Leading Article: Making good on good intentions

Share

Now the days are growing longer again, this is a good moment to pause and take stock. Even our Stakhanovite Prime Minister has retreated to North Queensferry to lick his wounds and reflect. And The Independent on Sunday can look back at the past year with some satisfaction. On all the issues on which we have campaigned, we sense a transition from good intentions to action.

Our campaign for a better deal for British armed forces stepped up to a new level. This grew out of, but is not directly related to, our opposition to the Iraq war. Our call to renew the Military Covenant, the formal promise by the nation to look after the men and women who risk their lives on our behalf, has been taken up in all parts of society.

We have continued our campaign on mental health now a slightly less unfashionable field than it was when we started six years ago. The Mental Health Bill was substantially amended after our guerrilla war against its draconian provisions. The NHS has begun a big shift in favour of "talking therapies" rather than prescribing antidepressants as a way of tackling the causes of low-level mental illness. And this was the year in which the IoS finally had to choose between this campaign and our longer-standing demand for the decriminalisation of cannabis. We decided that the connection between stronger "skunk" and adolescent psychosis meant that cannabis should remain an illegal drug.

Campaigning has a positive side, too, and this is the time of year to celebrate that. Our Sunday lunch campaign sought to build on the truism of the psychology of family dynamics: that eating together is central to a fulfilling communal life.

We have continued to lead the way on environmental issues, drawing attention to the risks of radiation from mobile phones, Wi-Fi and similar sources. The IoS was the first to report new evidence that people who have used the phones for more than a decade are more likely to get brain cancer, and to reveal that the head of the Health Protection Agency has been pressing for a study of the effect on children of Wi-Fi in the classroom. Our concerns were endorsed by the EU's chief watchdog and have led to an admittedly limited official study of Wi-Fi in schools.

We campaigned above all on the issue of climate change. Attitudes have shifted markedly during the year, with the world's leading sceptic, George Bush, finally accepting not only the science of global warming but also in principle the imperative of government action. That change was not a change of heart: it was pressed on the White House by outside forces. The lesson that should have been learnt is not that Tony Blair's persuasion worked, but that standing up to and isolating the President pays dividends. This newspaper repeatedly condemned President Bush, while pointing out the sainted Al Gore's failure to tackle the issue when he was in office.

Over the past year, the few remaining sceptics have tended to slide from denying humanity's contribution to climate change to saying that there is nothing that can be done about it. Yet some of our biggest news stories of the year such as Gordon Brown's go-ahead for the massive expansion of offshore wind power confound that pessimism.

Mr Brown's policy on green issues is a curiously assembled kit of parts. Only this month he sought clumsily to advertise the fact that he had without advertisement installed solar panels at his home in Scotland. He has chosen the bold course on wind power, yet appears to be committed to a new runway at Heathrow. The Bali conference achieved agreement in principle, yet Mr Brown has seemed detached from it.

We have courted controversy in the past year by continuing to say complimentary things about David Cameron, the Conservative leader, whose commitment to green politics appears to be genuine but inconsistent. Its main effect has been to act as a welcome spur to the Government. Let us hope that the new year brings a greater coherence to Mr Brown's green agenda.

In the spirit of such optimism, let us eat, drink and be mutually supportive in as environmentally sustainable a way as possible, of course. Today, we offer a guide to a lower-carbon Christmas, and a prediction that more people than ever will change their behaviour to reduce their impact on the planet's resources. This year has seen opinion around the world come to the point where people recognise that their behaviour has to change, and they are looking to governments for leadership.

We wish all our readers a happy and green Christmas and express our optimism that we will all make good our good intentions.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice