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Transition Marlborough general blog

General blog for all miscellaneous posts regarding Transition Marlborough.
Published by Alexandra Wax on 03 April 2012

Ethical Consumer is the UK's leading ethical and environmental consumer magazine. Since 1989, they've been researching brands, products and companies, and rating them against 19 animal welfare, environmental and human rights criteria.

Everybody has their own unique set of ethics and beliefs, so they've developed cutting-edge website tools which make for the world's most sophisticated and convenient ethical rating system. 

In just a few simple steps you can personalise their buyers' guides to produce a shopping list that accurately reflects the issues that are most important to you - be that animal testing, climate change, sweatshop labour, GM crops, nuclear power or whatever.

Go to http://www.ethicalconsumer.org and take out a 4 weel trial subscription.

Look at their Buyer's Guides, take part in their Boycotts and other campaigns

Published by JudyH on 25 March 2012

     Many people already know of the benefits of organic agriculture in restoring soil structure, replenishing the soil’s fertility and its ability to capture CO2.  Concerned people are also increasingly aware of the danger of depending on petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, when the oil is running out.

   Less well known is another threat -  highlighted by headlines in recent weeks –also related to industrial agriculture:  Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO (the World Health Organization) warns that “the end of modern medicine as we know it” is now in sight.

     She claimed that, due to overuse of antibiotics, leading to an explosion of antimicrobial resistance,‘every antibiotic ever developed is at risk of becoming useless, making once-routine operations impossible’ – as well as drugs to treat TB, malaria, bacterial infections and HIV/AIDS, not to mention simple treatments for cuts or a strep throat.

   Most of us have heard the warning of over-prescription of antibiotics in medicine. 

   However, medical specialists and health experts, as quoted in the Ecologist last year (23.5.11)  report that use of antibiotics in humans ‘pales in comparison’ to its use in the agri-food industry, which accounts, globally for up to 70% of antibiotic use.

    Animals such as pigs and poultry raised in cramped, confined, unsanitary conditions (not to mention cattle fed, in some countries, wholly on an unnatural diet of grain) are given antibiotics as feed additives – just to keep them alive.

    The article  reports a study judging that ‘agriculture is believed to now account for the majority of antibiotic-resistance in food poisening cases.’

    A study from the prestigious US John Hopkins university (quoted in the Johns Hopkins magazine, Vol 61, No.3) points out that ‘Scientists know that resistant pathogens can travel from farms by air, water, bird, housefly, chicken truck or manure spreader – or person-to-person, by farm worker.’

   (It should probably be mentioned, that scientists such as the UK’s Michael Antonio, have warned also of the risk posed by antibiotic marker genes used in GM crop varieties which, again, could threaten an explosive development of resistant microbes.)

     Some of this thinking is still controversial.  After strong opposition from farming groups, the Government earlier this year blocked moves to prevent the promotion of  antimicrobial medicines to farmers.  But it should be noted that it was the Government’s own veterinary officials who had proposed the ban.

    And, hearteningly, only days ago a US  federal judge has demanded that the FDA (the Federal Drugs Administration) act to drastically limit the widespread heavy routine administration of penicillin and tetracyclines to farm animals in that country.

    But in any case, the crucial question must be: is this a risk we want to take?  What is the real price of our current unhealthy dependence on quantities of cheap meat and dairy?

   Could it include the future of modern medicine?

    At that price, hopefully an increasing number of us will bulk up our vegetables and pulses, and for savour and flavour, look for local, well-sourced produce (particularly pork, poultry and dairy) – or an organic label.

  

   

    

Published by Jo on 07 March 2012

 


Keith Fryer from the timber industry will lead a discussion on these crucial issues.

 

Having presented at and attended many sessions of Chatham House's Illegal Logging sessions and been heavily involved in the formulation of the timber industry's 'Chain of Custody' legislation, Keith is passionate about the need for more understanding - and the possibility of making a contribution.

 

 

Please join us!  At the Sun, as usual,

from 8pm, Tuesday, March 13th
.

Published by JudyH on 29 January 2012

I was thrilled to hear on BBC4's Crossing Continents recently that deforestation in Brazil's Amazon Rainforest was the lowest on record last year.  Unfortunately, this trend is now threatened by a proposed new forest code.  You can take action here to prevent this threat. 

When I shared this information on the Climate Pledge email there was some great feedback - and also some concern.

Local radio station 105.5 have asked us for a 20-minute slot every 4 weeks (I think people like good news) and Marlborough's Devotion Youth Group are considering becoming a Rainforest Task Force to research this crucial and complex situation. Members were inspired by hearing from Holli Kilburn, last year, on her return from research in the forest canopy in Borneo, and Holli is enthusiastic about meeting them again.

We also heard from forestry expert Keith Fryer, and - even more unexpectedly - from a Brazilian farmer with wide knowledge of the extremely varied terrain, each of whom was concerned about the possibility of oversimplification of the situation.

However, we were delighted by Keith's offer to start a discussion at March Green Drinks on this crucial topic, and look forward to the beginning of an important conversation.  ...onwards and onwards...

Published by Sam Page on 14 December 2011

River Kennet13, 000 cubic metres of water are being extracted from the River Kennet at Axford, each day - this is enough to fill 5 Olympic size swimming pools.  The extent of this problem is examined in the BBC Panorama programme,' Drinking our Rivers Dry', which you can watch here.  

Apparently it will take at least 5 years to build the pipeline that is needed to supply Wroughton with an alternative water source.  Unsurprisingly the Environment Agency states that current abstraction rates from the River Kennet are 'not environmentally sustainable, and could damage habitats and species within the river', however they admit that any legal process to curtail these abstractions will be 'lengthy'.  

Climate change has led to reduced rainfall in Spring and Summer in southern England.  This means that the River Kennet and the wide diversity of wildlife that it supports will die unless we can reduce the amount of mains water that we use by at least 30%.  Action for the River Kennet are lobbying MPs to press for more urgent action at national levels.  

In the meantime we can pledge to cut down our domestic consumption by:

  • reducing the water holding capacity of the toilet cistern
  • washing only full loads
  • measuring the water used in the kettle
  • banning baths and restricting showers to 4 minutes each
  • using aerators in taps to reduce flow
  • keeping a bottle of cold water in the fridge
  • using only rainwater to irrigate the garden 

If you use Thames Water you can get all the devices you need to do this for FREE here!  

Did you know that the average roof can collect up to 100, 000 litres of rainwater per year? Cheap water-butts can be found here and here.

If you are successful in cutting your water consumption, you will probably be able to save money by signing up for a water meter.

Calculate the savings you could make here (when I did this I realised that I could save £75 per year!) ...

and sign up with Thames Water for a water meter, here.

Read World Wildlife Fund's case study on The Impact of Over-abstraction on the River Kennet, here.

Published by Sam Page on 12 December 2011

The 2011 United Nations Conference on Climate Change, COP 17, finished in the early hours of Sunday 11th December.  This is the out-line of the agreements that were reached over the past 13 days:

Negotiations will begin immediately for a new climate change agreement which will capture the commitments of all countries with “legal force”. It must be agreed no later than 2015 and come into force by 2020 at the latest.

A second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol will start in 2013, binding the promises of 35 developed countries led by members of the European Union. Japan, Russia and Canada have dropped out, joining US which has never been a party. The new commitment period will be for 5 or 8 years, yet to be agreed.

Legal and administrative issues necessary to launch the Green Climate Fund in 2012 have been approved. No detail has been forthcoming on how the promise of funding of $100 billion per annum by 2020 will be achieved.

Listen to the final statement by the President of COP 17 here and what the Union of Concerned Scientists said about the final out-come, here.

Published by Sam Page on 25 November 2011

These COP17 talks are critical, since the current legally binding Kyoto Protocol which limits greenhouse gas emissions, expires next year.  Unfortunately the world's major emitters seem to be further apart than ever, with some commentators saying that a new agreement will be put off until 2016 and new targets won't come into effect until 2020! Greenpeace and Christian Aid are urging the developed countries to reach agreement without delay, while Chris Huhne, the Environment and Climate Change Minister, says the UK Government aims to reach agreement on the need for a new treaty.  This treaty should be concluded by 2015, he said.  Meanwhile, delegates from several of the most vulnerable island states have threatened to sit-in at the conference centre in Durban until new legally binding targets that will limit the mean global temperature rise to 2oC, are enforced. 

One of the most pressing issues is the creation of a multibillion dollar fund to fight the impacts of climate change in vulnerable states such as Bangladesh, Maldives, Costa Rica and Samoa.  Ban Ki-moon has called for $100 million dollars to be raised each year for this purpose.  The Green Party is urging rich countries to commit to this fund at the UN meeting in Durban. This large sum could easily be paid out of a 'Tobin' (Robin Hood) Tax - it has been calculated that a 0.1% tax on sterling transactions alone would raise £34 billion per annum, which is more than 50% of the amount need.

You may want to write to your MP about this...

Published by Sam Page on 30 September 2011

This is crucial if we want to tackle climate change and avoid the mounting social problems associated with the rise of economic inequality. The Great Transition provides the first comprehensive blueprint for building an economy based on stability, sustainability and equality.

This report argues that nothing short of a Great Transition to a new economy is necessary and desirable, and also possible. Business as usual has failed. Yet prime ministers, finance ministers and governors of central banks are still running around – perhaps a little less frantically than they were – trying to allay fears and convince us that this is not the case.

The genie is out of the bottle though, and it is hard to see how it can be put back in.

The financial crisis exposed deep flaws in the approach to economics that has dominated policy-making for a generation. It turns out that letting markets rip does not always lead to the best outcomes for societies. Government intervention, far from being inherently inefficient, turned out to be essential to prevent system-wide collapse. A return to blind faith in markets to deliver a future of endless, rapid growth is impossible to imagine now.

The world is warming. The atmosphere cannot absorb the levels of CO2 being pumped into it for much longer without triggering irreversible climate change. The majority of the planet’s ecosystems are being pushed to breaking point. Our ‘footprint’ in the developed world has grown too heavy, and we are showing no signs of our being able to tread more lightly.

Measures of life satisfaction in developed countries are flat. Overwork for many combines with widespread worklessness for others. Set alongside those who have far more than they need are those who do not have enough. Falling social mobility sees these patterns repeated from one generation to the next, while unsustainable levels of debt affect all parts of society. As real incomes have fallen, many have had to take on debt to fund the essentials of life. For the more affluent, status-driven consumerism, often fuelled by debt, is the norm.

We think that there is an alternative; one where we live within the limits of the natural world and more fairly with each other, locally, nationally and globally; where we focus on the things that really matter, applying our core human values to what is really valuable. We estimate that the measures proposed in this report would create up to £8.65 trillion of environmental and social value in the period to 2050.

This won’t just happen. It requires us to rethink much of what we have taken for granted. As the well-off consume less, headline indicators such as GDP will have to fall by as much as a third, but we can grow ‘real value’ at the same time. By 2050, this increase in value would far exceed the fall in GDP, which is a very poor measure of ‘progress’ in any event. Rapid decarbonisation that moves toward global fair deal limits will avoid between £0.4 and £1.3 trillion in environmental costs. A progressive redistribution of incomes to reach Danish levels of equality will cut the costs of inequality-related social problems and increase social value by £7.35 trillion.

By sharing our resources more equally, by building better communities and a better society and by safeguarding the natural environment, we can focus on the things that really matter and achieve genuine and lasting progress with higher levels of well being. Taken together this would amount to what we have termed the Great Transition.

Please down-load the full Great Transition report, via the New Economics Foundation website

                                                                        The Great Transition

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