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107: Breaking Boundaries, Post Growth & The Future We Choose

This week, a live recording of our event “Breaking Boundaries, Post Growth & The Future We Choose” with special guests Johan Rockström and Tim Jackson.

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About this episode

This week, a live recording of our event “Breaking Boundaries, Post Growth & The Future We Choose” with special guests Johan Rockström and Tim Jackson.

A little bit about our guests:

Johan Rockström is the Director of Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research & Author of Breaking Boundaries, which is both a book and a powerful Netflix documentary.

Tim Jackson is the Director of The Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity at the University of Surrey and has recently issued his latest book, Post Growth.

Join us for a sobering, gripping, and stubbornly optimistic conversation about the most decisive decade in human history. How can we change the stories we tell ourselves, to engage, inspire and empower people toward climate action?

Hit play and listen in!

Book Links:

To take meaningful steps to protect what you love from the worst damages of climate change, and to join the Guiness World Record attempt this month, check out the Count Us In Campaign, and decide if we can count you in!

Christiana, Johan and Tim have all been honoured as Hillary Laureates. Tap in to learn more about the work of the Hillary Institute.


Full Transcript

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to this week's special edition of Outrage and Optimism. I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac. Today, Breaking Boundaries, Post Growth and The Future We Choose. We bring you a special conversation with Johan Rockstrom and Tim Jackson. Thanks for being here.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:00:37] So today, we have a different kind of discussion on this podcast. Our regular listeners will know that Paul, Christiana, and myself self-identify as stubborn optimists. And that's what today is all about. We know that you, our listeners, are frustrated like us, that the world has dithered for so long in taking the needed climate action to protect our future and prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Being a stubborn optimist, it's about grit and determination to do what we can, not despite the challenges, but because of them. We're fueled by an acceptance and a realization that the alternative, destruction, is simply not an option that we are willing to resign ourselves to. So if you need inspiration and the tools to do what you can with a gentle heart and a determined mind, we hope this discussion will help. We're talking today with world-renowned scientist, friend of this podcast, Johan Rockstrom, and Tim Jackson, economist, author, and playwright. Today's episode is from a live session that we held at the beginning of this week. We hear what is still in our grasp, what we can do not only to build back better, as we now hear from the politicians but also to build forward. To build a better world where humanity can thrive with the planet. We call this episode Breaking Boundaries, Post Growth and The Future We Choose. Each of these is a sentiment but also happens to be the title of a book written by one of us on this episode. For more reading and more ways to get involved, check out the Show Notes for links. As ever, for the full climate news of the week and momentum towards achieving a decarbonized world. Please also check out our newsletter Signals Amidst the Noise, which you can find on globaloptimism.com. Here's the show. I hope you enjoy it. It's a great discussion. See you next week.

Christiana Figueres: [00:02:30] Hello, everyone, and welcome to this Outrage and Optimism live event. A conversation among the authors of three books, Breaking Boundaries, Post Growth, and The Future We Choose. I'm Christiana Figueres.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:02:44] I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac.

Paul Dickinson: [00:02:45] And I'm Paul Dickinson.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:02:47] We are so excited to have you here today. We're very sorry that we can't be in the same room and do a live event. IRL, as the kids say. But this is as good as we can do today. And we're thrilled to have you with us for the next hour. We're going to have an amazing conversation with two brilliant guests who are joining Paul, Christiana and myself. First, Johan Rockstrom will be known to many listeners of Outrage and Optimism, a previous guest, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and author of Breaking Boundaries, which is now, of course, also a brilliant Netflix documentary. And if you've listened to the podcast, you will know that it's Christiana's number one desire in life to have you watch this because it is brilliant and you shouldn't miss it. And secondly, Tim Jackson, director of the Center for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity at the University of Surrey, recently issued his latest book, Post Growth. He's also a playwright. We're thrilled to have you both with us. Thank you both so much for joining us

Tim Jackson: [00:03:38] A pleasure to be here. 

Johan Rockstrom: [00:03:41] Wonderful to be with you.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:03:41] Wonderful. Well, as you know and as listeners probably know, this podcast, Outrage and Optimism exists because we believe both of these principles are necessary to get us through the transformation that is coming at us right now. We need a deep, determined, gritty, realistic, stubborn optimism to face the challenges that are coming at us that are very real, that we need to meet that with an optimistic determination. Interestingly, this week in The New York Times, there was a fantastic article that said that Joe Biden is being successful because he's exhibiting stubborn optimism. We know where they got that phrase from, were thrilled to see it entering the lexicon. But also we need the outrage. There's a lot that should be happening. And those who've seen Johan's film will really understand more than most just how important that outrage is. We have, of course, entered the most decisive decade in human history. And we will know by the end of this decade, really whether we're going to be able to turn this around and have anything like a livable future or if we will begin to lose control of the climatic system with all of the devastating impacts that will hold for ourselves, for our descendants and for the rest of life on Earth. Mr. Paul.

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Paul Dickinson: [00:04:46] Well, thank you, Tom and Christiana. I'm just going to say a little bit more about our distinguished guests who are essentially our heroines, heroes. Johan joined us actually in January on Outrage and Optimism with a pretty sobering view of our planetary systems, according to science. And he pointed out that there is a sliver of hope that we have in our hands. But, yes, just the endless plugging for the Breaking Boundaries documentary, which you have to watch, as Christiana says, with somebody much younger than yourself, narrated by Sir David Attenborough and also Johan's book of the same title. This is the instrument panel for Earth Systems. And, you know, coming from a medical family, we're not well. Now, Tim is an economist, but also a kind of renaissance human, author, accomplished playwright, which you can tell when you read this fantastic book, spent more than three decades exploring the moral, economic, and social dimensions of prosperity on a finite planet. In his latest book, Post Growth, Tim considers a new way of measuring success and sets out a vision of a future economy that recognizes humanity's and nature's well-being. A beautiful coming together, in my view, of many different stories and disciplines, truly holistic wisdom.

Paul Dickinson: [00:05:58] And last but not least, Christiana and Tom's book, The Future We Choose. The Stubborn Optimists Guide to How to Be US President. No, sorry. The Stubborn Optimists Guide to the Climate Crisis. It's a Sunday Times bestseller, now available in multiple languages across the world. They keep arriving these evermore exotic languages. Tom and Christiana propose a vision of a thriving, bustling future and offer steps we can all take to achieve that vision, but only if we all take action and do so now. In this decisive decade, the future we choose is a guidebook for climate activism and active participation. Christiana.

Christiana Figueres: [00:06:31] Yeah, thanks, Paul. I must say how delighted that we are that you have all joined us today. Many of you are here because you are Outraged and Optimism listeners and many of you are here because your company, where you work, is taking part in our Count Us In campaign. So let me just say one word about the Count Us In campaign. We're actually striving to get into the Guinness World Record, and that would require that only, only one hundred and forty thousand and one people commit to taking one climate action between now and 17th of July. So if you could please help us out and help the planet out and help yourselves out, get on to count-us-in.org, let me say that again, count-us-in.org, and take one of the 16 steps that are very easy to understand. All of them important, all of them meaningful for us each to start reducing our personal carbon footprint.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:07:41] Or more, don't feel you have to be restricted to one. More is fine as well.

Christiana Figueres: [00:07:45] Yeah, more is fine. Definitely. Definitely. So please do accompany us in this effort between now and mid-July. And I don't think anyone needs an incentive to actually contribute to global solutions. But if you do, every person that takes part will get a climate hero world record holder badge for your LinkedIn profile. Right, so let's start the conversation sort of, where are we now? And what is at stake? From both in ecosystems as well as from an economics global economy perspective. Johan, I'd first like to invite you, and I know that since your documentary has out, you have summarized the message of that documentary probably a thousand and forty times. But I must say, and I told you that I watched that documentary now four times every time with tears streaming down my face because it is so sobering and it is such a well-done film where the science that is behind all of your research has been brought to life visually so, so wonderfully. So I would invite you to summarize the documentary for us. But sort of in the context, Johan, of how what I think your message at the bottom is, that we have extracted way too much from our mother planet and that it is time for us to shift from extraction to regeneration of all of the ecosystems that surround us. What is your summary of this documentary?

Johan Rockstrom: [00:09:39] Thanks, Christiana. So, the way I start basically every lecture and I've been doing so over the past five years is with this slide. You've seen it so many times, welcoming humanity to the Anthropocene, that we have now become our own geological epoch, we're the main driver of change at the planetary scale. That's the entry point of Breaking Boundaries. But what really triggered that whole documentary and the book is that we are not really in the Anthropocene. We enter the Anthropocene in the 1950s. It was the takeoff point. It was the takeoff point when our linear exploitation, overuse of everything that stabilizes the planet went into exponential uncontrolled growth and all the hockey sticks took off and now we're 70 years into the Anthropocene and we're no longer in the Anthropocene, we're deep, deep into the Anthropocene and we're approaching a tipping point. So we reach what would we call in the Breaking Boundaries, the saturation point. And, you know, I have almost been in tears as you just during the production of the film, because we started off in 2019 trying to map the Anthropocene, all the tipping points. What is at stake and what does it mean to define a safe operating space within planetary boundaries. And during that course, we learn that the Amazon has tipped over from sink to source, the world's richest biome. During the production, we learned the numbers. Two-thirds of average populations of wildlife have been lost since we entered the Anthropocene over just the last 70 years. And as you may have seen just two weeks ago, the latest findings show that the Arctic is probably now irreversibly on a journey towards summer free-ice conditions.

Johan Rockstrom: [00:11:32] And that is, as we know, a tipping element that regulates the state of the whole planet. So the real message of Breaking Boundaries is, you know, I mean, your tears in seeing the film in a way satisfies me slightly, if I may say so because we entered this to say: this is like an action movie. It's a documentary with all the action items. You know how an action movie is. It starts with the threat. It's a big, big drama. And then at the last second, the hero steps on and transitions ourselves. And just, just by the little flicker of hope, we resurface and out we go towards the horizon where the sun sets and beauty, you know, engulfs us again. And that's Breaking Boundaries. And we're really trying to share this new story of how a sustainable transition at the last, last moment we have entered, as Tom said, the decisive decade for humanity's future. Now we have our last moment of turnaround. We can do it. We must do it. And the outcome will, we have all the evidence today that it will give us a better outcome in terms of many of the items that my grand hero, Tim Jackson, has been documenting in the Post Growth book, namely on equity, on justice, on sharing the wealth of natural capital within a finite planet. So that's in a nutshell what we're trying to accomplish here. Give a scientific story of the transition.

Christiana Figueres: [00:13:03] And Tim, you come in with your newest book, Post Growth, in a very complimentary way to Johan. Johan presents us with the limits, the boundaries of, the natural boundaries. And you present us with an interesting concept, which is that limits are actually important ingredients to human prosperity. And you are telling us actually our addiction to ever-increasing GDP is destroying the planet. But also, which is what Johan tells us, but also destroying humanity, destroying the soul of who we are. And you propose that we use that understanding to change our consumerism habits over to something that is much more soulful. Perhaps, my word, not yours, but I'm wondering, do you see those parallels between your book and Johan book?

Tim Jackson: [00:14:09] Yes, absolutely. I mean, you know, Johan's work and the work that he's led over decades has always been, for me, a sort of absolutely essential accompaniment to the way that I have been thinking about the economy. And as soon as you recognize any sense of limits at the planetary level, and you have to question it, seems to me, you just have to question the idea that we can have limitless economic growth because that's an expansion of activities within a finite place. And it's very interesting to me now to see that, you know, some of the pioneers of that expansion are the ones who see that more clearly sometimes than the politicians do. So, you know, it's not an accident that Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are the ones who are pioneering space exploration, you know, because they kind of think out there, there's another planet that's better than Earth or at least somewhere that someone can run to when everything goes bad here. And of course, it's completely nuts. You know, look after this planet first and think about all of the problems that we need to solve on this planet first. And they are ecological problems for sure, but they're also deeply human problems, their social problems, their problems of social inequality, you know, an economic system and a society that goes on trying to persuade everyone that the answer to happiness is to have more and more, to accumulate more and more, to be richer and more comfortable.

Tim Jackson: [00:15:30] And, you know, to clutter up our lives with more and more possessions is a mistake. It's a fundamental and tragic mistake that we should have been trashing the planet for a vision of humanity that is so profoundly wrong. And that idea of a soulful vision of who we are, I think is a very informative one. It's one that pushes us to think, actually, what does human fulfillment mean? What does it mean to live a richer life? What does it mean to have good, strong relationships? What does prosperity mean on a finite planet? And that's the point, I think, at which, you know, the wisdom that there are limits to the planet begins to become our guide to what a better life for human beings is. And we begin to see that past those limits is not a world of restraint and difficulty for everyone, but actually, a richer, more fulfilling place to be. And that's the land that I guess I wanted in Post Growth, in particular, to sketch inspired by the kind of work that Johan led for so many years.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:16:39] Tim, can I just jump in there, because that's so interesting to hear you talk about that sort of deeply human vision of our role in the world and who we are as humans and when Christiana and I wrote The Future We Choose, we did it in part because we sort of felt like what's going to make the difference in this decisive decade is to a certain degree due to how we show up now as human beings and how we understand our role at this pivotal moment in human history. And it's understandable that many people are facing this moment with trepidation and fear and anxiety. And we see a proliferation of that around the world, particularly amongst young people, because we've told ourselves this story about the future, around our role in it and how it needs to be. And now that's beginning to shake, both from an economic security perspective and also from a future of the planet perspective. And we need to sort of craft new stories that contextualize and understand our place in the world in order to make that make sense. And I'm curious, as a playwright, how do you think that's going? And what have you learned in terms of both being an economist, and talking about the future of economics, and also being a playwright, and being able to craft narratives and stories? What have you learned and what sort of fires people up and helps them question their role in a manner that makes them feel empowered and not afraid of this? Because it's both, right. This future is both absolutely terrifying because of the consequences. It's also the most exciting time to be alive and a lot of that determines, because of the impact we can have on the future. And it's kind of up to us to help people take a choice at this moment that creates the future that we want.

Tim Jackson: [00:18:13] I think for me as a playwright, it's always been about human story and about connection and about relationship and about understanding actually that our lives have a sort of emotional substrate. And so actually, you know, Johan's film Breaking Boundaries is doing an enormously important job in allowing Christiana to cry, even if it's four times over because, actually, that is how we relate to each other. We relate to each other through emotion, and we relate to the natural world also at our best, at our richest and most relational, through those kinds of emotions, through joy, through sorrow, through empathy. The things that connect us to others are in fact, that's the core of what it means to be a human being and to relate to the world as a human being. And story for me as a playwright is one of the ways in which that connection works, but that visual imagery, beautiful films, those beautiful images of nature. A nature that is under threat and poetry and music and dance and actually the arts in general, it seems to me their job is to provide us with that means to understand ourselves in the context of this story that we were all part of, and to do that in a way that inspires and does not dominate. And for all of the richness and importance of documentary science, that can sometimes create an oppressive space. So what you guys are doing here on Outrage and Optimism, what Johan is doing in the film. And what I've tried to do in Post Growth is to create this other space, a space that we can all live in, that we can connect to, and that we can then learn for ourselves actually where these relationships are, where they matter, and how we can transform them.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:20:04] I love that. And I'd like to come to Johan in just a minute to ask you, Johan, you've often said that facts and evidence don't persuade people in the way that they might do. And you found other ways around that. But I want to go off script a little bit and ask Christiana a question. Christiana, what Tim just said about how we construct those emotional narratives to try to change the world reminds me a lot of what you did when you were Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC to change people's understanding of the negotiations. And actually, and you said this to me before, that was as much an emotional journey and a sort of vision and shared perspective journey as it was concerned with the technical negotiations. Can you just unpack that? I think it ties really well to what Tim just said.

Christiana Figueres: [00:20:47] Yeah, I was listening to Tim going, yeah, yeah, been there, been there. And it just comes down to something very simple and very powerful, which is whatever occupies our mind eventually becomes reality. And that's simply said difficultly, if that is an adverb, but it is now, difficultly exercised, but so powerful. So, so powerful, because if you walk into any challenge, whatever that is. Reversing now, for example, the planetary destruction that we have brought or reversing consumerism or moving beyond consumerism, or getting a global agreement, whatever the challenge is, if we walk in there thinking that the threat is so great that we can do nothing about it, it just paralyzes us with fear. Whereas if we use that optimism that we talked about in the beginning, which is not naive, but rather is a very gritty, and it's a choice, it's a daily choice that we make, to ensure that we understand the limits, to use Tim's words, or the boundaries to use Johan's words. But it's the same thing. Use them not as a killing threat, but rather as the mountain to climb, as the challenge that we are capable of actually climbing and conquering, and it is that change in mindset that allows us to really determine what the next steps are going to be. And so that's what I think is so fascinating about these two books from Tim and from Johan. That they look at limits, they look at boundaries, but they don't see those, whether it is boundary of extraction of resources and consumerism or whether it's boundaries of the ecosystems, they don't see that as the end game, as the final outcome of human existence in human experience. They see both of those as a powerful transformational force that can take us to a higher level of humanity, a higher level of human experience, a higher level of our relationship with nature. And that's the transformational piece that I think is so exciting. But it's not going to happen just by happenstance. It happens because we choose to put ourselves in that space.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:23:54] I love that. OK, fantastic. Thank you, Christiana, for being willing to go down there. And so Johan I'll just come back to you before I know Paul wants to come in with some questions as well. I mean, I'm so fascinated. Scientists often struggle to kind of get their message across and make it land, head, heart and soul just because, by their very nature, scientists need to approach the world in a sort of specific way. But you are a real exception to that. I mean, you're a master communicator. You've proved that over the years. And now with this Breaking Boundaries film that I know you, based on your work you were closely involved in, I mean, I share Christiana's perspective. There are certain moments in that that just pierced me. And there's this moment where there's a coral scientist who talks about looking at the bleaching events as he flies over the Great Barrier Reef. And you just see this moment of what it's doing to him as he recognizes the natural world. These moments are so powerful because they bring this sort of very human element of sorrow into what's going on. But you're also able to turn it back to a grit and a determination. I'd love to hear you talk about that. I mean, you said in the past that we're often hopeless at using facts and evidence to actually change things. We need to use narrative and story. Could you sort of unpack how you see that and how you've been able to communicate these things that help people to understand them in a new way?

Johan Rockstrom: [00:25:06] Let me start by basically doing a bit of a testimony here in public at this occasion, which is that, you know, you should be very well aware that as a scientist, and we're seeing this, I see this among my colleagues everywhere in the world now. We are rising up on our own evidence. This is not a comfortable moment, this is not something we're used to do. We're not comfortable in doing it. It's not something that I had come up with in any way. It is, in truth, that we're getting nervous based on the evidence we're seeing. And, you know, we have to be self-critical. We generally show evidence that the economy that Tim been working on and societies, in general, have been kicking the can down the road for decades, just postponing action, always neglecting, always marginalizing. But in all honesty, we in the academic community have indirectly contributed to that ourselves. We have always come up with the evidence, but been nervous about creating fear or outrage for that matter, and been careful how we communicate. We've always had to be very secure within our uncertainty ranges, and we've always pushed the can down the road that, yes, we still have 50 years or 30 years or 40 years.

Johan Rockstrom: [00:26:30] We have a long time for this transition. And then suddenly we come to this point that, oh, my God, we've run out of time. It's finished. You know, 2020 is the last moment that the over hundred IPCC climate scenarios, all of them banned in 2020 last year. Have we bent the curve? No, we haven't. So, you know, stepping in to join forces. I mean, when you say Professor Terry Hughes, the world's most prominent coral reef scientist from James Cook University in Queensland, falling in tears when he shares the data, what's happened with the fact that 50 percent of the world's richest marine ecosystem is dead, is gone, is irreversibly lost because of our actions, when, in one generation, it's us, it's on our watch that this is happening. It was when I was born and we are alive today. You know, I can tell you, Tom, that this is a kind of a scientific uprising on the evidence we're standing on, and we need help on this, because it's really kind of a, you know, it's almost like a scientific therapy journey of trying to reach out, in all honesty, because we have to be transparent and we have to act.

Johan Rockstrom: [00:27:46] And that's why I must also say really, honestly, Christiana, you're one of the most inspirational bridges to science, because you make the really important point that don't hesitate, because outrage and adrenaline can help us. It doesn't suffocate us. And that's the point I've taken. I mean, and I see more and more in among us, I'm saying in the earth science community that I know so well that we're now kind of moving out of our comfort zone because we need to reach out with a diagnostic of the patient so that we can have a cure and the cure is still possible. But it's so slim and that's why we are in this state. So, Tom. Yeah, you know, I devote a lot of time on science communication. I can assure you what makes me happiest in life is to get my peer-reviewed manuscripts published. That's what I'm measured against. That's what I love. I love work. I spent the whole morning today with my PhD students and it really enriches me, and I know Tim loves that as well. But we have to, you know, hold hands and move in this transformation together.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:28:54] It reminds me a little bit of going on a climate march and seeing someone with a sign saying: "Things are so bad even as introverts are out here" So I think it's a kind of inspiring message.

Johan Rockstrom: [00:29:03] That's us.

Paul Dickinson: [00:29:07] I want to compliment you on the size of the Netflix University. That's a real big one. Look, this is actually a question for all the authors on this call. For Tom and Christiana, for Tim and for Johan. And my challenge is, whoever speaks first, can the next one try and build on it? What do we got here? We've got Johan representing the kind of, shocking truth of the situation the world finds itself in. We've got Tim looking holistically at how our economic system is sort of designed to damage itself. And we have Tom and Christiana, experts in the international system. I entreat you to please describe the narrative you see that these truths that we hold to be self-evident, turn into a political force over the next five to 10 years, a new one because I think that's kind of what we need. And whoever goes first, I want each one to build.

Christiana Figueres: [00:30:03] Suicide is not an option, is my summary. Suicide is not an option, and if we close our eyes, which is walk down the plank of suicide, we have to open our eyes very, very wide and take the action that is possible. But that's the exciting thing. Right? So Johan has told us it's very, very slim chance. But it's there. It's there. And if we don't wake up and walk down a very different path, then we lose that last opportunity that we have. So I just think it's incredibly exciting, incredibly exciting that we are alive right now, that we have all the information that we have the impetus, that we can do this. Suicide is not an option.

Paul Dickinson: [00:30:48] Okay. Cristiana passes the ball to...

Tim Jackson: [00:30:50] I think I can pick up on that. I really like that. I really like that. One of the things that capitalism really tries to do to us and, it needs to do this because it needs us to go on being good consumers, is to turn away from suffering. And I think what Christiana was saying there is actually we have to turn towards it. We have to open our eyes to it. We have to be there in a compassionate sense with that suffering and that suffering, we shouldn't be in any doubt about this at all, is happening everywhere. It's happening in the natural world. It's happening in the poorest parts of society. And you could also argue, even, that it's happening in the richest parts of society because we're undermining what it means to be human. Does my prosperity really mean anything if it only relies or can be delivered on the back of misery elsewhere? That does not seem to me anything other than a kind of psychological suffering. And so that sense of being able to face up to that and to move that forward, I think is a really important one. And one of the characters in the book in Post Growth, actually, is the Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. And, you know, one of the wisdoms that Buddhism brings. And it's a fascinating wisdom because it kind of starts in a similar place to capitalism does that everything is suffering. Capitalism kind of goes on from that point, say, well, as long as I win in the struggle, as long as I come out and I'm not the one suffering, it doesn't really matter to me.

Tim Jackson: [00:32:16] What Buddhism says and what Thich Nhat Hanh says is that is not a position that leads to anything other than more suffering. But if you turn towards it, if you face it, if you begin to understand it, then you have a way in which you can travel forwards. That is a way to begin to understand the world. And through that way, you begin to develop a kind of power in the world in Thich Nhat Hanh's narrative which gives you the ability to know where you're going, even if you don't know where you're going to end up. And that's the one thing I think I would say in relation to our sense of this outrage. Outrage is good. Despair is disabling. Outrage is the place from which we can take action and which we know where we're going. And that, I think, for all of the difficulty, for all of the seventy years into the Anthropocene that we are in, we are at this point in time where we are and we can only go forward from here. And that ability to take action and to stay on the path that actually leads us towards a true and better future is available to everyone. And it's not something that doesn't care if you're a man or a woman or what the color of your skin is or how rich or poor you are. Actually, that ability actually to turn toward suffering and through compassion, to step forwards along a path of change is all we need.

Paul Dickinson: [00:33:36] So Johan, is direct action required? Sorry, Johan, go for it

Johan Rockstrom: [00:33:40] No, just to continue on Christiana and Tim's point. I think there are two elements that I would like to add into the mix here. One is on the level of outrage. I mean if you look at the Fighters for Future and all the youth movements, they have this double whammy of frustration. I mean, frustration number one, we are putting all future generations livelihoods at risk. We're at risk of handing over to our kids a planet not only in worse shape, but a planet that may be irreversibly drifting away towards, you know, ultimately, potentially very difficult conditions for life on Earth. But the second frustration is, of course, that we have the solutions. And not only do we have the solutions, we know with more and more evidence that if we apply those solutions, we succeed, we win. We are more prosperous, we're healthier, we're more peaceful. We get a better outcome for humanity. So there's a double frustration here that how on earth can we not move when we're facing potentially catastrophic risks and we have the solutions and if we apply them, we win. That is the double frustration. And I think that must be out there. Everyone must become so angry. And to say: "this is unacceptable, it's simply unacceptable". I mean, if it at least had been so that we had no clue on how to resolve this. But we have the solutions and it even connects to the whole justice and equity dimension, because we know that if we can share the finite space, we're probably going to have a better outcome even on justice.

Johan Rockstrom: [00:35:21] But then the second element to me, which is what keeps me afloat today, is what just has happened the last five years. Where the whole sustainability agenda has shifted over from being the story of environmentalism and sacrifice to now being increasingly proven to be the path for success in both economic terms and social terms, in business and cities and nations. And that opens up the opportunity to scale this because that would suggest that I can be assured that us on this call, the three hundred and ninety-three connected, are really aware, engaged, committed, and we're kind of onboard. We're this marginal part of humanity that really are willing to take the big steps, but the vast majority are not there and the vast majority will not be there over this decisive decade. So we need to get everyone on board even though they are not fully aware and onto our story. How do we succeed with that. Well we can succeed if the journey is more, let's say, palatable and easier and just attractive for sheer basic logic. And I think we're very close to that point. So that to me is one part of this story. I don't know if you agree to that, Tim, from your analysis, but I think that's almost like the last hope we have. That is a sustainability journey that everyone joins, based on indifference, basically. They don't even recognize that they do it, but they do it because it's a smart choice.

Tim Jackson: [00:36:51] I do agree with that. I don't agree that it's the last choice we have. I think in a way, I'm a little bit skeptical about giving people deadlines because I do think that the future and the journey of humanity is not a straight or linear one, it never has been. And therefore, we must expect some sense of non-linearity. We must expect some kind of tipping point. But it does seem to me that what this challenge and this tipping point is bringing home to us with absolute clarity is that there's a better way of being human than the one that we've encoded into the economy and into our society and even sometimes into our views of whether the environment matters. So that indifference that you talk about and I absolutely share your frustrations with it, it seems to be that's a manufactured indifference. It's a set of people who actually are being led astray, who are being gaslighted by a system that is not in our own best interests. And actually, our job to some extent is to hold true to that vision of what it might mean to be truly and fully human. And that's where I absolutely agree with you, that that's actually a richer, more fulfilling, happier, more satisfying, and more successful place to be. The outcome of acting on climate change and on biodiversity loss is to make us richer.

Christiana Figueres: [00:38:13] Well, and it's so much more enticing when Johan, when you were talking about the majority of people who are not as, let's say, aware or committed. Sharon Johnson, she calls it the movable middle. And it's a very, very large, movable middle. So you could either be upset that it's the middle or you can actually focus on the movable and say, right, wonderful. It is a movable middle. Because there are so many people who do know that there's something wrong. There is something wrong going on here at the very basic level of awareness. And if that something going wrong can then be moved quickly through the doom and gloom because we have to march ourselves through. I totally agree there with Tim. We can't give our backs to it. We have to be able to face it squarely, the doom and gloom, the science facts, and move ourselves through that into much more so. The doom and gloom to me is the push side of this dynamic. And if we can move ourselves through the push over to the pull, which is what Tim has talked about, a better human experience, a better human action. Level of action on this planet, then it is actually much more enticing. Who doesn't want to be a better human? Who doesn't want to have a better planet for generations to come? It's just an incredible incentive. We just have to realize that that is out there, that we have to walk through that dark tunnel. There's no other way but that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we have to walk toward that light and put everything that we have to really be able to shine that light.

Johan Rockstrom: [00:40:13] Can I just put some numbers on and Christina's light for the moment? Because a person who Tim and I work very closely with actually, Tony Lisa Roberts, at Yale University, provides the numbers which, really I think gives hope for that light because that indifferent middle, that kind of movable middle, has this quite, quite interesting.

Christiana Figueres: [00:40:34] Yeah, let's call them movable, not indifferent, Johan.

Johan Rockstrom: [00:40:40] No, that's right Let's just explore the movable middle for a few seconds. Year after year, global opinion polls show that roughly 60 to 70 percent of citizens in the US, in European nations, in China, in India, in Thailand, across the whole world, are really, deeply concerned about climate change. They trust climate science and they want climate action. So there you have it. You have a majority support. We have them behind us. But still, they vote differently in the political polls. They have their own day-to-day concerns with their families, their kids, their health and environmental questions come as one item along many priorities. But there are two-thirds, even in the US, standing behind. They are there ready to go. So, of course, you can move them if you just have an attractor and the attractor must be exactly what we talked about, sustainability as a more successful outcome. So I think there is even statistics to support that this is not utopia.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:41:45] I'm partly reminded of one of my favorite stories from Abraham Lincoln, where he was trying to get the amendment passed that would abolish slavery. And he was grappling with one of his liberal senators who didn't want to pass the amendment because it was not giving enough rights to what would become the newly emancipated former slaves. And he said, well, I can't sign that because I know what true north is. I know where I'm supposed to go and this isn't it. And the way Lincoln talked to him, as he said, well, you may know where True North is, but you need to combine that with a map. If you go straight true north, you may hit a river, you may hit a mountain range. You need both the compass to show you where True North is and also the map to find your way so that you can go around the obstacles in front of you. What I take from this conversation is there are multiple different elements of the political landscape that need to move. That will be some who are aware that capitalism is making them miserable. And an honest reflection on how the future can be different is a relief. There will be others who actually need to see that this future can provide more benefits for them and their families. And the nice thing about this is we don't have to pick one, this changes the whole political landscape that we're operating in, which is partly why I feel optimistic about what we're facing now. Paul, do you have any more questions before we go?

Paul Dickinson: [00:43:02] I'm just going to add to everything you just said. It's really questions for Tim, Johan and Cristiana. On top of that, to what degree is inequality a part of the problem that we're facing? To what degree are we lacking a kind of restraint? And to what degree do you think we may be able to frame some of this about the challenge of achieving equality? Because we know, for example, that the covid survival rates have been much better in countries with less inequality.

Christiana Figueres: [00:43:26] Tim, you're the local expert on that one.

Tim Jackson: [00:43:29] Well, it's huge. I mean, to me, it's one of the most abject failings to lay at the feet of capitalism, that it's presided over such extraordinary inequality. And it's even structurally embedded that inequality into its system. And it's done it in ways which have been tragic in a sense because it's those who have been most poorly treated who turned out to be the most important people during the last year, the carers, the cleaners, those who provided for us, the people on the lowest wages in society who had been neglected by capitalism, which have been so busy pursuing the mantra of more and protecting the interests of the owners of capital, that it forgot to look after doctors and nurses, the people that we absolutely needed, the people who saved our lives and that sits structurally in the heart of capitalism. And if you think about the recovery out of that, it's actually one of the things that I find most striking, is the footprint of the greenest sector with the lowest carbon footprint and sometimes also the least footprint, in terms of its impact on biodiversity, is the health sector. The bits of the economy that care for us and are the foundation for any kind of prosperity are also the greenest sectors in society. But they have currently been left behind and the people who work in them have been left behind by capitalism. And of course, we know that there are people who are left behind, even from those, who fall out of the economy altogether, who are providing the basis for the caring of our children and our older people. And that sense that capitalism has to recover an inclusive sense of human society and inclusive compassion towards other people. And in particular, a sense of an economy of care, I think is the foundation for thinking about the economy in a different kind of way, a stronger, recovering economy, a healthier economy, a greener economy, and one that is also fairer.

Paul Dickinson: [00:45:34] Tim, Johan, thank you very, very much indeed for today. A huge privilege and pleasure for us. And can I just sort of say, if you've enjoyed this discussion, please share it with your friends and colleagues. We'll be releasing it as a podcast. You can subscribe to our Outrage and Optimism wherever you get your podcasts or on globaloptimism.com, but a very deep, heartfelt thank you from our team to Tim and Johan. Thank you very much indeed, and for all of you for joining us today. Bye for now.

Tim Jackson: [00:46:11] So there you go, another episode of Outrage and Optimism. I'm Clay, producer of the show. It's so good to have you. Thank you for joining us. What a great conversation. After what you just heard during the event earlier this week, we had a direct Q&A with the attendees and it was an incredible turnout. So thank you to everyone who joined us. We will be doing more events like this and we'd love to have you join us. So the best way for you to stay up to date and informed is to subscribe to this podcast and subscribe to our newsletter Signals Amidst the Noise. Got a link to that in the show notes. So go check it out. Sad but true. There is no musical artist for this week on the show. So we're just going to sit in silence for a second because isn't music really just the division of silence? No. OK, thank you to our guests this week, Johan Rockstrom and Tim Jackson, two incredible authors. I have links to both of their books in the Show Notes. Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet and Post Growth: Life after Capitalism. Please go click those, buy the books, read them, and enjoy. So, Breaking Boundaries is on Netflix. And I think, you know, I'm going to say it's about time that you watch it or watch it again. Christiana is inadvertently attempting to set the world record for the most viewings of a scientific documentary about the systems of our planet. And all I'm saying is you should watch it once, maybe twice, or go for the record too. Link, of course, to the documentary in the show notes. Grab a friend and watch. I saw it. It's very, very good. And speaking of world records, Christiana mentioned earlier in the show that we are currently in a Guinness World Record attempt and you can join in and set the record with us.

Tim Jackson: [00:48:08] So go to count-us-in.org and log some action steps to make history and save the planet. So then when you're at your next cocktail party and you get in a circle of acquaintances and someone asks, tell us something about you, you can say, well, my name is so-and-so and I'm a Guinness World Record Holder, then everyone will gasp: Really? Say, yeah, totally did that. And then you can switch the conversation over to solutions about climate change. And talking about climate change is one of the steps that you took on count-us-in.org That got you to be a Guinness World Record holder in the first place. So it's all full circle, you know what to do. Links in the show notes, count-us-in.org. You know who I want to go to a party with? Sara Law, Katie Bradford, Lara Richardson, Marina Mansilla Hermann, Freya Newman, Santiago Monge, Sarah Thomas, Sue Reed and John Ward. And of course, our executive producer Sharon Johnson and our hosts Christiana Figueres, Paul Dickinson and Tom Rivett-Carnac. Now, before I wrap, thank you to everyone who left a review on Apple Podcasts. We've received a bunch since last week when we asked and we still need more. We'll be reading some next week on the show. So go write yours, go to Apple podcasts, find our show Outrage and Optimism and give us a rating and review. Thank you. And we're online at @GlobalOptimism on all social media platforms and very active. Give us a follow. Send us a message and keep up to date with our stubbornly optimistic posts. OK, next week, another episode right back here. Hit subscribe and we'll see you then.


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