Humanity faces a challenge of existential proportions. Our destructive global civilization is causing myriad forms of pollution. Everywhere the air, water and soils are becoming degraded; the climate is breaking down, the oceans acidifying, habitats are being obliterated and countless species are in terminal decline. Countless reports over many decades have only added to the scientific evidence. Small steps to combat the destruction have always been offset by greater damage elsewhere in the system.
From childhood this has been the bedrock of my motivation in life. I gave my first talk on all this in 1972 to my school sixth form. I’ve spent decades struggling to understand what to do to ‘save the world’. (Of course, the world will carry on, it is humanity which needs saving) I’ve been a very small voice, like millions of others, generally ignored and marginalized by the mainstream.
The mainstream political culture that dominated the planet for the entire post war era did at least pay lip service to sustainability, human rights and the welfare of the poor. That mainstream seems now to be crumbling. Voters in many countries are moving to the extremes.
Trump in USA, Putin in Russia, Durente in the Philippines and now Bolsonaro in Brazil, these four men seem to embody the emergent far right. They seem to delight in the destruction of our living world and care not a jot about the welfare of the poor. In the UK the conservatives seem to be moving from the old mainstream centre into the territory of the far right, as evidenced by this week’s budget, the whole Brexit process and their move from the EPP to the ECR groupings within the European Parliament.
Recent elections in the German states of Hesse and Bavaria typified the global situation, with votes for the mainstream conservatives and labour parties collapsing and a worrying rise in votes for the far right Alternative for Deutschland. On the positive side the Green vote also rose dramatically.
Generally, in most counties, Greens are the only political party who seem to understand the true magnitude of the impending ecological crisis and the scale of changes needed to avert the worst. The window of time humanity has is narrow: recent reports from the IPPC suggest we only have about twelve years to transform the entire global economy.
Today the Extinction Rebellion was launched in Parliament Square. This is a new movement promoting taking non-violent direct action on climate change and all the other aspects of the global ecological crisis. Many of the politicians and writers whom I most admire are there today, including Molly Scott Cato, Caroline Lucas and George Monbiot. Also speaking was the inspirational fifteen year old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. (On her Twitter account she has a two minute video clip pinned at the top… do please watch it)
Various accounts of today’s launch of Extinction Rebellion are worth reading: try Rupert Read, Molly Scott Cato, Chloe Farand and Jeremy Williams, and see the Extinction Rebellion website. I couldn’t be there in person today. I wish them well and hope millions join their global call to action.
Humanity’s future lies in the balance. The choice is stark: the inaction and muddle of the old political mainstream, the doubling down on destruction of the far right or the hopeful idealism and radical practical action demanded by Green parties, myriad environmental groups, and now, Extinction Rebellion.
ps … The full text of Greta Thunberg’s speech is available here