Final words from Be The Change 2007

The Be The Change conference last week was chock-a-block full of fascinating speakers, enlightening information and inspiring actions. So far we've shared George Monbiot and Richard Reed's presentations and Drew Dellinger's poetry. We're just sorry we can't bring all of it to the TH page, but we can encourage you to go along and experience it all for yourselves at next year's event. In the meantime we're going to leave you with some words, overleaf, from four of the most moving speakers at the conference: Frances Moore Lappé, Jonathon Porritt, Maude Barlow and Vandana Shiva.Frances Moore Lappé, co-author with her daughter Anna Lappé of Hope's Edge, started her talk with the statement "We are the new realists". She says, "If we want to do something, face reality, we have to get a grip!" In fact her new book is entitled 'Get a grip!'

Moore Lappé outlines three key issues that provoke the worst in human behaviour: Concentration of Authority, Anonymity, Scapegoating. She asks, "How can humanity create a world that as individuals we abhor." Furthermore, "We should drop the debate over whether human beings are good or bad - it is clear we are both."

What we should do she argues is "puncture the cycle" of a "causal flow of lack". We can do this through cooperation, empathy, fairness as part of the community, "feeding the spiral of empowerment" and "shift from a spiral of lack to a spiral of plenty". It is all about "Reframing the issues".


Jonathon Porritt, founder of Forum For the Future, discussed "Why does sustainability fit so uneasily into political structures?" He says that politicians are essentially "completely befuddled" by the vastness of the problem that faces us. Porritt states that sustainable development should not be seen as an issue, but as a way of life, a world view. However politicians only want 'issues' that fix into their box.

He believes that the way to encourage the Government to take action is to emphasis that this is an urgent problem that needs to be dealt in a "real time agenda". All this talk of future generations has the effect of putting the 'issue' somewhere in the distance. He wants to avoid the NIMTO effect - "Not In My Term Of Office".

Porritt thinks there is a lack of serious leadership throughout the political parties and the Government and not just in the UK, but sees amazing individual leadership that is not waiting for government approval but just getting on with it, e.g. Bovey Climate Action Initiative.


Maude Barlow's presentation about water and climate change was one of the most devastating of the conference. "Dirty water is the number 1 killer in the developing world... Every 8 seconds a child dies of a water borne disease". Barlow goes on to say that, "Pollution, mismanagement and displacement of water is one of the causes of climate change."

90% of the world's waste water is dumped directly into surface water systems - lakes and rivers. 75% of Pakistan, India and Russia's surface water is polluted beyond use. This figure goes up to 80% in China.

Instead of using the Hydrologic cycle, which we are taught at school can never run out, we now, due to pollution, have to use ground water. 65% of all water used in Europe is ground water. Barlow explains that this is completely unsustainable.

There is an exponential overuse of ground water which means lakes and valleys can dry up overnight. Australia has already hit the water wall, but their Government is in denial. Other countries close to serious water shortage are Northern China, 22 countries in Africa, Middle East and Mexico. 36 states in the US have a current water crisis.

The key point Barlow makes is that water has become a national security issue and it has become a commodity. We need to make it a basic human right for everyone to have clean water. She says the green cities, wetlands and forests are the lungs and kidneys of the planet and we need to preserve them. Look out for the upcoming film called Blue Gold, inspired by Maude Barlow's book Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World's Water.


Vandana Shiva, whose work is also featured in the Blue Gold film, reminded us that carbon in and of itself is not the problem. It's the burning of fossilized carbon that we need to deal with. Shiva asks us to move from a fossil carbon economy to a living carbon economy.

She goes on to discuss the havoc wreaked by Monsanto on the Indian farming communities. How they trapped the farmers into buying seeds from Monsanto by ensuring all the local seed supply was destroyed.

More terrible statistics were aired: Due to the terrible cycle of poverty they were trapped in 150 000 farmers have committed suicide in the last decade. The rate reached 10 per day in the heart of India last year. Vandana Shiva and others made a pilgrimage to stop farm suicides and start the Adopt an Acre project. On January 26th of this year they harvested organic produce from five villages. Next year they will have 25 villages taking part.

Shiva describes Biofuels as, "One of the worst insanities of our times". It is all about "Multifunctionality" she says. The world was never meant to be a monoculture. We need to promote the use of ancient rice varieties that can survive in a wide range of climates, in the floods, or cold, or salt water.

She encourages us to use the "Force of truth" and know the difference between just and unjust law. Shiva asks us to act in the spirit of Gandhi by identifying 5 of the worst unjust laws in our communities and disobeying them.

Tags: George Monbiot | London

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