Thursday, April 25, 2019

Global warming: Are we the last generation?

protesting across London last week
By New Worker correspondent

On Good Friday around 15 youths – all aged under 17 years old – held a large banner with the words “Are we the last generation” on the pavement outside Heathrow airport in London. A heavy police presence stopped the teenagers from standing on the road.
“I’m Felix, I’m 14 years old. I’m doing this because when I have children I want to be able to tell them I did everything I could to protect their futures.”
“I’m Samar Faraj, I’m 14, and I’m doing this because there are things that need doing that aren’t being done, and in 30 years time, I don’t want to be looking back on this and regretting not doing everything I could do to help prevent the disasters we’re facing.”
Extinction Rebellion Youth is a network for everyone born after 1990: “We are a generation that have never known a stable climate and that will be defined by how the world responds to the climate and ecological crisis.”
“I’m Mia, I’m 13. I’m doing this because something has to change, I’m being told to make decisions about my future when it can’t even be guaranteed the Earth has one.”
“I’m Maya Rivett-Martinez, I’m 15, and the constant fear for my future is what gives me the need for change.”
The campaigning teenagers at London airport were part of the wave of climate change protests that paralysed parts of central London last week in demonstrations called by the Extinction Rebellion movement to attract attention to the ecological catastrophe they believe is imminent if nothing is done to halt it.
The global aviation industry produces two per cent of all human-induced carbon dioxide emissions. If global aviation was a country, it would rank in the top 10 emitters. Unfortunately, the emissions from this industry continue to increase at a truly alarming rate. Parliament has approved a policy for airport expansion. The Government is moving in completely the wrong direction.
Last week the godfather of climate science Dr James Hansen, the American space scientist who first alerted the world to the dangers of climate change more than 30 years ago, sent an open letter to the British people: “I write in recognition that citizens throughout the UK, led increasingly by the young – those who stand to lose most – now are rising to demand that national leaders develop and adhere to a viable path away from calamitous global warming.”
To every parent, and every grandparent, “I urge you in particular to take a stand, so as to not let the full burden of responsibility befall our children. Arm yourself with information of the highest quality, think for yourself, and then exercise your full intellectual and moral capacity to help your nation and our planet survive.
“I have no doubt that the era of fossil fuels is drawing to a close. But questions remain as to the speed of the coming transition and, in direct consequence of that speed, the nature of what will be left in its wake. I cannot answer, in particular, whether our civilisation will survive in any recognisable form the assault on nature and the human dislocation attending loss of our planet’s great coastal cities that we of necessity will confront with continued unarrested climate change.”
In his letter Hansen sets out the truth about the ecological emergency: “The foregoing, accordingly, constitutes my best brief effort to explain our present, serious, global, climate crisis. I will have failed if, upon its review, the reader decides to shirk his or her fundamental responsibility. Now, more than before, we need to bring to bear our full acumen, time, and resources so as to demand and forge a viable future.”
This week, the words of the world’s most respected climate scientist were echoed by wild-life broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough: “If we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies. What happens now and in these next few years will profoundly affect the next few thousand years.”

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Tell the Truth on Climate change!

By New Worker correspondent

Climate change protesters disrupted transport throughout central London this week in street protests calling on the government to "tell the truth about climate change" and reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025. Hundreds of activists have been arrested in the protests that began on Monday, organised by the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement, aimed at shutting down the capital.
Earlier this month a group of XR supporters stripped in parliament during a Brexit debate and glued their hands to the glass of the House of Commons' public gallery to highlight the threat of climate change.
This week’s protests have caused traffic jams and grid-locks across the capital. London Underground services have been disrupted. British Transport Police say they’ve restricted passenger Wi-Fi connectivity at Tube stations in the interests of safety, and to prevent and deter "serious disruption" to the London Underground network. A senior police officer said: "Ongoing demonstrations are causing serious disruption to public transport, local businesses and Londoners who wish to go about their daily business.”
John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn’s No 2, tweeted his support for the activists. He said the disruptions “will be worth it” if it “moves us all a step further in tacking climate change”.
But fellow Labour member Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, says that although he "shared the passion" of the activists he was "extremely concerned" about plans that some of them had to disrupt the Tube.
Young activists who’ve set up tents in Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square and Oxford Circus have put up road blocks on major roads and bridges whilst others have even glued themselves to lorries and trains to cause disruption and attract attention to the ecological catastrophe they believe is imminent if nothing is done to halt it.
Protesters targeted Shell’s London headquarters, gluing themselves to windows and smashing the glass revolving doors of the big oil corporation, and some 500,000 people were affected by the diversion of 55 bus routes as a result of the disruption on the roads.
Four climate activists even glued themselves to the fence outside Jeremy Corbyn’s house in north London. They said they were all Labour supporters but wanted the party to go much further on the issue. One of them, a 60-year-old man who walked from Stroud to take part in the London actions, said: “We are here because we are supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and he is the best hope this country has got to get us out of this. But we need system change and a transformation of our consumer economy, and we know he is a person who has the authority and power to deliver that.” Parliament is in recess and the Labour leader was apparently not at home at the time.
The protests are not just limited to London. Other demonstrations have taken place in 80 other cities around the world. In The Hague in Holland activists swamped the International Criminal Court building; and police made 29 arrests when over a thousand climate change campaigners blocked one of the main roads into Edinburgh's city centre.
The British-based ecology movement plans to go ahead around the clock with its acts of disobedience until the end of the month. “Climate breakdown and ecological collapse threaten our existence. Another world is possible, and it’s just within reach. It’s going to take everything we’ve got to get there. So we’re pulling out all the stops and rising up in a full-scale Rebellion against this twisted system to save ourselves and the natural world from extinction,” they say in a statement released this week.
Extinction Rebellion was established following a call from a number of academics and veteran ecology campaigners last year to set up a movement that embraces Gandhi-style civil disobedience to take the movement to the streets and fire a common sense of urgency to tackle climate breakdown.

NHS crisis: GPs to be packaged for sale and side-lined

 Dr Bob Gill, Anne Athow, Frances Hook and Dr Paul Hobday.

By Daphne Liddle

THREE campaigning doctors warned that imminent changes to the way general practitioner (GP) surgeries are organised threaten to destroy the traditional relationship between family doctors and their patients, and to package primary healthcare in this country ready for sale to giant corporations.
Retired GP Dr Paul Hobday, current GP Dr Bob Gill and retired surgeon Anne Athow were addressing a packed meeting last Friday evening in a community hall in Eltham, south London, organised by Greenwich Keep Our NHS Public.
GPs are currently being pressured to sign a new contract committing them to the new ‘NHS Long-Term Plan’, which sounds wonderful at first sight: all GP practices within a locality joining together with other health providers – dentists, pharmacists, podiatrists, mental health care providers, volunteer health workers and so on – to work together as a team to provide the best possible care for everyone living in that locality and using the latest new technology to do so.
These groupings will be called Primary Care Networks (PCNs), to become the vehicles for a ‘Directed Enhanced Service’ (DES). The word ‘directed’ gives a clue as to the real role of these giant bodies that will be responsible for the healthcare of up to 80,000 members of the public.
And the general direction, as dictated from above, will be to reduce drastically the numbers of hospital admissions, of visits to Accident and Emergency (A&E) units and to replace the role of doctors with a plethora of less qualified people.
People will no longer have a named GP they are registered with – already people are logged as being registered to a group practice rather than an individual doctor. Under the new plan, when someone is ill their first call will be answered by someone who does not know them, who has few if any medical skills and who will them re-direct the call to the ‘specialist’ they deem most appropriate. This could be a pharmacist, a nurse practitioner or a voluntary body such as Mind.
Only very serious and complicated cases will get through to real, qualified doctors – and then it will be a doctor they do not know and who does not know them. Their notes and case history will be available to the doctors but they will not have time to read them. Most of these interviews with patients will take place on Skype.
In fact, all the data about all the patients will be available to an army of strangers – including advertising and insurance companies.
Some patients will be expected to diagnose themselves using on-line questionnaires and then take the computer programme’s advice on caring for themselves.
Meanwhile the PCNs will operate ‘shared savings schemes’ that will allow doctors to benefit financially from reduced A&E admissions, attendances and other hospital admissions, and early unsafe discharges, as well as major cuts to outpatient appointments.
The contracts for joining the PCNs are currently being dished out by the current Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and GP practices have until 15th May to sign them – effectively signing themselves into redundancy. But even if they do not sign, their patient lists with all the data will be transferred to the new PCNs anyway. Practices will lose control of their budgets to the PCNs, which will become embryonic American-style integrated health companies ready for quick privatisation.
Anne Athow displays the document
The priority concern of these companies – and imposed on all their staff – will not the patients but the economic well-being of the company.
Doctors are under heavy pressure to sign these contracts and few have time to study the contents. Even fewer patients are aware of the impending changes.
Regrettably the British Medical Association (BMA) has endorsed the plans without a debate or vote on the issue. Other health unions have failed to raise a campaign against them, even though their members will find themselves downgraded, more exploited and often expected to make medical judgements beyond their training and competence and then carry the can for mistakes.
Dr Paul Hobday spoke of the early days of the NHS before the preparation for privatisation began in the late 1980s and ‘90s. GPs used to visit patients at home; they very rarely sent people to hospital but when they did, they sent them straight to the appropriate consultant – and knew which consultants NOT to send them to.
There were no long waits in A&E (Casualty, then) to be assessed by junior doctors who knew a lot less than the GPs about what that patient needed. There were no financial pressures then, the needs of the patient were the only priority.
In those days admin accounted for about four per cent of the NHS budget, compared with 17 per cent now; and the NHS was all about co-operation, not competition.
He described the current “salami slicing” of the NHS to the private sector and the growing demoralisation amongst health workers.
Under the new five-year plan GPs will no longer be able to be advocates for their patients, patients will have to travel further for treatments to anonymous hubs.
“The affluent will jump ship,” he said. He warned that the private sector will be out to milk those patients who can afford it – prescribing unnecessary but lucrative treatments, but “no cure for those who can’t afford it”.
He also warned that: “This is not a cock-up; it’s a plan.”
Anne Athow took the meeting through the documents the GPs are being pressured to sign, warning that this was part of the capitalist system and the only real answer is to get rid of that system.
Dr Bob Gill spoke of the effects of the downgrading of the Queens Mary Hospital near his GP practice. The hospital lost its maternity and A&E units, sold off for luxury housing development to resolve huge debts caused by PFI [private finance initiative]. He said this caused difficulty in referring his patients to hospitals within reasonable travelling distance.
He warned that the new plans would set up conflicts and rivalries amongst GP practices and hospitals trusts – based on money, not the best interests of the patients.
All the speakers urged the audience to contact their own GPs and warn against signing the documents and raising awareness of the impending changes generally.
But in discussion afterwards the speakers said that there was little optimism about achieving an effective campaign in the short time available.
One speaker from the floor suggested campaigning within the Labour Party and directly with Jeremy Corbyn to get the party to commit to reverse these changes once Labour is in power. This in itself would act as a deterrence to the giant companies hovering like vultures over the NHS and its GP practices.