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Green Or Gone

Greta's Right, Our World Leaders Still Don't Get It

From climate change and migration, to tobacco deaths and exploitative business practices, governments and multilateral bodies are systematically failing to act.

Greta Thunberg in New York on Sept. 23
Greta Thunberg in New York on Sept. 23
Pedro Viveros


BOGOTÁ — Every day more people go vegetarian. The carnivores among us look around to see if anyone else is ordering meat. Car drivers feel guilty as bicycles ride past. A family draws curious glances for having more than two kids. And smoking is now something that's better done behind closed doors.

These extraordinary changes are happening so fast that some have yet to settle before new trends emerge. As such, parliaments interrupt legislative bills under study or tweak sections as ideas transmute before new challenges. In Colombia (and many other countries), we're still trying to solve the social and economic controversies around ride-service platforms like Uber, while in the meantime, five other new developments arise demanding answers too.

It's always easier to say "no" than "yes."

The Canadian psychologist Steven Pinker says the world had never seen fewer conflicts than it does today. More people are dying from weight problems; fewer are being killed in wars. But this new "human tranquility" is creating other problems, like increased pressures on borders. Humanity has never had as many walls as it does now — walls that separate nations.

Is ours a jailed civilization? We all become suspects the moment we overstep set limits. It is a daily experience for millions and rising exponentially, while our "lawmakers' move in another direction.

Smoke and mirrors — Photo: Rist Art

To be fair, the contemporary custom of legislators going in the opposite direction from society's needs is not particular to Colombia. It happens everywhere. The few who do shift norms do so with a negative mindset rather than consider positive solutions to our societal shifts. After all, it's always easier to say "no" than "yes." Think Brexit, or Colombia's 2016 peace plebiscite.

What we need though are answers to the desires of a constantly changing society. Migrants, the poor in all their varieties, the jobless, the millions upon millions of smokers: All deserve a statute giving affirmative answers to their needs.

The efforts of multilateral organizations to set themselves medium and long-term targets are praiseworthy, but the world today hardly seems focused on goals for the next millennium, or even on five-year plans. The new actors in national and global public policies (read: Greta Thunberg) instead want bodies to listen — and listen good — and to find practical responses to immediate breakdowns.

Is ours a jailed civilization?

The UN, which was set up to prevent a third world war and began its annual assembly on Sept. 23, doesn't seem designed to make positive proposals to resolve problems like smoking, for example, because to do so, it would need to deal with the people who know the most about it: the tobacco firms. Failure to listen to them has led to the rise and mass circulation of e-cigarettes that are having enormous consequences on many people.

The Organization of American States, for its part, is ill-prepared to decide on migrants, especially in Latin America, if it will not firmly defend the expatriated. And if the World Health Organization were in tune with our time, it would turn its efforts to helping those affected by the unlimited costs of medicines and work to establish fair prices worldwide, and thus save lives.

When the law changes, societies change. Are our institutions designed to give positive answers to all the new Gretas?

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

That Man In Mariupol: Is Putin Using A Body Double To Avoid Public Appearances?

Putin really is meeting with Xi in Moscow — we know that. But there are credible experts saying that the person who showed up in Mariupol the day before was someone else — the latest report that the Russian president uses a doppelganger for meetings and appearances.

screen grab of Putin in a dark down jacket

During the visit to Mariupol, the Presidential office only released screen grabs of a video

Russian President Press Office/TASS via ZUMA
Anna Akage

Have no doubt, the Vladimir Putin we’re seeing alongside Xi Jinping this week is the real Vladimir Putin. But it’s a question that is being asked after a range of credible experts have accused the Russian president of sending a body double for a high-profile visit this past weekend in the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

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Reports and conspiracy theories have circulated in the past about the Russian leader using a stand-in because of health or security issues. But the reaction to the Kremlin leader's trip to Mariupol is the first time that multiple credible sources — including those who’ve spent time with him in the past — have cast doubt on the identity of the man who showed up in the southeastern Ukrainian city that Russia took over last spring after a months-long siege.

Russian opposition politician Gennady Gudkov is among those who confidently claim that a Putin look-alike, or rather one of his look-alikes, was in the Ukrainian city.

"Now that there is a war going on, I don't rule out the possibility that someone strongly resembling or disguised as Putin is playing his role," Gudkov said.

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