Reframing the climate challenge
New Year, new group and I'm hoping for some new thinking about the ways in which we can tackle Climate change!
I'm in Cambridge, UK, it's January and yes, it’s a cold! Thankfully it’s also nice and bright - one of my personal favourites. The frost tipped bushes and grasses glisten in the brilliant morning sunshine as I cycle past. To be honest, it’s almost perfect cycling weather, just a little chilly on the fingers and nose.
The venue for today’s meet up is the Entopia building, which was radiating smiles on the faces of everyone as I entered. This was my first visit to the home of CISL (Cambridge Institute of Sustainable Leadership), whilst DressCode has been involved in a previous workshop with the British Antarctic Survey and Chanel, hosted by CISL that event was held at the BAS site. Which reminds me, I should have said that I was ‘Showing my stripes’ with the Climate Code shirt. Which itself was sparking a lot of conversations with people.
The Entopia building has won numerous awards for its sustainability, which reflects the passions of CISL. This is a re-purposed building. Updating the existing structure with ambitious sustainable building materials was part of the CISL brief, something that has since been recognised, including BREEAM (Outstanding), the Passivhauss 'EnerPHit' standard (July 2022), and WELL (Gold) certification.
Back to the event, it was opened with a keynote from Tony Juniper, who delivered an inspiring speech, encouraging us all the reframe the climate narrative, rethink the whole process and reframe the obstacles in front of us into opportunities.
Tony shared some fascinating facts about what is happening on our planet today. Looking back, reflecting on what Tony said, I think that he touched on a really important and difficult part of the work we are all involved with – the negatives and scare stories turn people off. And there’s so many of them! In order to connect with people you need to lift the mood, not lower it and all too often the sense of eco shaming overwhelms people to the point of disconnecting entirely.
Too big to contemplate
Tony wanted to share things that don’t make the news because we simply don’t like to think about the bigger picture, preferring short term, quick fixes and the associated adrenaline rush. This is addictive and it will hurt us. Social media has taken our appetite for a quick fix and amplified it, over and over and over. Social media has its foot firmly on the throttle, accelerating this stuff forward into faster and faster loops to high and low.
Everything is connected
We are living through a period of mass extinction. We are losing plants and animals at unprecedented rates, never within the human history of the planet has there been so many species simply disappearing. Yet we’re not talking about it, or not talking about to the extent that we should given the impact of this for all of us. It is strange, a real head in the sand moment, as everything that we know – the food we eat, all of our products, devices, services and medicines, ALL come from the natural world.
Many areas of the planet have seen an 80% reduction in the levels of local wildlife. We all need nature and nature needs us to help it thrive. It’s a two way relationship. What was once a common sight, simple bird song and pollenators busily gathering their wares amongst the flowers, are becoming increasingly rare sights. Once open spaces are being built on, we appear to not value them until their gone. By then it’s too late, the damage is done. We need to rethink and truly evaluate our interaction with nature, recognise what it gives us. It’s time to show some respect for what we all, humans, animals and plants get from the earth, this is elixir of life.
Turning it upside down
Tony did an excellent job of not dwelling in the gloom, he turned everything on its head to look at and explore the opportunity’s that the ‘gloom and doom’ mysters present.
The world is changing
Tony advocates doing 3 things to change the outlook for humankind, changes that can deliver true sustainability.
1 The narrative
Historically we have been told that we must tolerate the loss of nature as we develop and grow our economies. The reality is that without nature our economies recede and stagnate.
It’s a partnership, we simply cannot have one without the other.
2 Constant process
Nature’s balance and maintenance is also two-way traffic, where all of the stakeholders need to engage and work together – pull in the same direction, rather than the direction that best suits them at the time.
Private business has the influence and capital to drive these processes forward at the pace that we need them to happen, governments and academia are way too slow to react. Ecology is economy and vice versa. Reframing these hurdles as opportunities is central to a sustainable future.
People’s expectations are changing. We are all craving greater transparency about the impact, scale and scope of the products and services we use. How and where raw materials, the things that come out of the earth, and energy that is created making them is sourced and used, including who (the people) making it and under what conditions they are doing it.
There were a series of amazing startup technologies shared during the event. Some astonishing feats of data collection and interpretation from mapping the land use around the world to measuring the impact of daily activities on the planet and plant-based food alternatives for prawns.
There was a great panel discussion and Dr Genevieve Patendaude summed things up perfectly. “This narrative has to be part of our plans”. She went on the explain that academic research is too slow to react to the problems that are occurring at the frequency we see today, the power to act lies with small start-ups using innovative technologies.
Regulation is driving change, this is NOT the solution!
We need passion, desire and love to motivate people, not regulatory force. Switching this narrative around will connect people, creating community and a sense of working together. It’s not an individual’s issue, it’s everybody's, we all have to work on this, all contributing in different ways.
Making proactive, positive choices are the foundations for a journey into a sustainable future. In Dr Patendaude’s words “Sustainability is a central business consideration”. Start-ups have the energy and access to the skills to do this. Big business doesn’t have the experience to draw upon.
How does one truly help the other? It will only be once the concept of collaboration is fully embraced, bringing open support and a collective growth and trust into a new light, a place where the realisation that every action creates a reaction. Reaching this point, this mass acceptance that things cannot continue will be the time that we can begin to realise true sustainability and a different outlook to life.
This was an incredibly inspiring event. It acknowledged that we face something that has never really been acknowledged before, we cannot continue to plunder this planet of resources, if we do, we risk signing our own death certificates, for the planet will live on long after we are all gone.
The future holds infinite possibilities
We need to reframe the landscape as we see it today. Accept the challenges and look at how we can solve them collectively. Some of them will be easier to solve than others, some may appear big and grand, but they are still only pieces in a jigsaw where everyone has a piece of the puzzle. We need to rethink our most important relationship – the one we have with this planet. Once we have accepted that many of the processes of the past, and today, are simply not fit to continue, innovation will happen, we will create new paths and create a wave that will wash across the entire planet. Yes it’s going to take time, but we are building the movement, step by step.