January 2016 (supplement)
|These are regular editorials
produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent
Also in this editorial:
Last time it was the Stern report, now it is
the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
representing 600 scientists from well over a hundred countries.
If the world does warm by 4° this century then we are
in for what will be a very bumpy ride – and, as usual,
the poorest of the poor will be the worst hit, people who
have done little or nothing to cause the catastrophe which
will engulf them. Since the Stern report came out, the British
government’s only real response to date has been to
put a few pounds on air tax, and the Irish government has
not even done that.
The time has come to stop waiting on other people
– the EU (which has yet to really get to effective grips
with the topic), or even Tony Blair’s mythical ‘scientific
solution’. Governments have to take action now or forever
be branded as destroyers of the world (sic) Of course we need
EU and UN planning and cooperation but that should not let
our ‘national’ governments off the hook for inaction
now. The maximum possible needs to be spent on renewable energy,
building insulation, and public transport. All new buildings,
or major refurbished ones, should be independent of fossil
fuels when built. Planning must gear up for a society dependent
on bicycles and public transport. Of course scientific ‘fixes’
in the atmosphere can be explored but it must be clear that
these should not be the primary response; the primary response
should be to bring fossil fuel use down to a small fraction
of what it is currently. Scientific ‘fixes’ are
tinkering with the effects, not the causes, and could have
other unforeseen side effects – apart altogether from
their cost. It is far, far better to get it right; a low carbon
use world. And nuclear power is not an answer; apart from
all the nightmares associated with this form of energy (attacks,
waste, leaks, relatively high carbon cost) there is only enough
suitable grade uranium, if it was used to power the whole
world, for three years – in other words, uranium is
in even shorter supply than oil.
We, as citizens, have our role to play. Lobbying
and badgering our politicians so they cannot forget the nightmare
scenario currently unfolding is one thing. Voting only for
those who promise radical action – and then holding
them to these promises – is another thing we can do.
Adjusting our own lifestyle is also important; the world can
no longer afford our frequent holiday flights, our profligate
use of the motor car, or our carbon-wasteful houses. But individual
lifestyle changes without backing from government policy will
just be whistling in the wind; it has to be made in citizens’
economic interests to change so that change is universal.
Ireland, Republic and Northern Ireland as currently
set up, is rich enough to carry the changes needed. The Republic
is very close to the top (or should that be the bottom?) in
harmful emissions per head. The sooner the transition is made,
the sooner the benefits will be reaped, for the world and
for ourselves. Otherwise something like the slave trade will
merely be a blot on the rich world’s copy book compared
to the effect of the rich, ‘industrialised’ and
post-industrialised countries in making life unbearable for
thousands of millions of people. We, the rich, have been destroying
life on earth – there is no other way of putting it,
and it is time to make amends.
Amid all the confusion over whether Ian Paisley
and the DUP are on board for power-sharing this spring, it
is clear that the North is getting inexorably closer to a
Stormont government which will be viable. It would be the
first time that Paisley has said ‘yes’ to anything
significant in his political life. As we have always indicated,
this power-sharing arrangement under the Good Friday Agreement
will neither be ‘the end of history’ in Northern
Ireland nor a settlement for ever. But hopefully it will be
a new departure which will mean a generally positive journeying
forward for all. We await the horse-dealing which will come
both before and after Assembly elections on 7th March.
Sinn Féin’s recent endorsement
in principle of policing in Northern Ireland, in the shape
of the PSNI, is a major advance. The evidence of collusion
of the police with loyalist paramilitaries which preceded
that decision, emanating from a report by the Police Ombudsman
on one particular case, was clear evidence – if it was
still needed – that no one in a situation like Northern
Ireland has ‘clean hands’. The state and its organs
were part and parcel of ‘the Troubles’, just as
much as the paramilitaries or those citizens who could have
had a positive effect but chose to sit on their hands and
keep their heads below the parapet through, often justified,
fear. However the untimely death of David Ervine, leader of
the PUP, showed that the public do hold in high esteem someone
who has moved on and taken risks for peace such as he did;
given the effect of his work on his health, maybe he is indeed
a martyr for peace.
There is of course much healing and building
to be down as a result of the Troubles. That is ongoing work.
But such work may be easier in the context where political
cooperation is a norm, and politicians are seen to work together
in a meaningful way. Important divisions still exist with
many difficult matters to be settled, including education,
an economy hugely dependent on the British Exchequer, and
current thorny issues such as rates and water charges.
Northern politics – it’s not going
to go away, you know.
Larry Speight brings us his monthly column:
Richard Dawkins in his book The God Delusion
(2005) introduces his readers to the German word ‘Zeitgeist’,
meaning “spirit of the times”, or one might say
the dominant form of social consciousness, the prevailing
moral climate, or consensus about norms, values and beliefs.
In our time and society these could be said to be a belief
that all are equal before the law, (thus the recent arrest
of the British Prime Ministers’ aide Ruth Turner in
the loans for honours inquiry, and the questioning of the
PM himself, The Guardian, 20 January) that no group in society
should be discriminated against, (the gay adaptation row,
The Guardian, 25 January) and that the emotional and physical
abuse of any member of society is not tolerated, (thus the
mandatory screening of people who work with the vulnerable).
We could confidently add 'environmental consciousness' to
the list, although it is yet on firm ground in that most people
don’t take environmental issues as seriously as they
Evidence for the view that environmental consciousness
is becoming widespread - part of the spirit of the times,
comes from two polar sections of society. The relatively powerless,
as in young children, who when I interact with them in primary
schools, express a delight in the natural world and a passionate
concern about the various ways we abuse it. In this regard
their Zeitgeist is distinctly different from that of 10 years
ago. Evidence from the opposite pole is the attention eco-friendly
ideas are given by the powerful in society, that is those
who have either the financial or political power to determine
how the majority behaves, or the status to influence how they
do. These include presidents, prime ministers and pop stars,
and organisations such as supermarkets and oil companies.
A short while ago Marks & Spencer announced a £200
million environmental programme and a pledge to become carbon
neutral, Tesco followed a few days later with a pledge that
it would “carbon label” all the goods in its shop.
In the United States all of the frontrunners in the upcoming
presidential election have made climate change a central part
of their campaign.
The question is will humanity, the 6. 5 billion
of us, espouse an eco-friendly outlook in time to save our
species and the bio-diversity of the planet. An Eco-Zeitgeist
will not on its own prevent the calamity that is likely to
accompany the heating-up of the planet for time is needed
to redesign school curriculums in order to teacher the new
generations the skills to survive in a world without petrol
and plastic and changed weather patterns. Time is also needed
to change our diets as in no longer buying out of season foods,
to change our forms of entertainment and relaxation through
travelling less by airplane and private car. Time is needed
to redesign the whole physical infrastructure of society in
an non-disruptive way.
There is no doubt that with the political will
and imagination, not to mention empathy, a society based on
eco-principals can be built, which will help us cope with
the adverse affects of global warming. One only has to look
at Cuba as a model. It survived, and in some ways thrived,
after the Soviet Union turned off the oil tap on which it
depended. Would we on the island of Ireland be able to do
this? The more time we have to prepare for life in a new world
the better, so lets do all we can to establish an Eco-Zeitgeist.
We, the people who are not born yet have the
- Breathe fresh clean air
- Drink pure water that runs free
- Grow our food in gardens of rich living earth, and
- Share the world with all the birds, animals, trees and wild
flowers of your world today.
- We have the right to inherit a world unpolluted by toxic
chemicals, nuclear waste or genetically engineered life patents.
- We have the right to walk in wild places and feel the happiness
of seeing wild animals, birds and swimming fish.
- We have the right to stand for a moment in the quietness
under an apple tree.
- We have the right to touch conserved historic buildings
and wonder how you lived.
- We have the right to work in meaningful jobs, honestly,
and enjoy social freedom.
We beg you, the people who live democratically
today, do not leave your dirty messes for us to clean up.
Do not take technological and genetic risks that might go
disastrously wrong and end our nature. We respectfully ask
you not to burden us with debts and collapsed pension plans
but mostly we ask you to conserve the planet’s ecological
wealth of oils, coals, timbers, minerals, healing herbs, topsoils,
clean water and ozone gases. Please do not use it all up!
Please listen and take responsibility for our world because
we aren’t born yet. When we are born, we will honour
and remember you all. When we are alive we promise to do the
same. We will grant these rights to our future children, so
they too can enjoy health, happy lives, in the sacred hope
that humanity and all other creatures not yet alive can live
- - - - - - - -
Nonviolent News has been pleased in the past
to publish a number of poems by Lothar Lüken; we are
delighted to publish another one of his pieces here:
I'd like the Dalai Lama
to co-chair with me
in front of my fireplace
or weather permitting
out on my lawn
a meeting of Putin and Bush
and the leaders of Arabs and Jews
and the heads of UN and EU
an exchange of olive branches
a release of so many doves
et in terram pax hominibus
everlasting never ending peace
But I guess it would demand
too involved a security operation
and anyway - agents won't be allowed
set foot on my neighbour's fields
given my feud with that idiot