From the Chair March 2021
By Keith Melton in GLD Challenge magazine 2020-21
Global Summit on the Climate Crisis
COP26 - Glasgow 2021
Pivoting to a new World Order?
I want to put this challenge out there.
I want to know if anybody`s listening.
It is not a new challenge, but it may just be timely to seek an answer. 2021 will be a pivotal year.
The world has made great progress in producing a number of new, effective vaccines to tackle Covid 19. Unless we are struck with a new, more dangerous variant of this tiny unseen enemy, there is some hope that the UK may be one of the first countries to emerge from lockdown.
It is a lockdown that has damaged the economic fabric of society. Amidst the grief of tens of thousands of families for whom the vaccines arrived too late, it has created a cache of mental health problems to be faced; a backlog of unresolved health issues from cancers to worn out knees, to heart malfunctions for people who feared to seek help; financial mountains to climb for many people who were hitherto thriving; perhaps homelessness for others who were on a financial knife-edge anyway; the early onset of bankruptcy for struggling businesses and the likelihood of collapse for some town centres. (And that is just the UK - worldwide the numbers are too horrendous to process for most of us. As I write, the number of deaths in the USA alone has gone over half a million: Brazil has seen around 250,000: India over 150,000: Mexico 180,000 and so on. Worldwide 2.5 million deaths and counting)
But it is also a lockdown that has brought us temporarily clearer skies; birdsong and unexpected wildlife in our cities; quieter roads and savings of fossil fuels and reduced air pollution. It has accelerated the move to online alternatives for international meetings and fossil-fuel-intensive executive meetings. It is a lockdown that has allowed and encouraged homeworking and a changed work-life balance for many thousands of people.
Some people have found solace and joy in local countryside and surroundings they only ever drove through before. Gardens and gardening have become important and sources of delight for those lucky enough to have had the space available to them; and the wildlife has benefitted from the greater attention it may have received from empathetic humans; or maybe just the absence of humans from spaces their forbears used to own!
So, here`s the Challenge -
As we emerge from Lockdown, do we have, or can we create, the Political Will to truly cherish the positive changes to our ways of life, at the same time as we are seeking to put right all of the things that have gone wrong for many members of our society. Or, are we going to let incompetent politicians drag us back to the easy, short-term ways of conducting the political management of our society.
We have a real opportunity to confront the `old ways` later this year when global political and civil society leaders come together for COP26. "Conference of the Parties" is the expression that leads to the jargon of COP26. And the Paris Accord on Climate Change was one of this series of Conferences of the Parties which brought a huge measure of agreement in 2015 that we must change our worldly ways.
My Challenge to our GLD family of members, then, is to lead the debate to work towards a completely NEW NORMAL. It is clear that the old `normal` has failed us. It is also clear that, whilst the government utters words that pretend to change the political framework, they really do not understand the urgency of the changes that are needed.
Five years on (actually, six, due to the pandemic!) COP26, or the "Glasgow Global Summit on the Climate Crisis", affords us an opportunity to `up the ante` for our UK Government, along with other World Governments, to find out what MORE they can do, should do, WILL do, on our behalf to save the world. One of our GLD colleagues, Pippa Heylings, has already drawn our attention to the fact that the UK Government has, even now, failed to carry out the promises it signed up to so excitedly five years ago [LINK to Video]
As I write this, the `roadmap` of the way out of lockdown has been launched and the Tory Government is seeking to present this as a way `back to normal` - but there is precious little discussion of how things should be changed permanently. One topic that did catch my attention recently was a debate about ensuring that children spent much more time out of doors. It is so important that children should be given every opportunity to connect with the planet at a fundamental level - yet it seems to me that education has become abstracted from the real world with too much emphasis on `test-passing`.
I was very lucky as a kid - we had a big garden with an orchard, and chickens, and we kept bees - so I would spend all day outside, in the summer particularly, but also in the other seasons too. I was walking well over a mile to school from the age of five and cycling a similar distance as a teenager in all weathers.
Lockdown has kept many children cooped up at home in front of computer screens (for those that have had access to them). As we arrange the return to schooling, we should perhaps be thinking about de-emphasising the importance of exams, tests and marks, and boosting the importance of learning about how our natural world works, experientially.
One of the strong arguments in favour of the Universal Basic Income (UBI), is the potential, particularly for young people but really for people of ALL ages, to spend some considerable time volunteering in the world of nature, boosting the common wealth of the community, planting trees for example or rewilding and/or "doubling nature".
I know my experience as a young child, watching with fascination as our bees plied their trade, was not time wasted, but time that built a strong resilience of mental health and a fascination for nature that has never left me and a love of the "outdoors" that has contributed to a positive work/life balance into, and through, retirement as well.
Call to ACTION!
So, I have outlined the Challenge, above.
These final paragraphs are my "Call to Action" to get you - YES YOU! - involved in our Green Liberal Democrat strategy of actually "Changing the World". You will read elsewhere in Challenge about our new Special Interest Groups and the early launches of our new Regional Groups. Our plan is to expand our membership engagement by encouraging members to find a topic in which you are interested and/or for which you have some special knowledge or expertise to share. Then we want you to share your interests and enthusiasms with other GLD members for the purposes of building campaigns and campaigning material or finding areas of policy that can and should be improved.
Or, for the more `generalist` among you, the Regional Groups will provide an outlet for local campaigning on our GLD issues and topics. This year, 2021, is going to be significant for Green Lib Dems in many ways, leading up to the Global Summit for Climate Change in Glasgow in November, currently known as COP26, that we are going to need all the help we can get.
Are you ready? - Yes? Please get in touch with us.
Chair, Green Liberal Democrats