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The Age of Paradox and the Richness of Diversity

Marina Silva, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change in Brazil in Dialogue with Walter Link.

Marina Silva, a Brazilian politician who truly strives to make sustainability a reality.

© Renske van GrinsvenGrowing up as a rubber tapper in the Amazon, Marina has walked an inspiring journey to become literate at the age of 16, and later a history professor, Senator, and Minister of Environment. Marina’s childhood in the forest imbued her with a deep respect for nature, and throughout her career Marina has been a strong advocate for environmental protection, a leader for the Green Party in Brazil and subsequently founded Rede Sustentabildade, a party focused on sustainability. Twice already, she has mobilized twenty million votes in Brazilian presidential elections, the most significant win by a Green Party candidate worldwide, and she ran for president for a third time in 2018. Now, she is the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change in Brazil.

Walter Link: You speak about the importance of difference. And, I think one of the big challenges that we have today, not only in Brazil, but in the whole world, is to appreciate the richness of our difference and to benefit from the richness of our difference. But, this richness of difference needs to be held together by the realization of our unit, of our human and natural unity. And, you are creating a movement or you are participating and helping to lead a movement that is very diverse. And, it’s not only diverse in terms of sectors and ideas, but in terms of the internal cultures of how these people function, how they think, how they act. How do you unite these different cultures while benefiting also from their diversity?

Marina Silva: The problem is that in old paradigms we banish paradoxes. But now, we have reached the age of paradoxes. So far, we have united via our similarities. Now we need to unite over our differences. How do we do that? I think that through values, ethical and moral principles, we can create new alliances. We don’t need to agree on everything. But, there are some things we need to agree on at all times in order to be together. We need to agree that long-term resources can’t be sacrificed for short-term profit. We need to agree that poverty is an attack on human dignity, is unacceptable. We can agree that we can’t accumulate wealth while harming life. I’m only mentioning some examples. We need to view democracy as a value. Even if it’s uncomfortable, it’s the best way to solve our problems. At least, that’s how we think in the Western world. So, let’s unite on values.
"We have to learn that there are differences that enrich us in this exchange of multiple joys and at the same time, we are equal as human beings."

Walter Link: You speak about the importance of values to unite this vast diversity, the richness of diversity, brought together through uniting values. But, often values are just words on a piece of paper, a vision statement or they are easily said in conversation. But, when we talk about really changing the world, we need to talk about values that are really lived, that can also withstand a crisis. So how do you find those uniting values which are those? And, also, how do you find them so authentically and strongly that they can actually bring about real change?

Marina Silva: That’s our greatest challenge. Values do exist. Greatest challenge is not to find values but how people collaborate on the basis of shared values, people capable of actually living these values. It doesn’t work to claim values that don’t correspond to how we live. Leaders will increasingly be asked to lead by example. Leadership will have to increasingly become multi-centered. One person can’t be a leader of everything anymore. This kind of leadership doesn’t respond to this reality. We live today in what I call latent democracy, some sort of prospective democracy. Previously, the ones pointing to the potential of democracy were the politicians, corporations and academics. Then, there were the unions, the NGOs. But, today with the Internet, for good or bad, billions of people experiment with new applications for democracy. CAS talks about the idea of the democracy.

© Renske van GrinsvenBut, here’s the great challenge: how does the democracy of individuals avoid an atomization of society? Where we lose social connection and the idea of public interest? because without that there’s no society. So, values are somehow, over thousands of years, co-created. But, we lack people willing to live up to these values. This may sound crazy for a politician but I view politics as a service. I’m not even sure I do politics. I think politics does me. We don’t own our causes. They own us. When the cause owns you, you don’t just say what makes you popular. You don’t just say nor do whatever can bring you more prestige. You do and say whatever is necessary to be said or done. Even if that costs prestige or your life. That happened to Chico Mendes, Gandhi and so many others. I think Mandela is the most eloquent example of what it means to be owned by a cause.
"I’m not even sure I do politics. I think politics does me. We don’t own our causes. They own us."

Walter Link
NOW Partners’ founding CEO. Former co-owner of Euro-Asian industrial group. Co-founder & leader of first sustainable business networks across Europe and the Americas. Advisor and coach to senior leaders in business and other sectors. Passionately committed to co-creating a regenerative economy within a regenerative civilization.

Gesellschaft | Pioniere & Visionen, 15.09.2023

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