When the vessel is sinking

Climate change has become an undeniable truth and if the earth is, figuratively speaking, like a sinking vessel, it is because we have not paid any attention to any of the recommendations made during the last decade, says a former Director-General of UNESCO.

Federico Mayor Zaragoza

SUDDENLY- said Leonardo da Vinci - there are no poor and rich, no young and old, no white and black on board ... only a bunch of passengers toiling, working together to survive, to avoid a shipwreck.

This is the advice we should convey today through all media so that the 'peoples' become aware of the situation humanity is facing for the first time in history. In recent years a series of global threats have been recognised as potentially irreversible processes that need to be confronted and dealt with on time before it is too late.

Climate change has become an undeniable truth. The Arctic Ocean has nearly disappeared and the Antarctic is starting to crack. We have not succeeded in our effort to reduce the emissions of 'greenhouse' gases, and the habitability of Earth is experiencing a consistent deterioration. The implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - wisely established by the United Nations General Assembly in October 2015 'to transform our world' - has not been carried out because it is not efficiently supported by big countries, and citizens are under the pressure of the gigantic media power that makes them confused and turns them into impassive spectators instead of responsible actors.

Neoliberalism, stubbornly led by the United States Republican Party, has weakened the nation-state and replaced the democratic multilateralism of the United Nations with the governance of a few plutocratic, oligarchic groups (G6, G7, G8, G20) responsible for the current drift that has placed GDP and international trade in the forefront... together with President Trump's discretionary power which no one dares confront.

The most disturbing consequence is the way supremacism, racism, fanaticism and dogmatism are sprouting everywhere, without anyone seeming to recall what happened in 1933 and 1939. The vast majority of citizens are stunned and obsessed supporters of football teams, and are only concerned with their immediate past and their present life. Their demands - which are mainly based on the mistakes made by those who have ruled on one side and another - would be reasonable in less pressing situations, but they do not realise that today the young and future generations are the only ones who deserve our attention if we want to keep the world afloat and bequeath these generations a dignified life.

Despite the fact that there is reason to dream and fight for new ways of governance, that we are about to conquer at last what always seemed an impossible quest, the only true thing is that the time has come to join our hands and voices, instead of breaking up; the time has come for an efficient multilateralism on a planetary scale; the time for genuine democracy. Otherwise devastation will be the irremediable consequence.

The time has come for the mass media to convey accurate information about the Earth's sustainability and to alert the world, and to keep away from ill-meaning commercial and political news that urges them to do the opposite.

The time has come for major financial corporations to become aware that it is their historical responsibility, in situations of no return, to promote and encourage awareness instead of favouring confusion and overacting.

For peoples - 'We the peoples', as we were so wisely referred to at the beginning of the UN Charter - to take control, now that we are aware of what is going on and we can freely express ourselves, now that we have become men and women of a common destiny.

The vessel is sinking because we have not paid attention to any of the recommendations made during the last decades. As in da Vinci's tale, it is now essential and urgent for all of us to react, because we are all concerned; otherwise we will not succeed in our intent of keeping safe in all its fullness the mystery of human existence. 'Everything is still possible ... but who will do it if not all of us?' said Miquel Martˇ i Pol.

I quote, because reading them was a crucial experience for me, the lines of Jos‚ Angel Valente's poem 'On the present time':

I am writing from a wrecked vessel,

I am writing about the latitude of pain,

about everything we have destroyed

above all within ourselves...

I am writing in the midst of the night,

in the midst of the roar of the hungry and the dead,

with the perspective of a hand that becomes a gloomy fist

...with the eyes of infinitely dead children

...with the pain of a tree with wounded roots...

But I also write in the midst of life,

with its powerful cry

...with the voice of the suffering crowd...

I am writing, my brother, about a time to come.

Let's find inspiration in Leonardo da Vinci, Miquel Martˇ i Pol and Jos‚ Angel Valente, and let's abandon all hostile attitudes against an adequate and peaceful navigation. In the new age, what will prevail will not be the power of force but rather the power of reason, not weapons but words, not herd instinct but the capacity of each human being to create, to think and to take his own decisions.

If we manage to keep the ship afloat with all passengers, humanity will have the opportunity to usher in a new era.                        

Federico Mayor Zaragoza, a Spanish scientist, scholar, politician, diplomat and poet, is Chairman of the Foundation for a Culture of Peace. He served as Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) from 1987 to 1999.˙The above is reproduced from his blog (

*Third World Resurgence No. 335/336, 2018, pp 46-47