Fiddling while Rome warms -or – Who needs trees when we have better value & greater choice?) #PostCompetence @sheffcitycouncil @SheffTreeAction @AmeyHallam

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If you want to know what I think about the problems and solutions facing our environment, all you need to do is read two things, and they are both children’s stories. The first one is “The Lorax” (1971) by Dr. Seuss, and the other is “The Man Who Planted Trees” (1953) by Jean Giono. If you didn’t read them before your teenage years, you need to read them (or watch them) right now.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lorax
http://www.seussville.com/books/book_detail.php?isbn=9780394823379

http://www.idph.net/conteudos/ebooks/the_man_who_planted_trees.pdf

I am not a professional ecologist but, more recently, it only took the reading of one article to understand the value of trees, hedges and wildlife to protect urban areas from flooding. That article was written by George Monbiot in 2015. He has written about flooding and flood prevention on many more occasions and it turns out it’s not exactly rocket science.
http://www.monbiot.com/2015/12/08/a-storm-of-ignorance/

The issue of trees and the felling thereof is not a trivial matter, but a matter of life and death. Not only do they protect us from damaging winds and devastating floods, trees accommodate wildlife that is not catered for by any number of students flats or prestigious retail developments. That wildlife that I am referring to is the birds and bees. Literally, the birds and bees, and if you do not know about the significance of the interdependence of species then I suppose you must have never gone to school.

And that leads us directly back to Sheffield City Council. If those people in the Council do not acknowledge how dangerous the situation is, they should be removed from office immediately. They have either been financially motivated or they are simply not competent to make decisions that affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

It actually made it into the pages of The Guardian that there is a battle raging between Amey, one of the Council’s private contractors, and the people of Sheffield over the cutting down of trees. Amey is cutting down trees that are potentially going to interfere with their road works and hence it is cheaper for them to remove the trees rather than repair any damage.
It even made it onto The One Show on 2nd January 2017.

Facile dummies like Councillor Bryan Lodge and Leader of the Council Julie Dore should be removed from their posts immeditately and prosecuted for gross misconduct. People who are demonstrably unfit for their jobs need to be deprived of them. If either of them were remotely competent, they would have already resigned in protest of the conditions of the PFI contracts.

In reality, Amey is far more responsible for the erosion of Sheffield’s streets than all of our trees put together. Their negligence in repairing our roads has left many of them in such poor condition (the worst I have ever known in my lifetime) that it is necessary to slalom up and down Sheffield’s seven hills in order to protect your vehicle from being battered by the potholes. Recently, I tweeted Amey asking if they would be issuing risk assessments for the roads, having just witnessed a child falling due to stepping in a pothole deep enough to be a trip hazard. That’ll show ‘em.

This is an example of the “better value” and “greater choice” that we were promised by privatisation that was just a lie, all the way back to Margaret-fucking-Thatcher.
It’s a mire of misinformation, but the real issue is not about maintaining house prices, or preserving “a bit of greenery” for kurbside appeal, it is about maintaning a functional ecosystem, without which we, and our children will be dead.

Unfortunately, I suspect Amey employs more accountants than ecologists and I have no doubt that the local authority has either failed to, or been prevented from, providing adequate oversight of their contract. Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts are not subject to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and as such we don’t know what they are or are not required to do or what they get paid for it.

I believe many people are truly ignorant of environmental issues and the threat that they hold to us and our descendants. I recently attended a demonstration outside Barclays Bank in central Sheffield protesting them to cease funding hydraulic fracture mining (fracking). There weren’t many people there, and I noticed that those giving out leaflets mostly bypassed me. I think it was because I was dressed in all black workwear, rather than the ethically-sourced, rainbow-painted gear adorning most of the others. Don’t take that the wrong way, I have nothing against the hippies, but I think they probably thought I was the official police informer.

Not a very good one, apparently, but it belies a more significant issue. It seems that the majority of the population, including the hippies, see environmental issues as something that only tree-huggers and militant vegans care about, and the lentil-weavers and yummy-mummies don’t think that those of us that are none of those things can still understand the problems.
And they’re right.

Most people do not understand ecological destruction as the existential threat that it is, far more than evil migrants stealing their jobs or bomb-making jihadis in every corner shop. And a lot of them just don’t give a fuck, although they will once they have to buy their drinking water from Nestlé.

I am seriously worried about my own future, and I am only expecting to live another 30 years or so. But anyone younger than me, and especially anyone with children, needs to get their shit together on this. It is a dangerous delusion to think that we can just keep eroding the environment and that technology will save us because it fucking won’t. The precedent is quite the opposite. We already have a shit ton of amazing technology that has done nothing to protect our environment.

You won’t hear about it on the BBC but Fukushima has been dumping hundreds of tons of radioactive-contaminated water into the pacific ocean for years and there is currently no solution to the problem. In another 10 or 20 years, there will be nothing left alive between Japan and the US.

Apart from Godzilla, of course.

I do not wish it, but maybe if London is badly flooded, or some of the plutocrats actually lose money, or Theresa May’s leather trousers get water-damaged, then maybe we will get some meaningful action. In the meantime, get angry, get active and do not take “but what can I do?” for a fucking answer from your local representatives

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Pourquoi je ne suis pas Charlie #CharlieHebdo #EndlessWar #ParisShooting

Je suis Charlie.002

When I was young, I used to laugh at paranoid, grumpy old men who told me not to believe what we read in the newspapers or saw on the television news. Maybe at 50 years I am not exactly an old man, but I can no longer be described as young, and I am certainly paranoid and grumpy.

Some of my family, friends and colleagues attended a Charlie Hebdo solidarity rally in Sheffield on Sunday 10th January. I did not. Not because I in anyway condone or excuse the action of the men who murdered 12 cartoonists and journalists at the magazine’s headquarters, or the five other people killed subsequently. But even before the staggering hypocrisy of David Cameron, amongst others, posturing at the memorial march in Paris, I felt uncomfortable about the willingness of the British mainstream media to ignore the approximately one million people who have been killed in the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere that is really a colonial proxy war over oil and gas reserves, perpetrated by the United States and aided by the United Kingdom.

Je suis Charlie.001
Here is my “brilliant” take on the Charlie Hebdo shooting. An anti-colonialist, anti-royalist Facebook cover picture. That’ll show ’em..

As an observer, I am not in the same league as people like John Pilger, and if you want to know more about the dirty wars being perpetrated in our names, you should read his work and watch his films and I will not duplicate that here.
http://johnpilger.com/articles/from-pol-pot-to-isis-anything-that-flies-on-everything-that-moves

He documents how jihadism / radicalization was unknown in most of the middle eastern countries until recently and how it is a product of invasion, occupation and oppression. He compares it to the rise of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot in Cambodia, who were radicalized by the indiscriminate bombing by the US, and theirs was a reign of genuine terror that left two million Cambodians dead in the killing fields and torture rooms.

Will Self, in his article for the Guardian, branded the murderers as evil and, although I would not necessarily use that word myself, quite rightly says that the act was not “an attack on freedom of speech”, and also that freedom of speech is not an inalienable human right. Unfettered freedom of speech would also allow the expression of any extreme views, including incitement to racial hatred and violence.
http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/will-self-charlie-hebdo-attack-the-west-satire-france-terror-105

Memories are short, but I remember thinking about some members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), in the days before the successful negotiated peace (fancy that!), that, regardless of their grievances and the British government’s shameful past, some of the members of the IRA seemed to enjoy making bombs and blowing “holes in bandsmen by remote control”.

Wicked, misguided people with always find a reason to justify their actions, but these motivations should not be used to generalize attitudes towards other people that the perpetrators might identify with. If Charlie Hebdo had not published cartoons portraying the prophet Mohammed, the same men would have found other reasons for persecuting other victims, because that is what they wanted to do.

Charlie Hebdo has a reputation for highly provocative material and this I why I do not claim je suis Charlie. As cartoonist Martin Rowson said in the Channel 4 News discussion with Will Self, a degree of self-censorship is also necessary. I do not believe that the principle of freedom of speech allows anyone to say absolutely anything. Responsibility needs to be exercised, although that does not excuse murder.

I can’t speak for other countries, but the British mainstream media is a swamp of lies and misinformation. I am sure that there are radicalized Muslims but I do not believe there are anywhere near as many as our media would have us believe, and where there are genuine jihadists, they have been inspired by generations of foreign countries destroying their homelands, killing their people and stealing their resources.

I believe that the mainstream media’s obsession with radicalized Muslims is a deliberate policy, seeded by the spin-doctors and lobbyists of the right-wing political parties, and is directly comparable with the scapegoating of Jews by Hitler and the National Socialists in the 1930s. It is a strategy to move the electorate to the right and to undermine civil liberties.

Just as I criticized the poppies in the moat of the Tower of London, representing only the British and Commonwealth service personnel’s dead and not even the hapless civilians, I believe that this act of murder is part of an ongoing tragedy whose scale is almost too great to comprehend.

In the same week, 2,000 people were murdered in Baga in Nigeria by Boko Haram but we didn’t see any world leaders marching there. No doubt because the victims are only black people and they do not work in the media. What’s more, they don’t live in a comfortable western city where a photo opportunity would not be too inconvenient.
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/09/boko-haram-deadliest-massacre-baga-nigeria
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/12/-sp-boko-haram-attacks-nigeria-baga-ignored-media

The hypocrisy of our political leaders is breathtaking. Even a committee of George Orwell, Charles Dickens and Samuel Beckett would be hard pushed to imagine a more cynical image than Benjamin Netanyahu, David Cameron and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu arm-in-arm, marching in solidarity for freedom of speech.

Stop the War Coalition nailed it with this post:
http://www.stopwar.org.uk/news/what-is-missing-from-the-media-coverage-of-the-charlie-hebdo-murders

In the meantime, don’t believe what you read in the newspapers or see on the television news.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Hebdo_shooting