I’ve decided for my final blog post to write about something positive, to imagine a world I’d like to live in – a world that is better and fairer than this one. I believe we can do more and therefore it’s important to end on a good note, to inject a boost of energy into the reader. Hope gives people momentum to try and change things, achieve objectives. This is no fantasy, we’ve seen it time again with social movements and historic events: the abolition of the slave trade, women’s right to vote, the fight against apartheid and more recently, the legalisation of gay marriage. In 2045, I’ll be about 50, and this is the world I’d like to bring up my family in…
In the past 30 years, I have seen the world accept the reality of climate change…and accept the challenge to fight it. I’ve been very much involved in this struggle both by making changes individually, but also by joining larger movements of people from every background battling climate injustice. The results have been overwhelming. We have curbed the threat of catastrophic global warming and managed to keep the Earth’s temperature below 1.5 degrees, bringing about a sustainable future. This has been, in part, due to system change. As Gilbert Rist once said, ‘The survival of the planet will depend upon abandoning the deep-rooted belief that economic growth can deliver social justice’ (Rist, 2007: 485). We still have a long way to go, but the notions that consumption is key to living, and capitalism an inevitable piece of the puzzle, are slowly fading away. I once read an article on ‘degrowth’ in the New Internationalist (Kallis, 2015), which attacks economic growth, and questions the compatibility of capitalism with the earth’s balance. This word, coined in French by Andre Gorz in 1972 (‘décroissance’), was once laughed at and considered ludicrous. Now it is taken seriously and governments talk of a society based not on money or material things, but a greater connection with nature, the land and each other. Indeed, ‘well-being is open to the whole range of human experience, social, psychological and spiritual as well as material’ (Chambers, 1997: 1748).
As we make such monumental shifts in the way we live our lives, peace is ever more reachable. We’ve seen a decrease in wars and terrorism, health all over the world is improving and poverty, though still present, is less extreme. The world, to me, seems much more inclusive and tolerant now. Whatever your gender, age or class, whoever you are – you are accepted. You are human. We know that ‘the policies that are key to bringing about change are those that emphasize the empowerment of women as decision-makers in the interest of social justice; sustain and enhance the livelihoods of the poor; respect the rights of indigenous peoples to the benefits of own knowledge; respect diversities of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and faith’ (Antrobus, 2007). Indigenous peoples have finally been acknowledged as the best guardians of their land and the animals, ‘development’ no longer forced upon them. We’ve seen the survival of some of the world’s most previously threatened tribes such as the Brazilian Awá and many others who are uncontacted. Survival International, the leading organisation for tribal peoples have pushed states to recognise the legitimacy of these indigenous communities, and others, like the Bushmen in Botswana, have won rights back to stay on their land. They continue to set an example to the rest of us on how to live peacefully and respectfully – as a visitor to this planet.
This is not simply ‘wishful thinking’ (Rist, 2007: 488) as Rist claims. This is possible, but we are the only ones who can realize these dreams.
When the great ships come back,
and come they will,
when they stand in the sky
all over the world,
candescent suns by day,
radiant cathedrals in the night,
how shall we answer the question:
what have you done
with what was given you,
what have you done with
the blue, beautiful world?
Antrobus, P. (2007) ‘Reflections on 50 years of Development’, Development [Online]. Available at: http://www.palgrave-journals.com/development/journal/v50/n1s/full/1100394a.html (Accessed: 26 October 2015).
Chambers, R. (1997) ‘Responsible Well-Being – A Personal Agenda for Development’, World Development, Vol. 25. UK: Pergamon.
Dorgan, T. (2015) ‘A climate change poem for today: The Question’, The Guardian [Online]. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/01/a-climate-change-poem-for-today-the-question-by-theo-dorgan (Accessed: 15 December 2015).
Kallis, G. (2015) ‘The Left should embrace degrowth’, New Internationalist [Online]. Available at: http://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2015/11/05/left-degrowth/ (Accessed: 19 November 2015).
Rist, G. (2007) ‘Development as a buzzword’, Development in Practice, Vol. 17. London: Routledge.