Politicians, The Planet and Personal Gain - Jude Leese
A politician's duty has always been to serve the public. And there has never been a more serious basis on which to serve than the threat of impending climate doom faced by all citizens of planet Earth.
These are the kinds of words we're used to hearing from MPs, Cabinet Ministers and, in much more long-winded fashion, the Prime Minister himself, particularly in this year of COP 26. However, here I really mean them and in their truest sense: I believe that any useful politician should be focused primarily on the most important tasks at hand, the first of which being the climate crisis, with no distractions which could in any way affect this mission.
Sadly, for today’s governments, this appears not to be the case. Just recently in the UK we've witnessed a host of individuals forsaking this basic responsibility in order to… you guessed it: make themselves and their friends richer. The number of British MPs who have declared outside interests, (one-hundred-and-nineteen, nearly twenty percent) is astounding and in fact rather ridiculous for a group of people with such important day jobs. Take Conservative MP Mark Garnier for example. Garnier earns ninety-thousand pounds per year from consultancy roles in two space companies, and, according to a recent Sky News article, once "used a parliamentary question to urge the government to give the sector additional support and financing."
Of course this speaks to a very troubling situation in and of itself, but when coupled with today’s climate crisis it is thrust into a far more dire context than should be possible to accept in any decent world. Questions of obvious lobbying aside, space launches are of course known for their large carbon emissions - and this just one example of such a priority clash.
A similarly-themed BBC article which digs surprisingly deep into several MPs' second jobs, and also names Garnier, shows fellow Conservatives John Haynes and Daniel Kawczynski to be involved in BB Energy Trading and an unnamed New York mining company, respectively. It is said that Haynes earns fifty-thousand pounds a year from his role in a business which in part functions as an oil refinery. Also Kawczynski's employers specialise in gold-mining - another synthetic processes which can cause harm to our environment.
Seeing as huge personal gains are made through investments in such businesses, the politician involved is directly accelerating the environmental destruction that, during their day job, they are promising to combat. Therefore this veers from simple neglect of duty into a direct sabotage of the places and people for whom they carry out this duty.
In short, today’s governments appear not only intent on ruining the lives of today’s Earthly population, but tomorrow’s as well. In this act of personal greed, they are insulting their positions and our intelligence with their inaction. In such a crucial era for world politics it is definitely time for this to change.
To my mind, the idea of guarding personal investments at such existential cost is the very antithesis of what makes a good politician with even basic levels of integrity. It is in fact arguably the worst thing one can do as a servant of the public. Now we as the public have to see past the distractions of election boasting and false assurances and vote in all seriousness about the real crisis we are facing. And for Britain in particular: consider who could yet give us a way out of this mess and who has spent the last decade creating it.
Jude Leese is a current Orwell Youth Prize Fellow and was a senior 2021 Orwell Youth Prize winner for his poem 'Work Experience as a Young Campaigner'.
Image Credit: Jeremy Schultz \ Flickr bit.ly/31RLcNW