River Wissey Lovell Fuller

The Vilage SOAPBOX

March 2011

Ron looks at a number of items including the proposed incinerator for West Norfolk

Global Warming

There is no sign of the earth cooling, temperatures have remained high since the peak in 1998 at almost 0.5C above the 1950-1980 average. The Climate Research Unit at UEA stated that the average global temperature for 2010 was the third highest on record. Perhaps it is significant, however, that over the last 11years the global maximum temperature has never reached the peak of 1998 and has not varied greatly, within the limits of accuracy it might be regarded as roughly constant. The average during this period is about 0.1C below the 1998 peak.

The summer minimum area of arctic sea ice is another indication of global warming, this had been shrinking slowly in recent years and reached a minimum in 2007 since when it has increased slightly. With the temperature remaining roughly constant and the area of Arctic sea ice apparently no longer shrinking it would seem reasonable to argue that, even if global warming is continuing, the rate of increase has decreased dramatically.

Interestingly, in the period since 1998, whilst the global temperature has remained fairly steady, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 15%. This suggests that perhaps the link between global temperature and CO2 concentration in the atmosphere might be more tenuous than we are led to believe.

The Incinerator

We have certainly been bombarded with propaganda from the 'NO' campaigners. We have been told that the incinerator will emit dangerous particles and highly dangerous dioxins that will pollute the atmosphere and the farmland for miles around. It is much better for the environment and cheaper, they claim, to compost and recycle the waste, in fact, they tell us, the incinerator will cost £500million whereas the plant for composting and recycling would only cost £40million. Clearly, if all this is true, only an imbecile would choose the incinerator. I have no doubt that the poll will return an overwhelming 'NO' vote.

The problem is that we do not know if it is all fair comment. No doubt there will be particulates, but we are continuously bombarded by particles and particulates in the atmosphere that are produced by diesel engines, oil fired boilers, wood burners, coal fires, industrial processes, bonfires and land erosion. Combustion of all forms generally produces some nasty substances, including dioxins, in the exhaust. Whether or not the incinerator would increase these problems significantly we do not know.

Of course we should recycle as much as possible and compost that which is easily composted. Not all waste can be composted, however, and composting produces its own gases, and not all of the non-compostable waste can be recycled. In particular, I believe many plastic materials cannot be economically recycled. Inevitably there will be some waste that cannot be recycled or composted and there will always be the problem of how to dispose of that.

Clearly we do not really know enough to make a judgement on whether or not we should have an incinerator and it would seem that there is a need for a truly independent body to examine the facts and advise us. If incineration can be made sufficiently clean as not to noticeably change local atmospheric pollution then one has to admit that it does have some appeal

Finally, whilst I do have my doubts at times, I do not believe that our councillors are imbeciles, they would not choose to build an incinerator costing £500million if they could build a superior waste disposal plant for £40million.

Whatever means of waste disposal we finally have the two arguments by the NO campaigners that I support wholeheartedly are that it should not be sited in the very north-west corner of Norfolk and that the proposed private financing will be unacceptably expensive in the long run. These two reasons alone were enough for me to vote NO.

NHS Reforms

I was disappointed when I heard of the proposed revolution in the way in which the NHS will operate, not least because it was yet another broken promise by the 'coalition'. Cameron was quite clear before the election that there would be no major reorganization of the NHS.

I have no idea how it will work out, but I do hope that it is not a step towards privatization of the service, as some claim.

I do not understand how it will operate. Are the GPs to act as purchasers of services provided by the hospitals? Will hospitals be required to act like businesses selling their services to the GPs? Will they be required to provide quotes? Will the GP shop around before deciding which hospital to send his patient to? Will this all mean more admin work rather then less? What becomes of the promise that the patient can choose which hospital to use if the GP says "Sorry I can't afford that one"? It appears that the GP will have all the power, not the patient.

It does seem a bit odd to introduce a scheme in which the GP is totally dominant, it means that all the other major players in the service, consultants, surgeons, hospital doctors, psychiatrists, pharmacists, physios and nurses are all being sidelined.

At present the NHS has enormous buying power and should be able to achieve the best possible deals with suppliers of drugs and equipment, the GP consortia will be far more numerous than the current trusts and in a much weaker position up against the powerful drug companies. Are the individual hospitals also likely to find themselves in a weak position when buying equipment if their main source of income is the money raised from patients through their GPs?

In the end surely the government has a responsibility to oversee and account for taxpayers' money that they spend and I am not sure that the proposed arrangements will allow the necessary control.

Ron Watts

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