The Power of Less – Policy on Waste in Wales


I had a most heartening morning at the well attended Policy on Waste in Wales forum today (which I as usual gatecrashed as I’m not about to pay £200 for the pleasure of having my own policies talked back to me). All those years of going to these things and asking the awkward questions seems to have paid off. This was evident in that a lot of people called me by name, and yes I did still ask awkward questions, but there were not so many of them as before. Policy makers are now thoroughly convinced of the necessity for a circular economy (or closed loop system). Of note was the humanising of waste systems – with an extra 4000 jobs in the pipeline and 30,000 jobs in the ultimate Welsh circular economy, the fact that politics is holding back investment and that waste regulation assumes that waste has no value -which of course is a ludicrous concept. On a planet with finite resources everything has a value. Importantly it became clear that waste – on any level – is a failure of imagination.

Re-manufacturing was a big subject, abolishing built in obsolescence and increasing producer responsibility in manufacture, particularly in packaging is finally acceptable.

To hear more than one speaker talking about getting us to a one planet economy by 2050 was music to my ears, so the intention is there even if the framework needs much to be desired. There was much dependence on the Well Being of Future Generations Act, to sort things out. I hope it does, but am not optimistic on this particular point.

Today, we definitely talked the talk. I hope that tomorrow we will walk the walk.

Finally a word on gender balance. It was stunningly even. This is the first time I have been to a Policy seminar which was not criminally overwhelmed by men in suits. I have to wonder if this is a true sign of changing times, or whether the subject matter of waste and all the implications arising from abolishing it, has touched the imagination of the female of the species, and spurred them to take part for the common good. The panels weren’t quite gender balanced, but I get the feeling we are at last on the way to equal representation in all strata of society.

So congratulations to the organisers for bringing me a Green morning in every way.

The 1% will never vote Green

This week I was invited to join a Labour group working for animal rights on Facebook, which I was glad to do. I explained I was a Green, and it was no problem for them either. We have the same aims and objectives when it comes to respecting the welfare of other sentient beings.

However, I have become increasingly tormented by the plethora of groups I have been invited to join on social media. These groups work right across the spectrum, many of them have a huge amount in common. Often I have thought ‘if only they would all get together’. By getting together they would unleash an immense volume for their cause.

The 1% are laughing at us. We vent our spleen on social media, share snippets of news and views, but achieve practically nothing. We waste inordinate amounts of time writing throw away comments on social media and email, instead of thinking through a workable strategy. The chatter has gone up, the wisdom is evaporating. Divided we fall, but divided we largely insist on being.

I doubt that many of the 1% are on facebook. They do not hear us, nor do they want to. Facebook is looking increasingly like a release valve for the disaffected, a wonderful tool for the 1%. It probably wouldn’t be too much of a challenge for Facebook software to discover the common ground and put all similar groups in touch with each other, but that sort of unity would be counterproductive to the aim of those who wish us to remain in little pieces, reverberating endlessly around the echo chamber of our own small worlds.

How will the 99% overcome the walls of their self-made enclosures ? The Occupy movement started something, but just like the Climate Camps of yesteryear, they largely dissolved into the fabric of everyday life. Maybe it was work, family, or simply the fact that they thought they had achieved something, and that something was enough.

Very few movements of this type achieved anything lasting. Greenham Common is a notable exception, where dedicated non-violent protest (without the internet) over 19 years, by thousands of indomitable women greatly contributed to the popular demand for disarmament that led to the signing of the INF Treaty in 1987 (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty) which mandated the removal of Cruise missiles from the site.

Politics is the way you live your life as well as the way you vote.

The question of how to rein in a dominant capitalist culture and its negative ecological effects is alive. The massive protest against the Iraq war, whist being a correct judgment on behalf of the people, was not, could not, change the decisions made by the political power. Had the protest continued for months or years, the outcome could well have been different – Daesh would probably not have been brought into existence, and the desperate refugees battling their way across Europe to safety may still be tucked up in their own warm beds.

The 99% may not achieve everything it sets out to achieve, but if we want change, we do have to pay – with our time, our energy and our courage. We have to break out of our little echo chambers and explore new ways of challenging the system. A one day street protest has never been enough. A vote could be.

The surest way to change a system is to get into the inside of it. That’s what Greens are doing. Voting a Green into any governing body ensures that there will be a voice to stand up for for the rights of people and planet. One Green voice can temper the excesses of the 1%. 3 Green voices will raise the level of the fight and start to change minds. 10 Green voices will change everything.

Greens in the Senedd at this election will be be the start of the change so many of the 99% long to see. Wales need to see a solid, definitive culture of hard decision-making and robust action to support jobs, welfare and pollution-free energy . You’ve seen what the others can do. Now is the time of the Greens.