Category Archives: Environment
The mediation skills of union organisers are valuable. Steve Turner (left), Assistant General Secretary (AGS) of Unite the Union, played a leading role in the successful Cabin Crew dispute (2010/11) with British Airways, when he was National Officer for Civil Aviation.
He was at the forefront of successful negotiations to resolve disputes involving oil tanker drivers and London bus workers during the London Olympic games and Northampton Hospital Workers, locked out in 2014.
Turner led a delegation of Unite workers to Washington and Montreal as part of the 2017/18 successful campaign to safeguard UK jobs; these were threatened by the US Department of Commerce’s proposal to place tariffs of 300% on Bombardier C-series passenger jets during the firm’s dispute with Boeing,
Turner now asks why our government and many private-sector corporations show no faith in our homegrown skills and products.
As we now look to build back, he stresses that this is the opportunity to repair, recover and rebuild with manufacturing at the heart of a new, greener, transitioning economy.
See “Rebuilding after Recession – a Plan for Jobs” : a just transition to a zero carbon economy TUC report “Rebuilding after Recession – a Plan for Jobs” report.
A Hockley Agro UK article asked if lockdown has permanently changed attitudes to British farming. It pointed out that when demand soars in a crisis and global supply chains are frustrated, having food available locally is of paramount importance. Locally grown food creates important economic opportunities, provides health benefits and helps to reduce environmental impact. Eating what is produced here in the UK is key to reducing food miles and avoiding unnecessary packaging. It ends:
“Producing food within our shores is vital to support the economy, help maintain high levels of animal welfare, control sustainability and assist in improving soil heath. To suggest an end to agriculture as an industry would mean an end to large agricultural employers and local family farms alike”.
Camilla Hodgson reports that the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has warned the UK would run out of food in just seven months if it relied solely on homegrown produce. Self-sufficiency in food has stagnated with government figures showing that Britain produced only 61% of its own food in 2017, a rate in long-term decline.
“The statistics show a concerning long-term decline in the UK’s self-sufficiency in food and there is a lot of potential for this to be reversed. And while we recognise the need for importing food which can only be produced in different climates, if we maximise on the food that we can produce well in the UK then that will deliver a whole host of economic, social and environmental benefits to the country. Home-grown food production must have the unwavering support of Government if we are to achieve this post-Brexit.”
Richard Harvey Owston, Rutland who founded Manor Farm Feeds in 1986, asks if the UK really wants to become totally dependent on imported food at a time when we are witnessing a worldwide trade war led by the power-hungry leaders of the major nations.
He fears that, although our politicians are paying lip service to the future support of food production, ‘the small print indicates otherwise’.
This fear, expressed today by the FT’s editorial, will not be shared by some, who see globalisation as ”another version of colonialism or imperialism – with Amazons, Facebooks and Googles, Nikes and the garment industry in many aspects of their conduct as more acceptable looking British or Dutch East India companies” (reader’s comment).
Manila port ‘bursting at the seams’ in the Philippines on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Read more here.
Following an FT report of drops in rail freight and containerised exports from the UK of as much as 50 to 60% while imports are also declining, its editorial points out that supply chain disruptions and struggles to obtain medical supplies, have accelerated calls for countries and trading blocs to ensure they have sufficient capacity at home — prioritising resilience over producing goods where it is cheapest.
The US trade representative, last week hailed the end of “reflexive offshoring” (NY Times, log in) and in the EU Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, wants government grants, loans and direct intervention to build up European supply capacity.
The FT editorial points out that, in shifting manufacturing jobs out of rich countries and into poorer ones, globalisation reduced poverty in the developing world and prices in the rich ones.
But those working in these sweatshops (a small section of a sweatshop in Karnataka is shown above) still live in poverty and cramped conditions, working far from home in unhealthier conditions than the subsistence agriculture (Karnataka below) which was formerly their lot.
The low prices for their products in rich countries have encouraged a wasteful throwaway culture there, which has added to the waste mountains
The editorial also admits that millions in the ‘rich countries’ lost their jobs in the process, and lost the sense of pride and ownership people felt in their once thriving communities.
But the FT asserts that global supply chains and co-operation are a source of resilience, allowing countries to focus on their strengths and share expertise.
“Spreading people and factories around the world allows companies to guard against risks by diversifying”:
But it has also broken family circles and communities, increased deforestation and reduced the amount of land available for food production
“There will be higher prices and lost export markets”
But higher prices (due to higher wages) will mean a greater market for local goods and better tax revenues. A reduction in exports will lead to a great reduction in transport-related greenhouse gases.
“The direct cost to the taxpayer of subsidising domestic production . . . will make (economies) more fragile, not less”
But huge subsidies are currently given by government to foreign water, energy and transport utilities (including nuclear projects and fossil fuel producers) working in this country, to arms manufacturers and other exporters. That money could be redirected to domestic production which would reduce welfare payments and transport-related pollution.
It can be argued that a knockout blow is long overdue and that purposeful employment created by import substitution and Green New Deal projects might, in time, bring about an environmentally aware, low-crime, harmonious and employment-rich society.
COVID-19 bulletin 25: XR calls on government to adopt a climate-friendly economic plan in the recovery period
Worldwide media are reporting that socially distanced Extinction Rebellion climate activists placed more than 2,000 pairs of children’s shoes in rows across London’s Trafalgar Square on Monday.
The shoes were donated by people across the city and will be given to Shoe Aid following the action.
The activists are calling on the British government to stop bailing out carbon intensive industries that pollute the environment and adopt a climate-friendly economic plan in the recovery period following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) so children and young people aren’t left to face a deeper crisis.
Poppy Silk, a 19-year-old activist from Extinction Rebellion, which wants non-violent civil disobedience to force governments to cut carbon emissions and avert a climate crisis, bringing starvation and social collapse, says:
“Many young people feel suffocated by fear of what is to come, and now with this pandemic, maybe others will start to understand our fear for the future. Even whilst healing from the pandemic, we must move towards a green transition to prevent future crises.”
Since the coronavirus pandemic took over and some supermarket egg and flour shelves are still bare here – and in parts of America – there has been greater public awareness of the fragility of our food system.
An earlier post said: “After 50 years of unjust returns for perishable produce, the coronavirus is beginning to affect food imports, just as bombing and submarines did during the last war”.
As one article in Prospect magazine commented earlier this month, supermarkets currently dominate the retail sector, with the “Big Four” often lobbying together and using their significant bargaining power to push down prices paid to farmers.
It is widely quoted that in 2016, according to ‘official estimates’, producers on average received 9p for every pound spent in a supermarket, compared with 45-60 per cent of the money consumers spent on food in the 1950s.
Yasemin Craggs Mersinoglu reports that more farms have turned to home delivery services and a YouGov survey has found that three million people are trying box schemes or buying food from a local farm for the first time.
A Share of The Crop, a veg box supplier which sources produce from southeast England, received a year’s worth of additional orders during a single week in March.
Lauren Simpson, a farmer based in West Wales, hopes that this shift to local food will create a fair transition into a more sustainable food system.
She is a member of the Landworkers Alliance which is lobbying for the government to build a shock-resistant food system.
An emergency support fund for small farms during the pandemic, would be followed by provision of grants to new entrants to the industry, citing the need to grow more food in the UK and further assistance to create local supply chains, processing facilities and distribution networks.
To these measures should be added promotion of the Ripple Farm model: good practice which attracts reliable local workers (right):
- holiday pay,
- sick pay
- good protective clothing
- year-round employment five days a week,
- job rotation: a hard stint outdoors in the morning, balanced by a less arduous indoor job in packing and admin in the afternoon.
Security: relying on imports or increasing the supply of home-grown food?
The government has consistently asserted that improving international trade relationships is the route to food security, but, as climate instability and Covid-19 have shown, the UK is vulnerable to global political, economic and public health challenges.
Yasemin concludes that short supply chains, with veg boxes and comparable schemes supplying fresh fruit, dairy and poultry, are not only better for the environment — they also help small producers to get a fair price by enabling smallholder farmers and smaller-scale retailers to sell directly to members of the public. They are then in control, having direct support from their community, no longer harassed by overnight order changes by the big supermarkets.
Current trade negotiations: government is ‘presently’ not adjusting its food welfare and safety standards to align with the US
Last week Rachel Wearmouth reported that UK chief trade negotiator Oliver Griffiths, in a letter to his US counterpart, agreed that anyone given access to information about any agreement reached will be warned that they cannot share it with the public. Moreover, the information will be held in confidence for five years after a US-UK trade agreement enters into force, or five years after the close of negotiations – a proposal made during the failed TTIP negotiations between America and the EU.
The government said agreeing terms on confidential documents was standard practice and that negotiators had committed to updating the public after every round of talks.
Liz Truss, international trade secretary, is overseeing the UK-US negotiations.
Today, an FT article reports that Liz Truss (Department for International Trade) is preparing to offer a “big concession package” to US negotiators and drawing up plans to slash tariffs on US agricultural imports, despite concerns from some ministers and Conservative MPs about the damage they could cause to British farming.
This measure has divided Conservatives; it is said to be opposed by Cabinet office minister Michael Gove and environment secretary George Eustice, who is concerned that cheaper US goods may undercut UK farmers. The FT also reports that senior DEFRA figures are concerned that reducing tariffs could be “the thin end of the wedge”, leading to further UK concessions on animal welfare standards, but officials added that government was ‘presently’ not adjusting its food welfare and safety standards to align with the US.
Nick von Westenholz (above), director of EU exit and international trade at the National Farmers’ Union, said that any concessions UK negotiators give on market access must be accompanied by clear conditions on how those goods have been produced, in line with the government’s own red lines in trade negotiations, repeated in their 2019 election manifesto. The Tory pledge:
“In all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”
After reading: ‘It’s positively alpine!’: Disbelief in big cities as air pollution falls, he wrote: “It will be such a shame to go back to how it was! It’s a good thing to think of future generations. I fear they’ll look back at mine and think we were all criminals”.
Guterres says that the COVID-19 ‘Wake-Up Call’ Demands Recovery Built on Green Economy, Marking Earth Day 2020
Ben Chacko, editor of the Morning Star
As millions applaud NHS, care workers and formerly despised “key workers” from supermarket staff to couriers, the task facing us is to ensure there is no going back to “business as usual”. The workers keeping our country going should, in future, be given the pay, dignity and job security they have always deserved and the public services we rely on should never again be starved of resources or exposed to predatory privateers.
Celia Wright Sturminster Newton, Dorset
Local food: I hope the current situation results in more support for small retailers. Our local butchers and food shops offer products superior to those of supermarkets. In our north Dorset town, a dairy farmer has installed a milk station where we can purchase local milk – no plastic involved. It is wonderful.
As a Naturopath I believe it is the condition of the host that is paramount in avoiding illness so it seems to me that in a world in which quality of input either through diet, the mind, the emotions etc has been so lowered through the control of the food industry, the mass media, the pharmaceutical companies etc. it is no wonder Nature takes control. I am just reading the book ‘The Chemistry of Connection’ by Patrick Holford in which he concludes that health depends on being ‘connected’ to a larger universe, a higher power, your physical health, to others, to the environment and to society. I only hope when, and if things get back to normal there is a greater understanding of how to live and what is important.
Diana Schumacher, founder of the Schumacher Society and co-founder of the Environmental Law Foundation.
I hope that the society that emerges after this crisis will be wiser, kinder and more focused on community, local production and distribution systems, and with less reliance on outsourcing on short term economic grounds alone.
FT editorial: 3.4.20
“Radical reforms — reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades — will need to be put on the table. Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy. They must see public services as investments rather than liabilities, and look for ways to make labour markets less insecure. Redistribution will again be on the agenda; the privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question. Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix”.
George Morran, former Assistant Chief Executive Dudley MBC
The only good side of the pandemic is that it may open up minds to all sort of needs and result in individual and public change’.
Jan Ritchie Torquay, Devon.
Lockdown lessons – I have just been for my daily constitutional to Torquay seafront and round the harbour. Although this is always an attractive spot, I usually see cast-off takeaway cartons, coffee cups, cigarette butts and other detritus floating around, as well as a film of diesel from the boats. This time, however, the water was crystal clear – the cleanest I have seen it in the 40 years I have lived here, with not a bit of rubbish in either the inner or outer harbour. I’m sure many lessons will be learnt from this time, but let’s hope that one of them will be what we can all do to change our behaviour in order to benefit the environment around us.
Prof Joseph Stiglitz, economist, public policy analyst
If the pandemic leaves export-oriented economies facing long-term difficulties they will be forced into a total reassessment of the global supply chain. The pandemic has revealed the drawbacks of concentrating production of medical supplies. As a result, just-in-time imports will go down and production of domestically sourced goods will go up.
Martin Canavan, Castlewellan, NI
The Covid-19 emergency may paradoxically function as a catalyst for a final reckoning with capitalism, by ushering in a new collective ethic of social solidarity to end the tyranny of profit over people and the planet . . . The challenge for the broad left and green movements is to coalesce around an egalitarian agenda that can resist this turning-back of the clock and usher in a new world, a new society, a new humanity, a new way of being.
Marco Granelli, deputy mayor of Milan
Milan has been especially hard hit by the Covid-19 outbreak. Under the nationwide lockdown, motor traffic congestion has dropped by 30-75%, and air pollution with it. City officials hope to fend off a resurgence in car use as residents return to work looking to avoid busy public transport: “We worked for years to reduce car use. If everybody drives a car, there is no space for people, there is no space to move, there is no space for commercial activities outside the shops. Of course, we want to reopen the economy, but we think we should do it on a different basis from before. We think we have to reimagine Milan in the new situation”.
These ministers are calling for the European Green Deal to be put at the heart of the economic response to Covid-19: “We should begin to prepare ourselves to rebuild our economy and to introduce the necessary recovery plans to bring renewed, sustainable progress and prosperity back to Europe and its citizens”.
Mark Lewis, global head of sustainability research at BNP Paribas Asset Management
As oil prices crashed through zero, closing out the day at -$37 per barrel, an unprecedented meltdown, Lewis argues in the FT that we may have just witnessed the permanent peak in oil demand. Greater efficiency, more EVs and also permanent changes in behaviour stemming from the pandemic could add up to a peak in consumption.
Trevor Barker, Green Party activist
Hopefully a new mindset will evolve out of this crisis.
SynBioBeta: innovation network for biological engineers, investors, innovators and entrepreneurs
Like the rest of the world, the synthetic biology industry is undergoing a pivot during this unprecedented time. If there’s a silver lining to the pandemic, it’s pushing us all to change how we do things—and that’s for the best, because normal wasn’t good enough.#
“The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of long-distance, intercontinental supply chains, as governments around the world scramble to acquire large quantities of drugs and PPE”.
Some shortening of global supply chains is inevitable, according to the FT’s Philip Stephens, because the pandemic has exposed just how far even the richest nations are from strategic self-sufficiency
The Loadstar article records that Dr Samuel Roscoe (left), whose doctoral research was on developing environmentally and socially responsible capabilities in the supply network, spoke via video link to the House of Common’s select committee on international trade. He said that glaring gaps in the supply of some products should lead to the creation of parallel supply chains with the capacity to make drugs available in the UK in times like these: “It’s just good business sense – the longer the supply chain is, the more unresponsive it is”.
Arjun Kapur New York, NY, US Investment strategist (Comcast, Blackrock), in a letter to the FT’s editor, stated that, “Company leaders and world leaders would be wise to ditch their reliance on vulnerable supply chains in favour of more resilient, self-sufficient means of delivering health, economic, and business outcomes for their constituents and shareholders”.
Dr Roscoe’s outlook ranged further than financial and electoral self-seeking measures; he pointed out that government support to expand environmentally and socially responsible capacity in the UK will be needed; it won’t be cheap, but will further the government’s industrial strategy, create employment and make the country more self-sufficient.
President Emmanuel Macron’s translated interview with the FT’s new editor and its Paris bureau chief
“In this crisis enter a humanity where everything is fragmenting, where what we thought was worthless, becomes scarce and must be produced in other countries, and where we tell people they can’t even cross the street. It’s a profound change, from which we will all come out different”.
Global trade and the use of container ships increased from the 1960s to the 1990s, followed by the globalisation of finance and the digital economy from 2000 onwards and it’s obvious that it’s starting to overheat, creating three major problems:
Globalisation has created inequalities in developed countries the middle classes and workers are saying “I don’t see myself in this globalisation. I am sacrificed to it.” I can buy cheaper things but I don’t have any work, because there is no more space for me in this society, it’s society for the super-talented, and what I can do is no longer valuable.”
It’s clear that economy is no longer the priority. And when it’s a matter of humanity, women and men but also the ecosystems in which they live, and so CO2, global warming, biodiversity, there is something more important than the economic order.
This problem is being joined by the rise of a power game in which people rediscover the grammar of sovereignty – the idea that the people are not just consumers or producers, they are citizens, and they want to start controlling the choices they make It puts the human back in the middle.
Macron explained: “The basis of sovereignty is that it structures our balance, and you actually see that during shocks, like an epidemic. When you are afraid, you don’t turn towards Amazon, Google, globalisation, you don’t turn towards the secretary-general of the United Nations, the European Commission etc . . . You turn towards your country”.
The third major phenomenon is the matter of climate which goes hand in hand with the health agenda
In 2019, more than 77 leading American medical groups signed a policy agenda calling for climate action
Macron believes the climate agenda must come back to the foreground, because it goes hand in hand with the health agenda: “We will exit this crisis, and people will no longer agree to breathing polluted air. You’ll see something that was already rising in our societies, people will come out and say “I don’t want to breathe this air. I don’t agree to make such choices which will result in me breathing that type of air, where my little baby might catch bronchitis because of it, because choosing that type of society makes it so. And you have accepted the idea of shutting down everything to stop Covid, but now you are ready to let me go on breathing bad air.”
He adds that we will have to rethink production according to a just balance of CO2 emissions and of biodiversity and so of the safekeeping of our ecosystems. By agreeing to re-fragment things in a non-conflictual way, to reduce emissions, we will rethink logistics, in order to avoid importing a component from across the globe, because we will produce it on our territory to reduce its carbon footprint, commenting, “In my opinion that is what we are heading towards”
Last week, Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with the FT that delocalisation (offshoring) had become “unsustainable” and that the EU should regain industrial sovereignty.
He believes this shock we are currently going through will force us to review globalisation, and bring us to rethink society’s terms. The approval of a fluid world where everything is worth the same, produced anywhere, exchanged neutrally, is no longer universal.
In another speech this week he spoke of a new economic model, of the need to rebuild an agricultural, health, industrial and technological independence. “I believe that we are about to exit a world . . . where there was financial hegemony and hegemony of the non-co-operative military powers, and we can enter something which will enable us to reshuffle the cards. When people are scared of death and come back to these deep existential subjects, they co-operate”.
We have seen that we needed to reconsider goods and services we sometimes believed were worthless.
“We thought a mask or a medical overall had no value on a global commercial level. But it has value since it protects caregivers, and we acknowledged it during this crisis. It’s worth only 40 cents, not even a euro, but it becomes immensely valuable when we start running out of them and unable to produce enough”.
Regarding matters of the common good, military, health, technological, industrial, education, ecological, climate and other matters, we must decide what we must relocate, in our own country or region, in order to co-operate with others without being totally dependent on them.
We must become resilient, possessing the ability to say how we can prevent a risk of serious heatwave, another epidemic, a deterioration of our biodiversity which will affect our lives.
Earlier this week, Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, president of the European Council, issued a paper saying there was a “pressing need to produce critical goods in Europe, to invest in strategic value chains and to reduce over-dependency on third countries in these areas”.
Thierry Breton, an EU trade commissioner also suggested earlier this month that “globalisation has gone too far”, not just in medical equipment but all strategic industrial sectors and agriculture. He acknowledged, in Le Figaro, that “the question posed to us by this crisis is that we may have gone too far in globalization and globalisation”. The question, he added, arises not only on health (drugs and medical equipment) but also on “strategic industrial areas” and on agriculture, saying “I am convinced that our relationship to the world after this crisis will be different.”
This crisis will enable us to invent something new for our humanity, as we have been discussing — that’s to say a new balance in interdependence between men and women in order to consider what it means to be in the world and which is built around education, health and environment.
Most of this summary was drawn from these two main sources: