“Ecology? Look it up. You’re involved.”
So it began, on posters plastered across Vancouver fifty years ago, the movement that matters much to me, to us as a family. That my wife is Canada-born is inconsequential. It is Barcelona, it is Brisbane, Bratislava, Bolivia, Mombasa, Manila – it is the air we breathe. It is our children and our grandchildren. Bravo, Barcelona, for making a stand.
I’m not expecting you to look it up, of course. We all know well enough now what the founders of Greenpeace were – have always been – saying. We have all known for a desperately long time. It has just been that the powerful have blind eyes and that greed is a vile addiction. I had long hoped for people-power to reach that critical mass when governments and corporations must heed, but time ebbed and decades cantered by. Life was just too complicated, crammed, for the many to be moved.
I then figured we could turn the corner if, somehow, a compelling economic case could be made to end our multiple, unsustainable addictions as perpetuated by the profiteers.
Finally, though, it is proving far simpler and more shocking than that. The rapid onset of climate change and the accelerating, dire consequences of flame and flood rightly evoke fear, maybe even guilt, in anyone with a conscience, and damnation from the young who stand to inherit the mess. And with the public epiphany comes a radical lifestyle review and that economic case.
There is a word I would like you to look up, though. Biophilia. It speaks to that part of all of us who sense that in this age of excess something fundamental is missing. It reminds us who we are, where we come from, what we need. It embraces core issues of mental health, of general wellbeing and fulfilling moments, hours, days and lives.
Catalonia is a storehouse of nature, stunning contrasts and a profound appreciation thereof, so some of you may have already read the words and works of E O Wilson. The long-established biophilia hypothesis (1984) by the now 90-year-old Pulitzer prizing-winning naturalist, champion of biodiversity, and Faculty Emeritus at Harvard University, could not be more relevant.
The urge to relate to landscape and to other forms of life – whether cognitive, intellectual, emotional, aesthetic or spiritual – is in our DNA. Sever this connection, borne of the truth that for 90 per cent of our genetic history we have been completely and intimately weaved into the natural world, and (in the words of another great writer Isabella Tree) we are floating in a world where our deepest sense of ourselves is lost.
Wilson speaks to power, eye to eye, when he says we are drowning in information while starved of wisdom. And most relevant of all, we have to stop labelling a few for pushing the “environmentalist view as though it were a lobbying effort outside the mainstream of human activity, and to start calling it the real-world view”.
Now, imperatively, is the time. And it is not a negative. There is so much good out there.
Show the world, Catalonia. Lead.