Addendum – More than Two Hours late

My first post today has already commented upon the lack of professionalism of the live stream promised on the Liberal Democrat website not appearing as a live stream at all, after a much hyped “Leader`s Speech” from Vince, so I will say no more here, other than that the video was at least two hours late getting onto the site.

First, the good news. Vince wants to bring “Values” back into UK politics and in the brief “promo” video before he speaks there were three political value-based issues, one of which was the GREEN issue of Climate Change. This, in and of itself, is clear progress for our party`s Green heart which is music to my ears, as you might imagine from the person who became the founding Chair of the Green Liberal Democrats back in 1988.

Next the less-good news. As suggested by the leaks before the speech, Vince wants to widen participation in our `movement` – not a bad idea in its own right – but worrying when he wants people who are not paid-up members to have an unfettered say in who should be Party Leader. He speaks highly in favour of the online movements Avaaz, Change,org, 38 Degrees and so on and I have certainly voted many times for petitions on these website, but I would not vote for a Change.org candidate in a general election, nor yet an Avaaz candidate, however much enthusiasm I have for several Avaaz campaigns.

And I certainly would not be happy to see the Liberal Democrats led by someone who has not shared at least some of the trials and tribulations of surviving the continuous struggle for Liberal Values to be held as important in our world. It is this sense of “shared community” which gives our Party Leader her or his validation and enthuses workers to continue to work for the same values. I do not WORK for Avaaz values, I just agree with a lot of their petitions. But I DO work for Liberal Democrat Values – Especially GREEN Liberal Democrat Values.

For the moment I shall say no more on this Blog, but will continue working for those very values getting stuff ready for next week`s conference in Brighton.

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My Radical reaction to Vince`s speech

 

Hello I feel a blog coming on

I am starting to write this blog post at around 9am on Friday 7th September because there has been a lot of publicity over the last few days that Liberal Democrat Party leader Vince Cable is due to make an “exciting and important” speech in about half and hour. I shall be listening, of course, and then I hope to make a few comments of my own afterwards, depending upon what he says, of course.

So, why am I starting to write before he speaks you may ask? The reason is that I have been troubled by the rumours of what he is supposed, or expected, to be saying and I want to be ready to react as soon as possible afterwards, so I am writing my introduction on the basis of what I have heard and then will comment directly on his speech as soon thereafter as possible.

The rumours are that he will talk of creating a new “Centrist Movement”, presumably fed by people who may have some access to his thought process. If that is not the case, then we would then need to respond to the question of why and how such rumours started. Are those rumours meant to be supportive of a Centrist Movement, or were they designed to undermine what it is that Vince Cable is actually going to say.

The only legitimate way I can raise my concerns, then, is to lay the groundwork for those concerns before he has spoken and without the benefit of hindsight, otherwise my response will not be genuine, it would have been “constructed” – which is so often the way of pieces written after the event.

Why am I concerned about Centrist Movement rumours? Because I am not a Centrist and have argued in blog posts before, that I do not believe Liberal Democrats should be Centrist, because it ill-defines Liberalism and what that is really about. My other concern about the rumours is that there will be a suggestion, somehow, that people outside the framework of the party – in other words people not prepared to “pay their dues” to the Party, can somehow legitimately lay claim to voting for the leader of our political grouping or party. If that is going to be the case I shall argue below why I think it would be a bad idea, but I felt the need to lay that groundwork before hearing the speech.

OK, that task has been achieved in my mind, I shall now await the speech and we`ll see what gives. Since there is a little time left before 9.30 let me also say that there is a possibility that this is a clever tactic to double the amount of publicity we might have been expected to get from the Party Conference for a party that is still struggling along in the doldrums around 8% or 9% in opinion polls (Indeed, one recent poll even put us in fourth place behind a refreshed UKIP, where we were on 6% and they were on 7% or 8%!)

OK – it is now 9.36 and the speech was scheduled to start at 9.35 – the screen says “We’re currently experiencing technical difficultites with the livestream. Please stand by.” – By the way, it really does say “DIFFICULTITES” – that is the Party`s typo, not mine! 9.40am and the difficultites continue, just refreshed the screen!

Well – turning into a damp squib. 9.46 and the typo has been corrected but the live feed has not yet appeared, so I am now involved in a thread discussion. (9.54 now and it clearly is not going to be live-streamed at all. The on-screen message has been changed, the typo has been corrected, and we are told the speech will be “posted” on the page “soon”. I understand the speech is being made at the National Liberal Club, but no idea how large the audience is, nor whom it contains. There was a news item about a week ago where MPs and “leading Liberal Democrats” were told to keep today free because there was to be this exciting and important speech etc.

Takes me back about 50 years to when I was a trainee in Unilever`s advertising agency, Lintas. It was about this time of year too. I had only been employed a few weeks and about ten or a dozen trainees were working in syndicates preparing “advertising campaigns” for mythical products. Our group of four had worked up a really good campaign for those large bullet-like peas that did not make it into the Bird`s Eye packs of petit pois. It was (we thought, anyway) a cracking campaign and we presented it to the bosses at the agency, but we got two slides upside down in the projector. We laughed it off and thought we`d get plaudits for a fun campaign! As it was we got severely slated for getting the two slides upside down.

I remember it as clear as day – “You are in the communications industry! If you lose your audience at this stage with upside down slides, you`ll never win them back!” – a deeply learnt lesson about professionalism – sadly apparently lacking today!

OK, clearly, I cannot comment yet on the contents since I haven`t heard `em, so I will just have to comment on the rumours and come back to what Vince actually says (said?) later. The rumours are, then, that Lib Dems need to “become a movement” in somehow the same sense that Macron made a movement in France which led to him becoming President of France. Or, perhaps the way Justin Trudeau took hold of the Canadian Liberal Party and turned it back into a vote-winner.

Apparently (the rumours go) Vince sees the Liberal Democrats as the potential focal point for a Centrist group of exit-from-Brexit types including Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry. A sort of Grand Central Coalition maybe.

OK – it is just after 10.30 am and the BBC News Channel, during its 10.30 bulletin played a short clip from Vince Cable`s speech. We`ll have to wait and see if it is the only sound-bite that gets aired, but if so it has been presented as Vince paving the way for his retirement from the office of Leader in the next year and Vince determining that the Party should have a much wider choice for the next leader, including non-parliamentarians. “Politics in the UK is damaged”, he said, “if not broken”.

If that is it, I am not totally impressed that it was an exciting and important speech that warranted the hype, but will have to wait and see when the full speech has been posted on the website. If electing a leader from outside the Party is the ultimate goal, then there will have to be a change to the Constitution. There is no way that can happen at the Party Conference in Brighton next week, there is no debate and the date for emergency resolutions and amendments has already passed, so, unless there is a call for a Special Conference, or whether it needs to be brought to the Spring Conference, this is not about to happen soon. It is NOT in the gift of the Leader of the Liberal Democrats to make that change to the constitution from the top.

The Liberal Democrat party is a party of the members. It is democratic and any change to the constitution has to be passed by a two thirds majority. It looks as though the timing of the speech may have something to do with possibly raising a topical motion (in response to a topical matter – i.e. Vince`s speech) which would be about the only way a change could even be promulgated immediately. That would, however, require a special Conference because any change to the Constitution needs six weeks` notice.

I cannot comment any more until I see the speech in full – and there is no sign of it yet on the Party website. Perhaps I will write about this again, or maybe not, depends how exciting it gets

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“It`s the Rich what gets the pleasure…”

via “It`s the Rich what gets the pleasure…”

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“It`s the Rich what gets the pleasure…”

UBI – is it a GREEN issue?

UBI is usually referred to as the Universal Basic Income, but I rather like its alternative title of Unconditional Basic Income. It sounds more liberal and, indeed, actually Liberal, in the freedom it renders for its intended recipients – that is EVERYBODY.

Some politicians, even some economists, seem to treat UBI as an alternative form of unemployment benefit, just to be paid to those not fortunate enough to be in paid employment for whatever reason. However, as a potential `game-changer` in political and economic terms, Unconditional Basic Income actually has to be treated as a basic income for everybody. How each individual person treats her or his basic income is truly a Liberal matter, an intrinsic freedom of choice, provided, of course, that your choice does not infringe upon another person`s right to choose.

I can already hear a chorus of “noooo`s” emanating from people of a conservative tendency who will immediately assume it means higher taxes and a slightly quieter chorus of “yaay`s” from those on the left who may see it as a Marxist thing of “to each according to their needs”. Please bear with me for a while as I attempt to make not only a Liberal argument FOR Unconditional Basic Income, but also a Green case for UBI, as part of the economic changes needed to begin to hold off the Climate Catastrophe we are currently facing.

Basic Assumptions

This is a Blog post, so it will not be long enough to go into fine details in all aspects of the topic, so I shall have to declare a number of basic assumptions we all need to share in order to pursue my argument. Of course, if you do not accept these basic assumptions with me then the rest of the argument will logically fail, so here they are:

1 Climate Change is already with us and will get much worse if we do not act soon.

2 We may already be close to tipping points that will act as strong positive feedback loops to make Climate Change worse anyway

3 Population pressure globally and resource constraints mean that we need to stop using growth in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) as the best measure of economic success in a world where Sustainable Development should now be the overarching goal

4 Sustainable development is “economic development that is conducted without depletion of natural resources” and the UN`s sustainable development goals SDGs provide a valuable guide as to what we need to achieve.

5 Although the argument for UBI is global, we can only really discuss it here in a UK context in a meaningful political sense.

“It`s the Rich what gets the pleasure. It`s the Poor what gets the pain…”

I used to play rugby and one of the songs we used to sing on the bus to and from the game, included the line used as a heading to this paragraph, followed by the line “It`s the same the whole world over. Ain`t it all a bloody shame!?” I suppose I should declare that as a further assumption, but it is actually the introduction to a technical issue that is at the heart of how UBI could really begin to ease the pain.

“Seigniorage” is defined as – the profit made by a government by issuing currency, especially the difference between the face value of coins and notes and their production costs. Clearly not much seigniorage in making a five pence piece, but quite a lot when making a twenty-pound note or a fifty-pound note. The trick to understanding the implications of this technical issue is to remember the historical derivation of the word. Seigniorage used to be “a thing claimed by a sovereign or feudal superior as a prerogative” – or in plain English – “It`s the Rich what gets the pleasure…”

Governments do not say a whole lot about Seigniorage, but the present system worldwide means that the Central Banks that produce the money have control of this stuff and it gets handed out from the central banks to the commercial banks who then pass some of it on to their big business customers and, of course, to their already incredibly wealthy personal clients. “It`s the Rich what gets the pleasure…”

If we were to change this system as part of the introduction of an Unconditional Basic Income the seigniorage would be reallocated to individuals, free, then, to choose how it should be spent.

Automation and employment

Ever since I was a teenager reading science fiction (and remember I am now 71 as I write this!) I have been apprised of the advancement of technology at an ever-increasing rate which “would mean everyone would have to work less and have much more free-time to spend doing what they wanted”. Unfortunately, the politicians must not have been reading the same books as me and have never devised an appropriate economic system for ensuring businesses, and the owners of those businesses, would fairly share out the great economic benefits of automation.

It is one of the problems of unfettered capitalism, the serious unfettering of which started under Mrs Thatcher, that the profits of automation accrued mostly to the owners of the capital, rather than the workforce or yet the community. It should be remembered that we all stand on the shoulders of those that went before, as Isaac Newton famously said about his own remarkable discoveries and learned writings. So the riches of Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg would not have accrued to them without the technological advancements of previous generations, at least some part of which was due to educational advancements made by the common wealth of the community.

Of course, Mark Zuckerberg (and the rest) deserves some reward for his original thinking and development of his Facebook idea and its introduction to the world but at the age of 34 is it entirely reasonable as a basis of our economy that he has apparently accrued a net worth of around $67 billion without somehow being charged an appropriate “fee” for the access he has had to the Common Wealth of the world? My thesis is that the economic system should be much more redistributive and that an Unconditional Basic Income should be very much part of that redistributive process.

Is UBI a Green issue?

If you have followed me this far with my argument, and accept that change is necessary, let me now ask my original question. Is having an Unconditional Basic Income a Green Issue? – or, putting it another way, can UBI contribute to saving the planet`s biosphere from mankind`s depredation and despoliation.

Perhaps you can guess that my answer to this largely rhetorical question is “YES”, but let me try and explain why I think that is the case. Please recall I am arguing that it is part of a whole approach which moves away from GDP growth towards a circular economy, based upon sustainable development goals. In such a new economic environment there will exist many who would feel strongly that they would prefer to ensure our survival and that of the biosphere, rather than continuing with the largely competitive pressures of a consumerist life. Once you can be sure that you would not suffer penury by opting out of the rat race, such a move would hold much greater appeal to many people.

This is not just an idle hope on my part, it is actually a reflection of the behaviour of many, perhaps most, retired people whose pensions are sufficiently above poverty levels. Some prefer to use their time to take longer holidays, some for creative and artistic purposes, many for greater family interactions and so on, but there is a huge volunteer force of pensioners involved with the National Trust for example, or the RSPB nature reserves, or any number of environmental good causes, including many small-scale community-based initiatives.

With UBI, the scope of many volunteer-based projects could be expanded very significantly and, indeed, it would be a very liberal (and Liberal) idea to support such schemes with public funds, too, in order to encourage specifically environmentally desirable projects for example. There was a recent thread on Facebook, for example, discussing the benefits of rewilding the British uplands which could benefit significantly by additional volunteer force planting trees and maintaining footpaths and so on. But that is just one example – we also heard at the GLD conference in Nottingham in May of this year, about city based local food growing projects, all of which are based upon volunteer forces to some extent. These could be extended and scaled up, providing much more opportunity for fresh vegetables to be grown and used locally, saving many “food-miles” and benefitting air pollution as well as population healthy eating options.

I hope to submit an amendment to the wealth resolution at the Brighton Conference next month introducing the idea of an Unconditional Basic Income as part of the multiplicity of means to redistribute wealth in our nation (and perhaps across the world eventually) so if you are at the conference, please help me to explain seigniorage to the assembled delegates!

It`s the Rich what gets the pleasure…aint it all a bloody shame!?

 

Posted in Environment & Sustainable Development, Food and stuff, Politics, Radical Liberal, Wildlife | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Update – Keith, a Green Liberal Democrat

Just a short post today – I thought it was about time I updated my status on the Blog. Although I happen to be in Brazil as I am writing this I am no longer really an “expat” in Brazil since I moved back to the UK back in 2015 (see what I mean by `updating` !!)

So I have headed the Blog as “Keith Melton – Green Liberal Democrat” instead of “Expat in Brazil”, since I now spend an awful lot of my time on trying to change the world (at least the UK!) to take proper account of the pressing environmental issues we face.

I guess most of you reading this will already know that I rejoined the Liberal Democrats last year before the General Election and I also rejoined the Green Liberal Democrats at the same time. If you want to know what set me off on the “Green path” it was almost entirely serendipitous. I think I have written of it before but not quite sure when, so let me regale you with the story again if you`ll bear with me. If you know the answer just glide over the next couple of paragraphs!

Serendipity

I had gone back to UMIST for my Master`s and rejoined the Union of Liberal Students. One of the officers asked me, “since you have done it before, would you like to speak in a debate for us?” “Sure”, I said, “what`s the debate about?”

“Free Public Transport”, he said. “Which side of the debate do you want me to speak on?” I said, since you should be able to know the subject well enough to debate either side of the argument! Hesitation on part of said officer, temporarily non-plussed – “You choose!” So I said after a moment,”I will speak FOR Free Public Transport” … and that decided the direction of the rest of my life! So, do have a care when you speak, you never quite know what long-term effect it may have.

I have, for the most part, thoroughly enjoyed my Environmental activism, although it has occasionally (perhaps quite often if truth be told!) been rather frustrating when the “world” has not been listening, or, if listening, not taking notice! But it is now providing me with lots of new opportunities in my “retired” state and brought me back in touch with many old friends as well as bringing new friends into my purview, for which I am delighted.

So, here we are, with a newly updated status for my Blog, new title, new picture, new central focus. If you think you will like the concentration on Green Issues and want to keep in touch, then please sign up to “Follow” the blog and then you will receive a nudge every time I write a new post. Let us see if between us we can actually change the world into a greener better place – and actually survive intact, without destroying the planet.

Talking of which – destruction – those long-time Liberals amongst you might enjoy the song I wrote earlier this year, which updates the old Liberal standard “The Land”, sung to the tune “Marching through Georgia”. It has appeared in my blog before, but here it is again…

The Earth

Adapted from “The Land” to the tune of “Marching through Georgia”

Chorus

The Earth, the Earth

This is our Planet Earth

The Earth, the Earth

The land that gave us birth

How can we destroy it

Now we know what it is worth

Save the earth from the people

Animals are crying out to save their only home

The birds are also screeching to leave their home alone

Fish and whales are joining in amongst the crashing foam

Save the earth from the people.

Chorus

Climate change is killing us from too much C-O-2

Plastic waste is everywhere in oceans grey and blue

Poison gases choking us which cars and engines spew

Save the earth from the people

Chorus

Politicians we can`t trust to save our planet now

Corbyn, May and Donald Trump are names we`ll disavow

Perhaps we`ll find a way to save it, please just ask us how

To save the earth from the people

Final chorus

 

 

Posted in Environment & Sustainable Development, Life..., Serendipity | 2 Comments

Brazil presidency 2018

Brazil presidency 2018

It is Election year again in Brazil this year and we have already had a Facebook promise to take down fake news pages (which prompted demonstrations outside FB offices claiming the pages were not fake!) so I wonder whether we might yet see a cleaning up of politics in this very politically corrupt country. I should say I am an Englishman married to a Brazilian woman for the last 7 years, so I have only seen one Presidential election close at hand. I have a permanent visa, through my marriage, but no residency, so I am not allowed to vote.

The final date for Presidential candidates to be nominated was last Sunday, 5th August. Despite there being over 30 actual political parties (proportional representation allows widespread fragmentation, but, sadly, does not prevent widespread corruption!) there are only 13 Candidates, some of them with several parties backing them.

What do we know so far?

The current 77 year-old President, Michel Temer, who came to power in what many people in Brazil see as a coup against Dilma Rousseff, for whom he was the Vice President, indicated earlier in the year that he was going to stand, but his approval ratings were in single figures and there were, and remain, a lot of question marks about his personal “cleanliness” from corruption. So, Temer is NOT standing and his party has rebranded itself from the PMDB, changing back to the Movimento Democratico Brasiliero – MDB – perhaps hoping to shake off the corrupt image, reverting to identify itself with the big-tent movement which emerged in 1979 after 14 years of military rule in Brazil.

The MDB candidate is Henrique Meirelles, who was Minister of the Economy under Temer from 2016 to 2018 and had been President of the Central Bank of Brazil 2003-2011. One of the quirks of Brazil, by the way, is that the “H” is not pronounced in a name and the “r” is pronounced as if it were an “h” so Henrique becomes Enheekay, sounding somewhat strange to the English ear.

Brazilian electoral law stipulates that television airtime must relate to the percentage of seats held by the candidate`s party plus any supporting coalition parties. Meirelles and the MDB therefore benefit from plenty of relative airtime, but, despite that, Meirelles has not yet made much impression on the electorate.

The same can be said of Geraldo Alckmin of the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democrats) who has the backing of seven other smaller parties. Perhaps the reason he has made little headway, however, is that Aecio Neves, former head of the PSDB, and a candidate for President in 2014, has made too many bad headlines for the party as a recipient of huge bribes in the country`s corruption scandals, so the party`s deputies are all severely tainted.

Similarly, Alvaro Dias of the PODE group of three parties which go under the title of Podemos (Portuguese for “We Can”, an optimistic slogan if ever there was, as Barak Obama discovered!) has also managed to make no serious impact upon the electorate.

Small Party status.

Oddly, on the other hand, three of the front-runners in terms of impact, so far, do not have as much air-time on TV, because they represent smaller parties. Marina Silva was a Presidential candidate four years ago and came quite high in the popular vote but not high enough to make the second round of voting. She has left the party which she represented, which has been tainted with some corruption accusations (though none touching her personally) She has started a new movement the Sustainability Party (REDE) in a way along similar lines to the way President Macron did in France. We have yet to see if it can be as successful. As an environmentalist myself she would be my first choice by a long way.

In 2014, Marina, coming from an environmentalist background (she had been the Green Party candidate in 2010 getting 19% in the first round vote) was chosen as Vice-Presidential candidate by Eduardo Campos of the PSB (Brazil`s Socialist party). Campos was killed in a somewhat controversial plane crash in August 2014 and, in something of a hurry, Marina was then chosen by the PSB to be their official Presidential candidate. From that point on she was doing very well in the opinion polls and at one point was literally neck and neck with Dilma Rousseff, the eventual winner. However, her support fell away somewhat towards the last couple of weeks of the campaign and she slipped into a close third place to Aecio Neves, thus not making the second-round run-off with Dilma. (First round Dilma 40%; Neves 24%; Marina 22%)

Controversial right-wing candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, has chosen a retired general as his running mate, but the suggestion was not approved of initially by his Social Liberal Party (PSL). His political positioning, by the way, is neither Social nor Liberal in the English sense at all.  I suppose it might be categorised as libertarian, in the sense that he seems in favour of (elite) individuals having plenty of freedom, particularly from the burden of paying taxes. He has been categorised in international articles as a sort of Brazilian Trump character, with typically right-wing disciplinarian intentions and a similarly misogynistic view of women.

The other candidate doing pretty well at the moment is Ciro Gomes of the PDT, Brazil`s Democratic Labour party. Considered as “centre-left” he comes from a family heavily engaged in politics (his father and Uncle as well as two siblings have all been elected officials). Gomes, known in Brazil simply as Ciro, seems well-liked and has had ministerial experience under Lula, as well as having a high profile as an academic with economic credentials.

Closely identified with his home state of Ceara in the North East of Brazil he has been the State`s Governor, as well as representing the state as its federal deputy from 2007-2010. As seems quite common in Brazil he has been a member of several parties over the years, as far as I can see at least seven different parties resting now in the PDT since 2015. Perhaps because of this he knows where quite a few of the bodies are buried?!

One of the largest political parties in Brazil, the PT (Workers’ Party), of former two-term president Lula and (one-and-a-half-term) Dilma Rousseff, is in an unusual position. PT has chosen former President Lula as its presidential candidate. Unfortunately for them, Lula is in prison at the moment for corruption and has therefore been ruled ineligible to run. As the Rio Times has pointed out, Lula “… leads in all polls, and his coalition will have a healthy amount of free air time. PT has decided former SP mayor Fernando Haddad will run if Lula is declared ineligible, but Haddad was so unpopular that he could not win re-election as mayor in 2016.”

The Party is appealing the ineligibility ruling and it is expected not to be finally sorted out until some time in September, with the first round of the election taking place in early October. Lula is still very popular and would probably win the popular vote if people voted tomorrow. What will happen over the next few weeks, however, is rather unpredictable, the final result probably depending upon the extent to which Haddad can make inroads as a credible candidate in his own right.

There is a very strong sense that voters would love to put the country`s corruption behind them, but it has to be said that corruption seems pretty endemic to the political system here and it is by no means clear whether the imprisonments of the worst culprits, Cunha, Cabral, Neves and the rest has cleared the dirt enough for people to be confident that the newly elected representatives and the new President will have enough “clean power” to keep mucking out the stables!

It will be interesting to see over the forthcoming weeks whether the appearance on television or their links on the internet prove to be the making or breaking of their campaigns. Personally, I am rooting for Marina to do better than she managed in 2014 and certainly hoping to goodness that Bolsanaro is not able to make any serious progress as a Brazilian Trump. I guess we will have to wait and see!

Posted in Brazil General, Elections, Politics | Leave a comment

Social Enterprise and the Environment

Social Enterprise and the Environment

My political experience and way of thinking, developed over many years, proved very useful back in 1998, when I started up the Institute for Sustainable Development in Business. One of the things that became very obvious, very quickly, dealing with environmental business issues was that Social Enterprises have the potential to have a much bigger positive effect on the environment than more conventional business models, largely because of their tendency to treat issues more holistically than is generally the case with a conventional business approach.

Let me try and expand on this idea with three examples recently in the news, starting with the example that caught my eye from yesterday`s Guardian, which prompted this post. It was one of a number of stories paid for by the Skoll Foundation promoting social entrepreneurship. Jeff Skoll was one of the founders of Ebay, so found himself to be pretty wealthy at a pretty early age, and when he launched his charitable foundation it soon became clear to him that social entrepreneurs could have a distinctly positive effect on the world too.

As I said in my last post there are significant negative health impacts including potentially many premature deaths from excess heat, but it is not just humans that are vulnerable to extreme weather events. Crops, too may suffer from drought, excessive rain or whatever may turn up unexpectedly – and THEN humans suffer too, especially in less developed countries where a large percentage of the population is probably tied into agriculture as a major `industry`.

One of the social enterprises supported by the Skoll Foundation is now using modern technology to put support directly into the hands of smallholder farmers, using mobile phones and satellite technology. Forecasting weather in their local areas and sending messages directly to the smallholders about when it is going to rain or when there might be a long spell without rain helps them plan and act and react more quickly than hitherto.

As the article says – “In developing countries, a far higher proportion of people (often between 50% and 90%) are directly engaged in agriculture; and it is this close connection with the land and its yield that puts them on the frontline in the battle against climate change. They are subsistence farmers, with few of the protections of a well-established, high-functioning economy (such as early warning systems, high-tech interventions, or insurance payouts) that tend to make climate change easier to deal with – at least in the short to medium term.”

The thing about Social Enterprises is that, as well as taking a more holistic view, as I already mentioned, they are actually “Social”, in the sense of putting people at the heart of their operations, instead of attempting to maximise profits. It is this “satisficing” approach that can often make the difference for small scale operators and those who are often marginalised. This is, of course, nothing new! The Skoll Foundation may be making a difference with their support and assistance with modern technology, but the primary factors were clearly recognised back in the day within the manifesto of the Liberal Ecology Group published in 1978.

The following policy headings were all included in the LEG manifesto and were also in the Liberal manifesto of that era too

a) Encouraging, especially by easing planning controls, the development of appropriate rurally-based crafts, industries and other commercial activities, including small-scale tourism.

b) Making more land available for smallholdings.

c) Setting up a Land Bank to help smallholders and co-ops.

None of these actually make reference to the term “Social Enterprise” because that did not apparently appear in print until 1981 in a publication by Freer Spreckley – “Social Audit – A Management Tool for Co-operative Working”. What I am not sure about is whether there is any family link between Freer Spreckly and David Spreckley who fought the 1966 Cambridge by-election for the Liberals and was, as far as I can remember, an original member of the Liberal Ecology Group (it will have to wait until I get back to England to check the membership records for LEG!)

I mentioned earlier about three examples. My second example is a fairly young Social Enterprise, run by three young friends who grew up and now run their enterprise in Washington DC. They call themselves “Up Top Acres” and have partnered with building owners, restaurants and local community groups to create rooftop farms in Washington (https://uptopacres.com/)

This caught my eye because many years ago, even before I was running the Institute for Sustainable Development in Business, I sat on a Nottingham Trent University Committee that was “greening” the University and the building I worked in had a flat roof ideal for development into a Green Roof. The University spent the money to lay down the necessary covering to make the roof waterproof and available for being “greened”, but somewhere along the line, I fear the money ran out, or, more likely one of the senior decision makers chose to spend it somewhere else and the project never came to life.

It was one of the small regrets in my life that I was not able to make this project happen. Clearly at that point I did not have the ear of the appropriate decision maker, so my congratulations go out to the three who made their farm project happen in Washington. The great benefits of a rooftop are of course the openness to the weather – rain and sun both being needed for growth of course – and there are distinct benefits for the building owners, since the green activity helps to protect the roof coverings from degradation in the very same weather of sun and rain which helps crops grow!

Additionally, the slowing of water run-off, by using it to go through the crops means that the urban environment has a reduced requirement for drainage. There is the further benefit of carbon dioxide sequestration and oxygen formation from the crops themselves. To be honest it is environmentally a no-brainer, BUT it does require people working together to make it happen.

The people who generally own the rooftops are not farmers and farmers do not generally have easy access to the roofs. And the roof owners will not get paid for the extra oxygen and the sequestration of carbon, unless the community provides at least modest financial incentives to make it happen. And THAT, it appears, was the trigger for the success of the Up Top Acres approach, because their local authority was offering subsidies for roof-top greening. Seems to me like a pretty good Liberal Democratic idea, but we do have to be in power in a local authority or, at least, to be holding the balance of power to make the initiative available and enthusiastic enough to make it work.

The third example is best approached by viewing the TED talk of the guy who came up with and implemented the idea for this example, David Katz, from Vancouver in Canada. He and his business partners have created the notion of “Social Plastic” and linked it to a blockchain protected Plastic Bank, where recycled plastic is the central currency and the bank`s primary customers are the recyclers themselves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mT4Qbp89nIQ&authuser=0

Katz explains that clearing up the plastic waste which has made it to the Ocean really should not be the first priority. His analogy is of walking into the kitchen and the sink is overflowing madly pouring water onto the floor. Your first instinct, he argues, is that you should first turn off the tap, before you start madly mopping the floor, otherwise you are wasting your effort. So his idea was  to make it more viable for potential recyclers of plastics to make a real living doing the recycling BEFORE the plastic made its way to the rivers and thence into the sea – “shutting the tap off”. It is certainly a story worth following up and you may be able to offset YOUR plastic footprint by making a donation to the organisation. This will add value to the Social Plastic, thus enabling the recyclers to get better value for the plastic they collect. The “blockchain” link is a way of paying the recyclers safely without giving them the risk of having cash which can easily be stolen from them. They get paid directly into their own electronic bank account, accessible only by themselves – and the website gives examples of the sort of people who have already benefitted.

This particular example caught my eye because one of the first countries they will be helping to install such a system is in Brazil, so I have a local story to follow up and share with my Brazilian neighbours. The potential key to the success of this approach is that it is tackling key sources of Ocean plastics. Research in 2014/15 showed that over 50 % of ocean plastics originate in just a handful of relatively poor countries, China, Indonesia, the Philippines Vietnam and Sri Lanka, although Brazil is another country where collection and recycling is largely done at an informal level rather than state or local area sponsored activity. So, if you are going to try and stop the flow, you need to try and stop it where it is at its highest level of “loss”.

Just as a matter of record, although Katz says you should stop the flow INTO the oceans before thinking of “mopping up” the mess that is already there, if someone happens to start the mopping first at least you should not stop them. The Ocean Cleanup is the brainchild of a young man, Boyan Slat, who has devised a method of sweeping up the plastic in the “Gyres” in the Pacific Ocean and other seas and oceans, which looks very promising. Their latest video suggests they may soon be ready to deploy the first of their plastic sweepers and have estimated they may be able to collect up to half of the plastic in the oceans within a five-year period.

For more information on this, have a look at their video promoting the launch of the prototype I 2016 here >>>    https://youtu.be/RLAq19hGTBw

The last word

I just wanted to leave you with an image that caused me some amusement today. Apparently the picture herewith is of Donald Trump indicating what he has recently heard is the tiny amount by which the Global Average Temperature has increased recently. Most of you reading this will already know that even a very tiny rise in Global AVERAGE temperatures can spell unpleasant side effects for Climate Change, so the Donald is showing with his inane grin his lack of understanding about such effects – but for all the world it looks as though he is proudly announcing the REAL size of his manhood!

REALLY the last word

The real last word I wanted to add for you today is the factoid that the widespread heatwaves in the highly populated areas of the Northern Hemisphere this summer have occurred because the Jetstream has stalled. The Jetstream is the high-level fast-moving air stream that is usually responsible for shifting weather patterns around as it curves and winds its way around the world. It has apparently “stalled” because the VERY high temperatures around the arctic circle are not much different from the `normal` summer temperatures much further south and it is the net difference that keeps the air circulating. That is my “non-scientific” interpretation of what I have been reading, so I am open to correction if it is inappropriate or incorrect!

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