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Public Involvement in Brexit Talks is Essential, Say Electoral Reform Society

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The British public made history today by voting to leave the European Union. Results of the EU referendum have sparked rumours that other European countries are calling for their own vote. Commenting on the results, the Electoral Reform Society says Britain should remain united to decide what happens next.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “This is a monumental shift and arguably the biggest constitutional change Britain has seen for a generation. We are in uncharted waters and must think very carefully about what happens next.

“We need a national conversation about where Britain goes from here and how our democracy should take shape as the process of leaving the EU takes hold.

“In his resignation speech, David Cameron said that there should be ‘full engagement’ of the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We welcome this – but if the referendum has shown anything it is that the public must be involved as well.

“The high turnout of 72% has shown yet again that there’s a huge appetite for thinking about constitutional issues – something we saw with the Scottish referendum. This should be the beginning rather than the end of public involvement.

“But there are stark divisions in the UK that have been laid bare by this referendum – between nations and regions, and between different demographics. Scotland, Northern Ireland and London very strongly voted to stay in the EU, while England and Wales voted to leave. With two nations voting to Leave and two voting to Remain, we’re at risk of constitutional chaos and are witnessing a widening chasm between the countries of the UK. Every effort now needs to be made to build bridges given the closeness of the result – this 52-48 split reflects a divided and fragmented politics in Britain.

“Leave campaigners talked a lot about democracy during the campaign. Let’s put those words into action and reform our democracy at home. Now that the big question about membership of the EU has been answered, the next step should be democratic reform of the UK – including a proportional voting system and an elected House of Lords, which Nigel Farage says should be a top priority.

“What made this referendum different to a General Election is that every vote counted – wherever you were in the country. People felt like their vote had real power – with no safe seats, electoral wastelands or tactical voting – and that seems to have fed through to a high turnout.

“The government will now be negotiating the nuts and bolts – our terms of departure, a future trade deal and how to fill the legislative and constitutional gap that will appear once we’ve fully exited the EU. The public need to have a say in the negotiations that follow this vote. These talks and decisions mustn’t be taken behind closed doors – the devil is in the detail, so they must be open for scrutiny.

“The country is still divided over this – and will be for some time to come – so big efforts will have to be made to bring the country together, and to involve voters in what could be a long process. 

 “Either way, we need a way to unite a fragmented country in the aftermath of this result and to involve everyone in the big constitutional changes to come.” 

Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Environment

New Climate Change Report Emphasizes Urgent Need for Airline Emission Regulations

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In less than two months, the United States has grappled with some of the worst natural disasters in its history. Hurricanes battered the south central United States. Fires destroyed homes throughout Northern California. Puerto Rico experienced some of the worst storms ever. A massive windstorm caused more damage to the northeastern United States then any other storm on record before winter even struck.

These recent incidents have spurred discussion on the dangers of climate change. A recent report from the University of London has shed some light on the discussion. The new report suggests that new regulations are needed, including stricter EPA regulations on Airlines.

Review of the new report

The new report was published in the British medical Journal, Lancet. The report concluded that climate change is a “threat multiplier” for a variety of social problems, including diseases and natural disasters. While numerous studies have processed the risk that climate change plays with creating natural disasters, University of London report is among the first to explore the relationship between climate change and disease.

The authors warned that the problems are becoming irreversible. They will continue to get worse if risk factors are not adequately addressed.

The most concerning part of the report is that these problems are having the most serious impact on the most vulnerable communities in the world. Countries that depend on agriculture and other issues will suffer the most if climate change escalates.

“The answer is, most of our indicators are headed in the wrong direction,”said Nick Watts, a fellow at University College London’s Institute for Global Health and executive director of the Lancet Countdown, one of the lead researchers of the paper. “Broadly, the world has not responded to climate change, and that lack of response has put lives at risk. … The impacts we’re experiencing today are already pretty bad. The things we’re talking about in the future are potentially catastrophic.”

Airline industry discovers climate change is a two-way Street

The airline industry is coping with the problems of climate change, while also coming to terms with the fact that it has helped accelerate the problem. Earlier this year, American Airlines was forced to cancel four dozen flights near Phoenix. Cancellations were called due to excessive temperatures. The air was over 120 degrees, which is too hot for some smaller jet planes to get off the ground.

One anonymous airline executive privately admitted that their business model has facilitated climate change. They warned that the problem may become twice as bad in the next few years if proper safeguards aren’t implemented. Representatives from Goindigo have echoed these concerns.

The EPA has stated that airplanes account for 11% of all emissions. They are expected to increase over 50% within the next 30 years. This could have serious repurcussions if newer, greener airplane models don’t become the new standard in the very near future.

This is driving discussion about the need for new policies.The EPA has been discussing the need for new airline regulations for nearly two years. An EPA ruling made in July 2016 set the tone for new regulations, which could be introduced in the next year.

The new policies may be delayed, due to the new president’s position on climate change. He hired an EPA chief that has sued the organization about a dozen times. However, the Trump Administration may not be able to oppose climate change indefinitely, because a growing number of people are pressing for reforms. Even younger conservatives primarily believe climate change is a threat and are demanding answers. This may force the EPA to follow through on its plans to introduce new solutions.

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