notes from JK

“Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal” by Tristram Stuart: A review

It was through waste and recycling that I first became a ‘green’. At my junior school I remember putting posters up encouraging my fellow pupils to recycle more cans, paper and cardboard.

What we consider ‘waste’ is deeply telling on our attitudes to food, the environment and consumption. As any archeologist can attest, waste reveals huge amounts about a society.

That ‘western’ lifestyles are wasteful probably will come as no surprise to most of Tristram Stuart’s readers. But the scale of the problem and its full ramifications are not quite so easy to grasp. Through a considerable amount of travel, some serious number crunching and lots of dumpster diving Stuart paints the full, shameful picture of our food waste problem.

Reading Stuart’s book is deeply exasperating in many places, through no fault of the author. It’s just frustrating to see so many obvious solutions to many of the problems Stuart examines. That companies allow themselves to waste huge amounts of valuable resources is not only unethical but bad business. That so many governments have failed to adequately tackle waste is plain irresponsible. Food waste means less food for the hungry and an environmental cost paid to grow/raise food which is never consumed.

Rather than rehearse the whole book, which is excellent, I urge you to read it. The calculations on the true costs of food waste are eye-popping as are the estimates that roughly half of all food produced is wasted between plough and plate. It’s an engaging and deeply worthwhile book. Thank you Tristram.

Buy from Amazon: Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal
(I get a small referral if you use this link)

current affairs

Norwegian Greens: Excluded from public TV

From Jarle Fagerheim:

Dear Green friends,

We’re having a general election in Norway on September 14, and the Green
party is doing better than ever. Our membership has more than tripled
since last time (2005), the number of visitors to our website is
skyrocketing, and a marvellous team of 8 people are now working
round-the-clock at the Oslo office (last year at this time, it was me

The last major hurdle to a Green breakthrough is getting coverage on
national television. The National Broadcasting Corporation has decided
to exclude us completely, there is no such thing as “party political
broadcasts”, paid TV adverts are prohibited by law. Our Minister of
Church and Culture Affairs, Trond Giske, earlier this year promised that
even the non-parliamentary parties were to be given a minimum of
coverage on public television during the campaign. Well, the campaign is
now in its final stages, and nothing is happening.

So I kindly ask you to visit and send a
message to Minister Giske urging him to take action. If we can
demonstrate a substantial amount of support from fellow Greens all over
the world, we might be able to get some very good media coverage during
these last three weeks of campaigning.

Please forward this as widely as possible!

Jarle Fagerheim
head of office
Green Party of Norway

notes from JK

Election suspended: Where next?

Green Party members should have by now received notice that the internal election for External Communications co-ordinator has been suspended. Sadly GPEx’s failure to be open & transparent and their continued control freakery created the problems we currently face.

We (Rupert & Jason) wanted an open, democratic process where members’ voices would count; where our different ideas and priorities for the party could be debated. Unfortunately the predictable consequences of some of GPEx’s decisions have started to emerge. That these have halted the election is deeply worrying, we have not been told who requested the returning officer to halt the process. We believe this halt is unconstitutional, it is clear that ALL members have to be balloted if two or more valid nominations are received.

Our hopes for an open, inclusive process continue to be thwarted. First the rules clearly allowed for candidates to mail each member a leaflet, we were told this rule had been left in as a ‘drafting oversight’ and would not be used.

We wanted to speak to members but were told that canvassing was not permitted and no member lists would be provided.

We spoke to our existing contacts and we were warned we could be straying into forbidden canvassing territory.

We have campaigned on the allowed mediums of websites and member elists, but came under concerted pressure for being too open. Yet this open approach engaged with a broad spectrum of the membership. That our endorsers cover a wide geographical range and backgrounds shows that breadth.

Our core arguments for professionalism, openness & transparency remain. Our other key planks that the party needs to be bolder and protect the Freepost scheme still stand.

If the current GPEx had been more open and transparent we may well not have got to the election being suspended. They should have consulted with the wider party on key decisions like:

* Changes to the scale/nature of the Freepost scheme
* Changes to political strategy

We believe it is deeply unfair to exclude the members who cannot or chose not to attend conference. As conference is in Brighton & Hove this autumn it’s particularly far for people in areas of the North to attend.

We await the resumption of the election process, in the meantime as active members and councillors we’ll keep debating what we believe are the party’s key priorities for the next year.

To clarify:

* We were not consulted on the election suspension, just informed once the decision had been taken.

* Only Rupert & I are acting on behalf of our campaign (whatever you call it during this limbo period!). Mark’s letter was his own initiative which we did not initiate or approve. The only thing Mark did at our request was provide an endorsement we used on this site.

Why are we blaming GPEx? Because if they had resolved the issue of the Freepost quickly and clearly things wouldn’t have got to this. Mark, as contractor to the party, had to make significant financial commitments (which put his family finances and employees at risk) to ensure the scheme could be delivered. With unresolved doubts about deposits and the scale the scheme would take Mark has been left in an impossible situation.

I would not have taken the approach he has done, but GPEx having received his increasingly urgent pleas, should have provided him the clarity one way or the other that he needed.

So to recap, it’s deeply regrettable that we are here and people might have taken alternative approaches, but GPEx could have headed this problem off LONG AGO.

How the election for External Communications co-ordinator will now work (directly from the ERO) as of 13th August:

“The nominations will close and be elected at conference as per any other GPEx post where the nominations close at conference. I.e. they will close at 10am on Friday 4th September and voting will be on Saturday 5th September on presentation of a Saturday plenaries voting card. The candidates statement booklet advises that this is to be from 14:20 to 15:20 and from 17:00 to 19:30.

“There will be no proxy voting. It will be conducted in the same way as a usual election for which nominations close at conference and are elected at conference.”

PS This was originally a post and a comment on our campaign site which has been closed while the election is suspended. I wasn’t able to bring over other people’s comments from that post without them all being from me — please repost if you wish.

notes from JK

Bike for life: First cycling experiences

Riding the Rothan balance bikeSeeing yet another advert for cheap supermarket bicycles reminded of an article I read a while ago about ‘Bike Shaped Objects’. It was by the very knowledgeable and helpful folks at South Coast Bikes (who I can highly recommend for bike servicing). “An impassioned guide on why not buy a cheap Bike or BSO” makes for excellent reading.

In essence the argument is that bikes are complicated, the simplest needing hundreds of precision parts, and that quality bikes are relatively speaking cheaper than ever. As supermarket bikes don’t last and don’t ride well they’re not good value at all.

I remember helping to find a first bike for my nephew a few years ago and then for my daughter more recently. The usual shops sold these incredibly heavy, bulky bikes which were difficult to move and seemed poorly welded together. Being used to a decent but low-end mountain bike for most of my cycling life I was stunned at how heavy these bikes were given their size and proposed users.

A child won’t engage with a bike which is too heavy for them to manhandle and which could crush if it falls on them. My daughter started with a pink thing with stabilisers which felt like it was made from cast iron. She could barely make it move and soon lost interest.

Having been a keen cyclist on and off for many years I didn’t want her to miss out on cycling. So I did more research and spoke to some friends (particularly fellow Green councillor Ian Davey) concluding that ‘like-a-bikes’ were a better starting point. These are bikes without pedals essentially so kids can learn balance without worrying about the pedals.

I saw plenty of these in wood and plastic which somehow or other didn’t convince and seemed quite pricey. Then, I don’t recall how, I came across Islabikes ‘the childrens bikes specialist’.

Wow. They make proper bikes, but for little people. Perfect.

We got my daughter the ‘Rothan’ balance bike which she absolutely adores and uses all the time. It’s solidly built, has a brake (which is good for downhill escapades and to get her familiar with the concept) plus it’s really light being based on an alloy frame. She picks it up, takes it out and zooms on her own. Marvellous.

I believe setting a positive first experience with biking should help her to be a positive cyclist for life. Someone who enjoys cycling as a way to get around, to explore and to keep fit. For a little bit more than a supermarket ‘bike shaped object’ I hope she’ll be well on the road to bike for life.

notes from JK

Campaign Launch: Rupert & Jason for External Communications

Today Cllr Rupert Read and I are launching our campaign to become the joint External Communications co-ordinator for the Green Party’s national executive.

We believe we have the campaigning, communications and management experience to deliver winning campaigns in this General Election year. As elected councillors from two of the top target constituencies (Rupert from Norwich, Jason from Brighton) we can help ensure close collaboration during this critical year.

You can read more about our experience, previous comms work and campaign pledges at

notes from JK

Reflections on the Green win in Goldsmid

Going down with swine flu in the final few days of the Goldsmid campaign was pretty galling. I missed those golden last days of campaigning and of course the count…

When party chair Simon Williams rang me with the result I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, the result was beyond my expectations. I had been quietly hoping for a narrow victory over the Tories, but a 350 vote margin – wow! Amy summed it up best with “Goldsmid: Epic Green Win”

Turnout was 9 points above the Regency by-election, I think a sign of the greater interest in the Goldsmid result and warmer weather (the Regency by-election was on a cold 13th December).

There has been some debate in the blogosphere over why people voted Green. Labour activist Dan Wilson argues Greens aren’t passionate about the city, that we’re using it as a vehicle for Westminster success. Nevertheless Wilson also claims Greens don’t have any achievements from 13 years on the council.

All I can say to Dan is, if we didn’t care about this city there’s no way we’d still be working our socks off 13 years later! Many changes were Green initiated from council webcasts to refusing directly elected mayors, much more in our archives.

I think Brighton Politics blogger is right to surmise that Labour’s collapse in support in Goldsmid had many good national and local reasons and that the city’s political landscape has changed. (Former?) Labour activist Neil Harding also agreed with this analysis. Of course fellow Green Cllr Ben Duncan also was keen to celebrate our success.

Mary Mears and others were quick to criticise our policies or claim our leaflets had been misleading. They somehow arrogantly prefer to assume that voters are stupid than actually believe voters may have preferred the policies and approach used by the Green Party! Perhaps easier for our opponents to swallow when facing our second straight by-election win, first seat won off a Tory and first seat in Hove.

Having lead the design and writing of all of our leaflets in Goldsmid I’m very confident in stating they were truthful and straightforward. We discussed our policies on:

  • Education
  • Employment
  • Energy efficiency
  • Housing
  • Honesty & Integrity in public life
  • Older people
  • Transport
  • Waste & Recycling

We also touched on our opposition to privatisation, ID cards, nuclear power & weapons, wars and council tax.

We additionally exposed some of the cosy votes Tories and Labour have taken together, giving each other additional allowances as well as forcing in the new council constitution a year early. Our leaflets had to rebut some of the false allegations from others and explain to voters that Alex was blocked by the Tory mayor from speaking on residents’ behalf.

I’m very happy with how the leaflets were received. Based on what I’ve seen from the opposition we not only covered far more policy than all the others combined, we were more positive and avoided personal attacks.

The other parties were all misleading about us at some point or another but Labour, as usual, excelled in false allegations. They claimed that Alex hadn’t attended local meetings when she had (in fact despite Labour Cllr Melanie Davies trying to block her), claimed Alex was a student when she isn’t and claimed she works for Caroline Lucas MEP when she doesn’t.

So, unless there’s truly a skeleton in the closet to be exposed, I think once again we see negative campaigning doesn’t work.

The Green success story continues, we’re set for more hard work in winning votes for the General Election. And the Green group of councillors know we need to work harder than ever to make this council work for the city and keep people’s faith in us. With power so finely balanced lots of negotiation and detailed proposals will be required but we might, just might, be able to get more Green policies in place if councillors in all parties can stay open minded and resist petty back-biting. We shall see…