Thursday, 2 April 2009

'Forms of Activism'

Thank you to Julia Khadija for kindly, and efficiently writing up the following notes:


A transcript summary of Derek Wall's talk

Derek Wall’s inspirational talk, at the 2nd Main Fast for the Planet event, was most thought-provoking in that it was full of original ideas and in a short time dealt with many issues in an innovative way.

He began by mentioning the Zen approach which would be to ‘say nothing for 10 minutes’, echoing one theme of his talk, that we often rush in with solutions that don’t work. He stressed another theme by mentioning the verse in the Qur’an: ‘"But waste not by excess, for God loves not the wasters." (Qur 'an: 7:31)

Dogmatic solutions are often not the answer to environmental problems and we need a variety of approaches. One typical approach is that as the situation is so urgent, we should not waste time thinking about solutions, but this usually leads to unworkable ‘solutions’. Two examples he cited here were carbon trading, which only passes on the carbon to somewhere else, and bio diesel, which has led to huge damage to indigenous peoples and environmental destruction.

What is needed is a strategy that leads to transformation of the basic economic system, which is based on growth and expansion unsustainable on a planet with finite resources. Capitalism has led to so much consumerism that we end up destroying ourselves. For example if acid rain kills off plankton, the whole eco-system of the ocean will die. We need structural changes which would help us to be greener.

Derek cited the examples of three prominent activists who had successfully achieved change. The first, Jerry Hicks, is a Trades Union activist, who has worked for the creation of ‘green jobs’. Secondly, Hugo Blanco, a Peruvian revolutionary has helped indigenous communities in Peru to stop the takeover of their rain forests, so that they may continue to live in and benefit from them in a sustainable way. One of the best types of activism is to support grass roots action where people see themselves as part of the solution.

The third activist is Roberto Perez in Cuba, who with Castro’s support, developed renewable energy systems, city farms, making Cuba a model of sustainable development.

Derek pointed out that instead of trying to imagine a ‘utopia’, we need to struggle with the situation we are in. Everyone needs to decide which form of activism they are best suited to and work on that.

The above is a summary transcript of a talk by Derek Wall (22nd March 2009)

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