A week has passed since the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, and environmentalists and global experts in the field of fighting climate change have had time to digest what was achieved during the two weeks of talks. It appears that many feel saddened by the lack of serious measures agreed upon and, more importantly, the time frame set around the action governments and the private sector signed up to.
Steven Goode Hill is a member of Extinction Rebellion in Mallorca. Steven, whose English mother and Argentine father met in the Caribbean, “the son of yachties, like a lot of people here” he says, was born and brought up on the island. He went to school in Mallorca and studied pedagogy, the science and art of education. at the University of the Balearic Islands. He is now a key member of the growing Extinction Rebellion movement in Mallorca.
“I now spend most of my time as an activist in these critical times. The results from COP are very worrying and upsetting - the incredible resistance by businesses and big corporations as usual to democratise a decision which affects all human and non-human beings, and when I say human beings, it’s of all classes, races, gender and people of all places.
“Above all, we live in a planetary system, so we can’t get away from the fact that global warming affects the whole planetary ecosystem in ways in which we don’t fully understand. The IPCC pointed out in a leaked document this August that we’re already at code red for humanity and even that capitalism itself is unsustainable.
"So, how does that translate locally? In the Balearics, we’re actually exposed to higher rates of warming. We are way beyond the degree which would be considered safe at a global level, and it has been established that if we go beyond 1.5ºC global warming, the Balearics will be exposed to more of what we’re already seeing. This means extreme weather events like we had with the tornado in Banyalbufar two years ago - 10,000 trees knocked down. We now have our own type of Mediterranean hurricane, which is named Medicane, intense heat waves, recurring drought, deforestation and desertification.
"Campos is in fact one of the top three municipalities in the whole of Spain most exposed to desertification already. We’re also looking at more torrential rains which cause floods, massive loss of biodiversity and not being able to access drinking water; more violent fires, greater social inequality and the loss of crops - the loss of the food that we depend on and need to produce as much of as possible at a local level. It basically means that everyone living in the Mediterranean and Mallorca is at extreme risk - whether we are visitors or residents.”
What about solutions - Manacor is worried about losing its beaches; Palma has the third worst quality tap water in Spain; shipping is causing huge noise pollution for marine life; every time it rains, Palma’s beaches get closed due to sewage leaks ... .
“What needs to be done is that we make the decision-making process much more open and democratic. It needs to be opened up as broadly as possible because this is a decision-making process which goes beyond all our present situations; the scale of the changes we really need to implement are extremely drastic. And if we’re not all on board - social classes, businesses, groups of interest - we will not be able to address the situation on time and with enough harmony.
"What we’re fighting for at Extinction Rebellion is an upgrade in our democracy through what we call a citizen’s assembly in all countries, where governments open up a mechanism which has been tested and proved over the past 20 years. It is being perfected constantly and it basically brings all people and all experts on board the decision-making process. This is the only way of addressing the situation properly. People need to be aware, need to be informed. We need a massive learning curve, which we will not be able to accomplish if we leave it to political party politics, as these are always very polarising and artificial, very short term and heavily backed by corporate interest.
“The first thing we need to do is to stop the harm, and there is a lot that we’re doing wrong at present. The only way is through really advancing democracy and I would like to ask all readers of the Bulletin to join us on the streets, connect with us through our social media platforms, because we need something on the scale of which we have not seen before.
“As a movement we use non-violent civil disobedience because regrettably nothing else seems to have worked. We’ve had green parties, we’ve had wonderful documentaries, we’ve had fundraising events, we’ve had green washing from the big corporations, we’ve had petitions, all sorts of things, but they simply have not been enough. And now, we’re on the edge of the cliff.
“We’re fighting our last great fight for life, biodiversity and respect between peoples. We don’t go against anyone. We’re a non-party orientated movement; we’re not against anybody in particular. We don’t shame or blame - we look for the highest quality decisions which can be made involving all of us. We don’t want to turn anybody away; on the contrary, we want everybody to come on board.
“It’s a massive task politically. Yes, this current Balearic government does tend to lean our way, but we need this present socioeconomic system and we need all parties to realise that this is beyond their own personal historic agenda. We really need to move up to a higher level of democratic decision making.
“To a certain extent, a great deal of damage has been done. We’ve poisoned the earth - just look at events happening around us from the Canary Islands to India and beyond; much of that cannot be fixed. To a degree, it is a case of damage limitation while getting together to look to the future and start protecting what’s left.
“We need to start regenerating our cultures, our ways of living, our ways of relating. The scale of what we need is similar to a wartime movement, but based not on authoritarianism but democracy. But we have already lost so much, we’re already in mass extinction. This means 200 species are going extinct every single day. We have lost 70% of wildlife on the planet in only 50 years, which is terribly upsetting. It’s not going to come back, and the planet has already been made ill. But there is still so much left to fight for. And we feel it’s our moral duty across all social classes and levels of income to urgently rethink how we do it.”
Do the Balearic Islands need to change their business strategy and model?
“The beaches will get lost to rising sea levels, and it could simply become too hot for comfort. So what does that mean for tourism? Plus, we’re suffering a rapid energy descent. We’re quickly running out of oil, methane gas and many other natural resources, but while we’re still in incredibly unstable times, we can pull together as a society to find constructive ways of regenerating our ecosystems, our food production and our ways of sharing resources.
"This is what we need to fight for - things like reviving the agricultural sector in Mallorca. Right now, Mallorca produces 15% of the food we consume, so this is an extra risk in times of extreme instability. We need a large scale relocalisation of food production and we need to revive the island’s farming industry, because it would benefit the island at all levels, especially socioeconomically. We need to have harmony. We’re not an anti-tourism movement, but changes and improvements can and need to be made.
“Sadly, being islands we’re so dependent on one of the largest contaminators of all - commercial airlines. But we don’t want to stop people coming to this beautiful island. Tourists are vital and need protecting from climate change as well. Mallorca is paradise, I love the island and that is why I have joined the fight. But we need more common ground, a more open debate and to involve everybody and, more importantly, listen to everybody who has an opinion, be it the general public or the scientists. This problem cannot be left in the hands of a group of politicians who are here one day and gone tomorrow. This is a long-term problem, which must not be allowed to be on the back or front burner every time there is a change of administration anywhere in the world.
“And whatever action is taken in Mallorca or around the world, it has to be sooner rather than later. Now.”
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