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From The Socialist newspaper, 9 April 2014

System change to save the environment

The recent Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (see last week's Socialist) has pointed to the devastating impact on food production, and habitat, and the resulting risks of increased famine, water shortages and state conflicts if human induced climate change is not halted.

Last November, the journal Climate Change reported that just 90 companies - mainly energy and mining - were responsible for two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming. Half the estimated emissions were produced in the last 25 years.

But capitalist production, where the bottom line is profit, is chaotic and incapable of overcoming its divisive system of competitive markets and the limits of the nation state, and agreeing a global, environmentally sustainable, plan of production. That is why only socialism can save the environment.

Return of the killer smog

Kate Jones, Socialist Party Wales

The old 'pea-soupers' which caused havoc - and thousands of deaths - in London and other major cities should be a thing of the past.

In London's worst ever killer smog, in 1952, 4,000 died of respiratory illnesses. These smogs were caused by the burning of coal, both in domestic fireplaces and by industry, while today's version is a lethal combination of diesel and industrial emissions, on top of the natural phenomenon of wind borne Saharan sand.

Dangerous levels of invisible pollution actually occur regularly in our cities - it is the recent introduction of a new Met Office pollution forecasting system which means it is suddenly being reported, and surely no coincidence that responsibility for reporting has just moved to the Met Office from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

An article in the Guardian (2/4/14) quoted an expert in respiratory toxicology at Kings College London: "Two weeks ago, when the air pollution map of the south-east turned red... the BBC ran stories about pollution in Paris... but no one thought it worthwhile to inform the British public that they were being exposed to dangerous levels of fine particulates."

What are particulates? They are tiny particles emitted by diesel engines - the cars we drive and the trucks what carry the bulk of our freight.

They are a toxic brew of highly carcinogenic chemicals. They include ash, metallic abrasion particles, sulphates, silicates, and others classified as nano-particles - so small as to be invisible.

Out of sight, out of mind? Far from it! Nano-particles are inhaled deep into the lungs where they can cause numerous health problems - especially dangerous to people with asthma and other lung or bronchial conditions - and contribute to heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.

It is primarily these emissions, rather than Sahara sand, that are the killers. And while people in Brussels and Paris were offered free public transport and ordered to leave the car at home, people in affected parts of Britain were just advised to stay indoors - not an option for many who need to get to work and school.

And unlike the smogs of the past, which were largely restricted to big cities and industrial areas, these high levels of pollution have extended to East Anglia, the Midlands, North West England and parts of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In the 1950s, after years of campaigning pressure, the Tory government (which had blamed the smog deaths on influenza) conceded the Clean Air Act, reducing air pollution by stipulating only smokeless fuels in towns and cities, relocating power stations and forcing industry to clean up. Where is the equivalent action today?

Far from taking urgent action the Con-Dems are actually relaxing controls, reducing regulation, getting rid of the so-called 'green crap'... anything rather than hit their big business friends who profit at the expense of our health.

The UK government actually faces huge fines of up to 300 million a year, as the European Commission is currently taking it to court for failing to reduce "excessive levels of pollution" from traffic, despite 15 years of warnings and concessions.

The World Health Organisation reports that air pollution is now the world's single biggest environmental health risk, linked to seven million deaths a year worldwide.

But the UK government is taking no action to move freight from road to rail. No action to invest massively in public transport to take cars off the roads.

No action to shift energy production to renewables and away from coal and gas. No action to protect vulnerable adults and children from the effects of killer pollution.

Socialists call for immediate action to reduce air pollution, for honest reporting of pollution levels and for massive investment in clean public transport and the freight transport infrastructure.

The 'killer smog' scare may be a news headline for only a few days, but it highlights a major public health issue and demonstrates the urgent need for environmentally sustainable energy and transport policies, based on socialist planning of the economy.

Barton Moss anti-fracking camp: court backs off from eviction

Dylan and Jo Murphy

The Barton Moss Community Protection Camp has been saved from eviction for now, following a recent court hearing.

The Court of Appeal has given the protesters an opportunity to put forward their arguments against an eviction order granted by a Manchester High Court judge in February.

Meanwhile, daily protests continue against the exploratory drilling by IGas. Barton Moss has hit the headlines recently over the violent tactics used by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) against protesters. For example the violent assault upon Vanda Gillett.

We joined the daily protest on Barton Moss Lane which tries to block the 20 strong convoy of trucks, carrying equipment and materials, from getting to the drilling site.

As usual the police formed lines and started to push us down Barton Moss Road. We were surrounded on all sides by 100 police officers, and were filmed from all angles - never mind the riot squad of the Tactical Aid Unit (TAU) lurking close by.

What a huge waste of public money in this age of 'austerity' when public services are facing cut after cut.

To add insult to injury the public is having to pay for the huge security operation designed to protect the operations of a private gas company.

The police kept telling us that we were preventing other members of the public from using Barton Moss Road!

One protester, a pensioner who turned up in his dressing gown, was dragged away and arrested. He was taken to Swinton police station and charged with "aggravated trespass".

The situation got quite tense as lots of people protested against this arrest and challenged the police over their aggressive pushing.

Police change stance

Suddenly the police lines backed off and we came to a standstill. We later learnt this was due to the arrival of a senior police officer.

A quick change of tactics to a softly softly approach as a handful of police liaison officers escorted us very slowly towards the drilling site.

Numerous protesters asked him why the police could not always steward the protest in this peaceful non-confrontational manner.

As we got to the entrance to the drilling site, which looks like a fortified military base, the police forced us to the side of the road while the convoy of huge trucks went in. Several trucks had labels on them saying 'hazardous waste'.

The public is kept in the dark as to what chemicals and radioactive materials are being used and how they are being used.

The numerous arrests and routine use of violence by the police has totally failed to stop the protests.

Indeed, it has had the opposite effect, with growing numbers of local residents joining forces with dedicated 'earth protectors'. The daily protests are slowing down the drilling.

The coalition government announced in December that 60% of the UK is now 'available' to be licensed for fracking.

Oil and gas companies are poised to invest hundreds of millions of pounds into this get-rich-quick form of energy extraction.

To extract the amounts of oil and gas the companies are bragging about will require tens of thousands of wells. This will lead to the poisoning of large areas of countryside.

Across Britain opposition to fracking is mushrooming with over 100 local protest groups formed at the latest count.

This number will rapidly increase as the oil and gas companies expand their operations. The labour and trade union movement must urgently use some of its campaigning energies and resources against this threat.

Despite the coalition government being gung-ho about fracking, Larry Elliot, writing in the Guardian (6/4/14), argues that fracking could help trigger to a new economic crisis.

"The Oil & Gas Journal reported last month that 15 major companies have written off $35 billion in investment since the boom began.

"Getting oil and gas out of the ground is proving costlier and less profitable than expected."

Planning for the Planet

How Socialism Could Save the Environment

by Pete Dickenson

10 including p&p

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In The Socialist 9 April 2014:

Socialist Party news and analysis

House of Thieves

Housing emergency

Break with pro-cuts Labour now

System change to save the environment

Hillsborough tragedy - the final chapter?

OECD report: A system in crisis

Them & Us

Socialist Party workplace news

Care UK strike: national union support needed

Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) elections

Build on the fighting militant traditions of the RMT

Probation workers unite to fight off no-justice vultures

Visteon: Ford makes offer

Sparks fight on!

Homes and Communities Agency strike

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Swansea: National Front thwarted!

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition progress update

Doncaster: March commemorates miners' strike

Save Leicester Race Equality Centre

Obituary: Pat James 1930 - 2014

Help with the Socialist sales campaign

Support the Socialist with a May Day greeting

Reviews and readers' comments

Book review: Silent Accomplice

Reviews and comments


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