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Tar Sands are the big issue for climate change as John Kerry; the man responsible for deciding the fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline comes to London for a G8 meeting tomorrow, to be greeted by a vocal ‘No to Keystone XL’ demo.

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Tar sands are an extremely viscous type of petroleum; Tar sand oil is the worst type of oil for the climate, producing three times the greenhouse gases of conventional oil production.

Kerry has met opposition worldwide for the KXL pipeline that will run from Alberta, Canada all the way through to Texas carrying harmful tar sands oil. The pipeline will run for approx 1,700 miles(2,750km) through multiple states.

To build the pipeline through the proposed route will mean destroying large amounts of forest and natural beauty spots. Tar sands are extremely hazardous; if there was damage to the pipeline or oil tankerwhilst being transported across the Atlantic, it would be catastrophic for wildlife, water supplies and agriculture.
Tar sands are non renewable, furthering our dependence on fossil fuels and putting more profit into the pockets of the large oil companies, whilst we should be looking for alternatives.

A number of groups will be protesting along the route that John Kerry will be taking to the G8 summit tomorrow in London, including the UK Tar Sands Network. Apologies for the late notice but if you’d like to join in or find out more here’s a link to the event on good ol’ Facebook.
LUSH have campaigned with UK Tar Sands Network previously If you’d like to know a little more here’s a link to that.

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Protect our Waves

Today is International Water Day, an annual day marked by the UN to promote the value and sustainable management of water around the world; it’s also an opportunity to raise awareness for important water-related campaigns. We had a chat with Andy Cummins, Campaigns Director for our friends Surfers Against Sewage, about their Protect Our Waves campaign and why waves matter for all of us.

How did you get involved with SAS?

I’ve been surfing for 20 years now, 20 years ago the coastline was in a terrible state. As a 15 year old kid I didn’t really care about the environment, because before I started surfing the environment was a football field and a youth club. But with surfing the environment widened to include the beach and the sea, and I’d get ill and sick from going in the water. Surfers Against Sewage was an organisation that could represent me as a 15 year old kid and make my voice heard down the corridors of power.

We’ve watched the Killing Waves film, what was it like to be part of that?

It was one of our more enjoyable filming experiences mainly because we got a mixture of everything, there was a lot of detail on the day to day work that we do, we were lucky enough to have Carlos Carneiro ( film director) attend one of our reps events where 20 odd really passionate volunteers from around the country were present. We make sure that they are best equipped with representing SAS all over the UK, and we also got some great waves as well!

You’ve marked out London as one of your “brown spots”. Do you think that because a lot of people live in cities they feel disconnect to the impact that they have on nature, and if people aren’t surfers, why should they care that the Thames is a brown spot?

Its iconic to the city, historically it was seen as a dumping ground and a mode of transport to take pollution away from the city to the coast and that’s obviously had an impact an we’ve seen that reverse slowly but surely.

In the city there is less of a sense of community and less of a sense of ownership, but it doesn’t have to be that way, small changes can make a big difference. If we look at places like New York, it’s one of the highest murder capitals in the US.  There was a campaign run for zero tolerance on broken windows and graffiti. Rather than concentrating on preventing murders, they tackled the other end of the spectrum, and looked at knocking out anti-social behaviour, and we can see the benefits working from the bottom up, rather than the top down. It’s that principle that can work for the environment as well. If we all work to tackle the little problems, change our own behaviour, then then those benefits can permeate on a massive scale.

Tell us more about the Protect Our Waves Campaign.

This campaign goes beyond surfing, it’s about ensuring that the environment is improved with the reduction of marine litter, and we need some sort of legal framework that can actually tackle the problem long term because it’s getting worse year after year and we haven’t got a coherent strategy from government to successfully tackle that.

Under POW we are also looking to reduce the amount of sewage overflow that discharges into our rivers and seas. Thames Water have been found guilty by the European Court of Justice for abusing their combined sewer overflow network- what that basically means is millions of gallons of raw sewage are flowing into the river. Examples of the health risks that are associated with that are e-coli and Hepatitis A , so it’s very important that this practice is brought to an end.

What the POW campaign looks to really focus on as well, is promoting waves as a valuable resource. We have national parks that we can understand the value of, we can walk up Snowdonia, look around and be in awe of its beauty. If you turn up to the beach on the right day- the waves can be just as phenomenal. They are incredibly to the country, surfing brings around 16 million to Cornwall alone, and facilitates 1600 jobs all year round, and its relatively small region with about half a million people living here with limited industry, so that’s incredibly important. We see that it touches all the different corners of the country as well. Surprisingly there is a healthy surf scene in London, because it is so central, and surfers can escape to any coast healthy event when the surf’s good at any time.

What can people do to get involved and make a difference?

Sign the POW petition! We are aiming for a 100,000 signatures, and we need another 80,000 this year. Then, we’ll take it to Downing Street and call for a political debate into the value of waves, the environment and restricting those sewage discharges and marine litter. When we have that debate we can then look at reforming current legislation to ensure that the valuable surf spots and the environment are protected for this generation and for future generations to come.

You can also attend one of the many SAS Big Spring Beach Cleans near you this weekend, you can also check their Facebook page for more information.

 

Last Wednesday, I was lucky enough to join the Sock Mob on one of their weekly walks in central London. The name Sock Mob comes from when the group first started meeting and taking to the streets with socks to handout to the homeless of London.

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There are still socks in abundance but also gloves, jumpers, hot drinks and food for anyone who wants it. The idea is that four groups meet in different parts of London at the same time and walk an area for a couple of hours spreading cheer, warmth and friendship to the homeless.

At Lush, we had supported the group over Christmas by collecting clothing and donations in all the London shops. It had proved very popular with staff and customers but we had yet to embark on one of the mobbings (where donations are given out).

So it was that I waited patiently outside a large fastfood chain on the Strand and looked for likely fellow mobbers to emerge streetside. It didn’t take long before I met Richard and Richard – a SockMob regular and the Strand meet-up organiser, and then Robert and then Anna and then Mikey. All were very friendly, ladened with donations and eager to get going!

We made our way along the busy 7 O’clock Strand and headed towards Covent Garden. Despite this usually being an area where lots of street friends can usually be found, we failed to find anyone at first. Having been here quite a lot before I moved to London, it was noticeable how much the area has changed even in the last few years. There was a side-street that been roofed, swankified and made very private-looking. Everywhere looked forbidding and sanitized unless you had money to spend!

Later, we met a man behind the Royal Opera House who was very peacefully listening to the radio through headphones and looking after his two friends’ sleeping bags. He gratefully accepted a hot drink and a KitKat and chatted to us for a bit. He mentioned that the BAFTAs had happened in the opera house just that weekend and he had been cleared from his spot as the whole road was sealed off for security. Hardly surprising but also not the best advert for a British film industry so embracing of films like Slumdog Millionaire and Mike Leigh’s social realism.

As we walked towards theatreland, we met and struck up conversation with a few other guys on their own. I was surprised both by people’s openness and happy-go-lucky attitude. No one we spoke to seemed angry or resentful at their situation, inspite of the huge frustration that must go with trying to secure things like accommodation or a job.

Writing this, I realise it is impossible to generalise about those we met on the street. People’s stories were all very different and whether they choose to live on the street (as some do) or not, most appreciate a smile, a cup of tea or a chat like anyone else.

Sockmob do just this every week and you can join their meet up page here.

Lush's Tamsin at the Combehaven protests

Lush’s Tamsin at the Combehaven protests

On Monday, Team Lush Campaigns jumped on a very early train to show support for the roads protests just outside Hastings. Locals have taken to the trees and built tunnels in the woodland falling foul of the proposed three-mile link road between Hastings and Bexhill.

We had been following events closely through the brilliantly creative campaigns-blog: Combe Haven Defenders. The blog is managed by a few dedicated local campaigners. The campaign has also managed to achieve some good coverage in national newspapers through the striking image of local grannies taking to the trees.

But as soon as we stepped off the train at Crowhurst and wandered into the countryside, it became apparent that all the blog following in the world could not prepared us for the clear reality of the battle facing the Combe Haven Defenders: building this road will be have disastrous and destructive consequences. This sleepy village of one pub, no shop and few human inhabitants barely registers for the animal and plant neighbourhood nearby.

We found Camp Decoy after crossing the boggiest of fields. The eviction had begun. Those steely enough remained high up in trees earmarked for destruction. The site below was fenced off and surrounded by disinterested looking security and bailiffs.

Stuck on the wrong side of the fence, we watched as the camp was slowly dismantled and shouted support for those being forcibly removed. One spirited defender (later arrested) clung to stumps and branches as he was ripped away by six or seven bailiffs.

Throughout our visit, we spent time chatting with two of the resident local campaigners, Derek and Andrea. They told us that the proposed three-lane road will carry some 30,000 cars day, mere metres from two ponds inhabited by protected great crested newts. It will also boarder several clumps of ancient woodland and run over a small stream that attracts wild eels to the area.

Despite this imminent destruction, neither were all doom and gloom. They stressed the huge public opposition to the road that still exists as well as the remaining chances to prevent its being built in the coming months.

Check out this video from the Guardian featuring Andrea.

So, the Combe Haven Defenders may be out of the trees but the battle to stop the road rages on.