The most important issue of our times is that the basic life-nurturing conditions of our planet are badly threatened and this threat should be checked with a sense of the utmost urgency.
Briefly, this threat comes from two sides—firstly, various environmental crises and secondly, weapons of mass destruction. To check these, the most obvious first step is to minimize the possibility of war, to eliminate (or curb in various significant ways) all weapons of mass destruction and check the overall arms race as well.
Ideally, the most powerful countries including the permanent members of the UN Security Council can get together and put their collective strength into securing a no-wars future for the world. With no international wars and the weapons race curbed, the creative energies of the world’s people can be devoted to checking the environmental crisis while meeting the basic needs of all people. People display amazing creativity once the goals and tasks are set out clearly, the dos and don’ts are clear and a system of encouragements and discouragements is in place too. There should be the political will to check powerful polluters, and in addition people should be motivated and educated enough to avoid luxurious, polluting life-styles.
This would be the ideal situation, but this does not appear to be on the horizon. The reality is of worsening wars and weapons race, increasing power of polluting industries, bigger spread of consumerist thinking and lifestyles related to this. Environment protection is being promoted in some ways but there is more rhetoric than reality, more lip service than real change, so that the basic factors which cause environmental ruin remain in place or may even be becoming stronger in some ways.
Where do we go from here?
Of course there are still some outstanding, brilliant, very well-intentioned political leaders in various countries of the world, but the overall record of world’s political leadership in recent times, particularly in some of the most powerful countries, does not inspire confidence that they on their own will be able to meet or give top priority to the challenge of protecting the life-nurturing conditions of our planet.
Increasingly, therefore, there must be greater role of people’s non-violent mobilization and actions for meeting this greatest challenge of our times, and of the next generation, although of course there will be constant need for engaging with the political leadership and world organizations like the United Nations, creating conditions in which they are sometimes encouraged, sometimes compelled to take bigger decisions for protecting the planet.
This means that people’s movements with understanding and deep concern for this crucial issue of protecting the life-nurturing conditions of our planet must get together in various countries, and then must get close to each other across various countries. They must create conditions for more democratic freedoms to be available to them in all parts of the world. They must work together to create a common, broad agenda of achieving the essential conditions of saving the planet and all its inhabitants in time, within a framework of justice, peace and democracy.
This will not be easy. Apart from the formidable organizational challenges of creating a worldwide movement, there are the problems relating to reaching broad agreement on the basics of a common agenda. Reductionist and narrow thinking is also common in several movements, which are more concerned about rather narrowly defined aims. As against these problems and constraints, there is the strength that any movement dealing with the most relevant issues and mobilizing people sincerely and honestly on these issues acquires with the passage of time, and the fact that with the threats to life-nurturing conditions manifesting in more fierce ways, the younger generation may be more rapidly and more firmly drawn to such a worldwide movement. This movement is also likely to get increasing strength from women.
Despite several uncertainties remaining, there is no doubt that the coming together of the movements of peace, environment and biodiversity protection, justice and equality, women and youth movements, movements for child rights will be good for humanity and will help to create a better world. Even if this does not lead to spectacular success in checking and curbing life-threatening conditions, it will at least help to place the world on a safer path. Another reason for hope is that while the initial progress may be slow and cumbersome, if the efforts are sustained with continuity for a certain time, once the base has been prepared, there can also be perhaps very quick success then, even the kind of success which may appear far-fetched at present, even spectacular success.
These efforts necessarily involve a very big educational and mobilization effort at various levels. This necessarily involves trying to change prevailing human values in ways that are more in tune with the needs of a world based on protection of environment, peace, justice and equality. As a beginning in this direction, this writer has been proposing that the next decade should be observed as the decade for saving (the life-nurturing conditions of) earth, a decade when humanity learns to give this the highest priority within a framework of justice, peace and democracy.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His latest books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, Earth without Borders and A Day in 2071.