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Tag Archives: politics
A piece of brilliant under-cover reporting from Greenpeace, the short video (link here), makes compulsive viewing. Election rigging, smarmy Tories and the Liberal Democrats being bashed to boot – what more could you ask for from two men with a hidden microphone and a wish for wind power.
Well apparently, some more. Because, as I watched the BBC ten o’clock news on Wednesday evening – there wasn’t a whisper nor whimper of this breaking plot line. Instead we were watching tales of American generals and their mistresses and Abu Qatada in blcak vans.
The story was the same the day after, during Thursday’s Question Time (#BBCQT). Sure, the Corby election came up – we were even treated to a UKIP-Lib Dem play off over rankings. But NOTHING was said about this important aside. Instead, the programme swiftly moved on, with Dimblebot presiding over Nigel Farrage, European Human Rights and PCC elections.
All very important I grant you – but not to the exclusion of footage of Chris Heat0n-Harris MP pleading in hushed tones to the undercover reporters: “Please don’t tell anyone, ever.”…
[As appeared on Liberal Conspiracy]
Even as Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc and devastation along the US East Coast, climate change was absent from the US presidential debates[i], sidelined at the UK party political conferences, and shunned by world leaders at Rio Plus 20[ii].
But climate change is now interwoven throughout our lives. Not just in times of adverse weather, climate change is impacting the way we live, daily – affecting anything and everything from water security, to fuel prices, energy bills and transport.
No longer the prediction of a few – climate change has turned upfront and personal, and as such, there is a real opportunity for the Left to win votes on issues reaching far into voters’ everyday lives If they lead the way in tackling the change.
To demonstrate my point, below I describe just a few of the western problems which are the result of climate change, and will soon affect party preferences at a voting booth near you.
In 2012-13, over 200,000 Britons will be fed by food banks, an 800% rise from 2008-09[iii]. This trend of deprivation is only set to continue as food prices continue their inexorable rise[iv]. And this is an issue of climate change. Wheat yields are at their lowest levels since the 1980s[v], having been decimated by extreme weather across the US and Europe, and the UN is now issuing warnings of increasing meat and dairy prices. Meanwhile ocean acidification is affecting our fisheries[vi] and water scarcity (driven by climate change) is causing concern for our future productivity[vii]. Agriculture’s dependency on oil is only set to deepen the crisis, while the food banks will empty.
Food security is a hot topic and votes will be won by those standing up for affordable food for all. To do this, our leaders will need to address climate change.
The financial impact of flooding has doubled within the past ten years[viii] and the very real concern is that climate change will soon price people out of insuring their homes. Even those inland are at severe risk of flash flooding from rain. As Charles Tucker, chair of the National Flood Forum commented just a few weeks’ ago: “Anyone can be hit. That is a message which has got to be got out across to people without scaring the living daylights out of them”[ix]. The links to climate change are certain and well recognised by the industry. As long as ago as 2004, the Association of British Insurers acknowledged that: “Climate change is …impacting on insurers’ businesses now”[x].
We all want to insure our homes, to be protected against in the eye of the storm. And so the risks of climate change are high, as are the rewards for tackling it.
Between 50 and 200 million people are estimated to be displaced by climate change by 2050[xi]. And while tropical countries will often bear the brunt of emigration, the Northern hemisphere will receive the majority of immigrants[xii]. The security implications of such mass migration are vast, not to mention the ethical and resource implications for public debate.
Whatever your political leanings, immigration is an attention grabber of an issue. To gain ground on this issue, political philosophies, policies and public support need to be sought now. Future and current votes and ideologies will be won by those with a clear stance on an issue that is presently tricky and about to become a whole lot trickier.
The problems caused by climate change are here, now and everywhere, and certainly worth a care for those pursuing equality, liberty and social welfare. While intimidating, the opportunity for political leadership is clear.
Grasping and tackling climate change is a real opportunity for the Left; one that sits with our philosophy, one that will win votes, and one that could ultimately, save human life as we know it.
[x] Association of British Insurers (June 2005) “A Changing Climate for Insurance: A Summary Report for Chief Executives and Policymakers”
This Guardian/ICM poll shows people’s attitudes to climate change and Rio+20.
Perceptions about the reality of climate change have changed little, despite the downfall in the economy. This is shown by a comparison of this poll with one conducted in 2009 (just before the Copenhagen Climate Conference). In 2009, 56% of respondents believed that climate change was real & man made; in 2012, this figure was 57%.
For full information – check the link here.
This gallery contains 6 photos.
As I wandered across to my wedding venue once upon a winter’s morn …
After managing to read the whole of Time AND New Statesman on the train this weekend, I’m as educated as I’m ever going to be, and my conclusion is – there may well be. The protestors’ rally against a tide of rising inequality rings true, even if the groups’ modus operandi are bottom-clenchingly cringy.
Occupy Wall Street protestor David Graeber explains: “We are the 99%”. Graeber’s referring to the 99% of Americans whose average yearly income is $54,792, compared to the other 1%’s average yearly income of $1,530,773. Now while $54,792 may not seem that bad (yes please) – the point is that the money (and power) to control the 99% of peoples’ lives is held by the top 1%. The vested interests of the few are supposedly trumping the disparate wants of the majority. A view that is harder to disagree with when we learn that between 1979 and 2007, the share of total income for the top 1% increased from 10% to 20%, at the expense of a falling share of the income for the other 99% of the population.
The idea that an elite hold the reigns of our lives is supported by a recent analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations (TNCs), which shows that a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, hold disproportionate power over the global economy. To be precise, the study has found that there was a core of 1,318 companies with interlocking relationships, which had a tie to at least two other companies (on average, to twenty). Between them, this core represents 20% of global operating revenues, as well as control (through ownership)) of the majority of the world’s large blue chip and manufacturing firms. Even more powerful was the “super-entity” of the top 147 interconnected firms which controlled 40% of the total wealth of the network.
But it’s not just the wealth and relationships of TNCs which highlight this disparity. China’s increasingly restless populace is rocking the boat too. Widening income gaps are part of the reason for the dramatic increase of “mass incidents” of protest in scary waryChina, rising from 74,000 in 2004 to 180,000 in 2010. Australia, Canada, Irelandand the UK have also seen a rise in income inequality – in the UK, the gap famously widening more under Tony Blair than under Thatcher. And with the global population due to hit the 7 billion mark any day soon, the effects of income inequality are going to become more exaggerated. For example, experts (from the UN Population Reference Bureau) believe that the economic crisis pushed an additional 64 million people into extreme poverty. With 8 billion looming (by 2025), that’s an awful lot of inequality.
On the other hand, while OWS has a point (i.e. we need to tackle rising inequality) it needs to be more intelligent about the way it proposes change. It seems that their primal reaction is to lynch the people “at the top” – those evil, nasty bastards who are making all the money. Hence the occupation of Wall Street. And this is a reaction which has been given credence for a while now. After the banking crisis, much public anger was directed towards the individuals packing up their cardboard boxes, walking out of the great glass towers; personal anger which is still holding strong years after the financial crisis as shown by Joris Luyendijk’s anthropological study of bankers. Companies at the top are considered greedy giants (Nestle), and the people who consume their goods soulless mignons. Louise Mensch’s views on theOccupy Wall Street protestors who drank Starbucks Coffee (as voiced on HIGNFY) exemplified this well.
But isn’t this all a bit too easy; a bit too George Bush – vilifying the top, private businesses and interests, and martyring the middle classes with their student loans? I feel it may be. And it seems that the problem is with the system, rather than those particular firms, banks, lobbyists and politicians at the top.
Common sense alone will tell you that of COURSE, all businesses, both large and small are going to operate in a way which maximizes every chance of success. If they didn’t they’d fail. Following any principle other than their own continuation would be madness/the end for most private firms, and we’re all happy to publicly lament the closure of a factory and the removal of jobs. Even not-for-profit organizations are often driven by the need for a “surplus” and we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the third sector provides a viable alternative to the capitalist system. There are some rare and beautiful exceptions such as the clothing company Patagonia, who has asked their customers to stop buying their products in an effort to control their environmental impact. But for the most part, we’re all just trying to make ends meet.
And in the current system, “making ends meet” means growth, which means making a profit. And profits can only be achieved when a margin is generated – something from nothing, often achieved through economies of scale. Economies of scale require size, and size + profits=power.
So what can we expect? Occupy Wall Street is right – 99% should not be living under the jurisdiction of 1%. On the other hand, what practical, applicable solutions are there which we can invoke to change the way our world works? The system needs to be changed fundamentally – so if the protesters (and the rest of us) are serious about putting things right, I think we need to put our collective thinking caps on, rather than wailing around the place feeling sorry for ourselves.
Harsh but fair?