The secret of change

Scientists tell us The Destruction is around the corner. Our politicians refuse to listen, and so does the majority of the population. Its a bizarre and dangerous situation. How are we to change things?

I believe the answer is, in short, by focusing all our energy not on fighting the old fossil fuel industry and its allies in parliaments and media houses, but on building the new. Building renewable energy plants everywhere, big and small. Investing what we have. Time as well as money. Building sustainable houses. Living green, doing our bit, and having fun while we do it, because we share this – and we get together with our neighbours and friends about this.

collage-chimneysmoke-newyea

To set the tone for this blogpost, I invite you to watch this videoclip. Here is some optimism for you – and for 2014:

‘Scream & Shout’ – with lyrics written, performed and sung by employees of the solar company SolarEdge


I started this climatesafety-blog because of a new year’s resolution one year ago – which again was driven by a realisation that as a responsible parent you cannot put three children into this world and then just keep ignoring the escalating climate and carbon emissions crisis.

What’s the problem?, I wondered – how hard can it be? I set out on a journey on the Information Highway with a mission to see if I could figure out what would change the situation – to listen and learn what science and experts thought we should do about this apparently very complicated problem: our collective addiction to fossil fuels. I studied, explored and took notes, and as much as I could I shared my findings on social media as I walked my way through the thick jungle of information about this escalating climate change crisis, and about the growing resistance we are seeing to the old fossil fuel regime.

I can say today, one year later, that I’ve learned that talking about the threats and our moral obligations will probably never get more than just a few percents of the population engaged in this huge challenge. I have been accused of ‘spewing crap’ and ‘propaganda’, and with most of my Facebook-friends either quietly being annoyed with me or directly disconnecting me for disturbing their peace and harmony with one doom-and-gloom post after the other – about what the scientists are actually telling us we have ahead of us unless we very very quickly stop polluting the atmosphere now – new year is a good time to take a break and evaluate, asking: Am I using my energy and my resources in an optimal way? Clearly not.

The basic question, which all the way through this year of 2013, I have been asking myself numerous times – and also have also others asking as well – is: “So how are we to change things?”

Where is that hidden key, that ‘killer app’, that will make the shift to a world which is fossil fuel free?

In the book ‘Way of the Peaceful Warrior’ author Dan Millman let his character Socrates describe a recipe for how most efficiently to create change:

 

“The secret of change is to focus all our energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
‘Socrates’, a character in the book ‘Way of the Peaceful Warrior’ by Dan Millman, 1980

 

Not as an ‘either or’, it is about the focus: how and where we best direct our time and energy.

Someone told me that volunteers in NGOs have a span of three years before they burn out. Which is probably part of the explanation why the movement to create climate change action lost its momentum four years ago after the big ‘Copenhagen Flop’ in 2009 where everyone at the time had hoped the worlds’ leaders would agree to finding a solution to the threatening carbon emissions problem.

Since then, so many wrong decisions have been made at all levels in the political system that ‘fighting the old’ has become a main priority in many environmental organisations – at the expense of spending time and energy on ‘building the new’.

But if anyone thought they could get wide public support to challenging the old fossil fuel industry simply by protesting against the two-trillion-dollar-subsidies which governments on a yearly basis hand over to the fossil fuel industry, or protesting against the massive new fossil fuel projects that democratically elected governments continue to set up, then they have had to realise that they were wrong: The wider public generally has shown absolutely no interest in this “energy battle”, and the support for the “anti-fossil-fuel movement” remains low.

What are we talking about in numbers? Maybe two percent of the population, or so, who are actively taking action on reducing their carbon footprint? A bit more? It is in that level.

Two percent in Australia means half a million people. In Denmark 100,000. Still quite a lot.

But what we are up against, among the many “carbon challenges” the world is being confronted with, is for instance that Australia is planning to invest 100 billion AUS dollars (US$90bn) in the wrong and most dirty, climate-wrecking kind of energy – coal, by far the most polluting of fossil fuels – over the next 15 years, according to Australia’s federal Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics – and this at a time when what the nation really should be doing is investing in renewable energy that will benefit the population economically and environmentally in the long run.

With all its finances and powerful allies in parliaments and media focusing on fighting the fossil fuel dinosaurs and their ‘business as usual’ will remain an exhaustingly long and frustrating battle.

So, ‘Socrates’ is right: The only way to stop the fossil fuel gold rush within just a few years will be to make the coal, oil and gas uninteresting and unsellable simply because better, cleaner and cheaper alternatives are now available, and an increasing part of the population are focused on transitioning over to using those rather than the fossil fuels.


Let the dinosaurs be dinosaurs
Some of us witnessed a similar development in the music industry a decade ago: big, powerful companies were earning fortunes on selling us CDs and didn’t think it should be in any other way. What today has almost killed off all these seemingly almighty “dinosaurs” in the record industry was not that anyone spent time and energy on fighting them or protesting against them, but simply that something new and smarter grew from bottom-up: the digital music, file sharing, and iTunes.

To achieve results and the kind of change which can actually be registered on global PPM-measurements of the CO2-concentration in the atmosphere, it would seem to me as if the world’s climate action campaigners also need to change: Change their focus away from how to overturn the old fossil fuel industry – the dirty and evil ‘empire’ – because it is so clearly destined to fall apart by itself eventually (the ‘peak oil’ scenario), just like the CD-manufacturing industry did. Instead, they should focus on helping ‘building the new’, which initially would mean by creating applications, guidelines, toolboxes, and lead-by-example inspiration of solutions that work.

Evaluating the events of 2013, it appears to me today that what every city needs to do in 2014 is to put together its own local version of an ‘Energy Democracy Toolbox’ that doesn’t reinvent any wheels, but compiles and builds on top of all the existing data, tips and options in the field of energy production and consumption and makes the many individual clean energy choices we have easier to make.



Appealing to morals: no effect
What this means, furthermore, is that we generally should be putting the moral debate back in the drawer – leave behind us that moral climate conversation which quite a few of us have been feeding. Like: talking about “the fossil fuel empire” in a confrontational way (as I just did above) – and the rhetorics about “which side of history are you going to be on?” with moral contemplations over how our irresponsible wrecking the climate is stealing the prosperity from our own offspring. It is wrong. But telling that has so far not impressed the wider public to that point where real action is being taken. Moral arguments do not create that change that we are hoping to see.

There are tons of climate change action videos on youtube.com. I like the general message in a video like this one:

…though I’m personally not sure whether supporting the ‘Ocean Energy Turbine’ – which the video is promoting – is going to be that particular ‘driver’ that will make an end to our fossil fuel and nuclear energy dependency.

What will, however, put an end to that dependency is what individuals are already doing all over the planet: When we begin to put solar on our own roofs, or change over to an electricity provider which offers electricity produced with renewable energy sources, when we buy shares in a local community wind farm, begin to build our own, when we combine it with buying or building an electric vehicle, and so on.

It would be insignificant if only a few people were doing it. But the fact is that we are an increasing amount of people who are ready to do something in this regard, only we still haven’t figured out exactly how to go about it.

So, enter The 2014 Energy Democracy Toolbox which can give this positive bottom-up development an extra kick.

As we focus on efficiency, we must also do our best to avoid ‘reinventing the wheel’. We need to build a useful hands-on ‘toolbox’ which outlines different renewable energy models which are already available or invented really is what we need now.



Time for a “change” music break:

‘Change The Earth’ by Gaiaisi. Published on youtube.com on 8 October 2013.

Busy year ahead
2014 can become a turning point in that regard. The new goals and specific strategies which we can direct our time, energy and money towards are beginning to become more and more obvious. It is going to be a busy year where not just thousands, but millions of individual citizens world-wide will be empowering themselves and saving money on each our own bank accounts in the process, at least in long run.

It is growing to become a non-political, pratical-oriented movement that has many similarities with the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, only this time around, the stakes are much much higher. The new ‘Energy Spring’ is not about national politics, state budgets and questions of who makes the decisions. It is about reaching out for what currently seems as just about the only solution that could possibly save us – and in particular our next generations – from the ugly climate catastrophe that the fossil fuel industry and its allies in the parliaments and media houses doesn’t give a damn about.

What are people thinking?
Considering the very serious warnings from the United Nations and the world’s climate scientists, it truly is such a bizarre time we live in. It seems as if everyone is more or less aware of that a quick and smooth transition away from the fossil fuels and over to renewable energy is the ONLY thing the world needs now if we want to save our children and grandchildren from a catastrophe – this is what science tells us without the slightest doubt any longer. Anyone with an IQ over a certain level has understood this. Yet only very few are reacting on the information and turning it into concrete action.

To observe how people live with being conscious and aware of the need for a transition and even so ignore it, and in politics even try to sabotage that transition, is as absurd and weird as it must have been in the 1930s and 1940s to observe how so many people in Germany were hailing and praising the nazi party. What were people thinking, back then? Did they really all believe in Hitler’s rambling about a “thousand year empire” and that the Jews were the root of all evil? Or did they just keep quiet because it seemed to hard to do anything about it?

So what are people thinking, right now? My experience is that they are thinking something in the direction of: “This issue is too big. My action will have no significance, so why should I bother? Even if our whole nation took serious action, it wouldn’t solve the problem, as long as other nations don’t. And apart from that, that catastrophe they keep talking about is not happening right here right now outside my door. Oh, and by the way, didn’t someone mention that it is still not even certain that the earth is actually warming?”

The fossil fuel ‘empire’ of now sits on much more political power and propaganda resources than Hitler did back then. And it is just as successful with manipulating public opinion, drawing on strategies which very much resemble those of the tobacco industry which over more than 40 years succeed in keeping it as an open question whether smoking caused cancer or not – which, as it is becoming increasingly openly exposed, is why we have that smokescreen of ‘climate denial’ and ‘climate misinformation’ all over the place.

It took over 40 years to win the battle against the cynical and manipulating tobacco industry. We really have no choice but to rely on that “Sokrates’ strategy” will work, because we certainly don’t have that kind of time. We are quickly approaching some worrying climate tipping points, according to the consensus of 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists. Even 100 percent emissions reductions will no longer keep our climate from changing dangerously.

Add to that that a shocking amount of our elected leaders have turned out to have no guilty conscience over betraying their own children, grandchildren and future generations, ignoring the safety and prosperity of the populations they came to power to take responsibility for, blinded as they are by the shortsighted gains that fossil fuels create for them, their friends and media allies.

“Our financial rulers and the politicians who help them are playing a giant game of Monopoly with the world’s finite resources – completely abstract from reality – even though they accept the facts of climate change. And yet, you can’t play Monopoly when everybody’s dead. They imagine they’ll be the last people. They don’t care so long as they win.”
Vivienne Westwood, English designer


A tenth of your city
So here’s my new years resolution – and toast: I propose we enter 2014 with the ‘build-not-fight’-based strategy. That we stop spending more time on discussing the moral issues. Stop focusing on who is lying and making fools of entire populations. Focus now must be on fueling the energy revolution.

It could turn out to be the only strategy that would actually work in order to solve this carbon emissions crisis: setting a goal of getting 10 percent of the city you live in, 10 percent of the individual citizens at ground level, to take concrete action on ‘energy change’ and become ‘builders’ of clean energy solutions.

Why 10 percent? Because scientists have found that when 10 percent of the population are deeply committed to an idea, the idea will always be adapted by the majority of the society. Below 10 percent, there is no visible activity. Above 10 percent, the idea spreads like wildfire.

No society will become environmentally sustainable if it is not economically sustainable as well, it has often been pointed out. Decentralising and privatising society’s energy system can open up for a new, economically sustainable kind of ‘energy democracy’ that will much more quickly make an end to the old “dictatorship” of the fossil fuels than they ever had imagined possible. Like they say at crowdenergy.org: “It is time to get involved”.

Saying nothing and doing nothing is not an option any longer. Your silence is advocacy of this dangerous ‘business-as-usual’ status quo.

There is much to be done.




“Here’s the tale of Ray Anderson, the Goliath head of a billion-dollar international corporation, the world largest manufacturer of industrial carpeting. His carpets were made from non-renewable resources (petroleum) and were non-recyclable – but they met all government regulations. Reading two books, my novel ‘Ishmael’ and Paul Hawken’s ‘The Ecology of Commerce’, made Ray Anderson see that meeting regulations is not enough. He transformed his company: making all his carpeting from renewable resources (no petroleum) and 100% recyclable. Because his competitors had to follow suit to stay competitive, this Goliath didn’t just transform a company, he transformed a global industry.
The lesson?
You don’t have to kill Goliath, you just have to change his mind.”
Daniel Quinn, American writer and author of the famous novel Ishmael



bloomberg-wind-article

“This is the best indicator yet of the bright future for renewables. This guy is widely acknowledged as the world’s most astute investor – millions of people world wide follow his lead. He has obviously ‘sniffed the wind’ about the future of wind power & put his money behind this.”
Anthony Gleeson

Bloomberg – 17 December 2013:
Wind Power Rivals Coal With $1 Billion Order From Buffett
By Ehren Goossens



MOSAIC launches its New Year resolution: “Put solar on it”

Foxbusiness_MarkRuffalo-560

“It is going to be so easy and so cheap that it is going to be stupid not to go solar.”
Mosaic CEO Billy Parish on Fox Business on 31 December 2013, talking about efforts to boost green energy. He was featured together with actor Mark Ruffalo on the Fox Business tv-channel.



Cleantechnica.com – 31 December 2013:
All New Australian Power Plants Will Be Renewable Through 2020





Warm thanks to Monica Winston for the inspiration to this blogpost.



6 comments

  1. Thank you Mik! You are a beacon of light in what seems to be an ever worsening storm. Thank you for your perspective and insights! I too believe that the only way forward is through positive actions.

    I will die trying rather than give up in the face of adversity. Pessimism and conceding defeat before our time is up will not inspire the change we need!

    We ALL have a lot of work to do in 2014!

    PS. Love the Solar Edge video – had me in stitches!

  2. I swerve wildly between admiration for the optimism of posts like this and shaking my head in wonder at the level of denial that I see in them.

    If we were talking about this in the late Eighties then maybe, just maybe, there would be time – assuming we could get the population to stay under 6 billion and decline by natural attrition…

    But all the indicators, from heat to species loss to farmland loss, to ocean acidification to – well name what you will – are going the wrong way and they are accelerating.

    Now we are watching the disrupted jet stream completely disrupting northern seasons and by extension northern agriculture. Methane emissions from the Arctic Sea have gone exponential and we’ve lost 80% of the sea ice in 30 years – that is not a process that’s about to reverse.

    It’s a blessing to me that I don’t have children, because I have no hostages to a future which is impossible for humans to survive in.

    And its a curse that I don’t have children, because I don’t have that mystical thing that I’ve observed happening time and time again when you do, the ability to be optimistic in the teeth of all the evidence…

    1. You hit a nerve there, Jeff. Whatever we are up against, sitting back shaking our heads while saying ‘it is impossible’ and giving up really is an understandable reaction to the situation. It however will NOT help our new young citizens one bit. They deserve better from their parents, I think. They deserve that we show them what is right and what is wrong. As a responsible and loving parent, the only right thing to do now is to find and to cultivate that necessary optimism which leads to action and investment of time and private finances – moving on from the “contemplation phase” to the practical “building real solutions phase”. The time is now.

      1. Hehehe – I seem to make a habit of hitting nerves lately!

        Believe me I haven’t come to this position lightly.

        But when all the indicators are pointing to a 4 degree rise by mid century – an increase that is “incompatible with organised civilisation” – I don’t have the ability to delude myself that anything we can do now is going to make an iota of difference to the outcome…

        I’ve been into building and demonstrating real practical solutions for a decade and a half at least – you can have a look at my sustainable house and garden at http://jerry-coleby-williams.net . Between us Jerry and I – mostly through Jerry’s work on the ABC – have probably reached more people with sustainable solutions to living in the modern world than almost anyone else in Australia…

        I carry a small card in my wallet. It tells people who to contact if I am incapacitated in an emergency. It also makes it clear that I refuse any medical treatment if I am severely brain damaged, likely to be in a permanent vegetative state or left quadriplegic.

        I am at peace with my mortality. I am having a harder time coming to terms with the end of my species, but I’m getting there.

  3. Thanks Mik, a great read and some good insights.
    Everyone probably fights the old system at some point, probably if only to get rid of some pent up anger against the system that is self-destructing, and the hope that maybe, maybe, they will see the light – see what we have seen.

    I just finished reading this similiar article
    http://charleseisenstein.net/2013-hope-or-despair/

    Which makes much the same point – good things are happening, while the train keeps heading over the cliff, and things get worse…

    “The points of light, however, are not merely temporary exceptions to a negative trend, isolated bits of good news. Many of them signify a deep and ongoing tectonic shift in the psychic and ideological foundations of our culture that, while it has yet to substantially manifest in our systems and institutions, portends vast, nearly unimaginable changes in coming decades. That is why, unreasonably, these pinpricks of light inspire such hope within us”.

    Also, I have started on David Holmgren’s ‘Crash in Demand’ essay.
    (Just read even the first page): http://holmgren.com.au/crash-demand/

    I think a very thoughtful essay, and right along my line of thinking over the last couple of years.

    Seems just about everyone is saying the same things.
    A crash in the system just can’t come soon enough.

    1. In a truly horrible ironic twist our current system is just too resilient to crash in time… Especially as the time it needed to crash in order to make any difference to the trajectory that we’re on was probably a decade or so ago…

      Sorry.

      Our species is hardwired for optimism, but all we can effectively do now is palliative care. It’s not a popular viewpoint, it’s not one that most green politicians or NGOs like to hear.

      We are now in the Age of Methane – the Age of Consequences. If there is any valuable activism to be done it’s in readying people for extinction and trying to preserve as much democracy and freedom as we can for as long as we can.

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