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Newsletter, April 2013 (Issue 191)

Response to 'Puzzled'


I was gratified to read Jo Stokes's concerns in the January 2013 Newsletter regarding climate change, about why "little seems to be happening" and whether anyone else shares the same anxiety. I may have stopped writing on the matter, not because I no longer care or have changed my views, but because over five years I have said what I have to say, and do not wish to become tiresome to readers through repetition; and because I now doubt that the solution lies within the compass of our archaic and unrepresentative democratic processes. But I can offer some thoughts on Jo's questions.

Of the handful of responses I received on climate change, half were from like-minded people who were doing what they could, but could see no way of persuading seven billion other people to do likewise, and in any event that would not be enough: to avert catastrophic climate change would require nothing less than global intervention and co-operation to replace our fossil-based energy infrastructure with sustainable sources of power worldwide. The other half were from serious and thoughtful people who had heard alternative accounts which said there is no problem, and they saw no reason to believe (or rather, to trust) the mass of scientists reporting through the IPCC in preference to their own preferred sources.

We live in a democracy, yet trying to change the tide of public opinion on such a matter feels distinctly Canute-like. But Canute's purpose was to demonstrate that he did not have the power to over-rule nature, and nor do we. On the other hand, as rational people, we do have the power to decide whether to follow the prevailing tide towards climate catastrophe, or to turn away and find a sustainable future for succeeding generations before it is too late. Time is short, and I recommended that readers might most usefully make their views known to their elected representatives in government, since public opinion still appears to count for something in our democracy.

Did anyone? I don't know. But I am grateful to 10 for cataloguing so much evidence that is readily available for us all to see in the outside world around us and through the news media, and showing that there is no sensible room for complacency. But what has happened to our democracy? In recent decades successive governments from both sides of politics have sold off the proverbial family silver and surrendered difficult decisions to lightly regulated market forces, with the result that true power now lies with the likes of the financial services industry and multinational corporations, and we have forsaken our nation's true wealth in the pursuit of mere money for a relatively few individuals. It has been remarked (by Chris Mullin, I believe) how galling it must be to climb to the top of the political ladder, only to find that you are still only half-way up the hierarchy of real power, but that sounds chillingly plausible.

Personally, I suspect that people are indeed concerned, but feel helpless. The news is currently filled with stories of great wrongs left unchallenged because no-one in power would believe the hapless victims until the truth could no longer be denied, whether the Savile scandal, or the abuse of children by priests, or the Irish laundries, or the neglect of hospital patients in Staffordshire. The list goes on growing. There are more than enough prominent and authoritative people bemoaning the lack of any effective global response to global warming. The question is, who has the will and the power to do something about it? In the words of one well known East Anglian figure, crying out in shrill rage and impotent despair at the inert 'supporters' around her, "Where are you?"

But we are mere spectators and, however much we may shout, it is the players on the field who will win or lose the match. Where are they, and what game are they playing?

Mike Brain

    Front cover of issue 191 Cover, issue 191

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