I was at the interreligious ‘march for climate change’ yesterday. Berthe Jansen represented Buddhism there and she noted that the bodhisattva takes a long-term view to problems and theirs solutions. This was relevant to the topic, because one of the problems with any type of environmental activism is that it has to prioritize the long-term future of humanity, its resources, the climate, food, water quality etc. against the short-term aims of corporations and people.
We wanted our politicians to not just talk, but act on the realization that our planet needs our help, for the survival of human culture as we know it. I’m not worried about the human species – however, I don’t particularly fancy a cave-people type existence for the next generations or my own future lives. Our planet is heating up and only if we work together – and that includes government regulation – can we hope to decrease the damage. It’s already too late for total reversal of climate change.
The simple fact is that we’re burning up fossil fuels – that took millions of years to form, and we’re taking a century to burn them up. This is irresponsible, any way you look at it. However, from the perspective of the climate it means we’re releasing millions of years of CO2 into the atmosphere. Most of that is being absorbed by the ocean, but experts tell us that the ocean can probably take no more. While there, BTW, it makes the oceans more acidic and destroys coral reefs.
These are facts. Although I know some of my American readers will doubt them – I will treat them as proven beyond a shadow of doubt.
As one of the speakers at the Amsterdam Climate March said – the time has come that solutions are available. We can actively start using solar energy. It has become a viable alternative. If not for all our energy requirements, certainly for a lot of it. The German solar cells have markedly lowered energy prices in Europe, for instance.
However, politics are behind the times. I took a picture of prominently positioned Dutch Democrats (D66) at the march and could not see anyone of the Green Party (Groen Links). A guy turned around and told me he was of that party and that the democrats were hypocrites for being there, as they didn’t support the Green party in the Dutch Parliament.
And that is precisely the snag. 10000 people showed the world in Amsterdam that they care about the environment and want politicians to take responsibility. And yet only local politicians took the stage. Sure – this was organised within a month, very last minute. But still. We do need national and EU politicians to make changes in policy. Local just just isn’t enough. That is, in fact, precisely why I was there: I want our politicians to ACT. To DO something.
As I came home, I found an article in Alternet pessimistically blaming Avaaz (which was apparently behind the whole thing) for being way too corporate about it. That is: they wanted maximum human involvement, with minimum political confrontation. The publicity would help Avaaz raise money, which is apparently the main aim of the organisation. They made sure the march did not meet politicians, and was too early (a Sunday morning and two days before the climate conference) for politicians to be physically bothered at all.
That is worrisome. I don’t want violent confrontation anymore than the next peaceful student of the Dalai Lama does. However, the aim of peaceful protest is for a real-world meeting between politicians and the people who want change. It was awesome to realize that there were 10000 people standing on the road between the ferry and the stage. That realness is what our politicians need to feel when confronting a demonstration of this type. Pictures online just don’t cut it.
The problem: our politicians are (a) listening to corporate lobbyists too much and (b) taking the short-term for the long-term. With the result that they’re focusing on ‘saving the economy’ by creating free money that is mostly inflating the stock market, without any perceptual effect on the ‘real economy’. And they’re simultaneously ignoring real problems and real solutions to those problems.
I guess that green party guy was right. However – perhaps our politicians will listen anyhow. After all, there really were a LOT of protesters all over the world. Our message is clear: we want a safe world for ourselves, our children and our grand children.