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EditorialsUp Front 02/16

Up Front 02/16

January is traditionally a month when we get reflective: when we are sometimes inspired to make important decisions about our future. Whether it is to give up smoking, lose weight, get a new job or circumnavigate the globe, there is a tendency toward a more determined attitude at the beginning of the year. I’m not about to circle the globe and cigarettes stopped controlling me years ago, but reading Jason Lewis’ books about his years spent crossing land and sea during Expedition 360, highlights some of the benefits of time spent in quiet contemplation. We featured Jason in our January issue and he is speaking at the Purbeck Literary Festival in February. In the early pages of his first book he points out that before he left he had feared ‘blindly subscribing to the whims of an increasingly materialistic society’. He said it offered no deeper meaning or purpose than the ‘indiscriminate production and consumption of Stuff.’ He questions why we have made such extraordinary technological advances but yet no corresponding measure of ethical advance. By the time he crosses the Pacific he wonders whether the story of Rapa Nui (Easter) Island in the south eastern Pacific provides a glimpse into the fate of humankind. He points out that archaeologists believed an ecological crash brought about by the islanders themselves was to blame for its population dwindling from 20,000 to 111 in a few hundred years. Deforestation and extinction of natural resources had brought a thriving and industrious culture to its knees. In a collective New Year’s resolution recently, representatives from 196 nations proclaimed agreement on a series of measures to protect the planet from irreparable damage due to changes in our climate. After the announcement, John Vidal, writing in The Guardian, reported five reasons to be glad and five reasons to be gloomy. The gloomy ones made uncomfortable reading. Not least because they show how little control any of us have over the attraction of ‘production and consumption’, but more importantly, how little accountability countries are likely to accept in the face of the need for domestic growth—and more ‘Stuff’.

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