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You are here: Home / Resources / publications / annual report / archive / 2000 / milenium


a new millenium

This is a unique time in history: we are closing a millennium and opening a new one. Since the last ice age, and since history was conceived and recorded, this has happened only a few times. So it is a proper time for reflection, a time to see where we are and assess where we are going.

A quick look at our planet shows the strong influence of the human race. After millions of years during which the planet was mainly responding only to natural phenomena, the last two millennia reveal some very important change. The changes in the past two centuries are even more noticeable, and most dramatic of all in the last few decades.

Half of the forests that once blanketed the surface of our planet are gone. In the last 65 million years, we have never lost so many plant and animal species in such a short time. Clean water that was so abundant just a few decades ago is now scarce in most parts of the world. Fossil fuels that took millions of years to develop have been burned in just a few decades, and their emissions have ended up in the atmosphere, threatening our civilization with a change in global climate of a degree never experienced.

It is true that our human race has become more "civilized" -- at least we formally recognize human rights and the equity of races and genders and we despise dictatorships. We can also count many success stories in fights against diseases and technological inventions. But at the same time, our civilization has condemned most of its people to living in poverty, in climates of violence and surrounded by pollution. Even worse, we are using vastly inequal amounts of environmental space, and those who have used the most have developed a huge ecological debt towards those who use the least. On top of this, we have developed extensive arsenals of weapons with the capacity to remove the human species from the face of the planet.

This is the world we have created. The question that we now must ask is what will become of our world. Our challenge is to make life better for everyone.

The task is by no means small and there is no guarantee of success, but we are determined to struggle for the required change. And that is what we at Friends of the Earth International is all about: we are a network faced with many social and environmental problems beyond our control, but we have the means and determination to confront the situation. In 2000 we totaled 66 groups and had close to one million people working in dozens of cultures and using tens of languages on every continent.

Most often, the work of our groups is focused on solving a multitude of very important environmental problems at the local level or in our respective countries. In the not so distant past we have often failed to communicate our plans or strategies with each other and neglected to share our experiences, but we are learning more and more to work together for common goals. One great achievement in 2000 was that we made our opinion heard on many important issues at the global level.

We were at the World Bank and IMF meetings in Washington DC and Prague, and we sent the message to these economic powers that they can not continue to destroy the environment and rule people's lives. We even recommended policy that is being discussed within these institutions on issues including a moratorium on the financing of oil, mining and gas projects.

We were also very prominent at the climate talks in the Netherlands at the end of the year. In addition to our participation in the technical and political discussions, we led a most impressive mass action in the building of a dike with some 5,000 people as a warning of what lies ahead if politicians and multinational corporations do not take climate change seriously. We also put pressure on the biotech industry by discovering hidden illegal genetically modified organisms in corn packaged for human consumption, and we have contributed to the preservation of some of our precious remaining ancient forests.

Much more could be said, but the important lesson we are learning is that global problems require global solutions. With our capacity to mobilize at the local, national and global levels, FoEI is in a privileged position to make a difference. That is our duty: to work collectively to improve social and environmental conditions in our world.

Ricardo Navarro, FoEI Chair, El Salvador

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