Page last updated at 16:51 GMT, Monday, 16 November 2009

Climate: A question of justice

Kumi Naidoo
Kumi Naidoo

This week, lifelong human rights activist Kumi Naidoo takes over as international executive director of Greenpeace. Here, he explains why he is making the jump to a mainstream environmental organisation, and what role he sees for organisations such as Greenpeace in the modern world.

Masks of world leaders
Do political leaders hear the climate change clock ticking?

I join Greenpeace in the "eye of the storm", in the final weeks before the crucial UN climate summit in Copenhagen.

It is the most important opportunity to tackle the greatest threat facing the planet: climate change.

I believe that the convergence of crises that we find ourselves in - food, fuel, poverty, financial and climate - have led to a "perfect storm" to which we can respond in one of two ways.

One is the route of "business as usual".

This is what we tend to witness from the G8 and G20 leaders, as well as other individual governments, who have all paid lip service to poverty and climate change with statements about greening the world's economy without providing any substantive propositions or action to back it up.

More equality and the equitable sharing of the planet's finite resources are our only chance to save the planet for the future

The current apparent lack of political will to sign a fair, ambitious and binding treaty on climate change in Copenhagen is a prime example of this.

The other route is one that truly engages with the radical changes the world needs, and where governments, businesses and civil society all work together to make the far-reaching decisions that are required to ensure that we keep the planet safe for future generations.

Industrialised world leaders still have the ability to turn the situation around, by attending the Copenhagen climate summit, personally committing to slash their countries' emissions, and showing developing countries that they mean business by providing the funding needed - at least $140bn per year - to enable them to adapt to and tackle climate change and protect their forests.

This is substantially less than the trillions of dollars that governments risked in bailing out the banks last year.

Be the change

I believe that change is possible. I have witnessed profound changes in my own life time and my own life.

African boy with Make Poverty History white wristband
The Make Poverty History campaign tackled another aspect of global justice

I have been an activist for the majority of my life, and my personal journey began at the age of 15 in apartheid South Africa where I was involved with the liberation struggle, eventually having to flee to the UK in 1987.

After the release of Nelson Mandela, I returned to South Africa and was involved in strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world, both through Civicus - the global organisation aiming to boost citizen involvement in issues - where I served as secretary general for the past 10 years, and through the Make Poverty History campaign of which I was one of the founders in 2003.

I have always personally connected the poverty movement with stewardship for the environment; and having served for the past year as chair of tcktcktck, the global campaign for climate action, it felt like a natural progression to move to Greenpeace.

I see a need to bring together the poverty movement and the environmental movement as we face up to the greatest challenge of our time: climate change.

Climate change is real and happening now. It already accounts for over 300,000 deaths throughout the world each year, according to the Global Humanitarian Forum.

Not only that, but I am aware that time is very much against us. We must take radical action, and I believe that the work that Greenpeace does across the globe is vital in our understanding of climate change and also the actions that are needed.


While some may wonder what a poverty activist is doing moving to an environmental organisation, I do not view my role at Greenpeace as an abrupt detour.

I believe the struggles against poverty and climate change are inextricably linked, while the solutions are the same.

Protest at Barcelona climate meeting
Let's be clear; time is running out to address the issue of climate change

More equality and the equitable sharing of the planet's finite resources are our only chance to save the planet for the future.

We in civil society have to believe there is a new pathway.

We have to have the confidence to tread this new path; indeed, to demand this new path.

We must take the leap of faith that says the strategies may need to be fluid, but the objectives are abundantly clear.

We need to organise ourselves and work together in new and more transparent ways. We have to break down the barriers that exist, and realise that our struggles and causes are not independent.

They are not about the people or the planet; they are in fact one single common cause - justice.

Justice is applicable to all of life: human, plant and animal. This is why I came to Greenpeace - for climate justice.

In the past we might have believed that we had more time to make incremental progress. The logic in the anti-poverty movement has been that the struggle to end global poverty is a marathon, not a sprint.

The difficult questions now are: do climate change and the recent shocks to the world's economic systems allow us the luxury of running a marathon over the course of the next 10-15 years?

Can we afford to delay the implementation of significant policy and essential change?

Devastating picture

Let's be clear; time is running out to address the issue of climate change.

It requires urgent solutions - solutions which, as the science makes clear, must be implemented within the next five years if we are to stand a chance of preventing runaway climate change and the social, economic and environmental devastation that it would bring.

Nelson Mandela
Kumi Naidoo helped Nelson Mandela change the face of South Africa

Everything is in play. We have heard the warnings from scientists, economists and even military leaders: unchecked climate change will result in mass starvation, mass migration, mass extinction and amplify the causes of conflict.

We know what a climate-saving deal looks like, and we know what needs to be done to get one.

We must all seize the opportunity to change the planet's trajectory, to invest in a green economy generating millions of jobs, delivering power to the poor and reducing global security threats over access to climate-changing fossil fuels.

Nature does not negotiate.

It will not wait for our political leaders to set aside their petty differences and short term self interest. It will not wait for civil society to join in common cause.

The time is now, the time to act and the time to set the world on a new path to a green and peaceful future.

Is climate change essentially an issue of justice? Are politicians addressing the issue with the speed that the science mandates? What role should organisations such as Greenpeace be playing in the modern world?

Kumi Naidoo's essay illustrates how ideological the subject has become. He wants to both decrease fossil fuel use and to increase the wealth of poorer people. There is a way to do this, and it requires government-led programmes on a far larger scale than at present to complete the development of nuclear fusion, space-based solar power and possibly ground-based solar. But because these are high-tech industrial developments, and because they will continue the current economic paradigm of growth and progress, he cannot mention them, and must instead call for measures such as the hoped-for Copenhagen treaty. Copenhagen, unfortunately, if signed would have no effect other than to impoverish the West and render it uncompetitive with a growing China and India, which do not share Western fears of computer models of climate change. Fortunately, it seems, he has little power to impose his vision on the rest of us.
Stephen Ashworth FBIS, Oxford, UK

I am reassured that so many people know exactly what the problem is and how Kumi is wrong. Could it conceivably be, even just theoretically, that the problems we have are the result of human arrogance and ignorance?
Philboyd Studge, Gex, France

The justice argument is absolutly right, but it bears a wrong side that is: global warming will hurt poor people only. this is wrong. Global warming will hurt every one. If we keep on with business as usual, there will be no glacier left in the rocky montains and then no water in summer for agriculture of for the people in the cities of California (Steven Chu stament in january 2009).

The change must be done by the rich countries first because we are the historical culprits of this global warming; we must do this change for the poor countries already hurt and also for orselves and our sons and daughters because they will suffer soon.
JeandeBegles, Bordeaux France

People in the developed world must realize climate change is an issue of _survival_. A 4-6 degree Centigrade rise represents not only a movement of a full growing zone -- leading to rapid and costly rearrangement of agriculture -- but also ocean acidification that could disrupt marine-based food supplies worldwide. The food shortages and economic dislocation will not be limited to the poor. The resulting tensions will make international conflict more likely. Finally, the warming of the oceans threatens to trigger release of methane from now-frozen methane hydrate deposits, which could push the warming and acidification even higher. There is some evidence such an event took place during one or more of the mass-extinction events in the fossil record. If that happens, why do we think we'd be immune?
Karl Zimmerman, Amherst, MA, USA

Lets hope Mr President sees a time for change, not time for climate change.
Eric Winbottle, Bansbury

The central point of Kumi Naidoo's article is perfectly framed for me - Climate change is not just a scientific debate, and some complex models. It is an issue of justice and equality.
We all have an equal right to life, and yet climate change is not caused by us all equally, nor does it effect us all equally. The imperative for action (now) to prevent its worst impacts is therefore an matter of being "just".
There is still time for our political representatives to make good on their word, and do what is right for us all. All they lack is the will, not the time.
I am excited to see Kumi Naidoo join Greenpeace - let us appreciate that a global expert in the issue of justice believes in the link of poverty and climate change enough to so firmly put his name, and his effort to the cause.
Now is the time for Greenpeace- the time for their nonviolent direct action to hold the unjust to account: the court date is set for the 18th of December.
BigW, Chamonix, France

There is nothing wrong with the planet that six billion fewer humans wouldn't fix.
Sheldon, Winnipeg Canada

Good article, great discussion.

The almost antagonistic relationship between Environmental Lobbyists, Politicians, and Media professionals, in the context of climate change, has a huge role to play towards sealing a deal in Copenhagen and making sure countries follow through with their targets.

A Mr Thakur from the comments section here got it right, technocrats and enviro lobbyists must understand that the nature of government and politics is driven by several factors. So to lobby for one grand idea like "stop climate change now, stop polluting now", or sending out overly technical and distant info to the masses on climate change, only does so much.

Pressure on government and the public has to be targetted, strategic, and extremely well-informed.

And this is an aspect in the current climate change fora where lobbyists and the media bear so much power and catalytic influence.

If lobbyists and media groups, by way of mobilizing and disseminating targetted information to the public and to a government's constituents, deliberately put emphasis on key strategic areas on key climate change issues and mount enough pressure towards the best available solutions, there is a possibility that a critical mass can be reached where people cannot avoid framing their everyday decisions and action towards climate change action.

Lobbyists (scientists included) and the global media have already created a very active discourse on climate change much to the benefit of the current climate change negotiations under the UNFCCC. Time is ripe that we leverage key global environmental interests and strategize towards making words like "climate change action", "clean energy" and "climate justice" not only socio-economic mantras and norms but highly popular household terms as well.
Lawrence, Philippines

"unchecked climate change will result in mass starvation, mass migration, mass extinction and amplify the causes of conflict."

I really don't understand this - mass starvation, mass migration, extinctions and conflict have been a fact of life since I was a child. I don't see that climate change has anything to do with this - it is greed and corruption - the same two forces which are driving the climate change bandwagon.

Why should I expect that giving billions and billions to corrupt leaders and unjust governments in the third world will change anything? It won't - those corrupt leaders and unjust governments need to keep those people in abject poverty and suffering, so they can hold them up to the rest of the world and demand more and more.

When the UN representatives are duly elected by the peoples of the world, then perhaps, I will place more value in the word of the UN - until then, while I was born at night, it was not last night.

Oh and while we are at it - lets talk about one of the 'poster children' of global warming - Bangladesh and those four million people living on the Ganges river delta, supposedly threatened by rise in sea level due to man made global warming...yeah, right. First, building a city on a river delta like the Ganges is a very bad idea - its only about 5 feet above sea level to begin with, and developing on that land will cause it to subside - just like building New Orleans on a peat bog was a really bad idea.

The people of Bangladesh will suffer because of building and developing on land unsuitable for development.

Before the Ganges river delta is inundated because of sea level rise, Miami Beach will have a foot of water in the streets and the West end of Galveston Island will be under 2 feet of water. So, lets get real. The answer is to stop developing on unsuitable land - not a massive redistribution of wealth.

I am all for helping the third world help themselves. I would be happy to see my tax dollars spent providing tractors, combines, irrigation systems, refineries for fuel and coal plants for cheap energy to develop the third world. This should have been done 30-40 years ago - but many in power hold on to that power because they keep the poor poor.

How about some real solutions which will solve real problems? We have enough real environmental and humanistic issues in the world without having to make them up...
Larry Kealey, Sugar Land TX, USA

Kumi, Greenpeace and the politicians all have one thing in common;they will not,cannot grasp the population nettle. Do we want to live in an ever more competetive world where the fight for resources becomes ever more desperate, or do we slow our breeding rate, save the millions of species about to be wiped out and give the human population a better and sustainable quality of life. Many of the corporations and the politicians in their pockets prefer the former. What I can't get my head round is the enviromentalists and ecologists ignoring the obvious too!
steve johnson, whitwick,leics

Mr Naidoo: If you truly want Environmental Justice then start preaching about population control for the Third World!! I see right through your global socialistic agenda. Tax payers of The First World will never accept your deceitful logic. The savage hordes of urban Africa, Asia and South America are the true plaque afflecting this planet. I should know--I live in Brazil!!As for global warming-maybe this a way for Nature to address the problem of Overpopulation. Get real Amigo
robert p. curtin, Santos---Brazil

So making poverty history doesn't compare to being part of the environmental gravy train.
Mac, Scotland

Linking climate change to issues of poverty, is a bold claim for Kumi Naidoo to make, but one I welcome as it is undeniably true. It is bold because it makes the task of mobilising the public on environmental issues harder. It maybe too much to swallow for the ordinary citizen who may have been happy to 'do their bit' to help their environment but not at the cost of having to look at issues of poverty to.

However seperating these issues into bitesize amounts to make it easier for the public consciousness to swallow cannot continue as climate change continues to be a threat. The jargon on sustainable development that we so often here political institutions use recognises the relation between inequalities between the poor and the rich and the effects on the environment, (for example, the poor are forced into exploiting their land to produce primary commodities to then try to compete with world markets ). However SD remains to be empty rhetoric as policies on the ground fail to question existing unsustainable consumption patterns, which directly and indirectly are adding to climate change, and these policies fail to address the link between environmental depletion and poverty.

Boldness is what we need, someone like Kumi Naidoo pushing these ideas forward is what we need. Tomorrow I will become a member of Greenpeace.
Natalie C, Leuven Belguim

it is true question of the climate change is related to the justice. Industrial countries are responsible to change the climate of the planet by emission CO2. The effects of the climate change can observe around world however the people under the poor word are adversely suffering. UNFCCC has carried out series of the meetings/conferences in the name of climate change negotiations, but the voices of the poor world in the negotiation table are dominated by so called big boss of the world . At that situation how we think , the climate change negotiation in COP15 will be fair and fariendly to the poor world?
suvas chandra devkota, Kathmandu

The need for Education, training and public awarness, research and international cooperation, which continue to show inadequacy in the face of a raging deadly global phenomenom is absolutely a huge impedement derailing efforts in addressing environmental isuues. The political will and commitment of key stakeholders through resourceful and strategic initiative are prerequisite to improving environment degradation in villages, towns, city , state and nations.

Until such collaborative approaches are firmly anchored in our national policies ,respected and adhered to, national programs on poverty reduction will ever remain to be unrealistic imagination and fantasy to national development.
Alpha Camara, Basse, The Gambia

Governments need to act urgently against climate change,salinity, land degradation etc. Also solar energy needs to be a priority in the world.
ryan latimer, brisbane australia

Yes the author of this article is right and climate change is essentially an issue of justice. Justice is applicable to human,plant,animal and marine species. Government,business and civil society must work together to keep the planet in safe for future generation. In the copenhagan climate summit the industrilized world leaders should put their positive commitments around the crisis.
Ms Sharmin Akter, Kushtia

This is a well-intentioned travesty. South Africa never gained self-industry. It's up to everyone else. Ask yourself, what do you want? The new South Africa, after Mandela declared the right to housing as an essential right. Where did that go? S**** the west, do what's right!
Canada Guy, Toronto, Canada

The fact of the matter is that nature deals with CO2 very well in that the rain (H2O) combines with the CO2 and forms H2CO2 ( carbonic acid ) which is beneficial to the soil and in fact promotes growth - see how the grass grows when the rains come!
No matter what we do and how we fuss, what are we actually trying to prevent? Our own demise? What a waste of time! Nature does not care whether we exist, live or die! She does her thing in her own natural way, the same as determined and never ending forces adjust the land levels on this planet!

Why do we worry so about self preservation and forcing the environment to do our bidding? So what if the sea levels rise and drown a few million acres of land? So what if we lose a few billion inhabitants? So what if we actually cease to be part of this beautiful planet? Who are we anyway and why do we think we are so essential to the planet and the universe? Who ever said that this planet was our playground to use, abuse, disrespect and mutilate? Tell you what - nature couldn'nt care less. To her we are dispensable and singularly unworthy of attention. It is only we ourselves that see our greatness and bask in our own glorification. Nature sees none of that in us and we underestimate nature at our peril, at least those do who believe that nature is at their disposal. We need not worry about what coastlines, low lying areas and so on may become by the turn of the century - we won't behere anymore and hopefully no other two legged idiots will be either - then nature can carry on doing what she does best - overcoming all!
peter, benoni south africa

I agree with this article of Kumi Naidoo who is a leading South African man in the battle against world poverty. Yes, the division between human suffering and environmental degradation has been erased. Million of peoples are dying by climate related impacts in every year in the world. Bangladesh is a common example of that, human population is fundamentally under threat. Nature does not negotiate. We can not change the science. The science is clear. We have to change the politics as well as change the politicians. The environmental work of Greenpeace is the perfect compliment to the modern problems facing people around the world.
Engr Salam, Kushtia,Bangladesh.

Naidoo is spot on. We need world leaders to show leadership, and deliver a strong and fair climate agreement. A conference about climate justice, poverty and human rights is happening this weekend in Manchester called Shared Planet.
Jim Cranshaw, Manchester, UK

A remarkable article showing the full range of fanaticism, deluded assumptions and junk science for which Greenpeace has become notorious. Still, I expect the new job pays well, eh, Kumi?
AJ, Guildford, UK

Politicians haven't addressed the issue at all, never mind with the speed required by the science. The UK Govt. has implemented additional taxation and leads the world in "Green Rhetoric" but has actually hindered, the adoption of green technology. Wind turbines need to be designed and built according to the specific location, they are not a one size fits all solution, inappropriate siting makes them worse than useless. Fuel Cells SHOULD NOT BE IN VEHICLES. They should be in buildings. Pressurising Hydrogen to bring the volume down requires twice the energy you get out of it. Storage volume is not an issue with buildings and fuel cells aren't affected by pressure. We led the world on underground coal gasification technology until this Govt. removed the project funding to use elsewhere. And now the Govt's real intent is revealed. Their answer is (& always has been) Nuclear Build. They have obfuscated while time runs out, because Nuclear is the only technology which keeps customers tied to the Grid. The fact that we will have a decade without power, that our power stations will be owned by foreign corporations, that they will be designed & built, operated & maintained by foreign engineers & scientists (we don't have enough science/eng students now) and Uranium supply is from Russia or Australia and the whole world is also turning towards Nuclear doesn't figure in their analysis. And we still haven't worked out how to dispose of the waste.
pete, London

Do I agree with Kumi? Absolutely NOT. What science exactly? Politicians are using this fad as an opportunity to globalise fear and control based on nothing more than a myth. Its quite clear that the likes of GreenPeace, like 90% of the media offer a biased viewpoint as opposed to the more balanced view that us less extremist types prefer to operate under. What role should they play? Well call me old fashioned but the GreenPeace of old seemed to fight for all the right campaigns, campaigns that had scientific reasoning, campaigns that had purpose, campaigns that meant something. Climate Change is being banded around as if it is a given, which incidentally it is not. When the media stop misreporting, instead offering a balanced scientific and more importantly, impartial viewpoint, then maybe, just maybe, we can resolve the real issue of the world......issues I hasten to add that do involve us being less polluting, less destructive and less wasteful, but PLEASE, no more of this pseudonym for taxation that is CC!
LordSnooty, Reading

Kumi has voiced the concrens of a lot pf people. Green peace should definitely be heard and allowed to influence political agendas. Fabulously sumed up .. "Nature does not negotiate. It will not wait for our political leaders to set aside their petty differences and short term self interest."
Jessima Mustaffa, Abudhabi, United Arab Emirates

I heartily agree with Mr. Naidoo's statements. Changing the trajectory of humanity is a difficult job that is too slowly happening. I also believe we have two alternatives, and two alternatives only for our future species. One, we can opt for population reduction. Two, much more efficient and sustainable technology (as on videoconferencing, virtual travel vs. massive energy/material requirements for autos and air travel, and economic reforms) that can obviate the requirements and resource demands of our current consumer-driven models that while preserving intellectual and scientific growth. Thank You.
Russel, Santa Cruz Mountains, California

The problem is, not enough people believe in global warming. Look at the recent poll in the UK. Greenpeace has to inform people. When there are enough people believing they will make their governments act.
Bob Watts, Cuernavaca Mexico

Kumi Naidoo is correct to state that resolving the dilemma of global climate change is an issue of justice. Since Kumi was an activist in the SA liberation struggle and a supporter of Nelson Mandel, I am sure he will also act in the spirit of the struggle led by that man to achieve justice without vengeance, as no reconciliation is possible without that truth. The President of the Global Humanitarian Forum, 'elder' Kofi Annan presided over a 'climate-justice' event in Geneva in June which clearly projected this message and made its key recommendation Contraction and Convergence of future emissions at rates fast enough to avert reunaway climate change. Put simply that is equal emissions rights under the limit that saves us. Many of us hope that since it is Kumi who now leads Greenpeace that this prominent and remarkable activist organisation will now follow that lead.
Aubrey Meyer, London UK

There is absolutely a strong justice element in the issue of climate change. Poor people are facing the destruction of their way of life, in some cases the submersion of their very nation, because rich people are unwilling to even consider modifying their (our) way of life. Unfortunately I fear this argument won't be any easier a sell to the obstructionists than any other. Recently I floated it with an acquaintance who largely accepts anthropogenic climate change as a real threat, but is reluctant to support reforms which could carry any economic pain even in the short term. His reaction to societies which will bear the brunt of climate change: "S*** happens anyway, f*** 'em."
Matt Kuhns, Lakewood, Ohio, USA

There is no question that climate change is a question of justice. The affects of climate change will be felt all around the world, and most poignantly by those people who have done the least to cause it. The poor, mostly women, in villages that are found near water. Either the rivers will dry up; the ocean will rise and contaminate ground water; crops will fail; disease will become more prevalent. People will most definitely die in greater numbers. Is it just to act in such a way that will cause such harm? That question is the central question of Climate Change. So there is no question that it is a matter of justice. Big and small organizations need to gather strength that will shake the foundations of our oil based economy, and force politicians to take action. They need to become politically active by engaging the public and encouraging them to elect officials that are not so short sighted and greedy. The most important role that any organization can play at this point is one that encourages unity. Climate Change will and does affect us all. If we continue to divide our focus between many issues, then greedy politicians will get their way. But a unified voice calling out for immediate political action to fundamentally change the way our societies work, is our only hope, with the exception of business as usual and the realization of the most gruesome effects of our own perverse actions.
Sean Magee, Burnaby, Canada

One can advocate his point of view in global forums with variety of reasoning but the natural laws are fixed no one can not apply his own reasoning there, rather he is supposed to condition himself according to natural properties. Writer has mentioned 'Lack of Political Will'. If somebody would ask any politician regarding climate change, informally at his home he would probably support every inch of climate change reversal effort. But, making any decision for country would involve various factors. Putting pressure on politicians or other related people is alright. But, we need to find out the crucial places where with small interventions, we can get excellent results. I do not see any trouble if we ask any politician to enact a policy that gives financial incentives to the 'single child parents'. I do not see any major hurdle in defining and keeping appropriate areas of land and ocean reserved for forest and marine life protection. Similarly we can provide assistance to farmers adopting agro forestry. Making policy for next 50 years in one meeting is practically very difficult. Rather, It's a step by step progress with small intervals. Initially adopt important and limited tasks or interventions so that very soon we could reach on the second step .After reaching on the second step, we would be in position to see other important things which were looking difficult at the first step. Right now we do not have enough time to discuss the environmental aspects but we should not forget that planet does not have any shortage of time, it can destroy the existing civilization and restart a new and develop it, in millions of years of time period. We can not betray the planet as we are part of it not the creator, perhaps we are betraying ourselves and our immediate future generations.
Sanjay Singh Thakur, Indore,India

I was a little confused about Kumi's point about the industrial world having to slash their emissions and pay lots of money to the undeveloped world so they too can slash their emmissions and "save their forests." The US is the world leader in CO2 emissions and has more forests today than 100 years ago. Why not let the developing world alone so they can industrialize too and save their own forests? Improved environmental stewardship is a natural consequence of free demoratic industrial economies. Further, CO2 is not a pollutant, it is an essential nutrient of trees and all plants. They benefit from more of it. Doubling CO2 increases tree and crop yields 45%.
John Essex, Rapid City, SD

Powerful stuff. . . real fire in the belly powerful stuff. The important key issue here is equality, for all of life; because only by acknowledging "the right" of the rest of life to have it's fair share of the planet it lives on; will we obtain that sustainable wilderness that will provide us with the healthy supply of food, water; and put us back where we belong; back in the flow of wider "life" I get uneasy at the talk - either from any quarter; big business, or eco-activist chipping away at the walls; of "creating green-jobs/economic growth/ etc etc etc I need to know that the back stop of "Equality" truly is in place. Does their equations for "green economic growth" have; firmly balancing it on the other side of the day-book; the implicit understanding that the other stuff living here has "equality" in it's needs and aspirations. Now, I don't care how you read that; whether it's a plea for "tree's have feelings too man" or it's the simple grubby political reality; we need this stuff to work otherwise there will be nothing to buy when we go "shopping" - I don't care how it reads; the fact is; we are part of life on Planet Earth; and for us to remain healthy; we need the rest of it to remain healthy too. "Life on Planet Earth" has to have a fair and equal voice at the negotiating table when we decide how much of the planet we intend to rip to this month; Because if the sheer burden on Human Activity is unequal; if life is left with no fair share in it's own planet; then it doesn't matter if we rip up the planet in "green economic growth" or good old fashioned grimy-brown economic growth… - it still amounts to the same thing; we perish. The first question we should be asking is; how much Human Activity is a "fair share" of the planet . . . and then work out some deal amongst ourselves as to how we stick to that share. "More more more" is what got us into this mess. - and why be so obsessed with more more more ? - it's only a stupid dirty little habit we got into in the last 300 years? The only way out of this mess is "Equal equal equal"
Steven Walker, Penzance

Politicians are indeed not addressing the issue whatsoever, much less with enough speed to thwart the destruction of man-kind. I would love to understand more on Kumi's beliefs concerning the link between climate change and poverty. I certainly hope whatever he decides to do has an impact. I believe that Greenpeace should continue to make the world aware of this threat upon our world, while urging individual government (mainly of G20) and private businesses to take action. Logan Goethe
Logan, chattanooga, tn

Putting aside the issue of whether Climate Change is reversible, in the essentials he is right. The G8/G20 spending an amount approaching the credit crunch (e.g. Stern's quoted 3.6 trillion dollars in his report a year or so ago!!!), is the only hope to stem flooding or drought effects in third world countries. It can be done, so why don't they do it rather than mess about asking us to drive 5 miles less a week?
Mark Pengilley, Carmarthen, UK

Save the planet? The planet's going nowhere. The planet will still be here and still covered in plants and animals in a thousand years time whatever happens at Copenhagen. So long as environmentalists insist on hyping up climate change to push their own agenda, people will continue to react against it and scepticism will increase. Another quote attributed to Kumi Naidoo is that human existence on the planet was "fundamentally under threat" by climate change. Hype again. Climate change could cause massive disruptions to the way we live, but the only way that will fundamentally threaten our very existence is if we decide to nuke each other in some dispute over who gets to live in a nice warm Siberia.
Ian Nartowicz, Stockport, England

The research behind climate change has existed for years, as have the arguments, activism, and inactivity on behalf of those with the "power" to change things. Unfortunately, I do not see anyone, Greenpeace included, with the power to do very much about it. There have been millions of species that have driven themselves to extinction over the course of time, and by all accounts, humans will follow that path within the next few generations. Our survival issues are not that different that any other animal's, except that we have also afforded ourselves the luxury of mass consumption, travel, exotic foods, and pleasures of all kinds that will invariably lead to the destruction of a great portion of our species. However, I do not think this is unnatural, nor do I really think it is unavoidable. We can all call for policy change and government action and sharing of resources and whatever else we think may solve the problem of climate change, but in the end, if we do not comply with what the Earth's homeostatic inclinations, we will die off until the number of people reaches a level suitable to sustain. The power of nature, as witnessed, is much greater than the power of human activism. Once we have pushed too far with our consumption, we will be pushed back, and it will be a push that is not going to bode well for our kind. Ending consumption is simply not realistic. Even the fact that we must put on these shows (G8 meetings, G20 meetings, etc.) where delegates FLY from all over the world to meet as figureheads and really do very little in the way of real action shows our lack of commitment. These events are destructive in themselves, but as long as people can rationalize their behaviour, which we have an uncanny ability to do, it will not stop and nature will run its course. But, hey, we never really had a chance when everyone started giving themselves a pat on the back for buying reusable grocery bags. I think our troubles run significantly deeper than that.
Lucas MacQuarrie, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Kumi Naidoo puts his finger on a problem which has been growing for some time and is now approaching crisis. While there is a diverse range in the degree of concern about environmental issues amongst politicians, it is clear that few have the will and commitment to make the changes that are needed, when they are needed. In the U.S. things have improved recently with the change from Bush to Obama, but a concerted effort without infighting is necesary to effect any kind of menaingful change. Certainly in Canada, there is no sign that any such effort is forthcoming.
Una Brandreth, Ottawa, Canada

Yes, I agree with Kumi Naidoo that climate change is essentially an issue of justice. The poor are suffering the most from climate change. Politicians are not addressing the issue with anything like the urgency that is needed. It's time for them to act like statesmen - and women.
John Madeley, Reading UK

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