During week 5, the final week of the course, we’ll hear from people who lead and what drives them, read about a number principles that can guide you in your leadership, look at examples from all over the world, go on a voluntary excursion, write and submit your climate change leadership plan, review a plan, look at next steps and finally wrap up the course with your take home message.
0:07 In 1987, the Brundtland Report, which founded “sustainable development”, with those, came out, and that is about 30 years ago now. And that report stated “the time for action is now!”. That was a big exclamation mark. And we only have, as you said, a few– five to ten years of– window of opportunity. And I see this is a rehashing of the apocalypse or the doomsday story that the environmentalists have– unfortunately, have been deeply addicted to as part of our Christian culture. We have a culture who has had the apocalypse thinking with us for about 1000 to 2000 years. And it’s always been the end of times.
0:54 So it is really a state of mind that does things to us, rather than a point in the calendar. The end times is not a date in the calendar. So I think letting go of that narrative is quite important. At least balancing it with three or four other narratives.
1:19 One narrative is the smart green growth model, where you seek that growth, it’s not just in volume, but it’s more like a tree. A tree keeps growing even if it doesn’t grow taller. It grows more roots. It grows more nuanced interactions with insects, with birds, with– the whole ecosystem gets richer because it keeps growing, and breathing, even though it doesn’t get taller. So growth has many meanings. And we need to explore other ways of growing, rather than having this binary opposition between pro-growth or de-growth. I think that’s a stupid discussion to have.
1:57 The question we want to have is what kind of growth can we have in our societies, just as the tree says what kind of growth– should I have a branch, drop it there, should I have something more this way. And we see that growth becomes a metaphor for development or qualitative change. In addition to that, I think we need a narrative that is more focused on the well-being of people. We should speak more about what actually makes our lives worth living– happiness, joy. And we do know that it’s not more material consumption. So there is no correlation in countries that have about $20,000 purchasing power parity per capita. From there on, it doesn’t really matter.
2:50 And the policy changes moving from promoting growth to promoting well-being of people. And there’s of course the equity aspect of that as well. The third type of story we need is one that looks at what is humanity’s role relative to religion, to nature, to ethics. We had a culture that has been looking at domination as the main narrative for about 1000 to 2000 years. Shifting that from domination to stewardship, what does it mean? What does it mean to include future generations in our considerations today? The voice of the unborn, how do we make them audible, visible, in our decision making? And this is a whole greening of religion, a whole greening of ethics that’s currently ongoing and very important.
3:40 I think that the Pope’s– oh, what’s the right word– encyclical was very conducive to this. And finally, I also love the new narrative in terms of rewilding, that nature and ecosystems have an amazing resiliency. If we give them the slightest chance, they will bounce back and the wild animals come back, and the rivers come back to life, and the fish come back, and the trees, and the forests, and the soil can re-grow and both humans and nature benefit when we collaborate rather than humans destructing it. How can we move towards a wise rewilding. And many people find that incredibly motivating. So these are four stories that would replace the apocalyptic one that environmentalists have been overusing.
4:33 It’s green growth is smart, it’s happiness is more important than material consumption, it’s the stewardship story and rewilding. And of course, they hit different audiences, but they are not mutually exclusive. So rather than one story replacing that one dominant modern apocalypse story, we have several different stories that reach different audiences, different segments of the population, both the religious, the socially minded, the economists and the entrepreneurs and the most hardcore nature lovers.
How can we overcome barriers to climate change engagement?
In the short video above, Per Espen Stoknes suggests four new stories to replace the “apocalyptic” grand narrative. These new narratives are supposed to help overcome barriers to engagement with climate change by making it more personal and appealing.
Stoknes’ suggested narratives include:
Smart green growth
Wellbeing and happiness is more important than consumption
A move from domination over nature to stewardship, particularly in religious discourse
Re-wilding and the collaboration between humans and the rest of nature
What narratives have you told or been told about climate change?
Which of Stoknes’s narratives are relevant to your particular context and how could you use them to improve your communication strategy?
What are other forms or ways of communication do you think are helpful or effective in engaging people in individual or collective change?
0:07 I’m going to talk about civic courage, civic courage, the willingness to take risks for persons outside one’s own family and circle of friends or to defend a common value, such as planetary survival. I think for example, of Malala Yousafzai in the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan. It was the winter of 2009 and Taliban extremists were bombing schools for girls in Swat. In London, BBC producers felt that a blog written by a schoolgirl in Swat would have the power of Anne Frank’s diary. They looked around for someone willing to write about what was happening. And only the 11-year-old Malala was ready to do so.
1:06 She gradually felt safer, spoke out with her own name, until one day in 2012, she was going home from school on the bus, when two armed militants stopped the bus, found her. One of them shot her in the head and neck, and she was six months in hospitals before she was OK again. And some of you may remember those days when there was a wave of love and support for Malala all over the world, people holding prayer vigils, raising money for her care, almost a million people recommending her for the Nobel Peace Prize on the web. And she was on the cover of Newsweek, Malala, the bravest girl in the world. Twice on the cover of Time magazine.
2:02 And it’s interesting how we react to people who are ready to risk their lives for a common ideal. Already in 1902, the psychologist William James pondered these reactions and wrote that, when we meet someone who has risked her life for a stranger, we take her to be our born superior, so great is our respect. And William James felt that we feel this way because such individuals have, in some sense, touched life’s deepest mystery, they have received the answer to the riddle of the Sphinx. And James doesn’t write exactly what that answer is. But I get the feeling that it’s similar to something that a leader of farm workers, Cesar Chavez, spoke about at the start of a fast.
3:02 He said, I quote, to be human, to be human is to suffer for others. May God help us to be human. Another person who has awoken such strong feelings is Sophie Scholl, who grew up in the same town in Germany as Albert Einstein, who was part of Adolf Hitler’s youth organisation in the ’30s. Started studies at the University of Munich in 1942 in philosophy and biology. She and her brother had a great student life there. But they gradually learned more and more of what their country, Hitler’s Germany, was doing in 1942. And decided that they had to offer resistance. They began making pamphlets against the Nazi regime, that they distributed in great secrecy.
4:01 But one day, Sophie and her brother were putting out piles of the sixth pamphlet in the university building. They thought they were alone in the corridors, but a guard saw them, caught them, took them to the rector and to Hitler’s police, the Gestapo. Sophie, 21 years old and Hans, 25 were beheaded. A decade ago, there was an opinion study in Germany, asking Germans between the ages of 18 and 40 who was the greatest German of all times. And the results came, the greatest German of all times was Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans, ahead of Bach, Beethoven, and Albert Einstein.
4:58 So there we see again the power of civic courage to awaken great love, in this case, the love of these siblings’ future compatriots. And I witnessed that too in my classes, where my students and I have invited in courageous guests who we interview. One of the guests was Amy Goodman. She described how, as a journalist, she witnessed and tried to stop a massacre in East Timor. She was almost killed. And in the classroom, there were a couple dozen students who wanted to talk more with Amy after the interview. And many of them had different forms of the same question, where do I sign up? Can I go with you next time you’re going to do such a reportage?
5:56 I don’t need to get paid, I just want to learn to become as strong and bold a woman as you are. And at that moment, I understood that courage can be almost as contagious as fear. So courage has this enormous power. It creates moral authority. It makes the people who we respect more than any others, the ones we are ready to join with us in social movements, the Rosa Parks, the Nelson Mandela, the Mahatma Gandhi. And it also attracts imitation, it’s contagious, it brings other people along. And we see that in many different kinds of climate struggles. Someone like Julia Butterfly Hill in northern California, where age old redwoods were about to be cut down by a timber company.
7:06 And she climbed one of them and stayed in the tree for almost two years, with other activists sending up food and supplies to her, making it impossible for the timber company to get to that part of the forest. And in doing so, she brought in many other people to the movement and won their respect. Or all the people who spent time in prison after acts of civil disobedience all over the world on a whole host of climate issues. Or we can think of people like one of the new professors here at Uppsala University who refuses ever to fly on airplanes, because he realises the extreme damage that that does.
8:03 That’s difficult for him and his family, it’s a hindrance to his career, but it also wins a very great respect, generates moral authority. People realise that he is someone who is willing to suffer for his vision of what is important. And I think that that’s what we’re left with, that the people we most respect, as Susan Sontag once pointed out, the people we most respect are those who are willing to suffer for their truths, or as the writer Jonathan Kozol once put it, nothing worthwhile in life ever comes for free.
In this video Brian Palmer, social anthropologist and scholar of religion, gives examples of civic courage and highlights its importance in the current times and in relation to climate change.
Civic courage is the willingness to take risks for persons outside one’s own family and circle of friends or to defend a common value such as planetary survival.
He introduces Malala Yousafzai from Northern Pakistan who was writing a blog for the BBC about the situation in the Swat valley before getting shot in the head in 2012 by militants. She survived and became known as ‘the bravest girl in the world’ – and was awarded the Nobel prize as the youngest-ever laureate.
He relates her courage to something Cesar Chevez, a leader of farm workers, once said at the start of a fast
To be human is to suffer for others. May god help us to be human.
He then introduces Sophie Scholl, who was part of Hitler’s youth organisation in the 1930’s, then studied in 1942 in Munich and offered resistance against the nazi regime by producing pamphlets that her, her brother and some friends were distributing in the university. One night they got caught by a guard which ultimately let to her and her brother, 22 and 25 years old respectively, being beheaded. She was recently voted as the greatest German of all times by the German people.
So there we see again the power of civic courage to awaken great love, in this case, the love of these siblings’ future compatriots.
Amy Goodman then, a journalist, came to visit one of Brian Palmer’s classes one day and was interviewed by the students. She tried to stop a massacre in East Timor and almost got killed. Still, many students showed a keen interest in following her on her next journey. Brian says,
And at that moment, I understood that courage can be almost as contagious as fear. So courage has this enormous power. It creates moral authority. It makes the people who we respect more than any others, the ones we are ready to join with us in social movements, the Rosa Parks, the Nelson Mandela, the Mahatma Gandhi. And it also attracts imitation, it’s contagious, it brings other people along. And we see that in many different kinds of climate struggles.
He then also mentions Julia Butterfly Hill, an activist, and a new professor at Uppsala University that doesn’t fly – this is Kevin Anderson, who you have met earlier in this course.
Do you think civic courage is important in regards to climate change leadership? Why? Do you know of any other examples?
0:06 One of the privileges of privilege is that you can give it up. And when you walk away from comfort and other privileges, that act can astonish and nourish the world. I think of Marla Ruzicka. Born in a small town in northern California, she was so charming as a child that on a flight from San Francisco to New York, she persuaded the pilots to let her and her brother ride in the cockpit. As she grew up, she became concerned about international affairs. And when the American War in Afghanistan started, Marla travelled to the region concerned about the innocent victims of American bombing– the people who were collateral damage.
1:11 In Kabul, she used her extraordinary skills of building trust with others to host parties that brought together expatriates and locals, earning herself the nickname the “love bomb”. And through her network, she was able to do an informal census of the deaths of innocent civilians. She would often go door to door with a translator talking to people to find who had lost family members to the American bombings. Then came the American invasion of Iraq. Marla travelled to Baghdad. At a time when most humanitarian workers had left the city, Marla stayed.
2:03 She travelled around without an armoured SUV or bodyguards with simply her Iraqi translator trying to document the lives of innocent victims of bombing and to arrange medical care for children whenever she could. After two years of this, she was becoming burned out, exhausted. Her friends persuaded her to leave Iraq and go to New York City. On arrival, the billionaire George Soros gave her a job at his Open Society Institute and arranged an apartment for Marla in the East Village. Hollywood producers contacted her, wanting to make a movie about her life.
2:55 You might think that nothing could be better for a 28-year-old than to be the protégé of a billionaire living in a cool neighbourhood of New York and courted by a Hollywood.
3:09 But Marla was thinking about her friends back in Iraq, who couldn’t leave the way she did, who didn’t have that privilege of picking up and leaving. And she realised that they still needed her help, her solidarity. She decided to leave New York and return to Baghdad. One day, she and her interpreter were driving on the notorious Airport Road when a suicide bomber pulled up next to their car and detonated himself. Her interpreter was killed instantly. Marla’s body caught fire. A soldier nearby heard her last words. “I am alive”, she screamed.
4:04 For me, it is people like Marla who are willing to leave privilege and safety to continue with something that they feel is more important than anything else in the world. It is people like this who remind me in our world of violence and indifference to other people’s suffering that it is still possible for our human species to shine so magnificently.
4:45 It is not only a question of risking one’s life that one can give up privilege and comfort in less dangerous ways. I think of a professor of English at Harvard University, Elaine Scarry, who loves nothing more than to read poetry and tend to her flower garden. But Elaine Scarry has pressed herself also to write books about torture and about nuclear war, because she feels that these issues must be addressed, that we have to confront the horrors of our own historical moment. In her book about nuclear war, she argues that nuclear annihilation is an even more likely path of extinction for humanity than climate changes.
5:53 And this too– turning away from the subject that she most loves to try to contribute to the struggles for a world that can survive– this too involves a sacrifice. But Elaine says that what comes with this work is the feeling of being truly alive, a feeling that I know that Marla also had in her days of labour and struggle.
6:35 It reminds me of what the psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott once wrote – I want to be alive when I die.
In this video Brian Palmer puts a twist on the concept of privilege.
One of the privileges of privilege is that you can give it up. And when you walk away from comfort and other privileges, that act can astonish and nourish the world.
He talks about Marla Ruzicka, an American woman, who traveled to Afghanistan when the war there began, because she had become concerned about the civilians that were killed through American bombings. Through building an extensive network she managed to do an informal census on the number of people killed.
When the war in Iraq began she went there two for two years, continuing her humanitarian work until she began to feel burnt out and went back to New York city, where she was offered a job, an apartment and was approached by movie producers that wanted to turn her life into a movie. At this point, when the easiest option would have been to stay, Martha returned to Iraq, because she knew that the people there still needed her help and solidarity.
When she and her interpreter were killed on the airport road by a suicide bomber, a witness reported that her last words where “I’m alive”.
For me, it is people like Marla who are willing to leave privilege and safety to continue with something that they feel is more important than anything else in the world. It is people like this who remind me in our world of violence and indifference to other people’s suffering that it is still possible for our human species to shine so magnificently.
But Brian Palmer also says that giving up privilege doesn’t always mean risking one’s own life. He speaks about Elaine Scarry, a Harvard professor, that writes books about torture and nuclear war, because she believes that the horrors of our time need to be addressed – even though she would much prefer reading poetry and tending her flower garden.
And this too– turning away from the subject that she most loves to try to contribute to the struggles for a world that can survive– this too involves a sacrifice. […] What comes with this work is the feeling of being truly alive […]. It reminds me of what the psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott once wrote – I want to be alive when I die.
Do you agree with Palmer’s view on privilege? How do you relate to privilege – and how do you think it manifests in a climate change context?
0:14 Yeah. It’s a really good question, because we need a diversity of tactics when trying to work towards climate justice. And I guess the reason I work the way I do it is that I realised that I as a person am more than just a consumer. I’m also a citizen who has the power to influence and shape society. And so what speaks to me about being involved in a grassroots movement is that I get to collaborate with other people and join in with a lot of people with other strengths than myself to build power as people– so working with people power.
0:55 Rather than just going into the corridors of those in political power and try and lobby them there, we try and build a movement showing what it is that we demand. And to me, this is just– it’s a very strategic way of working, because I really believe in people power, and I think that those who most people maybe regard as those with most influence wouldn’t have much influence if we didn’t allow them to have it.
1:31 My experience of working with theory of change is based on the organisation that I’ve been working with for over three years, which is 350.org, an organisation where we work to build grassroots power – people power – across the world for climate justice. And this is a tool to make sure that you know which strategy and which tactics will be the best suited to reach the goals that you have. And I think just as a person who is trying to work as a grassroots and doing activism or campaigning, it’s really important to have a look at your strategy, determine what is your vision, what is your long-term goal, and what are the milestones to reaching that goal.
2:29 I’ve learned a lot by doing. And that’s how I got involved from the start. I just felt like, OK, the politicians did this terrible climate decision, and what can I do about it? I started Facebook events and did campaigns with my friends to try and get a lot of people to email certain politicians and those kinds of things and just trying things out. But since I started getting involved, I’ve also been going to activist conference and participated in actions and gone to trainings. And so I’ve learned also a lot about social movements and about movement-building.
3:05 And I think that that’s really key to becoming successful with your group that is working to build people power or to change something from your group, is to really get trained and to learn about the history of social movements and what makes for success and what makes for actual change.
3:26 I think one of the main things that I was finding troubling in the start of my trying to get involved as a citizen was how many times I would meet people who didn’t agree with me and who would be like, oh no, you should think this way instead, or you haven’t considered this particular way of thinking, and maybe it actually makes more financial sense to do it this way, and actually you guys aren’t just right. And so that really got me down and lowered my energy a lot. And I often felt like, oh, we can never win this.
4:02 But then when having when having studied social movements and how it’s worked before in different fights – so the right for women to vote or the civil rights movement just different movements and victories that have happened when it comes to changing society – you see that these people and these activists, they won their case without having everyone on their side. And even from when they started their fight, maybe there were even more people who were against them than when they started, but they had even more people who were with them.
4:36 So what I’m learning through looking at a tool that we use that’s called spectrum of allies, where you divide society into sections of who is an active ally in our cause, who is a passive ally, who is neutral about it, who is a passive opponent– so someone who doesn’t agree with you but doesn’t do anything about it– and someone who is an active opponent. That’s one way of dividing it. And you can see that the way it can work and the way that I’ve chosen to work is to make sure that the passive allies, they become active allies, so you strengthen your base of people working for the cause. And the neutrals, they become passive allies.
5:19 But you don’t have to focus so much on the active opponents, because they’re never going to join your cause anyway. It’s pretty unlikely, and it just drains you of energy.
5:36 I’m convinced that we don’t just need a transition away from fossil fuels into renewables. We need to transition from the way that society functions right now on fossil fuels to a completely different way of society functioning. So we can’t just go from exploiting different parts of the world for fossil fuels to instead exploit other parts of the world for renewables, because renewable energy also comes with a cost.
6:05 And so it’s much more about making sure that there’s a just transition away from fossil fuels and making sure that the people who are impacted both by the consequences of climate change, but also by the consequences of the societal transition from fossil fuels– there will be people affected by that as well – to make sure that they are deeply involved in how we develop the solutions. And I think connected to that is that many of us view ourselves as mainly consumers in society and as participants in society but not as the change-makers and the citizens who are active in developing society.
6:51 And I would really urge people to really rethink about what role they could play and how much leadership they could take on, because we can really join together and make big changes, like learning just from history and how so many of the human rights that we have today, and just the weekend and the right to holidays that all of us are really enjoying right now have been won by people joining together and building people power.
7:22 And the institutions who have now made those rights into legal laws, they wouldn’t say, yeah, this is something that we took in as a law because they pressured us, like there were tens of thousands of people who went on strike and there were all these people who were making us make this decision. They’re not going to say that. They’re writing history in a way where it won’t seem like people had the power to do that. They were the good ones from the beginning, and they just made those laws because they are good people. That wasn’t the case. The case was that something else was mainstream from the beginning. The people made something new mainstream, and then the lawmakers changed.
8:07 So it’s really up to us to make society different from the society that we were born into. And I think that’s the main thing that I would try and get out there.
In Olivia Linanders’ video she talks about why she decided to work with grassroots movements, how she understands the concept of theory of change and important lessons that she has learnt through her work. In the text below you can read why, with her own words, she decided to be part of suing the Swedish state for their inadequate actions against climate change and for selling a government owned lignite coal mine in Germany.
Direct democracy is when the decisions of a government (such as laws and budgets), community, organisation or group are decided by citizens or members. This is unlike representative democracy, when the person elected makes decisions on behalf of the the electorate. Direct democracy is a form of distributed leadership, where everyone is engaged in decision-making.
Often cited examples of direct democracy are the autonomous Kurdish regions of Rojava and Bakur. Communities organise in a model known as “Democratic Confederalism.” In principle, decisions are made at the community level, and regional structures are answerable to localities. Production is organised in cooperatives.
Other forms of participatory democracy can take the form of citizens assemblies, where a demographically representative group of citizens discuss a particular issue to advise a parliament, or participatory budgets, where all city residents have a say in how money is spent. Organisations such as Digidem lab work on developing tools and digital platforms for these kinds of civic engagement. Famously, Extinction Rebellion campaign for a citizens assembly for the climate crisis. More on this – video
A form of direct democracy uses consensus decision making –
Consensus Decision Making
In consensus decision making, the goal is to come to an agreement which everyone in the group has consented to. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is happy, but they have allowed the decision to be make and are comfortable with the group acting on it. This is in contrast to voting, where there will be some people who have voted against a decision and therefore have had to bend to the will of the majority. Consensus is popular in grassroots community and activist groups because it should allow everyone’s voice to be heard.
One way to gauge consensus is to do a “temperature check,” where members of a group signal whether they agree or disagree with a proposal. If people disagree, the facilitator might ask them why, and the group will consider each person’s points. An amendment to the proposal may be made, and the group may take another temperature check on this. In this way, consensus is normally reached. Occasionally, there is a proposal which someone considers so bad that it would become difficult for them to remain in the group if it passed. In this case, the dissenter might veto the proposal, and it would not pass even if it was otherwise popular. There are variants of this structure which you can read about here. Often activist groups use hand signals, for which you can find a guide here.
In consensus decision making it is important to have a skilled facilitator. This role is a form of temporary leadership, which is generally adopted by a volunteer for one meeting and then rotates to someone else the next time. The facilitator manages who should speak based on when they raise their hand, whether they have a direct point or are changing the subject, and whether they have spoken before. They keep the conversation on topic and may initiate decisions or summarise other participants’ points into proposals. They may also keep track of time and initiate breaks or future meetings. This person is not a boss or a teacher: a key skill of a good facilitator is the ability to listen to others and stay relatively neutral. They may stay quiet as much as possible, and pass on the role to someone else if they have a lot to share on a particular subject.
In Emergent Strategy (2017), adrienne marie brown writes:
One of the primary principles of emergent strategy is trusting the people. The flip of Lao Tzu’s wisdom is: if you trust the people, they become trustworthy. Trust is a seed that grows with attention and space. The facilitator can be a gardener, or the sun, the water.
Often, facilitators seem to do the opposite of this. We sit with the organizers of a gathering and try to figure out ahead of time every single necessary conversation we want to see happen, and then create an agenda that imposes our priorities, or the organizers’ priorities, on the people who we have invited to gather, ostensibly because we care about what they think, or about what they are doing.
Then, a few hours or days into the gathering, we are harried and desperate because the people have realized what we are up to, or simply aren’t feeling heard, and/or we have missed something crucial that is at the center of the gathering. There emerges a sense of facilitators and participants working against each other, instead of everyone working in collaboration to meet the goals.