Tag Archives: Fish don’t vote

Eco-Awareness: Fish don’t vote

Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –

In the UK general election, along with the other 92 general, presidential and mayoral elections that will be conducted worldwide this year, the call made by the competing parties and independent candidates is that to vote for them is to vote for change.

This is the mantra across the UK political spectrum inclusive of the SDLP and the UUP, the UK Labour Party and the Reform Party led by Nigel Farage. Even the Conservative Party that has been in power in Westminster for the last 14-years is trying to persuade the electorate that it is the party of change. Perhaps this is why the polls suggest that it will not form the next government as to claim that to vote for them on the basis of wanting change is to repudiate its time in office.

When one reviews the political policies of the candidates the outstanding thing about them is that tinkering rather than radical change is on the agenda. Bar a few exceptions this means that electioneering is smoke and mirrors which accounts for why many who see through the sham don’t vote.

What the UK political parties with a chance of forming the next government have in common is their religious-like faith that unfettered economic growth is the remedy to all of the country’s woes. It is hoped that the revenue raised will finance public services including the NHS, home care, education, nurseries, the police and judicial system, social housing and the armed forces whose appetite for money is insatiable.

The delusion of the political parties, and it might actually be deliberate deception, is that the irreconcilable can be reconciled. This is that economic growth has a miraculous ability to over-ride the physics of how nature works, which is akin to the magical thinking that often occurs in our dreams. As Marco Magrini in Geographical, May 2024, says: “The laws of chemistry and physics that govern our atmosphere are inescapable.

The tragic thing is that presenting faith as fact to the public is to unteach what children throughout their 12-years or so of schooling are taught, which is that life on Earth, and probably the entire unquantifiable expanse of the cosmos, operates within the confines of measurable constraints.

Breaking these constraints means that ecological systems collapse with wide-ranging long-term negative consequences for the greater ecology including ourselves. We see this in stark terms with the pollution of Lough Neagh and Lough Erne as a result of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s ‘Going for Growth Action Plan’ launched at the 2013 Balmoral Show. The poisoning of our aquatic gems is also due to the failure of the N.I. Assembly to ensure that raw sewage does not enter our rivers and lakes which are our biome’s bloodstream.

As far as I am aware none of the N.I. election contenders, other than the Green Party and the Alliance Party, has mentioned restoring our intricate system of water ways to a state that allows the rich array of biodiversity they are capable of supporting to thrive. Doing so would mean eliminating the flow of nitrogen-based fertilizers and synthetic pesticides from agricultural land into our waterways which is something only a moderate number of farmers would vote for. Tackling water pollution would also mean raising money to pay for an effective water treatment and distribution system. As in Northern Ireland so on the whole island.

Further, little mention has been made by the N.I. candidates of the need to establish a fully independent and adequately funded environmental protection agency. That this is the case is not surprising given that “Fish Don’t Vote”. This is how Ian Knox in a recent cartoon in The Irish News succinctly explains why those contesting the election rarely, if ever, concern themselves with the harm we inflict upon the biome and by extension ourselves.

The naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham expressed the deep dismay of many voters at the lack of attention the main political parties and mainstream media are giving to the critical issue of how we conduct our relationship with nonhuman nature when he said.

I’m devastated by the lack of foresight, intelligence, commitment, understanding and determination to do anything about the single biggest issue in our species’ history. At a time when we need bold and brave leadership, we’re not seeing any sign from any of the manifestos that this might materialize.

In Northern Ireland elections are not about how we can transition to live a rewarding life in an ecologically sustainable way but about people reaffirming their sense of Irish or British identity. Thankfully this obsession has started to erode with the addition to the electoral register of people who did not grow up with a sense of either identity as well as the increasing number who were born here for whom national identity is not an issue.

Northern Ireland is not the only place where sense of national identity plays a major part in the political discourse. In the Republic we saw this in the local and EU elections and in the sometimes-violent street protests against the arrival of people seeking asylum. In Britain the Reform Party wants to immediately deport undocumented people seeking asylum. Fear of losing votes has pushed the Conservative Party to promise more restrictive but probably unenforceable measures to prevent asylum seekers staying in the UK.

Amidst the noise and heat of the debate about undocumented immigrants the reason why many seek a new home on these islands is because of the severe weather events across the globe caused by the very thing the large political parties are obsessed about, namely continual economic growth. The obsession is in denial of the equation that 1 + 1 = 2, which is to say, there can be no economy without ecology.

Even if infinite economic growth were possible in a finite world there is no reason to think that this would mean economic wellbeing for all. The evidence for this is in plain sight in the form of widespread poverty, the high level of mental ill-health, sense of alienation and purposelessness that is prevalent in the most economically prosperous countries.

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