Consumerism

I have low expectations of the Glasgow climate summit, because the root cause of global warming is the consumerism of our capitalist system – and that’s not about to change. Corporates will only change their behaviour if forced to; the youth campaigns that have sprung up, give reason for hope – but getting Govts to question the role and reach of market economics would take a mass mobilisation around the world; the unassailable prestige of market thinking, cooks our planet.

My nonna (dad’s mum), presumably from memories of childhood poverty, was very reluctant to discard anything; she kissed surplus food apologetically before binning it. In a 2019 interview about climate change, David Attenborough said, “live the way you want to live, but just don’t waste: electricity, materials, food……just don’t waste”.  Rather late in life, I’ve come to realise that the resources of our planet are finite – that we have a moral responsibility to limit what we use – to tread lightly.

Most of the scientific comment I’ve read agrees that, on present efforts, we have little chance of keeping global warming within critical limits. If I was raising youngsters today, I would discuss with them the benefits of a simpler, more frugal lifestyle – and this is not only in case the worst predictions of climatologists come true. Mindless consumerism diminishes us as well as our planet. We can simplify our lives; pare down; search for what really matters to us; take delight in what we already have: the small, the accessible, the beautiful. Human wellbeing is about the health of our ‘soul’.

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The UK has one of the highest Covid infection rates in the world – far higher than the rest of western Europe – yet, according to Philip Ball in the Guardian, populist Ministers are now pretending that the pandemic is over. I’m not suggesting that this is an easy balance to call; when everything was closed down, it was really depressing – folk were at the end of their tolerance – but it’s got a bit too lax. Politicians won’t say this but ‘learning to live with Covid’ means we will have to accept a certain level of mortalities without closing down; it doesn’t mean we can’t take measures to prevent infection – like wearing facemasks in the House of Commons. The coming winter is scary.

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Jonathan Powell, chief British negotiator in Northern Ireland from 1997-2007 has written an explicit piece in the FT saying that the present UK approach to NI is one of ‘casual political vandalism’. He accuses Boris Johnson of playing with the peace process by using the DUP as a battering ram; he hopes that this is just another bluff. Here’s an extract.

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Why do some of us wake up at 3am and dwell on our fears and shortcomings – some call it ‘barbed wire thinking’. Greg Murray, a mental health academic, specialising in sleep, discusses why this happens and what we can do about it. He says that Buddhism has a strong position on this type of mental activity.

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Scotland is one of the biggest producers of farmed salmon in the world, worth an annual £2bn to the Scottish economy – which it intends to double by 2030. Yet I’m with those who believe that the level of harm to fish, and the water pollution caused by the industry, trashes Scotland’s environmental reputation. Farmed fish will become the norm.

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When Fintan O’Toole does an occasional piece for the Guardian (no pay wall). I’m reminded of his quality and his enduring contempt for Boris Johnson’s delusion of Global Britain. O’Toole calls this piece ‘Facing crisis and needing a scapegoat, the Tories seek an endless fight with Europe’. He also berates the Tories for their disrespect of Northern Ireland

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Love this cartoon about ‘trickle down economics’.

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Delivering the Shirly Williams memorial lecture last Friday, David Puttnam announced his retirement from the House of Lords; he said he was ‘embarrassed’ by post Brexit Britain.

“I once heard Douglas Hurd, a man for whom I had great respect, say words to this effect: “The duty of Government is to steer the ship of State through waters that are inevitably rough, sometimes even treacherous, and bring it back into a safe harbour for another group of honest men and women to assume the same responsibility.” That perfectly conveys my idea of the process of Government which has, and can in the future, be carried out responsibly and well. At present, I don’t believe that to be the case – which is why I’m leaving the House of Lords with a pretty heavy heart……”

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