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Island Life... Thinking about THREATS

June 5, 2020 10:02 PM
By Keith Melton

Behind the Scenes...

I thought it may be of interest to look behind the scenes at the psychology of organising an event. This brief article at least partially explains why there is what some may think of as a controversial, or "Hot-Button", topic as one of the first events of our series of green events. The session itself will be about Nuclear Weapons and the idea of ditching our committment to them in order to emerge from the economic effects of the Covid19 lock-down, in ways which may lead us into a more environmentally sound place than we were under the "Old Normal".

"Ban Nuclear weapons to pay for Covid19 recovery"

(Click on heading above to go straight to Eventbrite to book. If you are already a member of GLD you will have received a promo code in your latest GLD Newsletter. There is also a Special Offer if you wish to join GLD on the spot!) From the Chair

The event, the working title of which is "Ban Nuclear weapons to pay for Covid19 recovery" will take place on the afternoon of Saturday 20th June, during the short, half-day, conference which will start off our Festival of Green Events. Liberal Democrat Baroness Sue Miller will speak in the session alongside the General Secretary of CND in the UK, Kate Hudson. Between them, as well as the moral arguments against nuclear weapons per se, they will describe the huge financial and organisational costs of maintaining what some may call our "Nuclear Deterrent". During the session, we will identify equivalent expenditure on some of the more environmentally sound things that we could and should afford, instead of spending the money on weapons of mass destruction (WMD for short!)

Environmental Threats of Island Life

My life in politics has always been about finding a way to change the world for the better. Now, there is no question but that the World has changed, because of an invisible thing we refer to as a virus. Politically and economically the world has changed. And in ways that nobody predicted.

Perhaps paradoxically, these huge involuntary changes have made the world we live in feel very surreal at times. However, they have made many of us think that we really do not want to go back to what was normal only a few months ago. Everybody is talking of us somehow achieving a magical "New Normal". The trouble is that there are probably as many versions of the "New Normal" as there are people who have ever written the expression down. I have begun to indicate my thoughts on "New Normal" in earlier postings on the GLD website.

As far as I can tell, nobody, apart from Dominic cummings, has yet claimed that they "knew it would happen THIS way". Strangely, perhaps, that rather encourages me to think that, if we can pool our ideas effectively, ANYTHING is possible. There is a palpable sense of community. There is also a sense that we ought to be treating the planet we live on, and its other inhabitants, rather better than we have. The air is cleaner than it has been for a long time. We can see the stars more clearly. We can hear birdsong more vibrantly.

But the thing that strikes me above everything else is that we have become aware that we have all been looking in the wrong direction, and under the wrong bushes, when trying to assess the threats to our safety and security.

A new pandemic has always been listed as a threat for us all, of course, but collectively it is as if we then said "Oh, don`t worry, it`ll be like a form of flu and we`ll cope with it very well!"

Some countries HAVE coped. The UK not so much. So, despite having this rather fine reputation as being the first or second amongst equals in terms of preparedness, we have been found wanting. We have become a laughingstock. We must therefore stop thinking of ourselves as "exceptional" - unless we tag on "exceptionally bad" at being "prepared for anything."

Island off the continent of Europe

Once we have accepted the fact that we are merely an island off the coast of continental Europe with well under ONE percent (1%) of the world population, we then need to adjust our calculation of the threats we face and put them into context. Once we have done that, we need to rethink our responses to those threats. Our "New Normal" must take this into account in our political thinking.

This is intended only as a short article, so there is no way I can argue my case at great length and rank all the threats we may possibly face. Perhaps, however, I can indicate those that appear to be well towards the top of anyone`s list.

New Pandemics will be at the top of everyone`s mind right now for obvious reasons. And that risk seems to be rising as the planet`s rapidly increasing population confronts more and more wild animals, and their viruses, through reduction and destruction of our wildernesses.

Climate Change is with us already and due, inevitably, to get much worse before it is likely to get better. Indeed, we may well have passed more than one "Tipping Point" already. The SCALE of the threat of Global Heating is seriously underestimated by virtually all politicians.

At least as serious a threat to humanity, and our survival, is the ongoing huge Loss of Biodiversity. For example, we have already lost a large proportion of the insect life that used to splatter the windscreens of motor vehicles in my young life. And, if we lose our pollinators, we lose our crops. And without crops, eventually, we will perish.

There is a sentence in the Preamble to the Constitution of the Liberal Democrats (I may have mentioned it before!) which means a huge amount to me personally because I actually wrote it 32 years ago. And it is still there - "We believe that each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long-term continuity of life in all its forms."

It is the basis of my personal political credo and a vital part of what Liberalism is about for me and many others like me. For me, THIS has to be the basis for our "New Normal".

Nuclear War is Unthinkable

We have seen in a few short months the economic consequences of the pandemic lockdown. Now, imagine the consequences of a nuclear conflagration. And then realise the current unlikelihood of a nuclear war between countries or political blocs. When I was a teenager at school, we lived through the closest thing to what might have become an all-out nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

That threat was real. We talked about sheltering under the stairs as if that would make a difference. The information level now, about the realities of nuclear contamination, is so much clearer than it was then, not least from Chernobyl and other nuclear power accidents. The information about the consequences of a `nuclear winter`, following even a modest exchange of weapons of mass destruction, is also much clearer. So much so, that nuclear war is, I believe, now unthinkable.

Yes, there is, of course, the danger of nuclear terrorism now that the genie is out of the bottle, but the "threat" of state-led nuclear war is now seriously small. Such a thing as a "UK independent deterrent" is now unbelievable anyway, deterring nothing. However, it is also utterly useless against such a terrorist threat. Let us spend the money instead on reducing the real threats we face.

Debating this "Hot-Button topic"

Sue Miller (Baroness Sue Miller)After lunch we will tackle a topic the Federal Conference Committee has wimped out of for two whole years of Spring and Autumn conferences. As GLD Chair I will co-host the session with Councillor Pippa Heylings, a member of the GLD Exec Committee. Our own Baroness Sue Miller will team up with guest speaker Kate Hudson, the General Secretary of CND to discuss the background to the topic. The speakers will review the reasons our Government has failed to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) which was passed at a UN conference in July 2017.

Kate Hudson (Kate Hudson)In particular we also want to examine the COSTS of the UK`s nuclear weapons programme and the huge potential for using the money saved on scrapping the UK nuclear weapons programmes for environmentally sound emergence from the Covid19 pandemic lock-down. Many carbon reducing actions should eventually pay for themselves and have been costed to do so in our election manifestoes. However, there are some potential carbon-saving investments where the question is, typically, "where do we get the money to do that…?"

For example, the insulation of older properties requires up-front investment to make the savings that will benefit particularly those whose lives are blighted by fuel-poverty. This will be a participative session with questions and comments from the audience online - do come and join us and have your say on this "Hot topic"! CLICK HERE TO GET A FREE TICKET TO THE FESTIVAL AND THIS MEETING by joining GLD in June 2020 - see Special Offer on Eventbrite page

Optimism

I have never been anything other than an optimist. So, as we face the inevitable economic problems that will follow the pandemic lock-down, I am buoyed up by the environmental silver linings that may yet appear. We have been reminded what clean air tastes and smells like. The recent research done by the Automobile Association into AA members` expectations, coming out of lock-down, suggests that many motorists will continue to walk more, to cycle more and to drive and fly less than before.

Working from home has become an efficient reality for many who have tried it and liked it. Companies have changed their ways of working, and their investment in equipment provision to enable home-working means that much of this pattern is set to continue.

Zoom meetings, and Zoom conferences and events, have vastly reduced the carbon footprint of both work and leisure. And there is little doubt that these aspects of our "New Normal" will continue to grow and help us to "safeguard the balance of nature and the environment". To learn more about how to help these positive environmental developments as we emerge from the Corona Virus Pandemic, get in touch with me at chair@greenlibdems.org.uk . We Green Lib Dems would also be interested to hear YOUR ideas of the "New Normal" and the silver linings you would like to see.

Keith M Melton Keith Melton (Keith Melton)

Chair, Green Liberal Democrats, June 2020