Around Christmas last year (2015) I’d finished working on a fairly exhausting youth work programme, and spent the weekend in bed watching the UNFCCC meeting in Paris unfold on social media and in the news. I’d just finished a masters in “Environment and Development”, and was hopeful that finally we’d get some agreement on one of the biggest challenges we face in the future: climate change.
The agreement wasn’t ideal – and the Red Lines protests that greeted the final text screamed out for more. I was, though, hopeful: that an agreement was reached at all gave us a foundation for change. The protest movements seemed like they could achieve ever-increasing change. The conversation was one of creating new futures and using the Paris Agreement as a foundation to build them.
8 months later, and the fishing referenced in the title of this blog appears to have used dynamite rather than nets. The conversation has turned away from creating a better future, and is now solidly focused on trying desperately to stop it being worse. Between mass murder (both the ongoing and often unacknowledged tragedies in Yemen, Syria and dozens of other countries, and the recent bloodshed in Europe and the USA), the rise of the European far-right, The Donald, Brexit…and all the rest of it.
This blog started as a way for me to stay in touch with some of the academic discussion around things like the Sustainable Development Goals, and to try and keep my mind sharp by exploring some random ideas. As ever, the posts started quickly and then dried up…but even without the usual writer’s block, the original idea I had for this blog seems a bit useless given what’s been going on recently.
I’ve been to public meetings to discuss the UK’s current political crisis. I’m trying to get more active in environmental circles to help rekindle the action that was so prominent in Paris 2015. I continue to work with young people – and nothing is more inspiring (or keeps you more hopeful) than seeing the world’s future leaders and citizens develop their understanding of their society, it’s problems and what could to do about them. But throughout everything I get the sense that we’re all flailing around, trying to cling to something that might guide us to a solution.
The question is simple: “how do we make this world a better place?”. The problem is, those who are in power (or are soon to be) have a warped view of what “better” means, or an exclusionary view of exactly who that world should be better for. For those of us who seek a society based on environmental protection, human prosperity and empathy, there doesn’t seem to be any way forward. Or at least, any way that can right now be put into practice.
It’s not enough for us to only play the long game – every day lost to the status quo is a day in which people die violently and unnecessarily, in which it will be harder to stop climate change, in which the resources we should be pooling to create our future are siphoned off to sustain this unjust present.
But what do we do?
I’m still fishing, though the questions I’m asking and the future I’m trying to find are a world away from what I’d planned when I last sat down to write a blog…