A message from Sandor Fulop, the Hungarian ombudsman for future generations, in support of my guardians proposal [This message was read out at the event launching my report in Westminster, last week]:
It is my great regret that I cannot take part in this event because of organisational and financial reasons. My heart is with you and I fully support the idea developed by Mr. Read about the guardians for future generations.
To my view, first of all we should not refer to the future generations as “they”, since actually we ourselves are future generations, too, as we would like to enjoy liveable urban and rural environment, drinkable water, edible food etc. in 5 or 10 years from now. However, our decision-makers, when ruling over huge sums of money on nation-wide bureaucracies, seldom think ahead even for that long. The next closing of the fiscal year, the next report to the Parliament or, the longest possible, the next election represent their horizon. Naturally, when our societies follow this rather short-sighted practice, they pay absolutely no attention to further future generations, that is to the fate of our children and grandchildren, whom we do love otherwise. Isn’t this a really unnatural, schizophrenic situation?
But let’s put aside our nearer or further future for a few moments, and let’s deal with here and now. Climate change delivers already with orders of magnitude more frequent extreme whether phenomena than a century ago. Every 20 minutes we lose one living species from the world – and we never lose just one of our mates: every creature exists in complex systems, every loss strikes an irrecoverable wound on the network, whereas more and more elements will fade away soon. We use tens of thousands of chemicals, while we do not fully know their effects on the environment and on the human health. Some of these chemicals are abandoned at poorly insulated landfills, or are illegally treated, others get incinerated potentially with even worse effects. Our arable lands and forests are disappearing, even in Europe in a single country, Hungary we lose 100 hectares green surface per day as an average.
Whose task is it to estimate these tremendous threats on us and to plan our fight for survival? Our governments? They are overwhelmed with our days’ short-term problems, which are important, but not the only problems a reasonable society should tackle with. Nevertheless they close these problems into the quarantine of environmental ministries or inspectorates, where a couple of committed bureaucrats try to cope with tiny parts of the enormous system of environmental and connected social, economic problems. Should environmental NGOs, think-tanks estimate the threats and plan how to survive them? They usually have the proper attitudes and approaches, but are too small and lack resources to act effectively. They have seldom broken through the perception threshold of our societies so far. Our only hope is if all the interested and concerned organisations and persons form national and international networks. These networks in turn shall develop new institutional solutions and this way further strengthen themselves. The new institutions should be based on a logic that is different from the existing ones: their primary task should be to confront our societies with the facts of environmental disasters and their consequences, and also to organise and empower networks that might be able to help our societies and cultures to survive.
The Hungarian Ombudsman for Future Generations, the New Zealand environmental parliamentary commissioner, the Israeli and the Finnish parliamentary commissions for future generations, the New Jersey chief environmental prosecutor, the Austrian and Canadian regional/national environmental ombudspersons, similar organisations planned in Wales and Malta were, are and will be good examples for such institutional solutions that seem to spread out in the world. Even more important, if they could get a global counterpart, a guardian or high representative for future generations somewhere in the organisational structure of the United Nations, and also in some of the regional administrations, such as the EU.
I am convinced that we shall keep fighting for more such institutional innovations in the name of intergenerational justice and also in the name of our present constitutional values and the basic human sense and interests. Our ancestors were able to live in peace with nature and with their past and future generations. We have to learn it again and to recreate these functions and institutions that serve our survival. This is our only chance – we should not miss it.
Budapest, 9 January 2012
Mr. Sándor Fülöp

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