Allan’s Speech

My good friend Allan has been passionately campaigning against the proposed relief road through an area of outstanding natural beauty. Thanks to Allan’s work and the work of others, the councillors were swayed into throwing out the planned relief road through Nidd Gorge by 13 to 2.

Allan read me his speech, as he did so he was welling up. Hell, I was welling up … Here is what he said:

One in three of us will be affected by mental illness at some point in our lives, that in turn affects us all.

It is well known that a brisk walk, or just being outdoors can bring an improvement in our state of mind, exercise, air, daylight, space, or just the time to think, uninterrupted by technology or that angry sound of traffic, can all help to clear our minds, we all need that place of solace and peace, out amongst nature, where we can just be, a place where the wonders of this world and all its beauty can fill our hearts with joy and empty our minds of distress, for a moment, just long enough to remember who and what we are.

Thousands of us use Nidd Gorge for these very reasons, some alone, some with friends and family, bonding under the big sky, dreaming by the gentle flowing water, smashing a time trial in muddy trainers, or perhaps just walking off Sunday lunch, throwing sticks and balls for our four legged friends, these are things that make us happy and content, careless in the moment, without purpose or goal, knowing that the unchanging landscape is there is enough, unchanging apart from the seasons.

Daily I walk my dogs among the trees, grass, bugs and birds, I might meet a friend or someone new, but that matters not, I am there to be me in the great outdoors, I meet people both local and even from other continents, drawn by the lure of Nidd Gorge’s promise of something exceptional and unique to each visitor. But I also know people who would not wish to be anywhere busy or where they might have to communicate, that would be too painful, but in Nidd Gorge, so close yet so far away from it all they can reflect, refocus and hopefully move on. My words cannot express the experience of other people’s mental health issues, that is their own battle, one that often starts without them noticing as the pressures of modern life build like straws on a camel’s back, being in a place like Nidd Gorge is an essential tool in helping them find themselves before they are lost.

Nidd George is not the place to put a major trunk road, or development, barriers which would keep away those of us who perhaps have nowhere else to feel at one with everything that they hold dear.

I ask you to consider very carefully the impact of such a scheme on the nature of what is quintessentially, the gem of a Spa Town with a reputation for being somewhere to relax and recoup.

Thank you.

  • Allan Smyth (hero)

One Day Since The Industrial Revolution

The UK ran for a full day without coal, in a first since the industrial revolution.

The country fulfilled all of its energy needs from other sources, according to the National Grid.

It would be the first working day that the UK hasn’t relied on coal power since the industrial revolution.

Britain has in the past run using zero coal for some periods. But that has never happened for a full day since Britain started relying on coal power stations.

The National Grid’s energy control room said that it ran without coal for a full 19 hours on 20 April. They expected it to be a full day today, they reported on Twitter.

“The first day without coal in Britain since the Industrial Revolution marks a watershed in the energy transition,” said Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace. “A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in ten years’ time our energy system will have radically transformed again.

“The direction of travel is that both in the UK and globally we are already moving towards a low carbon economy. It is a clear message to any new government that they should prioritise making the UK a world leader in clean, green, technology. They will need to get on with the coal phase-out plan and recognise the economic potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency. We can meet the UK’s needs for skilled jobs and fair bills, whilst also meeting our climate targets.”

This has left me buoyant and optimistic – the fact that the carbon levels will fall due to this small measure is exaggerated – but it is a step in the right direction. However, the National Grid did not comment on the source of the power used. I have a nagging suspicion that it could prove to be Biomass – which I have mis-givings about.

I really cannot see successive governments for years capitalising on the fact that we are an island and using the tidal swell to power the Nation …. seems but a pipe dream but a dream worth fighting for.

Drilling For Oil In Lake Malawi

International development aid is a lifeline to some of the world’s most vulnerable people. We should be proud that the UK is committed to spending money on helping those that need it the most. However, a Greenpeace investigation has revealed how British government diplomacy and foreign aid have been used to pave the way for UK oil companies to explore for oil in Lake Malawi, where the UN warns that a spill could wreck the fragile ecosystem. [1]

Aid has the power to transform people’s lives and lift them out of poverty, but drilling in places like Lake Malawi could put the same people’s livelihoods at risk.

Aid should never be used as a bargaining tool for business, at the expense of people and the environment, but that’s exactly what’s happened. Tell Priti Patel the International Development Minister that aid is for people and not for oil by signing this petition.

Drilling for oil around Lake Malawi will threaten a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Africa’s most iconic lakes as well as driving more climate change in a country that’s already bearing the brunt of it. The lake supports the livelihoods of more than 1.5 million people living on its shores – it’s also home to Nile crocodiles, hippos, monkeys, and African fish eagles.

Rafiq Hajat, chair of the International Alliance on Natural Resources in Africa, a network of organisations across the continent, explained: “If there was any spill on Lake Malawi It would take up to 700 years to replenish… Malawi will never benefit from this oil, just look at Nigeria, one of the biggest oil producers in the world, but every day there are people queuing for fuel, there are power cuts. This is not a blessing it is a curse.” [2]

It’s not just Malawi. The investigation also found that another British company, Tullow Oil, was offered financial support by the UK government to explore for oil in one of Africa’s oldest national parks in Uganda, home to an endangered species of giraffe.

And it gets worse. British officials also lobbied senior Zambian ministers to help oil firm Tullow win a license covering three major national parks in the country. The purpose of aid is to end poverty, not destroy the planet. Now Priti Patel wants to make the problem worse by linking aid to trade deals, but she’s badly wrong. Priti Patel wants to blur the lines between what’s in the interest of the countries we’re supposed to help and what will boost the profits of British firms. [3]

It’s one thing to make sure that taxpayer-funded aid money is spent effectively, and quite another to use it to grease the wheels for the oil industry. Please – I will never have the health to visit the place, but I would like to know that places like Lake Malawi are safe for future generations; please sign the petition.

It could prove difficult to change Priti Patel’s mind. But if thousands of us sign this petition and create public anger around this issue, it won’t be easy for the minister to ignore us.

Here is the petition.


[1] Oil frontiers: British government uses aid money to back oil drilling in UNESCO World Heritage Site:
[2] UK aid money spent trying to boost British role in Malawi oil sector:
[3] Britain to ‘leverage’ £11bn of foreign aid to build new trade deals after Brexit:

£5 Mutiny

Vegans and vegetarians have voiced outrage after revelations that the new £5 notes contain animal fat. The Bank of England confirmed via Twitter on Monday that the new plastic fivers are made with tallow – a substance derived from fat and used in candles and soaps.

“There is a trace of tallow in the polymer pellets used in the base substrate of the polymer £5 notes,” it confirmed.

Innovia, the company that makes the banknotes said it obtained the animal fat through a supplier, which it declined to name. The company said it used the substance to give the notes their anti-static and anti-slip properties, and pointed out that thousands of products contain tallow. It could not confirm which animals the fat had come from.

Animal fat used in plastics is most commonly derived from beef and mutton, though it can come from pork or other meats.

A petition has already been launched to remove the new note – which only became legal tender in September – from circulation. At the time of writing it had been signed by more than 5,000 people.

However, we have, once again, failed to learn a lesson from History.

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was a rebellion in India against the rule of the British East India Company, that ran from May 1857 to July 1859. The rebellion began as a mutiny of sepoys of the East India Company’s army on 10 May 1857, in the cantonment of the town of Meerut, and soon escalated into other mutinies and civilian rebellions largely in the upper Gangetic plain and central India, with the major hostilities confined to present-day Uttar Pradesh, western Bihar, northern Madhya Pradesh, and the Delhi region.

The rebellion posed a considerable threat to East India Company power in that region, and was contained only with the fall of Gwalior on 20 June 1858. The rebellion has been known by many names, including the Indian Mutiny, India’s First War of Independence, the Great Rebellion, the Indian Rebellion, the Revolt of 1857, the Rebellion of 1857, the Uprising of 1857, the Sepoy Rebellion, the Indian Insurrection, and the Sepoy Mutiny.

It was over the ammunition for the new Enfield P-53 rifle. These rifles, which fired Minié balls, had a tighter fit than the earlier muskets, and used paper cartridges that came pre-greased. To load the rifle, sepoys had to bite the cartridge open to release the powder. The grease used on these cartridges was rumoured to include tallow derived from beef, which would be offensive to Hindus, and pork, which would be offensive to Muslims. At least one Company official pointed out the difficulties this may cause:

unless it be proven that the grease employed in these cartridges is not of a nature to offend or interfere with the prejudices of caste, it will be expedient not to issue them for test to Native corps.

However, in August 1856, greased cartridge production was initiated at Fort William, Calcutta, following a British design. The grease used included tallow supplied by the Indian firm of Gangadarh Banerji & Co. By January, rumours were abroad that the Enfield cartridges were greased with animal fat.

Company officers became aware of the rumours through reports of an altercation between a high-caste sepoy and a low-caste labourer at Dum Dum. The labourer had taunted the sepoy that by biting the cartridge, he had himself lost caste, although at this time such cartridges had been issued only at Meerut and not at Dum Dum. There had been rumours that the British sought to destroy the religions of the Indian people, and forcing the native soldiers to break their sacred code would have certainly added to this rumour, as it apparently did. The Company was quick to reverse the effects of this policy in hopes that the unrest would be quelled.

On 27 January, Colonel Richard Birch, the Military Secretary, ordered that all cartridges issued from depots were to be free from grease, and that sepoys could grease them themselves using whatever mixture “they may prefer”. A modification was also made to the drill for loading so that the cartridge was torn with the hands and not bitten. This however, merely caused many sepoys to be convinced that the rumours were true and that their fears were justified. Additional rumours started that the paper in the new cartridges, which was glazed and stiffer than the previously used paper, was impregnated with grease. In February, a court of inquiry was held at Barrackpore to get to the bottom of these rumours. Native soldiers called as witnesses complained of the paper “being stiff and like cloth in the mode of tearing”, said that when the paper was burned it smelled of grease, and announced that the suspicion that the paper itself contained grease could not be removed from their minds.

… Dirty money.

Paris Deal

In 67 days, President Trump could go to war with climate action. But governments are at their annual climate summit right now. If we act fast, we could get them to lock in progress before he can destroy everything we worked for. Please sign the petition here.

Germany, China, India, Brazil, the climate vulnerable countries, and others are reasserting their commitment to the Paris climate deal. But if enough of us call for it we could get them to urgently lock in the way to zero climate pollution, demand the US keeps its Paris promise, and commit to advance faster towards climate solutions that Trump won’t be able to stop.

Let’s ask them to make an unequivocal statement for climate action, regardless of what Trump does. Trump has called climate change a hoax, dismissed the Paris agreement, and just gave a climate denier with ties to Big Oil the job of determining his environmental policy in the next few months!

But over 100 countries have signed up and Paris is already in force. Now the world’s most vulnerable countries are leading the charge for urgent climate action. Yesterday, Germany announced a bold new plan to radically cut carbon and, crucially, China is shutting down coal and breaking records on renewable energy. India too.

Trump could pull the US out of the UN climate convention when he comes to power – and as the world’s largest per capita emitter, that will have huge impact not only on the people of the US, but on all of us. But such a withdrawal is a bureaucratic nightmare that could take years. If enough of us join together now with a roar of NO! we can find ways to stop it, and ensure the rest of the world speeds up if the US slows down.

We simply can’t let this ignorant billionaire destroy the only path to save our planet. Let’s go all out now to keep the world on track when Trump takes office.

Sign now to get our leaders to recommit to our planet and forward this on!

Together, we helped make the landmark Paris climate agreement possible. We marched, donated, signed, and called. In the end, we helped push good leaders to be champions and made it difficult for anyone trying to block progress. Paris was always a starting point. We still have a long way to go to save everything we love from climate change. But if we lose it now, this shot at global cooperation is gone. This week we must act.

Brace For Impact • The Melting Ice In The Arctic

This Blog post is about the melting ice in the Arctic & Antarctic. Something I hold quite close to me – I try and get myself to the local Greenpeace meetings (every first Tuesday at 19:30 at The Harrogate Tap). The reason – to the casual bystander – may be ambivalent and the meetings, in general, may seem archaic. However, I am going to try and present to you something the founder of the Greenpeace movement, Bob Hunter, called a ‘mind-bomb.’ I came across the information on a Facebook post by someone who clearly knew their environmental onions … I hope he does not find offence in me posting about the subject. I am sure he would take great pride in the fact that he has motivated another fighter for the environmental cause.

The image below is a graphical representation of the extent of global sea ice cover, for both polar regions, in millions of square kilometres. The two peaks are due to the ice increasing in the Antarctic during their winter (April to July) and then the Arctic freezes from October. You can see the last really low Arctic ice year was 2012, the dark blue line…. but this year, the Arctic has warmed significantly and isn’t re-freezing in anyway near the way it’s expected. This is a profoundly frightening situation.

I will leave it to the experts to explain how important the Arctic is in governing global weather, ocean currents and our overall climate. But, one of the most interesting things is that whilst there IS ice there, any heat going into the region will just be melting ice, not significantly increasing the temperature. However, once the ice has gone, then the energy entering that system warms the water up. The physics is this: if you have one gramme of ice at 0C, it takes 80 calories of heat to melt it to a gramme of water at 0C. However the next 80 calories of heat energy entering that gramme of water will raise its temperature to 80C.*

So, the ice is keeping the Arctic cool. But when the ice has gone, it will heat up RAPIDLY and this will release many gigatonnes of methane from the permafrost and undersea clathrates (a compound in which molecules of one component are physically trapped within the crystal structure of another). This will heat the area still further, and change everything we know beyond all of our imaginations. We are at the tipping point.

That line on the graph is the scariest thing I’ve seen for a long time. This looks like it is the oft-mentioned abrupt climate change, or ‘tipping point’ beginning to be more obvious. Brace for impact.

*’Borrowed’ from a chap on Facebook who sounds like he knows his onions.



The day that Trump got elected was 9/11 (for the rest of the world). I am the first to admit I am no astute political commentator – but a man that builds his campaign on race-baiting and misogyny is not the ideal candidate to be in-charge of an army. I am not American – I am a British subject and this is my point of view. As someone with living family who have memory of fighting Fascism in Europe, it seems bigotry and xenophobia have been elected stateside.

It is almost inevitable that Marine Le Pen is elected in France followed by the inevitable rise of The Right in Italy. The rise of hate in the Western hemisphere is somewhat alarming. But what is it a rise against? Other than campaigns being led on race-baiting, I struggle to see any solid argument for electing hot-heads to power. Okay, Brexit was a vote against “those” that seek refuge in our green and pleasant land – but surely “they” are people with just as much right to a safe place to live as we are?

However, I am wavering – this rant is about 9/11 (for the rest of the world).

So how did it happen?

It really was a case of Hillary losing the election – not of the divisive Trump winning an election. So, why? “It’s the economy, stupid” was a phrase coined by her husband’s adviser James Carville in the 1992 election and, in many ways, it ought to have helped Democrats again in 2016. Barack Obama helped rescue the US from the financial crash and presided over a record series of consecutive quarters of job growth. Unfortunately for Clinton, many Americans simply did not feel as positive. Stagnant wage levels and soaring inequality were symptoms of the malaise felt by many voters. Trump successfully convinced them to believe this was caused by bad trade deals and a rigged economy.

Neither socialism nor the proto-fascist homilies of Trump offered much in the way of coherent alternatives either, but the bottom line was that Clinton simply failed to articulate a convincing defence of modern American capitalism.

Also, the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was investigating the Democratic candidate until just two days before voting with a view to bring possible criminal charges for her flouting of data security laws was just the most extreme manifestation of the issue. It was damaging not just that the FBI bungled its timing of what ultimately proved to be a dead-end investigation but because it played into the notion that the Clintons behaved as if the law did not apply to them.

Clinton’s campaign slogans are notoriously vacuous. Obama’s “hope and change” turned out to be more of the former than the latter. Yet Clinton’s “stronger together” only really began to take shape in response to Trump’s divisiveness. It was attractive to many Democrats as a symbol of what they felt the campaign was about but it ensured the battle was fought on Trump’s terms.

Trump in many ways ran to Clinton’s left on some economic issues, with a populist appeal to a growing group of unaffiliated independent-minded voters. But the way the man carried himself during the election was not of dignity. The man seems a buffoon – and now he has the codes to nuclear warheads.

What of all of the climate treaties that were signed under Obama? Trump has openly stated that he wants to “rip them all up.” What of the Human Rights afforded to American citizens and non-domicile residents? From a man who has pledged to build a wall across the Mexican border things do not look too good. The man has no experience of politics.

9/11 was a dark day for the rest of the world. A light has gone out.



Nothing much happening this afternoon – so, I spent some time on Facebook. What led me to the ICAN site was the headline: “UN Votes To Outlaw Nuclear Weapons In 2017.” Something that piqued my interest immensely.

Two days ago, on Thursday 27th October 2016, The United Nations adopted a landmark resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. This historic decision heralds an end to two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts.

At a meeting of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, which deals with disarmament and international security matters, 123 nations voted in favour of the resolution, with 38 against and 16 abstaining.

The resolution will set up a UN conference beginning in March next year, open to all member states, to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. The negotiations will continue in June and July.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a civil society coalition active in 100 countries, hailed the adoption of the resolution as a major step forward, marking a fundamental shift in the way that the world tackles this paramount threat. For seven decades, the UN has warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons, and people globally have campaigned for their abolition. Today the majority of states finally resolved to outlaw these weapons. – Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN

Despite arm-twisting by a number of nuclear-armed states, the resolution was adopted in a landslide. A total of 57 nations were co-sponsors, with Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa taking the lead in drafting the resolution.

The UN vote came just hours after the European Parliament adopted its own resolution on this subject – 415 in favour and 124 against, with 74 abstentions – inviting European Union member states to “participate constructively” in next year’s negotiations.

Nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction not yet outlawed in a comprehensive and universal manner, despite their well-documented catastrophic humanitarian and environmental impacts.

Biological weapons, chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions are all explicitly prohibited under international law. But only partial prohibitions currently exist for nuclear weapons.

Nuclear disarmament has been high on the UN agenda since the organization’s formation in 1945. Efforts to advance this goal have stalled in recent years, with nuclear-armed nations investing heavily in the modernization of their nuclear forces.

Twenty years have passed since a multilateral nuclear disarmament instrument was last negotiated: the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which has yet to enter into legal force due to the opposition of a handful of nations.

Thursday’s resolution, known as L.41, acts upon the key recommendation of a UN working group on nuclear disarmament that met in Geneva this year to assess the merits of various proposals for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world.

It also follows three major intergovernmental conferences examining the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, held in Norway, Mexico and Austria in 2013 and 2014. These gatherings helped re-frame the nuclear weapons debate to focus on the harm that such weapons would inflict on people.

The conferences also enabled non-nuclear-armed nations to play a more assertive role in the disarmament arena. By the third and final conference, which took place in Vienna in December 2014, most governments had signaled their desire to outlaw nuclear weapons.

Following the Vienna conference, ICAN was instrumental in garnering support for a 127-nation diplomatic pledge, known as the humanitarian pledge, committing governments to cooperate in efforts “to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons”.

Throughout this process, victims and survivors of nuclear weapon detonations, including nuclear testing, have contributed actively. Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing and an ICAN supporter, has been a leading proponent of a ban.

This is a truly historic moment for the entire world. For those of us who survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is a very joyous occasion. We have been waiting so long for this day to come. Nuclear weapons are absolutely abhorrent. All nations should participate in the negotiations next year to outlaw them. I hope to be there myself to remind delegates of the unspeakable suffering that nuclear weapons cause. It is all of our responsibility to make sure that such suffering never happens again. – Setsuko Thurlow

There are still more than 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, mostly in the arsenals of just two nations: the United States and Russia. Seven other nations possess nuclear weapons: Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Most of the nine nuclear-armed nations voted against the UN resolution. Many of their allies, including those in Europe that host nuclear weapons on their territory as part of a NATO arrangement, also failed to support the resolution.

But the nations of Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific voted overwhelmingly in favour of the resolution, and are likely to be key players at the negotiating conference in New York next year.

On Monday, 15 Nobel Peace Prize winners urged nations to support the negotiations and to bring them “to a timely and successful conclusion so that we can proceed rapidly toward the final elimination of this existential threat to humanity”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has also appealed to governments to support this process, stating on 12 October that the international community has a “unique opportunity” to achieve a ban on the “most destructive weapon ever invented”.

“This treaty won’t eliminate nuclear weapons overnight,” concluded Fihn. “But it will establish a powerful new international legal standard, stigmatizing nuclear weapons and compelling nations to take urgent action on disarmament.”

In particular, the treaty will place great pressure on nations that claim protection from an ally’s nuclear weapons to end this practice, which in turn will create pressure for disarmament action by the nuclear-armed nations.

… there is hope.