We have been witnessing a succession of temperature records around the world for months and a rapid increase in extreme weather events. Scientific data confirm that these are not isolated incidents: the last eight years have been the warmest on Earth as a whole since there are records, and the current temperature is already 1.2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Right now, it seems practically impossible not to exceed the limit of 1.5 degrees that the Paris Agreements establish as desirable, and above which scenarios of great uncertainty open up.
Global warming is just one side of the environmental emergency we face. The massive loss of biodiversity, in an unstoppable decline and with prospects for mass extinctions, is the other main face of the crisis, closely linked to the climate crisis. The loss of resources, desertification, soil erosion or the contamination of continental waters are other aspects of the situation on a planetary scale.
It is known that the implications of the climate threat on human well-being are immense. The prospects for climate migrations are terrifying. The effects of all this on living conditions are closely linked to the question of global justice: the most serious impacts fall on the most vulnerable populations, which normally are part of the societies that have contributed the least to the emission of greenhouse gases or to the overexploitation of the planet’s resources. The societies of the global North have contracted with the populations of the global South an immense ecological debt. This great inequality in the generation of greenhouse gases also affects our industrial societies, where a hyper-rich minority is responsible for much higher levels of emissions than the popular classes. There will be no fair solution to environmental problems without a guarantee of dignified living conditions for all the inhabitants of the planet. In an increasingly unequal world, the climate issue is inseparable from that of human rights. And, at a time when insecurity can spur totalitarian temptations, it is inseparable from democracy. Without guaranteed dignified living conditions, the defence of freedom of expression and artistic freedom are strongly compromised.
Among the people of letters (writers, translators, publishers) there is a long and honourable tradition of defence of the causes of justice, freedom and understanding between peoples. This is the spirit with which, more than a hundred years ago, both PEN International and PEN Català were born. It is also the spirit of historic initiatives such as the International Congresses of Writers for the Defence of Culture held in response to Nazi and Fascist threats. In more recent times, there has been very important support among literate people for causes such as feminism, anti-racism, sexual diversity or linguistic rights. In the third decade of the 21st century, when Humanity is facing a serious existential threat, this tradition marks the imperative of a commitment to the planet and its habitability for all humans.
With this call we join the voice of citizen movements and an increasing number of scientists who demand urgent and determined action from governments to contain the increase in global temperature, protect biodiversity and reverse the current process of environmental deterioration. The necessary change must go beyond cosmetics and must overcome the current capitalism that pursues continued growth on a planet with finite resources. It must be a political, economic and cultural change at the same time: both governments and the population must assume the need for a life with less consumption of resources.
There are many tasks that, based on this commitment, can be carried out from the field of literary life. Literature has found from its origins a source of inspiration in nature: today’s writers cannot help but reflect on the incidence of a badly injured natural world in literature. Nor can they stop considering what their contribution to the essential changes might be.
The signatories of this text address ourselves to society to express our conviction that only a profound change in our economic, cultural and social model will be able to avoid the most devastating effects of the environmental and climate crisis. We are also convinced that reconciliation with the physical limits of the planet must be linked to gender, racial and class equality, to the fairer redistribution of income, to the guarantee of a dignified life for all the people who share the house and the deepening of democratic decision-making mechanisms.
We also believe that from our field and nearby fields (culture in general, journalism, communication), on a global scale and from each territory, diverse and urgent actions are necessary linked to this general approach.
It is necessary to assess and reduce the environmental impact of our own activity, which, like all human actions, leaves a footprint on resources and on environmental balances.
It is necessary to reflect (create forums to share opinions and information) on how the literature of the 21st century reflects the serious existential threat of the climate crisis.
It is necessary to consider how to inform in times of climate emergency, giving the issue the necessary relevance and transmitting the information truthfully, without deception and without dependence on the interests of polluting corporations, and with an emphasis on alternatives to build.
We must continue to influence the denunciation of human rights violations suffered by environmental activists, often victims of violent attacks linked to the interests of those who extract fossil fuels, deforest or exploit natural resources in an unsustainable way.
It is necessary to reflect on the cultural sponsorships linked to the most destructive forms of business or financial activity.
And there are many other things to do that we will have to discover in company along the way.
You can follow PEN Català here.