Environment: Save It!

th[3]It’s a war of attrition against the gangsters who have no compunction in raping the planet for profit. It’s a war about the education of our politicians who seem awestruck by the wealth and the power of the big boys. They are as schoolkids, posters in their bedroom, dreaming of one day being as famous as their favourite star. The big difference is that kids grow up. Politicians will spout that they’re tied by the art of what’s possible and the eternal need to compromise. If I wasn’t choking on exhaust fumes I might accept their excuse.

The alarming stories about climate change just keep on running. In a report by www.france24.com/en/20150327- they outline a damning report by the European SpacethS6MBC7KN Agency, published in the journal Science which relates to the shrinking of the ice mass around Antarctica. The ice mass is the bulwark which prevents the permanent collapse of glaciers covering the southern continent. Think of it as a dam holding back an ocean. The study based on satellite measurements over the period 1994 – 2012 suggest that the ice mass has shrunk by almost 20%. The study also highlighted the speed of the melt:

  • In the period 1994 – 2003 there was little difference.
  • However, in 2003 – 2012 melting accelerated markedly.

If the ice mass is destroyed it will cause glaciers to slip into the ocean bringing a rise in sea levels. A rise of one (1) metre could prove devastating in many coastal regions. Separate studies of the South Pole are just as worrying. A report published in December 2014 found that thawing had trebled the number of glaciers falling into the Amundsen Sea. Two further studies in that year concluded that melting in Western Antarctica could lead to a sea rise of one (1) metre.

  • The real worry is that the process is likely to be irreversible!!!

The North Pole is also under threat, NYT 2015/04/24. The Arctic Council made up of interested nations: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the USA are due to meet soon. Their biennial meeting will be held on Baffin Island in Nth Canada. The others are concerned by the actions and intentions of Russia. The Russians have started to exploit oil from the Kara Sea and there is a worry that further exploration could damage the fragile environment.

It seems to be the way of business and politicians in general that they act first then wait for us to react before they consider the need to think. But unless they think and think quickly about the North and South Poles many communities will be devastated.

thINHWQFFZWe desperately need more scientific study on as many aspects of the environment as we can imagine. A report in the New Scientist of work carried out by Norwegian scientists on the potential damage or otherwise of microbes in the Arctic; coupled with the study of marine phytoplankton which may also hold a danger to the environment.

It’s all very technical but microbes in warmer climates draw to a halt at 40C but the little buggers in the Arctic continue producing methane at 270C. Worryingly, Arctic soils contain twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere which leads to one estimate that the thawing of the permafrost could cause a similar problem as deforestation.

Another problem comes from the phytoplankton as their dark bodies can absorb more sun which could cause the Arctic sea to warm up by 20%. Obviously, this has effects on the ice mass and the rate of melt.

  • Methane: 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Away from the possible danger of the Arctic our politicians hold meetings, talk, eat and talk some more; arrange another meeting where they will talk and eat and talk again, at our expense. Little wonder that the process of change takes so long. The Arctic Council meets biennially; it’s not important enough in the busy schedule of our leaders to meet more frequently. Perhaps they are on a diet!! If it wasn’t so serious I might laugh at their lackadaisical attitude and contribute to their gym fees.

Meanwhile, politicians may be battering your eardrums with how they are spending huge amounts of money trying to improve the environment. Investment in renewable energy rose to $270bn worldwide, with nearly 50% coming from developing countries, e.g. China. France24.com/en/

I feel better now!!thDC82LPF2

Hold on! In an interview for, theguardian.com/environment/ on 2015/04/13 Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank called for the scrapping of subsidies and a carbon tax. Kim made the point clearly, “We need to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies now”. Why was he so agitated? It seems that governments around the world are currently spending $1 trillion per year to subsidize fossil fuels. One trillion $$$! That figure certainly puts spending on renewables deep into the shadows.

  • The irony – our taxes are being used to help kill the planet and therefore us.

They’re killing us but the profits excellent!

At a subsequent meeting in Hong Kong, Jim Yong Kim made another bold speech about climate change; he told delegates at the Nobel Laureates Symposium that climate change is a ‘fundamental threat’ to development. He warned that a sea rise of 15cm /6inches coupled by severe cyclones could inundate Bangkok by 2030s. This was based on a study by the Potsdam Institute.

A Japanese delegate, Ryoli Noyori, Nobel Prize winner for chemistry 2001 told the assembled that Japan has many coastal cities susceptible to floods. “But unfortunately, the government has not done enough in counter measures”. France24.com/en/2015/04/23

Several of the points raised by Jim Yong Kim are very relevant. He suggests that Africa needs to develop its hydroelectric potential as it only makes use of 1% of possible production. However, one major project has caused some controversy. A hydroelectric dam across the Blue Nile in Ethiopia would be the largest in Africa but is causing Ethiopia’s neighbours some misgivings. A study has raised a number of issues:

  • With the Aswan High Dam (Egypt) there will be 2 large dams on the one river.
  • Need to look carefully at aspects of the build.
  • Egypt & Sudan might not get water during drought periods.
  • Sudan might use more water for irrigation and so affect the amount of water to Egypt.
  • 60% of Egypt’s water comes from the Nile.
  • It will produce too much electricity and therefore needs an infrastructure e.g. pylons to transmit the electricity and an organised way of selling it.

Don Blackmore an Australian water specialist has warned: “The International community needs to focus on the Nile as a matter of urgency”. Theguardian.com/environment 2015/04/13

Water and its supply will become critical in the future but is already a major problem in Africa according to UNICEF as it estimates that 157m people in East & Southern Africa do not have access to clean and safe water.

The situation is deemed to get far worse. The UN warns that “…the world will face an increasingly severe global water deficit”. www.cbsnews.com/news/gambian Even in America the warning signs are imminent with www.USAtoday.com reporting that within the next decade 40 states can expect to have water shortages. Note that California is witnessing its worst ever drought. Will the bulb light up in republican land?

  • It really doesn’t matter what aspect of the environment you look at, it all needs saving!

Where are the peoples’ army?

There are many environmentalists, individual and groups but their voice is never raised in unison. Theirs is a disparate tone and because of that separation is sadly weakened. There are too many groups defending their own garden plot; too many individuals who think because they recycle they are doing their bit. Many tribes and tribal chief’s, each certain that their methodology and environmental agenda, is the true noble path to pursue. Unfortunately, therein lies the cog which maintains the raison d’etre of the market system.

All the groups, too many to mention, ply their wares with a swagger as though they have achieved something. They have achieved nothing! They have not stopped one demi-kilo of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. They are as midges to the big boys, to be swatted as an irritant. At the very least the environmental groups could convene a conference before national elections to endorse the political party which pledges the best deal for the environment. Such an endeavour could bring the environment to a much wider audience within the country and beyond.

Further demonstration will be to flag up where the government has failed throughout their term in office. It requires a sustained and well marketed approach, perhaps to include intensive programmes of activity in marginal seats. Show the intellectual rationale of the environment lobby by coming together. Put the environment first and parochialism into the dustbin of history.

The environmentalists are as guilty as politicians of putting politics above the welfare of the planet.thTXFQFN0B

Save Santa’s Homeland!!!!

Do some good…..join Robin Hood.

Environment: It Needs Oxygen!

 

th[3]Are politicians deaf to the cry of the wild that they would rather subsidise fossil fuel than promote a green environment?

A reminder: Government should benefit the people not those in power. Wang Fuzhi

Should we believe politicians and the faceless bureaucrats that the world will be saved by the buying and selling of carbon emissions? I dealt with some aspects of selling pollution in my previous post: Environment: It’s Dying. What is really interesting is the number of developing countries who are taking part in this market oriented money making enterprise. There are several projects initiated by UN-REDD Programme aimed at preventing further deforestation and degradation of forests in developing countries.

Madagascar is one such country which has allocated 705,588 carbon credits for a project in the Makira Forest. The Makira Forest of 400,000 hectares (1,500 sq. miles) is a sizable area. A number of projects are underway to convince the local communities that there is an alternative to deforestation. However these prevention techniques are small in scale e.g. one will take 30 years to offset 32 million tonnes of CO2. A second will avoid 1.6 million metric tonnes over a 25 year period. http://phys.org/news/2013-09-massive-carbon-credit-sale-madagascar.html

 

  1. The world emits 32 gigatonnes annually.

Other projects in Africa include Tanzania which has sold some credits for $US 200,000 in forest conservation. A further hope is to encourage eco-tourism. Trains and boats and planes go jollying by, burning fossil fuel but it’s ok because they’ll pay. An earlier project received $US 1.9 million over a four year period 2010 – 2013. Tanzania Daily News

Why the focus on Developing Nations?

Madagascar is losing an approximate 100,000 hectares (386 sq. miles) each year to burning for agriculture. Zambia is losing between 250,000 – 300,000 hectares annually, predominately in the making of charcoal for heating in business and the home.

thFTLUIBEWIn South America the situation is even worse. Peru, Brazil and Ecuador etc. the region is losing an estimated 13 million hectares year on year. In December 2014 the UN held climate talks in Peru, which has some of the worse deforestation in the region. Brazil attended but continues with accelerated deforestation under their president Rouseff, a former head of an oil company. The conclusion of the meeting was to replant 20 million hectares of trees. However, in the period 2001 – 2012 some 36 million was lost to agricultural expansion. The guardian2014/12/09

There is little sign of abatement as, theguarian2015/01/28 reports. Roads run deep into the Amazon where oil and gas blocks are now much bigger than those of Texas e.g. 730,000 sq.km. The setting up of National Parks has prevented some incursions but deforestation continues apace. Ecuador, who signed an agreement in 2007 to prevent further road building changed tact under economic pressure. So much for contracts! Bolivia too is open for business.

They’re killing us but the profit is excellent!

The talks in the capital Lima had been an initiative of Germany in 2011 and thus termed the Bonn Challenge. As we can see – they are doing the mad dog thing – chasing their tail. Not very successful based on the amount of forest lost. Scientists believe that around 17% of CO2 emissions – more than what America produces each year – is caused by deforestation especially in tropical areas. www.phys.org as above

The economic rationale of the region fits well with the self-interest theory as examined by Dani Rodrik p249 the Harvard economist, “In the case of global warming, self-interest pushes nations to ignore the risks of climate change”. This would appear to be the case in South America. But if we keep in mind the carbon emissions of deforestation (more than America) can we justify allowing these countries to simply cut and burn at will irrespective of the consequences to climate change. The Globalization Paradox

Dani Rodrik p277 gives an emphatic yes in principle to developing countries finding their own way. “The right approach would be to have China, and indeed all emerging nations, free to pursue their own growth policies”. As we travel down Rodrik Road and allow carte blanche development for ‘emerging’ nations, he argues that it would be ‘reasonable to expect’ that these nations would not pursue policies that would lead to huge trade balances. An alternative might be, “Every nation has responsibility”, Ottimar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research; quoted: www.blogs.reuters.com   2015/04/13

Rodrik’s prime concern is the sanctity of the market, not the environment. Large trade balances in favour of China or India could swing the pendulum of power, and, power is the name of the game. Why with the economic power at their behest would China / India not seize the opportunity to dictate world policy just as others have done, past and present?

It was and is ‘reasonable to expect’ America to pursue policies that aid the world economy and environment. At present US oil is $10 a barrel cheaper than the world average but is not for sale abroad. America has used its might in agriculture and pharmaceuticals to run roughshod over the globe. Because it has held the economic power America has the political power and has used it to their benefit. Why would China / India be any different? www.economist.com/news/united/2015/04/02

Moreover, it was the market that has brought us to this jammed road intersection and, still pursues a profit before people mentality. The market is about satisfying the demands of the 1%. The poor, the world over, still get scraps from the table.

Furthermore, the notion that developing countries need to push forward with industrialization to counter poverty is such balderdash. Recent demonstrations in Brazil and Venezuela and many parts of Europe prove categorically that the poor do not share in the wealth of the nation. Both China and India have horrific records when it comes to alleviating poverty. Or giving due consideration to the environment.

According to Reuters.com 2015/04/13 China will overtake America as number-one in carbon emissions and will do so this year. India is expected to leapfrog Russia into fourth (4th) place in the deadly table. Both countries, assuming present trends will surpass America and the EU together.

China has recently been accused of dumping chemical waste in Inner Mongolia. In a report for france24_en Observers, when the villagers protested they were met with rubber bullets and tear gas. Farmers from Doquintala village have reported that their crop is reduced by 33% and, the fruit trees have died. The ground water has been contaminated and instances of cancer and thrombosis have sharply increased over the last decade. For me Rodrik’s argument that we can ‘reasonably expect’ does not stack up. Check my post on Rodrik and India: No ‘Cover’ for Child Labour

It is a bazaar situation, this whole concept of carbon credits. The West gives the credits to developing countries and then buys them back. Some may suggest that its charity but it is not; there is profit to be made on both sides of the transaction. Bet you can’t guess who takes the larger slice of the cake.

thXJDRNI6QWhat is happening is that we are walking our way through an ocean of sludge because we don’t know any better. We are tied into the neoliberal economic school of thought; within which the market is enshrined in a golden casket that cannot be tampered with for fear that a world calamity will unfold.

Sadly it is a belief shared by many of our leaders and by powerful international bodies: UN, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. As far as they are concerned the market is the prime motivator for change. These are people with clout; they are in effect the Praetorian Guard of the 1%. The super rich, the big boys!

However, it is not just the developing nations that are screwing up our planet. Australia has made a hash of the coral reef and every nation has contributed to the shrinking of Antarctica. Where are our defenders, the peoples’ army? My next post will look at these and other contributing issues.

Do some good…….join Robin Hood

 

 

Environment: It’s Dying!

th[3]Governments must accept responsibility and therefore must lead in defending the environment. Voters must make politicians fully aware that their vote is dependent on a credible environmental programme. The media too have a critical part to play in keeping the public informed. Investigative journalists need to prize-open the dark chest that hides the secrets of ‘hidden subsidies’ that governments presently give to business. Only then can the electorate use their vote rationally.

Progressive media are the vanguard, the elite force of the people. It is to them that we must look to unearth / expose every crevice where government and the big boys try to hide their devious dealings. We need individuals who have the expertise and whistle-blowers to make sure we are kept in the loop. Of this elite group the investigative journalist is a member of the Sherwood Forest brigade.

To emphasise the point, two pieces of evidence from Reuters, 2015/01/29 + 2015/02/5 respectively. Based on Pew Research Center USA, 87% of scientists polled believe people cause climate change but only 50% of the public agree. Secondly, 70% of democrats think that human activity is causing global warming whereas, only 27% of republicans do. However, the UN is 95% certain that ‘we’ do cause global warming. Although the evidence is US based the public are no better informed elsewhere.

Ha-Joon Chang (p268) is unequivocal in his assessment, “There is no doubt that CAZe0jAWgAANZ5_[1]climate change, mainly caused by our material production and consumption activities, threatens human existence”. This is a stark and somewhat dramatic statement but it is in keeping with the scientific view. Economics: The User’s Guide

Concerned?

  • Scientific consensus states that carbon emissions must be reduced by 80% by 2050 to avoid a temperature rise of more than 2%. www.carbonneutral.com
  • Emissions from burning of coal, oil and gas are rising to record levels and are not yet falling. UN Panel on Climate Change November 2014.
  • “…policy makers must realise that their instincts to completely use the fossil fuel within their countries are wholly incompatible with their commitments to the 2C goal”. Dr Christophe McGlade UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, quoted in www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30709211
  • International Conference to be held in Paris December 2015; the talks are to seek a limit on the increase of CO2 in order to put off a rise of 2C (3.6 F) as this could spark off dangerous climate change. www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31872460
  • In a recent interview on France24 news, 2015/04/02 Janos Pasztor a UN representative commented that ‘ours should be the last generation to make decisive change’. To wait any longer will be more expensive and more difficult. While acknowledging he was hopeful he thought it unlikely that agreement would be reached at the UN Inter-Governmental Conference on climate change, in Paris.

It’s Good News Week

The International Energy Agency has reported that CO2 emissions have remained stable in 2014 for the first time in 40 years. One main reason is thought to have been the reduction in coal burning by China. It is good news because it shows what can be done and how it can be done. Governments must now invest heavily on research into credible alternative energy supplies. This can be funded in part by a carbon tax on the main polluting industries.

thRDY1YUN6STOP burning coal: China – USA – Russia

Unfortunately the experiment with wind power has failed. Wind power needs the back-up of a power station in the event that the wind doesn’t blow or blows too strongly. Nuclear power has a nasty offshoot condemning our offspring to generations of worry. What a legacy!

A tax scheme has been put forward by professor William Nordhaus of Yale University. In this way everyone is made aware of the true cost of the product’s carbon footprint.

Oh hell, the downside!

Bp the oil giant has recently published its Energy Outlook up to 2035. It predicts that CO2 emissions will exceed levels scientists say pose a threat to climate change. The report accepts that the burning of fossil fuels is unsustainable and that concerted action is necessary.

  • CO2 will increase 1% per year to 2035
  • Oil use will increase by 0.8% per annum – 2035
  • China will become the biggest consumer of petroleum
  • Global demand for energy will increase by 37%
  • Use of natural gas will grow fastest.
  • Use of coal will continue to increase but at a lower rate.
  • Asia Pacific will outstrip Europe for gas imports.

Is this a catalogue of doom?

Carbon emissions are expected to rise by 25% by 2035; significantly above recommendations. Wow! The Telegraph 2015/02/22

They’re killing us but the profits are excellent!!!

What Can Be Done?

Sadly, we cannot trust business to have our best interest in mind. There are too many instances of bad business for them to be trusted by anyone. I have written recently about the effects of diesel vehicles. Diesel: The Killer in our Midst. Read the post.

Writing about the market in the early 1990s author Charles Handy (p19) made his view clear, “The market left to itself, would not work”. What a portent of the 2008 crisis; when unrestricted the market imploded. Handy (p31) goes on to caution us that, “It is only a tool, and tools are not for worshipping”. The Hungry Spirit

Support for Handy’s view comes from Ha-Joon Chang (p456) who does not mince his words, “The economy is much bigger than the market. We will not be able to build a good economy – or a good society – unless we look at the vast expanse beyond the market”. Chang and others are thinking of government and of the jobs and business it generates. J E Stiglitz (pxlv111) is far more damning of the market when he poses a question of what capitalism has brought us, “… inequality, pollution, unemployment, and, most important of all, the degradation of values to the point where everything is acceptable and no one is accountable”. The Price of Inequality

The business class and the market have not won any rosettes over the years; recent thNAOKWJPUexamples include:

  • The selling of derivatives which was a major cause of the crisis which engulfed the world in 2008.
  • The rigging of the Libor and foreign exchange rates to maximise profit at everyone else’s expense.
  • Tax avoidance on a massive scale. Nearly every MNC multi- national company.
  • Not paying corporate tax in the country where they do business.

There are a thousand + other cases; just too many to mention. A major downside of the market was identified by Charles Handy (p23) “Anything that is unpriced is ignored by the market…” As the environment has no profit margin it is not given any consideration. This has been recognised by world leaders who have put a price on pollution, as Chang (p395) points out, “Today we buy and sell the rights to pollute (carbon trading)”.

Since 1997 when the Kyoto Protocol was first agreed it has developed into a major trading sector. The world is divided into CO2 blocks whereby countries and industries are given a target of CO2 emissions. Their emissions are measured by the number of ‘credits’ issued. If a country / industry does not use all of its credits it can sell the remaining ones to another business. A company which is likely to overshoot its target, (cap) can buy the unused credits and continue to pollute.

Read an original report on Kyoto: www.oocities.org/yosemite/rapids/Rapids/

The Price of Credits

In 2009 ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia paid $8000 for the carbon already trapped in the trees of a local forest. The deal would offset three (3) years of the company’s carbon footprint. Thus as long as the trees are not cut down and the carbon released the company can continue with its present carbon policy. The company wants the scheme to run for the next hundred years. www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/

The BBC interviewed a company selling carbon credits for £5.50 per tonne. The BBC questioned this and sought clarification from an oversight body, Climate Care and were told that ‘credits’ should be sold at £1.00 per tonne. However, later the BBC found that Climate Care was selling ‘credits’ at £7.50 per tonne on their website. Can business be trusted? www.redd-monitor.org/2013/01/22/

Another interesting deal is one between the American states of Louisiana and California. In this instance Louisiana could earn in the region of $550 million & $1.6bn by selling the carbon captured by their cypress and tupelo trees. California must reduce its carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and can achieve this by paying Louisiana not to chop down their trees. www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2015/03/

A further example which clearly illustrates how the market in pollution is growing comes from Byron Shire Council in Australia. Here, the council initiated a new Landfill gas flare project for which they won government approval. The scheme brought them 6,616 carbon credits. The council sold these credits to a Queensland State energy provider @ $22.60 per credit and profited to the tune of $149, 521.60 This programme is named the Carbon Farming Initiative. www.byron.nsw.gov.au/media-releases/2014/03/31 For me the word farming conjures up thoughts of the growing of food, our very sustenance and certainly not the dealing in CO2 which is slowly killing us.

There are a host of other examples which will be dealt with in the follow up to this post. Suffice to say that the pollution market is big and about to become vast. Unfortunately wherever profit is involved rationale goes out the window. Some individuals have bought ‘credits’ from dealers thinking that they have made an investment only to discover that there is a time limit on the ‘credits’ and they quickly become useless. Look out for fraudsters!

thKF8B2C69Nonetheless, the market is growing, “Carbon will be the world’s biggest commodity market, and could become the world’s biggest market”. Louis Redshaw, Barclays Capital. Whoopee!!!! www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_credit

They’re killing us but the profits are excellent!

Do some good … join Robin Hood

Diesel Vehicles: Killer in our Midst.

 

 

         Driving in our diesel car,

                                                 It doesn’t matter just how far.

We don’t think, so we don’t see,

What harm there could be.

Just another fun day out,

Sheep and cows, kids all shout.

Kids enjoying their day,

Laughing, screaming, in general play.

 

Over one million other cars

Left town that day for shops and bazaars;

Bought goods from a foreign land,

No one stopped to understand

The carbon footprint of that brand.

They just moaned about parking spaces,

Didn’t look to find others faces.

Engine idles while checking the bar for room.

A steady build-up of carbon fumes.

thB3DXYF39The diesel vehicle long promoted as green and a safe economic family car has become the nightmare of health and environmental experts. It was paraded as a cheaper option because of fuel consumption and therefore economic but also less damaging to the environment. A win – win or so we were told. To boost the car industry governments gave tax incentives and other inducements to bolster sales. Now the tune has changed and we are forced to pay to get rid of the bloody things.

In June 2012, The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified diesel exhaust as Group 1 which means it’s carcinogenic. The World Health Organisation (WHO) followed suit. Diesel houses “four (4) dangerous carcinogens”. What a turn around, from the best thing since sliced bread to something we all should dread. Once again we have been ‘had’ – ‘taken’ for a proverbial ride. www.second-opinions.co.uk/diesel-lung-cancer/

Paris is to start a ban on all diesel vehicles: trucks and buses built before September 2001 will be banned from July 2015. Cars manufactured before 1997 will be scrapped from 2016.

Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris wants all diesel vehicles off the road by 2020. A big ask, but how will people find the money to buy a new car. Well, the government will be offering €10,000 towards a new electric car if you get rid of the old diesel. www.europe.autonews.com/article/20150210 Businesses will be offered 50% bribe and 50% low interest loan to replace their diesel vans etc. France24 news

My question would be—why are the car industry not paying, they made all the promises and all the profit in the first place.

  1. Why did they promote these cars in the first instance?

Our government spokesperson will explain:th42KERJEG

To safeguard the car industry and thereby the jobs and thereby the income of the workers and thereby the family and thereby the community and thereby all the peripheral jobs associated with the industry.

  1. No mention of the big boys, of profit, of a lifestyle of mansions, of private education, of flash cars, the odd yacht, of a bucket load of bling.

No. Everything was done for your benefit­—-you the worker, were their priority. Who has a handkerchief?

All joking aside this is a very serious issue with an estimated 42,000 deaths a year through pollution in Paris and probably more. Such is the smog in the city and the danger it poses action is being taken. It is understood that 80% of vehicles in Paris are diesel which brings a clear understanding as to the haste. France24news.But why has it not been tackled before? London started in 2008.

The London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) came into effect in 2008 across the Greater London area. The plan is to reduce emissions from diesel vehicles. The Euro standard has been upgraded in 2012 and 2013. The costs of not meeting the LEZ are high at £100 per day for a large van and £200 for Lorries, coaches and buses. Charges for diesel cars will follow soon.

An interesting point arose in the 2013 discussion as the mayor decided that only buses would have to meet the new LEZ emissions for oxides of nitrogen (NOx), coaches and lorries get to skip this one and save around £350 million. Call me suspicious but I think the big boys have had a word in the Mayor’s little ear as the city stands to lose a lot of money. What about people’s health?

So why the urgency?

I have already mentioned the deaths in Paris but London too has a high number at 29,000 per year “…dying prematurely from air pollution”. www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/

  • Should diesel vehicles be banned now?
  • Should we force industry to pay a serious levy?
  • Why do we have to wait until industry builds new engines?
  • Why are we putting profits before people?

 

The problem emerges with the soot that comes out of the exhaust – you can see it as cars etc. pull away from traffic lights – the soot contains ‘particulates’; “Particulates are the deadliest form of air pollution as they get into the lungs”. It is estimated that this contributed to 370,000 premature deaths in the EU in 2005 and a possible 3.2 million globally. www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Particulates/ See also www.unee.org/index.php?id=31228/   

It gets worse as a WHO study in 2011, “…concluded that traffic exhaust is the single most serious preventable cause of heart attack in the general public”. (Wikipedia) This is scary stuff especially with the key word being ‘preventable’. When was the last time—–or the first time you saw a poster or a TV advert warning you of the dangers? Thousands are dying every year and they don’t think it’s important enough to keep us informed. Perhaps the real reason is the cost of doing something about it; they may have to charge the industries a green tax for causing the pollution and that would not go down well with the big boys. How are we expected to be rational consumers when we are lied to?

This raises another contentious issue that being why industry has not picked up the tab e.g. the oil business for diesel and the engine manufacturer and the marketing companies. The charge in London is being paid by the vehicle owner who inadvertently bought the car etc. on what appeared sound advice. Now the poor sod is being forced to pay for the privilege of driving the ‘die from’ car.

And yet another point arises from the income the LEZ is bringing into London. What is happening with the money raised? Has there been any reduction in the number of vehicles driving through London? Pollution is every bit as high according to the most recent coverage in the press. So! It is alright that thousands are dying, unknown numbers have lung and heart disease; that asthma affects millions, it’s ok because we are charging the drivers? What is the money being spent on!

The recent smog alert in England sparked off health warning for asthma sufferers and the elderly. Kay Boycott of Asthma UK said that “two-thirds of asthma sufferers find that pollution makes their asthma worse”. The pollution can easily “trigger an attack”. www.france24.com/en/20150319-britain-smog-alert/

A further warning was highlighted by the Daily Mail 2015/03/20 that the pollution          “…could cause fatal asthma attacks or heart problems”. It warned that toxins in London reached ten (10) the highest number. The newspaper quoted Dr Penny Woods of the British Lung Foundation, who warned those with respiratory problems to “…stay away from main roads”. If this was a war zone there would be widespread panic at the number of deaths and complications caused by the smog.

Incredulous! There is no doubt that diesel cars are still being sold to unsuspecting drivers. The sales pitch is exactly the same as ten (10) years ago. I think a law should be passed immediately allowing drivers to sue if they have purchased a diesel vehicle in the last ten (10) years. After all, the powers that be, have known about the pollution problem all that time. How long has this been going on? Let’s stop the sale of diesel vehicles!

Paris. The smog is so dense the mayor has ordered immediate action. Anne Hidalgo has got the go-ahead from the government to make public transport free over the weekend 20th / 23rd of March. A partial driving ban has also been introduced whereby odd number plates are allowed and then a swap over will occur. Emergency action is being taken because ‘particulates’ could go well over the maximum. Particulates can, “…penetrate deep into the lungs and the bloodstream and can cause cancer”. www.france24.com/en/20150321/

A professor at Columbia University, Patrick Kenney suggests that danger comes in two sizes, PM10 from the smoke and dirt and PM2.5 (particulate microns) which contains toxic organic compounds. The latter is the worse. Kenney says Paris is bad because of the number of diesel cars. Modern diesel cars are better, “But the filters in even the latest models can’t get rid of the most dangerous fine particles”. Anne Hidalgo. There are 200 cities in the EU with low emission zones. What does that suggest to you? www.france24.com/en/

Based on the figures the problem is massive; deaths are extraordinary high and general health issues must cost £€ millions yet it is under rated by the media and by our politicians. I need to find a word much more forceful than ‘scandal’. It would seem that there is a conspiracy of silence, and the people are being used as guinea pigs or just disregarded. The overall costs must be in the billions.

Profit before people once again!

Do some good…..join Robin Hood

 

 

 

To The Barricades!

 

thROE354NRA future ravaged by revolution, French style where the rich and powerful meet their fate on the guillotine or by firing squad in a Russian type overthrow. The crime will have been the denial of rights to the majority and an utter contempt for the masses. The growing separation through inequality may force the hand of the poor to take action.

There is little doubt that inequality is increasing; Ha-Joon Chang (p333) points out, “Since the 1980s, income inequality has risen in the majority of countries”. He goes on to highlight that this is especially so on the UK and USA, “…which lead the world in pro-rich policies”. Economics: The User’s Guide. Krugman (p73) lends his support concerning the USA “…the income of the typical family grew less after 1980 than before”. End This Depression Now!

This view is shared by Stiglitz (p9) who illustrates his point with a host of data over the last 30 years:

  • Low wage earners – increase over the period          = 15%
  • Top 1% of earners –                                                  = 150%
  • Top 0.1% of earners –                                               = 300%

Over a slightly different time scale Krugman (p76) substantiates the point made by Stiglitz. What this means in reality for the American worker is: an auto worker in 2007 could expect to earn $28 per hour now new hires are taken on at $15 an hour. Stiglitz (p71-72) The Price of Inequality

Another telling point comes from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which suggests that, “… the UK economy would have been 20% bigger had the gap between rich and poor not widened since 1980s”. Guardian 2014/12/09

thXB41ZEDFThe disparity is clear the rich have benefitted greatly, the super rich have benefitted fantastically. Over the same period extreme poverty has risen dramatically in the US as between 1996 – 2011 it has doubled to 1.5 million based on World Bank (WB) measures. Stiglitz reckons that 25% of all kids in the US live in poverty. (p20-21)

Two of the world’s rich nations have a damning ratio of inequality; what must it be like elsewhere: India, China and Africa, I dread to think. Moreover, we cannot rely on democracy to iron out the creases in our system, “…the political agenda is biased towards corporate power”. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluralism

A statement which is borne out by Chang (p325) “… recent dramatic upswings in inequality in the US and the UK can mainly be explained by deregulation and tax cuts for the rich”. A view supported by both Stiglitz and Krugman.

“Currently, as the wealthiest obtain more wealth, they use a portion of that wealth to reduce the risk of having and obtaining additional wealth. A good example of this is how the tax rate on the wealthiest decreases as they obtain more wealth. The average tax rate for the top 1% in the US is now 17%. The tax rate for the poorest is closer to 50%”. Maxkeiser.com cited in www.larsschall.com2011/06/13/hegels-masterslave-dialectic/

 

Therefore our politicians are less interested in the electorate. Is it because we are skint? In contrast we have the thoughts of Wang Fuzhi a 17th century philosopher who was critical of the rulers, “…government should benefit the people, not those in power”. A lovely sentiment but can we have it adopted in today’s world. It is a view shared by the 20th century philosopher Karl Popper who thought it essential that we have a society where ‘political institutions can be changed by the governed’. Personally I would have Wang’s statement emblazoned onto banners and paraded everywhere where there is a protest. It should be a mantra for all who believe in equality and democracy.

Unfortunately, we seem to be headed towards a society based on Hegel’s master – slave dialectic and the fight for survival that ensues. (Larsshcall.com as above)It would seem that we are outside /beyond the thought processes of the rich. In a study for the WB in 2000 which surveyed 10,000, Can Anyone Hear Us? Deepa Narayan et al. One of the main issues raised by those surveyed was the lack of a voice. Nobody listens! Stiglitz (p21 + 390 notes 69) It’s to their own detriment but the rich cannot understand the concept of fairness.

In elementary psychology the point is made clearly, “It is important for us to feel that we have some control over what happens to us”. Understand Psychology (p119) The rich accept no responsibility for the growing inequality; that is inexcusable. They cause it and then turn a blind eye to the consequences of their actions. According to the philosopher P.F. Strawson it is only natural that we hold others responsible for what they do. www.plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-responsibility

Nobody listens! Especially our politicians except when it’s election time. Then the voters are herded through a narrow alley where they are bombarded with spurious rhetoric and a bucketful of promises. At the other end they are set loose, once again, to fend for themselves against the wolves and other predators. Little wonder therefore that there is a rise of alternative political parties. These new parties have emerged because the people want a voice and because the mainstream parties have stopped listening.

People will make sense of the world in which ever way they can, in the environment they find themselves living; be it crime, gangs or non-participation in general society. However, any notion that such groups should be shut out of the welfare system will result in new sub-cultures with unforeseen consequences.

Moreover, control of the hoi polloi has more tentacles than your average octopus: booze, drugs, and soap operas etc. However, not even the legalisation of marijuana will depress the feeling of unfairness. On the other hand it may actually heighten the feeling of dislocation and anger. And the present fascination of the star-struck dilettantes, dazzled by the glamour will not dislodge the desire for equity.

Reality for most has two edges, work or unemployment. Those in work are generally thRZSGUKD9happier people. Understand Psychology (p256-257). For those out of work various studies have shown a marked deterioration in physical health which exacerbates the problem. Long term unemployment can lead to ‘learned helplessness’ (p118) which can lead to apathy and a resignation which prompts an attitude of ‘why bother’ and, generates a ‘victim mentality’. The consequential costs over generations can prove so severe for society that government should set up training centres and community work to reduce the knock on effects.

The reality of the downtrodden is depressing. It is easier looking in than living the life. Nonetheless, people have a strong tendency to want to help as Chang (p197) suggests, “…people can, and do, pursue enlightened self-interest”. But these are generally ordinary folk who understand that at times we all need a hand because they too know aspects of that life. The rich are too busy flashing their bling in our faces.

M.K. Covey maintains that “Trust is the glue of life”. The Leaders Guide to Influence (p79) The same terminology is used by Stiglitz (p152-153) when he emphasises that social capital / trust is the ‘glue’ in society; that cooperation and trust are important,     “…in every sphere of society”. Without the ‘glue’ without the belief that the economic and political system is fair, society won’t function well. He gives several instances where social capital works exceptionally well and where it has failed.

A poll carried out on behalf of the NYT/CBS News in 2011 found only 10% of respondents trusted their government to do things right most of the time. Stiglitz, (p440 notes 8) The distrust of politicians is widespread. In the UK trust has been steadily eroded by promises never kept and by the scandal of M.P.’s fiddling their expenses. Some have also utilised their position of authority for a fee to business. Obviously, lobbying is not enough for some businesses.

thP0BYI7XHHowever, corruption of politicians is not a new phenomenon as Chang (p338) purports that business “…let’s not mince words- legally and illegally [are] buying up politicians and political offices”. Krugman (p86) is equally forceful in his view, “There is plenty of raw corruption—politicians who are simply bought, either with campaign contributions or with personal payoffs”. Stiglitz (p137-138) weighs in with several instances of ‘dishonest accounting’. It will make your eyes water with anger.

More recently in Brazil, the Petrobras scandal has 54 politicians in the dock and President Dilma Rousseff under suspicion concerning corruption at the oil giant. Federal prosecutors are seeking $1.5bn from 6 construction and engineering companies who are said to have bribed their way to huge contracts with Petrobras. www.msn.com/2015/03/03

It’s no different in France where 11 dairy companies have been fined a total of €192.7 million for organising a cartel. www.France242015/03/12 No wonder prices are so high!

So what’s the difference between fraud at the top and fraud at the bottom —–prison?

It needs to be well documented that if politicians do not listen to their constituents then they must accept full responsibility for any downsides in society. They tend to think that every 5 years or so they can tell a different story and blame someone else. They never accept blame themselves. Make them responsible!

Do some good ……join Robin Hood!!!!

Government should benefit the people not those in power

 

 

He’s Here!

 

thCAAXS9NGShush! Don’t make a sound. Don’t stand up! He’ll put you down. Big Brother has arrived. His arrival is much later than envisaged by 1984 author George Orwell, neither did Orwell anticipate that the controlling hand would stem from a democratic rather than a totalitarian regime. Few could have foreseen the rise of the troika, renamed ‘The Institution’.

Poor Greece it doesn’t stand a chance against the might of the EU and its enforcers, the troika, the faceless: the European Commission (E Comm) the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) all unelected. It is their way or the highway.

This is your Europe where democracy does not matter, where decisions will be made for you. The democratically elected government of Greece tried to uphold the principles by which it was elected but has been brow beaten by ‘The Institution’. Greece wanted to opt out of the austerity economic plan followed by the rest of Europe. The new government wanted to reverse the savage cuts imposed on its workers by ‘The Institution’.

As far as the faceless are concerned there is no alternative to their adopted policy. They are wrong, very wrong. I can point them to two Nobel Prize winning economists, a Harvard university economist and a Cambridge university economist who all advocate a positive alternative to the austerity / neoliberal model now in force.

    • J.E. Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality
  • Paul Krugman, End This Depression Now!
  • Dani Rodrik, The Globalization Paradox
  • Ha-Joon Chang, Economics: The User’s Guide

 

Greece did not cause this mess, though the propaganda would have you believe otherwise. What Krugman p177 calls the Big Delusion when he points out that Ireland and Spain both had budget surpluses and low debt prior to the banking crisis of 2008 but ended in the same bog as Greece. So it was not that Greece spent more than it could afford. Krugman p179 goes on to suggest that the political, financial and banking leaders are deeply committed to their version of events. Others may define their logic as ‘groupthink’.

A large part of the blame rests with the introduction of the € euro currency but they will never admit their complicity in creating a mess. At the time of the discussion to adopt the euro many pointed out that while America had a good model, “Europe fell far short of that model”. Krugman p173   Stiglitz p30 is equally scathing in stating that there was no “…political or institutional arrangements to make it work, and they will pay a high price for that failure”. I think we can all agree they are.

Moreover, it’s not just Greece that’s in trouble: Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus and Italy are trapped in the same bog. These nations have opted to wield the axe and cut the life blood of so many families by cutting jobs by the thousand, cutting welfare, lowering wages and refusing to increase the minimum wage and allowing privatisation which entails job cuts.

Ha-Joon Chang p105 therefore concludes, “With the austerity budget, the prospect for economic recovery in many of these countries is dim”. That they might even face a ‘lost decade’ as Japan suffered in the1990s and Latin America 1980s. The point is supported by Krugman p186, “…deficit countries have been required to impose…draconian…spending cuts and tax hikes—programs that push them into deeper slumps…” Krugman p42 suggests that the ‘Institution’ should look at the work of past economists e.g. John Maynard Keynes, Irving Fisher and Hyman Minsky to find an alternative to the neoliberal austerity package.

Why Austerity?

The IMF, the World Bank and the Federal Bank of the USA are commonly referred to as the Washington Consensus as these are the guys pushing the neoliberal model, free trade and globalization. Rodrik p171 opines that it is a “damaged brand” and has abundant evidence to support his statement.

The role of the IMF is quite confusing:

  • In the years 1978 – 2009 the IMF found 173 cases of fiscal austerity in advanced countries, “And what they found was that austerity policies were followed by economic contraction and higher unemployment”. Krugman p237
  • In February 2010 the IMF document Rethinking Macroeconomic Policy, suggested that central banks such as the ECB in Europe “might be better to aim for 4% inflation rather than the 2% or less that has become the norm for ‘sound’ policy”. A policy of ‘groupthink’. P161
  • In 2011 a study by the IMF found that inequality in income affects the economy on the demand side and suggests that ‘reduced inequality’, the reverse of austerity, can lead to sustained growth. Stiglitz p114

The conclusion drawn by Stiglitz p288 is that, “The worst myths are that austerity will bring recovery and that more government spending will not”. Support comes from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) “…income inequality has a sizeable and statistically negative impact on growth”. Guardian 14/12/09

Nonetheless we find the IMF as part of the ‘Institution’ that is promoting austerity in Europe. Who are the faceless that they can disrupt the lives of millions and simply walk thILH29564away with their own pockets filled? Stiglitz p290 condemns them as akin to blood letters of the Middle Ages who cut to release bad blood and when the patient didn’t recover argue that more of the same was needed. They are fixed in their opinion. Groupthink!

 

“Groupthink is one of the most dangerous traps in our decision-making. It’s particularly likely because it taps into our deep social identification mechanisms – everyone likes to feel part of a group – and our avoidance of social challenges. But consensus without conflict almost always means that other viewpoints are being ignored, and the consequences of groupthink can be disastrous”. (p137)

Dr Nicky Hayes, Understand Psychology

A telling point by the author comes with the observation, perhaps tongue in cheek,     “…our understanding of what it is and how it happens doesn’t seem to stop politicians and others from doing it”.

The Greek people were not alone in rejecting austerity the Netherlands and France voted out pro-austerity parties in 2012. A year later the Italians did the same. Chang (p106) It will be interesting as other elections come up how the people will respond but will it make a difference. The ‘Institution’ has set its parameters and seems unlikely to budge. Can people power move them? Or are we powerless against the ‘bureaucratic order’. He’s Here. Are we witnessing the start of the overt rule by the faceless? Democracy, write it in your diaries for your grandchildren to read.

Do some good—————–join Robin Hood.