A journey into Scientology

Currently much talked about and argued over in the media, Kenneth Eckerersley explains how he came t

I was born in 1927 and started my religious life in the Church of England, as a member of Sunday School and the choir. I joined the Cubs, then the Scouts and after serving in the Royal Navy, became a Scoutmaster. Work with the Old People’s Welfare Association and Road Safety Committee led to my joining the District Council and to later serving on the Magistrate’s Bench until my job moved me into Europe.

In 1950 I read the book: DIANETICS: The Modern Science of Mental Health, and was fascinated by the way in which that research related to the world around me, and how I could directly put it into practice in my life, to help myself and others. Later when Ron Hubbard’s discovery that man is basically good and is seeking to survive as a spiritual being led to the development of Scientology, it became clear to many of his students that his researches and writings were in fact in the field of religion. Hence the first Churches of Scientology were formed.

Insofar as this new religion validated man’s spiritual nature it also confirmed earlier beliefs, and I soon found myself with a circle of friends from a wide range of other religions who, like me, recognised that Scientology complemented the beliefs of people of goodwill and provided a common set of values, as well as being the religion of choice for many who earlier had professed no belief.

These values included beliefs held by all Scientologists as part of their Creed. The principles in that Creed have become personal certainties for me and I now hold them as an important part of my life.

Miracle-like experiences brought by Scientology to my brother and my wife I shall describe in a later post, but for myself the main results of my study of Hubbard’s works have been twofold

Firstly, I now have an unassailable good natured and cheerful certainty in myself. A quiet confidence that nothing can really trouble me for more than a short time because I know that I will quickly find a solution. I find that that certainty and self-confidence play themselves out in my life.

Secondly, because I personally feel at peace with myself, I am able to observe and give attention to the plight of our communities and the individuals within those communities, and this has resulted in a daily desire to help others in a wide variety of ways.

Sometimes the help is financial, but mainly it is hands on: making full use of the various skills I have learnt in Scientology. Helping addicts recover from drugs or alcohol. Helping the recently bereaved recover from their loss. Helping those in physical pain understand and overcome it. Helping those in fear or other painful emotion deal with it and recover. And what do you know? As I help others - with no real additional effort - my own life and quality of survival blossoms more and more as my friends increase in number and rise towards their own certainties.

In later posts I shall discuss Scientology and my family, the groups to which I belong, mankind, other life forms, the physical and spiritual universes, belief in a Supreme Being and why Scientology has been attacked.

Kenneth Eckersley is active in the Church of Scientology, and is a former Magistrate and Justice of the Peace.
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Air pollution: 5 steps to vanquishing an invisible killer

A new report looks at the economics of air pollution. 

110, 150, 520... These chilling statistics are the number of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution for the cities of Southampton, Nottingham and Birmingham in 2010 respectively. Or how about 40,000 - that is the total number of UK deaths per year that are attributable the combined effects of particulate matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).

This situation sucks, to say the very least. But while there are no dramatic images to stir up action, these deaths are preventable and we know their cause. Road traffic is the worst culprit. Traffic is responsible for 80 per cent of NOx on high pollution roads, with diesel engines contributing the bulk of the problem.

Now a new report by ResPublica has compiled a list of ways that city councils around the UK can help. The report argues that: “The onus is on cities to create plans that can meet the health and economic challenge within a short time-frame, and identify what they need from national government to do so.”

This is a diplomatic way of saying that current government action on the subject does not go far enough – and that cities must help prod them into gear. That includes poking holes in the government’s proposed plans for new “Clean Air Zones”.

Here are just five of the ways the report suggests letting the light in and the pollution out:

1. Clean up the draft Clean Air Zones framework

Last October, the government set out its draft plans for new Clean Air Zones in the UK’s five most polluted cities, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton (excluding London - where other plans are afoot). These zones will charge “polluting” vehicles to enter and can be implemented with varying levels of intensity, with three options that include cars and one that does not.

But the report argues that there is still too much potential for polluters to play dirty with the rules. Car-charging zones must be mandatory for all cities that breach the current EU standards, the report argues (not just the suggested five). Otherwise national operators who own fleets of vehicles could simply relocate outdated buses or taxis to places where they don’t have to pay.  

Different vehicles should fall under the same rules, the report added. Otherwise, taking your car rather than the bus could suddenly seem like the cost-saving option.

2. Vouchers to vouch-safe the project’s success

The government is exploring a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, to help get the worst and oldest polluting vehicles off the road. But as the report points out, blanket scrappage could simply put a whole load of new fossil-fuel cars on the road.

Instead, ResPublica suggests using the revenue from the Clean Air Zone charges, plus hiked vehicle registration fees, to create “Pollution Reduction Vouchers”.

Low-income households with older cars, that would be liable to charging, could then use the vouchers to help secure alternative transport, buy a new and compliant car, or retrofit their existing vehicle with new technology.

3. Extend Vehicle Excise Duty

Vehicle Excise Duty is currently only tiered by how much CO2 pollution a car creates for the first year. After that it becomes a flat rate for all cars under £40,000. The report suggests changing this so that the most polluting vehicles for CO2, NOx and PM2.5 continue to pay higher rates throughout their life span.

For ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, changes to vehicle excise duty are key to moving people onto cleaner modes of transport: “We need a network of clean air zones to keep the most polluting diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of our towns and cities and incentives such as a targeted scrappage scheme and changes to vehicle excise duty to move people onto cleaner modes of transport.”

4. Repurposed car parks

You would think city bosses would want less cars in the centre of town. But while less cars is good news for oxygen-breathers, it is bad news for city budgets reliant on parking charges. But using car parks to tap into new revenue from property development and joint ventures could help cities reverse this thinking.

5. Prioritise public awareness

Charge zones can be understandably unpopular. In 2008, a referendum in Manchester defeated the idea of congestion charging. So a big effort is needed to raise public awareness of the health crisis our roads have caused. Metro mayors should outline pollution plans in their manifestos, the report suggests. And cities can take advantage of their existing assets. For example in London there are plans to use electronics in the Underground to update travellers on the air pollution levels.

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Change is already in the air. Southampton has used money from the Local Sustainable Travel Fund to run a successful messaging campaign. And in 2011 Nottingham City Council became the first city to implement a Workplace Parking levy – a scheme which has raised £35.3m to help extend its tram system, upgrade the station and purchase electric buses.

But many more “air necessities” are needed before we can forget about pollution’s worry and its strife.  

 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.