The NEC President’s JAN Update

NEC News, January 2024

by Scott Sledge, President

Happy new year!

I believe that most humans start every year with hope for less conflict and more peace and goodwill. This year perhaps more than ever. The world situation is edgy, so I have decided to concentrate on the big picture rather than more local environmental issues.

Getting right to it: War: what is it good for? Absolutely nothing! According to a late 1960’s song by Edwin Starr. While I tend to agree, that’s not quite accurate. War is good for the profits of certain people, such as weapons manufacturers and related industries, and some people can’t see beyond the profits they generate. We start 2024 with genocide in the Middle East and Sudan, Ukrainian resistance to full-scale invasion by Russian forces, and many lesser conflicts. But we don’t have unlimited time for that sort of selfish shit. The planet is warming rapidly under clouds of pollution emitted by people even during peacetime, and destruction increases dramatically during war.

There now seems at least to be a consensus we humans are damaging the environment to the point of species extinction, which may actually include our own. The denials of the past just don’t stand up to scrutiny. At the December 2023 global meeting on the environment, COP 28, the delegates accepted that climate change is indeed caused by humans use of fossil fuels -for the first time.

The development of the cerebral cortex in humans has made it possible for our species to go beyond the primitive fight-or-flight response to immediate threats. We can now apply reasoning, planning, and other higher functions to the problems we face, including issues of future concern. I am sure that we could invent better systems for manufacture and distribution of goods and feed an even greater population with a suitable application of our intellect should we choose to do so. However, I see little movement in that direction among our leaders, whether they were elected or seized power in myriad undemocratic ways. I see instead a failure of leadership with a repetition of mistakes of the past, ineffective attention to the future, and an ongoing preoccupation with war.

The lyrics of 1980’s Nimbin singing quartet Silly Symphony are instructive: “If we want peace we have to learn to be peaceful, If we want love we have to learn to give. Be constructive, not destructive: give peace a chance to live.” (There’s a War On written by Cawongla’s Lina Eve))
So, do we want peace? No doubt some people do, probably a majority worldwide, but many of those in charge don’t want to stop the fighting because they will lose money and/or their power. Some people, of course, simply don’t care.

If we care, then we need to propel society in general and our politics in particular into a peaceful frame where the foremost consideration/requirement of any issue is how will this affect our global environment/ecology? Such a mindset would enlighten all decisions from the global to the most localised and would give us humans a chance to survive—even thrive—past this century. I have grandchildren, so I care, and I think we need to dedicate ourselves to planetary survival. Now, not down the track. It sometimes seems as if we are inevitably doomed, but I refuse to believe it. I think we can—and will—learn to be peaceful and cooperative for the good of all.

To accomplish that goal, it’s useful to focus on what we know. Few will continue to defend the destruction of our natural world when given the facts. For example I get little argument if I ask Is the clearfelling of native forests for woodchips worth the inevitable extinction of our natural wildlife? Even those who argue that we should subsidise logging native forests to get some small portion of timber back off when I say we get most of our timber from plantations already. And no one has an answer to a better form of carbon sequestration, apart from the ridiculous idea that we should somehow remove carbon from polluting emissions and store it “safely” under the ground or in our waterways.

We must continue to struggle to promote our better angels and speak out against what is damaging our environment. British musician Sting sang (1985) “I Hope the Russians Love Their Children Too.” But we can’t wait for people in other parts to wake up. We need to turn away from the polluting stench of war and look to improve our systems to find ways compassion and greater intelligence can drive world politics. Then we can look forward to a happy new year. Indeed we could welcome a happy new era.

Local Environment News:

NEC celebrated the end of 2023 with a picnic gathering at Nimbin’s swimming pool. Our volunteers were thanked for their devotion to the cause and for keeping the shop open: all proceeds go to promoting environmental causes.

NEC is pleased to announce they were successful in obtaining a grant from WIRES to install nesting boxes for a range of species in the Nimbin Valley. Stand by for details about an information night to be held in February 2024 to find out when and how you can get involved. Or please come to the next monthly NEC meeting at the Green Room in the Commmunity Centre: 5 PM on Wednesday 10th January 2024: all welcome.