There’s nothing like that moment when a deeper insight is unearthed – exciting and yet at the same time not knowing precisely how it all fits into the larger picture. One such moment occurred when I met Jan Karlsson in Sweden last week after I gave a talk in Stockholm. He told me the story of how a speech that had the power to change the world came into being.
I had spoken at a public event about the key role Sweden had played in 1972, bringing to the world’s attention the Ecocide that was escalating. Olaf Palme, the new Prime Minister of Sweden, had put Sweden on the map by daring to speak out about it in his Plenary Speech at the now world-renowned Stockholm Conference on the Environment. He had very controversially at the time spoken out in favour of international law to end the Ecocide.
Sitting in the audience was a man who had helped Olaf craft his now world-famous speech. The next day Jan Karlsson, former advisor and Minister for Development Cooperation, and I met. Remarkably, on very short notice, he was able to source the original speech and share with me the insights of that time.
His was a conversation about the politics of global change and new horizons of international law to strengthen global environmental justice – infact, the very same conversation that Olaf Palme had addressed in his ground-breaking speech. Olaf, he told me, was a man unafraid of speaking out. In his speech (and these were Olaf’s words, not Jan’s), he condemmed the «passive resistance» of the UN’s failure to move beyond preliminary steps to end the Ecocide.
42 years on and Olaf’s words could have been spoken today and still held their relevance. Here was a man who – supported by Indira Ghandi the Prime Minister of India, and other political leaders of his day – put Sweden on the map. His was a small window of opportunity and he took it. He claimed the space, gave it name and framed the narrative.
42 years on and WWF have just reported in their Living Planet Report 2014 that more than 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, have declined by 52 per cent since 1970. Put another way, in less than half my life, population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half. Where shall we be in another 42 years? Our window of opportunity to halt – and better yet reverse – the decline, may close very soon.
Something has to be done – Sweden sounded the horn once before, maybe now it has a window of opportunity to do so again, just days after putting in place a new government. Jan agreed: «It is the windows-of-opportunity theory. It isn’t just that a window opens and you can move through it. You have to wait, work, keep focus – and then when it opens: bom!«
That, he explains, is when we take the quantum leap. Just as Olaf palme did when he stepped into power – he took the opportunity to call for the UN to stop the Ecocide. 42 years later a fresh window is opening here, blowing through a new wind that sheds new light on Sweden’s story. A new government brings with it new energy. Is this one country that can dare to be great once again?
We have a choice: put war-time laws to peace-time purpose
We have a choice. We can put war-time laws to peace-time purposes – or we can let the destruction to continue.
Just as a drone can be used as a killing weapon, so too can it be put to peaceful purpose – such as here (I am being filmed by Sweden’s SVT2 News by their newly acquired mini-drone). By way of analogy, we already have a legal test that can be applied to Ecocide law to determine significant harm. It is a test that applies during war-time: the size, duration or impact test (widespread, longlasting or severe), as set out by the Environmental Modification Convention. This test can be just as easily deployed in a different context – where Ecocide is occuring during peace-time. To do so would mean that CEO’s and directors of large corporations would be convicted of Ecocide for causing extensive damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems (you can read and listen to the SVT interview here).
Back in the studio, Svante Axelsson, Secretary General of Naturskyddsföreningen (SSNC – Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, Sweden’s largest environmental organisation) was asked questions about Ecocide law.
Swedish documentary filmmaker Tommy Gårdh and I met back in spring and now his film is soon to be aired on Sweden’s TV4 in November. Entitled «Towards a New World«, this is one film with a strong message: there is a path we can take towards a new world.
Tommy and I met again last week, when both of us were invited to speak by the Swedish Thinktank Global Challenge at an evening event. He told me how his film shall be aired on Swedish television over 20 times in the next few months, taking the new story of a law of Ecocide forward in Sweden.
What is our New Story?
A whole week of deeper enquiry into the New Story at Findhorn has to have been one of the best weeks of all of this year – it was an incredibly creative space and many stories emerged. Collectively and individually it was an ambitious remit: weaving many voices together and finding the new patterns where harmony replaces harm. Our New Story, we discovered, had many strands bound by a common thread – the deep care we all feel for our Earth.
The cutting edge music and dance event,ADE, is the world’s biggest club festival in the world and leading space for electronic music.
ADE takes place from Wed 15th to Sat 19th October, showcasing 2,224 national and international artists plus international speakers on global issues from 57 countries. I have the honour of being one of them.
Should you wish to dance, listen and tip into ADE Green, you can find me at De Brakke Grond (G2 Panel Room) | Nes 45 on Wednesday 15th.