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Manifesto for the Earth: Action Now for Peace, Global Justice and a Sustainable Future Kindle Edition
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One political Hercules had not survived his own labours, but who else in living memory can we even imagine showing the courage, conviction, and even for a while political skill, to set about anything of comparable ambition and scale? He tells us about this in outline but without heroics or self-dramatisation. One thing that he stresses from the start is the environmental degradation that even he had not been fully aware of until he stepped into the top job, he makes clear his belief that the western market economy is at least as much of a culprit in this matter, and the rest of the book is devoted to his vision of the morass that humanity has created for itself and to an account of the active steps he has taken in the hope of mounting a rescue. Two things come over to me strongly from this account. One is that collectively in the affluent west we are nearly as blind and uninformed as were the Soviet citizens when Gorbachev came to power, and with far less excuse - they were given no option, we have the option and many prefer to forget the matter. The other issue is that we cannot put the onus of dealing with the problems entirely on the shoulders of politicians and `leaders', feeling doubtless that God, who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, can never have meant to place on our own tender shoulders such a burden as this.
Not a lot of the examples Mr Gorbachev cites are any kind of surprise to me, more a matter of touching in details in a general scheme that I have grasped in outline through decades of involvement with environmental causes. However there is nothing here that does not benefit from the straightforwardness and direct clarity of his way of expressing himself. There are no histrionics here and no grandstanding, but in case anyone could possibly be missing the general lesson it is that the consumer society and economy are riding for a bad fall, and that it could all happen more suddenly than we like to think. Whether we remind him of his Soviet generals placidly spending their way to economic and environmental ruin he does not say, but our behaviour reminds me of exactly that. There are always reasons, and often very good reasons, it seems to me, for postponing or watering down or rationalising away the looming threats, or for expecting our `leaders' to wave some magic wand while we go on our way rejoicing. Given that few of us on our own can do much to affect the outcome I suppose that to some extent we just have to hope like Mr Micawber that something will turn up. Something quite certainly will, and unless we can find a way through the tangle of pressing current problems to a new public, collective and international mentality that can face up to the certain pain of the adjustment that we have to make in the interests of avoiding even worse pain the `something' is something I don't greatly care to contemplate. Meantime Mr Gorbachev has set up his Green Cross International. Its aims and aspirations are admirable, but we have been there before. It is not a green light but a red light and the warning it gives is not something we can wish away on any grounds of perceived attitude or political orientation. You may have heard it all before, but I'd say read it here for as powerful and compelling a presentation of the case as I have ever seen.
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