Brief comments on various issues (3)

 

 

See Comment 1 ; Comment 2 for earlier posts on a wide range of subjects

 

Please scroll down for my open letter to all who support a second referendum

 

4/3/19

 

The dual approach to saving the planet

 

It was good to see school pupils engage in a bit of direct action recently. They took time off school to attend marches and demonstrations across the country to voice their concerns about climate change. From what I hear in the media, which admittedly may not be the most reliable source, I don’t normally associate young people with anything as energetic as marching or demonstrating. I have a mental picture of them spending endless hours in front of a screen of some sort. 

 

So good for them for making the effort to make their views known. As a taxpayer who contributes towards their education I have no objection whatsoever to their missing a few lessons for this purpose. I’m pleased they have learned about the threats posed by climate change and are motivated to do something about them.

 

And I like the catchy slogans they wrote on their placards such as: There’s no planet B, Don’t be a fossil fool, and It’s getting hot in here so take off all your coals. A future in the advertising industry for some of them.

 

As well as providing them with knowledge and understanding about why climate change is happening I hope their education is enabling them to engage in some hard thinking about what some of the possible solutions to the phenomenon may be.

 

Their education should begin by making them aware of the dual approach that should be used to take action to try to solve the problem – the same dual approach that should be used to take any sort of social and political action. It is an approach based on the principles of both liberty and collectivism. As individuals we have the liberty within the boundaries of the law of the land and natural justice to make decisions about our own lives according to our personal values; as members of society we have an obligation to participate in collective decision-making that affects everyone, including, of course, ourselves.

 

Applying this dual approach to taking action on climate change means young people, like everyone else, first of all need to think carefully for themselves, as individuals, about the issues involved. When they have done a lot of rigorous thinking they then need to decide the action they can take individually to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as well as think about what governments can do by acting collectively on behalf of their citizens.

 

As individuals will they cut down on the things they buy which, in their production and distribution, contribute to greenhouse gases – things like fast fashion, smartphones or bottled water. If they believe that drinking milk and eating meat is producing too much methane from the process of rearing livestock for food production will they change their diets? Will they stop buying products that have been transported across Europe in lorries that emit huge amounts of carbon dioxide, and will they reduce their on-line shopping in order to bring down the number of delivery vehicles on the roads? Will they stop using planes to go on holiday and will they put off having their own car until they are older?

 

And what about the ultimate solution to reducing the effect of human activity on climate change: reducing the number of humans who contribute to this activity. Would our children, the world’s children, be prepared to reduce the global population by limiting the size of their families? This would be the greatest sacrifice they could make on behalf of the planet, the supreme individual action they could take.

 

When they have decided what they themselves can do as individuals they will need to keep up their action and make it into a permanent change of lifestyle. This will set an example for their family and their friends to follow.

 

Alongside their individual action they can call for collective action to be taken – as they have been doing on their marches. As long as it is within the law, and not violent or aggressive, they should continue to march and demonstrate – as noisily as they wish.

 

They should campaign in other ways, too, such as on social media, writing to their MPs and having stalls at local events. They should insist that the policies agreed by national governments at climate conferences should be implemented and they will need to accept the consequences of these policies even when they are inconvenient or costly. Examples of such consequences might be having to switch to electric heating in the home, having to buy an electric car and having less plastic in their lives.

 

I’m pleased that young people feel passionately about the impact of global warming on the planet and humanity. I hope this feeling will continue long into adulthood. I hope, too, they can be persuaded to feel just as passionately about all the other great issues that have an impact on the planet and humanity: the issues of poverty, violence, prejudice, injustice and inequality that, at this very moment, are affecting the lives of millions of people.

 

Maybe, also, they can join with me in raising awareness of that other ever-present threat to humanity: nuclear weapons, the possession of which is the greatest folly of humankind – a far greater folly than burning fossil fuels which have, after all, made an immeasurable contribution to the comfort and convenience of our daily lives.

 

And let us hope that all of us, young, old and in-between, can engage as much as possible in the dual approach that is necessary to take action to deal with the many difficulties that society faces.

 

!6/3/19 Note:

 

NB: I haven’t touched upon two big issues that will need to be addressed soon. The first is the extent to which we will all be compelled by law to take measures that reduce global warming, such as, perhaps, having an annual limit on our air miles or being obliged to recycle every bit of plastic we use. The second is how we can enforce compliance in other countries with agreed policies to reduce greenhouse gases.

 

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27/1/19

 

An open letter to all who support a second referendum

 

Dear fellow citizen

 

This will be a virtually impossible challenge but I thought I would give it a go. I would like to try to persuade you not to support holding a second referendum on the issue of leaving the European Union.

 

You clearly believe that leaving the EU will be damaging for our country. I fully accept that this is a sincere belief which in a democratic, tolerant society you must always be allowed to hold. I happen to take a different view which is equally sincere and equally permitted to be held. I take a different view because I believe we should be much more outward looking and have a global, rather than European, perspective on the world. I understand and respect your view and I am sure you understand and respect mine.

 

In an unusual act of direct democracy, something I would like to become an integral part of our political system, my side of the argument narrowly won. No doubt people on both sides had different reasons for voting the way they did but generally speaking they knew why they voted in a particular way.

 

Before the referendum the government had stated in parliament and in a leaflet circulated to every household that the result would be honoured.1 Since there was a majority of votes cast in favour of leaving the EU this is the decision that must therefore be implemented. I know many people were disappointed with the result but this is not a reason for politicians or anyone else to obstruct the process of leaving. They can, and should, continue to express their views but should certainly not attempt to sabotage the implementation of the democratic decision of the majority of those who voted.

 

Unfortunately it seems this is what they, and you, are attempting to do by calling for a second referendum in the hope that the result will be different. I am not persuaded by the spurious argument put forward by some of our politicians that because they cannot reach an agreement the only course of action is to let the “people” decide. There is nothing difficult or complicated about agreeing a deal to leave the EU despite what looks like an obstructionist strategy from Brussels. It simply requires some firmness of purpose in our negotiations with Europe plus a willingness by all MPs to reach a compromise.

 

The “people” have already decided and if their decision is not implemented their votes will have been discarded. On a personal level this means my own vote will have been discarded. In effect it will have been stolen, and stealing is dishonest.

 

As someone who thinks about political issues I know you will be aware of how important it is in any discussion to be open to understanding the other person’s point of view. In the context of this discussion this requires you to reflect on how you would feel and react if the referendum result had gone the other way and you were now being asked to give up your remain vote.

 

I therefore urge you to reject what seems to be an unworthy position and choose a different path. This would be to support the prime minister’s deal which is a sensible compromise accommodating the views of both leavers and remainers, and thus in the interests of the whole country.

 

I have heard the comment that that those of you who have taken part in marches have been marching for your children’s future. We all want the best for our children’s future and, indeed, for our grandchilden’s future. This will inevitably be a global, not a European future. It is one we must shape to be the best it can be for our own children and grandchildren, but also for everyone else’s children and grandchildren throughout the world.

 

If you can spare the time you might be interested in looking at some of my thoughts about the sort of global vision we need for the future. (see below) They are thoughts that are rather different from the current orthodoxies of economic globalisation.

 

I hope you will perhaps be able to find a moment to think about your position with regard to this issue and perhaps also be open to changing it.

 

With best wishes

 

Yours hopefully

 

Alan Kerr

 

 

PS   In case you’re wondering, I’m not of the same political persuasion as the prime minister – I voted Corbyn at the last election.

 

1  "If the British people vote to leave, there is only one way to bring that about, namely to trigger article 50 of the treaties and begin the process of exit, and the British people would rightly expect that to start straight away." (David Cameron, Hansard, 22/2/16)                                                      "This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide." (Government leaflet)

 

For posts on Brexit which put the argument for a gobal future please visit:

 

The EU referendum and a global vision

 

Brexit – a global, good news story

 

and for the latest offering:

 

Brexit in perspective but three big deals

 

And if you still haven't had enough try this

 

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3/1/19

 

Getting the message 

 

I’m sure it’s a minority pursuit but I’ve been reading some seasonal messages delivered by our temporal and spiritual leaders.

 

I’m not a monarchist but I like what the Queen said in her speech: that the message of peace on earth and goodwill to all is never out of date.

 

I don’t share the Archbishop of Canterbury’s religious beliefs but I like his idea that God’s language of love is exclusive; that it requires us to forget other languages of hatred, tribalism, rivalry and political advantage, and of materialism, pride and greed. 

 

Similarly, I do not share the Pope’s religious beliefs but I certainly share his view that we are all brothers and sisters in humanity. I am also drawn to his comment that, standing before the manger, we understand that the food of life is not material riches but love, not gluttony but charity, not ostentation but simplicity.

 

As for the messages from politicians I very much agree with the Prime Minister when she says that personal milestones in our lives are more important than Brexit: getting a job, buying a house, getting married or starting a family. And I’m with Jeremy Corbyn when he states that too many people are working in low paid and insecure jobs and that wealth needs to be shared fairly not hoarded by a privileged elite.

 

What is the point of these seasonal messages? For the Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn they are delivered to persuade us to support their political beliefs. For the Queen and religious leaders their purpose is to encourage us to think about the moral and ethical aspects of our lives. They are an exhortation to follow Christian precepts that will help us lead a good life.

 

My view of humanity is that most people do try to lead good lives – by caring for their families, by helping others through their paid or voluntary work, and by donating to charitable causes. However, I am sure if we try a bit harder we can all do more to lead an even better life – one which will help us find greater fulfilment and greater well-being. I am sure, too, we can all do more to ensure that other people have greater well-being.

 

Messages that remind us about important moral and ethical issues are always worthwhile. We need reminding, at any age, about what is right and what is good. We should treat these messages as seriously as the ones we hear about looking after our health or not polluting the planet.

 

So let’s listen to the seasonal messages, read them and think about them. Let’s use them to challenge and maybe change some of our existing beliefs and opinions. Above all let’s try and do something, however small, to act upon them.1  This is by far the best way for all of us to get the message.

 

 

1  For example: by treating other people’s opinions with respect even if we disagree with them; by putting a pound in the next charity box we see; by visiting someone who is lonely, unwell or distressed in some way; by sending an email to the Foreign Secretary to express our concern about the various conflicts that continue to cause unimaginable suffering in the world. See also: 

A mantra for the New Year

Messages that are not just for Christmas

Planting Peace – at Christmas and beyond

 

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11/11/18 

 

Remembrance Day 2018 

 

Sunday 11th November is Remembrance Day and also the hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War. Along with other occasions it is a time when we remember the unbelievable courage and heroism of those who made the supreme sacrifice in the First and Second World Wars, and wars that have occurred since.

 

But we must remember other things as well, which will in no way diminish our remembrance of those who gave their lives on our behalf. We must remember the terrible suffering, the grief, the anguish, the physical and mental agonies, the brutality, the whole unimaginable horror...

 

For the whole post, complete with picture of a very fine war memorial, click here

 

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