Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Fortnightly Bin Collections

At a time of increased political apathy one issue has the residents of Walsall up in arms. The topic: fortnightly bin collections. For some reason the Borough's bin collections appears to have become a local human rights issue, with visions of horror such as maggots, the potential advent of bubonic plague, and maybe even mutant life forms growing in your wheelie bin.

The tabloids have continued to scaremonger with stories of people getting infections from dealing with their rubbish although I am highly suspicious as to how they came to this conclusion. A large petition was handed in at the town hall and the lead story in our local paper this week was that plans to implement fortnightly bin collections have been scrapped.The article stated that when surveyed, two thirds of Walsall residents were against fortnightly collections.

No details were given about how the survey was conducted, over what period and who was involved, and as a resident I would have liked to have had my say. I wonder if anything was done to reassure people about what the service would mean? Maybe more information on composting and recycling could have been given.

The issue could have even been tied in with an increase in what is collected in our recycling bins (currently neither plastic of any kind, or glass are collected). I feel this is a wasted opportunity which could have been dealt with as a really positive thing. Instead people are frightened and feel that they are facing a reduction in service to which they have predictably responded "no way, I pay for that" without considering the wider issues.
Sarah Wiley

Friday, 21 September 2007

Friends of the Earth Conference Fun

The weekend before last was Friends of the Earth's annual Local
Groups Conference at Reading University, which some of use from BFoE
attended - in fact it was our largest ever contingent - 11 people in
total! The weekend consisted of workshops, seminars, talks,
presentations and debates, as well as a few socials of course!

Tony Jupiter (Executive Director of FoE) spoke a couple of times,
given an overview of the last year. I found him a particularly
engaging speaker. He talked about our success over the past year
with the Big Ask campaign, which has resulted in the Draft Climate
Change Bill from the Government, which should be transformed into law
by early next year. He also pointed out that whilst it's great news
we've come so far, so quickly, we still need to keep up the pressure
on MPs to ensure that the final legislation is strong and meaningful.

A first this year was a guest visit from Hillary Benn (the current
serving Environment Minister), who gave a speech to the conference.
He encouraged us (and the environmental campaign movement as a whole)
to keep asking questions and putting pressure on the Government,
because it does help drive awareness and policy forward. Despite
this encouragement, he did dodge a few issues in the question and
answer session. Most notable was the exclusion of international
aviation emissions from the Draft Climate Change Bill, although he
did raise a chuckle at the question; "isn't not counting aviation
emissions a bit like going on a diet, and not counting the chocolate

I also went on a workshop on low carbon homes, which was very
interesting. As people may have heard, the Government is to insist
on all new houses build from 2016 onwards being zero carbon homes.
Great stuff you may think, but we found out that 25% of all U.K
carbon emissions come from households (rising to 50% including
personal transport), and that by 2050 there will be a 23% increase in
the number of households, but 87% of all homes will be ones that are
with us today! Clearly the new zero carbon homes are to be welcomed,
but what is the Government doing about all our existing carbon
spewing homes? Not a lot it would seem!

To round off, there was also the annual Earthmovers awards, where we
heard all about the fantastic local groups, campaigns and people that
are part of the Friends of the Earth network. BFoE was even
nominated for Group of the Year (many thanks to Louise Hazan the
Midlands Network Developer for nominating us), but alas, we were
beaten to it by Leicester FoE - maybe next year ehh! But
nevertheless, it was great to see some well deserved awards handed
out, by none other than FoE's Hugh Ellis, who always manages to raise
a few laughs with the audience.

We all had a great time, learnt new things, and although feeling a
little tired by the end of it, we're positive and ready for another
year of worthwhile campaigning!

Ben Mabbett

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Climate camp: police standards of a banana republic?

At this years recent climate camp at Heathrow, activists from around the country gathered to protest over the proposed third runway expansion. I joined them in their protest against the third runaway and against the destruction of the planet that we are all witnessing.

There was a heavy police presence at the climate camp, many protestors complained of police attempts to harass and intimidate the campaigners. Police were using anti-terror laws to stop and search protestors. I myself was detained under the terrorism act and searched, my camera taken off me. The police literally attacked me for my camera, four of them grabbed my arms in an attempt separate the camera from my grasp. They were unable to since I am extremely strong – it’s down to my mums chapattis- finally after negotiating with them, they let me go and I gave then my camera because they told me I had to under the terrorism act. The police proceeded to delete some of my pictures. I told the police I was a journalist but they carried on anyway and when they finally handed back my camera, the police denied deleting any pictures! When reading through my form that the police handed me, the reason stated for me being stopped was ‘fits profile’ when writing this the officer stopped and showed hesitation but then continued adding ’of protestors at climate camp’. It seems that the government and police fear eco-terrorists, this would explain the use of draconian laws to stop and harass climate camp campaigners.

However there was a friendly atmosphere within the camp and the mood remained up beat. We were joined by the independent journalist Johann Harri, and the author George Monbiot. Workshops ranged from activism to super gluing techniques. One of the workshops that was well attended was the ‘faith and environmentalism’ workshop which was run by Ifees (Islamic foundation for ecological and environmental studies). People were intrigued to how religion and spirituality can play a role in environmental activism.

The climate camp was more than just compost toilets, tents and vegan food, it had a very serious message. Activists recognise that climate change is just a number of problems that we are facing at this current point in time. As governments spend billions on war, leaving peoples to suffer with the consequences of depleted uranium, where corporations are able to act with impunity, there seems to be no accountability to the people of this world. At the climate camp many activists acknowledged that the root cause of all our problems is Capitalism. In my opinion, it is the capitalist market that allows corporations to influence and control governments, allowing them to pollute the Earth. It is the capitalist system that breeds the oppression and injustice around the world. We are witnessing a battle for the world’s resources. The world is running out of oil and there is an ever increasing demand for clean drinking water. We must first acknowledge the threat that we are facing as a society and human race, and then set out to tackle the root causes.

All in all, I enjoyed my self, and will defiantly be attending the next climate camp, that is as long as I am not detained or arrested for fitting the ‘profile’. Perhaps the Muslim community was just a testing ground for the anti-terror laws the real target was any voices of dissent – activists of any kind.


Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Out of the armchair (2nd hand of course)...

In the last few months I have decided to increase my support for environmental issues beyond being an armchair supporter,(mind you even that's second hand so I'm trying) and have started attending Friends of the Earth meetings and getting involved with campaigns and events. Something I hadn't reckoned on as part of my Foe participation was the overwhelming volume of emails I would receive and whilst making me feel quite popular my inbox is feeling the strain. One email was about a transport survey by Transport 2000 which I decided to take the time to fill in. I am sometimes a bit reticent to fill in endless surveys, questionnaires and petitions when I never seem to find out the outcomes of these , but as my husbands bike had been stolen from our local train station I had an axe to grind. Especially as in the words of a high street bank advert he was told "it doesn't work like that" when he asked if the CCTV footage of the "secure " bike facilities where his bike had been kept would be viewed. Ooh it still rankles can you tell. Anyhow back to the point. On Friday morning I was eating my museli and reading the Walsall Chronicle when would you believe my comments were listed on the front page under the headline "Station Listed Amongst Worst." Ok my description was "One woman said" , but I know its me, and how exciting to know that all this information we give actually goes somewhere. So does this mean I'll be more receptive to those clipboard wielding types on the high street hmmm maybe just maybe as long as: it isn't raining, my bags aren't too heavy, I'm not running late for work.

Sarah Wiley