OPINION

Climate debate warrants critical thinking not ‘progressive’ indoctrination

The history of local government and when councils became political (ie, comprised representatives of different political parties) is a discussion for another time.

However, in its simplest form, I understand the role of councils today to be “to provide and maintain public services”.

In that vein, then, I want to touch on Brighton and Hove’s drive for a carbon-neutral city by 2030.

On Thursday 13 December 2018, at a meeting of the full council, Brighton and Hove City Council declared its recognition of global climate and biodiversity emergencies.

In 2020 it released its three-year plan called “A fairer city, a sustainable future” identifying six outcomes to be achieved and alluding to the 2018 declaration with a particular reference to the city’s transport network as being crucial to attaining carbon-neutral status.

On Friday 4 June this year, the council launched its programme to become carbon-neutral by 2030 by cutting our emissions of carbon into the atmosphere via our buildings, transport and industry, and by taking out carbon in the atmosphere by planting more trees.

The more cynical have suggested that we all just hold our breath and stop exhaling quite as much.

Ever controversially, there is still a well-attended school of thought that global warming is a reality but that it is cyclical, is not carbon-related and is not, therefore, anthropogenic.

This makes the “think global, act local” slogan that the council and political parties alike love to use somewhat redundant.

That whole argument aside, I wish to make a couple of points as the fanfare that accompanied the carbon-neutral launch dies down and the majority of Brighton and Hove citizens carry on totally unaware of this momentous leap of faith – or coercion.

Firstly, a mainstay of the council’s carbon reduction endeavours is the adoption of a “circular economy” approach which essentially is keeping materials in use for as long as possible by reusing, recycling, remanufacturing and sharing resources.

This is a great idea, of course, but far from being innovative it looks rather familiar to me.

Back in the day, before globalism took hold and we began to import cheap closed-system irreparable throw-away goods from the Far East, we used to mend things so that they were literally as good as new. Our default approach to anything unwanted was to recycle or redistribute.

The milkman delivered and then took back the glass bottles. We’d cover our school work books with unused wallpaper or recycled (and ironed) brown paper bags. Every kind of clothing would be handed down within the family and sometimes beyond. “Waste” didn’t mean rubbish back in the day. It meant squander.

So while I applaud the principles of the circular economy, I have to object to the implication that this is some kind of modern innovation thought up by progressive thinking intellectuals. P-lease!

Secondly, on Monday 14 June, the Children, Young People and Skills Committee considered the council’s “Environmental Education Strategy” in which £96,000 of public money has been invested to action the strategy during 2021-22.

The report before the committee last week raised a number of serious concerns in my mind, though none of them are remotely surprising given the prevailing “progressive” culture that has been nurtured in this city over many years.

For example, section 3.17 references PSHE (personal, social and health education). It says: “In building on the good practice already in place within the city’s education settings, the links to PHSE [sic] are crucial.

“While environmental education is obviously wider than PSHE, this is the area of the curriculum where learning will take place in regard to active citizenship, thinking about rights and responsibilities and the relationship between mental wellbeing and our environment.”

I am concerned that the climate change issue, which is seriously disputed by scientists and other professionals, is considered by educators to be so fundamental to children’s education that it seems to pervade all areas of learning. See, for example, how it intends to influence PSHE – an already controversial subject for many parents.

Section 3.19 is perhaps even more concerning: “There are two distinct but linked areas of major focus at this time, the climate and an anti-racist strategy. Both require educators to engage in difficult conversations with pupils and students.

“The relationship between climate and racial ‘justice’ is a focus being explored internationally in the way that people of colour have increased vulnerability to climate change impacts and by extension other global crises that may emerge.

“While this requires further exploration in relation to an environmental education strategy, these two significant areas intertwine and will feature in future work.”

To couple climate change with the council’s anti-racism agenda that has itself already become systemic (the agenda I mean, not racism) is mind-boggling.

Slave trader Edward Colston’s statue was toppled last year and is now in Bristol Museum

For me, this is a prime example of how the council continues to overstep its responsibilities and supplant the inalienable rights and responsibilities of parents.

Instead of letting parents be parents and facilitating them where needed, the council is engaging in “mission creep” to undermine the parental role altogether – not, essentially, on wholesome or scientific grounds but on moral grounds.

But the latter is the domain of parents within the family setting. Children first learn to respect their own bodies and the environment around them at home where they are instructed, by example, in the most important place.

It was interesting to me to discover some time ago that, according to the top corporations in the UK that employ postgraduates, the two main stumbling blocks to student development and preparation for the marketplace that they identified were: very poor communication skills and an inability to engage in critical thinking.

These pupil deficits provide fertile ground for “teaching” anything at all on the curriculum that can be repeated parrot-fashion, with little sense of a genuine personal conviction that can be explained when challenged.

Is this what parents honestly have in mind when they entrust their inheritance to local authorities and professional educators who presume to know what’s best for their children? Children being told how they must think – rather than how to think – because that will inform how they behave? Does this not ring alarm bells for parents?

Christina Summers is an opinion writer specialising in governmental issues.

  1. Nathan Adler Reply

    A really well written article – plenty to ponder.

    • Christina Summers Reply

      Thanks Nathan. Ponder away… and feel free to comment/questions/challenge. Happy to hear your thoughts.

    • Christina Summers Reply

      Thank you, Nathan. Ponder away and feel free to comment/question/challenge.

  2. Jase Reply

    Totally share your concern about teaching students what to think rather than how to think. The de-platforming of anyone who counters the narrative in all sorts of areas, at all levels of education, is an insidious move which only serves to curtail freedoms and ensure conformity. A diverse community needs diverse opinions. Similarly there is no such thing as “the science” – merely scientific opinion which is enhanced by having to prove its theorems when challenged. Every Epoch has it’s received opinion, and history consistently demonstrates how those who challenge these are shouted down (or worse) by the established view, only to resurface a generation or two later once those who cling to the idiom have passed on, and a new scientific opinion has emerged.

    • Christina Summers Reply

      Wow, that was a spot-on analysis of the difference between fact and opinion and how the two get so dangerously confused. Thanks Jason.

  3. Eddie Myer Reply

    “Ever controversially, there is still a well-attended school of thought that global warming is a reality but that it is cyclical, is not carbon-related and is not, therefore, anthropogenic.”

    This is a complete fiction. There is no such “well-attended school of thought”. Scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change is recognised by the United Nations and forms the basis of multi-national binding agreements including the 1995 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris Agreement, which has been ratified by 186 nations. Anthropogenic climate change has not been “seriously disputed by scientists and other professionals” for many years now, and nations across the world are taking steps to curb the use of fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions as a policy priority. If Christina Summers genuinely believes that climate change is not man-made then she is part of a tiny minority of fringe dissidents and cannot expect Brighton Council to support her opinion, in contradiction to scientific consensus, UK government policy, and the collective agreement of the world’s leaders.

    • Christina Summers Reply

      If you were to read my article again you’ll note that the point you’ve majored on is not the main thrust of my argument. I simply pointed out that there are still many who do not align with the United Nations’ position on climate change/global warming… call it what you will. BUT the reason for this article is to draw attention to the way that this belief in anthropogenic global warming pervades nearly every area of our children’s education and how it is made to intertwine with other “du jour” issues such as racial justice.

      I get that you deem the UN an authentic, reliable and trustworthy body but I’m not confident that so many people take your position and would be curious to know what evidence you have that I am part of only “a tiny minority of fringe dissidents” (as you so quaintly put) who would disagree with you and question your apparent knowledge about scientific consensus. I have never just assumed that truth lies where the majority sits, so I don’t put great store either in opinion polls or in proclamations by big organisations such as the UN or the EU. It’s hard work finding out the truth and sometimes it means changing ones mind.

      The last thing I would say, Eddie, is that I am well aware of Brighton & Hove City Council’s position on this, and many other, issues – and I’m talking here more about the officers who have been in situ for many years than the elected councillors – so obviously they wouldn’t support my opinion here… which is exactly why I wrote this piece!

  4. Geoff Reply

    Honestly this opinion piece lurches so wildly from one dubious stance to the next that it’s hard to know where to start a rebuttal! But I did enjoy the strawman argument that apparently some people think that milkmen are an innovative idea. P-lease indeed! The non-sequitur Edward Colston statue made me laugh too.

    By nature almost everything the council do is political. To NOT attempt to make the city more clean and sustainable would be a political act too. Choosing NOT to provide educational resources *required by the curriculum* would also be very political.

    The question is how do we explain this to people who think that climate change is still an open question and who believe that anti-racism is systemic, but not racism?

    • Christina Summers Reply

      Geoff, with the greatest of respect, I have no idea what your first paragraph is about. I can’t even bring myself to point out why because its meaning or purpose is so obscure. However, I am prepared to entertain the idea that you are operating on a higher plain of understanding than me even to the point of referencing something (Edward Colston) that was never there.

      I would just say that like Eddie Myer, in general, you have missed the point of my article and simply reacted to a position that is contrary to yours re climate change/carbon footprints.

  5. Geoff Reply

    “…even to the point of referencing something (Edward Colston) that was never there.” Am I being gaslit? There is literally a photograph of the toppled Edward Colston statue in the middle of the article.

    Sorry if the rest of the reply confused you, I was in somewhat of a daze when I wrote it. Reading the article was a bit like having a stroke.

    The milkman bit was poorly phrased I admit: I was simply observing how your issue with ‘circular economy’ proponents is how they believe it to be some kind of ‘modern innovation’. If anyone does actually believe that… then so what? It’s still as good of an idea, now as it was before. I suppose you just wanted to roll your eyes at some insufferable progressive intellectual you just dreamt up.

  6. Christina Summers Reply

    No not being gaslit, I just never noticed the pictures that B&H News put in supposing them to be adverts! I agree with you that the Colston one is a non-sequitur. So there you go – we agree on something.

    The rest of your comments though don’t really incentivise a response. Insult and sarcasm aren’t my cup of tea.

  7. Andy Richards Reply

    A more fact- and evidence-free load of tosh I’ve not read in a long time. “Opinion writer” must be the easiest job in the world…….

    • Christina Summers Reply

      Well, thank you Andy but I would have to conclude, then, that you can’t have read that much.

      Question: why is it nowadays that so many who disagree with a certain position on the hot issues can’t simply have a discussion but always have to resort to dismissive and rather insulting responses like yours?

      So disappointing if not predictable.

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