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Back to politics after a much-needed month out and what has spurred me to get blogging again was both the excellent radio 4 series of this name last week, and the frustration of last night’s Any Questions programme.

First the good bit: A Load of Rubbish tackled the issue of what happens to our rubbish. Now I know that this is a typical Green issue – we are easily labelled as only caring about recycling, but these programmes looked at the huge infrastructure which is needed to deal with what we all too easily call waste. Ranging from plastic bottle recycling and dealing with fridges to landfill, the most interesting programme was the one on food waste. It highlighted a shining example of how to deal with food waste in Ludlow, an anaerobic digestion (A.D.) scheme, which produces electricity to power the vehicles to collect the waste from homes, restaurants, supermarkets etc, plus heating, plus a soil-improver compost. This is infinitely better than landfill or incineration.

That programme ended with the reminder that A.D. is not new technology, for instance in 1895 a major A.D. plant was built in Exeter to stablilise sewage sludge, and the resulting biogas lit the streets of the city in gas lamps. Asked why we stopped doing things like that, the reply was that in the twentieth century we lived with the luxury of low energy costs. Now we need to invest in technology like this again to protect our futures.

The presenter ended the programme though by addressing the fact that the rubbish industry is really the dark side of consumption. Our obsession with accumulating stuff and the subsequent need to get rid of it even if it’s perfectly functional is what we have to challenge. He ended with a plea that we as individuals have the power to buy less rubbish, which is true, but we also need political action to move things in the right direction. Laws to prevent manufacturers creating so much waste packaging, to prevent councils building incinerators to burn “waste” which is in fact a valuable resource, and indeed revolutionising society so that people value each other more than things.

Now for the other load of rubbish, which was Any Questions, or at least the panel were. A tory, two new labour and the chief exec of Britain’s biggest private health care company, so very much centre-right. The audience invited by the Workers Educational Association, who were hosting it, in Newcastle, as part of their Centenary celebrations, were overwhelmingly very much to the left of the panel. So there was some heckling and booing as you can imagine.

However the frustration was also in the questions they chose, not challenging enough really. The WEA had offered the regional Green Party tickets, which was very welcome, as the BBC’s guidelines only state that the 3 big parties should be offered tickets. So a group of us went along and put in lots of questions, eg about the causes of the Pakistan floods (climate change and illegal logging), arctic oil drilling, deregulation of food industry & obesity, and the world’s biggest traffic jam in China – nothing as interesting got chosen….

Still we had an excellent de-brief after with local real ale in the Bodega.


One Comment

  1. Sandyford lad in Glasgow here, glad to hear the Bodega is still a hotbed of real ale / green politics.

    I heard the episode and was similarly discouraged and encouraged. I’m sure the BBC would rather have a quiet ‘consensus’. I used to deliver the Evening and Sunday papers to the WEA.

    Glad to hear the audience wouldn’t accept the cosy atmosphere that usually reigns.


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