We live in shrill, hysterical times where the media (social, print and broadcast equally) gorge themselves on the public’s prurient fascination with the sexual misdeeds of the celebrated. The air is wearyingly thick with manufactured outrage, boiled up in the echoing vats of Facebook and the 24-hour news channels.
David Cameron is a privileged Old Etonian who will be remembered for calling and losing a referendum that will have an enormous impact on our lives. No one likes him any more. But, as Jim O’Neill reminded me, Cameron is also the politician who, possibly more than any other in the world, began taking action to avert the disaster that could prevent antibiotics working. …
Like Cameron on antibiotics, once Thatcher was convinced of the science of ozone layer depletion and that it was caused by man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), she badgered the rest of the world into taking action. She gave a magnificent speech to the Royal Society in 1988 and then another a year later to the UN general assembly making the case for altering behaviour in order to safeguard the future. …
George W Bush, the fabled half-chimp, half-man who couldn’t pronounce words properly and who invaded Iraq. Which must be his eternal legacy, must it not? I interviewed him in 2007 and he wasn’t at all stupid. He told me then that one reason he was impatient with the UN was just how long it took to get anything done. “We’ve been developing this programme to fight malaria,” he said. “We just decided to do it, so we got on with it.”
In 2005, having been convinced that malaria could be eradicated, Bush set up the President’s Malaria Initiative. Since then the initiative has bought 320 million antimalarial treatments, given out 140 million mosquito nets and delivered 175 million diagnostic tests. Since 2000, deaths from malaria worldwide are down by 50 per cent.
It’s not easy to look beyond the outrage of the moment and value the importance of quieter deeds of longer gestation.