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English Votes for English Laws (#EVEL): Electoral Reform Society & Citizens’ Assemblies

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Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said today: “The introduction of English Votes for English Laws would be a highly significant change, not just to voting procedure but to the future of the relationship with devolved nations and UK democracy. These proposals have constitutional consequences beyond changes to parliamentary procedure – so it’s vital that citizens have a say.”

The complex and often divisive nature of the many constitutional challenges facing the UK demand that innovative approaches are taken that can create new ways of dealing with difficult questions.

Ghose added: “This significant change should be considered alongside other constitutional issues, with the input of the UK public as part of a citizen-led constitutional convention. We can’t leave it to ‘great and the good’ alone to decide on Britain’s constitutional future. So far, citizens’ engagement in the EVEL and devolution debates has been limited – but the appetite is there.”

The Electoral Reform Society is demonstrating how that can be achieved with a live experiment happening right now.

Involving Citizens

We need to open up the debate on devolution to involve citizens in the process alongside politicians.

Ghose explained Citizens’ Assemblies: “Leading academics in conjunction with the Electoral Reform Society have just this week launched an important new democratic initiative to help deal with these profound constitutional changes – ‘Citizens’ Assemblies’ in Sheffield and Southampton on where power should lie locally.”

The ‘Democracy Matters’ Citizens’ Assemblies project is the first of its kind, involving citizens in the hugely significant constitutional questions the country now faces. The scale and remit of the Assemblies have not been seen in the UK before. Held in Sheffield and the Solent region over the next two months, the Assemblies are drawing on cutting edge research into democratic theory and practice and giving English citizens the first chance to have their say on England’s constitutional future.

The public want to shape the devolution process and ERS passionately believes in giving citizens that voice.

‘Democracy Matters’ Citizens’ Assemblies – www.citizensassembly.co.uk

The ‘Democracy Matters’ project involves two pilot Citizens’ Assemblies: one in the Solent region (AssemblySouth) and another running concurrently in Sheffield (AssemblyNorth). The first part of AssemblyNorth was launched at the weekend. Enthused and engaged local residents from across South Yorkshire learned about a range of devolution options for their area and began to reflect on their priorities.

The Assemblies will see local participants develop their knowledge and consult with experts and lobbyists on key constitutional questions. They will then deliberate and decide amongst themselves on the various options on the table with the opportunity also to design their own solution.

One Assembly will include politicians (AssemblySouth) as Assembly members, and another will not (AssemblyNorth). This will enable us to explore the best ways of citizens and politicians working together to build a better democracy, locally and nationally. This ESRC funded project has been developed with a huge range of academic expertise and is supported by many leading universities and campaigners.

A UK-wide Constitutional Convention is a chance to create a democratic solution to the many urgent and often divisive constitutional questions that the UK faces today. Citizens’ Assemblies have been held in Ireland, Canada and Iceland but the UK needs its own home-grown Convention capable of tackling the complex constitutional issues following from the Scottish Independence Referendum. These pilots provide many practical lessons for how to involve citizens in ongoing debates about devolution and decentralization.

Ghose concluded: “Citizen involvement is crucial for public confidence and the sustainability of Britain’s constitution. It’s time to take the debate outside of Westminster.”

ERS kindly contributed an article to our Guide to Sustainable Democracy earlier this year.

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Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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How Going Green Can Save Your Business Thousands

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Running a company isn’t easy. From reporting wages in an efficient way to meeting deadlines and targets, there’s always something to think about – with green business ideas giving entrepreneurs something extra to ponder. While environmental issues may not be at the forefront of your mind right now, it could save your business thousands, so let’s delve deeper into this issue.

Small waste adds up over time

A computer left on overnight might not seem like the end of the world, right? Sure, it’s a rather minor issue compared to losing a client or being refused a loan – but small waste adds up over time. Conserving energy is an effective money saver, so to hold onto that hard-earned cash, try to:

  • Turn all electrical gadgets off at the socket rather than leaving them on standby as the latter can crank up your energy bill without you even realizing.
  • Switch all lights off when you exit a room and try switching to halogen incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps or light emitting diodes as these can use up to 80 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent and are therefore more efficient.
  • Replace outdated appliances with their greener counterparts. Energy Star appliances have labels which help you to understand their energy requirements over time.
  • Draught-proof your premises as sealing up leaks could slash your energy bills by 30 per cent.

Going electronic has significant benefits

If you don’t want to be buried under a mountain of paperwork, why not opt for digital documents instead of printing everything out? Not only will this save a lot of money on paper and ink but it will also conserve energy and help protect the planet. You may even be entitled to one of the many tax breaks and grants issued to organizations committed to achieving their environmental goals. This is particularly good news for start-ups with limited funds as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is keen to support companies opening up their company in a green manner.

Of course, if you’re used to handing out brochures and leaflets at every company meeting or printing out newsletters whenever you get the chance, going electronic may be a challenge – but here are some things you can try:

  • Using PowerPoint presentations not printouts
  • Communicating via instant messenger apps or email
  • Using financial software to manage your books
  • Downloading accounting software to keep track of figures
  • Arranging digital feedback and review forms
  • Making the most of Google Docs

Going green can help you to make money too

Going green and environmental stability is big news at the moment with many companies doing their bit for the environment. While implementing eco-friendly strategies will certainly save you money, reducing your carbon footprint could also make you a few bucks too. How? Well, consumers care about what brands are doing more than ever before, with many deliberately siding with those who are implementing green policies. Essentially, doing your bit for the environment is a PR dream as it allows you to talk about what everyone wants to hear.

Going green can certainly save your money but it should also improve your reputation too and give you a platform to promote your business.

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