‘How to be an internationalist’ (Building a new internationalism, NI 518) needs an important addition to [the seventh point] on climate change. Climate change is driven by climate changers, you and me and the other 7.7 billion of us, increasing at 81 million new souls each year, or 9,000 every hour. Project Drawdown work by Wynes and Nicholas both point to smaller family size as being the most effective route to lowering climate-changing gas emissions. Our burgeoning population is doing much more than driving climate change. It’s driving extinction of other species, unprecedented rates of forest and soil loss, and pollution of land, sea and air and much more. Several countries have successfully reduced family size with non-coercive policies, including equal education opportunities for girls and boys, and women given a choice on family size and access to free reproductive-health services.
In ‘Unlearning despair’ (Long Read, NI 517), Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik writes ‘focus on individual actions can blind us to the structural causes of problems’ and ‘the only hope ... lies in collective responses’. The problem is that if individuals don’t make personal changes then governments, with some justification, assume they don’t really want to and nothing happens. We need both bottom-up and top-down responses to climate breakdown; working together is important but so are individual efforts. Neither alone will suffice.
On receiving NI 517 I immediately went to the Country Profile and was delighted it was Cuba – a country we have visited twice in the last three years. The best I can say is that it is patronizing and damning with faint praise.
Saying Cuba is ‘undemocratic’ is biased – Cuba has a participatory democracy starting from ward level where anyone can stand in open elections by show of hand, progressing to municipality/province level where secret ballots elect half of the members of parliament. The other half are chosen by the retiring assembly in order to maintain a proper representation of all sectors of society.
A referendum on the new Cuban constitution took place on 24 February 2019. The final version took into account 780,000 suggestions and 9,600 proposals arising from 133,000 meetings held during the popular consultation between August and November 2018. The two most notable provisions were the redefinition of marriage as a union between two persons (yes, this includes same-sex marriage) and the right to a decent home. It was backed by 86.8 per cent of voters, with an overall turnout of 84.1 per cent.
Finally, Cuba is not subject to an ‘embargo’, but a blockade (which has cost it $993 billion) for 60 years. US navy ships and spy planes patrol the islands and multimillion- dollar fines are imposed on leading banks of other nations who have had the temerity to finance trade with Cuba.
- had turned off their bedroom lights;
- were carrying one-use bottles of water;
- refused single-use plastic bags;
- were careful about recycling;
It is so easy to say that ‘They’ should do something about matters of concern. What we all need to say is ‘What can I do?’ Individual behaviours and actions do have an effect, and the careful use of resources is essential for the long-term health of our planet.
I was interested by and sympathetic to the first part of Peter Adamson’s article on ‘The Merit Trap’ (NI 515), and I totally agree with his analysis of the different roles of genetic inheritance, circumstances of upbringing and chance. But this changed to total disappointment as I realized that he has nothing to propose as to what might be done about this. Disappointment gave way to disbelief when he ended by suggesting that the great Populist Revolt imagined by Michael Young may now actually be happening – are we to see Trump, Bolsonaro, Nigel Farage et al, as somehow bearing the standard of social justice?
Why I… work with the homeless
I first got involved as a teenager – it seemed unfair that I had a comfortable bed to sleep in while others slept rough. Even on the affluent offshore world of the Isle of Man there is poverty on many levels and a need for transformation. Over the years, meeting people at the margins of society has opened my eyes to the pain and beauty of humanity, and the structural injustices of the status quo. Above all, I have seen something of God’s kingdom of peace and justice among those who society has discarded.