Thursday, 30 July 2009

We are Neda


Today in Tehran tens of thousands of mourners including Mr Mousavi have courageously gathered to remember Neda, who was shot dead by a sniper from a pro-Ahmadinajad faction militia - should I call it the Praetorian Guard? The world is watching.

Three pillars, three fundamental values

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a FAIR, free and open society, in which we seek to BALANCE the FUNDAMENTAL VALUES [N.B. plural] of liberty, EQUALITY and COMMUNITY. By joining the party we all sign up to these words, which commence the preamble to the party's federal constitution. Rather good aren't they? I like them. I like striving for balance between the three values. I have put in capitals the bits that don't get enough emphasis sometimes, yet I have not noticed anyone putting a constitutional amendment to the party conference to take them out. The preamble has lots more good stuff in it, such as that we believe each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long term continuity of life in all its forms. Hear hear. I'm all for that. I don't want to be a tadpole in a pond that's going stagnant. Also we champion the well being of individuals. Hear hear. Should we aim to be like Denmark? So the framers were rather avant garde. You can read the whole thing on the party website somewhere. But the fundamentals are a balance between freedom, equality and community. I feel enthusiastic about that. We should shout about it more.

A liberal response to the global population crisis

To remind you, dear reader, of some excellent policy adopted recently I am posting the following text which was passed unanimously by the Liberal International Congress in May 2008.
"The 55th Liberal International Congress,
Noting that
(1) The human population of the world, currently about 6.7 billion, is more than double what it was in 1960, and is continuing to increase at a rate of an extra 1.5 million people per week;
(2) This rate of increase threatens the sustainability of the world’s resources;
(3) Population increases can enslave people in poverty;
(4) Reproductive health conditions are the leading cause of death and illness in women of childbearing age worldwide; and at least 200 million women want to plan their families or space their children, but lack access to safe and effective contraception;
Recalling that the 54th Liberal International Congress in Marrakech, 2006:
(A) Reaffirmed the absolute imperative at the beginning of the 21st century to raise the living standards of the extreme poor, in particular that half of the global population which struggles to survive on less than $2 per day,
(B) Reaffirmed its commitment to the eight Millennium Development Goals that were adopted by 189 nations during the Millennium Development Summit in 2000, which include the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, the education and empowerment of girls and women, the improvement of maternal and child health and ensuring environmental sustainability;
(C) Recognised that some cultural or religious practices in society hinder the contribution of women;
(D) Recognised that excessive population growth places enormous strains on agricultural land and available nutritional and environmental resources;
(E) Commended both freedom of choice for individuals and equal treatment of all citizens and residents, and non-discrimination;
Believing that:
(a) In order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, especially the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, population growth and sexual and reproductive health and rights also need to be addressed;
(b) In particular, the present rate of consumption of the world’s resources is at odds with the Seventh Millennium Development Goal, namely environmental sustainability;
(c) It is vital to reverse the trend towards a burgeoning human population of the planet if real progress is to be made on the Millennium Development Goals, a better quality of life is to be shared by all, and the threats of worsening violence, epidemics and starvation are to be lessened;
(d) Parents have the human right and the freedom to choose to plan their families and thereby improve their health and quality of life, but there is an unmet need for education, family planning and reproductive health services;
(e) Where such unmet need exists, unwanted pregnancies can be obstacles to gender equality and subsequent social justice, economic growth and environmental sustainability;
Calls upon Liberal International's member parties to urge their governments:
(1) To especially promote the education of girls and women;
(2) To provide full access to comprehensive family planning and sexual and reproductive health services to all those who wish to access these services;
(3) To defend and advance gender equality and to eliminate all forms of discrimination, coercion and violence against women."

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Hush - don't mention the central problem

At a Federal Policy Committee meeting earlier this year I argued that the Lib Dems had a responsibility to talk about the threat to the environment from the growth in the world's population (which has more than quadrupled since 1900), and I mentioned in support that Sir David Attenborough had talked about this issue. To my surprise, I was denounced by another committee member for (allegedly) dragging Sir David into politics.
So even though the denunciation was twaddle, in that environmental science is not politics, and someone of Sir David's national treasure status is way above politics, I won't drag him in. I will just quote what he reportedly said when he became a patron of the Optimum Population Trust earlier this year: “I’ve seen wildlife under mounting human pressure all over the world and it’s not just from human economy or technology - behind every threat is the frightening explosion in human numbers.
“I’ve never seen a problem that wouldn’t be easier to solve with fewer people, or harder, and ultimately impossible, with more. That’s why I support the OPT, and I wish the environmental NGOs would follow their lead, and spell out this central problem loud and clear."

Friday, 17 July 2009

A small town becomes a signpost

Bundanoon, in New South Wales, Australia, has voted to ban bottled water.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Iran: the minority that will not let go

I am thinking about places in the world where women are oppressed. Iran for example. There, I gather, militia roam the streets intimidating and attacking women who behave or dress in ways of which they disapprove. In my country, such militia would be arrested and tried for public order offences. It is not that the British have no opinions about what is acceptable dress or behaviour in public and what is not. Of course we have opinions. But individuals behave in a way that is their own choice, provided that it does not contravene a specific law, and it may be a poor choice, but it is the individual's and not imposed. Live and let live, and mind your own business, are mottos here. And gangs who roam the streets trying to impose their own ideas on others tend to get arrested.
So what essentially is different about Iranians? I suspect, nothing is. A minority of society suppose they have a superior social and ethical code but that is normal in any society. The trouble is that in Iran, this minority has got hold of the levers of power and they will not let go. This minority is headed by people who claim to have special religious status and authority. How do they reconcile that with what seems from the news leaking out from Iran to be a clear case of electoral fraud? Not to mention the fact that in election after election they have disqualified most opposition candidates? In Britain people who commit fraud get put in prison, religious clerics included.
How these people feel they have the right to tell individual women how to dress and behave is worse than perplexing. To have the self-assurance to feel comfortable telling others what to do, or even physically force them to do it, does not mean you are right. It might be a sign of madness.