Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: Green

Take it home you tosser

In the last month the city of Bristol, European Green Capital 2015, admitted that it collected 18% more rubbish from residents homes in the last year than it did in the previous year. This is the rubbish residents of the city through out every day that doesn’t go in one of three recycling boxes. This is rubbish, in every sense.

The result is the city council has decided to take the refuse collection contract off the current provider, who were clearly struggling to make it work, and are going to now collect the rubbish and recycling ‘in house’. Residents have been told there should be not ‘noticeable’ change to the service when this happens in August and it will all be reviewed after a year. Are you worried about bin day? Let’s just see how it goes. There is one thing we should seriously all be worry about though. Where is all this rubbish coming from that can’t be recycled and where is it all going? A hole in the ground? Packed up in bales and stored on a dock somewhere causing a fly infestation?

Bristol’s excess rubbish is now being processed at a plant in Avonmouth. Cleverly this plant turns our none recyclable rubbish into pellets and these shipped on a slow boat to Sweden to be burnt and turned into energy. Quite why that can’t be done in the UK is confusing but it is probably down to the usual ‘yes we want renewable and sustainable energy, of course we do, its very important to the future of the planet, so long as its not generated anywhere near me’ attitude.

Let’s get back to that increase of the amount of rubbish collected, up by almost a fifth in twelve months. Why so much? The jury is out on this but I have an idea. For one week I put every bit of plastic and every bit of paper that passed though my hands and home into two bin liners. The plastic was mostly unwanted and unnecessary packaging and paper was mostly unsolicited mail and leaflets. In 7 days both bin liners were full of packaging I didn’t want and paper I didn’t ask for. This has to stop and we have the power to stop it.

For the record I am no ‘knit your own underwear, lentil eating, tree hugging’ Green but I am sick of companies and others making me throw away stuff I don’t need and I didn’t ask for. It is this excessive rubbish that is in our control. Maybe its time to leave it all at the shop or send it back to the company or send it back to those who deliver it like Royal Mail with a note saying ‘no thanks, you deal with it, I don’t want it’.

All this rubbish also leads to the litter that is all over our streets. Bristol City Council spends over 5 million pounds a year on clearing litter and chewing gum off the streets. Or, to put it another way, the annual budget for libraries, which is facing a 20% cut, goes on clearing up the detritus that we leave all over Bristol. If nothing is done we will still have dirty streets and we will have less places for people to read and borrow books. There are many ‘reasons’ that this rubbish is on our streets; not enough bins, bins not emptied enough, recycling not collected properly and blowing out of the boxes. The list is endless but these are all excuses not reasons. The time has come that we all pick up litter when we see it up and put it in the bin at home. Initially there will be another increase in the rubbish collected but if we have cleaner streets and say to companies giving us packaging and leaflets we don’t want it will eventually change. There will be less rubbish, less litter and we can make this happen.

I will be starting a campaign soon called #takeithomeyoutosser and it is going to be very simple. From crisp packets, to takeaway wrappers, to dog doings in little black bags that dog owners arrogantly think is okay to leave on a public path my message is going to be very simple. Just take it home you tosser. I have had enough of my council tax being wasted on litter and living in a city that is dirty, the streets strewn with rubbish and bags full of dog poo. We can all do something about it that does not involved a committee or money or anything other that each of us picking up the litter, taking it home and making not acceptable for anyone to litter anywhere.

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Kermit The Frog is right.

Muppet and philosopher Kermit the Frog sang the truth. It’s not easy being green. For some it is a political belief and it’s fair to say that there are more political Greens now than ever before but, for the majority of us, what is being Green?

Is being Green about having low energy light bulbs, sorting our rubbish into the many, various boxes for collection, turning off our electrical equipment rather than leaving it on standby and trying not to waste our valuable resources that we all know are finite? There has to be more to it than that. Maybe it’s about picking up litter and looking after our own environment? I’ve done that recently where I live and I’ve seen the results of other litter picks and, frankly, the amount of rubbish we leave behind us is shocking.

The big problem with ‘going Green’ is that we have been told we must do it, we sort of get it but we are not entirely convinced that what we are doing will make any real difference to us or anyone else. It all comes down to cost for most of us in both money and time. If being Green means we save money, time and the planet then that’s all good then. If going Green protects the environment then that’s nice, so long as it doesn’t cost me or inconvenience me. Selfish? No. Realistic? Yes. Take away the politics and going Green is, in many ways, a better way to live so long as we all do it.

I do recycle, turn off lights when I’m not using them, I try not to use packaging or bags if I can avoid it, which is hard when they even shrink-wrap individual bananas in one supermarket, and I want the environment to be better for my children than it was for me in the past. The trouble is I’m just not convinced that what I am doing is making a jot of difference. I worry that being Green is more about other’s agendas than it is about my actions. How can covering our green fields with solar panels possibly be Green?

Bristol is the European Green Capital for 2015. This is something for Bristol and the country to be proud of and for us to get behind, but what does this actually mean beyond a great headline? The website says ‘A year celebrating Bristol’s leadership in creating healthier, happier cities’. No clues on the website telling me how they will do this.

What does Green Capital really mean? Honestly I don’t really know. I have asked many, many times for a clear definition and what it will mean to individuals. There are, of course, events, conferences, talks plus a giant whale that will be made out of recycled materials and some old boats in a wood that isn’t even in Bristol. Will any of this make us more Green?

Maybe the answer to Bristol 2015 European Green Capital is to get us talking about being Green and understanding why. If this is the case then I look forward to talking, hearing and learning. I fear though that it will be more about a lot of worthy nodding and agreeing that ‘something must be done’, talking about ‘community involvment’, harnessing ‘cultral diversity’, ‘learning lessons’ and having a ‘meaniful dialogue’.

My biggest fear is that by the end of the year we will still be sorting our own rubbish, maybe picking litter up from our own streets but, most of all, being none the wiser or Greener and feeling like a bunch of muppets.

Do you buy the bi election result?

UKIP win a bi election and come a very close second in another. What does it all mean? Who really knows? All the claims of a new ear of four party or even five party politics are a bit far-fetched as one Green MP and one UKIP MP doesn’t really change anything for you and me. It does mean they can do stuff in the House of Commons and for their constituents but it’s a bit like being a one-legged man at an arse kicking party; thanks for the invite but I can’t really join in.

History shows us that fringe parties are mostly parties of protest. There are a chance to give the main parties a bloody nose and tell them to listen and to stop being what they think they should be. This time it may be different, especially if the Rochester bi election or as it should be known the Reckless bi election goes UKIPs way too. The Reckless bi election; how apt.

What is surprising is that the main parties didn’t see this coming, much like they didn’t see the SDP coming, they failed to see the financial crisis, prepare for the recession and actually deal with deficit that we are all living with and will continue to suffer from for many years to come. Why? Simple. Short termisum.

Our current leaders are short-term opportunists, hoping that the next year will be better than the last by tinkering around the edges but seldom planning much beyond the next electoral cycle. Even when they try with deficit reduction plans or fixing energy prices we don’t believe them and, in reality, they can’t actually do it because big P politics always gets in the way of achievement. The drastic public spending cuts and/or tax rises required to reduce the deficit will never happen as they would be political suicide. Other ‘vote winners’ such as the freezing of energy prices in a global market are, frankly, nuts. It’s the stuff of Canute and tides. If this had been done last year you would have lost out on the falling oil prices of the last 12 months and be paying well over the odds. Today the oil price is at a four-year low. Short termisum defined.

Our leaders, or managers (see earlier blog) do not get it. We need vision, leadership, statesmanship plus the ability, ambition and drive to see it through. We need do-ers not talkers who say they are ‘listening’ or have had ‘a wake up call’ or say ‘I want to tell you this’. Any politician who says ‘I want to tell you this’ should have the microphone removed from him or her, be sent home and they do something else, where nobody will be really listening either.

We need actual, real leaders and those who actually do. We need those who say they are going to do something and then actually do it. We need our faith restored and, until we have that, we will give anything a punt because our hope is the most powerful aspiration we have. The trouble is that hope is killed by failure and our hopes have been dashed a fair bit by all the political colours and their successive failures in the last two decades.

On my recent BBC trip to Bordeaux I saw a French city through the eyes of its governance not through the eyes of a tourist. It was fascinating. In two decades and with a lot of pain for those who live in Bordeaux the Mayor and the council have transformed the city with integrated public transport and bold policies to claim the city back for the people. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops but I didn’t meet anyone who didn’t see the city today as better than it was twenty years ago. The Mayor of Bordeaux has been elected three times and is about to run to be the President of France. Alain Juppe is a man who gets things done.

The vision, the action, the result is what we vote for in a true liberal democracy not words, more words and sniping at the other lot. UKIP have clearly demonstrated that if you fill the green leather benches of parliament with managers and sound bites voters will look for leaders who apparently stand for something. UKIP a have cleverly combined Europe and immigration into policy with a simple solution, leaving the rest of the political class to flap about like fish out of water, still gagging at the word immigration.

The next seven months will be very interesting as we may see the emergence of two types of politics and politician. Those who get it and those who lose their seat.

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