Welsh Green Dragon


Friendly Food Fighting by the Cardiff Food Alliance by Chris Halpin

If you went down to the woods today, you’d certainly have been in for a surprise. However it isn’t a picnic you would’ve found – in fact it could be described as the exact opposite! If you were taking a stroll down the Taff Trail behind Talybont Halls of residence in Cardiff on Saturday afternoon, you may have wondered what on earth was going on.

Members of the Cardiff East Transition group have been routing through bins and getting their hands on waste food, to stage a friendly food fight to demonstrate how much food is wasted in Cardiff everyday.

It might seem quite perverse to be throwing food around to highlight how wasteful we are, but according to the organisers all the food used would otherwise have been headed straight to landfill. It’s all part of the Cardiff ‘Fix the Food Chain’ month which looks at the problems in all the different stages of food production. A number of groups are involved including Friends of the Earth and Fareshare alongside the Cardiff Food Alliance.



Couples to receive two IVF cycles by tanyamercer
April 1, 2010, 3:07 pm
Filed under: Future Thinking, Health, Protest

Couples in Wales will now be able to have two free cycles of IVF treatment on the NHS.

Since 2005 women in Wales have been able to receive one treatment of IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation)  on the NHS.  But the new provision brings the country into line with England and Scotland.

The change comes after Health Minister Edwina Hart announced last year that she was “keen to increase the number of IVF treatment cycles.”

NICE guidelines

The guidelines by the health guidance body – the National Institute of Clinical Excellence(NICE) – recommend that the NHS should pay for three IVF treatment cycles.

But the Welsh Assembly suggested that two cycles was a financially viable alternative.

Ms Hart said: “I recognise that this is an extremely emotive issue…I have had lots of representations on this issue and I am pleased that I am in a position to go some way towards increasing the opportunities for women to try to have children within the available resources.”

In Vitro Fertilisation

Campaign

The new provision comes after a high profile campaign led by Kara Ellard from Pembrokeshire and Julia Eynon from Bridgend. 

Both women have undergone several fertility treatments, costing thousands of pounds between them.  The women petitioned the Welsh Assembly to follow the NICE guidelines.

Julia Eynon said: “This is such good news for women like ourselves.  It’s still not the full implementation of the NICE guidelines that we’d hoped for, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. So we’re really happy.”

Criteria

To benefit from the second cycle, couples will have to comply with the original set of criteria for IVF treatment on the NHS.

Women must be under 40 years old.  Couples must not have any adopted or biological children living with them. Patients must have a body mass index (BMI) between 19-30.  And, if either partner smokes, they must take part in a programme to quit, and must have stopped by the time treatment starts.

Demand

The Welsh Assembly Government has released £800,000 of additional funding to meet the expected increased demand for IVF as a result of the provision. 

A Welsh Assembly spokesperson told CJS: “Clinics providing IVF treatment will be contacting women who have had one cycle in the past six years…We aim to provide a second course of IVF treatment for women who are eligible within 26 weeks.”

Renewed hope

Peter Bowen-Simpkins, medical director of the London Women’s Clinic in Swansea, said the new provision offers many women renewed hope.

“This is very good news for women in Wales,” he said.  “Although there’s no guarantee someone will get pregnant with two cycles of IVF, certainly the more cycles that are offered, the better the chances of becoming pregnant.”



£6 Million scheme to turn M4 into ‘Hydrogen highway’ announced by Chris Halpin

Ambitious new plans to turn the M4 in South Wales into a testing ground for vehicles powered by renewable fuels have been announced by Welsh Secretary of State Peter Hain and Environment Minister Jane Davidson today.

Dubbed the ‘Hydrogen highway’ futuristic filling stations will be installed along the motorway which can fuel electric and hydrogen cars, linking into a larger network across the South west and the Midlands.

A welcome boost to Wales’ Motor Industry

With yesterday’s news that Bosch would definitely close its Miskin plant, these new plans could give a welcome boost to Wales’ struggling motor industry. Building on years of research by the University of Glamorgan’s Renewable Hydrogen Research Centre, the Welsh Assembly Government hope developing the infrastructure will attract international manufacturing companies back to Wales.

£6.6 million pounds of funding has been awarded to the University’s research team to take the first steps into developing the hydrogen fuel technology and how the filling stations can be rolled out up and down the motorway. Some of the funding for the three year research project comes from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Welsh Assembly Government as part of the activities of the Low Carbon Research Institute. Here’s Welsh Secretary Peter Hain’s comments on the scheme.

Reaching a Low Carbon Economy

The plan will also help to meet Wales’ targets to move towards a low carbon economy and to tackle climate change. With fossil fuels running out, Environment Minister Jane Davidson says Wales should be at the forefront of developing alternatives to petrol fuelled cars. She believes hydrogen and electric power vehicles are the way forward and that Wales can be at the forefront of this technology. She also said that whilst carbon emissions from household energy were reducing, Transport emissions were still rising.

Listen to the full interview here.

The technology’s ready but the forecourts are not

Hydrogen fuel is extremely clean emitting only water when used as fuel. So far fuel cell technology has proved expensive, but the new funding will help research how to make the fuel more efficient. The next step is the expansion of the next generation of fuel filling stations. A number of car companies have already designed hydrogen powered cars but fuel station forecourts are not ready for them. Here’s the Honda clarity as reviewed by James May on the BBC’s Top Gear.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

It’s hoped that by 2015 hydrogen powered vehicles will become a common sight on our motorways as they’ll be much cheaper to buy and you’ll be able to refuel them. With todays announcement we may be a step closer but there’s still a long wait until such vehicles are likely to be hitting roads near you.



Robbing from the rich and giving to the poor? by Chris Halpin

Getting involved is billed as taking part in the ‘Greatest Bank Job Ever’. Loosely based on the Tobin tax, a group of charities have launched a new campaign which proposes to raise money from those notorious misers the bankers through – guess what – the Robin Hood Tax.

Bankers have had a bit of a bashing of late, blamed for the economic meltdown and lets face it, the banker on Noel Edmonds ‘Deal or no Deal’ is a right git.

Today the campaign came to Cardiff and I was there to see what happened.

At one o’clock unsuspecting city centre workers on their lunchbreak were treated to a surprise flash mob of dancing bankers springing into action outside Cardiff Central Library.

As you can see from the film Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams was also there for the photo opportunity to show her party’s support for the scheme.

The idea is to impose a 0.05% tax on transactions over £1000, which could be used closer to home to avoid massive cuts to vital public services like the NHS and help tackle climate change and help end poverty further afield.

The idea was launched yesterday and has already received a massive reaction, with the campaign plastered over Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. This is also thanks to celebrity endorsements from the likes of Richard Curtis and actor turned activist Bill Nighy who made this film.

But will the UK government really impose taxes on the banks? There are some bloggers out there who hope so, and some who do not.

And what do the banks make of all this? I tried getting in touch with a couple this afternoon to get their take on it but no one wanted to talk to me.

Government policy making is about as far removed from dancing flash mobs gyrating to Abba as you can probably get but it’ll surely be interesting to see who jumps on this political bandwagon in the run up to the general election.



The Green Gym by tanyamercer

It’s that time of year again. The excesses of Christmas have caught up with us. Those jeans have either shrunk in the wash or I’ve put on an extra pound or two. Gym membership deals are posted through the letter box and everywhere you turn there’s an advert for some fabulous diet that promises you’ll lose 16lbs in 2 weeks.

But realistically, am I going to stick with the gym? Probably not. I find them incredibly dull, and lycra and me are not a good combination! Similarly, diets are always started with great vigour, but then abandoned by the end of January.

And, just when I was losing hope, I think I’ve found a way to keep fit that challenges, reinvigorates and doesn’t involve running machines or eating solely carrots for a week. Plus it helps the environment.

It’s called the green gym.

It’s a BTCV idea, which hopes to inspire people to improve both their health and the environment.

Experienced leaders guide ‘gym goers’ through a range of practical projects, giving the opportunity to tackle physical jobs in the outdoors – improving strength and stamina, boosting practical skills and confidence and benefitting local green spaces.

To find out more I visited the green gym volunteers at Cymtillery Allotments.

It could just be that this is the type of gym to stick with!

Green gym volunteers

Green gym volunteers

Green gym leader Bryan Brown

Green gym leader Bryan Brown

The allotment at Cymtillery



Putting Cardiff on a car diet by helenglaberson


Cut back on cars, not just carbs this New Year

Cardiff Council plan to introduce car clubs to the city, as part of their strategy to cut down the numbers of cars on the roads.

This is part of Cardiff’s wider Sustainable Travel Plan which, if all goes well, will be implemented in other parts of Wales. The Council has already developed green alternatives that aim to cut down on cars, such as park and ride schemes, improving cycling facilities, and a drive to work car share scheme. They also plan to launch a new car club next year, to encourage people to rent out a vehicle instead of owning their own.

Hopefully the public will be inspired to take up a car diet for their New Years resolution. Less cars will mean a reduction in problems such as traffic, parking and of course the big greasy beast that is pollution, making the city a more sustainable and enjoyable place to live.

Cardiff’s sustainable travel plan

Ieuan Wyn Jones, Transport Minister says, “Commuter levels in and around Cardiff have increased significantly over the past few years. This is an exciting opportunity to develop and implement a range of innovative transport solutions which will benefit the 210,000 people who travel into the city on a daily basis.”

Executive Minister for Transport, Delme Bowen expands on car sharing and car club schemes:

Car Clubs

Cardiff Council is currently in the process of awarding a contract for an operator to run a car club in Cardiff. It is hoped that car clubs will encourage residents to rent instead of buying their own vehicle.  “A car club, along with car sharing, helps to promote choice and the greater use of sustainable modes of travel.” say Cardiff Council.

Car clubs follow a model that has been around since the 1970s in Europe, and is now used in many cities all over the world.

Car clubs are new to Cardiff, but they have been implemented overseas since the 1970s.

Scientific studies and customer surveys have provided substantial evidence that car clubs can help cut down on toxic output. More Options for Energy Efficient Mobility through Car Sharing (MOMO) have provided a paper bursting with the advantages of car hire.

The club scheme does not only yield green benefits – it is also hugely cost-effective for users. People will cut down on the high annual cost of tax and insurance, with the car company responsible for overall maintenance.

“The car sharing scheme is part of the answer to dealing with Cardiff’s congestion problem and provides people living in Cardiff with another option for how they go about their daily business.” says Gwenllian Lansdown, a Plyd Cymru Councillor who backed an 100-strong signature petition last year, urging the city council to support such a car club scheme. “This scheme has proved successful in other cities across the globe and I look forward to it starting in Cardiff” says Landsdown.

Car clubs will reduce congestion in the city.

A chosen car company will operate their rental service on behalf of the Council. If the scheme is successful, the contract will be renewed. Richard Drew, the South West Manager of City Car Club, is currently responsible for the plans in Cardiff.”We’ve been informed that we’ve been the most successful bidder but they haven’t made a final decision to say that we’re definitely going to go ahead yet” he explains.

The clubs would be aimed at people who would consider buying a second car, or those who are not completely dependent on having one. Users would pay a one off membership fee of around £75 and then they would pay around £3 an hour for car hire.

“If all goes well, we’re looking to start  the early part of spring next

Feedback has been positive towards car sharing and car clubs.

year.” Drew said last December. Before then, the company will need to decide where to base their cars. Drew explained, “what we’d be looking for in the first instance is people that know the area well that can suggest places where there’s real issues with parking.”

So how is the public responding to the Council’s Sustainable travel plan? “Feedback has been good so far, and car sharing generally is increasing. In Cardiff County Council alone there’s 18,000 people both recycling and car sharing. That’s looking good.” says Delme Bowen.

It looks like car slimming plans are running smoothly. Let’s hope the city won’t crash diet but will maintain a regular slimming regime, with healthy portions of sharing and regular car club rental.

Extreme car sharing:

How many people can you fit into a Smart car?

Cut back on cars not just carbs this New Year…


Are Google moving into the Energy Sector? by Chris Halpin

Not intent on being an online ‘power house’, it now seems that Google has its sights on becoming one in a more literal sense.

In what seems a very perceptive move, it’s been reported that Google have applied to create a subsidiary company in the US (imaginatively called ‘Google Energy‘) with which they can start trading energy on the open market. In entering this sector, it seems they are taking the future insecurity of energy supply into their own hands.  Some commentators are sceptical that Google Energy is a business move purely for the money, yet Google insist they are doing it for the more philanthropic reason of reaching carbon neutrality. Producing their own energy at their Californian HQ, this move will enable them to trade the excess created and pump it back into the grid. However, future investment in the renewable energy sector clearly makes keen business sense.

In all honesty I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few weeks and was initially going to discuss the role of smart meters and the UK government’s plans to roll these out by 2020. Like the previous post about boilers, smart meter systems are hardly the most glamorous of devices to discuss, so Google’s very recent movements into the energy sector has spiced the whole affair up a bit. This is especially because their innovative technologies make the UK utility companies plans look prehistoric even before the meter fitters have chucked their tools in the back of the van.

You’ve probably heard or seen in the UK media about how ‘smart meters’ are the future. The idea behind them is that in keeping tabs on our daily usage of Electricity or gas, we can curb how much we use and determine when we’re being wasteful. Our currently dubbed ‘dumb meters’ which require that quarterly annoyance of letting in the meter reader (or more often than not when our energy provider spuriously estimate your bill) means that as consumers we’re often paying over the odds for the energy we actually use. Imagine if they applied the same process to a contracted mobile phone – no itemised bill but instead a rough guess on how much you’ve been yapping on the phone for the past 3 months. That doesn’t seem to make any sense does it? Here’s a radio feature created by my colleague Jim Turner just before Christmas on this very subject .

So these so-called ‘smart meters‘ are meant to be the answer, but may not actually be that ‘smart’. They will cost between £85 -£100 for each household and work by sending usage data directly to the power company each day. However the technology they contain is not that up to date at all. They work by sending through how much energy you’ve used by SMS text message to your Utility Company who then use the data to create an itemised monthly bill. This mobile phone technology has been around for almost twenty years and for this reason the Energy sector in UK are having second thoughts on a nationwide meter upgrade.  They fear that by the time each and every home has been visited the smart meters will have become obsolete.

And this is where Google comes in hot on their respective heels. Smart meters are old news and now Google Powermeter is being heralded as the next big thing.This is in effect an online power monitoring tool which can be incorporated as a widget as part of your iGoogle home page. Initially developed to work with smart meters, Google have now in fact bypassed the need for them and work through a broadband connection rather than the aforementioned SMS technology. This means you don’t have to wait for your Utility company to process the information; the Google application will do it in near real time and you can check it online whenever you want. Clever eh? Here’s an example of how the data might look:

This is some way off for every customer in Wales though. Currently the only company who offer this service are first:utility and you do need a smart meter installed for it to work.

Being more energy-efficient is obviously inextricably linked to freeing up some more of our incomes. In years to come, if winters look set to be as harsh as this one, then we’re certainly going to have to trim on energy usage to avoid bankrupting ourselves to keep warm and watch the telly. For more tips on how you could save, check out Energy Circle’s 10 big ideas for home energy efficiency in 2010.