IN CONVERSATION :
Professor John Whitelegg, Liverpool John Moores University (Telephone. Church Stretton, the West Midlands)
Professor Whitelegg is visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University and Editor of World Transport Policy and Practice, to name two of his responsibilities. Ahead of the road-trip, I wrote to a number of the regional and local contacts for the Green Party of England & Wales, seeking support and/or participation. Professor Whitelegg, a prominent party member in his part of Shropshire, took an immediate interest and we agreed on a recorded telephone conversation later in the autumn.
JW: I think there is a real need to change the world
JW: to try and be clear about why we want to change things … what is the kind of change … what is the need for the rate of change .. you know
JW: do we need to change things by next Monday? Or can we wait 10 or 15 years? And I’ve tried to do this through a whole number of different ways ’cause all human beings have to try and work out … you know … how am I going to spend 40 years of my life?
JW: I’ve tried to do it as an academic … I then became very much involved with campaigning … you know the activist-ratbag-rabble-rousing-troublemaker stuff … you know … where you try and campaign for things … that … that was very much about transport but also lots of positive things … so I was the Chair of the Settle-Carlisle Joint Action Committee … British Rail wanted to close 72 miles of extremely valuable, high quality railway line
JW: connecting Leeds with Glasgow … well Leeds with Carlisle … the Settle-Carlisle line …
JO: was that part of the Beeching closures?
JW: they wanted to close it … and I ran the campaign for six years. It was very, very difficult. I was the Chair of the so-called Joint Action Committee and we won. The line is now open, and even though it’s a little, sort of case study-vignette, if you like, it’s a very good example that the whole weight of government, of politicians, of British Rail, and business … of corporation world, said “no, we don’t need this bloody useless railway line … it’s an example of Victorian overkill …. waste of space, waste of time ..”
JO: when was that John? When was that John?
JW: 1982 to 1988 …
JO: ok, so well after the Beeching closures …
JW: yes … well after … again .. what people … I had better try not to digress too much … the Beeching nonsense is still with us .. you know …. every now and then it gets a new .. a new lease of life … right, so .. The point of this vignette .. little story is .. the whole weight of political thought and corporate world and everything else was … this line had to close .. Now, a group of ratbags, a group of activists, a group of campaigners .. we stopped it. We
changed things dramatically and that line is now absolutely booming in terms of passenger,
and freight, and tourism and resurgence, revitalisation of a dozen local economies …
JW: if you start in Settle itself and you go up through Langwathby, Lazonby, Appleby .. a whole
number of places, and it has changed a 72 mile corridor .. of a rather remote rural area into a vibrant tourist base and also entrepreneurial, IT, creative economy
JO: sure …
JW: we did that … right … now that’s .. so that’s an example of what I think is really important and it leads me to a number of conclusions … that usually … and we have got the same problem now in many areas of life … there ….. we’re dealing with .. and words like paradigm and ideology become important …
JW: you know … we’re dealing with a worldview … so people believe in economic growth … they think that masses of new roads, and masses of high speed rail, and masses of large airports and things … you know … will help … and many of these things actually are damaging … you know … they’re damaging to the natural world … they’re damaging to the human spirit … they’ve damage to the local economy so it’s important to challenge and important to change so I did that as an academic … as an activist … I then became a trade unionist … I thought “let’s have a go at trade unionism” .. I became a chair of Lancaster University’s main trade union … and we managed to change a lot of things there … and then I said “let’s try something else” and I became a politician … I was a Green Party politician and I became a national spokesperson for the Green Party Sustainable Development … I’m not any more, by the way
JO: when did you join the Party?
JW: I became a city councillor for 8 years and a member of cabinet with the portfolio called “valuing people” …
JO: think of it!
JW: … and tried to change things again … so, basically …
JO: When was that John?
JW: the councillor bit … the Green Party political activist bit was 2003 ’til 2011
JO: ok doke ..
JW: and now I’m retired but I’m more active than ever … writing, researching, speaking … I’m doing a project at the moment on how do we revitalise rural buses in Shropshire …
JO: yes, I’ve seen a little of that, haven’t I?
JW: buses are very boring, right? Nobody’s interested. The government is .. has cut 35% of the funding for buses in England … it prefers to spend billions and billions and billions on high-
speed rail .. high-speed rail is about very rich people travelling very fast to get to and from.. London .. right … that’s the essence of transport policy in Britain
JW: and I’m trying to say we need social justice, we need fairness, we need sustainability, so
I’m now focusing on that rural transport theme. So, my point … and I’ll shut up in a moment … is that
JO: no, it’s all good stuff …
JW: it’s really important that people challenge things … people have a clear idea based upon
logic, and philosophy, and data and argument
JW: about what kind of future we want and then fight bloody hard to get that future …
JW: however … it doesn’t matter where they come at it from … you’re doing it … I do it in different ways but at the moment, the overwhelming weight of .. of central government, local government, and corporate world is absolutely dreadful, and it’s pushing us backwards, right … so ..
JO: yes … well, I think it’s a pretty, lovely introductory passage … I could even stop it there, but I’m not going to.
JW: how do we … where do we go from there? I mean I’m very interested in what you’re doing .. . also, linked to what you’ve just said, this thing about how we change things and how we move in a more, kind of, progressive way to shape a better future …. however defined … I spent 10 years. … I don’t do it now … I spent 10 years working with the Stockholm Environment Institute … I was based at the British office which was housed on the campus of York University
JW: and the Stockholm Environment Institute is very interesting … it’s about improving the way we make decisions … so that policymakers can produce better outcomes … Now that’s really important and the Stockholm … it’s heavily influenced … it’s a Swedish organisation … I mean it’s global but it’s run and funded by the Swedish government .. so I was a member of that for 10 years … and I did projects with them on sustainable urbanisation in Beijing … the future of aviation and … the future of road safety … a whole number of other things
JO: so, was that process focused but in the world of transport or was it transport …
JW: it was actually … I mean my input .. because I am a transport person … my input was often in transport
JW: … but the SEI is focused on how do we deliver the core values and core principles and core outcomes of sustainability which means climate change, water quality, biodiversity, land use, farming, food … you know, in other words, it’s multidimensional …
JW: … multisectoral, and right across everything … The importance of what the SEI did … well it still does, it’s just that I decided I had to move on to other things … is that it had this core mission if you like, or this core emphasis that we have to improve the way in which primarily politicians but decision takers are also at the head of large corporations … you know … how do people make decisions? What are the … what do they take into account? What things are really important that they don’t take it into account?
JW: and how do we bring that to their attention? So, that’s where I am now in terms of my research.
JO: ok .. and just for …
JW: I work with a group of Germans who call this the “Great Mindshift” … nice terminology, isn’t it?
JO: the phase we’re in at the moment, yes?
JW: this is what I am doing at the moment … so we understand a lot of the science, and a lot of the economics and a lot of the politics but we don’t really understand how, if you go and sit in a room with a group of 20 politicians who are thinking about …. I don’t know .. what are they thinking about? You know … thinking about .. “we must have economic growth” … you know … “we must increase productivity … we must increase economic output” .. yes, ok … but how does that link in with sustainable development goals? How does it link in with something that is generally referred to these days as planetary boundaries
JW: in other words, we’ve gone far too far on destroying things ….
JO: that’s something else to come out of Sweden, yes?
JW: so … how do you link all those things together? And how do we actually make sure that those people that are making decisions can change their mindset so that they’re not totally focused on the economics …
JO: it’s a very good point, isn’t it? When you actually start thinking about mechanically, physically … where are those decisions … those discussions happening … the processes
JW: [ ] as well to try and also to be .. a lot of this can be confrontational but the way the SEI works, and the way I work is to say “well, look, you know … please how can we collectively look at all these things?”
JW: you know … they’re all … these are all real things. So, for example, another one of my projects at the moment is a bloody awful road … the M4 Relief Road .. in South Wales .. £1 billion … 14 miles of road … trashing four sites of Special Scientific Interest and destroying nature reserves … ok
JO: sounds good
JW: in order to get rid of a bit of traffic congestion around Newport in South Wales … so I’m trying very hard to try to talk to the politicians … by the way, I think this will happen … I think I’ve failed but I’ve tried to talk hard to the politicians about.. ok, what are your … surely your fundamental purpose is not to build a road? Your fundamental purpose, I presume … improve quality of life .. improve local economic activity … provide more jobs …provide opportunities for people who might not be educationally at a very high standard … you know .. you have .. I presume .. you know .. that there’ s an agreement about how we can improve things … Now, you think by that putting all your eggs in this one basket … building a very, very, very devastating, damaging road …
JW: you know … is going to achieve that … well have you thought about the following? So, in other words, positive alternatives
JW: are important … so I’m … this is all … it goes back to your opening remarks … this is all about how do we actually … where are we now? What are we doing now? Where do we want to get to? And how do we change things to make sure we stand a better chance of getting there?
JW: that’s what I do …
JO: so .. can I just check, are you hearing me ok?
JO: so, to bring … this makes for a very nice, introductory section …
JO: just to make sure I don’t miss anything … you’re currently a Professor of Sustainable Transport?
JW: yes, I’ve been Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University
JO: that’s right, yes
JW: I’ve been Professor of Sustainable Development at York University
JW: Professor of Transport at Roskilde University in Denmark …
JO: and I think I noticed … did you do a lecture recently at CAT?
JW: I did, yes. I’ve done 2 or 3 this year.
JO: yes … ’cause that ties you into my journey as well in a way … I managed to go to CAT ..
JW: well done … who did you meet?
JO: on Day 2 of 3 … . super place …
JW: who did you meet there? Did you talk to anyone?
JO: I didn’t manage to actually hook up with anyone whilst I was there unfortunately …
JO: the place itself leaves you with a smile on your face …. it’s one of those … one of those sorts of places … . and, of course, they are the authors of Zero Carbon 2020 …
JW: Zero Carbon Britain
JW: Paul Allen …
JW: I mean … I’m on the Board of CAT … so I’m one of the people … one of the 5 people that .. it’s like a company … you know … you have a Board of Directors .. that kind of stuff … so I’m a member of the Board of CAT .. [ ] and then all these waffley words I don’t really like … ‘Strategic Policy’ .. you know and ‘Direction’ … often it’s detail … you know … how do
you sort out funding and how do you sort out exactly what you are going to do with your
rather scarce funding next year … so I’m very fond of CAT. It does a really good job.
JO: yes … I got a really good feeling about it …
JW: and we need more of that … you see .. that’s another example of a specific way of changing … back to that phrase I do like, ‘changing mindsets’ ..
JW: if you have a demonstration project, I mean I often say to British politicians “look … I can either talk to you for 10 hours about how to create the most fantastic city … no air pollution … no noise pollution … no one will be killed in a road traffic accident … everyone will move around with a very active, healthy lifestyle … no obesity .. no diabetes … a perfectly enjoyable, happy place … I can do that. Shall we have a go?” And they go [ ] then there is a 110 reasons why they don’t like it … and I say “ok .. what we can do then is … I’ll take you to Lund, in Sweden” … L U N D …
JW: “I’ll take you to Freiburg in southern Germany or I’ll take you to …” and then there’s a whole list of other places actually that are quite as good … and the deal is … I’ve said this but nobody will take me up on it … you know .. I’ve said “the deal is … you have to stay there for a week … you walk around … you cycle around … you talk to politicians .. you talk to residents …. and you .. experience how a place can look if you have intelligent people talking nicely to each other about changing things for the better” … and usually this annoys them because what I am actually saying … I try and put it kindly … but what I am actually saying is “and by the way that doesn’t happen in Britain – ever … anywhere”
JO: that’s terrible, isn’t it?
JW: … there’s no intelligent decision-making, resource allocation, and cooperative, friendly sharing of ideas in Britain … it does not exist … so, that … you can imagine that makes people cross …
JO: well, I am going to … I am going to pick you up on that in a minute … as I think that’ll lead us into my first sort of tranche … I’ve got three sort of sections … roughly ….
JW: I’d better shut up and you can make the progress you need to make
JO: well .. yes … I’m just going to pull you back to that … I’m going to pause this too so I don’t end up with a great big 50 minute file …
JO: so to finish that … which is great … and you’ll have to decide John whether you feel happier .. you’re talking to me from Church Stretton, yes?
JO: yes .. whether you want to go into the West Midlands part of this project or the … or the CAT/Wales bit … you can decide ….
JW: my geographical location is formally defined as the West Midlands
JO: yes .. well you’re in the West Midlands then … by default …
JW: [ ] go into the CAT/Wales thing … I might easily … you know … I work in Sweden … I work in Germany …
JO: yes .. we could attach you anywhere …
JW: I work all over the place .. I’ve done projects in China … and Australia
JO: and you are also … is it the Founding Editor of World Transport ..
JW: that’s right .. yes … World Transport Policy and Practice … another thing I’m supposed to be doing today …
JW: the next issue … yes that’s in its twenty third year … World Transport Policy and Practice .. going very well …
JO: thanks for that .. that’ll round out the introduction … so, if I said to you you’ve already given me a sense of where we might go in two senses …. Lund the place, but also Lund, the sort of place, where does that mean we are? I am trying to argue that … I don’t know whether it adds much or not … but a phrase that occurred to me, which people sometimes use quite naturally is ‘Live and Let Live’ or ‘Live and Let Die’
JW: [ ]
JO: indeed, you even find pubs called ‘The Live and Let Live’, don’t you, I think?
JW: I’ve seen [ ] somewhere … yes
JO: There’s certainly a movie called Live and Let Die … and a pop song …
JW: yes ..that’s [ ]
JO: and, quite funnily, it’s a James Bond film, of course … and I .. I can’t help but feel that’s in a way part of the existing order
JO: people are still watching a professional killer and think it’s a rather good thing
JO: that needs unpacking, but we won’t do that here … so what I am saying is that we are living in a ‘Live and Let Die’ system where a lot of people … maybe even a majority of people around the world .. but also a lot of people in Britain … anywhere … are living pretty difficult lives and are passing away prematurely or are being killed prematurely
JO: so, without going into too much detail, in terms of the World Health Organisation statistics and whether that is true … I can do all that work … but I think as a broad characterisation, it’s reasonable, I’ve been arguing we want to move from a ‘Live and Let Die’ system to a ‘Live and Let Live’ system … so, what is it … if I said to you “try to just describe some of the structures that make up this horrible system we’ve got at the moment” ’cause I presume, based on everything I’ve read and heard so far, you’re in agreement, what are the key features do you think, for people that might not have thought about these things systematically before?
JW: yes … I’m not sure which way to go with this …
JO: I know it’s a very big question, isn’t it?
JW: yes … I mean .. at the moment, we just kind of step back one step … there is no clear, responsible, ethical thinking about how to improve the quality of life across a broad spectrum of components of quality of life, in this country.
JW: right … and the detail … I mean … my book, Mobility, goes into this … obviously transport focused but it goes into this in some detail … you know … there aren’t many aspects of life where you would happily accept .. and we do happily accept … we kill 50,000 people a year
from air pollution …
JO: that’s in Britain
JW: 9,000 of which are in London …
JW: so there are 9,000 people alive in London, today, as we speak … and we know they’ll be dead next year and we don’t care… right … we’re not doing anything about it … we just don’t care … from the Mayor of London to the boroughs, to central government .. to the Ministry of Health or whatever it’s called this year … Department of Health … we don’t care ..
JW: we’re killing people in road traffic accidents on a large scale … we claim to be very good, but that’s not true … that’s a statistical argument … and, we have … we’re out of control in terms of our greenhouse gas emissions and climate change … we have a … what shall we call it? … a land use activity system primarily organised around one tonne of metal designed to carry 75 kilos of human being and consume vast amounts of finite fossil fuel resources … totally … totally badly designed … and totally inappropriate system. We don’t encourage walking and cycling … we don’t encourage physical activity … so … there are so many things in the way Britain is organised in cities, and regions, and small market towns like this pretty place where I live …
JW: Church Stretton …. which are totally out of kilter …. totally designed to support a deviant, capitalist, profit-taking, privatised, corporatised economy and not to give a monkeys about quality of life and how people can live an active, healthy life, in a normal way, getting on with normal things …
JO: yes …. can I … can I push back … can I push back slightly and please disagree if you think it is incorrect … but would it be true to say that we don’t all, of course, enjoy the same conditions
JO: and a certain section or two of the population don’t suffer those things? Is that true?
JW: I mean … there … it depends I suppose which bit of this huge mess we’re talking about … I mean at the moment, in our cities, for example …. the lower income … people on welfare benefits and lower income groups suffer a disproportionately high death and serious injury rate in road crashes …
JW: so we have a system which actually punishes poor people …
JW: we have a spending system which rewards wealthy people … that’s what high speed rail is all about and aviation is all about … we have a system that accepts this very high fatality rate from air pollution and in road safety … and also we have a system that is designed to
increase … we have one of the highest levels of obesity in the developed world
JW: that’s growing because we have sedentary lifestyles and because most people are terrified of walking and cycling … How many children are allowed to walk and cycle to school in a British town?
JO: markedly less than was once the case, maybe …
JW: the … well … this is another … I’ve done a lot of research over that … on that subject over the years … and even as late as 1970, we had about 80 (eight – 0) % of kids walk or cycle to school independently … weren’t taken in a car
JW: by the time we get to 1990, that had gone down to less than 10%
JO: goodness me ..
JW: so, what we’ve done is wipe out … this is a fascinating area called children’s independent mobility … we’ve wiped out the developmental experiences of children …
JW: you know … we have a deviant, defective society … because we’re locked into consumption, capitalism, privatisation, motorised transport, oil, fossil fuels, climate change, pollution, and so on
JW: I argue every day that it’s perfectly possible to have a very civilised system. We can all still move around the way we need to move around. We can all breathe clean air. We can all experience a relatively noise free environment. Nobody will die … you know … because they can’t get from A to B … everything will still be possible … so that people can move around .. get to work, get to education, get to college .. get to hospitals, get to Gps, get to the shops and so on … everything will work fine and we can do it all differently … and we don’t .. because we have this defective model.
JW: it’s economic growth … it’s profit-taking, it’s privatisation, it’s corporatism … and we’re locked into this .. in a sense … basically we’re locked into an American model … where we think that the market, the free market
JW: and free choices … whatever that means are supreme .. right … and what we’ve rejected is any idea of public policy, coordinated, intelligent thinking and planning
JW: and I want to change all that. Now that doesn’t answer your question by the way …  …
JO: no, it does … it does ’cause what we’re doing, we’re kind of characterising the … the situation we are in … and I do appreciate, I’m .. it’s a very hard question to try .. to try and address … even over the course of ten minutes … so I would … I would say I think there’s a lot in there that is helpful. I would say if you look at .. if we talk about the physical landscape
JO: there’s a lot about the physical landscape that people know … but there’s a lot, I think, that we are unaware of, or misunderstand … and, if I just use the experience I’ve had very recently from my trip .. which only confirmed really what I already would have argued was the case … I was, of course, on roads most of the time …
JO: motorways or ‘A’ roads most of the time, with the odd ‘B’ road thrown in … almost all the time, I had field systems to the left and right of me … so I would say a sort of industrialised,
agricultural model, landscape, in evidence … so I think there, straight away, you have two of the features of the British landscape … the huge influence of the motorcar and roads
JO: on the one hand … and also the industrial agricultural setup … albeit it’s not perhaps quite as
full blown as the American model
JO: but it has its moments already and it’s going that way, I think, increasingly
JO: but also, there are some other structures that we are maybe not quite so familiar with … so, one thing we’re familiar with, although I don’t think we judge it correctly on average …we know what a built-up area is, don’t we?
JW: well … geographers say they do, yes
JO: but I don’t think we know .. I mean I’m not sure I do … I wouldn’t claim to be expert in that area but I think there’s probably an argument to make our urban areas more dense … more pleasant and more dense … is that correct? Rather than having sprawl which is neither one thing nor another.
JW: there’s a major debate around the world … certainly in Australia and America … in Germany … to a lesser extent in Britain but it still exists .. that densification … you know that increasing the density … I’ve just come back from working for three weeks in Berlin
and the thing that hits you between the eyes in Berlin is … it’s an incredibly beautiful city ,.
JW: it’s incredibly well run … it’s incredibly high population densities … you have loads and loads and loads and loads of apartment blocks … which are five storeys high …
JW: what that does in its turn is support dozens and dozens and dozens .. on every street, by the way … dozens and dozens and dozens of cafes, and restaurants, and independent retailers ..
and people that make pottery .. and people who do stained glass and people that … you know
JW: in other words … it’s a very artistic, creative, vibrant city … right … all of which rides on the back of the high density because you can have … easily have a quarter of a million people within an area that’s kind of 1 kilometre square
JW: in Berlin … ok … also, it has … it has huge … hundreds of public houses .. but hundreds of hectares of forest … hundreds of hectares of lakes … a massively sophisticated, highly integrated U-bahn and S-bahn ..tram .. it has a huge bicycle network … and, you know …
it’s almost like Utopia has arrived … you know … it’s called Berlin … I don’t think that’s an exaggeration …
JW: and … we [ ] … if you go to … I’m from Manchester originally … I’ve worked in Liverpool a lot … if you go to Manchester and Liverpool, it’s the pits … you know … it’s just designed around massive car parks … relatively low density … there’s none of that vibrancy … you know … it doesn’t exist at all … and you’ve got a sterile, boring, stodgy, miserable, polluted environment …. and the only way that people get any sort of joy out of that environment is by buying a posh car … and rushing around … you know …
JO: or sitting in a traffic jam …
JW: yes … and .. well the Germans have traffic jams … that’s fair … mustn’t get carried away … they do have traffic jams as well … though I didn’t see any in Berlin, I have to say, but you do on the motorways in Germany …
JW: so, all you’ve got to do is kind of compare Berlin with Manchester … I mean, they’re not that different ’cause Berlin’s a big city of course … but it’s not that much bigger than Manchester.
JO: yes, sure …
JW: a couple of million people .. Berlin … depending how you define Manchester … you know … so, in a sense that’s … that’s where I am coming from .. you know …
JO: will I find in your book, some … some descriptive things like maps, railway networks, tram networks … this sort of thing?
JW: you’ll find a discussion about best practice so, for example, you know .. German cities that do what I’ve just been talking about very well
JW: and then probably rude comments about British cities that don’t … you’ll find that there … you’ll find a lot about Freiburg because Freiburg is, for reasons which I can’t … I interview people in Freiburg regularly including the Lord Mayor of Freiburg and I can’t … I can’t get to the bottom of why they do so well … but all the things I was just describing in Berlin apply in Freiburg … it’s just that Berlin is a couple of million people .. it’s a capital city and Freiburg is possibly 3 or 400,000 people … it is a kind of … in German terms, it’s not a big city, but it does everything … so you will find that in the book.
JW: this is all about … you see, it comes back to … [ ]
JO: ’cause suburbia is .. I mean, for you … is suburbia … sorry to cut in … is suburbia and so on .. these zones … these terms we use to try and divide the landscape up … it’s connected obviously by transport and to transport …. you can have different sorts of areas depending on what sorts of connections you’ve got
JW: yes … and I mean I’ve worked in Australia as well and you know, they will be the first to admit, that they do it … they have done it very wrong. I’ve done projects in Sydney, for example, and, if you’ve gone on …. ’cause I use public transport …. if you’ve gone on a local train service in Sydney, and you’ve gone 40 kilometres through exactly the same kind of housing … mile after mile after mile after mile after mile of exactly the same housing and lots of big motorways; and Canberra, which is a totally spread out … it’s not even .. called … it’s the capital of Australia, of course …. you know, it’s a disaster, as a city .. you know .. so, around the world, and American cities … there are some good examples of American cities but when you’re into the Dallas … and the Houstons and all the Atlantas and all these kind of places, you know .. and they’re massively energy greedy
JW: another thing that people don’t realise … this is not just nerdy geography and nerdy sustainability and sort of discussions of regional differences and urban differences … these American cities, for example, are massively, massively greedy in terms of their energy use and their carbon dioxide emissions …
JW: so .. you know … all this boils down to we can do it so much better .. and we don’t. I don’t claim to have the answer by the way …. I wish I did .. how do we make things … how do we improve things so that we do things so much better than we now do … so we need to have a vision …
JO: so just to conclude this first section … and we’ve been talking about the opposite, in effect, so I think we’ve kind of helped ourselves to the next one … would you feel … would you feel we are in an emergency situation now?
JW: yes … absolutely … yes .. I mean
JO: why do you say that?
JW: beyond emergency … it’s gone past that … you know … emergency was the stage before what we’re at now
JO: why do you say that? What is it people maybe don’t grasp about the urgency?
JW: they don’t grasp the enormity and significance of climate change … they don’t grasp the enormity and significance of the loss of biodiversity … the loss of nature … the loss of species …
JW: they don’t grasp the significance of the dreadful damage being done by the fact that we consume crap, industrialised food … and we don’t have enough high quality food that’s grown in high quality soil conditions … in high quality agriculture
JW: we .. they don’t grasp the fact that we suffer massive air pollution … we don’t grasp the fact that 3,200 people are killed every day … on the planet this is … because they are hit by a vehicle … 3,200 every day … 40 million people die a year because of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes type 2 … and 4 million die every year because of air pollution …we … not only do we have a serious problem of that kind … we actually promote and propagate and nurture that by spending things … by supporting the systems that produce those problems …
JO: yes … ok
JW: we deliberately produce and add to those problems because we’re so stupid …
JO: yes …
JW: so that’s beyond emergency .. an emergency is something that really .. I don’t know … I wouldn’t like to produce a technical definition … but an emergency is something where you think “oh dear! That was a big surprise … I wasn’t ready for that” kind of thing. We’re way beyond that … every day, people sit down, in government ministries and international agencies and corporations and do things to make the emergency worse. They deliberately make things worse.
JW: yes … it is deliberate, yes … in the sense that they are driven by profit maximisation and by a total lack of concern for the welfare of human beings …
JO: they themselves are, of course, human beings …
JW: yes .. that’s true …
JO: would you say that they don’t grasp that they themselves and their own progeny are going to suffer?
JW: they don’t grasp that at all … because they’re totally driven by profit maximisation …
and that takes over … That actually deletes the … what shall we say … deletes the DNA that might be or could be ethical and philosophical and influenced by the fact that .. I mean … you know … should we really be putting up with millions and millions of children around the world dying of diarrheal diseases because there’s no clean drinking water? Is that ok? Of course it’s not ok. And every year, we spend billions, and billions and billions and billions on nuclear weapons and all sorts of ridiculous projects around the world …
JO: so let’s … I don’t want to put you in a difficult position re 5 o clock … if I said to you, “go on then, try and … try and excite me with a description of the sort of world we could live in pretty quickly if we all got our minds in tune …. what would it look and feel and be like?”
JW: ok, what we have to do then is reinvent an ethical based, public policy for us to improve the quality of life for everybody … in ways that are not driven by profit maximisation … we have to eradicate and eliminate the power of corporations … we need a nuclear fuel … a nuclear free world … we need a world free of large scale military expenditure … we need total clean drinking water supplies and mains sewage to 3 or 4 billion people that currently don’t have it …. we reallocate budgets … and those are things we have to do .. we know what …. it goes back to what you said right at the start … we know … we do know what we have to do and there is no support, no willingness, and no interest in doing those things ….
JO: ok, so let’s move into how we get there … if I broke down … I’ve had this conversation obviously a number of times … one offering from Peter and Sheila in Frome … some of the Independents for Frome …
JW: a good place
JO: yes …. one offering from them was they felt it was in the low … a very low percentage … somewhere between 1 and 5 of maybe the British public … of the British adult public that is switched on to these things .. and a lower percentage that are actually actively trying to do something …
JO: do you feel that’s about … about the right figure?
JW: I am not sure I would approach it by figures … let me give you another …. and then I am going to have to run away …
JO: yes, of course …
JW: I do apologise …
JO: no, that’s fine …
JW: let me give you a .. what’s the right word for what I am about to say … a kind of .. a vignette … 15 years ago … Germany was doing masses and masses and masses of recycling ..right … and we weren’t doing any … everybody said “we must recycle” … “people must recycle” and people went round in circles just repeating the glaringly obvious that we should recycle … and it didn’t happen .. and people did surveys and some people said “x % support recycling and y % don’t” …. basically the majority of people didn’t do it … and then we did
something … we were forced to do it by the way … European Union regulations … we introduced recycling infrastructure … we introduced the equipment … the bins … the technical and organisational
JW: and logistic arrangements to support recycling and then we all did it …
JO: so your point is “do it!”
JW: so basically, I’m not really impressed at all with an argument … I don’t think this is what you were saying exactly and I’m not criticising [ ]
JO: no, no … it wasn’t … but yes
JW: I’m not impressed with an argument that says “10% of the population will never cycle” or “20% of the population will never eat organic food” or “30% will never …” … in other words, yes, if you ask them, you’ll get statistics like that … but if you put in place the supportive infrastructure
JO: yes …. no, that’s not what they were saying … you’re right …
JW: [ ] … you do it!
JO: yes … so the question is, I think … I will …. I will let you go, obviously … and I can think about it myself and, I I may, I’ll stay in touch, of course
JW: we can have email exchanges … by the way a lot of this is in that book, Mobility, so … you know [ ]
JO: yes … I thought it … I thought it might be … it will be in my project library, so to speak … yes, so I think what we’ve … what I’ve got to work out is who needs to do what …
JW: right .. well you send me …
JO: and then push there
JW: [ ] and I’ll have a think about that and we’ll do that by email, as well
JO: lovely .. it’s been … it’s been brilliant, John
JW: ok … lovely to talk to you .. sorry if it sounds a bit rushed and a bit [ ]
JO: no … it’s been the best part of an hour and that’s been brilliant ….
JW: I’ve got to run
JO: yes, good luck …
JW: bye for now
JO: thanks, bye