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Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Providential Principle

Here is a link to the latest George Monbiot article discussing the way our present Government deals with important matters impacting on the natural environment. Its all about the Precautionary Principle which I have considered to be a starting point for almost any serious action we take in life. But thats just being cautious  of course and many people dont  think that way!

The Providential Principle

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Posted: 01 May 2013 03:33 AM PDT
Amazingly, the UK government has not defined the precautionary principle and appears to have no idea what it is.

By George Monbiot, published on the Guardian’s website, 1st May 2013

Here’s something remarkable I stumbled across while researching my column on Monday, but did not have room to include. I hope you’ll agree that it is worth sharing.
I was trying to understand the context for the new chief scientist’s cavalier treatment of scientific evidence, in an article he wrote opposing a European ban on neonicotinoid pesticides. These are the toxins which, several studies suggest, could be partly responsible for the rapid decline in bees and other pollinators.
Just one month into the job, Sir Mark Walport has, I believe, disgraced himself: by misrepresenting the science, misinforming the public about risk and uncertainty and indulging in scaremongering and wild exaggeration in support of the government’s position. I believe he has seriously damaged his standing and that of the office he holds.
Among the many problems with the article he wrote was the way he defined the precautionary principle. Interpreting and upholding this principle is fundamental to the chief scientist’s role. Yet he doesn’t seem to understand what it means. Here’s what he said about it:
“This simple idea just means working out and balancing in advance all the risks and benefits of action or inaction, and to make a proportionate response.”
Oh yes? Here’s how the Rio Declaration, which the UK, with 171 other states, signed in 1992, defines it:
“Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.”
The difference is critical to an understanding of the government’s environmental responsibilities. As if to underline the fact that he hasn’t grasped it, Sir Mark used his article to do the opposite: he used a lack of full scientific certainty as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.
The precautionary principle, as defined by the Rio Declaration, has, in the words of the European Commission, “become a full-fledged and general principle of international law.”
In other words, it’s not something you would expect a chief scientist to make up as he goes along.
So the question that occurred to me was this. If the government’s chief scientist doesn’t know what the precautionary principle is, does the government know?

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