(Edited to be up to date for 2023 as this was written in 2020 and we know how much change has happened since then.)
IT FELT LIKE WE WERE ALL given a big time out during the pandemic. We were sent to our rooms and told to reflect and consider the world we create out the other side of the crisis.
While it was a very challenging time for everyone, it was much harder for the millions, even billions, of people who were sent into abject poverty and have faced desperate years ever since.
We thought there would be relief when the pandemic was over, alas inequality, inflation, fuel poverty, food poverty, war, climate change impacts, extreme weather events, and more, continue to shake us all. No doubt we are in very shaky and uncertain times.
For those of us who are lucky enough to maintain a comfortable quality of life – then and now – we had an opportunity in 2020 to embrace a gift—the gift of time to deeply reflect. A time to reconsider how we live our lives and how we shape our collective future, so that all can live in dignity. We all had a chance, a beautiful opportunity, to create the world anew.
But did we, as a species, take this chance to reflect and change our ways? Or did we miss it and instead, decide to stay in a constant state of reaction, to the next crisis, and the next, and the next? I believe we did.
With the climate crisis, the health crisis, the economic crisis, the geopolitical crisis, the trust crisis, the propaganda and fake news crisis, the mental health crisis, as well as deepening global inequality all around us – all of which today is defined as the polycrisis – it’s clear that our inability to look these issues in the eye and change our ways, will continue to cripple us, possibly guaranteeing we stay in a permanent state of crisis.
We are living through a global atmosphere of injustice, violence, economic slavery, famine, poverty, and extended suffering. Some of this is directly affecting us in the “comfortable” world too. It’s not happening somewhere out there for others to deal with.
It all begs the question—is this what we want, to stay in permanent crisis? I certainly don’t, but then, at this stage of ecological collapse, a situation escalating so rapidly now, we can no longer ignore the peril we are in. Scientists have been predicting that major ecosystems were starting to collapse back in 2008, and yet, what have we done to stop it? How can we be so foolish to think we can survive ecosystem collapse?
We also don’t seem to have a sense of time or urgency. It’s not an issue we’ll face in 2100, 2050 or even 2030— because it’s happening right now. In fact, it’s been happening for decades, and the longer we let this go on without changing our ways, the more rapid the escalation will be and the more brutal our lived experiences will be too. I’m sitting in Asia’s worst April heatwave and it is terrifying me, especially with El Nino knocking on our door. What will hit us next? How hot will it really get? Will we be able to survive this heat?
Yet we continue to chop down life-giving trees. We glory in excessive consumption and the acquisition of stuff, all while the land gets warmer and the oceans get warmer too. The state of our oceans right now should be something that terrifies every single one of us. Emissions are trending in one direction — up — and we keep hitting new records. We continue to pass nature’s tipping points and don’t seem capable of grasping the impact it will have on all our lives.
Why should we care about tipping points? Tipping points are lines that, once crossed, make it even harder to fix things or reduce impact. However, if we are really honest with ourselves, tipping points are irreversible. And we’re passing them now, the poles and the glaciers – passed. We have been over-indulging and gorging on our beautiful planet without thought for too long.
But it’s not simply about us. It is about today’s children, and our young people are frightened. When my son was 11, he said to me, “Mum, if it gets too hot to be outside because of global warming, I am going to commit suicide.”
He’s now 15 and is paying attention. All the kids are paying attention and their mental health is paying the price, because of our (the adults) inaction on climate, as well as our inability to force the technology giants to change their services to bring out the best in humanity, instead of pushing the worst.
Please stop engaging with outrage content – that’s what they want you to do. The algorithms are feeding it to us. Fight it by sharing love and beauty. Share meaningful actions and passion for all the beautiful lives on this earth, not just human. Let’s do our part to stop this corrosion of our societies.
Getting back to our kids, as a parent hearing your child say those words was a devastating moment! Our children know, regardless of how we try to protect them from the worst truth, and they see a future of unbearable hardship.
As adults, as parents, is that all we are prepared to offer them? We cannot wait for our children to grow up and act. We don’t have time to kick the can down the road yet again, and it’s not fair to put it on their shoulders either. In fact, it’s appalling we are doing that. The time to act was more than 30 years ago, but we still have now. Right now.
This reflection period we had during the pandemic was a gift to claim a unique opportunity to rewrite our collective future, one where the sustainability and health of all life on planet earth was placed at the centre of our values and plans.
It seems we might have missed the opportunity then. Can we do it now?
Questions for reflection
Let’s ask ourselves some searching questions and then let’s work together to find the answers we need for our collective future.
1. Are you happy with your life—family, home, community, sense of achievement, contribution, and meaning? Awesome if you are, but, at such a time of significant transformation for the world, is it time for new directions?
2. Are you questioning the frantic pace of life? Are you back to the pace you were at before the pandemic, or are you headed there again? Do you want it? Does this give your life meaning, or does it take it away?
3. Are you proud of the company you work for? Is it contributing positively towards all life on earth, or is shareholder value overriding all else? If so, what can you do to change it? However, if you want to ask an even more honest question, does your business or even industry, have the right to exist in this world at all? That is the time we are in – asking these much bigger questions.
4. Do you believe it is time we demand business to change dramatically, to take into consideration the earth’s finite resources and take responsibility for the waste left behind? What businesses—including your own, but also including those you patronize—can you begin to hold accountable?
5. Are we individually ready to face up to our part in the devastation and suffering going on in so many places in the world? Do we continue to accept…
- Children suffering in mines to make our latest phones or computers? A challenge that will get much worse with renewable energy technology. We need to really think about this and work out a path forward.
- Or women suffering in the garment industry for luxury and fast fashion? It’s 10 years since Rana Plaza collapsed, a clothing factory complex outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, which killed more than 1,100 workers, mostly young women, and injured another 2,500. Have we changed our expectations of these brands and are we refusing to buy from brands who don’t guarantee the safety of their workers in the supply chain, as well as transparency about the environmental degradation and impact caused by the fashion brands we buy from? The quick answer is no. We haven’t demanded change at all and since then, women in the textile industry suffered brutal abandonment in the pandemic too. Do we not care about them?
- And then, of course, we have companies like Ikea benefitting from (and ignoring until recently) illegal logging practices to produce fast furniture to feed our insatiable appetites for new. #FastFurniture is terribly destructive for the environment, when will we demand it ends? When will we stop buying it?
6. Are you wasting less, buying less, saying no to single use plastics, consuming less meat, shopping locally, and making plans to reduce your emissions? And if so, are you speaking up in your family and community, no matter how uncomfortable it is, helping others see that it is time for great change? Or are you making your changes silently? If so, how can you unleash your voice to drive greater change? What fears do you need to address within yourself to have the confidence to speak up? Because we need all voices speaking up today
7. Is your country polluted and full of rubbish? Are you ready to demand action from the businesses that have profited from it for decades? Are you part of the solution, finding ways to drive change in your community? Are you speaking to your government representatives? Local businesses? What are you doing to stop this tide of waste that is going to double by 2030 and triple by 2050? What are you doing to address pollution where you live, typically impacting the poorest the most?
8. We went through a pandemic, so will we succeed this time in closing the wildlife markets, while creating new livelihoods for those reliant on them for income? To succeed in any area, we need to look at it holistically. If you take something away and provide no alternative, we will never succeed in getting rid of these practises. We also need to educate the buyers of products that are pushing extinction events ever closer – like medicines in Asia. Can you be part of the education? Can you speak up?
9. What about overfishing and destruction of the seas? What’s the real impact? What’s the risk to us? How do we stop it? And the destruction happening on land. Our agricultural sector needs a complete overhaul, and we must recognize this and get on board, we also need to work together through this transition, bringing the farmers WITH us – because we are not doing that and it’s delaying action and creating fury. Fast food is causing massive deforestation – what are we doing about that? The wealthy of the world are consuming more meat than ever before, and we just can’t continue. There is no more land available for growth, so the time for this to end is already here – we’ve hit Peak Meat – and we need to accept it and embrace plant-based lifestyles, as well as innovations around cell-based and fermentation for our food. The end of our agricultural system as it currently stands, especially farm animals, is here, one way or another.
10. Are you working to be part of the solution to end inequality, in all its forms? And I mean really working to end it? Equality is our path through this chaos and we need all voices at the table to clearly see all of the changes we must embrace, while understanding the full impact these changes will have, on everyone, not just men. Yet right now, it’s going backwards and some claim equality is now more than 300 years away – 300 YEARS!!! We can’t accept that; it will destroy us.
11. What parts of life do we need to get rid of? Will we continue to worship false idols – like we see on social media EVERY SINGLE DAY? Add to this the chaos around AI – really, that’s where we want to go now, at this point for humanity? I want the false, egocentric, hero-worshipping, sales-pushing nonsense gone. I want us to be real, to be meaningful, to reconnect with our humanity and to develop planetary consciousness – because that is what is required of us right now. What about you?
12. And to the parents, are we acting and doing enough to ensure our children have a beautiful future? Are we freeing them up to go to school and get an education, because WE are doing the work that needs to be done right now, which will give them hope for a future, or will we leave them in despair? Facing uncertainty and horror?
We face big challenges.
Will you join me, so we can face them together?
Will you raise your voice to demand change—on social media, in your communities, in your company, and on any platform or stage that you have access to?
Will you join a rising chorus demanding a better for all life on planet earth?
Will you do the best you can to ensure our children do not face the worst possible outcome of the climate crisis?
Then sign the pledge and let’s get to work, because time is running out, with many believing it’s already too late.
It is time we work out what we need to do, get as many as we can on board to do it, ignoring those who are desperately trying to hold onto the old and destructive world, because we can’t wait for them to change their minds anymore. They won’t go away, but we need to move forward without them, and maybe one day, they’ll get the message and join us. I hope so.
Regardless, whether they do or don’t, it doesn’t matter, and we have to stop focusing on them, because it’s taking our attention off the most important thing – the action we must be taking right now.
Let’s get laser focused and work together to drive the change that matters, and if enough of us give it our all – we need #OneBillion people changing imperfectly and getting to work – even if we fail, we will fail trying our hardest to succeed and we will do it together.
However, if we give it our all and succeed, well wouldn’t that be something to be part of, huh? Worth trying, no?
For either outcome – success or failure – that journey is much better than the current dystopian path we are on. If we continue down this divisive, ugly, angry, terrible path, there is no chance at all, and misery will be at the centre of all our lives soon enough. I’ll keep fighting to make sure that isn’t the direction we take and I ask you, help me in this fight, please?
I choose action, community, collaboration, peace and all of our best efforts to succeed, and I hope you’ll join those of us who are already out there doing this important work. BUT we need your help, because it’s a burden we must start to carry together, or we cannot make it. Join us. It is time.
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