Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

11 Feb 2024

A movement for sustainability

Posted by Michael Keating

In the struggle for sustainability everyone is a player but some are more powerful and better organized than others. For example, OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) brings together governments and industries to see that the world keeps burning fossil fuels even as their emissions drive a climate disaster. Other industry groups, often working with governments, are busy trying to cut down or burn the world’s remaining forests or to scoop up what is left of the fish in the seas.

On the other side is a large but scattered series of groups and individuals pushing for limits to excessive resource exploitation and pollution. They are up against governments and billionaires who want to maintain the status quo. What chance do they have?

A thoughtful series of essays called What’s Next for the Global Movement? tries to look at how people and organizations might unite to offer a way of living within the planet’s means. It’s from a group of thinkers called the Great Transition Initiative, a project dating back more than two decades.

As they write, “we’re in a world of trouble” and “It emerges from a political and economic system adept at creating problems but inept at finding solutions.” The problems, such as climate change and a growing gulf between rich and poor, “…require a broad response at the global level that goes against the perceived short-term interests of many.” Governments are limited in what they can do. “No government can move first or act alone to solve global problems because doing so would make its national economy uncompetitive, risking unemployment, capital flight and economic decline.”

So, how do you mobilize against the juggernaut of unsustainable development? Authors call for “a global citizens’ movement centered around people, peace and planet. To get broad support it will need to help people understand the limits to growth and to see practical alternatives. It needs to offer a vision of a life that could be slower, simpler and more satisfying, lived in closer connection with self, family, community and nature.

One author calls for an Ecological Civilization Coalition that will turn unrest and protest into a force for societal transformation. It will require collaboration by thousands of organizations and the mobilization of millions of citizens. They will need to work at the global scale and against a powerful and entrenched economic system that puts wealth generation before ecological stability. Such a coalition will need leadership from people who can take the principles of sustainable development from the World Commission on Environment and Development and the UN Sustainable Development Goals and push for action. This seismic change will need the broad support of citizens around the world. People will have to be willing to limit their desire to consume in return for a more stable, safe and predictable life. Such a transition will not be easy.

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