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UK General election

May 2, 2010 Leave a comment

The new UK government will be elected on Thursday 6th May

Nick Clegg, Gordon Brown and David Cameron.

As it stands at the moment there are three clear contenders and they are very close together in the polls: David Cameron for the Conservative Party, Nick Clegg for the Liberal Democrat party and Gordon Brown, the current PM,  for the Labour party. During the election campaign they have had three televised debates

After watching them,

The newspaper predictions are for a hung Parliament when no one party has an overall majority which may mean a coalition government, familiar to us in Spain but less usual in the UK where the electoral system favours a two party system.

The current British electoral system makes it possible for a party to win the election while getting fewer votes than another party. They have a system of constituencies or seats and voters vote for their constituency candidates. There are currently 650 constituencies in the UK, each of which returns one Member of Parliament.

These were the results in the General election 2005

Parliamentary seats won

Labour (355)

Conservative (198)

Liberal Democrat (62)

Democratic Unionist Party (9)

SNP (6)

Sinn Fein (5)

Other (5)

Plaid Cymru (3)

Social Democratic & Labour Party (3)


The system as it stands now favours the stance of the two biggest parties, Labour and Conservatives, to the detriment of the smaller parties. In this election Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats has demanded electoral reform to allow smaller parties to obtain a fairer representation.

Here are some of the political parties contesting seats across the UK in the 2010 general election, which takes place on 6 May.

Alliance Party (NI)

Alliance for Green Socialism

Anticapitalist

British National Party

The Christian Party

Conservative Party

Christian Peoples Alliance

Communist Party

Democratic Unionist Party

English Democrats

Get the Snouts out the Trough

Green Party

Independent Kidderminster Hospital campaign

Jury Team

Labour Party

Liberal Party

Liberal Democrats

Libertarian Party

Mebyon Kernow

Monster Raving Loony Party

The National Front

People Before Profit

Pirate Party UK

Plaid Cymru

Respect

Science Party

Scottish Green Party

Scottish National Party

Scottish Socialist Party

SDLP

Sinn Fein

Socialist Party (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition)

Socialist Party of Great Britain

Socialist Equality Party

Ulster Conservative and Unionists

UK Independence Party

Workers’ Revolutionary Party

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Deepwater Horizon : the latest environmental disaster

May 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Just as we were talking about environmental disasters we hear about  a devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It has been reported as the biggest one the world has ever had.It has been caused by an accident on an BP oil rig named Deepwater Horizon.

The oil  is leaking from the ocean floor more than a mile down. So far the accident has cost 11 workers their lives yet the widespread concern and anger are about the some 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) of oil  gushing into the sea off the coast of Louisiana, threatening vast devastation to the nearby marine life and coastal industries.

It has already affected many people´s livelihood. Check their testimonies here

Only five years ago this American area was severely affected by hurricane Katrina and as they are beginning to make a recovery they see their ecosystem under threat again. The coast of four US states are already affected: Florida and Alabama, Mississippi and Florida

Perhaps now some of the countries which have been planning further drills for oil will rethink their strategies.

Writing a Short Story

April 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Some of the best fictional stories are short stories. A short story is a usually a fictional story, short enough to be read in one sitting, hence the name “short story”. The thing about short stories is that because they are short , the idea is to keep it fairly simple and make it fairly fast paced.

Before you start writing it is a good idea to briefly plan out your story. Make a list of possible characters and describe briefly what you want to happen in your story. In your plan you should have an introduction paragraph that sets the scene and introduces your characters. There should be a few paragraphs in the middle of your story, these should be where all the action happens and should be the core of your story. Always finish with a conclusion that rounds it all up and brings the story together.

Include enough detail to let your readers picture the scene but only details that actually add something to the story. The setting includes the time, location, context, and atmosphere where the plot takes place. When describing your setting, use two or more senses to make it more vivid.

When writing short stories, keep the number of characters in your story to a minimum. If you spend all your time introducing characters, your reader may lose interest and you may run out of time for all the action of your story. Make sure that all the characters you include are necessary to your story. In order to develop a living, breathing, multi-faceted character, it is important to know very well the character that you will use in the story. Your reader probably won’t need to know much more than the most important things:

  • Appearance. Give your reader a visual understanding of the character.
  • Action. Show the reader what kind of person your character is, by describing actions rather than simply listing adjectives.
  • Speech. Develop the character as a person — don’t merely have your character announce important plot details, make it participate in dialogues.
  • Thought. Bring the reader into your character’s mind, to show them your character’s unexpressed memories, fears, and hopes.

Once details have been decided and a plan has been outlined, divide your story into three main parts:

* Your introduction should make an impact on your reader. The idea is to create just enough excitement that the reader desires to read on.  In today’s fast-moving world, the first sentence of your short story should catch your reader’s attention with the unusual, the unexpected, an action, or a conflict. Begin with tension and immediacy.

*The core of your story is where it all happens. This can be just a couple of paragraphs or several depending on the length you intend your story to be. Pace your story out over a few paragraphs but remember not to give more information than necessary. Try to keep it simple and to the point. Try to keep the reader interested, intrigued or guessing. Concentrate on what your story is about and try not to go off track on to information that is not needed. Keep it to the point and keep your reader interested. You do not have much time in a short story to explain yourself, so describe your scenes well and with descriptive words. Be careful not to over use big words and create a story full of fancy language, keep it direct and simple. You story should flow from one paragraph into the next. As you come towards the end of the core part of your story, start to finish the story up, or prepare it for the big conclusion.

*The conclusion is where it all ends up. Your conclusion should be one to two paragraphs and it should bring the whole story together. It should answer any questions raised in the core part of the story, and finish off the story. You can conclude your story with a bit of a twist or a surprise to keep the reader guessing or wondering what would be next, but it does however need to bring a feeling of finality to the reader. Sometimes the best short stories are the ones that leave you guessing, so do not be afraid to create a bit of mystery in your conclusion but make sure the story feels finished and concluded.

Now it’s your turn to give it a go! Write a story set within the context of a natural or an environmental disaster.

Home:Planet Earth

April 27, 2010 1 comment

Home is a 2009 documentary by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. The film is almost entirely composed of aerial shots of various places on Earth, it was filmed in 50 countries. It shows the diversity of life on Earth and how humanity is threatening the ecological balance of the planet.

Although it has some harsh facts of how we are contributing to global warming and the oil crisis, it ends on a positive note.

The movie was released simultaneously on June 5, 2009 in cinemas across the globe, on DVD, Blu-Ray, television, and on YouTube. Opening in 181 countries, the film broke the world record for the largest film release in history. As of April 2010, the French, English, German, Spanish, Russian and Arabic versions on Youtube logged a total of more than 14 million views

The film has no copy right and is carbon offset which means that all the CO2 emissions created while making the film are calculated and offset by sums of money used to create clean energy for those who don´t have any.

Take a look at our home from a different angle at

You can see Yann Arthus-Bertrand in a TED talk discussing hiw views on ecology and his work with a charming French accent.  We hope you like it too.

Natural Disasters

April 26, 2010 Leave a comment

A natural disaster is the effect of a natural hazard (e.g. fire, land movement, water or weather disasters) that affects the environment, and leads to financial, environmental and/or human losses. Sometimes human beings take a very active part in provoking it. Have a look at this presentation to know more about it.

Celebrities and the environment

April 25, 2010 4 comments

A lot of people are rightly concerned with the future of our planet. Some of them have used their “celebrity” status to raise awareness for the cause click here to see a list of Green celebrities

Both Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet have championed environmental causes. In his case he has a whole website dedicated to it. It is called Leonardo Di Caprio Eco-site with some great links and also you can find two short movies he has made: one on global warming and another on the water cycle.

Kate Winslet has voiced a campaign against the cruelty used in the rising of geese and ducks for foie gras production. In this video she describes the whole process. Warning: it contains disturbing images

Some supermarkets in the Uk are offering cruelty free  foie gras altenative products such as Waitrose’s “Faux Gras” (using a mixture of goose and duck fat mixed with 50% free range poultry liver)

However you don´t need to be a celebrity to champion the green cause, every little helps!

Volcanic cloud, the whole story

April 22, 2010 1 comment

Due to the unexpected eruption of the Icelandic Eyjafjallajokull volcano (and for the record, the name comes from “Eyja”  – for island, “Fjalla” – meaning mountain, and “Jokull” – for glacier. You can listen to the correct pronunciation here )which had been blissfully dormant for 200 years, air travel was halted and a state of chaos descended upon the European skies. The collateral damages affected people worldwide.

Watch this CBS news clip from the beginning of the crisis

However, the mood changed as airlines were making huge daily losses estimated around €200 million a day and some started to question whether governments were being too cautious.

It emerges now that airlines had not set a protocol as nobody wanted to commit to a figure of ash level without testing the actual circumstances so it was left to the governments to make the decision and no politician was ready to assume a potentially risky decision.

Under the umbrella of “better safe than sorry” air travel was halted for nearly a week and hundreds of millions were lost. Now some airlines are refusing to compensate passengers as the ban was imposed on them by governments and some are questioning why it took over five days to test safety levels. Once again as citizens we seem to be left in the dark.

The BBC has a good coverage of the latest news

Were you affected by the ash cloud directly or indirectly?  Tell us your story