Reflections on significance of this year’s Network Gathering

Mícheál Callaghan

At this the start of this year’s Young Friends of the Earth network gathering, one participant mentioned, starkly, that we’re running out of time to save the planet. This might seem a bit dramatic, but sadly it’s true. We’re living in the age of destruction and consequence.

It is no longer possible (nor has it ever been) to have finite growth on one planet of infinite resources. Yet if you listen to politicians and most economists, you would think that this is the case. Whenever figures are released that the economy they tend to celebrate and try to convince us that this is good news. However, rarely do we get to see behind…

More growth means more extraction of resources, which means more pressure being put on our already beleaguered planet. As well as this, many reports show that economic growth doesn’t actually improve standards of living once a certain basic level of material comfort is met. In fact, in many parts of the world, the economy grows while inequality worsens and the quality of people’s lives decreases. Indeed, with ever more strain being put on the planet, it will soon be impossible for the economy to grow, regardless of howmuch politicians and economists might want it to.

The crisis we face needs a radical change of course from business as usual. Our way of living, working and relating to one another must change at all levels. Naomi Klein’s new book, ‘This Changes Everything’ is aptly titled. One way or another, everything is going to change this century. Either we can sit back and let business as usual (which only really benefits a tiny, and ever shrinking proportion of people) destroy the planet or we can take a stand, demand and create a better future, within the planet’s bounds. This is still possible, but as we were reminded time is fast running out.

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With this in mind, it was great to be at this year’s network gathering. For someone who has been involved, on and off, with Young Friends of the Earth for the last two years, it’s been great to see the network grow and grow. There is now a great energy, with people all over the country, taking action to build a better future, using their own unique skills and talents. This is what we need to tackle the biggest challenge ever to have faced humanity. We can come through it and build a lasting prosperity, one built on genuine human and environmental well – being, and not just arbitrary growth figures. Why not join the movement, and give what you can? There’s no point letting a crisis go to waste, and you’ll be able tell your children and grandchildren that you were part of the reason that they are able to live stable lives on our beautiful blue planet.

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