Six billion ways to make a better world possible

Melanie Strickland attends 6 Billion Ways, an event in London promoting local and global justice, and reflects on its aims

There is a lot to fight for and to campaign about in today’s world of cuts and crises; it’s an important time to be an activist. The 6 Billion Ways event, held on Saturday 5 March at the Rich Mix centre and other local venues in Bethnal Green in London’s East End, enabled hundreds of people from across the spectrum of the progressive justice movement to gather in solidarity and plan how we can create a fairer, more sustainable and more equal world. The event was timely and re-invigorated both new and seasoned activists.

There were some key themes that came up in each of the talks I attended. Firstly, there is a need for the local and global justice movements to become more organised and to link up. We need to articulate our common vision and work towards it effectively. This means we must identify the issues that we all agree on and then speak with one voice on those issues and demand change.

Currently, the global justice movement is very fragmented; there are lots of groups that are fighting for change on issues such as climate change, poverty and democracy, but we don’t know about each other and we don’t speak with one voice. This means our message is easily drowned out by contrary voices, which are more organised. If we unite on the issues we agree on, it would become impossible for our voice to be drowned out.

Secondly, the justice movement needs to tell a new ‘story’ – one that is compelling and coherent and can completely replace today’s political approach. The current political story is concerned only with economic growth and the need to drive this growth at all costs. But this is a story that is false and exploitative of people and nature, it serves vested interests and cannot deliver what people want or need.

The justice movement can offer a new story, which will deliver what people really want: to lead fulfilling lives and have mutually enhancing relationships with other people and with the natural world. The new story is also spiritually fulfilling – it is a “beautiful dream,” which is both possible and plausible.  Co-operation is the key characteristic of this future world. This is a story that everyone would want to buy into – we need to get the message out and inspire people.

There are already encouraging signs that the global justice movement is mobilising and communicating its message more effectively. Thousands of members of civil society came together in Cochabamba, Bolivia in April last year at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, following the failure of the Copenhagen climate talks. One of the outcomes of the People’s Summit was the proposed Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

One aim of this declaration is to enshrine the right to life for all living things. This is Earth democracy, a vision which I find both intuitively just and compelling. A Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature has since been formed, which will build on the work done in Bolivia.

The task of the justice movement must now be to take heart from its own successes and from the example shown by the gathering in Bolivia. We must keep working together and keep marching onwards, “widening our circle of compassion,” to quote Einstein, and keep sharing new stories of the better world that is within our grasp.