Taking action on climate change is vital to ensure that future generations have a world fit to live in
Isn’t it interesting that even though we are faced with climate change, and the general consensus is that we have to save the world (the whole world, not bits of it, or parts of it, but the world itself), there are still so many thousands of other issues that take up our time.
There’s our concern for those in homelessness and poverty; the problems thrown up by racism and homophobia, transgender rights and countless other issues – not least the enormous international issues around global security, the power Russia wields over its neighbours; and of course global primacy being shifted from America to China, and what that will entail.
Obviously we are always involved with the quality of our lives too: for instance the getting and giving of presents, the eating of meals, the buying of clothes and the preparation for sexual acts. Makeup to buy, gadgets to upgrade, Netflixes to flick, and a whole plethora of other considerations.
So there’s a lot to be preoccupied with in our everyday world – the performance and misbehaviour of governments, the depression on a global scale brought on by Covid, and our society recently scarred by lockdowns and social distancing.
All of the above swam into my mind as we had a meeting recently to talk about what The Big Issue should be preoccupying itself with in the next 30 years, having just celebrated its first 30 years. Apparently most people have seen our magazine – sold by homeless people – as a homelessness magazine, yet when I entitled it ‘The Big Issue’, the title was meant to be open to interpretation.
I could have called it Street News, after the New York Street paper we got our idea from. But The Big Issue was my idea for allowing people to see what you might call their ‘big issue’, whatever that was, being incorporated into the fabric of our magazine, or street paper, as we initially called it.
‘What is your Big Issue?’ was the topic we tried to address in our editorial, which was always wide and encouraging. What sets you alight or gets you out of bed in the morning; what ‘rocks your boat’?
In my opinion, those golden days – although they were not as golden as they have come to be seen – are the old way of seeing things. Because even though some people saw the clear threat of climate change in sharp relief, most of us have only woken up to its cataclysmic implications in the last few years. We might therefore have hidden ourselves from our realisation that the whole world – and not just part of it – needs fixing; that actually that was the backdrop of the increasing global crisis.
It took thousands of years to create 50 per cent of the current climate damage we have done to the world. It took the last 50 or so years to create the other 50 per cent. That’s bad news for us all, unless of course we can craft a new way of working globally, individually and collectively to end the dangers of climate failure.
So in talking about the next 30 years of The Big Issue I am convinced we have to turn to the wellbeing of future generations. And that is making climate central to our combined efforts. My Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill, now passing from the House of Lords to the House of Commons, is part of that fight to address climate change and dozens of other concerns.
Our big problem seems to be, how do we direct our efforts towards the mammoth task of stopping the world corroding into a toxic overheated wasteland? How do we co-ordinate, converge and coalesce our energies into something that will be like declaring a full-scale war to reverse the destruction of Mother Earth. As if we were rerunning the Second World War, but instead of focusing on the destruction of Nazism, combining our efforts to destroy the destruction and the destructive behaviour of humankind.
Our thinking is outdated. It probably was a hundred years ago. The last hundred years have laid the foundations for most of our current problems, both environmentally and politically. Our schools and universities are outdated. We are not providing that converging energy of mind and materials to grasp the task that faces us. We are looking at solutions that will not solve the big problem staring us in the face: and that is, that we won’t have much left if the natural world is blighted by the continuing consumer blitzkrieg we are waging against it.
Thought, education, life-long learning, converging our efforts towards the common task of avoiding destruction, are what we need now.
So when I am asked what I think The Big Issue should be doing for the next 30 years, I say that it must help us head off the biggest catastrophe that humanity has ever faced. That its playground, its home, its place of inspiration lies in creating the new thinking we need to save our world from going up like a forest fire.
The Big Issue is Mother Planet.
John Bird is the founder and Editor in Chief of The Big Issue. Read more of his words here.
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