Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Stand Up Like A Mountain

Climate change gets so little attention in our news these days. There is such a blanket of opposition that it seems impossible for any positive actions to pierce through. After so many failed or toothless global treaties and a Tory government, that has tightened planning for wind turbines, yet overturned bans on fracking, it is a pretty demoralising topic.

The oil companies seem to have the upper hand with the media, but if this year has shown anything, it is that no one believes the media lies any more. People are making decisions on their gut instinct. Ask yourself how you feel about climate change and see if you feel that sense of unease, that sinking feeling in your chest. There lies the truth.


It seems like such a significant time and such a charged atmosphere, yet into the arena come the Native American Tribes, protectors of the water and mother earth. It is the biggest tribal gathering in 100 years that has come together at Standing Rock to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is passing through their treaty lands close the Sioux reservation and under the Missouri River.

You can get an idea of the Dakota Access Pipeline compared to the Keystone XL pipeline that got denied here. It seems to have had a lot less publicity though. I was also shocked to find that there are an average of 560 'incidents' a year in the US regarding oil spills. So it is not a matter of if there is an oil spill, but more like when.

I know what you are thinking, it seems so hopeless for this small unarmed group to stand up with prayer against the wealthy oil companies with their political power and militarised police force. But it is really when things look completely hopeless, yet we do it anyway, that there is a chance of success.

This is the part where David defeats Goliath or Harry Potter thwarts Voldemort. Where Gandhi defeats the British Empire. Or where a small team like Leicester City become champions of the Premier League. So lets support the Water Protectors anyway, even if it may seem a bit hopeless.


Image from The Guardian, 28 Sept 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/28/the-world-passes-400ppm-carbon-dioxide-threshold-permanently
The carbon emissions have reached that critical point of over 400ppm where we are standing on an edifice with only catastrophic climate disasters ahead of us. Do you want to close your eyes and keep going or stand up and save the world?


So I will be praying with Standing Rock on Sunday December 4th at 4pm in the UK. Already I have been asked what good will my prayer do from here. Truthfully I don't know, but I am going to do it anyway and I really hope that you can all join me with this and support the Standing Rock Water Protectors in every way that you can.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Black swan events

"Markets brace for 'black swan' impact of US presidential election" was the headline for a business article on RT on Monday.

A black swan event is supposed to be an unpredictable event, a surprise that changes our current reality, that we were not expecting. A curve ball that comes out of nowhere. An example would be the attack on the twin towers, which caught most of the world by surprise and sparked a huge number of changes, from military action to the curbing of civil liberties.

When you have an election with just 2 main contenders, the foreseeable outcome is that one of the 2 candidates will win the election - there is nothing unpredictable about that. Unless you are closing your eyes to the possibility that your chosen candidate may not win, in which case you deserve to be in for a shock.

The financial markets should be prepared for either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump to win the US elections. If someone else wins, then that would be a black swan. For instance if Bernie Sanders ends up as president, because Hilary is suddenly out of the running, then that would be a black swan event. But Trump winning is a predictable outcome....unless you have rigged the election so that he can't win, which would then make it a black swan if he won.

Reading between the lines the financial markets are warning of trouble, whoever wins the election. You can count on them blaming the presidential election for causing instability, whichever candidate wins.

Monday, 31 October 2016

War - the most stupidest crazy thing ever

This year my son was in the school production of "Oh What a Lovely War!". It was chosen to commemorate the former boys from the school who lost their lives in WWI, including the son of the headmaster at the time.

I remember watching this film when I was at school and thinking that war is the most stupidest, crazy thing ever. If you just watch a few minutes of the play, take a look at the young performers and know that, if they had been born 100 years earlier, many of them would have been old enough to serve at the front line, before the war was over. How scary is that?

My history knowledge is shockingly bad, but I still know there were several lessons to come out of WWI. One of those was that everyone expected the war to be 'over by summer', and yet it dragged on for 4 years. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was the same - all 'over by the summer' in theory, but the reality was completely different.

The release of the Chilcott Report this summer was great news for those like me, who were furious that Tony Blair led the UK to invade Iraq. The BBC have a summary of the main points here, the first 3 of which are below.

  • The UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before all peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort
  • Military action might have been necessary later, but in March 2003, it said, there was no imminent threat from the then Iraq leader Saddam Hussein, the strategy of containment could have been adapted and continued for some time and the majority of the Security Council supported continuing UN inspections and monitoring
  • On 28 July 2002, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair assured US President George W Bush he would be with him "whatever". But in the letter, he pointed out that a US coalition for military action would need: Progress on the Middle East peace process, UN authority and a shift in public opinion in the UK, Europe, and among Arab leaders

  • I felt this all along, did you? That we invaded Iraq because Tony Blair wanted to be best buddies with George Bush, with souped up 'intelligence' and undermining the UN security council's decision. Many people could see this, which is why there was the biggest protest in UK history, but frustratingly it didn't have an impact. What would have had an impact? Tony Blair made the commitment to go to war in July 2002, would anything have been able to stop him?

    As much as I would like to see Tony Blair face justice, he is the least of our worries now. The lies, finger-pointing and propaganda are all churning again, have you noticed? Same posturing and misinformation, just a different target.

    In an interview with the BBC on Hardtalk 20th June 2016, General Ben Hodges, the head of the US Army in Europe, said that since "...Russia invaded Ukraine..." they are now a threat, and the NATO drills that were being held in Poland, shown in the programme, were staged against the "Red" enemy.

    Russia invaded Ukraine ???!!! Have I missed something?

    The invasion of Iraq was pretty obvious, it was talked about beforehand and announced as such. The media filmed the allied air force bombing Iraq, then we saw the tanks roll in, and the regular army invade and overthrow the government. It would be difficult to describe it as anything other than an invasion. But in Ukraine....... there were protests and a coup, which led to President Yanukovych fleeing, and further internal divisions and fighting.

    I can't imagine that Ukraine's closest neighbours could just sit back and watch without having some hand in helping their favoured side, but that is not the same as sending in the airforce to bomb key infrastructure, and rolling up in a convoy of tanks. There wasn't even a definitive sign of uniformed Russian troops 'invading' and the Russian government, though acknowledging that civilians were in Ukraine aiding the rebels, vehemently denied sending any troops to the country. Once the OSCE was in place monitoring the situation, they pretty much backed this up, finding no evidence of Russian troops or weapons crossing the border.

    I am pretty sure that the media would have reported on a Russian invasion, as they did seem to enjoy pointing the finger at Russia, by using words such as 'Russian-backed seperatists' and 'Russian aggression'. Maybe I just missed it, but just like the 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' in Iraq, the evidence of an invasion seems a bit thin on the ground. Finding a handful of Russians in Ukraine bearing arms cannot be called an 'invasion'. There are a handful of Brits that have joined IS, but that doesn't implicate the whole country as terrorists. Please feel free to dispute this and share any links that show the contrary, because a Russian invasion is a pretty serious event, and if we are drilling NATO soldiers for WWIII with Russia, based on the 'invasion' of Ukraine, then I would like to be totally convinced.

    What about Crimea? To me this provides even less evidence of an invasion. Imagine for instance that England decided to invade Ireland. "Over my dead body!" cry my Irish followers and they are right, it would - literally - entail a massacre of the Irish before they would concede to becoming part of England. Then there would still be strife from resistance fighters, suicide bombers and the like.

    So I really don't understand how Russia can 'invade' Crimea with no bloodshed, uprising or resistance, and within days persuade 80% of all registered voters to vote to become part of Russia supposedly against their will, then to live happily without any signs of a counter insurgency. Unless of course it wasn't an invasion, and the people of Crimea, who are made up of 60% Russians anyway, requested that they get taken back under Russia's wing to protect them from the instability, fascism and violence that the media was displaying in mainland Ukraine.

    Making up an invasion, with a few dodgy satellite images, photos of soldiers in unmarked uniforms that are claimed to be the enemy but could be from either side, weapons manufactured by the enemy but used by all sides, and US Generals calling it an invasion, really isn't enough proof for me.

    And a war against Russia is one that would definitely not be 'over by summer'. Unlike Iraq who had their military destroyed in the 1991 Gulf War, and had severe economic sanctions in place for years after, Russia has a strong military force and plenty of WMD which Europe is well within range of. Plus China has announced that they support Russia's actions.

    Russia's military might has been demonstrated in Syria. The US started the bombing campaign in September 2014 (with no UN approval or any go ahead from the Syrian government - yes I am intimating another illegal war) and IS continued to grow in numbers and area controlled. It was only after September 2015, when the Russians announced they had been asked for support from the legitimate Syrian government, and commenced a mission against IS, that IS has been retreating and is now reduced to only 25% of their former size. Notice how the media is a lot quieter about IS now?

    Of course instead of saying "Good job old chaps" we have painted Putin as the bad guy and accused them of bombing civilians and of humanitarian atrocities. See how easily we can forget that IS were beheading, torturing, raping and enslaving the Syrian population. This is the same IS that was formed as a direct consequence of the Iraq invasion, according to documents from the Chilcott report and the recent admission of the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

    I can understand if you have missed all this going on, when the farce of the US presidential election is far more entertaining and worrisome. I mean which of the 2 main candidates is least likely to start a war? Hacked-off Hilary, who has openly blamed Russia for all the leaked emails and supported all the previous invasions, or Tantrum Trump, who seems to offend people every time he opens his mouth and displays a temperamental and unpredictable nature. I wouldn't want that choice.

    Just don't assume when your politicians talk of countering Russian aggression by sending more of our young men and women to be stationed on their doorstep, that they have your best interests at heart. Question everything and look for 2 sources of evidence. Because we are all losers in the stupid crazy war game.

    Monday, 10 October 2016

    Debt

    I read a statistic this week that I won't forget in a hurry. The world is $152 trillion in debt.

    As kids we are taught that banks are places where people keep their savings and the bank then lends that money out to people who want to borrow money. If money is based on gold or silver then this idea works. The amount of gold available doesn't change much. A little more is mined each year but the total amount of gold on the planet is finite. This means that the banks would only have money (gold) to lend to people, if they had deposits from people who have savings or excess gold.

    Paper money has no physical limits. It literally grows on trees. We can chop down more trees, make more paper and print more money. But the government has put in strict controls to limit who can print money and how much is printed.

    There are no controls at all over digital money.

    Digital money represents 97% of the money supply according to positive money (who have lots of simple videos to help people understand how money really works). The banks create digital money by typing the numbers into a computer every time a loan is made, then they charge interest on it. No wonder bankers get such big bonuses and have no concern about gambling millions on stock markets and currency speculation, because they can just create more money at the tap of a key.

    If you are still struggling to believe this, then ask yourself how the world can be $152 trillion in debt otherwise? Where did all this money come from to lend to people, businesses and countries?

    How are we going to pay back all this debt? Create more money of course. But the banks charge interest on all the money they create so in effect you need more money than has been created to be able to repay the debt and interest. The debt can only continue to grow.

    If you are personally in debt, which most people in the UK are if they have been to university or have a mortgage, there is a certain amount of stigma and guilt attached to it, along with pressure to pay it back. Partly this comes from the general feeling that we have borrowed someone else's savings, when in reality this money is created by the banks from thin air (not requiring savings or even trees to grow it).

    It is important to understand that it is IMPOSSIBLE for everyone to pay back that debt in the current system, because of the interest attached, which means there will always be more money owed than money created. Not unless we change the system so that money creation is controlled and created without any interest attached. Until then people are debt slaves, working all their lives in the hope of paying off their debts so that they can enjoy their old age. Just know that when you pay off your debts they are just getting passed on to the next generation of debt slaves and their burden will always be heavier.

    Please don’t get stressed or beat yourself up if you are in debt. Money in its current form is a trap and even most countries with all their financial advisors are in debt. See how fast the UK’s debt is growing here. That is currently equivalent to £48,000 for every tax payer, with an average salary of £27,000, which may put your personal debt into proportion. Some point soon there will need to be a reset – governments going bankrupt and wiping the slate clean. (Only we had best hope that we are out of the EU before then, otherwise they will force the UK to take on more debt, whilst expecting a ‘bail-in’ payment from anyone with savings over £200,000, followed by a sell-off of all assets, such as ports, monuments, and the NHS, whilst simultaneously cutting pensions and welfare payments. Just saying!)

    If you want to reduce your personal debt TheMoney Saving Expert website can provide helpful tips to help you budget and save money.

    The way I see it is that money no longer represents any kind of barter or exchange. It is purely used as a tool to create debt to the banks (debt slavery). On the flip side barter and exchange rates are not linked to money. Think about it. Anything you want can be bartered or exchanged without money. Money was originally created to make it easier to collect tax. The government struggles to tax 20% of the runner beans that I gave my neighbour or 20% of the jar of jam she gave me in return.
     
    You would be surprised how many exchanges are used every day. For instance, instead of me paying for a taxi or train, my friend gave my son a lift when I wasn’t able to, knowing that I will return the favour (or complete my side of the exchange) for her daughter in the future. If you want to free yourself from debt then increase your exchange, barter, favours and gifts with family, friends and neighbours. From grouping together to provide childcare, carpooling, to couch surfing, hitch-hiking, house swapping and various other ways of cutting money out of your everyday transactions.  Focus on developing new and existing skills such as growing vegetables, carpentry, playing music, hairdressing or anything that gives you something to trade with others for the things you need.
     
    This kind of currency promotes trust and respect – something lost from our banking system.

    Tuesday, 9 February 2016

    Un-seasonal



    Blue sky makes all the difference
    The sky was blue today after yet another storm hit the UK. This was the 9th storm this winter which is more than the average.

    Rain approaching
    Storms in the UK are certainly not international news, no twisters or snowmaggedons. Just rather dull and continuous rain, accompanied by howling winds. There hasn't even been thunder and lightening to add some excitement. Some areas have experienced flooding or downed power lines, yet it is theunusual pattern of weather that makes it news-worthy for me.

    Very wet and muddy dog walks
    It is an El Nino year, which has spread a mixed bag of extreme weather across the world. Even so, I can't just shrug it off and expect next year to be 'normal' again. Have we had a 'normal' year in the last decade? A year when rainfall or temperature  records haven't been broken?

    I wish rainbows were the only thing coming from this coal-fired power station.
    The climate change predictions for the UK (that I read a good few years ago now), indicated that winters would be milder and wetter, with much less frequency of snow. Summers would also be milder and wetter, except for in the Southeast. This describes 2015 pretty well. Last summer was warm, but can anybody remember a day that was actually hot, like sunbathing-on-the-beach hot? We kept wondering when summer would start. And this winter has been exceptionally mild so far, though very wet and stormy.

    Are we moving to a 'season-less' climate in the UK, with far less definition between spring and summer or autumn and winter? That is not to say that every year will be like that, just that a trend may be emerging. I mean we can't expect to ignore all the danger signs about climate change and not have to face the consequences.

    Lovely traditional stone terraced housing
    The good news is that buildings in the UK are built to withstand this kind of weather, at least most of the dwellings are. The majority of dwellings are built of brick or stone, and feel solid and secure whilst the wind is howling round them. The style is for low-rise, compact and often terraced dwellings. Even hurricane strength winds only result in a few chimney pots being toppled, trees falling and power lines being damaged. Watch the scenes in other areas of the world and whole streets of homes get reduced to matchsticks.
    Old brick built factory still looking amazing
    This is also why we have some of the oldest housing stock - brick houses are expensive and slow to build (compared to timber) and as they last well and are expensive to replace, we keep them. Even more so with stone dwellings. My friend's cottage is over 300 years old, and the thick stone walls would have taken an enormous amount of energy to demolish.
    
    Any excuse for more nice photos
    Now I know that old houses get a bad name for not being energy efficient, but that is not entirely true. They tend to be small, so have less volume to heat, and if they are terraced they reduce heat loss by having less external wall area. Houses were built with good natural light in all rooms, before we had electricity and had a cellar and a pantry instead of a fridge or freezer.
     

    That is not to say that older buildings don't feel cold and draughty, but it is worth bearing in mind that a new efficient double-glazed window provides no more insulation than an old solid brick wall. Modern buildings with vast glazed areas are really not a great idea if you wish to reduce your heating bills. You will find that there is more focus on building houses airtight these days, to reduce unwanted draughts, and adding additional insulation to any building will always improve the thermal comfort and efficiency.
    Survived since 1483
    Other bloggers have noticed changes in their weather patterns too, sometimes major scary events like the forest fires and drought in Tasmania that Jo mentioned, or even small signs of change such as still picking raspberries in November as Mrs Thrift noted. I would love to hear of any changes that you may have noticed, wherever you are. It may be plants flowering earlier or areas flooding that have never been flooded before. It all helps to build up a picture of how the climate is changing and prepare us for what might come next.