EGP Electoral Convention in Brussels

In February the European Green Party convened in Brussels to discuss the Green manifesto for the European Elections in May 2014. Two participants report on the discussion and dynamics of the weekend.

This Electoral convention was characterised by a will to turn out a manifesto that all can agree upon and that makes all member parties proud. There was an exciting, cooperative buzz to the whole weekend, which came to a head on the morning of Saturday, February 22nd, when the assembled delegates voted in the third draft of the proposed manifesto.

Many of the delegates present had spent the previous afternoon and evening working on amendments: proposing compromises, voting, redrafting, re-proposing and re-voting. Draft 2 was a 40 page document, not counting a separate document on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which has been causing much anxious debate amongst all those wishing to protect European trade and health standards from aggressive corporate policies. The debates lasted, all told, from mid-afternoon until nearly midnight. At about 10 pmReinhardt Buetikofer (co-chair of the EGP) began to pointedly remind his fellow delegates that concord was essential to passing a strong manifesto, and his persistence paid off: the next morning’s assembly unanimously passed the final, third draft.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has been causing much anxious debate amongst all those wishing to protect European trade and health standards from aggressive corporate policies.

It was a fine moment, more stirring than I could have guessed. I’d expected meetings dominated by a sense of administrative necessity, the formalisation of decisions already taken in long, exclusive meetings. But the intellectual and political engagement of these conference delegates was genuine: they had read the drafts, discussed the amendments, and come together from all the far-flung corners of Europe prepared to whittle down any clauses they found wanting.

One of the few amendments left to Saturday’s vote was a proposal to switch chapter one, on the Green New Deal with chapter 2, One Planet, Our Home! The proposal was to put the ecological chapter first, as this is a flag ship section of the manifesto that every national Green Party can uphold with equal conviction. The vote on this proposal was close, but it was rejected in favour of keeping the Green New Deal section foremost in the manifesto, where it would be noted by casual readers as well as more serious students of policy. This year’s voters need to know that their Green Party has a strategy in place for dealing with the economic disasters overtaking nations such as Greece, Spain and Portugal, and to a much lesser extent the UK and other European nations. The Green Party is known as the party with an ecological agenda, it now needs to strengthen its political and economic credentials. So the Green New Deal was left in its place.

That afternoon, the voting completed, there were speeches and commemorative presentations. Monica Frassoni, co-chair of the EGP, hosted an impressive selection of speakers, and then Reinhardt Butikofer, also co-chair, presented the Common Campaign. Ska Keller, who was voted first choice in the preliminaries, was present in the hall and spoke to the convention.  Jose Bove spoke via Skype from a demonstration in Nantes against a new airport, giving us a brief glimpse of some lively French political action.

A good political convention needs a great party and after the debates and speeches came the dinner followed by a documentary on Ulisses, an economical regeneration project from Southern Europe and then, finally, a dance led by Klavan Gadje, a band making loud Balkan-style Ska sung joyously in Flemish. We bounced and we swung, and some of us fit country dance steps to it all. And we hit great big balloons across the room. It was very silly, and lots of fun, and it was well-deserved after the seriousness of getting out a united manifesto.

And now the campaign for our Green Manifesto has begun. May 22nd to 25th almost 400 million Europeans are invited to vote in their European Parliament. There has been much criticism of the institution, in the UK as in other European nations, so this is our chance to examine our options and choose the party that commits to a better Europe. Join our campaign if you feel you can – or just vote Green to Change Europe on Thursday, May 22nd.

 

Manifesto to be found here: http://europeangreens.eu/content/egp-manifesto-0

Or just google EGP manifesto, and look for  the 2014 page.

 

By Chantal Frances

With the collaboration of Hugo de Armas Estévez

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Fossil fuels, the environment and our bodies

How the energy glut is changing our bodies, our health and our environment

For a hundred thousand years the main source of energy that humans have used was their own physical power. People basically had to walk, ride, row or sail to move themselves and their stuff. But nowadays all that has changed, with intensive mechanisation.

This mechanisation is mostly powered by the burning of fossil fuels and it comes at a well known environmental cost. But pollution is not the only hazard for human health caused by machines, another more subtle danger of the abuse of energy is the increase of our body weight.  In their book “The energy glut”[1] Ian Roberts and Phil Edwards explain how generalised mechanisation in transport and farming reduces the need of physical human effort, and increases the availability of high-caloric food. So we eat more, spend less and put on a lot of weight.

Humans used their own physical strenght to move

Humans used their own physical strength to move

An increase of the population’s weight is behind the increase in cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes and cancer.  Around 1 in 13 deaths in Europe have been attributed to overweight and obesity.  Population overweight cost the UK £15.8 billion per year, including £4.2 billion in costs to the NHS.  In the USA the increase weight has a direct cost of $160 billion per year in medical treatments and $480 billion in indirect cost (including $20 billion in extra fuel and electricity).  But is not only about money… to move our extra weight we need extra energy. In the USA an extra 3520 million litres of road transport fuel and 1325 millions of  airplane fuel a year are used due to increase of average passenger weight.  Bear in mind this is not only due to obese people but due to the whole population being heavier.  In other words, our abuse of mechanical energy is double-poisoning our environment, and killing us slowly but steadily.

Sick populations not sick individuals

It is important to understand that this process of gaining weight is not happening only to some individuals that become unnecessarily obese. It is the whole population that is putting on weight. Even lean people are now heavier than they would have been before. The fact that there are more “officially” obese people is not the problem, it is just the reflection that the whole population weight has been pushed upwards.  Is a problem of unhealthy population rather than unhealthy individuals!  That the whole population that is being affected, and not just some individuals, suggests that there are forces driving the change that are not under the control of the individual citizens.

High- caloric food is often more affordable than the healthy option

High caloric food is often more affordable than the healthy option

Is not just about making individual decisions on lifestyles. Firstly people do not have always the choices of healthy lifestyles (e.g. restricted access to safe cycling, walking, or reliable public transport). Secondly we do not always have the information and often we are purposely misinformed (“Marketing” and “advertising” are euphemisms often used for such strategies). And finally, often the healthy choices as too expensive at market value.  For example, often the healthy food that is sold in the developed (and developing) world has a much higher cost that the more unhealthy options and is not available to people with lower income.

Who is going to fix this?

Unfortunately the “markets” (in the capitalists sense) are not going to help to solve the problem.  They are actually creating the problem.   The markets of transport and food are effectively dominated by large corporations and cartels that are not interested in individuals making healthy choices. They would rather have populations of “consumers” that regularly drive everywhere and eat cheap hyper-caloric food, so that they can spend more money consuming other unnecessary goods.  This is not mere speculation, the USA is a clear example with 6% of the World population but 33% of the human biomass due to obesity.[4] China is moving fast in that direction with declining use of bicycles since 1990 and car ownership has gone up while obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular deaths and cancer is increasing.

Other means of transport like cycling could be the solution

Other means of transport like cycling could be the solution

To solve the problem we need to provide citizens with healthy options for transportation, such as bicycle and pedestrian friendly cities and roads, or reliable and affordable public transport.  We need to guarantee that local and environmentally friendly food is available and affordable. We need to provide people with true and reliable information about their choices.  In summary, we a need strong public policies to counteract the forces of the markets and defend the health of the people.

by europeangreenslondon_logo.jpg

[1]: “The Energy Glut: The Politics of Fatness in an Overheating World.” Ian Roberts and Phil Edwards. London and New York: Zed Books, 2010.
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