Thursday, December 01, 2005

AIDS, Climate, Energy and the Enlightenment 

The great International dance of consequences. Today, ketvirtadienis 2005 metai gruodžio 1 dienos, is Pasaulinė AIDS diena. A reminder that here and in countries that write the date in ways that make most Britons eyes water, people around the world face the local consequences of common global problems and what we do locally can have a huge impact on other people.

Take for example the fight against AIDS in Africa. This may be compromised because the USA ties its (quite large) contribution to anti-AIDS work to a commitment to oppose abortion, to ban condoms and to ban anti-drugs strategies such as needle exchanges. The European Union is concerned about this. Congratulations to LibDEm MP Andrew George who said: "In reality, people have sex ... much as conservative evangelists in the US might prefer that they didn't.”
This US financed worldview has an impact in east Europe where people inspired by the same view on needle exchanges are accusing US Billionaire Geore Soros of being a front for the Columbian Drugs Mafia because he funds local anti-AIDS schemes that utilise needle exchanges for addicts. This is part of the US Fundamentalist effort to export its politics of faith-based fear to Europe.

AIDS and drug usage continue to be a problem for some people in New Orleans, still shattered after the recent Hurricane. Now, the increase in major hurricanes hitting the USA is linked to the warming by (30% since 1992) of the Subtropical Recirculation Current in the central Atlantic which makes a huge amount of extra energy available for tropical storms. Meanwhile the Gulf Stream has cooled by 30% in the same time. This brings the possibility of much colder climatic conditions for Britain, which has implications for our current decisions on energy supplies and consumption, to name but one.

Yesterday Lord May gave his farewell address as President of the Royal Society. He made a passionate defence of the values of science against the kind of dogmatism distorting policies in the USA (and indeed elsewhere).

Amongst other things he said:

What are these values? They are tolerance of diversity, respect for individual liberty of conscience, and above all recognition that an ugly fact trumps a beautiful theory or a cherished belief. All ideas should be open to questioning, and the merit of ideas should be assessed on the strength of the evidence that supports them and not on the credentials or affiliations of the individuals proposing them. It is not a recipe for a comfortable life, but it is demonstrably a powerful engine for understanding how the world actually works and for applying this understanding.

Actually this would be quite good as part of a definition of Liberalism, if we are still looking for one, and if we are willing to live up to this demanding standard.

So today, Thursday 1 December 2005, we have a lot to think about on World AIDS Day… trying to accept how the world actually works, and applying this standard of Liberalism and integrity.

I am starting by making the Guardian Christmas Appeal on AIDS in Africa and the Independent appeal for the survivors of the Pakistan earthquake my seasonal charities. As for climatic change, its back to working to make Milton Keynes a carbon-neutral city. FOCUS anyone?

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