Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Green Party Spring Conference 2009

The spring GP conference was held in Black pool last weekend. I went down for the Friday and Saturday sessions. It was odd being back in Blackpool after such a long time, The place isn't at its best in March but it is certainly suffering at the moment with many shops closed and boarded up. No doubt some will re-open when the season starts but the whole place looks badly run down.

The conference was held in the Winter Gardens, which have seen better days, but also have a faded grandeur. On the Friday we had a speech by party Leader Caroline Lucas which can be seen here. Caroline attacked the government for failing to take steps to implement a Green New Deal which will provide much needed employment and investment in infrastructure to help combat climate change.

A number of motions were passed including:

C01 - Alternative Economic Strategy - which commits the party to campaign for an emergency programme of economic and social reconstruction, based on the proposals of the Green New Deal pamphlet, but broadened and reinforced to transform fundamentally the current financial and industrial system.

C02 - Migration - which noting that migration is going to be an important issue in the forthcoming European elections, and the need for a progressive and humane policy, the migration policy of the European Green Party was adopted as our own.

I attended a workshop given by the Green Economics Institute. Miriam Kennet gave us an interesting talk which revealed she has has recently been invited to give talks to various government departments on green economics including GCHQ! I'm not holding my breath waiting for the spooks to go green!

On the Saturday I attended two workshops on Transition Towns and Climate Ge0-engineering. The first included a discussion about the situation in Totnes and we talked about our ongoing frustration with green activists who don't want to get their hands dirty by getting involved in real politics. The Climate Ge0-engineering workshop focused on Biochar - that's charcoal to you and me. It seems there are plans to plant millions of hectares of monoculture forest around the globe, then chop them down and pyrolise the biomass to produce fuel and bury the resulting biochar in the soil. There is a very good article by George Monbiot in today's Guardian which exposes this potty idea. Biochar has the potential to do enormous damage so lets hope the article helps to sink it.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

One Law for All - Stop Sharia Law in the UK

On 7th March a rally was held in London to protest against the creeping adoption of sharia law in the UK. Sharia law is reactionary, regressive and misogynistic. At its extremes it can lead to people being stoned to death or executed. Proponents of sharia such as Rowan Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury have claimed that sharia should be used for the settlement of civil matters and our anti-secular government is sympathetic to this idea thinking that it will improve social cohesion. This is totally misguided.

It is unacceptable to have a parallel legal system, overseen by sham courts, which will deny UK citizens their basic human rights. The adoption of sharia is merely pandering to extreme political Islam. At the rally A C Grayling said -

'Once you start fragmenting society, once you start allowing different groups in society to apply different standards, you get very profound injustices and it is almost always women who suffer these injustices. We have to fight hard to keep one law for everybody.'

And he is absolutely right. If you want to find out more and help stamp out this injustice visit the One Law for All website by following this link. Complacency is not an option.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Our fundamental freedoms are under threat from organised religion

I am an atheist. I always have been except when I was young enough not to know any better. It's never bothered me that other people are religious, even though I think the Abrahamic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - are a bad thing, until recently. The fact is that, worldwide, religion is in decline except where it has been re-inforced by force in theocratic countries like Iran. As religion gets pushed into a corner it becomes more strident, more extreme, less tolerant (and those religions have never been good at tolerance), and more violent.

The response of Islam has been to threaten with death anyone who 'defames' - i.e. criticises it - such as Salman Rushdie for writing the book The Satanic Verses. Rushdie was famously subject to a fatwa - a death sentence - by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for offending Islamic sensibilities. To their credit the British government of the time protected Rushdie though one wonders if the same would happen today. The violence and bullying of the Muslims has , to some extent, worked. When the infamous Danish Cartoons of Mohammed incident occurred, provoking a violent Muslim backlash, many Western governments failed to rush to defend free speech. The European Union was notably silent.

Now Christians, having seen the success of the Muslims, are jumping on the bandwagon. They haven't resorted to violence yet - except in the United States where abortion clinics have been attacked and doctors and nurses have been threatened and killed - but they have resorted to a vindictive and dishonest campaign against atheists and those who seek to undo religious privilege in the UK. A good example of this was a recent post on CiF in which Mary Kelly said that Christians were being persecuted in the UK. This is typical of the line that British Christians have adopted. Kelly starts her post by writing that Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor - head of the Catholic church in the UK - is being elevated to the House of Lords and then goes on the talk about Christians being persecuted????? The persecution claim is simply untrue. Why? Well, the Queen is head of the Church of England, there are 26 Bishops in the House of Lords, Christians control thousands of schools in the 'state' education system. Need I say more? What is happening here is that Christianity is declining. The only bit that is growing is, like Islam, the more extreme evangelical wing. As it declines it becomes more strident, and in the case of Christians apparently, more dishonest.

Meanwhile the Muslims appear to be using all the means they can to silence dissenters or critics of their religion. Fifty seven Muslim countries, the largest block in the United Nations, are attempting to pass a binding resolution which would outlaw 'defamation' of religion. The aim is to silence anyone who dares to criticise Islam - globally. The UN used to be the global defender of freedoms with its Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Now it is in danger of becoming the enforcer of theocratic tyranny. If you want to know more watch this video with Christopher Hitchens.

I have no doubt their are decent Christians and Muslims who deplore both the dishonesty and the tyranny but we never seem to hear from them. Its time for them to speak out and defend human rights and the benefits to all of living in a secular society. If they don't their religions can only become more extreme, more violent and more irrelevant to the majority of humans on the planet. Meanwhile, if you value your freedom to think for yourself you can help fight the religious threat to your freedom by joining and supporting the National Secular Society.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

The Age of Stupid

I don't usually promote or review films or books on this blog but this is a special case. The Age of Stupid is a film where the action takes place in 2055, on an earth ravaged by climate change. Pete Poselthwaite stars as a man living alone who looks back at archive footage of 2008 and wonders why we didn't do more to combat climate change.

He is not alone. There are many of us now who wonder why so little action is being taken by our government, and other governments. We have a climate change minister and bill and the promise of 'green' jobs being created by the government, but little in the way of positive change. What's more the government appears to want to renew 'business as usual' which not only means fat cats snouts in the trough but an endless quest for growth which the environment cannot sustain.

Hopefully, The Age of Stupid will influence more of the undecided that they need to adapt their lives by reducing carbon outputs, developing more local, resilient economies and demanding real government action.

The Age of Stupid premiere's on Sunday 15th March and can be viewed in cinemas around the country.