Monday, December 17, 2012

The Weed of Change

So here we are. Thirteen of us sitting in a warm room in a very cold Switzerland discussing the world we want and what needs to be done to get there. What is wrong with the world you say? Or do you? We discuss this also. What are the biggest problems? We decide problems is not a good word. Lets call them challenges.

Climate Change

These two stand out in a list of things that take up two flipchart sheets of paper. 

Who are we and where do we come from? We are a group split up from 60 young people chosen by the Club of Rome to come to Switzerland to meet, discuss and find solutions for the world and humanity's role in it.We are part of a growing population the next generation of change agents. This is the hope anyway. 

So we get split up into groups to spit ball a vision of the world we would want and possible avenues to get there. In our group, we represent virtually every continent: Africa, South America, Middle East, North America, Australia, Asia, Europe. We represent a diversity of backgrounds in terms of "career": Politican, Social Justice Activist, Biologist, Global Change Ecologist, Communications Person, Mechanical Engineer, Energy Person, Anthropologist. Would have been nice to have an economist. But never the less here we are. 

Surprisingly, we all come to an agreement that the root of all of our problems is our current value system, and more specifically the economic system. This is the reason why we are in this mess. But we also realise that this is something we cannot change very quickly and that it would take too much time to prevent the looming tipping points to which we are heading. Some of you may or may not know that we have reached seven out of the nine planetary boundaries right now (see a previous post where I allude to this information published in Nature and Science recently).

Okay. So one of the group members comes up with an amazing analogy in terms of what we can do. No, what we must do. To change. Let’s say the world is under attack by a “weed”. Unfortunately, we do not have the means right now to pull the entire plant out – and by the time we figure out how, it will have been too late. We have the possible means of at least cutting the weed to prevent some catastrophic problems our world will face. And this needs to happen now. If the root (the root cause) of our problems is our value system, then the stem is the result of this root. The stem, we discussed, represents things like climate change, poverty, inequality, among others. And to cut the stem would mean fast-tracking some solutions, like renewable energy and agricultural production. We will have to get to the root eventually. If we don’t, we will always only be fixing the symptoms. But never-the-less we need to cut the stem for now. This brings some gentle disagreement within the group. “What’s the point of cutting the stem, and wasting our time, when we need to pull out the entire plant”, one of us says. Others in the group acknowledge this and try and argue that, well, the bottom is that we do need to pull the entire plant. But we really do not have the means right now, or in the near future, to push for an entire global paradigm shift when current value systems are heavily dominated by greed and consumerism. The weed of change we call it. I don’t entirely agree with the name, but its catchy.

So the rest of the week we sit in a room and discuss endlessly how we, as a group, can be part of this change. Both in terms of cutting the weed at the stem, as well as mobilise this value shift. And its hard. And its argumentative. And its passionate. And we come out with a simple plan. Communication. How do we become the communicators…or the connectors…to the Club of Rome. They have this information. How do we go home, use our channels of influence, and become the messengers of this information. How do we package it in a way that incites a critical global human mass to change?

Unfortunately I missed our final presentation because I had to jump on a plane to Equatorial Guinea to assess the country’s vulnerability to climate change and how to come up with interventions which will lead to resilience.

So more reflections on this "change of course" after I have changed gear back to the global picture. 

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