Are we lost or just badly led?

25 years ago the Brundtland Commission “served notice” that we were heading into the abyss, and since then we have done nothing much beyond make things worse, and that means any time we had available to spend mulling and deliberating is over. Yet nothing is being done.

Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deuts...
Is the need for a leader like Dr King greater than ever before?

Right now New Zealand, along with most of the developed world, is mired in the global financial crisis. This crisis is the result of us living beyond our economic means and is a gentle version of what will happen to us when we face the results of living beyond our environmental means.  It’s a warning sign and instead of taking it seriously we’re like a rabbit staring into the headlights of the car about to run it over – we’re even putting off the feeble gestures we have made to live and work sustainably!

I don’t that believe that a species able to produce music like Beethoven’s 9thor wisdom like The Prophet is entirely stupid, so I think that we’re lost because, to quote WB Yeats,“the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”. All you need to do is watch John Banks rail against Kennedy Graham’s speech to see that passionate intensity, but do the best lack all conviction?

I think we do. I think there are enough of us that know what’s happening and have a clear idea of what needs to be done to change the world in the same way that the African-American Civil Rights Movement and the Suffragettes changed the world. However there are two fundamental differences between what needs to be done now and what needed to be done then: the first is that this time it’s the survival of humanity that’s at stake and the second is that we don’t have a Martin Luther King,  a Kate Shepherd or a Lech Walesa.

There is a verse in the Bible that says “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18), and that’s what we need: we need a vision that is as compelling as the dream that Martin Luther King died for. We need a vision that everyone can understand, a vision that excites and inspires and that every one of us can see with clarity and conviction because without it we will perish.

I believe that there are five things that we need:

  1. We need to know where we want to be. The word “sustainability” has failed dismally because everybody has a different meaning for it based on what they want – it’s like having “going home” as a unifying goal for the human race.
  2. We need to have a clear and inspirational vision of what we want in the same way Martin Luther had a vision “that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood”.
  3. We need a sense of urgency that will break the lethargy and complacency that has trapped us in false comfort because tomorrow is probably too late.
  4. We need to work together which means we need to listen to each other. I have been amazed at how few people even bother to reply to emails with offers of support and requests for information. Pure Advantage are an example, I have contacted them numerous times offering research, data, ideas and encouragement, and have been ignored. And it seems that I’m not the only person they ignore in the same way they are not the only organisation that are closed to potential supporters.
  5. Most of all, we need leadership. We need leaders that have vision, courage and a voice more powerful and compelling than the rants of people like John Banks. And we need those leaders today because tomorrow will be too late.
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