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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 December, 2004, 17:12 GMT
A wish for 2005

We asked four prominent thinkers what one thing they would change about the world in 2005 if they could. Do you agree with their suggestions? What would you change?

Kenyan ecologist Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize
Wangari Maathai
Nobel Prize winner

Israeli writer Etgar Keret
Etgar Keret
Israeli writer
UK philosopher AC Grayling (Courtesy of AC Grayling)
AC Grayling
UK philosopher

FactCheck.org director Brooks Jackson (Photo courtesy of FactCheck.org)
Brooks Jackson
US journalist

Click on the links above to read their suggestions, and use the postform on the right to tell us what you think.

Wangari Maathai

Kenyan ecologist Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize
The Kenyan ecologist won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign to save Africa's trees and for promoting social, economic and cultural reforms that are ecologically viable.

I would move the huge iceberg that is blocking sea routes at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica.

It's 3,000 sq-km (1,200 sq-mile) - the largest floating object in the world - and it's preventing penguins from getting to their feeding grounds and blocking access to scientific stations in Antarctica.

We have to stop climate change - snow is melting in Africa on Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro.

Etgar Keret

Israeli writer Etgar Keret
Etgar Keret is one of Israel's leading young writers. He teaches at Tel Aviv University Film School.

It's funny, but every idea I've had sounded like a bad cliché: world peace, social justice, loving one another. The world must be in very bad shape if all the things you yearn for sound so embarrassing and uncool when you say them out loud.

Well, call me a Ms Universe wanna-be, but I'd ask for less fear in the world in 2005, because in the end it is fear that breeds racism, war and violence in general.

Just the other day a taxi driver told me that when you live in the Middle East you have only two options - to be a victim or to be a victimiser. I wish for a world in which no one will feel he is limited to these two choices.

AC Grayling

UK philosopher AC Grayling (Courtesy of AC Grayling)
Philosopher, writer and broadcaster AC Grayling teaches at Birkbeck College, University of London, and is a Supernumary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford.

I would like conservatives and fundamentalists in all religions to accept the principles of pluralism and secularism - by the latter meaning a situation in which religious observance is a private affair wholly separated from the public and political domains.

If this were to happen, a great amount of conflict would vanish from the world.

Current tendencies are the reverse of a move to pluralism and secularism everywhere - from the United States to the Middle East religious conservatives and fundamentalists are striving to impose their own particular visions on everyone else, sometimes by violent means, always by means of censorship of ideas and free speech, thus threatening to reverse the progress in liberty and enlightenment which has been central to the history of the modern western world.

Brooks Jackson

FactCheck.org director Brooks Jackson (Photo courtesy of FactCheck.org)
Award-winning Washington journalist Brooks Jackson is director of FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan advocacy group that monitored the truth - or otherwise - of claims George W Bush and John Kerry made during this year's election campaign.

I suggest (modestly) a punitive tax on false statements contained in TV ads, circulated by e-mail, or posted on internet sites.

The tax should be tripled if the responsible individual happens to be running for public office. This might reduce the level of mendacity in election campaigns.

The following is a selection of comments received so far:

A freeze on all arms sales by the G8 countries for 12 months. The loss of income to the likes of British Aerospace would be a small price to pay for the potential benefits of a world not able to spend on armaments. An empty wish maybe but one worth hoping for.
Ketish Pothalingam, London, UK

I agree with Brooks Jackson, corruption, false advertising, false promises are all collectively eroding a significant percentage of social progress, not to mention world GDP.
Tanmay Kudyadi, MumbaiIndia,

Out Christ back into everything! The problem in all countries is: They are shutting him out! Prayer is the answer!!!!!
Joanne White, Yellville, Arkansas, USA

I would wish to create a Peace University that has students from all walks, leaders to offenders, and teach them why and how peace and love are better than war and hatred for humanity.
Shashank Kansal, London, UK

As long as pluralism and secularism are enforced with bombs and guns, they will understandably continue to be rejected by fundamentalists.
Agustin Pico Estrada,
Wangari Maathai's wish is surprising coming as it does from an ecology activist. Ecology is not about changing nature, but about understanding it and respecting it. As for Mr Grayling's wish, it could be said that as long as pluralism and secularism are enforced with bombs and guns, they will understandably continue to be rejected by fundamentalists. Invasion and genocide are poor tools for demonstrating the would be superiority of Western culture.
Agustin Pico Estrada, Monte, Argentina

Peace in the Middle East please and let's do something to stop nature engulfing us as humanity. Let the horrific South Asian sea surge following the earthquake remind all concerned about the urgency of relocating funds on research around prevention and accurate forecasting of natural disaster. Who knows, tomorrow may be too late. If we can clone a dead cat at a cost of $350,000, we certainly can do lot more to control the vagaries of nature.
Samir Saha, Stockholm, Sweden

I agree with AC Grayling, however it would never work. Only a complete ban ALL religions would end most of the suffering in the world.
Chris, Aberdeen, Scotland

I would like people to finally realise that religion is essentially worthless when it comes to the running of the world. It is important to some spiritually, and I am not debating that. I however think that people should embrace the differences, and not use them for excuses for conflict. It should be part of someone's life if they want it to be, it should not be forced on them as we see in so many places.
Robb Dunphy, Dublin, Ireland

Why change [anything]? With its sorrows and anguishes, we realize true value of life and happiness. As it stands, with its ups and downs, the world is beautiful.
Avinash Joshi, Pune, India

I would give citizens of industrialized nations generous tax credits to live simply and selflessly. Such as for adopting children from broken homes and third world countries, consuming less, and participating in green activities such as recycling and carpooling.
Michael Wilkinson, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

I would ban cell phones in public transit!
Pradeep Navaratnam,
I would like to see The Golden Rule, "Treat others the way you would want to be treated", made an international law with violators being prosecuted.
Lisa, Titusville, Florida, USA

I hope that my country, the USA, returns to the principles that once made it a great nation. These principles do NOT include waging unprovoked wars, torturing and murdering those in its prisons, trying to control the personal lives of its citizens, and censoring all who speak against these activities.
Linda Korsgaard, Boulder, Colorado, US

I would ban cell phones in public transit!
Pradeep Navaratnam, Ontario, Canada

The one thing I would change? Without a doubt, it would be education. It is the silver bullet for most of the world's problems, including unemployment, poverty, cultural ignorance and lack of social progress. Furthermore, a formal education is an empowering tool for many citizens hailing from developing countries. It is the one discipline in which all of us can compete equally, even without high-tech resources. Pluralism and secularism are values to be cherished, but they can only be appreciated with a sound set of values that can only be based on a good education. The lives of hundreds of millions of people would become much easier, if education was made a prime objective - it's the most effective tool in the war against terror.
Prashant, Germany

I'd overturn Roe v Wade [the US Supreme Court decision allowing abortion]. That law legalizes genocide.
Lisa Cox, Fort Worth, USA

I cannot believe that someone would wish for Roe v Wade to be overturned. Such attitudes make me feel total despair, and I can only wish that positive progress continues, and that this tendency to slide dangerously back into a past where basic human rights are not protected is STOPPED. Before it is too late for all of us.
LM Kent, London, UK

I would pass a world wide law that would make it illegal to use fossil fuel within 15 years. Countries would have enough time to make adjustment and it would initiate massive innovation. The true beneficiary would be everyone and everything.
Ian Parker, Inuyama, Japan

The one thing I would do is to stop trying to change the world and focus on my own self. In order to achieve peace and stability, acceptance of "what is" is essential.
Lalit Mohan, India

I would change the concept of Christmas. Instead of a totally frenzy of buying things, I would suggest that every person donate that same amount of money to organizations that deals with poverty and disaster all over the world. Or in a smaller scale, donate to the many locals food banks and shelters for the people in need. We can send a Christmas card to our relatives informing them that the donation is done in their names as gestures of giving consistent with the spirit of the holidays.
Vania Doige, Nanaimo, B.C. Canada

A wish for 2005: Use a large part of the year 2005 military budget of the US to improve the access to food, health and education of the two or three billion people in the world who live in extreme poverty. Use that money to construct hospitals, schools and food-growing infrastructure.
Gabriel Salas, Newcastle, Australia

I wish that everyone will have the courage to live the life that they want to live. Not to be driven or influenced by other people, and not to be afraid of changes. Don't live life blindly so that life is more fullfilling!
Francis Lee, London, UK

I disagree with Wangari Maathai, about the iceberg. It's far too big to move. Her idea looks like a tactic to divert attention away from the complete failure of anti-deforestation activisism in Africa to even as much as slow down its continental scale clear-felling.
Edwin Rogers, Auckland, NZ

We will be in trouble for as long as a nurse or teacher is a low paid career and playing professional football is the epitome of success
Rudy Nausch, London
I agree with Etgar Keret - fear is the biggest obstacle to peace and to the kind of progress that can make positive change in the world. Also, I think that, here in the US in particular, I would have us spend less time eating and more time thinking.
Grace Ackerman, Arlington, USA

More books, less TV. More face-to-face correspondence, less email. More understanding, less moaning. More harmony and support, less corruption, anger and hatred. Simple, yet apparently so difficult to achieve.
Chris, Cologne, Germany

I would fix strong financial incentives to encourage educated and professional people to remain within, or return to, the countries (or regions) of their birth. While I agree with Prashant from Germany that education is key, education is futile if it continues to be seen as the best means of escape to the industrialised world. Few choose to remain in their homelands to better the lives of their people. The result is that the developed world keeps developing and the progress of the developing world is hindered. Lack of progress results in the perpetuation of poverty. For those living in poverty, the daily challenge is one of survival, not education, and so any educational incentives will be ineffective. The issues of poverty and migration must be addressed before education can become an effective tool - and poverty CAN be addressed in the long term by the continued economic development that will surely result from the return of the educated masses to their shores.
Sonja S. Teelucksingh, Trinidad and Tobago

I have a few new year wishes. One, an upper limit to wealth accrument, say $50 million a year - with everything that the super rich earn after that becoming taxable at 100%. Two, all officials and politicians signing a waiver to standard legal punishment limits and agreeing to a maximum and double the legal punishment for any crime, especially white collar and fraud related. If you want responsibillity then you should be more liable then the average person. Three, an influx of skills and education to Africa and the third world. Money will not do it only people relating and teaching people will help the third world into a better society. Society is more geared towards profits then with development, and we will be in trouble for as long as a nurse or teacher is a low paid career and playing professional football is the epitome of success.
Rudy Nausch, London

I would change the amont of bullying that happens in schools. I am in secondary school and am often called names bcause of the way I look, that I don't fit in with the other girls. I think that schools should do more to teach kids to respect each other and school would not be so bad fot children who dread Monday morning.
Katie, Hampshire, England

Remove porn from the internet, and stop the trade of women and children for sex.
George, Aberdeen, North Carolina, USA

I would legalise abortion on demand and provide free condoms everywhere in the world
Richard, Honduras

To Dr Grayling: What is free speech without the opportunity to express religious beliefs? Free speech and secularism are mutually exclusive, as one removes barriers while the other imposes them. My wish for the new year is that theorists who espouse Dr Grayling's belief allow others to use their right to free speech as they sit fit, even if it means doing nothing other than quoting the Quran or the Bible. Could one not call Dr Grayling's wish the spoutings of a secular fundamentalist?
Jonathan, Youngstown, Ohio, USA (ex Toronto)

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