Do you want the good news or the bad news first? I don’t know about you, but I’ve been hearing a lot of bad news recently, so let’s start there. Here’s a random sampling of some of the big bad stories of 2016 so far (well, actually, the last week).
NASA, NOAA, the UK Met Office and the Japanese Meteorological Office have all confirmed that 2015 has smashed the records for hottest year on record, ever. Again. Not only that, but 10 of the 12 months of 2015 set new records as the hottest of that month ever recorded. NASA’s new data for 2015 also shattered its previous record and showed 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001.
The wealth of the world’s richest 62 people has risen by 44% in the last five years, and is now equivalent to that owned by the poorest half of the world, according to a new Oxfam report. Also as of 2015, the 1% now own more than the other 99% of the world’s population. The ‘trickle-down effect’ used to reassure us that inequality isn’t really a problem, is pretty thoroughly debunked by these stats.
Further, our oceans have absorbed as much heat from global warming over the last two decades as in the previous 130 years. That’s 7 times more per year. I don’t know what that will do to the marine ecosystems, but it’s unlikely to be good.
And there’ll be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050. At first I asked myself, is that bad because of the escalating quantities of harmful plastics going into the sea, or because of the dwindling fish populations? Maybe both?
Then I realised, I’m asking the wrong question.
The question we all need to be asking is, what are we going to do about it?
I used to think I couldn’t change any of this. But now I hear these stories and it makes me leap up and want to rally everyone to make sure decisions are made that take care of people, and our environment, rather than make a quick buck for someone who already has more money than they can spend (have you seen The Big Short yet? Jeez!)
As the economist Will Hutton just wrote about the world economy, “Profits as a share of national income in Britain and the US [same for Australia] touch all-time highs; wages touch an all-time low as the power of organised labour diminishes and the gig economy1 of short-term contracts takes hold. The excesses of the rich, digging underground basements to house swimming pools, cinemas and lavish gyms, sit alongside the travails of the new middle-class poor…”
So a basic choice between ‘money for a few’ or ‘a healthy future for all’ is made all the time through little actions, and the decisions are not going our way. Hutton continued “[Capitalism] needs embedded countervailing power – effective trade unions, law and public action – to keep it honest and sustain the demand off which it feeds.”
The picture is the same everywhere. By doing nothing, we hand over our power to protect our future, both environmentally and economically, to people who repeatedly prove they will not protect it. Would you trust someone with a track record of callous destruction with the care of your home or family? Of course not!
In many places, governments and big business currently have an unhealthily close relationship which means the interests of us, the people, aren’t often top of the list for either. But I’m not in either of those elites, and if you’re not, then we’re losing out. And so is the world we live on.
If we do nothing, then next year a charity will write another report that shows even fewer people now own as much as half of the rest of the world, and scientists will confirm we’re one step closer to irreversibly damaging our home planet.
So here’s some good news: It is absolutely our decision, yours and mine, how our world is treated.
You and I have that power, we just have to act, together.
If we don’t like a policy, we can object directly to ministers or take direct action. If we don’t like the pattern of the government’s decisions, we can vote for a different party, or even form our own. All of this goes far beyond the limits of left / right party politics.
Even though the water has been brought to the boil slowly around us, unlike the well known behaviour of frogs, I’m not about to become part of a soup. I’ve jumped out. It’s time we all do.
I joined Greenpeace as a staff member in August last year, after years of being a supporter and I want to work with you to make sure we have a healthy planet and a healthy future. For everyone.
When we work together, it’s bad news for the baddies!
Are you on board? Leave a comment if you’re keen to be involved and I’ll get back to you.
Be sure to read the good news as well!
1. A gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.