2020 and 2021 will go down in history as the time when humanity was forced to take a really stark look into itself, as our actions and decisions through the last century finally came crashing back.
Starkly held up to us are images of a fractured planet with its and its inhabitants’ health threatened. But among the images are also those of shifting mindsets and of humans coming together so that all interconnected life can regain our balance and fluidity of being. Increasingly, we are seeing a global society demanding accountability and action within and of itself.
The global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic was the vanishing point where the greatest problems created by humans came to a head. The world was forced to a halt. Societies wherein inequality, authoritarian regimes and exploitation of people and natural resources prevailed, were shown to be struggling to cope with the health crisis even more than others. The outbreak also marked the first year of the last decade left for the world to prevent irreversible damage from impacts of the climate crisis. As unprecedented floods and forest fires around the globe raged into 2020 and 2021, the encroachment of climate impacts into the lives and habitats of humans and other species, as well as the blurring of allotted environments and natural growth, bring into view how the pandemic may just be a small taste of what is to come.
During this time, we were shown that the pandemic, the climate emergency and the ecological crisis all pointed to the same broken systems as the sources of humanity’s greatest threat to both the planet and to our own survival.
But it is also during this time that we saw how people from diverse backgrounds, distinctive collective wisdom, and varying experience from all over the world, can quickly and effectively come together to race against time to come up with solutions. And while it is becoming clearer and clearer that there is no going back to the “old normal”, those of us who are looking at the bigger picture of the biggest threat of our time, know that a “new normal” will not be enough. Rather, we are looking toward a Better Normal in order for the world to get back on its feet and in order for the next generations to thrive.
It is in this atmosphere of both uncertainty and hope that Greenpeace continues our trajectory of working in the context of disruptions to expose global environmental problems, bring about awareness, and inspire collective action towards solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.
2020 is also the year that Greenpeace Southeast Asia marked 20 years of presence in a region that is a hotspot of both cultural and biological diversity, in a place that is also an epicenter of impacts from climate injustice, unequal access to natural and financial resources, and exploitation by authoritarian regimes and corporate entities that value profit over people and planet. The global organisation itself celebrated half-a-century of its activism in 2021. The year saw GPSEA beginning a new chapter after two decades of both triumphs and of learning from failures and continuing challenges.
The last two decades have been rife with the sacrifice, sweat and tears of GPSEA volunteers, staff, partners, communities and movements. But 2020 and 2021 brought into even sharper focus how mindset change, disruptions and a return to scientific and verified facts (rather than disinformation and misinformation), as well as a sense of community and collective action, are very much needed not just by the green movement, but by humanity at large, if we are to survive and – more importantly – to thrive.
In the following pages, I invite you to join me in revisiting the last two years with GPSEA, not just as a look back in history, but as a way of envisioning what may lie for us beyond the horizon, as the world sought to restart and we look to new beginnings and a Better Normal.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia