Sunday, June 9, 2013

Two Bills

The Promised Pic : Grandson Gear, 11 days old.
Ewin and Zoe and I went to Melbourne in mid May on a two day one night trip between their University Classes to visit the new baby. He had fading marks on his head from a forceps birth but was asleep most of the time, as all good neonates should be.

I expect that like me, everyone who looks at a baby cant help reflecting on the immensely challenging journey that lies before them, and feels the weight of our responsibility toward them, having launched them onto the journey without first seeking their permission. Nowadays I wonder if that challenge isn't greater than its ever been, and therefore our responsibility towards them and the future even greater, because it is certain that never before has society and technology and the environment been in such a state of rapid and accelerating change, a state of such uncertainty and a sense of impending crisis. My own natural state of optimism and hope about mankind and the future is under constant attack, to the point where at times I feel I would be better off not reading the paper or listening to the radio or watching an ever reducing number of programmes on TV because I am frequently left feeling unhappy about the way so many of us behave.

However two recent visitors to Australia, both called Bill and both from the USA have given me some hope - Bill Gates was talking about philanthropy and world poverty, and Bill McKibben was talking about climate change and carbon pollution. (Click here to see Bill McKibben interview)These two topics are important to me because I believe that in the West we already have enough "stuff" and should be looking at ways to help the billions who dont yet, and linked with that is the damage we are doing to the planet with Carbon Pollution. 

Yesterday, listening to the radio, to the BBC, I gained a minor insight into the way we behave from some social scientists who were discussing the ethics of advertising. They mentioned something I see a lot, a notice in the bathroom of Hotels that tries to persuade us to re-use our towels rather than get fresh ones every day. These Notices usually mention Pollution by detergents, but the Social Scientists experiments showed that a more effective strategy is to also mention the proportion of people who reuse the towels - if the number is high, more people reuse the towels than when the number is low. This tendency to follow the crowd and do and believe what everyone else seems to  do and believe is a fundamental of human behaviour with obvious positive evolutionary implications. 

Given this fundamental of human behaviour I hope more people like the two Bills will  stand up and be seen advocating for something other than endless, mindless and pointless "Economic Growth" and all the associated degradation of the planet. If more do, then there is hope for change but otherwise I really do feel frightened at the prospect of what our little Gear is going to be faced with when he grows up.
In Melbourne we also visited  "Monet's Garden" Exhibition - such beautiful works!

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