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This is an archive of material
mainly from 1992 until December 2020.
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Billy King


Nonviolence News



These are regular editorials produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent News.

Issue 146: February 2007

Also in this editorial:

The jumbo in the room

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.

Clarity, confusion and collusion in the North

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.

Eco-Awareness Eco-Awareness
Larry Speight brings us his monthly column:

An Eco-Zeitgeist

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 should.

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.

A Bill of Rights For the Unborn Future Child
By Philip Allen

We, the people who are not born yet have the right to:

- 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 forever.

- - - - - - - -

The Poet Tree

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

Copyright INNATE 2021