Saturday, June 25, 2016

Brexit - it is really all over ?

Greens hate the idea of further capitalist globalisation, but know that is a small problem compared with the loss of our planetary environmental support system. This is not a scare tactic - we have been saying this for decade on decade, only now do the other parties even realise there is a question to ask - they have not gone any real way towards providing a set of answers.

The Brexit vote for a Green was like having to chose between two children and hope the one you lose can cope better that the other child by itself. We can deal with globalisation only if we can still breathe - staying in lets us debate those issues from the inside - where we geographically and meteorologically exist anyway.  Please forgive my generalisations and remember that the details of the facts are less relevant than the power with with they are shouted. This isn't an easy question and yet we have to give an easy answer - that can never be fully right - we have to make a version of Sophie's choice.

This can be changed. Generalisations are forced by 'democracy' and made far worse by the two party, first past the post system. Reality is, people are individuals - politics ignores this almost totally at the moment. The Green Party has been held back for years by doing its best to not generalise and so gets very little actually decided. I think Jeremy Corbyn would fit in well once he starts think about the environment. That difficulty in facing up to the yes/no aspects of 'democracy' is in part why the Green Party has a 'Philosophical basis' as a central part of its manifestos.

As a very part time politician, I am delighted and at the same time deeply saddened at the reasons for the massive political wake up caused by the Brexit referendum. I keep reading wonderful comments from people I have never heard say anything even faintly 'political' before. To me 'Politics' is the word that describes how we can decide the future - and as such everyone should spend all their time learning enough to be sure they can be democratic and vote with anything other than a knee jerk response . This is obviously impossible, impractical and a rotten way to live - you'd never get anything done. So, we pick people to do that for us and trust them. When a few of them take personal advantage they destroy our trust in all of them. This is neither just nor true, but it is totally understandable. The public made a choice but now regret it - or so it looks to me.

This is not the end of Britain in Europe quite yet however. From the administrative angle alone the practicalities of the actual work required to remake 40 years of negotiations after an exit may cause it to be abandoned. From the view of the public it could well be they now see the lies too late and have actually changed their minds. At the time of writing over two and a three quarter million people want another vote.

I know we clever humans can and shall make anything work - eventually - but it was not obvious how damaging an exit would be in so many ways. As I write, Article 50 has not been passed through Parliament. An potentially altered public attitude can be gauged from the details of the petition at . In this remarkable and one-off scenario the result of the referendum has been even more dramatically opposed than was the result of last General Election. This is possibly because far more people - about double the last turnout voted. A new election we could expect to have a similarly enlarged turnout.

This petition was started before the vote and the wording states - whichever way the vote goes - 75% should have voted and the difference should be 60/40 - not sour grapes, Farage said the same - once. A new petition asking for a free vote on ratifying Article 50 is at the checking stage at the moment. It can be found at .

Our very system is flawed. It is only a true democracy when people actually know what they are voting about and they have been checking Google in their thousands like never before. I am basically saying - people have changed their minds now they can see they have been lied to or have misunderstood what they heard. A second chance is fair - that is what democracy should be - but is not fair when the facts are either hidden or are lied about.

This second bite petition has the power to stop ratification of Article 50. It is unique, as was the referendum in that it has been held at a time when people can actually get the information they need in order to come to a decision - but - we are all new to this game.

A second referendum would most certainly be binding and it is essential if we value democracy.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Brexit - how to make the best of a bad vote.

Right folks. How can we make this work ? Jenny Jones's comments obviously come to mind. I did not hear any Green say that her views were wrong, just that, because they did not match with what Conference had decided she should keep quiet about them. One of her major points is that Greens are and have always been firmly against Globalisation - of industry, the economy and commerce in general. The not opposing Remain argument put greater weight on the environmental and social aspects of staying within the EU - which has always been an economic grouping and not an environmental one - despite the best efforts of very many Euro Greens. All their work and that of so many other groups that have been aimed at correcting that error are now in terrible danger of being wasted. But, we should now remember that they were the best we could do from the position we were in then. Now we have moved.

We always wanted, needed and campaigned for an environmental union and we can still have that - now freed from the commercial concerns imposed by having to meet the ever more difficult problems of equating different countries and societies in the pretence of them being a single entity. Environmentally the world is indeed one place and every action one group makes has an impact on many if not all others, we have always known that and now the people have chosen to have our collective noses rubbed in the realities of our similarities and differences.

Now that the UK, for as long as it can be called United, is cutting itself away from financial ties with Europe, it shall have to run on a wartime system - living with vastly reduced imports. Land will have to be put in to food production and people shall be needed to tend the processes. Raw materials will be in short supply too, but, the UK, like all 21st century economies has generated huge quantities of waste and these can be recovered and reused - probably at a far lower eventual cost than would be expended rebuilding infrastructure to cope with the as yet utterly unpredictable import export systems that must now be redeveloped. There could be a maximum of only two years in which to do this, possibly far less time than that. Greens know what to do, we have been trying to get societies to be self sufficient for decades. Now, the UK has forced itself in that direction this is a great opportunity if approached correctly. Produce locally. Consume locally. Export only what the rest of the world can not make, import only what the UK can not make.

And now the good news. We all need water, food, space and resources to sustain life and the quality of life we have come to expect and hope for. Too often in the past these have been won through invasion and wars. Today though things have moved on. The last few decades of planet wide technological and social growth and unification of information and scientific effort have resulted in exponential increases in the capability of every technology humanity has to hand - and has even created the probability of artificial assistance - Robotics. These changes are no shock to anyone who has been watching, but most people have not had the time, they have work to do, they leave that sort of thing rightly to elected representatives to do that job while they get on with their's. This 'Leave' vote tells politicians that the public thinks they have been caught with their hands in the till - sleeping or partying on the job. The Public has spoken and said - enough - we deserve better. Well, Greens are better.

Win Win ? No - the transition could be dreadfully painful. That is why the Green Party did not advocate it in the first place. We knew how hard it would be, we feared the xenophobia that could result from a 'them and us' 'Leave' vote, but hey, you asked for it, now here it comes. It's the job of the Greens to reunite a shattering country in to sustainable - environmental self sufficient small groups that can work together country and planet wide for the benefit of everyone and every thing.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Econonics, a possibly niave view and my reason for keeping it.

When I was a school kid, I didn't like being a kid and I hated school. I particularly hated lessons that forced-fed me facts with no explanation of the reasons for them or the basic principles underlying their working. What, I thought, was the point in cutting open a dead frog to see what's inside when it had been done thousands of times before - and where the answers for what I should find had been set in stone anyway - so, that if I saw anything different, I would be 'wrong' rather than heralded as the new discoverer of something 'right'. In maths, lessons apparently taught me calculus, but, maybe I missed the one in which the teacher told me why I should bother with it. Having no idea what it could do, I saw no reason to learn it - also - I had no way of getting to grips with a slippery customer which had no association to any reality I already new. Also, it was hard!

I had been a late reader too. My first school books were 'Janet and John' stories in which two utterly dull kids went to a toy shop or a butcher's or somewhere else boring and did boring things like saying ' Oh, what a lovely balloon' and suchlike. Why on earth would I want to read that? The pictures told me what was going on - and nothing was - so there was no point in deadening my mind with the small black wiggly things under the boring illustrations.

My Mother thought otherwise. She read me 'Winnie the Pooh' stories - these had brilliant drawings which set the scene rather than tell the whole plot in one go. She did all the voices and everything too, and, she recorded them on tape so I could listen whenever I wanted. Reel to Reel tapes by the way, on a 'Gramdeck' as we could not afford a real tape recorder - it was the very early 1960s after all. So, that way I learned there was good stuff in books after all, but, it was all on tape - so again - no point in my learning to read.

My Mother caught on to this one rather quickly. The 'Cat in the Hat' came next. Again, brilliant, but totally different - and this time colour - illustrations, surreal and inviting imagination. The poetry was enticing too. I liked the feel of the words and spoke them along with my Mother's reading - that way I went on to read them myself. My next book was 'Escape from Planet Earth', a hardback with no pictures.

I found I could learn. Physics was a great love, as was anything technological. Things I could use and trust and test. Things that would lead somewhere new and exciting or improve what I already had - wonderful. French did not come in to that realm at all. I asked why I had to learn that and was told that one day I may want to go there. I pointed out I wouldn't. because I didn't speak the language - and the lesson ended and never returned. That was in primary school though, I had no such luck at my 'English Grammar School'.

I had just about passed my 11 plus exam and had been reluctantly let in to the painfully local school for boys. I did not get on well. I never really understood that School then was a place to learn answers not ask questions - so I learned nothing and got told off. Except for Physics and Technology where I made personal friends of the teachers. `

I was also on very good terms with the Art master and the English master. The first chap made fun of me in a way I could respect - the first time that ever happened. The second chap let me join the 'Stage Staff'. There I learned how to get on with people who liked the same things I did - oddly, tape recorders.

This was my early school life. I learned what I felt was important or interesting and ignored anything and everything that left me cold. I did try and work up an ability to pass exams, but to no effect. If I could not check the answer or understand and appreciate how it was achieved, then I had no way to remember it. This was a very slow way to learn and it showed in my marks.

Economics was a different matter, it was an odd half way house. I could see a mechanism and understand the importance of being able to match supply with demand butI did not see the moral reason for increasing the price by reducing the supply when demand was high, and I still don't. In fact, I took a degree of offense from that sort of thinking and said so, in effect, in the answers I gave in a multiple choice exam.

My Maths understanding was broken by the lack of an explanation of it's values, but I had a grasp of percentages. I knew that a random set of answers to questions with three options would get me a 33.3333% mark on average sort of thing. When it came to the exam, I scored 4%. I think I was a Green from that point on, at least 96% green.

The teacher told my parents that I should read newspapers to learn how the real world worked, but I think I knew that his idea of the real world didn't actually work at all - it was just consuming it's candle at both ends and in the middle to burn brightly enough to blind observers to the fact that it was all going to be 'up' as soon as it ran out of wax. My opinion has not changed. Some may, and do, call me naive for this way of thinking. They do so often enough for me to have almost learned how to spell the word 'naive' without looking it up first, but, I see no reason to change my world view.

Another part of Maths that didn't pass me by was subtraction. You can't keep taking away from a fixed number without it going negative. I wonder what my old economics master would say to that.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Once was enough. (Why I never voted Conservative again.)

I was brought up in a conservative household, in that my Mother was Conservative and my Father was quiet - he was actually an active liberal, then he was a reluctant LibDem, but not overtly at home. Politics was never mentioned unless it was by my Mother , saying something to the television about the Labour bloke who was on at the time. The socialist government's policies had destroyed her father's building firm in the 1970s - so she still hates them all.

My Mother's influence also explains why I was never a Labour man, even though I failed at school and started working at 17. I joined the Post Office, the telecoms section - soon to be called BT, but then mostly still called the GPO - at least that's what the crockery said in the staff canteens. It was not the job I wanted. I was still too young to join the BBC and my Father in television engineering production, although I tried. I turned up for work at the 'Post Office' in my Harris Tweed jacket and was instantly ostracised. They thought I was a management spy - hardly acting incognito - but, I was obviously different, especially when I opened my mouth. I also had a disturbing tendency to read 'Soviet Weekly' as it had the only coverage I could find of the Soviet space programme. I was not well suited for the job.

I got on well though, I could do it, twisting wires together, warming my feet in a 'foot box' under a red and white striped workman's tent with a blowtorch - melting my socks in winter. The men I worked with, they were all male, continually tested me - often in groups - asking questions about who the heck I was and what on earth was I doing with them. I answered as honestly as I could - and got on very well indeed with everyone - until I started working in the Post Office Tower. There the staff felt that I was a threat and treated me somewhat badly. I did not get on well there, but I did get old enough to enter the BBC - so I did.

Oddly, the Beeb was worse. People never asked me who I was at all, never bothered to talk to or interact with me in any way other than to do with the job at hand. Not nice. Depressing - far more off-putting than the initial open hostility at the Post Office. That, I could and did address. The silent treatment gave me nothing and no one to work with.

This was the class system at work, not that I realised it at the time. Politics went with class then, so I sort of fell in to voting Conservative. She was a nice lady and it would be a good thing to have a woman prime minister we all thought, so I voted Conservative. "Rounding up rather than rounding down' was my thinking. Better to raise everyone as high as possible than lower everyone to the same level - that was my view of the difference between the 'two' parties.

This was the time of the first economic depression of my experience. At the time I thought I was unaffected by it, I had my own home and a job for life, what else was there, I was even married. But, every time I watched TV ( which was basically my job ) I saw a world different from what I had been told it was. I saw something else in the alternative comedy shows - humour - intelligence , hope for change, anger at inequality, repression, the 'status quo' ( who I never thought much of, I'm more of an Orchestral chap ). I began to feel uneasy. All the jokes were against 'my' party. Mrs T's voice had got deeper and more strident ( after her vocal training I later learned ). I didn't like her any more, and I did like Not the Nine O'clock News - a lot. I even worked on it from time to time. I even thought up a sketch and got it accepted by the show - which was then cancelled.

I had a nagging feeling of being wrong about things, of being a problem to the world rather than living in it. This was uncomfortable. Then, I realised what the problem was - I was part of it - being me, I could change me, or at least my view of the world. As it turned out, I didn't change much at all. The only thing I did differently was put a cross in another place - at least to start with. I felt so much better being on the right side of everything - right as in correct. I had no need to continually find self justification for an increasing difficult to support world view that I had inherited from my Tory past. I in no way changed what I thought and felt about people and life in general, I just realised that the party I had voted for was not supportive of anything I wanted to be a part of. I did not and do not reject the levelling up rather than down argument I started out with, I just noticed that the policies I had supported in no way were aimed at supporting that goal. I looked around for something that did what it said both on it's tin and in my heart - and I found the Green Party.

There was a TV audience / Vox pops thing back then. Julian Pettifer was the host. John Sergeant, the then BBC Chief political correspondent was the chief guest  - I was also there, at the back, in long hair and sandals (probably) after having stood in the recent General Election. The first half of the show went off smoothly, but the second half got taken over by some invited audience member who basically talked a lot and incited loud arguments and uncontrolled rowdiness. It was clear to me that the second half of the show was a write-off, and it was redone. On take Two, I was asked to pose the question I had come to deliver "How long will it take for the News Media to treat the Green Party in the same way as the Conservatives and Labour parties ?" - well, that was the gist of it. Possibly to stop a recurrence of the uproar in take one, John Sergeant took the rest of the show up in a very lengthy answer. basically he said -'60 years, that's how long it took the Labour Party to reach government after it's inception. Well, that was over a quarter of a century ago now and the Greens had been going for twenty years or so already by then. On his reckoning, we shall be in power during the government after this next one.

I think we can do better than that.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Why is the 'West' hated ?

Well, for a start, most of the West is loved or at least tolerated by most of the rest of the world, but it is the point of this piece to claim that the bits that are not adored and emulated are the very bits the Green Party is seeking to change. Put it another way, terrorism would not be incited by a Greened up West.

My claim is based on my perspective on world views as held by people other than me. That is a tough job to do, but one that everyone should attempt before deciding on the justification of any 'war' - hot or cold.

This Green Party supporter's idea of a non greenies subconscious view of the world is one where people go about their daily lives unaware of their impact on the environment - unable or indeed unwilling to do anything about it. Lack of interest or engagement forms most of the inability of the West to change, a solid and determined desire for power - to keep 'business as usual going for as long as possible - forms the rest, the most influential section. Sadly, that final part controls or owns the infrastructure , both physical and legal that runs our world.

This is not a blame game. The lot in charge have been responsible for the massive gains in freedoms and opportunities that all the people of the west have benefitted from for so long. We love our way of life and have no intention of changing it, certainly not because someone somewhere else doesn't like it. It really puts our backs up if the outsiders start doing anything about their grievances. Terrorism is not nobel, exciting, or in anyway acceptable - but it does have a cause. My contention is that this very cause is the thing that Greens see as dooming us all. In one word, it is Growth.

Growth needs two things, space and resources. For centuries, the strong have inherited everything the weak have had to offer - because they can. This has worked fantastically well for the strong, us. It even strengthened the otherwise weak, or at least convinced them that they where second or third class world citizens. They were told by their stronger 'betters' that they could and should work hard to improve themselves - by emulating us.

In ancient history, civilisations had survived and grown to the point where things leveled out nicely, not too few people to do the work, not so many that there was not enough to eat. Presumably life was good, comfortable and people could be happy living it, but it didn't grow. Now, add a few wolves to that contented herd and you will get quite a few very angry sheep. OK, a sheep can't take down a wolf, but a bunch of them could be very nasty to a few unprotected cubs.

Rome worked in rather the same way as the west today. Looking back at what happened to them gives us an idea of the future of the 'West' Rome was supported by slaves but a slave could rise to great heights and some did, but most could not. There were a limited number of spaces for freed slaves and lots of work for the rest to do, so there was only one carrot and a very large number of sticks. Today is the same, but there are more carrots - not an unlimited number of spaces, however the trick still works because everyone really believes 'it could be you' and so 'keeps calm and carries on'.

This fuels Growth. Growth is good, the alternative is death - or so we teach. The Roman Empire faded away as their resources failed to support the increased demands, but there were a lot of bangs and even more whimpering on its way out. Rome just had to keep growing, if it had been happy with what it had, it could still be around now.

Rome knew nothing else and it was not alone. Napoleon had to invade Moscow, so did Hitler - all in the name of growth ( but they called it 'living room' ). The goal of growth was the downfall of all of them. Resources ran out and nature got its own back.

We can yet escape this trap by recognising their error. The alternative to growth is not death, it is sustainability. That does not mean ossification, we can still have novelty, luxury, great advances in everything - but - not at the expense of space or resources - these have to be shared and re-used, reclaimed and redistributed so everyone has a go - or, and this is the main bit, the weak will get strong and take it from us.

The threats and the solutions:-

The only way to be safe from unprovoked attack is to ensure you don't have anything an attacker may want - the way to ensure total safety is not to do anything provocative.

Proper resource distribution addresses that first point. Science and technology, although not a panacea, do offer us the chance to continually improve our way of life and - when shared openly with anyone who wants it - give the same to everyone else too. That would negate our need for defence systems - quite a saving.

For the second point, we in the west have no intention of provoking others although we do it every day. We don't even know anyone else exists - we are 'Little England' and the rest of the world is just where we dump old stuff and get new stuff from. In a green future, we could be just as insular, but we would create nothing that needed dumping and would need nothing more from the outside than we had already inside. Ukip supporters should love that - total isolation until the summer holidays.

What would we do with our time ? Go and explore space - or learn new things, or learn old things - that will be up to the individual, but I'm sure someone somewhere would still be angry about something. We should be strong enough to let them shout.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

How I live without a car.

Cars, I have never liked cars, in fact I'd go so far as to say I actively hate the things. They have been a bane of my life for as long as I can remember - which is a long time. I am sick of them and sick in them, their time has come and I long to be rid of them.

My family never had a car and frankly I grew up never being indoctrinated in to the automatic use of such a thing to get about. Nor did I ever feel the need to move from a perfectly good bedroom to somewhere else just because we had a car sitting outside costing the earth and otherwise doing nothing. I learned to like what i had where I had it. This resulted in a somewhat isolated youth time for me, but, as my experiences of the outside my bedroom world were often if not always at least poor with respect to staying put, I didn't have a lot of offers to leave it.
I did have friends, the chap next door, later the boy who sat next to me in class, that was all I needed for 17 or so years, it was most certainly all I wanted and possibly all I could cope with too, but, the upshot was - I never needed a car. The shops were within walking distance, the school which i disliked - was far too close for comfort, the bus stop was at the end of the road. That was me sorted.

In my past 17 years though, things changed. I discovered qualities in the outside world worthy of my investigation and then my deep love. The Royal Albert Hall and the BBC Proms that they held each year drew me annually for eight weeks away from home. I had by then started work and so leaving my bedroom daily was no longer a school only event. Work required me to travel, but, public transport provided all the destinations I ever needed and walking filled in the gaps. Promming taught me to stand for long periods and partly due to the hours I spent waiting to get in to the hall every day I began to dislike having to wait still longer for the tube home. It was about then that I decided to cycle.

I was good at bike riding, I seldom forgot what to do and even though I had managed not to develop any semblance of a sense of direction I also seldom got lost. I worked out a route and stuck to it rigidly. This was fine for years and years. Then one day, while picking myself up from the pavement where I had just been forced by a car, I did a mental calculation. I realised that on average I was caused to fall off my bike, either by direct contact or by attempting to avoid it, by cars, once every six months. Up to that point I had not ben killed even once, not had I broken anything less painful than skin, but I could see the writing in the road - in drips of blood - and I stopped and went back to the bus and tube.
Basically, I have never returned to two wheels. I had never enjoyed using them, mostly because too many other people were almost chemically hooked on using four. From my vantage point, car driving has become an addiction - justified by lifestyles that could have been arranged to avoid that justification. If I could manage it, so could everyone else I thought. But...

... I have learned better. As a Green, and as a thinking Green, i have changed my attitude - not greatly mind you, but I have had to accept what should have been obvious. If I can do it, I take the space from someone else thus stopping them doing it. Putting it differently - if I get a big job, even if someone else could do it, they can't because I already have it. The ability to live a car - free life is like that. If I live close enough to work, I'm using up a place others could live in. OK, I got there first, but I can't argue that 'If I can do it, then so can you' because I have no intention of stopping. Dead man's shoes...

The solution? I always want a solution, more shoes, more busses, more tubes. Reduce the need to travel, reduce the need for road transport of pointless goods, improve the quality of local life so people don't want to escape from what they have and go to someone else's potentially greener land. Going to a green place makes it brown all too often anyway. Far better to make your local brown bits greener and enjoy them.

Then, once this has all been done, transport for fun - in what ever way you like, will be fun once more - and fun for as many people who want to enjoy it. I am told the M4 is not often considered enjoyable, even though many people do it every day. How much better will it be when travel is done for pleasure and not out of necessity ?

A greened-up world shall allow this.

Is the world over populated ? Should we have kids ?

It is an often ignored fact that everything has its limits. The maximum size of the human population for this planet is just one of these, but, what the population does has a far more immediate impact on ecology than the number of people doing it.

As I see it, almost none of the population has any real idea of the environmental impact caused by simply living their daily lives. People seldom look at their footprints and nearly always disregard what they have trodden on. So, if some enlightened government made that disregarded impact far less damaging, then people could go on living very much the way they are and the ecology of the planet could recover.

The only global consensus that would be required is for a common understanding that there are problems with limits - and that taking someone else's resources is not acceptable. The need for trade itself will be greatly reduced by the massively reduced need for resources enabled by being Green. The ending of planned obsolescence, the introduction of a repair and rebuild culture and a general lowering of demand for new things being replaced by a demand for new or better experiences are just some of the innumerable methods that shall have to be used globally and locally, as appropriate to local conditions.

Global trade is important for the quality of life, far less important is the quantity of stuff in that life. Trade should bring novelty not 'coals to Newcastle'. The quantity of exports and GDP etc has nothing to do with real lives other than via money. We can cut out all of that and the associated trade sanctions by making the reasons for them irrelevant. For example, using renewable power would kill off the oil barons / countries / industries - not the people who work for them as by then there would be enough stuff properly distributed to go round.

It is not the job of all Green Party members to have all the answers. The odd person may have a partial answer, and when enabled by a Green government they may find the rest of an answer from someone else - no mater who that person votes for. A Green government should not claim to have all the answers either - but should empower people to find answers by asking the right questions - ensuring the search is going in the right direction.

Slowly, as people begin to feel safe, and as the level of education - for blue sky thinking or just personal interest and personal growth increases, the birth rate falls. This is an established interaction seen all over the world, there is no reason to think it will fail now. Thus, population first levels off - then falls.

There are problems with this picture - firstly that it all takes too long and resource wars break out before people learn how to sew or run their 3d printers. Solution - go in to space - mine stuff up there - have your wars up their if you really must. Climb to the Moon and Mars rather than invade some other part of the Earth.

Secondly, the powers that be want to keep being in power and so continue to stop a green surge pushing them out. The solution there is already happening. The powers that be are powers partly because they are lead by intelligent ( hidden ) thinkers who are totally aware of the planets limit. They have been working and planning for almost as long as Greens for what to do in the future. They have been waiting until the last moment to do it so as to get the maximum value from their infrastructures - but now they know that time has run out and they are changing. Possibly they judge that right time to go Green by public reaction, whatever the reason - it is happening. Cars are being built that run on renewable energy, Oil companies are greening their images, China is advancing solar cell technology, US residents are making algae grown in their back yards power their homes.  It's all happening folks !

None of the above is either utopian or outside our current technological ability. It's all a matter of the social will - and this week's massive membership rise further supports me in thinking that having my kids was a great idea - they are both Green Party members.