W e l c o m e
[This was written in 2013 – so the history has moved on considerably. We are currently revising these lessons to update them – so watch this space. You will notice that there are links to pdfs. of the lessons within the text of the script: links from these PDFs do not work – so please use the links on this page.]
What will our world be like in 2050? If you are a “young” cast member, how old will you be then? Will you enjoy the “Future YOU want” or will today’s leaders, continuing “business as usual” in the face of increasingly challenging global challenges, bequeath you a future in which life has become increasingly uncomfortable? That is the challenge that this musical addresses – and we urge you to work through these lesson plans, research the background on each issue, so that you can understand and articulate your own answers to the question: “How do we create a Future we want?”
The Peace Child 2050: Creating the Future We Want musical is a new edition of the Peace Child musical, which was first performed in 1981 by youth from the United States and former Soviet Union to promote peace and reconciliation in the Cold War-era. The musical, and its many editions and updated versions, created and directed by Peace Child International, has inspired tens of thousands of youth around the world to become agents of change for peace and a more positive future for all.
In marking the 20th anniversary of Green Cross International, an organisation founded by President Mikhail Gorbachev to do for the environment what the Red Cross and Red Crescent has done for many years for human beings in times of war and crisis, PCI and GCI agreed to produce this new version of the musical to address the issues which many felt were inadequately addressed by the 2012 Rio+20 follow-up to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and the annual series of UN COP meetings on Climate Change. Talented and driven youth from around the world came together in Geneva to inject a sense of urgency and personal commitment into issues which, in some cases, are moving back-wards rather than forwards towards sustainable solutions. It was particularly interesting to welcome a young man from Damascus, Syria – as his presence put into sharp focus the need for Peace to be at the Foundation of any search for sustainability of life on earth.
The 20th anniversary of the Green Cross provides a natural reference point to look into the Future20 years since Green Cross’s founding, and 30 years since Peace Child’s, we find today that we still have a long way to go, in the war on sustainability, before we reach the Future We Want and ask h.
So how do we create the Future We Want? How can we stop today’s leaders continuing on their deadly “business as usual” approach which fails to tackle the central challenges confronting humanity – over-consumption, unsustainable development and profit-driven, not people-driven economics? How can we persuade them to stop tinkering around the edges and embrace the desperately needed “transformational change”? Will they continue with mere rhetoric and political grand-standing or can we persuade them to demonstrate new thinking and commitment to rise to the challenge of making the rapid transition to a green, sustainable economy? How can we create a United Nations, or other international institutions that will assist governments to rise to the challenge of transformational change?
Who can send the much-needed wake up call to break the “deadlock” of impotent political will and inadequate intellectual inquiry? Young people, of course! That is the answer which this musical offers to a conundrum which has defeated political leaders across the last few decades. Youth urgently need to persuade their leaders to embark on a new course: one that promotes sustainable use of natural resources, puts human development first, and advances innovation, particularly in terms of energy. Youth need that to happen in order that they, and their children, have a future worth wanting!
What we believe is essential is a strengthening of the global, multilateral system, with the United Nations at the core, empowered by forward-thinking, and acting, governments and businesses, who prioritize common good over vested economic interests. We hope that your young singers, actors and dancers are will be able, through this musical, to articulate our THEIR vision of the Future that the younger generation THEY want – and outline a story of how they will work towards shall creating it in their lifetimes. Because to do less now – when so clearly confronted by tipping points that could drive the human family into terminal unsustainability and catastrophe – is to dishonor our past, disgrace our present and devalue our future.
Finally, we urge to do as we did in Geneva – and have a discussion afterwards with the members of your audience: draw out their feelings, their questions, and those of your cast so that all may move forward together with commitments to change the behaviours we so urgently need to change to build better, stronger, more sustainable lifestyles for the whole human family in the next 35 or so years!
Alexander Likhotal, President, Green Cross International
David R. Woollcombe, Founder & President, Peace Child International, Author & Director, Peace Child
Geneva, September 2013
Lesson I: Imagining the Future
To fully experience the magic of Peace Child, each member of the cast must carry in their mind an image of what a peaceful, green sustainable world will look like. This lesson will help them develop that image.
- The World We Made – by Jonathon Porritt; Phaidon, Oct. 2013 – the world in 2050 as seen by Alex McKay, a history teacher who has watched the world become a more sustainable, happier place in his lifetime. Written by Britain’s leading environmentalist, it replaces the gloom and doom scenarios for one in which the green economy has been created – and everyone is better off as a result.
- Picturing a Sustainable Society by Lester R. Brown, Christopher Flavin and Sandra Postel; 3 x top environmentalists picture the world of 2030 as they would like it to be. Read about it at: http://www.studymode.com/essays/Picturing-a-Sustainable-Society-1640632.html
- The UNEP Green Economy Initiative – the main UN initiative driving the transition to the Green Economy. Good policy ideas and political background: http://www.unep.org/greeneconomy/greeneconomyreport/tabid/29846/default.aspx.
- The Future we Want – the slogan employed by the UN for their Rio+20 Summit. Now a website full of ideas you can use to help young people be inspired by the future they are heading towards. http://futurewewant.org
- Reinventing Fire. By Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute. Brilliant book about the Post-Carbon society which, he argues, can be created by dedicated entrepreneurs without the intervention of governments. The Video alone is brilliant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT-g__695Go
- The Post Carbon Institute – the other PCI! It is California’s leading sustainability think-tank working on accelerating the transition to a green, more resilient, equitable and sustainable economy: http://www.postcarbon.org
- Kids ‘ Whole Future Catalog by Paula Taylor: Intriguing vision of the Future from 1982 – but still getting good reviews from parents who first knew it when they were a child, and are now showing it to their children. http://www.amazon.com/Whole-Future-Catalog-Paula-Taylor/dp/0394850904
- Andrew Winston’s Blog: Andrew is the sustainable business guru. His two books, The Green Recovery and Green to Gold – define what business can do to help the transition to a green economy. Immensely practical, economically viable, Winston will give your students the facts they need to combat skeptical business leaders. http://www.andrewwinston.com
- Sustainable Energy for All: the UN’s brilliant programme – which the oilman goes to work for – which aims to bring sustainable electricity and mobility to everyone by 2030. Led by UNIDO and the President of the Chase Manhattan bank, it has, already raised more than half the funds needed to make their goal. See: http://www.sustainableenergyforall.org/
- The story teller quotes the Gandhi line: “The World has enough for every one’s need, but not for everyone’s greed!” True? Can you draw the line between Need and Greed? How much do you actually need to live?
- Before the era of fossil fuels began in the 18th Century, human life across the planet was pretty sustainable: people rode horses, used water power, and sailed the seas. Is the transition to a green economy thus a step backward for humanity, or could it be a step forward?
- What gives you hope and determination? What is the single thing that makes you feel that humanity will solve the massive problems threatening our survival at the beginning of the 21st Century?
- The UN’s Our Common Future Report of 1987 promised that – “sustainable development would meet the needs of today’s generations, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs…” Has it? Do you think that politicians and democratic societies can stop people today compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs – when those future people don’t vote, don’t have any stake in today’s society – don’t exist!! How can we protect their interests? Their future?
- Imagine Peace Day 2050: the biggest celebration of the year – a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, intergenerational celebration of diversity and prosperity. How would you celebrate such a day? What icons or traditions would you use to identify Peace Day and make it special? (Like the Christmas Tree, or the Hannukkah candles)
All improvisations are designed to tease out ideas for inclusion in the revised script – so scribble down lines, and ideas for lines as the improvisations are happening and/or record them on video or audio tape.
- Stream of Consciousness: Play some gentle music; maybe get the group to hold hands in a circle and have someone guide a meditation on the Green Cross slogan: “Give Humanity a Chance – Give the Earth a Future!” Think about what that means: question – Does the Earth have a future without Humanity? Does Humanity have a future without the Earth? How can a family of 10 billion human beings live comfortable, interesting lives on a small fragile planet? What has to happen in our minds for that to happen….?
- The Insoluble Problem Quiz Show: Set up a Quiz show – with your very own Noel Edmonds quiz master. The game is for a Panel of Questioners to pose problems that will NOT have been solved by 2050. If some one in the ‘audience’ comes up with a convincing answer as to how this problem will be solved, they get the point. If no one does, the questioner gets the point. This is a game that can be played at several points during the study period – as, the more they learn about solutions, the more questions will be answerable. But it is good to play it in this lesson – to show up how few answers most young people have to the major challenges that will confront them in their lifetimes.
- “Remember the good old days…” – Imagine you are your parents age in 2050: they will be in their 70s or 80s by then. Imagine you are sitting in a pub, in your favourite corner, reminiscing about the good old days of your youth back in the 1990s – think about what you have lost, and what you have gained by helping to build a sustainable world – and how you (their children) pushed and persuaded them that electric cars were good, meat diets were bad, bicycling and walking were good, gas-guzzling Chelsea Tractors are bad etc. Come up with a load of ideas about what – even your parents – might like about a green, sustainable world!
- What is Peace Day all about? This is like the audition improvisation. You set the scene – there has been a race riot in your town and the Mayor is all set to cancel the Peace Day party / Celebration. Two kids come on – one adamant that the celebration must be cancelled (“We cannot celebrate while some of our brothers and sisters are lying wounded in hospital!!”) – the other is equally adamant that the party must go on, (“At a time like this, it’s even more important for our community must celebrate its diversity!”) Keep changing the kids who are doing the improvisation – and have them switch roles.
- Drop-in on State of the Planet: The Storyteller says: “That’s what Peace Day is all about: taking the temperature of the world, and finding out if our world is getting healthier or sicker? What are our findings today?” Drawing on the results of your Improvisations and research, decide what your findings are? If you are working with a younger children’s Storytellers’ Group, remember: your answers have to be fairly simple and basic – as per the script. But – if you want to mix in the older core cast, you can have more detailed answers. In the Paris show, at UNESCO, we invited the audience to come up with ideas for what they think will be right / wrong about the planet in 2050 – typing their ideas up on a big screen in a real-time ‘State of the Planet Report.’ It went down really well – and got the audience engaged in the story from the very start. (We couldn’t do that in Geneva as we were woefully short on time! – and the tables did not have microphones on as they did in Paris.) Take time to make this a fun scene – with a few jokes, and a general light-hearted, wittiness in the reporting.
Lesson 2: “Our world is Dying today!”
Philosophers tell us that you cannot make change from a negative. You have to be positive to get people to pay attention. The example they cite most often is: “Imagine if Dr Martin Luther King had chosen, back in 1963, to tell America, instead of ‘I have a Dream!’ – ‘I have a nightmare!’” Would anyone have paid as much attention?!” We shall never know – but, for the purposes of writing and performing this musical, we think that it is worth spending one lesson to outline how bad things are – and how much worse they could get very quickly if we don’t change our behavior as a global family.
The purpose is to re-write the Polar Bear’s speech after the Wigwam Song – but hopefully, out of these discussions, some new verses to the wigwam song will emerge as well – and some other lines of dialogue. Parents, and teachers too, instinctively like to protect their students from the harsh realities of the world and, of course, the younger the students, the easier you should go on this lesson. But – for older students, it is short-changing their intelligence to try to gloss over the harsh facts that, perforce, they will have to address in their lifetimes.
BACKGROUND READING & VIEWING
- Read this first:
The generation being educated today will have to do what all previous generations have been unable or unwilling to do: stabilize a world population which is growing at the rate of quarter of a million each day; stabilize and then reduce the emission of greenhouse gases which threaten to change the climate; protect biological diversity, now declining at an estimated rate of 100-200 species per day; reverse the destruction of rainforests now being lost at the rate of 116 square miles each day; and conserve soils now being eroded at the rate of 65,000,000 tons per day.
Future generations must also learn to use energy and materials with greater efficiency. They must learn to utilize solar energy in all its forms. They must rebuild the economy in order to eliminate waste and pollution. They must learn how to manage renewable resources for the long term. They must begin the great work of repairing the damage done to the Earth in the past 200 years of industrialisation. And they must do all of this while addressing worsening social and racial inequities.
No generation has faced a more daunting agenda. Professor David Orr, Oberlin College, USA
Anything by one of the world’s greatest environmental educators is well worth reading. Amongst his most famous books are:
- Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse(2012)
- Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect (2004)
- An Inconvenient Truth: Al Gore’s Oscar- and Nobel Prize-winning documentary on climate change. You can purchase a copy at Amazon – and you can take part in the producers’ follow-up conversation with scientific updates at: http://www.takepart.com/an-inconvenient-truth
- The 11th Hour – good, but a little to heavy-handed in its criticism of industry which, in many cases, is far ahead of the politicians in implementing solutions;
- The Silent Spring by Rachel Carson(1962) – the book which started the environmental movement;
- The Limits to Growth – by Donella H. and Dennis L. Meadows(1972). The Club of Rome’s landmark report on the boundaries of human endeavor – and how close we are to crossing them.
- Beyond the Limits: Confronting Global Collapse– byDonella H. Meadows, Jorgen Randers and Dennis L. Meadows(1993)
- Heat by George Monbiot(2009); Anything and everything by George Monbiot, Britain’s leading writer on the imminent environmental catastrophe: www.monbiot.com
- Six Degrees by Mark Lynas (2008) – the book that explains what will happen with every added degree of global warming. 1 degree is terrifying enough: by the time you get to six degrees, the end of the world has happened several times over. And current politicians seem happy to settle for 4 – 5 degrees. An amazing wake-up call of a book.
- The God Species – by Mark Lynas (2011) – a further examination of the boundaries in relation to biodiversity, climate change, nitrogen, land use, toxins, ocean acidification etc.
- PCI’s compendium of books, articles and histories about environment/sustainability issues. The images at the top of the home page outline most of the major issues: http://rioplus20education.info/
- Our Final Hour: A Scientist’s Warning – by Martin Rees (2003)
- GM Crops & Monsanto – driving thousands of Indian farmers to suicide. See: http://www.seattleorganicrestaurants.com/vegan-whole-foods/indian-farmers-committing-suicide-monsanto-gm-crops/
- The Terrifying Math of Global Warming: Bill McKibben’s landmark article on climate change: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719
- Carbon Bubble – financial crisis that will hit when governments tackle Climate Change: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/apr/19/carbon-bubble-financial-crash-crisis
- War: Read some of the grim exposés of what actually happens in war. Here are some ideas:
– Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 by Antony Beevor
– The Fall of Berlin -1945 by Antony Beevor
- Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks (about the First World War)
- War Poets Poems of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Edward Thomas and others
- The Cold and the Dark: The World after Nuclear War by Carl Sagan (1984)
- Culloden and The War Game – docu-drama films by Peter Watkins(1964 & 1965)
- Saving Private Ryan, Schindlers List, Band of Brothers – Stephen Spielberg’s war films
- The Internet archive about the Auschwitz 2nd World War Concentration/Death camps: (https://archive.org/movies/thumbnails.php?identifier=Auschwitz1946) and Hiroshima – (https://archive.org/movies/thumbnails.php?identifier=1946-08-05_Jap_Films_of_Hiroshima)
- How do you pitch the Protest Speech?
This scene shows ‘Protest as usual’: a bunch of students dress up, bang drums and march around campus collecting signatures for a petition. It’s happened a million times: it will happen a million times again. Trouble is – as we have seen several times in the last few years, it has not worked. Even the most passionate, silver-tongued orators cannot penetrate the adamantine steel protecting politicians and their prejudices: as one reporter asked Prime Minister, Tony Blair, just before he started the illegal war on Iraq: “The Pope tells you not to do it, the Archbishop of Canterbury and a majority of the British People tell you not to do it: why do you continue to think that you are right to launch a war in Iraq?!” And – as everybody knows – even though the war was a disaster and killed close to a million people and did not solve Iraq’s problems, he has never apologized. Many feel that he, and George W. Bush should be prosecuted for war crimes. But no amount of demonstrating will get him to court….
The speaker is trying to whip the crowd up into a frenzy – so that he can launch into the song, “WORLD” and carry the cast with him, working themselves up into a paroxysm of rage and frustration at the way that we are killing our world, and not really caring about it. So – before we start discussing the content of the speech, let’s answer the following questions:
- Who is the speech aimed at – politicians or students? Or some one else?
- What is the result that the student speaker seeks from his speech? – more signatures to the petition?
- What emotion does the speaker seek to generate in his audience? Anger, fear, mindless passion? What?
We know, of course, that Luke and his friends are going to come along later and make fun of the speaker – but we want the speech to be as good as it can possibly be, as it is important exposition of the issues to the audience. And – of course – though it was done in Geneva by a boy, it can be done just as well by a young woman.
- What are the problem issues?
Ask your cast: “What are the TOP FIVE most pressing global challenges that your generation is going to have to face?” Given the herd mentality of most young people, we urge you to make it a totally secret ballot of views: ask the young people to write their FIVE priorities on a piece of paper, fold it up and give it to you. Then read them out – write them up on a board, and add ticks to each priority as a second, third and/or fourth young person mentions them. When they are all up there, for every one to see, check them against this list, and see what they have missed out – and what they have included that we miss out below:
- Population Growth Resource Depletion (oil, minerals, coal)
- Uncontrolled Consumption Failure to build renewable energy generation
- Climate Change Extreme Weather
- Global Warming, Polar & Glacier ice melt Sea Level Rise & Coastal Flooding
- Poverty and hunger HIV-AIDS & other global disease pandemics
- Fresh Water Shortages Desertification
- Depletion of Fish stocks Ocean Acidification
- Rain forest destruction Biodiversity Loss and Species extinctions
- The Rise of China The Decline of the United States of America
- War, conflict and a Weak UN Nuclear weapons
- War and instability in the Middle East Terrorism
- Religious Conflict Religious fundamentalism
- Crimes against humanity going unpunished Widening injustice and Human Rights Abuse
- GM Foods Youth Unemployment
- Pension Funds The power of the Advertising Industry
[These last two may not occur to any of your cast – but some experts consider them the two biggest obstacles to no-growth, sustainable economies. If you had a no-growth economy – with share value remaining static, and companies only growing by growing existing market share, Pension Funds would not grow – and no one would be able to afford a pension. Pension Funds require markets to grow unsustainably. Equally, the advertising industry requires people to buy more – more – more! Companies pay them over $600 billion a year to get the public to consume unsustainably – and there is very little that the far less lavishly funded Green Parties and NGOs can do to combat them.
2. How Many Issues? Discuss with them how many problems should be addressed in the speech – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4? And then decide which, from the feelings of the whole cast, should be the top priorities addressed. You should do this as a result of a second Ballot: Return the ballot papers to the young people. Ask them to write on them the top 2 – 4 – 6 – 8 issues that have emerged from the discussion (depending on the number you have decided to include in the speech.) Get them to vote. Count the Votes – and you have the issues that must be addressed in the speec
3. Choose the Top Priority Issues: Keep the full list up in the rehearsal room and, as a homework task, invite the students to go home and write a verse of the wigwam song that expresses their feelings about one of the issues – any of them, even if they are not included in the Final Speech issues.
4. Does ‘Doom ‘n Gloom work’? – Look at the images of grief, destruction, pollution and inhumanity expressed in the images to be found on the “World Backgrounds” file: also analyse the deeply, passionately concerned tone of the lyrics of the World song – and the passion and the anger with which David Essex sang its first recording (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtAHUpdj1qY) And ask yourself – and your cast: am I moved by this? Am I compelled to take action – to do something to change this.
Bob Geldof, famously, watched the horrific images of famine in Ethiopia in a BBC Newscast – and was moved to organize Live Aid – the 1985 global concert that raised $300 million dollars for the victims of the famine. Is that proof positive that doom ‘n gloom reporting can work? Only your cast can decide. Mention the concept of psychic numbing: the human response of emotional shut-down, compassion fatigue and the natural: “What on earth can I do about it anyway….?” Also – the medical injunction to all doctors: “First, do no harm….” How can any of us be sure that, in our frantic desire to “DO SOMETHING!!!!” – we will not actually make these global problems and tragedies worse?
Get some agreement on the actual value – or not – of exploring these deeply distressing issues, and decide how much, or little of them you are going to refer back to during the play;
The Prioritisation Game (Do this BEFORE you do Discussion Point 2.C above): Look at the final list of Global Challenges on the board and ask your cast each to select ONE of them, and make a list of the ten reasons WHY their problem is the GLOBAL PRIORITY that must be addressed first. (Cast members can choose the same issues – but it is good to try to get a spread!)
Usually a clear majority of cast members choose a single issue – with others choosing a handful of other issues. However this particular cookie crumbles, you need to set up a situation of a Presidential style debate – where each person lists the ten reasons why their problem is the TOP global priority to be addressed. Once the two ‘candidates’ have made their case, each argues why the other’s case is invalid – tearing their case apart, point-by-point. Then the other ‘candidate’ tears into his opponent’s case. Then another cast member who shares the top majority issue, takes the place of the first candidate, and makes their own case – refuting the other’s argument at the same time. Keep changing the candidates and hearing the arguments, until the cast – and you – are exhausted! Then you can take the vote described in 2. C above.
“Our World is Dying – today!” – Is it? Now your cast are getting to know the issues ( – and have done some research on the background reading / viewing suggested above), get them to discuss the truth of the famous line in David Gordon’s “World” song: is the World dying today? Set up the improvisation with one cast member arguing that it IS – another arguing that it is NOT. Get them to argue fiercely for each side of the argument – and then get them to switch sides, and keep bringing in new cast members to add their voice to the argument, until the whole cast is involved in screaming at each other on different sides of the stage.
In contrast to improvisation “A” above, I see this as a bar room argument – with raised voices, fists thumping on tables, faces getting redder and redder – as anger and passion flows. Note carefully where the balance of the cast’s feeling falls: we are often surprised by how apocalyptic young people feel about their future: if that is the case with your cast – and the majority seem to agree that the world IS dying – take note, and try to change that perception by the way you craft the script and resolve the issues in the play. The experience can then become a positive, life-affirming experience for them.
The Reality of War: Consider the following note written by a Peace Child member:
“You cannot ask a person to “forgive” their enemies until you have experienced the reality of war. I was happily playing a computer game at home in Zagreb when the phone rang. My mother burst into tears. My father came to me. I knew before he told me that my grandfather was dead. I wanted to know immediately how he died, and my father told me. A gang of young Serbs had come to his house and told him to get out. He was sitting quietly on his rocking chair and he said he would not go. They fired bullets into his knees. Still he did not move. They put bullets in his shoulders. The pain must have been horrible but still he did not move. Finally they put the gun to his eyes and blew his head apart, killed him – a sweet old man with a white beard. How can you ask me to forgive the people that did this. I cannot do it. Cannot do it ever in my life.” Maté, 17, Croatia
War and human conflict is perhaps the best reason to feel doom ‘n gloom about the future of the planet: with the environment falling apart before our eyes, and resources draining away at an unsustainable rate, how do we have time to fight pointless battles against each other and build up vast nuclear and military arsenals which have no possible value – and if used would likely destroy all life on the planet for ever? Are we mad?
Consider your own capacity for violence? Look at your hand: a hand very similar to that one scribbled the notes of all Mozart’s music and Shakespeare’s plays. Equally a hand very similar to your’s pulled the lever that released the poison gas into the death chambers of Auschwitz – and pulled the trigger that killed Maté’s grandfather in Croatia.
Another young Peace Child member – from Serbia – told me at the height of the Balkan civil war, that all Serbs, Croatians and Bosnians were evil: “We have to clear all the people from this area, and get new people in – people who know how to love each other!” Not possible, of course – but get your cast to take a position: are human beings inherently Good? – or Evil? Sit round, shooting the breeze! – airing the different views – and see whether your cast can come to any kind of consensus.
“Can’t you see the world is changing?…. People coming out from under, slowly rising to the thunder!” – Finding the evidence of change: Set up the chat show format – with a Cobra figure monitoring the discussion; three guests on chairs one side, and three guests on chairs the other side argue vehemently for why they think that people are – or are not – getting the message that we have a problem! Several Problems! – and ARE THEY DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT???? Some are, of course – and some are not. But which is the larger group? Are we moving toward critical mass? And – crucially – are young people aware, and switched on to the dangers? Are youth coming out from under?
Again – there are no right answers, but it is useful for you to know what your cast feels about this. Also – this improvisation provides a useful link to Lesson THREE: Solutions Central!
Drop-in a New Speech for the headless Polar Bear – based on your cast discussions above: get several cast members to write it – including the boy or girl who is eventually going to deliver it.
Think up some couplets for the Wigwam song: it’s really easy – the tune lends itself to an infinite variety of messages. Here are some possible first lines: ( – carry on and finish the verse!)
- I want to live on an Ice floe! (as sung by a polar bear!) I want my children to live free
- I want to live in a Clean World Please don’t destroy all the fishes
- I want to live in a Safe World Please leave your car in the garage
Lesson 3: Solutions Central!
Having perhaps scared your young cast with the issues raised in Lesson TWO – now is the time to fill them with hope! To make them feel secure and confident that their generation can find the solutions to the global challenges that surround them: Peace Child is the story of how they do just that! To emphasise the focus in the Peace Child process on solutions, we suggest that if you spend a Day on Lesson TWO – you spend two days on Lesson THREE: if you spend a week on 2 – spend two weeks on 3 – and so on. This is where the emphasis has to be because we have tried doing post-apocalyptic Peace Child performances – and they don’t work. The point of Peace Child is to reach a happy ending by 2050. And happy endings start here. With Solutions!
Go back to the solutions we started exploring in Lesson ONE:
- Reinventing Fire. By Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute. The Video alone is brilliant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT-g__695Go
- Andrew Winston’s Blog: Read: Green to Gold – and understand why business can profit from embracing the Green Economy. http://www.andrewwinston.com
- The Ellen MacArthur Foundation – read her explanation of the Circular Economy: http://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/circular-economy
- UNEP Green Economy Report: http://www.unep.org/greeneconomy/greeneconomyreport/tabid/29846/default.aspx
- The Economics of Eco-systems & Biodiversity(TEEB): teebweb.org
- The Post Carbon Institute – a bit more of the gloom and doom scenario – but a great de-bunking of the Fracking industry, and an effort to change the conversation, as evident in the name of the institute. Going for ten years now, it is one of the best: http://www.postcarbon.org
- The End of Growth, Richard Heindorf. See: http://richardheinberg.com/
- Steady State Economics: Herman Daly – the father of the idea that you can only achieve sustainability through having a no growth economy. See: http://steadystate.org/
- Sustainable Energy for All: http://www.se4all.org/
- Resource-Efficient Cities: http://www.unep.org/pdf/GI-REC_4pager.pdf
- Transition Towns: Rob Watkins brilliant approach to building the Post-Carbon, Green Sustainable Economy one town at a time: http://www.transitionnetwork.org/about
- Dongtan and Masdar: http://www.cnu.org/cnu-salons/2013/04/dashed-dreams-eco-city-failure-dongtan-eco-city-chongming-island-china and http://www.masdar.ae/en/#masdar
- Locavores – the California idea of eating only locally produced food: http://www.locavores.com/
- Co-housing (see example at: http://www.seattlecohousing.org/ and the One Planet Living Concept at: http://www.oneplanetliving.org)
- Samsø – Denmark’s zero carbon Island; see: http://www.stateofgreen.com/en/Profiles/Samsoe-Energy-Academy
- The Swedish state of Skane (Malmo) – its bold environmental targets. See: http://www.skane.se/upload/Webbplatser/Skaneportalen-extern/dokument/Miljopr2010_2020_ENG.pdf
- Zero Carbon Nations: The race is on to become the world’s first zero carbon nation. Iceland is in the lead, closely followed by New Zealand, Costa Rica & Norway. See report at: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/four-nations-in-race-to-be-first-to-go-carbon-neutral-802627.html
- Zero Net Energy Households: http://permaculturenews.org/2013/10/17/zero-net-energy-households/
- Car Free Days: Hundreds of towns and cities around the world hold days when cars are banned in city centres. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Car-Free_Days
- Liter of Light: amazing, lo-cost / no cost way of lighting slum and rural dwellings – using just a plastic water bottle! http://aliteroflight.org/
- Education for all: It is clearly part of the solution that all children get an education so that they know what is going on. http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/education-for-all/ and http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTEDUCATION/0,,contentMDK:20374062~menuPK:540090~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:282386,00.html
- The Right to Protection (R2P): The solution developed by the UN in 2005, but yet to be properly implemented. It comes up several times in this version of the musical. Start your research here: http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php/about-rtop
- The Sustainable Development Goals: Not agreed as yet – but definitely one of the better ideas being considered by the UN for the future roadmap of human development. Check it out at: http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?menu=1300
- Inferno by Dan Brown: a surprising recommendation perhaps – but he has a very interesting solution to the Population Issue;
- The Devil’s Alternative by Frederick Forsyth: again, a novelist’s extrapolation on the challenge of supplying the world with food.
- How to get rid of Harmful Subsidies: Pat Lerner’s paper is brilliant on this. See: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/RioPlus20/Harmful-Subsidies.pdfn
- COP-21 – Paris 2015: See: http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/french-foreign-policy-1/sustainable-development-1097/21st-conference-of-the-parties-on The website states: “By the end of the meeting, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, all the nations of the world, including the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, will be bound by a universal agreement on climate.” Is that just wishful thinking? Or could it happen? Explore and see. Check these other websites:
- http://ukycc.org/ / http://www.stopclimatechaos.org/
1. The need for a Rapid Transition to a Green, Sustainable Economy: Discuss how are we going to get there? Here at Solutions Central, we want to include everyone – governments, industry, NGOs, environmentalists, schools, universities, think-tanks, youth – EVERYONE. As you will read in the play, the oilman starts off being an almost pantomime villain – but becomes, in the end, the hero who makes things happen. So – no demonization of Big Business! The brown, fossil-fuelled economy was built by the private sector – with help from governments and the support of the general public. The green economy must be built in the same way. So – discuss and prioritise the following solutions and add others as you think of them:
- Green Taxes: the quickest way to achieve a rapid transition from the Brown to the Green Economy is to tax the Brown economy heavily & give tax breaks to green economy initiatives. (In other words, hike up prices for fossil fuels; lower the prices for renewable energy. Incentivise recycling and the circular economy by lowering taxes on – say – Renault’s re-build cars; hike up taxes on built-from-scratch vehicles.)
- Feed-in Tariffs(FiTs): make FiTs available in every country: this is the system where members of the public can mount solar electric panels or wind turbines on their roofs – or at their factories – and get paid by the electricity companies for every Kwh they feed into the National Grid. This lets the public experience that “Green Energy Pays!”
- Labelling: make sure that green economy products are colourfully labeled in the supermarket – and that those which are produced UN-sustainably are labeled with big black marks to make the public aware of what is, and what is not, produced in a green, eco-friendly, sustainable manner.
- Legislate to encourage Resource Efficiency:
- Promote Zero Carbon Villages / Towns / Cities / States:
- Zero Waste Initiatives: Introduce the principle of zero waste into every household, every company: make them pay for their waste disposal. Zero waste is ‘No burn, No Bury!’ – in other words, EVERYTHING is re-cycled and re-used – as compost, and raw materials for new goods;
- Promote Vegetarian Recipes: – especially in schools. Require by law that every school serve only vegetarian food three days a week. And then up it to five days a week! Wean the public from their appetite for dead animals.
2. Legislate for Sustainable Consumption & Production(SCP): Discuss what SCP actually means? The key definitions of SCP could be summarized thus:
- Doing “more and better with less,” reducing resource use, degradation and pollution along the life cycle of goods and services, while increasing the quality of life for all.
- Promoting resource + energy efficiency by offering opportunities such as creating new markets for organic food, fair trade, sustainable housing, renewable energy, sustainable transport and tourism thus generating economic growth and green jobs,.
- Enabling developing countries to “leapfrog” developed countries direct to more resource-efficient, Green Economy technologies, allowing them to bypass inefficient and polluting phases of development.
- Decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation by increasing the efficiency of resource use in the production, distribution and use of products.
- SCP keeps energy, material and pollution intensity of all production and consumption functions within the carrying capacities of natural ecosystems.
- SCP uses a “life-cycle perspective” to achieve resource efficiency and pave the way to accelerating the transition to an eco-efficient economy, while turning environmental and social challenges into business and employment opportunities.
There are any number of websites to give your cast background on SCP – which was a central theme of many of the international meetings on solutions to the environmental crisis in the early years of this century. Perhaps the most important was the Marrakech Process – which split the subject into 7 x working groups, thus:
- Sustainable Buildings & Construction
- Sustainable Tourism
- Sustainable Lifestyles
- Education for Sustainable Consumption
- Cooperation with Africa
- Sustainable Public Procurement
- Sustainable Products
That was in 2005. It’s an odd list, isn’t it? What topics do you think should feature in a contemporary SCP list of Task Forces? (Sustainable Energy for All – is one obvious addition that the UN themselves have made). Or perhaps the whole idea of sustainable consumption and production as a solution to environmental problems is outdated: what do you think?
3. Create a United Nations System that Works: Discuss how we can set up a system of international governance that actually protects people’s human rights, avoids the scourge of war, and saves the planet resources for future generations. Here at Solutions Central – this is the most ticklish challenge because, as one character in the musical says, the big governments do NOT want a strong UN: they want a docile poodle that they can order about. The need for the things that the youth pass their treaties about are absolutely self-evident – and have been obvious for the last 50 years. But – ask the USA, or China, or Brazil – or even the UK or France – to surrender one jot of their sovereignty or power, and they will shut off the conversation with a blunt “NO!” – that shuts the door on any further discussion.
It has been obvious for years that the UK and France should surrender their permanent seat on the Security Council to the European Union – and allow a representative of Latin America or Africa or India – all of whom are more deserving of such a seat than the tiny UK or France! But it is never likely to happen as no elected government of France or the UK wants to go down in history as the one that surrendered their permanent seat at the UN. And what about the right of the UN to collect taxes? – never going to happen! And the right of the UN to have a rapid deployment force to step in to stop wars before they start? – never going to happen. The USA even reserves the right to ignore the rulings of the International Court and the Intl. Criminal Court. And – see the Recent History (Lesson 4 – below) – the UN has not covered itself in glory in its high profile summits at Copenhagen or Rio!! So – discuss: Has the UN passed its sell-by date? In the Internet age – when every individual is connected online, is a UN really necessary any more? Could we live without it? (The argument is that some components of the UN are really necessary: like IATA – which makes sure that planes all obey the same rules so they don’t bump into each other?!)
4. Create a Peace Child Passport – Empowering Young People to Unite Nations: Discuss the idea of a Peace Child Passport and the idea that young people really can help Unite Nations? We at Peace Child Intl. think that youth can – and, at Geneva, PCI President, David Woollcombe, announced – in public, for the first time – the idea of the Peace Child Passport. This is modeled on the UN staff passport, which allows UN Staff visa-free access to any UN Member State. PCI argues: “Why, if governments really want to unite nations – can they not make it a whole lot easier for the young people of their countries to meet?” The PC Passport would give an entry visa to a young person to enter any country to attend a training, course, meeting or cultural event. The passport would issue visas for a nominal fee of, say, $25. Each visa would be strictly time-limited to the length of the meeting or course and, if the young person stayed beyond the time-limit, their PC Passport would be withdrawn, with no chance of appeal. PCI trusts young people to do what they say they are going to do – and come home when they say they will.
But the wider point of discussion is: would such a system do any good? Would not young people just follow the orders of their government and, if that government ordered them to fight and kill young people of a nation that they had just been visiting, should not the young people follow their government’s orders?
There is really only one improvisation to have in this lesson: the exploration of Despair vs. Hope in relation to the future survival of humanity on earth. We propose 2 x ways of doing it, and we make no apology for urging you, whatever the age, faith, culture or ethnicity of your cast – to try both:
ONE: The Secular – Trial by Jury: This is based on the famous case tried by Jewish Prisoners in one of the Concentration Camps during the 2nd World War – where they put God on trial for breaking His Covenant with their people. (The result was that they agreed that God probably had broken His covenant but – what were they going to do?! It was hard to send God to jail….!) Here – we want you to put Humanity on trial for destroying the earth. Humanity’s Defense Counsel will marshall all the arguments at Solutions Central to convince the Jury that Humanity is exploring all kinds of practical, effective solutions for solving our global challenges – that we shall solve them, and that therefore, the Jury – who can be the rest of the cast, or your year group, or a whole school assembly, or a parents’ evening, or who-ever! – should find Humanity NOT guilty. The Prosecution Counsel should marshall all the arguments explored in Lesson TWO – to show why Humanity is Guilty as charged. Get several cast members to prepare the arguments for each side – and do the improvisation as a class exercise.
TWO: The Spiritual – Sermon Off! Imagine a church, synagogue or temple with TWO pulpits – or two imams, or two Rabbis. One (Erland in the show!) is full of hope and enthusiasm for a merciful God who has the best interests of His people at heart – and who is, behind the scenes, preparing to deliver Humanity from the global problems this generation faces. The other is full of bitterness and fear that God is an avenging God and – like He did with the Flood, and Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot’s wife – he is preparing to punish Humanity mightily for the sin of Greed, and careless destruction of the environment and natural resources of the paradise planet on which He placed us.
Again – get several cast members to prepare each sermon – and invite the cast – or an independent audience of students or parents – to watch the ‘Sermon-off.’ Then let them decide which side has made the better case.
The Drop-in is to the dialogue between Mei and Erland in Scene SIX – An Ending, particularly this section on Page 27:
Erland Don’t think about it too much. I don’t believe God has plans to wipe us all off the face of the planet any time soon: she’s working things out! Have faith! Mei I don't have your gift of faith. I believe in humanity and the strength of our communities. We can achieve so much with our minds without faith in a higher power. I have faith, that soon, all our human advances in science and technology will propel our society into a truly green planet; that the more (we humans) educate ourselves with rational thought based on a global mutual need, the more easily the peace we want to see will just come. I believe in humanity's capabilities.
Mei actually wrote that speech herself – and it expressed her humanistic belief that humanity can solve its problems rationally without faith – or waiting, as I put it, for “God to parachute in and sort everything out!” I love her line about the ‘gift of faith…’ It is a gift – and Erland had it: his performance of the song, “I believe!” – was a show-stopper, and – whether you are atheist, humanist, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Jew – or agnostic, it is lovely to be able to acknowledge the differences between us in relation to faith – and to celebrate every perspective.
Based on your improvisations, discussions and research here at Solutions Central – think about re-writing this whole scene – maybe for a bunch of different characters. The sense of failure we all felt after Copenhagen (See Copenhagen Blues – next lesson) – was pretty absolute: this lesson has been all about finding both rational and spiritual / faith solutions to the challenges faced by young people growing up today. Your decisions / conclusions here should shape every line – and the whole atmosphere – of your production. And BEWARE: young people, in our experience, prefer – on a ratio of 2 : 1 – to be apocalyptic in their view of the future. Make sure that you do NOT end up with a Peace Child show that fails to achieve the Happy Ending!
Lesson 4: Recent History
The purpose of this lesson is to make sure that your cast are aware of the recent history that shapes so much of this Peace Child musical story. Many of them will never have heard of Copenhagen Climate Change talks, or the Rio+20 Summit. Or R2P. We feel that it is important that they know the history before they try to re-enact it. And we want them to bring it right up to date! The recent hit play in London, The Audience, was about the Queen of Englands weekly ‘audiences’ with her Prime Ministers – 12 of them since her first, Winston Churchill. Audiences were surprised, when it came to the scene with the current Prime Minister, David Cameron, to hear Mr Cameron referring to events that had happened that same month – sometimes even that same week! A simple trick – but one worth remembering as an attention-grabber for the Peace Child Musical: re-write the play right up until the days of performance – to take account of Recent History.
These are a couple of ‘Official Histories’ of the recent history of Environment / Climate change negotiations. Both are written by UN / government bureaucrats thus do not give an objective account. I cannot find any decent history of the recent UN processes – which is why, as I was closely involved in much of this recent history, I make bold to offer you the following 6-page summary of my experience of the Copenhagen, and Rio+20 UN Summits.
The United Nations? – well past its sell-by date? – In its earliest days – in the 1950s – the UN was the go-to place to sort out international issues. Dag Hammarskjold, the Swedish UN Secretary-General, is credited with ending the Korean War – and keeping the USA and USSR from each other’s throats. When ever danger threatened, diplomats used to say: “Leave it to Dag….” And – more often than not – he would resolve it, until he died / was killed in a plane crash in the Belgian Congo. He was replaced by the shadowy figure of U Thant, a colourless Burmese diplomat who had none of the Swede’s charisma or poetry. And – since the 1960s, – with one or two exceptions, the UN has been the passenger of international history, rather than its driver. From the genocide in Rwanda, to the current civil war in Syria – the UN has been all but powerless to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’ – or the abuse of human rights. Instead, it has busied itself by getting involved in development – and trying to eliminate poverty in a sustainable way: useful work, some of it – but not the diplomatic trouble-shooter that –anyway some! – of its architects imagined.
This version of the Peace Child Musical is inspired by – or a reaction to – this recent woeful history. As noted in Lesson TWO (above), it is absurd that two tiny countries, France and the United Kingdom, cling on to their permanent seats when huge countries such as India, Brazil and the entire continent of Africa – have no such representation. The UN’s Rio Earth Summit in 1992 was a brief, glimmer of hope, following up Gro Harlem Brundtland’s landmark Report on Sustainable Development, entitled: Our Common Future. But those hopes were quickly dashed by the failure of the OECD countries to come up with the additional funding required to achieve Agenda 21 – the UN’s sustainable development agenda for the 21st Century. Rather than put additional cash on the table, their contributions dropped – spurring the G-77 countries to say that: “sustainable development is no development at all!”
The United Nations and climate change? – The process of meetings that emerged in relation to climate change produced the Kyoto agreement but, though the President of the USA signed it, he could not get his Congress to ratify it. Several other rich polluting countries (Australia, Japan, China) failed to support it. But the Parties to the Kyoto Agreement met every year in a process known as the ‘Conference of the Parties’ – or COP for short. At the COP-13 meeting in Indonesia in 2007, a Road Map was laid out, with targets and milestones, leading to the crucial COP-15 meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009.
Hopenhagen! – It is hard to exaggerate the hope that was invested by organisations like our’s in Copenhagen: for so long, nations had talked about limiting carbon emissions and dealing with the threat of catastrophic climate change. The USA had elected Barack Obama – and there was real enthusiasm in the environmental community, and amongst politicians and business-leaders that the USA would come on board and drive forward framework legislation that would lead to the rapid construction of the Green Economy. Business was ready: “Just give us the legal framework and a level playing international field and we will do it!” – Dozens of Business Associations sprang up – just as they had around the original Rio Earth Summit: business knows, better than most, the cost implications of unstable energy supplies, and the insurance premium impacts of catastrophic climate change. And they were ready to do something about it – as soon as governments put in place the tax and subsidy regimes that would help direct their investments. Also, they had the technical means to build a green, sustainable economy: wind, wave and solar power – and the tempting prospect of 3rd, 4th and 5th generation bio-fuels, which would use tube-grown algae, and vegetation grown on non-agricultural land. The Swedish province of Skane, just across the bridge from Copenhagen, was showing the way by committing, independently, to a zero carbon economy by 2030. The Danish island of ?? – had already shown the way by being zero carbon since 1996.
The Copenhagen meeting started so promisingly: tens of thousands of young people were there! Some had walked from China and India; many were doing hunger strikes, and all were lobbying their governments to strive for more ambitious targets. A Canadian group did a ‘Dinosaur of the Day’ Ceremony at the end of every day – a Oscar style ceremony where every one dressed up in Tuxedos and long dresses and awarded a plastic dinosaur to the government that had been backward in its commitments to dealing with climate change. (Many different governments won!)
All the G-8 Heads of State were coming – and though there were obviously wide differences, (the Europeans all hoped that the USA and China would do more – the USA and China both hoped that the Europeans would agree to much less….!) We, and the Danish hosts, felt that, after 15 years of bickering, a solid agreement was in our grasp. The Atmosphere was reminiscent of 1986 in Montreal when the protocol banning chlorofluorocarbons (which destroy the ozone layer) was passed.
Copenhagen Blues – But it wasn’t to be. As reported by Mark Lynas, in an astonishing piece of 1st person reporting from the final, fateful meeting (quoted in full below) – the whole process was scuppered by the government of the People’s Republic of China. Opinions, and reports vary, but there is strong evidence to suggest that the Chinese Government was divided between the Foreign Ministry, who wanted to do a deal, and the President and the Politburo, who did not. The UN – and many senior diplomats – made the infantile diplomatic mistake of hearing only the views from that they wanted to hear (from the Foreign Ministry) – and not reading the very clear signals from the Chinese leadership, and their henchmen in G-77, who were making it absolutely clear to any one who bothered to listen to their almost daily statements, that the did NOT want a deal on anything like the terms that the Europeans and North America was offering.
But what could we – in Civil Society – do about such high political shenanigans?! We flooded the streets and the airwaves with our protests and our flag-waving: but all our hopes were dashed against the hard rocks of real politik – and the Chinese political imperative of continuing to open a dirty brown coal power station every week in the hope of bringing industrialization and prosperity to, and avoiding violent rebellion by, their millions of impoverished citizens living in the Western interior. China is a deeply divided and insecure nation: away from the economic miracle happening on their Eastern Coast – where huge cities and incredible wealth abound – there remains crushing poverty, racial tensions and instability.
Christmas 2009 was a bleak affair for environmental enthusiasts. We all got a bad case of the Copenhagen Blues! We had been so close! The media – the public – all but one government! – had been ready to do a deal. And the prospect of whipping up similar enthusiasm again for such UN processes was slim indeed. The UN’s Rio+20 Summit was announced during the Copenhagen Meeting – and those of us who had seen the writing on the wall about the ‘Catastrophe of Copenhagen’ were full of hope that, with its broader remit, 3-year run-in time-scale, and the possibility of brilliant leadership from Political and industry leaders – it could be the turning point we were looking for!
The United Nations Rio+20 Summit – for a Green, Sustainable Economy? – We in Peace Child Intl. whipped up incredible enthusiasm around the world amongst youth for the Rio+20 Summit. It had so much going for it: it was about more than climate change! It was about accelerating sustainable development and the building of a green economy. Also – it was building on the original Rio Earth Summit process – which still stirred happy memories of a time when the United Nations was actually able to get things done. Also, it appeared that governments were really keen to get their young people invested in ‘creating the Future We Want’ – the UN’s slogan for the Summit. The US Delegation, at the first consultative meeting in May 2011, called Rio+20 a ‘Rio for 20-somethings!’ – and throughout the youth caucus made the running on a number of issues. PCI, itself, hosted or was involved 37 Youth Prepcoms in different countries around the world – calling for immediate government action, through their tax and subsidy regimes, to reward the builders of the green, renewable, sustainable economy, and punish with heavy taxes those that remained addicted to the brown, fossil-fuelled economy.
Youth also spoke out against nuclear weapons – instruments clearly with no place in a green, sustainable economy. Alone amongst the pressure groups – youth also sought to remind the UN and its member states of its Charter Commitment to protect humanity from the ‘scourge of war’ – which again threatened to destroy young lives in Syria, the Great Lakes region of Africa, South Sudan and elsewhere. This commitment had recently been bolstered by the passing, in 2005, of what became known as the R2P legislation. Reacting to the Bosnian, Rwandan and South Sudanese ‘genocides,’ this called on all governments to observe the ‘Right to Protect’ its citizens – and permitted the international community to step in when a government was clearly failing to protect its citizens. Even as the Rio+20 process was advancing, there was the instance of a cyclone which hit the coast of Myanmar (Burma) – when the Military Junta in that country refused to allow international relief organisations into the country to assist the displaced, the sick and the wounded. Later, the principles of R2P were well and truly smashed when the UN allowed the government of Bashir al Assad to terrorize the Syrian people – creating millions to flee to the safety of Jordan and Turkey, and internally displacing millions of others.
But – promising though the Rio+20 agenda looked, and successful though Civil Society organisations like our’s were at banishing the Copenhagen Blues and getting people revved up and excited about the possible outcome, the seeds of its failure were sown early. For a start, none of the G-8 leaders agreed to come: Obama and Cameron signaled early that they would NOT come. We earnestly hoped that Angela Merkel, whose country, Germany, was proving that a rapid transition to the Green Economy was financially as well as ecologically profitable – would announce in September 2011 that she would come. But she didn’t. In the end, only Francois Hollande of France turned up – and he only for an hour to make a speech and pose for the photograph. It was shameful.
But more shameful – and incompetent – was the performance of the UN and its staff. Back in the day of “Leave it to Dag…,” – the UN leadership knocked heads together and came up with agreements that all might not be fully happy with – but with which they could live. The weakly UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, appointed China’s senior diplomat, Sha Zukang as the secretary general of the Rio+20 Summit. Given China’s performance at Copenhagen, this was not a promising step, especially as Zukang protested that he knew nothing about Sustainable Development. He was also an idiot, frequently drunk, and mostly famous for shouting at Ban Ki-Moon in a ludicrously drunken scene at a meeting in Salzburg. Zukang appointed a bizarre Frenchman, Bryce Lalonde, and the former Minister of Environment of Barbados, Barbara Thompson, to be the principle organisers. Neither was a political heavy-weight – and neither had any clear idea of what they wanted out of the Summit – except the transition of the UN Environment Programme to being a full-scale UN Agency. (Hardly something that you needed a Summit to achieve!)
Zero Draft – Zero Content! – Zukang then set the already stretched staff of the Commission for Sustainable Development to manage the summit. Though a ton of excellent ideas and strategies poured into the UN from all quarters ahead of the November 2011 deadline for submissions, the Zero Draft Agreement delivered in January 2012 was a pale a sickly document. One of the UN staff people confided to me that this was all part of a ‘Cunning Plan’: “By pitching the Zero Draft low and weak, we will encourage member states to think: ‘We can do better than this…!’ And they will!!” But of course, they didn’t: the member states did, indeed, protest the weakness of the document, but they did little to change it. And the ‘Negotiations’ descended into their normal extended frenzy of word-smithing and idea insertion – most of which remained in ‘brackets’ (ie. Not agreed) – right up to the Final Prepcom, a few days before the 100+ Heads of State who had agreed to come were scheduled to arrive.
At which point, the Brazilian hosts were seriously worried: another ‘Copenhagen Catastrophe’ threatened – and this one would be worse for them as they were so identified with the Rio+20 initiative. So – over the final weekend, they demanded the right to create a ‘final, non-negotiable text’ – and duly did so, delivering it to a shocked audience of media, politicians and civil society on the Monday morning. They had, of course, done so with the full agreement of the shamefully compliant Sha Zukang and the UN authorities. And when the Europeans and others protested loudly at the feebleness of the non-negotiable text – Sha and his cronies sided with the Brazilians: they had, after all, paid for the summit, and the UN knew on which side its bread was buttered. Also – they bet, correctly as it turned out, that the Europeans would fume and spit rage for a while, but eventually fall into line. And they did. Nick Clegg, the British Deputy Prime Minister, leading the British Delegation, wanted to ‘pull the plug’ on the whole thing. So did Janez Potocnik, the European Commissioner for the Environment – who recognized that the Brazilian text represented a massive betrayal of the Road Map to Resource Efficiency – and the other carefully prepared documents that his staff had prepared for Rio+20 over the previous 18 months of work. But they didn’t walk out – or raise their voices. They politely wrote off millions of €uros of investment in the summit, and opted for the easy life.
A Missed Opportunity – This was a great mistake: had the Europeans had the guts to walk out – as our youth did – it would have become clear to the Brazilians and the G-77 (poorer) countries, that there is indeed a gulf between those countries that are working towards a bright, green sustainable future – and those wedded to the brown, dying fossil-fuelled economy that is driving climate change and draining the world of resources at an alarming rate. Rio+20 would not have been the big success we had all hoped for – but it would have set a marker, and created a coalition of those willing and eager to drive the rapid transition from the Brown to the Green economy.
As it was, they were left with a mess and a muddle – and absolutely no progress on any front: as many commentators pointed out – the Rio+20 statement represented a huge step backwards from the commitments agreed at the original Earth Summit – 20-years earlier. For PCI – after its 37 prepcoms – the weakness of the language on education for the Green Economy was in stark contrast to the courageous claims of Chapter 36 of the original Agenda 21. The Rio+20 document parroted UNESCO language about continuing the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development – an initiative of such astounding failure, it was impossible not to laugh at the naivete of the drafters of the Brazilian text.
Learning through Disillusion – Those of us who had worked so hard – and the young people who had contributed so many startling and original ideas – for education, for youth participation, for youth-led development and green job creation, were all heartily disgusted by the Rio Process. The 360 young people whom PCI had accredited for the Summit, all tore up their ground pass cards – and walked out of the Summit in protest. Prior to their walk out – they had a chant & repeat session: the scene from which we have a short extract in the musical.
Those of us who wanted to hear Mr Zukang defend his indefensible behavior at the Summit’s final press conference were disappointed: he announced that the Summit had been a huge success – and that many commitments had been made. And that he would retire from the UN on the Monday following – and that he would take no questions. With that he got up and left – leaving the sad Frenchman, M Bryce Lalonde, to field what – by that time – had become a fairly abject and sullen press corps.
The Death of the COP Climate Change Process? – Meanwhile, the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties (COP) maunders on – with another meeting scheduled for December 2013 in Warsaw (in Poland – a country well-known for its commitment to coal-sourced energy!) – and a possibly final COP in Paris in 2015. Every one seems resigned to the fact that the COP process is going nowhere. A climate change agreement appears to be beyond humanity’s reach: there are just too many countries – and political imperatives – standing in the way of it. And so, because there appears to be no immediate prospect of the planet disappearing in a puff of smoke any time soon, politicians are delighted to be able to take the easy way out, and abandon all pretence of reaching a solution. (In May / June 2013, the climate change experts from different governments met for an expensive meeting in Bonn, Germany: but the Russian delegation had been offended by something that the Qataris had said during their COP meeting in Doha in 2012 – and so proceeded to stall ‘all substantive discussions’ during the Bonn Meeting. And these people claim to be acting on behalf of future generations?! What a joke!
The Next Big UN Thing? – At the time of writing, the UN is engaged in a somewhat confusing parallel process:
1) Drafting Sustainable Development Goals to replace the Millennium Development goals which expire in 2015; – and –
2) Preparing a Post-2015 Development Agenda.
For the latter, David Cameron and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf chaired a High-level Panel to come up with ideas and a strategy for the Post-2015 Agenda. Their Report is intriguing – and very well written by highly competent UN staffers and UK Development Professionals. But one cannot help but be bewildered by the parallel process – which everyone asserts is linked – but which shows no sign of convergence.
Peace Child Intl. has learned its lesson: the UN has let young people – and the planet’s future – down one time too many. We are focused now on concrete development work – and educating young people to transition from the Brown to the Green Economy – the generational challenge of their lifetimes. That – and creating jobs for the billion young people who will come on to the job market in the next ten years – is our priority. That – and raising awareness amongst the rising generation through this Peace Child play.
As for the UN? – well, they used to call the Ottoman Empire the ‘sick man of Europe’ before the 1st World War put it out of its misery: the UN is now the sick man of the international community – its institutions reviled and dysfunctional, its staff demoralized, and its purpose unclear. It is impossible to think that any one will be able to stir up any enthusiasm for a COP or a Rio process in the lifetimes of the youth currently passing through our schools – unless – UNLESS!!! – something along the lines of what happens in the musical happens in real life.
And that – that! – is the purpose of studying the recent history: you have to imagine a shiny new UN – re-invented for the Internet age. And circumstances are converging – and might reach critical mass in a few years time – to ensure that such a transformation does happen!
Signs of Hope! – Climate Change experts have, at last, gotten over their Copenhagen Blues! A number of interesting papers have conspired to give a new sense of urgency to the climate change question:
- Loss and Damage: At the Doha COP meeting, a new section appeared in the legislation under consideration, called: Loss and Damage section. It was significant as President Obama had just bailed out the insurance companies for their liability for the damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy to the Eastern Seaboard of the USA. The figure quoted was $85 billion dollars – but in fact, it was probably closer to $50bn. At the time of writing – very little of the money has gotten to the people whose homes were destroyed. But – all at once – real estate agents and insurance companies were extremely concerned about who would foot the bill for catastrophic climate change if – or when – it started to happen. It would flood millions of acres of valuable coastal real estate destroying trillions of dollars worth of expensive homes. Insurance Companies clearly don’t have deep enough pockets to cover such losses; oil companies might – but they screamed that it was NOT their fault as governments had taken no steps to prevent them drilling for, refining and producing oil, coal and gas. So – catastrophic climate change will be paid for by the tax-payer. The real estate merchants who build their new developments on coastal land, and the insurance companies who cover them, will likely not pay a penny. Nor will the fossil fuel companies.
Needless to say, the Loss and Damage clauses were quickly struck out of the Doha Declaration in favour of some mealy-mouthed language about considering compensation for victims of climate change at some later date. But – the blow had been struck: suddenly, governments – ALL governments – realised that, at some point in the future, climate change, like pensions, was going to cost them – BIG time! And some – in some parts of government and industry – are beginning to contemplate the economic consequences of those costs. And what might be done about it.
Perhaps the most perceptive of these analyses was a 2006 Report by World Bank Economist, Nicholas Stern. In an intriguing echo of the Classical legend of the Sybilline Books, Stern pointed out that preparing for the transition from the Brown to the Green Economy, would cost about 1% of GDP – IF – the work started immediately. If the world waited 10 years, it would cost about 5%; wait 20-years – it will cost 15% – wait 50 years, and it would cost close to 100% of GDP! That was seven years ago – and no one – NO ONE! – is talking about it.
- Carbon Bubble: in April 2013, Nicholas Stern produced a new Report. It pointed out that when, eventually, governments get around the recognizing the seriousness of the climate change catastrophe about to over-take them, and recognise the imperative of passing legislation that will force oil and coal companies to keep their prized assets in the ground, the economic consequences to our Business Community would make the crash of 2008 look like a minor economic blip. Stern imagines the consequences of the Big Seven Oil Companies being forced to keep two thirds of their known reserves in the ground. If those reserves are worth – say $10 Trillion dollars, the legislation would, at a stroke, wipe $10 trillion dollars off the share value of 7 of the world’s biggest companies.
Needless to say, none of the governments – or the oil companies – wanted to even think about the new Stern Report. They ignored it – BUT – most of the leaders of those companies and those governments will be dead when Stern’s predictions come true. The young people passing through our schools today have a right to know about the challenges that are coming hurtling down the pike towards them. Teacher – and drama producers – like you! – have a duty to inform them!
COPENHAGEN REPORT – Mark Lynas, Guardian Newspaper, Saturday 12th December 2009
Copenhagen was a disaster. That much is agreed. But the truth about what actually happened is in danger of being lost amid the spin and inevitable mutual recriminations. The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful “deal” so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen.
China’s strategy was simple: block the open negotiations for two weeks, and then ensure that the closed-door deal made it look as if the west had failed the world’s poor once again. And sure enough, the aid agencies, civil society movements and environmental groups all took the bait. The failure was “the inevitable result of rich countries refusing adequately and fairly to shoulder their overwhelming responsibility”, said Christian Aid. “Rich countries have bullied developing nations,” fumed Friends of the Earth International.
All very predictable, but the complete opposite of the truth. Even George Monbiot, writing in yesterday’s Guardian, made the mistake of singly blaming Obama. But I saw Obama fighting desperately to salvage a deal, and the Chinese delegate saying “no”, over and over again. Monbiot even approvingly quoted the Sudanese delegate Lumumba Di-Aping, who denounced the Copenhagen accord as “a suicide pact, an incineration pact, in order to maintain the economic dominance of a few countries”.
Sudan behaves at the talks as a puppet of China; one of a number of countries that relieves the Chinese delegation of having to fight its battles in open sessions. It was a perfect stitch-up. China gutted the deal behind the scenes, and then left its proxies to savage it in public.
Here’s what actually went on late last Friday night, as heads of state from two dozen countries met behind closed doors. Obama was at the table for several hours, sitting between Gordon Brown and the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi. The Danish prime minister chaired, and on his right sat Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the UN. Probably only about 50 or 60 people, including the heads of state, were in the room. I was attached to one of the delegations, whose head of state was also present for most of the time.
What I saw was profoundly shocking. The Chinese premier, Wen Jinbao, did not deign to attend the meetings personally, instead sending a second-tier official in the country’s foreign ministry to sit opposite Obama himself. The diplomatic snub was obvious and brutal, as was the practical implication: several times during the session, the world’s most powerful heads of state were forced to wait around as the Chinese delegate went off to make telephone calls to his “superiors”.
Shifting the blame – To those who would blame Obama and rich countries in general, know this: it was China’s representative who insisted that industrialised country targets, previously agreed as an 80% cut by 2050, be taken out of the deal. “Why can’t we even mention our own targets?” demanded a furious Angela Merkel. Australia’s prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was annoyed enough to bang his microphone. Brazil’s representative too pointed out the illogicality of China’s position. Why should rich countries not announce even this unilateral cut? The Chinese delegate said no, and I watched, aghast, as Merkel threw up her hands in despair and conceded the point. Now we know why – because China bet, correctly, that Obama would get the blame for the Copenhagen accord’s lack of ambition.
China, backed at times by India, then proceeded to take out all the numbers that mattered. A 2020 peaking year in global emissions, essential to restrain temperatures to 2C, was removed and replaced by woolly language suggesting that emissions should peak “as soon as possible”. The long-term target, of global 50% cuts by 2050, was also excised. No one else, perhaps with the exceptions of India and Saudi Arabia, wanted this to happen. I am certain that had the Chinese not been in the room, we would have left Copenhagen with a deal that had environmentalists popping champagne corks popping in every corner of the world.
Strong position – So how did China manage to pull off this coup? First, it was in an extremely strong negotiating position. China didn’t need a deal. As one developing country foreign minister said to me: “The Athenians had nothing to offer to the Spartans.” On the other hand, western leaders in particular – but also presidents Lula of Brazil, Zuma of South Africa, Calderón of Mexico and many others – were desperate for a positive outcome. Obama needed a strong deal perhaps more than anyone. The US had confirmed the offer of $100bn to developing countries for adaptation, put serious cuts on the table for the first time (17% below 2005 levels by 2020), and was obviously prepared to up its offer.
Above all, Obama needed to be able to demonstrate to the Senate that he could deliver China in any global climate regulation framework, so conservative senators could not argue that US carbon cuts would further advantage Chinese industry. With midterm elections looming, Obama and his staff also knew that Copenhagen would be probably their only opportunity to go to climate change talks with a strong mandate. This further strengthened China’s negotiating hand, as did the complete lack of civil society political pressure on either China or India. Campaign groups never blame developing countries for failure; this is an iron rule that is never broken. The Indians, in particular, have become past masters at co-opting the language of equity (“equal rights to the atmosphere”) in the service of planetary suicide – and leftish campaigners and commentators are hoist with their own petard.
With the deal gutted, the heads of state session concluded with a final battle as the Chinese delegate insisted on removing the 1.5C target so beloved of the small island states and low-lying nations who have most to lose from rising seas. President Nasheed of the Maldives, supported by Brown, fought valiantly to save this crucial number. “How can you ask my country to go extinct?” demanded Nasheed. The Chinese delegate feigned great offence – and the number stayed, but surrounded by language which makes it all but meaningless. The deed was done.
China’s game – All this raises the question: what is China’s game? Why did China, in the words of a UK-based analyst who also spent hours in heads of state meetings, “not only reject targets for itself, but also refuse to allow any other country to take on binding targets?” The analyst, who has attended climate conferences for more than 15 years, concludes that China wants to weaken the climate regulation regime now “in order to avoid the risk that it might be called on to be more ambitious in a few years’ time”.
This does not mean China is not serious about global warming. It is strong in both the wind and solar industries. But China’s growth, and growing global political and economic dominance, is based largely on cheap coal. China knows it is becoming an uncontested superpower; indeed its newfound muscular confidence was on striking display in Copenhagen. Its coal-based economy doubles every decade, and its power increases commensurately. Its leadership will not alter this magic formula unless they absolutely have to.
Copenhagen was much worse than just another bad deal, because it illustrated a profound shift in global geopolitics. This is fast becoming China’s century, yet its leadership has displayed that multilateral environmental governance is not only not a priority, but is viewed as a hindrance to the new superpower’s freedom of action. I left Copenhagen more despondent than I have felt in a long time. After all the hope and all the hype, the mobilisation of thousands, a wave of optimism crashed against the rock of global power politics, fell back, and drained away.
RIO+20 REPORT – George Monbiot’s columns on the Rio+20 Summit in the Guardian (UK) Newspaper, June 2012
Worn down by hope. That’s the predicament of those who have sought to defend the earth’s living systems. Every time governments meet to discuss the environmental crisis, we are told that this is the “make or break summit”, upon which the future of the world depends. The talks might have failed before, but this time the light of reason will descend upon the world.
We know it’s rubbish, but we allow our hopes to be raised, only to witness 190 nations arguing through the night over the use of the subjunctive in paragraph 286. We know that at the end of this process the UN secretary-general, whose job obliges him to talk nonsense in an impressive number of languages, will explain that the unresolved issues (namely all of them) will be settled at next year’s summit. Yet still we hope for something better.
This week’s earth summit in Rio de Janeiro is a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago. By now, the leaders who gathered in the same city in 1992 told us, the world’s environmental problems were to have been solved. But all they have generated is more meetings, which will continue until the delegates, surrounded by rising waters, have eaten the last rare dove, exquisitely presented with an olive leaf roulade. The biosphere, that world leaders promised to protect, is in a far worse state than it was 20 years ago(1). Is it not time to recognise that they have failed?
These summits have failed for the same reason that the banks have failed. Political systems which were supposed to represent everyone now return governments of millionaires, financed by and acting on behalf of billionaires. The past 20 years have been a billionaires’ banquet. At the behest of corporations and the ultra-rich, governments have removed the constraining decencies – the laws and regulations – which prevent one person from destroying another. To expect governments funded and appointed by this class to protect the biosphere and defend the poor is like expecting a lion to live on gazpacho.
You have only to see the way the United States has savaged the earth summit’s draft declaration to grasp the scale of this problem(2). The word “equitable”, the US insists, must be cleansed from the text. So must any mention of the right to food, water, health, the rule of law, gender equality and women’s empowerment. So must a clear target of preventing two degrees of global warming. So must a commitment to change “unsustainable consumption and production patterns” and to decouple economic growth from the use of natural resources.
Most significantly, the US delegation demands the removal of many of the foundations agreed by a Republican president in Rio in 1992. In particular, it has set out to purge all mention of the core principle of that earth summit: common but differentiated responsibilities(3). This means that while all countries should strive to protect the world’s resources, those with the most money and who have done the most damage should play a greater part.
This is the government, remember, not of George W Bush but of Barack Obama. The paranoid, petty, unilateralist sabotage of international agreements continues uninterrupted. To see Obama backtracking on the commitments made by Bush the elder 20 years ago is to see the extent to which a tiny group of plutocrats has asserted its grip on policy.
While the destructive impact of the US in Rio is greater than that of any other nation, this does not excuse our own failures. The UK government prepared for the earth summit by wrecking both our own climate change act(4,5) and the European energy efficiency directive(6). David Cameron will not be attending the earth summit. Nor will the energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey (which is probably a blessing, as he’s totally useless). Needless to say Cameron, with other absentees such as Obama and Merkel, are attending the G20 summit in Mexico, which takes place immediately before Rio. Another tenet of the 1992 summit – that economic and environmental issues should not be treated in isolation(7) – goes up in smoke.
The environmental crisis cannot be addressed by the emissaries of billionaires. It is the system that needs to be challenged, not the individual decisions it makes. The struggle to protect the biosphere is in this respect the same as the struggle for redistribution, for the protection of workers’ rights, for an enabling state, for equality before the law.
So this is the great question of our age: where is everyone? The monster social movements of the 19th century and first 80 years of the 20th have gone, and nothing has replaced them. Those of us who still contest unwarranted power find our footsteps echoing through cavernous halls once thronged by multitudes. When a few hundred people do make a stand – as the Occupy campers have done – the rest of the nation just waits for them to achieve the kind of change that requires the sustained work of millions.
Without mass movements, without the kind of confrontation required to revitalise democracy, everything of value is deleted from the political text. But we do not mobilise, perhaps because we are endlessly seduced by hope. Hope is the rope on which we hang.
In 1992 world leaders signed up to something called “sustainability”. Few of them were clear about what it meant; I suspect that many of them had no idea. Perhaps as a result, it did not take long for this concept to mutate into something subtly different: “sustainable development”. Then it made a short jump to another term: “sustainable growth”. And now, in the 2012 Earth Summit text that world leaders are about to adopt, it has subtly mutated once more: into “sustained growth”.
This term crops up 16 times in the document, where it is used interchangeably with sustainability and sustainable development. But if sustainability means anything, it is surely the opposite of sustained growth. Sustained growth on a finite planet is the essence of unsustainability.
As Robert Skidelsky, who comes at this issue from a different angle, observes in the Guardian today:
“Aristotle knew of insatiability only as a personal vice; he had no inkling of the collective, politically orchestrated insatiability that we call economic growth. The civilization of “always more” would have struck him as moral and political madness. And, beyond a certain point, it is also economic madness. This is not just or mainly because we will soon enough run up against the natural limits to growth. It is because we cannot go on for much longer economising on labour faster than we can find new uses for it.”
Several of the more outrageous deletions proposed by the United States – such as any mention of rights or equity or of common but differentiated responsibilities – have been rebuffed. In other respects the Obama government’s purge has succeeded, striking out such concepts as “unsustainable consumption and production patterns” and the proposed decoupling of economic growth from the use of natural resources.
At least the states due to sign this document haven’t ripped up the declarations from the last Earth Summit, 20 years ago. But in terms of progress since then, that’s as far as it goes. Reaffirming the Rio 1992 commitments is perhaps the most radical principle in the entire declaration.
As a result, the draft document, which seems set to become the final document, takes us precisely nowhere. 190 governments have spent 20 years bracing themselves to “acknowledge”, “recognise” and express “deep concern” about the world’s environmental crises, but not to do anything about them.
This paragraph from the declaration sums up the problem for me:
“We recognize that the planet Earth and its ecosystems are our home and that Mother Earth is a common expression in a number of countries and regions and we note that some countries recognize the rights of nature in the context of the promotion of sustainable development. We are convinced that in order to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environment needs of present and future generations, it is necessary to promote harmony with nature.”
It sounds lovely, doesn’t it? It could be illustrated with rainbows and psychedelic unicorns and stuck on the door of your toilet. But without any proposed means of implementation, it might just as well be deployed for a different function in the same room.
The declaration is remarkable for its absence of figures, dates and targets. It is as stuffed with meaningless platitudes as an advertisement for payday loans, but without the necessary menace. There is nothing to work with here, no programme, no sense of urgency or call for concrete action beyond the inadequate measures already agreed in previous flaccid declarations. Its tone and contents would be better suited to a retirement homily than a response to a complex of escalating global crises.
The draft and probably final declaration is 283 paragraphs of fluff. It suggests that the 190 governments due to approve it have, in effect, given up on multilateralism, given up on the world and given up on us.
So now what do we do to defend life on Earth?
It is, perhaps, the greatest failure of collective leadership since the first world war. The Earth’s living systems are collapsing, and the leaders of some of the most powerful nations – the US, the UK, Germany, Russia – could not even be bothered to turn up and discuss it. Those who did attend the Earth summit last week solemnly agreed to keep stoking the destructive fires: sixteen times in their text they pledged to pursue “sustained growth”, the primary cause of the biosphere’s losses(1).
The efforts of governments are concentrated not on defending the living Earth from destruction, but on defending the machine that is destroying it. Whenever consumer capitalism becomes snarled up by its own contradictions, governments scramble to mend the machine, to ensure – though it consumes the conditions that sustain our lives – that it runs faster than ever before.
The thought that it might be the wrong machine, pursuing the wrong task, cannot even be voiced in mainstream politics. The machine greatly enriches the economic elite, while insulating the political elite from the mass movements it might otherwise confront. We have our bread; now we are wandering, in spellbound reverie, among the circuses.
We have used our unprecedented freedoms, secured at such cost by our forebears, not to agitate for justice, for redistribution, for the defence of our common interests, but to pursue the dopamine hits triggered by the purchase of products we do not need. The world’s most inventive minds are deployed not to improve the lot of humankind but to devise ever more effective means of stimulation, to counteract the diminishing satisfactions of consumption. The mutual dependencies of consumer capitalism ensure that we all unwittingly conspire in the trashing of what may be the only living planet. The failure at Rio de Janeiro belongs to us all.
It marks, more or less, the end of the multilateral effort to protect the biosphere. The only successful global instrument – the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer – was agreed and implemented years before the first Earth Summit in 1992(2). It was one of the last fruits of a different political era, in which intervention in the market for the sake of the greater good was not considered anathema, even by the Thatcher and Reagan governments. Everything of value discussed since then has led to weak, unenforceable agreements, or to no agreements at all.
This is not to suggest that the global system and its increasingly pointless annual meetings will disappear or even change. The governments which allowed the Earth Summit and all such meetings to fail evince no sense of responsibility for this outcome, and appear untroubled by the thought that if a system hasn’t worked for 20 years there’s something wrong with the system. They walk away, aware that there are no political penalties; that the media is as absorbed in consumerist trivia as the rest of us; that, when future generations have to struggle with the mess they have left behind, their contribution will have been forgotten. (And then they lecture the rest of us on responsibility).
Nor is it to suggest that multilateralism should be abandoned. Agreements on biodiversity, the oceans and the trade in endangered species may achieve some marginal mitigation of the full-spectrum assault on the biosphere that the consumption machine has unleashed. But that’s about it.
The action – if action there is – will mostly be elsewhere. Those governments which retain an interest in planet Earth will have to work alone, or in agreement with like-minded nations. There will be no means of restraining free riders, no means of persuading voters that their actions will be matched by those of other countries.
That we have missed the chance of preventing two degrees of global warming now seems obvious. That most of the other planetary boundaries will be crossed, equally so. So what do we do now?
Some people will respond by giving up, or at least withdrawing from political action. Why, they will ask, should we bother, if the inevitable destination is the loss of so much of what we hold dear: the forests, the brooks, the wetlands, the coral reefs, the sea ice, the glaciers, the birdsong and the night chorus, the soft and steady climate which has treated us kindly for so long? It seems to me that there are at least three reasons.
The first is to draw out the losses over as long a period as possible, in order to allow our children and grandchildren to experience something of the wonder and delight in the natural world and of the peaceful, unharried lives with which we have been blessed. Is that not a worthy aim, even if there were no other?
The second is to preserve what we can in the hope that conditions might change. I do not believe that the planet-eating machine, maintained by an army of mechanics, oiled by constant injections of public money, will collapse before the living systems on which it feeds. But I might be wrong. Would it not be a terrible waste to allow the tiger, the rhinoceros, the bluefin tuna, the queen’s executioner beetle and the scabious cuckoo bee, the hotlips fungus and the fountain anenome(3) to disappear without a fight if this period of intense exploitation turns out to be a brief one?
The third is that, while we may possess no influence over decisions made elsewhere, there is plenty that can be done within our own borders. Rewilding – the mass restoration of ecosystems – offers the best hope we have of creating refuges for the natural world, which is why I’ve decided to spend much of the next few years promoting it here and abroad.
Giving up on global agreements or, more accurately, on the prospect that they will substantially alter our relationship with the natural world, is almost a relief. It means walking away from decades of anger and frustration. It means turning away from a place in which we have no agency to one in which we have, at least, a chance of being heard. But it also invokes a great sadness, as it means giving up on so much else.
Was it too much to have asked of the world’s governments, which performed such miracles in developing stealth bombers and drone warfare, global markets and trillion dollar bail-outs, that they might spend a tenth of the energy and resources they devoted to these projects on defending our living planet? It seems, sadly, that it was.
Clearly, there is much to discuss in all this Recent History. But – it really all comes down to a single discussion point: ‘WHAT CAN WE DO?’
What can we do?!
Set up a homework assignment to explore this Recent History: there is a ton of material to enrich the summary and articles I have provided above – some from the websites that I have offered above.
The Discussion I urge you to have is an in-depth discussion about: “What we can do!” – in preparation for the Improvisation below. In particular, you might wish to discuss the following key points:
- What should youth do when governments embrace the concept of ‘Sustainable Development – which they define as ‘meeting the needs of today’s generation while not compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs….’ – when, self-evidently, such governments don’t care a fig for the needs of future generations who neither vote for them, pay them taxes, nor – in many cases – even exist yet!?
- What would you have done when faced with the appalling betrayals meted out by governments on young people at both Rio+20 and Copenhagen?
- Lynas is pretty severe in his criticism of China at Copenhagen: he is probably right – but how does a young person – or a diplomat – avoid demonising, and driving into a corner, instransigent governments which, for reasons of self-interest, and perhaps self-preservation, do things that are not in the best interests of their people or the planet?
- Faced with the immense challenge of real-politik, super-power economies, and clever governments who manage to do terrible things and ensure others get the blame for them, do you feel that turning the taps off while you are brushing your teeth, recycling bottles and cans, or cycling to school – are adequate responses to the generational challenge youth face? What more can YOU do??!!
- The Post-Copenhagen TV Chat Show: at the end of Scene FOUR, Cobra Winfrey invites the team to come back and talk to her after Copenhagen. I have written this scene several times – and love almost every version of it – BUT: it has never been performed because – we have always done 1-act versions of the show – and – it seems to take the action backwards, not forwards.
But – the scene is an excellent way of enabling your cast to explore the issues that came up in Copenhagen and Rio+20. Set it up – with the same girl playing Cobra! And she asks three, relatively simple, questions:
- What happened in Copenhagen? (Answer with the recent history)
- What are you going to do now? (Answer with the results of your discussion points)
- What’s next for the UN? (Talk about why you are enthusiastic about Rio+20)
“Not in Our Name!” At the end of Scene THIRTEEN – ‘Reality Sucks!’ – scene, the youth do the chant and repeat session – on the theme of ‘Not in our Name!’ This is summarised from a session that went on for about two hours at the Rio UN Summit Centre. It happened ahead of the mass youth walk-out when youth delegates cut up their plastic ground passes and left the building. You could – of course! – make a much more dramatic scene out of this: find out more about what happened and improvise new lines for the scene. Sit the cast in a circle, and demand that each cast member come up with a line, that the rest of the cast then repeat. Get them to be really, really angry! It was that anger that was most impressive about the scene I remember at Rio Centro!
- The New Cobra Scene: Once you have done an improvisation, and you have decided on the length of your show – and whether or not you want to have an intermission, – you can agree whether or not to include such a scene in the show. And – note – we usually include Pavel Sydor’s song: “We want this world to survive for ever!” – another song available on the Peace Child Website: additional songs;
- A new Copenhagen Scene: The scene we use is a straight lift from what Mark Lynas describes. But you could imagine a million different scenes: the international gang from Stanford could be involved in a ‘Dinosaur of the Day’ scene. Or they could be frozen out of the Copenhagen Conference Centre (as all the youth and civil society delegates were in the 2nd Week) – learning of the betrayal of the last night from disgruntled diplomats leaving the building.
- A New Rio+20 Scene: Imagine a scene in which young people try to defend the right of “future generations to meet their needs…” There was a contest run by one NGO to enable a young person to speak first at the Summit session. A New Zealand girl won – and you can see her speech at:
For me, a much better speech was the one delivered by Severin Suzuki at the original Rio Earth Summit in 1992. See it at: Think about it – one young person has the chance to address World Leaders at a major UN Summit: what would you say? Write the speech – and use it somewhere in the UN scene!
Lesson 5: The Treaties
Time to go back to the issues we explored in Lesson TWO. For – though there are five excellent treaties drafted in the script – and five committees set up in Scene TWELVE to create them, the purpose of this lesson is to enable you to review the issues and choose those ones which you feel need to be addressed in your UN scene.
The cast always re-write the treaties: it puts their stamp on the show. Even if you choose the same issues that we have done (- and, naturally! – we believe those are crucial issues!) – you should re-write the language around them.
Should they be the same issues that you chose for the Polar Bear’s speech? They could be – but it would be better if they are not! We’d like to think that the young people of this story had learned some new things along the way – and were addressing new issues.
How many issues? The same question that we raised in Lesson TWO: five is fine – Six is probably OK – seven and you almost certainly will lose some of your audience on the issues. You may lose some at five: many people say that 3 x messages is the most you can expect any audience to go away remembering. So – less is more! BUT – this lesson is another opportunity to re-visit the critical challenges facing our planet and the human beings that live upon it but, crucially this time: to come up with some solutions to them:
- Population Growth Resource Depletion (oil, minerals, coal)
- Uncontrolled Consumption Failure to build renewable energy generation
- Climate Change Extreme Weather
- Global Warming, Polar & Glacier ice melt Sea Level Rise & Coastal Flooding
- Poverty and hunger HIV-AIDS & other global disease pandemics
- Fresh Water Shortages Desertification
- Depletion of Fish stocks Ocean Acidification
- Rain forest destruction Biodiversity Loss and Species extinctions
- The Rise of China The Decline of the United States of America
- War, conflict and a Weak UN Nuclear weapons
- War and instability in the Middle East Terrorism
- Religious Conflict Religious fundamentalism
- Crimes against humanity going unpunished Widening injustice and Human Rights Abuse
- GM Foods Youth Unemployment
- Pension Funds The power of the Advertising Industry
You should read up the history of the Rio+20 Summit, and about how the United Nations system works. Here are some sources:
- Basic Facts about the United Nations – http://issuu.com/unpublications/docs/basicfacts
- Rio+20 Youth Blast: http://uncsdchildrenyouth.org/pages/youthblast.html – though they, of course, do not talk about the Youth Walk-out from the Rio+20 summit. They would very quickly lose their privileged status within the UN system if they did! That’s why, PCI’s World Youth Congress process is completely independent of any UN or Government process:
- Only One Earth: The Long Road via Rio to Sustainable Development by Felix Dodds: Felix, more than anyone else, was responsible for the Rio+20 Summit. He believed in it, dreamed it, and made it happen through his superb networking genius. That it didn’t work out as he had hoped, he would not deny – but this is the best history of the process, seen through the eyes of a true-believer. Here is the official summary of the book:
Forty years after the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, the goal of sustainable development continues via the Rio+20 conference in 2012. This book will enable a broad readership to understand what has been achieved in the past forty years and what hasn’t. It shows the continuing threat of our present way of living to the planet. It looks to the challenges that we face twenty years from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, “The Earth Summit,” in Rio, in particular in the areas of economics and governance and the role of stakeholders. It puts forward a set of recommendations that the international community must address now and in the future. It reminds us of the planetary boundaries we must all live within and what needs to be addressed in the next twenty years for democracy, equity and fairness to survive. Finally it proposes through the survival agenda a bare minimum of what needs to be done, arguing for a series of absolute minimum policy changes we need to move forward.
- Daily Reporting on Rio+20: See – http://www.ips.org/institutional/ips-activities-and-impact-at-rio20/ – and –
- The World Youth Congress “20 Solutions”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9d-GhTsrcPw – to see the delegates reading these 20 solutions:
- Put sustainability at the center of education
- Let youth lead governments, corporations and society into sustainability
- Make it easy for youth to start businesses by providing capital, tax-breaks and reducing administrative bureaucracy.
- Redesign our economy to be sustainable and to make people happy by moving away from insatiable consumption practices.
- Shift to the use of renewable resources, and effectively make use of non-renewable resources to make this happen.
- Make the best use out of energy – be efficient.
- Reduce your footprint, soundly manage the waste you leave.
- Sustain what all life is based on – water.
- Enforce regulations against pollution, exploitation and degradation of our oceans.
- Recognize the realities and impacts of climate change, take responsibility, demand accountability & act to reduce emissions.
- Recognize the links between development and vulnerability to natural disasters and integrate place-based disasters risk reduction and sustainable development.
- Demand biodiversity conservation, the ending of mass species extinction and habitat degradation.
- Recognize ecocide as a crime against humanity and nature.
- Respect the right to healthcare.
- Produce food for people and the plant, not just for money.
- Restrict transnational corporations power over food systems.
- Recognize gender empowerment and freedom of sexual and gender choice in a society free of discrimination.
- Promote democratic youth representation amongst societies’ decision-making processes.
- Make the world a non-conflict zone lead by youth peacemakers.
- Acknowledge that the respect of human rights is integral part of sustainable development.
- Rio+20 Education Website: http://rioplus20education.info
- World Youth Congress & Rio Earth Summit Videos: check out the following to give you a sense of the atmosphere:
- Severin Suzuki’s inspirational speech at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZsDliXzyAY
- And the one she gave 20 years later: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaT_s4mYVNs
Then you should review the reading list we gave you in Lesson TWO to give you more background on the issues. Finally – after you have had discussed the Discussion Points (below) – and done the Improvisations – and you have decided which Treaties you are going to focus upon, then you have to do some internet searches and do some in-depth research on the treaty topics you have selected. Remember: it is INDEFENSIBLE TO GET FACTS WRONG in Peace Child. Check and re-check every statement. You will make yourself – and our name – look ludicrous if you start spouting inaccurate information from the stage.
- Why are we doing this? At the original Rio Earth Summit in 1992, there was a Citizen’s Summit in Flamingo Park – where NGOs met and drew up some NGO treaties. PCI was marginally involved in them – but, when I came to look for them for the Rio+20 meeting – I couldn’t find them. Every one had forgotten about them – and those hours of work we put in went absolutely nowhere. BUT – it was a great educational exercise. And perhaps some elements of the NGO Treaties filtered into official government consciousness. For us – and for the purposes of this play – we need the Treaties to form the basis of the UN scene that closes the play. But is there a wider purpose? Discuss.
- Kids Alone? – where is Tim in this scene? Shouldn’t he – and industry – be a part of the Youth Discussions? We know that did not happen in reality at Rio+20 – but wouldn’t it have been better if it had? Read the Monbiot articles about the wickedness of the corporate-directed state – and films like “The 11th Hour” which demonise big business as the enemy of the environment. Then look at the Environmental Commitments of big companies like Virgin, Chevron, Shell, BP – and reach your own conclusions about the wisdom of the young people of Peace Child getting into an alliance with Big Business. And if you agree with us that they should, at what point in the story should we introduce the transformed character of Tim – the oilman? And – should we bring back the character of his younger assistant who appeared on the TV Chat show and sang/danced “Petroleum Energy Complex”?
- Groupings: Look at the 30 issues listed above and try to think how you can address multiple issues under a single heading. In the ‘Base Script’ – the youth do this:
- Energy & Climate Change – water, minerals, fisheries: the general sustainability of all Resources.
- Education + Training for the Green Economy! – and Education for All!
- Environment: World Legal Protection of biodiversity, the forests, oceans
- End Poverty: achieve sustainable development; provide nutrition, health, jobs, welfare safety nets
- Peace: Human rights, R2P, good governance, ending corruption, Democracy, Rule of Law… All that good stuff which the UN has passed and governments prefer to forget
Take a look at those 30 issues: can you group them into five? Can you group them into three? Could you group them into ONE?
- UN Issues: The Government of Costa Rica took a decision in 1953 to abolish its army: it felt it had no need of it. In 1984, the government of Iceland made a deal with the USA to insure itself against external attack – thus obviating the need for a national army: if any one attacked it, the US army would protect it’s borders – like an insurance company steps in to protect you if your house burns down. Might the UN develop in this way – enabling most countries to dismantle their military infrastructure and subscribe to an international insurance protection scheme that allows them to save millions of dollars on military budgets? Also – the UN is forbidden to collect taxes – even taxes raised by international activities like currency transfers, airline travel, shipping etc. If it were, it would have the finance needed to deliver on its promises of R2P, education for all, health for all, food for all, sustainable energy for all etc. Can you foresee a time when the human family comes together and works together like this for the good of every one? For the survival and prosperity of everyone? How bad does it have to get before we do this?
- Enforcement: How do you see the sequel playing out? If there was a Peace Child Pt. II – starting at the point of the final scene, how would the diplomats and the young people sort out their differences and achieve the political accommodation that the Story-teller explains happens at the end? Discuss it – research it – do a homework exercise on it and write down some answers. And them move on to Improvisation “A” below….
- The Street Hawker: In the UK, there is a bizarre tradition of the Street Hawker – a salesman who stands on the street selling household goods for very low prices, often in bulk. Their sales patter goes something like this: “This box of soap powder sells for £5 in the supermarket – but for you, this morning, I am selling you TWO boxes AND a washing-up brush, not for five pounds, not for four pounds, nor three, but TWO pounds. Yes – two pounds only for two boxes of soap and a brush that you would pay TWELVE pounds for in the Supermarket! Come and buy before they all go!”
Get 5 or 6 of your cast to imagine that they are street hawkers selling the Treaty of their choice – and persuading the rest of the cast to stand behind their priorities. Like the Street Hawker, each cast member should group issues together, so they are giving the cast an even better deal.
Purpose: to get the cast more familiar with the issues
- The Editorial Meeting: Get the cast to sit around a table like journalists at a morning meeting – deciding on tomorrow’s headline: the purpose is to communicate – to a wide, general audience the key issues of the treaties. You can be the managing editor, throwing out questions like:
- What’s the headline?
- Give me an opening line and paragraph for the story?
- Why should any one be interested in this story?
- Where’s the drama? What’s the excitement? Why should it be a lead story?
- “If it bleeds – lead!” A popular journalistic slogan meaning, if there’s blood and gore in the story, lead with it: put it on the front page. Where’s the blood in this story? Where’s the gore?
- Summarise – crystallise – each treaty or grouping of issues into a 10-word, or 15-word sentence – to capture the gist. Then give every Treaty a headline.
Purpose: to get the cast articulating each treaty articulately, briefly and compellingly;
Page 55 – 57: Depending on the treaties you have agreed, re-write these lines, awarding the best lines to those that thought up the ideas.
Lesson 6: Protest & Survive
Thursday 5th December 2013: I write this on the day that Nelson Mandela died. It’s significant because liberating the Republic of South Africa from the scourge of Apartheid must have looked about as impossible to Mandela in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s as getting governments to agree to the carbon emission cuts necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change look to us today. Mandela’s message: NEVER give up! – is as powerful now as it was when he was serving his life sentence on Robben Island. We have to keep fighting. We cannot give up! For dreadful though Apartheid was, it did not threaten all life on the planet as climate change does. It did not threaten human survival as our uncontrolled greed does.
Yet it is hard for this generation of youth: in the last half of the 20th Century, protest ended the Vietnam war; protest freed Mandela, achieved the Civil Rights in the USA for African Americans and ended Margaret Thatcher’s hated Poll Tax in the UK. The history of Peace Child is all bound up with ending the Cold War – which happened in 1989, partly as a result of the youth/musical links we made between the young people of the USA and USSR. PCI was also involved in the Catholic / Protestant reconciliation movements that brought about the Good Friday Agreement that ended the Civil War in Ireland. We did performances in Central America which accelerated the moves towards the Escipoulas accords that ended the insurgencies there. We – and Peace Child International – grew up with a sense that protest worked. Protest won things! We got the results we wanted! But, since that fateful day in February 2003, when millions of people marched in capitals around the world to protest the US-led invasion of Iraq – and Bush and Blair ignored them totally – youth have been forced to get used to failure.(There was a movement in Feb. 2003 that was calling for a general strike in the USA, UK and across Europe – which many feel would have stopped that insane, illegal war. But the protest movement’s leadership didn’t have the bottle for it. Also – Vanessa Redgrave argued for trying Saddam Hussein at the International Court in the Hague. See Discussion Points below.) Failure became the norm: we failed to get a climate deal in Copenhagen; we failed to get a deal to build a green economy at Rio+20. The Occupy Movement appeared to fizzle out in failure – and the Arab spring, so full of hope, has morphed into an Arab Winter – with the forces of reaction back in power in Egypt, and authoritarian regimes still in power in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and elsewhere.
So – does protest not work any more? Are citizen movements pointless? Some would say so: but the purpose of Peace Child is to re-ignite belief that protest – that democratic movements of the people, by the people, for the people – can work. Indeed MUST work. We have to protest to survive. But – we have to learn how to protest more effectively: learning how to do that is the purpose of this lesson.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” Mohandas Gandhi
“You have to be the change you want to see in the world.” Mohandas Gandhi
“Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” Mohandas Gandhi
“I submit that an individual who breaks the law that conscience tells him is unjust and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
“During my lifetime, I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and see realized. But if needs me, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Nelson Mandela
“A person who won’t die for something is not fit to live.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Everything by Mohandas Gandhi;
- Everything by Martin Luther King;
- Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
Waves of Protest – a series of essays edited by Jo Freeman and Victoria Johnson
New Internationalist – the magazine most activists in the UK, USA and around the world read: see: www.newint.com
You should read and become familiar with the history of the world’s great historical revolutions:
- The English Revolution (1640 to 1659 led by Oliver Cromwell)
- The French Revolution (1789);
- The Russian Revolution (1917)
- The Great March, China (1949)
- The revolutions that ended the Warsaw Pact (1989)
You should read up on the other revolutions – those of 1848 across Europe, the Chartists and the Peasants Revolt in the UK – and, of course, the revolutions that failed like the one dramatized by Victor Hugo in Les Miserables (1831)
The revolution that takes humanity out of the fossil fuel era (the ‘Brown Economy’) into the era of renewable fuels and sustainability (the ‘Green Economy’) – is likely to be more similar to the long, relentless protests against Slavery, or the Anti-colonial movements of Gandhi, the suffragette, feminist, Civil Rights or Anti-Vietnam War movements. And it is likely to be conducted and driven by social media online. So – check out the following online advocacy sites:
- Digital campaigning: avaaz.org; www.change.org; www.purpose.org;
- “We are a billion strong on Facebook! We don’t need to be on Tahrir Square!” Really? Do you believe that the internet has the power to change the world?
- How important is charismatic leadership by an individual to the success of a Revolution – Lenin in Russia, Mao in China, Cromwell in the UK, Danton and the others in France? But in this last – the French Revolution of 1789 – was it not leadership by the mob? It was they who stormed the Bastille without leaders. Can it be the same for the Climate Change revolution? Or does some one commands enough respect internationally to lead it? Is that what it needs?
- People vs. Government: “If the people lead, the government will follow!” True or False? There are strong arguments that say that governments have to lead – governments must impose the green taxes that will lead people to the more eco-friendly purchasing options because they are cheaper. It worked with Unleaded vs. Leaded petrol. Its working with long-life light bulbs. But can governments legislate for things that the people don’t want? Discuss!
- It’s got to get worse before it gets better! Must it?! Do we really have to wait until the sky falls in – or the seas start inundating large tracts of land in Asia, Europe and North America before our governments wake up and do something?! Surely enlightened and informed politicians of the 21st Century can take decisions to ‘meet the needs of future generations’ – before millions have to suffer and die?! Or, because future generations don’t vote or pay taxes, will the citizens of the present never really care about those future?
- Replace the Law of Force with the Force of Law – as noted above, during the Feb. 2003 protest rallies against the Iraq War, Vanessa Redgrave argued that Saddam Hussein should be tried for his crimes at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Ken Keyes wrote a famous book, The Hundredth Monkey back in the 1980s about replacing the Law of Force with the Force of Law – in which he makes very strong arguments for an international legal framework backed up by an international police force replacing national military defence forces. What do you think? How do you arrest and prosecute some one like Robert Mugabe whose army terrorises his people? Or Bashir Assad of Syria? Or Omar al-Bashir of Sudan – already under criminal indictment by the ICC, but who is never likely to go? Is there any point in trying them ‘in absentia’?
- Bureaucrats – from the janissaries of the Ottoman Empire to the Eurocrats in Brussels and the International Diplomats at the United Nations – will never contemplate a revolution of the kind that is needed because they are concerned about keeping their jobs and their pensions. Some say, “A bureaucrat is a person who has had their brain surgically removed and replace by a rule book – and their heart ripped out and replaced by a plastic pressure pump.” They are less than human – and human problems don’t concern them. Is that fair? Can bureaucracies drive forward a revolution? Or only stifle revolutionary fervour?
- Brainstorming the Revolution! First decide: are revolutions created by intellectuals or by rabbles of frustrated poor people? Depending on that decision, set the scene: Lenin, Trotsky and their friends, sipping crème de menthe in Zurich planning their revolution – intellectually – to help the poor; or a rabble, getting drunk in a filthy bar – shouting and banging the tables. The revolution – of course – is getting governments and business to change course and build the green, sustainable economy – but they are not going to do it voluntarily. They are going to have to be forced – to be over-thrown and replaced by a revolutionary council which will do what needs to be done. Set either – or both(one-after-the-other!) – scenes and encourage your cast to brainstorm different approaches to achieving the revolution. See what new ideas emerge and write them down.
- The Beauty Contest: Exploring the Limitations of Leadership: Set up a podium on the stage – and get each cast member to prepare a speech explaining why they should elect them to be the leader of their revolution. It starts with the costume and make-up: how should they look to be compelling as a leader? And then the entrance! How should they hold themselves? Should they go straight to the podium and start speaking? Or should they go and shake hands and ingratiate themselves with the audience first. And the speech itself? There are many great ones to look at: Mark Anthony’s speech in Julius Caesar: (See Marlon Brando at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7X9C55TkUP8) Charlie Chaplin’s speech in the “Great Dictator” (See: http://www.charliechaplin.com/en/synopsis/articles/29-The-Great-Dictator-s-Speech) Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” (See: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/08/27/transcript-martin-luther-king-jr-have-dream-speech/) President Obama’s speech at Nelson Mandela’s funeral: (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/12/10/remarks-president-barack-obama-prepared-delivery) Almost any speech by Winston Churchill, perhaps particularly the one of 4 June 1940: (http://www.winstonchurchill.org/learn/speeches/speeches-of-winston-churchill/128-we-shall-fight-on-the-beaches)
From these speeches, the cast should learn how to woo their audience, to get them on to their side, to build an argument, to set that argument within the sweep of history – to give their speech grandeur and style, to establish both their presence and their wisdom through oratorical greatness which is invariably identified with strong emotional phrasing and delivery.
- Cyber-bullying: Every one knows what cyber-bullying is, but we believe that it is not damaging at all for young people to know how it works. By knowing how it works, they will be able to take steps to defend themselves against it. And – in this exercise – we want the members of your cast to explore how to cyber-bully their friends in a good way: to persuade them to take action to prevent climate change! – to plan a cyber-campaign to get all your friends to join the school strike! So – divide them into groups of 3 to 4 and explain the assignment:
- Assemble the arguments: why should they take part? What’s at stake?
- Write the campaign e-mail: how do you grab their attention in the first line? How do you keep them reading until the end? What inducements do you offer them to take the action?
- Follow-up? How do you make sure your friends and colleagues have taken the action you asked them to? What additional ‘bullying’ can you think of to make them do it?
- Write everything up – and gather the cast to listen to each other’s approaches. Take a vote to see which approach your cast thinks is the most effective.
Lesson 7: ACTION! – What young people can DO!
Our purpose in this lesson is to point out and explain all the many things that young people – and your audience! – can do to address the global issues that are raised in this musical. It is the last lesson because, now they know so much about the issues, the things that they can do should have become clear – both to your cast, and your crew. This is the lesson where they can write them all down and make commitments. Make every member of your cast, crew and audience a Peace Child!
It is our impression that, if your cast and crew have done a considerable amount of background reading, they will not gain much from additional reading at this point. However, there are some books and websites that are worth looking at to get some ideas of what young people can do / have done:
– notice that these lists are all getting a bit similar?! Sorry: there haven’t been too many new ideas on all this for a number of years. Perhaps your group can come up with new ideas?!
Check out the UK’s Government Community Green Deal Support scheme:
Check out the thousands of National and Local NGOs supporting the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process: http://maindb.unfccc.int/public/ngo.pl
Support the European Carbon Emissions Trading Scheme: http://www.iiea.com/blogosphere/rescuing-the-eu-carbon-market–eu-ets-video?gclid=CJq72-v5z7sCFabLtAod_CkAZA
USA Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/climatestudents/
Check out: http://unfccc.int – the main site of the UN process on climate change. (Note that it doesn’t mention anything about the mass NGO walk-out from the Warsaw COP walk-out in Dec. 2013)
Join: www.350.org – the world’s major campaign on Climate Change
– and many, many more sources. You can spend a lifetime researching what can be done. And you should because you can never have too much knowledge about this, the central challenge of our time – our generation. But – in relation to this musical, we propose the following further discussion points:
- How to get from today (consumption and climate change as usual) to tomorrow (no more global warming, sustainability, renewable energy and a green economy)? Put aside the question of whether or not young people can have any role in this journey: assume that youth can. Indeed, assume that no other sector of the population has either the appetite or the ability to make that journey. So – how are you going to do it. Boycotts, strikes, mass marches, social media …. Consider the whole armoury of tactics and strategies for achieving change that are at the disposal of young people: and then figure out how to deploy them. Feel your power! Recognise the strength that – collectively – you have as a generation! In you, is invested all the treasure earned by your elders: the education, the healthcare, the research, the poverty-eradication programmes…. All invested and deployed on your behalf with almost no consultation with you – the youth – to see whether or not the investments are going where you want them. Is that fair? If governments, and the older generation, are making all these investments in your future, at what point should young people have a say where that investment is targeted? Discuss!
- What did happen when the Elder Diplomats and the Youth started Talking? How many times do you think that the youth had to threaten to go back on strike before the governments agreed to do what they wanted? What were the key actions that the youth themselves agreed to do to bring about the Green, Sustainable Economy powered by renewable energy? How much action was taken at the International Level – and how much was delegated to the national, local and personal levels? What was the role of schools and Universities in the follow-up? What was the role of doctors, lawyers, businessmen, politicians, scientists, farmers, women – all the major sectors of society, including – of course – young people themselves? And what was the role of younger children – the under-13s?
The Great Debate: Can Do! vs. Can’t Do! – we start this lesson with an improvisation, as we want to get down on paper all the things that your cast and crew think they can do vs. all the things that make them think there is nothing they can do. Both sides of the debate are important: it is all too easy to be ‘polly-anna-ish’ – and think that everything is possible. Equally, it is all too easy to look at the obstacles confronting people who want to take action and think, “No! – this is impossible. The wise course would be to give up right now….”
So divide your cast and crew up into two groups – the positives vs. the negatives. And start the debate: What can you do? Why can’t you do anything? Appoint a scribe for each side – to write down each, clearly articulated idea. You might want to divide the ideas into “Personally” / “Locally” / “Nationally” / “Globally.” Here are some ideas to get you started:
Can Do! Can’t Do!
- Become a vegetarian; eat no meat • only governments can impose taxes on unsustainable behaviours; youth cannot;
- Sell your car. Use only Bicycles & Buses; • You cannot do without a car in our society
- Turn down the heating; wear a jumper! • You still need heat & Light; renewables can’t do it
- Lobby, Advocate, Arrange meetings; • Protest doesn’t do any good. We’ve learned that!
- Write letters to MPs / Politicians; • Economically, green doesn’t work for politicians:
- Join a local environmental group • None of the groups are having any impact on government!
- Take local holidays; don’t go abroad; • Greens have no fun!
- Live simply that others may simply live! • Without consumption, our economies will grind to a halt;
- Save the Rainforest biodiversity; • Rainforests and biodiversity won’t stop climate change;
Change sides at least once, if not twice, during the debate – and get the scribes to stay where they are, writing up the other side’s ideas. Go for about 20-minutes – if you can! At that point, the side that has the most clearly articulated ideas wins. Let’s hope it’s the “Can Dos!” – but, if it is the “Can’t Dos!”, that tells you something about the size of the mountain you have to climb in this play!
Re-write the final Scene 18 – starting on Page 60 in the Geneva Script – to include some ideas from your discussions and improvisations above. This final scene has to convince the younger children around the Story-teller – and the audience! – that the World that we Want by 2050 was created. There must be not a shadow of a doubt – so you can expand the scene a little and include new, compelling detail that resonates with your cast – that makes them feel: “Yes! That could have happened! YES! That really DID HAPPEN!”
DROP-IN IDEA for the Playbill/Programme:
Write a “Take ACTION!” section in the Playbill suggesting –
- What governments (Local and National) can – and should – do?
- What business and industry can – and should – do?
- What schools and Colleges can – and should – do?
- What we (young people and families) can – and should – do?
- What am I going to do? Write a list here of the promises I will make, sign and keep!