How can collective change be achieved?
The massification of technology, aggressive industrialisation, degradation of ecosystems, rural exodus, reinless urbanisation, loss of productive land, climate change and a global economy that eats up the planet have manifested in Europe and worldwide.
The maxima of individual benefit at the cost of the whole have played a fundamental role in producing collective results, which nobody assumes responsibility over. This tendency has to be reversed not only by the regeneration of the planet, but also by the regeneration of western culture. And this task starts by adopting participation as one of society’s core values.
Whether individual action has been discouraged by a widespread belief that one is too small to make a difference, this view can be challenged by successful cases. In Kenya, the now widespread Green Belt Movement was founded in 1977 by the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Wangari Mathaai, who engaged people to plant over 30 million trees. Decades later, in New Zealand, a legal mechanism was invented in 2017 to grant the Whanganui River a legal personality, ending 160 years of efforts from the Maori people to protect it.
Another example occurred in the Netherlands in 2019, when a group of Dutch citizens successfully won a case against their government for not doing enough to cut carbon emissions, forcing a climate cut of at least 25% compared to 1990 levels before 2020. These cases show that the actions of a small group, an ethnical minority or even a single individual can create an impact and set precedents for policy to protect the common good.
How do we start?
We have a long way to go. Nevertheless, we can start with the PHOENIX Project. It aims to assist the transition to a European Green Deal, in which zero emissions are reached by 2050, economic growth dissociates from resource use, and no person or place is left behind. For that, citizen engagement must be disseminated through key tested participatory processes and deliberative methodologies that will be tested through a systemic approach in 7 countries.
The project will support the scalability, adaptability and mainstreaming of the methods tested, generating tools to facilitate transition across scales. Thus, this is an opportunity for Europe to see the rise of citizen voices through empowerment, collaboration and a participatory attitude towards the future.
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