What the World Cup can teach us about saving the planet

Whilst most of my posts are environment related, I think for the next month I will mainly be thinking about football.  I made a conscious decision ten days ago that I was going to allow myself to get excited about the World Cup, obsessively, like when I was a kid.  I had found myself feeling the cynicism of age pressing down on me – England will be hopeless, they are all over paid prima donnas…

But, thankfully, I felt that old, childlike excitement building up.  I found myself unable to think about anything but if Sterling should start or be an impact substitute, is Barkley ready… could this new, young, exciting England team maybe be better than we thought…

Maybe, and maybe not – but either way, how can you not be excited about a World Cup in Brazil – Copa Capabana, capoeira, samba rhythms and samba football.

So I am excited, but I also started to wonder what the World Cup may be able to tell us about saving our environment:

1 – The haves and the have nots

 

The build up to the World Cup has been dominated in many quarters by discussions of public unrest and dissatisfaction in Brazil with the money which has been spent on hosting a football tournament, when so many people living in Brazil face much bigger problems.  It shows the essential interconnectedness of the issues of poverty to the success of anything else you want to achieve.  We have to find a way to allow development of the poorest, whose impact on the planet is least but whose  suffering at the hands of climate change will be the greatest.  The challenge to do more with less, to develop and yet reduce our impact is a big challenge but one in which we must  succeed or face an increasingly divided, dysfunctional society in which achieving any sustainable future could be increasingly challenging.

2 – The power of power to corrupt

In the face of the considerable challenges of a World Cup, or an increasingly stressed environment, real leadership is required.  Sadly the leadership of our World Game seems to paint a depressing picture of the ability of power to corrupt.  Whatever happens with the investigations into the Qatar corruption investigation, there is no doubting that once again we have a picture of faceless suits running an institution driven by commercial self interest, personal power and influence.  It is hard to imagine that those involved in running FIFA didn’t get into football governance through a real passion for the game, a desire to make it better, to protect and enhance the game they loved.  However, the longer they cling to power, the more money and influence becomes involved, the more political priorities complicate and ultimately dominate and the more remote and isolated these people begin to feel from those playing, living and loving the game.

In politics the same challenge remains.  Politicians are faced with personal battles for power, the constant media scrutiny, the desire to pander to a fickle electorate and complex international politics and power struggles.  In the face of all this, can they provide genuine, passionate and innovate environmental leadership – on the evidence of the ‘greenest government ever’, and the struggles of Obama to move forward an environmental agenda in any meaningful way, it appears unlikely.

3 – The desire to believe

You might be wondering, by this stage, why I started by saying that I was excited by the World Cup – it all sounds pretty downbeat, and doesn’t paint positive hopes for my analogue with saving the planet.  However, whilst it is easy to become burdened with cynicism, easy to lose faith – the thing the World Cup never ceases to remind me of is the endless capacity and desire of people to believe.  Particularly speaking as an English man, cynicism is almost embedded in our genes.  We fear the embarrassment of over enthusiasm, of admitting to believing in anything and yet, in spite of ourselves, we can’t help letting belief and enthusiasm seep in.  It takes so little to capture our imagination – we want to believe that our team can surprise us.  We are essentially a happy, hopeful, striving being – and nothing brings that out more than a World Cup, where people congregate from around the World, an explosion of colour, dancing, car horns, belief, disappointment and joy.

So I am allowing myself once more to get excited – I know there will be disappointment and set backs, but without hope we are nothing.  Maybe we will beat Italy today, and maybe, we might just save this planet.

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About domhall

I have spent the last 15 years juggling careers in education publishing, expedition leadership and safety training. It has involved a careful balancing act of dreams of expedition travel, a love of climbing, walking and the outdoors and the the realities of life - and the later has definitely come off worse. I've run an adventure travel and expedition training business and lived in the sometimes sunny Lake District. Having taken a year out to complete an MSc in Environmental Technology I am now working for The Conservation Volunteers, working on engaging communities in their local green spaces.
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