Why Youth4Planet? My Letter to Erik.
Finally my grandson Erik decided to be born into this world two days ago. Could there be a better start into a story about the state of our planet, dear Erik? You have all reason to believe that this motherly earth in all its abundance will provide your aspiring soul and your small body with food, air and shelter for the rest of your life.
Or will it not? A week before your journey into daylight, on August 13th, the World Overshoot Day was making the news. In a yearly ritual scientists and economists calculate the use of Earth’s resources by humankind. Since 1970, for 45 years in a row now, they find a steadily growing overuse of these resources. We cut more trees than are growing, we use more fresh water than is raining, we use a lot more energy than we earn sustainably by plants or the sun. This is called unsustainable, which simply means it cannot go on forever.
Did you know that from the day you were born, you were already starting into debts? Whatever you breathe, eat or need, will be taken from the deep pockets of savings that Earth has filled over millions of years. For the rest of the year, four and a half month, we altogether will shamelessly use much more than we are putting back.
I know that you did not mean to do that, in fact in your innocence you had no choice. It has to do with a very efficient system to produce goods and organize the economy that was invented in Europe, the region that you were born into. It eventually brought a huge comfort into the lives of millions of people over a couple of centuries. But your forefathers (or the creators of the system) designed it in a faulty way.
For example, they forgot to design production cycles – cradle to cradle – that produce abundance without waste in the way nature does. When they learnt to use stored energy from the sun concentrated in coal, mineral oil or gas over millions of years, they forgot to create ways to put the leftovers back into the ground. They just dumped the invisible carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere, childishly (sorry, I don’t mean to insult you) believing that what you cannot see is not there. And they ignored, that in nature and on a roomy but limited planet any kind of growth is eventually limited too.
So when other people became interested around the planet to copy this great but faulty system to improve their life and save time for other important things like education by using washing machines, electrical household helpers or cars, as millions now do in Asia, Africa or South America with every right, the originators and their heirs forgot to redesign the system in a way that it could be used without eating up limited resources or creating uncontrollable indefinite growth.
(This was probably not without some kind of selfish reason, because important parts of this system worked very well to the advantage of very few people which made them powerful and important and allowed them to use much more resources than others.)
They simply left it to you and your generation around the planet to redesign the faulty system because they seem to have no idea how to do it without creating wars or destruction that would rather make everything worse.
To be honest, we are in a state of crisis already. The month before your birth, July 2015, was found to be the hottest month ever recorded in modern times. Earth systems are changing rapidly, some say even catastrophically. The gases and other waste that was not taken care of properly in our system are heating up the entire planet, changing the great oceans chemistry and causing glaciers and the polar ice caps to melt. The environment is changing at a rate so fast that flora and fauna cannot keep pace. Almost half of it already gave up and vanished.
Pretty tough! Are you still sure you want to live in this world, my dear Erik? Over-anxious souls are even envisioning the end of the world. To be clear about this: the world never ends, it only continues to exist without us humans and many of the species we are so familiar with today.
I don’t agree with this horror image of the world ending, tirelessly reduplicated by mass media, because it makes things worse. Especially conservative people, who believe in continuity and hate change (which is not always bad), are buying into this. And because our human brain is ten times more sensitive to negative feelings like fear they are almost petrified by their angst and stop thinking. But we need their brains, because all human success is built on cooperation, and we need their democratic participation, because all success in nature is built on diversity.
In his famous book „Collapse“ the anthropologist Jared Diamond has analyzed ancient societies that simply disappeared (and yes, he included the Vikings in Greenland and your famous name father Erik the Red) because they could not adequately adapt to changes in their environment. Instead of searching for unconventional solutions they just did more of the same – and vanished.
Fortunately we have many more options today. Yes, we humans are immensely capable of learning. Especially you children and young people are much less conservative and fearful and incredibly curious and daring instead. We urgently need your courage! You will be learning much more and many different things in your life than I did, because we have installed a successful system called education that when properly used is creating more and better understanding of what is necessary to do.
And we have created just in time another great tool that allows to bring the brightest ideas and minds together to work on solutions together: The internet and powerful communication devices in the hands of billions of people allow crowd intelligence and crowd science to flourish. This amplifies human creativity, the only resource that may grow infinite without harm, to find unconventional, powerful and effective solutions to survive and manage changing earths systems. Some ideas like Energiewende (replacing fossil fuels by regenerative energy) or planting trees around the globe have already taken off successfully.
Of course this comes at a cost. We as people, as companies, as nations, have to allow young people (and I hope, Erik, you will one day be one of them) to connect and share their ideas to work together on this big project of saving earth as an abundant living space for humans and other species. You will get all our experience and support to succeed, promised. If we manage, beyond all national or racial boundaries, to enclose this shiny diamond of your brilliant young minds, help you to understand the challenges and allow you to think out of the box, we will eventually win for all.
There are so many great career ideas around: develop urban and local food production, design timber housing built on sustainable forests, invent cradle-to-cradle production lines, become a social entrepreneur to spread water free compost toilets or electricity for every home – or sing songs about the never ending human love affair with Planet Earth.
As a filmmaker and artist I had and have the privilege, Erik, to meet and speak with some of the greatest minds of our times. Using this privilege and our responsibilities as mother and fathers my dear colleague Liz Courtney from Sydney, Australia, and I have decided to team and together create Youth4Planet as a device for researching, learning and acting. We want to help courageous innovative young people to go on an adventure, become eye witnesses of earth changes and start a dialogue about their feelings and insights with their peers.
Lets use their findings for education at its best, around the planet. And let as many people as possible follow the adventures of what we simply call the earthTeam via television or video stream, in cinemas or in the web. Youth4planet should become a platform to practice the universal values of respect, accountability and the rules of natural justice, inherent in every culture on this planet.