On February 14th, during a Birmingham Fossil Fuel Divestment Day in Victoria Square, Birmingham City Council was asked to move investment from fossil fuel companies.

bfoe divestment day2

Birmingham Friends of the Earth produced a giant Valentine’s Card, signed by members of the public and organisations, asking Birmingham City Council to be their “valentine” by divesting from fossil fuels. Read on here.

On the same day, in the Priory Rooms (Bull St), the Central England Quaker Low Carbon Commitment Forum heard about steps taken by Quakers in Britain to disinvest from companies engaged in extracting fossil fuels. The decision was taken by their Investment Committee, following their 2011 commitment to become a sustainable low-carbon community.

A sign that efforts to tackle climate change have been more effective than expected

iea logoA month later the Financial Times reported the International Energy Agency findings that global emissions of carbon dioxide, the most long-lasting greenhouse gas, did not rise in 2014 – for the first time in 40 years. Though the global economy grew 3%, the amount of CO2 pumped out remained at the 2013 level of 32.3bn tonnes.

Two factors were mentioned:

  • China has cut its use of coal, one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions, and installed more hydroelectricity, wind and solar power, imposed energy efficiency standards for industry, shut older factories and shifted away from the heavy manufacturing that has powered its economic growth.
  • Wealthy OECD countries have started to “decouple” economic expansion from emissions increases as they install more renewable energy plants and set a range of stricter standards on car fuel economy and home appliance energy use.

The IEA is to publish a June 15 report advising governments what energy measures should be agreed at a December meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris where world leaders are due to finalise a global climate change pact.


arena centralThe centre – artist’s projection

birmingham job centreThe periphery Mr Guthrie ignores

In ‘Karmic payback for a UK city the crisis killed’ Jonathan Guthrie – enthused by the much-disciplined HSBC’s decision to move from London to the Arena Central development – offers ‘a better guide to a city rebounding from a deep downturn’ to nearly 1,000 HSBC staff set to relocate from London:

“Birmingham had a spring in its step even before the bank decided to move its UK operation there. More Londoners in their thirties flee the capital’s high house prices and hectic lifestyle for Birmingham than for any other UK city. Output increased 4.2% in 2013, more than twice the national average”.

He notes that the economic crisis which damaged ‘the industrial West Midlands’ was ‘incubated partly in the City of London’ – and asserts that banks such as HSBC that create jobs in Birmingham are paying karmic reparations for the damage the financial crisis did to the city. Hmmm . . .

Extolling the ‘luxury vehicle maker (which) is now an exports powerhouse’ no mention is made of the city’s problems, which include:

  • traffic congestion
  • poor air quality which may lead to EU sanctions
  • high youth unemployment
  • derelict buildings and brownfield sites
  • housing shortages

empty shopsBut if HSBC workers read the Post, not the Mail, confine themselves to the city centre, commuting to the leafy suburbs – like most  city decision makers, elected and unelected – this image could remain intact.


hs2 kelvinhopkins debate 2011

A 130-page report on the HS2 project, just released by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, adds to concerns over HS2’s value for money expressed by the National Audit Office, echoing a similar report published by the Commons Public Accounts Committee in January. None of the media reports seen – as is often the case – provide a link to the report, which we now offer: Report: The Economic Case for HS2 (HTML)

Read on here.


The Birmingham Metallurgical Association

Affiliated to the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining

BMETA logo 2

Programme 2014-2015

Thursday, March 26th. Lecture Room GC13

School of Metallurgy and Materials, University of Birmingham.


              Andreas Zuttel,  LMER/EMPA, Switzerland Switzerland                                                                 


Hydrogen is produced from water by means of electrolysis with renewable energy. CO2 is abundant in the atmosphere at a concentration of 400 ppm. The extraction of CO2 and reduction with hydrogen to hydrocarbons leads to synthetic and CO2 neutral fuels. Furthermore, the controlled reaction to a specific product like C10H22 would allow the storage of large quantities of renewable energy in a relatively easy way, based on established technology for diesel fuel. However, two major challenges have to be overcome: (1), the development of the energy efficient extraction of CO2 from the atmosphere and subsequent concentration to pure CO2 at 1 bar, and (2), the development of new reaction pathways which allow the reduction of CO2 to a specific product.


  Please note the change of venue.

(A light buffet will be available beforehand at 6.00pm in Metallurgy and Materials, immediately next to the Lecture Theatre)

hall green cnd header

Hall Green CND draws attention to the January debate in Parliament. The motion by Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP) was: “That this House believes that Trident should not be renewed”. It was supported by members of the Green and Plaid Cymru parties and some from the Liberal Democrat and Labour parties, but was voted down.

Roger Godsiff (Birmingham, Hall Green) (Lab) who spoke in the Commons debate explains on his website that he considers that the two arguments put forward for the ‘so-called’ independent nuclear weapons deterrent are both myths.

  • “The first myth is that the system is ‘independent’ . . . The UK does not own the missiles. It leases them from America where they are made, maintained and tested. Our 4 submarines have to go to the American naval base in Georgia to have the missiles fitted. Therefore our nuclear deterrent is totally dependent on America.
  • “The second myth is that the UK would lose its seat on the United Nations Security Council if it did not have nuclear weapons. This really is nonsense. When the United Nations was set up in 1945 the 5 permanent members of the Security Council, who have a veto, were the victors of the Second World War. Of the 5 countries only America had nuclear weapons. To suggest that a country has to have nuclear weapons in order to be a member of the Security Council is totally untrue”.

In addition to membership of the NATO defence pact, Roger Godsiff stresses the need to be able to deal with threats from domestic terrorist groups and make sure our police and internal security organisations are properly funded to disrupt their activities. He recalled an incident some years ago in White Street, Sparkbrook, where a terrorist cell planning to set off bombs in central Birmingham was monitored and the premises raided before any atrocity was carried out. The individuals involved were all convicted and received long prison sentences and Godsiff concluded:

“Committing £100 billion to renew our nuclear deterrent is ridiculous at a time of austerity when so many of our services, including conventional defence forces, are being dramatically cut. This is why I voted against renewal.”

scrap trident

 Hall Green CND are to ask Hall Green and Yardley election candidates about their views on the renewal of Trident and post their answers on their website.


MPCT college logo

A link to news of the January opening of Birmingham’s new Military Preparation College (MPCT) on the campus of Balaam Wood Academy, Northfield, was sent by a local reader.

MCPT is a specialist college for 16-18 year olds interested in pursuing a career in the armed forces. 15 students have enrolled on the 20 week programme, after which they can apply to the armed forces or progress into further education, training or employment.

Local VIPs, armed forces personnel and other guests were presented with energetic demonstrations of drill marching, public speaking, physical training and a team log race. In March, Tristram Hunt MP visited the college and saw MPCT learners demonstrating the type of active learning that they undergo day-to-day, including communication, teambuilding and leadership tasks.

No reference was made to their ‘end function’ or the real meaning of warfare

harry patch quote


traffic city centre

A coalition of UK businesses, including GlaxoSmithKline, Santander, National Grid, Sky and the Automobile Association, has called for increased national spending on cycling infrastructure. The FT reports that in a letter to David Cameron, Ed Miliband and five other party leaders, the companies called for action:

  • 5% of the UK’s annual transport expenditure to be ringfenced for cycling infrastructure;
  • national design standards for a cycle-friendly road network by 2016;
  • a national policy on cycling to avoid a “hotchpotch” of transport infrastructure
  • and a target for 10% of all trips to be made by bicycle within the next decade.

About 2% of all journeys are now made by bicycle, but there has been slow progress in improving roads – as the writer has found on moving to the otherwise perfect Bournville.

The FT notes that London has led the way in improving cycling infrastructure after mounting outrage over the deaths of cyclists on the capital city’s roads. Last year, Boris Johnson, London’s mayor, announced plans for “cycle superhighways” running across the city that would accommodate 3,000 cyclists an hour on the east-to-west track alone.

The costs of congestion – here excluding health damaging air quality

Edmund King, president of the AA approved: “The benefits can work both ways. If you get more people cycling that means potentially less traffic congestion”.

A few months ago the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) recorded the findings of INRIX, Inc., an international provider of real-time traffic information, transportation analytics and connected driver services, announced that the combined annual cost of traffic gridlock in the UK economy will see the largest overall increase in Europe and the US, rising from $20.5 billion in 2013 to $33.4 billion in 2030 (63% increase).

inrix traffic graphic

The health concern didn’t prevail . . .

For many years Birmingham FOE campaigners have said that cycling can provide a large part of the solution. In 2011 the council produced an air quality action plan which highlighted pollution produced by road traffic as a major problem. Its report stressed the problem of nitrogen dioxide, which mainly comes from road vehicles, and highlighted a study which concluded that long term exposure causes lung scarring and emphysema.

Will the business case?

INRIX points out that during peak periods business trips make up 12% of road traffic and freight makes up 7% of road traffic in the UK. There are higher freighting and business fees from company vehicles idling in traffic. Companies have to pay their drivers more whilst stuck in traffic and also pick up the bill for fuel. These higher delivery costs are passed on to the consumer.

Sources include:





“He did not have a good death”: these reticent words from a grieving Solihull widow were all that she felt able to say of the prolonged intense emotional and physical suffering her husband endured before his death. She added, “I have joined joined Dignity in Dying”. A Birmingham resident last week told the writer that her father, in similar circumstances, had asked for strychnine to be procured for him.

A condition not included in the demands of this organisation but recognised by medics and Dignitas as terminal, is dementia. Dementia is not just an enhanced state of memory loss – an inconvenience – but can adversely affect the whole personality. A Birmingham resident who shared care of a formerly bright and independent relative with this condition for two years had to contend with extreme physical aggression, incontinence and refusal to wash.

cambridge assisted dying videoVideo of Cambridge assisted dying debate – link below

It is the core goal of Dignitas that one day nobody in the UK or any other country needs to travel to Switzerland for a self-determined end of suffering and life anymore.

People who would opt for assisted dying when diagnosed with dementia, and who have made the declaration whilst still in good health, should be given every facility in their region. For years Scandinavian countries have had a range of acceptable provision and a few American states. Only Switzerland, with compassion, offers this facility to foreigners. As respected journalist Simon Jenkins notes, an average of twenty people a month kill themselves ‘surreptitiously’ at home and two terminally ill people a month go to Switzerland to end their lives.

At the moment the medical and care industries – a powerful parliamentary lobby – have a vested interest in prolonging the unhappy lives of such people, profiting by payments from their families and the state.

The human right to control the circumstances of one’s own death was asserted by Dr Atul Gawande in a recent Reith lecture.

debbie purdySimon Jenkins wrote that right-to-die campaigner, Debbie Purdy’s life and death by self-starvation – forced on her by parliament – should be celebrated by the Commons passing the House of Lords’ “dignity in dying” bill forthwith.

As he continues: an overwhelming majority of the public – 60-70% – wants it. The weight of legal and ethical opinion wants it. Eighty of the great and good writing to the Daily Telegraph at the weekend want it. Objection, he adds, is largely confined to religious prejudice and medical authoritarianism.

Simon Jenkins concludes that Debbie Purdy’s husband thanked the Marie Curie hospice in Bradford for helping his wife through the awful experience of self-starvation forced on her by parliament:

“How much better if he were now able to thank parliament for relieving others of having to face the same ordeal”.

Further reading:


A regular customer of the wholesale markets replies:


“From all the discussions I’ve had at the market in the last few weeks there’s no way it will be relocated in 2015 or 2016.

“They had still not come to agreement with the council was the last thing I heard.

“I think it will probably end up being 2018 before the market move finally takes place”.

Digbeth-based architect and urban designer Joe Holyoak comments:

“What is published in today’s newspaper is a pretty insubstantial series of photoshopped images – very little content. The description “family leisure quarter” is equally insubstantial – a concept dreamt up by a marketing executive I imagine.

Named after the resource which it destroys . . .

“And the proposal follows what seems to be an immutable rule of new development. It is named after the resource which it destroys – in this case with a generation’s delay.

smithfield market

“Smithfield market was an excellent 19thC building, destroyed in the early 1970s on the instructions of Albert’s predecessor as Labour leader, Clive Wilkinson”.

Is this plan to be taken seriously or is it just one more pre-election fanfare?


Today it has been reported that developers have presented a £500m plan to build another ‘major shopping area’ and housing in the centre of Birmingham on the site of the wholesale markets.

The timescale for the final relocation of the markets varies considerably: the BBC report says the wholesale market was due to move in 2016, but the council’s projection in January last year was that the new market site would open in May 2015.

hub witton wholesale market

They will be housed in the Hub industrial estate (above), a few miles from the city centre and run by the city council and traders through a joint management company.

The Post reported that traders will be compensated for the loss of capital investment, such as large refrigeration units and relocation costs and the retail markets will get new storage facilities because their suppliers will be four miles away instead of a few yards.

Will assistance also be given to those retail traders who need to purchase a vehicle to convey produce from Witton into the city centre?



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