The World Wildlife Fund recently released their Living Planet Index report, which came to the alarming conclusion that the average abundance of vertebrate species across the globe has declined by 60% percent between 1970 and 2014. This figure is based on data collected on a sample of vertebrate species (about 10% of total extant vertebrates on the planet today) and represents mammals, birds, amphibians, fish, and reptiles on every continent. The reason for this rapid decline? In short: over-consumption, the insane idea that a finite earth can support infinite economic growth.  

These are dark times. For the past couple of weeks, the news has been nothing but horrifying: racist shootings, thousands of armed troops deployed to confront refugees at our southern border, the rapid decline of non-human life on earth, and a political climate of hate and denial. Most days, it seems the only sane reaction is despair. How are we ever going to fix this? 

One response to the madness is to make more and more compromises on our values, to ask for less and less in the hopes we’ll achieve something (however small). However, the antidote to hate, denial, and fear is not moderation; it’s vision. We desperately need to inspire, to voice our vision of a better world: a world that is possible, an alternative to the madness we find ourselves in today. We can no longer afford to fear asking for too much, dreaming too big, or looking too radical. We are faced with a crisis that demands radical change and radical solutions.

Yes, this midterm election is important. Yes, we all need to vote; but our civic duty does not end there. We need to hold our representatives accountable to the vision we want, no matter who is elected. This is why we organize.

As the Living Planet Index states, “We need to radically escalate the political relevance of nature and galvanize a cohesive movement across state and non-state actors to drive change, to ensure that public and private decision-makers understand that business as usual is not an option.”

The Half-Earth Project suggests we need to set aside half of the Earth’s surface area for wildlife in order to preserve 85% of species. The idea is outlandish, crazy even. But...why not? If right-wing extremists can shift the mainstream discourse to the point that funding a border wall seems normal, why can’t we shape the narrative so that free healthcare and education, clean energy, and half-earth are discussed seriously?

To do this, we need a groundswell of grassroots support. We need to reach out to the undecided, not just the known allies in our silos. We need to talk about the world we want, not just the world we live in.  We need to have conversations about the way things could be, not just the way things are. We need to make connections between environmentalism and social justice, which are really one and the same.

Much of this work is already happening. Can we make it mainstream? Can we build a momentum so strong that our elected leaders have no choice but to push the policies we know we need? By 2020, can we show up to the polls with an unstoppable wave of empowered leaders from our communities, all with a shared vision for the future, running on platforms that we dreamed ourselves? 

The future of life on earth certainly depends on it.

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Amanda Munro
Field Organizer and Communications Director
Southwest Environmental Center

  


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