Thus Spake the Children of Earth
Greetings from LILA!
“Coming up here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future. Losing my future is not like losing an election, or a few points on the stock market. I am here to speak for all generations to come. I am here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world whose cries go unheard. I am here to speak for the countless animals dying across this planet, because they have nowhere left to go. I am afraid to go out in the sun now, because of the holes in our ozone. I am afraid to breathe the air, because I don’t know what chemicals are in it.”
This was a child speaking to the adults of the world. No, it was not Greta Thunberg. It was another girl who silenced the world for five minutes, way back in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Severn Cullis-Suzuki, at a mere 12 years, went all the way from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Rio to address the adults who governed the planet and tell them: “If you don’t know how to fix it, stop breaking it.” Along with her three friends from the Environmental Children’s Organisation (ECO) which she founded when she was 9, Severn presented urgent environmental issues from a youth perspective at the summit and concluded her speech: “Are we even on your list of priorities? You grown-ups say you love us. But I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words.”
Twenty-seven years later, we meet Severn as an environmental activist travelling across the world, continuing to speak of the issues that she had raised as a child, even as another young girl has caught the world’s attention with her impassioned address at the UN Climate Summit 2019 last week in New York City: "My message is that we'll be watching you… You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
In 1993, Severn was honoured in the United Nations Environment Programme's Global 500 Roll of Honour, and Doubleday published her book Tell the World, a 32-page book of environmental steps for families.
Today, the world is talking about the Greta Thunberg effect. A collection of her speeches was published last year and a movie has been made on her. Now what?
Greta began her school strike inspired by the youngsters in the US who refused to go to school and the teen activists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida who went on to organise the March for Our Lives in support of greater gun control after the school shootings in February 2018. That anti-violence connection takes us to the world’s youngest Nobel Prize laureate till date, Malala Yousafzai, who gained global attention for being shot in the head at the age of 15 by the extremist group Taliban for her advocation of the basic right of education for girls.
We keep listening to these Children of Earth, and we promptly celebrate them, shower them with awards and honours. Then, what? Now the children say they don’t believe us anymore. Now, what?
Inter-Actions this quarter is significantly themed ‘Ecosystem’ and comes to you with a series of fundamental reflections and seminal conversations around what makes an ecosystem possible in our times. The cover features a complex image by groundbreaking octogenarian digital thinker Corinne Whitaker that supports and feeds another representation of an urban ecosystem. It asks us a seminal question—in our times, if our understanding of ecosystem as a term and idea is limited to an unattainable ‘green’, won’t it affect our capacity to work with the givens and transform them? While our Renaissance Person, Gandhian and SEWA founder Ela Bhatt talks about the unprecedented women workers’ network that she had created, we have Anil Gupta of the National Innovation Foundation and the members of the Honey Bee Network illustrating the possibility of a new sociocultural ecosystem and economic order. From Environmentalist Vandana Shiva to Philanthropy expert and lawyer Noshir Dadrawala, pioneering digital artist and poet Corrine Whitaker to provocative Kashmir hip hop artist Ahmer Javed, pathbreaking Theatre person Jyoti Dogra to one of India’s finest cartoonists EP Unny, photographic artist and thinker Ravi Agarwal to Chemical Engineer turned adventure novelist and traveller Deepak Dalal, our contributors in this issue are looking at various ecosystems. Management thinker Hunter Lovins, biochemist and eco-artist Pranay Lal, Politician and Crafts activist Jaya Jaitly, Habitat expert Raj Liberhan, Tech-Humanist Tom Chi, Managing Editor of Down to Earth, Richard Mahapatra, Eco-Entrepreneur Manisha Gutman, Architect and Energy specialist Sourabh Popli, members of TERI, are all featured in this issue in an unprecedented attempt to reveal the many-splendoured understanding of ecology and ecosystems that our times demand of us.
As the year of Gandhi’s 150th anniversary closes, we open ‘Ecosystem’ for your reading in the hope that the world remembers his words echoed in our children today: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
(for Team Inter-Actions)