There’s no such thing as sustainable palm oil. Cut it out of your diet, yes, but there’s more to be done.

There’s no such thing as sustainable palm oil. The palm oil industry is a major contributor to the destruction of rainforests, biodiversity loss and the climate catastrophe. This is a point made in Werner Boote’s powerful film, The Green Lie. (Here’s information on the film on his own website.)

And yet palm oil is in most processed foods and a variety of other products, but you have to read the small print in order to discover this. By all means do so, and avoid palm oil consumption as far as you can, but given that it is used so widely (it’s not easy finding palm oil-free biscuits and even bread in many UK supermarkets) I think we should do more. Here are some ideas:

Screenshot from Iceland's website, This UK food retailer arguably leads the way on palm oil.

Screenshot from Iceland’s website, This UK food retailer arguably leads the way on palm oil. Click on the image to read more.

  • petition/campaign for national government to tax/phase out palm oil (theoretically leaving the EU could open the way for stricter UK environmental policies, though a trade deal with the USA is likely to move the country in the opposite direction)
  • petition/campaign for national/local government to use public procurement to reduce the use of palm oil (see remark above re Brexit)
  • petition/campaign for national/local government to insist on much clearer labelling of products containing palm oil
  • petition/campaign for supermarkets to avoid palm oil and/or label palm oil-containing products more clearly (the Iceland chain is a leader in this regard)

Should we implement some or all of these, or do you have other suggestions?

Finally, expect a vigorous response from the advocates of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, but take what they say with a pinch of salt – they have vast sums of money riding on this. See the Independent article mentioned above!

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Two simple ideas for combating climate change

A climate catastrophe is unfolding. Do you really need to sit there with your engine idling? Most people would switch their engines off. Please do the same. Thank you!

How about we carry a card like this to show to errant motorists? Just one idea…

These ideas won’t save the biosphere, but they might make some difference…

Several times a day I am distressed to see drivers sitting in their stationary, fossil fuel-powered vehicles, with the engines idling. It’s one thing to do this while waiting for a traffic light to change. It’s another altogether to pull over and eat a meal or swipe your smartphone for ten minutes while your engine is uselessly converting derivatives of ancient plant material into greenhouse gas. Every week I see multiple private motorists and several people in company vehicles blithely doing this.

I have often been abused for reprimanding people dropping litter, and as a cyclist I have been yelled at by unrepentant motorists for pointing out the dangers of them occupying the cycle boxes at junctions (for example). I am reluctant to subject myself to further stress or risk (probably futile) by confronting negligent climate change-accelerators. But there are other options. I have had two ideas:

(1) Those of us who care about the biosphere could carry a laminated card (A4?) with the following polite ‘social norms‘ message on it:

A climate catastrophe is unfolding.
Do you really need to sit there with your engine idling?
Most people would switch their engines off.
Please do the same.

Thank you!

We could then display this whenever we see such ecocidal activity. It would be less confrontational and risky than directly confronting the miscreants, and it would spread the message widely, helping to build a supportive community of responsible global citizens.

(2) When identifiable corporate vehicles are involved one could note the time, place and licence plate number and post the details on a name-and-shame site (and/or let the organisations know about their drivers’ behaviour).

Perhaps councils or even national government could help, assuming they are serious about combating climate change.

What do you think of these ideas?

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Do Rich People Deserve to Be Rich?

Please read this excellent essay which brings together many important and disturbing facts about inequality but concludes on an optimistic note.

Forgot About Keynes

One of our abiding modern myths, as Russell Brand and George Monbiot explained in a recent episode of the Trews is: “that if you’re rich, you deserve to be rich and that story means that if you’re not rich, you don’t deserve to be rich and that means everything’s the way that it should be and nothing should change.”

This is what Melvin Lerner described as the just-world hypothesis. We have an in-built bias which makes us view the world as fundamentally just and the basic reason it exists is to make us feel more secure in ourselves as we go about our daily lives. What this means however, is that we are prone to errors in judgement such as what Monbiot refers to as the self-attribution fallacy and what psychologists often refer to as the fundamental attribution error. In essence, we not only overestimate the extent to which our successes are down to ourselves alone – we…

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Second time right, Mariella: two point one nine lies a day, NOT two point nineteen!

Mariella Frostrup presents Radio 4 programme on children lying

Two point one nine lies a day, or two point nineteen?

I am writing this as I listen to a BBC Radio 4 programme on children lying, presented by Mariella Frostrup. I was infuriated to hear her say that ‘people tell on average two point nineteen lies a day’ and relieved when she repeated this statement later, saying ‘two point one nine’.

I was taught in school that digits after the decimal point (well, I shall not lie, ‘decimal comma’ it was in what was then called Rhodesia in the 1970s) should be stated as individual numbers. This makes sense. Consider Ms Frostrup’s ‘2.19 lies/day’. What if this were written as ‘2.190’? This would imply a greater degree of precision, but it would not connote a larger number, though ‘two point one hundred and ninety’ sounds as if it should be a larger number than ‘two point one nine’.  Please, it is ‘two point one nine’, or ‘two point one nine zero’ if you know the figure is accurate to three decimal places.

Thanks to Ms Frostrup for finally giving me the kick I needed to take action on this issue, which has been annoying me for decades. Please, teachers and broadcasters, take note.


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Letter by over 100 left-wing Jews supporting Chris Williamson removed by Guardian. Read it still here:

It’s so important that people realise that the picture painted by the mass media (including the so-called liberal media) of the Labour anti-Semitism issue is false. I am re-blogging this excellent piece by Tom Pride, but please also see what I have written on this elsewhere on this blog (this, for example).

Pride's Purge

The Guardian newspaper has removed a letter from over 100 prominent left-wing Jews – including Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and the actor Ed Asner – in support of Labour MP Chris Williamson against accusations of antisemitism:

This is apparently after a complaint from the anti-Corbyn and rather more right-wing Board of Deputies of British Jews.

This is simply censorship of Jewish voices on the left.

Therefore, in the name of openness and balance, here is the letter and the signatories reproduced in full. Please share:

Guardian Letter 9th July 2019

Jewish Statement: Reinstate Chris Williamson

We the undersigned, all Jews, are writing in support of Chris Williamson and to register our dismay at the recent letter organised by Tom Watson, and signed by parliamentary Labour party and House of Lords members, calling for his suspension.

Chris Williamson did not say that the party had been “too apologetic about…

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A friend’s Brexit project

I had the honour of participating in a friend’s Brexit project, featuring portraits of people displaying their distress over Brexit and transcripts of what they have to say. Click on the image below to visit the site (and scroll down the page you land on to read everything).


Click on this image to see ‘Brexit! – Voices from the people. A photographic impression of fear, anger and uncertainty by Vroni Holzmann.’

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Ratner’s legacy business (Signet Group: H. Samuel/Ernest Jones): crap at recycling!

Ratner's legacy stores crap on recycling

A whistle-blower says that Signet Group stores, H. Samuel and Ernest Jones, make no attempt to recycle their waste, despite the group’s supposed ‘environmental stewardship’.

‘Total crap’

Gerald Ratner became notorious when he described one of his jewellery chain’s products as ‘total crap’, and unfavourably compared another to a prawn sandwich, after which the Ratner Group went into meltdown, slipped from his control, and was rebranded as the Signet Group, with UK outlets H. Samuel and Ernest Jones. Now these outlets have come to my attention for what I consider to be a far more serious matter.

Tipping point

Yesterday I spent some time reading the latest issue of the excellent Resurgence magazine, this one dedicated to the topics of regeneration and the importance of a circular economy. The biosphere’s health (our existence, in other words) is under huge threat from the way we live. We have to stop plundering non-renewable resources to produce things which are simply discarded when they no longer serve their primary purpose. We must eradicate waste and pollution. These are not just nice things to do – we are at a critical juncture, with ongoing massive loss of biodiversity and the climate change tipping point possibly upon us.

Circular economy

Resurgence was not all doom and gloom, by any means, and pointed out many positive things that are being done now (for example,  Finland’s pioneering work on establishing a circular economy).


Thinking of these things, I bumped into an acquaintance. Coincidentally, this person (‘X’) was bursting with indignation about the Signet Group’s irresponsible behaviour. X told me that he/she had worked in several of the group’s UK stores (the H. Samuel and Ernest Jones chains) and had consistently found a dismissive, if not hostile, attitude to recycling.

‘The amount of shit that’s just thrown out!’

X said, ‘The amount of shit that’s [just] thrown out [to go into landfill], you can’t even imagine!’

Apparently, if entirely recyclable materials are not looking totally perfect, then managers tend to say things like, ‘Well, just change it. They’re a bit grubby. Everything in the [landfill] bin!’

There is , I understood from X’s comments, no attempt whatsoever made to recycle anything. So much for the Signet Group’s claims regarding environmental stewardship then! Perhaps these don’t apply in Scotland?

Are other large businesses as bad?

This led to me to wonder whether other large businesses are as bad, and what steps councils and the Scottish Government are taking to monitor such things as large businesses’ recycling practices, and to encourage/enforce recycling. I shall be writing to one of my MSPs and one of my councillors about this, and also asking them to approach the Signet Group to ask for their official policies in this regard as far as their Scottish outlets are concerned.


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