1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of Sir John Major’s speech at the Norfolk Churches Lecture held at the John Innes Centre in Norfolk on Saturday 17th October 2009.
SIR JOHN MAJOR:
My theme this evening is to look at some of the issues -
Mercifully, some things remain constant, even in today’s materialistic society. A determination to preserve our historic churches is one such example of stability, and I’m delighted to be here this evening at the request of the Norfolk Churches Trust.
I set up the Lottery partly to help preserve precious monuments, in the hope that our distant descendants will be able to enjoy them as we do. The Trust’s work is vital, and I’m delighted to see so many of you here tonight, in support of it.
These days change is constant. The men and women I worked with over a decade ago are now part of history.
[Indistinct, anecdotes about Yeltsin and Gorbachev].
Since then the world has changed. Political alliances have been formed and reformed; the global market has become established and a financial crash has nearly crippled the world economy.
Meanwhile, wealth moves inexorably from West to East, as the East grows and the West slows. In 1700, the two largest economies were China and India. Some time this century, that will once again be so.
The words of the poet, John Donne, five hundred years ago, that “No Man is an Island” are -
It has been a period of great uncertainty and widespread fears. Once more, events have proved that what goes up -
Fifty one years ago, a man called Jack Kilby invented the first integrated circuit. It was crude, but it proved to be the fore-
Science has not only changed how we live: medical science is changing the quality and length of our lives. A hundred years ago, no-
Whole new industries have emerged. Synthetic Biology has brought together science and engineering to design and build biological functions. New technologies are delivering better drugs to combat disease, promote genetic engineering, healthy food, better pesticides, the control and destruction of pollution, and advances in forensic medicine.
Scientists are examining how to combine computer chip technology with pharmaceutical research in order to target drugs to treat specific parts of the body. Imagine -
Such science is leading a revolution in medical care: advances in engineering techniques have given us insulin pumps for diabetes; cochlea implants for deafness; and there are realistic prospects of repairing nerve cells for sufferers of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. It may soon be possible to replace heart muscle cells. A few years ago, all this would have seemed like Black Magic. Soon, fantasy will become reality, with commercial prospects that are simply staggering.
And then there are more subliminal issues, often very complex, that demand Government action but are too often pushed aside because the costs are now and the effects of inaction are decades away.
This sounds small -
We do know that coal, oil and gas are going to dominate energy supply for decades to come -
Since this is so, the first priority must be to develop carbon capture and storage before it leaks into the atmosphere. And then we need to store it where it is safe -
And we also need to stop cutting down the Equatorial forests which release immense carbon into the atmosphere.
This R&D challenge is daunting -
Energy security is not the such only long-
1 AD: 300 million
1900 AD: 1.5 billion = 1 BILLION in 1900 years
Now: 6.5 billion = growing at 1 billion every 10 years
By 2050: equivalent of absorbing two new Chinas.
Can we cope? Impact on climate change is obvious. On food, equally so.
All around the world, even in the grimmest of circumstances, people hope for something better. Hope for something better is the most basic of emotions.
For half the world, hope is nearly all they have. Today, three billion souls live on less than US$ 2 per day; and one-
The rich nations do help. At present, they spend US$ 50 billion in total on overseas aid: an enormous sum. But less generous than it seems when you realise that Europe and America also spend US$ 350 billion on agricultural subsidies alone.
To put that into context: we spend seven times as much subsidising cheap food for those already well-
Here, there is a real irony. As some nations grow and improve living standards, they drive up prices to the further detriment of even poorer nations. If one billion Indians -
That puts up prices -
Nor is food the only problem. Consider the Nile -
My theme has been to look at some of the issues in our post recession world. If we don’t tackle these problems now we will leave a truly dismal legacy to our successors.
Inevitably, there is much I have not touched upon: political rivalries; the risks of nuclear or biological terrorism; the insecurities created by the arc of uncertainty from Syria to Pakistan.
All these are unwelcome problems, complex and not easily solved, but let me add a little balance. Despite the economic downturn, we have just enjoyed fifteen years of high growth -
The Cold War is over: the risk of global conflagration has gone.
Investment across nations minimises the risk of wars. Science is raising the quality of life. Medicine is raising its length: in the last forty years -
Over two decades, China and the US have developed huge inter-
In a preface to some famous essays, an English philosopher flatteringly observed to his Patron that “You have planted things that are likely to last”.
So have we -
Here in North Norfolk -