Greenpeace ‘Frack’ UK Prime Minister’s Home Before He Announces Pro-Drilling Policy

Greenpeace UK volunteers visited Prime Minister David Cameron’s home Wednesday morning to deliver some medicine—his own.

They set off to make Cameron’s home a fracking site on the day that he announced plans for legislation that would make it easier to frack under residents’ property, despite 74 percent of the British public stating they are against changes to trespass laws that would allow companies to drill under homes without permission.

Cameron, of course, wasn’t around and police quickly ordered the group to remove the materials from his property, but he now understands what it’s like to have his home invaded for trapped gas and/or oil.

“Ahh, what a perfect day for fracking,” one of the volunteers says in the video.

With their smiles and iPhone selfies, the Greenpeace volunteers tried to duplicate the joviality companies will feel when they embark on a fracking mission knowing they’ll reap the benefits of fossil fuels without regulation. Under current law, companies need permission to frack on private property.

Now that Cameron officially announced the intention change the trespass law, Greenpeace UK says it will shift its attention to members of Parliament in hopes of triggering a backlash. According to The Telegraph, the policy will undergo a governmental consultation before it is officially on the books.

Though they had to take down the equipment they had set up outside Cameron’s home, the activists were anything but bitter.

“We have to say the police have a point, you shouldn’t be allowed to just turn up outside someone’s home and start fracking under their garden without their permission,” Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Simon Clydesdale said in a statement. “But following today’s announcement, we’re one big step closer to a law that will compel police to side with the frackers over homeowners.”

In conjunction with the mission, Greenpeace UK launched an online hub to allow people to find out if their home could be fracked. For Cameron’s home, they used Frack&Go, the organization’s pioneer shale gas firm that erected mock rigs outside the office of Chancellor George Osborne a year ago.

“The prime minister is robbing millions of their right to say no to fracking under their homes for the benefit of a few energy companies,” Clydesdale said. “He should stop chasing this shale pipe dream to focus on the real-world solutions that can boost our energy and climate security, like slashing energy waste and backing clean technologies.”

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Let’s Get Heretical on Education: Competition Has Failed

natalie+bennettIt’s time we talked about education.

Not just about the disasters of free schools, the horrors of stressful, damaging Ofsted inspections that produce random results (as the organisation itself has just acknowledged), the huge workload being carried by teachers and pupils, but about the basics – the philosophy behind our education system and indeed education itself, and its place in society.

I’m going to begin by quoting the Open University’s Ron Glatter, who has argued: “international experience indicates that emphasising choice and competition to drive improvements is not effective”.

That makes sense when you strip away the ideology and think about what competition between schools means – the driving force of Michael Gove’s free schools approach. If you have competition between widget factories, then some of them will fail. That will be pretty bad for the workers, but we might assume that if there’s a fixed need for widgets they’ll get a job at a more successful plant. So no great problem for society.

But turn that model to schools, and what happens when a school closes down? Pupils have their education disrupted – disastrous in our age-driven, rigid system, that means they can’t just go back to catch up. Pupils in neighbouring schools see their education disrupted too, as new groups are levered into their existing structures. Local areas lose what should be their heart – the place where parents get together, build organisations and build community spirit.

Schools are encouraged not to share good techniques and approaches, but hug them close – or at best to to try to sell them to other schools. And they’re encouraged to sneak sideways into selection – ensuring by hook or by crook that pupils who aren’t going to be an ornament to their results aren’t on their rolls at test time.

So let’s start with one heretical thought: competition is disastrous in our education system and should be abandoned as a guiding principle. Instead what we need is cooperation – an informal co-operative of pupils, teachers, parents, communities working together to help achieve the best possible outcome for each pupil.

Then we come to what education is for: and I couldn’t argue with the 1988 Education Reform Act, one of the few in our history to explain what schools should do: “promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils … and prepare pupils … for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life.”

But that’s not what schools and teachers are being judged on now. The test result is king. Sat results, league tables, are what heads hold or lose their jobs by, and they’re forced, whether they like it or not, to pass that pressure down to their staff.

Look at the turnout at the recent elections, particularly among the young, and hear when many explain they don’t vote because they don’t know enough, and you have to acknowledge that citizenship education is certainly failing, and if we think about skills that everyone needs: cooking and nutritional knowledge, financial management, sex and relationship education, gardening even … few would claim that many schools are providing these essentials, let alone more abstract but essential life skills like problem-solving, emotional resilience, and effective communication.

So my second heretical proposal: let’s cut the testing, stop spending time on endless drilling for Sats and other exams, let’s ensure that our children get a broad, healthy education for life.

Original article published in Huffington Post

Based on a speech delivered on the afternoon of June 1st at the How The Light Gets In Festival 2014 in Hay-on-Wye

Follow Natalie Bennett on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@natalieben

Angela Merkel Visit: Lessons From Germany for David Cameron

Angela Merkel

German chancellor Angela Merkel is being treated like political royalty, a consequence of her country’s economic power as well as prime minister David Cameron’s desperate need for friends in Europe. Few would argue about the position of Germany as the economic powerhouse of the European Union but what can Britain learn from the German economic model? Does Germany’s economy suggest that the idealisation of competition and flexibility, touted by chancellor George Osborne and his elite friends, is the route to success?

We have a lot to learn from the German model, particularly in terms of the way the government frames the two important sources of economic dynamism: energy and money.

Germany’s Energiewende or energy transition is one of the most dramatic and underreported developments taking place in Europe today. It has hugely ambitious targets for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, which are to fall by a minimum of 80% by 2050 with a staging-post of 55% reductions by 2030, as well as pledging to phase out nuclear energy by the end of 2022. The rejection of nuclear after the Fukushima accident was famously an example of Merkel’s ability to listen, learn and change her mind, which we might also welcome being shared with our own government.

Not only has Germany turned its back on Europe’s dirty fossil and nuclear past, it has also questioned ownership of energy and responded in a way that would be anathema to Britain’s Conservative politicians. The energy revolution is being driven by communities and by local politicians; it would be quite impossible without a muscular role being played by the state, the same state that in Britain is being devastated by austerity cuts. As a result, local communities and local governments across Germany are benefiting from the energy transition: the 928 inhabitants of the village of Grossbardorf, in Bavaria, have united to develop photovoltaic roof systems, solar power plants, a biogas plant with a combined heat and power (ChP) unit and a district heating network; Jühnde in Göttingen began its journey to becoming a ‘bio-energy village’ in 2001 and by 2004 70% of the population of the village were members of the co-operative and use locally generated bio-heat, relying on the methane produced by fermenting agricultural waste products.

These sorts of developments would be impossible without a wholly different approach to finance exemplified by the state-owned development bank – the KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau or Reconstruction Credit Institute). Established under the Marshall Plan and originally focused on the reconstruction of a war-torn economy, the KfW has been able to provide the finance to enable Germany’s development as political priorites have changed, through Reunification and now the Energiewende. The contrast with the situation in the UK is made clear through evidence given to the Environmental Audit Committee’s Inquiry into Green Finance, which will report shortly. It will demonstrate a tussle over power and profits that has held back the energy transition in Britain, where high-risk activities are always more attractive to private finance than investment in vital sustainable and resilient infrastructure. Continue reading