Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Good news is no news

There's a question that troubles me, and I don't know whether you can offer an answer. Why is it, I ask myself, that we are all seduced by bad news?

I worked for a short while in the News Room at the BBC. Here it was all too evident that it was bad news that mattered, preferably bad news that had happened to someone notable. On one occasion, I remember, a correspondent informed us that a Bank Manager had been stabbed. This was definitely newsworthy, and the item was immediately selected for the next bulletin. Great was the disappointment when it transpired that it was the caretaker, not the Bank Manger, who had been attacked. The story was dropped.

Bad news, preferably celebrity-based and local, grabs an audience and sells newspapers . . . or so we are given to believe. But does this mean that good news, local and international, should be studiously avoided?
Sometimes, when bad news is in short supply, we're offered a smattering of good news from other English-speaking corners of the world. Occasionally we may even get a snippet of good news from Europe. But good news from Bolivia . . . ?

Let me illustrate this point. Tell me, have you heard about The Law of Mother Earth, the revolutionary new law that was passed by the Bolivian Government a few weeks ago?
Such was my ignorance and insularity, that - apart from knowing that Bolivia was in South America - I wasn't even certain just where in South America it was. This left me doubly ashamed when I heard of its Government's incredible achievement.

There was no mention of it in my paper, no reference to it on the radio or television. It was only by chance that I heard a friend speak about it.

However, it wasn't completely ignored. I've since found it featured by Sean Dagan Wood in 'Positive News' (a life-affirming periodical that bucks the trend), and by John Vidal, in 'The Guardian'.
Let me atone for my ignorance by quoting the opening of John Vidal's article:

Bolivia is set to pass the world's first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country's rich mineral deposits as "blessings" and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.
The country . . . will establish eleven new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered . . . "

As Bolivia's Vice-President, Alavro Garcia Linera, said proudly, his country was 'making world history'.

And so it was . . . it was aiming at something revolutionary . . . something wholly desirable . . . something that should have set the rest of the world celebrating . . . something that we should all be aiming to emulate.
But were we paying attention . . . ? Not on your life!

Do you see what I mean? Did you realise that world history was being made last month? I certainly didn't.
Whilst most of us were looking for bad news in other directions, Bolivia was openly expressing its reverence for the Earth. As a nation, it was recognising our total inter-dependence with all life on Earth . . . or, as they would say in Bolivia, the Pachamama.

The current environmental crisis had been their spur. Far from wringing their hands, turning the other way, or becoming distracted by worries as to whether their new policy was economically viable or politically expedient, the Bolivian Government had acted. They had acted not out of a wish to dominate other life-forms, not by man taking control, but by man relinquishing control. They had acknowledged our obligation to step out of the driver's seat (a vainglorious misconception in the first place!) and to grant equal rights to all life on the planet. In so doing they were recognising the Earth as a divine eco-system of which mankind was an integral part.

By what one might call divine coincidence, and as though to demonstrate this underlying unity of all life, an email arrived just as I was typing those words. It was from an environmental charity.
Would I contact my MEP, they asked. A vote would shortly take place on whether to toughen the EU's carbon emissions reduction target, this vote was vitally important in order to prevent catastrophic climate change.

So I've sent an email to my MEP along the lines they suggested.
Who knows, if enough of us write to our MEPs the EU might take a very small step towards emulating the great stride taken by Bolivia.

And, if we do, will the mass media take note . . . ?
Most likely not. But don't let's be discouraged. Instead, let's give the last word to Thomas Berry, an American Catholic monk:

"The Universe is not a collection of objects," he wrote, "it is a communion of subjects."

How's that for an item of good news?