Good Planet News 1 June 2023

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If there is any time to focus on the positive it is now, with the news this week that humankind faces the double threat of extinction from climate change and AI. In that was the promise that we can still steer the course of our own fate. Some recent positive advances give hope for doing so. So, here is a roundup of the latest good environmental news.

First up is a story close to my heart. If you follow my research, you will know that my interest in Buen Vivir grew from living and working with communities in Ecuador’s Intag Valley, which have battled threats to their social and environmental wellbeing for decades. Part of the struggle was captured in my book through interviews with key people in Cotacachi County (where Intag is located). So, this victory has moved me to tears, and I hope it is the start of some positive momentum for the Rights of Nature.

  1. Rights of Nature upheld in Ecuador Court

Communities in Ecuador’s Intag Valley had a major win in March after more than 30 years of mining resistance in the region. On March 29, 2023, communities in the Intag Valley won a court case against mining companies Codelco and ENAM. The Imbabura Provincial Court ruled in favour of the Rights of Nature upheld in the Constitution since 2008 and revoked the companies’ mining licenses for the project. The win helps preserve the natural integrity of the Tropical Andes and upholds local communities’ constitutional right to consultation. The victory also expands the case law for the Rights of Nature and sets a precedent for future cases. It also demonstrates the willingness to uphold the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and rural communities in the face of extractivism demand.

2. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has fallen by 68 percent

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell 68 percent in April compared to April 2022. One of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva presidential promises when taking office at the start of this year was to combat illegal deforestation, which rose significantly under former President Jair Bolsonaro.

3. Ecuador’s ‘debt for nature’ deal to help protect the Galápagos Islands

To Ecuador again, as the country has converted $1.6 billion (€1.5 billion) of debt into a loan to be used for conservation in the Galápagos Islands in the world’ biggest ‘debt for nature’ deal.

“The world’s biggest ocean-friendly debt swap is coming together in Ecuador to protect its unique natural resources,” says Pablo Arosemena Marriott, Minister of Economy and Finance.

4. Renewables to hit a major milestone

The renewable power sector is passing a series of important positive tipping points in 2023. Thinktank Ember’s fourth annual Global Electricity Review has found that greenhouse gas emissions from the global power sector are expected to fall for the first time because an expansion in renewable energies outstrips the growth in demand. The report analyses data from 78 countries representing 93% of global power supply. Not only that but experts predict that new solar and wind generation will become cheaper than existing fossil fuel generation.

5. Australia’s first Regenerative Food and Farming Map

Non-for-profit organisation Sustainable Table has developed Australia’s first Regenerative Food and Farming map. Regenerative agriculture helps mitigate the environmental impacts of farming and food systems. According to the Climate Council, Australian agriculture is responsible for around 13% of our greenhouse gas emissions each year. The map is a ‘first of its kind’. Taken from the website Sustainable Table state that the “map gives visibility across the industry, allows for connection and collaboration in ways never before possible, and catalyses the transformation of food and farming systems in Australia.” This also has public advantage “Connecting regenerative change makers, ethical funders and conscious humans to change Australia’s farming, food and fibre systems”. CEO of Sustainable Table Jade Miles said. “Until now there hasn’t been a national map or database of Australia’s regenerative food and farming industry…There is huge potential to learn from each other, leapfrog failures and grow the regenerative agriculture movement, and the map will play a really important role in facilitating this.” Agricultural change-makers and growers can add their businesses to the map for free by filling out the Australian Regenerative Food and Farming Map application:


Happy International Women’s Day 2023

WOMEN are changemakers, caregivers, teachers, creators, partners, economists, health carers, organisers, entrepreneurs, leaders, pillars of strength and support for those around us. Women truly are the foundation of society.

Yet, we still live in an age of gender inequality. Today on International Women’s Day 2023, we celebrate women. But we should recognise the important role women and girls play in society every day.

Women play a particularly vital role in environmental care and climate action. Women are also more likely to suffer the impacts of climate change, future and present. That is a fact. Climate impacts disproportionately affect women. Statistically women still do the bulk of unpaid domestic care, childcare and care for elderly, which will increase in burden with the fallout of climate-related disasters and related social and health emergencies. The IPCCC acknowledges the vulnerability of gender in these events and how they affect women’s lives and economic circumstances. Notably, the Paris Agreement called for a “gender-responsive” approach to climate action.

Women are not only at the forefront of the impacts, but also at the forefront in finding viable and innovative solutions

Today I’d like to acknowledge but a few of these outstanding female leaders past and present (especially those from the Global South), and pay homage to the rest who are working behind the scenes (as women often do) to make this world habitable, and more equitable, for our future generations. Despite two amazing Kenyan women below, this is neither an exhaustive nor biased list, rather it is just to highlight some of the inspiring contributions that women around the world are making in the fight for our planet. I’d also like to take this moment to honour all women everywhere, for all that we are.

Dr Vandana Shiva
Dr Shiva is a leading environmental activist, policy advocate and philosopher who has also been a major source of inspiration for my own work. Dr Shiva believes in the inseparability of nature and society, at the intersection between feminism and ecology. She says, “Diversity creates harmony, and harmony creates beauty, balance, bounty, and peace in nature and society, in agriculture and culture, in science and in politics.”

Dr Wangarĩ Maathai
The late inspirational Kenyan woman Wangarĩ Maathai “the Mother of trees” was famous for her environmental and sociopolitical work. Among her many, many accomplishments, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. In 1976, Dr Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an organisation planting of trees with women groups in order to conserve the environment and improve their quality of life, planting more than 20 million trees on farms, schools and compounds.

Dr Jane Goodall
Dr Goodall is a globally-renown primatologist, conservationist, environmentalist and activist. She is considered the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees. She has also spent much of her career supporting environmental projects in both climate change and radical animal rights activism. Dr Goodall says, “Fortunately, nature is amazingly resilient: places we have destroyed, given time and help, can once again support life, and endangered species can be given a second chance. And there is a growing number of people, especially young people, who are aware of these problems and are fighting for the survival of our only home, Planet Earth. We must all join that fight before it is too late.”

Sônia Guajajara
Indigenous Brazilian activist Sônia Guajajara is passionate about ensuring Indigenous rights, best known for her strong positions on Indigenous land rights and policies in Brazil. Her organisation, the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) focuses strongly on preventing deforestation.

Winona LaDuke
Duke is an Indigenous environmentalist, political activist, and program director for Honor the Earth who works on issues of climate change, renewable energy, sustainable food systems, and environmental justice for Indigenous communities. Duke was named one of Time magazine’s 50 most promising leaders under 40 years old.

Rachel Carson
Rachel inspired a global environmental movement in 1962 with her ground-breaking book Silent Spring – still fundamental text of environmentalists today.

Amelia Telford
Amelia is a Bundjalung and South Sea Islander woman originating from Northern New South Wales. Inspired by a lack of Indigenous youth participation in climate action, she co-founded Indigenous youth climate network Seed in 2014 bring First Nations voices to climate discussions. She is known for her role in fighting fracking in the Northern Territory.

Eunice Foote
Eunice was the first to predict rising temperatures from CO2 emissions with her experiments on greenhouse gases in 1856 being some of the earliest known. Eunice proved that raising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would increase temperatures.

Christina Figueres
Costa Rican diplomat Christina was the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010-16 and is credited with leading the UNFCCC to achieve the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Greta Thunberg
As the global public face for youth climate action, Greta needs no introduction. She is known for catapulting youth voices for advocating for stronger climate action in policy. Greta’s work inspired the global school climate strike movement Fridays for Future.

Dr. Corinne Le Quéré
French-Canadian Le Quéré is a climate change scientist best known for investigating carbon cycles to understand the drivers of carbon emissions and how climate change and variability affects the land and ocean carbon sinks.

Prof. Asmeret Asefaw Berhe
Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe focuses her research on understanding how disturbances in the environment affect the natural cycles of soil. She is credited for her work on understanding how land restoration could play an important role in sequestering CO2 and slowing climate change.

Dr Rose M. Mutiso
Kenyan born activist and materials scientist Dr. Rose M. Mutiso works with experts worldwide to find solutions to the energy crisis in developing countries, particularly specialising in renewable energy. Mutiso co-founded the Mawazo Institute, an institution committed to the next generation of female scholars and opinion leaders in East Africa.

Meghan Spoth
The Master’s student was instrumental in an expedition that has been said to have changed the face of Antarctic research, in which she and a group of other women, to Amundsen Sea, a rarely explored corner of the Antarctic continent, to better understand the rate at which the Thwaites Glacier disintegrated in the past. Her research will help future modellers make more accurate estimates of how fast sea levels will rise in the coming century.

Dr Kate Marvel
Dr Marvel uses compelling storytelling to debunk misinformation about climate change. In her postdoctoral research, Marvel discovered that human activity almost definitely changed global rainfall patterns.

Rumaitha Al Busaidi
Rumaitha Al Busaidi is an Omani marine scientist and activist who is best known for her work on how seawater is changing the Monai agricultural landscape. As both a climate change and female rights activist, Al Busaidi demonstrates how women are more likely to be impacted by climate change. “Other approaches are necessary, which have to do with how our societies are structured. The most important of them is educating and empowering women and girls,” she said.

Dr Catherine Nakalembe
Dr. Nakalembe is a Ugandan remote sensing scientist who uses sensors to capture and analyze data to do with natural resource management, urban planning, and climate and weather prediction. Her work focuses on food security in Africa, helping smallholder farmers make decisions about their agricultural activities, particularly to prevent the disaster of crop failure. Nakalembe won the Africa Food Prize for her work in 2020.

Good Planet News – 20 February 2023

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  1. The Australian Federal Government has blocked the development of a coal mine for the first time last week. Plans for the open pit coal mine located near the ecological icon the Great Barrier Reef by Central Queensland Coal were not approved by environment minister Tanya Plibersek, stating “The adverse environmental impacts are simply too great… “The risk of pollution and irreversible damage to the reef is very real.” This is a big win for marine biodiversity and Australian climate action.
  2. In Chile’s Valparaíso region, artisanal fishers have created small grassroots marine reserves to protect and regenerate marine biodiversity, making the region more resilient to climate change.
  3. The rise in Citizen Science participation globally is helping scientists tackle biodiversity loss. One of the most successful is the Great Backyard Bird Count, happening now.  Last year, about 385,000 people from 192 countries took part.
  4. Climate change is creating more dangerous algae blooms, but cutting edge science is harnessing that to create positive solutions to many modern environmental and health problems. Here are five:
  5. OdySea Aquarium is celebrating the hatching of three African penguins listed as endangered by the IUCN, as part of a breeding program committed to the survival of the species.

COP27 – Systems Change for Climate Action

On day 2 of the COP27, session 3: High-level Session on Systems Change and Climate and Sustainability Innovations examined the deep paradigm shift needed for effective climate action. There was one key overarching message that I took from this session that also resonated with my own work: we need a radical rethink of our economic systems, social justice, and the way we approach natural resources.

There were two issues that panelists argued need addressing in terms of innovation if we are to address climate change effectively and timely: 1) decoupling human wellbeing from the use of natural resources; 2) power, or rather the decentralization of power. Both issues are addressed in a Buen Vivir framework, which is one reason why I focus on the concept, not only for social wellbeing but ecological wellbeing too. It ties into yesterday’s discussion on empowering local communities for climate action.

Janez Potocnik, Co-Chair of UN International Resource Panel hit the nail on the head when he argued that we need to move from an economy that sees humans as external to nature, to one which understands humans are a part of nature. He also stated that we need to remove the causes which lead to negative impacts, of which extractivism is a core function because it is a driver of human needs, but it is also the cause of great inequalities.

Janez argued that to live sustainably, we must move to provisioning for human needs, rather than servicing existing paradigms. I argue further that in that, we must also provision for environmental needs. Without taking into consideration the needs natural resources, ecosystems and biodiversity have to continue to function and thrive, we risk destroying them to the detriment of society.

Dr Andres Steer, President of Bezos Earth Fund brought up the critical issue of power and control – that in the absence of empowering local communities to take action on the ground, any advances in innovation (whether that be technological, knowledge, economic, or otherwise) are void. This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges to effective climate action, the ability for decision and policy-makers, and others who hold the balance of power to cede some of that power to local communities to identify and implement solutions.

We see this with the concept of neoliberal development, under which the idea of sustainable development – and multilateral policymaking forums – sit. The overarching paradigm sees one set of values as dominant and therefore urges everyone to take the same approach, without having any idea about local challenges and the context on the ground. Dr Steer urged the UN to consider this transformative climate action, pleading, “as we think about changing the system, let’s not forget that on Monday morning we need to address real problems on the ground.” In other words, high-level aspirational commitments are nice, “and make for good dinner party conversation”, but are not always conducive to feeding effective solutions in real-time.

In closing this session, the facilitator summarised that “we have called for radical rethink. We have called for accepting that we will have to act in crisis. We are not going to be dealing with a world that is not in crisis.”

On that note, it is reassuring to hear the acknowledgment that frameworks and concepts like Buen Vivir, Donut Economics, Degrowth, Circular Society, and others that were once considered too ‘radical’ and pie-in-the-sky, could bring the kinds of holistic empowerment solutions the world needs in times of urgent climate crisis. Now it is about taking these from idea to action.

COP27 – Time to Highlight Local Climate Action

Placards, Climate Change demonstration by Julian Osley is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

COP27 kicked off yesterday in Egypt, with a rockier than expected start. This climate conference has been called the “implementation COP” because of the expectation to negotiate on decisions made at Glasgow (COP26). Yet, there has already been no end of obstructions to progress.

Criticisms began with backlash against Egypt as host country because of a multitude of political scandals, including the fact that it holds approximately 60,000 political prisoners. Before the conference even started there was disappointment as civil society representatives from different African countries struggled to get passes to the events – both undermining the conference’s position as an ‘African COP’, and highlighting the eternal struggles of those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change to be included in key climate decision-making processes.

COP27 started in a less than desirable position as participating countries have failed to act on progress made at Glasgow. Only 24 countries have since updated their pledges, with Australia making the greatest strides – but that has only elevated us from ‘highly unacceptable’ to ‘unacceptable’. Just confirmed is Australia’s bid to host COP31 in 2026, but that brings up the question of legitimacy amidst a renewed focus on new fossil fuel projects.

To make matters worse, the start of the conference was delayed as delegates failed to agree on the agenda for the fortnight. One sticky point has been the inclusion of reparations for loss and damage due to climate change for the most vulnerable. One can see why, nonetheless it is crucial that those in power are held to account.

There have been calls to include a greater emphasis on adaptation in the negotiations. Given the scale of climate-related events globally over the last few years, it would be wise to strengthen community resilience and capacity to adapt.

Given all of these obstacles, there sems that there is little hope to be had in global diplomacy. This predicament powerfully emphasizes the importance of prioritising locally-led climate action and sustainability solutions. Local communities are the best placed to identify the challenges that climate change brings to them, so considering the lack of transformative capacity for global climate diplomacy to respond to the urgency of the situation, greater priority must be paid to empowering locally-identified and led solutions to the climate crisis – both adaptation and mitigation.

Community-managed projects for the conservation of biodiversity and local ecosystems, for example empowers communities to become invested in the local environments, but it also utilises vital local knowledge. Communities that are more socially invested in their environment, are more inclined to look after it and better placed to identify appropriate solutions, albeit with considerable technical and political cooperation. There are multiple substantial benefits. Not only does local climate action lead to better context-specific programs and projects, but they are also generally more equitable and lead to higher social, environmental and economic returns for a community. Locally-led solutions are usually more holistic, with fewer trade-offs between society and nature.

Grassroots projects also raise the bar of optimism on climate, which in turn leads to greater involvement and action. Given the pessimism around the expected outcomes of COP27, I will be encouraging positivity for future climate action. Every Monday I’ll be posting positive local climate news on my socials, as I firmly believe in the power of positivity to bourgeon change.

While COP27 has been led by a rocky start, it still opens up discussion and debate about what is needed at all levels as we head into this dangerous new phase of climate change. And that is cause for hope in my opinion.

Is there hope for the Great Barrier Reef?

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This week I was fortunate enough to go snorkelling on  the Great Barrier Reef – a place that has been on my radar for a long time for more than one reason.

Climate change is the single greatest threat to the Reef. The Australian Institute of Marine Science, a government agency, began monitoring Earth’s largest reef system 36 years ago. Rising temperatures causing underwater heat waves have triggered coral grave bleaching events.

Last year UNESCO threatened last year to add the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) to a the “in danger” list. The Reef Snapshot of summer 2021-22 shows that extreme temperatures have contributed to the sixth mass coral bleaching event on the GBR since 1998, with 91% of the Reef between Cape Tribulation and the Whitsundays bleached (but still alive).

The state of the Reef has been cause for concern for several decades now. I was feeling a little melancholic about what I might encounter on the boat over to the Frankland Islands.

We visited Normanby Island and the reef off this particular Island is quite healthy. In fact, the last coral bleaching event on Frankland Island for reef wide coral cover was in 2015, and since, in these parts reef recovery is doing well. Therein lies hope!

The guides are doing a lot for education of the Reef, the effects of climate change, other sources of pollution and bleaching like agriculture and nearby industry, and highlighting the importance of seeing what a healthy reef looks like and how we can protect it. Frankland Islands involves visitors in scientific research data collection on marine species, reef damage, debris overall health via an app Eye on the Reef and Rapid Monitoring Surveys.

Of course, there is a lot more that can be done like substantive widespread global action on climate change to mitigate warming beyond the Reef’s limits, limiting tourist numbers further, addressing water quality, swapping out for more ecologically sound transport options, and much more. While the Reef that I experienced was particularly healthy, this was just one reef of over 2,300km of marine park. The GBR system is so large that it can be spotted from space.

The GBR needs to be added to the list of world heritage sites “in danger”. We need urgent radical action on climate, and we also cannot underestimate  the impact of education and awareness.

The fact is, the GBR needs to be added to the list of world heritage sites “in danger”. When a site is listed as “in danger” the host nation receives assistance to deal with conditions that threaten the values of the site. In return the country (in the case Australia) has a responsibility to adopt all reasonable measures to mitigate threats. This is where we are stuck given Australia’s lack of climate commitment.

In May the Albanese government pledged $1.2 billion in reef preservation and restoration by 2030. It’s a start, but it needs to be coupled with greater emissions reductions. Opening up new extractive coal and gas projects will undo any positive action.

As individuals we can also play our part in more generalised ways such as taking action on climate change, but also in ways specific to Reef tourism. Being in contact with nature is one of the best ways to drive a sense of responsibility for it. So, visiting the GBR is an important tool in understanding the impacts the climate and human activity is having on it. In doing so we can avoid overtourism and parts of the Reef that have been blatantly commercialised without regard for the negative environmental consequences, and support tourism that helps regenerate the Reef through research, conservation and monitoring.

I believe conservation starts with education and awareness, but like all action on sustainability and climate change, it requires the cooperation of all.

A Good Life for the SDGs

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Time to change the lens for sustainability?

The Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to social and environmental sustainability, with an overarching goal of ending poverty and protecting the planet by 2030.  Universal is the keyword. This means they apply to everyone, everywhere, regardless. This makes them more aspirational than practical and because of this, it’s argued that they are impossible to achieve. Indeed, by all accounts, they are failing. And, we’re running out of time.

The 2022 Progress report on the SDGs details the immense challenge ahead of us in terms of achieving social, environmental and economic sustainability. The report admits a backward slide against the Goals (albeit in the face of significant “cascading crises”, most notably in terms of poverty, climate change, and environmental indicators.

Climate change and sustainability come hand in hand. A changing climate is a major challenge for social and environmental sustainability. In turn, the way modern society functions is far from sustainable long, or even medium term and is hastening the speed of climatic changes that are occurring.

The IPCC has confirmed that climate change is caused by human activity, and it is happening at a speed faster than first realised. Thwaites “doomsday” Glacier in Antarctica, for example, is melting at a speed faster than could ever have been anticipated, threatening global sea levels to rise up to .6m

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres has called the current climate situation a “code red for humanity”. Everyone everywhere will (and already is) experience the wrath of the past decades’ inaction. As I have argued many times, we cannot continue to decouple human and environmental wellbeing. These “cascading crises” are complex, and they are entangled.

The outlook is not good. While it seems like we are on a one-way course for destruction, there is definitely hope in limiting the scale of future destruction, if we band together, separately. That is, if we change divert the approach from ‘universal’ to ‘contextual’. Immediately.

In the words of Sneddon et al. (2006)

“Sustainability may yet be possible if sufficient numbers of scholars, practitioners and political actors embrace a plurality of approaches to and perspectives on sustainability, accept multiple interpretations and practices associated with an evolving concept of “development”, and support a further opening up of local-to-global public spaces to debate and enact a politics of sustainability.”

Because climate change is a global challenge (perhaps the biggest!) with no geographical limits it requires a global response. Let me rephrase that, it requires a response globally, that is anchored in local geographical, climatic, ecological, socio-political, economic and cultural context.

The thing about place is that no one locale is the same. Place is a complex notion. Each comes with its own identity, challenges, and socio-economic situation. The identifying factors aren’t just social, each place is unique with its own environment, biodiversity, ecosystems, topographical, geological, and geographical advantages and disadvantages. Place influences a person’s identity and their empathy towards nature, which plays a role in the motivation for climate and sustainability action. The perception of place is then vital to social and environmental justice at the community level. This makes the community context the most practical viewpoint for addressing social and environmental issues.

What’s more, climate change is not and will not affect each place equally. Each community will mount its own challenges that are unique to that place. So, it is nonsensical to then believe that we can apply a universal approach to these issues, even if they have global scope. Plus, large-scale transformational systemic change is inherently complicated, and especially drawn out – a major issue when dealing with issues on an urgent timescale like climate change.

Global declarations and treaties are a vital part of the international system. They are an important tool to set the wheels in motion for action in all parts of the world, and they outline states responsibilities and obligations in responding to challenges that affect us all. But, they are not effective in their own right. International action is firmly squared within the boundaries of neoliberalism, which promotes universal values in line with Western standards, and ignores the diverse realities of communities everywhere. This has indeed been one of the most common critiques in relation to global climate declarations. International climate diplomacy must be coupled with locally anchored solutions within a context that speaks to locally-identified needs and challenges, otherwise they are all but useless.

What alternative approaches like Buen Vivir do is remove local action for social and environmental justice from ideal and aspirational universal values and provide local communities with agency to drive solutions that meet their realities. As a hypothetical example, let’s look at two climate-related flood disasters, the solutions that are required for (comparably) affluent communities in Northern New South Wales in Australia will not work in the poor communities of Pakistan who are currently experiencing climate flooding of biblical proportions.

 Small-scale transformational change breaks up larger big-picture goals like the SDGs and makes them amenable to place and context. Smaller chunks are easier to swallow and (notwithstanding all the complexities in a community) quicker to achieve real change. Concepts like Buen Vivir also help reconcile the social and environmental aspects, that builds bridges between the two rather than having them almost compete for attention.

Local action for climate change is crucial and Buen Vivir provides a framework for locally driven solutions that build resilience, mitigate impacts, and allow communities to adapt in relation to their own realities. It that respect it provides a tool for increasing social and environmental wellbeing in the face of these challenges. Having local solutions unadulterated by the global agenda yet capable of working together in cooperation with it is vital for transformative action at this point. ‘Together yet apart’ – much like the catchphrase of the COVID lockdown period.

Even the upcoming COP27 in Egypt has recognised the importance of working together for implementation against the old notion of a single negotiated outcome. The Presidency Vision states the need “to replicate and rapidly upscale all other climate-friendly solutions towards implementation in developing countries”. “Together for implementation” is the theme, with the Presidency saying that implementation needs to happen “on time and at scale”, and be “specific, measurable, and impactful”.

Each of the principles of Buen Vivir has the potential to cooperate with the wider global Goals, but leaving it to the communities to identify the needs and respective solutions. I outline just how the principles converge with the Goals in my book and more recently paper published in the Community Development Journal .

Never before has the term “think globally, act locally” been more prevalent than now. And never has the call been more urgent!

The People’s Charter for an Eco-Social World

The Global People’s Summit: Co-Creating a New Eco-Socio World was held 29 June – 2 July 2022. I was honored to have been included in the program, presenting my research on Buen Vivir.

One of the key outcomes of the Peoples’ Global Summit was the ‘Peoples’ Charter’ shaped by diverse voices across the globe and based on the values of Buen Vivir, diversity, respect and Ubuntu, for the co-creation of globally shared values.

The People’s Charter is a living document and reference point that will grow as the world’s populations share their solutions for a sustainable planet where people live in peace and security. It is co-designed and co-built.

“The People’s Global Summit recognises that the pledges made by governments since the founding of the United Nations – the pillars of peace, development and human rights – have facilitated crucial steps forward but have not yet been realised. Challenges are at crisis point. Rights have been eroded. Inequalities and fractures have grown. Poverty sits alongside extreme wealth. Nature has been degraded, leading to climate warming and environmental destruction. Millions of people have been displaced as a result, adding to the millions more displaced by conflict and violence. The governments that made these commitments have prioritized competition over collaboration and sovereignty over solidarity. They have not yet served the people they represent.”

The Charter sets out five values for a new Socio-Eco World and seven implications going forward. The purpose was to create a call to action for world leaders at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum and General Assembly in July 2022.

If you missed the Summit, you can still watch the presentations by clicking the sessions in the program here. Be sure to check out some of the amazing keynote speakers, as well as the opening ceremony by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterrez and climate activist Dr Kumi Naidoo.

You can read the contribution book here.

Raising the voices for transformational change

It’s been a while between posts from me. I have been working in the background on magazine and journal articles, more writing, conferences and forums, and I am doing a slab of work for the local municipal government.

This week, however, is a busy one in terms of international forums. I am participating in two really exciting ones that seek to open up dialogue on various voices for transformational change towards the Good Life in its many forms.

The first coming up this Thursday 30 June is the International Forum for the Good Life/Forum international pour le bien vivre in Grenoble, France, from 29 June to 1 July (Saint-Martin-d’Hères Campus).

The theme is ‘Heading towards a fair and sustainable society’ and the forum will bring together some amazing presentations and keynotes , citizens’ initiatives, scientific reflections, debates and concrete actions from France and elsewhere. See the program here. I will be presenting my research on Buen Vivir and the role of different actors. Registration is still open and free to students of all kinds, as well as French citizens and journalists.

The next day, I will be presenting at the people’s global summit ‘Co-Building a New Eco-Social World: Leaving No One Behind’.

The Summit was initiated by the UNRISD and IFSW to act as a catalyst to develop new local ideas and global values around the values of Buen Vivir, Respect, Diversity, and Ubuntu.

There’s a stellar program with the opening ceremony welcome by UN Secretary General Antonio Gutiérrez, and: 24 keynote sessions, 16 live panels, blogs, dances, academic findings, interviews, poetry and more.

The People Charter session will provide the opportunity to contribute to the development of the People Charter that will be submitted to the world’s leaders as they gather at the 2022 United Nations High-Level Political Forum. My 30 Buen Vivir session is on 1 July at 21:00 UTC, but video access will be available until the end of the summit. The People’s Global Summit will be interactive for 24 hours each day from 29 June to 2 July 2022 to let people participate from all time zones. Choose what you pay registration is available to provide equitable access to people everywhere – register here. A copy of the contribution is available as a downloadable book here.

Why are these types of forums, conferences and summits important? Because we are slowly seeing a shift towards alternative approaches to different social and environmental aspects of development. The IPCC, along with many scholars, community groups, people from different parts of the globe and even policymakers have called for a transformation of our social, economic and ecological systems, so that there may be some hope for future generations. Global forums like these provide a voice to otherwise marginalized groups who have vital contributions to sustain the health of our planet and its people. We have an opportunity to learn and a responsibility to act differently.

The momentum is here.

If we return to the old normal the recent challenges to the environment everywhere since the beginning of the pandemic, what have we learnt? The time has come, as Ateljevic rightly argues, to “mainstream previously marginalised ideas…To potentially move what was considered either radical, over positive or naïve into the centre of (y)our attention and (y)our consideration.”

Eisentein said, “During this great pause, we could potentially embrace the holistic paradigms and practices that have been waiting on the margins. In our humbled state, we could bring them into the centre and build a new system around them (Eisenstein, 2020).”

The need for change has never been more urgent, nor more desired!

Why Elon Musk Can’t End our Crises

The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, has made headlines again this week for hos $61.6 billion takeover bid for social media platform Twitter.

Political activists and media outlets have taken to declaring that his wealth would be better spent on solving world hunger and climate change. While it may be true that that money could be better spent for good, solving our global crises is not as simple as money.

WFP estimates that up to 811 million people around the world do not have enough food, and 44 million are on the brink of famine. Last year, David Beasley, the Director of the World Food Programme challenged Musk to use his wealth to fight world hunger. A plan for $6.6b, he said, could address the food crisis for 42 million people in 43 countries by providing one meal a day. That would be a great start, but it’s more complex than that.

What institutions fail to recognize publicly when they speak of the current situation of global poverty are the historical drivers behind it. Global poverty and inequality are the result of grave historic political, economic, social and environmental failures. No amount of money will “fix” it. In fact, it is paradoxical to depend on the system that created the wealth gap and climate emergency to solve it.

Unfortunately social, economic and environmental crises are intertwined. Climate change is only making poverty worse and vice-versa. Capitalism is killing the planet and its people.

Environmental writer George Monbiot says, “you might expect an intelligent species to respond to these signals swiftly and conclusively, by radically altering its relationship with the living world. But this is not how we function. Our great intelligence, our highly evolved consciousness that once took us so far, now works against us.”

The world, our planet and its people depend on a complex web of systems- a delicate equilibrium which has been severely destabilized by global capitalism. Economic growth requires us to consume more and more, which exploits our natural resources, destroys habitats and biodiversity beyond repair. Economic crises are environmental crises.

Take the African continent alone. Extreme povery has ravaged the continent for decades. Structural poverty. Climate change has worsened the already dire situation of extreme and relative poverty because resulting devastating floods and extraordinary drought periods in recent years have led to crop failures and severe food insecurity. This will only worsen. It has been said time and time again that those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are those who have not caused it in the first place.

Regardless of the political showdown between Musk and those who believe he should spend his fortunes on world hunger. The same economic system that leads to the creation of millionaires, billionaires and trillionaires is the same system that is at the very root of our global economic and social crises.

There is no doubt that $6b could address problems of world hunger in the here and now by providing immediate assistance to those who need it. Yet, solving world hunger, poverty and the climate crisis are going to take more than just economic investments. The root structural and systemic causes first need to be acknowledged, regretted, and changed.

I’ll leave you with the words of Monbiot, “more important than the direct impacts of the ultra-wealthy is the political and cultural power with which they block effective change. Their cultural power relies on a hypnotising fairytale. Capitalism persuades us that we are all temporarily embarrassed millionaires. This is why we tolerate it. In reality, some people are extremely rich because others are extremely poor: massive wealth depends on exploitation.”