Bypassing the blockage of nations

– Years ago, a friend, Charles, and I spent a long time debating about whether or not nation states were good for the world or bad.

– On one hand, having multiple nations states certainly provides guarantees that if some of them begin to proceed down an bad pathway (like the Axis Powers in WWII), the others can band together and right the situation.

– But, on the other hand, multiple nations states all standing against each other serve to waste the world’s resources. All the time, money and resources they spend opposing each other, defending against each other and in trying to subvert each other is all wasted from the POV of the planet as a whole.  And all of this was discussed before the ‘environment’ was even a blip on our horizons.

– This viewpoint piece by Richard Black on the BBC web site reminded me a lot of that discussion.

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Solving the world’s environmental ills may mean re-thinking the role of nations and national governments, says our environment correspondent Richard Black in this week’s Green Room. The current system, he argues, is a recipe for stasis.

Many years ago, I used to spend the odd weekend, and sometimes longer, looking after a pair of sibling dogs.

Neurotic Henry and crazy Max generally got on well, sharing a bed, a walk and a tickle without demur.

Every so often, each would be given a bone as a top, juicy, marrow-rich treat.

On these occasions, another side of their nature would emerge. Rather than enjoying his own bone, each would guard it, standing alert, tail erect, staring fixedly at the other’s.

The doggy thoughts almost took on corporeal form. “Has he got a bigger bone than me?” “I’m not starting until he does.” “Will he look away so I can get my paws on his?”

The stand-off would sometimes continue for minutes.

This image, framed in the springtime colours of a south London garden, has somewhat surreally surfaced in my mind on several occasions in the last few years, as I have watched politicians attempting to make deals on fishing, endangered species, whaling, and – above all – climate change.

Are his emissions bigger than mine?” “I’m not signing for 11% unless he signs for 12%.” “If I keep him awake for 56 hours straight maybe I can lure him into something stupid.” “No way he’s getting more cod than I am.” And so on, summit after summit, with tails standing defiant.

As they check each other out, carbon emissions soar, species loss runs at an unprecedented rate, freshwater systems dry up and fish stocks disappear; check the recent UN Geo-4 report for the full sorry tale of global decline.

Now imagine environmental protection as a computer game. The novice player, faced with continuing failure, would continue to press the familiar buttons marked “lobby” and “persuade” and “cajole” in an attempt to wring action from the on-screen players.

The smart player would change the rules, and get rid of the dogs.

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