Buncefield guilty verdicts are welcome

In breaking news this lunchtime, verdicts have come in on the Buncefield oil depot case. Buncefield (in Hertfordshire in the East of England) blew up five years ago, causing environmental damage that may well last for generations ( http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/engineering-firm-guilty-over-buncefield-blast-2004312.html ), and reminding us all of the terrible impact that dependence on fossil fuels inevitably has.
 
With the BP disaster unfolding in the U.S. at present, these verdicts in Buncefield are a powerful reminder of the dreadful damage that oil-dependence leads to. We were very lucky that no-one was killed by the immediate effects of the Buncefield explosion – but all that carbon will be in the atmosphere for generations to come, blighting the lives of people who aren’t even born yet. The guilty verdicts against the companies responsible are welcome, and I hope that a significant punishment is meted out. Big companies need to know that they cannot play Russian Roulette with our lives and our climate.
 

Our responsibility to the future: justice or love?

My latest article, published in Saturday’s EDP:



How ought we to think of our relationship to – our responsibility for – future people? Is this question (a question pressing all the harder in the wake of the recent failure to adequately safeguard those future people, at Copenhagen) essentially a question of justice? The rallying cry at Copenhagen was, “What we do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!” But what if it’snot enough to call for justice?

Let me explain…

Future generations – future people – are collectively our children. We give birth to them. They are even more powerless than the newest new-born baby. They cannot entreat, nor even scream, let alone return our gaze. They are dependent upon us for every aspect of their life-chances. For we cause them of course to come into being; but moreover, and ever-increasingly, we cause their conditions to be what they are, too.

What is fair is decided in a negotiation, or in a court. In the course of the negotiation or case, one deploys principles to make one’s case. These principles, ideally, secure a reasonable agreement. But, there is no fairness, no genuine equity, between two utter unequals. Treating one’s baby merely ‘fairly’ is abominable. Dividing food,warmth or shelter ‘fairly’, in such a circumstance; doing this ought to be a matter of profound shame. Such ‘fairness’ is an invitation to bad faith; because there is no actual ‘contract’ here, no agreement, no negotiation; just whatever you decide ‘is’ fair.

So: fairness is not what is most to the point, here. We need to rely on something stronger.

What?

Well, one must love one’s newborn child. It must be second-nature to treat it as generously as one can. Or, to treat it as not separate from oneself at all.

The very same is true of future people. The analogy is so direct, it is barely worth calling an analogy: future generations are our children. The case is stronger still: if it is true that we must love our new-borns, then it’s even more obvious that we must love our descendants, the future ones. Because they are still more profoundly our dependents (our children) than our own dependents (our children) are, for they are nothing without our love and care. Without that care, they will in many cases not even get the chance to exist…

There is no real chance of our descendants inheriting a planet habitable for civilisation, unless we love them. It is not enough to seek to be fair/just. We are going to have to open our hearts to the people of the future as we open our hearts to a new-born. We are going to actually have to care about them enough, for instance, to be genuinely willing to sacrifice the fripperies that decorate our dwellings, our lives, etc., and which are being produced at the cost of the future. It would be truly terrible not to do this, as (on a business-as-usual model) seems likely.
It may be very demanding, to demand love. It may leave us with little hope that we can do enough. But it’s better to try to do something that would be enough than not even to try.

Let us give our all for our descendants, our collective children. For us not to be myopic, they need to bereal to us. In short: let us love them.

That’s the answer to the question which forms my title. It’s not enough to try to do right by future generations merely by trying to do them justice, or merely to be ‘fair’ to them. We should give up, and admit that we do not love and do not really care, and consign them to their terrible fate – or we should love them.

I recommend the latter course.

FSA ‘intrinsically-biassed-toward-GM-food’

 

The resignation of Prof Brian Wynne last week from the Food Standards Authority due to concerns about the proposed ‘dialogue’ with the public and other stakeholders is highly-concerning.

 

In his letter of resignation from the Dialogue Steering Committee,  Professor Brian Wynne reaches the conclusion that the FSA ‘is intrinsically pro-GM’  He is also critical of the dismissal of the public as ‘anti-science’  when the issues around GM are much wider.

 

‘…. even if wider positions are heard, if no one challenges the institutional dogma which afflicts FSA and it seems other government bodies, that the issues are scientific and the only perspective which can be properly used to assess these is  (so-called) ‘sound science’, then these wider frameworks will be doomed to dismissal before they have even been properly heard, since some of them at least are saying that a (so-called) ‘sound science’  perspective cannot possibly accommodate, understand and assess some of the key issues over global food and its food-chains (including GM), and their resilience, sustainability and justice.’

 

‘What is at issue, indeed what I have been forced to conclude is compromised, is the integrity of the very policy process in which we as the dialogue steering group had become a key component.  I am not prepared by default to aid and abet this kind of systematic failure of institutional integrity in what is a crucial public arena, involving deep questions of science and public good.’

 

http://www.genewatch.org/uploads/f03c6d66a9b354535738483c1c3d49e4/Resignationletter31May10.doc

 

Professor David Marsland calls for ships trying to break the Gaza blockade to be attacked and sunk

Some good letters here, and then a very disturbing letter from a ‘Professor David Marsland’: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jun/04/divide-over-israel-and-gaza
Marsland apparently thinks it is OK to call for the murder of civilians on the high seas. As someone who knows personally some of the civilians in question, and thinks highly of them, I find this particularly repellent and entirely unacceptable.
The mystery becomes a little clearer when one finds out more facts about Mr. Marsland. According to the fringe Libertarian group to which he belongs: ‘Professor David Marsland is Professor of Health Informatics at Brunel University. [Actually, he isn’t: he is an Emeritus Professor. I.e. He is retired]. Amongst his many books are Seeds of Bankruptcy: Sociological Bias Against Business and Freedom, Welfare or Welfare State: Contradictions and Dilemmas in Social Policy, Public Sector Enterprise: A Contradiction in Terms, Work and Employment in Liberal Democratic Societies, Education For Defeat, Cradle to Grave: Comparative Perspectives on the State of Welfare, Education and Youth, Self Reliance: Reforming Welfare in Advanced Societies, Understanding Youth: Issues and Methods in Social Education. He has also contributed to many scholarly and political journal including The British Journal of Sociology, The American Sociologist, Society, Economic Affairs, and Salisbury Review. For the Libertarian Alliance he has written In Defence of British Values, Beyond the Welfare State, and After Empire. In 1991 he was the first recipient of The Thatcher Award, in recognition of his research and writing on individualism and freedom.’
Now it makes a bit more sense. He is a libertarian loon, an unpleasant far-right uber-Thatcherite.
Still, I wonder how Brunel feel about one of their Emeritus (sic.) Professors calling for the murder of civilians on the high seas, in a major national newspaper?

Why couldn’t police stop him?

Am I the only person wondering why, on Bird’s 4 hour rampage, there was seemingly no attempt to place police-roadblocks to stop him, or at least police marksmen helicoptered in to stop him continuing to kill? Surely after the first few deaths, when police realised roughly what they had on their hands, and started telling people to keep indoors etc., they should have thrown the dice and attempted to put a swift stop to further killing by Bird.
 
Meanwhile: It’s still pretty easy to get a gun in Britain: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/7798318/Cumbria-shootings-puts-spotlight-on-Britains-gun-laws.html http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article7142983.ece . We now know that Bird had his guns LEGALLY. It’s time to ban the kind of ‘sniper rifle’ he apparently had, & drastically to tighten up access to shotguns. #Banthegun
 
What I want, is a country where the police are ready to take down lunatics with weapons, but where it is very rare that any lunatic will have a lethal weapon (at least, a gun), because we are successfully preventing them from having any legal access to them.

Emergency Gaza flotilla rally, Norwich

EMERGENCY RALLY WEDNESDAY 2nd JUNE 5.30PM
OPPOSITE THE FORUM, MILLENNIUM PLAIN, NORWICH.

_ISRAELI TERROR ON THE HIGH SEAS_

This action has been called by Norwich Palestine Solidarity Campaign and
Norwich Stop the War Coalition and is supported by many other local
organisations. There will be speakers from these organisations at the
protest. Among the speakers will be Peter Offord, President of Norwich
Stop the War Coalition and a Green councillor, who visited Gaza in
December and January 2010 on the anniversary of the attack on the Gaza
Strip. Many of the aid workers attacked early this morning were people
Peter met on that visit.

PLEASE MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO ATTEND THIS EVENT.

 
  …I’ll be there – hope to see you there…