Hazel Henderson, president of Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil) and author of Mapping the Global Transition to the Solar Age and other books.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Florida, Dec 2 2015 (IPS) – Civil society organizations, known as NGOs, have for decades used their non-government status to prod officials, politicians and business on climate issues. Veteran campaigners Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, Kenya’s tree planters, India’s Chipko tree-hugging protectors and indigenous movements worldwide first raised the issues of protecting the Earth and its atmosphere.

Hazel Henderson
Hazel Henderson

These earlier leaders converged on the two key issues that underlay human societies’ successes and failures. These are resource depletion and inequality, the deadly duo we now know have caused collapses of human societies through the ages. From Jared Diamond’s Collapse (2011) and Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies(1990) to Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson’s Why Nations Fail (2013) and recent computer models, including HANDY (human and nature dynamics), confirm the effects of this deadly mix of inequality and resource depletion. Elites capture power over populations, insulated from feedback on their resource depletion until exhaustion of ecosystems or popular revolutions cause the collapses documented throughout human history.

Social change rarely comes from elites since those in power are insulated from the hunger, desperation, pollution and resource depletion their populations experience. Change comes from societies’ periphery, those marginalized, excluded, voiceless in policy discussions of governments and business.

Thus civic and voluntary associations, movements and protests become the vanguards of social change – often positive, but negative if ignored or suppressed. These ancient forces in human societies are rooted in our earliest experiences of dangers and risks and our responses to our fears: competing with other groups for territory, accumulating and hoarding resources – or more positive responses of bonding, sharing and cooperating as Charles Darwin saw as our evolutionary success.

Thanks to IPS for the publication

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