The world is at a crossroads: Let’s choose the pathway to sustainability in 2013

2013 has arrived. And for anyone looking to turn over a new page, and prime themselves for change and new challenges, the start of a new year offers no better opportunity. For change on many fronts is needed, and the challenges are clear. The recent Doha climate debacle offered the latest wake up call for change. Despite all the scientific and tangible (see Super Storm Sandy) evidence we know about climate change, and how it threatens people and, in turn, humanity’s future, decision makers are, may I say, turning a blind eye to the obvious.

How can we keep putting off the inevitable, and ignoring the solutions? Emissions generated from the burning of fossil fuels must be drastically and rapidly cut. New, safe, alternative and renewable forms of energy production, and use, must be embraced. At the same time, we must heed other examples – like the ills of nuclear technology (see Fukushima) and waste of water – and recognize that there are real reasons for wanting to change: to ensure a healthy, sustainable legacy on this planet for our grandchildren and their children.

The “grandchildren” line is not some throwaway comment. We can see that without urgent action, warming temperatures and resultant disastrous natural events – from disasters to drought – will endanger the futures of those who we – you, I and those around us – should care about most: our youth, our future.

This is why, in 2013, Green Cross International will be placing special emphasis on youth. As we gear up for our 20th anniversary, which will be celebrated with a range of global activities throughout 2013, building up to our major events on 2-3 September in Geneva, Switzerland, we will be looking to today’s and tomorrow’s young leaders, asking them in what direction we (humanity) need to go, asking them what Future They Want, and seeking their advice on what decisions we should make.

Mikhail Gorbachev founded Green Cross in 1993 to promote such a global discourse, with the future of humanity and our planet at the very heart of this dialogue. 20 years later, the world is still at a crossroads: environmental degradation, security and poverty. The crossroads, or nexus, where these three challenges intersect is where Green Cross operates. We have, for two decades, strived to navigate a sustainable way through this junction. We have done this, to, in turn, help and work with people from all sectors and communities to find a durable, safe and equitable path forward. And why? So we, and importantly, generations to come can continue to thrive and survive on this planet.

Do we have a choice? If we lose the battle for sustainability we will have to fight for survivability. It might just come to that. We may have already missed the boat. Let’s pray that this is not the case, that we still have a chance to change, to shift our mode of thinking, to decouple economic growth from the use of energy and materials, and introduce circular economic models, instead of perpetuating our consumption-driven system that dominates – and decimates – the world today. Current estimates of global GDP are around US$60 trillion, and even at modest per capita growth rates in the emerging economies of the world, to meet poverty targets we could easily see a world (as we conventionally measure it today) of closer to US$200 trillion. Three worlds sitting on our present one world, but stretched to the limits with regard to consumption and production patterns.

It is time for change, but this time to change ourselves, as our creative capacity has largely bypassed our adaptive one.

For us, the challenge is clear. Change our values, change our economic models, change our consumption patterns. We hope to work closely with you in 2013 to advance this change, and navigate these crossroads to ensure a sustainable, peaceful future for all.

Alexader Likhotal, President, Green Cross International


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