24 December 2011

Eat, Drink and be Merry

By Mark Crutchley

Christmas is a great time for sitting back, spending time with friends and family, and doing nothing. Eat drink and be merry as the saying goes and who am I to disagree with that. But once the season is over doing nothing ceases to be a positive course, because the problems which we face in both the environment and financial system mean that doing nothing is the worst possible option.

In 2011 Time presented its award for person of the year to “The Protester” and we have to hope that the movements around the world which sprang to life this year can gather strength and achieve even more in 2012. They are desperately needed because as is gradually becoming clear to people, our existing system has failed on many different levels.

It has failed environmentally. Climate change is just one aspect of this failure and our inability to reach agreement on limiting CO2 emissions says much about the lack of commitment to the environment which governments have. There are rapidly increasing rates of environmental degradation in many parts of the world and a collapse in bio-diversity, particularly in the tropics, which mocks the agreement which nations made to halt its loss by 2010.

It has failed financially. The ongoing crisis in the Eurozone is just one aspect of this failure, and crucially one which is diverting attention away from the fact that we have exactly the same problems of excessive debt here in the UK. There is an excellent interview from the BBC Hard Talk series with an economist called Steve Keen which I would encourage people to take a few minutes over the Christmas period to take a listen to. He argues that we are already in a new depression and we must take radical action to prevent it continuing and deepening.

It has failed billions of people, who in nations around the world are struggling to cope without basic necessities like clean running water or adequate provision for sewerage. Many lack enough food for proper nutrition despite the fact that the world produces more than enough to feed everyone.

These problems are not going to be fixed by a bit of modest tinkering at the edge of the system. A bit of belt-tightening; a more expansionary fiscal policy; write off some of the debts; and all will be well again tomorrow. We have to face up to the fact that the system needs a radical overhaul.

I am not saying that I know what the answers are. Just that the questions have to be asked and asked again until society is prepared to address them and move forward. So we need the occupy movement, climate change activists, 38 Degrees, UK Uncut and all the other groups which are refusing to accept that power should reside solely with our elected politicians and the narrow economic elites which control financial markets around the world, to continue the fight.

When you have finished eating, drinking and being merry, why not make a New Year’s resolution to join them.

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