The Reverend Alison Judge, vicar of Christ Church, Colliers Wood, organised a vigil outside the Merton Civic Centre in Morden on Saturday 30th October between 6 and 10pm to draw attention to COP26 and the climate emergency. A small but noisy group of demonstrators gathered together, from various local groups and organisations including WDC/CND. They held banners supporting the need for change, drew chalk pictures on the pavement, made music and listened to some speeches and prayers.
The following Saturday, 6th November, there was a large Climate March in central London, bringing together groups from across the city and beyond. CND’s message was Climate Not Trident. After leafleting outside Centre Court, a group from WDC/CND headed up to join the march as it assembled outside the Bank of England. It was one of the many protests and actions that were part of the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice, demanding peaceful action to save the planet. As world leaders head home from Glasgow after a disappointing ending to the COP26 climate change conference, we must continue to highlight the links between militarism and climate change. Nuclear disarmament will help save the planet.
The civic ceremony at the Wimbledon War memorial on the Common returned to its usual format this year, and the service was conducted by the Reverend Mandy Hodgson, assisted by Canon John Clark. Alison Williams laid our wreath of red and white poppies; we are glad that Merton Council and the Wimbledon Branch of the British Legion can accommodate our mix of poppies to remember the past and commit to working for a future without war.
After the official ceremony Kiloran Cavendish placed an additional tribute beside our wreath to remember all the animals killed in war. Numbers for our own service were depleted by illness but the preamble to the United Nations Charter was read as usual. In addition, a poem written by Hedd Wynn on the battlefield in 1917 was read, reminding us of the terrible waste of life in all wars.
You may have noticed that white poppies have had a higher profile this year. They have appeared in more shops, schools and ceremonies around the UK, and, for the first time, BBC presenters were given permission to wear them. These are all promising signs that the the white poppy is becoming a more accepted part of the landscape at Remembrance time, and wreaths of white poppies are starting to appear at official ceremonies, as well as at alternative ceremonies. This in spite of attacks on social media and, yet again, vitriol from Conservative MP Johnny Mercer and broadcaster Piers Morgan. The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), attributes the rise in sales to the growing resistance to militarism, with more and more people wishing to remember victims of war by working for peace.
In the run-up to Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, the PPU made full use of social media to inform and explain the history and meaning of the white poppy, posting daily on Facebook. They also organised a National Alternative Remembrance Ceremony in Tavistock Square where they were joined by hundreds in person, and on-line. You can still watch the whole thing online: https://youtu.be/c_pzI_TX954. A recyclable & plastic-free white poppy design will be available in 2022: better for the environment, it will be easily recyclable, plastic free and produced locally in the UK.
As well as the white poppy campaign, the PPU campaigns the year round on issues relating to the spread of militarism etc. See http://www.ppu.org.uk for details. We will be sending £30 to the PPU from the sale of white poppies this year.
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Conference was held on two separate days online. Alison Williams has distilled the following basic message from what she describes as “masses of information and opinions about many things”: Make People Power Count.
In January CND reported the results of a survey conducted by Survation, a company proud of its commitment to transparency and integrity. In response to the question, “To what extent do you support or oppose a total ban on nuclear weapons globally?” 77% of the public were in support, 7% opposed and 13% offered no opinion either way. The polling was conducted in the weeks before the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Asked if they supported Britain signing the treaty, 59% were in favour, 19% opposed and 22% expressed no opinion. https://www.survation.com/majority-support-uk-signing-up-to-international-nuclear-ban-treaty/
From our mainstream media it would not be so clear that the British public strongly support nuclear disarmament as an objective and want our government to sign the Ban Treaty as a means to that end. But as well as boycotting the process which led to the treaty and refusing to sign the treaty itself, our government chose to violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) they cite as their reason for doing so.
The twice delayed 10th NPT Review Conference will be 4–28 January 2022 at UN Headquarters. From the recent COP26 everyone is aware of the compromises accepted in UN treaties to avoid making the perfect enemy of the good. The ‘bargain’ of the NPT was that states which did not yet have nuclear weapons would refrain from getting them while waiting for those which did to honour their pledge. The Ban Treaty (with 86 signatories and 56 states parties) is the outcome of frustration with the bad faith of the nuclear-armed states. In addition to failing to pursue nuclear disarmament, our present government chooses to increase its nuclear arsenal by 40% and to facilitate the possibility of its use.
We do not want our security based on superior military technology, nuclear or conventional. Rather than viewing other states as potential enemies and diverting vast resources out of fear, we want the resources invested in rebalancing the injustices of the world. That is now the existential choice.
There are two basic approaches to Global Security, are there not? One, driven by fear, leads to arsenals of military equipment and alliances against designated enemies; the other, from a sense of humanity, produces policies for our common home, planet Earth, making the best of things with the human family we’ve inherited.
Of course the real world presents a mixture of both approaches faced with the same threats: catastrophic climate change is at the top of most people’s minds these days, but the potential for nuclear holocaust is no less a danger though lived with for 76 years.
We face a new year with the government unapologetically committed to violating the Ban Treaty, and boycotting the one designed to implement it. They will presumably be represented at the NPT Review Conference in January to argue once again that the UK and its senior ally require their increased and updated nuclear arsenals, and that including Australia in their club with nuclear-powered submarines is acceptable too. How can it be otherwise?
We are getting used to ‘once in a hundred years’ natural disasters occurring with alarming frequency and intensity these days. A full-on nuclear war would be a one-off. Even the political and military elites know that, which is why they’re working on designs which could be used and — better still — are autonomous, not even risking the lives of their own fighting forces. In the 1960s, that approach to global security had an appropriate acronym: MAD — mutually assured destruction. Decades on, the acronym is no less fitting and there is talk now of a new Cold War.
In the same world, delegates of over 190 states plus many businesses, NGOs and Faith Groups gathered in Glasgow to negotiate the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement. It’s not surprising that the largest single delegation represented not a state but the fossil fuel industry. And it was said that the most vulnerable states inside the conference needed the pressure from campaigners on the outside to ensure their needs were taken seriously.
Interested members may wish to contribute ideas to the Alternative Security Review recently launched by the Re-Thinking Security coalition — https://rethinkingsecurity.org.uk/find-out-more/alternative-security-review/ .
As far as possible, the organisers tried to replicate the original route, and the March left Cardiff on 26th August, via Bristol, Bath, Devizes, and Hungerford, arriving in Greenham on 3rd September, when the Homecoming Celebrations started and continued until 5th September. During the March, Daily Digests were published giving a flavour of the day’s events. It was heartening to see how much coverage the March attracted on mainstream TV and radio, national, international and local press and social media. There is a comprehensive record of the March (photographs, videos, podcasts, songs) at https://greenham womeneverywhere.co.uk/anniversary-march. Very uplifting! Do check it out.
In an earlier edition, we wrote about the Loving Earth Project which was set up by a small group of Quakers, including Merton resident and WDC/CND member Linda Murgatroyd. It celebrates people, places, creatures, and other things that we love but which are threatened by growing environmental breakdown. Their aim was to take an exhibition of the small textile panels containing words and images, and to display it at the UN COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021 — and this they did. Over 400 panels were submitted, of which 200 were on display in and around Glasgow during the conference and afterwards. A gallery of the beautiful panels can be viewed on their website http://lovingearth-project.uk/test-gallery/
The project continues to develop in a number of ways, including travelling displays and workshops in different places and via the internet, and will continue with touring exhibitions and other events through 2023.
This year, the lecture was given by Asad Rehman, who is Executive Director of War on Want, and is at the forefront of the Climate Justice Movement both in the UK and round the world. You can watch the video of the lecture ‘Walls, Fences and Guns’: How militarised and racialised capitalism is destroying the world, at https://abolishwar.net/2021-remembrance-lecture. It’s well worth your time.
Organised by Greater Manchester & District CND, Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Beyond Nuclear, and Chernobyl Children’s Project UK, this webinar on October 7th considered the potential impacts of new nuclear projects on sensitive wildlife areas, as well as the wider impacts of nuclear sites in relation to climate change and coastal erosion.
It was encouraging to read about the government’s goal to be carbon-zero by 2035, but its stated means of achieving this are quite the opposite. Instead of doubling down on renewable technologies, which are getting better all the time, they are persisting with other technological fantasies such as nuclear, hydrogen and carbon capture, with nuclear power especially being promoted as ‘low-carbon’.
Speakers concentrated on the UK sites at Hinkley, Sizewell and Bradwell, but referenced evidence from the US of the enormous damage to marine wildlife already being caused by coastal nuclear power plants. New nuclear plants in the UK will cause irreparable loss to biodiversity and harm and destroy wild places and the creatures that live there. Given the extremes of weather that we are experiencing, and can expect to experience in the future, building nuclear power stations on an eroding coast is arguably the worst possible place in the UK.
The webinar can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTlPIzgSRTo
The Vigil was founded by WDC/CND, Merton UNA, Wimbledon and Wandsworth Quakers, later joined by Merton PSC, to show our opposition to the military response after the terrorist attack in New York in September 2001.
In all sorts of weather, we maintained a presence outside the Library in Wimbledon every Friday from 6–7pm from October 2001 until March last year, when the country went into lockdown. Although we can now move around more freely, we have decided to concentrate our activities for peace on the monthly Peace Table. However, a suggestion from one of the Steering Committee led us to thinking about a one-off vigil around the Christmas period, and we’ve agreed that this will take place on Friday 17th December — we hope to see you there.