Cultivating The Flowers of Hope

Viewpoint by Anabella Rosemberg

The writer is International Programme Director at Greenpeace International.

AMSTERDAM (IDN) — On days like World Environment Day, intriguing, outraging and surprising data about the damage being done to the environment are often shared and spoken of. Too often these stories about our ailing planet only further eco-anxiety and stunt rather than spur action. After all, there are plenty of terrifying facts to choose from. An awful lot. Scarily too many.

Or context is offered, like the record heat waves in India and Pakistan or the spiralling fossil energy and food price hikes.

With all of this in mind, one might argue there is little more than despair and overwhelm in the air. 

However, this World Environment Day (June 5), I am calling on us all to focus on the flowers of hope, as hope is a discipline that needs to be cultivated. Especially against the backdrop of our multiple intersectional emergencies, from the climate and nature crisis to inequalities, racial injustice and the abuse of women’s rights, data nor the context will offer us reasons to dream and be hopeful. We have to intentionally look for beauty, inspiration and courage, and take from them the energy to keep fighting. So, I offer you a few of the flowers growing in the hostile garden we call our present.

Polluters will pay

In Rio in 1992, diplomats brought into international law the idea that those who pollute must pay for their crimes, and by no means secure a “get out of jail free card” to destroy. Across the world, regulation and litigation are today being deployed to ensure the fossil fuel industry pays up for the climate chaos and health crisis they have driven us into, with the most vulnerable in society the worst affected. Their liabilities are massive. We will certainly see them double down on their historical precedents in deception, the tobacco industry or the more subtle but equally dishonest greenwashing. 

Their cynicism, at their best, when they hit record profits this year on the back of wars and deaths, will be another nail in the coffin of their public image, with their staff resigning and whistleblowing, and investors and politicians, dreading their toxic footprint, will start tainting them as well.

No one will be left behind

As an environmental network, the urgency of our environmental and climate crisis has sometimes been the worst enemy for Greenpeace, pushing us to short term, isolated actions. The scale of change we need can only be achieved by transforming the system concertedly with allies.

The environmental justice movement is getting stronger every day. It is listening to the millions of people struggling to make a living, paying for dirty energy bills, and trapped working for corporations that are trashing the planet with few other employment opportunities. Meanwhile, a vibrant Just Transition movement is growing, proposing dynamic policy changes, and most importantly, avoiding being played off by the defenders of the status quo. Both of these groups, traditionally separate and siloed, have been coming together like never before. This is not by chance, or by only sharing a hopeful vision for a green and just future. This alliance of greens, labour activists and unions, feminists, Indigenous Peoples and social justice groups is down to working together with respect. We are talking to each other, working alongside each other. We are now together where we are not expected.

Futures are being written

Solidarity is all around. Movements in the global South are being joined by those in the global North pushing governments to stick to financial commitments to support vulnerable countries in the face of the climate crisis. We see this in the current push for a Loss and Damage facility under the UN climate regime. This South-North crossover makes empty political promises and zero accountability less possible.

With these connections, ideas to overcome the dependency on global North currencies, a major driver of extractivism in the global South, are being developed. The need to move away from extractivism has made it into everyday discourse, from discussions about water being at risk by fossil fuels or mining, or scandals about food security in countries that are the world’s food exporters.

And, as with any physical exercise, the more you do, the more your “hope muscles” will get stronger; you will find more flowers and have more strength to help them grow. There is a plethora to cultivate: moving away from fossils, making food speculators visible, not letting the United Nations be co-opted by the greenwashers, and many more. All it takes is an intentional decision to make space to see these flowers of hope, letting them grow in your imagination and ensuring you are contributing to their growth.

On World Environment Day, speeches will be made, statistics will be read, stories will be told, and policies announced, more than ever before. Most of them, completely inadequate. But hope is not to be found there. Hope lives in the actions of resistance and creativity we are seeing every day across the world. And it’s those people who cultivate these flowers of hope whom we in Greenpeace salute today. [IDN-InDepthNews – 04 June 2022]

Photo: Mingo Distribution in The Philippines. Greenpeace donated Mingo (an instant moringa rice & mongo blend for 6 to 30 months old babies) in Dolores, The Philippines, as a solution to address malnutrition that exists in the area. CREDIT: © Alanah Torralba / Greenpeace

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