For most of my adult years, if asked, I would have assumed that the human race was improving for most people, albeit with flashes, sometimes sustained, of regression.
In the west, certainly and in much of Asia, people were living longer, better educated and better fed.
Over the last few years I have become much less sure.
The largely creeping growth of economic control by largely unfettered and unaccountable international business, with the corresponding return of poverty, poses an increasing threat to a large portion of the world’s population.
The other threat, at least as alarming, is climate change, the chickens of our sustained environmental neglect coming home to roost.
In October 2006, Lord Nicholas Stern, a former Chief Economist of the World Bank, completed a project which he and a panel of experts had undertaken at the request of the UK Treasury on the Economics of Climate Change.
In the Guardian a year later, Stern said: ‘The evidence of the seriousness of the risks from inaction or delayed action is now overwhelming.
“The problem of climate change involves a fundamental failure of markets: those who damage others by emitting greenhouse gases generally do not pay.’
In Australia later that year he called for 1% of gross global product to be employed in environmental measures related to global warming.
In a recent issue of the Guardian Weekly, Stern reflected on the record rainfall and storm surges across the UK, which he saw as an indication that the impact of climate change was already a reality – a pattern of global change that it would be ‘very unwise to ignore’.
Quoting a report last September of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Stern observed that it is 95% likely that most of the rise in the global average temperature ‘ is due to emissions of greenhouse gases, deforestation and other human activities’
Admittedly we in New Zealand comprise a small country in size and population but we are also inescapably still part of the same world as everyone else.
It is true that any moves we make to reduce the effects of the damage being done will not stop climate change or even materially affect it.
Nevertheless our smallness did not stop us in earlier times from playing leading roles in social policy, or more recently taking a strong leadership stand against nuclear weapons.
As the election campaign gets under way, I hope that there will be a strong pressure in every community and on every party with prospects of being in the next government to ‘get real’ with their climate change policy.
At the present rate of national and international inaction, life’s prospects for our grandchildren and their children having even the quality of life we now have do not look good. Time is running out.