By Dr. Mamphela Ramphele
One of the most enduring gifts from the COVID-19 situation is the opening of our eyes to our capacity for behavioural change, which in turn triggered a real-life experiment that demonstrated that not only is achieving zero-emissions possible but also that regenerative feedback loops kick in rapidly. Venice, with its canals that are now teeming with fish and ringing with melodious birdsong, is the most dramatic example that great transitions are possible and achievable.
The challenge we face is to translate behavioural change under duress from an existential crisis into a mind-set change that enables us to emerge from this multi-layered emergency with a higher consciousness of the urgency to shift gear into accelerating a transition to a global development system that promotes the well-being of all people and our planet.
We have no rational choice other than to seize the moment this crisis has offered us to engage in transgenerational conversations across boundaries of nationality, class, and conventional ideology, to initiate and support the radical shifts in development approaches by governments and international organizations that are essential to shaping the great transition needed across the globe. Global citizens dare not leave it to leaders who are not yet seeing the writing on the wall, but should use the power of intergenerational coalitions to persuade and demand radical change.
Mind-set change requires awakening the essence of what it means to be human in all of us – a deep-seated yearning for interconnectedness and interdependence. We are all creatures in the same ecological system that can only function well through reciprocity and learning from the regenerative intelligence of nature. Young people across the globe understand and yearn for these values to be infused in our education and training systems, as well as in our social relationships.
We need to reclaim and reframe economics and rethink finance as tools of exchange of real value, rather than the addictive instruments of insatiable consumption and wealth accumulation that they have become. Higher education and training institutions should transform their curricula to reflect the emerging values of well-being economics and greater emphasis on environmental humanities. Human life is invaluable, and its best guarantor is development approaches that value the well-being of all people and the planet, rather than chase the mirage of infinite economic growth.
The pandemic has demonstrated in stark and cruel terms the cost of disrespect for human rights and dignity, inequalities within and between nations, deforestation, and biodiversity loss. Leaders such as the US and Brazilian presidents, who have laid bare their lack capacity to engage this new reality, are a danger to the very survival of the human race. They need to be vigorously challenged by their citizens and the global community as a whole.
There are great examples of countries that are building the great transition future we want to inhabit. New Zealand, Iceland, Scotland and a few more countries have already adopted wellbeing economic development approaches and reaping the benefits. It is not a coincidence that many of them are led by progressive women who are demonstrating the power of the feminine to operate within a values framework that emphasises interconnectedness, interdependence, reciprocity, and intergenerational responsibilities and complementarities. The great transition to a world of well-being for people and the planet is possible and in the process of being elaborated.
We need to challenge the old mentalities that have crept into the search for and development of life-saving vaccines. We must insist on our public and private sector leaders outgrowing the counter-productive competitive approaches that are bound to make us all losers. This is the time for collaboration across boundaries and to build a more resilient global system for the sake of our grandchildren and our planet.