By Carles Navarro

Internet has sped up our lives in many ways, from the way we communicate with each other and discuss things to how we obtain and share information. This acceleration has led to immediacy, short-lived experiences, instant pleasure and an inability to delay gratification.

Today, it is rare to find someone willing to spend 15 minutes reading a multi-page, in-depth article. Few people make an effort to read beyond the headlines to understand the underlying causes of political events.

The world seems to work at the click of a tweet. The internet has brought unthinkable benefits, yet these advances come at a price. A video that lasts more than three minutes is considered long and unacceptable to reach a broad audience. A podcast that is over 15 minutes long is hard to digest – no matter how brilliant its content. 

The world seems to work at the click of a tweet

Too many social, political and financial leaders have stopped pursuing long-term goals. The reason seems apparently simple: their affiliates, voters, employees and consumers no longer reward a long-term vision. Or at least, that’s what some believe.

In many parts of the world, rising populist movements are contributing to this feeling: finding quick solutions to difficult problems is much more appealing than asking for sacrifices for results that could take years or decades. Meanwhile, true solutions – often unpopular and misunderstood – struggle to show their effectiveness.

Fake news, questionable scientific studies, biased headlines and viral campaigns make it easy to discredit rival ideas. Developing critical thinking is a crucial skill for separating the wheat from the chaff. But this task is extremely arduous. The world seems to lie in the hands of those who impose their story and version of reality. Mastering the narrative has become one of the keys to world domination. 

Climate change continues to be the elephant in the room

In a world where populist movements that promise immediate solutions are on the rise, climate change continues to be the elephant in the room. It is impossible to not see it – the elephant is growing at an alarming rate. But because nobody knows how to get it out of the room, no one is taking the problem seriously.

Science has done its homework. In fact, science did its homework decades ago. Back in the eighties – when the internet didn’t exist – our understanding of the critical effects of greenhouse gases was almost as complete as it is today.

Cambio climático
Protesters against climate change in Lorenzer Platz, Nuremberg (photo: Markus Spiske/Unsplash)

Back then, a misfortunate combination of a lack of leadership and obstructionism prevented what could have been the first step towards a global agreement to limit greenhouse emissions.

Thirty years later, we are still incapable of convincing ourselves that the only way to win this battle is to start fighting it. This race has no winners or losers. Or perhaps it does... if we don’t start fighting now, we will all become losers.

As inhabitants of our planet, we are all forced participants. The only way to win this battle is by aiming to cross the finish line collectively. This goal is becoming increasingly blurry and harder: sadly, we are no longer talking about preventing climate change, but about mitigating its consequences and adapting through sacrifices and suffering. The level of suffering that awaits us will vary greatly depending on how capable we are of agreeing and acting together. 

While each of us continues with our daily lives, our governments, companies and civil societies continue to be obsessed with short-term goals that neglect our planetary crisis. We are wasting precious time and each day brings us closer to disaster.

You can't have an economy without a planet

The next three decades will be critical to determine the magnitude of this tragedy, but only if we commit over the next ten years. The problem is that we are like untrained runners who are being asked to accelerate from zero to a hundred in a few seconds. We are unprepared. Sadly, with nobody guiding us and helping us steer this race, it is harder to stay motivated and move in the right direction. We don’t even want – or know – how to start running. 

Great leadership matters today more than ever. Leaders who are capable of mastering the narrative that our planet needs: changing the world’s economic paradigm, moving from shareholder profits to societal benefits, shifting from a linear to a circular economy, making sustainability the guiding principle of all our personal, social, business and governmental activities, and ending our dependence on fossil fuels. And, above all, bringing the climate crisis to the core of our government agendas, with brave, coherent, and long-term policies.

For some it may not seem so, but we are facing the greatest challenge of our time. Short-term economic problems are weak excuses to justify inaction. The inevitable consequences of our lack of action will be devastating massive global migrations that are forced by climate change, melting at the poles, flooding of many coastal areas due to sea level rise, increased natural disasters, and irreversible damages to agriculture, water reserves and people’s health.

As Al Gore stated, “you can't have an economy without a planet.”

History has taught us that in times of real crisis, new leadership emerges to face the challenges and society accepts change realising what is at stake. But the truth is that no leaders have yet emerged on the horizon.

Those leaders who succeed will probably emerge from outside the system. Those who act from within are too short-sighted due to our traditional perception of reality. This fact does not make us exempt from responsibility.

Effective action will emerge from the least expected corner

Effective action, vision and a global narrative that brings people together around the world will emerge from the least expected corner. But the measures needed to make this vision a reality will take place in our companies, communities, families and governments. These measures will be based on long-term goals and will not work right away. They will take time to flourish. They will not involve immediate wins, but they will bring true hope to drive real change.

When Kennedy managed to mobilise and fuel the dreams of a nation, he had a clear goal: to leave this planet to reach, with our means, another celestial body. Today we have to stop looking at the stars and start building a different future for our planet – a positive one that fights against the many negative projections. This positive future will only be possible if we unite to build a clear, global and committed action plan for the next three decades.

The resources required to build this positive future will be much greater than those needed for humanity to reach the Moon. We will only be willing to contribute to this effort if we are convinced that we need to cross the line collectively, regardless of our nationality or ideology. It will be the greatest economic and social investment ever made, and this is why we need someone to convince us that it is inevitable. If this leadership does not emerge, our planet and humanity is doomed.

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