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PN 75: On that day: Angie Zelter

Angie Zelter on what she was doing (and thinking) on 6 June 2011 - the day Peace News turned 75.

I was 60 on world environment day – 5th June 2011 and a few days later took a 2-day hike along the Offa’s Dyke path, with panoramic views of the welsh borders, a contested area for so many centuries, I had time to reflect on years of campaigning for peace and environmental justice.

I often feel despair, and wonder what’s the point of all our protests when Britain is still threatening mass destruction by renewing its nuclear arsenal[1], still sells weapons to repressive regimes, still supports Israel despite its criminal occupation of Palestine[2], and is embroiled in wars in Afghanistan and Libya that are killing in the name of democracy and human rights. I think how our foreign policy has not changed in hundreds of years[3] and how little human beings have progressed in their relations to each other over the millennia.

We have still not learnt to truly respect all peoples and treat others as we would like to be treated, we have not learnt how to prevent the abuse of power, nor prevent vast disparities of wealth building up. We have no idea how to implement true democracy.[4] Our technological progress has been at the expense of wisdom and compassion.

I go and tend my allotment because at least I can see the tangible results of my labour in the fruit and vegetables there. But I wonder how long it will be before private enterprise takes away even these little patches of soil, when it will try privatising the rain and the sun. Yes I have been “down” some of these days. I look around and I see such wonderful potential in people and our beautiful planet but despair at the various capitalist, hierarchical, patriarchal, fundamentalist, ideological structures that distort and prevent its fruition.

But despair is a rather indulgent state of mind that adds to the problem and my balance is soon restored with the reminder that although I can only do the little that I am capable of, nevertheless there are thousands of us. So, I meet with my friends and we celebrate together our love and connection, our achievement in even getting this far, our determination to continue the struggle that so many of us are engaged in – one that tries to non-violently resist the worst excesses of the current system and at the same time to try to build an alternative, that recognises the need to work on the personal and local levels as well as the structural, transnational levels, wherever and whenever we can. I feel connected again and not alone.

So apart from continuing to plan resistance against Trident and its successor with a legal challenge against Westminster for forcing Scotland to aid and abet preparations for war crimes by refusing to remove Trident from Scotland, there are also plans afoot for more actions at Aldermaston and to join alliances against both military and civil nuclear new build.[5]

Climate change has been in my awareness for over 40 years now and is on my mind more and more. It is no good only recycling household waste, reducing our use of electricity, cars and aeroplanes, we also have to stop eating so much fish and meat and reduce the number of children we have. And we also have to reign in the military and war industry who are major users of global oil and energy resources[6]. Changing our light bulbs is necessary but nowhere near enough.

We have to stop the war planes, drones and tanks destroying homes, hospitals and factories, recognise that war is itself is a form of terrorism. We need to protest against exploitation of oil and gas reserves that need to stay underground and try to prevent the coming Arctic War, which is why I am preparing at the moment to go to Luleå in northern Sweden to protest at the continuing use of Sami land for Europe’s largest aerospace test range[7] and to protest against NATO involvement in the ongoing resource wars.

And, of course, we have to refute the spurious arguments that urge us to support new nuclear power stations [8] – they are not the answer to climate change, using more power in the long after-care of their dangerous wastes than they ever produce in their short working lives. I am helping organise the blockade of Hinkley Point on October 3rd – will you be there?[9]

Alongside these protests we need to be supporting local attempts to build and manage locally owned energy projects like co-operative wind farms or solar arrays (not corporate owned huge wind farms that do not benefit the local population). My local Environment Group[10] is supporting a photo-voltaic project for our local school and community centre and a woodland allotment project.

A great deal of my time in June 2011 is taken up sitting at my computer planning actions, signing petitions, putting stuff out on email lists. I do wonder if our “virtual” life is getting out of hand. We must not forget the continuing need for street action in the real world too. A major pre-occupation at present is how we in the UK can move forward from a few hundred people or even a million in the streets protesting for one day to the commitment needed to stay in the streets for days and weeks. Our government and institutions are expert at ignoring one day demonstrations, however large. The examples of people in other parts of the world show, however, what sustained long-term resistance can achieve. We could stop UK involvement in Libya and Afghanistan, or new Fukushima’s being built if we stayed in the streets …….couldn’t we?

This June, so many different protests and issues vie for attention. They are all interlinked. One issue that has been preying on my mind is how so many of the peace, justice and environmental campaigns I have been involved in[11] over the last decades have run up against the problem of the financial structures[12] distorting the economic climate so severely that the need to make money takes precedence over everything else – even the lives and human rights of people or the climate of the planet. I have been trying, unsuccessfully so far, to get funding for a series of short discussion films to explain how the banks have co-opted the supply of money for their own profits rather than to facilitate the flow of money to benefit society at large. Called ‘Women Explain Money’ the films would attempt to educate us all to be more articulate about the changes we need to demand in order to enable money to be created and circulated for the common good rather than for abuses of power.

One last thought is for the Freedom Flotilla [13] making its way once more to break the inhumane Siege of Gaza – an example of international solidarity and the power of courage and compassion. Every wrong needs to be confronted practically and non-violently like this. Together we can and do change our human world. When we engage like this what a beautiful world we live in!