Sunday, 30 March 2014

Earth Hour Gathering in Bath - And There's More on the Way

This year's Earth Hour - organised by WWF - saw up to 70 environmentally aware people of all ages and many different backgrounds gather together on the green in front of the Royal Crescent to celebrate the event. Earth Hour, in which people are invited to switch off all electrical devices between 8.30 and 9.30pm, is an international campaign to raise awareness about energy usage. It began in 2007 in Sydney, Austrailia and has since become a worldwide hour of action.

The event saw people from all over the city congregate en masse with candles, acoustic guitars and blankets. The combination of a growing sense of environmental awareness, good weather, and the great job undertaken by the people who organised the event were key factors in its success. Even residents of the Royal Crescent came down to the event. At the end of the evening several people did a litter pick and everyone took home a bag of rubbish, to ensure that Earth Hour stuck to its environmental principles.

Due to the success, there are now plans to make "Earth Saturday" a regular event, on the last Saturday of every month, with the next event scheduled for 26th April. Organisers say that if the weather is looking bad, the event will be moved to the following Saturday.

So come on down, this could be the start of something big!

Earth Saturday - Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EarthSaturdayBath
Earth Saturday - April Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1486206851599754

Friday, 14 March 2014

Foster Watch #5 - Don Foster Abstains on Latest Badger Cull Vote

FOSTER WATCH
is a series of posts following Bath MP Foster, who is now Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government. Details of Don's voting record can be found at http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/mp.php?id=uk.org.publicwhip/member/40062&showall=yes#divisions



Back in August 2013, Don told the Bath Chronicle that he was 'pressured' into voting for the badger cull, having been told by the former Liberal Democrat Chief Whip that he had to 'toe the party line', and that preferred choice would be to abstain (see here for full article). Of course, now Don is the Lib Dem Chief Whip, and it's now his job to make MPs vote against their wishes.

This week the badger cull was debated yet again in parliament, and yet again the pro-culllers lost the debate - 219 to 1, although unfortunately this vote is non-binding and won't by itself stop future culls. However, some pro-cull MPs chose to abstain, because the report on last year's cull has yet to be published. Don chose to abstain, and then sent the following e-mail to his anti-cull constituents:
"Morning, 
Thank you for contacting me regarding the vote in the House of Commons on 13 March regarding the possible extension of badger culls nationwide. 
As you may be aware, I decided to abstain from voting on this motion and I would like to take this opportunity to explain the reasoning behind my decision. I chose to abstain as I acknowledge and agree that the trials that took place had numerous shortcomings in terms of cost, humaneness and achieving targets.
However, I did not chose to vote for the motion as I believe that we should not side line the issue of bovine TB, but instead endeavor to quickly develop viable alternatives to tackle bovine TB.
Originally, I voted in favour of the trials taking place as bovine TB is a terrible disease that results in the deaths of tens of thousands of cattle every year. Around 28,000 cattle were slaughtered in England in 2012 alone as a bovine TB control measure. It is estimated that we could be paying as much as £1 billion over the next decade if we do nothing to stop the spread of this disease.
Badgers and cattle transmit bovine TB between each other – the scientific evidence to support this link is now beyond dispute. It is equally clear that no other country has managed to make significant progress on bovine TB without tackling how the disease is spread by wild animals. It was for this reason I voted in favour of two badger cull pilots going ahead this year.
However, since the trials started it has become clear that they were not being completely successful and because of this I could not agree to a national roll-out of further cull trials unless I was convinced of the safety, humaneness and effectiveness of these initial trials.
The trials have not reached the target of removing 70% of the badger population, with initial estimates suggesting the trials reduced the badger population by over 30% in the Gloucestershire and around 60% in the Somerset.
It is due to these short comings that I support developing a viable alternative to badger culling. However, at the moment this alternative does not exist as the option of vaccinating badgers, requires them to be trapped and vaccinated on a yearly basis, which I sure you will agree is logistically problematic. The current vaccine available is only around 70% effective, this poses further problems when you consider that in disease hotspots it is estimated that a third of badgers will have bovine TB.
For this reason, it is clear that we need to advance and accelerate work in developing a viable alternative and I am grateful for the work being done by the Wildlife Trust to advance this alternative. The Government is also investing £11.7 million in vaccine development over the next three years.
Furthermore, George Eustice, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, delivered a statement at the end of the debate yesterday. You can read this at the following link http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140313/debtext/140313-0004.htm and scroll to 4:45PM.
I hope that this is helpful in explaining my position on the issue of badger culls. Please do not hesitate to contact me further on this matter on any other.
With best wishes,
Yours sincerely,
Don"
Well, where do we start with that? Obviously Don has forgotten that he was pressured into voting for it and attempted to make up an excuse for voting in favour of it. TB declined by 3.4% in cattle between 2012 and 2013 without badger culling - Defra's figures are wrong. Vaccination has been shown to work in Wales - TB has declined by 24% as a result far more than than the 16% reduction that even the government admits that a badger cull could deliver (see here for reference). Last year it was calculated by badger expert Professor Rosie Woodroffe (no stranger to badger culling, as she was involved in the last badger cull, but like all good scientists has accepted that her findings showed that it would make 'no meaningful contribution' to tackling the problem) that the cost of badger vaccination would be £2,250 per square kilometre per year, and that the cost of culling, including the cost of policing, would be £2429 per square kilometre per year (reference). Furthermore, the charity Care for the Wild estimated the cost per badger in last year's cull was £4121 (reference) and in January Biocensus reported that the cost per square kilometre was £12857, with just £3913 per square kilometre for vaccinations in Wales (reference). Vaccination could potentially be even cheaper as we know that there's a lot of potential volunteers who would be willing to help with vaccinating badgers for free (several of our friends recently attended badger handling courses, and many more people across the country have attended similar courses), if it meant a complete end to culls.

Don correctly states that "no other country has managed to make significant progress on bovine TB without tackling how the disease is spread by wild animals", however he neglects to mention that so country has ever solved the problem by culling either. Last year's cull failed to meet the target of killing 70% of badgers in the cull zones, and, which could potentially make the TB problem in these areas worse due to the peturbation effect caused by fleeing badgers (reference). Lastly, as no badgers were tested for TB in last year's cull, there's no way of knowing how many badgers were carrying the disease in the first place. The cull was never going to work, and farmers are being conned. The choice between vaccination and culling is a no-brainer - vaccination is cheaper, delivers better results than culling, and will help to build bridges between farmers and badgerists, not create divisions. Don appears to be on the fence with this issue - e-mail him the facts here: donfoster@parliament.uk

For more on the badger cull, here's our in-depth look at the issues: http://standingstonesblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/the-badger-cull-what-you-need-to-know.html

For more on Don Foster, the Foster Watch home page is here: http://standingstonesblog.blogspot.co.uk/p/blog-page.html


Monday, 18 November 2013

UWE Arms Fair, Bristol - Drop Beats Not Bombs Rally

Just in from campaigners against the arms fair at the University of the West of England, Frenchay, Bristol. The arms fair will be taking place on Wednesday this week. More info on the arms fair and plans for protests here: http://standingstonesblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/stop-uwe-arms-fair.html

Drop beats not bombs rally
4pm @ UWE, Frenchay campus
by the bus stops
Tuesday19th.

Listen out for the sound system!
The University of the West of England in Bristol is hosting an arms and 'defence' business fair on the 20th November 2013. This conference portrays itself as the main networking and business event in the UK for the MOD and the military community. See their website: http://www.dprte.co.uk

Students are coming together and welcome support to kick them off campus!

Students at UWE believe a decision to host this event is not in the interest of students or education but part of a wider shift towards profit-driven interests. We are calling on UWE not to invest itself into, promote, support or enable profit-making from/of/through wars, military uses of research, military networks, and violent approaches towards conflicts. Students also denounce the University's strategy of investing into large infrastructures which are largely useless to students and education, like the planned 20,000 seats 'UWE stadium' or UWE's massive Conference Centre, where this conference is to take place.

Please sign our petition here:

https://www.change.org/petitions/calling-the-university-of-the-west-of-england-uwe-bristol-not-to-invest-itself-into-promote-support-or-enable-profit-making-from-of-through-wars-military-uses-of-research-military-networks-and-violent-approaches-towards-conflicts

Our student newspaper, the WesternEye has published this article: http://www.westerneye.net/news/2013/11/uwe-hosts-arms-fair/

A student has written an open letter showing the related gaps between UWEs claims to sustainability and this military conference:
http://www.westerneye.net/comment/2013/11/open-letter-to-uwe-sustainability-of-the-bloodhound-scc-cars-rockets-and-forthcoming-arms-and-defence-fair-at-uwe/


Saturday, 16 November 2013

Occupy Bath - Notes from the Past

Two years ago, the hot topic in the city was a small encampment in Queen Square. In six weeks, so much happened there. Many friendships were made, many people decided that enough was enough and made the decision to make a stand, and many people were inspired - and this legacy still continues today.

A few weeks ago, a friend informed me that they had received a mysterious package with my name on it, and finally got round to giving it to me earlier today. Inside was a wire-bound notebook and a card from someone I hadn't heard from in many months, the person who without a doubt spent more time at the camp than anyone else. Inside was a collection of thoughts, questions, statements, a camping rota and some loose pieces of paper with messages of support from members of the public - all written during the time of the original camp. As we have now reached the second anniversary of Occupy Bath, I thought I might share some of the contents, so that people can be reminded of exactly what the camp meant to the citizens of Bath.

Comments from the Public

The majority of these comments were simple - things like "good luck" and "keep going" - but here's a selection of the more interesting ones from the 100 or so comments. At least one is from a very well-known person, but I'll leave it to you to guess who it was and what they said...

"Very happy you're here!"
"This is great! Time for the silent majority to speak up!"
"Well done to you all - good luck and hope the weather gets better soon!"
"Keep the presence going - it's time the majority in this country had a voice"
"Excellent. There's a need for a voice!!"
"Politics is about the personal - it's about the people"
"Speaking for many"
"Keep going and be very much more ambitious"
"Well done - hope you link with the strike on 30 Nov"
"Thank you, you're speaking for many of us"
"Don't let the bastards grind you down! Support and solidarity to Occupy!"
"Let's get talking!"
"Be the change you want to see - Occupy everywhere!"
"We need to be heard!"
"Very grateful to you for being here"
"You are my heroes, I'm so heart-warmed by your commitment"
"Democracy only works with a level playing field - so state funded campaigns by parties means also no vested interest or lobbying by big money!! Governments are in the pockets of big business"
"The web widens!"
"Down with central banking!"
"Freedom is a valuable thing!"
"You are representing so many people who can't be here"
"Good to see you here. Solidarity from an NUT member"
"Thank you for representing me!"
"Sack the bankers!"
"Good luck, solidarity from Wales!"
"Hopefully the Occupy Movement can keep going and get stronger. Keep up the good work!"
"Thank you for making this statement and taking this action - do it IN MY NAME! With love"
"Sorry I can't join you all but keep it up please, you're speaking for us all!"
"I'm supporting every peaceful movement towards the better"

Questions

The following questions were put forward to be considered to give to the BRLSI for a debate on the Occupy Movement. Most are still relevant today, perhaps more so. If you weren't there, these are some of the things we were talking about at the camp:


1. Is it time for a legal ratio between minimum wage and a maximum wage?
2. Do we need more women in politics?
3. Should manifesto pledges be legally binding (at least key ones)?
4. Should we consider a universal allowance/credit ensuring food and energy for citizens?
5. Will the virtual removal of legal aid make society fairer?
6. Should MPs have a genuine local connection to their constituency (i.e. long-term residency)?
7. Should Bath have a local minimum wage as in London?
8. Do we want American insurance companies running the NHS?
9. What defines growth and competitiveness in a global economy?
10. 80% of the world's population do not have freedom of movement across all borders - is this right?
11. Does the bombing of a country for their resources influence immigration?
12. Is there a link between poverty, wars, inequality, economic instability and climate change?
13. Is growth and international competitiveness conducive to human happiness?

Ideas for Placards

Most of these suggestions came from visitors to the camp.

- We are the 99%
- Stop the Traders Gambling with Our Money
- XXX Cities Occupied Around the World
- Education for All
- Are You Happy About Minimum Wage?
- Is Your Rent Eating All Your Income?
- Slaves of the Banks
- We Didn't Vote for Traders
- There's Enough for Everyone's Need, But Not for Everyone's Greed
- 1 Job for 50 People... Are You One of the 49 Left Over?
- "The Future Isn't Inherited From Our Ancestors, It's Borrowed From Our Children" - Native American Proverb
- There's Enough For 2 Tennis Courts Per Person of Land in the UK
- Maldives, Bangladesh, Philippines Overflown By Global Warming.... Should Bath Host the Climatic Refugees?
- Having a Job = The Most Important Thing in Life?
- No, We Haven't Found a Magic Solution For Global Warming
- You Don't Change Things By Fighting the Existing System, Instead Design a New System Which Makes the Old One Obsolete
- Non-Violent Resistance Does Not Seek to Defeat or Humiliate the Opponent, But to Win His Friendship and Understanding
- We Can Have Democracy in This Country, Or We Can Have Great Wealth Concentrated in the Hands of a Few, But We Cannot Have Both
- If Not Now, When? If Not You, Who?


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Stop The UWE Arms Fair

From campaigners against the arms fair at the University of the West of England (UWE), Frenchay Campus, Bristol:
STOP THE UWE ARMS FAIR

PROTEST OUTSIDE THE ECC ALL DAY. WEDNESDAY 20TH NOVEMBER.

BRING SOMETHING TO MAKE LOTS OF NOISE.

UWE will be hosting an Arms fair in the ECC on the 20th of November. UWE is giving them the space to network and plan the selling and buying of weapons! This includes exporting to other countries, new technology in weaponry and manufacturing of these weapons.

Angry with this happening? Then come to the PROTEST. If you do not have enough time then email the vice chancellor at Steven.West@uwe.ac.uk to voice your complaints.

MONDAY- banner making and planning, core24 from noon.

TUESDAY- Drop Beats Not Bombs - rally/party against the arms trade, student village. Meet 4pm at the Frenchay bus stops. Bring people.

WEDNESDAY- PROTEST OUTSIDE THE ECC!

The UK is one of the worlds largest exporters of weapons, most of the arms sold go to middle east, and South & East Asia. There are very few legal restrictions on where arms can be sold, even exporting to countries with highly questionable human rights records is considered legal.

In 2010 the UK Government Human Rights Annual Report identified 26 countries “of Concern”,. Despite these concerns the UK approved arms exports to 16 of these countries, including Libya, Israel and Saudi Arabia. During the Arab spring uprisings in 2011, UK brought weapons were routinely used in the crack down against protesters. The UK often sells weapons to both sides of a war, prolonging conflicts to increase profits for arms dealers at cost of the lives of soldiers and civilians. During the Falklands war Argentina was legally sold weapons, which were then used against British soldiers!

War creates poverty, any African nation at war economy shrinks 15% each year. It looses infrastructure, spreads disease, makes land infertile and kills a lot of the population. Most war related deaths are civilian; around 90%.

At the same time we create stricter border control policies. We promote war to countries, sell them weapons, increasing their poverty, while decreasing their ability to live. We then refuse refuge to those who try to escape these terrifying situations we help to create.

If they do manage to get to the UK, refugees often face discrimination. Like the disgusting “go Home” anti immigration vans, that the government were proudly driving around earlier this year. Go Home and be shot at, by our weapons!

The Government has always had incredibly close ties with the arms companies.The Government’s UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) department is a vital element of the UK’s arms dealing. In 2008 it opened the Defence & Security Organisation (DSO) which promotes weaponry on behalf of arms companies. 54% of UKTI staff now only invested in selling Arms.

The Government’s main arguments to defend it's behaviour fit into three categories: arms exports are important for national security; they are vital to the UK economy and jobs; and they are stringently regulated.

These are all false

There is no “security of supply”. Arms production takes place across the globe and all significant Ministry of Defence purchases include hundreds or thousands of imported components and sub-systems. If we were to go to war with any of those countries, or run out of money, then why would those countries still supply us with weapons?

This argument also falls through in that it looks at the world through a military lens, It marginalises major security threats such as climate change, energy insecurity and inequality that are acknowledged by Government but absent in terms of meaningful policies and funding.

The arms trade is heavily subsidised to the tune of £852 million a year - that's more than £13,000 per job per year! Imagine what could be done if all those skills and resources were devoted to socially beneficial projects.

Selling Arms is a drain on the public purse, causes human rights atrocities and destruction of the environment, and is riddled with accusations of fraud and illegality – none of which the government has put much effort into investigating. The only reason to sustain the arms trade is to make the politicians rich mates even richer, and for those in power in our country to feel 'big' and important.

The companies which attend Arms Fairs are guaranteed potential customers in vast numbers, including military delegations and individual trade, government and armed forces representatives. They make contact, negotiate and sign contracts over the course of a number of arms fairs and interim meetings.

So don't even think a strongly worded letter to your local MP will change anything. It is time to take action into our own hands and Stop the Arms Trade. Lets kick the Arms Fair out of our university!

More info on the Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/NOWMDatUWE

More info on the Drop Beats Not Bombs rally at UWE on Tues 19th November here: http://standingstonesblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/uwe-arms-fair-bristol-direct-action.html


Thursday, 31 October 2013

Citizen's Advice Bureau - Cuts and Protests


Bath and North-East Somerset Council are planning to cut the budget of the local Citizen's Advice Bureau by 55%. Many people rely on the services our local CAB provides, and we can't let the council cut the funding.

If you haven't already used the CAB, it's very possible that you or someone you know will need to at some point in their lives. These are some of the reasons why people have needed to use the Bath CAB in the past:

  • Help! I've been diagnosed with a serious illness and I can't work any more - what am I entitled to?
  • Help! I've got rent arrears and I've lost my job. What can I do?
  • Help! My employer sacked me while I was pregnant - can they do this?
  • Help! My landlord threatened to evict my family because I complained that the roof is leaking

The CAB is often the only thing that stands between a lot of people and families becoming "vulnerable and greatest in need".

So what can you do? Three actions have been planned to attempt to get the council to change their minds - if you can help with one or more of these then it will go a long way to helping the campaign.
  1. A petition has been set up on the 38 Degrees website. Sign it and share it everywhere: http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-our-cab-in-banes 
  2. A demo will be taking place on the steps of the Guildhall at 1pm on Tuesday 5th November. If you can make it, please come along and show that you care, and tell your family and friends.
  3. Local resident Lin Patterson has managed to get 3 mins to speak about the CAB at the full council meeting on Thursday 14th November. There will be a demonstration at 6pm outside the Guildhall, just prior to her slot. Please come along and support her!



Monday, 30 September 2013

Anarchy vs Chaos: An Introduction to Anarchism‏

Press release from BARF, the Bath-based anarchist collective...


Anarchy vs Chaos: An Introduction to Anarchism‏

On Saturday 5th October, from 4 until 7pm in the Coffee Lounge of Manvers Street Baptist Church in Bath (a minute's walk from Bath Spa train station), the Black And Red Federation will be organising a discussion on anarchism, and invite members of the public to come along and take part. The group feels that recent government policy and business lobbyists have made the UK a better place for millionaires and right-wing politicians, but an increasingly uncertain and unhealthy place for everyone else.

Anarchism has received a bad press ever since its birth 173 years ago, with anarchists forced into stereotypes of either violent thugs or sandal-footed hippies – caricatures repeated by both the media and political establishment on one side, but also by self-proclaimed anarchists on the other. But many anarchists see it differently: the philosophy has come a long way since its roots amongst the Taoists of ancient China and the Christian Anabaptists of 16th Century Europe, promoting mutual respect, equality and rationality, and opposing oppression wherever it appears. Indeed, anarchism had become a mass movement of hundreds of thousands of everyday people fighting for and winning freedom from the 1920s to the 1930s in the Ukraine, Spain and Korea, however briefly. Far from embracing destruction and chaos, anarchists say that 'Anarchism is Order'!

In Bath on Saturday, a handful of local speakers will make short presentations on the ideas and history of this important but controversial political philosophy, before breaking down into longer group sessions where all present are invited to discuss and offer their two cents. The group will ask whether, in this current climate of biting austerity and growing global unrest, anarchists and their ideas have any role to play?

Entry is free, food and hot drinks will be available, as will stalls of literature, and all are welcome to come along and join them on the day! This will be the first in a series of talks this year.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/204881599685209/

BARF Website: https://network23.org/barf/

 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Bristol Occupation Against Attack on Syria

Once more, College Green in Bristol is due to be occupied - this time against an imminent attack on Syria. A Facebook event page has been set up to promote the protest, from 5pm this Thursday. The page reads:

Britain, France and the US are committing to another disastrous military intervention. Apart from the inevitable casualties, any attack on Syria can only inflame an already disastrous civil war and would risk pulling in regional powers further.

Most people in this country have learned from the disasters of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. According to a Telegraph poll today only 9% of British people support an attack. Our politicians however have learned nothing.

We are to congregate in full force and OCCUPY College Green in protest against this possible "intervention" in Syria.

Kit List:

Tent
Sleeping Bag
Water
Food
Loud Things
Musical Instruments
Medication
Banners
Water Proofs


Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/601040616614300/?ref=3

Another campaign is calling for people to write to their MP - find your MP at
http://www.writetothem.com/

Badger Cull - Direct Action the Only Option Left

From an anonymous correspondent:

We've tried everything. Legal challenges, petitions, marches, boycotts, celebrity support, trying to get landowners to pull out, music videos, getting the press on board and getting a vote in parliament. All of the measures that could possibly be undertaken to stand up for the badgers, the scientific evidence and the wishes of the general public against the barbaric measures proposed by the Tory government, DEFRA and the NFU have been tried and failed. This is more than a horrific slaughter of our wildlife - this is the cold face of an undemocratic system that does not listen to reason or public opinion. They have left us with no other choice - the only option left is to get out in the field and make damn sure that no badgers die.

There will be night patrols in the two cull zones in Somerset and Gloucestershire. Last night the cull began and there was an estimated 500 activists in the cull zones. There will be badger rescuers out looking and taking care of injured badgers. There is an activist camp in Somerset - for directions ring 01386 761455.

All who are willing and able are needed in the cull zones. The badgers need you!!!

Standing Stone's Blog will publish articles from anti-cull activists - please e-mail them to standingstonesblog@hotmail.co.uk


See also: The Badger Cull - What You Need to Know http://standingstonesblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/the-badger-cull-what-you-need-to-know.html

Monday, 26 August 2013

Badger Cull to Start Imminently



If the rumour mill and the national press is to be believed, the slaughter is about to start - possibly tonight. The government haven't listened to the scientists and the public, and they are going ahead with the biggest mindless slaughter of wildlife in British history.

As I write this, there are brave people in the fields, prepared to do what they can to prevent this massacre. The government are trying to crack down on their democratic rights, but for many passionate people this is something that simply has to be stopped, and they will be putting themselves at risk. Others will be nearby supporting them, and carrying out less risky protest activities and tending to injured badgers and orphaned cubs. Many more will be supporting them from afar, sharing news stories, writing letters, going on marches, protesting shops selling milk from the cull zones, signing petitions and preparing legal challenges.

If you can support the anti-cull movement in any way possible, please do so. You don't have to stand in front of a gun, but there are many more activities that you can carry out. For more information contact your local hunt sabs and/or badger groups.

Standing Stone's Blog is committed to publishing anti-cull content. If you would like to contribute a piece (anonymously if you wish), especially accounts of protests in the field and badger rescue, please send it to: standingstonesblog@hotmail.co.uk

Bathonians on Facebook - the Bath Against the Badger Cull page might be just what you are looking for: https://www.facebook.com/BathAgainstTheBadgerCull

See also: The Badger Cull - What You Need to Know http://standingstonesblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/the-badger-cull-what-you-need-to-know.html