Some lessons for the new decade - Veterinary Practice
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Some lessons for the new decade

PERISCOPE continues the series of reflections on issues of current concern

THE leaking of e-mails from the
University of East Anglia has quite
understandably caused a furore
and given some succour to climate change deniers who have pounced on
the revelations with
the sort of glee a
cat reserves for a
newly-fledged bird.

Regardless of how
much “sexing up”
(that’s a phrase we
don’t hear much of now) was done to
the data and subsequently, the event is
a timely warning to all of us never to
put anything in an e-mail that one
would not want to appear in the
public domain at some time in the

The electronic/digital surveillance
society is already here and unlikely to
be rolled back. It does not take much
of a leap of imagination to see what
could happen to all those stored e-
mails and text messages should some
less tolerant form of Government
than we have become used to
suddenly appear on the scene.

Rounding up political activists and
lobbyists of the “wrong” persuasion
would be a very simple matter,
allowing rapid progression to “s**t
stirrers”, “subversives” and “satirists”.
Those sorts of Government don’t
laugh at themselves except in the
privacy of their own bunkers.

I have no doubt that Joseph Stalin
would have embraced the digital age
with gusto and that groups of people
would have been selected for transfer
to the Gulags at the mere click of a

Shopped by a friend

That’s not idle scare-mongering either.
Already I have friends who have been
a little too indiscrete on what they
have said to other friends on social
networking sites only to find
themselves censured after being
“shopped” by another contact or
“friend”. You have been warned.

Returning though to the climate e-
mails, these appear to cast doubt (in
the eyes of the deniers) as to whether
climate change is really a man-made
phenomenon and is not just part of
the earth’s natural climatic cycle. After
all, there have always been periods of
global warming and cooling and the
inhabitants of the earth have had to
learn to cope with it.

At the risk of stating the bleeding
obvious, however, there have never before been in excess of 6 billion
(predicted to be 9 billion by about
2040) human mouths to feed and so
any significant change in global temperature, hotter
or colder, is bound
to have a profound
effect, on some of
us more than others

The climate change deniers,
though, seem to
have missed the point on two counts. Firstly, even if
most of the global warming is a
natural phenomenon, human activity
can only be exacerbating it. And if
there was a danger of flood water
entering your home, you wouldn’t
turn on the garden tap just to add to
the risk, now would you? By taking
steps to reduce the human effect on
global warming, we are at least
buying ourselves more time in which
to come up with a managed and
sustainable solution.

Unsustainable and wasteful

Just as important, though, are the
other effects of human activity on
the environment. It’s not just about
climate change. Current human
activity is unsustainable and wasteful
in many ways, be it the burning of
fossil fuels, the degradation and
pollution of the environment, the
waste of water resources and the
disregard for the natural world.

All these things are intimately
linked with the climate change
debate; they cannot be separated out
and looked at in isolation. The reason
is that they are all a direct result of
the consumption by consumerism
model that we have built our
civilisation on.

I was at a dinner party the other
week when someone described
Capitalism as the greatest pyramid-
selling wheeze ever devised. I think
they had a point.

Pretend money

Look what happened to the banks. I
had never been able to understand
why people could continually make
fortunes merely by creaming off a
percentage of money every time they
moved it from A to B. My simple
mathematical brain told me that
sooner or later there would be no
money left, but I’m not an economist
and I knew I must simply be naive.
Well, maybe not quite so naive after

The truth is that there really
wasn’t all that money after all, only
“pretend” money. The trick, of
course, was to exchange real money
for pretend money and keep that to
yourself. Everybody with the
pretend money was perfectly
happy, nay joyously happy,
because they could sell it on to
some other poor greedy fool,
for real money.

That is until the day they
suddenly realised that there was
no one left to buy the pretend
money any more, or accept it in
payment for something real. That
was when the pyramid collapsed.
Those people with what was left of
the real money showed a completely
inappropriate level of opprobrium and
then went back to constructing
another pyramid on the pretext that
this was necessary in order to bring
some worth back to the one that had

Not the way it’s meant to be

That appears to be the situation we
currently find ourselves in because no
one has been able to come up with a
better idea. Bankers are presently
wringing their hands at the prospect of
having to hand over a 60% supertax
on their million pound bonuses
because they don’t want to have to
hand over real money to pay back
some of the pretend money that they
sold to others. That’s really not the
way it’s meant to work for them!

The Americans call this a Ponzi
scheme and they put people (like
Bernard Madoff) in prison as conmen
if they get caught. However, this time
it was the Establishment that was running the Ponzi scheme! And
because we were all involved one way
or the other, Governments had to step
in and buy all the pretend money with
guaranteed pretend money just to stop
us all running round like lemmings and
jumping off cliffs. Which is actually
very funny even if it is also very

This new decade gives us an
opportunity to change all this but I am
cynical about who has the will to do
so. I suspect it is a fact that we cannot
go on growing the world’s economy
forever without eventually destroying it
and that we have, somehow, to come
up with a different economic narrative.

Coming to terms with that reality
has implications for all of us whether
we are politicians, vets or bankers. We
need to consider this in everything we
do in our lives and not just hope that it
will turn out all right in the end. That
in time will be seen as the real lesson
of the Noughties.

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