As the World BurnsAugust 26, 2019
As I sit here and watch with dismay as the Amazon burns, and reflect on some of the other horrifying news of the summer – Greenland lost 12.5 billion tons on ice in one day; Microplastics discovered in “extreme” concentrations in the North Atlantic; Nuclear monitoring stations went mysteriously quiet after Russian missile facility explosion - I wonder, how did we get here and where is the urgency of our response?
There is little doubt the news media has played a role in our diversion. No longer able to rely on annual subscriptions to fund their work, they resort to click bait headlines that bring in ad revenue. That’s why ABC spent more time in one week covering the royal baby than it did in all of 2018 on climate change. But algorithms don’t lie - we’re taking in what they’re feeding us, and that is on us. So here we are, distracted by offers to buy Greenland and dissecting “covfefe” tweets. We were lulled into complacency while the Amazon was being clear cut, while the gulf between rich and poor widens by the day, and the world slowly tilts toward tyranny.
We are facing a moment in time where we need a coordinated global effort to address a number of urgent issues. Yet the superpower to the south seems no longer interested or capable of playing a leadership role. And the United Nations without America’s active participation is impotent.
But while governments around the world have ceded moral authority and leadership, it doesn’t mean we should give up hope. Ordinary citizens still have a voice, especially in the age of social media. Look no further than Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, and the kids from Parkland – all have demonstrated the tremendous power of the individual.
In recent days, I have seen a chorus of voices speak out against the destructive policies that are partially responsible for the fires consuming the Amazon. These voices, if loud enough, do have an impact on policy makers. Politicians will react to outrage by their constituents. We need a similar chorus of voices to speak out against other dangers we are facing, including climate change, inequality, unnecessary wars, etc. Activists in all these areas need to harness the growing disillusionment within their communities and organize targeted campaigns, much like the International Crisis Group (I am a board member) did with the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. We rang the bells loudly enough that it forced policy makers to mobilize and helped prevent an even greater crisis.
It’s time we all start actively engaging in our future, as complacency comes at a cost none of us can afford.