The Gurnell Leisure Centre is situated on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and forms part of the Brent River Park. The bank of the river is designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation of Borough Importance (SINC) Grade 1. Ealing Council have stated that the leisure centre is getting old and needs to be demolished and rebuilt. They have pledged to do so, and the project to make this happen is already at the proposal stage.
So far, so uncontroversial.
But now add not one, not two, not three… but SIX high rise blocks to accompany the new leisure centre. Six high rise flats that will tower over West Ealing – easily the highest buildings in the vicinity; high rise flats that will forever change the look of the neighbourhood, and trample on a green space SINC. The surrounding fields, playgrounds and residencies will be cast into permanent shadow.
Because of the scale of the proposed development, two approvals will be needed: from Ealing Council’s planning committee, and also from the Greater London Authority (GLA).
The justification Ealing Council are using for this startling proposed change is that the money from the developers will be used to rebuild Gurnell Leisure Centre. But do they really have to approve such a dramatic development to raise the funds needed? And how much money are the developers paying towards the new leisure centre anyway? We are told that Ealing council are still ploughing at least £12.5 million into the cost of renewing Gurnell. And it is likely to be even more than that!
And it gets worse! The developers who were going to build the new leisure centre, as well as construct the two tower blocks that flank it (that is the left part of the development as you look at the mock up) have pulled out of this part of the project. That means at best Ealing will have to deal with two different developers going into one project. At worst the rebuild of the leisure centre, which is the reason all of this was happening in the first place, is at risk of being delayed or not going ahead at all!
It would have been so much easier for Ealing Council if they had just adhered to the concept of maintaining a “sinking fund”. That is, if they had put some money aside each year of the life of the Gurnell Leisure Centre in order to pay for future maintenance and refurbishments. However, they did not do this. And it has been this way over the last 30 years, during Labour and Conservative controlled local administrations. It goes on.
The two blocks that will be adjoining the new leisure centre (and currently have no developer to build them), will be the “affordable housing” part of the development in one block, and Shared Ownership in the other (the definition of “affordable” is still quite nebulous in London. Council houses? Forget it).
The other 4 high rises (that will go up to 17 storeys in height and comprise of 400 units for private sale) are to be constructed by a Malaysian developer. These will likely be marketed to, and snapped up by, foreign investors. And what is the name of this developer, you might be asking yourself?
The lack of concern by the current local administration for issues that have been raised by residents is again something that needs to be mentioned. Residents have been asked to leave scrutiny meetings when finances are to be discussed. Councillors have refused to answer questions during ward forum meetings. Labour candidates have even dodged the issue when they are out canvassing!
Surveys that have been issued asking the public questions about the proposed development have been criticised for the leading style of questioning they adopt. Questions are phrased in a way to make it appear as if the public are supporting this big development, though they might not be aware that they are doing this.
Finally, the design of the refurbished leisure centre itself has pressed ahead with very little consultation of what the public might actually want from their health space. As an example, the new exercise studios, including those used for yoga that could look out upon a panorama of fields and a river instead has a view of the main road!
We see clashes between the residents and the council brewing all through the borough of Ealing. Whether it is in the controversial “Two Towers” development in West Ealing, the horrific plans for Warren Farm or the threat to an Asset of Local Value at Gunnersbury Triangle. It appears the wishes of the existing community are very much an afterthought in the minds of the council. And Green Spaces are very much things that are easy to compromise – for the right price.
Judges Lord Justice Hickinbottom and Mr Justice Holgate have rejected outright the Judicial Review brought by local councils, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. They approved the government’s decision to build a third runway at Heathrow. [Full judgment]
A Disappointing Summary
Reading out the judgment, Lord Justice Hickinbottom barely looked up at the people in the crowded courtroom. He made no effort whatsoever to explain in plain language the nature or reason for the judgment he delivered.
He did concede “We understand that these claims involve underlying issues upon which the parties – and, indeed, many members of the public – hold strong and sincere views.”
Rather patronising to those who actually care about climate change and think we should do something about it.
The judgment was at pains to point out that it was only concerned with the legality of the government’s National Policy Statement. It was not concerned with its content or merit. But if the judgment is sound (and this is not clear because it is being appealed) the implications are profound.
One upshot of the judgment is that the Paris Agreement, signed by the UK government, can be ignored when it comes to expanding Heathrow.
The government has not actually implemented the Paris agreement, because it has not amended its Climate Act or passed any other binding legislation. So ultimately the Paris Agreement can be disregarded.
So Government has a green light to act in bad faith!
Another upshot is giving government a green light to mislead MPs and the public. The National Policy Statement (NPS) was materially misleading. For example it claimed it “.. concludes both that expansion via a Northwest Runway at Heathrow Airport (as its preferred scheme) can be delivered within the UK’s carbon obligations ..”
What the judges are saying is, in effect, that it is okay for the Government to lie and mislead. And this from a court – of all places!
The judges could reasonably argue that they were required only to consider the legality of the government’s policy, not the merits. This may be so, but judges have complete freedom, which they often use, to make general comments on a case and its issues. They are entitled to say that, irrespective of what they were forced to conclude for reasons of law, the law is mistaken or irrational or immoral.
The fact that the judges made no such comment speaks volumes.
After all, why rock the boat by suggesting we should actually take climate change seriously instead of just paying lip service? Why not hide behind legal niceties instead of saying what needs to said? ‘An easy life’ would be one of the more charitable answers.
Judges Hickinbottom and Holgate have meekly supported the government by saying that they can ignore the latest evidence and even its own undertakings on climate change. So we must now hold them as well as the government to account.
But this attitude will backfire. If people see judges just supporting the ‘establishment’ , it can only lead to even less trust in government, big business, the judiciary and ultimately democracy itself.
This is the
slogan that Rupert Read opens with, after a minute of silence.
Silence is a
powerful way to start a public “talk”. I’m impressed. More so, when see that
every person who came along to listen to Rupert’s insights of the current state
of affairs regarding climate change joins the moment of silence. Pause and
silence to reflect and grieve, and as a gesture of respect towards the climate
change induced habitat and species loss that we perpetually live through for
The tone for
the session is set. It is not going to be another one of these delusory talks
that’s aiming to wrap the listener in the warm blanket of comfort, confirming
“that everything will just be fine” and they can go home after the event and
just carry on as usual. Au contraire! Despite the initial moment of silence I
feel that this talk is going to be provocative and feisty. I like that! No
skirting around the issue, no customary British Politeness – just straight
forward inconvenient truths. So this talk is going to be to my liking. I can
already tell after the first five minutes.
skilfully engages the auditorium, connecting them emotionally to the topic of
climate change, which still is an abstract issue to the vast majority of
inhabitants of this planet. “Those who are younger than 40/50….”, “those who
have children….”, “those who worry about money or retirement funds….” – the
last one is probably designed to catch the remainders of the auditorium who
hadn’t already identified with the aforementioned two groups. Clever. Now every
person identifies to a degree with what is about to come. They are now ready to
take in the crude facts about disastrous failings in addressing climate change
as global society.
The 2015 Paris Agreement being great but
… far from achievable, because:
the current emission reduction
targets are not nearly ambitious enough to stay within the agreed 2℃, let alone
1.5℃ global warming
nations pulling out of previous
commitments to reduce CO2 emissions or knowingly or unknowingly
completely missing their targets,
every nation on earth is still is
seeking to grow their economy the “old fashioned way”, based on fossil fuels
villains like Trump, Bolsonaro and
similar despicable political representatives were voted into office,
the aviation and shipping sector,
amongst the fastest growing sectors in the world, are excluded from the Paris
nobody adequately considers the time lag, i.e., the delay between
Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) being released into the atmosphere and their respective
warming effect. This time lag has profound negative consequences for humanity. It
is currently estimated that the full heating potential of CO2 released into the
atmosphere now will take effect in approximately 40 years from now. That means that our average
temperatures during the last decade are a result of what we were thoughtlessly
putting into the air in the 1970’s!
public media still giving air-time to
“climate change deniers”, thereby impeding any constructive debates,
lack of acknowledging the consensus
of the global scientific community, warning policy makers about the impending
climate breakdown with incalculable chain reactions and feed-back cycles that
will lock us into a death spiral when losing the entire Arctic and Antarctic
ice cap, the Amazon rainforest, and all coral reefs …
goes on and on. These uncomfortable truths, dished out by Rupert, come thick
and fast now, and I can see some frowning faces, growing concern, and in some
cases shock. Good!
are facing an immediate existential crisis. We are, obliviously, living in the
midst of the 6th mass extinction period. It’s the first time in earth history
that a mass extinction event is brought upon by a living species. That is us,
humans. The time to bubble wrap the truth is over.
By now, I
assume, many in the audience are starting to wonder if there is going to be way
out of this described disaster, out of the death spiral; if there is anything
we, humanity as a whole or individuals, can do to stop society ceasing to
exist. Will Rupert offer some solutions?
The answer is yes; but before he does, he shares
three potential scenarios of future life on this planet with us. Like from a
menu. A menu that is very short though, with only three options to choose from.
Similar to a restaurant menu the cheapest option is not the best; it’s actually
one that most of us want to avoid.
In Rupert’s presentation that is Option one: Terminal Collapse. Terminal Collapse of society, and all of
earth’s systems. It does not sound very appetising, does it?
Option two sounds only marginally better.
It is the Collapse of society,
followed by a successor society that can recover from the collapse.
Wow – I’ll have some of that!
…Says nobody – at that stage…
But, looking at the past decade or more of political and societal
inactions, the question that arises is valid: What is our appetite, as
human society, for option three?
total transformation! This option is by far the most attractive, without a doubt, but it
the most “costly”. Or shall I better say, it is the option that requires
the greatest sacrifices?
Why? It requires the most profound, radical, and unprecedented changes in
human history. It requires us to tear up the entirety of our rulebooks
aimed to trust in the political and economical system as we know it.
Like in a five-star restaurant, we are facing the dilemma of wanting the most appealing and highest priced option, but probably we are not willing to pay for it. This said, the chances of attaining this total societal transformation though are not great. We may need to make peace with the fact that despite all efforts, large or small, we will only be able to achieve Option two. Coming back to what we, humanity as a whole or individuals, can do to stop society ceasing to exist, Rupert shares a list of ten things with us that evening. It is not said that this list is enough, but it is a necessary starting point without which we cannot even aspire to any better future scenario than Option two.
Here the ten takeaways for a potential survival
Some personal things we need to do:
1. Wake up! Wake up from the dream that our current society will go on, or better, stagger on, and somehow the situation will magically transform.
2. Feel! We are not exclusively rational beings. We are, in fact, through and through feeling beings. So – feel angry, frustrated, sad, outraged, fearful, hopeless, terrified, and acknowledge all these feelings. Don’t suppress them as they are key to building a consciousness of what is actually happening. We have to allow ourselves to let these facts land in our conscious mind before we can take actions.
Some practical things we need to do:
3. Lifestyle change If we want people to join us in our movement to fight climate change we need to show some leadership by flying less, eating less meat, reducing our energy consumption, thinking about how many children we will have, if any. We need to demonstrate our integrity and congruence, and commitment to the cause through actions, not only words. Leading by example. That is the most powerful way to mobilise the masses, and the impact of “the one” can be amplified to the impact of “the many”.
4. Build community Learn how to create model communities, growing food, generating renewable power, teaching and acquiring new skills to the benefit community, etc. These skills will be pivotal in determining our ability to rebuild the successor society, mentioned in Option two.
Some Policy changes we need:
5. Transformative adaptation Redirect the focus from mitigation only measures to mitigation and adaptation measures. We have to be more visionary and be more forward thinking to adapt to the challenges of climate changes, including considerations of worsening effects from time lags in the carbon cycle.
6. Deep adaptation We have to prepare for probability (or the certainty?) that our society is bound to collapse and that Option three will not occur. In order for a successor society to be able to re-emerge after the collapse, we need to provide whoever comes after us with the goods to do so. That includes, inter alia, building climate resilient seed banks for future generations to grow crops, radically phasing out nuclear power because safe operations, such as cooling the reactor core, can no longer be warranted once society collapses. We need a complete overhaul of the way we think, an absolute change of our collective consciousness.
How to implement Policy changes:
7.Change through conventional means If we want to pave a way for radical political changes we need re-learn that our voice matters, and purposefully use our civic voice in future elections. New need a new green surge. Become involved in electoral politics, get involved in May 2019 and in the 2020 elections, lobby! Will this be enough? Probably not. Is it necessary? Absolutely!
8. Rebel! We need to do all the conventional things but since this is not enough, we need to embrace civil rebellion alongside conventional means. Don’t accept legitimacy of the political system any more. Our social contract is broken, with the current political system sending us and our children to death and collapse. We need to consider all means of non-violent rebellion against any legitimate target to fundamentally change society. If we will manage to implement all of the above and this action, then maybe just maybe, we are preparing our children for Option three. For certain, it will slow down rate of deterioration. Rebellion takes more though than joining a Facebook group, liking a post, retweeting and other “2D actions”. It means to actually rebel. Strike, demonstrate, join climate activist groups, and actively engage in non-violent Civil Disobedience.
More things we need to do:
9.Talk We need to talk about Climate Change. One to one. One to many. Any form of dialogue and exchange is needed to spread awareness and awaken consciousness. It is not enough to listen to lecture and go home. In depth discussion in connection with actions 1. and 2. are essential to move towards a potential future that is not a total collapse of society. There is no alternative. No Planet B.
10. Pause…. Despite the topical urgency, we cannot allow ourselves to rush into doing things without feeling, talking, and assessing how to most effectively become part of the solution. This last point actually reminded me of Thomas L. Friedman’s wise words in his book Thank you for being late. Borrowing his words and slightly paraphrasing, I cannot think of a better way to emphasise the importance of humans to pause when facing an existential crisis. “Opting to pause and reflect, rather than panic or withdraw, is a necessity. It is not a luxury or a distraction – it is a way to increase the odds that we’ll better understand, and engage productively with, the world around us. When we press the pause button on a machine, it stops. But when we press the pause button on human beings they start. Start to reflect, start to rethink assumptions, start to reimagine what is possible and, most importantly, start to reconnect with most deeply held beliefs. Once we’ve done that, we can begin to reimagine a better path.”
After these ten action points, we are coming to the end of this educational and insightful talk, and Rupert concludes with the same slogan he started with “Your money of your life?” Like at the beginning of the talk, everybody agrees that every halfway intelligent person will choose their life, and give up the their money. Throughout the talk though we heard convincing evidence that we fail to grasp this surprisingly simple concept as a collective society. Time and time again over the past forty years we have chosen monetary interests over life. It makes one wonder, how comes we get it so wrong at global scale? There is no way that anybody can pay their way out of this. There is nowhere to hide, no other planet. Moreover, once society collapses money will become irrelevant, and it will only be worthless electronic numbers in a bank account.
In this unprecedented time, facing a terrible reality, we do need hope. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. There is no hope without us taking actions. But once we start taking actions, hope is everywhere.
Author Ina Ballik
Disclosure statement Ina Ballik does not work for, owns shares in, or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article.
It’s been an intense Autumn for the Green Party and environmentalists in general. An Autumn in which the existential threat that faces all of us has come more sharply into focus than ever. But also an Autumn that has seen us dare to hope like never before. It is a season that has given us dark glimpses of the future, but has also seen us march in numbers not seen in years as we protested against Brexit chaos. And a season in which, finally, an open rebellion has been declared against the establishment, and its suicidal “Business As Usual” policies.
And finally, as we approach the season of goodwill, perhaps we have reason to wish each other a “Green Christmas”!
The Autumn began with a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). And, as I’m sure you will now be aware, the situation has never been more critical. We have, as a planet, 12 years in which to drastically cut our current emissions in an effort to avoid a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees or more above pre-industrial levels. Even if we stop at this increase we risk devastating heatwaves, superstorms and floods that make islands in the Pacific disappear beneath the waves.
One thing is certain, the Climate Crisis will get worse from here, and it is a sad fact that global carbon emissions increased in 2017 and are set to increase again in 2018.
Hope Dies, Action Begins!
It is with the above, and with other such dramatic statements of intent, that the Extinction Rebellion (XR for short) set about their mission.
The mission began in earnest at the end of October, with a stirring call to action outside the Houses of Parliament. The highway next to Parliament was blocked for 3 hours during this protest, causing several people to be arrested, and this set the pattern for the month that followed. The highlight of this month of action was Rebellion Day on 17th November, which saw 6,000 people from around the country descend upon London.
On this day five of the main bridges in the city (Westminster, Waterloo, Blackfriars, Lambeth and Southwark) were blocked by a motley crew of rebels from all age groups, races and faiths (or lack thereof); united in the cause of trying to jolt this government from its state of denial towards this crisis we are in. At the end of Rebellion Day nearly a hundred people had been arrested.
Of all the political parties, XR was embraced most of all by the Green Party. None violent Direct Action is actually part of the ethos of the Greens, because when the establishment is no longer protecting the common good, then the laws and regulations that it has declared become part of the trappings of authority and power that must be challenged by the people.
So far such notables as Caroline Lucas, Jonathan Bartley, Molly Scott Cato, Jenny Jones and Rupert Read have pledged support to XR. And the Ealing Green Party have played their part, up to and including adding to the arrest figures! This is not a course of action that any of us has taken lightly, but we acknowledge that “Business As Usual” has ended, and that the time has come to make a fundamental analysis of this culture of economic growth at all costs.
We know this current system is not good for the planet or its animals; we know this system increases inequality, poverty, homelessness and depression in its people. Is it time to find another way?
The Green Party says yes!
And with policies that include democratic reform and the introduction of a Universal Basic Income, we are already setting forth ideas for what this new world might look like.
Fighting for a People’s Vote
Of course, part of our immediate future is still heading towards withdrawal from the European Union.
But before this drastic step is taken, should the people not be consulted on what this Brexit might look like, and should they not have the choice of ending this course if we think the risk we are taking is too great?
And so on 20th October, we joined over 600,000 people on the biggest protest march seen in Britain since the days of the Iraq War.
This is an issue that is developing by the hour; but we must do all we can to make the People’s Vote a reality, and, if the worst comes to the worst, then we must fight to get the Greenest Brexit we can get. It is probable that this will never be over.
Finally, as December begins, two bits of fantastic news!
First, with the prompting of Green representatives Caroline Russell and Siân Berry, on 6th December the Greater London Assembly voted to recommend that Mayor Sadiq Khan should agree that we are in a state of climate emergency!
Does this mean that London will finally get true protection for green spaces, traffic reduction, more protected cycle lanes and drastic action on renewable energy that it desperately needs? As yet this is unclear – but at the least, it has to be a shot in the arm for these campaigns.
Don’t forget to sign the petition to Ealing Council. Time to divest your pensions from fossil fuels!
Second, what does all this mean for the membership of the Green Party, including the Ealing Greens?
It means it’s going up!
The new Green surge has begun!
We look forward to seeing you along at one of our new look monthly meetings on the first Thursday of every month.
Compared to some of the comrades who will be taking this action alongside me, I won’t be going that long without food (2 ½ – 3 days). But it should still be an interesting experience.
We are doing this for two reasons: firstly, we wish to highlight the madness and short termism of a government that wants to build an unnecessary 3rd runway at Heathrow. This expansion will bring negligible economic benefits to the country as a whole (as has been confirmed by the government’s own economic studies on the subject).
So the benefits will be little – however the impact on an already strained environment will be great. Air pollution, noise pollution and traffic congestion, already considerable in London, will be further proliferated.
But the greatest price we will pay for this vanity project is the acceleration effect towards catastrophic climate change that this will have. Aviation is one of the biggest contributors towards an atmosphere already heaving with human generated CO2.
And here we have a government that pays lip service to climate action while favouring the car industry and pushing fracking (even being prepared to override democracy) at the expense of clean, renewable energy sources.
We need to make a stand, now.
3 Line Whip
Jeremy Corbyn, if he is serious about climate action as he claims he is, needs to impose a 3 line whip on his Labour MP’s to vote AGAINST this disastrous expansion.
That’s why we’ll be sitting outside Labour Party HQ (105 Victoria St, Westminster, London SW1E 6QT) every day from Saturday 9th June: to put pressure on Mr Corbyn to do exactly this.
I will be with them on Saturday 9th between Midday and 4PM, then on Sunday 10th and Monday 11th June between 8AM and 1PM.
And then my hardier comrades will continue the hunger strike into the week.
Why not come and say hello to us, and lend us your support?
We love Ealing, and we want to keep it wonderful for you by adding a Green voice to Ealing Council.
You have three votes. Make one of them Green where you live on 3 May to get a collaborative, innovative councillor in your area. If elected, we promise:
We will protect, enhance and grow our green spaces, both parks and natural habitats. We want a pesticide-free Ealing, with big plans to reduce plastics and fossil fuel use. We will do everything we can to keep Warren Farm and all Metropolitan Open Land for the common good. London can truly be a National Park City.
Democracy and transparency:
We will always listen, and put residents first in everything we do. We work for you and will publish all the data, minutes and decisions we can.
We have bold ideas that are an alternative to runaway development and high rise flats. We will be a voice for residents. We will provide resident-led, genuinely affordable housing on existing developed land, with holistic planning. We’ll change the Council Tax rules to make sure homes are for people to live in, not empty shells for investors. We endorse and will deliver Community Land Trusts.
We will actually deliver a cinema.
We will make our streets and public open spaces safer and more pleasant for everyone, with reduced traffic. Walking and cycling must be safe and accessible. Uxbridge Road and other roads need a Healthy Streets rethink.
We must save Ealing Hospital as well as the rest of the NHS. Read more here.
Security and wellbeing:
We will keep you safe and healthy, working with police and voluntary groups to help the most vulnerable.
We will make Ealing and Hanwell more beautiful and tranquil, with less noise and air pollution. We will divest Ealing’s fossil fuel pensions.
We promote dignity, equality, social justice and human rights for all. Nobody in Ealing will be homeless.
We will champion and revitalise local businesses and good jobs, listening to what support local entrepreneurs need while working nationally to prevent a hard Brexit.
We will make the redevelopment of Old Oak Common a ‘people’s’ development, fighting to mitigate pollution, disruption and noise from HS2 and its construction for local residents.
We will genuinely oppose Heathrow expansion and the noise and pollution that would bring, while protecting local jobs and making the existing airport a better neighbour.