Saturday, 29 September 2012

Tonbridge – tolerant or intolerant?

On 14th August, the Tonbridge Courier reported that a homosexual couple were being harassed in Tonbridge town centre. Not only were they verbally abused in a manner that was vitriolic but they had also been spat at.

Their friends rallied round and arranged for a Gay Pride demonstration to support them.  Organised at short notice (a week or less) the demonstration attracted a turnout of 170 odd which for a small town like Tonbridge (population approx 36,000 and a high proportion of commuters) is impressive. It was a friendly and happy occasion.

That was the high point – now for the depressing event. A local business man decided he wanted to start a new pro-European Union political party: nothing wrong with that. However, he also expressed a desire to ban homosexuals from membership and to base the party on ‘biblical principles’.

Luckily three of us got letters printed in the local press rejecting his actions and  stressing the tolerant Tonbridge

Extract from my own letter below:
“In 2010 the Human Rights and Equality Commission took the BNP to court for clauses in their constitution which prohibited non-whites from joining their party. The Commission won the case and the BNP were forced to rewrite their constitution. They were also forced to remove the clause which stipulated that party applicants should oppose 'any form of integration or assimilation of ... the indigenous British’. So this means Mr. Hayward will not be able to include homophobic policy aims in his proposed constitution, as such discrimination is not permissible for a political party. 

Acceptance of diversity is normal behaviour and gross intolerance has no place in our town.”

Sunday, 23 September 2012

A Civic Arboretum to celebrate our trees?

Sidmouth Town Council in East Devon have declared the entire Town Council area a Civic Arboretum: the first one in the world. The initial idea came from the local Chamber of Commerce. On 10th May this year a launch event was held to explain the thinking behind the arboretum project. The Civic Arboretum is described as a ‘celebration of our tree heritage, a commitment to plant more trees for future generations and a determination to improve the visual welcome.’  

The South West Coast national trail includes a walk called Salcombe Hill, which actually encompasses the Sid Valley, a major part of the arboretum, and makes specific mention of the Civic Arboretum, the tree data base and a particularly interesting ancient oak tree visible on the walk.

What a wonderful idea! We have a substantial collection of mature trees and new planting in particular in Haysden Country Park. Perhaps we should consider a civic arboretum for Tonbridge – maybe themed along the River Medway or Haysden Country Park. Ideas and comments anyone?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Bamboo – the overlooked sustainable building material?

In this country our main use for bamboo wood is in the garden for hard landscaping, but in most of Asia bamboo is used for serious building. Anyone remember seeing the amazing the bamboo scaffolding in ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’? My husband has seen incredible bamboo scaffolding used to build skyscrapers when living in India.

Bamboo grows fast – just see the clump of black bamboo in my back garden! It uses very few resources in growing, traps carbon and enriches the soil.

You can even invest in Bamboo Bonds from EcoPlanet Bamboo, a British company supporting bamboo plantations in Central America.  For more information, particularly on their ethical polices see:
Nicaragua has changed from viewing Bamboo as a weed to be cleared to regarding it as an economical an ecologically beneficial crop.
Bamboo is versatile, once used for building it can be reused and/or sold. It can also be used as a textile fibre. How many greens already have bamboo socks or tee-shirts?

The Ecologist has expressed concerns over the bamboo boom.

However, they seem mainly linked to the possibility of land grabbing as happened with the new biofuel crops. Currently EcoPlanet Bamboo is committed to growing bamboo on low-yielding degraded grassland and areas where deforestation has had significant negative environmental implications. Fine so far, but if the trend continues will we be looking at a new form of deforestation? Watch this space.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Goodbye nuclear power?

Finally, the world’s third biggest generator of nuclear power is shutting down its national programme. Following months of public consultation after the Fukushima nuclear accident, Japan has decided to shut down all of its 50 nuclear power reactors by 2040.

Japan will be investing heavily in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The two biggest German electricity companies, Eon and RWE , have said they will not be building any more nuclear reactors. They believe that renewables are the future of energy generation. Both Germany and Switzerland are committed to abandoning nuclear power.

See this report in the Guardian for more detail:

Unfortunately, the pro-nuclear lemmings are still arguing for more nuclear power stations despite the dangers. See Mark Lynas comment piece also in the Guardian
In the meantime Dungeness B reactor Kent has reduced power output due to a faulty stem valve (letter of 14th September 2012 from Dungeness Station Director)..Just another example 
of the inefficiency of nuclear power. Nuclear reactors often run at reduced capacity because of faults – major and minor. For really major problems they have to be shut down. Two nuclear reactors in Minnesota have just been shut down this week. See 

Reactors are also shut down regularly for fuel rod replacement.

When will this country finally realise that, with the best wind regime in Europe, we really don’t need nuclear power. Energy efficiency and renewables are capable of providing us with all the energy we need. We just need to take them seriously and invest now. If Germany can do it – so can we.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Greenest government ever – finally showing its true colours

Will he won’t he? Cameron’s’ cabinet re-shuffle points towards a shift to the right of the political spectrum and yet more downgrading of the environment as a result. Getting rid of Justine Greening is a clear signal that he wants to proceed with the third runway at Heathrow. Greening was the main opponent in Government: although Boris isn’t too pleased that his pet project of an estuary airport is now in jeopardy. As Greens, of course, we wouldn’t  want either.

Zac Goldsmith, now a Tory MP, may have finally realised his mistake in abandoning us and joining the Tories. See his anguished article in the Guardian on a U-Turn on a third runway at Heathrow.

As a long term environmental campaigner, Zak’s article is well informed and well reasoned. He denies that we need any more capacity and proposes more rational use of the current capacity as well as reiterating well known Green Party policy that we need to encourage the shift from air travel to rail citing the high number of UK internal flights - all of which could be made by rail.

The one thing this government is unlikely to do is make the necessary investment in rail so that it can compete with aviation. Instead we have the most expensive rail fares in the world – and the South East has the highest fares in the country. 

See Kent Green party’s website on how rail fares have continued to rise in real terms under this Government whilst car journeys are subsidised from general taxation.

Hardly the polices of a ‘green’ government