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Point of view: Don’t mess with our future!

Luisa Deubzer at the Eusalp Forum in Innsbruck, Austria in November 2018. © DieFotografen

The climate crisis is a reality – and it is by no means the only environmental problem looming. Luisa Deubzer of the CIPRA Youth Advisory Council calls for a rethinking on the part of society. In late November 2018 the 24-year-old gave a fiery speech before politicians and young people at the Eusalp Forum in Innsbruck, Austria.

Summer 2018: I am standing above the once mighty Upper Grindelwald glacier in Switzerland with tears streaming down my face.

Since I was born the glacier has retreated by several kilometres. It reflects the very real – and irreversible – consequences of each of our political and private decisions.

Any decision taken today will inevitably increase or reduce the room for manoeuvre available to subsequent generations. This applies just as much to climate change as it does to the protection of species or the conservation of natural habitats.

Every molecule of CO2 emitted that the current generation of decision-makers does not take steps to reduce will significantly aggravate the consequences for my generation. Each new building project approved today at the expense of a protected natural area will limit our freedom to live a different, greener future in the Alps.

I am convinced that the most important of these decisions are linked to sustainability.

It is not that economic decisions have no role to play: on the contrary. But no matter how good or bad they are, they will be of little use to us if at the same time we have destroyed our basis of life – an intact environment. Environmental degradation and climate change further exacerbate every other problem. We should therefore start serious work on the sustainable transformation of our society.

The dilemmas we face when it comes to sustainability show that it is not enough just to make our society “a little bit more sustainable” in certain areas, while continuing to hold such unsustainable beliefs and principles as infinite growth or the primacy of the economy over society and the environment.

As an example, we can counter climate change by switching over to renewable energy. But if we do not at the same time fundamentally rethink our energy-intensive lifestyles this will only worsen resource issues and environmental destruction.

What we need is a new form of society that goes hand in hand with a changed economic model.

If we do not someday want to have to explain to our children how we just watched and did nothing, or too little, although we knew what would happen, then we need fundamental change in our society, right now. The Alpine regions can take on a pioneering role here by creating space for the testing of alternative forms of economic activity and of living together.

This is because the change to a sustainable society could at the same time provide a response to the crisis, with many Alpine valleys currently facing emigration and ageing populations. Instead of new technologies and economic growth, the solution in both cases possibly lies in the fostering of social intelligence, good ways of living together and a strengthening of local structures.

We need to grasp the environmental crisis in which we find ourselves as an opportunity: an opportunity for co-operation, a chance to try out new paths and to develop ourselves as a society. Such rethinking has come too late for the glaciers. But we can make sure that our present-day decisions do not lead to the irrevocable disappearance of yet more things.

 

Sources and further information:

www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/chapter-3/, www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/2-0/, http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6370/1610, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1543691/, https://www.cipra.org/de/dossiers/2

Jackson, T. (2009). Prosperity without growth: Economics for a finite planet. Routledge.

Forster, S. (2017). Innerhofer, E., & Pechlaner, H. (Eds.), Schrumpfung und Rückbau: Berggebietsentwicklung in der Schweiz und im Kanton Graubünden – Abschied von der Wachstumsidee. München: oekom Verlag. (de)