So the G8 is coming to Northern Ireland next year, no doubt we’re all expected to see this as brilliant news and get excited about the possibilities.
We can put Northern Ireland on the map as a tourism destination with wonderful lakes and golf courses, we can show the world that we can hold world class events, we can be the centre of the universe for a few days with people like King Obama,King Putin, Queen Angela, Prince Cameron all discussing important matters by the side of Lough Erne while enjoying sneaky pints of Guinness and no doubt a round of golf.
I won’t be standing there in Fermanagh field next year protesting or trying to get them to change their mind as they’re the powerful ones and interested in making sure that their countries stay ahead of the game, which means remaining powerful and more successful than those countries outside the G8. I’d be better standing my garden trying to grow my own food or trying to make my house more energy efficient.
Well maybe I will be standing in a field in Fermanagh because it’s on my doorstep.
But I think that what will annoy me more that the actual G8 conference will be if protesters start flying in from every corner of the globe with their big carbon emitting footprints to complain about how the G8 is not doing enough to tackle climate change. If you’re going to fly over from US or Germany or whatever to protest that the powerful nations aren’t doing enough to tackle that particular issue you might want to cancel your flights and plant an onion instead.
David Cameron announced it on a visit to Northern Ireland but just before it he was congratulating some factory which I didn’t recognize about their success over the last 30 yrs. He said these words.
‘The fact is in our country we need to make more things, we need to sell more things, we need to manufacture more, we’re in what I call a global race and I want Britain, I want the United Kingdom to be one of the success stories in that global race and that requires businesses like yours to go on competing and succeeding’
What is this? We’re in global race so the only way we can compete and succeed is to make yet more things and sell more things? I know that some of you reading this may work for business that is trying to succeed in the global market. And they’re a definitely things that should be made, things that actually might make life better and add to human flourishing. There is no problem there
But there a lots of things that maybe don’t need making. And if things are being made that take away from peoples ability to flourish somewhere else on planet earth then do we need those? If a factory is churning out weapons for example, do we need that company to sell more and more weapons to make the planet a safer place?
The fact is Prime Minister is that we’re on a planet of limited resources with a growing population and we often have too many things. I have two computer printers in the room I am typing this in. No doubt that computer printer sale was good news for Curry’s when I bought it but in the grand schemes was it good for creation?
Compare the PM’s words to the words of President Jose Mujica of Uruguay (who definitely won’t be making an appearance at the G8 conference) who gave this speeck at the Rio+20 summit earlier this year
‘I ask this question: what would happen to this planet if the people of India had the same number of cars per family as the Germans? How much oxygen would there be left for us to breathe? More clearly: Does the world today have the material elements to enable 7 or 8 billion people to enjoy the same level of consumption and squandering as the most affluent Western societies? WIll that ever be possible? Or will we have to start a different type of discussion one day? ‘
‘[And] no material belonging is worth as much as life, and this is fundamental.But if life is going to slip through my fingers, working and over-working in order to be able to consume more, and the consumer society is the engine-because ultimately, if consumption is paralyzed, the economy stops, and if you stop economy, the ghost of stagnation appears for each one of us, but it is this hyper-consumption that is harming the planet. And this hyper-consumption needs to be generated, making things that have a short useful life, in order to sell a lot.’
So I’m not so sure the fact is that we do need to be making more things. Do we? Can humans flourish and creation flourish if every family in China, Brazil, India, Indonesia has the same number of cars as the average British or German family?