Peace, Ecology and People

Earth2 1

The existential crisis has emerged at world level as the most crucial issue of our times. As is widely acknowledged now, this consists mainly of two components. Firstly, there are about a dozen serious environmental problems led by, but certainly not confined to, climate change. Secondly, there are the weapons of mass destruction as well as the possibility of space warfare. These two factors together threaten basic life nurturing conditions of earth as never before, hence the existential crisis or the survival crisis as pointed out by several distinguished scientists and groups of scientists, including several Nobel laureates.

The crucial role of scientists and world leaders in resolving this crisis before it is too late is rightly emphasized. On the other hand, one important aspect which has not achieved adequate attention is the role of people’s movements, particularly the environmental and peace movements.

As an increasing number of the world’s more thoughtful citizens realize the great importance of the existential crisis, what troubles them most is that the present efforts to resolve this crisis in time are not adequate at all.  While new important facts which increase our understanding of the seriousness of the crisis continue to become available all the time , enough is known already to convince that a serious human-made unprecedented existential crisis already exists.

No, lack of adequate information is not the main reason of inaction, such information has been available well before the 21st century started. The first two decades will be seen largely as a period of inaction despite information and actually the worsening of the most crucial crisis. Where, the troubled thoughtful well-informed citizen asks, is the way out ?

Here the role of people’s movements in increasing education and consciousness on this issue becomes important. It stands to reason that if most people are much better informed on the extremely serious threats they, and their children and grandchildren, will face as a result of lack of adequate and proper, timely, real action on this issue, then they will take a more active role in seeking this action. However the role of people’s movements is not confined merely to increasing education and consciousness on this issue, it is in addition to provide peaceful, constructive, constitutional, legal means to more and more people for linking up with solutions in many creative, inspirational, at times  also colorful and entertaining ways.

Among the various movements of mobilizing people that already exist, no doubt the two most important movements in this context will be the peace movement and the environmental movement. This is obvious, but this writer will like to emphasize in addition the important supporting, integrating mobilization role of several other movements as well. This matter really concerns us all.

In the peace movement, the most obvious role is that of the movements and campaigns for disarmament and more particularly for ending all weapons of mass destruction, existing and emerging. In addition there is need for reducing as much as possible all war and civil strife, power-rivalry and overall militarization. War and all preparation for war taken together may be the biggest polluter in itself, and it is extremely difficult to resolve existential threats under the constant shadow of war and superpower rivalry. Moreover to reach out to most people the peace movement should be involved closely in reducing the enormous distress that violence creates in everyday life ( domestic and gender violence, child abuse, violence in educational institutions and workplace, street violence, sectarian violence and hate crimes, assault and robbery etc.). The peace movement should gain mass support of tens of millions of people in its ever-continuing efforts for reducing this distress at local level, and  integrate this with the wider efforts to end war, arms-race and WMDs. Hence issues like ending weapons of mass destruction are integrated with and get the support of tens of millions of people rooted in ever-continuing  efforts to reduce violence and violence related distress.

Similarly the environmental  movement should proceed from bottom to top, integrating the concerns of tens of millions of people and seeking to reduce their distress related to various aspects of ecological ruin. In addition, in the course of this mobilization, consciousness should be built up regarding the wider existential crisis, and how and why ecological issues  also need to be looked beyond just the local aspects. There are about a dozen very serious environmental problems leading on their own and in combination with each other to existential crisis, and there are quite well-informed campaigns on all important issues. These need to work  together more closely in a holistic way, so that a clear view of the wider crisis emerges and is grasped by the environmental movement at all levels . Hence the voice for the needed real efforts comes from tens of millions of people who in addition are also mobilized, in farms and forests and elsewhere, to create a very broad base for protective environmental efforts.

While peace and environmental movements are the most crucial in this context, a very important role also exists for various justice movements ( sustainable livelihood rights, movements for ending hunger and for more equality, gender and social justice etc.). In fact peace and environment protection movements get their most support at field level when these are well-integrated with justice for people in general and weaker sections in particular. Similarly various movements for strengthening democracy are very important as all these efforts are best achieved in democracy. The overall thrust is for resolving the existential crisis within the framework of justice, democracy and peace.

Working on this understanding, the aim should be to create a strong worldwide movement with an increasing base of at least a hundred million persons who are committed to working for peace, environment protection, justice and democracy in ways that reduce distress in everyday life but also lead to the overarching crucial objective of resolving the world-level existential crisis in time.

There is hence great need for increasing unity among these various movements  with this shared wider understanding. This writer discussed this issue in more detail in his recent book Planet in Peril—People’s Movements the Way Forward.  In its follow up book Protecting Earth for Children—Crucial Role of Next Decade I argued that if the next decade is declared as the decade for saving earth (SED), then this will greatly help in taking forward this cause.

Bharat Dogra a journalist and author, is Honorary Convener, Campaign to  Save  Earth Now with its SED Demand. His recent books include Man Over Machine ( the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi for our times).

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