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RIP Michael Meacher a sustainable development champion

It was with great sadness that I just learned of Michael Meacher's death on October 20th..

Over the years I have worked with a number of excellent UK Environment Ministers such as John Gummer, Chris Patton and Michael Meacher.  This included as a member of the Green Globe Task Group set upin 1996  by Labour in opposition to advise the Shadow Environment Minister (Meacher)  and the Shadow Foreign Secretary (Robin Cook) and then after the 1997 election continuing  advising them as sitting Ministers on issues of sustainable development. This advice was outside the civil service advice and something they were a little concerned about.

Michael gained a reputation for being a politician who was on top of a complex brief  who cared deeply about the issues  in the brief. He was one of the longest serving ministers in the same job in the Labour government, from 1997-2003. For Rio+5 he and most of the incoming Labor Ministers all turned up for that UN General Assembly Special Session showing the commitment of the new government to sustainable development. He was a true internationalist and attended and actively engaged in the UN Commission on Sustainable Development,  UNEP Governing Council and UNFCCC. Playing a critical role with the Deputy Prime Minister and  John Gummer the outgoing Conservative Minister on the Kyoto negotiations.

He played a critical role in helping the World Summit on Sustainable Development happen. WSSD was not guaranteed and the UK and Germany with South Africa, Pakistan, Guyana and Indonesia worked together in ensuring that WSSD happened.

But Michael not just a good Minister he has a very good person who cared deeply not only about the issues but the people who worked on the issues. He was also one of the hardest working constituency MPs ensuring that the people he represented in parliament had someone who worked for them as well when ever they needed him....instead we ended up with a plutonium-fuels fabrication plant that has proved a technical failure and economic disaster.

He was responsible for the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, this brought into law the public’s right to roam. Through out his time as a Minister he was a strong opponent of genetically modified crops often in conflict with other ministers. He also was a great supporter of renewable energy and opposed nuclear power...if only the Prime Minister had taken his advice.

To leave you with some of Michael's own words:

"We face a transformation of our world and its ecosystems at an exponential rate, and unprecedentedly brought about, not by natural forces, but by the activities of the dominant species. Climate change is only the most dramatic example. At a time when scientists say the world should be reducing its CO2 emissions by 60% to stabilise and then reverse global warming, they are projected to increase by around 75% on 1990 levels by 2020.

The dinosaurs dominated the earth for 160 million years. We are in danger of putting our future at risk after a mere quarter of a million years. The force of the Gaia thesis has never been more apparent. When an alien infection invades the body, the body develops a fever in order to concentrate all its energies to eliminate the alien organism. In most cases it succeeds, and the body recovers. But where it does not, the body dies.

The lesson is that if we continue with activities which destroy our environment and undermine the conditions for our own survival, we are the virus. Making the change needed to avoid that fate is perhaps the greatest challenge we have ever faced."

Michael you will be missed but not forgotten.


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