Category Archives: politics

Give all the Children Rocks

A few weeks ago I stumbled across an Instagram post, which compared the gun related deaths in Switzerland and Chicago. The picture employed statistics (from 2015) to highlight the devastation firearms are having on their communities. According to the post, Chicago experienced  deaths in excess of 42,000 whilst the whole of Switzerland had just over 4000. When you consider alongside this that Switzerland has a greater population it becomes clear that the gun situation in Chicago needs rectifying.

Naturally, there are several factors which separate Chicago and Switzerland and said factors will have influence over the number of gun related deaths. Firstly, the economic situation of the country and city must be considered. Poverty surely would have an influence upon the necessity for weapons and upbringing. To be crude: desperate times call for desperate measures. For some gun crime is a means of survival. Secondly, we must consider culture or more importantly subcultures. Of course I am referring to gang crime and the ever present fracture in U.S. society that is another symptom of extreme financial and intellectual poverty. The final obvious criticism that renders comparison between a country and a single city redundant is population density. It must be considered that the people of Switzerland will be much further displaced because it is a country. There will be less people living  close together and divided among towns, cities, villages and other various settlements.

Whilst it is futile to draw direct comparison a city and a country the fact remains that the statistic is still alarming. The approach of the U.S.A. towards their issues with gun violence is something of joke. There appears to be little movement towards correct control and defenders of the weapon shield behind The Second Amendment. Often they propose increased arming. This appears to promote an illusion that if both people have guns then the “good guys” will win and shoot the “baddie” first.

Yesterday I was discussing this approach to solving gun related deaths with a friend. He put forward an analogy his Father used and I’d like to share with you:

Timmy came home from school yesterday with a big cut on his forehead.

“Why Timmy! How on earth did you receive that cut upon your forehead?” exclaimed Papa.

“Johnny threw a rock and it hit me. It was an accident.”

“Be that as it may” said Mama. “We’re still going to have a talk with your teacher about Johnny and his rock throwing.”

Next morning, Mama and Papa went to school to talk to Timmy’s teacher.

“What is going on with all the pebble slinging in school?” inquired Mama.

“Oh!” said the Teacher. “It was an accident. Johnny has been told off and lost his snack yesterday. I’m sure he won’t do it again.”

“Hmmmm” mumbled Papa.

“Don’t worry.” explained the teacher. “We have given all the children rocks now. They cacn throw them back if they get hit.”

 

Today I feel like Leslie Knope

I have just posted the following letter to my county council because the street lamps near my house are dreadful and always turn off. Plus that alley is super creepy.

 

Dear Sir or Madam,

 

I am writing to inform you that the street lamps in the wooded alley -between Gillibrand Primary School and the nursing home on Gillibrand north- are inadequate. Currently the majority of the lamps are functioning but as the cliche states one bad apple spoils the bunch. There are a few lamps, closest to the nursing home side of the path, with defective sensors. The issue is that the lamps remain at full luminosity until you’re within eight feet of them, then turn themselves off. Perhaps this is a programming error? This lack of light is particularly inconvenient on my way to the train station early in the morning and from evening onward.

 

Last Sunday I walked through the area in question. Ahead of me, approximately ten feet, was a young lady around the age of fifteen. As she walked further down the path the lights went out. Frightened by the sudden darkness she froze, turned around and noticed myself. Then the young lady started screaming as she ran out of the wooded area. Later, after I had exited the path, I heard the girl talking on her mobile. She was exclaiming her belief that I had intended to murder her- a fear brought on by the lack of light. If the alley was properly illuminated the young lady may have felt safer. Furthermore, in correct lighting I would have appeared a less imposing figure because (as my mother has frequently informed me) I am rather handsome.

 

The incident with the young lady was rectified: I explained that on that particular evening I lacked any murderous impulse but was instead (as evidenced by many bags) simply journeying home from the airport. We laughed at our circumstance and continued our merry ways.

 

Whilst this suitable anecdote evidences that the area is largely safe, the citizens of Chorley may feel more secure if their paths were correctly lighted. Now that we are reaching the winter months it is more vital than ever to ensure true illumination in the extended darkness.

 

Yours Faithfully,

 

Average Joe

Success for Isolationist Isles

After the marginal victory of the Breixt campaign the majority of media focus, regarding the United Kingdom’s future economy, has fallen onto the hopeful deals politicians can broker with the European Union. The exit looks inevitable and negotiations are of utmost importance. Politicians are looking to play hardball and the future for a trading system like Switzerland or Norway will be a hard won slog. Our financial ties with the other member states of the EU are manifold and weaving them again under fresh circumstances will be a colossal labour. However, despite the Brexit camp’s claim to regain money poured into the continent and instill sovereignty, few progressive policies are being suggested (or the mainstream media are neglecting their coverage) to ensure the United Kingdom can withhold further austerity if negotiations aren’t favourable. In a sweep of arrogance I have listed some areas of the UK economy which are heavily dependent on either EU members or other international states and how control of these would ensure economic self reliance, potentially safeguarding a stronger financial future.

 

Energy Dependence

 

It’s no surprise that north sea oil and gas supplies are depleting. After all, fossil fuels are a finite resource and cannot last indefinitely. To base the UK’s energy needs upon them as well as to sell fossil fuels can only be a temporary measure. One solution has been to extend our dependency on fossil fuels through “fracking”. Read any article on the subject and it’s an obviously unpopular power source, sparking numerous protests across the country. Thus, we would assume that other means of sourcing energy would be high on the agenda. This isn’t the case. Instead, the United Kingdom has become increasingly reliant upon the import of fossil fuels.

 

The bulk of the UK gas supply derives from Norway. Some is imported from EU members such as Belgium and the Netherlands via the general European network (a series of pipelines running under the sea from Belgium and the Netherlands).[1] Other sources include Russia and in a liquid form from Qatar. This highlights that even though gas isn’t the primary fuel source it is still interconnected with several nations including the EU through Belgium and the Netherlands.

 

UK coal imports on the other hand are a more global affair. With a decline in home coal production, external sources have been the main suppliers. Trade with coal selling countries has escalated due to an increase in gas prices (material not household). In 2013, 93% of UK coal import came from three countries: Russia, the USA and Colombia.[2]

 

When we consider the origins of UK fossil fuel sources, with the exception the Netherlands and Belgium, it becomes clear that energy supply largely is traded outside the EU. When it comes to negotiations it would almost be safe to assume that energy prices are fairly secure. This is an incorrect assumption. Whilst the raw materials are imported from Non EU members, four out of six of the UK’s largest energy companies are EU countries:

 

1- British Gas (British)

2- Npower (German)

3- SSE (British)

4- Scottish Power (Spanish)

5- E.On (German)

6- EDF (French)[3]

 

These six companies, according to the BBC, supply around 95% of all household gas and electricity. This means that despite fossil fuels imports being from Non EU countries, a large percentage of household energy is either produced by EU countries or at least distributed by them. When it comes to Brexit talks, deals must consider how households fuel themselves and how large EU members are a pivotal aspect of that.

 

If the UK has dwindling finite fuel resources and must rely upon other countries, then the solution for energy independence is within low carbon and renewable energy such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, tidal and (depending of which side of the debate you fall on) nuclear power. Nuclear power is the only one of the above list that apart from the initial technology relies upon foreign imports- uranium.

 

There has been increasing move towards these low carbon sources, producing a varied mix of the UK’s energy origins. In 2011, renewable energy usage was 9.4% and increased to 11.3% in 2012. This trend continued into 2013 with renewable energy producing 15% of total consumption.[4] If this is considered alongside nuclear power, by the end of 2013, over a third of the island’s energy came from low carbon resources. This is a step both towards a greener and self controlled future. In order to secure this, government and industry must work towards an increasing use of these fuel sources; ween the energy companies away from fossil fuels and develop a solid renewable energy infrastructure in which the profits have the potential of remaining within the UK.

 

Correct taxation of corporations

 

Since the inception of the David Cameron led Conservative government in 2010 it has been hard to ignore the increasing shift towards economic austerity. Public spending cuts and financial tightening have been a central aspect of the Conservative and the once coalition parliament. Benefit fraud was made center stage in the press and pushing people into zero-hour contracts became policy. This focus upon the poorer strata cheating society has lead to an ignorant public opinion. In 2013 a parliamentary report explained that Britons believed 24% of all benefits were claimed fraudulently. This public estimation was 34 times greater than reality, with the government estimation for fraudulently claimed benefits being 0.7%.[5]

 

At the same time as the media attention on benefit fraud there was an increasing illumination on corporate tax avoidance. The attention was less severe possibly because information on large multinational business is harder to obtain or perhaps the press believed it more acceptable (the BBC article I take the following corporation tax examples from questions whether shaming these companies is fair). In either case, the figures do not change: Amazon with 2011 UK sales of £3.35bn only paid a tax expense of £1.8m; Starbucks had UK sales of £400million pounds(2011) but managed to pay no corporation tax; and Google paid £6m the same year after a turnover of £395m.[6] These figures demonstrate that, whilst not yet illegal, tax avoidance is hemorrhaging the UK of money. If the Brexit campaign based a large aspect of their argument on saving money from EU member costs and the government has consistently targeted the poorer sections of society, then surely claiming fair tax from multinational American corporations should also be high on the agenda. After all, should the USA receive preferential treatment from the UK when they are unwilling to pay the country correctly?

 

Lost tax is not only confined to multinational companies. There is a large loss in personal tax from the affluent sections of society as well. The UK government estimated the 2013/2014 tax “gap” to be £34bn. Of this figure £14bn was suggested to be a result of uncollected income tax, national insurance and capital gains tax as well as £13.1bn in uncollected VAT.[7] Naturally, part of this figure can be attributed to bureaucratic and human errors. However, it’s unlikely those mistakes could accumulate into such a ridiculous loses. The recuperation of this money in unlikely but moving forward the UK needs to ensure such high levels of tax aren’t avoided in favour of private or corporate wealth. Doing so will only strengthen the economy and provide social programmes with healthier funding

 

Until recently it appeared that little movement was being made towards curbing tax evasion but evidence is demonstrating this to be changing. Within the UK a new policy that would require Multinationals to publicly declare country by country tax and profits has recently been passed.[8] This forward taxation policy comes in the wake of the landmark European commission order for Apple to pay back £11bn in taxes to Ireland. Given these two policies it seems that both the EU and the UK are making moves towards tightening the minimal tax restraints on international companies. If this direction can be maintained then the loses to the UK economy through unfair tax contributions can be reduced and the people who make the money may see it placed back into their country.

 

Fair Wages within the Food Chain

 

It’s public knowledge that UK farmers and those throughout the EU have been financially supplemented by subsidiaries from the common agricultural policy(CAP). Estimates suggest that UK farmers benefit from £3bn annually.[9] A leave from the EU would probably remove farmer’s access to this directive. If we aren’t an EU member state then why would they buffer UK farmer’s income? The only reason UK farmers may still benefit from CAP is that the policy has large environmental ties such as wildlife protection and preservation of unpolluted waters. Perhaps the EU may wish to continue this to safeguard a greener future for all of Europe. If they chose not to then UK farmers will start to lose a serious aspect of their incomes.

 

Given the consistent pressures for cheaper dairy and other food products, the loss of CAP funding could push UK food providers into an even lower wage bracket. This may result in a disregard of environmental concern if produce can be made cheaper by encroaching on once protected wildlife or using agricultural substances that are damaging to the ecosystem . In order to prevent this there are two obvious options. Firstly, pay UK farmers properly for their produce. This seems highly unlikely seeing as supermarkets and other food providers are consistently pushing for cheaper products, in order to bolster profits, regardless of the effects on producer. But without a supplemented income from the EU this cannot continue.

 

The second option for safeguarding UK agriculture is on a governmental level. Aspects of CAP can be introduced to UK policy, providing farmers with the subsidiaries they currently receive as well as preserving the environmental aspects that EU directives have worked towards. Furthermore, new policy can be tailored for specific UK needs either enhancing eco protection or fairer wages for farmers.

 

In either situation the protection of UK agriculture is imperative. It is a large proportion of the UK food chain as well as providing products that can be sold both at home and abroad. Ensuring the farmer’s future is pivotal to the UK future economy and it must be imperative within governmental discussion. Preparation for agriculture without CAP subsidies will stand the UK in good footing when they almost inevitably no longer available.

[1]https://www.carbonbrief.org/gas-from-norway-coal-from-russia-eight-graphs-on-the-uk-energy-system

[2]http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/newsdesk/energy/data/decc-data-five-charts-how-uks-renewable-power-rising-whilst-fossil-fuel-output-falls

[3]http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24670741

[4]https://www.carbonbrief.org/gas-from-norway-coal-from-russia-eight-graphs-on-the-uk-energy-system

[5]http://www.theweek.co.uk/62461/benefit-fraud-v-tax-evasion-which-costs-more

[6]http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20560359

[7]http://www.theweek.co.uk/62461/benefit-fraud-v-tax-evasion-which-costs-more

[8]https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/sep/06/multinationals-to-publicly-declare-country-by-country-profits-and-tax-caroline-flint

[9]https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/05/tory-mps-call-for-shift-in-farming-subsidies-to-green-protections

EuropeanEconomicArea and CO2 rankings

Being a bit of a hippy I’m often drawn to those lists that rank the world’s  nations according to their degradation of our environment. The USA, Russia, China and India most often occupy the seats as the planet’s worst CO2 emission offenders. The United Kingdom being a bit further down the lists (admittedly not much further down) allows me to remain smug in the knowledge that my fair island isn’t one of the top contributors to global warming. However, one thing that does snag as unfair about the environmental shame tallies is that countries that produce the most CO2, more often than not have some of the largest populations. This prompted me to attempt to construct a new list. Rather than the countries studied being ranked based on their total emissions I have compiled a ranking based on carbon and CO2 contribution relative to their population, namely per 10,000 people. The equation used is embarrassingly simple: Total CO2 from greenhouses gases/population from year of study x 10,000. Given than I am no statistician it’s safe to assume that the maths is far too basic to provide an accurate picture but I hope it does produce a rough guideline.

When I first embarked into this waste of my free time I intended to cover every nation. This proved unfeasible because countries that produced the least CO2 tended to have fairly undeveloped economies. In order to rectify this I placed a number of filters in place such as United Nations membership; whether the country was placed on the United Nations ‘Least Developed Nations’ listing; and whether they fit within the top 70World Bank and IMF GDP lists. The issue with these filters is that they often excluded larger economies from Asia such as India, whilst allowing very small countries such as Liechtenstein into the study.

Eventually, I concluded to start with a much smaller sample of countries: those within European Economic Area (henceforth EEA). My reasoning for this was that the countries are fairly close together but produce very different amounts of emissions. Furthermore, their are large differences in populations e.g. Iceland has a population of less than 500,000 compared to countries such as Germany and Italy with a population exceeding ten million. This will allow for future examination into population size and possible links to greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, seeing as all these countries are within the EEA they will have fairly similar capitalist based economies with varying GPD and social policy which will allow for study into finances, politics and taxation and their correlation with environmental degradation.

The following lists are taken from two studies.The first is from the World Bank (2012) which highlights the world’s nations by “Total greenhouse gas emissions (kt of CO2 equivalent)”. The second study is from the Carbon Dioxide Analysis Center (2013) which ranks countries by “total CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning, cement production and gas flaring expressed in thousand metric tons of carbon”. I utilised the data from both investigations to examine contribution of each EEA nation for an average of 10,000 people. The total populations were taken from the World Bank website. Liechtenstein was removed from the rankings due to the countries exclusion from the World Bank 2012 study, possibly due to the low level of inhabitants (less than 45,000) and the negligible CO2 contribution. Links to the sources will follow the tables below.

Table 1:

Country Total Population (2012) to nearest 10,000 Total greenhouse gas emissions (kt of CO2 equivalent)2012 World Bank data Greenhouse gas emissions per 10,000 people (kt of CO2 equivalent) approx
Malta 419,000 1,921 45.85
Denmark 9,520,000 53,703 56.41
Romania 20,100,000 121,762 60.58
Hungary 9,920,000 62,988 63.5
Cyprus 1,130,000 7,431 65.76
Switzerland 8,000,000 54,108 67.64
Latvia 2,030,000 13,944 68.69
Portugal 10,500,000 72,524 69.07
Sweden 9,520,000 65,768 69.08
Croatia 4,270,000 30,421 71.24
Spain 46,800,000 348,257 74.41
France 65,700,000 499,147 75.97
Italy 59,500,000 482,634 81.11
Slovakia 5,410,000 46,301 85.58
Greece 11,000,000 100,571 91.43
United Kingdom 63,700,000 585,780 91.96
Bulgaria 7,310,000 67,943 92.95
Lithuania 2,990,000 29,442 98.47
Slovenia 2,060,000 21,075 102.31
Austria 8,430,000 90,460 107.31
Poland 38,100,000 414,607 108.82
Netherlands 16,800,000 195,874 116.59
Germany 80,400,000 951,717 118.37
Belgium 11,000,000 133,374 121.25
Norway 5,020,000 63,537 126.57
Finland 5,410,000 69,073 127.68
Czech Republic 10,500,000 138,957 132.34
Ireland 4,590,000 62,433 136.02
Iceland 321,000 5,515 171.81
Estonia 1,320,000 23,293 176.46
Luxembourg 531,000 12,611 237.5

Table 2:

Country Total Population (2013) to nearest 10,000 total CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning, cement production and gas flaring expressed in thousand metric tons of carbon(2013) total CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning, cement production and gas flaring expressed in thousand metric tons of carbon(2013) per 10,000 persons approx
 
Latvia 2,010,000 1,931 9.61
Romania 20,000,000 19,290 9.65
Croatia 4,260,000 4,830 11.34
Hungary 9,890,000 11,301 11.43
Lithuania 2,960,000 3,447 11.65
Portugal 10,500,000 12,616 12.02
Sweden 9,600,000 12,088 12.59
Switzerland 8,090,000 11,003 13.6
France 66,000,000 90,862 13.77
Spain 46,600,000 64,622 13.87
Cyprus 1,140,000 1,622 14.23
Malta 423,000 605 14.3
Bulgaria 7,270,000 10,789 14.84
Italy 60,200,000 94,019 15.62
Iceland 324,000 537 16.57
Slovakia 5,410,000 9,184 16.98
Greece 11,000,000 18,859 17.14
Denmark 5,610,000 10,381 18.5
Slovenia 2,060,000 3,938 19.12
United Kingdom 64,100,000 124,754 19.46
Austria 8,480,000 17,019 20.07
Ireland 4,600,000 9,535 20.73
Poland 38,000,000 82,447 21.7
Belgium 11,200,000 25,530 22.79
Finland 5,440,000 12,626 23.21
Germany 82,100,000 206,521 25.15
Czech Republic 10,500,000 26,905 25.62
Netherlands 16,800,000 46,352 27.59
Norway 5,080,000 16,263 32.01
Estonia 1,320,000 5,431 41.14
Luxembourg 543,000 2,771 51.03

Sources

Table 1:Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data-

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.GHGT.KT.CE?name_desc=false

Table 2: Carbon from fossil fuel burning etc Data-

http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/tre_coun.html

Table 1 & 2: Population Data-

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL