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The political system fails the eco-system.

Over thirty years of Green warnings and the hope for grass roots reforms.

A historic celebration of Rome

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The Club of Rome and The Limits To Growth. (From 1968)

In april 1968, a meeting was convened by Dr Aurelio Peccei, that was to be called the Club of Rome. They had no shared ideology. But all believed that current institutions and policies could not cope with 'the present and future predicament of man.'

The world-wide stir created by the Club of Rome's ensuing report, The Limits to Growth, reached even into Solzhenitsyn's Letter to Soviet Leaders. There he prophesied that the huge arms build-up would all have to be scrapped and was an enormous waste of resources.
In July 2001, President George W Bush offered an agreement with President Putin to reduce somewhat their still over-whelming nuclear missile arsenals of about 10,000 war-heads each.
But the Bush administration caused concern with its treaty-breaching missile defense program and unwillingness to come to terms with the Kyoto agreement on limiting global warming. This American president was felt to be an oil profits' leader, rather than having energy-efficient and pollution-minimising policies.

In 1972, the executive committee of the Club of Rome commented:

Short of a world effort, today's already explosive gaps and inequalities will continue to grow larger. The outcome can only be disaster, whether due to the selfishness of individual countries that continue to act purely in their own interests, or to a power struggle between the developing and developed nations. The world system is simply not ample enough nor generous enough to accommodate much longer such egocentric and conflicting behavior by its inhabitants. The closer we come to the material limits to the planet, the more dificult this problem will be to tackle...
The last thought we wish to offer is that man must explore himself -- his goals and values -- as much as the world he seeks to change. The dedication to both tasks must be unending. The crux of the matter is not only whether the human species will survive, but even more whether it can survive without falling into a state of worthless existence.

Long after publication, The Limits to Growth was given a working-over for its pessimism as to the amounts of non-renewable resources waiting to be found in the ground. Also belabored was the crudity of the socio-economic feed-back model, using the more limited computational resources of the period.

Such criticisms were anticipated. And the analysis served as a prototype for Green politics. A Blueprint for Survival also carried graphs of up-curves of pollution and down-curves of non-renewable resources. This manifesto coincided with the launch of an Ecology party, in the UK, which later followed the German example, by re-naming themselves the Green party.

The launch into conventional politics has been moderately successful. As Ive incidentally mentioned, on other web pages, there are already signs of green politics being neutralised by power politics.
With justice, the general public seem to have little faith in the political system. Two million British members of the activist environmental organisation, Greenpeace, alone, out-number the combined membership of all the country's parties.

The parties, competing with each other to represent, are really monopolists, between themselves, of representation and therein is the disillusion with politics. They have robbed Parliament of its role as the nation's decisive forum. This is widely perceived. Anthony Barnett, a deputy editor of Labour's The New Statesman attacked the '...contempt in which the new governing elite holds MPs.' He cited how the PM 'lectured' MPs that they were not in parliament to have ideas of their own but to follow party policy. This was in a Daily Mail article ( 19 february 2000 ), The Death Of The House. Under Mr Blair Parliament is an irrelevance and MPs are little more than a joke.

Nothing could be more revealing of how right-wing New Labour is as intolerantly doctrinaire as the old Labour Left. They amount to nothing more than a conspiracy of antagonism, even if it is partly a self-deceiving conspiracy, of which left and right may not themselves be fully aware. As with left and right wings within parties, the same applies between right and left wing parties, which merely leave the voters to choose either side of the same old authoritarian coin.

The disregard for parliament was trumpeted in Tony Blair's announcement of the British general election, not to the House, but to a children's school. One of his ministers merely said it was 'odd'. The Tory chairman spectacularly missed the point by criticising Blair for bringing children into politics! Those comments in themselves reveal how little esteemed are MPs.
Odd indeed! It is inconceivable that one of the great parliamentarians would have committed such a breach of courtesy, as if he were the only pebble on the beach.

Many campaigners turn to publicity-seeking action, for which they hope to secure popular approval and oblige the government to follow their lead. Democracy has been forced into some tortuous and dubious channels of expression.

On: Paul Harrison's The Third World Tomorrow (1980). And their 'brain drain' today.

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Inside The Third World was Paul Harrison's pilgrimage thru poverty. His 1980 sequel gave examples across the globe of how the poor are trying to pull themselves up by their own boot-straps. As a matter of fact, this old saying doesnt apply, because the world's poor are usually too poor to have any boots to strap.

Only the elites of third world countries can afford to be served by Western-style well-heeled professionals. The insistence on only the best standards of service obliges the world's poor to go without, indefinitely.

Harrison discerns a change from this all-or-nothing approach. Hence, the rise of the bare-foot professional: the bare-foot business-man, the bare-foot doctor, family planner, township planner, ecologist, literacy teacher, intermediate technologist after Ghandi's and Schumacher's inspiration, etc.

Instead of pouring money into the bottomless pits of prestige projects, aid could be put into local self-help projects. A West African village is taught an Asian-style rice-growing project which happens to suit its particular ecology. Local artisans or black-smiths may be re-trained in relation to sometimes prefered factory products for agriculture or industry.

Traditional healers may be taught the basic lore of modern medicine, as summarised, for the bare-foot doctors of the Andes, in a 110-page Health Promoter's Manual, using simple language with illustrations. Paul Harrison says:

The science of medicine itself has to be decolonised, de-mystified, de-professionalized. A new appropriate technology of simplified medicine has to be developed: low in cost, easily mastered by ordinary people, using local resources wherever possible and drawing on those traditional methods that are known to work. To quote Halfdan Mahler..: 'We must break the chain of dependence on unproved over-sophisticated and over-costly health technology,' and evolve an 'essential health technology, a technology which people can understand and which the non-expert can apply.'

In 2001, the British medical profession deplored the continued influx of skilled immigrants to bolster the over-stretched National Health Service, because it deprived poor countries of their training.
The Daily Mail ( 21 july ) says 15,400 British nurses are set to qualify in 2001. But this will be exceeded for the first time by the number of over-seas nurses recruited. A new high of 50,000 over-seas nurses will staff British hospitals, as a result of government recruitment and increased applications from abroad.
South Africa, Ghana and Jamaica have protested against the NHS 'hoovering-up' their nurses.

An agreement has been signed with India, to siphon off their 'surplus' of nurses. 6000 Indian nurses will earn far more money, some of which they may send home. Some may return to their home-land with greater expertise. This level will surpass the current highest number of applications from the Fillipines.

As with nurses, so with teachers, in 2001 Britain had the biggest shortage in 36 years, with 5000 vacancies expected. Moreover, head teachers said they were unhappy with perhaps 6000 accepted teachers, in England and Wales.

These short-falls are as nothing compared to the situation in India, South Africa, Namibia and Nigeria. Voluntary Service Overseas has accused Britain of "looting" teachers from developing countries. VSO chief Mike Goldring said:

Try telling the 40m Indian children with no access to education that British children are more deserving.

Harrison and Mahler's egalitarian way is also needed in the over-developed West.
The bulk of all our needs are basic needs, which may be met by basic solutions. The needy, themselves, are most of all in need of a no-frills service in every department of their lives.

Paul Harrison talks of educational experiments, often opposed, that cut out the 'academic twaddle' for things people need to know. Growing a row of organic vegetables might be more healthy than too much homework.

Children of rich, as well as poor, countries might be taught the basics of first aid and hygiene, as part of 'the national curriculum'.

The illiterate English alfabet, illiteracy and lawlessness.

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Schools could have a spell-as-you-speak rational English alfabet, of about the existing 26 letters, to abolish the functional illiteracy rate of over twenty per cent. Adam Smith said the professions are conspiracies against the public. In this respect, the literate may be the biggest closed shop of them all. Perhaps seventy per cent of the world population is illiterate. Equality starts here.

The lack of respect for democracy may be discerned in this basic issue. Literacy, equally available to all, partly depends on the liberty to spell rationally, and its fraternal tolerance by those who can spell conventionally. The testing for conventional spelling trivialises literacy teaching. It professionalises the preaching of mindless conformity, in the way we spell.

Perhaps, school testing in general has more to do with expensively promoting unquestioning mediocrity than anything else. Of course, this has been said by a 'school' of radical educationalists. In 1969, Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner made their case with humor and humility, in Teaching as a subversive activity.

Literacy is the foundation of all the specialist forms of knowledge that the professions govern. Exclusive preserves might share their knowledge, at least of the essentials.

European Union teachers can no longer use the stick or cane on their pupils to enforce the will of the system. But the system enforces itself on the teachers, who are tested as much as the pupils, to see if they make the grade.
It is as if the examiners of orthodoxy fear any creative lack of conformity so much, that they must purge it in the teachers, as well as their pupils.

In 2001, a University study from Ulster ( a province with the highest academic standards ) said up to fifteen per cent of children are 'functionally illiterate'. Other studies have put the rate at over 20% for adults. As in Huxley's Brave New World, the system is not made to suit the people. The people are forced to suit the system. The real source of functional illiteracy is not so much in the teachers and the taught as in the insistence on our 'functionally illiterate' English alfabet.

In the first place, it is our unreformed alfabet that cannot spell properly. That is where the blame really belongs and with the prejudices that refuse to admit it. To put the blame on 'poor teaching' is a mentally lazy excuse to do nothing to intelligently reform English spelling. Its absurdities are a convenient habit for the complacently 'literate', who dont care about the trouble it causes the 'illiterate' and the educational and economic inefficiency it is bound to generate.

For failing to see the real cause of illiteracy, throwing money at the problem will not solve it either. In september 2000, the Scottish executive allocated £22.5m. to end adult illiteracy within ten years. But the United States threw a mountain of money at illiteracy to no noticable effect for 'the Great Society.'
It reminds me of many an old movie, of my childhood, that had a fortune spent on the costumes, sets and casting but neglected to find a decent script.

Teachers report that seriously disruptive pupils are often covering-up for poor skills. Indeed, as many as 60% of prisoners, in England and Wales, are illiterate.
Moreover, the unruliness of children is unfair on teachers. The right to children of freedom from fear ( one of Franklin Rooseveldt's Four Freedoms ) should be shared by teachers. Children have responsibilities, as well as rights, which they must learn the sooner the better. This implies practical education of young people in the law, with children's courts. ( 'The amateur lawyer' is the subject of a sequel web page. )
This is an example of the need for education to teach youngsters how works the world they are going out into.

The Mad Officials.

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In 2001, the teachers were so over-burdened with the latest testing regime that they simply declared it unworkable. But the teachers are not the only demoralised profession. The home secretary's promise to reduce paper-work was received with a slow hand clap by the police federation. It drives experienced officers out of the force. Doctors, too, have a crippling load of official documentation to complete. The medical profession delivered an out-spoken vote of no-confidence in government reforms, at the time of the 2001 general election. The British Medical Association balloted the 36,000 General Practitioners. Of the two-thirds that answered, 86% said they would be prepared to resign, 'unless ministers cut bureaucracy and give them more time with patients.' ( Daily Mail 2 june 2001. )

At present, in Britain, the professions command the heights of a status society, with high inequalities of income in their favor. On the re-defined National Socio-economic Classification, The Daily Mail ( 17 march 2001 ) captioned: 'The New Pecking Order...Do you know your place?' The emphasis was on grading occupations according to contracts, conditions, prospects and security.

More important is to define constituencies of work for their coherent role in the functioning of society. Instead of a pointless pecking order, there should be feed-back to the elected representatives of those vocational constituencies to the second chamber of government.

BBC Ceefax ( 26 july 2001 ) reported Management Today saying British bosses are the highest paid in Europe, by more than £100,000. Chief executives earned over half a million pounds, an increase of 29% since 1999. Only US bosses earn more, with average salaries of £1m. But British manufacturing workers are the lowest paid, and the cheapest to dismiss, in the developed world. At £20,475, they are below the national average wage, and they also have put more time in than most of Europe. They are still incredibly rich compared to the rest of the world, four-fifths of whose people dont earn any money at all.

However, the 'carrot' of plutocracy is offset by the 'stick' of bureaucracy.

Business has also long complained about being tied up in red tape. In 1993, the Single Market imposed a huge burden of 218 harmonization directives, which, in many ways, left the level playing field as far away as ever. So says a book written on the follies of the administrative laws of the European Union and their excessive and ritualistic, rather than realistic, implementation by civil servants and inspectors in Britain.

A 'checklist mentality' reeled-off all the points theyd been told to look out for, at college or seminar, demanding thousands be spent, and forcing shops and businesses to close down.
Yet, in this pre-occupation, inspectors' lack of experience might lead them to over-look real risks posed to sought-after objectives of hygiene, safety, conservation, institutional caring or whatever.

The Mad Officials ( 1994 ) by Christopher Booker and Richard North gets its title from an essay by G K Chesterton, so quoted:

I should not be surprised if the law were like that; because in modern England there is practically no law to be surprised at.

Booker and North said:

wherever the monster ( of bureaucracy ) impinged on the real world, it invariably had the same effect. It threw out clouds of deadening jargon; it tied people up in absurd paperwork and form-filling; it made ridiculous demands; it asserted its power in a blind, wilful way; it crushed enterprise and independence; at worst, it turned far too many of those who fell under its sway into nothing more than uncomprehending and often fearful victims.

There is a way out from the carrot and stick of plutocracy and bureaucracy: democracy, in the economy as well as the polity. It should mean greater economic equality and fraternity, as well as greater freedom from officialdom, for all classes.

The Parliamentary laws and administrative laws could be checked by a second chamber, representative of all occupations. This could redress the excesses of official administrative chores delegated to the public and private sectors. The occupations themselves, in concert with each other, must know the needs of their own work best, subject to the first chamber, the Commons, representing the interests of communities as a whole.

The closed shop, of the unions, was out-lawed by the European Union. But the professions, also should be more open. Their basic knowledge and most essential skills should be broadly based in the population, either thru a more practical general education or by a part-time work-force of trained amateurs on a basic income.

'Civilization is a race between education and catastrophe,' H G Wells said. In 1980, Paul Harrison said 'Reform will not be a Sunday school tea-party'.

On: The world is dying. What are you going to do about it? Sunday Times magazine ( 1989 ).

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As prime minister, Mrs Margaret Thatcher once grouped Green activists among 'the enemy within'. It is thought that Prince Charles made her more aware of environmental issues. At any rate, she changed her mind about including Britain's antarctic survey vessel in her current round of cuts. The ship sailed again to discover a hole in the ozone layer over the south pole.

The PM convened a conference on ozone layer depletion, which would make mankind more vulnerable to skin cancer, if we continued to fully enjoy our freedom merely to walk in the sun. To mark the occasion, The Sunday Times decided it was high time its readers all woke up to the folly of destroying our eco-system:

We are all polluters on this planet. We burn fossil fuels, we create waste, we ravage natural resources with little or no regard for the consequences. But time is running out. Our planet is becoming despoiled, rotten, overcrowded and barren. We could all be contributing to the causes; we will certainly all suffer from the effects.

The magazine focused on chemical spills into air or sea, killing people or marine animals, by the thousands or scores of thousands. Or the systematic pumping of factory wastes into rivers and seas, such as the North Sea and Mediterranean. Poisons are dumped on other people's door-steps or dump-ships used, even if illegal.

The magazine mapped deforestation and over-population, with a global sample of some of the more out-rageous and life-bereaving pollution disasters. Richard Mabey did an article on 'the roots of civilization': trees are the pillars of green society. After citing Europe's tree-intolerance, he described the white North American settlers' destructiveness as 'pogroms of an arrogance and violence that rival those in modern Amazonia'.

'The burgher that ate a rain forest' summed up the fact that 'It takes 55 square feet of rain forest to raise enough beef to make a single American hamburger.'
Still fighting a losing battle are the re-foresters. Some of their work was featured, especially Vietnam's national effort and that of the World Wide Fund for Nature ( WWF ).

In 1969, The Sunday Times magazine disclosed the exposing of Brazilian natives to disease, under the caption of 'Genocide'. Survival International was founded as a result. Its director Robin Hanbury-Tenison gave one of the most closely written articles in the magazine's 1989 green issue, about the continued persecution and betrayal of the natives, 'whose understanding of the medical and nutritional resources of the rain forest is unrivalled'. Their land continues to be ruined, as shown in the familiar pictures of deserts of tree stumps.
The author put responsibility on 300 or so banks, trying to re-coup Brazil's debts. Also, land reform is resisted by five per cent of the people holding 80% of the land.

Another sample of 'greed, corruption and political ambition' featured tusk poaching and the threatened extinction of the African elephant.

The Sunday Times 'The world is dying' rounded off with a survey of the Green campaign from such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the WWF.
( Not to forget an amusing, but serious, after-thought article on 'poop-scoop' laws for dog-owners. )

On: How to save the earth. Time magazine ( 2000 ).

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Time magazine's Earth Day special edition 2000 has a good sample of spot-light articles, as one would expect. Besides being recent, at the time I wrote this, such a publication has its professional on-line counter-part. So, I confine myself to a brief discussion, here.

Time magazine established an Environment section in august 1969. That is little more than a year after the founder members of the Club of Rome met. In 1970, they covered Barry Commoner. His book, The Closing Circle. Confronting the Environment Crisis came out in 1971. ( A new magazine, The Ecologist, devoted several pages to panning the book as 'one-dimensional ecology'. ) Commoner reviewed how the 1963 limited nuclear test ban treaty came about:

This unexpected event was a tribute to the political effectiveness of the scientists' campaign to inform the public about fallout.

Radio-activity could be carelessly spread, while an information black-out was effectively imposed, as in war-time. PM, Harold Macmillan suppressed the truth about Britain's first major radio-active leak from a nuclear power station. He feared the public would turn against nuclear power.
If so, it wouldnt be the first time the intuition of the 'lay-man' was more reliable than the experts.

By millenium's end, the rape of the planet goes on and an information war or propaganda goes on to excuse it. Looking back, it has to be admitted that the media have informed the public reasonably well. In the early seventies, I once remarked ( by letter ) that there seemed to be more environmental stories. I was told that I was right, because a group of journalists had got together to promote such news.

The media can mobilise opinion, as well as neutrally inform the public. Time magazine honored 'Heroes for the Planet', sponsored by The Ford Motor Company which advertised its environmental credentials, in Time's Earth Day 2000 edition.
American individualism may be responsible for the cult of heroes. As C G Jung said, great historical events are profoundly unimportant. The individual is not only the passive observer and sufferer of events but the maker of epochs.

The Sunday Times magazine, in 1989, was equally bent on reform. But it appealed directly to everyone: 'What are you going to do about it?' Readers were not given inspiring role models to emulate.
Paul Harrison's examples from the third world also featured remarkable individuals. Granted that, the inspiration was of a more social emphasis. Community self-help organisations, with some expert and financial aid would start improvements, supported by further consultation and co-operation.

When you look at all three approaches to saving the planet, they perhaps all have one thing in common. They are all attempts to stimulate change largely from outside the system. In that respect, they all agree with the Club of Rome initiative.
The establishment has got us into this mess and has to be disestablished sufficiently to get us out of it again.

'Business as usual' depends on promoting wasteful 'getting and spending.' This conflicts with advert-dependant editors exhorting and mobilising ordinary people to be conservative of resources.
The mass media are also a part of the establishment, who know the rich and powerful personally. And there is perhaps some ambiguity in their minds. Do they really want to change the system enough to make the public interest effective?
Since Randolph Hearst, the media have short-cut between the people and their official leaders of parties or industry. If lawless means, sometimes, were employed, they became possible as democracy was proving to be not nearly as representative as it should be. To amend that, requires, at least, a knowledge of democratic voting method and an extension of constitutional politics to economics, with occupational representation.

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