Does Climate Change change our perspective and actions?

by Claudia Carter

London Peoples Climate March 21 Sept 2014_Leonie Greene via twitter

People’s Climate March, London, 21 Sept 2014. Photo by Leonie Greene via twitter

Participation in ‘People’s Climate March’ last week-end was reported from across many cities and continents, with Birmingham contributing its own contingent of citizens’ voices to demand action by UK politicians and other Governments on global climate change. Increasingly, we are confronted with the likely scenario of irreversibility of change – and that is change for the worse rather than better, as rapid environmental change and extreme weather events manifest themselves faster than technological utopian remedies. Sluggish energy-related targets and policies across sectors that hang onto economic growth fairytales are beginning to frustrate an increasing number of not so happily ever after citizens. Yet, the September demonstrations showed their own ugly dilemmas of modern consumerism and mobility: how to reduce negative impacts in travelling to climate change events and reduce adding high-energy trash of convenience foods and drinks – the hypocrisy being captured by some media photos of rubbish left behind.

Quote 1 for Blog 22In the larger scheme of things though, I was rather impressed by the appetite for effective ‘real’ action to help curb the emissions and negative impacts of our carbon-hungry industries and associated superfluous life-styles. [Read more…]


The future of urban form and infrastructure: more effective management of flooding and other challenges

by Peter Larkham

“Plan boldly!” (Lord Reith, 19401)

Photo of flooded residential area at Wimborne, February 2014

Flooding on the Stour, Wimborne, Dorset.
Photo: Ian Kirk (via Flickr)

The recent floods are just one example of the problems we are likely to face in the coming 50-100 years as a result of environmental and social change.  Traditional urban forms are vulnerable, and current ways of planning are weak and slow to respond.

I spent a day recently at an ‘expert symposium’ on the future of urban form and infrastructure, part of the Government Office for Science’s “Foresight Future of Cities” project.  It was a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion with a good range of experienced academics and professionals.  But it actually said very little about form or infrastructure in any detail.  We largely accepted that much existing research had already identified good and bad form, and in fact the key to better urbanism in the future was better management, at all scales.

So, acknowledging ideas from the assembled experts (though anonymised via Chatham House rules), there are some radical lessons for planning and management. [Read more…]


Are the Streets of London Really Paved with Gold?

by Roger Wall

 

Hey!  This is one question to which I think I know the answer.  That’s unless they’ve been doing a lot of expensive repaving work since I was there a couple of weekends ago to see the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park.  The reason I’m so confident that nothing will have changed is that the government is too busy saving up so that it can build HS2.  This (of course) is the high speed rail link that seems designed to get us all to the capital as quickly as possible.  Despite controversy over the economic case, the environmental consequences and the (lack of) social benefits (not to mention a sudden £10bn price-hike a couple of weeks ago), the government seems determined to drive this one through.  It’s only track ‘n’ rolling stock but they like it.

Quote Blog 10A few things occur to me.  For a start, why are we all so desperate to get to the Big Smoke?  Sure, it’s a great place and I like going there; but Birmingham’s pretty good too and I’ve also heard nice things about Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield (feel free to amend this list to suit your own preferences).  I spent a few years living in Germany and one of the things that struck me over there was the way in which the major cities all had their own identities and sense of importance.  Perhaps this was a consequence of the (then) capital being the relatively small town of Bonn (which might give a clue as to how long ago I was there) but it always seemed very healthy to me.  One of the ‘pro’ arguments I’ve heard for HS2 is that it will allow people flying to Birmingham to get to London quicker.  Is ‘Birmingham International Airport’ destined to become ‘London North’?  Surely, it would be better if the people actually wanted to stay in Birmingham. But don’t start me up on that one.

[Read more…]


The Growth of the NUMBY

by Roger Wall

Gasland movie cover and trailor linkDoes the Earth move for You? If you live in the North West of England, it already has on a couple of occasions and may well do so more often in the future.  After a one-year moratorium on exploratory fracking, the Government has decided that the scientific evidence does not link the practice of forcing liquids into the ground at high pressures to crack rocks with the occurrence of earthquakes.  Moreover, within weeks of this ground-breaking decision (did you see what I did there?), it has decided to offer huge tax incentives to companies wishing to exploit the supposedly vast reserves of shale gas beneath our feet (or at least under the feet of those who live in the North West).  So after a few wobbles, energy policy appears to have shaken off its reservations, papered over any cracks in the science and embraced shale gas as the next cheap energy alternative.

[Read more…]


Has Health and Safety Gone Mad?

Has Health & Safety gone too far?

Has Health & Safety gone too far?

by Ian McDonald

On 11th June, the Construction workers’ Union (UCATT) held a rally entitled ‘SOS: Save our Safety’ in an attempt to “highlight and expose the … Government’s attacks on health and safety”. This stems from a speech given by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in January 2012 in which he told an invited audience of entrepreneurs and representatives from small businesses that he is “waging a war against the excessive health and safety culture that has become an albatross around the neck of British business”.

Mr Cameron’s comments were, unsurprisingly, well-received by much of the written press – who have been at the forefront

[Read more…]