By Joern Fischer
In my last post, I threatened that I was in the process of drafting an open letter to societal leaders.
The letter is now up and running. If you believe that many current sustainability initiatives are falling short of what is needed, I suggest you sign this letter. Also, please spread it — this will only “do something” if the number of signatures is large.
Is this a waste of time? Maybe. Maybe not. I have had various bits of feedback on the letter, ranging from “great initiative”, to “too vague”, to grumpy rants that none of this ever does anything anyway.
One thing should be clear: I don’t believe that this particular letter is perfect. I don’t know what perfect would be. I do know though that doing nothing is even less perfect.
Regarding the somewhat vague appeal in the letter: this is not because I couldn’t think of something more specific. My view is this: change will only come if many people believe change is needed. That, in turn, will only happen if the issue of sustainability (and the fundamental problems standing in the way of sustainability) finds its way into discourses in the public domain. This could be in local politics or in church groups, or in the UN. Doesn’t really matter, but unless fundamental issues such as material growth, leading a “good life”, equity, justice, obligations to other species, and so on manage to get on the radar at least — well, then nothing will happen. So the letter is vague because the answer is not 42, but in fact requires discourse and deliberation at all levels of society.
Ultimately, I believe if we can have a conversation, more prominently, on what we (as humanity) truly value, the outcome would not be that we believe in greed and infinite material growth. I’d rather go with something the Dalai Lama once alluded to — that humans are inherently good, but their heart of gold may be covered by layers of dust. The goal of discussions about what we value, what is a good life, and so on — continuing this metaphor beyond its safe limits … — would be to scrape the dust off people’s hearts.
Finally: this is not “policy advocacy” beyond what scientists should do. I’m not telling any politician or any local leader what they should do. I’m simply saying we ought to reflect whether what we do (collectively, as humanity) actually achieves what we strive for.
Anyway, enough ranting and raving. Go sign the letter, if you agree with it, and do help to distribute it. Unless many people sign it, we know what it will do: nothing.