Category Archives: Politics

Press Release

Kings Langley Christian Aid and Transition Group meet MP Mike Penning to urge the Government to act on climate change


‘Wake up to Climate Change’

Four members of Kings Langley Christian Aid and Transition in Kings met with MP Mike Penning on 31st October to urge him and the Government to take urgent action on climate change. This follows the 2015 Paris Agreement, signed by 87 parties, to take the necessary measures to restrict the rise in global temperatures to well below 2 degrees centigrade.
The local group said they were encouraged by the Government committing to ratify the agreement but said that it was now imperative that specific measures were taken to meet this vital objective. Climate change is already affecting millions across the world by rising sea levels, floods and droughts as well as unpredictable weather patterns which impacts on harvests.
When asked what his view was on this and other environmental concerns Mike Penning said it was time to ‘Wake up’ to this issue and respond in a way that shows we understand that we are tenants of this planet. He agreed to write to the Secretary of State and ask when the agreement would be fully ratified and what measures would be taken to reduce our carbon emissions.
In the discussion the group also urged the Government to help communities and individuals play their part in by providing financial support for renewable energy and incentivising the use of solar panels.
Paul Tucker, one of the Group said: ‘We were really pleased with the reception we got from our local MP and that he understands the importance of taking action on climate change. We are now eager to hear how this will be taken forward and the ongoing support he can provide.’
Paul Tucker
Chair, Christian Aid Kings Langley

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Taking sustainability personally

Robert Mostyn

Robert is the immediate-past Chair of TiK. He is planning another blog post that builds upon this one, which presents how citizens can become potent change-makers in achieving sustainability.

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I have been reading in the news over the last 24 years how human activity, principally by burning fossil fuels, has contributed to a new phenomenon, global warming. Now a warmer Britain may sound appealing, very appealing in fact, but that is just looking at the issue from a personal convenience perspective. The thing is, global warming is a global issue that is much bigger than me and much bigger than Britain.

Observation number 1: perspective is everything
As a young man, I attended a seminar where it was suggested that we create “A world that worked for everyone, with no one left out”. This idea rocked my world. It struck a chord so deep that I still feel its reverberations in my heart 34 years later. Through various other conversations I had during that time I learned that so many people lived in the world with seriously diminished means and with that, a diminished dignity. This was the beginning of me shifting my personal perspective from “how do I get ahead in the world?” to “how do I get to live in the world with everyone else?”.

It was also around this time that I became fascinated with economics. In trying to understand how the world worked, I was compelled to understand the nature of the economy. This was an elusive subject…deeply personal yet profoundly global. I never studied it formally but I would devour articles that came my way about the nature of money. In short, I was discovering that the world mattered to me. I wanted to make a difference in the world. Could I do that?

So many issues would pass through my thoughts: fairness, being remunerated for hard work, valuing others, my own sense of being short of money, I deserve more, people who “make things happen” should be rewarded, and so on. I am a Libran, able to see both sides of a situation. No matter which perspective I took, there was always a tussle between equity, justice and freedom. What is right? What is fair? Who am I in the matter? What difference can I make?

Observation number 2: the only thing I have a complete say in is my own life
What I choose to study, what conversations I wish to engage in, the partner I choose and what opinion I want to express. Each one may have consequences I did not anticipate further down the line, but each one is of my own making.

While I was enquiring into what would make the world work, I could not help but be confronted with… daunted by… the innumerable things that weren’t working! Polluted rivers; oceans full of plastic; air thick with smog; chemicals in the water to keep it “clean”; pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics in food… I was (still am) being poisoned, both physically and spiritually! It is easy to be overwhelmed by the complexities of life. Surely someone would fix all this!

Waiting for that someone, I became quite despondent. Surely this someone would explain what the specific problems were and how to solve them. If not someone, then the government. No?

Inherent tensions / conflicts of interest within the system
It occurred to me that there was an unending, unwholesome loop in managing the affairs of the economy and state. It goes roughly like this:

  • politicians are not there to impose their will, they are there to reflect the will of the people
  • politicians like to be in power and for that they have to be popular
  • politicians have to be popular with voters (for their vote) and businesses owners (for financial support)
  • it would be difficult for any political party to implement a sustainability regime if there was anything unpopular about it – with either grouping above
  • a buoyant economy helps us all
  • even a steady economy is considered stagnant and therefore undesirable
  • economic incentives (the pursuit of efficiency), by its very definition, is geared towards taking people out of the production flow (therefore, out of the economy).

Invisibility is masking urgency
Over the last 100 years, extracting fossil fuels from the earth and burning them has resulted in a massive transition of carbon out of the earth’s crust into the atmosphere. It’s real, it’s seriously going to threaten our existence, but it’s invisible and the effects are not immediate. And out of sight has a tendency to be out of mind.

Scale
Several years ago I was reading a “State of the Planet” report published by the World Wildlife Fund. It said that if everyone on earth led an average British lifestyle, we would need three planets to sustain everyone. This was a *jolt* moment for me. Here I was, leading what I thought was a modest lifestyle, and discovering it required three planets (if I believe everyone on earth should have access to resources on an equitable basis)! My lifestyle is destroying the planet! Since then I have implemented a number of eco enhancements to our house.

Who do I turn to?
I need the government to tell me what to do, and I’ll do it. If I am a good citizen, I will comply and everything will be OK. Right? Tell me this then:

  • Which government will introduce laws that will curb my lifestyle by a factor of 3? That is 2/3 less travel to work, 2/3 less heating of the home in winter, 2/3 less food.
  • Which business owners will support a political party that reduces their business flows by 2/3?

For these reasons alone, I believe solving the sustainability problem will not be implemented by a government. And there isn’t much incentive for business to solve the problem either.

I am the key
The implementation of sustainability practice is not going to be implemented by government – it is too risky for politicians. And it’s not going to be implemented directly by industry.

If industry is simply a reflection of what the market wants, and I am part of that market, then my purchases (my consumption choices) are what shapes industry. This is the elegance of supply versus demand theory. I could criticise a battery manufacturer for using nasty chemicals in their manufacture, or producing a product that does not recycle easily, but if I am the one buying their product (and I do), I cannot blame the company. The company is simply an expression of me!

The shape of our sustainable future cannot be determined by government or industry. It is being shaped now. I can start determining sustainability implementation with my next purchase. And the next one. And the one after that…

We must try and screen the film “Demain” in Hertfordshire

Demain is a 2015 French documentary film directed by Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent. Faced with a future that scientists say is pretty bleak, the film has the benefit of not giving in to catastrophism. It identifies and covers initiatives that have proven themselves in ten countries around the world: concrete examples of solutions to environmental and social challenges of the twenty-first century, be it agriculture, energy, economy, education and governance.

In 2012, in the British journal Nature1, Anthony Barnosky, Elizabeth Hadly and 20 other scientists stated, in a Consensus Statement orchestrated by California Governor Jerry Brown, that a large part of humanity will disappear before 2100.

This will not be the result of a meteorite but because of the behaviour of humankind leading to the general collapse of ecosystems. This will be the end of stable living conditions: overcrowding, lack of water, lack of fossil fuels, climate change will force millions of the desperately poor to plunder richer countries.

But the film does not dwell on this. “We’re not in a comfort zone,” says Mélanie Laurent, “and, so far, we are not yet in a state of collapse. We are at a particularly inspiring stage: we know it is going to take us a while and it’s time for us mobilise.”

The film is a road movie that reveals examples of practical solutions to the environmental and social issues of the early twenty-first century.

The film crew traveled to ten countries, to meet people who implement creative solutions: mainland France and Reunion, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Southern India, Great Britain, the United States, Switzerland, Sweden and Iceland.

According to Gandhi, “An example is not the best way to convince, it’s the only way to convince.”

In the UK, the townspeople of Todmorden sow vegetables and plant fruit trees in the streets and everyone can come and help themselves. Incredible Edible hopes to achieve food self-sufficiency by 2018.

In Devon’s Riverford Farm, Guy Watson, combined with other organic farmers across the country, orchestrates the delivery of 44,000 organic vegetable boxes a week.

But how to combat inequality and globalisation? Small businesses must think “local” and organise a network. This is explained by the American localist Michelle Long, leader of Ball (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies), a network of 35,000 local entrepreneurs.

In the areas of agriculture, energy, housing and the economy, fully-fledged solutions prove they can work. Why, wonder the filmmakers, do governments not implement these solutions on a larger scale?

“Our social and political structures”, observes Cyril Dion, “are not suited to the scale of these crises. Citizens expect more politicians to meet their expectations.” As the film shows, real democracy has disappeared and politicians no longer listen to citizens, they just bow to those vested interests who always demand more aberrant economic growth.

The film crew discovers that, in some countries, direct democratic mechanisms are put in place by citizens themselves. They propose laws, oppose, write the constitution or modify it. It shows how local democracy has transformed the small town of Kuthambakkam, South India, experienced in the book ‘A Million Peaceful Revolutions’ by Bénédicte Manier.

Finland is cited as a model of education excellence. The Kirkkojärvi Comprehensive School, Espoo, is “based on benevolence.” The teachers love their jobs, do not distribute reports or sanctions, take their meals with the students and use several pedagogies rather than a single one and take into account the personality and the provisions of each student. Child development is emphasised more than the transmission of knowledge. The pupils learn to live in harmony with others, to cooperate, to negotiate. They also learn to use their hands and, despite all this, the purely “academic” results are better: in 2009, the Finnish education system is ranked second worldwide in science, third in reading and sixth in mathematics, “far ahead of all European countries”.

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