Shirine Khoury-Haq's Letter

My dearest girls,

Here’s a story I haven’t had the heart to tell you yet. Did you know that today, out of all the wildlife that existed when I was your age, 69% has disappeared? That means out of every 10 of the wild animals, birds and insects I took for granted as a child, only 3 are left for you to see today.

I have, however, told you that when I was a bit older than you, I lived in a place carved out of the jungle. The bit I didn’t mention was that in the hot, humid, green, beauty that I remember so vividly, 94% of the wildlife has already gone. If you go there when you are the age I was then, it will – sadly – be a very different place.

And what shocks me still is that this happened in my lifetime.

Earlier on, we didn’t know the implications of deforestation, carbon emissions, pollution. We must have known it was a disrespect to our beautiful blue planet, but I don’t think we imagined it might mean the very end of it?

Then we were warned. Some said those who spoke the first words were being alarmist. Others did sit up and take notice. I have to admit that I was somewhere in between but acted on the safe side in case the horror of what we were hearing really was true.

Now it is in your lifetime that we are seeing the truth with our own eyes - fires, flooding, extreme weather and the devastating impact on people and wildlife. People just like us in more vulnerable parts of the world are suffering due to climate change – and the sadness is that, in most cases, they are those who have contributed the least to it.

I’ve tried to explain to you what you are seeing on the news. And while we spend time talking about the importance of our actions and taking care of our planet, what I haven’t been able to say to you out loud is that if we don’t make some changes now, what you see on the news far away – that will be us as well.

So where does that leave us today? We do our bit at home and I try to explain what Co-op, which you love, does to reduce its environmental impact and to improve sustainability for the industry as a whole, including investments in ecologically friendly projects, products and services, and helping those directly impacted by climate change. I think you would love it even more if you knew.

The problem is that while changing course to reduce the impact of climate change is so critical, it can’t be achieved by one household, one organisation, or even one whole country. Every household, every organisation and every country on our beautiful planet has to work together towards common goals.

Every grown-up who has the means to do something must try to give you back the world in which we had the privilege of growing up – and a bright future ahead. In truth, I can’t promise you the job will get done.

The closer you get, the more you understand just how complex the issues are. That’s the case just within one industry, let alone in all industries in the UK, and let alone the world. Agendas and understanding are radically different as are the incentives and willingness to co-operate.

What I can promise is that I will do my very best. And the good news is that there are so many wonderful, and very clever, people involved in this work who know what to do and have the real power to make the necessary changes happen.

I’ll give this letter to you when you are old enough to read through it and really understand it – and then you can let me know how well you think we’ve done.

With all my love,
Mummy xx

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