Tuesday, 26 June 2007


Yesterday I arrived at the Warehouse (BFoEs Building) to begin work supporting the faith ambassadors scheme. It was an unusual first day as it was not all that long ago that I worked here as the daytime campaigner. Luckily I already knew where to make tea and the route to the office, as the Warehouse was unusually quiet having temporarily lost many regulars to Glastonbury! (They are all safely back with us now)

In June 2006 Birmingham FoE along with the Environment Agency, Birmingham Sustainable Energy Partnership, Friends of the Earth and support from the City Council launched this project with a multi faith conference that was attended by over 100 people and many different faith communities were represented. We hoped back then that this project would be succesful and our hopes were soon realised. We received lots of postive feedback and it was clear that there was a demand to provide support for faith communities to take action.

The work has achieved success beyond all our initial expectations. With a successful speaker evening, introduction of the ambassadors scheme, the exhibition which continues to tour venues around the city, and the arrival of a full time employee (me) means we can look forward to scaling new heights; reaching out and supporting faith communites taking action to combat climate change.

I hope that that we will soon see the results of this work through the ambassadors ventures and that we can work to raise the profile of this work both within our city and beyond.

If you want to know more about thisproject or to get involved, please contact Maud at the Warehouse. Contact details available from the website.

Maud Grainger

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Slavery and Climate Change

This year, the Vale Festival, held on Birmingham University Campus,chose the "Humanitarian aspects of Climate Change" as its main theme.The Vale Festival officially supported Friends of the Earth "Big Ask"campaigns and hundreds of postcards were signed on the day, asking for a strong climate law.

This is the text of a speech I gave in the evening of the festival to thank all those who had signed postcards:

"200 years ago, in 1807, Britain led the way towards the abolition ofslavery by passing a bill to abolish the slave trade.

This was achieved only through intense lobbying by thousands of people(led by William Wilberforce), thousands of people who signed petitions asking for the end of the slave trade.

When slavery started, it was perfectly acceptable that one person could own slaves, but within a quarter of a century, at the end of the 18th century it was intolerable.

But we are today facing a new, potentially even bigger, challenge:
Recent studies have shown that if Europeans, on the basis of current lifestyles, were to live without using any kind of fossil fuel energy(that is energy based on the burning of oil, coal or gas), it would take them on average a hundred slaves working full time to give them the services provided by electric appliances, cars, washing machines, central heating and so on. In a way, we are now all slave owners. At the moment, it is morally acceptable to fly for a weekend to NewYork City, but I strongly believe that there will be one day when this will be considered as perhaps worse than being a slave owner, for depleting natural resources and destroying the climate.

By signing petitions against Climate Change, you are joining thousands of other people who are asking for a strong climate bill. Britain is likely to be, again, the first country to pass a bill setting aframework for the abolition of this new form of slavery, the first country to set targets for the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.This is a great historical moment and 2007 will be remembered - if the law is strong enough - as the year that saw the first victory against Climate Change.

Thank you for making it possible to happen".
Jean-Francois Mouhot
URL: http://www.valefestival.org.uk/

Monday, 4 June 2007

Rail for Kings Heath

Enthusiasm in Kings Heath can be infectious and when it comes to talk of having a railway station so that this important centre in South Birmingham rejoins the National Rail Network, there is need for an isolation ward.

The people of Kings Heath are not being unreasonable or unrealistic in their ambition for rail. Trains run past on what is called the Camp Hill Line. For years the request was made for a station and cash-starved British Rail pointed out that the Camp Hill Line leads to New Street station in the City Centre that simply cannot take any more traffic.

Some years ago, the heaving New Street Station was a factor in the decision to put back the railway from Smethwick to Birmingham New Street station and to divert trains from places such as Kidderminster to the new stations of Snow Hill and Moor Street. There seemed to be a new direction for Birmingham’s railways and a study commissioned a few years ago, the West Midlands Multi Modal Study, looking desperately for a way to expand the railways, ruled that a Snow Hill Network is part of the answer.

It is the Snow Hill Network that lies behind the Birmingham City Council study that would connect Kings Heath to Snow Hill (and in the other direction to Longbridge and Bromsgrove). Unsurprisingly the study found no great problems with the idea as the biggest ‘challenge’ will be to build a viaduct near Camp Hill locks on the canal. From the Friends of the Earth side, it seems a pity to build more infrastructure to encourage people to travel.

The balance has to be struck though as low speed rail can move a lot of people and really does not use much energy. People are going to move from home to work and surely the important thing is to put some efforts into journeys that accommodate benign walking and cycling.

The word from the people on Kings Heath High Street is that they want to have a railway station. As individuals we can also pass the message to the railway owner through their website www.networkrail.co.uk.

The role of Friends of the Earth is to encourage people to take an interest in changing the world – for the better. For the Rail Campaign, it is many individuals making a small effort that can turn the signals to Green. Don’t forget to send your comments to Network Rail.

John Hall