Boycott the Dirty Three

Updated: May 16

When I was at high school, way back in 1977, I skipped gym class one day and put up a poster on the Senior School notice board. It was a photo montage of South African peaches, oranges, grapefruit; all sorts of Outspan products, with the headline, “Boycott Apartheid”. I got caught in the process by a real hard-case guy from the year above, the kind of guy who would beat you up just for the exercise. “What you doing, Stevie?” I explained it was a Boycott Apartheid poster, and what it represented. “Is that like ‘Rock against Racism’?” he asked. “Yeah”. Suddenly I had a new best pal and there were two of us boycotting apartheid.

I used the same approach when my kids were little. We had adopted a vegetarian diet and one of the children’s treats was meat free hotdogs from Tesco. It almost broke my heart when I noticed on the back of the packet the small statement, “Made in Israel for Tesco”. We were boycotting Israeli produce in protest of their oppression of the Palestinian people whose land they had taken. While I can’t claim responsibility for Tesco’s decision to change their supplier, we kept up our boycott until they provided non-Israeli hot dogs. As U2 famously sang, “A prize fighter in his corner is told / ‘Hit where it hurts’ / Silver and Gold”.

Which brings me up to the moment. I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about climate change; the Climate Crisis, if you like. I’ve never really seen myself as a Climate Activist, I still don’t for that matter, but Graham has been prodding me with some thoughts and facts which slowly got me thinking. I, like a lot of my neighbours, separate my waste into recyclable products, green waste, food waste and a minimal amount of non-recyclable rubbish that goes to landfill. We “do our bit”. But here’s the thing. Even though we could a lot more; even if we all adopted electric vehicles, ceased farming cattle and did whatever else it would take to bring our CO2 emissions to nil, we would reduce the world CO2 output by 1%. Yeah; that’s it. The UK, far from being perfect, only produces 1% of Global CO2 per annum. We’re not unusual in that; in fact, of all the countries in the world, over half of all the CO2 emissions are produced by only three countries. So, here they are: China (30.4%), the United States (13.4%) and India (6.9%); that’s 50.7% of all Global CO2 emissions stem from three countries. So, basically, the rest of us can do what we like, but if China, the U.S. and India don’t sort their act out, the rest of us are toast!

You can probably see where I’m going with this. Rampant CO2 emissions aren’t just bad for the environment; they’re bad for people. The majority of CO2 emissions are produced by dirty industry; coal mining, steel making, chemical plants, all the industries that not only exploit our natural resources but exploit our human resources as well. The industries that make a profit out of people’s cancers, lung disease, dermatitis, industrial accidents and social depravation are the same industries that make a profit out of destroying the habitat balance, polluting the atmosphere and exploiting natural resources. Of course, they make a lot of money for their shareholders and can influence policy makers at every level. So, what can the little person like me do?

Well, as of Monday, I am boycotting all products manufactured in China, the United States and India. “Hit where it hurts / Silver and Gold”. It’s a small gesture, but it’s my way of saying to the Dirty Three, “You’re the dirty neighbour. You’re the one who throws your garbage out into the street and then complains that the neighbourhood is going downhill”. Governments aren’t really going to change things, but if we, individually, make a conscious decision not to buy products made in these countries, their profits start to drop and there is nothing more responsive than a corporate head losing money. In the same way that Bishop Desmond Tutu, over forty years ago, called for economic sanctions against South Africa, small scale guerrilla sanctions against the Dirty Three may well show these countries that the rest of the world is holding them responsible. As Little Steven might have said (and may well yet), “It's time for some justice it's time for the truth / We've realized there's only one thing we can do / We ain’t gonna play New York City. / Meanwhile people are dying and giving up hope / This quiet diplomacy ain't nothing but a joke / We ain’t gonna play Mumbai City. / Look around the world baby it can't be denied / Why are we always on the wrong side / We ain’t gonna play Shanghai City”. I know that’s light hearted and very simplistic, but there it is. You don’t have to glue yourself to the pavement, just don’t buy staff that’s made in China, America or India.

And if you’re wondering what all of this has to do with ‘Solution Focused Living’; imagine you woke up tomorrow and a miracle had happened … what would you be doing differently?

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