Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why should people get involved with human rights?

Why should people get involved with human rights?

Because our generations have pulled the short straw I’m afraid, sadly for you and me, we will in our life time see the perfect storm of peak oil colliding with the worst climate change has to offer.

This week the Wilkens Ice shelf finished collapsing into the waters off Antarctica, it had started the collapse in March, most troubling is that this massive melt has all happened in the middle of Antarctica’s winter and the Arctic sea ice which was once predicted to melt by 2100, is now 50/50 as to whether it will be ice free THIS SUMMER! Scientists were worried at the speed of the 2100 ice free prediction, they are freaking right out by the possibility it will be ice free this year.

Global warming is happening at a speed unseen for in hundreds of thousands of years and the only people who don’t seem to believe it is man made are oil companies, people convinced Greenpeace are making the whole thing up and Leighton Smith.

The soaring price of oil is down to supply issues because of our unsustainable exploitation and wasteful use of petrol, the number of countries that now produce less oil than the previous year has increased to 60. Even more importantly, only 44 countries managed to export more oil than they consumed in 2007. Of these, only 14 increased net exports, meaning that overall exports from oil-producing countries declined by a million barrels a day.

Last week, the Australian scientific institute, CSIRO put out a report that oil prices would top $10 a litre within 10 years, interesting to note though that we are already two years ahead of their peak scenario, all the while we are spending billions of dollars on roads that most of us won’t be able to afford to drive on within a decade.

So what does any of this have to do with Human Rights? As oil prices rise the production of everything we have grown accustomed to sharply rise, global warming is interrupting the agricultural calendar with mass crop failure and increasingly erratic weather patterns that will see millions become climate refugees. Mass global economic meltdown coupled with the gradual collapse of law and order in a food rioting third world will increase talkback reactionary red neck calls for civil liberty restrictions and increased police powers in the West. In the wake of September 11, many nations eroded civil liberties by passing Terrorism powers, we saw the effect of those in NZ last year and how appallingly written they were, you can rest assured that the security spiders are currently weaving much tighter restrictions of your liberties as we speak.

As fear is fanned by a mainstream media more ratings driven by heat than light, the calls begin and have begun for more police powers against elements within society that are now the enemy against a back drop of looming global issues difficult to explain within a 30second sound bite squashed between the sports headlines and an advert for a new SUV.

Gangs are the new terrorists, seeing as Tama Iti’s charges wouldn’t stick, let’s target a group we all don’t like and who are constantly headline sensationalized to pass through new legislation that would allow the Police to break into your home, plant a spy camera and record you for 4 days without any judicial oversight whatsoever. That debate is occurring in NZ right now, that is what the Police are pushing for right now, using the fear of the gangs to pass legislation to erode our rights that we would never agree to if we weren’t frightened, this is happening in your country, now. That’s the power of fear at work.

In some cases it isn’t fear that mutes criticism of the abuse of human rights, the abuse is so sugar coated by corporate sponsorship we become inoculated to the human rights abuse. The Sudanese regime are deeply responsible for the horror of the genocide in Darfur, and it is only with the support from countries like China who sell Sudan weapons and prop them up with aid, that the murder and rape crimes of the Sudanese regime continues unabaited.

While debate rages as to whether Veitchy should’ve hosted the Olympics or not and while we have all these TVNZ adverts with NZ songs played in the background montaged with shots of dewy eyed Olympic athletes looking up to the heavens where the sponsors logos glow, while that’s all happening, the Chinese backed Sudanese continue their genocide in Darfur. Questions of Human Rights abuse by the largest dictatorship on the planet are glossed over as corporate sponsorship blurs into propaganda and for fear of rocking the boat we politely keep quiet and allow ourselves to buy into the official sponsor mastercard adverts. Priceless.

So it comes to you, the most marketed generation of all time, bombarded by corporate brainwashing that manipulatively targets your fears of alienation to sell you how you should look, what you should wear, how to have fat lashes and skinny thighs, it is up to your generation to take up the challenges facing us in a period of consequences, it is you who will have to resist the fear and the call for more police powers while erasing human rights on a planet facing serious threats to its continuation as a civilization.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom - A massive international report due out at the end of this month claims that Humanity stands on the threshold of a peaceful and prosperous future, with an unprecedented ability to extend lifespans and increase the power of ordinary people – but is likely to blow it through inequality, violence and environmental degradation. And governments are not equipped to ensure that the opportunities are seized and disasters averted.

Backed by organisations ranging from Unesco to the US army, the World Bank to the Rockefeller Foundation, the 2008 State of the Future report runs to 6,300 pages and draws on contributions from 2,500 experts around the globe.

It says "The future continues to get better for most of the world, but a series of tipping points could drastically alter global prospects." Citing advances in medical science and, in particular, the participatory nature of the internet's information flows, the UN argues that we are in a unique position to democratise the world by providing citizens the power to participate in discussions they would otherwise be excluded from. The only danger, however, is that most nation states are likely to destroy these prospects through a quest for individual wealth, greed and poorly planned long-term policies.

Brothers and Sisters there is a way forward, and that is if we dispel the fear and accept that we need to work together to overcome the worst elements of our nature and enshrine human rights at a time when fear will demand that we allow ignorance and anger dictate how we follow through on the challenges ahead of us.

And that’s why you should care about Human Rights.
This is a speech I gave to the Amnesty International Youth Forum I was asked to speak at today