Protesting in Paris. Really??; Manchester meeting, Fri Nov 28

At the end of next year there is one of those big international meetings on climate change. You know, the ones that have achieved so much. Like Kyoto… or Copenhagen.  Already there are attempts to get activists “excited” about this.  Ed Miliband himself (who will either be Prime Minister or stacking shelves in Tesco by then) is encouraging people to pile on the pressure.  There is SO much local work that needs doing.  But instead, no, let’s go off and have a jolly.  Let’s alienate people who don’t have the time, money, commitment to do that.  Let’s take up all the oxygen and bandwidth feeding the egos of a few hundred politicians and mediators of dissent.  Yum.   [To be fair, the person who has asked me to publicise this event says it is NOT going to be like that. If someone wants to do a write-up for MCFly, the email address is]

“What links tuition fees, climate change, and student resistance?

Here’s the facebook link
Please join us for the Manchester leg of a UK-wide speaker tour with Jérémie Bédard-Wien from Québec, where students brought down their government when it tried bring in tuition fees.

Jérémie will speak alongside other student and climate activists about how students can get organised locally and internationally in the lead up to the UN’s COP21 climate talks in Paris next year and beyond

We invite friends affiliated with both universities in Manchester to participate in the discussion and start thinking about how we can coordinate student climate action across the UK and internationally.

Organised by the Campaign against Climate Change, Manchester Young Greens, and a growing list of local societies.


Avila House, 335-337 Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9PG

Arrive at 7.15pm to start at 7.30pm

Posted in Campaign Update, Upcoming Events | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What IS a low carbon culture? Report by People’s Environmental Scrutiny Team

reposted from People’s Environmental Scrutiny Team website.

The Manchester Climate Change Action Plan, agreed by the City Council over 5 years ago, calls for the creation of a “low carbon culture”. Oddly, the Council has never defined this, or asked anyone else to. So, a group of citizens, under the banner of the “People’s Environmental Scrutiny Team” has produced a short report on the subject, suggesting things that the Council, its minimally active “Stakeholder Steering Group” and civil society could do to both “talk about” and DO towards the creation of that culture. The full report (12 pages) can be downloaded here. Below is the Executive Summary.

Executive Summary
What is a low carbon culture? We don’t know. This paper of the People’s
Environmental Scrutiny Team is not about giving a final answer. It’s about starting a
process that the Council and its hangers-on have been unwilling or unable to do.
The report;
• Outlines the background to the creation of the term and then justifies its own
• Suggests some reasons why the term has never been defined
• Digresses into “how to explain climate change to anyone.”
• Wrestles (and loses) with the meaning of culture
• Has a top interview with a real live anthropologist (no pith helmet though)
• Reprints some of the answers we got when we asked the question on
facebook and email.
• Reprints a portion of an “implementation plan” sent to Manchester City
Council in February 2014. Which was ignored, of course. Stands up alright
• Closes out with a series of actions that the Council, Civil Society and the Ivory
Tower could take in the short and medium term to start doing AND defining a
“low carbon culture”.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Polar Bear Facepalm: EPA advice machine sabotaged

From here:


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What happened at Economy Scrutiny and Communities Scrutiny of #Manchester City Council

Manchester needs citizens who can attend the meetings of the Council’s “scrutiny committees” and report on who said what.  The media is incapable – underfunded and too close to those in power.  The minutes of the meetings usually hide more than they reveal. Now, at last, most meetings are being webcast.  But who has two hours to watch every minute of a meeting. No, citizens with notepads, brains and the will to write are needed.
Fortunately, we have one (so far; more to follow?).  Here is the account of two meetings that took place yesterday. It is written by Dick Venes, of Manchester Green Party but writing in a personal capacity.  Thanks to Dick for spending his time both attending AND for doing such a brilliant write-up!!

I attended yesterday’s MCC Economy and Communities Scrutiny Committee meetings.  I hope this report may be of use to some of you.  I’m happy for material in it to be forwarded to other interested parties, with the proviso that it’s my interpretation of events and details may not necessarily be completely accurate.

The Economy Scrutiny Committee (ESC) met at UK Fast’s not-so-whizzy as expected new offices in Hulme.  I arrived on my bike at the same time as Executive Member Cllr Flanagan’s big black 4×4 and was disappointed to find inadequate bike parking – 3 Sheffield stands too close together to allow comfortable parking for 6 bikes and 4 other bikes locked to assorted car park metalwork.  Not a good advert for a company that made a long presentation about corporate social responsibility at the last ESC meeting.  But – the company does have an on site gym!  I have emailed them about increasing bike parking provision.

1. The first 3 items (numbered 5,6, and 7) on the ESC agenda were concerned with apprenticeships.  After the first Powerpoint presentation went on too long the Chair went straight to questions on the other two items/reports.   From questions from Councillors to the people presenting the reports it was clear that some Councillors are concerned about the quality of apprenticeships in Manchester/ Greater Manchester.  For example, businesses in retail and catering using the offer of ‘apprenticeships’ to reduce costs, and the rate of ‘churn ‘ of apprentices.  There was some discussion of the lack of contact between businesses and schools, gender bias in careers advice in schools, and the lack of understanding of business and young employee expectations of work (from both sides).  Councillors were concerned that the statistics in some of the reports were not easily understandable and were not presented in a way that gave information down to ward level.  They also identified and acknowledged that informal methods of recruitment through volunteers, sports clubs and other organisations are not easily measured, when trying to work out if MCC’s employment initiatives are cost effective.

2. Items 8 and 9 on the agenda were down as ‘Budget saving options for the Growth and Neighbourhoods Directorate’ and ‘Budget saving options for Children and Families Directorate’.  Lengthy reports full of statistics were tabled as part of this item.  Despite platitudes from Cllr Flanagan, executive member for Finance,  Councillors were concerned that they were being asked to choose options for cost cutting in these areas despite not having an adequate overview of information on all the Council’s current spending.  They were keen to see the Corporate Core budget report as well (post meeting note – this was on the agenda of the Finance scrutiny committee meeting on 20th November). Councillors quoted examples like Christmas lights, firework displays and cash grants and how they could explain to citizens the value of these options.  On cash grants, one Councillor quoted the example of £200 spent to help 25 volunteers do a clean up, the value of which to the Council far exceeded the cost, a good reason for retaining the cash grant system.  Cllr Flanagan pointed out that a lot of the budget expenditure is ‘protected’.  Cllr Karney was concerned about how the Council could adequately convey information about budget choices and cuts to the public, given that 90% of the budget expenditure is on no interest to the media (MEN implied).

In the end, there was no discussion on the detailed options presented in the two reports.  The Committee agreed that a small group would discuss options and report back to the other councillors, before the Committee’s views were fed back to the Executive.  Generally Committee members appeared unhappy with the situation and seemed to feel they are not being consulted sufficiently or in a way that enables meaningful decision making (RV comment – a bit like citizens will feel if they try and participate in the Council’s forthcoming budget ‘consultation’).

The agenda of the Communities Scrutiny Committee was occupied almost completely by just one item – discussion of an interesting report on domestic violence and abuse (DVA).  The meeting was attended by representatives of various outside agencies, including GM Police, Manchester Womens’ Aid/Pankhurst centre, Sahili Asian Womens’ Project, and a new Community Rehabilitation Company, owned by Interserve, which is taking over (as a privatisation) the low and medium risk functions of the Probation Service.

There was a comprehensive discussion of the Report presented to the Committee, with plenty of relevant questions from Councillors and informed answers and discussion from the various agency representatives.  As with the previous Communities scrutiny meeting I attended, I was impressed by the knowledge and concern of Committee members.  There seemed to be a couple of points of disagreement between the statutory bodies and the charity representatives:

a) the difficulty of identifying cases of non-violent abuse and coercion within some communities e.g. BME, Roma, LGBT, which specialist voluntary sector groups have better information on.  Cllr Watson also raised the issue of abuse amongst older people, including dementia sufferers whose behaviour may be affected by their condition.  There was significant concern from the voluntary sector reps that budget cuts would severely affect their ability to continue both this and more conventional work.
b) there was concern from some Councillors and others that victims of abuse are unwilling to go to statutory services (e.g Police, Social services) because of loss of confidentiality and being categorised as ‘troubled families’ when this may not necessarily be the case.

Councillors appeared keen to put more than 5% of the current estimated annual expenditure of £24 million (across all Council services) on DVA on prevention and early intervention, but discussions did not identify how this could be done.  There was some discussion of FGM, but no-one was able to illuminate how much of a problem it is in Manchester.  An ongoing project at the University of Manchester may provide some information.

At the end of the meeting there was a very brief discussion among Councillors about the December meeting, which will likely include discussion on budget options on issues under the Committee’s jurisdiction e.g. advice services.  An item on ‘City Centre protests’ was postponed – no details of this were given, but further information would be very interesting, given MGP’s recent participation in these!

Dick Venes,
Hon Secretary, Manchester Green Party.

Posted in Communities Scrutiny Committee, Economy Scrutiny Committee, Manchester City Council | Tagged | 1 Comment

People’s Environmental Scrutiny Team meeting Mon 157th – what happened, what next…

reposted from

Several new faces joined the PEST-ilence on Monday night. A mix of old and young, climate campaigners, vegan organics farming advocates, biodiversity boffins and all-purpose citizens spent an hour and a half getting to know each others skills and passions (see the video for more details), brainstorming ideas for the coming months and learning about recent successes of environmental campaigning

In what is now a tradition, people wrote down things they were good at and things they would like to be good at on white and coloured paper, held them up and walked around the room. Many “matches” were found, and email addresses exchanged. Of such things are skills exchanges and webs of mutual support (and friendship?) born…

What people put down as the things they were good at:
Public speaking, research facilitating, planning and organising, PR, marketing, wacky ideas, party organising, banner making, blogging, lobbying politicians, letters to newspapers, talking,

What people put down as the things they would like to be good at:
Time management, web design, project management (x2), organisational skills, video, public speaking, keeping momentum, engaging with schools/doing assemblies, social media, public speaking, getting more engaged in civic society,

We then used those sheets of paper while three of us facilitated “Novice Lines” (the video only captures me, but the next two facilitators were better. #embarrassing).

The links under some of those words take you through to the “bluffer’s guides” that people helped to improve at the first PEST meeting, back in August.

The meeting finished on time (8.30pm) and people seemed enthused and energised, having met multiple other people.

PEST’s latest report is out now: What have ye done? Manchester City Council’s performance against its own goals in the Annual Carbon Reduction Plan 2013-4 12 pages of depressing detail of how much the council DIDN’T do. We had to use the Freedom of Information Act to get these facts…

PEST’s next report is out on Monday 24th November: “What IS a low carbon culture” Please respond to it, leave comments, retweet it, post it on facebook. Most of all, put your thinking and talking hats on, because this report is only the beginning of a discussion.

Next meeting: Monday 15th December will be at 7pm, at the Friends Meeting House. It is a “how-to” session for people who want to become better public speakers, and people who want to learn how to shoot video. All welcome, no need to book. Please tell your friends

Next report (January 2015) will be on “How can we make our streets more ready for the unpleasant surprises to come?” If you have ideas, or want to get involved in the writing/production of this report, please get in touch via

Posted in Campaign Update, Event reports | Leave a comment

Help a #Manchester Environmental Centre and get lunch/cake/coffee as “merci” Fri 28-Sat 29 Nov

From the folks at Kindling Trust:

We have a mission of a very different kind for our Land Army volunteers on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th November.

For once, we will be inside a warm building, helping out at MERCi’s historic Bridge-5 Mill! We will be helping to clear one floor of this unique environment centre to allow new tenants to move in and help this East Manchester charity generate more income.

Bridge-5 Mill is one of Manchester’s most sustainable buildings, and home to a number of environmental, campaigning and community organisations. Tenants include the Manchester Environmental Education Network, the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, the Black Environment Network and Greater Manchester CND. It also provides beautiful meeting and event spaces for hire. All proceeds from tenant and event rates goes back into running the building and MERCi’s own local environmental projects.

So if you relish a rummage, love a tidy up, thrill at recycling, and appreciate good food and good company, join us for a couple of days for all of these and more! You’ll also get a guided tour of the building and hear about its transformation from historic silk mill to a Centre for Change.

Lunch, tea, coffee and cake provided! Email to book your place”

Posted in Campaign Update, volunteer opportunity | Leave a comment

Help Friends of the Earth and its #fracking campaign

As you may have heard, Lancashire County Council will soon be deciding whether to give Cuadrilla permission to frack near two villages near the coast.  This decision has serious implications for the UK – if it goes ahead it will set a precedent for the rest of the UK.  But if we can stop it, it would mean a serious set-back for the industry.

We’ll be heading out to various towns across Lancashire over the next couple of weeks to put pressure on the County Council to reject these applications:

Sat 22 Nov: We’ll be in Lancaster from 11am to 1pm, and Preston from 2pm to 4pm.  We’ll probably be catching the 9.46am from Piccadilly / 9.49am from Oxford Road (TBC), and should be back in Manchester by 5pm – or feel free to join us just for the morning or afternoon.

Thu 27 Nov: We’ll be handing in our anti-fracking petition to Lancashire Council Leader Jennifer Mein, and there will be a demo outside County Hall in Preston from 1pm to 2pm.  Travel details TBC.

Fri 28 Nov: Mr Frackhead is back on tour, and will be in Lancaster from 11am to 3pm.  Travel details TBC.

Sat 29 Nov: We’ll be joining Mr Frackhead in Accrington from 11.30am and outside Burnley football ground at 1.30pm.  Travel details TBC.

If you’d like to help on any of these dates, please let me know either by email or by phone/text on 07786 090520 and I’ll send you full details when they’re confirmed.  No experience is necessary, and Friends of the Earth will be happy to cover any transport & lunch costs.



Ali Abbas
Manchester Friends of the Earth
M: 07786 090520
T: @ali_mfoe
Posted in Campaign Update | Tagged | Leave a comment