Players, not spectators, in life’s beautiful game

So significant is the global impact of human activity on Earth that the current geological epoch (the Anthropocene) is named after us. What happens next depends on how quickly we recognize our mistakes, and how urgently we act to remedy the damage.

According to its web site, “Greenpeace exists because this fragile earth deserves a voice. It needs solutions. It needs change. It needs action.” On 1 May 2015 Greenpeace issued a Manifesto for Change whose news coverage paled alongside earthquake recovery in Nepal, civil war in Yemen, election fever and a royal birth in the UK, and yet more shootings in the USA. In other words, it passed almost unnoticed.

For those who missed the call, here is a summary. It’s worth pondering.

“There is a growing feeling that politics is broken and that business as usual is taking us in the wrong direction. This year’s two summits are important, and their outcomes will matter, but those outcomes have to be seen in the context of a burning need for change across the world.

We need a broad and deep change to the current economic and political paradigm. We need to challenge those old values and develop new ones more appropriate for living in the Anthropocene – values that support conscious, active stewardship in an interlinked world. This in turn will depend on the mobilisation and empowerment of people across the world. We need a society in which government is answerable to people and corporations are answerable to government. That society is not going to build itself from above.

The resources required to rapidly move away from fossil fuels and prepare for the coming heavy weather could pull huge swathes of humanity out of poverty, providing services now sorely lacking, from clean water to electricity, and with a political model that is more democratic and less centralised than the models of the past. This is a vision of the future that goes beyond just surviving or enduring climate change, beyond ‘mitigating’ and ‘adapting’ to it, in the grim language of the United Nations. It is a vision in which we collectively use the crisis to leap somewhere better than where we are right now.

…We know what is wrong with the world, and mostly we know ways to change it for the better. We know how we can prevent the worst of climate change, rejuvenate soils, protect fish stocks. We know how we can create a more just society, how to build a better education system, give people clean water, provide human rights for all. These are not mysteries. We have the technology and the ability and the knowledge. What we are lacking is the political will to make real change.

Earth…We must create more visionary global institutions to tackle climate change and the wider environmental crisis. Only a global agreement that provides an effective mechanism for sharing the costs of reducing emissions fairly between the world’s countries – as well as cushioning the most vulnerable against the climate impacts that are already inevitable – will work. And that will only happen if we make it happen from the ground up.

Our planet is maybe the only place in the universe where life exists. It is a precious thing, and it must be protected and nurtured, not torn apart for the short-term gain of a few. Humans are a force of nature, but we are a conscious force and we can use our power for good. We are not spectators, we are players, and we can shape the game, all of us together.”

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