Thursday, 29 October 2009

Environmental Justice Public Seminar - Wednesday, 11th November, 1.30 - 4.30 pm

‘Environmental Justice’ refers to the human right to a healthy and safe environment, a fair share of natural resources and access to environmental information and participation in environmental decision-making. Social movement campaigns for environmental justice usually focus on the inequitable environmental burdens borne by poor, black and other disadvantaged groups.

This seminar looks at this issue at a local and global level, from NGO, activist and academic perspectives and will be of interest to all those working towards social justice.

This event is open to the public. FFl or to reserve a place, email:


Cristian Domínguez, National Secretary of Environment and Resources, United Confederation of Bolivian Campesino Workers Union

Professor Malcolm Eames, Low Carbon Research Institute, Cardiff University

Judy Ling Wong, Director, Black Environment Network, UK

Hosted by University of Bristol, School for Policy Studies, Centre for the Study of Poverty and Social Justice

Location: Room LT1, 3 - 5, Woodland Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1TB

Backgounds of Speakers:
Cristian Domínguez, has been at the forefront of environmental justice campaigns in Bolivia, opposing water privatisation and working for the nationalisation of natural resources. The organisation he represents, the CSUTCB, is one of the main social movement organisations which brought president Evo Morales to power.

Professor Eames has participated in and led research and consultancy projects for a wide range of agencies including: DTI, DETR, UK Cabinet Office, Environment Agency, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the European Commission. In 2004, he produced a report on environmental inequalities in the UK which has underpinned the current UK Framework and Strategy for Sustainable Development.

Judy Ling Wong has an international reputation as a pioneer in the field of black and minority ethnic participation in the built and natural environment. She works on urban design, identity, health, employment, and access to the countryside and urban green spaces. The groundbreaking methodology developed by BEN to engage urban-based ethnic minorities has been very influential in many areas of mainstream policy.

Michael Moore on Norway

Winston Churchill when Home Secretary in 1910 told the House of Commons
The treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of civilization of any country.

This short Michael Moore film on Norway suggests it is a very civilised country

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Drugs Kill (unnecessarily?)

Two press stories caught my eye this week. Both involved the tragic deaths of two young women.

The first one concerned the mother of 20 year old Haniska Pett, a regular recreational user of cocaine who died following use of the drug earlier this year, who is to star in a police video advertising the dangers of drugs. The inquest into Haniska's death was clear that it was not cocaine that killed her but the combination of the various substances (including MDMA, MDA, and BZP) it was cut with. Although tragic deaths like this are used to justify the prohibition of drugs like cocaine and the associated war on drugs by law enforcement agencies they also highlight how that very prohibition, by placing the control of the production, distribution and retailing of these products in the hands of criminals inevitably results in the coke sold on the street being far more dangerous due to it being cut with all sorts of much more harmful products. If Haniska had been able to purchase her cocaine from a local chemist she may well still be alive.

The second story also involved a drug death. Sixteen year old Rhona Tavener sadly died after a heavy drinking session. Alcohol is a legal substance manufactured, distributed and retailed by some of Britain's most successful and profitable companies. It is aggressively marketed, particularly at younger people and the industry has successfully persuaded the government to adopt policies designed to maximise sales rather than to promote public health. It is likely that the alcohol industry and the government are directly responsible for some alcohol deaths.

Haniska's death was recorded as 'death by misadventure' by the coroner whilst Rhona's death was classified as an 'accident'. David Nutt did some research on the relative harm of Alcohol and Ecstasy. His findings are interesting.

Deaths every year Alcohol = 22,000 Ecstasy = 10;

It is clear that although illegal drugs do kill people alcohol is a massively bigger killer.

Climate Camp Exhibition NOW ON at the Arnolfini

Tues 13 OCT - Sun 25 OCT, 10 - 6pm: the Climate Camp mobile exhibition is displayed big time in the main Gallery 3 as part of C Words: Climate, Carbon, Capital, Culture.

Climate Camp's fantastic exhibition is displayed for one week before and one week after the Great Climate Swoop on Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station (Sat 17 OCT). Come and see it in an unusual context, along with the rest of the C Words exhibition and season of events on climate change...

More details from

Sunday, 11 October 2009

On the piss or taking the piss

In response to a news story of Morrison's refusing to sell wine to a woman in her fifties in case her 17 daughter drinks it a frustrated supermarket customer posted this on the Guardian's Comment is Free website:
I get asked for ID a lot - I'm 27 - and it makes me really mad. I do look younger than my age but more often than not the checkout assistant is about 16, which I find really annoying. It happened in Sainsbury's last week - a 16 year old kid asking me for ID. I told him I was 27 and had been legally allowed to drink for almost a decade. I told him I had a degree and I was on my way back to my own home after a hard day at work (hoping) to have a relaxing glass of wine with my girlfriend in front of the TV. He just sat there shaking his head. I called my girlfriend (also 27) over because she had her driving license on her and he still refused to serve us in case she gave the alcohol to me when we left the shop. The people who were in the queue behind me were saying tutting and saying things like, 'You should be flattered,' and I was thinking 'FUCK OFF!' I'm 27 years old and all I want is a glass of wine and this fucking school kid won't let me have one!

Alcohol is a serious matter. Over recent years we have seen a public health epidemic as this graph showing the doubling of alcohol deaths since the early 1990s.

Alcohol-related death rates by sex, United Kingdom, 1991-2007 (Source: National Statistics 2009)

So is being hassled for ID even into old age a price worth paying to reduce alcohol deaths? Not at all!! It is a diversion intended to distract our attention from the real problem. We know how to reduce alcohol harm. There is a significant body of scientific evidence which clearly shows that the harm caused by alcohol is directed related to its availability which itself is related to primarily price but also licencing hours.

The Government knows this and has had it spelt out to them by the Chief Medical Officer in his 2009 Annual Report.
Quite simply, England is drinking far too much. England has an alcohol problem. Alcohol is not simply a problem for the minority who are dependent on it - it is a problem for everybody … There is a clear relationship between price and consumption of alcohol … Price increases generally reduce heavy drinkers' consumption by a greater proportion than they reduce moderate drinkers' consumption.
Simple really, but not according to the alcohol industry. They have the ear of government and have, without any evidence, argued that their is no relationship between price and consumption. (Interestingly they tend to ignore this conclusion when promoting their drugs!!) For producers and retailers of alcohol know their profits come from heavy drinkers. The old lady having the occasional sherry is insignificant when compared to the binge drinking teenager.

The Government however realise that if they want to help their drink pushing friends by reducing taxation (and hence the price) of alcohol and removing restrictions on the hours of sales then some busybodies (like doctors) may raise concerns at the dramatic damage done to tens of thousands of peoples health. So they have to do something. So supermarkets push cheap alcohol, (including products clearly aimed at any age drinkers), government deregulate and grandad gets challenged for his ID. Those who say its silly get accused of promoting excessive and underage drinking whilst the alcohol industry enjoys bumper profits and an avoidable public health epidemic continues.

PS Much though it sticks in my throat credit must be given to the Conservative Party for addressing this issue at their latest conference and promising action.

However call me a cynic but I suspect that any Conservative government will turn out just as much a friend of alcohol pushers as New Labour has been.

Hands off my Workmate

Saturday 17 October 2009

A conference on migrant workers, bringing together campaigners, academics, trade unionists and students alongside migrant workers.

School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG

Speakers include:
  • Gilbert Arhcar
  • Phil Marfleet
  • Jeremy Dear - NUJ
  • Alex Gordon - RMT
  • Sasha Callaghan - UCU
  • Kevin Courtney - NUT
  • Neil Jameson - Strangers into Citizens
  • Keith Best - Immigration Advisory Service

  • Bread and roses too: how migrant workers have always been central to unions
  • Winning the living wage
  • Busting the migration myths: challenging the racists
  • Globalisation and profits: How do borders fit in
  • Poverty, war, neoliberalism, migrant labour in the global economy (why people move)
  • Stopping the raids: legal and union strategies to defend migrant workers
  • The border in the workplace: restricting welfare and housing- who benefits
  • Strangers and citizens
  • The feminisation of migrant labour
  • What will the recession mean for migrant workers?
  • We won't spy on students - education for all

Conference organised by SOAS UNISON, SOAS UCU and SOAS Students. For further information and to book a free place email: or see the Hands off my Workmate conference and teach-in website.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

To, Two and Too.

If, like me, you struggle with your spelling and grammar and can't tell the difference between their and there, or get confused if the word you looking for is to or too then you may find that this Bristol University site is helpful.

To, Two and Too

Nils Christie reflects on Deviance and Social control

Nils Christie is one of the most important critical criminologists and his work has been very influential. In these videos he reflects on deviance and social control questioning our common sense understandings of everyday concepts like crime.

Part two
Part three
Part four
Part five
Part six