Greenpeace is disappointed that the UK government intends to force fracking in the country. Politicians in Westminster have overturned a decision by the Lancashire Council which sought to block fracking. Instead MP’s have decided that fracking firm Cuadrilla has been given permission to drill. Sajid Javid the minister who is responsible for local councils said he would allow drilling to take place at Cuadrilla’s drill site which is located at Preston New Road near Blackpool. Not satisfied with just one site, Mr Javid said he was also inclined to grant permission at a second proposed site as well.
Campaigning against fracking for years
For five years Greenpeace has campaigned with thousands of people throughout the UK to prevent the fracking industry from drilling in UK towns or the countryside. Greenpeace has managed to raise awareness of the risks associated with the destructive fracking industry, especially to the environment and the climate. Greenpeace and ordinary citizens have used every democratic tool available to push back against the government which intends to pursue fracking at all costs. It would seem all that hard work paid off in Lancashire where last year city councillors paid attention to the concerns of local residents and voted against the plans of Cuadrilla. It was a massive win for the people and a huge moment for local democracy.
An affront to democracy
However, the move by Westminster to overturn that decision marks a turning point. In a single move, Mr Javid silenced elected council officials and ignored the opinion of more than 14,000 people who live in Lancashire and have said they don’t wont fracking where they live. He also rebuked a petition containing 180,000 signatures that demands that the Lancashire’s council decision be upheld. By overturning the local council decision, politicians in Westminster have essentially declared that profits from the fracking industry are more important than the concerns of the British people.
As many as 6 million children throughout the Caribbean were in danger as Hurricane Matthew passed through the region. The storm has devastated the lives of 1.2 million people in Haiti alone. The rain has not abated causing school’s banks and shops to shut their doors. Unicef was there on the ground as it happened and had very little access to information, but was able to cobble together some kind of picture thanks to satellite phones and its NGO partners. The heaviest damage occurred in the South and the Grande Anse department with thousands of people losing their homes.
The situation is grim
Haiti’s three biggest cities (aside from Port Au Prince) Les Cayes, Aquin and Torbek were submerged under water and to put that into context, that is an estimated 300,000 people affected by flooding. These people have lost what little they had to begin with. Roads have disappeared and trees and cattle have all gone. The situation is similar in other parts of the country and if Unicef is to mount an effective response it will need at least US$ 2 million in order to deliver lifesaving assistance. As the impact of the storm becomes clearer additional needs with be required.
Supplies reaching children
The good news is all the supplies that Unicef sent before the storm hit were distributed amongst many of the most affected families. This is a good place to start from, but more needs to be done obviously and Unicef is working with both the government and its partners to cover the basic requirements of families that are in need. The current priority is making sure that children and their families have access to safe water so there is no outbreak of any epidemic. Emergency supplies such as hygiene kits, water bladders and chlorination tablets have been delivered to the site. The most important priority right now is keeping children safe from disease however, this is just the beginning.
Infrastructure is poor
Children’s lives have been affected in many ways. Education has been disrupted obviously because the schools have been closed with many acting as shelters. Children have also been separated from their families and there is almost no access to healthcare. Unicef sent two teams to the South to get a better picture of what is happening there. The whole of Southern Haiti has been cut off from the rest of the country after a bridge collapsed following relentless lashing by Hurricane Matthew. Haiti’s infrastructure is both fragile and sparse and the bridge is the only one that links the capital to the Southern peninsula.
According to aid agency Oxfam, the wealthiest one per cent of the UK population own as much as 20 times the wealth of the poorest 20 per cent. This statistic makes the UK one of the most unequal countries in the western world and may be a major reason behind the Brexit vote Oxfam said. The data suggests that just 634,000 UK citizens were worth more than twenty times as the poorest 13 million and in response Oxfam is calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to undertake policy which will narrow the gap between those who have and those who have not.
Inequality is astonishing
Oxfam’s report looked at data which came from the investment bank Credit Suisse and found the richest 10 per cent of UK citizens owned more than half of the country’s wealth. More astonishing was the fact that the top 1 per cent owned a staggering 23 per cent of the country’s wealth. In contrast the poorest 20 per cent own just 0.8 per cent of the UK’s wealth between them. The reports claims that vast swathes of the population felt they had no access to economic opportunity.
“Whatever your views on Brexit, the referendum brought divisions within our country to a head, with many people expressing distrust and disconnection with political processes and voting for change in the hope that it would improve their economic position,” Oxfam said.
Oxfam has welcomed the fact that Mrs. May has chosen to recognise the requirement to reform corporate culture and has suggested a number of measures that Oxfam believes the government should adopt. These include:
- Ensuring that workers are given more representation on company boards.
- Providing incentives to firms that encourage them to improve worker skill sets through training and education.
- Introduce a pay ratio of no more than 20 to 1. This would mean the highest paid person at a company earns no more than 20 times the income of the lowest paid person at the company.
- Dealing with corporate tax avoidance.
Oxfam’s Rachel Orr said that inequality is a massive obstacle in the fight against poverty and has produced an economy in which not all people can benefit. Whilst executive pay continues to rise, one in five are still living beneath the poverty line and are struggling to put food on the table and pay their bills. One way to tackle this is to end unscrupulous practices which means the government needs to reform the economy.
“That means closing wage gaps, incentivising investment in companies’ staff and making sure they pay their fair share of taxes,” Ms Orr said.
A spokesperson from Downing Street says the government is responding and made changes such as introducing the National Living Wage as well as undertaking reforms of the welfare system. The spokesperson did admit however, that that much more needs to be done both to help the poorest in the country as well as those families struggling to make ends meet.
Category: Concern Worldwide
A grandmother with a huge heart has worked tirelessly over the last couple of months to finish a complex Middle Eastern style wall hanging in an attempt to show solidarity with refugees fleeing war torn Syria. Jane Caldwell who is 77 years old and lives in Cullybackey in Co Antrim has been spending over four hours each day to finish her decorative wall hanging which she is creating by sewing together patterned squares.
Stitch for Syria
Ms. Caldwell was a former lecturer of creative studies and says hopes her creation will remind Syrian women that they are supported in the difficulties they face. Ms. Caldwell said she accepted the challenge after learning about the “Stitch for Syria” campaign which is organised by humanitarian aid agency Concern Worldwide. Ms. Caldwell’s daughter Rose is the UK executive director for the agency.
Showing solidarity with refugees
Concern had invited individuals to take up the needle and thread in order to express their solidarity with a group of Syrian women who are in Lebanon and are using cross-stitch to earn critical income. The activity helps them deal with trauma they have faced as a result of having to flee the conflict. Concern had requested the public to make a section of a wall that hangs in Lebanon’s centre where the women meet. Hundreds of people have joined the effort and downloaded a six-centimetre square pattern. Based on Middle Eastern design. Once the project is complete the wall hangings will be delivered to Lebanon where they will be taken to a refugee centre.
“I’m really pleased with how it has turned out,” Jane said. “It has been amazing to see how creative people have been and how varied each design is. It is a privilege to have been able to put it all together.”
Unicef says it is important to make children’s right central to school life because they not only provide a frame of reference for interpreting the world we live in, but it also improves educational outcomes. Kentish Town Primary School is taking advantage of a free Unicef refugee teaching resource dubbed “In Search of Safety.” The resource was developed as part of World Refugee Day. Anna, a year six teacher says the resource is essential. Prior to the resource being made available, many people were nervous about beginning a discussion. Today, children now understand that refugee rights are being disrespected.
All children have the same rights
James, the school’s head teacher says the resource has helped build a more cohesive community. He adds that students were horrified that this was happening because migrant children have the same rights as they do. The children now have a deep understanding not only of their rights but the rights of others. When the school was being assessed a group of student ambassadors showcased in an assembly examples of where classes were able to use what they had learned to tackle issues in their communities.
Students helping out in the community
Students have engaged in a number of community outreach programmes. For example, Willow Class helped out at a local wildlife reservation where they helped conserve turtles. Sycamore Class decided to tackle air pollution because they were worried about rising levels of nitrogen hydroxide. Beech Class participated in a sponsored “sleep out” and were able to raise £2740 for a couple of charities that work with the homeless.
Making the world a better place
As the students of Kentish Town Primary School learn more about children’s right’s, that knowledge has spread and parents have also begun to lend their input by suggesting additional rights-based campaigning activity. James concludes that the exercise is all about outcomes and empowering children to make the world a better place by helping to change it.
Greenpeace is thrilled that a very important UK government committee has backed its call for a complete ban on microbeads. It’s not often that MP’s from both sides of the aisle agree, however the Environment Committee MP’s were unanimous in their agreement that microbeads should be banned because of the harm they cause to our oceans. This represents a massive victory for the 330,000 people who signed the Greenpeace petition calling for a ban on these pollution causing bits being added to household products.
Microbeads bad for the environment
It appears that everyone seems to agree with what is completely obvious. We should not be adding tiny bits of plastic to products that are able to pass through sewage filtration systems and out to rivers and ultimately the sea where they are eaten by wildlife. There are some interesting statistics. One shower can cause 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean. Every year throughout Europe it is estimated that between 80,000 to 219,000 tonnes of microplastics enter the marine environment.
Voluntary commitments won’t work
The committee also rubbished the idea that a voluntary phase out by companies would work and instead a full legal ban is necessary. Greenpeace recently ranked the 30 biggest cosmetics companies by their commitment to eliminating microbeads and the results suggest whilst some companies are doing better than others, none are going as far as required. Companies use different definitions of microbeads and all have different time frames for phasing them out, whilst some are only phasing out microbeads from certain products. If there is a voluntary phase out in place, it is likely that plastic will continue entering the ocean.
The devil is in the detail
So whilst there is cause for celebration, the devil is in the detail. All of us need to continue working hard to get Theresa May to support the ban and make sure that companies cannot continue to attempt to limit the ban to specific products. Most people are aware that microbeads can be found in shower gels and face scrubs, but they are also contained in a wide range of products including deodorants, shaving foam, sunscreen, washing powder and household cleaners.
We need a complete ban
Where a plastic microbead originates from is completely irrelevant to the turtle or fish which commonly mistakes tiny pieces of plastic for food. This is why a total ban on microbeads being added to products is necessary if we are going to get rid of the problem or good.
According to the latest numbers, since the tragic drowning of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, refugee and migrant deaths have increased by more than 20 per cent. More than 5700 people have died on migrant routes globally in the last year. This despite the fact there was an international outcry when Alan’s body was found washed up on a beach following an attempt by his Syrian family to cross to Europe from Turkey. In the previous year before he died, there were 4664 recorded deaths said Oxfam which is running a crisis appeal for refugees.
General awareness is growing
Research conducted by Virtual Social Media Lab found that following the death of Alan, there was intense interest worldwide on the issue. In fact, there were four times as many tweets on the subject in the year following Alan’s death. Recent images of Omran Daqneesh who was pictured being pulled from the rubble covered in blood and dust in Aleppo also had a similar effect. Oxfam says this shows that the general public have some intense feelings about the violence which is forcing the refugees to flee.
Oxfam added: “Two major summits on the global refugee and migration crisis take place in New York later this month. The preliminary negotiations have been very disappointing, with many countries unwilling to do more to help, but the summits still offer the opportunity for governments to make firm commitments to improve the situation.”
Take in more refugees
Oxfam is urging the UK government to take in more refugees. Mark Goldring Oxfam chief executive said that the images which depict Alan Kurdi’s body washing up on shore were truly heart-breaking, and it was completely right for the images to induce shock and sadness amongst the general public. However, in the year since the incident took place, the situation for refugees and migrants has not improved, despite the fact they are risking everything for a better life, the routes have actually become even more deadly.
“To stop these needless deaths, we need a coordinated, global response to this crisis. The UK government has an opportunity to show it is part of the solution at the summits in New York later this month.” Mr. Goldring said.
UNICEF says that since the beginning of the year, over 650 children have been recruited into South Sudanese armed groups. The agency is extremely worried that renewed fighting is likely to put at even greater risk, tens of thousands of children. As such UNICEF is calling for an immediate cessation of recruitment and the total release of all children being held by armed actors. Since the crisis first began in December 2013, it is estimated that 16,000 children have been recruited by armed groups. UNICEF says the practice of recruiting children continues despite widespread political commitment to end it.
“The dream we all shared for the children of this young country has become a nightmare,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth, speaking from Nairobi following a trip to Bentiu and Juba in South Sudan. “At this precarious stage in South Sudan’s short history, UNICEF fears that a further spike in child recruitment could be imminent.”
Last year UNICEF was responsible for the release of 1,775 former child soldiers, one of the largest such releases ever. Despite that success renewed conflict and recruitment in South Sudan will undo much of the progress that has been made in recent years. UNICEF has also drawn attention to the fact that grave violations are taking place in the youngest country in the world such as gender based violence which was already pervasive but because of the current crisis has greatly intensified.
Sexual exploitation continues
Mr. Forsyth says that the country’s children continue to have to endure horrific ordeals whilst there are plenty of reports which suggest the sexual violence against girls and women is widespread. Mr. Forsyth adds the systematic use of sexual exploitation, rape and abduction as a weapon of war in South Sudan must end now. UNICEF says that it is necessary for the agency to gain unconditional access for humanitarian interventions in Juba as well as other parts of the country, so that support, protection and assistance can be provided to children and women throughout the country. Forsyth adds that unless there is a fully operational humanitarian sector, the consequences will be catastrophic for children and their families.
As a result of incredibly high demand for tickets, the charity Autism Rocks has announced an extension to the concert featuring Ricky Martin set to take place on 23rd September. In order to give fans who could not buy tickets for the first event another chance, there will now be a second gig to be held on Thursday 22nd September.
A number of events
The two-day event is the first of two Autism Rocks Sessions to be held this year. This follows on from the success of the charity’s tribute to Prince which took place in June in London. That event attracted over 6000 Prince fans and raised £101,330. This year the second Autism Rocks Session will occur on the 23rd of December and feature Nile Rodgers.
Ricky Martin is best known for his insanely popular number one hit “Livin’ la Vida Loca” and is often credited for bringing Latin pop music to the masses. He has sold more than 60 million albums worldwide and continues to tour the world playing sold out stadium and arena gigs. He is currently on his “One World” tour and his generous support for Autism Rocks means British fans will get their only chance to see him at the Eventim Apollo in London which will be his only UK gigs.
International businessman Sanjay Shah, founder of Autism Rocks said: “We are so pleased that Ricky Martin and Nile Rogers are lending their support to our cause. Artists of their standing can do so much to raise awareness of the condition and help us reach a wider audience. Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder in the world. It is our wish that people have a better understanding of the condition and that people on the autistic spectrum are fully supported and able reach their true potential.”
Category: Cancer Research UK
The latest Public Health England (PHE) data suggests that the number of people smoking in the country has fallen to the lowest level on record. According to the data last year the number of people who smoked fell to 16.9 per cent in England down from 17.8 per cent in 2014. Alison Cox who heads up Cancer Research UK’s prevention department said that smoking continues to be the main preventable cause of cancer. This means that data suggesting that smoking rates are at a record low is pleasing.
“ Today’s data shows large regional variations that reflect health inequalities between the richest and poorest in England. The NHS has said that its future sustainability relies on an upgrade in public health and preventing disease, but a reduction in the number of people smoking won’t happen on its own. We need well-funded tools to help smokers to quit, like local stop-smoking services, but cuts to public health budgets are making it harder for smokers to get this support. The government must make good on its promise of an ambitious new tobacco strategy, and provide sustainable funding to deliver it.” Ms Cox said.
Rich poor divide
The rate of smoking for people who engage in routine and manual jobs continues to be stubbornly high, however it has fallen to 26.5 per cent down from 28 per cent in 2015. The data also draws a clear connection between the number of years of life lost as a result of smoking related illness and wealth. There is a clear rich-poor divide with those living in the poorest areas twice as likely to die from smoking related disease than those living in the richest. It also appears that fewer people are setting definite dates of when they will quit with the number of people setting a quit date falling to 5,549 per 100,000 people.