It’s just a matter of opinion

“Every tool is a weapon – if you hold it right.”
Ani DiFranco [1]

I love this quote from American musician and poet, Ani DiFranco, because it captures one of our greatest failings: not understanding that we all see the world in different ways. I once repeated it to some guy who had made some comment and he became quite dismissive, saying ‘that’s nonsense’ so quickly that I’m not convinced he was even listening to me. I forget the setting and the context, I just remember thinking it was an odd response to such a general, and astute, comment. Education, which was the focus of DiFranco’s lyrics, is a tool for passing on knowledge, but the values of the teacher [2] will determine whether that process is positive or negative. As will the society within which the education takes place. Imagine how awful it must be for the thousands of girls around the world, who had access to education, who saw a big world and an even bigger picture, yet a few years later, things have changed. Gossamer democracy has been blasted away by the latest sect with power, and they usually undermine women’s rights to some degree.

So in this last regular post, I need to put gods and religion aside to have a think about opinions, that force against reason which can make it so much harder to agree a new human story. We hate ‘going backwards’; we are all about going forwards. Forwards into what, though? As I said in the last post, we have to make the ultimate 21st century sacrifice and consume less stuff. And we need to find incentives other than cost, as that simply creates division; ‘haves and have nots’. Our new story would have people wowing at the smallest house [3] on the block; no one would coo over some luxurious car or house or boat; people who rarely put their wheelie bins out would be admired rather than castigated as being ‘weird’, and perhaps asked about how they have reduced their waste… Yeah, and it’s my fantasy so leave it alone!

Sadly, back in reality, we are consuming more and more. In May 2017, freelance writer Christopher Ketcham wrote an article [4] in the Pacific Standard on the fallacy of endless economic growth. It’s a good place to begin for anyone who hasn’t really questioned our current economic situation. Since the late 1960s, visionary academics and industrialists have been trying to raise awareness of our over-consumption—the limits to growth—yet, “Even in the midst of substantial innovation, today’s global economy has become more profligate and more wasteful, using more materials per unit of GDP than it did 20 years ago.” That’s because we so rarely reduce consumption; we’ll swap one product for another, sure, but there has to be something for sale.

So I was cheered by my trip to Twitter yesterday as I found not one, but two recent cases where opinion in the legal system seemed to be on the ‘right’ side rather than the President’s. First [5], a federal court in Montana ruled against a U.S. Interior Department plan to open more than 15 million acres of public land and mineral rights to fossil fuel extraction, concluding that the government failed to adequately consider how the oil, gas and coal development would affect the climate and other environmental resources. Has any government ever adequately considered such a thing? This follows on from a case in August 2017, where a federal judge stopped Signal Peak Energy from expanding a 176 million-ton mine in central Montana because the Interior Department did not comprehensively account for climate impacts. Hope in Montana then, minutes later, I saw that a Boston judge had acquitted [6] 13 anti-pipeline protesters on the grounds that the climate crisis made it necessary for them to commit civil disobedience. Precedents Day!

Dare we hope that this is the beginning of society refusing to obey the dwindling number of climate deniers [7]—let’s hope so as while they may be small in number, they are being appointed to increasingly powerful positions, certainly in the US. Opinion or fact? Have a look at Trump’s climate science doubters [8] and decide for yourself!


Mandy Meikle edits the Reforesting Scotland Journal [9] and is gutted that WordPress link function has vanished again! But delighted to have managed this challenge of writing once a week for five months. I’m not sure what use it has served, but I’ll be back in April. The world’s too darn interesting at the moment!


About The Cheery Pessimist

Waiting for some sign that we will change our ways before it all comes tumbling down...still, you've got to laugh
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