Friday, 6 November 2009

Is the Environment Movement Coming of Age?

A tale of how it all turned out right’ is the strapline to the latest challenging, but comforting report from the New Economics Foundation (nef). Indeed, there was a strong sense of ‘Yes, we can do it!’ amongst delegates of nef’s Festival of Interdependence last Saturday where the new report, titled The Great Transition was being launched.

The festival drew an impressive 1,400 people, some queuing for over an hour along the Southbank in London on a drizzly October day to enter a derelict OXO factory that served as a shabby chic venue for the gathering. This event marked the launch of The Bigger Picture an ongoing project and series of events in response to our current crisis.

A broad mix of young and old from all backgrounds were treated to a colourful array of activities. From demonstrations of how to create your own currency to dialogues about the future of food production – laughter, engagement, sincerity flooded the raw, four-storey building – showing that life can be fun in a post-consumerist, sustainable society.

Whilst scientists and renowned environmentalists ring ever louder alarm bells to tell us that time is running out, nef are choosing to focus on the opportunity our current crisis offer us. Reporting some of the surprising impacts of the recession that have allowed many of us to rediscover the happiness of doing things that really matter such as sharing more time with friends, preparing food from scratch and enjoying our local environment.

Unlike a corporate or academic event where delegates attend as part of their job, nef’s Festival of Interdependence appealed to members of the general public and the growing personal desire to explore alternatives to the faltering rat race.

It remains to be seen whether the measures proposed in nef’s report really will create “up to £8.65 trillion of environmental and social value” by 2050. However, the attractive force of nef’s Festival of Interdependence left me feeling confident that more and more people are ready to engage on a deeper level about what sustainability means for their lifestyle. Is the environmental movement coming of age? It appears to me that we’re beginning a transition from the ‘Age of Stupid’ to the ‘Age of Reason’.

Ian Tennant

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