A few days ago, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in Islamabad. It was about climate change and, for a change, there were more female than male speakers. They spoke well and so did many participants, too, having ideas for issues to take up at the big manifestation at the Islamabad Press Club tomorrow afternoon, to create awareness about climate change and needs for local and global actions. Somebody called it ‘climate literacy’, but that is a bit arrogant. I think most people know of the problems related to climate change, global warming, melting of the glaciers, changes in the monsoon patter, water scarcity, draughts, and so on, especially in our Sub-Continent. But few of us know exactly what we can do to stop the dangerous trend of the exploitation of the world. We know we have to remind our politicians and the leaders of the big, capitalist companies, indeed the multinational companies, to use their senses and change.

But what can we do? We can keep creating awareness, sound the alarm. That is what Greta Thunberg (16) is doing; she is the ‘Malala of climate change’, and one of the most impressive young people around. She and her age-mates can get us all to turn around and think. It is Greta and Malala and their generation that seem to understand the problems best. If it is not too late, they will be able to make the required changes – as for climate change and as for the Kashmir issue, the Palestinian-Israel issue, the Middle-East political and human rights issues, and the West’s role in it all, indeed in the rearmament spiral we are in, which is drawing money and action away for the real issues that can make the world more prosperous and equal for all.

A participant at the SDPI seminar said that ‘we need to educate the educated’, because it is the educated, the powerful, those who benefit from too ruthless environmental exploitation, who need to be educated. Most of us know we know we have to change; we know that researchers haven’t told us fake news about the urgency and needs for change; every schoolgirl and schoolboy knows it.

When I sat at the SDPI seminar and was thinking more about issues afterward, I believe we have not been able to teach our political leaders, and certainly not those in the corporate sector, to understand that it is their own interest to change. Here is where they blunder as they slumber; they don’t realize that if they want to get people’s votes, they must listen to people. They have the responsibility to be custodians of their countries and the world, as they have been elected to do. Voters can change and withdraw support, too. And as for the multinationals, the ruthless and the less ruthless, owners and leaders of the big and even smaller capitalist companies, they are also at the mercy of the buyers and the consumers, who can also withdrawn their purchasing power, well, unless they are in a monopoly position and in collusion with too many politicians and civil servants.

People do have the power and the responsibility to ‘vote with their feet’. Then what people do would influence those in power in the public and private sectors. They would change because that would be in their own interest to do so; consumers wouldn’t buy from a company that pollutes and destroys the only world and natural resources we have, locally and globally. The same way, politicians would not be voted back unless they do what the voters want – and the most important thing is for the politicians to control the private sector, and also government-owned companies, investments, and overall policies.

Let me repeat that we should talk more about environmental issues, the fight against global warming and climate change, and all peace and development issues. We must use positive language. If it is right – since it is right – that companies and governments, and people, will gain from making required changes, then it is positive to change. It is a win-win situation for all to do what is right. We shouldn’t talk about the issues as problems, but as possibilities for peaceful development and equality.

Expansion of education in Pakistan, and the spending of at least four percent of GDP on education, as the government aims at, is certainly a win-win action. It costs a bit in the first place, but the benefits are enormous for the people and for the country. It is incomprehensible that invest in education has been too low in the past, yes, in all years since Independence, in spite of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s speeches and the wording in the Constitution about provision of education at the earliest possible time. It is about doing the only thing that is right. It is not a problem to do so; it is a possibility. Certainly, money can be found from within the country and from donor countries. For example, to reduce the military expanses is also positive; it is again not a problem. The fruits from massive improvement of education, basic and further training, will be reaped in a short while, and further development achievements will be made. Every economist and educationalist knows that.

In Europe, there is a lot of talk about the problems of migration. It is not a problem; it is a possibility. It is a energizing for the European countries to receive immigrants from all over the world, people with new and different ideas, other religions and world outlooks, maybe even better cultural traditions and ways of solving problems, and so on. Yes, there will be some challenges to begin with, especially if the attitudes are negative. But very soon, all immigrants, including refugees, are going to help ‘old Europe’ become ‘young Europe’, part of the future and sustainable world, yes, often in leadership. Of course, Europe and my own country Norway will change and never be the same again. But isn’t that positive? And that can be done without throwing over board the many good values, political and social systems, and so on, which have been developed over centuries. Pakistan, too, would gain from receiving more immigrants than it does, not only from the region, but from further away.

I wish we could all see the possibilities, not only the problems around us. Climate change is important to mitigate soon. But climate change gives us possibilities for creating a better world for all – a world which is more equal, just, and peaceful. In Pakistan, part of what we must do is to expand and improve education. In Europe, part of the task is to welcome immigrants. They will help create a better future. To do the opposite is to live in an unreal world; not to see the possibilities in climate change is to hide our heads in the sand.