Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Change of blog location

We have now switched the location of our blog to be integrated into our website, so it all feels and looks like our space. There is still the facility to comment on posts there and we hope everyone will find their way to www.birminghamfoe.org.uk/blog

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

City of the Future - 1 week to go

One of the most exciting parts of my job is to see a plan come together and an event take place.

Next Tuesday will see our City of the Future public debate on a better economy for Birmingham take place in the Council House, Birmingham. The number of people registered for it has been rising steadily since the web page went live and we are confident of getting to capacity, so please make sure you book your place if you haven't already.
Last year we did a debate on HS2, which went really well and attracted a lot of attention, but that was a very hot, very controversial issue on which passions run very high (and still is). This time, we are hoping to generate some really positive ideas and inspire people on a topic that used to be considered a bit dull and abstract to many, but is now starting to gain more attention - economics.
I've admired the work of the New Economics Foundation for a long time, so am very much looking forward to seeing what three ideas Julia Slay will put forward.
The idea that economic growth is what makes people more prosperous and therefore people's lives better has not been challenged enough in the mainstream media. We are very much looking forward to hearing the argument for a successful economy without growth from Oliver Bettis from the Centre for the Advancement of a Steady State economy.
Dr Helen Borland from Aston Business School has her main research interest in Strategic Business Sustainability, which focuses on how firms can adopt an ecologically sustainable approach to their strategic decision-making, senior management and leadership activities. She will provide the local academic perspective and expertise.

Also, we have David Powell from Friends of the Earth's economics team. His knowledge is integral to how we can campaign on issues such as Feed-in-Tariffs, green investment and the value that is put on the natural environment. He also writes some very readable blog posts on the Friends of the Earth website.

I have also been busy writing articles for local press and blogs on the event. Firstly, was a big piece in the Birmingham Post (whose editor, Alun Thorne is chairing the event for us). Then I wrote a short piece for my local (hyperlocal) blog B31 Voices. I was also asked to contribute a piece for the Chamberlain Files, a new political blog for Birmingham run by former journalists of the Birmingham Post.

Now I have 7 days to wait and see what comes out of this event, but luckily I'm so busy the time should pass very quickly. Bring it on.

Joe Peacock

Monday, 12 March 2012

Weekly compilation 09.03.12

Our compilation of stories for this week is a little shorter than usual, but there are still some important stories there to read if you missed any of them:

Biodiversity
Our ocean's wealth & how to protect it http://ow.ly/9hfrW #futurewewant#marine #oceans #pollution via @globaldimension @WorldBank
#Wildlife and #Countryside Link's red lines on #planning reform. In short, stop messing with #sustainabledevelopment wcl.org.uk/docs/Link_red_…

Energy & Climate Change
Videos about our #finaldemand campaign on #bigsix from @GiselaStuart and #FITs from Mark Clemson of New World Solar: http://bit.ly/xiKESh
RT @greenbirmingham: “@BCCNewsRoom: Birmingham City Council backs WWF Earth Hour: http://bit.ly/yxzrlb" Could more be turned off, anyway?
RT @wwwfoecouk: After raking in 1.8bn Euros profits, nPower owner under pressure to slash #energy bills http://tinyurl.com/852kj2a #bigsix
RT @northfieldeco: save up to £750/yr on bills & 2 tonnes CO2/yr -get a home energy makeover at no upfront cost. Apply: http://s.coop/81d1
The number of people dying as a result of #fuelpoverty is three times higher than government estimates: http://ind.pn/w1yI0t

Planning
Shirley park corporate vandalism http://vimeo.com/38181756
This is a park, in the middle of a densely populated town: http://bit.ly/AF7uus #asda #shirley #trees #vandalism
Places for the Future - let them know what you think: http://bit.ly/zew6LT

Transport
New briefing by @20splenty on who's to blame when pedestrians die: http://bit.ly/zWI2x5
Our outdated transport system is running on empty - Richard Dyer of @wwwfoecouk on why we need revolution in transport: http://bit.ly/zH1wuL

Waste & Resource Use
Introduce a tax on waste incineration - what a good idea! - e-petitions http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/2642
Mobile phones have become a seemingly indispensable accessory for modern life, yet behind their success lies... http://bit.ly/zl8JG2

Others
less than 2 weeks until our "city of the future" event and there are still a few free places left. Register now, don't miss out: http://bit.ly/z10Ilu
RT @ChamberlainFile: Time to slay the sacred cow of economic growth – guest post by Joe Peacock: http://bit.ly/xggy1j re City of the Future
RT @theneweconomics: What moments are best for encouraging behaviour change? ... from parenthood to oil prices http://bit.ly/ydSerC
MT @wwwfoecouk: @powellds is quoted in Guardian article on #GIB http://bit.ly/AA0u2E
RT @LocaliseWM: How does economic localisation contribute to inclusion, resilience & redistribution? Sources anyone? http://s.coop/81cz

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Video messages about our Final Demand campaign

Last week, we met Gisela Stuart, MP for Edgbaston, at Martineau Gardens to talk about our Final Demand campaign.
There's a press release on our website about it and we also asked her to record a video message, so here it is:


The previous week we were in Summerfield with Shabana Mahmood, MP for Ladywood, and while she wasn't prepared to record a message for us, we did speak to Mark Clemson of New World Solar, who said the following about what MPs can do to support the solar industry:

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Places for the Future - let them know what you think.

Next Monday, we won't be having a meeting here at the Warehouse as usual, but will be at the Council House for the Sustainability Forum meeting looking at the Place for the Future planning document.

 You can respond to it online by following this link, but if you want to help give feedback in a room full of other people who are interested in sustainability, you need to register by emailingsustainabilityteam@birmingham.gov.uk

See you there.

Joe Peacock

Friday, 2 March 2012

weekly compilation 02.03.2012

Here's our weekly round up of the stories in the news that are relevant to our campaigns:

Biodiversity
RT @dpcarrington: Video: George Osborne's green dream. Friday fun from RSPB @Natures_Voice http://bit.ly/yUHtpM #eg
GM wheat? NO THANKS! http://bit.ly/zo30b5
Oliver Letwin: environmental rules could be 'great deal simpler' http://bit.ly/A7sKkL - so many contradictions in this!
Funding boost to help restore habitats in West Midlands: http://bit.ly/x2ibly - well done Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust!

Energy & Climate Change
What a cheery thing to read at the end of Friday: "Oil prices: 10 reasons to be fearful" - why are we still hooked? http://bit.ly/y8Z3GW
MP @giselastuart to question government over lack of support for community energy: http://bit.ly/xPCEiD
MT @MartynWilliams2: Telegraph don't get #renewable subsidies *should* taper - meant to fall as costs come down http://tgr.ph/AuiCef
RT @Martin_Abrams: Melting Arctic link to cold, snowy UK winters http://bbc.in/yXxdIt #climate #arctic #emissions
RT @the_ecologist: Are the 'Big Six' energy companies blocking renewables in the UK? http://bit.ly/xcIk53 - we'd say yes.
RT @dpcarrington: Exclusive new data reveals folly of betting UK's #energy future on #gas over #wind http://gu.com/p/35zcd/tw
RT @dpcarrington: UK gives five times more public subsidies to #fossil fuels than to #wind power http://gu.com/p/35mmd/tw

Planning
RT @digbeth: New DiG blog post, The Future of Localisation and Devolution - http://tinyurl.com/7y6sjs9
Serious questions for the council to answer about how they're allowing @QuintainPLC to demolish #saveislandhouse http://bit.ly/Ad7Ha4
"Cabinet singles out planning system as 'blockage' to growth" Frightening, despite all evidence, they still believe it! http://bit.ly/w5OgDS
RT @KCSharedSpace: Shared space key to the future of urban centres http://bit.ly/wCdzeF
RT @RachelGillies: There is now a website for developing a #BalsallHeath Neighbourhood Plan. http://bit.ly/y3b8JE

Transport
RT @AirportWatch: Excellent analysis of airport jobs "Airport jobs false hopes cruel hoax" by Brendon Sewill in 2009: http://bit.ly/A4n57V
Green Light for More Noise and Pollution: http://bit.ly/xDlIt3 Sadly Australian & Canadian pension funds invest in climate change and noise.
RT @AirportWatch: AEF reports that global aviation emissions up by 11% in 5 years despite recession: http://bit.ly/whKBqJ
RT @jrf_uk: Transport poverty is hitting the headlines – it’s time for fair thinking on fuel http://bit.ly/yPNPrb via@leftfootfwd
"Even if people prefer a 3rd runway to Boris Island, doesn’t mean they like either" http://bit.ly/xmUtF5 excellent blog post by John Stewart

Waste & Resource Use
RT @greenbirmingham: “@GuardianSustBiz: ticking time bomb: minerals/metals scarcity in manufacturing http://bit.ly/AChu79
RT @Greenpeace: Oil companies are risking the future of the Arctic for only 3 years worth of oil. #savethearctic http://bit.ly/w3m4oy
Who is profiting at the planet's expense? http://bit.ly/zcApPh

Others
Davey promises steady hand and aggressive growth for green sector: http://bit.ly/x68vWv - some interesting stuff in here & from #Letwin
Joe Peacock: Finding a new economic path to shape our city of the future: http://bit.ly/AzBSet via @birminghampost
Make sure you register here for "City of the Future" public debate. 4 experts will give new hope for a better economy: http://bit.ly/A6EeX3
We've added a blog post about the Sustainability Spring Fair now: http://bit.ly/yr0zZM
Back Fairtrade Fortnight – and fair prices for British food producers: http://bit.ly/Aq84Ms
FoodCycle Birmingham Need Your Help! http://bit.ly/yy2OQn
RT @colebagski: I blogged: Streaming council meetings - what's the point?: http://bit.ly/xs3ny6 #localgov #gov20 - We appreciate it.
"protecting our environment and driving economic prosperity are two sides of the same coin." @CraigBennett3 - we agree: http://bit.ly/wHFNZR
New post on our blog "Positive Money is coming to the City of the Future" http://bit.ly/yonkpa
Here's something to whet your appetite for 20th March: http://bit.ly/w1LJbp via @theneweconomics
This Saturday, Take a Fairtrade step and celebrate Fairmined Gold in the Jewellery Quarter: http://yfrog.com/nx2twp
Maureen has been volunteering with us for 5 years, so here's a blog post to say thanks for all she's done: http://bit.ly/yP1dYl
West Mids comes 2nd lowest in terms of life satisfaction. Well-being data reveals stark differences across the country: http://bit.ly/zITBW2
Full line up of speakers confirmed for our "City of the Future" event: http://bit.ly/AzFNbh - it will be great so sign up while spaces left.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Sustainability Spring Fair

The council are putting on their annual Spring Fair on March 10th and we'll be there supporting the event as always.
We're not sure why they use quotation marks on the literature around things such as "electric cars" and "organic carrots", or why they used such an odd picture at the top of the second page to illustrate it, but I'm sure these minor details shouldn't detract from an excellent event.
We hope to see lots of people there learning about all the excellent things that are going on around Birmingham. The idea being that they will then be inspired to live more sustainably themselves.
You won't be able to miss it if you're around Victoria Square on March 10th, anyway - see you there.

Joe Peacock

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Positive Money is coming to the City of the Future

I am keen for people to grasp what Positive Money is saying; i.e. that banks create almost all of our nation's money supply and that it is a big problem.


Most people seem to think that the government creates our money and that we all deal in it for the things we need for our daily lives. Unfortunately, this is not so.

Almost all the money in circulation apart from the tiny amount that is bank notes and coins is money created by commercial banks when they issue loans. This makes banks the owners of almost all our money and they get to decide where it goes in the economy. They put it into raising the price of houses which hurts people.

Instead, new money should be created in measured amounts, that won't cause inflation, by the Bank of England, as an asset of the nation. Then the Bank of England (I personally think) should give it to the elected government who should spend it on things that help us run a lively export economy and earn our living in the world by doing stuff that actually makes the world better for people; i.e. infrastructure, university and technical education, science, research, product development and power generation research etc.

It is a crucial change that could actually take place to take the power to create money from the banks and give it to public authority i.e. the Bank of England. Then we'd stand a chance of getting on our feet as a nation and having a good influence on the world. There would be good satisfying jobs and a point to getting a good education so as to be useful players in such a great and honourable endeavour.


I'm really glad that Birmingham Friends of the Earth are putting on the "City of the Future" event where ideas like this can be discussed and there will be plenty more on this at our stall on 20th March at the Council House in Birmingham. See you there.


Dick Rogers

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Goodbye to an amazing volunteer

Maureen Kirkbright has been volunteering here for over 5 years, but today, sadly, was her last day, as she decided to retire from her role as membership secretary.

She'll be very much missed for her sterling work making sure our financial supporters are kept up to date with what we're doing and making sure they are reminded to send us money when needed.

She was a real pleasure to have around the office and we were very lucky to be one of the charities she chose to give her time to. A genuinely warm-hearted woman, you could always rely on her to turn up smiling no matter how dull the tasks she had to perform were.

Every charity like ours depends on people like Maureen and we hope that she will be back soon to help us celebrate 35 years in our building, The Warehouse, on April 1st along with a lot of the other volunteers who've helped make those 35 years so successful.

Here's to amazing volunteers everywhere - thank you for the last 5 years, Maureen!

If you'd like to sign up as a member, you can do so here and we'll have a new volunteer to process your details soon.

Friday, 24 February 2012

weekly news compilation 24.02.2012

Here's our weekly round up from the world of twitter of what's been in the news:

Biodiversity
Moss Brook Growers: is there a Birmingham counterpart? http://bit.ly/zIg9or nice story of cooperative organic food growers to replicate.
Seed Event Sat 3 March at Martineau Gardens: http://bit.ly/wnwqfx - grow something new this year.
RT @pauldezylva: "If our pollinating insects disappear most of our favourite foods will too" #Bees #Butterflies, Blooms http://bbc.in/AuGb33

Energy & Climate Change
RT @sarcasmcat: Guarantee our profits or the lights go out, warns #Centrica boss as he holds nation to ransom http://tgr.ph/ySUcwb #bigsix
RT @GreenLibDems: Lucy Lawless—a.k.a Xena the Warrior Princess—Occupies a Shell Oil Drilling Ship http://fb.me/1CDAyyFC1
New blog post by Sara on coming to meet an MP with us today to talk #finaldemand with @shabanaMahmood http://bit.ly/z18PTq
UK urged to support tar sands ban: http://bit.ly/wgkZM6
MT @CraigBennett3: British Gas £500m profits, call on Govt to "slow down" free insulation 4 poorest households: http://bit.ly/ySoRTW #bigsix
British Gas bosses reap rich rewards for failure: http://bit.ly/zuiXlr #finaldemand #ripoff #energy #bigsix
@RichardBurdenMP Will you support EDM number 2730 to End the Big Six Energy Fix? bit.ly/wFfSLn
RT @leohickman: UK gas demand in 2011 at lowest level since 1995 due to mild weather, says DECC http://is.gd/ccsEJN
Energy Act could make Birmingham buildings 'virtually unlettable': http://bit.ly/AvOzP9 - need to get them up to standard urgently. RT @DECCgovuk: Edward Davey welcomes Ofgem proposals for reform of energy market, http://bit.ly/wXs3gH - Is there going to be progress?

Planning
Problem with #saveislandhouse - Quintain sold plot with outline planning permission for hotel, 106 not enforceable? http://yfrog.com/obccdmp
RT @digbeth: New DiG blog post, Connaught Square Site Sold - http://tinyurl.com/6ohsqrs - keep fingers crossed 4 good developer #notquintain
Latest from @birminghampost on attempts to #saveislandhouse - seems increasingly unlikely to succeed: http://bit.ly/wT3Wg0 #greedydevelopers
RT @getgood: #saveislandhouse RT @digbeth: Worrying developments for those looking to Save Island House - http://tinyurl.com/86gm7je
See you there: RT @BhamEnvironment: Sustainability Forum on draft planning document 'Places for the Future' on 12/3/12: http://bit.ly/woFu6a
RT @BhamEnvironment: Bham's draft planning document 'Places for the Future' out for public consultation until 22/3/12: http://bit.ly/yh7qpF

Transport
RT @birminghampost: Washwood Heath sites could be blighted for 20 years if set aside for #HS2 depot, claims cllr http://tinyurl.com/8yxz83m RT @bengoldacre: Cameron backs the Times #cyclesafe campaign, great stuff http://thetim.es/xM71vH - Whitby? Bham Post sticking up for cars!
Poor car drivers seem to need sticking up for in Birmingham. Could have fooled us: http://bit.ly/wTXnG3 #waroncyclists #allmoneygoesonroads
RT @london_cycling: Ian Austin MP - spend per person on cycling - Netherlands £20, London £5, rest of UK 79p. #cyclesafe
RT @birminghampost: Give Midlands fair share of transport cash, demand MPs http://bit.ly/xw6zGq & let's have local rail & bus rapid transit
RT @walkitcom: Still Walking - Birmingham festival of walking 15th March - 1st April 2012: http://stillwalking.org/
Traffic chaos after six vehicles crash at Swan Island, Sheldon: http://bit.ly/ydwKYC - seems to have been a lot since the new Tesco opened!
Half of people in UK fear our #roads are unsafe for #cycling: http://bit.ly/w51oEP - We thought it was more than that in #Birmingham.
Waste & Resource Use
MT @ProfTimLang: fossil fuel use by world agriculture grew 50x in last 60 years. Wholly unsustainable: Cornerhouse p20 http://bit.ly/w66Ky0 New blog post: Ethical Shopping - Hard on the High Street? http://bit.ly/AllLM7
RT @poshbirdlikeyou: Firms urged to save #water SE #drought declared - @wwwfoecouk; stop ignoring problem (& solutions) http://bit.ly/yjcFRG

"Let’s ban toilet paper" http://bit.ly/zX3JCp - not sure we can see that campaign taking off. Really should be made from recycled paper.
Nectar trial in Birmingham ‘a great success’: http://bit.ly/wK0FDp - strangely it doesn't say how much #recycling has gone up by.
Sharp rise in waste-fed Anaerobic Digestion plants in UK: http://bit.ly/yRXhtq how long until Bham has some @EBRI_UK?

Others
RT @FinanceBham: Birmingham City Council 1st local authority to take an equity stake in a business http://ow.ly/9eXg3 - interesting move.
Approaching a quarter of the places gone for our "City of the Future" event. Don't miss out, register now: http://bit.ly/A6EeX3
RT @TheBrummie: Events: Volunteer at TheOldPrintWorks, Moseley http://bit.ly/oBjlBN
Who you gonna call? #growthbusters http://www.growthbusters.org/
Interesting and thoughtful piece; "Do we have time to shift values?" http://bit.ly/yCxTNA from the common cause project.

Visiting Summerfield Eco Village with Shabana Mahmood


Today, as part of my year volunteering with Friends of the Earth, I had the opportunity of attending a meeting with MP Shabana Mahmood. Members of Birmingham Friends of the Earth, representatives of New World Solar and Family Housing Association, and local residents met at Memorial Hall on Summerfield Crescent to inform Shabana about Friends of the Earth’s Final Demand campaign and encourage her to support us.
 The campaign calls on the Government to help fix our broken energy system. We are urging David Cameron to launch a public inquiry into the power and influence of the big six energy companies that provide us with 99% of our household energy. We also want the Government to stop axing support for smaller, clean energy companies and community energy projects.

It was great to be able to experience the eco-village of Summerfield first hand and see the innovative energy saving processes that have been installed in the parish office. Examples of these were the light wells that let daylight in through the roof and work as well as electric lights (and look even nicer). Around the walls were displays of the types of insulation used in the walls, including sheep wool. The effects of this were clear immediately on entering the invitingly warm building.
The meeting opened with a brief history of the Summerfield area from local resident Chris Vaughan, who explained that the idea for the parish eco office developed as part of the regeneration of Summerfield, and was unanimously pushed forward by those involved in the project. Chris believes that the renovation of Summerfield is a main factor in making the area a desirable place to live.

Kara Moses and Joe Peacock (Birmingham Friends of the Earth) introduced the Final Demand campaign. Kara talked about the power of the big six, the public’s outrage at the rocketing prices despite a fall in gas prices and the enormous profits of the energy companies despite a fall in sales. Joe spoke about the cuts in Feed in Tariffs and the unstable future of the solar industry that has come about as a result of the Government’s decisions.

Overall, Shabana seemed positive and enthusiastic about a greener future for the West Midlands. She understood the need to start a green revolution, and was aware that the West Midlands is the most fuel poor region in the UK. She expressed particular interest in New World Solar, asking director Mark Clemson for a history and briefing of the company.
Shabana agreed to take away the joint statement for further discussion, and those who attended the meeting had a photo taken outside the parish office.
Sara Linton

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Ethical Shopping - Hard on the High Street?

On Monday, we held a discussion meeting on ethical shopping and where we draw the line when it comes to choosing what we buy.

The consensus was that it's very hard to find fair trade/organic lines for a lot of the clothes people need for everyday wear. You can go on ethical consumer to check out a lot of the retailers and some producers, but still there's very little information for most people to make an informed choice about how the products they buy are made.

Most people would not buy things if they knew that children suffered as a result, but ignorance removes their ability to make that choice and people like to think that reasonable behaviour is adopted by most businesses (even when it is not the case).

Emma, who was leading the meeting, has posted round this list of websites where you can buy new clothes online from ethical producers:

Women  
Annie Greenabelle www.anniegreenabelle.com
Johari www.johari.co.uk
Bibico www.bibico.co.uk
Ethics Girls www.ethicsgirls.co.uk
Chinti and Parker http://www.chintiandparker.com/index.html
Nancy Dee www.nancydee.co.uk
   
Men & Women  
Rapanui www.rapanuiclothing.com
Environmental Justice Foundation http://www.ejfoundation.org.uk/shopforejf/
Komodo http://www.komodo.co.uk/
Wear Chemistry www.wearchemistry.com
Frank & Faith www.frankandfaith.com
Pants to Poverty www.pantstopoverty.com
Regenerate www.regenerateclothing.com
people tree www.peopletree.co.uk
Howies www.howies.co.uk
Braintree http://www.braintreehemp.co.uk/index.php?cPath=28
Monkee Jeans http://www.monkeegenes.com/
   
Men  
Hot Pot Eco Clothing www.hotpotecoclothing.com
   
Shoes & Accessories  
Bourgeois Boheme www.bboheme.com
Ethletic www.thefaircorp.com
Katcha Bilek www.re-collect.net
beyond skin www.beyondskin.co.uk
Simple Shoes http://www1.simpleshoes.com/gb/index.aspx




























































Of course, we also have to think about second hand instead of new as being a good solution environmentally and also supporting local businesses which may not be branded fair trade, but don't exploit workers and have traceable supply chains.

There is a lot of greenwash about, but we need to make sure the bad practices are stopped in the longer term to protect people and the environment - voting with your wallet is a good way to start.

Joe Peacock

Friday, 17 February 2012

weekly compilation 17.02.2012

This week's most important stories (that we've seen) are listed below:


Biodiversity
@BumblebeeTrust: Heading to the garden centre this weekend? Don't forget to get plants good for #bees. Check our list http://bit.ly/AfTMDl"
MT @TheNatureCentre: Celebrate Edgbaston Reservoir becoming Local Nature Reserve. Special event Sat 10-3 tel: 675 3278 http://bit.ly/wd6Sow
Court finds Monsanto guilty of poisoning: http://bit.ly/xKgiEc #GM #pesticides

Energy & Climate Change
Are you a bit confused about what's happening with Feed-in-Tariffs. Here's a DECC FAQs page that may be of help: http://bit.ly/xow0iI
MT @AirportWatch: Interesting website showing changes in oil price by day, 5 days, month, year, 3 years, 5 years: http://bit.ly/zOUnL4
Great video by @ecotricity saying goodbye to cooling towers and hello to wind turbines: http://youtu.be/ggg3C87UVCY
RT @wwwfoecouk: EDF profits from sky-high energy bills: Energy company EDF's 2011 profits jumped due to high… http://goo.gl/fb/SN7PX
MT @RichardBurdenMP: Useful meeting with @Bham_FOE & @northfieldeco this am on issues raised in #FinalDemand Campaign: http://bit.ly/ADQ7iJ
RT @wwwfoecouk: Why has Cameron signed up to expensive new UK #nuclear plants we don't need? http://tinyurl.com/7k46ckn #energy
EDF comes under fire for jump in profits: http://bit.ly/yOjCmm by @graeme_brown for @birminghampost

EDF Under Fire For Stitching Up Consumers – Local Group Seeks Help From @RichardBurdenMP - press release: http://bit.ly/whevS4
Wow, that's quite a leap! RT @grist: Sales of solar panels for Japanese homes are up 30.7% in 2011 http://bit.ly/xkOf4R
RT @BCABS5: We're referring #fuelpoverty clients to Brum's #staywarmstaywell scheme. Freephone 0800 0337967 to access free support & advice
"the big energy companies in the UK have come through another year with big profits" & fuel poverty rises: http://bit.ly/wL99BP #finaldemand
Average Arctic temperatures in 2011 were 2.28 degrees above those recorded 1951-1980 - concern now over tipping points: http://bit.ly/x5OpUG
"If you like your hypocrisy sandwiches served with a side order of double standards": http://bit.ly/x8pbmx #deniergate @leohickman
On Tuesday, public meeting to discuss biofuels and biomass "Burning Crops and Breaking Rocks 7.00pm, council house: http://bit.ly/zsySwY
RT @wwwfoecouk: Good news: Co-op cuts emissions by 35% & saves £40m per year http://bit.ly/y5kTn8 #supermarkets #climatechange #economy
Call to embrace community energy: http://bit.ly/zm9rkH
New blog post by Kara Moses on the Birmingham Energy Savers New Deal consultation last week: http://bit.ly/vZwKo4

Planning
This is what @quintainplc thinks of Birmingham's heritage and legal section 106 agreements with the planning cttee: http://twitpic.com/8k808e
RT @digbeth: John Bull and John Hemming MP demonstrate their love for Island House - http://tinyurl.com/75zsrep #saveislandhouse
RT @ReStirredForum: See Re~Stirred Forum re: Connaught Square or Digbeth Park ? http://bit.ly/zFAC5w
On the day of the Digbeth Summit, here's some good news; awful Connaught Square plans dropped - let's have a park :-) http://bit.ly/ySJmxB

Great letter in the @birminghampost today by Rob Sutton about Island House. We'll post a link when it's online #saveislandhouse
http://www.birminghampost.net/comment/letters-to-the-editor/2012/02/17/developers-rule-the-roost-democracy-is-a-sham-65233-30344449/
Land use in a rebalanced Birmingham economy: a kindred concern: http://bit.ly/xUJly8
Glad @theneweconomics responded to this rubbish by Sainsbury's http://bit.ly/yfQl9G about killling off the high street: http://bit.ly/xEWCbx

Transport
MT @StopCityAirport: A farmer in Java needs to pick seeds for 18 days for one person to fly from Frankfurt to Hamburg: http://bit.ly/yyPfrQ
New report out on the damaging impacts of aviation biofuels - only solution is to cut the number of flights taken: http://bit.ly/yyPfrQ
Air pollution linked to heart attack risk - so can we do something about it in Brum, please: http://bit.ly/y70jnD
MT @sionsimon: (20mph) on suburban streets has always been my inclination. A bigger change would be if 30 limits were actually enforced.
RT @PostBusiness: David Bailey Blog: Electric car era off to a slow start http://bit.ly/zOmXyj - not very surprising in a recession.

Waste & Resource Use
RT @KarenCannard: Comedian Mark Thomas tells shoppers to take action on 'bloody packaging' http://bit.ly/w2cQD9

Others
What can an elected Mayor do for a city and region? What does it mean for city democracy? debate http://bit.ly/zIhKOC (via @Dan_Bridgewater)
Excellent, a rush of people signing up for our city of the future sustainable economics event. Book your place now: http://bit.ly/A6EeX3
RT @beaubodor: I believe the Government is rebranding Job Seekers Allowance as 'Tesco Value Wages' #supermarkets
Why profit-led growth is a myth: http://bit.ly/yPix5T - more interested in such stories ahead of our economics event: http://bit.ly/A6EeX3
Investors call on European Central Bank to address “carbon bubble” risk: http://bit.ly/wiytFV
Seconded: MT @jonwalker121 Congrats @podnosh, #brumbloggers & other vols on Big Society award 4 Social Media Surgeries http://blogs.birminghampost.net/news/2012/02/nick-booth-receives-big-societ.html
RT @pauldezylva: David Miliband MP says the #GreenestGovtEver is not "even pretending to greenwash anymore." http://labourlist.org/?p=28008
Ever wondered why economic growth is a threat to the environment and to economic sustainability? Answers here: http://bit.ly/zgLNYl
Julia Slay of @theneweconomics has been looking at effects of austerity measures in Bham: http://bit.ly/AdtWcv - she'll also be speaking.
Know what a steady state economy is and why it is desirable? We'll have a speaker talking about it on 20th March: http://bit.ly/zsWrv1

Monday, 13 February 2012

Birmingham Energy Savers consultation

As part of my work as a BFOE volunteer working on the Final Demand campaign, this week I attended a consultation event on delivering the Green Deal in Birmingham, organised by the pioneering Birmingham Energy Savers project. 

In a nutshell, the Green Deal is a new government initiative aimed at reducing people’s energy use, thereby reducing their carbon emissions and alleviating fuel poverty, as well as creating jobs, in one fell swoop.

Through the scheme, people are able to improve the energy efficiency of their homes without having to pay for the costs upfront. Loft- and cavity-wall-insulation and efficient boilers are among the measures that can be taken to reduce energy wastage in the home, which of course reduces energy use. The work is paid for through people’s fuel bills, but with the ‘Golden Rule’ of the Green Deal – that the cost of the retrofit will not be more than the savings made on the bills – a net saving is still made.

Birmingham is the first local authority to be offering the Green Deal. Birmingham Energy Savers (BES) is a city council initiative which offers solar pv installations and energy advice to the people of Birmingham, aiming to reduce the city’s carbon emissions and create local jobs. Amazingly, it is the second largest refurbishment programme in the world!

BES is currently gearing up to start delivering the Green Deal later in the year when it goes live. Already they have conducted pilot tests and been finding partners to work with. Right now they are hammering out the finer details of how the real deal will work – and that is why they organised the consultation event that I went to.

The event was attended by a varied bunch, including housing associations, energy companies, consultants, contractors, renewable energy companies, councillors, business people – and BFOE!


We started with a presentation explaining the project and some of the potential problems it may face – such as the numerous very old properties that don’t meet the required standards. For example, some Victorian houses only have one wall layer, so can’t have cavity wall insulation (as they have no cavity!). I was pleased to hear that extra subsidies may be available for these houses.

We then broke out into three focus groups. BES asked us all for our input on three areas, to feed it into their continuing development of the project. Firstly my group focused on behaviour change – why it’s important, what can be changed and what resources are needed. With a representative of a housing association in our group, we spent some time discussed potential problems of offering the deal to social housing tenants, in particular people questioning why they have to pay for the work themselves – should the housing association not provide them with energy efficient homes in the first place? 

We all acknowledged the need to maintain a dialogue with ‘customers’, providing ongoing support rather than simply going in, doing the work, and then disappearing. This could be done with six-month follow-up consultations. With the installation of solar pv panels that provide free electricity, there is a danger that some people may actually become more frivolous with how they use that electricity. Smart meters – which allow people to clearly see how much energy they are using – may be a good way to engage people with how much energy they are actually using and encourage them to be more careful with it.

Our group then moved on to discuss customer satisfaction. Having work done on your house can be extremely disruptive, and if a house is having a full retrofit the tenant may have to move out of it while the work is being done, so ensuring minimal disruption is a high priority for ensuring customer satisfaction. We suggested that complimentary services such as free storage space may help to make the process smoother.

We agreed that the energy advisor making the initial contact will need to be multiskilled to put the customer at ease, explain the technical details but not present the work as a ‘sale’, as this may be off-putting for some people and even arouse suspicion of the scheme. A national website and hotline will be provided for people to follow up on the initial visit and confirm the project as bona fide and not a scam.

Finally we discussed awareness-raising and engagement. We built upon the previous discussion of potential suspicion, and agreed that clear endorsement by Birmingham City Council and/or central government was required to put people’s minds at ease that the project is for real

I raised the point that in communicating with people about the scheme, the environmental message needs to be as strong as the financial one. For many people it will be the financial incentive that attracts them, but the reason the deal exists is to reduce carbon emissions and that message should not be lost. If it is then a precious opportunity to raise awareness of the direct links between day-to-day behaviour and climate change would be lost. Some people will also be attracted by the environmental incentive too, so there is a need to understand people’s drivers.

I found the consultation interesting and informative, and it was great to be representing BFOE ‘out there’. It felt like a responsibility and a privilege to be championing the green perspective and engaging with people with very different perspectives, such as business, housing and even energy (I was sat next to a man from one of the big six energy companies, who we are currently campaigning against with our Final Demand campaign!). This was both challenging and enjoyable, and felt very necessary.
Kara Moses

Friday, 10 February 2012

weekly compilation 10.02.2012

Here's a summary of what's been in the news across our main campaign areas over the last week:

Biodiversity
Bees Butterflies & Blooms on iPlayer http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0152fty/Bees_Butterflies_and_Blooms_Villages_Farms_and_Countryside/ great programme explaining why we want to get Britain Buzzing!
The Badger Trust prepares legal challenge on #Badger cull. http://www.badgertrust.org.uk/_Attachments/Resources/638_S4.pdf #Wildlife #Science
Are tuna + mackerel stocks close to collapse? http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120208103226.htm #fish #marine #biodiversity #business #EcosystemServices @ProBiodiversity

"If, God forbid, there were no pollinators it would cost economy £400m pa to substitute for that." #bees #Rioplus20 http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/uk-to-press-for-global-green-accounting-system-6699781.html
George #Osborne is wrong in saying protecting our environment is a burden. #Wildlife and #Countryside Link shows why: http://www.wcl.org.uk/docs/Link_response_to_Nature_Directives_060212.pdf

Energy & Climate Change
Well, that's nice of them! Only1/3: RT @IVSolarUK: DECC predicts a third of UK solar workers will lose their jobs: http://bit.ly/xcJBgi
Response by @wwwfoecouk to Government announcement on plans to reform solar subsidies: http://bit.ly/xLZXiC
World's biggest wind farm opens, but it's just a drop in the ocean: http://bit.ly/wHrpmV
RT @powellds: DECC proposal is that tariff rates will fall by ANOTHER 25% - from 21p - as soon as July 2012 http://bit.ly/zUi0UE
RT @wwwfoecouk: Ed Davey speech on energy efficiency - Friends of the Earth reaction: New Energy Secretary… http://goo.gl/fb/IMR4n
RT @Good_Energy: BBC #Panorama accepts it should have been clearer that it's gas prices that are pushing up fuel bills http://bbc.in/yVf8BK
RT @FOE_Scotland: Every windfarm mapped - and the MPs who hate them | News | http://guardian.co.uk http://bit.ly/z21Fvx
Oil man is new chairman of Carbon Trust - really? How does that work to build trust? http://bit.ly/wRMicK
RT @Martin_Abrams: Why Tory MPs opposition to wind power will put your energy bill up: http://gu.com/p/359ft/tw #Wind #Energy #Climate

Planning
RT @getgood: Set of pics of Island House covered in plastic today #saveislandhouse http://bit.ly/y2YCSA
RT @BCCNewsRoom: Consultation on #green guidance for development in Birmingham: http://bit.ly/wHkXwt #brum #localgov #planning
RT @LocaliseWM: Birmingham City Council - a poor landlord for the Wholesale Markets http://s.coop/7yyf #supportourmarkets
RT @jonwalker121: Mayoral hopeful Sion Simon on his campaign to protect Birmingham's wholesale markets http://bit.ly/x1xJmh >His campaign?
£1 million Government funding announced for 'Portas Pilots': http://bit.ly/wYbOkf our article on Portas review: http://bit.ly/wyFVGq

Transport
RT @AirportWatch: Planes & pollution: Trouble in the air, double on the ground | The Economist http://econ.st/w4L7fc
RT @AirportWatch: UK carbon emissions up 3.1% in 2010 compared to 2009. Aviation 6.4% of UK total in 2010. http://bit.ly/xadSRi
RT @BBCPolitics: The Times cycling campaign in Commons debate in fortnight. Peers have already debated safety options: http://bbc.in/A2LfSg
Don't agree with this at all - re-open stations: RT @the_ecologist: Why closure of lines is vastly preferable to #HS2: http://bit.ly/wACgre
Airport is "morbidly obese gourmand giving up a weekly tube of Smarties & pretending this will help him lose weight." http://bit.ly/zfxZl3
Rebel Tory alliance to mount legal challenge to £34bn high-speed rail scheme: http://bit.ly/zPh5PX
RT @ModeRange: I just asked my councillor to take action on icy, slippery streets via @livingstreets http://bit.ly/uBzKcQ

Waste & Resource Use
Designing out waste is not only at the core of a circular economy but crucial in society's transition towards it: http://bit.ly/yzxeuI
Terrapins thrown in rubbish are rescued from waste plant: http://bbc.in/xyeswK - good job it wasn't an incinerator - would've had no chance!
RT @James_BG: So has Pickles u-turned on bin collections or was it always going to be more progressive than it sounded? http://bit.ly/xc4ffO

Others
For people who want to be kept informed about our "City of the Future" public debate, sign up on facebook: http://on.fb.me/A7W9Qt
MT @LocaliseWM: Call for up to £70bn Green Quantitative Easing to stabilise flagging UK economy: http://wp.me/p1ckC8-Ul Agree
MT @escapethecheese: Escape Valentine’s day & raise money to help @northfieldeco plant trees at @urbancoffeeco on 14th. http://bit.ly/ztsaZC
Are we going to get a bill for a supermarket adjudicator as recommended by the competition commission? http://bit.ly/xUUdPs
Good work Roger. Thanks for backing our ask RT @RogerGodsiff I call for supermarket watchdog in the next Queen's Speech bit.ly/wK1bz
Read about our exciting public debate coming up in March: Cities of the Future: http://bit.ly/zydJXh
RT @jrf_uk: 'Why economic inequality leads to collapse' http://j.mp/AatSXn via @guardian
New blog post about the West Midlands regional gathering on Saturday: http://bit.ly/xAkTYU #foegath