Our 2020 main environmental battles
Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL

Our 2020 main environmental battles

06/01/2020
15:18
Mexico City
Omar Vidal
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In 2020 begins a decade that could prove crucial for the future of life on Earth

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The time has come for all of us to take sides, to use the power of our vote and join the street marches and the social media protests. The moment is ripe for a revolution lead by and for youth. The rest of us can participate or step aside; if we cannot help, at least we should not interfere.
 
This article is dedicated, with love, to my 17-year-old daughter and my 22-year-old son
 

In 2020 begins a decade that could prove crucial for the future of life on Earth. A decade when our social, economic, and political stability will be at stake. It will be a decade when we will all be haunted by the direst environmental crisis that humankind has ever faced. Delaying proper action to confront this impending crisis will ultimately bring devastating suffering for all.

From immigration to the U.S. elections, issues in the spotlight in 2020

Just look at the 2019 statistics to realize the magnitude of the environmental emergency in which we live today. It’s the result of our ravenous consumption patterns, our suicidal disregard for nature, and our irrational short-term thinking. Nobody can claim to have been taken by surprise. Scientists have warned us time and time again; we didn’t listen then, and we don’t listen now. For many politicians and business leaders, it is not politically or economically convenient to talk about environmental Armageddon. Those who risk raising their voices—think of the 16-year old climate activist Greta Thunberg—are dismissed, slandered, ridiculed as alarmists, or accused of serving dubious interests.

I am convinced that the outcome of a few key environmental battles will define the new decade, shape the kind of planet on which you, me, and future generations will inhabit and the sort of society we might become. If we lose those battles, everyone loses, regardless of where or how you live. Your political ideologies or religious beliefs will not matter either. The disputes will be among relatives, friends, colleagues, and strangers; and the ballot box, the street, social media, and the international political arena will be the battlefields. We can all join these battles by deciding for whom to vote, for what causes to march in protest, what to consume, how to transport ourselves. These are the eight battles in which we will engage:

1. In November, Americans will decide whether or not they will reelect Donald Trump—the planet’s most powerful global warming denialist and adversary of the environment and of multilateralism. The “wall" President. Will they vote for him or for someone who will give priority to the nation’s and the planet’s well-being over their personal interests? Even for the lesser of two evils?

2. In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro will continue weakening environmental regulations to encourage cattle ranchers and loggers to set fires and expand mining in indigenous lands, all of which threatens 40% of the world's tropical forests. All in the name of demagogic nationalism, a logic of "I can destroy the Amazon because it is mine.” Will the world remain impassive while this happens?

3. The November climate summit in Madrid was a fiasco. Could the 2020 COP26 in the United Kingdom bring to heel the USA, China, India, and Russia to honor their commitments as part of the Paris Agreement? Together the four are responsible for over half of global greenhouse emissions.

4. Remarkable progress has been achieved by the youth global movements, marching in the streets and holding school strikes to demand action on the climate and environmental crises. Their immediate challenge is to bolster those protests, while at the same time achieving the necessary policy changes to allow them to take their future into their own hands. When we adults smear these young people’s struggle, let’s not forget that they will be paying the bill for our own mistakes far into the future.

5. As the crisis worsens, most multilateral agencies with responsibility for the environment are becoming irrelevant because they have become political fiefdoms, are too bureaucratic, and lack sound leadership. Their mandates and structures need to be reassessed, so that they grow into true multilateral forums that offer solutions, not merely more summits, conferences, and futile good wishes. 

6. The leaders and billions of followers of the worlds’ most widespread religions—Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism—should acknowledge their responsibility for taking care of nature. Without envy and with humility. For instance, Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato si' was a milestone in the fight for the environment; unfortunately, however, neither the millions of believers nor the Catholic politicians rallied behind it. Nevertheless, the Pope’s environmental vision offers a powerful source of inspiration and useful practical advice.

7. Civil society and philanthropic organizations have multiplied over the last few decades. Although they have played a pivotal role in raising societal awareness, many—particularly the international ones—did not evolve at the same pace at which environmental crises deepened. Their cardinal sins are the failure to understand, strengthen and support local organizations, and their tendency to put money over mission. Some seem to have realized these serious shortcomings and are beginning to look beyond the end of their noses.

8. The full potential of the private sector to invest in and innovate towards environmental conservation and sustainability has yet to be unleashed. Also, although many corporations and entrepreneurs boast of being “green,” few back their words with significant financial resources and real action. It appears they don’t realize that the basis of their supply chains and the viability of their investments depend on nature, and that protecting it should be an imperative to developing their businesses. 

The time has come for all of us to take sides, to use the power of our vote and join the street marches and the social media protests. The moment is ripe for a revolution lead by and for youth. The rest of us can participate or step aside; if we cannot help, at least we should not interfere.

Changing the world, amigo Sancho, is not utopia nor madness, it is justice.  
Don Quixote, 1605. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

 

Scientist and environmentalist Omar Vidal
Twitter: @ovidalp

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