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THE HERALD FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 9 2016


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Positively Liberal By William Powell,


Welsh Liberal Democrat AM for Mid and West Wales


Summoned by bells OVER the last couple of weeks,


doubt must be reasonable. When it comes to man-


made climate change, the overwhelming majority of reputable experts in the field who have actually published material that has been peer-reviewed have agreed that – to a greater or lesser extent – man’s interaction with the environment is a significant – but not the only contributor – to the world’s changing climate. Ranged against them are


the massed ranks of demented conspiracy theorists, industry lobbyists, and arts graduates who think that semantics is a substitute for rational scientific enquiry. And on their side is the complexity of accepting that the answer is not black and white, not one thing or the other, not certainty, but the overwhelming likelihood - beyond any reasonable doubt – that man is contributing to climate change. It makes Draenog put his


snout in his paws and weep tears of rage when, after a heavy frost or light snow, some plonker pops up and says words to the effect of ‘well, that’s it for global warming’. The scale of ignorance for which often wilful self-deceit is a mask is boggling. To re-iterate: no serious


scientist of any repute with expertise in the field denies that humankind is one of the causes of climate change and may be causing it to happen at an accelerated rate. Nigel Lawson,


James Delingpole and the rest of the


Flat Earth Society are just wrong. Quoting selectively from non-peer reviewed studies is not scientific evidence of a contrary view. Most of the time, it is just contrarian for the sake of it. The real discussion is not whether and when, but to what extent. It cannot be a coincidence that those who insist that the scientific consensus is wrong whereas they are right are those who are most fundamentally opposed to consensus in anything; those for whom consensus is weakness not strength. But Draenog guesses that’s what happens when polemicists and ideologues become involved in a debate in which they have no expertise but fiddling around at the semantic edge. It’s the same with badgers and


bovine TB. Nobody seriously doubts that badgers carry the bacteria that causes TB in cattle and are A (notice the singular indefinite article) significant reservoir for the disease. All the Beatrix Potter science in the world will not change that. The question is to what extent badgers are responsible for carrying that bacteria and infecting cattle and to what extent the cattle are also their own reservoir for the disease’s transmission within herds. Both are positions of considerable probability, but it occurs to Draenog that while the latter is potentially controllable, all the vaccine in the world will not control the former. Even the evidence of a


recent study conducted by a scientist whose badger-friendly credentials are beyond doubt, has concluded that vaccination alone cannot control bTB and that biosecurity would be as effective as using net curtains to trap moonbeams. Not even Brian May, or the badger he has stapled to his head, can argue against that. By the way, Brian, that whirring sound is Freddie Mercury spinning in his grave, as yet another bloody commercial butchers Queen’s back catalogue. Scientific certainty is,


therefore, not 100% certain. That does not mean there is uncertainty, it means that reaching 100% certainty is only possible when testing basic reactions and axioms. When it comes to complex living systems, such as climate and bovine TB, it is possible to come to conclusions that are at stark variance one from the other based upon the same input data. For each and every scientific


study arguing one side of a scientific debate, another will appear. It is a matter of some comfort to Draenog that it that two scientists when observing, experiencing, or experimenting on the same event will not make the same theory-neutral observations. The role of observation as a neutral act may not be possible. The truism that the act of


observation changes the object and observer turns out to be that rarest of things, a true truism.


social media has been awash with photographs of youngsters setting out for nursery for the first time, in some cases, for the first day in school and, of course, of those making the transition from juniors to high school. Most mums and dads are


intensely proud, whilst maybe also harbouring pangs of anxiety at the sheer pace with which time passes. However, some communities in West Wales during these days, used to hearing the school bell summon pupils into class, will also have experienced a certain poignancy, especially if this is the first September when the schoolyard has remained empty and the school bell silent. Nowhere will this have been more marked than in the Towy Valley.


Modernisation – but at what price? Nobody would seek to deny


that educational standards must take pride of place when school provision is reviewed, but we should also remember the wider social and cultural role of the village school before it is too late. It is fair to say that Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire Councils were ‘early adopters’ in matters of school modernisation. Ceredigion Council has also embraced the agenda, but with a much stronger focus on the fabric of the wider communities affected, in the spirit of the School Organisation Code (2013). In the Carmarthenshire Ward of Cilycwm, scene of the current by-election on Thursday week, each of the main settlements are now bereft of their village school - Cilycwm itself, Llanwrda and now Llansadwrn, the latter admittedly a voluntary closure. This, combined with the eerie silence of the schoolyard of Ysgol Pantycelyn in Llandovery, represents a real retrenchment by Carmarthenshire Council.


Democratic renewal in the heartlands?


It is perhaps not surprising that,


in the context of this undermining of community life and cohesion, seven


candidates should be seeking to take the place of veteran Carmarthenshire Councillor Tom Theophilus in this month’s Cilycwm by-election. Following an unprecedented surge in membership throughout Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, the Welsh Liberal Democrats had no doubt that it was right to enter the fray. Our candidate, local young farmer, and acknowledged authority on all aspects of sheep husbandry, Dr Catherine Nakielny, together with our team are getting a very warm response on the doorsteps and at the farm gate. Many had the chance to chat with Catherine at the recent Cilycwm Show, which I also enjoyed very much. There is, however, a palpable sense that this area of the Towy Valley has been cast adrift by County Hall, with those who have dared challenge the hegemony of the current regime facing censure and worse. I agree with Catherine that it is high time for a democratic renewal in the heartlands of West Wales.


Time for action – if not now, then when?


As part of Catherine’s by-


election campaign, Kirsty Williams AM, Cabinet Secretary for Education, and I will be on the campaign trail this coming Saturday, and we look forward to meeting many local residents and having an opportunity once again to listen to their concerns. Liberal values in Carmarthenshire are particularly strong – and we are determined that these can be recalibrated again by the Welsh Liberal Democrats, to meet the particular challenges of our time.


Getting in touch If you have any feedback or


issue of concern, or you would like to contribute to the work of the local party in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, please don’t hesitate to contact me on: 07703 112113, by email: Cllr.William.Powell@ powys.gov.uk, via Facebook: @ WilliamPowellLD or Twitter @ WmPowell2016. In any event, I look forward to hearing from you.


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