Democracy: Can it Survive?

 

Democracy holds more emotion in its wake than any other political theory. It has stimulated a considerable amount of discussion and hyperbole from the earliest philosophical writers to the present day. But the burning question is whether democracy can work, and, can it work for the majority of society or is it a pleasant guise for control by an elite?

Certainly, the thought of democracy has wetted the thinking of many writers considered among our best intellects over the centuries:

Plato: was not a fan as he condemned it “… followed citizens’ impulses.” rather than the common good.

Nietzsche: was not enamoured either, he wanted to be, “… beyond the lowlands of the herd conscience.”

Machiavelli: likewise; as the intellects would be the prisoner of the “whims of the people”.

Charles Maurras: believed we should accept that we have, “natural hierarchies”.

JS Mill: was concerned by, “…the moral coercion of public opinion” that the individual was sovereign and bemoaned the ‘tyranny of the majority’.

www.serendipity.li/jsmill/jsmill.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-democratic_thought

Without being disparaging these were yesterday’s men with yesterday’s prejudices, when the very concept of democracy held a fear of control by the ‘herd’. Mill’s focus on the individual is little more than a scream of a narcissist. Along with the others mentioned their fear was brought on by the prospect of the uneducated rabble who survived in vermin infested hovels having jurisdiction over them.

They saw no potential in the hoi polloi. They simply looked at the uneducated mass and contrasted that with their own highly educated self and, were blinded by that fear and blatant snobbery.

Would a look at a more modern picture reveal a more sympathetic view?

Robert Michels: opined “… that democracy is a façade legitimizing the rule of a particular elite…” He suggested that democracy naturally slides into an oligarchy. He himself moved from being a socialist to become a fascist. Can we see a trend?

Rabbi Elazar Shach: had no doubts, “Democracy is a machinery of lies, false notions, pursuit of narrow interests and deceit.” His preference was to follow the teachings of the Torah.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opposition_to_democracy

Not much succour there for believers so let’s come right up to date:

A study carried out by Martin Gilens & Benjamin Page (2014) concluded that the majority of the American public had little influence on U.S. government policy. I have encountered that view several times and have raised it on previous posts.

A more damning assault on the weakness of democracy comes from ex U.S. president Jimmy Carter (2015) who is reputed to have said that the USA is now “… an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.” Wow! Don’t mince your words Jimmy. Again, it is a slight that has its own choir of substance.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oligarchy

We have come across the term oligarchy a few times and can now add other nouns such as plutocracy and fascism.

  • Fascism – strict rule by a leader & a small group of supporters.
  • Oligarchy – government by a small group.
  • Plutocracy – government by the wealthy.

Political scientists and sociologists will no doubt condemn me but the terms come across as much of a muchness. Or to put it more informally – money talks!

The political class will scream and bring forward an array of quotes from notables to try to establish that they don’t fit into any of the categories above. The social democrats in particular will holler their disapproval of any such characterization. In response I would suggest that they look in the mirror and learn the true insightfulness of reflection. They have ruled, especially in Europe for the last few decades, so anything that has gone wrong has done so under their watch, e.g. the rise of fascism and far-right groups.

“…extremism flourishes in an environment in which respectable voices offer no solutions as the population suffers.” Paul Krugman (p19) End This Depression NOW!

We’ve had ex-president Jimmy Carter, Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, so let’s hear from political philosopher Noam Chomsky. “It’s getting so that when I hear the word ‘democracy’ uttered by a politician or government official I automatically reach for my BS detector.”          Chomsky – Language and Responsibility There are a whole, whole lot of people do exactly the same as Chomsky.

So nobody likes democracy from the educated of the past to the educated of the present. What shall we do? Dump it in the rubbish can or just leave it to rot. For me, sitting on the next to bottom rung of the ladder of power (big ladder), I say keep it. As it has not yet completed its cycle.

There are weaknesses but there are in all political philosophies. There are also solid strengths as experienced in 2016 with the march of ordinary joe who shocked the political establishment with their voting power.

The body blow to the political class in UK, USA and Italy is a very hopeful sign, though a move to the right it was not a bridge to far. A thoughtful and inclusive campaign can swing things around.

A further strength of democracy is the ability to remove poor governments and the dirtbags whose back pocket is weighing them down. The system while open to abuse is also open to voices of descent and those who aspire to a good society. It’s just unfortunate that the latter voices cannot sing in harmony and as a choir.

Note what Charles Handy (p89) writes, “In a democratic culture, if it is not to degenerate into a battle between interest groups, it is particularly crucial that we find a common cause.”               Handy – Empty Raincoat

False Hope

To this end the social democrats and the general left of the British political scene probably thought they had found a ‘common cause’ with their promotion of political correctness (PCism). They were very wrong. It may have been perceived as a positive step forward towards a good society but it was clumsily introduced and implemented as tactfully as a bulldozer at a F1 race.

One can’t condemn fascism and communism as totalitarian regimes then seek to impose a political agenda, even if that agenda may be construed as for the common good. But to then lacerate opponents and doubters with vile accusations and, invoke the law to enforce its acceptance is hypocritical. It is not equality at work.

Any political agenda which is imposed may be considered as totalitarian. “What is a totalitarian regime but one in which variety of opinion is suppressed and conformity to a particular ideology is enforced.”  Catherine Rowett, www.academia.edu/1766239/A_dangerous_opponent_of_democracy

A more moderate view of PCism comes from Graham Good – University of British Columbia: “… it catches a certain kind of self-righteous and judgmental tone in some and a pervasive anxiety in others…”   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness

It may be shrouded in Karl Popper’s term ‘piecemeal social engineering’. Others may liken it to B.F. Skinner’s (1904-1990) view that society should develop ways to condition people to behave in a more appropriate way.  Book: Walden Two 1948

Some will associate it with George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (p241 (Appendix)) and his version of Newspeak, which was devised, “…to meet the ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism.” The sole purpose of Newspeak was to, “…to make all other modes of thought impossible.”

http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/piecemeal-social-engineering

Nonetheless, many right-wing activists believe that PCism is ‘indoctrination’ an attempt at ‘brainwashing’. Can the left in politics answer this view without being curt, inflammatory and dismissive? Dialogue is our only way forward in a positive vein.

Moreover, PCism was introduced throughout the western world. This would suggest a concerted and determined plan to impose it by the social democrat political elite. However, their haste was their undoing because they never took the time to talk it through with the electorate which suggests a contempt for ordinary joe. This fervent flurry to have it implemented and cemented before the likelihood of political change may have forced their hand to try to secure it with the weight of the law.

The law may remain in force, even after political change and, will stop people from openly voicing an opinion but will not change their mental attitude. The use of the law will foster resentment and that resentment will fester. The cost will be high.

There is a considerable loss of trust between the people and their elected representatives, admittedly, not solely due to PCism but it is a serious nail in the democratic coffin. Other costs include:

  • A decided move to the right in politics.
  • The rise of fascist parties in Europe.
  • People ‘feel’ the contempt of the political class.
  • Division in society.
  • A set back in the quest for a good society.

Of serious concern is that once people move to the extreme right in politics they very rarely move back to the centre ground. They become entrenched.

A chasm has opened between those in favour and those against PCism. A vehement opposition has emerged. In some parts of America it has reached fever pitch, with radio talk show hosts lambasting PCism at every opportunity and shows like South Park taking the mickey. It has given the right in politics a ready-made platform from which to pillory the left.

Jokes about PCism may not be heard much on television in the UK but are common in local pubs and clubs. And every time a silly case gains media attention it reinforces the held view and encourages others to join in.

Such a rallying of opposing loud hailers may appear as a positive thing for a healthy democracy but it is not. Entrenchment on either side makes it nigh impossible to find common ground, and a ‘common cause’. Thus the advocates of political correctness may have set back the very principle of equality because they failed to make it inclusive.

Call me a cynical conspiracy theorist but could the failure have been deliberate. In order to maintain the alliance of the political class and business interests and the windfall that comes from corruption.

Without doubt democracy has many challenges but still has room for development. In my opinion PCism is an exemplary example of the dangers inherent in democracy; it was too one sided and the brain child of a cabal of thinkers. The result is that we have factions of right and left at loggerheads or at worse entrenched and bitter.

People Power?

The weaknesses of democracy are apparent if we re-examine the views expressed earlier. We can dismiss the fear of the ‘intellects’ of the past as their vision of despair did not materialize. On the other hand there is a degree of truth in the more modern analyses.

Michels view that democracy is a ‘façade’ for rule by an elite is insightful. If we think in terms of the political class and the present feeling of alienation by the people, that gives credence to Michels’ observation. However, we do have opposition parties and organizations; perhaps not as strong as they should be but that could have as much to do with our lack of involvement as their whispered voice.

We can add to the voice of Michels the study of Gilens and Page and their conclusion that the electorate of America have ‘little influence’ on government policy. The obvious point being made is that the public are simply ignored. That being the case gives credence to Michels other contention that democracy slides into oligarchy.

I would lump together Rabbi Shach’s view on ‘deceit’ with Jimmy Carter’s condemnation of ‘bribery’. They both contend that corruption is rife in the political hierarchy. We should all be aware that corruption plagues our political system. It’s as widespread as trees in a woodland. There is not a country in the world which you could say was squeaky clean. Daunting, isn’t it?

In America, supposedly the great democracy corruption is second nature to the politicians. It is given the name ‘clientelism’ which simply means; you scratch – I scratch and both our backs are covered because the money given to my campaign is just a donation. And my vote for particular legislation is that I support it. A whole lot of $millions is involved.

The problem is so embedded in India that the government has recently changed its currency; new notes for old in an attempt to flush out corruption. As the Indian government has recognised corruption harms the economy. Good luck. However, we should take our hat off to them for such a bold move. Good to see some politicians with a large degree of bottle.

Another positive story comes from South Korea where the president Park Geun-hye has been impeached on bribery charges. The head of Samsung has also been questioned (for 22 hrs) about donations totalling around $25.5 million. The authorities are now trying to secure an arrest warrant for the head of Samsung. President Park’s future will be decided by their constitutional court.

China has only recently set up a new agency to investigate the agency they initially established to counter the growth in corruption. It makes me think it’s a lot like a dog trying to catch its own tail.

A more recent example comes from a report in the Daily Mail January 11 2017. The story outlined that a businessman flew $500,000 in a private jet to Liberia, Africa to bribe two officials in order to have the law changed to suit his mining company.

One more case to hit the headlines is that of Rolls Royce the engine manufacturer. Several areas of the media have given it some prominence with its fine of £641m or around $810m for bribing foreign officials to secure contracts. Daily Mail 2017/01/17

The Guardian claims that along with the BBC they exposed the scandal in October 2016. However, the investigation had been on-going since 2012 with the cooperation of the company. The good thing is that it was exposed. Let’s have a monthly column on corruption in all media.

These are but a few examples and as already alluded to there are few clean bums in the political world. On a serious note we should listen to J. Stiglitz (p165)  “Corruption undermines faith in our democracy.”  The Price of Inequality

What should we do next? It seems like an impossible task to rid the system of the pirates. It’s especially difficult in that we need the existing politicians to implement a programme of corruption busting. Progress is being made based on the evidence above. Fighting corruption is a big job which requires a considerable amount of mental strength and the belief that ending corruption is essential work.

I’ve illustrated with the examples of India and South Korea that it is possible and that there are good guys out there. I’m also of the opinion that there is considerable mileage for politicians to pick up the cudgel against corruption.

Can democracy be saved?? Will the Fantastic Four come to its rescue? The Guardians of the Universe! James Bond, even? Unfortunately, we can’t rely on the fantasy world to help us.

Though I’m reminded of an old movie I watched on TV; it was Michael Douglas playing the role of the American President, Andrew Shepard. He’s addressing the assembled press and uses a one liner which struck me as apt: “Democracy isn’t easy” and goes on to attack his republican opponent Bob somebody.

And that’s the reality, democracy isn’t easy. I wish I had a blueprint, all the answers but I come up against the pure logic of Karl Popper The Open Society. He argues, correctly, that there can’t be a blueprint that we cannot lay down a set path that people will follow because we want them to. If we can agree on something, then let’s have a go, see if it works, if not change it. It’s a slow process but eventually we get to where we hope is a good society. That should be our common cause.

I’m encouraged by the electoral votes of 2016 and hope that the movement continues into 2017 in both France and Germany. I just hope that the political elite can hear the alarm go off.

I was struck by the speech that British Prime Minister Theresa May gave at the UN in September 2016 when she reminded the assembled that:

“We must never forget that we stand here, at this United Nations, as servants of the men and women that we represent back home.”

Colour me surprised but intrigued by her reference to representation, which was positive. But the bit that got my real attention was the use of the word ‘servants’. Was this purposeful as a means to curry favour back home, an ideological slip or a clear understanding of what democracy should look like. Of course, as a believer I hope it was the latter and like me she is a true disciple. Arrrh! My cynical personality is coming out!!!!

Nonetheless, we know in which direction we need to go, for our sakes, for our children and our grandchildren. Let’s keep our common cause in mind every time we vote or want to voice an opinion. Our motto: we know where we’re going. If politicians or businessmen don’t want to come along – stuff them. A good society is too important to be side tracked by the merchants of greed.

We must also be aware that we can’t get everything we want. Let’s walk and talk and see where it leads us.

 

 

 

Elites: The Selfish Gene

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“Greed has taken over”.*

These are not my words but those of David Rubinstein (2007) who made $billions on Wall Street. He recognised the grab epidemic that had gripped the centre of finance. The selfish gene had infected just about everyone, and the infatuation with the big bucks overpowered the otherwise educated.

*Suzanne McGee – Chasing Goldman Sachs (p177)

Of course greed has long been a deadly sin and thus part of the human make up. Wherever there are winners and losers greed has been dangling its lustful bait.

Though greed and elites have been around quite a while the world has now changed significantly and the divide is much more noticeable. Ordinary Joe has become more aware of their daily grind and the comparison with those of wealth. Television, films and books help to keep them informed.

The dramatic change came with the advent of socialism, Marxism and democracy. These developments brought the growth of political parties and trade unions which have changed the dynamics by keeping people aware. Social media has a world audience that means we are neighbours in many respects.

Moreover, information on the great divide is well documented. Noam Chomsky, How the World Works deals with it by mentioning the philosophers David Hume (p129-30) and Aristotle (p209-210). Hume acknowledges that leaders are only in power as long as the people tolerate them.

Aristotle was challenged by a question on how to deal with the great divide – reduce poverty or reduce democracy. His answer was to lessen the impact of poverty, a purely logical conclusion.

It is quite obvious that if you are a part of the elite that you would chose to maintain your status. However, history teaches us that empires always fall and therefore the wise counsel of Aristotle should be heeded.

Unfortunately, greed clouds judgment.  Joseph E. Stiglitz – The Price of Inequality (p5) clarifies the great divide by pointing out that in America the top 1% gets 40% more in one week than the bottom 20% get in a year. Bloody hell! you may whisper to yourself but the worse is yet to come.

The top 0.1% in one and a half days (1.5 days) gets what the bottom 90% make in a year. Now you can scratch your head in disbelief. NO WAY you say, but. Obviously the elite is deaf to the wisdom of Aristotle (384 – 322 BC)

Francis Fukuyama – Political Order and Political Decay (p479) hits the nail on the head when he states, “In the contemporary United States, elites speak the language of liberty but are perfectly happy to settle for privilege”. The same argument can be espoused for the elite everywhere. One consequence is that the poor and poorly educated become marginalized. (p488) Further consequence flow from this reality.

Therefore, few would dispute the analysis of Suzanne McGee (p354) when she says that attitudes on Wall Street have not improved since the 2008 financial crash that battered the poor hard. The cry of the financial elite is, “me first, me foremost, and only me”.

Though the election surprises of 2016, and going into 2017 may wake the elite from their slumber. The Brexit election in the UK and the Trump victory in the presidential election may bring a wakeup call with the cockerel. Throughout Europe we are witnessing a growing dissatisfaction with the elite and their political acolytes.

Furthermore, throughout the world people are standing up and letting it be known that they are fed up with the status quo.

Protestthiec512pf

South Africa:      Since 2008 an average of 2 million people has taken to protesting annually.

Main complaint: poor services and corruption.

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protests_in_South_Africa

Venezuela:         Polls show that 75% of people are unhappy with the government of Nicolas Maduro. Massive oil reserves suggest it should be a wealthy country.

Main complaint: food shortages, power cuts and corruption.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-36319877

September 2016 over 1million protest against government. NY Times suggest mainly middle class but then they can be the most dangerous.

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014%EZ%80%9316_Venezuela_protests

El Salvador:         Main complaint: Corruption – effects food shortages and poor services.

Brasil:                    April 2016 poll shows 63% don’t like the government of Dilma Rousseff. Since been ousted, her successor has faced similar protests.

Main complaint: high inflation, bad recession = prices & unemployment + corruption

www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-35810578

Equatorial Guinea:  has one of Africa’s largest oil reserves but is one of the continents poorest. Their leader is estimated to have amassed a personal fortune of $600 million.

Around the world a better informed populace are beginning to assert their rights. Power to the people!

thXB41ZEDFCorruption

A keyword in many instances is ‘corruption’. However, corruption takes many forms, from direct bribery to filling one’s own pocket surreptitiously. Moreover, corruption is not solely attributed to developing countries. Britain was rocked by the expenses scandal when our Members of Parliament took to giving themselves handsome handouts, leaving the taxpayer to pick up the bill. Then of course, there’s the semi-legal type of corruption known as lobbying.

Interestingly, Senator Ted Cruz, who sought nomination for the republican presidential candidacy, was noted as saying, “…career politicians’ ears and wallets are open to the highest bidder”. In Texas 2015 www.theintercept.com/2015/07/30

Let me give you a handful of views on lobbying.

“…it defies belief that the banking industry’s legions of lobbyists did not have a major impact,”…on government policy. Francis Fukuyama (p481)

“In other cases, interest groups have been able to block legislation harmful to their interests”. Ibid (p486)

These groups, instead of pursuing wealth-creating economic activities, made use of the political system to extract benefits or rents for themselves”.  Mancur Olson – The Rise and Decline of Nations quoted ibid (p481)

Or it may be due to exploitative elites, typically in cahoots with the government, who block any improvement in economic condition that would threaten their power” Dani Rodrik – The Globalization Paradox  (p137) Rodrik was looking at reasons for poverty in poorer nations.

All told more than $3.2 billion was spent on lobbying in 2011 alone. The main distortion is to our political system; the main loser, our democracy” Joseph E Stiglitz (p119)

The pattern is clear, the political outcome of lobbying seldom works for the majority; as decisions are heavily influenced by interest groups. E.E.Schattschneider – The Semisovereign People   ibid (p483)

There are several other damning opinions I could add to those given but hopefully the point is made. Unfortunately, the material from which I got the quotes is not on the daily reading diet of the poor and poorly educated.

Ordinary Joe tends to rely on gut and experience, the latter a method favoured by Aristotle, to reach a conclusion. The poor may be marginalized but their brain has not ceased to work.

Dissatisfaction with the political class has grown over the decades to such an extent that, “…trust in Congress has fallen to historically low levels barely above double digits”. Ibid (p481) A similar point is made by Stiglitz (p117) that the rich have, “…become more distant from ordinary people”.

While these instances concern the American system they are readily transferable throughout the world. Perhaps, in understanding this ‘distance’ those who cannot grasp the seismic political upheaval called Brexit and the Trump victory can begin to comprehend that the ‘sleeper has awoken’!!

The Double Deal:

Backhander

Backhander

A good outline of the direct and moral corruption that is bought on a daily bases of lobbying can be read in Francis Fukuyama (p478) when he deals with ‘reciprocal altruism’. Basically, I give you a big contribution to your election fund and somewhere down the line, you do me a favour. It’s a fancy name for you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours.

We are all aware of cronyism and nepotism and as distasteful as they are, we also know that they are an apron string around our lives. Who wouldn’t help a friend or look after one of our family when times are hard? However, when a similar thing happens at the top end of business its use is to maintain status and power, and to advance wealth.

That brings us back to the catch phrase noted by Suzanne McGee (p354) “…me first, me foremost, and only me”. The actions and statements of the rich are catalogued beside all the other pieces of exhibitionism that symbolizes their contempt for the poor. These are duly noted until a jigsaw has been completed and then contempt is fired back at those in power.

The notion that the poor lap up the display of wealth and the misnomer that their anger is only a form of jealousy is so out of place. The trite use of ‘jealousy’ was a smokescreen floated by the wealthy to browbeat the poor.

I refer back to the wisdom of Aristotle that experience is a solid learning tool; and experience is what the poor collect in abundance. The machine operator knows that they are producing wealth and have become aware that their share of the proceeds is hardly enough to survive on. Hence the ostentatious flirting of the rich does not engage their jealousy but their anger.

A Learning Curve?

Unfortunately, the harsh reality is as stated by Ralph Schosstein, a banker on Wall Street, “Memories fade faster on Wall Street than on Main Street”. (McGee p383) The lure of the big buck is so enticing it’s almost irresistible. For the big boys it’s their raison d’etre. It appears that nothing much has been learned since the build up to the 2008 crash that we are still suffering from.

“A few years ago various cunning bankers were sitting around on their fat arses scratching their sweaty balls wondering how they could make themselves even more disgustingly rich….so they started looking around and they spied a vast amount of poor Americans who hadn’t been allowed loans before…” Geraint Anderson, Cityboy (p307)

Soon the world economy collapsed and we had to bail them out!

Control of the financial sector should have been exercised by the government. However, government must be free of corruption. Hm! I’m reminded of a child’s nursery rhyme – the wheels on the bus go round and round…. Lobbying all day long!

In today’s society we need the money men but they also need us. We are both sides of the coin. What they need to understand is that wealth distribution is a key element in keeping the fabric of society on a harmonious path.

Many countries throughout the world are experiencing an upsurge in people power. In the UK and the USA the people have exercised their democratic rights to let the elite know that they too want to participate in the nation’s wealth. Let’s keep it democratic!

 

Driven Mad

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Two guys in the USA looking at car emission issues were puzzled as to why American cars waltzed through the tougher emission testing whereas the European cars had difficulty. They decided to carry out a number of tests to see if they could come up with an easy solution, and to prove that cleaner cars could be efficient and still retain their power. They tested Volkswagen vehicles. The storm began!

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/11883343/

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen­_emissions_scandal

The exposé of Volkswagen over the emissions from their diesel cars has led to a bonanza of enquiries about emissions.  We are all now aware that we have been systematically lied to for decades by the automobile industry.

An examination of the testing techniques employed to determine the degree of emissions by Which?  consumer group has revealed a devastating picture of deceit by all the leading manufacturers. The extent of the deception is quite staggering when laid adjacent to the number of deaths associated with the pollution from cars.

Incredibly, 97% of all diesel cars give out nitrogen oxide (NOx) a highly toxic substance. The Which? sponsored tests by Emissions Analytics (EA) under the auspices of Imperial College London (ICL) has burst the protective bubble around the manufacturers. Which? describes the previous lab-tests as, ‘so seriously flawed they’re meaningless’. www.theguardian.com  January 2016.

Another dynamic of testing is that in colder conditions the emissions become worse, e.g. below 18C. A mechanism in the engine closes down which in turn facilitates more miles per gallon (mpg) but at the expense of greater toxicity. Obviously the manufacturer will highlight the better mpg and say nothing about the toxic emissions. Beware marketing!! Professor Ricardo Martinez-Botas of the ICL was taken aback and ‘shocked’ by the findings.  Daily Mail 23/06/2016

The Guardian further reports that by 2020 London will introduce an ultra-low emission zone.

Q? Why ultra-low, why not a definitive NO! Why wait until 2020?

Both car producers and politicians have been aware of the adverse effects of NOx and yet we wait to take action. The technology exists to produce cars of nil NOx emissions!! Note the words of Sir Malcolm Green professor of respiratory medicine when he says that such pollution is ‘shortening people’s lives’.

We may never know the full extent of the death rate from car pollution or how badly it affects asthma sufferers. Particulates from diesel cars are the deadliest form of air pollution and can easily trigger an attack of asthma. We know it brings on emphysema and bronchitis but what else.

  • The number of diesel cars in UK has risen from 1.6million 1994 – 12 million to date.

thE0TWUDA5The death toll is frighteningly high. The Mail online January 2016 suggests a figure of 30,000 annually with 23,500 directly related to diesel cars. The Guardian 2014 gave figures of 42,000 with 29,000 associated.

  •   NOx levels in UK are ‘far above safe levels for human health’. Mail online
  • NOx is at illegally high levels in several British cities. Guardian April 2016

Q?  Why have our politicians allowed this travesty to continue?

The answer may surprise you. Since 1993 the EU has introduced directives (E) to mitigate the pollution. In 2005 E5 was passed, in 2015 we had E6, therefore as far as the politicians are concerned the car industry has been pushed decidedly in the right direction. Hurrah? NO!

  • Those suffering from the effects of the pollution are not dancing in the street.

Taking the sum of 30,000 deaths per annum in UK, add some 40,000 from France and then the rest of Europe and we have well over 100,000 deaths due to exhaust pollution. One hundred thousand + deaths per year! If these souls were war dead, major ceremonies would have been held, plaques would have been placed in various venues and bronze statues raised in honour of our dead. But hey, most deaths are just a scattering of ordinary Joe’s.

thIQB7HPADA staggering death tally and the silence of our politicians’ hammers home a truth, a terrible truth – profit before people. As the death toll rises the EU is set to permit double the official limit of toxic emissions until 2021 and at 50% above thereafter. (Guardian) These targets I can only assume are based on the lab-tests so discredited by Which?.

Our leaders may suggest that their rationale is governed on the available science.

  • They encouraged people to buy diesel.
  • They are allowing the continuation of the pollution, beyond 2021.
  • We have the technology to build better engines. Now!
  • Since 1993 they have had knowledge of the cause and effect of car pollution.
  • The death toll is rising.
  • The number of cars on our roads will continue to increase. Pollution? Dah!

Roads

Roads go on

While we forget, and are

Forgotten like a star

That shoots and is gone.

Edward Thomas 1878 – 1917

The failure to insist on the use of better technology is an act of disdainful arrogance by the parties, the manufacturers and the politicians. The only conclusion to be drawn is that they are in cahoots. That our politicians skewed the advantage to industry is a surreptitious abrogation of their elected responsibility. It illustrates in graphic detail their utter contempt for the concept of democracy.

Q? What was the industry’s motivation? Profit!

Q? Will it ever end? Volkswagen is to pay $15 billion in compensation to USA drivers. Is this the necessary sting in the tail?

Do some good…..Join Robin Hood.

Let Me Breathe, Please!

thLQSH1L46To accept the political outlook of compromise, the adage, ‘the art of the possible’ is to ride on a broken down train. Naturally progress on such a train will be slow, if at all.

When you come to the conference table with the proviso of compromise you are not being true to yourself or to the people you purport to represent. With the mindset that there is no alternative, there is no alternative. Politicians who follow such a pedantic logic congratulate each other on their political wisdom. So they arrive at a meeting with a tin of beans and leave with a teaspoonful and on the way out smile at the mirror before smiling for the camera.

Meanwhile, for 21 years representatives of world governments have been meeting to discuss the climate and the dangers inherent in sizable change. The next meeting will take place in December 2015 in Paris France. Each delegate will arrive with their tin of beans and having eaten something more upmarket will leave; not forgetting to smile at the mirror before smiling for the camera.

Therefore, can we expect a decisive response in December or will we be served with the leftover beans on a plastic plate? The view of scientists is overwhelmingly in favour of cutting CO2 emissions. But politicians don’t represent scientists, they represent business interests. Business enterprises have had at the very least 21 years to prepare a long-term strategy, but are still to be found having a tantrum in the background. Anything that effects profit adversely makes them cry.

One has to ask if it would do any good to present our politicians with a portfolio of factual information. I suspect not. Nonetheless:

American Medical Association

“Our AMA … supports the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth assessment report and concurs with the scientific consensus that the Earth is undergoing adverse global climate change and that anthropogenic [human] contributions are significant.” (2013)

Global temperature increased by more than 1.4oF over the last century.

The AMA is one of several bodies that have put their name to the argument that climate change is a reality. Check out the web site!!!

www.climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/

An anonymous poll was carried out with 10,200 scientists being contacted of whom 3146 responded:

Question #1: When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?

About 90% of all the scientists and 97% of the climate scientists said temperatures had risen.

Question #2: Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

About 82% of all the scientists and 97% climate scientists agreed that human activity is a significant contributing factor.

http://www.wunderground.com/resources/climate/928.asp

A large number of studies have been done and the findings are:

New Picture

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/images/science/models-observed-human-natural-large.jpg

This is a worthwhile site to visit. It is a question and answer piece and very informative. In one answer I came across the following statement: “… carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than they have been for at least 800,000 years”.

U.S. Global Change Research Program // Karl S Thomas et al

Thus at the meeting in December will we witness China, America and India come to the conference table and agree to give up the use of coal? Coal is deemed to be the worse polluter of the fossil fuels. Unfortunately, I think not!

All delegates may attend with their tin of beans but leave with less than their teaspoonful because the big boys will not compromise on issues that their industry makes mega-bucks from. And there you have the proof – the short-term interests of business are more important than the long-term health of our planet.

If I was a betting man I would wager £50 that no jaw-dropping decision will be taken, that some kind of fudge will be reached. Politicians will raise their shoulders in a gesture as if to say ‘what did you expect’. However, they will be united in agreeing that it is a good deal. They will smile for the camera and argue that everyone got something out of it. As for the planet and our health, well, that’s another matter.

Let’s pray for rain.

Another telling piece of information was to be found in theguardian.com/2015/jun/22/. In the capital of Chile such was the smog that an environmental emergency was declared: the 7 million residents were warned not to do any physical activity, over 1.7 million vehicles were ordered off the roads and 1300 businesses were closed. It was the driest June in 40 years and the prospect of rain is weeks away.

In the last months we have heard of similar stories from Paris France, London England and Delhi India. This is an increasing phenomenon.

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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!!!!

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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

 

 

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!

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