Political Blog

I am not political by nature, but some things set me off. In my limited involvement, two things I find interesting are the difficulty in finding accurate numbers, and the difficulty in organising anything. You can see some of those issues in the quasi-blog below.

20Apr06 - Brownfield

CPRE recommended that I get my MP to support Early Day Motion, number 1770, which encourages local authorities to develop on brownfield sites before greenfield ones. Mr Clappison's name wasn't there, so I emailed him via They Work For You. About 20 minutes later I got a phone call from his secretary saying he had just signed it! Scary! Of course, the motion is non-binding...

8Feb06 - Act locally?

Sustrans' Safe Routes to Schools program got me to thinking. When I wait for the school bus with my children, I am disgusted by the passing stream of oversized cars with parents shuttling one child to school. Many sites claim that catalytic converters do not become effective until a car has been driven several miles. It is barely possible to cycle to Habs, because it is surrounded by fast roads with no pavements. I looked at a map, and saw that Habs could be reached wholly by footpath from Radlett, if they added a final link from Slades Farm to themselves. My suggestion met with zero interest. I thought academics were liberals! But perhaps I am talking to the wrong people.

3Feb06 - Anti-nuke update

I threatened to send an update and here it is. Thanks for your responses that gave me further ideas.

I joined Sustrans. They make bicycle paths -- I had not quite grokked that the C2C trail that I nearly cycled instead of going to Cantal was by Sustrans. I got their newsletter and immediately learned that there's a nice renovated rail path starting right near Griffin's school, that leads all the way to Ware. I think I'll buy a few reflective leg bands, too.

And I joined the Campaign to Protect Rural England. Inside sources say that CPRE is effective within the establishment. They invented the Green Belt, which is what makes Radlett such a nice place to live.

My hand-scrawled letter to James Clappison was answered promptly and on impressive House of Commons stationery, even if the sentiments are a little bit vague:

I fully understand the concerns you have raised regarding the use of nuclear power and the importance of recycling. I have taken the step of writing to Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to register my interest and to ask for her comments. As soon as I have a response I will be in contact again.

A friend let me know a better site for looking up your MP, plus a site for gauging what they are up to and another for pledges in general.

The Option 10 petition so far has only 63 signatures, which is even more pathetic than the anti-Olympics petition that I signed. I did Opt-10's bidding and printed 20 flyers that I stuffed into Radlett mailboxes on the way to my piano lesson. They ran out quickly, so I may do more -- Ross has volunteered to help. Half the fun was walking up people's driveways and ogling their houses. Radlett is even richer than I thought.

Powergen has sent me a plaintive letter (pay less!) about abandoning them for Ecotricity. I wonder which tree is mine. Switch via the WWF and benefit them (WWF are one of the few groups to sensibly suggest getting their newsletter by email only).

I did join Greenpeace, too.

One friend asked me what exactly bothers me about nukes, and of course it is the deadly and eternal waste. Another friend pointed out that nukes are anti-liberty, given that they must be big and government-controlled because of safety and terrorism, and so promote crony-capitalism, unlike wind-farms or microgenerators. This valid point is lost among most green organizations' general anticapitalist attitudes.

Yet another friend asked if wind power could ever cover all the UK's needs. Estimates range from eight times overcapacity (British Wind Energy Assoc), down to "maybe 20% by 2050" (FOE), down to no doubt much much lower numbers by opponents. Opponents say that wind energy is economic only because heavily subsidised (like this is untrue of nuclear?), and that it needs conventional back-up power, and that the low-frequency noise is bad, as is light-flicker. But then, who wants to live next to a coal-plant, or Heathrow, for that matter.

Finally, you could build your own turbine! Several friends asked about solar cells, which I have not researched yet.

Clive wrote: This looks like a good one. And this is interesting.

Sarah wrote: well done for joining CPRE. I am also a member!!

26Jan06 - Anti-nuke and joining green

Well, all this fuss about a nuclear energy review in the UK gives me the creeps. I see people on TV advocating nuclear power over wind farms because the former is "clean and safe and zero-emissions" while the latter are blots on the landscape. They are crazy and, as a citizen, I feel like having some impact on this debate.

Signing petitions and donating money are easy enough, and I hope they are useful. I'll post some info here, and maybe some more later.

Here is a petition by Option 10, who seems to be an arm of Friends of the Earth. I think it reads a little loony, especially article 9, but I am signing it. FOE are very concerned about climate change, which I know some of you still think is unproven, but also oppose nuclear. Still, it may be worth sending them some dosh. I just did.

You can show your support for wind energy by embracing it here. Aww, I feel so green now! They also have a boilerplate letter that you can send to your MP, but I think it is more effective to write in your own words, and not by email. Look up your MP here. It only takes 5 min to write a letter (is handwritten better?). And if you are married, I bet separate letters are a good idea. Mine is going in the post when I walk down to pick up Claire this afternoon.

The Green Party presumably has their heart in the right place, though they also want to renationalise the rails and buses, and I wonder what actual power they have. Still, join them here. I just did.

A related Green site led me to apply to switch my electricity generator to Ecotricity. I considered switching to Green Energy UK, a local Hertfordshire company, but they seemed a bit too small and liable to fold.

I joined Greenpeace when I first moved to the UK in the early 90s, but was so put off by their antics that I let my subscription lapse. I will have to read their website closely to see if I will join again, but meanwhile we can send a letter to the Trade and Industry secretary.

If you have any other suggestions, please let me know!

Paul wrote: if you want to help the environment, I suggest you install solar panels. I started with these guys.

William wrote: Great to hear from you on this one. My campaigning themes are ID, e-gov, drugs policy and peace so I haven't worked out where I am on energy and nukes. I test drove a Prius this morning tho, which was cool. I think the best web sites for campaigning and MPs are: www.writetothem.com for locating and contacting reps. www.theyworkforyou.com for checking and commenting on the debates and www.pledgebank.com for gaining critical mass. Interested to know what you make of them. The team behind it might be kindred spirits of yours.

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