Summit to say for yourself 28 Jun 2012
Both New Zealand and Britain are represented at this week’s Summit in Rio de Janeiro. And there’s one or two others as well. One hundred and thirty nations, to be exact. If you didn’t know any better, you’d have to say it must be a pretty big thing to get so many leaders from all round the world together. And it is: the fate of the world.
The United Nations’ three-day sustainable development summit has done well just to get everyone round the one giant table. All human beings in our times have heard of global warming, its risk to human life, and the need to alter the way businesses and individuals live their lives.
But how do you identify the exact problems and how do you agree on the best solutions? Even in domestic politics (as we know) it is hard to get politicians to see eye to eye. And, of course, on an international stage, no one wants to stand out and make themselves (and their nation) look stupid or extreme. Who will guide them? Who will make them take it seriously? Who will inspire them?
Brittany Trilford opens Summit
For us in New Zealand, the big news on TV last night was a New Zealand schoolgirl, 17-year-old Brittany Trilford, giving the opening address to the full summit in Rio. Sort of setting the scene. Brittany [how’s that for a Kiwi-UK name?] goes to Queen Margaret College here in Wellington. It’s a private school [I think in the UK it’d be called a “public school”] of about 600 girls. The school comes from a fine Scottish, Presbyterian tradition.
It was fantastic to hear the voice of such a young person at an international forum. I loved the energy and simple, personal conviction she put into her statement. She talked of her worries for the future of the planet. Her most striking lines were addressed to the delegates themselves. She exhorted them not focus their efforts on “saving face” in front of other representatives, but to focus on “saving the planet”.
David Lange at the Oxford Union
The last time anyone from little ol’ Enzed gave the world a tongue-lashing like this was when Prime Minister David Lange, back in 1985, took part in the Oxford Union debate. He argued the proposition that “nuclear weapons are morally indefensible”. It wasn’t just English students watching, it was a large TV viewership all round the world. It was reported that the debate was watched live in the Oval Office of the White House. One of Lange’s funniest off-the-cuff comments occurred when a student addressed a strong pro-nuclear question at him. Lange quipped: “I can smell the uranium on your breath.”
And not totally unrelated to global warming and things Scottish (and Irish), I visited Antrim House in Boulcott St, Wellington a few days ago. The house gets its name from County Antrim in Ireland, where the original owner, Robert Hannah, hailed from. For me, the name has a very egocentric value: it’s an anagram of my own name. [Small things amuse small minds.]
It’s a glorious old mansion made out of Kauri timber just a couple of minutes walk up from downtown. Most people are unaware of its existence because it’s set back from the road, at the top of a steep, winding driveway. Though wedged between concrete and glass buildings on either side, you can still stand on its vast verandah and be lord of all you survey.
Tiles round the fireplace
While in it, I was marvelling at the beautiful fireplace in the main room. All around the edges are superb tiles bearing illustrations from the works of Sir Walter Scott. At the top of each tile is the title of the book, and under each illustration are the names of the characters depicted. Each one of these tiles is a humble masterpiece.
Sir Walter Scott
Scott was a Scot. Born in Edinburgh in 1771 he went on to become a giant of literature, a true superstar of writing for the whole world. To our modern eye, some of his storylines probably seem a bit ‘soap operish’.
Lucia di Lammermoor
In this regard, it’s worth noting that the Italian composer Donizetti based one of his operas, “Lucia di Lammermoor”, on Scott’s novel “The Bride of Lammermoor”. The beautiful young Lucy Ashton falls in love with her family enemy Edgar, Master of Ravenswood. It’s full of lust, evil manipulation, and sharp and horrifying developments during church services. [You’ll have to read it or, at the very least, see the opera.]
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