Yesterday Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, accused anyone who did not support Britain bombing Syria of being "terrorist sympathisers". He was of course aiming the shot at Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition's man of peace. Cameron also said “non-violent extremism is just as dangerous as terrorism and must be eradicated using all means at the government’s disposal".
So when we march again for social or climate justice we can expect to be treated as 'extremists'. These statements from a minister, let alone a prime minister, should be withdrawn immediately. Since when has peace become terrorism? This is no white feather; it is the erosion of democratic choice. No wonder Britain is embarking on a prison building campaign to lock us all up.
Caroline Lucas is calling for sanction on Saudi Arabia who supplies Islamic State with weapons. A year ago, she says, "there were 15,000 recruits last year from 18 countries. My point is that the bombing has lead precisely to the increase in recruits, to now being double that at 30,000."
Meanwhile, the fossil fuel lobby must be getting desperate in France with the majority of the world's leaders at COP21 now agreeing that curbing greenhouse gas emissions and preventing further deforestation of the planet is necessary to stabilise the climate. This is the year we have seen a temperature rise of 10C and predictions that global temperatures will rise well beyond the 'safe' level of 20C by 2030. Yet Shell have launched the most regressive, sexist advertisement I have ever seen that likens renewable energy to the changeable nature of women and natural gas to the reliable, steady nature of men. In other words, 'renewables only work when the sun comes out'.
"This flighty little thing is Renewable Energy, the star of this picture.
She’s gorgeous, sure. But she’s unreliable, and completely at the mercy of the sun.
She needs someone constant, someone measured. Someone who can compensate for her wild mood swings.
She needs a man.
And what a man.
Natural Gas wins his woman the way all real men do: by following her in the street."
I kid you not.
Apart from this being untrue because no one in their right mind would only rely on one source of renewable energy to power a town, let alone a nation, we don't have to. We have not only solar but wind, geothermal, hydro-electric, ram pumps, passive solar design... and even the capacity to actually conserve energy by better design, and educating consumers and industry.
Imagine a world powered by many localised renewable sources. There would be no Middle Eastern hegemony by the oil-rich Gulf States and their allies. People would become energy independent. Look at what is happening in Morocco with the solar revolution. There would be no need for Oil Wars.
Already in Africa, the solar revolution has brought the capacity for greater education. Young men and women can study in the darkness of the evenings with simple solar lights. We know that there is a relationship between education, greater social stability, and lower population levels as teenage marriage becomes less common.
Kerosene and cooking over open fires is one of the developing world's biggest killers. There is already a clean tech revolution going on all over the world as more and more people discover how to make simple rocket stoves and other energy efficient designs. As Ed Dowding from Represent pointed out to me, reducing deaths from lung disease cause by dirty lighting and cooking emissions leading to more stable families and adult wisdom that counter the upsurge of young violent male dominance in these societies.
Imagine how many simple solar lights could be bought for the price of one bomb. Imagine how many panels could power a hospital and refrigerate medicines and vaccines. Imagine how much suffering could be actively alleviated by peace.
The problems are not so complex that we simply have to resort to violence to counter them. They are interconnected. Economic reliance on fossil fuels causes politicians to wage war. Wars increase the number of Isis supporters. The same happened when the USA bombed Cambodia. That sustained, unwinnable war gave birth to the Khymer Rouge and all the horrors of the Pol Pot Regime.
We all know that burning oil and gas is not the future, yet companies like Shell are desperate to appeal to an internalised sexist audience1 to persuade otherwise.
It is time we refused to be ruled by a prime minster who calls rationale people 'terrorist extremists'.
It is time advertisements like Shell's were banned.
It is time we focussed on COP21.
Maddy Harland is the editor and co-founder of Permaculture magazine, Permanent Publications, The Sustainability Centre and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
For information on clean tech and solar in Africa see The Energy Revolution by Howard Johns.
1 sexism is defined as the involuntary belief by girls and women that the lies, stereotypes and myths about girls and women that are delivered to everyone in a sexist society ARE TRUE. Girls and women, boys and men hear the sexist messages (lies and stereotypes) about women over their entire lifetimes. They hear that women are stupid, weak, passive, manipulative, with no capacity for intellectual pursuits or leadership.
There are two logical, predictable consequences of a lifetime of such messages. First, boys / men will grow to believe many of the messages, and treat women accordingly. They will be thoroughly indoctrinated into their role in sexism, protecting their male privilege by colluding with the perpetuation of sexism.