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SPEECH: ‘We are facing the greatest threat to humanity, only fundamental change can save us’, says Barlow

On October 7, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow gave a plenary address to the Environmental Grantmakers Association annual retreat in Pacific Grove, California.

She said, “I do not think it possible to exaggerate the threat to our earth and every living thing upon it. Quite simply we cannot continue on the path that brought us here. Einstein said that problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. While mouthing platitudes about caring for the earth, most of our governments are deepening the crisis with new plans for more invasive investment, expanded resource exploitation, unregulated free trade deals, the privatization of absolutely everything and unlimited growth. This model of development is literally killing the planet.”

“From the perspective of our movement, I see two problems that hinder us in our work to stop this carnage. The first is that, with notable exceptions, most environmental groups either have bought into the dominant model of development or feel incapable of changing it. …The second problem with our movement is one of silos. For too long environmentalists have toiled in isolation from those communities and groups working for human and social justice and for fundamental change to the system.”

“Anything that helps bridge the solitudes and silos is pure gold. Bringing together environmentalists and justice activists to understand one another’s work and perspective is crucial. Both sides have to dream into being – together – the world they know is possible and not settle for small improvements to the one we have. This means working for a whole different economic, trade and development model even while fighting the abuses existing in the current one. Given a choice between funding an environmental organization that basically supports the status quo with minor changes and one that promotes a justice agenda as well, I would argue for the latter.”

To read her inspiring speech, please go to http://canadians.org/about/documents/EGA2010_FALLRETREAT.pdf. It is also available at http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/10/13-6 and http://www.alternet.org/environment/148519/we_are_facing_the_greatest_threat_to_humanity%3A_only_fundamental_change_can_save_us.