Hard to believe this is the second time I’m sitting down to reflect on the year gone by, not from my desk in the Friends of Earth Europe office, but from my home. Twelve whole months (and counting) of remote-working – of not seeing colleagues, our Board, our network, allies or friends, except on screen. A year in which asking after people’s health and that of their loved ones took on new meaning and trepidation.
2020 was a rollercoaster year. The pandemic knocked our plans off course. But adversity breeds creativity. We adjusted quickly in Spring – on the internal front moving to home-working, transferring events online, postponing activities; and externally – highlighting the links between disease and the destruction of nature, and issuing demands for a green and just recovery. With every twist and dive of the ongoing health crisis we have adjusted and responded again. Campaigning in the context of Covid-19 will continue to be a challenge – the current grim reality is that cases are the highest they have been in some of the poorest parts of the world least able to cope.
Throughout all this, we have overcome. Our grassroots network has shown incredible resilience, as the achievements documented in this Review pay testament to. There have been significant successes despite the circumstances, and even major victories. Friends of the Earth Netherlands’ historic win in court against Shell for its pollution in the Niger Delta took 13 years, and will give us strength for years to come.
The theme of the year, and what helped us to carry on, was solidarity. Solidarity is core to who we are as the Friends of the Earth global federation. It encapsulates the empathy that motivates us, the equality we fight for, and the people power we summon to change things for the better. Friends of the Earth France took action in solidarity with workers in unsafe conditions and forced Amazon to better protect them. In Spain, Friends of the Earth took part in movements of solidarity with small and ecological farms and won more rights for them during the pandemic. In Croatia, our member brought solar power to communities in poverty. We showed our solidarity with Black Lives Matter and committed to do more for racial justice.
2020 was a year like no other, but the struggle for environmental and social justice continued. Perhaps more quietly, away from the front pages and the streets, but with no less urgency. In fact, I believe the pandemic has caused many people in power to catch-up to the severity and interconnectedness of the multiple planetary and societal crises we face. Covid-19 is more than a public health crisis; it is a systems crisis. We need to seize this moment to re-imagine our societies and put them urgently on a sustainable and healthy footing. Our in-depth work to conceive an economy within Earth’s limits, and to define what a truly transformational Green Deal looks like, are important contributions to the generational task of building a better, greener future for all.
Together, we have and shall continue to overcome.