Can We Keep Growing?

plastic pollution



Our seas are filled with plastic which degrades so slowly it is ingested into the marine food chain




500 years ago, Martin Luther demanded changes from the Catholic Church when he hammered his ninety-five theses onto the doors of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg.

300 years ago, grand, but distant from the people, diplomacy formed the quadruple alliance of powers (The Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of Great Britain, the Dutch Republic, and the Kingdom of France) and launched the War of the Quadruple Alliance against Spain

100 years ago women won the right to vote.

Significant events. The long-established church was challenged. The grand powers moved armies and navies like pieces on a chessboard without reference to the people, and all the people are heard through the ballot box.

Power, which was centralised in the hands of the church and in grand governments, has descended to the everyone. In 2018 how should we use it?

The repeated of actions of millions of small people can be greater than the action of a centralised, remote government. The analogy can be stretched. Millions of wind turbines outrun giant centralised power plants.

The Green Party had noble ideas. For too long, the rich nations have plundered the Earth’s riches and disposed of the consequent wastes without care. For too long, the costs of pollution have been ignored.

Now we see the consequences.

  • Our seas are filled with plastic which degrades so slowly it is ingested into the marine food chain damaging all sea life and ultimately us,

  • Our weather patterns are changing irrevocably caused by many factors (e.g. emissions of carbon dioxide) which at their source has man’s reluctance to change,

  • The polar ice caps are melting and the northern permafrosts are thawing. Both magnify the warming of the Earth,

  • Our climate is changing with more extremes – forest fires on the one hand and floods on the other,

  • A small rise in sea level seems inevitable and low lying coastal communities in the fertile deltas of the third world are the most densely populated. The consequences are unimaginable.

    No one wants it but like an addict hooked on a drug, big economies find it hard to give up the stimulus of economic growth, and consumption. It has to change.

Look back across history. We see man’s attempts to steer the world away from its former course. The Catholic Church changed, grand alliances ran their course perhaps with the declaration of the Second World War and now people who can vote everywhere are beginning to realise that they have the power. For every Robert Mugabe and – perhaps soon – Jacob Zuma that is toppled, so the people become stronger. From the streets of Ceaușescu’s Bucharest to the souks of Cairo and its Arab Spring, people power invariably wins out in the end.

So it must be with pollution. But how will the change come?

Firstly, we must recognise the problem.

Global conferences may be the first step. But we also need siren voices to help us recognise the problem. Judging by history, it will only be through the actions of people and the relentless hammering of small points that we will achieve meaningful and lasting change. People must wake up and say, ‘No more. We need to change.’

Change will come slowly. Lots of small victories – like charging for plastic bags – will start to erode the problem.

Look around.

  • Plastic everywhere, wrapped around everything. Producers will only make a change if consumers demand it. And it’s starting. In Holland, the Ekoplaza supermarket has launched a plastic-free aisle. It’s a small beginning but a start.

  • Solar and wind energy is staring to make a difference. Should we go further with tidal lagoons? What about the cost per unit of power, how can we compete if others have a lower cost of energy? But isn’t that the argument which has caused us to end up in this position? Does someone need to make a stand. Why should it not be Britain?

  • Can we not have an agreed pollution premium please, Mr. Trump and other world leaders?

  • Finally, there is the issue of continued economic growth, surely there is a limit. Do we now need a debate on how to “employ” our populations without making them subject to economic competition. Thomas Paine in 1797 proposed a system in which at the “age of majority” everyone would receive an equal capital grant, a “basic income” handed over by the state to each and all, no questions asked, to do with what they wanted. In effect, he proposed something like a Universal Basic Income.

  • Finland is the first European country to launch a dry run of Universal Basic Income. At Christmas 2016, it selected 2,000 unemployed people for a trial of Universal Basic Income. Each month, almost €560 (£500) is dropped into their bank accounts, with no strings attached. The policy of literally giving people money for nothing is an idea that stirs a wide range of emotions. Yet hardly anyone knows what it might actually look like. Finland will publish results after the two-year pilot is over at the end of 2018. Is this the equivalent of Martin Luther hammering his demands on Wittenberg Church?

    Somethings have to change.

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