The biggest disease faced in the world today is "affluenza", according to Kumi Naidoo, secretary general of Amnesty International.
"People believe happiness and a decent life comes from having more and more and more," the South African-born environmental activist said on Wednesday during a debate in Cape Town at the 3rd Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) Ministerial Conference.
"We need a 'grand super-coalition of decent human beings willing to think out of the box. We must have free and fair economies and gender equality and workers' rights must form part of an inclusive green economy."
Naidoo, who was appointed Amnesty International's secretary general in August 2018, argued that a change in mindset is needed to turn the climate change crisis into one of economic opportunity.
"At how many universities do we see the logo of an environmental company on a building? Big companies are basically 'buying' universities. We need to understand that to do the key factor of education well, we require some rethinking," he said.
"The planet does not need saving. The end results of catastrophic climate change will be that the human race is gone, but the planet will still be here. The struggle is about finding new ways to co-exist with nature for centuries and centuries to come."
In his view, countries and people should not be "enslaved" by tracking gross domestic product as a gauge of success, and should rather look for new ways of thinking to create a mind shift about environmental sustainability.
"Addressing climate change is not working - despite it offering opportunities for business - because people are denying the reality of the seriousness thereof," said Naidoo.
"We should all be freaking out about what scientists are telling us. We need to generate a people's movement to address climate change issues. The way the subject is currently being talked about excludes the majority of people."
He referred to an estimate that every week about four environmental activists are being killed in the world. He wants people to mobilise against this.