There is increasing agreement among senior scientists that several problems confronting our planet have now taken the form of existential issues which threaten the survival of many forms of life including humankind.

The special life-nurturing features of our bountiful and beautiful planet which led to the flourishing of millions of life-forms are threatened by man-made (certainly much more man-made than woman-made) factors.

The survival problems range from climate change to nuclear weapons, ocean acidification to robot weapons. About a dozen such problems can be identified easily.

Another critical aspect on which there is increasing agreement of scientists and policy analysts is that the response to resolving these existential problems so far has been extremely inadequate.

When a crumbling building needs the foundations repaired, its irresponsible owners and managers withhold the information from hapless inhabitants who continue with their easy-going life unaware of the life-threatening dangers. Such is the condition of our once benevolent planet which is being pushed greater hazards with each passing day.

The most glaring failures have been at the institutional level – both nationally and internationally. While institutional reform at both these levels is essential for resolving survival issues, recent experiences have been that such reform is unlikely to occur on its own at the institutional level.

Of course, some institutions can prove to be an exception and make a significant contribution. Exceptional persons from a larger number of institutions may also make a significant contribution on their own even now. But on the whole, institutional response cannot be expected, based on recent experience, to be adequate for resolving all or even some of the mutually related survival issues in time.

To be able to fulfill their historic role of resolving survival issues before it is too late, these institutions need to be reformed or changed by a push provided from an outside source and this can only come from people and from movements and organisations of people. Herein lies the important, the critical role of ordinary people in resolving the most urgent survival and existential problems.

This may appear to be a rather distant dream today as at first glance most ordinary people appear to be unaware of the survival issues or are alienated from them.

The situation may be somewhat different in countries with high education levels and higher environmental consciousness but speaking for the world as a whole the sad fact remains that consciousness about most survival issues, their causes and implications, remedial actions needed for resolving them, relationships among survival issues and their links with urgent concerns like justice and democracy is at a low level just now.

However, as the hope for resolving survival issues rests so critically on mobilisation of people this is a challenge that simply must be taken up on a big scale and with deep commitment.

If sustained and sincere efforts in this direction are made these are bound to pick up as with the passage of time the truth about survival issues can almost certainly become the most important rallying point for people and people’s movements.

This process of education and mobilisation will be much more successful and rapid if the solutions needed for survival issues are linked up in hundreds of creative ways with the solutions needed for resolving day-to-day economic and social problems of people.

Ultimately all solutions must be based on the basic principles of justice, equality, peace, environment protection and democracy. To strengthen these guiding principles at all levels, programmes and plans can be prepared which integrate solutions of daily problems of people with the much broader remedial actions needed for resolving global survival issues.

In the process the values and value systems which are most helpful to take forward this task will be discovered. These should be encouraged, their spread and sustainability should be helped in various ways. School and family are the most important places where the beautiful plant of these value systems should take root so that children inculcate values that are most needed to accept the exceptionally difficult challenges of their generation.

Perhaps the most important of these new values will be that of world citizenship, a belief in the equality of all people who on this basis take up the challenge of protecting the earth.

Starting with childhood, this value should be strengthened in youth. In addition, adequate avenues should be found for the creative energies of young people to be channelised along lines that are in keeping with what is needed for resolving survival issues, while also providing fulfilling livelihoods to them.

Such efforts on a large scale, from bottom to top, should provide the creative energy needed for bringing the necessary changes in national and international institutions so that effective action can be taken for resolving survival issues before it is too late.

The writers are freelance journalists who have been involved with several social movements and initiatives.