I didn't change my ideas as regards the general approach needed for addressing climate change (from the bottom up) or the importance of women's contribution to, and the benefits they can derive from, sustainable development. I did learn a lot more of the science and technology, which, as Margaret Minhinnick says, helps to give confidence when talking about the issues - and certainly was a wake-up call to me on the urgency of the problem.
Whether in Nairobi at the World Social Forum, in Rostock at the alternative G8 summit or down in the depths of rural mid-Wales, I'm hearing the same song. The discourse may differ - Venezuela's 21st century socialism, the progressive left, cooperativism, ubuntu, human dignity. If it means greater equality, social inclusion and a caring economy, some form of socialism has got be good for the environment and for the majority of women in the world. (more...)
After travelling a lot this year, it was encouraging to find practical solutions right here on my doorstep. People are actually making another world possible, not just talking about it. There are examples of this happening at different levels: the micro-democracy at the Centre for Alternative Development; the rural community initiatives of Machynlleth and the Dovey Valley; the national mission in Venezuela to use oil for social development and ensure environmental sustainability at the same time. Women playing a key role in these experiments. Why not at an international level? Why not dream about global equity?
The benefits of radical change, as Paul Allen summed up, include the following: a better diet, healthier people, a robust local economy, getting out and about, a stronger community, a collective sense of purpose. It's technically possible. But will the UK government ever listen enough to take a strong enough (and initially unpopular) stance on the environment?
I also re-learned the fact that art and music have a particular veracity, which can be much more powerful than political debate or even serious journalism. It's a little sad that as a nation Britain has to import inspiration in the form of songs and legends from another hemisphere. Perhaps I'm overstating the case. I heard for the first time the excellent political band Seize the Day with their stunning female lead singer Shannon and her composition: Seeds of Hope. This tells the story of a small group of British women who were arrested for direct action against fighter planes being built for sale to Indonesia (for use in bombing East Timor). The refrain: "to defend my right to fight against violence."
There's a lot to learn from other people's experience. But before I hop on a plane to Caracas, I have to stop and think. As a member of the privileged minority of women I've been able to travel where and when I like. Now it's time to consider my own eco-footprint. Maybe I learned more than I expected at Machynlleth.