Cardiff Friends of the Earth Newsletter - Summer 2004

Cardiff Friends of the Earth Council Election Hustings

As part of our Green X Code Campaign, which involved mailing all of the Council Election Candidates, Cardiff Friends of the Earth hosted a council election hustings on 20 May 2004. Representatives were invited from all the main political parties to comment on our five key requirements for a more sustainable Cardiff.

Declare Cardiff a GM-free area and ensure school meals are healthy and made from organic and / or locally produced food.
Energy. Reduce climate change by the Council buying all its electricity from renewable sources.
Planning. Oppose housing developments at Llanishen and Lisvane Reservoirs and instead to develop them as a country park.
Waste. Create jobs and save scarce natural resources by recycling and composting 60 per cent of waste in Cardiff by 2010.
Transport. Oppose the construction of the Eastern Bay Link Road and the Wentloog / St Mellons Link Road, Phase 2.

Cardiff Friends of the Earth were pleased to hear that three of the five candidates supported our intention to declare Cardiff a GM-free area. However, the group was shocked to hear the views of both the Labour and Conservative candidates on the issue. Their view was "it is already here", there is nothing they can do about it. This is inaccurate, showing a lack of concern and imagination. The same two candidates also failed to be ambitious about setting higher recycling targets in order to combat the growing waste problem.

There was broad support expressed for the idea to switch the energy supplier for the Council to one that supplied electricity generated from renewable sources. This could easily be done and would have the benefit of supporting the growing renewable energy industry. However some of the candidates qualified their agreement on the basis of the cost. This showed that some of the candidates were more concerned about economics than the environment. They failed to recognise the competitive price of renewable electricity.

The only issue that there was unanimous support for was the one concerned with the proposed housing development at Llanishen and Lisvane Reservoirs. Cardiff Friends of the Earth will look to all councillors to fight hard against the planning application by Western Power Distribution. The group was, however, deeply concerned by the fact that all candidates, except the Green Party candidate, showed some willingness to see the Eastern Bay Link Road built. This is a tremendously expensive and destructive proposal that we will work hard to stop in the future.

We then moved on to a question and answer session chaired by Alex Bird, Director of the Innovate Trust. This included questions about Fair Trade, improved public transport, the impacts of radioactive tritium discharges from the Nycomed Amersham plant in Whitchurch, the Cardiff night bus service, and using empty houses for housing the homeless rather than building on greenfield sites.

The final scores for each candidate were:

  • Gareth Neale, Conservative, 1 out of 5.
  • Rodney Berman, Liberal Democrat, 3.5 out of 5.
  • Delme Bowen, Plaid Cymru, 3 out of 5.
  • Clare Sain ley Berry, Green Party, 5 out of 5.
  • Phil Robinson, Labour, 2 out of 5.

All muck and magic

Why not get some healthy exercise, as well as producing your own fruit and vegetables, by getting an allotment? Cardiff is lucky to have about 30 allotment sites so there is bound to be one somewhere near you.

All you have to do is call the Cardiff County Council Allotments Officer on 029 2068 4000. Rents are still cheap and each site has services such as tool sheds and a water supply. All you need to do is get out there and enjoy the fresh air. You will also meet other people trying to grow their own food, so it is easy to make friends at the same time. Each site has its own Secretary, who will help you find the right plot for your needs.

Working with the Ethnic Women's Network

Cardiff Friends of the Earth were approached by MEWN Cymru (Minority Ethnic Women's Network), as they had identified that many of the women involved with the group were interested in environmental issues.

They asked us if we could facilitate a workshop on our No to GMO campaign and explain some of the issues in greater detail. We worked closely with the Riverside Community Market and BTCV Cymru to prepare for the workshops. On the day the Riverside Community Market and Cardiff Friends of the Earth worked together to look at the issues surrounding local food, food miles, GM, seed patenting and growing your own food. We also looked at climate change when discussing food miles and composting, Fair Trade, factory farming, use of chemicals on the land and many other subjects.

The group of nine women who attended were a very receptive audience. It was nice to work with such a lively and vibrant group. Many of the issues brought up were new to them and provoked lively debate. When we discussed the barriers faced by women from ethnic minority communities we realised that group discussions and face-to-face contact were some of the best approaches to get people involved.

We realised that the way we communicate can create the greatest barriers. This was confirmed by our work with MEWN. Research done by the BTCV shows that people from Black and minority ethnic groups felt that they simply had not been approached by environmental organisations. They also found that a significant proportion of those asked were interested in environmental issues but many didn't know how to get involved.

We hope to develop this relationship further and involve these groups in some of our activities to raise their awareness. We look forward to doing more work with MEWN, the Riverside Community Market, and other groups in the future.

The real fuel crisis

On 5 June 2004 Cardiff Friends of the Earth joined other groups to protest about a number of global issues which were relevant to the G8 Summit.

This coincided with the third fuel tax protest by lorry drivers. The only protest by the lorry drivers about the rising cost of fuel that took place in the UK was in Cardiff. They were met by Cardiff Friends of the Earth and other groups who opposed their views.

Fuel prices are rising because of uncertainty about the situation in the Middle East and the growing demand for oil. These problems won't go away and continuing high fuel prices will hit consumers and motorists hard.

Burning fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel causes dangerous climate change, the biggest threat facing the world. Transport produces over a quarter of the UK emissions of carbon dioxide, the main climate change gas. Our love affair with the car is killing the planet.

The real solution is to reduce our dependence on petrol and diesel. This would be a win for the environment, motorists and consumers. Lower fuel prices would encourage people to drive more and reduce the incentive to buy more fuel-efficient cars.

Friends of the Earth wants the Government to:

  • Make sure the motor industry builds more fuel-efficient cars.
  • Increase the use of cleaner, renewable fuels such as biofuels.
  • Invest more in alternatives to car use, such as better public transport.
  • Investigate how it could help groups most affected by high fuel prices, such as rural communities.

These measures will help reduce our dependence on oil, benefiting our pockets and the environment.

Festival fever

Cardiff Friends of the Earth held a stall at the Riverside Festival with a wide variety of information, ranging from waste to trade. We spoke with a number of people about some of our current campaigns and the work done by the group. This allowed us to engage with a wide cross-section of the Riverside community.

Cardiff Friends of the Earth also helped publicise the Splott Festival. We held the Great Splott Plant Swap. Buying plants from large nurseries has environmental problems. These include the destruction of bogs by peat extraction, pesticide use on the plants, and fuel use transporting them. Swapping plants we don't need for other plants is a practical way to avoid these problems. We also spoke to a wide variety of people from Splott, informing them about environmental issues.