For a second day running it has not been possible to see the sun in Peterborough at 09:30. I had made a note to check where it would be on Friday (tomorrow) when there is a chance to witness a near total solar eclipse. People have made plans and some have plotted parties and bought cameras, filters, projectors and protective eye wear, ready for the big day.
Instead we have “fog”. This is a polite word for particulate laden and polluted air. It might be a lot more accurate to call it “smog”. Yesterday it almost lifted just after lunch and shafts of sunlight penetrated into the city centre. Today we have what looks like heavy cloud. But it is more likely that the smog has simply floated up a bit. The government website is predicting worse pollution levels on Friday than today.
I joined the Green Party in 2007 as I tried to reverse Peterborough City Council’s decision to support the incineration of domestic waste. This was a battle which we campaigners lost. We saw a neighbouring proposal fall in the face of a far more successful campaign. Lessons were learned, as they say. And I started to consider the vexed question of what exactly drives politics in Peterborough.
A key supporter of incineration of waste is Cllr Marco Cereste (he is also a director of Peterborough Renewable Energy Limited which builds slightly cleaner incinerators than the one the council is building). As leader of the council he personally attracts huge amounts of anger, frustration and suspicion: some of it reasonable, some of it less so. But in the last couple of weeks he has told the story of his signing (on behalf of the city he represents) a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on his facebook profile (shared with his facebook friends). This MoU is with an entity locals understand is a Chinese government funded organisation, possibly what we’d call in the UK, an “NGO” (non governmental organisation).
Then in an online discussion elsewhere entirely about this morning’s fog, someone shared this video which I hadn’t come across previously. The story of this video’s making and removal from Chinese social media is available online. I just wish that we’d had this video at the time the council’s decision was still not made. At the notorious moment when Pam Kreling (then one of the councillors making the crucial decision about whether or not to use incineration) said words to the effect that if she couldn’t see anything emerging from a stack, then there was nothing there and there was by implication nothing which could do anyone any harm. As campaigners we weren’t allowed to speak at critical moments in meetings: in fact the chair of one of the meetings offered to have me and Richard Olive thrown out when we stood up to tell them they were being hopelessly misinformed by their advisors. But as I observed this pantomime (there was no beadle to implement the Chair’s desire) I was left reeling from a deeper revelation. I still wonder how people in key positions got through even basic level schooling, what exactly went on in their science lessons and what their marks were.