Monday, 16 August 2010

Panama: the latest frontline in the fight against climate change?

Panama could soon be as famous for becoming the latest frontline in the fight against climate change as it is for its canal.

It has emerged (thanks to the excellent and vital work of NGO Minority Rights Group International) that half the 32,000-strong Kuna people are to abandon their now-uninhabitable central American homes in the wake of rising sea levels and increasingly frequent flooding and extreme weather.

The fiercely independent indigenous group is reportedly spending about £5m clearing forests for a new settlement: costs that really should be being met by the international community.

In the short term, relocation in the face of worsening climate change must be facilitated by an internationally-binding funding formula that ensures costs are met by those high-emission countries that are most to blame: principally the US, EU nations, and Australia.

Not only would this be fair, it would create a financial incentive that would focus the efforts of those richer nations with the capacity to fund emissions reductions programmes on actually doing so, perhaps using the globally just principle of 'Contraction and Convergence'.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

The Green Ad everyone's talking about - but big media is trying to stop you seeing

Blink and you might have missed it in the UK media - but there's an election going on in Australia right now - and the Greens are doing fairly well.

Looking at this clip - it's fairly easy to see why: combining the big environmental message (we need to put climate change at the heart of our decision-making) with a social issue (we believe in making dental health free), a liberal 'flag' issue (we support gay marriage), and a foreign relations issue (we would put people and rights at the heart of our immigration and asylum policies) the Australian Greens are portraying themselves as the left-leaning all-rounders of the election - just as we were able to do in the run-up to Caroline Lucas's election as England's first Green MP.

Naturally, the Greens wanted to show this clip again and again - using it as an election ad: but ABC - the 'big media' corporation that owns the rights to the clip, has refused permission for it to be re-shown. I guess the idea of the Greens doing well in elections is always going to ruffle a few feathers in the world of 'big media'.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

I agree with Sarah (Palin, that is). No, really.

Well, you heard it here first.

After years of thinking she's one of the scariest, most stupid and dangerous Conservatives ever to have walked the earth (she makes the Brighton Tories look like cute little puppies), finally, California's upcoming referendum on the legalisation of cannabis has provided the issue over which I agree with Sarah Palin.

Yes, thousands were prepared to say 'I agree with Nick' before it became clear quite how far he was willing to sell out liberal principles for a top job, and most are regretting it now, just a few short weeks later.

Similarly I'm sure it won't be long before I'm lamenting ever having said, and publically too, 'I agree with Sarah'. But, for the moment, and on this issue at least, I do.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

As Pride comes to town, The Love Police say 'Everything is OK!'

As Brighton celebrates with Pride (a carnival that used to be about demanding sexual freedom and human rights but now - thanks to the participation of American Express and, I kid you not, a Nandos Chicken - seems to be more about shopping), here's a montage of street theatre by a group calling itself The Love Police.

It made me smile, but contains a serious message./ I thought it was well worth eight minutes of my life, and I hope, if you do too, you enjoy it and find it inspiring.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Focus turns on Brighton Tories in YouTube row

Last month I reported on how Green Party councillor Jason Kitcat had been suspended for six months - for trying to make Brighton council a little more transparent by posting clips of some of its meetings on video search site YouTube.

He was given 28 days to appeal against the bizarre-seeming ruling and has now launched just such an appeal: his suspension has been suspended while the Tribunals Service for Local Government Standards in England makes up its mind.

In my earlier report of the incident I mused that perhaps the Tories' enthusiasm for pursuing this particularly nonsensical complaint was simple political gerrymandering: Cllr Kitcat's suspension would change the delicate balance of council politics in the Tories' favour and give them back their majority in most meetings.

But a few weeks on, I wonder if in fact the Tories concerned - Mary Mears, Ted Kemble and Brian Oxley - were actually engaged in trying to boost transparency with an elaborate double-bluff: the media coverage of the original incident has boosted viewings of the clip in question about five-fold.

OK maybe not. To be honest I imagine they were motivated more by the simple fact that shortening clips from webcasts of counci meetings - and posting them on YouTube - is simply beyond their technical abilities, and if they couldn't manage it, they didn't want anyone else doing it either.

Who knows what motivated the original complaint, or how the Tories' complaint, and motivation, will be judged at the Tribunal (scheduled to take place on October 18th - I'll keep you posted).

But in the words of Cllr Kitcat himself:

"The Conservative councillors' pursuit of their complaint against me shows poor judgement. The public have the right to know what is happening in the council meetings they pay for: for the Tories to use a code of conduct complaint to try and block openness and transparency is extraordinarily disappointing."

Some might argue it brings the council into disrepute all by itself.

Tory government serious about boosting tax revenues and making communities safer? Time to legalise weed?

California could make legal history this autumn when citizens vote on  a referendum on ending the prohibition of marijuana and taxing and regulating it, just as the state does with alcohol and nicotine.

I hope Proposition 19 gets the majority support it needs to make the US state one of the first developed economies in the world to recognise that legalisation would boost tax revenues - and make communities safer by removing the criminal underworld from the supply chain.

We keep hearing how our new Tory Government wants to achieve the same ends: boosting tax revenues, cutting spending on policing and improving community safety all at the same time. Well if it's serious, isn't it time we considered doing exactly the same thing here?

The more I thinnk about this one, and talk to others about it, the more perplexing it all seems that it hasn't been done years ago.

Of course smoking weed has its down side, just as alcohol and nicotine do, but most of its negative impacts would be eliminated by better regulation - and taking criminal gangs out of the picture.

The only reason I can think of for not doing so is that many of the legislators at the top of the decision-making tree are benefiting enormously from keeping things exactly the way they are. Can that really be so?

And while you're pondering that one, here's a fantastic cartoon contrasting a world in which cannabis is legal with one (the one we live in) where it isn't.