Prominent Australians call for a post-pandemic plan to ensure the human future

Media personalities, leading scientists and academics, business and civil society leaders, former politicians and famous artists, including legendary rocker Jimmy Barnes, have signed an open letter urging all Australians to take action in the face of major threats to humanity’s future. 

The letter, from the Commission for the Human Future – an initiative supported by researchers and experts at The Australian National University (ANU) — has been signed by more than 200 prominent people.

Signatories come from all walks of Australian life, and include household personalities like Bob Carr, Stan Grant, Quentin Bryce, Rhonda Burchmore, Cheryl Kernot, Marcia Langton, Peter Doherty, Tim Costello and First Dog on the Moon.

The letter calls “on all governments, industries and people to join together” to develop “a concrete plan for surviving and thriving the mounting dangers that beset humanity”.

“The coronavirus crisis, with its economic and social impacts, can be seen as a dress rehearsal for what awaits us,” the letter reads.

“Unless we take unified preventative action urgently, we will continue to be caught napping by ten catastrophic threats, including destructive changes in climate, serious shortages of water and other critical resources, pervasive pollution, the growing danger of nuclear war and the mass extinction of species.”

Chairman and ANU professor John Hewson said the Commission aimed to kick start a national conversation on the threats humanity faces and how they can be addressed. 

“The list is long and deadly: climate change, nuclear war, water and food shortages and of course pandemics,” Professor Hewson said.

“We are calling on all Australians everywhere to join our call for action. Because we need to act and we need to act now.

“The coronavirus is a dress rehearsal for what awaits us if governments continue to ignore science, the physical world and the demands of several catastrophic threats such as climate change.”

Dr Arnagretta Hunter, a co-signatory and the first ANU Fellow for the Human Future, said Australia and other nations needed to urgently change direction from our current course.

“Otherwise we will face catastrophic challenges that we won’t be able to survive,” Dr Hunter said.

“Once the coronavirus pandemic passes, we cannot go back to the way things were. We must act. We must all come together – citizens, governments, industry – and work on solutions to the global challenges we face, which all have the very real threat of wiping out life as we know it.”

The letter can be signed at https://humanfuture.net/

 

FOR INTERVIEW:
Dr Arnagretta Hunter
Fellow for the Human Future
ANU College of Health and Medicine
M: +61 418 419 414     
E: Arnagretta.Hunter@anu.edu.au  


Professor John Hewson
Chair, Commission for the Human Future
ANU Crawford School of Public Policy
M: +61 412 261 463
E: John.Hewson@anu.edu.au 
 

For media assistance, contact James Giggacher on +61 436 803 488 or at media@anu.edu.au   
 

SELECTED COMMENTS FROM LETTER SIGNATORIES

Varsha Yajman (School coordinator NSW, Australian Climate Coalition; School Strike Leader)

I personally signed the form because I support the Commission’s initiative and believe that in a world where we are being constantly struck by crisis it is important to recognise the intersectional nature of these crises. For instance climate change and health are interlinked in several ways as well as the use of nuclear warfare and climate change and health. I don’t think we should ever go back to normal because “normal” has no recognition of Indigenous rights, “normal” oppressed minorities and does not have the basic human rights that is necessary for a sustainable and just society.

Peter Garrett (Former Environment Minister, lead singer Midnight Oil)

Facts, not convenient fictions, should guide our actions. And the fact is that the multiple risks identified by the Commission for the Human Future sees humanity balanced precariously on a precipice from which a fall would be fatal. That’s why I signed this letter. It is glaringly obvious we need deep systems change now.

Helen Caldicott (Founding President, Physicians for Social Responsibility; 1985 Nobel Peace Prize)

Life on earth is in the intensive care unit and, according to the International Energy Agency, we have only six months to reverse this global warming catastrophe. Hence politicians and fossil fuel corporations are, in effect physicians to a dying planet, save it or lose it!

Ken Henry (Former Secretary Treasury)

Several catastrophic events this year should have given all of us pause for thought.  Most of us have surely found ourselves wondering how different things might have been had we taken more interest in what we have been doing to this planet; had our politics been guided by evidence and reason, not prejudice, class warfare and ideology.  Now is a good time to be saying ‘enough is enough’.

Di Morrissey (Author; newspaper publisher)

Tragic as the coronavirus is, it is giving us an opportunity to reset the clock. We cannot go back to the way we were. Our lives and circumstances are forever changed given the dramatic economic, environmental, emotional and philosophical changes that affect us all.  So we must listen to sense and science and grasp this opportunity to remake our lives and our world. Learn from our mistakes. We can make changes for the better, for generations into the future. This is a rare gift, we must not waste it with greed, politics and pettiness.

John Bell (Actor)

The current pandemic has brought even more sharply into focus challenges facing the 21st century. Among these are the perils of climate change and the subsequent insecurity of food and resources. The elimination of world-wide poverty and universal access to education are key to tackling these issues. We must confront them with imagination, courage, empathy and generosity. All of these are within us.

Keith Tuffley (Managing Director & Vice Chairman, Citi Australia and Ex CEO B Team)

The Anthropocene, this new age in which we all live, provides humanity with some stark choices. We either plan for and invest in a future we all want – one that is sustainable, more prosperous and resilient, and fairer for all – or we wander aimlessly into ongoing destruction of our home, planet Earth. We are the crossroads, and the Commission will enable us to make better informed decisions about our common future, based on scientific evidence. 

Fiona Stanley (Distinguished Research Professor, University of Western Australia; Telethon Kids Institute)

I signed the letter because of our extraordinary response to the pandemic as a nation of individuals.  Before it, decades of the science of climate change and environmental degradation and poor planetary health were ignored in spite of the most damaging bushfires Australians have ever experienced. The pandemic gave us the opportunity to reflect on what was good and bad about our global society before Covid, to test our capacity to handle such a crisis.  It forced us to look globally, to act on the science rapidly and bring in a welfare agenda to prevent people and businesses going in to poverty.  If we continue these characteristics of responding to science, implementing social and sustainable policies for people and the planet, it could revolutionise our futures. Those in power need to realise that the causes of most of the world’s wicked problems have arisen from national obsession with financial bottom lines, wealth creation and neglect of those social, environmental, educational parameters which we need to manage a complex world successfully. A wellbeing budget will win over a strict monetary one every time.

Clover Moore (Lord Mayor of Sydney)

I am pleased to support Dr John Hewson AM and the Commission for the Human Future by signing on to today’s Letter to All Australians. The work of the Commission for the Human Future aligns with the work we are undertaking here at the City of Sydney to build our own resilience and that of all 33 councils across metropolitan Sydney. Since launching our Resilient Sydney strategy in 2018, we have faced every single one of the acute shocks this strategy prepared for, which underpins just how important it is that governments develop concrete plans for addressing climate change, tackling rising inequality, and surviving and thriving in the future.
 

About The Australian National University

ANU is a world-leading university in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Our location points to our unique history, ties to the Australian Government and special standing as a resource for the Australian people.

Our focus on research as an asset, and an approach to education, ensures our graduates are in demand the world-over for their abilities to understand, and apply vision and creativity to addressing complex contemporary challenges.

The Australian National University
East Road, Acton
2601 Canberra