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My interview with Cindy Forde: Ensuring voices from the global south, indigenous people, and women are built in as core constituencies.

Oct 9, 2022
Cindy’s work is dedicated to transforming how we understand and act towards Earth, the living system that sustains us. She is an author, activist and founder of Planetari, an education platform aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals that equips children to be innovators of a better world. She works globally with leaders across sectors, has an MSc in Sustainability and Business Practice, led Cambridge Science Centre as CEO, Blue Marine Foundation as MD and is an award winning creative. 

Cindy believes the most effective change we can make is in how we shape the mind-set of the rising generation and how we design our organisational systems. Her children’s book Bright New World is published by Welbeck in October 2022. She sits on various advisory boards and the steering committee of ‘She Changes Climate’, campaigning  for full inclusion of women’s voices on planetary issues.

Praveen Gupta: ‘Bright New World’ – what made you write this book for children?

Cindy Forde: I wrote a book for children because I believe the stories we tell our children and how we educate the rising generation is key to creating a brighter future. Einstein famously said, we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created them. Even though our ecological systems teeter on the brink of collapse, threatening the stability of our global economy and society, most national curriculums are based on the industrial revolution, the system at the root of these problems. A model based on endless growth when we have finite resources, that fuels climate change, extinction, and almost unprecedented inequalities in wealth within and between countries and people. We must urgently re-design education.

There has probably never been a greater opportunity for transformation to a brighter future for humanity than now, nor the urgency to seize this been more acute.

In the midst of so much ecological breakdown and despair, there is much more than hope, there is a clear road map to a safer, kinder word.  If we learn to read that map, to step out of powerlessness, bewilderment and anxiety and orient ourselves in new directions of thought and action, we can all be part of shaping a brighter future.

I wrote ‘Bright New World’ to give children, their families, and teachers the tools to read this map and to be part of building new pathways for humanity.

PG: Climate Crisis makes us all anxious. Particularly the children – who will be our inheritors. Is that why you opted to explain the social, political, and environmental issues facing the planet and how we got to this point?

CF: Yes, absolutely. To have hope and to enable children, all people, to realise their own ability to be part of co-creating the world they want, it is vital to understand how we got to this point and that most of the blocks in our way out of this crisis are social and political.

Most of the solutions, or mitigation, to our major global problems already exist. Earth still retains the resilience and abundance to support the human family and all her other life forms in harmonious co-existence.  She is damaged but can regenerate. What must change for this to happen is how we think.

Anxiety can be caused by a sense of powerlessness, of things being out of our control, that nothing is being, or can be done. Instead of fear and anxiety, I asked myself, what if we changed the story for our young people and enabled them to see this as one of the most exciting times to be alive? System change begins with how we teach our children to think. What if the stories we tell start to draw new maps, to equip the rising generation to navigate themselves safely through innovation, social and political change, towards a world with a future?

There are many things that we can’t do anything about, but much we can. ‘Bright New World’ encourages children to focus on the possible and to give them the skills to be part of this transformation.

PG: Would you call it a holistic view – as you choose to go beyond climate change?

CF: Climate breakdown is a symptom of our wider systems crisis. It is a by-product of how our economic and social systems have evolved over centuries of colonisation and industrialisation and cannot be tackled as an isolated issue. Earth is an interconnected web of life, just like our bodies, what happens in one part of the web can have a huge, often unforeseen, impact on another. The solutions must be systemic, holistic.

By inviting children to step into a not-too-distant future where these solutions have been able to take effect, they have the opportunity see what is possible. To visit a world where we collaborate with nature and our natural systems to create thriving cities, wild spaces, oceans; where we use our incredible technological abilities to enhance and support the genius of the natural word; where we have reengineered our systemic issues that currently cause the greatest problems, such as energy, food, travel, economics, how treat and educate girls, to become the biggest part of the solution.

PG: What are the key messages for young people?

CF: That they can be part of creating a brighter world.

Throughout the book, children are asked questions about their own ideas for how to do this. At the end of the book there is list of 10 simple things they can do to use their own power to make change. Some of these are practical lifestyle actions like what we eat, how we travel, how much stuff we consume. Others are about having self-belief, using your creativity, your voice to ask for change. I summarise this as Care. Share. Dare.

Care for Earth, collaborate and dare to think differently about the future you can create.

I frame this in a real-world context that shows that the disaster that we are facing is causing much awakening to the short-sighted folly of ‘endless growth at any cost’.  Around the world people are rising up with innovation both in how we do and make things and in how we think. This evolution in mindset is the greatest key to change. The book showcases brilliant young activists at the forefront of this transition and the innovations they are developing at a local and global level, to demonstrate this change is real and already well underway.

The catastrophic imbalance in our planet is mirrored by the catastrophic imbalance in voices in national and international decision making. Decisions that affect our survival as a species are being taken predominantly by a single interest group, the old guard powerbase of the industrial global north. These voices tend to come in an older, white male package.

PG: How important is educating girls so as to take an equal place in society?

CF: I dedicate a section to this called ‘Voices for Girls’. It shows that educating women is one of the leading ways of mitigating climate and ecological breakdown, as demonstrated by the research of Project Drawdown and Population Matters among many other world leading organisation. When girls are educated, they have more control over their reproductive systems and choose to have fewer, or no children. As David Attenborough said, “All our environmental problems become easier to solve with fewer people, and harder – and ultimately impossible, to solve with more people.”

And it is not just population numbers. The catastrophic imbalance in our planet is mirrored by the catastrophic imbalance in voices in national and international decision making. Decisions that affect our survival as a species are being taken predominantly by a single interest group, the old guard powerbase of the industrial global north. These voices tend to come in an older, white male package. The outcome of this monocultural world view is, as with all monocultural ecosystems, unsustainability, and collapse. We have a fight on our hands to change this, as it is a fight against an entrenched status quo reinforced by billion-dollar corporate interests, that lobby governments and pay politicians across the globe.

Educating girls is a vital part of this fight to enable women around the world to mobilise, recognise their own value and take full part in decision making. Including the holistic, collaborative ‘feminine’ world view, and many men also hold this, as opposed to the current dominant model of relentless competition and extraction to extinction is crucial to our survival. So, educating boys to understand the value of woman and girls is also essential.

PG: Women are the ones most impacted by the Climate Crisis, how can their voices be heard? Why are they poorly represented in leadership roles at the likes of the COP?

CF: As outlined, in my previous answer, this is a deeply systemic issue. The current power structures have been put in place by and to maintain a patriarchy.  The domination and exploitation of nature in many ways mirrors the domination and exploitation of women. Even in 2021 the British government saw no issue in sending an all-male delegation, at decision maker level, to the COP26 negotiations, even when challenged hard on this by influential women globally. When women in countries where we have considerably more franchise face this kind of political erasure, the devastating level of exclusion faced by women in more overtly discriminatory societies operates like a deadly bog. 

Exclusion of women is hard baked into the extant model of colonisation and exploitation of countries, people, nature that has led us to the brink of extinction. Our dominant myths and cultural narratives have been shaped to support this world view and the myth making industry has only grown more powerful as media oligarchs consolidate their influence over the news, to an extent film, digital and social media. The collaborative, ‘feminine,’ natural systems world view does not support the vast profiteering for the elite at the top of the current dominator paradigm that has driven our society for so long.  It is, therefore, a worldview that must be repressed, silenced, discredited.

Many men who also hold this world view are also excluded and discredited accordingly.  Orchestrated violence, corruption, obscene lobbying, for example by the fossil fuel industry, is all at horrifyingly well-funded play to hold this system in place, and as it now implodes this becomes more extreme and vicious, as evidenced by the petro-state wars now reaching the level of nuclear threat, and the terrifying backlash again women’s rights, in the devastating decision of Roe vs Wade.  It takes great courage, collaboration, and commitment to systemic change to get marginalised voices heard. This involves the mobilisation of influence in the diplomatic, corporate, and political sphere such as COPs, campaigning, collaboration and amplification of work and message through well organised, focused global networks of mutual support. It also takes significant funding.

Exclusion of women is hard baked into the extant model of colonisation and exploitation of countries, people, nature that has led us to the brink of extinction. Our dominant myths and cultural narratives have been shaped to support this world view and the myth making industry has only grown more powerful as media oligarchs consolidate their influence over the news, to an extent film, digital and social media.

PG: What needs to be done to ensure a key role for indigenous people and women from Global South?

CF: As outlined, in my previous answer, we need to build strong, cross global networks to influence and campaign. Where people who have power and resources understand how vital it is to include the voices of indigenous people and women from the global south, they must use it. Our time to achieve the meaningful dialogues, listening and action essential to changing our trajectory is extremely short now. We must mobilise in effective and coordinated ways to have an impact at places like COP, which are riddled with corporate interest and have a track record of failure. So, we must also build alternative platforms for global governance where voices from the global south, indigenous people, and women are built in as core constituencies.

I am on the Steering Committee of She Changes Climate https://www.shechangesclimate.org  whose aim is to spearhead women’s participation in climate negotiations working in global collaboration. I also support the work of https://www.foundationearth.co, currently incubated by Climate 2025 https://www.climate2025.org to support the emergence of global governance of our biosphere.

PG: Any plans for translating the book into other major global languages?

CF: Absolutely, the rights have already been acquired by a German publishing group, and other international rights are under discussion. I would obviously like to see ‘Bright New World’ in all major languages so its message can reach children and their families in all countries of our beautiful, shared planet.

PG: May this brilliant vision for a ‘Bright New World’ become a reality soonest, Cindy!

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