Climate Change: We must not discourage young people

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When the Southampton Daily Echo ran a story recently featuring the likely sea-rise impact on Southampton, it unleashed a torrent of outraged climate change denial. Climate Central’s data was viewed as preposterous, extremely unlikely and unwarranted fearmongering. Barely 20% of respondents agreed with the report.

That reaction – the refusal to countenance the full impact of the way we live now – is perfectly understandable. There are not many things these days as trusted as bricks and mortar…as safe as houses. Unfortunately, that trust flies in the face of science. While countries are firmly in the grip of an addiction to never-ending growth, it is difficult to face up to the consequences of damage to our planet.

This deep resistance to radical change is a central concern in Jason Hickel’s studies summarised in his book, Less Is More. You may recoil from his remedies and, like Southampton Daily Echo readers, dismiss such analysis as preposterous propaganda. It does, however, form part of a fresh and enlightened approach to curricula development.

Readers who cannot tolerate Greta Thunberg’s criticisms of leadership or close their minds to any alternatives to capitalism, are unlikely to be planning to move to higher ground. 2050 may seem a very long was away. Surely the children will find a solution. Or maybe the scientists are just plain wrong? Maybe we should cross our fingers or pray harder for deliverance? Or maybe we should, at the very least, be working harder right now to resolve the funding prioritisation of sea defences.

But more than that, the sad thing is that we should by now know that we must change. Science has been clear about this for decades. Brilliant minds have espoused parts of solution. Communities and entire nations can adapt to more circular economies, understand doughnut economics, drastically reduce dependency on fossil fuels, and reset societal priorities to reduce inequality and increase wellbeing – and, in some countries, that is happening. But none of that is likely to happen with the current crew in charge of the UK.

Fortunately, young people really do know better. They may not yet be allowed to vote, they may not yet be skilled at leadership, but they will be challenged to live in the mess we are bequeathing. They will, one hopes, not be fooled as their parents have been fooled. Our greatest contribution will be to not discourage them.

* David Brunnen is media liaison officer for Fareham Liberal Democrats. He writes on Municipal Autonomy, Intelligent Communities, Sustainability & Digital Challenges.

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32 Comments

  • nigel hunter 13th Apr '21 - 11:08am

    Yes,the results of melting ice has been known for decades.Low lying land ( eg Lincolnshire ) WILL be flooded likewise all low lying land. Our belief in technology buries the power of nature.The dynasaurs lost out cos of nature.It lasted but a few years but decreased the temperature,destroyed food supplies and them The pandemics we have been experiencing these last decades can be a warning sign for us.We are not immortal,we can die out like other species.We must not have our heads stuck in the sand like ostriches pretending not to see.

  • um… a well-written article but it does set up a large number of “strawmen” and bogus arguments.

    I am not sure that 55 comments even if 80% of them are against the article exactly warrants the tag a “torrent of outraged climate change denial” among say a population of well over half a mullion in Southampton and its surrounding area.

    And we all know that comments and commentators on internet articles are weird! And you are going to get people with particular bees in their bonnets commentating every time!!!! Such as those that say climate change is a scam. I don’t think that 80% of readers will think climate change is a scam. Indeed 64% of people globally think that climate change is an emergency – https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/news-centre/news/2021/Worlds_largest_survey_of_public_opinion_on_climate_change_a_majority_of_people_call_for_wide_ranging_action.html

    While it might be a nice rhetorical flourish to set generation against generation. This is simply not the case. I don’t think that parents of the younger generations “have been fooled”. The survey mentioned shows that almost as many older people view climate change as an emergency as younger. Everyone whether 9 or 90 should be encouraged to campaign on issues they care about. Indeed Sir David Attenborough who is well into his nineties has been one of the most effective campaigners on climate change while at the other end of the age range there is, of course, Greta Thurnberg.

    Let’s unite the generations not divide them!

    And far from being “fooled” the older generation have achieved a very great deal from a standing start of it being (gradually) identified as a problem. You can argue that it should have been more quicker. That’s your right. But there has been massive progress on renewable electricity and reducing carbon from nothing.

    Keep up the good campaigning work, David. But to manipulate facts for rhetorical effect is as bad as the climate change deniers you dislike.

  • Michael 1 – I’m sad to say you are absolutely right in your assessment of this Op Ed. This is not a well researched article, but instead majors on blame and outrage rather than objective analysis. A quick look at the 55 comments identifies that more than half of the comments are the usual corny jokes and repartee, with about a dozen deniers and deliberate adopters of extreme positions and a similar number of clearly concerned.

    As for the outrightly ageist comment “Fortunately, young people really do know better,” it seems likely that the author is determined to demonstrate that in his case it might just be true. However, I would guess he is in that age group which can remember the older generation when he was a child, who said things like “Let the kids get on with sorting out the world while they still know it all”. Perhaps he missed the irony.

  • Brad Barrows 13th Apr '21 - 1:00pm

    One of the real challenges with all the ‘we must all change’ stuff is that voters may be willing to vote for changes that will adversely affect others greatly, or themselves slightly…but will not vote to make themselves significantly poorer or to significantly adversely affect the lives they currently enjoy. That may not be what people want to hear but, unfortunately, it is very likely to be true.

  • @ David Brunnen “Fortunately, young people really do know better.” Really ?

    As a matter of fact Ernst Schumacher (1911 – 1977) published, ‘Small is Beautiful’ : A Study of Economics As If People Mattered’ well over forty eight years ago back in 1973.

    In 1995 it was ranked by The Times Literary Supplement as one of the 100 most influential books published since World War II”. No doubt “The young people who really do know better”, were probably just a sparkle in their grand parents’ eyes back in those far off days.

    I do wish Liberal Democrats would grow out of identity politics. Just because a man says it, a women says it, a black person says it, a gay person says it, a young person says it, or an old geezer like me says it, doesn’t make it either right or wrong.

    Until Lib Dems grow out of identity politics then loads of people won’t listen and it will be an immediate switch off.

  • Barry Lofty 13th Apr '21 - 1:51pm

    It is the constant drip of bad news that gets so depressing especially with a serious pandemic still far from over. I know that we humans do not always behave in a sensible way towards environmental issues but surely there has to be some good news and progress on this subject, after all my wife and I often reflect that we have managed to live through acid rain, the hole in the ozone layer getting wider by the day and indeed the arrival of another ice age, and the real threat of nuclear wipeout. Is it any wonder that we have a growing mental depression problem in the world?
    As you can tell being deprived of the company of our family and my wife recovering from knee replacement surgery is bringing out “grumpy old man” syndrome.

  • @David Raw

    While I have – as you can tell from my comment – a very large degree of sympathy with your view, I think that we shouldn’t deny that younger people can bring something unique to politics because of their age (as indeed can older people – and some of the best local campaigning organisations I have seen have been pensioners’ associations).

    The young liberals of the sixties and seventies brought a new vibrancy and urgency to campaigning on apartheid for example. It was the young Liberals of that era – including the sadly departed Tony Greaves – who shook up a rather moribund Liberal national organisation and invented community politics and established ALC/ALDC as a vibrant campaigning organisation.

    And it was younger people more who have been at the forefront of the campaign for gay rights. Firstly in the 60s and 70s moving to a position where it shouldn’t be illegal but perhaps (if you read the parliamentary debates) also a position of it may be wrong and something merely to be tolerated – to a position in the 80s, 90s and noughties where LGBT sexuality is as equally valid as straight sexuality and no sexuality should be discriminated against.

    Now you are right to say that people of all ages have joined in these campaigns – and “older” people may have formed a majority of them. But I would suggest that younger people have brought a greater vibrancy, urgency and energy to them and simply looking again with fresh eyes- “why is that the case – and simply saying it has always been is not good enough”. Older people also tend to be concerned with the problems that obsessed them when younger. May be post-war economic issues rather than looking outwards to South Africa. The difficulty of producing one election leaflet let alone all year-round community politics. And of course older people perhaps do tend to a greater degree of world-weary cynicism – “if you think that’ s a problem – you should have seen what we had to put up with when young!”

    It is why I very much welcome the energy that Extinction Rebellion brings to climate change – to a big degree although not far from the majority no doubt stemming from younger people – although I personally have a fair degree of disagreement with them.

  • @David Raw

    I share your frustration with identity politics. But the experience from people’s identity is important. A black South African being beaten up by the police. An undercover Panorama programme in the 80s showing a flat suddenly becoming unavailable to be let when a BAME person tried to rent it. A gay kid being bullied and beaten up at school. A woman fearing for her safety. A man suffering greater illness and death because of his gender… and so on.

  • “Fortunately, young people really do know better.”
    The trouble is we’ve known about this since the early 1970’s – as David Raw notes, I suggest anyone under 60 has no excuse for not knowing better. I think we need to find a way to politely point out to people that this generation of parents (and grandparents) needs to start taking some responsibility for their inaction.

  • @ Michael 1 I understand all that, Michae, indeed one of my earliest political memories is of sitting outside South Africa House throughout the night in a vigil with other members of the NLYL Executive (and Eric Lubbock MP) back in 1964 protesting about what might have been the imminent execution of Nelson Mandela.

    Having said all that, it’s a matter of proportion and relevance. The PPB programme from Wales is an example of what I mean and another is a post on LDV about football (something I know a bit about because a relative came out of the pit to earn £ 6 a week and played in the 1930 Cup Final). Unnecessary virtue signalling distracts and weakens a message.

  • @ Barry Lofty It’s obvious my hip is less problematical than your knee, Barry, so cheer up, old chap.

    Let’s hope the Liberal Democrats get a bit more professional and grown up. Coming up to Scotland from Kingston to ride a borrowed bike on a canal towpath isn’t exactly marching your troops to the sound of gunfire. The last time I looked a couple of weeks ago there was a 4% in fifth place behind the Greens in a Council by-election in East Midlothian (Gladstone’s old seat, but no mention on LDV ).

  • Barry Lofty 13th Apr '21 - 4:45pm

    Thanks David, but giving me the news of the 4% support In East Midlothian will not do much for my morale, hope the hip is ok!

  • David Evans 13th Apr '21 - 5:35pm

    Some say that David Raw has always been ‘hip’. Others that his ‘hip’ has always been dodgy.

  • The readers of the Southampton Daily Echo should be congratulated on their good sense. They are right about the projected sea rise and it seems they are right about Climate Central. Can I ask why the writer sounds as if he regrets the reaction of the readership? Surely he should be pleased that the newspaper report is ” preposterous, extremely unlikely and unwarranted fearmongering” to use his own quotes?

    Sadly, a great deal of the garbage that passes for news these days is deliberately designed to increase climate alarmism. In reality, sea surface temperatures have been cooling for a couple of years and atmospheric temperatures are starting to follow.

    Returning to the concerns of Mr Brunnen, please forgive me if I elect not to comment on Ms Thunberg other than to say that I still have concerns about her disrupted education and the associated parental responsibilities of her parents.

    Mr Brunnen need not worry about sea level rise. He is unlikely to see a rise of more than 3 inches in the next 30 years, so any move to higher ground is premature.

  • @David Raw –
    “I do wish Liberal Democrats would grow out of identity politics. Just because a man says it, a women says it, a black person says it, a gay person says it, a young person says it, or an old geezer like me says it, doesn’t make it either right or wrong.”

    Very well said. The logic of identity politics is non-existent. It is wokery a.k.a garbage.

  • @ David Evans I rather suspect my hip (and my transplant ten years ago) are in a rather better condition than a certain political party which I gave my all to for fifty years.

  • @David Raw – same here, but in my case only forty years so far.

    All the best.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Apr '21 - 10:28pm

    David raw makes a fabulous comment on identity, all the more relevant after the loss of the great shirley!

    David, visit the article on wales today and have a look at what seems to be identifying with a lopsided view!

  • George Thomas 14th Apr '21 - 9:32am

    “I do wish Liberal Democrats would grow out of identity politics. Just because a man says it, a women says it, a black person says it, a gay person says it, a young person says it, or an old geezer like me says it, doesn’t make it either right or wrong.”

    Agreed, but a lack of women saying it, black people saying it, people from LGBTQ+ community saying it etc. does suggest it’s incomplete, more likely to be unrepresentative and more likely to be biased. Identity politics shouldn’t be about having spokespeople (otherwise you end up with Priti Patel banning her grandparents from entering the UK) but should be about showing one is really engaging with communities who haven’t been listened to.

  • @ George Thomas

    1. If identity politics is all a political party appears to be interested in or talking about… which appears to me to be the case……

    2. if it’s hamstrung by a quasi Tory record between 2010-15 which damaged its credibility and made it hard to believe in its sincerity or commitment even when it’s new Leader was personally presented with a copy of the Alston Report on the UK, (by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights) ……..

    3. if it’s dominated by an anonymous Leadership from the comfortable London suburbs with nothing apparently to say to Hartlepool which has some of the highest levels of multiple deprivation in the UK …….

    4. If it opts for the status quo instead of Dominion status in Scotland and acquiescence to Johnsonian flavour Tory domination from London…….

    5. If it’s polling 4% in Council by-elections which demonstrates what people who bother to vote think about it, and undermines any belief in its ability to implement policy ……..

    Then, bingo. Full House.

  • I know it is not perhaps on topic but it does seem annoyingly strange that this Boris Johnson lead government is seemingly doing so well in the polls even though they have been found out on corruption, cronyism and incompetence etc etc, what does that say about the opposition party’s performance and the mindset of the electorate. Perhaps the performance of our leading politicians is as we expect them to behave so therefore just ” normal”.

  • David Brunnen may be interested in the following link. I have been researching climate science for a dozen or so years and remembered that NOAA has two sea level monitoring stations in the UK, one at North Shields, the other at Newlyn, just 220 miles from Southampton. NOAA collects the data for its global sea level database.

    https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_station.shtml?stnid=170-161

    The Newlyn station reports a steady sea level rise over the last 100 years of a very modest 1.84 mm per year.

    I also had a quick look at Climate Central. I only spent a few seconds on their site but I spotted two headline claims that I know to be incorrect. I couldn’t find who funds them but, as I say, I didn’t want to waste my time on what I suspect to be a propaganda site. There are too many of these. Climate Central claims to be staffed by scientists and journalists which would seem to be a recipe for a conflict of interest for a start. If they were diligent scientists they would check out the official data before publishing a ridiculous model projection.

  • John Roffey 14th Apr '21 - 6:46pm

    Although I have the greatest respect for the readers of the Southampton Daily Echo – their views may be a little biased if it is suggested that many of the city’s properties will be flooded in the not too distant future. There has been a significant amount of news recently on climate change that relates to the broader picture – both good and bad! [I think it is the warming of the oceans that cause the sea to rise [expansion] and it has risen by a little more than 1 degree C since records began and it is continuing to do so at an increasing pace]

    Good News: Today from BBC – US envoy John Kerry woos China over climate.

    US envoy John Kerry is heading to Shanghai to woo China in advance of a climate summit President Joe Biden is hosting next week.
    After a major diplomatic row at the UN, both sides hope to co-operate over plans to drastically cut emissions.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-56739896

    Bad News: Yesterday from BBC – World’s wealthiest ‘at heart of climate problem’.

    The world’s wealthy must radically change their lifestyles to tackle climate change, a report says.

    It says the world’s wealthiest 1% produce double the combined carbon emissions of the poorest 50%, according to the UN. [Although it is the 100 or so richest families that share the greatest blame].

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-56723560

    Bad News: Again from the BBC: – UK woodlands ‘at crisis point’ amid wildlife decline
    A review of the state of Britain’s native woods and trees has found only 7% are in a good condition.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-56738428

    Good News: At the beginning of the Month – English local elections: Ed Davey urges local funds for green projects

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-56647573

    Bad News: From the Telegraph -‘Greed is good’ does not apply to Big Pharma coming to the rescue.
    Our coming deliverance from this virus is at odds with Tories’ innate instincts on the role of self-interested individualism.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2021/04/04/greed-good-does-not-apply-big-pharma-coming-rescue/

    Bad News: From the Express – Green Britain: Sir David’s hope for climate summit ‘last chance to save planet’

    SIR David Attenborough has called for a complete change in attitudes if we are to save our planet.

    https://www.express.co.uk/news/nature/1419475/green-britain-sir-david-attenborough-climate-summit-save-planet

  • @Peter

    um…

    I share some of your concerns – it would be nice to have more details on Climate Central’s models and in general there is a temptation for media to run the “sexiest” most headline grabbing story possible.

    But…

    1. The US government’s website states: “Even if the world follows a low greenhouse gas pathway, global sea level will likely rise at least 12 inches (0.3 meters) above 2000 levels by 2100.”

    And: “If we follow a pathway with high emissions, a worst-case scenario of as much as 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) above 2000 levels by 2100 cannot be ruled out. ”

    And it has to be said the US Government hasn’t been the most friendly towards the notion of global warming.

    https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-sea-level

    The point is that rises in the sea level is happening much faster than it has over the previous 100 years and is speeding up!

    2. To be fair to the Daily Echo – it does include in its report quite a bit about the uncertainty involved. And it can be that uncertainty is over-done by companies and organisations opposed to carbon emission reduction – see the BBC Radio 4 series “How they made us doubt everything.” https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000l7q1/episodes/player And it was a tactic used by tobacco companies . Cigarettes kill half of smokers but the tobacco companies concentrated on using scientists that wondered why it didn’t kill the other half and uncertainties in the science. The oil industry then used the playbook of the cigarette companies.

    3. Climate central from a brief glance round the internet seems a reasonably well established and serious attempt at providing reasonably good information. Its chair Stephen W. Pacala is a professor at Princeton University. One of the sad things is that local newspapers have seen their staffing and resources decimated and an effort to provide local information on climate change is to be welcomed – but of course data should of course always be analysed and debated.

    But – as the commentators on the Daily Echo website point out Southampton needn’t worry – the WHOLE of their south coast rival Portsmouth will be under water!

  • @John Roffey – I totally understand. It is a nightmare for honest people. Unfortunately, the people who are active in opinion forming are neither honest, scientific, or even ethical. They are usually charlatans and not to be trusted.

    I have an honours degree in chemistry so the science is well known to me. I have progressed through R&D management, Senior management and board level management in an international comany so when climate change became an issue, I did not have time to think about it. At that time, I heard climate scientists claim that CO2 was the control knob of our climate. I thought that was preposterous so when I retired, I decided to fully investigate the whole subject.

    Twelve years on, I have studied this subject four times longer than a fresh graduate. I have a degree in chemistry to base it on, which is more than most Climatologists.

    I am not impressed.

    I cannot give you a quick reply that does your comment any justice but one thing is totally clear, The BBC is probably the world’s leading propanda source. It has a policy not to publish or transmit sceptial content. It transmits alarmist content, however questionable. It has no scientists involved in its operations, but English graduates making the decisions. The BBC is the most biased source of climate propaganda on the planet.

    I would be pleased to discuss these matters further.

  • I am being faced with big questions. I am really pleased and up to answering them but not in a few moments.

    Let me give a quick answer here. Have a look at this:
    https://science.house.gov/imo/media/doc/Christy%20Testimony_1.pdf?1

    This is John Christy, explaining his case to the House in the US.

  • Malcolm Todd 14th Apr '21 - 10:07pm

    Oh, for pity’s sake, Peter. We can all post our preferred science. Look, here’s a comprehensive debunking of Christy.
    I don’t expect you to accept it, and I don’t plan to enter into a dialogue with you about it. You’ve chosen your view, for whatever reason, and it’s obvious by now that you’re not open to any sort of persuasion. I only post this in case anyone else still bothering to visit this site thinks you’re mounting a valid attack on the scientific consensus, so they can follow the refutation of it as far as they wish to.

  • John Roffey 15th Apr '21 - 7:44am

    I am very grateful to Malcolm Todd for his warning with regard to John Christy – I was mid response when I saw his post – an eminently more thorough debunking of this climate change denier than I could muster.

    I haven’t posted a great deal to LDV in recent times so I do not know anything about ‘Peter’ – I do not recall his somewhat anonymous name from my previous time here – but his academic background does have a surprising similarity to that of Christy.

    My favourite quote from the site is:

    “The past 50 years have seen: CO2 emissions double; atmospheric CO2 concentrations rise by 25%; global surface temperatures rise by 1°C, and by much more in many Earth regions; the heat stored in Earth’s oceans increase by 2 x 1023 Joules, roughly equivalent to 300 years’ worth of worldwide energy consumption at present rates; sea levels rise by 10 cm, with the rate of rise accelerating; severe storms, droughts, floods and forest fires triple in frequency; Arctic and Antarctic ice melt rates increase 6-fold; and so forth. These are all impacts consistent with global climate model projections, and no convincing alternative explanations to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions have been offered. If this much correlation doesn’t cause you concern, you’re either not paying attention or being paid to ignore the issue.”

    Which seems to sum up the fact that there are many global corporations whose profits will suffer if a ‘green agenda’ is adopted and who have plenty of funds to sponsor deniers wherever the subject is discussed publicly.

    Corporatocracy – the very real threat to the planet and root of the immense and growing gap between the wealth of the richest and that of the poorest.

  • John Roffey 16th Apr '21 - 2:14am

    The ungodly world of the privatised US prison system – almost beyond belief!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPsTKHgpqMQ

    Chris Hedges is a highly acclaimed journalist in the US for his refusal to compromise and to report things as they are.

  • William Francis 16th Apr '21 - 12:06pm

    @David Brunnen

    Ah Hickel.

    A famous degrowther well known for extreme poverty decline denial because the number of people living in less than $7.40 had risen between 1980 and 2000 if you exclude China (which he sees as pursuing a non-capitalist alternative). Oh and he is also famous for infantilising the global south, as if only western left wingers can challenge the evil Washington consensus, despite the economic development across the many a formerly colonised state (in particular among the rapidly industrialising states of south east asia)

    Noah Smith did an excellent blog post on this.

    In any case, since when did capitalism mean system that increases output? It wasn’t that long ago socialists proclaimed that state planning if from “the commanding heights” of the economy would yield higher growth. The “addiction” as you call it was shared by even hardline anti-capitalists from every Soviet GenSec, to Mao, to Tito, to Nasser, to every premier of a Warsaw Pact state. And not for good reason. Modernity requires growth for it to settle political conflict. The left used growth to reduce inequality without lowering the absolute living standards of the rich, while the right saw growth as a means to assure increased spending on public goods without hiking taxes too much. When stagnation hits savage political conflict arises. This was why China, Vietnam and Cuba have pursued market reforms since the 1980s and 1990s. Not because the nomenclature became avid readers of Friedman and Hayek, but out of a desire to try anything to pursue growth.

    If preventing climate change means ending capitalism, then we are doomed. If Kruschev couldn’t bury the capitalist west with the full might of the Warsaw Pact and the red army and if a Michael Foot lead Labour Party couldn’t win an election against Thatcher, how will you succeed?

    Mass decabonisation is needed and some level of corporatism too to achieve it but it will not find support if mass reductions in the standard of living are on the cards.

  • Peter Hirst 16th Apr '21 - 1:42pm

    Politicians are responsible for applying the precautionary principle to global issues such as climate change. It like the pandemic is an opportunity to build better. There is a serious lack of leadership in addressing these challenges and adapting as the science changes. They must build trust to facilitate the collaboration that is needed.

  • John Roffey 16th Apr '21 - 4:55pm

    William Francis:

    Surely it is the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction that has prevented wars between the superpowers – whether communist or capitalist. The same applies to climate change.

    Details of John Kerry’s trip to China indicate that the Chinese government is equally concerned over the climate crisis as the Biden administration. Achieving CO2 emission targets that will provide the possibility of avoiding the most severe aspects of climate change is a win/win situation – as is the case for avoiding a lose/lose nuclear war.

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