, the vast reserves of coal, and half-hearted gestures at doing so ‘cleanly’ will conscience-salve only…
Peak Oil makes the need for a cap to be placed on carbon emissions and for most fossil fuels to stay in the ground MORE urgent. Peak Oil will in effect precipitate climate apocalypse, unless we put in place the needful caps at national and world levels, fairly soon.
[See also the brilliant and terrifying http://www.climatecodered.net/ report, for more detail.]
We need to find ways of enabling people to understand the dire need for carbon rationing and ‘contraction and convergence’ soon; otherwise, our future, and the chance of building resilience in our society and effecting a transition to a low-carbon future, will be swept aside by an avalanche of CO2 emissions and ‘positive’ (sic.) feedbacks. This long crisis that we are entering calls for the strongest and bravest of leadership.
I will certainly do all that I personally can, to rise to the challenge.

A reflection: why I am in politics

I still feel very tired, after Party Conference and now back at work and a full Council meeting tonight…
Life is NOT easy, for someone active in local, regional and national politics. The demands on my time are so overwhelming; and people don’t tend to respect and appreciate people in party politics as much they do people in charities, NGOs etc. . Politicians are scum, the lowest of the low, as far as most people are concerned. Never mind that most politicians in most Parties are genuinely doing their best for the people, for the future, for precious little reward.
But there’s the rub: most politicians are genuinely doing their best, but their best is not good enough — because most of what they are doing is counter-productive, because they are in fact working in the short-term service of growth, of big business, of the rich, etc.
I decided not to try to spend all my life lobbying other people / lobbying industrial-growth-oriented Parties in order to vainly try to raise awareness enough so as to bring in ecologistic policies. I decided to be one of the people who gets lobbied, instead… I decided to work inside politics in a Party that embraces ecologism, and that hasn’t been captured by moneyed interests.
Unless lots of other people make similar decisions, I believe that our species is in very serious trouble.
And so I tell it like it is.
I hope that other people get on board, in time.
If you can help, please get in touch.
[Also, if you are on Facebook, why not goto
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rupert-Read/9128762052?ref=mf , and sign up there, to help me get into the Euro-Parl.]
Thanks for reading!