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Long past time for precautionary principle

by | 1 May 2011 | Climate strategy | 0 comments

Evo Morales and Alvaro Garcia

Constitution Trumps Corporatism: Evo Morales and Alvaro Garcia celebrating the adoption of a constitution safeguarding against the likes of the corporate crusade that impoverished the countryside, forcing farmers back into coca production. photograph Juan Karita/AP

Dr James Hansen’s lecture is slated to start at 6.30‍ ‍pm.

Or, if Thursday’s event’s Facebook page is to be believed, 6‍ ‍pm.

In 1988 when Dr Hansen warned congress that anthropogenic greenhouse gases were going to seriously raise average global temperatures, the precautionary principle should have applied.

Criminally, it wasn’t. Mustn’t impede the opportunity for global corporations to make their billions, if there was the faintest chance that Dr Hansen was wrong.

Ironically, the folk who should have regulated to rapidly scale back fossil fuel use were happy to pervert the precautionary principle—Dick Cheney’s so-called One Percent Doctrine—as pretext to invade Iraq and have at its rich oil reserves.

The rest is history, as is the climate that was so conducive to the development of civilisation. The gales that Dr Hansen knew his grandchildren were doomed to suffer are being increasingly felt.

Governments independently or collectively are abysmally ill prepared to respond to the reality of global warming. Rather than maintain the post‍–‍ World War Two momentum for a just and democratic world order, the opposite has happened. Not only is the United Nations sidelined, Chicago School corporatism has disembowelled country after country, leaving them powerless to act in their own or the planet’s best interest.

Ballot BoxA most egregious example is South Africa. No sooner was apartheid overcome, the country was shackled to debts incurred in the apartheid era. Particularly obscene, as Naomi Klein records,

Forty percent of the government’s annual debt payments go the country’s massive pension fund. The vast majority of beneficiaries are former apartheid employees.

Since apartheid fell, the funds that should have lifted non-white South Africans have been appropriated by Chicago School corporatism, and

the number of people living on less than $1 a day has doubled, from 2‍ ‍million to 4‍ ‍million in 2006.

When countries are deliberately denied the means of alleviating the suffering of their most vulnerable, the chances of funding adaptation to a more brutal climate are forlorn.

A glimmer of hope appeared at the conference on global warming hosted by Bolivia, last year. One of ‘four big ideas’ was:

To work on the organization of the World People’s Referendum on Climate Change

The referendum was billed to be held in April 2011. The Mahurangi Magazine’s suggestion is to first build a global boycott apparatus. Participants need to know their vote will directly affect policy—probably the reason 90% of Bolivians bothered to vote in the referendum on a constitution, in 2009. Unsurprisingly—given the corporatist crusade visited on Bolivia from 1985 on, further wrecking its economy and impoverishing its people—61% voted for a new constitution enshrining a mixed economy of state, private, and communal ownership.

Dr James Hansen’s unambiguous message regarding greenhouse gases will alert many New Zealanders for the need to tax carbon, in the nicest possible way. But until global democracy becomes a reality, the person who must move to apply the precautionary principle is Prime Minister John Key.

Meantime, readers intending to attend Thursday’s lecture may also wish to apply the principle, and show up at 6‍ ‍pm, rather than at 6.30.

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