RSA Journal Issue 3 2023 - RSA

The RSA Journal: Issue 3 2023


“Radical activism, like nature, is intrinsic to us as Fellows of the RSA.”

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” Never have Shakespeare’s words been more prescient; he recognised that nature is the world’s ultimate binding agent. It is not only something whose enjoyment is enhanced, not diminished, by the enjoyment of others but, more fundamentally, we are ourselves part of nature. Nature is us, our kith and our kin.

Yet, our actions towards nature over recent centuries have often been neither familial nor friendly. At best, we have treated it as extrinsic – something to be managed or cultivated.

At worst, we have treated it as something to be extracted or mined. The results are now only too obvious, with the world on fire and natural capital hugely depleted in the space of just a few generations.

That makes turning this environmental tide the challenge of this century. At the RSA, our programme of change, Design for Life, is the recognition of that challenge – the regeneration of people, places and planet, in partnership and in harmony. This issue of the Journal devotes itself to discussing the issues, challenges and opportunities presented – and the radical activism needed – if this environmental regeneration is to be successful.

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In this edition’s ‘In conversation’, we speak with Christiana Figueres, one of the most influential global leaders in the environmental movement and an architect of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. She tells the story of how her experience of the extinction of the Costa Rican golden toad set off a chain of events ultimately culminating in success at COP21.

Subsequent COPs have not had the same success. But Figueres is a voice of optimism, believing the climate of opinion – if not yet the climate itself – has recently shifted onto a different trajectory. The countries currently engaged in a global green arms race are evidence of this, as are the young Fellows working to fight against the climate crisis who recently convened at RSA House to discuss youth empowerment, what inspires them, and how they access and maintain hope. And this edition of the Journal contains many more examples of inspiring climate actions and actors, often operating locally and initiated by young people.

Figueres is far less optimistic about nature than climate. Biodiversity losses across our planet have been huge and are continuing. In comparison with climate, the nature debate remains inchoate and the accompanying actions, nationally and globally, embryonic. While some countries have successfully turned the tide – Costa Rica is one example with rapid tropical reforestation over recent decades – most have not even begun this journey.

Change needs to start in early years. The RSA’s ‘Playful green planet’ initiative for children in early years settings and primary schools puts nature centre-stage in refashioning education. And our ecosystems often show a remarkable capacity for resilience and regeneration. For every golden toad story there is a tardigrade story – an eight-legged creature with a Rasputinesque capacity for survival over 600 million years, as related in the article by Dame Jo da Silva.

Radical activism, like nature, is intrinsic to us as Fellows of the RSA. Through organisations like ours, working collaboratively and collectively, we can, as Gandhi said, “be the change we wish to see in the world”. When it comes to meeting the planetary challenges of the 21st century, I hope this issue of the Journal helps inspire us all to do just that.

Picture of Andy Haldane
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

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