The environment

Making streets good for walking and bikes

Over 200 emergency low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) schemes have been proposed or implemented across the country since May, when the government introduced new guidance and small amounts of funding to "promote active travel". These are proposed in at least 54 boroughs, particularly in large cities, with the majority in London. The schemes introduce car barriers, preventing cars from using streets as "rat runs" as a way of bypassing main road traffic, and so reducing net traffic. That makes the back streets more pleasant for walking, cycling, for mobility and electric scooters, and the like...

Global capital and pandemics

Audio and video introduction, plus an article/transcript, from a meeting of the same name. Dr Camila Bassi delivered this talk at the AWL online meeting on 30 August 2020. The outbreak of SARS Coronovirus 2 or COVID-19 proceeds an escalation of recent epidemics and proto-pandemics: notably, H5N1 or Avian influenza, SARS, MERS, Swine flu, Ebola, and Zika. Camila tells the story of HIV/AIDS and SARS to explore the nexus between capitalist political economy, nature, and emergent infectious diseases; concluding that, without radical change to how we organise and run our world, our future will be locked into this deadly trajectory. For a transcript of the talk and the full set of references, see Camila's blog.

Test? Only if you have a car

After developing a cough, my housemate self-isolated, and tried to get tested. When self-referring in Bristol you are offered an on-the day test only if you say you have a car or van to travel in. The testing centre is ten miles from the city centre. My housemate made up a car registration plate number, booked a test, drew the number on cardboard in marker pen, and cycled there. He was refused as not “in” his vehicle, so had to ask for the slower, less reliable, postal home-testing kit. The official reason for refusing is to reduce levels of infection to staff, but the policy makes people take...

Travel after lockdown

In the lockdown, cycling and walking have increased, but public transport traffic has fallen more than car traffic. Socialists have long advocated the expansion of public transport, and partly to reduce car use. But at present car traffic is recovering towards pre-lockdown levels much faster than public transport, and that looks likely to continue. That pattern could continue for some time. People don’t want to use public transport because it brings a greater risk of infection than travelling alone in a car. Permanent working-from-home cannot be the answer, even where possible. Apart from...

Video: Climate change and Covid-19

2020 will see — for the first time! — a significant reduction in global CO2 emissions. Opening speeches by two socialist environmentalist activists, in Workers' Liberty, from the "Climate change and coronavirus" meeting. The Coronavirus crisis has also seen workers and governments taking collective action that place social good above private profits. There have even been examples of workers developing plans to use their skills and the machinery at work to produce socially useful products. A return to "normality" means a return to a world where human activity is directed solely for the creation of private profit at the expense of humanity and our future. Prior to the lockdown we were heading blindly and at accelerating speed towards civilisational collapse. What are the prospects now for a workers' led just transition to a world that is run in the interests of people and planet?

Recovery: green or fossil fuel?

Governments "have a unique opportunity today to boost economic growth, create millions of new jobs and put global greenhouse gas emissions into structural decline", so claims the Sustainable Recovery Plan (SRP), released on 18 June by the International Energy Agency and the International Monetary Fund. Recognising that current decisions about investments and recovery will "shape economic and energy infrastructure for decades to come", the plan outlines possible "actions" over the next three years across "electricity, transport, industry, buildings, fuels and emerging low-carbon technologies"...

New coal power in Germany

In the last days of May, 500 environmental protesters descended upon a new coal power plant, Datteln 4, in Germany. The plant opened on 30 May despite the German government’s roadmap, announced this year, to have coal phased out by 2038 at the latest. And despite the average coal power plant globally having a 46 year — not 18 year — lifespan. Electorally, Germany has one of the strongest “Green Parties” in the world. But if anything, they have contributed to coal power use in Germany today. In 2000 a SPD-Green coalition announced a plan to phase out nuclear energy, and it has happened...

No return to "full CO2 spewing"!

The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare our vulnerability as humans, as societies, in the face of “the forces of nature”; our biological, molecular, physical environment. We face threats of even greater crises in the future driven by climate change, as Covid-19 was in part. Environmental impacts of this crisis have already been dramatic. Nitrogen dioxide levels and air quality have improved the world over. People in areas of Punjab, northern India, have reportedly seen the Himalayas for the first time in decades. It is estimated that improved air quality in China from Covid-19 shutdowns will save...

Looking ahead to November: COP26

Later in this year, assuming the UK has recovered enough from Covid-19, environmental activists will be active around 2020’s UN climate change conference, COP26, in Glasgow (9-20 November). Probably very little radical or adequate policy will be decided at that conference, even though the world faces a pandemic and continuing climate crisis. A lot of trade unions had been organising for a demonstration to put pressure on the conference. Work on that may now be suspended. Nearer the time we need to get it restarted, and gett trade unions in Glasgow and Scotland are involved, including on the...

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