Opinion: Dirty Air Costs Lives


In 1956 the Clean Air Act:

…. introduced a number of measures to reduce air pollution, especially by introducing ‘smoke control areas‘ in some towns and cities in which only smokeless fuels could be burned. By shifting homes’ sources of heat towards cleaner coals, electricity, and gas, it reduced the amount of smoke pollution and sulphur dioxide from household fires. Reinforcing these changes, the Act also included measures to relocate power stations away from cities, and for the height of some chimneys to be increased.

Now moves are afoot by the European Court of Justice to potentially bring about a similar revolution as:

… the government was failing in its legal duty to protect people from the harmful effects of air pollution. It followed evidence that showed that NO2 pollution legal limits were exceeded in 40 of the the UK’s 43 urban zones in 2010.

and was:

… threatened with a £300 million fine for not complying.

The Court said that Britain should have plans to tackle air pollution in place by 2015 and it couldn’t keep saying taking measures in cities like Liverpool and Manchester would have to be delayed until 2025, with London and Birmingham having to wait until 2030.

Does all of this sound boring? Well think again as:

Alan Andrews, Client Earth’s lawyer, said: “Thousands of people die because of air pollution every year. This ruling will save lives by forcing the government to finally take this issue seriously. They will now have to come up with an urgent plan to rid our towns and cities of cancer-causing diesel fumes”.

It’s interesting to note that the main cause is highlighted as diesel fuel as for a number of years diesel cars have sold more than petrol. Now that has to quickly change; but how? London can make use of the congestion charge making it higher for diesel vehicles, but more radical action is required. Paying diesel motorists to swap their cars for petrol ones, an idea backed by Boris Johnson, is one proposal. It will cost a lot, but if we’re serious about breathing in clean air, it’s a price we’ll just have to bear.

What do you think? Leave a comment below:

Photo credit: tsnoom / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Opinion: Geldof – an activist rather than a strategist

Bono Geldof

I had mixed mixed emotions when I heard that Bob Geldof was bringing back Band Aid’s Do They Know Its Christmas? for the fourth time.

Of course raising cash for West African countries hit by Ebola is fantastic but there are parts of the song which I have always hated:

  • “Do they know its Christmas?” – Yes, being a mostly Christian continent Africans do in fact know it is Christmas and they can grasp the concept of calendars.
  • “Nothing ever grows …”: not quite true
  • Bono’s lyric, “Well tonight thank God its them instead of you” is simply just annoying. In the latest release it Bono now sings, “Well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you.” I’m not sure if this change is much better?

The song perpetuates the image that Africa is a place that needs to be saved from itself; British-Ghanian rapper Fuse ODG wrote in The Guardian

I, like many others, am sick of the whole concept of Africa – a resource-rich continent with unbridled potential – always being seen as diseased, infested and poverty-stricken. In fact, seven out of 10 of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa.

It also seems to have actually done more harm than good:

… guilt-stricken donations helped fund a brutal resettlement programme that may have killed up to 100,000

Can celebrity activism with its basic notions of right and wrong, slick campaigns and slogans have an impact on highly complex problems? Do you want millionaire superstars such as One Direction, Coldplay’s Chris Martin and tax-avoiders like Bono telling you to give charitably?

For all of its shortcomings at least Geldof is trying to raise millions for worthy causes and

… in the end Geldof is an activist rather than a strategist. He believes in doing something rather than nothing. And isn’t that the point? What Geldof is promoting, through Band Aid and his various public pronouncements, is involvement, or activism.

What do you think? Leave a comment below:

Photo credit: U2005.com / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Book Review: The Haçienda – How Not to Run a Club by Peter Hook

Peter Hook

Carry on Clubbing


The Haçienda: How Not to Run a ClubThe Haçienda: How Not to Run a Club by Peter Hook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In “The Haçienda: How Not To Run a Club” Peter Hook, bass player in two of Manchester’s greatest bands: Joy Division and New Order and also co-owner of the club itself explains how it vacuumed up the bands income and brought him to the point of bankruptcy.

This is a candidly entertaining short’ish read written in a personal and chatty style. While Manchester in the early 1980s probably wasn’t quite ready for a New York style disco it wasn’t long before the popularity of the club soared and things started to fall apart. Hooky reveals that in the 15 years it was open the club effectively cost the band £10 for every person who entered! I have to admit that I never went and I’m rather pleased I didn’t after reading some of the stories.

The book covers the drug fuelled meetings, Madchester and Acid House excesses, the influx of gangsters and subsequent violence, so it’s definitely not a tale for faint hearted. The book also has its fair share of funny passages too which are offset with stories where you find yourself shaking your head in disbelief, for example paying bands generous flat fees to perform to almost nobody and organising the bar so it required two staff to serve every customer.

I listened to the audio book and its split into sections devoted to each year the Hacienda was open. Each section is preceded with a snippet of a song which may have been played at that specific point in the clubs timeline. This device helped to set the scene and enhance the “read”. However, it’s worth trying to get a copy of the actual print version as it contains a chapter listing outlining which gigs put on during that specific year and it has copies of balance sheets which I’m guessing would make an accountant cry. You also get to see the photos of the interior and exterior of the Haçienda along with various flyers, posters and other media.

I would recommend that you read Unknown Pleasures first as the end of that book slightly bleeds into the start of this one. The Haçienda: How Not To Run a Club is a great read even if you’re not a fan of his music as if nothing else it certainly puts the evolution of the 1980s/90s clubbing scene into context.
View all my reviews

Photo credit: fiberfib / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA


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