Alexander Likhotal: Overcoming challenges for a better future

“Break a leg” – what a strange adage that aims to inspire us to perform better, while wishing literally something ghastly negative.

But as I sit now, writing this message with my own leg broken, that strange phrase comes to mind, serving as a reminder that the challenges we face should not be perceived as barriers to continuing with our work at hand.

This is very much the case for Green Cross International and our global network. We have achieved a great deal during 2010 and 2011, despite the period being marked by financial crisis, nuclear emergencies and the relentless degradation of our environment. Our network has much to be proud of.

More than 40,000 people in Ghana and Bolivia are now receiving safe drinking water thanks to our Smart Water for Green Schools programme.

Our advocacy has been instrumental in pushing major powers, including the United States and Russia, toward disposal of chemical weapons.

Value change is underway and a new generation’s attitudes are being shaped due to the environmental awareness growing in Japan, Australia, South Korea and Sri Lanka through the Green Lane Environmental Diary campaign.

Thousands of people in South-East Asia, northern Iraq and areas affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster are receiving health care and other support thanks to Green Cross.

Our advocacy is helping promote smart, renewable and alternative energy sources that can help save our planet, stimulate new economies linked with sustainable power, and end our reliance on fossil carbon-based fuels as well as nuclear energy. Switzerland and Germany have committed to phase out nuclear energy in the next 10–15 years.

And in the wake of Copenhagen and Durban, the expertise and influence we can bring through our Climate Change Task Force to bare on the search for consensus changing our climate’s future for the better is evident.

The Green Cross network is expanding, with Poland joining the list of countries where fully fledged Green Cross national organizations are operating. We must continue such growth as a network, while strengthening the support for existing Green Cross family members.

It is clear that the economic crisis will continue to dominate world attention in the years to come. But this crisis is a direct result of the unsustainable, consumption-driven economic model that has been fostered by the false idols of economic growth. In a period of great economic uncertainty, it may seem inappropriate to question the growth imperative. But, then again, perhaps a crisis is exactly the occasion to rethink the longer-term goals of global economic policy, and the consumption based-model, that has started to “consume” itself.

Look at the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. BP at the time of writing, was expected to pay US$41 billion in recovery costs . The quest for unsustainable, fossil fuel-derived revenues has resulted in costing the company a fortune.

At Fukushima, the bill is estimated to reach US$128.5 billion (Roubini Global Economics). On top, large healthcare costs could result from the radioactivity.

Time has come for real change, not mere adjustments and tinkering with management upscaling. We need a dramatic increase in resource productivity, a reduced reliance on fossil fuels and a switch to alternative and renewable sources of energy.

Greening the economy is just one part of what must be a multi-layered response. We cannot be fooled into thinking such “economic greening” will be the silver bullet for sustainable development. Rather, this is just a step on the road towards sustainability. The global community must invest equal energy in securing peace, eradicating poverty and protecting our natural resources.

I want to praise all my Green Cross national colleagues for keeping the Green Cross flag flying high in the face of the multifaceted crises we encounter. I acknowledge the difficulties they, and other members of civil society, face to fulfil their mission and activities. And despite this, I am heartened to see that grassroots action is emerging and developing in Russia, Belarus, Western Europe and the US, contributing to the prerequisites needed for a necessary change of the international system.

Where do we go from here? The coming years offer great opportunities to Green Cross to solidify our gains, expand on them and, in some cases, reinvigorate our efforts. On a day-to-day work level, we need to strengthen and expand our key programme areas dealing with water, energy, value change, social and medical care, and environmental security and sustainability. To face the challenges in front of us, we must remain relevant and vital.

In 2012, major events such as the World Water Forum in March and Rio+20 in June will take place, leading us towards Green Cross International’s 20th anniversary in 2013.

I hope these events will be powerful and substantive ones. But more importantly, they should be seen as a launching pad for the future. It won’t be good enough if these events just produce another list of good wishes.

Should this happen, it will not be long before we see a new “Oliver Cromwell,” someone who had no time for drama or light entertainment, to stand up and tell assembled negotiators and politicians: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately… depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of the planet, go!”

We have come so far so let’s make sure that the Green Cross family will continue rising to the challenges that face us and to offer hope and vision for the future of our planet and our Human Race.

So, in the most positive of senses, “BREAK A LEG”!


Alexander Likhotal

President of Green Cross International


Related document: Activity Report 2010-2011

Alexander Likhotal photo.jpg

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