Molly Scott Cato MEP came hotfoot from a sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg to address the United Nations Association Gloucestershire County branch this evening. She addressed a packed Friends Meeting House on United Nations Day on the theme chosen for One World Week this year, "Living differently", and answered all the many questions her speech raised - and more besides.
It was an appropriate theme, she reflected, as "people in the South-West are already living differently" to those in other parts of the UK. More energy from wind power is generated in the South-West than in the whole of the rest of England put together, for instance. And the wish of so many to come here and to live more in harmony with nature was the likely reason she had been elected as an MEP in May this year, the first ever for the Green Party in this region.
While working in Brussels and Strasbourg for further harmony, Molly was deeply suspicious of the move towards "harmonisation" of regulation - and the fact this was being considered in secrecy. The proposed free trade agreement between the EU and the United States ("the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership") would, she thought, serve to emphasise the power of corporations over that of citizens: a combined effort was needed to prevent it coming into force, but it worried her, how few of the 751 MEPs truly "represented" the interests of those who had elected them.
Having been thrown in at the deep end in this Summer of conflicts (in Ukraine and elsewhere), she felt that, as a delegate to the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly, she could make a positive contribution from her academic background. "We need to learn from the South," she maintained, warning that our imposition of carbon limits upon the poorest countries was seen as "neo-colonialist: we need to start with ourselves, and ask how we can share technologies and change our lifestyles." After all, it’s only in recent years that our (UK) total historic carbon contribution has been outstripped by that of the USA.
She ended by quoting Nelson Mandela, "To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
Professor Malcolm Evans OBE, chair of the UNA Gloucestershire, chaired the meeting and proposed the vote of thanks. A stimulating evening.
I wrote this for the Gloucestershire Echo, but they published instead one submitted on behalf of Transition Town Cheltenham. Fair enough, though I would have preferred to see a report on the “normal” news pages to one pigeon-holed in the paper’s green corner.