The Way Forward for People’s Mobilization on Crucial Survival Issues

climate planet
(Photo: FridaysForFuture/Flickr/cc)

It is relatively easier to achieve wide agreement that those problems which threaten the basic life-nurturing conditions of earth—such as accumulation of weapons of mass destruction, climate change and other aspects of environmental crisis—constitute the most important issue before humanity. The more difficult part is to mobilize most people on this issue.

One serious obstacle is that most people are too preoccupied in their smaller day-to-day problems to be able to respond adequately to issues which, despite their undoubted importance, appear to be rather distant to people compared to their immediate preoccupations. This may be true for most people in different contexts, but this is perhaps most clearly seen in the context of poorer people involved in a daily struggle to meet basic needs. 

Hence the most effective way to take forward the most important survival issues is to integrate them closely with the objective of meeting the basic needs of all people of the entire world with dignity. Once such integration exists and is explained to people clearly, what appeared to be distant concerns earlier now become issues which are close to heart and for which people are willing to work in a very committed way.

Secondly, social relations need to be improved at all levels. The deterioration in social relations has led to avoidable distress and tensions on a huge scale, eroding the capacity of people for assuming bigger responsibilities. On the other hand when relations of trust, sincerity, love and caring exist at various levels, then people are much more capable of taking up bigger responsibilities. When relations at the level of family, friendships and communities are strong, the ability to take forward bigger responsibilities with the cooperation of others increases. When women are not held back by useless social restrictions, then a community’s capacity for good work increases significantly. When there is inter-faith harmony and useless social divisions and discriminations are avoided, then the ability of people to take forward big responsibilities with unity and cooperation increase tremendously.

Thirdly, continuing efforts should be made, at the level of community and educational institutions and at other levels, to change human values that shape human behavior in important ways—from greed to need, from high individualism to community commitments, from selfishness to much higher concerns for others, from a craze for luxury and grandeur to voluntary and happy acceptance of a simple life of limited needs and small comforts, from an exaggerated emphasis on one’s own faith and beliefs to inter-faith harmony and respect for beliefs of others. Human values that pervade widely in society should be in harmony with the objectives that we seek to achieve.

Fourthly, care should be taken to remove misgivings regarding the changes that are envisaged. To give an example, talk about a no-wars future may create a feeling among soldiers and members of all armed forces that they may lose their jobs. However if they are told that all their jobs, salaries and benefits will be fully protected and all that is involved is that they will be re-trained to shift to tasks such as disaster-rescue, disaster prevention and ecological rejuvenation of the planet, then they may extend their full support for this as they lose nothing while getting a safer future in jobs which involve protecting people instead of killing them. Similarly those workers who get their livelihood from fossil fuels can be assured that moves away from fossil fuels will be accompanied by strong efforts to ensure that they have alternative sources of employment and income.

A lot of good work is being done by several people and organizations already for peace, harmony, environment protection, safety and justice. The efforts for protecting the essential life-nurturing conditions of earth should seek to involve and include them all but at the same time additional linkages need to be made in such a way that all these efforts can be linked also to the broader vision of protecting life-nurturing conditions within a framework of justice, peace and democracy.

This of course needs a broader vision, a more comprehensive and visionary understanding of the path of change that is capable of rather rapidly involving more and more people in the most important objective of resolving the survival crisis while ensuring basic needs of all people.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, Earth without Borders and A Day in 2071.

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