Social turning points: windows of opportunity to save the planet

Caty Arévalo, a journalist specialising in environmental news, co-founder of EFEverde and winner of the BBVA foundation award for conservation of biodiversity in 2017, used the event "Windows of Opportunity to Save the Planet" to outline the concept of social turning points: changes with a big multiplier effect able to bring about large-scale transformations and make a major contribution to solving environmental problems.

"Action to combat environmental problems has been delayed so much that only coordinated changes in the right direction can bring about a transformation. Social changes are not linear; changes with a tremendous multiplier effect can come about, spread and foster transformational action able to resolve the climate crisis.  The future of the planet may depend more on these social turning points than on big speeches."

The seven turning points on which the most consensus has been reached in the scientific community are, according to Caty Arévalo, the following:

  1. Energy: Basically, the idea is to end public support for fossil fuels, encourage self-consumption of solar energy and promote renewable energies.
  2. Carbon-neutral cities: While electric mobility and the use of bicycles are important, special emphasis is placed on the importance of developing non-polluting building materials in the future.
  3. Divestment from fossil fuels: Capital and investment funds need to understand the importance of investing in planet-friendly projects.
  4. Social contagion: This is a key point, as it means the ability of a small minority to pass on their attitudes and movements to a large minority.
  5. Education: Educating new generations and the general public to spread new habits.
  6. Disseminating environmental information: Knowledge of the consequences of human activity for the environment.
  7. Food: Fostering a fall in meat consumption and food waste and favouring local foodstuffs.

Not all the changes need to come about at once, the journalist explained, and each of these points may involve different drivers of change, from educators to governments, and including the public, associations and so on.

Regarding the promotion of these changes, with particular reference to environmental taxation, she explained that what is considered beneficial can be encouraged, while penalising what we do not want to keep up in the future. In the case of companies, however, this concerns users, she went on: those who have it in their power to make the way things are produced change.

"I am optimistic. I have been covering environmental news for 20 years and I have never seen so many possibilities for change. The key is for environmental movements to unite, for us to start to change our behaviour, and for this to have a viral effect and make certain sectors align themselves on the right side of history," she added.