Change Road

November 6, 2013 by Madeleine Lesser

Rethinking, reimagining and redefining our global power paradigm to create a more egalitarian society.

I’ve recently come across a few ideas on solving some of the world’s greatest problems, which were quite inspiring. Actor Russell Brand’s recent interview,[1] and the late Rainforest Action Network’s Executive Director, Becky Tarbotton’s speech in 2012,[2] focus on the need for radical change and how to go about establishing a more just, global society.

Brand admits to having absolutely no formal qualifications that make him authorized for his new position editing a political magazine, and he doesn’t think he needs any, perhaps because of his belief that those with political qualifications have gotten us into dire circumstances. Brand’s mission is to call attention to the vast socio-economic and political inequalities he sees throughout the world and rally for change. He is fed up with the current system that keeps poor people poor and rich people and corporations richer.  He confesses that he doesn’t have a policy lined up in his mind on how to fix the problems and create a “utopia,” and doesn’t believe that developing one with his interviewer in a hotel room is going to happen either.  What he does know is that “we shouldn’t destroy the planet, shouldn’t create economic disparity and shouldn’t ignore the needs of the people.”  Brand argues that politicians and corporations in power do not look out for the underrepresented classes and only care about advancing their own elite interests.   A massive redistribution of wealth, based on socialist egalitarian principles, and a rethinking of our current power paradigm is necessary, according to Brand, in order to correct our global problems.  He thinks that “cozy little valves” of recycling and buying Priuses are cover ups and don’t actually solve anything – we need to pay attention to the people who have much better, alternative ideas and who are much more qualified to solve global problems than are the people and corporations in power now.  Within our existing paradigm, Brand believes, the change is not “dramatic enough, not radical enough,” but the revolution to change these disparities is “totally going to happen.”

Brand is right.  Radical changes are happening everywhere, and we need to capitalize and expand upon them to inspire more frequent actions throughout the world.  Becky talked about what winning and losing means in the movements that we are part of, and sometimes we need to refocus our thinking about a problem to identify solutions to a new problem.  She recognized that we didn’t stop human induced global warming before it started, but we are creating solutions that both work to mitigate the effects of climate change and to reimagine the ways we live on this planet in order to prevent greater destruction in the future.  RAN convinced Disney, after many months of negotiation, to create a global policy that changes the way it sources materials, specifically paper, throughout its entire supply chain to avoid endangered forests and areas of social conflict.  Becky noted that four people were able to move an entire corporation to change the way it does business, often using some radical tactics – that is a huge feat.

We must also be reminded of the changes that indigenous people make every day and the ways in which they have been able to work with their governments and large corporations to raise their voice and create significant change.  By organizing and communicating their rights and their needs, indigenous people have made great strides, and often have acted in unprecedented ways: the Surui’s self-led REDD project was the first of its kind and translated to trading carbon credits with a major corporation in the Brazilian Amazon; the Wounaan and Embera in Panama continue to fight for the demarcation of their lands – having titled the first two collective lands in 2012; and numerous tribes in the Ecuadorian Amazon, including the Secoya, Quechua, Siona and Cofan, have collaborated and worked through differences to build rainwater purification systems.  Indigenous tribes are a critical part of this global movement of change that Brand calls for to reimagine how decisions are made, what actors are involved in the process of change and whose rights must be valued and considered.  With new perspectives, new work, and new voices, together, we make it more difficult for the current power-players to ignore the underserved and underrepresented.

This “Change Road” is very long, winding and uncertain.  But, what is certain, and which Brand echoes, it that we cannot continue down the same path that we’re on, one that devalues the environment, particularly the rainforests, for the advancement of elite interests and extractive industries.  Some people loathe and are afraid of change, but given the unsustainability of the current system, change is our only option.

What is the last thing you did that fought for change?

Image Credit:

[1] Youtube: NEWSNIGHT: Paxman vs. Brand – full interview

[2] Youtube: Becky Tarbotton – Rainforest Action Network – REVEL 2012


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