Individualism is not the way out

Environmental protection is not based on a system of prohibitions, but on the needs and potential of a territory, the valuation of justice and communities. Places and spaces of community must be built.

May 14, 2020-Reading time: 2 minutes

Imagine an 11-year-old girl from the provinces and ask her what scares her the most. When she answers in this order: climate change, the death of her grandfather and the death of her dog, you have a measure of the extent to which the first issue has entered the veins of the new generations, as well as having become capable of attracting the attention of international organizations. Because the environment has become demanding, with everyone, and calls for a new way of working: it asks to be recognized as one of the fundamental elements of balance for the world we inhabit.

To this end, only a systemic approach based on the certainty that environment, development, rights and peace are interdependent will work. Slipping into sectoriality is a fatal temptation for those who seek only immediate results. It is also a fatal temptation for those who believe that the protection of human rights and nature is in contradiction with economic development, which was later disproved by the data. It is from systemic action that each particular sector benefits. The environment-development-rights-peace relationship has this practical implication: defending the environment does not consist (only) of reforestation actions or the dissemination of solar panels, that is to say, in "adaptation". They are useful, but they are not enough. A region hit by drought may need irrigation facilities, but it also needs schools and hospitals; in other words, it needs the promotion of fundamental rights, the care of people and communities. This is the decisive change proposed by the 2030 agenda, which works on the interconnection between goals: either all the goals are achieved together, or they all fall.

The old vision is inverted: environmental protection is not based on a system of prohibitions, but on the knowledge of the needs and potential of a territory, the valuation of justice and of the communities. The value of being part of a community living in a natural space with its specificities, including its weaknesses, is recovered.

If you pay attention to the words of some of the young exponents of the environmental movements, this is the conscience that they throw in the face of adults: the need for community. I propose to start again from here, from the construction of places and spaces of community, because where there are only individuals who consume in a compulsive-competitive way, without a network of relationships, without a sense of responsibility for others, the environmental emergency begins.

The authorMaria Laura Conte

Degree in Classical Literature and PhD in Sociology of Communication. Communications Director of the AVSI Foundation, based in Milan, dedicated to development cooperation and humanitarian aid worldwide. She has received several awards for her journalistic activity.

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