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Monday, 13 December 2010

Well, I just got rebuked! Nevertheless ... but let's see what you think

Here's a message I got from a reader, Victor Lamont, two days ago. At the end I will comment.

"Dear Mr Bird, I have just returned from Cancun. It is the second climate conference I have attended. I went (contributing to my expenses) – I did have a contribution from my congregation here in Chiangmai. I did not stay in a Hotel – like very many participants I was housed in a Mexican family who offered their kindness and hospitality.

I never got drunk and throughout the event I never saw anybody drunk. All told I learnt a great deal from fellow participants and I hope contributed some useful ideas. This really is the main role of such a conference. I work on the border of Burma and Thailand. I work with the United Nations Drug Abatement programme. We have been able to dramatically reduce the production of opium.

I realise this is a small project and you would have something sarcastic to write about it. But, the project has contributed to less high grade heroin arriving in the UK. None of my colleagues are lazy, wasteful or attend pointless jamborees. I work with many who have rejected high salaries to try and make a small contribution to our world. Before coming to Thailand I worked in Africa for 15 years – I was responsible for job creation.

I also attended a number of World Trade Jamborees – there are now very few tariffs on the products coming out of East/Central Africa – when I first arrived the WTC there where very many. Almost anything is now allowed into the EU – the major issue is between developing countries who stifle each other’s merchandise. Africa, South America are amongst the worst countries in this respect.

But enough from me, I am about to go to our project HQ it takes me five hours by bus. We don’t have expensive transport. Mr Bird your message has disappointed me. Having read you for some years I would have expected better. Now I fear you imagine most of your material and stories. Our world is so broken, it really is not intelligent to add to it without very positive alternatives."

What do I have to say in response to that?

I think there are many, many people like Victor trying hard to do good. There are also a great many people who are not in the least like Victor - and there are goodness knows how many reports about them - who live pretty high on the hog working for NGOs.

And having been more than once to Chiang Mai and further up to Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle where many of the drugs originate, besides spending a lot of time on the streets of over 60 of the world's great cities, I have formed other strong beliefs.

No matter what Victor or others like him do, as long as people in rich countries want to do drugs, they will be available. Stopping them will about as easy as ending drinking alcohol or prostitution. And since we are talking g about Cancun I see the number of murders attributed to the drugs trade in Mexico alone has just topped 30,000.

Having lived with a former drug addict I tend to agree with what she told me in 1964: that criminalising them (which took place in the U.K. shortly after that) brings in criminals, as was the case with Prohibition in the U.S. The only results I recall from that little experiment were to further strengthen the Mafia and make
Joseph Kennedy enough money to buy a few critical votes in Chicago for his son.

As far as I am aware Cancun event was about combatting climate change. I never believed that Al Gore whizzing around on a private jet did much to help. I wonder whether thousands of people - well-intentioned or otherwise - flying to exchange ideas in the Blackpool of Mexico will help much. Besides being a colossal waste of precious energy is it really the best way to get things done? Now that the internet is with us wouldn't doing it all online be cheaper and more sensible? You can exchange ideas quite easily that way; I do it all the time with thousands of people I have never met

In short, I tend to agree with the observations today in
The Guardian - to say the least of it hardly a right-wing rag - headed, "The arrogance of Cancun".

These read in part "The high level talks at Cancun were our last chance (to protect the planet) and they failed" and pointed out that these get-togethers have been going on at colossal expense for 18 years.

So far they have achieved little more than pious statements by politicians looking for photo-ops - and they are an insult to you and your kind, Victor.

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