September 12, 2009

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable

In a distant Welsh town, a small victory took place this week. But it had global implications.
There had been an application to build a biofuel power plant – one that would use thousands of gallons of palm oil every year. The application had been opposed by several groups – including COEXIST - on the grounds of pollution to the locality, further deforestation of the rain forests, and the disenfranchisement of indigenous peoples.
The planning officers recommended approval.
Although the planning rules were based on purely local criteria and did not allow for any consideration to be given to the global implications of such a development, the arguments put forward were consistent and persuasive. For possibly the first time, a decision was made by local councillors who understood that upon their shoulders sat the heavy weight of global responsibility.
The planning application was heroically rejected.
The needs of this world are tightly interconnected. The people of Newport were making a decision that would not only affect the future of the people of the rainforests, but would add to the overall effect of climate change. Local representatives all over the world are not prepared or equipped for such a burden of responsibility, and local rules are either behind the times in their assessment of the situation, or woefully inadequate.
The events in Newport were a wake up call to legislators. If we are to mitigate the effects of climate change the rules have to overhauled. Local government cannot keep track of the constantly changing body of evidence which seeks to minimise climate catastrophe. Pressure groups are the key to keeping knowledge relevant and their influence must be more than anecdotal. It is time the rules reflected the reality and such groups given legal rights to bring evidence to the debate, and that evidence lawfully included in the decision making process. The world outside our towns and villages is our neighbour, and we have a humane duty of care to consider every aspect of the decisions we make – not least because ultimately it will affect us.

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