Change, hope and slippery politicians

On June 5, I joined a suburban World Environment Day campaigning stall organised by Resistance, a socialist youth group in Australia.

They were conducting a People's Referendum on climate change, building their national conference (Sydney June 27-29) and distributing Green Left Weekly's "liveable cities" issue.

As people queued to post their votes (overwhelmingly for real action on climate change) our discussions touched on change and hope.

"There's so much terrible news. But can we do something? Is there any hope?" This resonated as we pondered the gross inaction by our politicians with critical tipping points on catastrophic climate change less than a decade away.

A yearning for "change" and "hope for the future" is a strong sentiment today.

In the US, Barack Obama's crowd-winning sales pitch for
the Democrat presidential candidacy plays on these potent words while promising little in the way of real change.

It will take an independent movement of people's power to bring real change to the nation that consumes most of the planet's resources.

But are there examples of hope for the future out there?

The answer is yes, and some of that comes from an unlikely place: a small, poor Third World island state but a few kilometres from the US — Cuba.

Cuba made headlines on June 4 with its rejection of the Rome summit's response to the food crisis, which was, predictably, a call to leave it to the market.

Like the boy who pointed out that the emperor had no clothes, Cuba pointed to some glaring truths:

•If NATO's military budget were reduced by a mere 10% a year, nearly US$100 billion would be freed up.

•If the foreign debt of developing countries, a debt they have paid several times over, was cancelled, the countries of the South would have at their disposal the $345 billion now used for annual debt service payments.

•If the developed countries honoured their commitment to devote 0.7% of the gross domestic product to official development aid, the countries of the South would have at least an additional $130 billion a year.

•If only one quarter of the money squandered each year on commercial advertising were devoted to food production, nearly $250 billion dollars could be dedicated to fighting hunger and malnutrition.

•If the money devoted to agricultural subsidies in the North were directed to agricultural development in the South, the latter would have around a billion dollars a day to invest in food production.

There's a new film out about Cuba, produced by Tim Anderson called The Doctors of Tomorrow. It is a documentary on the Cuban medical aid and cooperation with Timor Leste (See ad on page 16).

Anderson interviewed some of the 850 East Timorese students studying medicine with the Cubans. From 2010 onwards, these young people will begin to take control of their country's health system.

That's a big instalment of hope for the future for one of the world's newly independent nations. But when you contrast this to the miserly number of scholarships East Timor's wealthy neighbour, Australia, offers, you feel ashamed.

If you are looking for a dose of real hope for the future, get to one of the screenings of this new film and/or buy a copy of The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (available from Resistance Bookshops and online at ).

Real hope doesn't lie in the slippery promises of millionaire politicians. It lies in people's power — literally in our hands.

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