190: Presenting... Coliving Conversations - Shared Living & the Climate Emergency
About this episode
Welcome listeners as as we start the week with a special bonus episode from the wonderful folks at Conscious Coliving who recently hosted Tom Rivett-Carnac on their brilliant podcast Coliving Conversations, a show that shines light on the people, projects, and places of the blossoming coliving movement!
In this episode, join co-hosts Naima Ritter Figueres and Dr Penny Clark for an insightful conversation with Tom Rivett-Carnac where together they explore the role of communities in addressing the climate emergency. Enjoy!
[00:00:00] Tom: So hello listeners to Outrage and Optimism. We have a bonus for you today. And this is a brilliant conversation that you're going to absolutely love. And it's.
[00:00:08] Paul: With you.
[00:00:08] Christiana: With you, Tom. That's why it's so brilliant.
[00:00:10] Paul: It's more brilliant than any of the other conversations.
[00:00:10] Tom: It's actually got nothing to do with me that it's brilliant. It's a brilliant podcast, and it's got a couple of brilliant interviewers. And fascinatingly I was invited on it before Christiana Figueres, which I'm feeling very pleased about. Christiana, why, you know a bit about this host and this conversation. Why don't you tell us a little bit.
[00:00:31] Paul: Yeah, you know a little bit about this podcast. Tell us about it.
[00:00:32] Christiana: I know a little bit about those, yes. So in full transparency, this is a podcast called Coliving Conversations and it's produced by Conscious Coliving, which is a small start up company where my daughter Naima and her partner Juan are two of the founding partners. And I'm really so thrilled that they are working on providing information and tools to those who are working on co-living, providing co-living spaces, mostly to young people, but not only, who are worried about their loneliness, about their lack of contact, about their lack of resources to have a place to live. And Naima herself and Juan live in a co-living space here in Costa Rica. And so they're not just talking theory, they're actually living what they preach, so to speak. And I'm just thrilled that they have put out this podcast. It has gotten rave reviews. And we thought because Tom is one of the brilliant guests, that we would drop it in here for you because Tom talks about the intersection between co-living as a mode of, of real estate and of, of living co-living and the climate crisis and climate solutions. So here it is for you. You're getting a real dose of Tom.
[00:02:07] Paul: Three, three episodes in a row. The Tom Show, Outrage and Carnac or something. But but no, it's really good. I listened to it. You're going to love it.
[00:02:13] Tom: Yeah. And I have to say, this podcast has become part of my weekly routine of listening to podcasts. So I've subscribed to Coliving Conversations and it's just such a sort of, on one level, simple, but on another level, profound solution to the climate crisis and loneliness and all these other different things. So I really hope that that concept gains ground because it's revolutionary. It's it's simple, but it's revolutionary and could have profound impacts on our emissions, on our ability to deal with this issue. And Naima and Juan are doing an incredible job moving this forward. So hope you enjoy it.
[00:02:49] Naima: How can community living help address the climate emergency? Let's explore. Welcome to Coliving Conversations, a show that shines light on the people projects and places of the blossoming coliving movement. Hi. My name is Naima Ritter Figueres and I’m Head of Community & Wellbeing at Conscious Coliving and I’m here in the studio today with my co-host for this episode, Dr. Penny Clark, who is Head of Research & Sustainability at Conscious Coliving. Penny is one of the leading researchers in this field. She recently completed her PhD on coliving, co-housing and sustainability from the University of Westminster.
[00:03:35] Penny: Hi Naima. Great to be in the studio again.
[00:03:41] Naima: Great. Well, Penny, today, we are gonna be exploring the role of communities in addressing the environmental crisis. Why is this so relevant to talk about?
[00:03:51] Penny: Yes. Well, as we know, climate change is causing widespread disruption and making many areas unlivable for humans and other species. We’ve seen recent examples of this. We’ve seen record breaking heat waves, floods, and fires. And according to the latest IPCC report “any further delay in concerted global action we’ll miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future”. That’s a direct quote from the report. Unfortunately, current plans are not ambitious enough to limit warming to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which is a threshold scientists believe is necessary to avoid even more catastrophic impacts.
[00:04:35] Naima: Yeah, and this can all sound quite, uh, disheartening, but the good news is that shared living communities can and are already making huge headway in providing an alternative sustainable living model and in catalyzing, a massive cultural transformation that we really need. A lot of research shows that shared living can significantly reduce our environmental footprint, including through things like sharing of resources, reducing waste and behavior change. And alongside this living in a connected way with others is proving to be one of the most effective ways for managing all the difficult emotions that people are experiencing in relation to the current state of the world. And in particular for eco anxiety. Which we will talk about more in this episode.
[00:05:28] Penny: Yes, indeed. And to dive into all of this today, we get to speak to Tom Rivett-Carnac who has been at the forefront of the global climate agenda for many years now. So Tom, along with Christianna Figueres who, for anyone who doesn’t know, happens to be Naima’s mom, spearheaded the strategy behind the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, they co-wrote together the best selling book, The Future We Choose, and co-host of the award winning podcast Outrage and Optimism.
[00:05:58] Naima: Yes. We’ve all been super inspired by the work that Tom has been doing on climate and leadership. And I also feel personally grateful for the amazing support and inspiration that Tom has been over the years. So I’m especially happy to have him on the show today.
[00:06:17] Penny: For sure. Me too. So some key points to listen out for in this episode are; the role of privilege in today’s society, evidence that a societal transformation is already underway, three critical mindsets to create the future we want and, how community can accelerate us in getting there. And after the conversation with Tom, Naima and I will be back in the studio with some reflections. Enjoy!
[00:06:46] Naima: And before we dive in, I wanna give a big shout out to our partners without whom season one of coli conversations would not be possible. These are: Coly, a shared living matchmaker, Spaceflow the all in one tenant experience platform to enable better life and buildings and GoHumanGo, a global collective of digital professionals supporting people and planet. All right. Well, here we are, Tom. Thank you so much for joining us on Coliving Conversations today.
[00:07:24] Tom: It is a huge pleasure. I’ve been looking forward to it. Great to see you and excited to be on your podcast.
[00:07:31] Naima: To dive right in, you have a really interesting background and I would love for you to share a little bit about that and how it’s influenced your life path and your ecological world.
[00:07:45] Tom: Yeah, sure. Very happy to, um, I grew up in the eighties and nineties, um, the sun of an oil map. So my sort of journey as a child was actually traveling around the world, living in different countries, exciting places like the middle east and Latin America and Southeast Asia. Um, because my dad was looking for oil. So his job was to go and try and identify places where oil might be. And he would develop that into a package and then sell it to like an ExxonMobil or Shell or someone like that who would then come in and drill the oil and, and, and try and make a discovery. I remember driving around places like Columbia and Yemen and other places like that with the seismic equipment in the back of the car. And we’d kind of get out and layer on the rocks and try and work out what the oil were, where the oil was. You know, it was only later that I realized that, of course, if we found any, then they’d put in massive roads and pipelines, but that didn’t occur to my sort of nine year old brain. Um, but as, but as a result of that, the sort of the relationship between humans and the natural world and energy were always sort of apparent to. And I sort of heard those, had that experience against the backdrop of stories that particularly my grandfather would tell me that would go further back in my family history. So, um, one of my direct ancestors was the chairman of the East India Company when it was the only company in history to have a private army and engaged in this sort of colonialism and expansionism in India and other places in the 18 hundreds. And so I sort of saw myself as kind of part of that legacy kind of going on adventures all over the world. Um, Not really understanding the complexity that that represented. And of course, you know, people say this and I feel very old say, but it was sort of a different time and we didn’t really think about it. And so it wasn’t until I finished school, I didn’t learn anything in school that challenged my assumptions of, of history and was traveling around India that I started to see these, I saw an image in an art gallery. So James Rivett-Carnac shooting tigers in, in Arissa. And I started to think, oh my God, you know, what was the deeper history here? And that big led to an unraveling of stories. And I began to understand the brutal colonial history that my country, and much more personally, my family were directly involved in. Mm. And that, that legacy led all the way to me, traveling around the world, looking for oil in developing countries. So that led to a lot of soul searching and ultimately led me, um, not only that, but other things too, to living as a Buddhist monk in Southeast Asia for a number of years. And that was really a sort of remarkable experience. And I, I have to say it’s something I, I recommend to many people because we’d very rarely get to stop like that for an extended period of time. And I spent a number of years there in a forest monastery. So begging for food and living alone in the forest. In the end apart from sort of an appreciation for the slowness of life and the appreciation of the beauty around us, what it did for me, was it awakened a deeper sense of responsibility. You know, how do you live your life with the kind of history that I’ve set out at a moment of planetary crisis? You know, one route is to think. Oh, I’m a victim of this history. I never wanted this history. Therefore, somehow you kind of turn yourself into a victim and say, I didn’t want to be the inheritor of this colonial legacy, but that pretty quickly becomes absurd if you think about it, because of course you’re still, you know, through no benefit of your own experiencing the benefits of cultural inequalities over decades. So much more useful is to think, well, how do I use this thing that I’ve inherited? This gender privilege and race privilege? And I mean, a Northern white heterosexual man, who comes from a long line of colonialists. If anyone has responsibility to try and do something about the mess we’re in, in the world, it’s me. And there’s lots of people like me as well. So, so that’s kind of a long answer to your question, but that long arc led me to a sense of how do I live a life of service? How do I try to live a life that is in support of other people and my work on climate with, with Christiana, your mom, um, and other things has just been a manifestation of that. And it’s been a real privilege and really meaningful to find a way to express that sense of wanting to be of service to something larger. In a weird, complicated way not to make up for that history, but just to try and use that history in some way for good.
[00:12:08] Naima: Mm, wow. Thanks so much for sharing that. What a fascinating story and how inspiring to hear how you’ve really taken that lineage that you were born into as a responsibility and an opportunity to do good and, and to make the world a better place. So, yeah, thanks for, for being a role model in that sense. Um, and so, you serve as a climate advisor, Tom, to some of the most influential, you know, leaders in the corporate world, in the philanthropic world. Um, really curious. What do you say to these people, to these leaders to get them to act on climate?
[00:12:48] Tom: Yeah. Well, that’s a, that’s a great question. And in many ways that’s the million dollar or, or more than million dollar question that we’re all grappling with at the moment. I think there’s a couple of ways to answer that. I think one. The world is very different now to how it was even when you know you and I were running around before Co-op and, um, trying to get the world to focus on the 2015 Paris Agreement in, in, in lots of ways, but in one important way, which is in those days, we used to stay to countries: “One day it will be more economically beneficial to you to invest in solutions to the climate crisis than it is to invest in things that are damaging”. But it wasn’t true then actually it was a projection and it was an act of faith and belief. And we didn’t say it quite like that, but that was the truth. Now the solutions to climate change are by far and away, the best economic investments you can make. And that’s true, whether you are an investor ahead of state, a minister or a CEO. So as a result of that, there’s sort of less persuasion necessary on one level because everybody now understands that you can make money doing this. And you know, to my way of thinking, it’s not a complete answer, but the world would be better if you could solve social and environmental problems by making a profit, right? That’s something that we should applaud. And we’ve seen that that’s when we reach major tipping points. So the first answer to your question. They kind of wanna do it already and people have woken up. There’s been this societal transformation, um, in the sense that now young people in particular are furious about the future they’re inheriting. They are putting pressure on business leaders. The economic case for action is now emerging incredibly quickly, that is pricing economic pressure on those business leaders. So all of these things are propelling them forward. Of course the problem with climate change. And this is always the problem with climate change is it’s not enough yet. Because the, the unfolding emergency is now manifesting so quickly. We need to reduce emissions by at least 50% in this decade that even though we are moving forward so fast, we’re still not moving fast enough. So the question is less, how do you get ’em to act? And it’s more, how do you get ’em to go sufficiently fast? And that’s actually quite complicated because in that they’re caught within a nest of stakeholders, which include those who want them to move further forward like young employees and, and, and often people in the finance department and those who kind of don’t want them to get too far ahead of the pack, cuz they think it makes them vulnerable. Like they’re investors who don’t want ’em to go too far. So you have to help people be brave and to realize mm-hmm, the importance of this moment to step up as a human being, to utilize your moment of leadership, to be brave, but also to be practical to sort of say. It’s in our interest, it’s in our corporate interest to now be a leader on this issue.
[00:15:31] Naima: Well, what a, what a taste of optimism to hear you say, Tom, that, that there is already a shift, that there is this awakening that, that there is this already economic incentive to be taking this kind of leadership in sustainability. And yes, it can happen faster and it must happen faster, but, but we’re on the right track. So. Thanks for, for that. Uh, yeah. Optimistic, uh, reality check. And, um, what would you say is the role of communities of cities in, in this whole field? Yeah, so I think that.
[00:16:05] Tom: Ultimately, uh, one of the things that is an outcome of the way we all live at the moment, which is a focus on efficiency and growth is that it’s making us pretty unhappy actually. And I think most of the evidence suggests that there’s a crisis of loneliness that people are, you know, increasingly disconnected from each other. And I personally draw a direct link between that and manifestation of anxiety, including eco anxiety, that we’re not so connected to other people. And that makes us more vulnerable, um, to psychological problems. Um, but also to a sense of feeling overwhelmed right. At a moment like this, when we are. We need to come together as never before, as humanity and do something that feels almost unachievable. And the moments when that feels most difficult is moments. When we don’t feel like we are connected and we are together. So I think communities that connect you to each other are just so critical to feeling like there is a stubborn determination that we can actually do this and we can support each other throughout this transformation. Um, so that’s one piece. Cities, I live in a rural area now, but I spent most of my life living in cities. And actually, you know, there’s a lot of evidence that living closer together, living different kind of lives that are more connected is, is not only beneficial, psychologically, as I said, but it’s also how we drive down emissions most quickly actually, you know, a well constructed city that makes efficient use of resources and green space can be a beautiful place to live, but it can also, you know, based on the number of humans we have on the planet, be the most effective way to live your life while not having an outsized footprint. So I think that those two elements come together to form fundamentally important parts of our future.
[00:17:54] Naima: Yeah, absolutely. Um, and do you have any examples that come to your mind in terms of communities or cities that are on this track?
[00:18:05] Tom: Well, I mean, I happily, I think that there’s, there’s a lot of examples of that. I mean, one of the things that, that Christiana and I are involved in is the Earth Shot prize, and one of the Earth Shot prize last year was award to Milan for the amazing work that they’ve done on food waste. And actually what we’ve seen in many of these cities is because there is such a, an availability of natural resources, whether that’s waste or something else, cuz there’s so many people living in close proximity to each other. I mean, what they did there was they utilized the waste streams and then they were able. To repurpose that and make it available to people who are on lower incomes to do other things in the cities to compost, et cetera. So I think there’s a lot of examples of ways in which cities can make their lives more efficient and more effective. I think there’s lots of examples of places where opportunity meets entrepreneurialism meets leadership, and you can see change happening now incredibly quickly.
[00:18:56] Naima: Absolutely. And if we relate this to coliving, um, and shared living, you know, businesses and communities, there’s many who are really looking at public transport and how to offer, you know, shared bikes within the community or to be located in places that are near public transport. So I think that really fits in right with this example of how cities can really be, uh, important players in this effort. Um, and specifically on coliving. Um, I’m really curious to get your perspective on, what have you heard about that and how do you see that fitting into, into addressing climate change?
[00:19:34] Tom: So I’m not an expert, so you’re gonna have to educate me to a certain degree. But my understanding of coliving is that it’s a, um, you know, group of adults that live together in a shared space with some independent space, but shared kitchens and other shared facilities where you sort of, you’re more connected to the people you live with and you have more of a shared life. Yes. Alright. Okay. So I sort of feel like I’ve done that living in brownstones in New York to a certain degree. Um, I lived in Brooklyn for many years with my family and, you know, we were. one of these lovely old brownstones with like nine apartments or something. And I made some of the best friends of my life by living in one of these things. The kids were in and out of each other’s apartments all the time. We had separate kitchens, but actually it was an amazing way to live from a human perspective because of the connection. I mean, yeah, I mean, you, you get a bit exhausting sometimes, but most of the time I found it was really good. Um, but I’m, you know, that everything gets a bit exhausting as a human being. Um, I mean, I think that we have to rethink some of these things in a more fundamental way than just put it this way. We are not gonna solve climate change by continuing to live the way that we’ve always lived and just making it more efficient. And there’s some degree to which you sort of might think that’s possible. If we switch to renewable energy, um, switch to recycled or, or circular economy materials. Um, maybe we can just kind of carry on, but the truth is that the volume of it is such that we can’t, we need to rethink things in a more fundamental way around how we live on and with the earth. And I think things like coliving are so important because they address multiple different aspects. You, you can maybe tell me, but I mean, I can just tell instinctively from what I know that the emissions per person must be much lower when you are living in that way. Cause you have shared cooking facilities, shared heating, et cetera. That’s gonna be way lower than everybody in individual houses, sharing transportation tools, et cetera, cars, other vehicles, I’m sure that’s possible as well. So I mean, your footprint must be what, a third of what it would be if you lived in some other way. That’s amazing. And at the same time, it has a beneficial impact in terms of psychology in terms of connectivity, all these other different elements. So. If, if, if we could find a way that the cultural transformation could be such, that that became more of the normal way of living, we’d solve a whole load of our problems. Are we gonna manage to do that?
[00:22:29] Tom: That’s a very good question, but I think it’s like 15, 16, something like that, maybe more, but that sort of thing. Yeah.
[00:22:36] Naima: So it’s really making a, a big impact and you know, what you and my mom, uh, proposed in, in the book is, is very ambitious and would be great to hear from you. What’s, what’s the vision that you’re laying out and especially what’s the mindset that we need to get there?
[00:22:55] Tom: Yeah, thank you for the question. So, um, so we wrote the book, it came out just before the pandemic, like literally just before. We did two dates of our book tour and then did everything else by Zoom, which is very disappointing, but that’s the way it was for everybody. Um, but it’s been great actually. And I think you’re right. I think one of the unique elements of the book is what we talk about around the mindsets. And that comes, you know, very much from your mom’s leadership in creating the Paris Agreement and the realization that actually it was the internal transformation of many people’s perspective that came first and the manifestation of that in the world that came afterwards. So we often talk about it was the shift to a stubborn and determined form of optimism that actually was not the result of success, it was the cause of it. So, so what we do in the book is we lay out three different things that we encourage everybody on the planet to do and to take responsibility for it. It’s not quite laid out in the book like this, but this is sort of how it is presented. The first is to pay attention to how we show up. You know, this is a very overwhelming moment and it’s a moment that people can feel very afraid and that we can quickly conclude it’s not possible to do. um, and that’s not illogical, right? That’s the thing. I mean, we, this study that came out last year, that looked at young people’s attitudes toward climate change suggested that around the world, people aged under the age of 21, and over the age of 14 spend about 40% of people spend several hours each day worrying about climate. Right. That is a, that is an insane statistic. And the psychological burden that’s placing on a whole generation is just unbelievable. And that can become, that can quickly become anxiety. It can become all sorts of other mental health issues. So. What do we do as a result of that? What we can’t do is hide from it. There’s no way we can sort of pretend it’s not happening. We know enough about psychology to know that just gets buried underground and comes out all kinds of other ways. But what we say in the book is that actually we don’t need to cow in fear of that. We need to grasp this moment, realize the unique and important nature of it and kind of ride out to meet it. There have been plenty of dark moments in the past where it seemed very unlikely that humanity was able to overcome the seemingly impossible obstacles in front of us. I mean, think about. Gandhi salt marches to the beach in colonial India, or I have a dream or fight them on the beaches. You know, I mean, these were all moments that were really dark, but at those moments, individuals decided that it was not that they, they would refuse to believe that it was beyond our ability to solve these problems. And they held that determination and that stubborn optimism, as we say, like a torch in the darkness and it enabled momentum and people started building towards that outcome. And. So it is a dark moment and real failure is possible, but you know what, at this moment, real success is possible too. And who are we to sort of feel anxious and concerned. We need to feel those things, but we need to move through them and say, we need to embody a sense of stubborn and determine optimism. We need to insist that it is possible to radically regenerate the world. And we can create a world of abundance between us by reimagining how we live. And practicing that as how we show up on a daily basis is really, really critical. And it is a fundamental underpinning to everything else we might do. So that’s the first part is how we show up. The second part is our own personal responsibility for our own footprint and our lives. Now people have different perspectives on this, but the truth is that it’s really important that we take responsibility for our impact on the planet for two reasons. The first is that it actually can be quite significant when it all adds up. But the second part is it’s connected to the first, unless you start actually taking action, no matter what kind of attitude you try to cultivate in yourself, it will always feel futile and it will always feel like you’re not really doing anything. If you start to actually take steps and do things in your life, even if they feel small and futile to begin that builds itself into a sense of momentum that makes you feel more connected and more engaged, more part of a great generational endeavor than just fiddling around on your own. And you then end up doing more. So it’s really important that we do do that, but also the top 1% of people in the world in terms of income, which I’m guessing, probably includes many listeners to your podcast and certainly many listeners to our podcast, Outrage and Optimism are responsible for half the emission. So as a result of that, actually those are the people, we are the people, that are causing this problem. So it doesn’t take many people in the world to actually take responsibility for their own footprint, if it’s the right people to really make a massive difference. And in that, actually there’s lots of guides right now to tell you how to do it, to work out what your footprint is. To figure out how you do something about it. And in this, what I would encourage people to do, and it’s really made a difference to me. We tend to overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in 10 years. So think about it as a decade endeavor, right? We need to have emissions by 2030. Actually, if I said to you, you need to have your remissions by 2030, that’s enough time. That’s enough time to give you proper time for proper planning and investment and thinking about it, to say, you’ll probably replace the major capital intensive items in your life between now and the end of the decade. Be it a car, be it a boiler, be it, whatever you can make other choices, or you can share them with other people as you are demonstrating in your life in a manner that even reduces that footprint further. It’s even enough time to say I’m gonna change my career and do something so that my impact won’t be so great. One of the reasons Christiana and I started outrage and optimism was so we didn’t have to go on a plane and fly around the world to talk to people all the time that we could do it from the comfort of our own homes as you’re now doing as well. So some of those changes as well when you think about it in that long term way, you probably can’t reduce your emissions by like 10% a year. But you might be able to suddenly reduce them by 40%, if you are making those kinds of that’s how those changes tend to happen. So focusing on transportation, focusing on diet is really huge. That’s obviously good for health as well. That’s your own footprint? That’s the second piece. So how we show up our own responsibility. And then the third piece is how we engage with power. So we all touch power in all kinds of ways, even if we don’t think about it like that, we might have a pension plan or a 401k. We might be on a school board or have our kids go to a school where we talk to the teachers. We might be an employee or an investor of some kind. Each of those ways, think about how you touch power in institutions you might be a voter. And work out in each of those relationships, how encouraging those different stakeholders that you engage with to do more on climate and be more responsible, particularly in this decade. That can make a massive difference as well. So those are the three things. How I show up, my own responsibility, how I engage with power.
[00:30:05] Naima: Yes. Wow. Wow. Wow. Um, I can just imagine everyone listening is really taking this in and I just find that so practical and inspiring, you know, that little challenge, like if we say have our missions by 2030, there are things that we can do. All of the options are there. It’s just about making the decision and saying, I’m going to do that. And I think in community we can achieve this easier and faster, right. Because I think. we’re so influenced by the people who we are living with. And if you’re in a community where the, the norm is, you know, having our missions and whatever that means in terms of the practical actions, then you’re already being nudged into that. And so, um, just hearing you say all of that makes me think that ,yeah. coliving and, and communities can really, um, accelerate that transition.
[00:31:07] Tom: Um, I think that’s absolutely right. And I think it can accelerate it from a sharing the message perspective as well as from a practical implementation. I mean, one of the things we’re facing right now in the world is that we are facing a seven to 10% inflation rate. You know, this is something we haven’t seen in the whole of my adult life. And so I don’t have any personal experience of how people respond to the idea that you lose 10% of all the money that you have every year. Um, but actually it’s gonna be quite an interesting psychological moment and an opportunity for transformation around, particularly around things like coliving, there’ll be an appetite to do things in a different way that hopefully will be an opening that we can utilize to change.
[00:31:46] Naima: Yeah, not to mention, you know, you were mentioning the anxiety and the stress, the, how we’re gonna face whatever’s coming is it will be easier together, right? And to collectively face, not only first heal all of our traumas, individual and collective traumas, but also be able to face what’s coming, uh, together and, and feel stronger. And, and. yeah, safer for that. So you talk about 10 actions in the book. Are there one or two that you think especially apply to, to shared living spaces in coliving or would you say take a look at all of them?
[00:32:23] Tom: Well, I mean, I think that, um, yeah, probably take a look at all of them and also that we slightly express things in the book differently to those three steps, but you’ll recognize it. Um, if you look at the book or if listeners listen to the book, I think that. One of the pieces that we just to pull one out here, we say, see yourself as a citizen, not as a consumer. So there’s been a tendency in the global economy, as it is now to sort of structure things. You know, we, we consume goods and services and it’s an incredibly demoralizing way to be characterized by anyone that you are just a consumer, rather than someone who generates or is creative or a part, someone who participates. So I wonder if that is one area I think it doesn’t necessarily follow, but there’s a chance I think with something like coliving, which can potentially build a platform for a healthier dialogue between people who maybe don’t always agree, um, in order to try to have better conversations and see ourselves more as whole rounded human beings, rather than people who just consume the goods of the global economy and thereby drive more growth.
[00:33:29] Naima: And that’s such a huge mindset shift as well.
[00:33:31] Tom: Yeah.
[00:33:32] Naima: So. As we’re kinda wrapping up this conversation, Tom would love to touch back on what you mentioned at the beginning, actually around you being a monk for a few years and would be great to hear what connection do you see between spirituality and work on climate change and this shift towards a more sustainable and regenerative, uh, world paradigm.
[00:34:02] Tom: Yeah. So that’s a, that’s a, that’s a, a very good and very deep question. Cause obviously there’s a lot of different connection points there. Um, I think I can covered it from a, a couple of angles. One is just sort of simply, um, that this work is really hard. And I think that if you look at people who work on climate change, their mental health is often quite low. And I think that’s because well, there’s lots of reasons, but I think it’s partly sort of working in a kind of a sisyphean task that’s never done. And, you know, you sort of keep working and the best you can hope for is sort of, you know, a bit less damage to many of the lovely things that you care about, and it can feel a bit empty and hard sometimes. Um, one of the benefits that you get from a long period of contemplation is the opportunity to slow down and see the flow of kind of phenomena and reaction. And we tend as human beings to think that our reaction is contained inside the phenomena that we experience. So we tend to think, you know, someone yells at us and we feel bad, or someone says something nice and we feel good. And we sort of think of those things as fused or the world falls apart. And, you know, we panic and many of that, much of that stuff is completely understandable. It all is. But when you spend an extended period with that type of contemplation, you can see this tiny gap between phenomena and reaction and, and that gap really gives you a an opportunity to take a breath in a really difficult scenario and you can sort of then be that can be a superpower in certain contexts and it can make you, it can help you regenerate yourself. It can help you carry on doing what you’re doing. Um, and the world loses sort of some of its threat and some of its promise when that happens. So I think that’s one thing that’s been really useful. I think that. I think on a deeper level, what we’re all struggling with with dealing with climate change is that we’ve created a world that doesn’t make us very happy. As we said earlier, that we don’t really fit into very well. And we’re all trying to sort of work out how do we slow down and what are our priorities really. And I think there, the connection is much more that a spiritual path meditation can remind us of the important things. Paying attention of taking care of other things like that. And that can bring us back to a more meaningful and slower and deeper kind of life. And, uh, I think ultimately that’s where we’re gonna have to get to it. We’re gonna deal with this.
[00:36:32] Naima: Yeah, definitely. A lot of depth to explore there. So thanks for your perspective on that. And something we like to ask, all of our guests is, um, about the term living consciously. So I’d like to ask you. What does living consciously mean to you?
[00:36:53] Tom: Hmm, that’s a good question. So I think living consciously to me means, uh, living with as much awakeness or awareness as you can, master on one level. So, you know, most of us are basically asleep most of the time, think about other things, work on our phones, doing other things like that. And I think living consciously means trying to counteract that instinct and to be more awake and aware of what’s around you. Um, and living with intentionality, um, when David Attenborough came on our podcast, he had just given a speech that Christiana and I had been to in which he’d said the garden of Eden is more. And obviously very upsetting to David Attenborough at say something like that. But Christiana asked him a brilliant question. She said, well, if the garden of Eden is no more, do we now need to create the garden of intention? That actually, we now need to bring our own intentions to create the future that we want, which he thoroughly agree with and loved. And there’s something about living consciously. That’s living with intention that actually we’ve been unconscious in all the damage we’ve done to the world. If we are to undo that we need to drag that back into our consciousness and create the garden of intention.
[00:38:15] Penny: I loved listening to that. What an honour to have Tom on the show. One thing I wanted to pick up on is the term creating the garden of intention. That’s a really beautiful phrase. And to bring it specifically to coliving as a coliving operator or developer, someone who is taking a key role in creating a community, you have a really big garden. And so you have a huge potential influence on how people live their lives, which includes helping them to lighten their impact on the earth and feel more connected to it as well.
[00:38:49] Naima: Yeah, absolutely. And I found it really interesting to hear Tom talk about how he sees shared living and communities playing a role in addressing the climate emergency. One thing that in particular stuck with me was his mention of the enormous amount of eco anxiety that young people are facing. Mm.
[00:39:09] Penny: And just so we are really clear what exactly is eco anxiety?
[00:39:15] Naima: Yeah. So. The APA defines eco anxiety as a chronic fear of environmental doom. And it can also be described as a persistent anxiety about the future of our planet and the life it sustains. So from the study Tom cited, which will add a link to in the notes, the most common emotions were: sad, afraid, anxious, angry and powerless. 75% said they thought the future is frightening. And four out of 10 are hesitant to even have children.
[00:39:49] Penny: Wow.
[00:39:50] Naima: Yeah. So one question that we at conscious coliving have been exploring is how can communities help people, not just young people navigate these difficult emotions and this really challenging and painful topic. And one approach that we have found very useful is called The Work That Reconnects, which is based on the teachings of Joanna Macy, who is now 93 years old and still a very active world, renowned systems, theorist, Buddhist scholar, ecologist, and author of 12 books. Her work is also known as deep ecology and active hope and Penny, you and I actually had the chance to experience her work firsthand at a festival a while back. So could you share a little bit more about it?
[00:40:45] Penny: We did, we did indeed. So the goal of her work is to, and I’ve got a quote here is to “help people discover and experience their innate connections with each other and the self-healing powers of the web of life, transforming despair and overwhelm into inspired collaborative action”. Her work has four stages, which are represented as a spiral to acknowledge that these stages are intertwined and ongoing. And those stages are firstly gratitude, honoring our pains, seeing with new eyes and going forth. And I think one of the most powerful aspects of this work is the honoring our pain stage, because this is when we really acknowledge what’s going on. And it’s reframing emotions such as despair, anger, and fear as healthy moral responses to what’s happening in our world. So honoring our pain brings dignity to our emotions rather than shame. And it, it enables us to feel what it is that we love and care for and what we wish to act on behalf of as well.
[00:41:50] Naima: Yeah, thanks Penny. And one useful way to bring this approach to life in, in your communities is through circles. We’ve already mentioned circles in the last two episodes as useful ways to facilitate connection among residents and team members. And in relation to what we’re talking about today, circles can also serve as a safe space to share heavy emotions and to explore the un, uncertainty of, of these times with others. Right? Because yeah, we know that there, there is a lot of grief. There’s a lot of anxiety, sadness, despair being felt. but often we’re not given the chance to, to talk about it or share about it. Um, and so we often can feel quite alone, um, with these feelings, but in community and in circle together, it’s much easier to hold these emotions to make space for them and as well, take action, which research shows can instantly reduce fear and anxiety.
[00:42:52] Penny: So true. So true. And just before we move on, since we know how challenging it can be to hold conversations about climate change, um, I also recommend a book by Catherine Hayhoe which is titled Saving Us: A Climate Scientist Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World. And we can add that to the show notes.
[00:43:13] Naima: Yeah. Great additional suggestion. Thanks Penny. Um, so now it would be great if you could actually share from your own research, um, Penny, what coliving communities can do to have a positive impact, um, related to the environmental crisis. So kind of taking the last stage of the going forth, which is all about taking action. Could you share a little bit about that from what you’ve seen?
[00:43:41] Penny: Yes. Sure. I would love to. Well, as we mentioned before, coliving operators, they have a huge opportunity to positively impact the environment, especially when it comes to residents habits. So there’s evidence which shows that life transitions can be key moments to implement changes in habit. So when residents arrive on your doorstep, In that moment of transition, you have a golden opportunity to help them engage in shifting towards more sustainable habits. And I think it it’s likely that any listeners understand broadly what these habits. Probably will consist of. So things like energy, saving behaviors, waste sorting, sustainable transport, reduce, reuse, reduce your meat, consumption, eat local, seasonal, even grow your own food. Ooh, all that stuff. There’s so much stuff you can do. And I think it’s more a question then of how you actually engage your residents to do it right? Mm mm-hmm. So you know, there there’s a lot I could say here, but just so I don’t go on for too long. Um, I, I’m gonna stick with, with three prompting questions for you. Um, so first: Are you giving your residents access to the material things they need to engage in sustainable practices? And here you’ve got to really think holistically. It’s not just about the bicycle. It’s about the bike pump. It’s about the spare tubes. It’s not just about the farmer’s market store on your ground floor or next door or wherever. It’s about having adequate fridge space to keep the food fresh, et cetera, et cetera. Um, so. Second, are you equipping residents with the competencies to use these materials correctly? So here signage might be very important, especially for short term residents. And then for longer term residents, it’s the onboarding process, which is absolutely essential. But also beyond that, can you put yourself in your resident’s shoes and see where they might need and benefit from information to help them form more sustainable habits? Oh yeah. third. And this is the hard one. What are the meanings that residents attach to sustainable practices? Understanding what sustainable practices mean to your residents and then framing those practices in that way will help in engaging them. So for example, some people might cycle chiefly because they like the sustainability benefits. For others it could be much more about the health benefits or the economic savings. So in that sense, what you are doing here is marketing sustainable practices to your residents to make them more engaging and kind of speaking to them in their own language. So in a nutshell, that’s what I would say. Think about materials, competencies, and meanings. And I need to give credit here. What I’ve just said is based upon a theorist called Elizabeth Shove and actually some of her work informed the theoretical underpinnings of my PhD.
[00:46:51] Naima: Thanks for, thanks for sharing that Penny, uh, a useful yeah, points for, for operators to consider. So. One other thing you mentioned in your PhD is how communities can greatly reduce their impacts through sharing, which Tom also mentioned. So this is, you know, sharing things such as heating, transport tools, materials, spaces, appliances, um, and also by switching to renewable energy and increasing a focus on energy and water efficiency, uh, can make real gains there in community. And your research found if I’m not mistaken that coliving can lower average domestic environmental impacts by up to two thirds, right?
[00:47:39] Penny: That’s right. That’s what I found.
[00:47:42] Naima: So, and the domestic sector makes up 29% of all energy in the UK and 15% of greenhouse gas emissions. So the potential impact we’re talking about here is huge.
[00:47:54] Penny: Yes, absolutely. Which is why it’s so important to measure your impact. Tom mentioned that there are various frameworks out there for measuring your carbon footprint. And you can actually take a look at section five of the Coliving Apps, Software, and Tech Guide for some inspiration. And we’ll have links for that in the show notes.
[00:48:14] Naima: Yes, indeed. And Penny, in the introduction to this episode, you mentioned, um, the, IPCC, which is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And I want to round off this episode by referencing them again, because actually their latest report has on the front cover and image of an intentional community. And I wanna mention this quote from an article by the Global Ecovillage Network about this report, which says, quote. “Even more significant than the cover art was the final paragraph in the conclusion section of the 3,676 page report. In the considered opinion of the 1000 plus top climate scientist, what the world needs most is ecologically aware and socially innovative experimental communities that network with each other and provide educational outreach and positive examples of a better world”.
[00:49:16] Penny: Thanks Nama. I, I really like that quote, it inspires me to see the potential for coliving and the shared living movement in making the transition to a more sustainable way of living.
[00:49:30] Naima: Yes, indeed. And I think, uh, I think that’s a wrap for this episode on the role of shared living and communities in addressing the environmental crisis. A key takeaway, I think, is that even though humanity is facing enormous challenges, such as the climate crisis, we can really leverage the power of community to hold difficult emotions, to build resilience and to make a positive impact together. So Penny, thank you so much for joining me as my cohost today.
[00:50:06] Penny: Thank you, Naima. I really enjoyed the conversation and I’m looking forward to the next one. Also a big thank you to Tom and thanks to you all out there for listening.
[00:50:16] Naima: In the next episode, we will explore how ESG is transforming the shared living sector and how you can begin to develop your own ESG strategy. Coliving Conversations, season one, a co-production between Conscious Coliving and GoHumanGo! Till the next episode!.
[00:50:42] Clay: Hey everyone, this is Clay, producer of Outrage and Optimism here. Thank you so much to Conscious Coliving and Go Human Go! for letting us share this episode with our listeners and especially thanks to my friends Naima and Juan. Thank you for all the incredible work that you're doing. We couldn't be more excited to again share your podcast with our audience. And as a person who's lived in an intentional community, conscious coliving is the way forward. Listeners, you can check the show notes for links to Conscious Coliving's website and be sure to hit subscribe or follow on Coliving Conversations podcast wherever you get your podcasts. And I want to let you know that we're currently working on an article with Conscious Coliving about the power of community in addressing the climate crisis as part of our readable series online, where we delve deeper into the climate topics that we explore on Outrage and Optimism episodes. We call them deep dives. I will announce when the latest deep dive about the power of community in addressing the climate crisis is live. But I just wanted to make you aware that that is coming from all of us. Okay, I hope that you enjoyed this episode as much as we did, and we'll see you on Thursday.