Wednesday, 28 April 2010

MCFly 47 - Janet Clowes on Manchester Airport

Shortly after MCFly 46 hit the inboxes, an eakle-eyed reader spotted that we mis-attributed a quote to Janet Clowes, Conservative candidate for Wythenshawe and Sale East. We contacted her, offering to run what she actually thinks. Here it is:

"The comment by Marie Raynor (Local Candidate for Brooklands; Manchester Ward) was made last autumn in response to specific plans being suggested for the development of an additional freight depot on the Manchester Airport site (related to the Hasty Lane site), rather than any long-term strategies being proposed by any interested parties.
"In relation to your article, there is no doubt that Manchester Airport is vitally important to the prosperity of the North-West - and especially Wythenshawe & Sale East. Over 19,000 people are employed directly on-site and a far larger number are indirectly dependent on the airport. It seems unlikely that an airport operator would try to force through controversial
plans for expansion if it meant risking their franchise when it comes to an end. Manchester Airport's second runway application went through all the normal planning process and received strong support from the community at that time.
"However expansion of regional airports can only be encouraged where there is community support. Regional airports have the potential to reduce transit flights by increasing "point to point" services as well as reducing congestion around London's airports.
"Manchester Airport is owned by the ten local authorities with Manchester City Council owning 55% and the other authorities 5% each. As a result local councillors effectively have the final say over Manchester expansion and they are accountable to the local electorate."

MCFly 47 - Hustings Report

April 20 debate "Is the Council taking the right action on Climate Change?"
A varied audience of about 30 gathered to hear the wisdom of Richard Cowell (Labour), Gayle O'Donovan (Greens) and Graham Shaw (Lib Dems). The place of the missing Conservative candidate was taken by a helium balloon (blue, of course). None of the candidates seemed put off by the relatively small size of audience and started off proceedings each with a five minute speech on the subject 'Is Manchester City Council taking the right action on Climate Change?' Graham seemed to not be able to make up his mind about whether the Manchester CCAP was a good thing but was convinced that the issue of the footprint of flights from the airport should have been included. Gayle almost damned the Council process (towards the CCAP) with faint praise, lambasted them for expanding the airport and then talked about green jobs. Cllr Cowell took a while to find his stride, but gave an account of how the CCAP had been arrived at and defended the Council's record on jobs. The event then moved on to written questions from the audience - which were of a pretty high standard. Many questions asked about improving the lot of cyclists and asking what the Council had 'actually done'.
The main points of friction were, unsurprisingly, the airport, where Cowell gave a spirited rendition of the jobs vs environment coda of Council policy, and over the Green Party's record when they had a Councillor. The event the chair had to call a halt to that latter line of discussion before if got too personal.
In summary, Lib Dems vague, Greens spirited, Lab defensive and spirited, and Conservatives silent.
Sir Fred Spong

MCFly 47 - Upcoming Events

Far too often climate events don't take participants further than they would have got in half an hour on the tinterwebs. Everyone stays in their comfort zones within the smugosphere. Three meetings are coming up in the next few weeks MCFly reckons will NOT be like that...

Thurs May 6, 6-8pm
Carolyn Steel, London-based Architect and author of "the Hungry City", will introduce her visionary approach to food production and the future of urban planning. Every day cities require enough food to be produced, transported, bought, sold and cooked, to provide millions of meals for its inhabitants. Carolyn will discuss how, without a reliable food supply, even the most modern city would collapse quickly.
Cube Gallery, 113-115 Portland St
Tickets £15/£10

Sat May 22, 9.30 to 2.30pm

Introduction to Ecoteams
"Step into Summer with a resolution to join EcoTeams - a community initiative for the environment, led by you."
Free, Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount St. Book via
See also;

& Tuesday July 20, 6- 8pm "Climate Change and Planning, How to affect positive change through the Planning System"
Free, Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount St

MCFly 47 - New co-editor sought

And reporters. And distribution volunteers. And proof readers...
After a year and a half of dedicated and very unpaid effort, Arwa Aburawa, MCFly co-editor, is moving on. That's a 50% reduction in the MCFly editorial team right there.... So if you are interested in learning the ropes, keeping MCFly coming out like clockwork, please get in touch. And we always need writers (for local stories only) and proof-readers, post-mortemers and distributors.

MCFly 47 - For Peat's Sake

On Thursday April 15 activists from from the non-violent direct action groups Earth First and Manchester Climate Action stopped the extraction of peat from Chat Moss, in Salford. They chained themselves to machinery, thus preventing diggers and lorries from removing peat from the site until they were cut away by Greater Manchester police. Two people were arrested.
In their press release EF/MCA state that "peat bogs have recently become the focus of international attention because they act as huge ‘carbon sponges’: as peat is formed it locks away carbon that has been absorbed by plants as they grow, thereby helping to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere and slow global warming. The draining and extraction of this unique habitat causes the release of thousands of years worth of stored carbon. Globally, peat bogs cover just 3% of the world’s surface but store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests combined.
"The greatest threat to peat bogs is from peat extraction for use in horticulture. An area the size of 250 Trafalgar Squares is dug up every year for the UK horticultural industry, with 70% of this demand coming from amateur gardeners. This is despite the fact that there are a wide variety of good quality peat-free commercial composts, meaning that there is no need for the UK to consume any peat at all. The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, for instance, has been peat-free since 1992."
Local campaigner Mary Chapel, said: “We are stopping the destruction of Chat Moss bog to protect this site for the benefit of present and future generations. Peat bogs harbour a wide variety of birds, plants and animals that can be found nowhere else.... there are countless alternatives to peat for use in compost, as well as more sustainable jobs in those industries.”
There is a support demonstration for the two people who were arrested, on Tues May 10 at 9.30am, at the Salford Magistrate's Court.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Put nature on the rack and make her scream for us

"Manchester Salon" is linked to the fruit-cake libertarians at the "Destitute of Ideas" in ways that I'm too indolent to investigate. On Wednesday 21st they held a "post-Copenhagen" event at Blackwell's bookshop. All the suggested reading was from the Times Online and "spiked magazine", the drearily foam-speckled rantosphere that disses all things environmental as enemies of progress. The Times stuff was about "Glaciergate"- a pseudo-controversy if ever there were one. Nonetheless, neither speaker came out swinging with "it's all a hoax." In some ways that would be better; by appearing to be 'reasonable', these guys are part of the 'let's do very little' movement that is making people massively underestimate the urgency with which we need to act.

So, there were two speakers- one a political scientist, the other a transport wonk. The organisers of the event didn't provide anything from a proper working climate scientist to compensate for this oversight. A short piece by Kevin Anderson would have added a bit of reality, for example.

Indirjeet Palmer admitted that he hasn't ever talked to non-academic audience (Manchester University obviously doesn't reward its employees for engaging with taxpayers). Having lowered expectations by saying that what he knew of climate change could be written on a postage stamp, he didn't embarrass himself too much. Sure, he misnamed an outfit that's been around for 22 years as “Intergovernmental Conference on Climate Change” (It's IPCC, and the P stands for Panel), claimed that there was no consensus on climate change, and calling Todd Stern Todd Steinberg, but those weren't the bits that bothered me.

Oddly for an expert on US power he claimed that the US was reactive to the world in the early 20th century. This will come as a surprise to the natives of Hawaii (1893), the people of Cuba who were busy liberating themselves from the Spanish until Uncle Sam stepped in to "help" them (1898), the Philippines (1898 too) and the “Panamanians” (1903- the isthmus was stolen from Colombia, a country created, so a canal could get built).

And for someone who says he doesn't know anything about climate change, he seemed somewhat over-confident in his proclamation that there was “clearly a degree of exaggeration on climate change, or at least its impacts.”
Of course, any investigation that clears the CRU (like the Royal Society one, or the parliamentary one) are obviously a whitewash.

In a nutshell- over-ran on his four relatively anodyne points, so we never got to hear his conclusion.

Keith McCabe, a transport wonk for various groups, gave an hilariously inaccurate account of the run-up to and consequences of Copenhagen. He claimed there was no guarantee that the Americans would be there- Obama was (from memory) the second world leader to confirm he would go after Gordon Brown, in early November.
He assumed the Copenhagen Accord has legal status (it doesn't). He stated that Obama set up the Major Economies Forum (he modified something inherited from Bush, who had been trying to set up a spoiler group against the UNFCCC); Bush had form on this.

He seems to have forgotten about the World Trade Organisation, which is able to enforce treaty's against the US.

For McCabe, the key question is “how to expand the world economy and come up with technologies that allows decreasing emissions.” Loadsamoney, was his suggestion.
Well, a) there are other pressing enivironmental problems besides climate change htat are going to hit us if/as we keep a-colonising and strip-mining the planet
and b) there is a SPEED and DEPTH needed for emissions cuts that goes far beyond “x per cent by 2050”. A reading of Anderson and Bows would clarify this, but undercut the technophilia.

In a nutshell, it was the Lomborg fallacy (though he was never mentioned by name) - “there's a problem, but nothing we can't throw a load of money at to solve.” Vorsprung durch Teknik or Katastrophe durch Teknik? Time will tell...

The key problems with all this technophilia is that it assumes the technologies will come on line, be taken up very quickly, that there will be no blow-back, no Jevon's Paradox. A cursory reading of the literature around Science and Technology Studies would decrease hubris around this... Take the Whale and the Reactor, it's an easy read...

The q and a was the standard mix of people talking past each other.
One questioner was at least honest enough to state how the volcano made him feel un-nerved (see also Gideon Rachman in the FT) by Mother Nature constraining humanity's room to maneouvre.
Neither speaker took up an invitation to address the work by Kevin Anderson that looks at the numbers around our emissions pathways and the reductions required to keep atmospheric Carbon Dioxide concentrations down to a level that will avoid dangerous climate change, concluding that economic growth and a habitable planet are incompatible.

And one of the last contributions gives this blog its title. The suggestion came from the audience that we "put nature on the rack and make it scream for us." Er, isn't that we've been doing all along? There's a limit to how long you can play that game. All our culture tells us of stories warning against hubris and greed- whether it's Icarus or the clown who killed the goose that laid the golden egg.

It's the Thelma and Louise fallacy. As the two cops discuss-
Max: You know, the one thing I can't figure out are these girls real smart or real real lucky?
Hal Slocumb: Don't matter. Brains'll only get you so far and luck always runs out.

Some people (men mostly) hate the idea that there are limits to their brain and luck (they don't see it as luck). They tend to gravitate- for obvious reasons- to a 19th century American love of technology and taylorism avant la lettre. That worked then, because we weren't at the limits. We are now. Time to grow up. Or else it is, in the words of Roy Batty "time to die."

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Rochdale's Environmental Sustainability Forum launches

If the passing Ospreys sighted in Rochdale recently happened to be soaring across from the town hall clock spire above the Esplanade to Touchstones last Monday evening they would have been aerial spectators to what was almost certainly the largest Environmental Meeting to be held in our town for a number of years.

An assembled audience of some fifty people participated in the first of a series of meetings under the umbrella of the newly launched Environmental Sustainability Action Forum ~ a green offshoot of Rochdale’s very own Cooperative Social Enterprise & aspiring Environmental Centre Earth Café.

It was a lively, enthusiastic & diverse audience which included Rochdale’s Liberal Democrat MP Paul Rowen, Samir Chaterjee, Rochdale Green Party, Rochdale Labour Party activists whose candidate Simon Danczuck has called for the concept to be supported as a positive non-political venture for Rochdale’s town centre regeneration~ all took time out from their busy election schedules to attend at intervals during the evening.

Church Groups, Community Centres, Rochdale Fair Trade Foundation, Save Spodden Valley Campaign, Rochdale World Development Movement, Rochdale Rotary Club, local pensioners rubbed shoulders with veteran peace campaigners and Environmental Officers from RMBC shared sandwiches with former tree house dwellers from Newbury By Pass Campaign and Greenpeace to name but a few from a truly eclectic mix of Rochdale.

As well as a good mix of eco-activists from Rochdale & Milnrow Friends of the Earth, greens and local folk keen to show support. There was a noticeable buzz of positive energy about the event to the extent the meeting overran by fifteen minutes & this reporter got the singular impression that many of the audience would have quite cheerfully discussed the need to address Rochdale’s Environmental problems well into the small hours.

Earth Cafe Founder Helen McCarthy Chaired the evening speaking passionately of the need to engage the community in local community & environmental initiatives. Earth Café is a home grown vision of an environmental Cooperative Social Enterprise committed to promoting Environmental Sustainability & Environmental Awareness in Rochdale Borough.

Helen pointed out that this was to be the first the first of a series of meetings under the umbrella of the Environmental Sustainability Action Forum as a prelude to hosting in the near future a one day Environmental Conference on the theme of Sustainability & Climate Change & the local response to growing Environmental concerns within Rochdale. With further meetings to continue with the engagement of the community as a whole and what changes are needed and what is important to them.

"Earth Café aims to try and articulate & advocate for the local community giving a voice to the community’s vision of what “Sustainability” means to them. From energy saving, recycling & renewables to local initiatives such as Transition Towns, green shoots are springing up all over the country as local pressure is being put on Councils to respond to the real challenges posed by Climate Change. Positive action is happening on landfill, CO2, renewables & sustainability. Earth Café through the
Environmental Sustainability Action Forum is determined to see Rochdale people equipped with the knowledge, campaigning skills, information & opportunity in order to participate pro actively in this challenge ahead.”

“We can all make what initially may seem to be small changes to our lives to make our Borough sustainable, greener and a more pleasant place to live, love the place you live and help to make a difference by starting at home”, Helen added.

Earth Café is a newly emergent cooperative social enterprise in Rochdale. The Team at Earth Café want to make an environmental difference to Rochdale, to make it a much more sustainable place to live.

"Together, we could make Rochdale Borough a centre for excellence about green issues in the North of England. We are the greenest in terms of scenery & green belt yet amongst the worst in greater Manchester for achieving our environmental targets. We aim to try and change that ~ tonight is the first step in the journey”, added Helen.

Ben McCarron of Manchester Friends of the Earth painted a necessarily bleak picture of what may be in store with Peak Oil .The pesticides & fertilizers and plastics dependent on oil would also go along with our love affair with the car, meaning starvation & mass migration of millions of Climate refugees could well become widespread long before the sea levels rise.
Pointing out that the recent volcano eruption & the grounding of all flights from British Airports is in its unexpected & unplanned nature exactly the same type of events we can expect to encounter in the future in terms of climate change.
But there are positive solutions if people begin to live more sustainably & adopt more environmentally friendly lifestyles, Ben argued that:

“We need to embed resilience into Rochdale’s economy & infrastructure so that when the effects of Climate Change do become apparent that we do not have to begin from scratch. We need to be making plans as individuals & collectively to ensure we have alternative which work already in place.
Friends of the Earth & Transition Towns are advocating people begin to make these changes now rather than later on in a crisis situation.”

Executive Director of Merci, Caroline Downey*, herself another Rochdale resident gave an illustrated talk on how Bridge 5 Mill, once a derelict silk mill was reclaimed by a handful of committed individuals & transformed into the Greenest Building in Manchester.

Also of her belief that Rochdale could follow Merci's lead with plans in the pipeline for a possible Nature Reserve Centre in Healey Dell & indeed the cross-pollination of ideas at the meeting the idea of Rochdale being put on the Environmental map does not seem as remote or impossible as it might first appear.

Particularly when Karen Hayday gave a well received motivational speech on the activities of Hourglass Environmental Ltd to set up community allotments, Wildflower Meadows, Butterfly Bar and Wild Walk & Wetland Planting at the Valley Road Community Leisure Gardens & Food Growing Projects at Kitkholt & Falinge. To enable people to grow their own food & reclaim derelict or neglected community land on the Estates of the town.

"In July 2009 Hourglasses Growth Project won the North West in Bloom Grow Your Own Award being singled out for its horticultural excellence, and its ability to involve, support & develop beneficiaries within a top quality local food project. We are currently based at the Kellet Street site where we provide opportunities, experience and informal training for local residents to enable them to use their skills to improve the environment in their immediate locality through growing a wide range of plants and vegetables both in the countryside and on the streets and on balconies”, said Karen to a round of applause and cheers for her well-loved project and dedication.

With the remainder of the meeting being dedicated to Ketso Feedback Workshops asking people to imagine what they would like in a perfect world to happen by 2020 to make Rochdale more sustainable & Environmentally aware.

From the Sustainable Change Facilitators who gave their time completely free of charge to the feedback results from the four group workshops and the feedback questionnaires from the assembled audience it looks like Rochdale Council should have no problem whatsoever getting opinions or feedback on the Environment from the people of Rochdale at future events.

"It is often said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step......tonight's meeting was in fact a great leap forward into the future.....we have seen tonight the response of ordinary Rochdale people, who, when asked to attend a Public Meeting on the Environment, participate in workshops & share their concerns & worries for their local environment have done so positively, enthusiastically & proactively."

Andrew Wastling

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Crains makes a tit of itself

Crain's Manchester Business is a valuable resource for finding out what's going on in the world of (Greater) Manchester business. Wide coverage, pungent analysis. One thing we've noticed here at MCFly Towers is that they don't seem to cover climate change very much. But given the quality of the following editorial, by Steve Brauner, maybe we should be grateful?

March 8, 2010 An economic climate
Population, not pollution, is chief threat to future

By Steve Brauner, Editor
1)After a winter cold enough to freeze the brass neck off an East Anglian professor, it is no wonder that global warming, as it used to be called, no longer strikes terror into the heart of those with time to waste on having their opinions surveyed by pollsters.

Which part of GLOBAL warming are you having problems with?
The satellite data (and nobody disputes this, btw) shows that January was- globally- the warmest since satellite records began.
Personally I blame the idea that you can discern global trends from what's happening in a few islands off the coast of Europe on Doctor Who- where the aliens who invaded always focussed on south-east England.
It was the fourth warmest January on record

And if you take just the satellite readings, it was the warmest

Last week, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its monthly “State of the Climate Global Analysis” for January.
We see blowout warming in the satellite temperature record, which is so beloved of the anti-science crowd since they think — incorrectly — it doesn’t show warming. Note that in UAH, we crushed the previous record.
In NOAA’s own surface dataset, January is slightly less record-shattering:
The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for January 2010 was 0.60°C (1.08°F) above the 20th century average of 12.0°C (53.6°F). This is the fourth warmest January on record.

2) Thanks to the Northwest Climate Change Partnership, we learn that just over two out of five businesses think climate change will affect them.
3) I take this to mean that very nearly three out of five businesses think it will have no impact whatsoever.

Or they might think that it will have big impacts elsewhere, or elsewhen- i.e. Not a short term problem they want to do a lot about now? The argument is spurious, anyway, since there are plenty of examples of people within a sector not spotting problems ahead. Economic meltdown of 2008, anyone??

4) This impression is reinforced by another finding in the “Perceptions of Climate Change within the Northwest 2009” report: that 67 per cent of businesses “do not currently look for advice on the issue”.

5) Mind you, considering how much advice we are given on the subject whether we want it or not, why would anybody have to go looking?

6) I recently had the misfortune to stay in a holiday apartment where BBC Worldwide was the only English-speaking television channel.

7) Its news coverage consists almost entirely of handwringing about climate change, usually by people filing reports from exotic locations at the licence fee payers' expense.

That's an exaggeration, I am sure. Poor show. “Hand-wringing.” Nothing like emotive language to keep an argument rational and clear-sighted, eh?

8) Strange, isn't it, that the search for stories about climate change takes television news crews to Nepal and the Amazon and not the banks of the River Irwell?

As I am sure you are aware, Steve, the earliest evidence of climate change that has pictures (the great beast television only feeds on pictures, not words) is in the tropics and the poles. There IS work being done on the challenges we face in Manchester. It's called the Ecocities Project. It's being funded by the Bruntwood property group. Maybe you've heard of them?

9) One of the reports I recall watching was about the melting glaciers in the Himalayas — based on a now discredited claim in a United Nations report.

Sigh. You are repeating a canard. The people at “Real Climate” (as in, real climatologists, who know what they are talking about) have this summary
Himalayan glaciers: In a regional chapter on Asia in Volume 2, written by authors from the region, it was erroneously stated that 80% of Himalayan glacier area would very likely be gone by 2035. This is of course not the proper IPCC projection of future glacier decline, which is found in Volume 1 of the report. There we find a 45-page, perfectly valid chapter on glaciers, snow and ice (Chapter 4), with the authors including leading glacier experts (such as our colleague Georg Kaser from Austria, who first discovered the Himalaya error in the WG2 report). There are also several pages on future glacier decline in Chapter 10 (“Global Climate Projections”), where the proper projections are used e.g. to estimate future sea level rise. So the problem here is not that the IPCC’s glacier experts made an incorrect prediction. The problem is that a WG2 chapter, instead of relying on the proper IPCC projections from their WG1 colleagues, cited an unreliable outside source in one place. Fixing this error involves deleting two sentences on page 493 of the WG2 report.

10) Before the eco-warriors get on the warpath, I should say that I do regard the degradation of our environment as a serious matter, but suspect that it can only be remedied if the number of humans on the planet stops increasing.
So, you're trying to claim high-moral ground/deflect from your ignorance by talking about an unrelated issue.

On Population, check out the Yale 360 piece by Fred Pearce, who has been writing on climate change for the New Scientist for two decades.
“Consumption Dwarfs Population as Main Environmental Threat” It's overconsumption, not population growth, that is the fundamental problem: By almost any measure, a small portion of the world's people — those in the affluent, developed world — use up most of the Earth's resources and produce most of its greenhouse gas emissions.

Given that 1 westerner is worth about 80 Bengalis, maybe we should start with some population restraint here?

11) Set against the ticking time bomb of population growth and the implications it has for the world's finite resources, arguing about whether human activity causes climate change seems rather pointless.

Finally, you say something sensible. Arguing about climate change is pointless. Preparing for its impacts- social, environmental, and ECONOMIC is something we are all going to have to do, whether we like it or not.

To do that, we need accurate information and sensible analysis. Editorials like this are frankly an embarrassment. Greater Manchester's capitalists are ill-served by such tripe. You wouldn't see the Financial Times running such puerile and baseless sneers as an editorial.

The Unreality Principle

Went to two meetings on Tuesday 13th. The first, by a local activist was small but perfectly formed and contained useful information. The second was a big ol' thing organised by Manchester University and with a “star” intellectual. It was dia-fucking-bolical.

Andrew Leask, of Trafford Eco-house and Transition Hale/Altrincham gave a talk about “Aquaponics and Manchester's Food Security” at the latest Manchester Green Drinks.
Here are some of the stats I scribbled down-

3% of our food is locally grown in Greater Manchester
9 days of food in the supermarkets
12% is the Council's guesstimated ceiling of the amount of food that could be grown locally
80% of the UK population lives in cities.

Cited by Leask from the Ecologist;
600,000 of the UK population working in agriculture, with 60,000 new farmers required in the next 10 years. Or 1,000,000 small holders. According to Richard Heinberg, you'd need 12,000,000 people working in oil free agriculture in the UK
There's 200,000 allotments in the UK, with 100,000 people on the waiting list. There were 1,500,000 allotments at the end of world war two, growing 50% of the UK's fruit and veg. Of course, we had fewer people then, and more land available for growing.

He then launched into an interesting account of using fish, water, bacteria in a (relatively) 'closed loop' to produce yummy protein. (Protein, as Marvin Harris points out in his wonderful book 'Cannibals and Kings', makes the world go round).

So, by the time I'd necked a second pint (thanks Chris!) and staggered up to the Fiends Meeting House, Will Hutton (for it is he) was mid-flow. Oh dear.

Facile boosterism for the north west, breathless talk of 'commercial space travel by 2150, jargon around 'agglomeration'. [What's the matter with David Harvey's Spatial Fix? Oh, right, liberals didn't think of it- Not Invented Here Syndrome and all. Sigh.]

Hutton. Just. Would. Not. Shut. Up. He overran his time dramatically, (asking for “permission” to do so) spouting ever banaller banalities and observer, sorry, 'absurder' absurdities. Apparently we're all going to retire later. That's fine if you're a white collar worker (as everyone in the room was. Significantly more males than females too). But what if you're a knackered manual worker? Sigh.

In the q and a, which had to be squeezed because of his needless and self-indulgent over-run, he was explicitly asked about the possible teensy-weensy contradictions between continued economic growth and a habitable planet. He first admitted that the atmospheric concentration of C02 was climbing every year, and then raffled (that is, rambled and waffled simultaneously) about clean coal, more efficient use of water and how we can't tell India and China to stop developing (er, does that mean you support contraction and convergence? If so, say so.)

And that was it. For one of the foremost progressive public intellectuals in this country (we are in deeper trouble than I thought) to give such an ill-informed answer about the real challenges that face us was unsurprising, but shocking all the same

He then, mercifully, buggered off back to London. Don't let the train doors hit your arse on the way out.

After a brief tea break, we were supposed to hear four talks, each of 5 to 10 minutes, framed as a letter to the new Prime Minister on the “main challenges” around Economy, Environment, Housing and I can't quite remember what.

We got to hear a bit about General Purpose Technologies.

Then Professor Alan Harding did a mini-Hutton. Five assertions and five challenges. David Harvey's spatial fix and Aidan While's sustainability fix still ignored. Sigh.
Asked about a steady-state economy (see Tim Jackson etc) Prof Harding at least had the good manners to admit that he didn't see what such a thing would look like. That's OK, neither can I, but the difference is I can see that we need it. The business as usual approach of extracting copious raw materials from t'planet and expecting it to absorb the waste is not going to work anymore.

Again, if our public intellectuals can't see the dangers, explain the dangers and suggest some ways forward, then what are they for??

Next up came Caroline Downey, director of MERCi.

She, surprisingly, took some pot shots at other people in the room, and at the NWDA for its faith in nuclear power and GDP (that was me applauding, Caroline). She gave a shout out to the Mersey Bioregion group and new economics foundation.
A good trick she had, too. Asked us to close our eyes and imagine a sustainable city. Most everyone's included water and wildlife, which Research Shows is what makes us happy.

She gave a shout out to the “Third Sector” (though I believe the politically correct terminology is first sector” At least according to that nice young and trustworthy Dave Cameron) and gave some examples of making the bioregion more resilient and self-sufficient with vertical gardens and increased access to green space.

She, in her letter, thanked the incoming PM for the Environment Bill that mimics Ecuador's bill on the right of nature to persist.

She also congratulated the PM on the Energy Descent planning that was taking place

Asked the standard (and entirely justifiable) question of How to Pay for it all, she said scrap trident, tax the rich and pull out of Afghanistan. She was less successful on the question of what MERCi has done lately for the deprived wards around it, but then that IS a tricky question!

By this stage, your intrepid reporter had had quite enough, and cycled home, missing the transport and housing sessions.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

MCFly 46- "Aerial Dogfight"

Council Leader Sir Richard Leese has refused to rule out a third runway at Manchester Airport. Green Party activists wrote an open letter (see MCFly 44) that included a specific question: "When the current agreement not to construct a new runway expires will the Council be applying for planning permission to build a third runway?" In his Friday April 9 reply, Leese wrote "the Manchester Airport Master Plan sets out plans for the airport business developing over a 25-year period to 2030. This plan makes it clear that the second runway will be adequate to meet the forecast demand to 2030. The figures you refer to are from the Committee on Climate Change and were based on modelling conducted by a consultancy working on behalf of the CCC. It was not a prediction. It looked at range of scenarios for emissions and was not an official forecast of demand or based on any airport specific plan."

MCFly hired linguistics experts from Chomsky Associates to examine this text. They state that the word 'yes' or 'no' is nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats manifesto (see story at foot of page 1) states that Labour "took 18 months to come up with a strategy, and then let down the City by excluding aviation and Manchester Airport, owned by the Council, from the Climate Change Action Plan. Some 85% of the Airport’s CO2 emissions come from flights. The Airport cannot be given a free pass." That's the extent of their comment, with nothing concrete about ruling out a third runway, or about freezing expansion at the airport.

The Greens, who won't be running Manchester anytime soon, have "No expansion of the Airport" on their policy page. Marie Raynor, Chairman of Wythenshawe & Sale East Conservatives wrote last year "any further expansion of the Airport is, in our view, unwarranted, given its current size." [see correction at foot of this entry]. At time of going to press, it's unclear if this represents her view, or if official Manchester Conservative policy is to call for a freeze on Airport expansion. MCFly will pursue the story.

The open letter, the response and MCFly's analysis can be seen at

The MCFly Says: Richard Leese believes "air travel is a vital part of people’s lives and crucial to becoming a truly competitive world city." This world city guff is inspired by American urban theorist Richard Florida (see his book "Cities and the Creative Class.") But climate change is going to come at us. Chunks of Florida- both the ideology and the place - are going to be flattened by hurricanes and underwater in a decade or three. Building hostages to fortune now, as oil peaks, is myopic. Our children will curse us.

CORRECTION: In the print version of MCFly 46, we wrongly attributed the Conservative's quote to Janet Clowes,the Conservative candidate for the parliamentary seat of Wythenshawe and Sale East. Thanks to the diligent reader who pointed this out.