Contributor: Jeremy Bugler
I didn’t actually say to myself “Stone the crows!” on hearing the news last week that our planet has entered the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch created by man’s impact on the planet. But that phrase, beloved of Tony Hancock, more or less summed up my reaction. It’s been obvious to any but the self-interested that enormous changes brought about by human behaviour have been under way for some time. We have burnt too much, consumed too much, thrown away too much, killed too much, and, yes, reproduced much too much.
Sometimes my spirits sag when in the morning I turn on the radio or open the paper. There is so much grim news – beheadings, bombings, starving people into surrender, mass sexual assaults on women and so on. Reading the detail of the new study was also an exercise in spirit-sagging: we produce 300 million metric tonnes of plastic annually, much of which ends up in the sea and breaks down into microscopic particles. (If a frequent-flyer says to me once more: “But I do recycle” I will not be answerable for my actions). Half the concrete ever produced has been made in the last twenty years. Wildlife is being pushed into smaller and smaller areas of the globe… Okay, enough already.
Which is where I come as the bearer of better tidings. An area of the great Amazon rainforest in north-eastern Peru, around the Santiago River, has been declared an autonomous region. The indigenous people, the Wampis, declare the creation of the first autonomous indigenous government to defend their ancestral territory of 1.3 million hectares against the loggers and miners and palm-oil planters.
Some three hundred Wampi delegates travelled to a summit meeting, which led to the declaration. Andres Noningo Sensen, of the Waimaku, or Wampis visionaries, explained:
“We have taken this decision partly as a strategy of territorial defence, in response to the effort to divide us into communities. We will still be Peruvian citizens but this unity will give us the political strength we need to explain our vision to the world and to those companies and governments who see only the gold and oil in our rivers and forests and much less the spirit beings of Nunkui and Tsunki, who look after our earth and water.”
The Wampi Magna Carta also promotes economic alternatives for their future, including small-scale fish-farming and cocoa and banana production.
Working with the Wampis has been a British charity the Forest Peoples Programme and their man Conrad Feather. Their achievement means a lot to Herefordshire because local people in our county have got together to try to raise more than £100,000 for the Wampi’s rainforest. The Size of Herefordshire (www.sizeofherefordshire.org) is about to launch an interactive webpage which will allow people to click-on ten hectares or much more (in multiples of ten) and sponsor them at the rate of £5 per ten hectares. Each sponsored ten hectares of God’s own county will mean that ten hectares of Wampi rainforest will be protected.
The Size of Herefordshire was enormously excited to get only the fifth email ever to have been sent out of Wampi territory. How’s that for a privilege?
The Size of H will be approaching the county’s biggest landowners, such as Prince Charles, as well as villages and parishes to try to get them to sponsor their areas. Sue and I are looking forward to sponsoring our farm (30 plus hectares) and a bit more for good measure.
There’s much in the media about the extremism of Jeremy Corbyn and his pals. I find it curious how little is written about the extremism of George Osborne. This politician is a genuine extremist in that he will take political action dictated not by rational analysis but by dogma.
It’s pretty clear that Osborne is among the ever smaller band of climate change deniers, now akin to the Flat Earth Society when faced with Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon. With the warm winter and unending rain, I failed to spot Osborne, rarely slow to put on a high-vis jacket, visiting the flood stricken towns of the North. He could not have stood the questions about climate change. His wellies if he has them remained in the cupboard under the stairs.
Osborne’s denier credentials are proved not by his words but his actions. Last autumn, he kicked away one renewable energy support after another, while backing fracking. (He has Amber Rudd, the Environment Secretary and who perhaps should be known as Stoplight, in his pocket.) In the week before the Paris Climate Conference opened, he killed Britain’s CO2 storage project – a supremely bigoted and cynical act, and left Rudd to go naked into the conference chamber (so to speak).
Osborne is a zealot and a bigot. (Even his daughter is called Liberty). He is very insincere – just look at any photo opportunity when he is visiting a factory or store: surrounded by the oiks (he should know) he has a fixed smile of insincerity playing on his features which say only “how much longer do I have to be with these awful people.” Unfortunately, he is also very clever and very ambitious.
Speaking of media musings about Corbyn, it’s noticeable that the Guardian is incessantly hostile toward him. This has been going on ever since the leadership election Jeremy trounced the paper’s chosen successor Yvette Cooper, who was opposed by 83 per cent of the Labour Party membership. The nadir of the Guardian’s behaviour was reached on New Year’s Day, when the paper gave special space to Peter Mandelson and a both-barrels attack on Corbyn. Mandelson, possibly the most divisive figure in the modern Labour Party outside Blair, called Corbyn divisive.
Why in heaven did the Guardian chose to use Mandelson, a man now skilled at amassing a pile of money for himself like many of the New Labour scions, in this way? Well, the Guardian has a new-ish editor in Kath Viner, reportedly liked and admired by the staff. My guess is that Viner has ceded too much ground to the two Guardian old lions who were in post when she took over.
One is Jonathan Freedland, editor of the opinion pages and thus responsible for choices such as giving Matthew D’Ancona key space on Mondays to set the tone for the week. (D’Ancona, now editor of the Spectator and formerly of the Telegraph, is a good writer but not a progressive.)
The other old lion is Polly Toynbee. She is of course a remarkable journalist who has run some terrific campaigns and highlighted the way Britain has regressed into the Land of Inequality. However, her political judgement is uncertain – indeed in the past she was a key member of the SDP, which did much to keep Thatcher in power. Toynbee also came out so enthusiastically for Yvette Cooper that I wondered if the two are personal friends. She has lost few chances of rubbishing Corbyn.
My hope is that the very decent new editor will now pull some of the teeth of the Lions and give her paper the feeling of a radical journal once more.