Monday, 28 July 2008


Independent July. 18, 2008

By Leonard Doyle

The United States of America is becoming less united by the day. A 30-
year gap now exists in the average life expectancy between
Mississippi, in the Deep South, and Connecticut, in prosperous New
England. Huge disparities have also opened up in income, health and
education depending on where people live in the US, according to a
report published yesterday.

The American Human Development Index has applied to the US an aid
agency approach to measuring well-being -- more familiar to observers
of the Third World -- with shocking results. The US finds itself
ranked 42nd in global life expectancy and 34th in survival of infants
to age. Suicide and murder are among the top 15 causes of death and
although the US is home to just 5 per cent of the global population it
accounts for 24 per cent of the world's prisoners.

Despite an almost cult-like devotion to the belief that unfettered
free enterprise is the best way to lift Americans out of poverty, the
report points to a rigged system that does little to lessen

"The report shows that although America is one of the richest nations
in the world, it is woefully behind when it comes to providing
opportunity and choices to all Americans to build a better life," the
authors said.

Some of its more shocking findings reveal that, in parts of Texas, the
percentage of adults who pass through high school has not improved
since the 1970s.

Asian-American males have the best quality of life and black Americans
the lowest, with a staggering 50-year life expectancy gap between the
two groups.

Despite the fact that the US spends roughly $5.2bn (£2.6bn)
every day on health care, more per capita than any other nation in the
world, Americans live shorter lives than citizens of every western
European and Nordic country, bar Denmark..

Using official government statistics, the study points out that
because American schools are funded primarily from local property
taxes, rich districts get the best state education. The US has no
federally mandated sick pay, paternity leave or annual paid vacation.

"Some Americans are living anywhere from 30 to 50 years behind others
when it comes to issues we all care about: health, education and
standard of living," said Sarah Burd-Sharps co-author of the report.

Although the US is one of the most powerful and rich nations in the
world, the study concludes it is "woefully behind when it comes to
providing opportunity and choices to all Americans to build a better

According to a United Nations human development report, the US is in
12th place in a league table of wealthy developed nations. Britain is
ranked 16th.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

*"Give claimants more green lights, not more grief"

Replying to the leak of DWP Secretary James Purnell's latest 'get tough on claimants' Green Paper, London Green Party Disability Spokesperson Alan Wheatley said:

"What jobseekers need is more in the way of green lights, not more of the same draconian measures that make welfare reform the latest frontier for legalised human trafficking at a time of growing global recession."

The Government proposals include forcing claimants to do four week's full time work after claiming unemployment-related benefits for over a year. "That is a move to drive employment standards down and keep the pressure on keeping public sector pay and standards low.

"Meanwhile, Sky News is more keen to report what the DWP Secretary and his cronies have to say, than to alert the public to how his department fails to deliver urgently needed income to genuine claimants. When claimants receive redundancy money or are in temporary, part-time paid employment, their Jobseekers Allowance entitlements are rarely updated on time and this causes hardship and creates a stumbling block in their career progression while Jobcentre Plus call-centres are overloaded." In 2004-2005, 21 million calls -- 44% of all incoming call traffic -- to Jobcentre Plus call-centres went unanswered. What has Sky News and the like had to say about that, and with what size headlines?

As Noam Chomski reported in 'The Manufacture of Consent', poor people have traditionally not had the telecommunications equipment that their oppressors rely on for promoting their say, and that makes news sourcing easier. With a computer won in a national magazine competition, London Green Party's Disability Spokesperson has exercised his Information Communication Technology skills and reframing bitter personal experience of system failure, into being Disability Spokesperson for London Green Party. "The essential data were multiple choice answers, not CV data," Alan notes.

That application of his Information Communication Technology skills has been better for his mental health and continuous professional development than advice given by workfare provider A4e (Action for Employment) to long-term jobseekers.

A4e Holloway client advisors say, "The more jobs you apply for, the better your chances. Ten job applications per day is good." On A4e's referral form, there is no question regarding the 'beneficiary's' disability status or access requirements. But is such a lottery-like approach to jobsearch professional or even good for even non-disabled jobseekers?

A4e owner Emma Harrison is a multi-millionaire whose business is expanding globally, as is the armaments exports-like nature of workfare that the UK's Department for Work & Pensions Secretary wants British-based companies to be a leading force in. It also offers free debt advice to New Deal 'beneficiaries' while A4e's delivery of 'Community Legal Aid Centres' threatens the future of Citizens' Advice Bureaux and prospective impartiality of the advice offered to society's most economically vulnerable members.

Friday, 25 July 2008

"Bloody Right -I'm going to stand again" - Ken Livingstone.

I was at Ken Livingstone’s party on Tuesday night in Dingwalls nightclub in Camden Lock and had a chat with him. He is looking and sounded ten years younger and fighting fit.

He gave what can only be described as a stomping speech.

Among his point were:

“We actually saw the Green vote in the Assembly go up.”

“[We have] an incredible amount to be proud of in terms of what we did, we set up not just the minimum wage but the London living wage and Boris has had to carry on with that.”

“We set a whole now raft of initiatives in terms of public transport.”

“This is the only city on earth with a 5% shift from car use to public transport.”

He received tumultuous applause when he said:

“Andrew Gilligan seems to be obsessed about whether I'm going to stand again”

. "Bloody right I'm going to stand again!"

“[An] election is won over the years of what you do to set a progressive agenda.”

“We're establishing a progressive London website not restricted to the Labour party [but] anyone who believes this city should be part of defining the way we organise our world in a fairer and more sustainable way in the years to come.”

“We're going to lay the foundation for another progressive coalition to take London forward in four years' time.”

The packed crowd included Government ministers, TU leaders and activists, NGO’s and greens including both our Assembly members.

Jenny Jones AM in recovering from a broken arm having been run down on her bike by a careless motorist.

*Arrested for violation of sand!

On Sat 28th June, at a demo outside Sequani, the animal testing lab in Ledbury, one protester at the peaceful demo wrote the word 'scum' in the sand outside the premises, then rubbed it out. But amazingly on Wednesday, police visited her house and arrested her for criminal damage for violation of the sand! They didn't have a warrant, so were made to wait while she had a shower, and then took her in. She is now out on bail, but protesters say that the motive to arrest her was to get information about some of the other protesters - but fortunately the arrestee is unlikely to have gone against the grain(s)...

For more about the demo see



Derek Wall, the Green Party's Male Principal Speaker, has called for trade unions to put increased pressure on the Government and public sector employers by uniting to carry out sustained strike action, in opposition to attempts to impose pay cuts.

Last week over 500,000 local government workers across the country – including care assistants, refuse collectors, cleaners, teaching assistants and social workers - took industrial action because employers are attempting to impose pay cuts. The employers "final offer" amounted to just 2.45 per cent, whilst food prices have risen over 9 per cent in the last year and energy bills by 15 per cent.

In the wake of a national two-day walkout by UNISON and Unite last week, many union activists are discussing the potential for joint action between unions across different sectors.

In Scotland, a local government dispute is likely to lead to strike action, whilst a decision by the National Executive Committee of the National Union of Teachers resolved to ballot for further discontinuous strike action in late September. Civil servants union, the PCS, is also to ballot its public sector membership for twelve weeks of discontinuous action. In June, delegates of the Communications Workers Union voted unanimously for strike action against pension cuts, post office and mail centre closures, and up to 40,000 job losses.

Derek Wall stated, "What public sector workers are asking for is entirely fair – that they are not forced to pay for economic problems which they are not responsible for."

"Many Green trade unionists believe that further strike action must be planned now and should be coordinated between trade unions as far as is possible. We support the widest and broadest coalition of industrial action."

"Sustained and united strike action can force the hand of the employers and overturn their plans to impose pay cuts. All public sector workers deserve a pay rise not only to cover inflation, but to make up for 10 years of below inflation pay deals, which are pay cuts in all but name."

The Green Party has a record of championing trade union activism, from defending attacks on public services to advocating the repeal of the anti-trade union laws introduced by the Conservatives and left in place by Labour. On the Greater London Assembly, Green Party Members were integral in establishing the Living Wage Unit aiming to lift London's lowest paid workers out of the poverty trap.

Friday, 11 July 2008


"What makes this such a terrifying book is it isn't based on theoretical mathematics. Rapid increases in greenhouse gases have shut down the ocean conveyor several times before, resulting in severe climate change and mass extinction. If Ward's analysis is correct, we know what caused it and we know how to make it not happen again. The question is: can we save us from ourselves?"]

By Doug Brown

Many books on global warming are based upon crude computer models (crude compared to our planet's actual climate) and hypothetical what- ifs. Thus they are easily dismissed by skeptics as alarmist litanies of, "Here are some really bad things that could maybe possibly happen if the worst-case outcomes of this model which is built on untested assumptions turn out to be right." Peter Ward, a paleontology professor at the University of Washington (and astrobiologist for NASA), takes a different and much scarier approach. Rather than hypothetical speculations into the future, he starts with actual data from the past. Can we examine the fossil and climate record to identify past instances of greenhouse global warming, and see what happened then? The answer, very disturbingly, is yes.

The first section of Under a Green Sky covers how scientists have examined mass extinctions over time, and how causes are determined. After the Cretaceous-Tertiary event (a.k.a. the extinction of the non- avian dinosaurs) was shown to have been largely caused by a meteor slamming into the earth, extraterrestrial impacts became the assumed cause of all mass extinctions. Everyone ran around looking for craters of the approximate correct age to have caused other events. Ward espoused a more systematic approach, where the fossil record itself was first examined in detail to see if extinctions happened slowly, in phases, or all at once (only the latter favoring an impact). The granddaddy of all mass extinctions, the Permian extinction, was a study target for both Ward and the impact crowd. In the Permian event, almost 90% of species died. To find the cause of this event would garner much fame. Thus, when the impact folks thought they found their crater, they promptly reported to the press the extinction had been solved. The fossil data said otherwise. Ward's wonderfully written book Gorgon discusses this particular debate in more depth, but the short story is the crater turned out to be the wrong age by several million years, and the fossil record indicated waves of extinctions over a short period of time.

If not an impact, what could have made so many things die so quickly? Here's where global warming enters the picture. When carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas levels were indirectly measured (via isotope ratios in rocks and counting stomata in fossil leaves), it was found a greenhouse event did take place at the end of the Permian, and also at the end of the Triassic (the first part of the "age of the dinosaurs"). Okay, so it got warm and stuffy, but so what? Don't reptiles like the heat? Heat, yes, noxious gases like hydrogen sulfide, no. It was the examination of ocean floor extinctions that finally completed the picture. In impacts like the Cretaceous-Tertiary event, things in the upper half of the ocean die, but not so much in the lower half. In the Permian and Triassic events, the opposite trend was seen; the extinctions started on the ocean floor. Also, dark bands in the rocks signaled the presence of anoxic bacteria in deep water.

Ordinarily, there is a conveyor belt running through all the oceans, both at the surface and at deep levels. The Gulf Stream is a famous part of this conveyor. Warm water moves toward the poles, then sinks down to the ocean floor and heads back towards the equator. This deep water, having come from the surface in polar regions, is well oxygenated. In previous global warming events such as the Permian and Triassic, changes in atmospheric gases were enough to stop the conveyor. With no oxygenated water on the ocean floor, everything there died and anoxic bacteria took over. Ward posits these bacteria produced large amounts of hydrogen sulfide (the gas made by rotten eggs), which then burped up to the surface in large bubbles. Ward and his colleagues calculated there was plenty enough of this nasty gas to account for the extinctions. The scary thing is how fast the conveyor stops. In a matter of decades, the climate can significantly alter, and within a hundred years extinction is the order of the day.

Which brings us to the present. Thanks to us tool-pushing primates, carbon dioxide levels are rising precipitously, setting up circumstances very similar to those seen before. And when those circumstances arose, really bad things happened. Ward closes Under a Green Sky with three hypothetical scenarios for the future, based in part on past occurrences. In the first, we get our act together and cut emissions drastically. If we can keep atmospheric CO2 below 450 ppm (parts per million) come the year 2100, things will get a bit warmer and some ice will melt, but otherwise we should largely be okay. However, this is unlikely, as the current level is 360 ppm (and rising at 2 ppm per year), and much of the world is industrializing as fast as it can, which may push the rate of increase to 4 ppm per year. In scenario two, Ward assumes we hit CO2 levels of 700 ppm by the year 2100. Sea level will have risen several feet, the ocean conveyor will have recently shut down triggering climatic changes, resulting in massive numbers of refugees. In scenario three, Ward assumes year 2100 CO2 levels of 1,100 ppm. Earth would be 10 degrees Celsius warmer. All of the world's ice would be melting, and much of the world's population displaced by rising waters. The conveyor would have shut down decades earlier, and signs of deep ocean anoxic bacteria beginning to show. Due to changes in the atmosphere, the sky would be turning a sickly shade of green. The sixth great mass extinction would be underway.

What makes this such a terrifying book is it isn't based on theoretical mathematics. Rapid increases in greenhouse gases have shut down the ocean conveyor several times before, resulting in severe climate change and mass extinction. If Ward's analysis is correct, we know what caused it and we know how to make it not happen again. The question is: can we save us from ourselves?

Perhaps if people read Under a Green Sky and tell their friends about it, we might have a chance. Many people are apathetic about global warming because the press concentrates on superficial metrics like mean temperature and sea levels rising a few feet. So we grow oranges in Alaska, who cares? Peter Ward offers a reason why we should all care, and right now.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

*Farting Thatcher in The Green Room.

This vintage Spitting Image figure has pride of place on our front window. Priced at £12, so I don’t expect that we will have it for too long. It’s next to a Bush Inauguration badge “Hail to the Thief”


We have just received a new batch of the wonderful Peruvian jewellery. It’s all hand-made and contains real gemstones. We sell the necklaces for £9 and the ear-rings for £3. They come in various colours like the one in the photo above.

Friday, 4 July 2008

* Do you know a Green Corner?

Londoners whose green corners make the capital a brighter, greener and healthier place to live and also enrich its biodiversity are invited to enter their little piece of green heaven for a London’s Green Corners Award 2008.

Anyone in Greater London is welcome to enter their green corner as long as it is visible to someone other than its owner. Ordinary front or back gardens do not qualify.

No space is too small and imaginatively planted window boxes, courtyards, stairwells, basements, roof gardens and whole streets are eligible. Neighbours and passers-by are encouraged to put forward a green corner that brightens their day – and will receive a bottle of champagne if their nomination is successful.

Deadline: Monday 14 July 2008

Thursday, 3 July 2008

*Green presidential candidate freed after 6 years in captivity.

Great news on the release of Ingrid Betancourt. She was the founder of the Columbian Green Party and was captured while campaigning for the Columbian presidency.

It’s a bit peculiar that the Green Party is never mentioned by the press when they report this story.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

*Climate more urgent than economy, say voters

From Today's Guardian

Voters think that taking action against climate change matters more than
tackling the global economic downturn, according to a poll published today.

The results, which will delight green campaigners, suggest
that support for environmental action is not collapsing as feared in the
face of possible recession.

When asked whether tackling the environment or the economy - given global
economic problems - should be the government's priority, 52% said the
environment and 44% said the economy. That contradicts the widespread
assumption that environmental issues are seen by voters as a luxury to be
put aside in tough economic times.

Today's poll also throws into question whether the environment is an issue
that only matters to richer, southern voters. Although women are more likely
than men to place the environment ahead of the economy as an issue - 55% of
women say it is a priority, against 49% of men - support for action is
strong across all ages, regions and social groups.

Far from being the greenest part of the population, middle-class voters are
actually more sceptical than most about the need for action, perhaps because
they fear they have more to lose from increased bills and taxes. Voters in
the richest AB group are the only ones to place the economy ahead of the
environment as a government priority: 50% say the economy and 47% the

There is also no evidence that the environment is an issue that matters more
to young people. Pensioners are almost as likely as people aged 18-24 to say
climate change should be the government's priority.