Ryeview – December 2002

Things may not turn out as bad as I think they will!

John Clark writes…

First published: December 2002 – Gazette & Herald

When asked am I an optimist or a pessimist my reply is that I am an optimist. “Things may not turn out as bad as I think they will!”   Looking forward at this time of year it is only going to get colder and wetter. But NO. The 21st of December is the winter solstice. From now on the days are going to get longer. In only three weeks we will be in mid January. From then on it tends to get warmer.

Nature   has already made a substantial start to the work of the New Year. Leaves have long gone. Catkins have formed ready to grow and produce masses of pollen. Buds have formed ready to grow and burst when the warmth of spring arrives. Bulbs both in the garden and in the wild have already produced growth. Some are already peeping through. Nature knows that despite the sleet, the cold and the mud that spring will come.

This change from the past to the future is why humans have for thousands of years celebrated the ‘’turning of the year’. It is a time of hope, renewal ad, yes, optimism. It is a time for reflecting on the last year, analysing ‘where we are’ and planning for the future. In religious terms it should be a time of ‘Peace and Goodwill to all men.’

Looking round the world this hard to believe. There are:

  • Over 2 billion people on an income of a dollar or less a day.
  • A similar number are without clean drinking water.
  • In the UK some people are homeless, while houses stand empty.
  • Millions of people are on the edge of starvation.
  • £500million worth of good food (pre sell by date) is thrown away each year in the UK.
  • The power of large companies is threatening our environment and maybe our health through GMO’s.
  • Some people in India are so hungry that they have been forced to eat grass (as there were earlier in the year in Afghanistan, but the people of that country are now rarely in the news).
  • Missiles are fired into refugee camps.
  • More countries are gaining nuclear weapons.
  • Night clubs and hotels are blown up by terrorists
  • People are being tortured and mutilated
  • The US with the UK in tow prepares for war.
  • A tiny fraction of the world’s population uses up a third of the world’s energy consumption – over half of the world uses virtually none. We claim to be cutting down on fuel yet the country blazes with lights.
  • In the UK the top 10% earn per person more than 10 times the income of the bottom 10%. In the US it is worse at 17 times.
  • The average UK household will spend   over £800 on Christmas.

The list of abuse and greed goes on. No wonder there is the largest migration of people round the globe in the history of the human race.

Just as in the depths of winter there are signs of spring, there are a growing number of people questioning the way we are going. They see the way forward as working locally and using less. Countries can be run without the immoral disparity in incomes. Norway, in the opinion of economists is competitive, productive and efficient yet the top earnings are only 5 times those of the bottom. The organic movement produces food with much less use of fossil fuels. Double-glazing is commonplace and energy efficient houses are being built. Renewable energy sources are beginning to be developed. People are demonstrating against war. Hundreds of thousands marched through London. The protest against globalisation produces vast numbers of people in the cities of the world saying, “enough is enough.” The GMO juggernaut has been slowed but not yet stopped – GM food has all but disappeared from the supermarket shelves.

In Ryedale last week there was a meeting of the District Councils Environment Forum – Ryedale’s biodiversity action plan is well underway. Ryedale people support the Fylingdales Action Network; it cannot be right to support the   American ‘war machine’ while at the same time we cannot afford to fund education without abolishing student grants and charging tuition fees. Ryedale Against Genetically Modified Organisms has just been relaunched. York and Ryedale Friends of the Earth keep environmental issues to the fore. Pickering Peace and Justice Group continue to oppose the series of wars we are being presented with. The Amnesty International group in Kirbymoorside campaigns vigorously against the torture and abuse of humans throughout the world – 20 students at |Ryedale School have a group. Other groups are working with drugs and the homeless. All these are groups working in Ryedale towards a better future. They do not accept the inevitability of the doom and gloom outlined above. I apologise to those groups I haven’t mentioned. Their work is nonetheless important to our future.

Let us hope that humans continue to develop the buds of renewal. If the west goes in a direction away from greed and the abuse of the environment we may well have a dramatic change and develop into a free, moral and socially acceptable world.

The optimist in me believes that we could now be in the human winter. Humans could move into ‘spring’ and all the benefits that will bring.

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