News & Views

Trident renewal

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(Image source: http://www.medact.org/campaigns-actions/open-letters/trident-take-action/)

Trident- what is it?

Trident very much is a relict of Britain’s Cold War nuclear deterrence strategy. It consists of four British submarines carrying nuclear weapons, up to 8 missiles and 40 nuclear warheads each. According to CNDUK (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament UK) these are 8 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, which killed at least 129.000 people.  

One of these submarines is floating somewhere in the oceans of this world at all times while the other three are either in maintenance or used for training. Trident was decided on in the early 1980s by the Thatcher government and came into use in the 1990s. Already back then BPEC opposed the use of Trident. In the last year or so the debate around Trident has livened up again and once more it is important to oppose it.

 

Why now?

If Trident was to be kept in use it has to be renewed soon. The decision to renew it has already been made by parliament in March of 2007, when 409 MPs voted for the renewal, to 61 votes against it. Since then there has been some planning and conceptual work going on and the “Initial Gate” phase, which is the Project Approval Stage of the renewal process, has been approved. However, in October 2010, the government chose to delay the ultimate decision if the renewal process should continue and how many submarines should be ordered until this year, 2016.

 

What are the political positions?

The Conservative Party have always supported the renewal of Trident with the argument that the UK needs nuclear weapons as an “insurance policy” against attacks on the UK. They pledged for replacing Trident in their manifesto in the general elections last year.

Labour has backed the renewal of Trident until now, stating that it is a cornerstone of peace and security. This position could change, though. After the election of Jeremy Corbyn, who opposes Trident, as leader of the Labour Party it is in doubt if Labour will stick with its support of Trident.

The SNP heavily oppose Trident’s renewal and their campaign against it was a fundamental part of their campaign in the general elections last year. They have described Trident as “unusable and indefensible”, explaining that “the plans to renew it are ludicrous on both defence and financial grounds”.

 

What’s the argument for renewing Trident?

Supporters of Trident say that it is an integral part of the UK’s security. Because of new threats, for example from “rogue states” and terrorist groups, there is a lot of uncertainty of how attacks on the UK could be dealt with. Nuclear weapons could help with deterrence. Furthermore, some say that the UK’s global influence would shrink without nuclear weapons. Besides the defence industry is a big employer, according to the BBC 15.000 jobs could be lost if the renewal of Trident doesn’t go ahead.

 

And the opposition?

Even though the renewal of Trident might cause the loss of some jobs, scrapping it could actually create a lot more jobs. The costs for Trident are enormous. The government estimated the costs between £15bn and £20bn, but Greenpeace has calculated that it might be more like at least £34bn and Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour party quotes £100bn. With this money Accident and Emergency departments across the country could be fully funded for 40 years, 150.000 new nurses could be employed, 1.5 million affordable homes could be built, 30.000 new primary schools or the tuition of 4 million students could be paid (numbers according to CNDUK). In short, there are better things that could be done instead of wasting money on nuclear weapons that might never be used.

The use of Nuclear Weapons is questionable, as it is illegal under international law. In 1996, the International Court of Justice has ruled that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is contrary to the rules of international law. Thus, Trident is not much more than a status symbol, as Tony Blair even has admitted in 2007, when the Labour Party committed to the renewal. In Blair's words, “the expenses are huge and the utility non-existent in terms of military use”, however, giving it up would be “too big a downgrading of our status as a nation”.

If an outdated, useless nuclear weapons system is more of a status symbol than a functioning health care or education system, there is clearly something wrong with our value system. And do we really STILL need a submarine-based system that was designed during the Cold War against threats from the Soviet Union? Nuclear weapons are extremely dangerous and deadly and should not be kept just as a status symbol.

 

What can be done?

Now more than ever it is important that we show the government that the majority of the British people does not want Trident. If you want to become active you can sign this petition. BPEC was at the national demonstration called for by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament UK to scrap Trident in London on the 27th of February with a stall, and hosted a Chalktivist protest outside the centre before the demo (watch the video here). Keep your eyes and ears open for the next demo, where we would love to see as many Brightonian faces as possible!

The White Peace Poppy, a brief history?

by Kelly Reichel 

poppy square

(Image source: Peace Pledge union)

 

Every year around the beginning of November they come out again to be worn proudly; the red poppies that remind us of those who lost their lives fighting in the First World War and in conflicts since. Sometimes, however, there are also a few white poppies to be spotted. However, since they are still quite controversial and not many dare to wear the white poppy publicly, we thought we would try to explain a little about this symbol of peace.

 

Controversy

In 2015, the controversy was highlighted when the Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn wore a white poppy in                   

November of that year - and was criticised heavily. Labour MP Simon Danczuk commented on Corbyn’s white poppy:

It is deeply offensive to our armed forces, who have given their lives for the democracy and freedoms he enjoys.

 

But what does the white poppy stand for?

Just like the traditional red poppy, the white poppy is worn to commemorate those who died in war. The main difference is that while the red poppy mainly commemorates the soldiers who lost their lives while the white poppy  remembers all the victims of war and wishes for an end to all wars. It aims to emphasise peace as the only desirable outcome. The Peace Pledge Union, who sell the white poppies, explain:

The White Poppy symbolises the belief that there are better ways to resolve conflicts and embodies values that reject killing fellow human beings for whatever reason.

Some supporters of the white poppy also say that the red poppy has become too political for them, as a way to glorify and justify wars.

 

So what’s wrong with that?

Opponents of the white poppy claim that those who wear it are insulting the soldiers that gave their lives in First World War and in conflicts since. They also criticise it for undermining the significance of the red poppy. This aspect of the controversy reaches back to the introduction of the white poppy in 1933 by the Women’s Co-operative Guild as a symbol for peace. During that time, some women even lost their jobs for wearing the white poppy. Margaret Thatcher also criticised the white poppy in the 1980s, by expressing a “deep distance” to the symbol, while others still see it quite differently.

Lindsey German from Stop the War Coalition finds that the white poppy is very appropriate as a symbol for commemorating the loss of lives in war because it represents “the best way to protect interests of soldiers” aiming to “stop sending them into these disastrous conflicts in the first place”. And even the Royal British Legion, who traditionally sell the red poppy, see no problem in wearing a white poppy:

We have no objection to white poppies, or any group expressing their views. We see no conflict in wearing the red poppy alongside the white poppy. RBL

 

The white poppy as a symbol of peace carries a huge importance, especially if we consider the UK’s recent involvement in wars (6 alone in the last 15 years). Despite the fact that these wars differ from the First or the Second World War, in that we here in the UK, often don’t directly see the losses and the grief they cause, they are still devastating events for a huge number of people. The results of war are not only taking place around the 11th of November but at any time of the year. So here at BPEC we feel that the white poppy should be worn to show solidarity with those that live in conflict zones all year round. Especially given that the UK has recently approved to be part of a military intervention in Syria, wearing the white poppy is an act of solidarity which shows that we won’t close our eyes from the suffering that war causes.

Kelly Reichel


You can buy your own Peace Poppy all year round at the Brighton Peace and Environment centre opposite Brighton Station, with each initial 75p going towards the PPU and anything extra helping to fund our core work in Brighton and Hove. If you would like to order them in bulk please let us know by emailing us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Views: Local MPs on UK intervention in Syria

On Wednesday the 2nd of December Parliament voted in favour of the Government’s motion to launch air strikes on Syria with the purpose of fighting the terrorist organisation ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.

We asked local MPs for their views 

 

By Kelly Reichel

Peter Kyle, MP for Hove (Labour), has voted for the air strikes. He sent us a statement, which also went out on Facebook soon after the result of the vote.In this statement he justifies backing the Government’s motion with the argument of the urgency of regaining power over the areas controlled by Daesh, to help “reclaim [the Syrians’] land for them and then support them in rebuilding their country”. Military action, in his opinion, was the quickest way to achieve this outcome:

“Many of the people who oppose use of air strikes point to arms sales to the area, funding for Daesh particularly from Saudi Arabia, and bringing Russia and Turkey to the negotiating table rather than acting independently. All of these are so important to the long term stability of the country and region. I came to the conclusion though that even if we could have these things it would not achieve the transformation we need swiftly enough to not only halt Daesh but liberate the Syrian people who suffer their rule.” 

Besides his strong belief that air strikes in Syria would liberate the Syrian people (instead of possibly causing them even more suffering) he also apologised to his supporters about his decision and explained why he acted against the wish of the majority of his voters:

“Because the majority sentiment here on Facebook was opposed I know that many of you feel that I didn’t listen or should have acted on that. All I can say is that I’m sorry if this damages the trust many of you have placed in me.” 

“The only way I could have truly let you down is if my heart told me one thing and I voted differently because I was too scared to take a different view to many of the people here I’ve grown to like so much. The issue being voted on is bigger than that and you deserve better than to have an MP that would put politics before when he believes to be right.”

Interesting standpoint, considering that Kyle’s place in a representative democracy is supposed to be exactly what he thinks it is not: to be a representative of his voters.

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and the Green Party, voted against the air strikes. She told us that in her opinion “dropping bombs makes matters worse in the long term”, pointing to lessons we should have learnt from the past and how Western bombing of Syria confirms ISIS’/ISIL’s/Daesh’s narrative, by creating precisely the war of the West against Islam that the terrorist organisation wants. Lucas explains that instead of dropping bombs there need to be alternative measures to create long-term stability and peace in the region. She suggests diplomatic measures, stopping the sale of arms to repressive regimes and a consistent foreign policy. Her rejection of the governmental decision is clear:

I have yet to hear anyone make a convincing case for dropping bombs on Syria or for adding to the misery of the civilian population. Caroline Lucas

Lastly, Simon Kirby, Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown, did not feel like getting back to us at all. As a Government whip Kirby voted in line with the Prime Minister’s proposal for air strikes in Syria. On his homepage we can read a short statement in which he explains that attacking the headquarters of ISIS is the best measure to ensure security for British civilians and avoid more terror attacks in the Western world. While he does not mention how the aims of air strikes in the region could be of help to the Syrian people and create peace in the area, at least he lets us know that British military capabilities “minimise civilian casualties”. Well, then there’s nothing to worry about, or is there?

 

COP21 climate agreement in Paris -­ as good as it looks?

by Kelly Reichel

COP21 what was decided and what can we do?

 cop21 2015 paris

(Image source: http://portail.cder.dz/spip.php?article3845)

For the last 20 years, sInce the first UN climate conference in Berlin (COP1) in 1995, there has been much hope that world leaders could figure out a solution to the severe climate problems of our planet when they all come together at the yearly conference. And every year, before the conference takes place, there are people who remind us that this time it counts, that there urgently needs to be drastic change to stop our planet from heating up and that the decisions made at this conference must really support this change. So once again at the end of 2015 climate activists reminded the public and those in power how important this conference was through creative direct actions and huge protest movements. But what were the results?

 

Outcomes

The outcomes of the COP21 in Paris have been celebrated by the major media outlets and many politicians as a historic event. The 2015 Paris Pact is the first legally binding agreement between all 195 UN members, which set as its main goals the reduction of emissions to keep global warming under 2Ccompared to pre­industrial levels. Sounds great, however, the reality is quite a lot more challenging.

 

Challenges

First of all, the agreement is not actually as binding as it sounds. One of the core ideas, vital to the goal of keeping global warming under 2C, is to reduce greenhouse emissions, unfortunately, the agreement made is only partially binding: while countries have to commit to a reduction, the amount to be reduced can be chosen by each individual country, in the form of voluntary pledges. This voluntary pledge system was agreed in favour of countries who's economies depend on fossil fuel-fired industry. The USA, India and China, feared that reducing emissions could slow down their economic development. On top of this, the agreement lacks a control mechanism to check if countries actually stick to their goals and no system of punishment in place in case they don’t.

Secondly, these pledges will not come into force before 2020, which means that the next 4 years will continue to contribute to global warming, and many of them are not as ambitious as they would have to be to achieve the goal of staying below 1.5 ­ 2 C. The Director of the Centre for International Climate and Energy Policy, Steffen Kallbekken, claims that

 

 

By the time the pledges come into force in 2020, we will probably have used the entire carbon budget consistent with 1.5°C warming. If we stick with the INDCs (‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’) we will have warming between 2.7°C and 3.7°C.’ SK, source New Internationalist

 

For many people, for example, inhabitants of small islands in the Pacific,  everything above 1.5C is already life­ threatening and will make their homes uninhabitable. Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth responded to the final agreement as follows:

 

 

Responsibility and compensation for the cost of climate disasters are excluded from the agreements. This is more a curse than a blessing for poor countries, who will have to bear the cost of climate change ­related disasters such as floods, desertification or droughts.” source Aseed

 

Thirdly, the Paris agreement does not even mention some of the most pressing problems that need to be talked about and changed fundamentally if we want to keep global warming to a minimum. Decarbonisation is a great goal but it has to include tackling issues like the burning of fossil fuels, the growing consumption of meat and dairy products globally escalating methane emissions, or deforestation. However, there is little talk of any of these problems in the Paris agreement and the words “fossil fuels” or “agriculture” are conspicuous in their absence. If we want the globe to stop heating up, we need to change everything from food production to the transport system to the economic organisation of our society. Unfortunately, the outcome of the COP21 seems to suggest that the way to go is business as usual.

 

All this goes to show that we can’t continue hoping for those in power to fix the problem on our behalf. We need to create change ourselves.

Ben, a Brightonian, who cycled to Paris in December with Climate action network explains:

 

We knew the agreement made at COP21 wouldn't be anywhere near what we need to keep below 2 degrees warming, but what surprised me was that the little that got into the media, and reports from the NGO's seemed to proclaim it as a triumph.

 

It's challenging to see where the triumph lies, or even to see much of an improvement from the situation pre­-COP21. What it means is that we have to stop relying on politicians and business for a sustainable future and that the struggle for climate change continues. It also means that it is to each and everyone of us to take action, collectively, creating local, community ­based alternatives to the current system, and individually, even if it is only small things like riding the bike more often or having a meat-­free diet.

Kelly

If you would like information on how to lower your carbon footprint we have lots of information available here and at the centre itself. To start a carbon conversation or to find out more about our work around climate change please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Reclaim The Beats - 23rd Oct 2015

The Brighton Social Forum and Reclaim the Beats; An eclectic evening of Eco-politics, Spoken Word, Live Music and D.J’s.

The Brighton Social Forum returns to the Synergy Centre on Friday October 23rd from 7.30 – 9pm with debate and discussion around environmental politics. The energy demands of modern society are increasingly outstripping the availability of ‘conventional’ oil and gas. The time seems ripe for ditching dirty fuel in favour of investment in renewable energy but is this the direction we are going in? Governments the world over seem hell bent on exploiting ‘unconventional’ oil and gas resources via Fracking and other highly contentious methods but the movement against this and in favour of ‘green’ energy is rapidly growing. In this month’s Social Forum our ‘pro-fracking’ compere will try to convince our panel that oil and gas is the fuel of the future but our panel may have something to say about that. Guests include Beki Adam (Frack Free Sussex) Duncan Blinkhorn (COP21 Bike Train), Will Cottrell (Brighton Energy Co-op), Lorraine Inglis (Campaigner and Activist), Jamie Kelsey – Fry (New Internationalist) and BP or not BP?
But that’s just the start of the evening; Reclaim the Beats is a party with a purpose; following from the Social Forum we have a diverse evening of entertainment with Spoken Word performance and comedy from those naughty ‘actor-vists’ BP or not BP? and Geoff Winde (Money is as Innocent as the Gun), live music from Ratbag and Ilodica & King Bracket ….and freaking funky beats from Radio 4A. As the old saying goes, “It ain’t my revolution if I can’t dance’. The evening will also host a photographic exhibition featuring the work of Denise Felkin and Jeff Pitcher, 2 photographers spreading the anti-fracking message via their cameras. Food / snacks will also be available.
Tickets are £5 in advance / concs or £7 on the door. Available at www.wegottickets.com or visit Twisted Rainbow Designs at The Open Market, London Rd. All proceeds to Brighton Action Against Fracking and Radio 4A indymedia. For more information and full schedule please go to http://www.thesynergycentre.org/www.radio4a.org.uk and FB ‘Reclaim the Beats’.

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