|These are regular editorials
produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent
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We are pleased to include in this issue an article from the Peace Camp at Faslane, Scotland, the nearest real centre of weapons of mass destruction to Ireland with the Trident nuclear submarines based there – Faslane is just north of Glasgow. A beautiful part of Scotland is marred by the presence of these heinous weapons which, even if never used, encourage nuclear proliferation (cf Iran) and are soaking up enormous amounts of money which could be used constructively for the benefit of the people of the UK.
The very existence of these weapons is an affront to those who believe in a peaceful world. Who would or could they be used against? At what cost in terms of human life and misery? Why? What would be the repercussions? Try to answer any of these questions and you quickly arrive at the conclusion that such weapons are inexcusable. Even Scotland’s Catholic Cardinal Keith O’Brien has spoken at Faslane of the need for Britain to give up its “shameful” nuclear weapons.
But of course the British government, and some of the people of the UK, do attempt to justify them though the reason they exist is actually more to do with being a hangover and unwelcome legacy from the days of the British empire than anything else. UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox’s May 2011 justification was that Trident was “the ultimate guarantee of national security”, though whether it is even an independent weapon system is another question as the UK depends on the USA for targeting and for many other aspects of its system, see www.publications.parliament.uk Getting rid of some aspect of UK ‘defence’ might be considered weak by those of a militarist mind set, and this is most politicians’ worst fear, being considered weak whereas in fact it would be a supreme act of courage to be free of them. But there is a real effect of these weapons – financial and strategic – and both are negative on Britain and the world. It is a reality that ‘others’ – such as Iran – want what they see countries with, so the net effect is instability and proliferation and thus, ultimately, increased insecurity for Britain as well as the rest of the world.
Replacement of the Trident system is on the cards at a possible cost of £100 billion over 30 years, a staggering waste of financial and human resources in an era of austerity – or indeed even if it was an era of prosperity. Initial work is being undertaken with a full decision on Trident replacement in 2016. While some in the British Labour Party have been opposed to nuclear weapons, in practice while in government the Labour Party has been as supportive of holding nuclear weapons as the Conservatives, so holding out for a change of heart in that quarter is totally inadequate, highly desirable though such a change might be.
One fascinating detail or possibility in the whole picture is what will happen if Scotland goes independent and kicks out the Trident base, as the Scottish Nationalists would (sensibly) do in the event of Scottish separation from the United Kingdom. Recent information from CND in Britain ( in a joint publication from CND and Scottish CND, see here) questions whether England would then have somewhere that would be a suitable base, though given the attachment to nuclear weapons you can wonder if an unsuitable base would be found sufficient and suitable. For countries like Britain and France to retain their so-called ‘nuclear deterrent’ – or for any country to do so – is to act as a bully in the world playground.
We would encourage anyone who can to support the Peace Camp at Faslane and the struggle against nuclear weapons more generally. As the article in this issue relates, the Peace Camp there has been going 29 years, and is still living and working to have these weapons of mass destruction themselves destroyed. The idea that nuclear weapons could or should be either held or used is a form of calculated madness, a belief in the efficacy of mass destruction and annihilation as well as the ongoing and permanent threat of using them. On a wider level it is possible to support the struggle against nuclear weapons through a group like the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament which continues to work away and can be contacted via its website at irishcnd.org
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Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –
A Denunciation of Environmentalists
Fionola Meredith, in her recent column on environmentalists in the Belfast Telegraph, 25 January 2012, writes scathingly about people who have an environmental conscience. She says: “I often notice how many environmentally conscious acquaintances talk and act with the zeal and intolerance more commonly associated with religious fundamentalists. .... Honestly, it can only be a matter of time before these smug environmentalists start referring to themselves as saved.”
Meredith invokes the intolerance of religious fundamentalists to describe people who care about the environment. This ploy is often used by people who don’t like to be reminded that they have a duty of care to the world we live in. She infers that environmentalists do not think for themselves but share with religious fundamentalists a blind adherence to received codes of conduct. She also ridicules them by saying they are obsessed with rules that serve no useful purpose. She writes: “Why does being green have to be such a convoluted process, full of daft rules and regulations?”
Meredith gives the impression that environmentalists are drab, unthinking folk afflicted with a compulsive disorder. Meredith misses a critical factor: environmentalism is rooted in science and a love of life. As science is based on observation, inquiry, reasoning, experience and open to courageous debate it is the antithesis of the orthodox and “daft rules and regulations” she refers to. One could say that the raison d’être of science is revolution because it tests and overthrows orthodoxies when they become redundant.
It is true that some rules and regulations are daft. However, environmental rules and regulations are not designed in principle to be so. It is because of science, and the rules and regulations derived from its findings, that our sewage no longer mixes with our drinking water, that the food we purchase is protected from contaminates, that petrol no longer contains lead, that we can travel on public transport and eat in restaurants without being compelled to inhale cigarette smoke, that efforts are made to protect biodiversity and that a great deal of research goes into manufacturing cars that are safe to drive. It is because of rules and regulations that we can walk along our pavements without fear of encountering motorised transport which is not the case in Ho Chi Minh City.
It is because society all too often ignores what science is telling us about the negative consequences of the ‘economic growth dogma’ that we have global warming, the mass extinction of species, the rapid loss of forests, the death of the oceans, soil erosion, mountains of rubbish that society does not know what to do with (Mexico City is an illustrative example), and gross inequalities and widespread poverty.
Environmentalism is not about living in an unreflective life in the manner of religious fundamentalists, nor is it dreary or smug. The well-spring of environmentalism is an appreciation of the incredible diversity of life on earth, empathy for and delight in nonhuman life-forms. It is a love of the awesome beauty of many a landscape, of a river winding its way through woodland, the dawn call of birds, the sighting of animals in their native habitat or seeing a micro-organism through a microscope. Environmentalism is about economic wellbeing, a sense of community, caring for our family and neighbours, the holistic education of our children, physical health and emotional wellbeing. It is not about moral triumphalism as Meredith suggests.
Rules and regulations can at times be tiresome and inconvenient. Some can be plain silly, while others protect the privileges of the rich and powerful. However, most environmental rules and regulations are designed from the viewpoint of protecting our wellbeing, safeguarding the right of nonhuman species to share the Earth with us, and aim to bequeath an intact and healthy biosphere to future generations.