The other day, I stood outside the strangely silent building where I began life as a journalist. It is no longer the human warren that was Consolidated Press in Sydney, though ghosts still drink at the King’s Head pub nearby. As a cadet reporter, I might have walked on to the set of Lewis Milestone’s The Front Page. Men in red braces did shout, “Hold the front page”, and tilt back their felt hats and talk rapidly with a roll-your-own attached indefinitely to their lower lip. You could feel the presses rumbling beneath and smell the ink.
It’s an anthem that is usually sung with chest-thumping pride and misty eyes by British imperialists. “Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves”. This jingoistic celebration of Britain’s former global conquest may yet degenerate into “Rue Britannia, Britannia rues the waves”.
This is because, as The Guardian newspaper reports this week, the London government has at long last been forced into recognizing compensation payments for as many as 50,000 Kenyan nationals who were victims of torture and other crimes against humanity during that country’s independence struggle in the 1950s. The eventual bill for compensation could run up to tens of millions of pounds.
Half a dozen mothers from small town and rural Sebastopol in Northern California quickly rallied hundreds of people to their side to challenge Sonoma County’s Paul Hobbs Winery. He wants to convert a 40-acre apple orchard into a vineyard that would use pesticides; it borders five schools on Watertrough Road, including Apple Blossom and Orchard View. Together they have around 700 children, as well as many teachers, staff, neighbors and wildlife.
Environmentalist/Climate Catastrophe activist Bill McKibben’s campaign and web site www.350.org has a very specific, vital mission:
“350 means climate safety. To preserve our planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 392 parts per million to below 350 ppm. But 350 is more than a number—it’s a symbol of where we need to head as a planet.”