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Our decisions could destroy the planet - but we'll all be dead by then anyway

PUBLISHED: 05:30 21 March 2019

If we want to improve our town - and our planet - we cannot allow all our policies to be dominated by the demands of the motorist.   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

If we want to improve our town - and our planet - we cannot allow all our policies to be dominated by the demands of the motorist. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

Democracy, they say, is the worst possible political system . . . apart from all the others - and we're seeing a prime example of that this week locally as well as nationally.

Children joined adults on a recent weekend climate change protest in Colchester. Just because they're young doesn't mean their voices shouldn't be heard. Picture: FABIO S MENDESChildren joined adults on a recent weekend climate change protest in Colchester. Just because they're young doesn't mean their voices shouldn't be heard. Picture: FABIO S MENDES

Because I suspect that we will end up with politicians making decisions they know are wrong for the good of society as a whole just because they want to appease noisy voters who will throw a strop if they don’t get things their own way.

On a national level, I keep hearing from politicians who say they know they are voting to implement policies that will harm their constituents because of the result of a simplistic referendum where the consequences of the votes were never fully explained.

Locally, I fear that councillors are going to ignore the advice of their professional staff and veto any proposal to change the road network around the heart of Ipswich because they don’t want to provoke the wrath of some motorists.

And it is this question that ultimately I find most worrying because it actually has profound consequences for the future of our towns, nation, and indeed the future of the planet itself.

The inability of the human race to face up to some of the most difficult challenges facing us will ultimately lead to an existential danger for humanity and indeed the entire planet.

If we carry on looking for easy options or ignoring the concerns that are being flagged to us then ultimately humanity is facing the risk of either a slow decline towards extinction or a cataclysmic event that will kill billions and effectively mark the end of our current civilisation.

My suspicion is that these events won’t happen in my lifetime or in that of my children – but 100 years down the line if we carry on with our current “live for today and let tomorrow take the hindmost” attitude then life could well change dramatically.

What has spawned this gloomy assessment from me is the discovery that county councillors are unlikely to back changes to make Ipswich town centre a more attractive place for people to live in and visit because they’re afraid to tell motorists that they’ll close some of the roads around the Waterfront.

After all, what is the point of creating an attractive town if it means Joe Bloggs will take 25 minutes to get across town in his 15-year-old Mondeo when he can do it in 22 minutes now?

I’ve been told that professionals at the county council say it would be perfectly possible to close Key Street to traffic an turn Star Lane into a two-way road. But cabinet member for Ipswich Paul West was quick to dismiss the idea of anything that made life more difficult for motorists.

Okay, if that’s the attitude from politicians. But I don’t want to see them wringing their hands with horror when there are more figures showing the number of people suffering from respiratory diseases caused by pollution.

I don’t want to see them puzzling why Ipswich still has a major disconnection between the town centre and the Waterfront.

I don’t want to hear them bleating about childhood obesity when councillors are effectively telling people that the ability to go everywhere by car is the most important element in their thought process!

That is just one tiny incidence where the inconvenience of doing something to improve the environment is outweighed by political expedience.

On a national and international scale governments are taking far too long to really tackle climate change – and some (like President Trump) even seem determined to believe it doesn’t exist.

Why wait until 2040 to ban polluting vehicles? Because none of today’s politicians are likely to be office in 21 years’ time and it will be up to someone else to decide it’s too difficult to implement and the planet isn’t worth saving.

Last week we had the second school students’ strike about climate change that far too many adults – especially politicians – were quick to dismiss.

“It’s only children trying to bunk off school for a couple of hours” seems to have been the general reaction of politicians and many other adults.

That’s inevitably true for some children – but that doesn’t mean the very real concerns of many youngsters can be that easily dismissed.

After all, they’re going to still be here long after the rest of us have disappeared.

But of course politicians don’t really worry about children (unless they want to kiss a baby at election time). They don’t pay taxes and they don’t vote.

So if they take a couple of hours to express a view on a major event they’re skiving. If councillors leave their work to go to a meeting then they’re doing their civic duty!

In a few decades time the centres of large towns and cities like Ipswich might well be pollution-scarred hell-holes that no one wants to visit – but never mind I’m sure you’ll still be able to drive from Felixstowe Road to Cardinal Park to stuff yourself at your favourite fast-food joint!

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