Visiting the US and Europe last year to receive the Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa I was struck by the lack of coordination amongst environmentally minded people (citizens) – on a global basis. The citizens of this planet need a central rallying point to communicate, share ideas, link to scientific and other data – a place where we can harness our collective strengths and resources – in a battle against the biggest, the most ruthless, the most determined corporates that have emerged since the Industrial Revolution and the advent of fossil fuels.
Launched in its infancy at a Goldman ceremony for the 2013 prize winners in Washington, April 2013, the idea of a global alliance has received support from most everyone polled. A proposed name (Global Citizens Alliance) with the strapline (for a sustainable planet) is being incorporated into a logo and will accompany a more formal launch.
In the meantime, here is a concept document – open to all citizens and sustainably minded organisations to comment. Comment from dissenting citizens and organisations is also welcomed as a way for us to shore up any weaknesses in our structure – your family, colleagues, friends and associates are after all, also citizens.
GLOBAL CITIZENS ALLIANCE for a sustainable planet
(to join or for further enquiries: mail firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sustainability is a word, a term, a concept that has been hi-jacked by commercial interests. A commonly held definition of sustainability, and one that can be reasonably supported by the man in the street is suggested as:
- the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed.
- The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.
- To manage the activity of man on the planet in such a way that present generations may meet their reasonable expectations whilst assuring that future generations are not denied the opportunity or ability to meet theirs.
Ergo a sustainable planet implies and embraces all of the actions that humans can think of and cause to be done to adjust the relationship of man and the planet in a way that will enhance and support long-term ecological balance.
No anthropogenic activity is excluded from this initiative. GCA thus is accessible to everyone and belongs to no one.
The concept of a global alliance in environmental fields is certainly not novel. Yet despite the emergence of global communication, easily accessed in most countries by anyone with a computer or smart phone, and the certainty that this planet and all its inhabitants are headed for a brick wall, there is still a yawning chasm in global coordination of the groups and people (citizens) that have understood the need for true sustainability.
My involvement commenced in January 2011 with shale gas mining (fracking/fraccing). It is logical then that I focus on issues related to fossil fuels and energy. Of course, the inescapable fact that every single activity on the planet occurs as a result of the balance of energy on the planet underscores that when one speaks of a sustainable planet no activity can be sidelined or excluded – from farming to concentrated solar power.
Tim Morgan, writes “In principle, there is no scientific difference between the energy that we derive from eating a biscuit, the energy we expend when we undertake a physical task, the energy that we put into a car when we fill up its fuel tank, or the energy that we access when we turn on an electric appliance.” Morgan discusses the balance of energy on the planet, how it relates to the economy and how it can be measured in the concept of Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI).
Applying the measurement of EROEI to the available forms of energy is a useful and perhaps even indispensable way to measure what a specific fuel source actually returns for the energy that is expended on extracting and refining it, and of course the risk that accompanies its extraction.
Please read on to explore with me some of the issues that must be discussed to develop a sustainable global alliance – for ourselves and future citizens.
 Rather than abandoning the term to commercial interests, it is incumbent on civil rights organisations and environmental groupings to put commerce and industry to terms. To insist that the term be reserved for and applied to those activities that truly dovetail with the notion of a sustainable planet.
 Morgan, Tim. Life After Growth, 1st ed., Harriman House, Great Britain (2013). ISBN 9780857193391 (Pages 12, 13)
 Action item 1 – who will volunteer from what countries?
Do we need an alliance?
The oil and gas industry (read commerce) is a global giant. The same companies are our threat in every country. They have fought the battle of development-and-profit vs. environment for decades. For them, the planet is borderless, and no land or environment is sacred or out of bounds – and so our alliance has to be borderless too. If we fail to stand together as an international community for a sustainable planet, they will continue to use their immense and increasing power influence with governments to achieve their aims.
To what purpose this alliance?
Realistically speaking, every environment and sustainability-minded group on the planet is chasing the same donor pool. So there is no expectation that a global alliance will produce a global pot of money to fight global battles.
Where the alliance will be strong is in coordinated information, communication and action.
A central point from where, let’s call them sustainable citizens can access data and links to data in any field of human activity – from organic farming to hydroelectric power, from statistics to environmental economics.
The information repository, like Wikipedia, will grow with the submissions of its readers and users.
It is important to emphasize that the development of such a platform will take time, and that the first level of web site will not accommodate such an undertaking. The first site may contain only a document such as this, a list of citizens and organisations who have subscribed to the GCA, and links to existing organisations that have already invested much capital in developing an information repository.
Bearing the concept of EROEI in mind, we too should be mindful of duplicating the expenditure of energy and resources when there is already a perfectly acceptable source available.
Communication and action
Common media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google) and of course proprietary email databases facilitate instantaneous communication within the GCA and to the outside world. One of the most powerful tools available to us, especially when facing down the commercial might and geopolitical influence of big business, is the ability to almost instantly:
- Name and shame;
- Call for product boycott;
- Apply pressure to political leaders; and
- Inform the general (uninformed) public.
Because of the global nature of many of the corporations and the technology that they wield, the coordinated power of the alliance means that we can coordinate resources (media, financial and social power) to respond to a call for assistance on a specific issue (Monsanto, Tar Sands, Keystone, Fracking New York State, Palm Oil Production, Whaling and so on) within hours – displaying international solidarity and bringing global pressure to governments and corporations.
The internet and media platforms also present the ability for us to communicate as a group with others, and to win supporters with scientific fact and commonsense.
To whom does the alliance belong?
The alliance belongs to everyone and to no one.
Who is in charge of the alliance?
No one is in charge of the alliance – it’s organic, like the Internet. You get out what you put in.
What can the alliance achieve in terms of:
- Information – It can facilitate the distribution of source documents to established web sites, so that new members can access the most recent and factual data for distribution and use in their struggle.
- News – It can send news of events and incidents to millions of people in a short space of time.
- Support – it can harness the global voice of millions of people, at all levels and bring those voices to a small town to get the attention of political leaders and corporations.
- Finances – it provides a platform for our fellows to call for urgent financial aid from many people in small amounts to help with funds to fight a specific step – such as an urgent court action.
Why not just start a new organization with a new name and everyone can join that?
- Because our strength is in our diversity. It makes us unpredictable.
- Because we all have our own organizational and national culture. Trying to force different organizations in different countries to subscribe to the same vision, mission and way of operation will be difficult. For example; an action-oriented organization that is effective in physical demonstrations cannot subscribe to the same action plan as a corporate-focused organization that engages corporations and government through traditional methods – yet both are essential to keep pressure on those who continue to propagate unsustainable practices.
Who can make statements on behalf the alliance?
There is only one statement that can be made on behalf of the alliance, and that is the global statement that everyone and anyone subscribes to. All other statements are made by citizens or organisations individually or on behalf of their own organisation.
It may transpire that a media-relations committee develops to serve the GCA, but this would not speak on behalf of any member organisation and rather issue generic statements of support referencing specific actions or issues that are in the public domain.
No statements or actions that contravene international laws or incite violence or criminal behaviour will be supported by the GCA.
How do we know how many member organizations there are in the alliance and how many individual members there are in each of the members?
We will need a central blog, website or other forum that can be accessed by anyone signing the alliance, either individually or on behalf of an organization. This is the aspect that will require some formal cooperation. It is suggested that a few national groups volunteer to each act as moderators of the chosen forum, so that records can be maintained and so that the forum has continuity.
What other information is available on the central site?
The site could have sections with various levels of information, divided into categories such as water, air pollution, economics, waste material, transport issues, bio-diversity, legal issues, a list of allies by region and country, links to specialists who are prepared to help, and so on.
Also presented could be ‘toolkits’ for members to use in their own environment – to inform citizens at all levels and ages.
The site could have clearly posted links to other sites anywhere that such information is available.
Does the alliance receive and control or disburse any money?
The alliance has no formal status and no bank account, owns no assets and cannot commit any or all of its members to anything – its strength is in the diversity and unified spirit of its members and in how much effort they put into growing the alliance over the net and other viral media.
If I join the alliance does it mean that my organization has to work under the alliance?
Absolutely not. The alliance is at all times secondary to the charter, rules, constitution, ethics and any other value of an individual or organization. It is this aspect that allows any one person or organization to join the alliance in a statement of global solidarity without losing their own identity, or being in a position that they are pulled into a specific action without voluntarily joining it.
So what will the alliance be called? And who will choose the name?
This most prickly issue is always emotional. As a start I suggest Global Citizens Alliance with the strapline for a sustainable planet. There will almost certainly be other suggestions, and I am prepared to abandon the work that I have done with the name and logo. Please bear in mind, when thinking of a name:
- It must apply to the whole planet
- It must fit everyone (individually and collectively)
- It must fit every activity – anti-fracking to anti-whaling
- It must contain no combination of colors or images that lock it to a specific gender, race, religion or creed.
Is there a suggested statement for the alliance?
Yes. Here is a rough draft. In the spirit of the alliance, all citizens are encouraged to comment, propose changes, additions and so on. For the purposes of making a start on this, Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) – email@example.com offers to receive and consolidate the first comments. The process can be requested by any other member – it does not belong to TKAG.
Here is a suggested statement in English. You are encouraged to translate it into your own language and all languages can be posted to the central forum that we use.
STATEMENT OF GLOBAL ALLIANCE
In respect of our collective sustainable environment and the rights of future generations
We, the undersigned, do hereby confirm our allegiance and support to each other, in working towards changing the activities of humans from the overwhelmingly destructive current practices to practices that support and foster the concept of sustainability in our common environment.
We are convinced, through scientific and legal data – empirical and peer-reviewed, in the fields of water, air pollution, health, environment and bio-diversity, economics, law, amongst other sciences and disciplines, and through our common sense of right and wrong that most of our energy generation:
- Is based and founded on an unsustainable (rapidly depleting) fossil fuel resource;
- Ignores the fact that national and global fossil fuel reserves are recorded as being in excess of the value that can actually be consumed (converted to carbon emissions) before the year 2050 with a view to the internationally adopted limit of 2° global warming;
- Represents the established contemporary predisposition of the oil and gas industry (O&G) to pursue ‘extreme energy’ options, as easily accessible fossil fuel reserves are exhausted;
- Through its marketing by O&G, and in reality, stifles, delays or otherwise militates against the essential development of and investment in ‘green’ energy technologies by governments and corporations;
- Locks nations and economies – developed and undeveloped – into a further dependence on fossil fuels;
- Directly damages the holistic environment through documented knock-on effects;
- Displaces otherwise sustainable human activity, impairs the value of the environment and renders less effective – or destroys – the eco-system services, (those systems) which sustain all life on Earth – that are provided by a functioning eco-system;
- Creates additional and unplanned expenditure of public funds to restore roads, and maintain public health, conduct investigation, monitor extraction activity, enforce the law, prosecute offenders and generally provide other services from the state with public taxes;
- Can and should be disregarded as an energy source on the basis that there exist documented reserves of alternative fossil fuels that are comparable in energy and pollution values, having regard for the global limits that have been reached in respect of the emissions of carbon based fuels and the survival of future generations.
Therefore, it is our position that we shall apply the resources at our disposal to:
- Inform the citizens of this planet of the risks to their future prosperity posed by unsustainable practices;
- Coordinate and expand, wherever possible and affordable, a global network of persons and organisations opposed to unsustainable practices;
- Support each other in whatever way possible and within the credo and objects of our organisation(s) or personal value system(s).
These actions will give effect to our fundamental objective of opposing any activity that promotes or in any way fosters the propagation of unsustainable practices.
Where any commitment to or aspect of this allegiance may be contrary to (any of) the provisions of the member organisations hereto, then that aspect is specifically excluded from this statement of allegiance.
By our collective / individual signature(s) we confirm our voluntary commitment to this allegiance.
Signed at _____________________________________________________________________
On day _________ , date ____ , month ____________________ , year ___________
In my personal capacity _________________________________ (signature)
On behalf of ________________________________________________________ (organisation)
ORGANISATION / INDIVIDUAL DETAILS:
Email and/or URL :______________________________________________________
Telephone, fax and zip code:______________________________________________
Name of signatory:_____________________________________________________