Category Archives: Health

The 15-minute city – the radical shift that all towns and cities need

George Monbiot (right) notes that government – Supercharging the future of driving – still plans to spend £27 billion on building more roads, presumably to accommodate all the new electric cars it will be subsidising.

He continues: “An analysis by Transport for Quality of Life suggests that this roadbuilding will cancel out 80% of the carbon savings from a switch to electric over the next 12 years”.

He says the government seems to have no interest in systemic change:

“Everywhere, even in the government’s feted garden villages and garden towns, new developments are being built around the car. Rail policy is just as irrational. The construction of HS2, now projected to cost £106 billion, has accelerated in the past few months, destroying precious wild places along the way, though its weak business case has almost certainly been destroyed by the coronavirus”. His analysis:

Fundamentally, this is not a vehicle problem but an urban design problem

“It is an urban design problem created by our favoured vehicle. Cars have made everything bigger and further away”.

Paris, under its mayor Anne Hidalgo, is seeking to reverse this trend

Monbiot reports that, like several of the world’s major cities, London is being remodelled. The mayor, recognising that, due to Covid restrictions, fewer passengers can use public transport, has set aside road space for cycling and walking. Greater Manchester is asking government to support plans for 1800 miles of protected pedestrian and bicycle route.

Paris, under its mayor Anne Hidalgo, is seeking to reverse this trend, by creating a green “15-minute city” – a city, “reclaimed entirely by its citizen”, where everything a resident needs can be found within a short walk. Districts treated by transport planners as mere portals to somewhere else will become self-sufficient communities, each with their own shops, parks, schools and workplaces, within a 15-minute walk of everyone’s home.

Condé Nast Traveller magazine recalls that Anne Hidalgo was re-elected on a campaign promise of stronger climate action and improvements to quality of life, “In 20 years, Paris will still be Paris but in step with the times. We will get around predominantly by public transit, by bike, or on foot. Far from the era of car dominance, life will be calmer. Nature will take pride of place in the city, as it always should have,” she explained. “There will be lawns in place of concrete esplanades, and green spaces in every neighbourhood. We’ll be able to swim in the Seine, and we’ll continue to imagine and create the future with our skilled entrepreneurs, artisans, and artists”.

Instead of having a central business district, where most work and commercial activities are situated with housing further away from the centre according to price, the 15-minute city is an urban form where people can live, work and play within 15 minutes walking or cycling distance in each district. This would significantly reduce commuting time, over-reliance on cars and public transportation, and would lead to a less polluted city while improving social and economic vibrancy, as well as quality of life of the inhabitants.

Natalie Whittle explains that the concept of “la ville du quart d’heure”, developed by Sorbonne Professor Carlos Moreno, is one in which daily urban necessities are within a 15-minute reach on foot or by bike. Work, home, shops, entertainment, education and healthcare — in Moreno’s vision, should all be available within the same time a commuter might once have waited on a railway platform.

National lockdown was a dress-rehearsal

Monbiot ends: “This, I believe, is the radical shift that all towns and cities need. It would transform our sense of belonging, our community life, our health and our prospects of local employment, while greatly reducing pollution, noise and danger. Transport has always been about much more than transport. The way we travel helps determine the way we live. And at the moment, locked in our metal boxes, we do not live well”.

 

 

 

 

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The World Health Organisation’s Manifesto for a healthy and green recovery from COVID-19

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed the 73rd World Health Assembly.  May 18th 2020:

“The pandemic is a reminder of the intimate and delicate relationship between people and planet. Any efforts to make our world safer are doomed to fail unless they address the critical interface between people and pathogens, and the existential threat of climate change, that is making our Earth less habitable.”

A summary

COVID-19 is the greatest global shock in decades.  Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, and the world’s economy likely faces the worst recession since the 1930s.  The resulting loss of employment and income will cause further damage to livelihoods, health, and sustainable development. 

We cannot go back to the way we did things before.

Increasing numbers of infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, SARS and Ebola, have made the jump from wildlife to humans – and all available evidence suggests that COVID-19 has followed the same route.

As infections spread, a lack of universal health coverage has left billions of people, including many in rich countries, without reliable and affordable access to medical treatment.

Massive inequalities have meant that deaths and loss of livelihoods have been strongly driven by socioeconomic status, often compounded by gender and minority status.

Attempting to save money by neglecting environmental protection, emergency preparedness, health systems, and social safety nets, has proven to be a false economy – and the bill is now being paid many times over.

The world cannot afford repeated disasters on the scale of COVID-19, whether they are triggered by the next pandemic, or from mounting environmental damage and climate change. Going back to “normal” is not good enough.

In adversity, the crisis has also brought out some of the best in our societies, from solidarity among neighbours, to the bravery of health and other key workers in facing down risks to their own health to serve their communities, to countries working together to provide emergency relief or to research treatments and vaccines.

The “lockdown” measures that have been necessary to control the spread of COVID-19 have slowed economic activity, and disrupted lives – but have also given some glimpses of a possible brighter future. In some places, pollution levels have dropped to such an extent that people have breathed clean air, or have seen blue skies and clear waters, or have been able to walk and cycle safely with their children – for the first times in their lives.

National governments are now committing trillions of dollars, in a matter of weeks, to maintain and eventually resuscitate economy activity.  These investments are essential to safeguard people’s livelihoods, and therefore their health.

But the allocation of these investments, and the policy decisions that will guide both short- and long-term recovery, have the potential to shape the way we live our lives, work and consume for years to come.

Nowhere is this more important than in their effects on environmental degradation and pollution, and particularly on the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving global warming and the climate crisis.

Decisions made in the coming months can either “lock in” economic development patterns that will do permanent and escalating damage to the ecological systems that sustain all human health and livelihoods, or, if wisely taken, can promote a healthier, fairer, and greener world. 

To read the World Health Organisation’s prescriptions for a healthy, green recovery go to its newsroom.

There is widespread public support for policies that do not seek only to maximize GDP, but to protect and enhance wellbeing, and for governments to combat climate change and environmental destruction with the same seriousness with which they are now fighting COVID-19. It is also shown by the millions of young people who have mobilized to demand action not only on climate and biodiversity – but also for the right to breathe clean air, and for their future on a liveable planet.

 

 

 

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Will the post virus economy collapse or emerge leaner and fitter?

Many people facing the corona virus pandemic are focussing on immediate needs and requirements but some correspondents – and hopefully heads of state – are looking further.

A Moseley resident writes: “Once again, the bill will have to be paid. Expect years of austerity to pay for this virus disaster. I’m guessing that, otherwise the currency will be valueless and inflation will run riot. At the moment we’re in 1918 to be followed by 1920 and then 1930 and 1940 ….

A clear, convincing and relatively optimistic account was written on March 7th by Australian-born economist, Dr Steve Keen (right).

Dr Keen’s breadth and depth of education inspires confidence: it includes Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees from the University of Sydney in the ‘70s and later a Master of Commerce and a PhD in economics in the ‘90s at the University of New South Wales in 1998. He is currently professor and Head of the School of Economics, History and Politics at Kingston University in London.

His article A Modern Jubilee as a Cure to the Financial Ills of the Coronavirus – is summarised here. Some links and graphics added

He points out that this is the first disease to compare to the Spanish Flu in terms of both transmissibility and virulence. Europe was embroiled in World War I at the outbreak of the Spanish Flu. Its health and population impacts were huge: estimates of the death toll vary between 40 and 100 million in a global population of 1.8 to 1.9 billion.

But its financial effects were mild, disruptions to the war economy for much of the world were relatively small, with guaranteed employment and wages for military personnel, rationing for the general public and other wartime measures. Crucially, private debt was a mere 55% of US GDP when the flu outbreak began. The private sector was relatively robust.

The situation is vastly different today. Our great financial crisis, the “Great Recession” or “Global Financial Crisis”, lies in the recent past, and its primary cause is still with us: US private sector debt is just 20% of GDP lower than its peak during the crisis, three times higher than at the time of the Spanish Flu.

In addition, we now have “the gig economy” and precarious jobs in industries which are likely are likely to be hard hit by the Coronavirus: health itself, entertainment, restaurants, tourism, education. They could lose their jobs, and be unable to service their debts or pay their rents, or even buy food.

Many employers could also be unable to service their debts. Corporations in the USA have levered up during the period of Quantitative Easing, pushing the US corporate debt to GDP ratio to an all-time record. It is also twice the level that applied during the Spanish Flu. Many corporations will find their cash flows dry up and many will find these debt levels crushing.

The production system is also more vulnerable than at the time of the Spanish Flu.

The global economy today relies on long and complicated supply chains, with many goods being produced from components manufactured in dozens of countries and shipped between them on container vessels.

  • If manufacturing in even one place (such as China) comes to a near standstill, production elsewhere will do the same.
  • “Just in Time” manufacturing methods will run out of inputs, even if their factories are still capable of operating.
  • Shipping could be affected if crews refuse to undertake trips that can take weeks with potentially asymptomatic carriers on board, or if crews are quarantined for two weeks prior to departure.
  • Shares are likely to plunge in value. We have already seen a 14% fall in the S&P500 (though followed by a 5% rebound on Monday March 2nd) . . . We are clearly in the exponential phase of the pandemic. It will ultimately taper, but at present the number of cases outside China is doubling every 2-6 days, depending on the country.
  • Banks will also suffer badly. The asset side of their ledgers includes corporate shares: if these fall in value, banks will find their assets plunging, while their liabilities remain constant. A bank cannot: it must have assets that exceed its liabilities, or it is bankrupt.

A private non-financial company can continue to operate with negative equity, so long as it can pay its debts as and when they fall due even if its liabilities are greater than their assets. But a bank cannot: it must have assets that exceed its liabilities, or it is bankrupt.

A credit-driven, private sector monetary system is not capable of handling a systemic crisis like this. If the rules of such a system are enforced, it will make the crisis worse:

  • renters and mortgagors will be evicted, put on the streets, where they are more likely to catch and transmit the virus,
  • personal hygiene and public health will suffer, when one is needed to slow the pandemic, and the other must be functional to support its current victims,
  • stock markets will crash,
  • banks themselves will fail as their shareholdings plunge in value, bringing the payments system to an end
  • and even those unaffected by the crisis will be unable to shop.

It is, on the other hand, possible for Central Banks and financial regulators, once authorised by their governments, to take actions that prevent the medical crisis from becoming a financial one.

Other mechanisms may exist, but these are the obvious ones to prevent a financial pandemic on top of a medical one.

First: make a direct payment now, on a per-capita basis, to all residents via their primary bank accounts (most effectively, their accounts through which they pay taxes).

As Quantitative Easing has shown, this does not have to be financed by asset purchases. It is quite possible for Central Banks to put a notional asset on their balance sheets to finance. This is already done by the Bank of England to back the value of the notes issued by Scottish Banks: a bill known as a Titan with a face value of £100 million balances the value of bank notes issued by Scottish banks.

The same could be done by any Central Bank to balance a direct cash transfer to the bank accounts of all residents of its country – see People’s Quantitative Easing (Coppola 2019).

This already has been done in Hong Kong. The payment there is HK$10,000, or roughly US$2,000. It does not need to be financed by the Treasury or by taxation: neither were used by the USA to support its $1 trillion dollars per year Quantitative Easing program. There will be no “debt burden for future generations”.

Secondly: boost share prices by buying shares directly.

Quantitative Easing was intended to boost share prices. Clearly it worked—but there is no guarantee that it would work in this situation.

Instead, Central Banks should directly buy shares, as they are also quite capable of doing: Japan’s Central Bank has been doing this for several years already. This puts money in the bank accounts of shareholders, while the shares are then owned by the Central Bank. This could prevent a collapse in share prices, which in turn could prevent a collapse in the banking sector—since if shares fall substantially, many banks will find that their assets are worth less than their liabilities, and they would be forced to declare bankruptcy.

Central Banks can also cope with a share market collapse in a way that private banks and financial institutions cannot. Unlike a private bank, a Central Bank can operate with negative equity. If there was still a stock market crash, a Central Bank holding shares would still be able to operate.

Thirdly: suspend standard bankruptcy rules while the crisis exists

Banks and financial institutions in particular are vulnerable to bankruptcy in this crisis. Non-financial companies which are heavily exposed to the pandemic—health companies, airlines and other transport firms, education providers (including many public universities reliant on student fees), restaurants, sporting grounds—could see their revenues plummet, making them unable to service their debts, and therefore liable to bankruptcy.

Corporations exposed to Coronavirus-driven losses of revenues should also be able to receive direct aid from Central Banks as well. This could take the form of the sale of newly issued shares in return for cash—it should not be in the form of debt, which would simply replace one problem with another.

As Professor Keen ends his constructive and reassuring article, the words of John and Andy, from Moseley and Bournville, have been blended to give their views on a post pandemic future:

If we look coolly, perhaps rather brutally, at our situation, a complete generation may be wiped out, but in the worst scenario most humans on the planet are unlikely to die and the younger members least of all. The NHS will be saved millions by not having to treat the elderly and generally infirm. Pensions will be reduced and a younger, leaner, more focused workforce that realises how soft we had become will take up the cudgels to drive the economy onwards. Human life will go on and maybe the lessons learnt from tackling this infection will help in facing the next.

 

 

 

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2018 stats: top post was by Dr Devinder Sharma and visitors came from 42 countries

Top post, ‘Natural farming is the future: Andhra Pradesh shows the way’: Professor Devinder Sharma

Ends: Andhra Pradesh has launched a massive programme to promote natural farming.

This programme, Rythu Sadhikara Samstha, aims to bring 5 lakh farmers in all the 13 districts during the period 2017-2022 to adopt natural farming practices (read more here and on their Facebook page). I recently visited a number of villages in Kurnool district to meet some farmers who have moved away from chemical agriculture to natural farming practices.

I was amazed to learn that yields are increasing across all crops

In groundnut, yields have gone up by 35 per cent; Cotton productivity has increased by 11 per cent; Chilli by 34 per cent; brinjal by 69 per cent; and paddy by 10 to 12 per cent. So far, 1.63 lakh farmers have switched to natural farming. If crop productivity can increase without using chemical fertiliser and pesticides; if the net income in the hands of farmers goes up considerably; and if natural farming ushers in a climate resilient agriculture, I see no reason why other states cannot emulate the pioneering efforts being made by Andhra Pradesh. #  Posted by Devinder Sharma

Most visitors came from the United Kingdom

 

 

 

 

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Ending the damage the British boarding school does to its pupils – and to Britain

A motion approved by delegates at the 2019 Labour Party Conference in Brighton said a government led by Jeremy Corbyn would “challenge the elite privilege of private schools” and claimed that “the ongoing existence of private schools is incompatible with Labour’s pledge to promote social justice”. The party would therefore include in its next manifesto “a commitment to integrate all private schools into the state sector”.

Below: the final paragraphs of an article first published here and also on this site, reproduced with two profile links added.

Psychohistorian and psychologist Nick Duffell speaks to Richard House about the distinct damage the British boarding school system does to its pupils – and Britain.

A file picture of Eton College

RH: Can you say more about how these traumas drive and distort the attitudes and decision-making of political leaders?

ND: Well, the main thing is that if you’ve been forced to completely dissociate from your natural vulnerability, you can never hope to understand the vulnerable in society.

Neuroscience now proves that if you don’t have emotional intelligence you cannot make good choices; for me, this is the science behind what economist Will Hutton says, that the Tory Party has consistently made bad decisions over decades.

And then there’s the duplicity habit, referred to earlier: if you have a strategic survival personality running your life, you lose touch with what’s true or what’s a lie; you can never be wrong — which is why, even now, Tony Blair cannot admit he was wrong over Iraq.

Boarding school survivors can’t join groups and become team players unless they’ve done the necessary inner work; so we haven’t even really joined Europe yet, despite feeling we should either lead it or quit it. In short, elite boarding is a terrible training for good leadership.

RH: It’s outrageous that, as Robert Verkaik outlines in his book Posh Boys: How the English Public Schools Ruin Britain, these schools receive massive fees, yet as charities pay no rates, corporation tax or investment-income tax. And were VAT charged on fees, it would yield £1.5 billion of tax annually. So what, in your view, is to be done? What line would you advise a left-Corbyn government to take with this toxic class-based schooling system?

ND: It’s vital that Corbyn engages some good advisers on mental health issues in the light of what we now know about psychopathology not only affecting the less privileged, but also the elite.

He should take note of George Monbiot’s recent suggestion in the Guardian of mandatory psychotherapy for would-be political leaders.

Boarding younger than 16 should be stopped, and the existing facilities become residential sixth-form colleges on the model of the Danish “efterskol” and the tax concessions to private schools should be reversed.

Original citation: Nick Duffell is a is psychotherapist, author and psychohistorian based in London. His books include Wounded Leaders, The Making of Them and (with Thurstine Basset) Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege. Richard House is a left-green Corbynista activist in Stroud.

 

 

 

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Will the next government move more freight by rail and waterways to reduce air pollution and road accidents?

Money Supermarket reports that more than half of fatal accidents on British roads involve HGVs, though lorries make up only 10% of the traffic. HGVs are involved in one in five fatal crashes on A-roads and an HGV is five times as likely to be involved in a fatal accident on a minor road than other traffic.

Department for Transport figures are quoted, showing that 82% of articulated heavy goods vehicles exceeded the 50-mph speed limit on dual carriageways and 73% broke the 40-mph limit on single carriageways in 2013. Despite this, in 2015 government raised the speed limit for HGVs travelling on single and dual carriageways in England and Wales. An HGV over 7.5 tonnes can now travel along a single carriageway at 50 mph, up from 40mph. The speed limit for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes travelling on dual carriageways increased from 50mph to 60mph.

The arrival of even bigger HGVs (double articulated mega-trucks) and ‘platooning’ trials pending with a driver in the first cab, controlling the following vehicles has raised further safety concerns. Last year, the Government announced that trials of partially self-driving platoons of lorries were set to take place on roads in the UK by the end of 2018.

Edmund King, president of the AA pointed out that we have some of the busiest motorways in Europe with many more exits and entries – and that platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada but this is not America.

 

A few recent accidents:

12.9.19

The northbound carriageway between junctions 38 (Huddersfield) and 39 (Wakefield) was closed after an HGV overturned following an earlier collision with a car. The HGV was fully laden with glass bottles that had to be unloaded and diesel that had spilled across all three carriageway lanes had to be cleared.

11.9.19

M6 was shut after lorry crash between J12 and J13, near Cannock. The HGV hit the central reservation and later caught fire. Three lanes reopened southbound just after 12:30. Northbound remained closed most of day.

3.9.19

The M6 northbound between J14 (Stafford) and J16 (Stoke-on-Trent) was closed following an HGV fire.

13.8.19

The A38 was closed in both directions, between the A513 near Fradley and B5016 near Burton on Trent due to a crash and an overturned HGV. Around 40 tonnes of grain were spilled in the carriageway.

9.8.19

Police officers investigate the collision involving an HGV, between J25 and J24 near Taunton.

6.8.19

An HGV driver died following a collision on the M6 when his lorry burst into flames after colliding with a safety barrier.

5.8.19

There were severe delays on the M6 southbound between Junction 16 and Junction 15 due to two lanes being closed following an HGV fire. There was approximately seven miles congestion back to J16.

 

There is an alternative:

 

 

A Route One article reviewed reports by continental researchers who believe that their findings offer some support to policies being developed at Pan-European level to promote new multimodal transport corridors. These involve rail, inland waterways, short-sea (coastal) shipping. The researchers concluded that shifting a greater proportion of freight from roads to rail, boat and/or ship for part of its journey would be a sustainable way of meeting continuing rises in freight demand and reducing numbers of road accidents.

The Freight by Water 2018 conference, part of the Inland Waterways Transport Solutions project, highlighted how switching freight from road and rail to water can compete on cost and cut emissions. Inland waterways across the world have proved to be effective and efficient channels for moving everything from beer to building materials.

The conference highlighted several success stories and discussed several opportunities for freight by water, including the Leeds Inland Port at Stourton, which could take at least 200,000 tonnes of freight traffic off the roads. Its conclusion:

The time is right to increase freight using inland waterways throughout the UK and across Europe as an alternative to road and rail freight.

 

 

 

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Use of waterways for freight and passenger services: advocated by government and facilitated by London’s Mayor

Waterways are ‘an under-used resource’ according to Christian Wolmar, award-winning writer and broadcaster specialising in transport. As he writes: “Inland waterways could take thousands of annual lorry trips off North London’s overstretched roads.”

On 11th March, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan sent a message to his mailing list which opened:

“London’s toxic air is a public health emergency. Pollution is shortening lives, it’s linked to asthma, strokes, heart disease and dementia. It costs the NHS £3.7 billion each year and affects children at more than 440 schools who are breathing air that exceeds safe legal pollution levels – this can’t continue. That’s why we’re launching the central London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) on 8 April — a daily £12.50 charge for the most polluting vehicles, 24/7 in the central London Congestion Charge Zone”.

As the forthcoming Gosling report points out: “It is a UK government objective to transfer more freight from roads to inland waterways. The Department for Transport explained in 2017 that waterways are “attractive for the environmental benefits they provide, and the reliable congestion-free freight access they offer over alternate modes.” To this end, note:

  • London mayor Sadiq Khan’s introduction to new Freight and servicing action plan. Key actions include working with boroughs to better coordinate the control of freight movements on London’s roads and increasing use of water and rail.
  • The Mayor of London’s Safeguarded Wharves Review 2018 the mayor of London once more affirms his awareness rail electric vans and cargo bikes Supporting increased use of water by protecting and reactivating wharves.
  • The London Environment Strategy (2018), published by the Greater London Authority, refers to the Mayor’s support for increased use of waterways for freight and passenger services, as well as leisure uses. The main reasons for this are that reducing the number of vehicles and making more use of the waterways will help to improve air quality in London’s busy and congested streets.

In this strategy document, the Mayor sets out aims to reduce emissions from freight through encouraging a switch to lower emission vehicles, requiring a major expansion in electric charging and hydrogen infrastructure. To enable cleaner vessels to use the waterways, new and refurbished wharves, piers and canal moorings to generate renewable power onsite will be encouraged. Where appropriate, shore power or refuelling facilities for low emission fuels should be provided for all vessels moored onsite.

The cost of installing dockside electricity charging stations has been described as a challenge. In Amsterdam a charging rota makes the system commercially viable.

The Loadstar – a ‘multimodal online news resource for the logistics industry’ quotes information from Peter Binham (Transport for London) that the London mayor wants to see about 55% of all project materials carried by river, as well as an overall increase in the amount of freight carried this way. City government efforts are reaping some rewards, with TfL noting that a number of barge trials had been undertaken to increase load-bearing from 800 tonnes to 1,500 tonnes. TfL also uses its influence to indicate transport modes for the projects it is involved in building. (For some reason this link https://theloadstar.com/dhl-express-to-make-a-splash-with-delivery-option-using-thames-barges/, though correct, will not open – it has to be copied and pasted.

The following extract is copied from the Port of London Authority’s informative report, The Thames Vision Goals.

Inland Freight: more goods off roads onto the river

More goods and materials are routinely moved between wharves on the river – every year over four million tonnes carried by water – taking over 400,000 lorry trips off the region’s roads. Future goals:

  • Double underlying intra-port freight to over 4 million tonnes
  • Champion the Thames as a default choice for moving spoil and materials from infrastructure projects close to the river
  • Maintain or reactivate viable cargo handling facilities, with at least five additional facilities brought into operation by 2025
  • Extend the River Concordat to promote freight movements by water
  • Develop the Thames Skills Academy to provide the skills needed on the Thames

Call for a dedicated London freight commissioner

Logistics Manager, a monthly magazine for managers in charge of the supply chain of the UK’s largest industrial, retail and commercial organisations, reports that business leaders are calling on London mayor Sadiq Khan to appoint a dedicated freight commissioner to support the implementation of his transport strategy. They point out that freight movements could be reduced through better use of consolidated trips and of cargo bikes and motorbikes for shorter, smaller deliveries in central London and town centres.

The Freight Transport Association, together with the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Small Businesses, was responding to publication of the mayor’s Freight Action Plan arguing that there is an urgent need for a strong voice to champion freight transport and its particular interests and concerns across London.

 

 

 

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A strong case for a UK industrial strategy: required reading for anyone concerned about post-Brexit manufacturing in the UK

For an analysis of the current position of the UK’s car industry, the range of pressures and issues it faces and its likely shape after any form of Brexit from a range of perspectives, turn to Keeping the Wheels on the Road, the third in the Bite-Sized Brexit books, edited by Professor David Bailey, the foremost commentator on the UK auto industry, Professor Alex De Ruyter, at the Centre for Brexit Studies, Birmingham City University, Neil Fowler and John Mair.

In a major contribution to the Brexit debate, seasoned industry experts, observers, commentators and representatives of the industry’s unions, provide arguments for cautious optimism through to rather shocked pessimism.

From Chapter 5: Just-in-time listening required

Co-authored by Richard Burden, Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Motor Group and David Bailey, Professor of Industrial Strategy at the Aston Business School.

They have no doubt that the future of automotive does not lie with internal combustion engines – whether diesel or petrol – and stress the vital importance of effective management of the transition

Their counter-intuitive assertion that decimating the market for new diesel engines has brought with it damaging if unintended consequences to the protection of the planet – contributing to the first aggregate rise in the greenhouse gases produced by new cars in more than a decade – sent the writer to search for an explanation online:

Ministerial mixed messages over diesel has undermined the capacity of manufacturers to manage that transition.

The industrial impact of failing to manage the transition threatens to be severe too, with UK engine plants of manufacturers like BMW, Ford and JLR all currently heavily dependent on diesel production.

Messages from ministers have been mixed: recent reductions in plug-in car grants standing in stark contrast to the incentives offered to motorists to buy zero-emission vehicles in counties like Norway. But efforts are now being made by the Government to mandate the expansion of the UK’s vehicle charging infrastructure which should include      on-street charging and monitoring of the performance of public charging points. The authors emphasise:

“A successful transition requires more clarity from the Government in support of both the production and take up of the electric and other alternatively powered vehicles that will be the future of the sector.”

The fact that a number of major manufacturers have yet to confirm plans to build in the UK the next generations of models sends out serious warnings signals that would be foolish in the extreme to ignore.

Ministers could show they are listening:

  • by reducing Brexit uncertainty through ruling out no deal,
  • ending mixed messages over modern diesel
  • and showing much more dynamism in supporting the transition to a connected, autonomous and alternatively powered automotive future,

Burden & Bailey insist that the innovative capacity and diversity that has made the UK automotive sector the success story it has become over the past decade remain in place and David Bailey, in his second chapter, asks for an upgrading in how the UK develops its future manufacturing plans:

“There is a strong case for UK industrial strategy to be afforded an institutional status similar to both UK monetary and fiscal policies. At the very least, it should be the subject of regular strategic long-term reviews. By giving it that sort of priority, the new government would send out the kind of powerful message that British industry and foreign investors need to hear given recent uncertainty.”

 

 

 

 

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A Marshall Plan for stability and sufficiency: proposed by Essex Quaker Ted Dunn and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel

Mass migration deprives developing countries of the young, enterprising, dynamic citizens they desperately need at home

Free movement of peoples, as practised in Britain, is the opposite of internationalism, since it implies that we will continue to employ workers from other countries in agriculture and service industries and steal doctors, nurses, IT experts etc from poorer countries, rather than train enough of our own.

A year ago, Colin Hines and Jonathon Porritt challenged the “permanent propping up of whole sectors of our economy as a direct result of our failure to train people properly here in the UK”.

Hines and Porritt call for the training of enough IT experts, doctors, nurses and carers from our own population to “prevent the shameful theft of vital staff from the poorer countries which originally paid for their education” as government figures show that we currently have 1.38 million unemployed people seeking work.

Today, some of the mental and physical health risks to migrants are set out, for the first time, in a World Health Organization study

Migration is stressful: factors include loss of language, of cultural norms, religious customs, social structures and support networks

John Watson reports in Medscape that research suggests refugees or skilled office workers freely passing through borders opened to them by global trade, are connected by a higher risk for mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and somatic disorders (mental illness that causes one or more bodily symptoms).

Professor Dinesh Bhugrah is an authority on the stresses of migration. Individuals who migrate experience multiple stresses that can impact their mental well-being. Years of research have revealed that the rates of mental illness are increased in some migrant groups. Stresses include the loss of the familiar, including language (especially colloquial and dialect), attitudes, values, loss of cultural norms, religious customs, social structures and support networks.

Programmes which would build peace, stability and sufficiency in troubled areas

Essex Quaker Ted Dunn, during the war, was a Friends Ambulance hospital administrator in Ethiopia. He spent the rest of his life as an organic market gardener and in meeting or contacting decision-makers in many countries to advocate regional peace and development programmes, sometimes compared with the Marshall Plan.

His work, though highly commended, met with indifference from the British Government and a general public preoccupied at that time with its own personal well-being and interests. A few of the recommendations may be seen below.

UK politicians and media have shown a similar lack of interest in Germany’s invitation to other developed countries to support the G-20 Compact with Africa – a Marshall-style plan to bolster the economies of poor countries and give people hope for the future.

Development Minister Gerd Mueller aims to develop joint solutions with African countries, with a focus on programmes for youth, education and training, strengthening economies and the rule of law.

The latest news (October ’18) is that Germany and Ghana have entered into a 100 million euros bilateral Investment and Reform Partnership agreement on investment promotion, increased use of renewable energy, promotion of rural youth employment, digital education for girls and women and fair taxation   and vocational training. More information may be seen here.

Like Dunn and Chancellor Merkel, Porritt and Hines advocate a redoubling of our commitments to improve people’s economic and social prospects in their own countries, tackling the root causes of why people feel they have no choice but to leave family, friends and communities in the first place.   

In agreement:

António GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, which has developed the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to transform our world, urges all to work to “Narrow the gaps. Bridge the divides. Rebuild trust by bringing people together around common goals. Unity is our path. Our future depends on it”.

Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at the United Nations’ Geneva headquarters said: “The world’s economy can and must deliver for the common good”.

Professor John Roberts said in one of his newsletters, “Increasingly my thoughts return to the overwhelming need for all of us to think (and then act) as world citizens, conscious of a primary loyalty not to our local nationalism but to the human race (however confused and divided) as a whole”.

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SOME COMMENDATIONS OF REGIONAL PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES

A serious and thoughtful attempt to deal with what is perhaps the most urgent problem facing mankind – Lord Peter Archer, QC

The proposal is an idea which deserves the most serious consideration. H. Dale Anderson, Deputy High Commissioner for Jamaica

I very much support this initiative – Stuart Holland MP, when Shadow Minister for Development

World Peace through regional peace and development programmes should, for example, wipe out the apartheid system in South Africa – Ahaja Shehu Awak; Nigerian High Commissioner

You certainly have my support – George Foulkes, Shadow Minister for the UN

I am a keen proponent of Regional Development. The creation of an International Criminal Tribunal  (is) . . . the lynchpin of the future development of international law. Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International

I firmly believe the proposal represents a very wise and potentially creative way in which the world could deal with its most pressing needs  –  John Sarum, Bishop of Salisbury

I think regionalization of the world’s problems is the only feasible way. Johan Galtung, Peace Researcher, founder of the International Peace research Institute, Oslo

We here will do what we can to further encourage your ideas in Commonwealth capitals whenever opportunities arise – Christopher Laidlaw, then Assistant Director of the Commonwealth  Office 

It is clear that in the fifth decade of the United Nations era there is need for new thinking about the way forward in developing world order. Ted Dunn has added to his efforts in furthering public education on world peace a new work that suggests a practical formula for establishing peace through a step by step approach. He focuses on the regional dimension in a novel way – a proposal for official development programmes which are based on and integrate social, economic and political justice. The formula requires a meaningful relationship between rich and poor countries – one which would be advantageous for their common development and thus necessarily contribute to world peace. It is an imaginative and practically-oriented work, grounded in a thorough knowledge of the historical record. It is to be heartily recommended – Shridath Ramphal, when Secretary General, Commonwealth Secretariat.

 

 

 

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US Green New Deal campaign: US Senator Bernie Sanders

As Colin Hines and Richard Murphy write in the Guardian, British media has failed to notice that the US Green New Deal campaign is now centre stage. Supporters of the Green New Deal made their voices heard on Capitol Hill in December.

“The bold moral leadership of newly-elected members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has me feeling more optimistic about our collective chances of averting climate breakdown than I have in years,” writes Naomi Klein. But a whole lot of things need happen very quickly if the political tide is going to shift in time – including finding new ways to engage the public in this fight.

In this hopeful moment, Naomi Klein had the opportunity to sit down with one of the few politicians who has consistently focused on this issue — Senator Bernie Sanders, whose  record speaks for itself. They spoke at the Sanders Institute Gathering in Burlington, Vermont, this weekend. Sen. Sanders then hosted a ‘town hall’ on climate change with guests including Ocasio-Cortez, 350.org founder Bill McKibben, activist and “Big Little Lies” star Shailene Woodley, climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel, activist and musician Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, and Mayor Dale Ross of deep-red Georgetown, Texas.

Naomi Klein’s interview with US Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent) was published on 3 Dec 2018 and may be seen here.

Highlights

Corporate media is not covering issues of poverty, inequality, health care and – above all – climate change so – after saying drily that the survival of the planet ‘might be of some concern’ – Bernie Sanders has been successfully working with ‘progressive media outlets’. One video had over a million views, more than CNN on the same evening.

As the latest ICC report says that we have 12 years to transform our energy system, Sanders proposes a ‘monumental task’ – getting countries all over the world to co-operate to do this:

“Think what it would mean for our people to get together to transform the energy system instead of waging war – making war on climate change.“ He continues:

The promise of a Green New Deal means:

  • reducing carbon emissions,
  • increasing energy efficiency,
  • transforming electricity generation and
  • using much more energy efficient building methods.

The poorest people in the world suffer most from pollution and climate change – see the incidence of asthma amongst children in the Bronx.

We must rebuild communities in a green way involving people from all communities which will have social and economic benefits – and above all – address climate change and our very survival.

How can it happen?

14,000 Californian homes were recently destroyed, this and other climate related calamities are signs of a worrying future unless we get our act together.

The grassroots will have to stand together. 18 members of the House select committee for the Green New Deal are already supporting these measures.

Remember in 1994 the passion which Newt Gingrich had the House sitting for 20 hours a day as he pressed his right-wing agenda.

We must push the progressive agenda with the same energy and passion, offering

  • a million new jobs
  • lower fuel bills
  • health care for all
  • living wage
  • and protection, training and resettlement for all who lose jobs during the process of change.

Hines also recommends:

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez Ignites Crowd In Climate Change Town Hall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ha6PAyNVWbQ, New York Times article by Nobel Prize winner. Professor Paul Krugman , https://nyti.ms/2GMcJFm  and ‘Pass a Green New Deal’ in the Washington Post: which opens, “The world has until 2030 to drastically cut our emissions. Where do we begin?” and offers 11 policy ideas to protect the planet.

 

 

 

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