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Tuesday, 8 February, 2000, 13:33 GMT
reith feed
Thanks to all who took part in this year's Reith Lectures internet debate.

If you cannot keep the environment, please do not add to the pollution. Lets therefore play a role in a humble way to keep our surroundings clean.
Prince, India

Dr. Shiva, nothing I have read for a good many years has made me so angry as your talk. The power and greed of the great corporations is a great evil absolutely. Any good they do seems completely overwhelmed by greed. I find it almost impossible to credit the brass neck of a corporation claiming a patent on basmati rice - surely no court could possibly uphold such a claim; but perhaps I am getting old & naive. The despair of small farmers is heart rending - here as well as in the developing world.
Graham Bindon, United Kingdom

The lecture as usual informed and educated the listeners.
Rukmini Bhaya Nair, India

What is the relationship, if any, in the energy debate about conservation, pollution, price and market forces, exploration, research and supply? And what of the role of OPEC in conservation issues with energy resources?
Doug McIver, ACT Australia

It is heartening to hear some positives, however I can't help but feel the die is cast with only fiddling at the edges. The dominant paradigm must be challenged or it like all of us will face the ultimate test in environmental crises. "The situation is hopeless we must take the next step." If we don't share the wealth and persist in impoverishing nations/people then environmental degradation follows as people eke out an existence with consequences for all. MAI convinced me that business had not changed its modus operandi and the intelligence and ability of politicians these days leaves me to wonder at those who choose them but what choice do we have? This, it appears to me is the system which determines the future for the human species.
Ross McPherson, Australia

We apologise to anyone whose contribution has not appeared. It's become clear that some e-mails have not got through or have vanished. If anyone wishes to re-send an e-mail that has not been displayed, we will endeavour to put it up on the site.

E-mails will continue to be processed until the end of June, after which the debate on this site will close. Other Reith 2000 pages - including the lectures - will remain accessible.

Not one word about excessive population. There is and never has been an agricultural (farming) community that has lived in harmony with nature. History has been a continuous serious of ecological colapses as humans have, without the excuse of "globalisation", over exploited and destroyed their habitats. The left will NEVER be taken seriously (nor should they) until they address these biological realities and develop an analysis with more depth than Poor=Good, Rich=Evil.
Dean, USA

I missed some of the lectures this year - last year I enjoyed reading the lectures - how can I get prints this year (WORD format)?
Ian Richardson, UK

I was greatly encouraged by the emphasis placed by Prince Charles on the spiritual dimension which alone gives meaning to our existence. First recognised by Plato this simple fact has since been "smothered by the impenetrable layers of scientific rationalism" to which he refers. Nevertheless, the search for an escape route requires only the recognition of two facts beyond reasonable dispute:

(1) Our dependence on the material world, for physical existence as well as the raw materials for creative enterprise. This is the domain of the material sciences and includes the Darwinian theory which accounts for the evolution of animals.

(2) The fantastic difference in creativity between humans and their closest animal relatives. This is attributable to "the birth of the mind" as defined by Teilhard de Chardin and as pointed out by Prof. Michael Polanyi (a scientist and leading authority on the Art of Knowing) it can be explained only by "other principles than those known to physics and chemistry". From various sources it appears to have occurred only about 50 thousand years ago, i.e. no more than a brief moment of evolutionary time and the fantastic difference in time-scale, many orders of magnitude, distinguishes this conclusively from the Darwinian process which accounts for our physical existence.

As explained by Polanyi, this is the point at which the Darwinian criterion of biological achievement is replaced by 'submission to the leadership of superior minds', the emergent noosphere being "wholly determined by that which we believe to be true and right'. Being in line with scriptural references to humans as "children of God" it would probably have been accepted as a viable explanation of human origins were it not for the "problem of evil" which tends to be uppermost in the minds of most of us. Sadly, an aspect of crucial importance appears to have been overlooked completely: Despite their new spiritual identity humans continue to be animals as well, so that harmonious and creative imperatives are too often overtaken by selfish instincts inseparable from their Darwinian ancestry. In consequence, no longer fully constrained by the necessities for survival, they have no immunity from temptations leading to misuse of increasing creativity. This allows evil of all kinds to be attributed directly or indirectly to some form of human selfishness and, if this is accepted, many other important conclusions fall into line:

Recognition of two very different creative processes allows the separate identities of mind as the source of meaning and matter which supplies the means to be clearly recognised, together with the intellectual hazards of current attempts to treat them as a single entity. They are nevertheless mutually indispensable, enjoying a relationship closely analogous to that between, for example, a creative artist and his materials.

From the separate identities of mind and matter it follows also that within the self, mind and body are interactive in line with common experience. Further to emphasise the primacy of the spiritual domain, and as a simple fact of experience, the real values of material objects and circumstances are attributable exclusively to the contributions which they make to our well-being such as happiness, peace of mind, and the ability to realise our full potential as individuals; being non-measurable these are inaccessible to the natural sciences.

Since the Big Bang, evolution has continued without proven necessity for divine intervention. This is in line with the obvious need for the material world to be predictable as a matter of practical utility; nothing is lost by leaving this as an open question since God remains as the origin of all creative activity. Moreover, with matter excluded, what remains is a magnificent panorama of creation embracing the totality of all meaning, achievement and righteous endeavour whatsoever, wherever, and whenever it may be found in the entire universe.
Leslie Moxon, UK

Of the lectures on the environment I have read so far no one has explicitly mentioned spirituality - is this contrary to current political and economic thinking? It seems to me - while I hold to no specific faith - that respecting (even loving) the environment in a spiritual way would bring about the changes which have been identified by the speakers. While I'm not suggesting that governments or business push people into any specific spiritual base, I would like to see a recognition of this aspect in environmental policies.

An example of this would be a greater awareness of some of what goes into the 'simpler', less developed culture of the tribal peoples - those people who are so far behind our concept of development but seem so happy when left alone to continue the way they have for centuries. While I am no towering academic (as those who gave these lectures obviously are) I am still puzzled why the above mentioned has not been addressed. Maybe it doesn't address the concept of money enough.
Gareth Cartwright, New Zealand

Although I noted a scathing critique by Professor Giddens on Vandana Shiva I nevertheless think that intellectually there is some commonality. What I am wondering is whether there is a written access (publication) to Giddens' lectures on the 'runaway world'? His analysis while not the same subject was pertinent to Shiva's in that we should not over-ideologise what she said and understand the context within which to set the agenda for battle. In other words we wish to trot or sprint along with the runaway world!
Musatiza Chokwadi, Ormskirk, UK

Prof Giddens' lectures have been published in paperback by Profile Books (Nov., 99; ISBN 1861972075) under the title: Runaway World, How Globalisation is Reshaping Our Lives.

Click on the Text Only option on any of the lecture pages. You should then be able to get a clean print out. It's hoped that a book of the lectures will be published shortly.

Too many words. What we want is action. No GE for example. No one seems to explain exactly how dangerous it is. People say genetic modification has been carried out for centuries, and they are right. But, and it cannot be emphasised more, the modern 'genetic engineering' is not the same thing at all. We are breaking down natural barriers, increasing disease etc, etc. Find out all about it, of course. Knowledge is power. "Who, what, where, when, how, etc" this knowledge is applied is where man has NO wisdom at all. It is about time that mankind grew up.

We HAVE to reconcile that we cannot control this planet, and we HAVE to find ways to live within it, be happy in this and not continually strive to be always bigger, better, richer, more powerful, etc, etc.

You have all heard the arguments too many times before, and yet still the wisdom does not shine through. I'm not a religious person at all, just an honest one. One that hopes she is not too close to despair, but in the morning I get up again and work at getting my seven acres of organic orchard to the paradise that the whole world could also be if we truly wanted.
Celia Wilson, New Zealand

I was very inspired by Vandana Shiva's talk, and feel she is saying VERY important things from her expert viewpoint in a simple to understand way. As an allotment holder for 25 years, providing for my family, all of whom hardly ever need to visit the doctor, I feel the value of small scale food production and its contribution to biodiversity should not be under-estimated. These arguments were rehearsed with the so-called Green Revolution, but are even more urgent with GM developments - who will ever listen? Surely the fact that lands once flowing with 'milk and honey' are now deserts is enough evidence. John Seymour has said the same of Ethiopia.

The challenge is to create enough momentum to mobilise opinion in time, before total devastation sets in - we haven't got long. Our treasure of topsoil is quickly vanishing.
Jude Warrender, England

Wonderful to have this web site, with audio, video and written formats of Reith Lectures.
Ed Holgate, Canada

I appreciated the whole lecture series very much, but I wish to express my greatest appreciation for Vandana Shiva & Prince Charles' comments. No human "development" will be sustainable without ecological sustainability. Ecological sustainability will not occur without a major shift in our worldview, as Vandana & Charles so eloquently explained.

Thank you for this opportunity to put in my two cents.
Suzanne Duarte, USA

It is fortunate that Prince Charles, a leader in our world today - whether by inheritance, election or earned reputation, doesn't matter, a leader none the less - has had the foresight and courage to speak up about the dangers of our scientific age.

Currently we are on the threshold of a paradigm shift. Our Western heritage has been one of control, of man against nature, of man needing to tame nature, and create as his likes and as his needs dictate regardless of consequences. This is a quickly fading paradigm which has held us in its grip for hundreds if not thousands of years, and has affected every aspect of our human life from politics , economics , health and religion to population migration, wars, and scientific development. No area of life has been left untouched by this fear- based approach to life.

Fortunately for us today a new paradigm is emerging - one that sees nature and ourselves within one "wholeness", as "one reality"; that sees that nothing exists in isolation but that everything is interconnected to the "whole" which is itself so much, much more than any of its parts, and that by altering any one part, no matter how small, we are inevitably and always altering the "whole".

This new paradigm sees man in his fully awake cosmic status with his awareness stationed at the home of all the laws of nature as a co-creator, in tune with nature, - not against nature nor a manipulator of nature, and sees all as divine - man, nature and the whole universe -all having the same origin in what science now conceives of as the Unified Field of all the laws of nature and what theologians call the field or will of God.

This paradigm shift is entirely due to the brilliance of His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who for the past 50 years has been awakening and enlivening this Unified Field, the home of all the laws of nature, in human awareness and in every area of life. ( He is the hidden gem of our age - much, much more than Aristotle, Plato and Einstein all put together- who the sage teachers and leaders of our time are well aware of and whose seed thoughts they have brought forth in their own words and works.) Through His unceasing efforts Maharishi has brought to light in its purity the ancient Vedic wisdom of India -the most fundamental wisdom of life that teaches that the field of consciousness, the transcendental field of pure intelligence, the home of all the laws of nature is the same source field of all life - both subjective and objective, both spiritual and material, and that this source can be accessed in human awareness through techniques of consciousness- especially the Transcendental Meditation technique and the TM sidhis program which Maharishi has revived in their purity from the ancient Vedic tradition. Awakening this Transcendental field within awakens the cosmic value in human awareness putting man instantly in tune and in accord with natural law. In this sublime state of consciousness which Maharishi has declared as the natural birth right of every man and woman on earth, man is one with the Creator, the process of creation and the creation itself. In this state where one does not make mistakes and does not violate the laws of nature man has the right to "play the Creator" in his life on earth. Anyone out of this field, in normal" waking state" consciousness, manipulating nature, "playing the Creator" whether through genetic engineering or developing new technologies, forms of government, health care, agriculture etc. etc. is only a fool and the consequences of his actions have the possibility to have devastating effects for all life on earth with their apparent or hidden destructive capabilities. This pattern we have seen repeated again and again in every field of life.

The times are demanding us to wake up and assume our cosmic status, our cosmic responsibility and our cosmic joy and to make life on earth the heaven it really should be. Already the ball is rolling and our destiny fortunately has now shifted in this highly evolutionary direction.
C. Whitney, Canada

I thought the lectures were crucial for gaining educated comment and respect for the serious ecological problems facing our planet.

However I am concerned by the response of some political and business groups who disregard this advise seeing it as radical. Indeed for those with vested interest in new technologies, it is both radical for their minds and their pockets. They are happy just the way things are, if we are truly to change things for the better we must start safe guarding the rites of those who are not yet born.
Tony Martin, New Zealand

It was wonderful to listen to Vandana Shiva on radio last night here in New Zealand and knowing that other people are interested in preserving the absolute uniqueness of each and every living thing on this earth, plants, animals, flowers, seeds, people as we are all very very different in fact each one has its own blueprint believe it or not so with all our animals of the fields, the birds of the air the fishes of the sea and indeed the plants and food of the earth created specifically by THE CREATOR who also created us so lets not tamper with what is absolutely perfectly created and cannot be improved upon by no human person - after all each one has only 3 to 4 ounces of grey matter and a limited intelligence so how can we match or better THE CREATOR and His intelligence and power WE CANNOT so wonderful to listen to you all and I will be following with great interest as we have a group here in New Zealand who save the seeds and plants and other unique foods specific to this part of the world.
Marie Therese Brophy, New Zealand

The divide which has occurred between man and nature has driven humanity into a state of greed, control and a need for personal wealth and power. All out ideals have been transformed from what we need, to obtaining our desires - at any cost. We have lost the fundamental principles of life. Globalisation is a force that has been pushed by the wealthiest 5% of the worlds population. It is this proportion of people that actually benefit, 95% of the worlds peoples, as well as the earth in which we all evolved with and other creatures have been left with little consideration.

How can we stop this. How can we turn around the dominant western ideals. If we don't we will be destroyed. People will starve and the standard of living can only dissipate whilst the top 5% continue to fill their already overflowing bank accounts.

At birth each and everyone of us is blessed with the ability of becoming anything. Why do we teach our children to walk the road of destruction rather than a road of life, respect and loveżIt makes me ashamed to be a part of the human family. I can only think of one other animal in which we come close - the RAT. However, that potential at birth is always with us - this is our hope....... is it too late?
Denise La Grouw, New Zealand

Vandana Shiva is speaking the truth, we should all stop and listen for a while and we might learn something.
Stephen Headen, UK

Vandana Shiva was the only lecturer that lived up to the intellectual challenge especially in her concerns for biodiversity in farming systems as run largely by peasants and mostly by women. Increasing voices such as these have consistently been ignored. I know that when I recently talked to the Zimbabwe Farmers Union leader he dismissed the bambarra nut (Vigna subterranea)as commercially unviable and yet this crop among many are perfect for the environment and for food security.
Sekani Tikondelwe, Wales

Recently heard in a classroom students were developing a new policy on the Environment. The term "Stewardship" was adopted by the group completely independent of the term's use in the Reith Lectures by HRH Prince Charles, because of the respect growing for Aboriginal and Indigenous "Land" consciousness. The people belong to the land and thus an Aboriginal stewardship is an ecologically sustainable management of the land that establishes a sacred trust. Custody and custodial terminology is being displaced by a return to physical contact made by the key stakeholders. Major stakeholders are the children and women of the land. The latter have, for the large part of history, been given, and worldwide continue to be given the lowest priority. To have, and to maintain "contact" with the land, the water and the air is the right of every child. Australia is still a land ravaged by other cultures and with the introduction of Local Agenda 21 Strategy and the maintenance of classroom forums on new environmental policy it may still yet be saved for future generations to enjoy.
Robert Cordia, Australia

Jonathon Porritt states that the Prince of Wales has been engaged in the debate on sustainable development for many years. Debate however normally manifests itself in contributors responding to challenges to their point of view. The BBC however allowed a contribution where no challenges were directly accepted. Is this commensurate with an open process?

The contribution of Prince Charles is characterised by feel good words that have little real meaning. Who for instance is to determine what the duties of stewardship are that we have apparently received from our Creator? Prince Charles? The large corporations who seek to profit from the poor or the poor themselves whose very attempt at a better life for them and their families e.g. in obtaining refrigeration at an affordable cost. Are the poor not entitled to advance themselves, even at the expense of a minor increase in fossil fuel demand.

It would be helpful if Prince Charles could define his terms and specify exactly what the ancient or heartfelt wisdom is that he wishes us to follow. He has benefited directly from science in everything that he does and owns and perhaps he might ask himself a number of questions :-

1/ Should the poor be denied resources because he or others have enough?

2/ Is he following his own advice in his own life?

3/ Is the fight against disease, which is a part of nature, to be discontinued?

4/ Can he point to a single event in the history of his family that he can prove was caused by the Creator?

The organisers of the lectures might ask themselves:-

1/ What particular benefit does Prince Charles bring to the debate other than celebrity from a accident of birth?

2/ Why did you allow a contribution to go unchallenged? Are the Prince's future subjects unworthy of debating with him?
Edward Armstrong, United Kingdom

I arrived 2 1/2 years ago in New Zealand hoping to find a cleaner greener future for my daughter, I was sadly mistaken, chemicals such as 1080 are topdressed indiscriminately over huge areas to kill possums, and now they are discussing using GE carrots despite a thriving new industry for possum fur and merino blend yarns. On reaching Nelson I joined a local anti GE group in 1998 proceeding to canvas public opinion and make submissions against GE crop applications through the Environmental Risk Management Authority. All GE trials have been approved to date by this quasi judiciary body which have no automatic independent research funding or external independent assessment but must bid to get funding to prepare reports on risks, their first ( on antibiotic resistant marker genes) due to be released in June 2 years after their first GE approval.

The majority of GE research is now carried out in Crown Research Institutes partially funded by the Public Good Science Fund and partially from other sometimes more dubious sources. PPL have permission to run a GE trial application in containment of 10,000 GE sheep with human genes . A recent application for cows with Human genes has been stalled by Maori protest, the Maori geneology and culture forbidding the mixing of genes.

New Zealand is also a prime target for GE pine tree research. Locally in Nelson we have 95,000 ha of pine trees, over 100 businesses (mostly food outlets and tourism) and 5000 people in a city of 15,000 approx have signed a petition to attempt to protect their local area by making it a symbolic GE Free zone (in food and Environment) we missed out by one vote in council at the last attempt. We still after two years of attempts to get labelling have no choice about the food products we buy, GE ingredients from the US and Australia in many products still unlabelled. Delay the labelling, deny the people the moratorium, they have requested and destroy the clean green image NZ holds for both quality food products appears to be the aim.

Yes, we are due to have a Royal Commission of Inquiry starting soon and have a voluntary moratorium on crops in place during the proceedings but nothing has really changed. Major multinationals buy into NZ because 'the land is cheap and the regulations relatively lax' Sunday Times quote 9.1.2000. It is not right that the people are ignored when they wish only to have choice and protect their environment from the unproven benefits and many dangers of genetic pollution genetic engineering holds.
Susie Lees New Zealand

I write as a very concerned student surrounded by uneducated peers blissfully unaware of the problem and teachers who do not care about the problem.

Action needs to be taken not just talk, there is no point in wasting time thinking of reasons not to invest in solar power etc. it should now be done. Encouragement from government is its purpose and role in society whether it is through targeted tax cuts, investment, or large fines does not matter but leadership is needed and a shift in policy. There is no point in life if we can continue it for the future, surely everyone on the planet agrees with this, bar those who are suicidal.

The lesson should have been learned in Europe at the turn of the last century in overcrowded unhealthy appalling slums. Now we are turning the planet into one of those very slums we spent so much getting rid of. All we seem to have learned from the last century is that war is bad. Even that lesson had to be hammered home. Now we must learn to respect the rights of everyone and extend the Labour movement world wide then we can start to learn sustainable development and finally spiritual satisfaction.
David Lindsay, UK

I believe that recent science of complex systems concerns the fact (scientific) that systems are not mechanical. In order to represent some piece of reality as a mechanical system, at least 4 assumptions must be made. 1) that a boundary can be drawn around the system, distinguishing it from the "environment", that we know which are the explanatory components and features to be explained, and that our system has stereotypic components engaged in processes with "average" rates. If these hold, then we may indeed claim to be able to predict behaviour and to have the system "under control". We may even optimise its constituents and mechanisms according to our goals. However, these assumptions, the basis of Newtonian mechanics, are not true in general. The microdiversity and local experiences that characterise reality mean that systems are therefore the seat of learning and co-evolutionary processes which necessarily have unknown consequences. Because of this, we know therefore that!

Rationality cannot be a sufficient basis for action! Any "proven" model of a phenomenon must be calibrated and validated only on the past, and for the factors that we have thought of studying. In reality any design, investment, action or decision will really provoke consequences and responses which can only be guaranteed in the confines of a "closed", laboratory system. Not the real world. For a theoretical physicist like myself this is a real shock. But most scientists have not yet understood the point, and continue to view the world as if it were a Newtonian machine, with predictable behaviour and hence open to manipulation. However, this belief itself is clearly misguided since the predictability of any system would be compromised by any manipulation other than by "us".

The understanding that is arising from complex systems thinking provides a theoretical basis for a "precautionary attitude" if not principle, since we must also explore. It also provides a basis for microdiversity as being the source of resilience and of creativity in things. For many years I have worked on attempting to develop integrated frameworks to provide information about the possible consequences of investments, changes, actions envisaged. These link the soils, vegetation, crop choices, geomorphology, hydrology, water abstraction, waste production, urban and rural systems all in an interacting dynamic spatial representation. These have been supported mainly by the European Commission. However, I am now the Director of an ESRC Priority Network on the sustainability of socio-economic systems.

I believe that our work provides a solid conceptual framework for articulating the doubts that the Prince of Wales, and some of the other speakers expressed. This framework comes from a scientific approach that demonstrates the limits of scientific rationality. If some see scientific rationality as the crowning glory of human achievement, then what can we say of the achievement that uses that framework to demonstrate its own inadequacy?

I do believe therefore that it is important to separate "science" and an honest, systematic exploration of nature that scientists might make, with the commercial exploitation of that partial understanding, which tends to make unstated, but profitable, assumptions about what is "safe" and "certain" - until it isn't of course.

I believe that the complex systems framework that has been developed over the last decades can provide a means of communication between different "stakeholders" in society. It can make clear the assumptions, values and motivations of the different players in the system, and force an open discussion and analysis of what is known, what is not really known, and why something should or should not be done.
Professor Peter M. Allen, Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University UK

It is vain in the extreme to assume that, because we cannot foresee any damaging consequences to health and the environment from the release of GM organisms, there will be no damaging consequences. It was this assumption which led to the BSE crisis after all. It is also vain to assume that we can control the effects, known and unknown, of this technology on health, wealth and the ecosystem.

Let's proceed, but with extreme caution, tight controls and a safety-assured backout plan.
_ Francis O'Leary, UK

The last lecture and discussion broadcast last night was very good but did not really leave the way open to move forward - now. James Naughtie said that perhaps they should all come together in ten years time; a service to us all, all over the world, would be to keep this series going - if not under the Reith lectures then under "Respect for the Earth" on its own. Sincerely, this should be an ongoing and constant discussion with updates and programmes weekly.

The world of big finance and big business is run according to the old fashioned "Taylorism" model and this model is now more than two hundred years old. What drives it is time and motion and accountants' speak. Accountants are at the root of all the big management consultancies and, therefore, they do not embrace the existing holistic approach which is given through "systems philosophy" and pioneered by Checkland in the 1950's when British Industry realised the incapability of the "black box" approach to sorting out the problems of industry. From hard experience, I am aware that management consultancies and computer consultancies alike use only the Information Engineering approach (contained inside a box) which means that the wider aspects are not looked at in their models. But all media is focused on consultancies like the Big 5, as if they are absolutely the experts on organisational and business management disciplines. In fact, they are not and the damage they are causing to the world, especially in terms of Respect for the Earth, is allowed to go on without check.

The question is "why are we still allowing one aspect of the whole, that is accountancy in monetary terms, to drive everything else?". Because of this, the drive to make the monetary returns in shorter periods always wins, hence America's general stance.
Eileen de Bruin, UIK

Sustainable development is not so much a matter of good governance as of our concept or model of development. Mahatma Gandhi said in 1927, that nature can give human beings enough to meet their needs but not to fulfil their greed. Unfortunately, humanity has forgotten his message. Developing countries have followed the Western model of pursuit of insatiable materialism. The developed countries would have to give a lead by conscious step to curb rampant materialism reflected in their style of living. They need governments which can follow such policies which may be unpopular.
Dr. P.R.Dubhashi, India

I was so please to hear Prince Charles speaking out against the Techno' society we live in today. I agree very strongly that we are going down the wrong path. We become less & less attached to nature & abuse our environment so much. It amazes me how arrogant & short sighted human beings are. Do we really think that this world is solely for our use? I have had strong environmental feelings since I was a teenager & over the years the warning signs have become more & more apparent.

Scientists at first quaffed at the idea of a hole in the ozone layer, now we have more than one & it is an accepted fact - skin cancer rates are rising. I can remember when global warming was supposed to be scare mongering by the 'hairbrained' environmentalists, as well! As a member of a no. of environmental groups, I'm afraid I do agree when they take 'direct action' against polluters & multi-national companies who manipulate governments to increase profits with no consideration for people at all - apart from their shareholders of course!

If Prince Charles happens to read this - 'Please Sir, when you visit the Island in July, to celebrate our ancient government. Please could you whisper in some of the MHK's ears, that we don't want an incinerator to solve our refuse problems & pollute our air with dioxins + increase CO2, when the world is supposed to be reducing emissions - WE WANT TO ENCOURAGE RE-CYCLING, NOT WASTE RESOURCES'. The IOM Friends of the Earth group don't want the Techno' fix at a huge initial outlay & a maintenance cost that will cripple the ratepayers. A re-cycling scheme would be a fraction of the cost of building & maintaining an incinerator & it would put something useful back into the community (composting, valuable materials; aluminium, glass)

I apologise for keeping the comments so 'local', but it just shows how governments go for the quick & easy 'fix' - which in the long run backfires, be it in the public's health or in escalating costs. But of course, most of the politicians have moved on by then!

I would like to thank all the lecturers for an interesting & educational group of programmes. But to me the future of the planet doesn't look good.

PS The local group would love to meet Prince Charles when he's over & discuss some issues - we need a respected ally!
Phil Corlett, Isle of Man

The government says that the escape of pollen from genetically modified oil seed rape, which was planted by accident in amongst a commercial non-GM crop, because the imported seed was contaminated with GM seed, is too little to do any harm. In order to demonstrate that its opinion is not uninformed bluster, it should now specify how little escaped GM pollen there will be; and how little there must be to be harmless.

If the government knows about the crop in question, perhaps it deliberately planted the GM seed within it to make sure our environment became contaminated so as to render futile any attempt to keep out GM crops until we understand them a great deal better. If the government does not have all the facts about this particular sowing, its pronouncement is baseless together, probably, with its other utterances on this subject.
Tony Maskell, England

Thank you for a fine series. I just wondered if anyone had read the book published last year called The Last hours of Ancient Sunset written by Thom Hartmann ISDN 0609605461. It provides a wonderful overview of the situation we are in and just how the "common man" can help while waiting for the politicians. Prince Charles covered a lot of similar ground in his excellent speech. I have no direct personal gain in recommending the book except to help the debate and ultimately the future of us all.

One other point - on tonight's show Chris Patten mentioned that politicians opinions were often 10 years behind those (of the generally younger) people who(m) they represented. In the case of the environment why can't(doesn't) he put this theory into practise and campaign for others in politics to adopt a more radical approach rather than the usual wait and see.

The whole debate over GM,Transport,smallfarmers,House building in the green belt (using unsustainable building methods!)are just some examples, never mind the disappearing rainforests etc etc.

A more radical approach may additionally just save politicians from the sea of apathy that threatens to drown them quicker than the rising waters of global warming. Worth a go for the sake of us all. Tony Blair MUST value a sustainable future for his new arrival even if it means forcing John "2 Jags" Prescott of the road.
Neil Purvis, England

I read all the contributions before tonight's round table broadcast. Aren't there any more messages yet? Where are they? I feel tempted to make some silly comment like: "Prince Charles should marry Vandana Shiva and they should be King and Queen of the World"! But I'd rather join in a more sensible discussion if I could find it.
Jo Foster, UK

If we're really serious about joined-up thinking & dealing with CO2 problems, shouldn't we be thinking about industries that produce CO2 being required to subsidise, for example, the kind of small farmer that keeps 12-month grass cover on the land they use, keep the maximum number of hedges growing, keep small patches of woodland or scrub and so on? Precisely not the large agri-business farms that get the vast majority of subsidies at the moment? Isn't this a better reason to subsidise farmers than 'preserving the historic landscape', which is largely artificial anyway?
Jacky Smith, Britain

How does the world struggle with problems of environment, disease, poverty, injustice, the degradation of culture, the misuse of science and the stealing of the intellectual and cultural assets of the poorest countries? The contributors addressed many of these points. My reading of these is that we need more far-sighted, strengthened, and more accountable international institutions, matched with stronger citizen, environmental and public health movements able to link the poor world with the rich.

One most positive aspects of globalisation is that debates like this can be listened and responded to the world over. One of the negatives is that the centralisation of communication into the hands of the few - and the predominance of the values of 'entertainment' over 'education' might mean that only comparatively few of us will listen. In your efforts to resist this trend, well done, BBC.
Dr Geof Rayner, Chair UK Public Health Association, UK Sustainable livelihoods

Many of the themes running though the excellent series of Reith lectures are being addresses within the UK Govt's Dept for International Development's White Paper of 1997. In particular I would like to draw attention to an approach which is aiming to reduce poverty by sustaining peoples' livelihoods, drawing on their strengths, rather than focussing on peoples weaknesses.

This is known as the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach. It draws on international development success over the last 20 years and attempts to learn from mistakes. It is focusing on sustainability of livelihoods from an institutional, ecological and economic angle. The principles of the SLA were referred to in many of the Reith lectures.....these are the need to be holistic in our thinking, identifying the most pressing constraints faced by people. 2. the need to put people and their priorities at the heart of development and respects their views and stresses the need to influence policies, and international agreements and processes to be pro people, especially poor people, 3, to be dynamic and understand change the identification of supportive patterns and the mitigation of negative patterns, 4. build on strengths , a recognition of peoples inherent strengths (human, social, natural, physical, financial) and 5, the recognition of how policies , laws and structures need to reflect the needs and be informed by local level lessons and insights.

There is a DFID web site dedicated to supporting knowledge and learning about Sustainable Livelihood Approaches to be found at www.livelihoods.org which contains valuable guidance notes , a range of tools, case study material and an opportunity for people to share experiences.
Dr Jane Clark,UK

Science speaks the truth and nothing but the truth, but nowhere near the whole truth. Prince Charles's critique in to-day's Reith lecture stressed spiritual values, but science itself can also be expanded to include wider values. The trouble is this, that the science that creates and underpins a new technology like genetic engineering is inappropriate and insufficient as a discipline to determine how and whether it could or should be applied. It requires another science to understand the ecology and relationships between human society and natural processes and how the new technology would influence these.

So while scientists have already criticised the Prince for not understanding the science, there is no reason to suppose that molecular biologists like my colleague of old, Chris Leaver (Radio 4 News at 6), understand the science of the human ecology of application. It is outside their field and about other subject areas. I hope that the Fellows of the Royal Society can take up the challenge implied by Prince Charles' lecture, and promote the more encompassing science that is now needed.
Dr Ulrich Loening, Centre for Human Ecology, Scotland, UK

I don't understand why the BBC invited Prince Charles to deliver the last Reith Lecture presentation. He had nothing original to say, and what he did say was not tested by being subjected to any discussion: why not? It was also noticeable that in the item which followed, the discussion between the panel of previous lecturers chaired by James Naughtie, virtually no reference was made to anything the Prince had said. Clearly they weren't impressed either, which again raises the question, why was he invited to speak?
Michael McCarthy, UK

Governments do more than give out messages; their policies, principally in tax-structure, can change things, without any democratic comeback. Taxes have proved green sensitive in the landfill levies etc. but the major wastrel habits of our enterprises are tied to the beast a business has to be.- it is meant to be sufficiently expansionist & profitable to be milkable by gov't yet care for its resources, foster its participants, & keep up to date with its info.

To change, we need a tax-structure that differentiates between operations that want to be truly sustainable in their LACK of ambition, & old style empire-builders. Both encourage an ethos of stability rather than growth & reduce administration costs by simplifying tax collection & then there is space for small & long-term human makers & traders.
_John Spikes, Wales

Chris Patten did not mention that the E.U. Common Agricultural Policy has done more environmental harm than anything which could have been devised. The small farmer/land owner is invariably more friendly to the environment but is being literally thrown off the land by the C.A.P which favours big agro-businesses which in general have done and are doing great harm to the environment, while producing surpluses which are often dumped on the third world which in turn puts their small farmers out of business.

I think most people are delighted that HRH the Prince of Wales has taken such a strong line against genetic engineering - just an extension of agri-business.

Well done the BBC for staging the debate!
Philip Greig, England

The debate has been about the provision of health and education and the eradication of poverty. It has been about sustainable development and debt forgiveness. About genetic engineering (aren't we clever!)and population issues. But no one has dared to mention the greatest shame on the planet, the unmentionable, the 250 milllion children outside any kind of social framework, the millions upon millions of street children living like rats in sewers, railway lockers, and underground tunnels without parental of state care, without love. Girls of 13 with a second generation of babies. Children who sniff glue and use other drugs just to forget for a while their unwantedness, their despair. The large numbers that commit suicide before they are 15. This is not a tragedy that can be blamed on poverty alone, or on ill health, or lack of education. It has as much, if not more, to do with sexual abuse, mostly by the immediate family, by greed and exploitation in the drugs and sex industry, in armies, in factories and in the mines. Children in slavery, the railway children.

This has to do with an inbred human cruelty, human deprivation, human greed, which, according to the well know environmentalist/biologist Prof Dr Bellamy makes the human species the worst amongst the world's mammals in their treatment of their offspring. Yes, the human condition is a contributory factor, of course, but the real underlying reason is the inexplicable flaw in the human character. It is that which we all - if not share - are responsible for. That responsibility is awesome, for the human being as an individual as it is for governments, and too much to cope with or to admit to for most.

So let's talk about the excellent effects of universal health and education and the benefits of a lovely environment and how we should be making babies. Perhaps those multi-millions of street children, now swelling by numbers even more by Aids orphans, will go away and die anyway. Let's have respect for the Earth and let the young perish.
Trudy Davies, Hon Director European Network for Street Children Worldwide, London/Brussels

I thought the views of the Prince of Wales were very impressive; cogent persuasive, and wise.

Can long term interests be served by short term Parliaments?
Geoff Petty, UK

It's a pity that Prince Charles ruined the basic common sense of his argument by equating care about humanity and the living earth with spirituality and belief in a Creator. He seems to have no respect for or heed of the majority in his own country, WHO DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD but are not lesser human beings on this count.

Why not tell it how it is, Charles?
Julian Fitzgerald, UK

I was moved by tonight's programme, I wept. It is such a big issue and I can't do anything. I listened and I felt powerless. Why does no one listen?
Linda Lye, UK

Perhaps the only way to bring about a the fundamental change needed in our way of life is to teach the young. Habits are difficult to change once they are set. In my experience, as a restaurant owner employing a few teenagers for part time work, young people don't have a clue about the environment. For example we recycle wherever possible including plastic bags from the supermarket yet each time our young staff shop they return with yet more plastic bags rather than take with them a used bag from the last visit. A small point when we are trying to save the Earth BUT the point is they have never been told, as far as I can make out, at school, why it is important not to squander natural resources. In fact one girl asked me what plastic is made of when I tried to explain that the stuff hangs around "forever" and doesn't rot.

Should not the basics of looking after the environment be taught in school from a young age? So much easier to take these things on board from the start. A sense of awe and wonder was mentioned, perhaps science should be taught at school not as a career choice but in the same way as art and literature, for the sheer joy of knowing how wonderful is this precious world in which we all live. I feel the more one learns about nature, and to me science is about understanding nature, the more you have to respect it. Without even referring to a "Creator" it is awe inspiring in its intellegence.
Lesley Alkin, UK

Talking is fine, but why don't we as individuals lead by example? To begin with, let's all stop buying things we don't need! How many of you have made the dramatic lifestyle changes needed to bring about change? This doesn't mean living a life of drudgery, but becoming more in touch with reality and the natural world. I recently gave up my car and I feel brilliant!!
Ian Sherwood, England

Its clear from the arrogance and hostility of the response to the Prince of Wales statement from the scientists, that a call for simple reflection and pause, rather than the race characterised by the genome mapping contest, is some how abhorrent and that the trophy of being the first is far more important. REGARDLES OF THE CONSIQUENCES.
_Alex McEwen, England

I was extremely pleased to hear the Prince of Wales talk about the importance of the spiritual dimension of our existence - for me reconnection with the sacred, and with reverence and awe for our planet is fundamental to its future - and for generations hence. I was therefore disappointed with the debate that followed the Prince of Wales' lecture. As he pointed out it has become unfashionable to talk about spirituality - and James Naughtie and the other Reith lecturers really didn't pick up on this aspect of sustainable development at all. On the whole it sounded to me like the same old tired debate which we hear every day on the Today programme.
Vivian Wade, Scotland

Excellent series, I only managed to hear Vandana Shiva and His Royal Highness' speeches in their entirety. But the subsequent talk with 5 of the lecturers was very encouraging indeed.

I feel the Prince's views on a synthesis between science and spirituality are vital and am very pleased that he has had the conviction to talk about this most ignored topic. The accusations laid against him for being uneducated in these matters by the scientific community are entirely unfounded.
Dougal Crockett, UK

Sincere thanks to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales for a heartfelt and enlightening lecture.

We all owe it to future generations to care for this precious world we depend on, but most importantly it is up to governments around the world to do their bit before it is too late.
Ian Spence, GB

Much he says makes sense. His error is in thinking that 'genetic manipulation' is novel in seeking to change evolution. Plant breeders have been interfering with the products of natural evolution (or is it creation?)for 10,000 years - from the initial selection of bread wheat that cannot grow in the wild, but does at Highgrove, to the warped and wonderful flowers so beloved of his (and my!) herbaceous borders. I too want to reconnect more with nature, but do not see this as being exclusive of the use of GM. In fact, as a member of FoE and past member of The Green Party, I am involved in developing GM crops as I see this as a way for enabling the development of plants to suit the land, rather than forcing the land to suit the plants (as even organic farmers must do). I see GM as a mechanism to enable us to return more to nature, reducing inputs (and thus increasing sustainability) even more than by use of organic methods, without reducing outputs.
Dr Mark Tester, UK

I don't so much want to be involved with the debate, though that is vital, and may be a necessary preliminary. I would like to be involved with the necessary action. One is aware that action frequently precedes rational thought, but something has to be done to spark a worthwhile debate. That is what I would like to be part of. I am available, have much to learn, think HRH and Vandana Shiva have it more or less right. Can I help?
Barrie Briggs, England

Prince Charles lecture is riddled with philosophical confusions. His appeal to 'intuition' as opposed to 'reason', for example, is particularly unfortunate. 'Intuition' - as he seems to employ the term -refers to beliefs for which we have no justification. Everybody has intuitions in this sense since - to paraphrase Wittgenstein - justifications must come to a stop somewhere. However, it is fallacious to infer from this that our intuitions must have special authority or be immune from criticism. The intuition that nature must be considered the artefact of a Creator seems to be a particularly good example of an intuition that has come to be rejected as a consequence of the rational discourse which our hereditary ruler disdains: There is no good evidence for it. There are much better explanations for order in the universe. Above all, it provides no moral guidance. Even if there were a creator we could impute no moral superiority or wisdom to it by virtue of this status. Qua Creator God might well be a moral idiot or sadist. There is more observational evidence for the lattter contention than for the existence of a 'grain' of nature! - to employ Charles' terminally obscure phrase.
David Roden, UK

How can you summarise this debate without once mentioning population control? It is a complete waste of money and resources to air this debate without hitting the heart of the environmental issue by talking about how we are going to stop raping the Earth by encouraging more children? I had honestly thought that you were actually going to build up the courage to tackle to true issue behind conservation and the environment. As far as I have heard you have just been as cowardly as all previous debates and have purposely ignored the real thing that we need to tackle!
Steve Lee, UK

You sit in doors discussing the problems of the developing world yet not an ounce of soil passes your fingertips or spills off your hands. If you know what it is to be poor then you will know what it is to be rich
Marina, England

The more I listen to your debate the more I realise that your speakers have no interest in saving the planet... just saving the human race. All I have heard is the rights of the poor, the rights sick. What about the rights of the animals and plants that were here well before we were?

This is the selfish attitude we have to get rid off. None of this waffle about the 'language we are using'. Please wake up and realise that talk is not what is need but solid action to prevent the human race destroying something that is amazingly beautiful... life itself!
Steve Lee, UK There will be outcries from the academic scientific community about Prince Charles ideas. But even without a spiritual perspective it is clear that we may be on a path of arrogant bio-destruction motivated by materialism and control.

The key word in the trailer to Prince Charles lecture is 'understanding'. This should be science's goal. But we are as yet a million miles from understanding how the complex world system operates. Scientists tend to be specialised and focussed on bits rather than the whole. It is not even clear whether a sufficient understanding of the whole will ever be possible. This argues for values of humility and respect in the way we treat the world and its interacting systems.
Wolfgang Schnitzler, UK

I think Mr Prince Charles has put forward a rather simplistic argument today. If we have an ability to 'genetically modify' plants/animals this ability is, presumably, 'God given' and thus natural. Mr P Charles appears to want to pick and choose what is 'natural' for humans, how on earth can he know? Who is playing god now?
John Etteridge, UK

I write in connection with the last lecture/discussion. The problem with science, which is extremely valuable, is that it is not able to decide when it should and should not be applied. That is a moral, not a scientific decision. And by the way, I see nothing 'woolly-jumperish' about the moral decisions taken by, for example, Nelson Mandela, Oscar Romero or the women of Greenham Common. The only connection could be that, in two of these cases at least, such a garment may well have been badly needed against the cold.
Anthony Cosgrave, UK

Although I am worried about G.M.foods and their effect on the environment, I feel that much more research must be done to make the public feel that the technique is safe. What most people do not realise is that we are already eating a form of G.M. foods as many of the goods in the food chain are the result of selective growing techniques, i.e. cross pollination, grafting and weeding out of less healthy looking plant and animal species, G.M. is just a much faster way of providing this, and once it is found to be safe, will help reduce famine.
Eileen Henshaw, England

Thank you, Vandana Shiva, for finally getting to the essence of "sustainable development" and "respect for the Earth". The other lectures have been peripheral to the subject: for politics, business, health care or philosophy to have any role at all in human society, it is absolutely essential to safeguard the agricultural and natural ecosystems upon which we all depend for the food we eat and the water we drink. The single most important way to safeguard the sustainability of any ecosystem (agricultural or natural) is to maintain or enhance its diversity. How much poverty, starvation and environmental destruction do we need to witness before we accept that diversity (both human and biological) is fundamentally more important (for the survival of human life on Earth) than economic or political globalisation?
Alan Waugh, UK

The issue of education seems to have been largely ignored in these debates, and yet Agenda 21 in Rio in 1992 stated that "education is critical for promoting sustainable development". In the UK the new curriculum rationale does mention its importance and bring in a new emphasis on citizenship. Surely all educators in the broadest sense have a duty to instil in young people a reverence for the awe and wonder of nature, but also to teach them to think critically about issues such as consumerism and show them that they can play a part in making changes for the better of all?
_Clive Belgeonne, UK

All of the lecturers seem to agree that there is a problem, but none of them get to the nub of it. Basically there are two interrelated problems - economic growth and population growth. Neither of these can be sustained indefinitely. What economic growth really means is consumption growth, and the present economic systems depend upon it; we must grow more food, build on more land, chop down more trees, catch more fish, destroy more wildlife habitat etc. etc. year on year or else we have unemployment, stagnation, recession etc. etc. Population growth simply compounds the problem, because year on year there are more people each of whom has to consume more. In a world of finite resources, per capita consumption can only increase if population declines. Proposed solutions to population growth such as "eliminating poverty" must be viewed in this light. Eliminating poverty simply means poor people consuming more, and this can only occur if rich people consume less, unless overall consumption of world resources increases, which is what we should be trying to prevent. That is the enormity of the problem. Nothing less than a new theory of economics is required, which does not depend upon ever increasing consumption. "Globalisation" will only make things worse, ie lead to more consumption. There is no "sustaainable" development.
L. Andrews, UK

On Sustainable Development, my view is that much greater emphasis ought to be put on teaching the need for the personal reduction of wants, especially in rich consumer societies. Without it, the pressure for development will have no end.

A programme of 'Ceiling on Desires' ought to be taught in schools and integrated into businesses and many other organisations. This would teach the benefits of examining one's personal uses of 1) money 2) food 3) time and 4) energy, to help us become aware of, and better to manage, these resources.

Further information on such a programme is available.
Robert Priddy (retd. lecturer in social science & philosophy, University of Oslo),Norway

The concept of sustainable development is a suspect one. It goes against human nature. Even the most ardent advocates of the concept enjoy the comforts of modern living brought about by scientific discoveries and their applications. Even if the "underdeveloped" nations manage to curb their population growth, their energy demands are likely to rise and so too will the pollution they produce. These increases are likely to outweigh any reductions that the developed world succeeds in achieving. It must be recognised that human life on Earth will become unsustainable, for cosmic reasons if not for an earlier reason of our own making. The only SUSTAINABLE future for mankind lies in finding other inhabitable planets that can be colonised. How can that be achieved without recourse to further scientific discoveries and their applications?

As for spirituality and religions they are misconceived ego trips or just plain bunk. As to ethical principles only one is needed, namely, to treat others as you would have them treat you. Exercise of this ethic would, in itself, provide a brake on the increasing inequalities in the world which may doom us to global conflict that shortens the time available to develop the methods needed to colonise other planetary systems.
David Weaver, UK

What a wonderful Reith Lecture presentation by HRH The Prince of Wales. I find myself agreeing totally with all of his remarks especially that we are "a part" of nature (not "apart"). I was much moved by his words and logic.
Sonya Schuster, USA

Awsome.
Bob Berentz, USA

Nature naturally genetically modifies itself and always has done, its called evolution. The problem is evolution is too slow. With populations growing and climate changing at an unprecedented rate there is not the time for nature to evolve 'naturally', therefore, it has to be speeded up in order to sustain our development. The problem is to do it ethically and responsibly and without monitory value and profit being placed on the environment.
Rachel Dickenson, England

Perhaps in the midst of the hype about this year's Reith Roadshow someone could ask about the BBC's Environmental Policy. Why is it so shy about it and why doesn't it manifest itself in the general run of programmes.
Ernie Grice, UK

Anyone who has experience and knowledge of non-western and rural societies will find considerable resonance in so much of what Vandana Shiva is saying. I think Anthony Giddens meant it humorously but of course there is no contradiction in her using the international media to argue her case. Not to do so would be to surrender to the forces that are too often having the negative impact she portrays.
Julian Bertlin, UK

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