Climate change leadership in practice
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.
© CEMUS and Uppsala University
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?
© Per Espen Stoknes, CEMUS and Uppsala University
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?
© Brian Palmer, CEMUS and Uppsala University
On giving up privilege
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?
© Brian Palmer, CEMUS and Uppsala University
Working with change from the bottom up
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.
Read more in Why I sue the Swedish state on climate grounds by Olivia Linander from 2016.
U P D A T E Aurofallet nu … suing Swedish state
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.
Direct action versus asking the state to act
© Olivia Linander, CEMUS and Uppsala University
Examples and initiatives to be inspired by
MAKE INTO AN EXERCISE TO WRITE AS COMMENTS!
This step lists different examples that can serve as inspiration for working with climate change leadership. Add your own examples (with links if possible) on Uppsala University’s studium page Climate Change Leadership, on Twitter @cclmooc, use the hashtag #cemuscclmooc and on Facebook www.facebook.com/cclmooc.
CEMUS and student-led education
Spaces for Collaboration
Blank Spot Project
Art, music and movies
What Climate Change Sounds Like from Amazon to Arctic
These Paintings Turn Climate Data Into Art
Acclimatize art exhibition
© CEMUS and Uppsala University