The banks are still making headlines. And predictably for the wrong reasons. The latest RBS news is that it forced small and medium sized businesses out of business so that the bank could buy up their assets and capitalise them at below market prices.
Those are words, but to an entrepreneur, her business is her baby. You stay up all night building it, you agonise over its growing pains, the people it employs are like family. When a bank forecloses – i.e. snatches back the money it lent – it’s just like a bereavement.
Who knows what would have become of the businesses forced into closure by the overwhelming greed of banking? Who knows what technical and imaginative skills have been lost. Who knows how many people were forced out of good work and flung onto the shivering heap of statistics known as the unemployed?
What we do know is that these things happened, and from the account of Lawrence Tomlinson, whose report went to the UK government today, they happened to too many.
Banking practices have gone from shoddy to downright cruel. There is no compensation which can bring back the living thing which is a business. Nothing can take away the agony and the pain of knowing just how badly you have been treated, just how wrongly you have been judged.
Five years on from the banking disaster of 2008, nothing has been learned, no heads are on a plate. In fact the absolute opposite has happened. Bankers continue to receive exorbitant bonuses, continue to break the rules and continue to get away with it, now and evermore – until real change is made.
No Financial Transaction Tax, no new Banking Act to limit commercial bank securities activities and break the bond between commercial banks and securities firms, not a whiff of taking the ability to create money away from the banks and not one single sign that the government would create money free of debt to be spent into the real economy for the common good.
The same old disasters are set to repeat themselves. Property booms and busts, borrowing booms and busts, financial market booms and busts. Like graffiti in Paddington, the writing is never off the wall.
Banking Reform is needed now more than ever. George Osborne has said he will not separate retail banking from investment banking, yet that is precisely what is needed. So if you’re waiting for government to step in and fix the problem, don’t hold your breath.
Newport hits the national news again – and once again for all the wrong reasons. This time it’s for low wages and inequality.
Pippa Bartolotti – Wales Green Party leader said, “Many people on low incomes are struggling to make ends meet. It’s time everyone knew that the majority of people on welfare benefits are in full time work, and according to the Guardian, plenty of those are in Newport.”
“Austerity might have worked for the already rich, but it is clear to see that it has failed the majority of the population badly. Austerity is an ideological form of politics designed to reduce the state, and to reduce wages for the many. It breaks my heart to see the real strivers – those on a minimum wage forced to go to food banks; forced to swallow their pride and claim benefits. In the 6th richest country in the world, workers should be able to do more than just survive.”
In April, academics at Loughborough University’s Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP), used the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) formula to uprate the national living wage by 35p to £7.45 an hour.
According to the MIS formula a single working-age adult needs a budget of £200 a week; a pensioner couple need £240; a couple with two children need £470; and a lone parent with one child needs £285.
The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 2012 compiled by the Office for National Statistics shows that the highest median weekly earnings were in London, at £653. The lowest were in Wales, at £453.
The Wales leader added, “ I have already discussed with Newport Councillors the opportunity to bring in a Living Wage for council employees. What we need to see is a big Good News story coming out of Newport, and a Living Wage could be just that.”
A Living Wage is a step toward a true Citizens Income which is Green Party Policy
The terrible events in the Philippines have prompted thousands to send money, and that is good. But really the best way to help these people, and so many millions like them facing the effects of climate change, is for each and every one of us to take stock of our living habits and reduce our fossil fuel consumption.
Wales Green Party Leader, Pippa Bartolotti said, “People really do have the power to help those in such desperate need in the Philippines. In fact people have the power to help those facing hardships caused by climate change everywhere. It starts at home by decreasing fossil fuel consumption such as switching off lights and car sharing. It starts by looking at your own energy provider and making sure they are 100% green.”
Cheap and abundant fossil fuels have cemented bad energy habits, especially in rich countries. Most methods of producing, distributing and using energy are massively inefficient.
These inefficiencies run across all production and use of energy, from the power plants to the everyday use of cars, heating, air travel and stand-by power. In a detailed study, the International Energy Agency (IEA) found that from 3% (Switzerland) to an alarming 13% (Australia) of all residential electricity used in OECD countries was standby.
Pippa Bartolotti added, “Now is the time to stop taking energy for granted. We could close 24 coal-fired power stations by just unplugging chargers and switching off domestic appliances instead of putting them on stand-by. Sending money to the Philppines will not stop climate change, burning less fossil fuels will. The future of many people is in our hands.”
Science tells us that climate change will mean more intense tropical storms. As the Earth warms up, that would include the oceans. The energy that is stored in the waters off the Philippines will increase the intensity of typhoons and more destructive storms will be the new norm. The Philippine Government’s representative to the UN climate talks in Warsaw is currently on hunger strike until agreement on a climate pathway can be reached.
The UK Government has yet to take a stance on the international regulation of carbon dioxide emissions.
In light of the recent IPCC report, The Green Party urges the government to extend its concern for environmental protection beyond national perimeters
National debt is now 80 per cent of GDP (£1.2 trillion and growing ) – but that’s the UK, not Wales. The UK, in their failed attempt to decrease this monstrous debt has tried austerity, and failed. Could this be because the austerity was only for the already poor, and the increasingly poorer ordinary citizen? Wringing £11 bedroom tax a week from those struggling to make ends meet is not going to raise £1.2 trillion in a month of Sundays.
No Green needs reminding that it was not the ordinary citizen who caused this debt. It was the somewhat extra ordinary citizens – the bankers. It’s difficult to imagine what austerity must feel like when your salary is over £1 million and your bonus even bigger.
Wales, just like the other UK regions, has now put the accumulation of money ahead of the creation of sustainable work. Only last week, the Labour Planning Minister, Carl Sargeant overruled local decisions and allowed a mega dairy to be built in Powys. He said the economic case outweighed other concerns – like animal welfare. Money has come before welfare for too long.
The decision in Powys struck me with horror on every count. It was a bad, bad day for democracy, for small farmers; and a far worse day for animals. If Greens in Powys want me to come up and join the protest at this awful decision, I’ll be there! In fact I will support all Greens in this country. You only have to ask!
Wales is the poorest economic region in the UK. The way things are worked out right now we are never going to catch up. West Wales is even poorer than Romania. But do we want to catch up with this this horrible measure of GDP which puts money and profit at the centre if it’s world, abandoning the nurture of nature, and worse – treating nature as a resource to be indiscriminately pillaged for profit?
Climate change is in everything we do, and everything we do must reflect this. From your journey here, to the Christmas tree you buy, you will have a positive or negative effect on climate change. Climate change is personal.
I see Wales as a Bio Region. This is not about national boundaries, but about how our ecological systems and local knowledge support life and prosperity. A successful bioregion is proactive, and based on harmony between human culture and the natural environment. For example: can the Vale of Glamorgan support Cardiff in terms of food? Probably not in its current form. The urban conurbations tend to cut themselves off from the land which feeds them, and that is not sustainable thinking. Think of what happened in Havana when suddenly Cuba needed to feed itself after the breakup of the Soviet Union. I hope climate change will not bring us anything so drastic. But the Cubans managed it. We have the luxury of planning, and the first part of this is thought.
There are some good pointers for what we need to do. For example Wales still retains a higher manufacturing output than the UK average. In fact Wales is actually running a surplus on its balance of trade of about £5.1 billion (with Scotland at £3.6 billion), and this is almost entirely due to manufacturing and heavy export industries. In some ways we are supporting the gross blunders of the London based financial sector. In other words, Wales is making a profit which is sucked up by London.
Because we are good exporters, Wales has to be innovative to stay in the game, and that’s another positive pointer. Innovation is vital to future success. It is an employer, it is a skills-maker, it is a wealth creator. Innovation is what it takes to turn energy from sun, sea and wind into something we can use. We are good at innovation in Wales, so let’s do more of it.
Greens must actively support the existing good industries in every way we can. They are the ones which bring us employment and overcome technical challanges. They are the ones who keep the vital home grown supply chains in operation – and that is some 18,000 jobs – a number which can rise.
We must also support our fledgling new enterprises in the green sector. They are in the front line of research and development for our future needs.
Economic growth of the old model will not help us in Wales, or anywhere. But green energy does not fit with the business models of the fossil fuel industry. Indeed it will kill it. That is what we are up against. The vested interests of polluting industries which will continue to pollute forever if we let it.
People can’t be worrying about climate change when they are worrying about the rent, or where the next meal will come from. The social dimension to a progressive and self-sufficient Wales is vital. With the majority of people on welfare in full time jobs, or worse, zero hours contracts, the time to pay people fairly is well overdue. A Citizens Income will do exactly this, and it’s no surprise to say it is Green Party Policy.
But a Citizens Income isn’t just going to ‘happen’. We are going to have to work for it. A sustainable Wales must focus on an active strategy for positive social outcomes if we are to have an environmentally sustainable future.
Another big step which will help our local economy is to buy local. Multi national supermarkets are guilty of waste on an unimaginable scale. Millions of tons of food is ditched because the fruit or vegetables are not the right shape, or don’t have the right look, or have passed that wretched sell by date.
Individuals themselves are guilty of too much waste. Who can justify buying a lettuce grown in Spain (complete with the 11 types of fertiliser used), then throwing half of it away? Multinational supermarkets hoover money out of the local economy to shareholders who are hardly ever based in Wales. Everyone can buy local. It will help local farmers too because supermarkets demand unsustainably low prices.
It’s not only food, but other goods and services which when locally based, keep money in the area, to be spent in the area, and to make our locality less polluting and more prosperous. I’m thinking of furniture makers, credit unions, and all manner of local goods and services which are needed by the people of Wales, and can be provided by the people of Wales. Let’s keep the money in circulation, and let’s keep it in Wales!
This is part of what a Green Steady State Economy would look like. Dynamic Equilibrium is another work for it, and it’s about supporting green growth and training for sustainable industries; it’s about creating local jobs which you can build a life on. It’s about letting old polluting industries die and bringing new sustainable industries to the fore. It’s not about growth for the sake of growth, but it is about growth – Green growth.
Wales exports about 20% of energy to the rest of the UK. And that is right now. Just imagine how much energy we could export if we could invest more in our natural resources of sun, wind and tide. Clean energy provides secure jobs, it tackles environmental problems and when done right, can bring money flowing back into communities. This green energy revolution is the biggest single opportunity for the people of Wales.
To achieve a truly self-sufficient bio region, we will need to invest. That is the opposite of austerity.
The UK government is not interested in investing in Wales. It is only interested in banking and finance, with a few hand-outs to keep us all ticking over.
But like all bio regions in this world, we have the power to invest in ourselves.
Our strengths to innovate can move us forward in the renewables sector –our gifts of sun, wind and tide are there for the harvesting. Once upon a time people came from across Offa’s Dyke and stole our energy. Back then it was coal. If we’re not careful they will come again – this time they will steal our wind and sun.
There are over 100,000 co-operative members of ‘wind guilds’ in Denmark. In Denmark, as in Germany and many other countries, windmills are seen as a thing of beauty. For a small upfront investment, each member of the wind guild receives a share of the profits generated. We could do that here and keep ownership of our own renewables. You won’t find many NIMBY’S in Denmark.
We must encourage the Wales Government to set the pace by giving industry a clear signal that this is the strategy. Next we must open the way for community owned schemes such as community co-operatives and local banks, and make it easier to invest and get planning permission for renewables, thus retaining the wealth we create. Energy security for Wales, energy exports from Wales, with the know-how and expertise of our Universities and manufacturers this would build the revolutionary bedrock of high employment and prosperity.
Make local, by local and keep local should be the mantra of everyone in Wales. Let’s give a boost to our home grown business and farms. Let’s acknowledge the quality of Made in Wales by investing in ourselves with every loaf of bread, every kitchen utensil and every chair we buy.
And let’s be proud to do it!
So how are you and I going to do our bit to make a revolution happen? ‘Being Green’ in our own back yard cannot make it happen fast enough. We’ve tried that. Studies over the years clearly show that converting by example does not work. We have to do more than that. Greens have to go out into their own communities and put their point of view.
Desmond Tutu once told the story of his father’s most valuable lesson to him. “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument”
We have to improve our argument for the sake of the Common Good.
We, all of us here are in the vanguard. We cannot go home and complain that not enough people care about the environment. We have to help them care.
Politics is – and should be – the art of the possible. Green ideology is a seamless garment. It is not about the horizontal right/ left spectrum of party politics. It is much more then at. It is a vertical light green/ dark green dimension cutting right through the old ideologies for the sake of the Common Good.
Vote Green for the Common Good is my message to you for the European elections. Last time we increased our vote by 2% whilst Labour decreased theirs by more than 12%.
There is everything to play for, so let’s go home and be proud of our shared values. Proud of our Green family – and let’s spread the word.