THE WORLD’S leaders are gathering in Copenhagen to try to work out a global deal to start reducing the emissions that are causing global warming. Last week Prime Minister Gordon Brown described climate change sceptics as “flat-earthers”, out of touch with reality. He urges us all to do our bit by changing light bulbs, turning the heating down and so on.
But he would do better to convince those sceptics and everyone else that the Government is really concerned about global warming if he stopped plans to build new runways at Heathrow, Stansted and/or Gatwick. We should be looking to reduce the volume of air travel, not increase it.
Brown could make a massive investment in improving public transport — and bring it back under public ownership and control — to reduce unnecessary car use.
He could start fitting solar panels on all publicly owned buildings and giving low cost loans to home-owners and small businesses to fit them on their buildings.
He could make a huge reduction in the carbon emissions the Government is responsible for by cancelling the Trident replacement.
And he could pull us out of the unjust and unwinnable war against the people of Afghanistan. It is hard to think of anything more polluting than war.
The Government has just noticed that the country is in the midst of an epidemic of stress and depression — leading to time off work and costing the bosses money.
They have launched a new 10-year mental health strategy to target depression and to identify those most at risk and bombard them with a range of treatments, including talking therapies as well as pills. But the main talking therapy they use is called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and aims to teach people to think differently — on the basis that reality only exists in the mind and you can change the reality of your existence by thinking about it differently.
But the causes of depression — poverty, unemployment, homelessness, debt, social isolation, fear of unemployment and homelessness, overwork, lack of rest and recreation — lie in the real world, not the imagination. We can turn our brains inside out trying to force ourselves to think positively about these things but if, after the treatment, our lives are still overwhelmed by these nightmares, the depression will always come back.
It is particularly galling at this time of year, when depression sufferers are mocked by the full onslaught of profit-driven commercial Christmas sales propaganda, commanding them to be joyful when they cannot remember how, nor why they should.
What sufferers need is economic security, jobs with tea breaks and dinner breaks that allow them to relax and chat with their fellow workers and hours that allow them to go home still with enough time and energy for a bit of fun and recreation. Whatever happened to the Chartists’ dream of eight hours for work, eight for sleep and eight for leisure?
If the Government can put up billions of pounds to guarantee the banks, it can afford the guarantee the workers basic security through a return to full state welfare, council housing for all in need of it and a full social wage that would lift workers to the status of human beings rather than cogs in a profit-making machine that eats up all their time, their energy, their thoughts and their self esteem.