Friday, 16 December 2011

Interview - Jane Burd from Greenpeace Notts

BFTF was chuffed to have the opportunity to interview Jane Burd from the Nottingham branch of Greenpeace recently. Talking on Radio Dawn 107.6FM, BFTF and Jane discussed a number of topics ranging from nuclear power to fish stocks to the best way to lobby your MP.

Starting, helpfully, at the beginning, BFTF asked Jane to give a short introduction to Greenpeace. She responded by explaining that the organisation had its origins in 1971 when anti-nuclear protestors campaigned against the underwater nuclear tests in Alaska, which they feared would cause a tsunami due to the geologically instabilities in the area. Initially called the “Don’t Make a Wave Committee” the protestors chartered a ship which they named “Greenpeace” and sailed towards the site of the test. Although they were turned back by the US Coast Guard, and were unable to prevent the test, the resulting publicity was critical of the US and caused further tests in the areas to be cancelled. Soon after, “Don’t make a Wave” officially changed their name to Greenpeace. Since then the organisation has grown into a world-wide organisation campaigning on global issues. The Greenpeace website describes their vision as “a green and peaceful world - an earth that is ecologically healthy and able to nurture life in all its diversity.”

Describing the essence of the problem that they are combating, the Greenpeace website states that
“Until now, modern governments and businesses have treated the Earth as a commodity to be exploited and used up to serve human needs and desires. Our whole economic system is built on the belief that a thing is only of value if it creates money. By these standards a forest is worthless unless it is cut down and sold. When economists balance the books, they don't take into account the value of the work that forests do to provide rainfall, regulate the climate and provide habitat for most of the world's plants and animals, not to mention food and shelter for millions of local people.”
To combat this view of the world, this Greenpeace is active in a number of key areas:

Climate : We're working to replace our hugely inefficient and carbon polluting energy system with a clean energy one so that our air will be clean and our climate will be stable and healthy.

Forests : We're working to protect the world's ancient forests and the plants, animals and peoples that depend on them.

Oceans : We want oceans that are protected and full of abundant, healthy marine life; oceans that are carefully managed, and sustainable fishing practices that don't put marine species at risk.

A Peaceful world : Governments and industry around the world must ensure that the Earth's finite resources are shared fairly, so people have what they need to live peacefully. That way there is simply no need to fight over dwindling food, gas, oil, and water, or to develop weapons of mass destruction. We tackle the root causes of global insecurity and promote a vision of green development which is vital for living peacefully on a finite planet. Read more about how we're promoting peace.

Jane also provided some information on the Nottingham branch of Greenpeace. She explained that it comprised about a dozen people, all volunteers, who spent a few hours a month campaigning, often by manning a stall in the city centre. The organisation tends to deal with one campaign at a time.

BFTF asked Jane how she had become involved in this kind of activism. She explained that when she had her first child, some 20yrs ago, she began to take a keener interest in the kind of world that they would be growing up in. Living in the North East at the time, she became aware that fishermen on the East coast were landing fish that were often diseased and contained tumours. The fishermen would then ship the fish to the West coast for sale, where people were less aware of the poor shape that the fish were in.

At the same time, fishermen on the West coast were catching fish that were radioactive (due to discharged from nuclear installations) and were shipping them to the East coast for sale (again, because the customers there were less aware of the radioactive nature of the fish.).

Becoming very unhappy with this situation, Jane happened to meet a Greenpeace campaigner on the street, a chance encounter that was the start of her involvement with the organisation.

Moving on to the subject of the UK fisheries (sustainably sourced fish being a recurring theme in this blog (seehere and here ), BFTF asked Jane about the state of fish stocks around the UK.

Jane responded by saying that fish stocks around the UK were under severe pressure and, at current rates, would soon be severely depleted. A big part of the problem is that the Common Fisheries Policy (see also here) is too vulnerable to lobbying from countries such as Spain, which has a very large fishing fleet. The policy is set every ten years, the next review being in 2013)

In terms of what people should buy, Jane acknowledged that MSC certified fish was a valuable step forward but pointed out that Greenpeace was interested in achieving change for all fishing grounds, not just the MSC certified ones. A visit to the Greenpeace website reveals that the organisation would like to see an end to the very destructive practice of bottom trawling as well as reform of the current rules to end the practice of discarding unwanted fish (more about that later). Some measure of the damage that is being can be seen by the comments of The UN Secretary General in 2006 that 95 percent of damage to seamount ecosystems worldwide is caused by deep sea bottom trawling.
Bottom Trawling can wreck my environment, please buy your fish with care!

A guide to lobbying your MP and MEP can be found here.

To this end, and to BFTF’s utter surprise, Jane praised the current fisheries minister, Richard Benyon, saying that he genuinely committed to introducing sustainable fishing practices in Europe.

Jane also recommended “Hugh’s Fish Fight”, a campaign being run by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to reduce the levels of fish discarding by European fishing vessels. As Hugh explains,
“Around half of the fish caught by fishermen in the North Sea are unnecessarily thrown back into the ocean dead. The problem is that in a mixed fishery where many different fish live together, fishermen cannot control the species that they catch. Fishing for one species often means catching another, and if people don’t want them or fishermen are not allowed to land them, the only option is to throw them overboard. The vast majority of these discarded fish will die. The EU estimates that in the North Sea, discards are between 40% and 60% of the total catch. Many of these fish are species that have fallen out of fashion: we can help to prevent their discard just by rediscovering our taste for them.Fishermen are not allowed to land any over-quota fish; if they accidentally catch them – which they can’t help but do - there is no choice but to throw them overboard before they reach the docks”

If you visit the website you can sign up for the campaign and add your name to the letter that will be sent to Commissioner Damanaki, Members of the European Parliament and all member state governments, asking them to use their influence to stop the unacceptable practice of throwing discards away. Hugh points out that the large numbers of people who have already emailed their MPs to protest about discards has resulted in the issue being debated in the Houses of Parliament and funding being provided for a six month study into what would happen if a discard ban was introduced.

The discussion now moved onto electricity, specifically renewable energy generation. BFTF asked Jane what kind of renewable could fill the gap that will soon be left by the large number of coal and nuclear power stations that are scheduled to be closed down in the next few years. Jane suggested that wind power was the most mature of the available technologies and pointed out that off-shore wind farms had a number of advantages, including higher wind speeds, no “NIMBY” issues and the ability to build large “farms” of windturbines.

Gobsmackingly, Jane said that Denmark generates a full 20% of its electricity from wind-power (see here), so it is clear that wind can form a significant part of the energy mix. To take just one example of what Denmark has been up to, let's look at the Rødsand I windfarm, built in 2003, with 72 turbines and a total capacity of 166 MW. Annual production is some 570 GW•h. Interestingly, this suggests that the widnfarm operates at some 39% of its theoretical capacity, well above the 15-20% that Germany achieves with its largely land based wind generating capacity

The Danish attempt to make the worlds largest "Battleship" grid was going well

For an outline of worldwide energy production, get clicky here.

Penultimately, BFTF asked Jane about lobbying MP’s or companies to encourage them to change their practices (for example, as shown here, here and here). Jane commented that her experience was that MP’s still valued a crafted letter (as opposed to a copy-and-paste letter) above emails and other communications and explained that people could find the contact details for their MP’s at

Jane also described how companies can change their policies very quickly indeed when they feel their reputations are under threat and that the publicity surrounding Greenpeace campaigns could sometimes be the catalyst to make this happen.

Lastly, as with all BFTF guests, Jane was asked what she thought was the best thing about living in the UK.

Her answer was instant and decisive ; “Tea, I’ve been to other countries around the world and in none of them was I able to get a cup of tea as good as it is made here.”

And who could disagree with that?

To find out more about what Greenpeace is doing in Nottingham, you can email them at

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