• East of Otley Action Group

The Sneer

Personal blog: Shannon Coles, member of East of Otley Action Group and Otley 2030


System change not climate change.


It’s a catchy slogan, seen on banners and placards held by youth strikers, Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace, and other climate activists. I made a badge with ‘System Change Not Climate Change’ printed over a photo of my baby grandson’s face, a reminder that children alive today will have lives that are going to be horribly impacted by catastrophic climate change if we don’t start taking action now.

What does it mean? What are the systems that have to change if human beings are going to continue to be a viable species on planet Earth?


Harmful systems

For me the systems that are leading us towards disaster, in no particular order, are:

The system that means that some people’s desire for wealth can be privileged over other people’s survival.

The system that means that some people’s desire for wealth can be privileged over the survival of species and ecosystems

The system that takes power and control away from communities and gives it to people who have wealth but no responsibility


Where do we go from here?

Like most people I am much better at seeing what needs fixing than understanding how to fix it, but here are three things which I think must happen if we are to relocate power to the hands of those who can use it safely:


1. It seems to me that parliamentary democracy is in danger of being subverted by a billionaire owned press who have no concern for the welfare of their readers or their country, and by the system of donation and lobbying. We need to build new forms of democracy, where all the members of a community have a voice, and representation can be granted only for single issues and for limited time frames.

2. A Universal Basic Income, plus modern technology, would mean that everyone would have time, and an expectation, to be involved in local decision making, which would become not only a right but also a duty.

3. Every decision about developments which will affect a community will have to be rigorously assessed against three criteria:

Will the development break planetary boundaries? (Eg by causing unsafe levels of carbon emission)

Will the development harm biodiversity here or anywhere else in the world?

What active good will the development bring to current and future residents of this community or anywhere else across the world?


The framework for these changes will need to be a profound rebalancing of human relationship to land. Ownership will become stewardship. The idea that anyone would harm biodiversity in their protection will become as repugnant as the idea that anyone would harm a person within their protection.


The charge of Utopianism is an easy one to make. The other week a friend wrote a brilliant thought piece about 'The Shrug'. Don’t shrug, don’t sneer, we haven’t got time. Start thinking, talking, working.


Right here and right now.

65 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All