If we do not do the Impossible, we will be Faced with the Unthinkable

The actions for climate policy that are being discussed in Katowice right now represent an important milestone for our future and that of our children. I belong to the generation that in 1968 advocated for a change in society with the rallying cry “Be realistic, ask for the impossible.”

To this demand, fifty years later and paraphrasing the words of Bookchin, the founder of Social Ecology, today’s generation should add a statement: “if  we do not do the impossible, we will be faced with the unthinkable.” Utopia, unattainable by its very nature, allows us to achieve a higher-level goal, as long as we remember that every step, no matter how small, will help to embark on the path toward this goal, share a common horizon and a reason to continue the journey. If the idea of a radical change to the system and the drastic reduction of its negative impacts appear to be an unattainable fantasy, they nonetheless remain the objectives to which we must all aspire and which we must always bear in mind.

Otherwise, the consequences, the effects of which we are already feeling, would be truly unthinkable. For this reason, we must aim for a higher path and begin to take steps in the right direction. We must act swiftly: there are no more excuses, we have delayed the decision for too long. The Club of Rome, founded by my compatriot Aurelio Peccei, had already warned of this back in the 1970s, when the book “The Limits to Growth”, then heavily criticized, but since re-evaluated and vindicated, predicted the current critical situation. At the time, and for some still today, caring about the environment was seen as a luxury that only a few could afford. It was believed that the real problems were others, that there were issues much more difficult to deal with and that, in particular, setting limits today to protect our Mother Earth tomorrow, was seen as something typical of hippies and counterculture. Were that the case however, today we would not see these anomalous heat waves, the melting of the polar ice caps, the rise in sea level and a ever higher risks of desertification; we would not have extreme weather conditions such as those seen last month in Italy, and the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere would not have reached a new world record.

When faced with the evidence that has been outlined, to say that climate change does not exist or that it does not affect everyone, is not only a denial of the multiple, tragic, and irreparable events that we are experiencing daily, but it is also a way of continuing to put ourselves in danger without taking any responsibility. Pope Francis explains it perfectly in his remarkable encyclical entitled Laudato Sì: “Everything is connected and therefore no one is exempt from what is happening.” Indeed, any action taken by the individual has an influence on the world: we call it ecology. Here we no longer speak of environmentalism, which regards the environment as a passive set of resources that man uses, but of a single synthesis that sees man in connection with the environment, without any kind of hierarchy. Bear in mind, adds Pope Francis, ecology must be integral to be truly coherent: “There is no ecology without justice and there can be no fairness in a degraded environment.” After three years since the encyclical was published, the relevance and depth of that message has become even more evident: it is high time that we joined forces to give hope to the planet, promoting good practices locally, every day. Let’s not just delegate to big countries, though I hope that these days they will do their best to be realistic and establish a set of rules to follow, but let’s commit ourselves individually to making the right choices. We have a long journey ahead of us, but I believe in people and in the enthusiasm of will.

Carlo Petrini

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