Moral Awakening

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated, in June, that richer countries have administered almost 44% of the world’s Covid vaccines – poor countries just 0.4%. Simon Kuper’s column this week (sombre) argues that higher income countries will emerge from the pandemic long before poorer ones. Some of us recall the HIV/Aids crisis: when in the 1990s, new drugs became available in the west, we moved on, while people in Africa went on dying. Even today, HIV is a principal cause of death in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. WHO calculates the present global death toll from Covid at 3 million; the global death toll from HIV at 32 million.

The rich world’s reaction to this pandemic is depressingly predictable – ‘save ourselves, barricaded from the poor’. Kuper’s article predicts that this same ruthless pragmatism will be applied to the climate crisis; poor countries, destroyed by spreading deserts or rising seas, will be abandoned. His final paragraph is too bleak for me, but worth positing: “If the only hope now is moral awakening, there’s no hope. Based on what we learned from Covid, our best chance to avoid climate catastrophe is a tech fix, developed in a rich country in its own self-interest, that would save the world at modest additional cost. I’m told that sucking carbon out of the atmosphere at the scale required, might not prove totally impossible”.

While I agree that there will be no moral awakening on Boris Johnson’s watch (a hooligan culture) – I’m more hopeful that wider humanity will awaken in time.


Larry’s Lunchette is a year old and I’m going to try for a second year. During July, I’m asking readers to visit our fundraising page – to help meet costs. Your decision on donating will not affect access.


There was a peaceful sit-in at a UK Govt building in Edinburgh, protesting the expected approval by Boris Johnson of the new Cambo oilfield off Shetland. It’s one thing for Scottish Govt to set impressive targets for carbon neutrality, but if you’re still extracting fossil fuels you can’t expect to be taken seriously; the general population seem increasingly determined about this issue. The protest was supported by the Greens co-leader, Lorna Slater – who is in talks with the SNP about power-sharing. I really hope the Greens will increasingly influence the governance of Scotland – but research by the Ferret and the Herald shows that the SNP sits in a bubble of capitalism rather than social democracy.


Latest stats show 2.4million people still on furlough; prevented from doing their furloughed job, many found alternative work and there is growing evidence of a reluctance to return to their old job patterns. This is an opinion piece by Hugo Gye in the ‘i’, suggesting that the furlough programme will have many unintended consequences. I believe the UK workforce has found new independence – ‘agency’.


Scotland’s excellent Poverty Alliance has written to Therese Coffey at the UK Govt, to ask on what basis she decided to remove the £20 supplement to universal credit (see letter). There could be no clearer signal that Tory talk of ‘levelling up’ is phoney and that we all need to brace for the return of austerity.


An investigation by The Independent newspaper has revealed that many thousand undocumented migrants in the UK are being denied access to a Covid vaccine, even though NHS England policy states that ID is not required to register with a GP (NHS number needed for a jab). What is the situation in Scotland? Do we really want sections of the population unvaccinated?


This is an uplifting Conversation longer read by Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at Surrey University. He regards the current billionaire space race as the ultimate symbol of the capitalism’s flawed obsession with growth; an unwelcome distraction from addressing the urgent priorities of our own planet. I extracted this week’s end-piece (below) from his text.


“As Aristotle pointed out, the good life is not a relentless search for more, but a continual process of finding a ‘virtuous’ balance between too little and too much. Too little food and we struggle with diseases of malnutrition. Too much and we’re tipped into ‘diseases of affluence’ – which now kill more people. Good health depends on maintaining this balance. The challenge of keeping your exercise, your diet and your appetites in line with the outcome of a healthy body”.