Here’s a clip from editor Jonathan Watts:
So why am I going back into full-time, specialised environmental reporting? Because it is the most important story of our age. China led me to suspect that global economic growth had run into an ecological wall, which is the underlying source of stress and conflict in the world. When I moved to Latin America, I hoped to find alternative, less destructive paths of development, but there was a part of me that also felt I was running away from my own conclusions. The new post will take me back.
The responsibility is huge. The timing is crucial. Brexit was a vote against globalisation. Trump is waging war on the environment. To counter these trends, the Guardian has devoted more resources to its environment coverage. I am looking forward to being a part of an expanded team, but we have a tough act to follow. Brown, Vidal, George Monbiot, Damian Carrington and other present and former colleagues have been pioneers in this field with agenda-setting coverage and comment. Trying to maintain that quality, ambition and influence – while looking for new approaches to changing situations – will be a hard but worthwhile task.
As to the task that humanity faces, I think the problem and the solution are environmental. The world’s current concerns – rising nationalism, swelling migration, financial instability, worsening inequality and lack of confidence in governance systems – are to varying degrees caused by insecurity and fear about the future. Underlying that is an awareness (conscious or unconscious) that our current path of capital-and-carbon-driven development is wrecking our home planet, running down resources, devastating other species and building up environmental costs that are increasingly difficult to offload on distant countries and coming generations. We have to pay a bill that has been run up over centuries and it feels as if we are broke. But that is misleading. There is still plenty left if we manage it well and share it more fairly.
We need to reconsider what is important, what is worth paying for and how decisions are being made. At a national level, why are we devoting so much public money to subsidise fossil fuels that are destroying the climate? Why are most politics determined by four-, five- or six-year electoral cycles that suit the markets but not the long-term interests of voters? Why do our economic systems make it cheaper to dump plastic in the oceans than recycle? Why do traditional beliefs of some countries encourage the slaughter of endangered animals or denial of climate science? Why are forests worth less than cropland? Why do we continue to prioritise material growth when it increasingly leads to obesity, cancer, conflict and instability?