This is the first in a 7-part essay on the type of policy innovations that would respond to the truth of the environmental predicament and, also, why most environmental professionals ignore such ideas to promote limited and limiting ideas instead. It provides a contrast to current agendas, with the aim of encouraging a global environmental movement as a rights-based political force. This introduction provides context and a #ClimatePlus framework, with the policy proposals coming in the subsequent parts.
As humanity faces catastrophic climate change, we hear calls for ‘systemic change’, or ‘transformation’. However, the familiar policy ideas shared by politicians, business leaders, climatologists and campaigners fail to be systemic. That includes the new announcements coming from governments during COP26, on matters like forest conservation and financing coal. But it also includes many of the bolder ideas from environmental campaigners, as some uncomfortable examples will illustrate… No, banks divesting from fossil fuels is not systemic, because if it works enough to lower the share-price of international oil companies, then competitors, rich families, or sovereign wealth funds from around the world will take them over and keep the oil pumping to supply ongoing demand. That doesn’t mean that banks and pension funds are doing the right thing to invest in oil companies – they are not. But trying to change that is not a systemic aim because it won’t change humanity’s impacts at scale. Neither is calling for governments to stop focusing on GDP growth a systemic idea, if the monetary system that requires their economies to grow in order to achieve economic stability remains enthroned. Condemning the UN processes as failures as a way of calling for multi-stakeholder alliances on climate is not a transformative stance, when it ignores how corporate influence over decades destroyed the potential of those UN processes and will likewise distort the initiatives coming out of any new alliance.
So am I just being defeatist? No – otherwise I would not bother writing this 7-part essay on radical and transformative policy responses to our environmental predicament. There are many systemic policy innovations that could help humanity right now, but you won’t hear them from the professionals engaged in climate policy this month. That is because the professional classes, who are people with time to engage in the policy jamborees, have been schooled within the ideology of our time, which defers to existing power in a global capitalist system. I know because I am one of them. I lied to myself for decades as I tried to encourage significant reform through voluntary corporate sustainability initiatives. What’s worse, we professionals working on public challenges are surrounded by people with an unacknowledged narcissism, where the motivation to feel ethical, smart, and contemporary, trumps any depth of inquiry into what might be going on and might be possible. It is a strange but silver lining of the terrifying climate news that more of us are being forced out of such patterns through a dark night of the soul. It means we can consider again what might work, rather than what has been just easy stuff to tell ourselves – or our professional admirers, clients or donors.Continue reading “This is what a #RealGreenRevolution would include”