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234: Farmer Protests

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About this episode

This week, our hosts discuss the global farmers’ protests, what's behind them, how they are being co-opted by right leaning populist parties as an ‘anti-net zero’ rhetoric and what needs to be done to support both farmers and the planet to thrive. Given how essential food production and distribution is to our survival, this is an issue that needs our full attention and global cooperation! 

Music comes from Olivia Fern with her beautiful song ‘Calling Us Home’. Based in amongst the wild natural beauty of the Lake District National Park in north west England, Olivia’s music is deeply rooted in her connection to the living earth. 

Did our miniseries Our Story Of Nature spark any questions or thoughts for you? We’d love to hear how your relationship with nature has changed over your lifetime, or what impact you think an individual’s relationship with nature has on our global systems, for example. Or if you'd like to ask Christiana Figueres and Isabel Cavelier Adarve about anything covered (or perhaps something you think should have been covered) in the series, this is your chance. Email contact@globaloptimism.com with 'Audience Q&A' in the subject line. You can send your question in writing or as a video or voice note. Tune in for the answers in discussion with Christiana and Isabel on Thursday 14th March. 


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Full Transcript

Tom: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism, I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac.

Paul: [00:00:15] And I'm Paul Dickinson.

Tom: [00:00:16] This week we're going to be talking about the farmer protests around the world, what's behind them and what can be done about them. Plus, we have music from Olivia Fern. Thanks for being here. So PD no Christiana this week, although that's not 100% sure she may drop in at any point in the next 45 minutes, I'm sure she's.

Paul: [00:00:51] She's mysterious and marvellous and appears.

Tom: [00:00:53] In a meeting of consequential importance above our pay grade, but we will struggle on and address this week's topic. But before we do, I would just like to say a big thank you to listeners, last week we delved in, of course, as regular listeners will remember, into the issue of 1.5 degrees, whether we can hold that target, what the issues are around it. We, of course, pointed out that this is a moment of enormous peril, but we also looked at the issues around whether we can actually try and hold that line and if so, how we would do that. And we had a lot of messages from people. A lot of people wrote to us on social media, wrote to us directly with different perspectives. It was really interesting to see your insights. Thank you. That level of engagement makes us very happy. Paul, any comments on that? 

Paul: [00:01:36] Yeah, no, I mean, I think it was a great episode, and a great discussion. I read many of the comments, and my one, my one reflection here is not to revisit that whole debate, but to just, reassure any listeners that at no time, I think, were any of us suggesting that we should take the climate crisis less seriously. We absolutely have to communicate to the whole world that we're engaged in a, in a gigantic, existential challenge, and that communication must persist and rise in its intensity. And I think we all agree with that. The discussion was a little bit more about how the targeting of framing goes on. But, 100% let us commit to raising the profile of the climate crisis. I think we're all aligned on that. 

Tom: [00:02:31] Yeah, and I mean, that's an issue that, you know, Christiana and I have faced and you as well, I guess, you know, as well, for years, the concept of stubborn optimism kind of sounds like you're kind of deciding everything's going to be all right in the face of, come what may. And actually we mean something very different to that. We mean you have to look really clearly at the serious reality and the nature of what we're facing, and decide that you're going to show up and do your best for it. So it's slightly counter definitional. So I totally understand why in some cases, people sort of push back on that. And that was only a small proportion of the messages we received. But really welcome that, really welcome all kinds of engagement and conversations. So thank you. Now, this week we are going to talk about something really fascinating that is unfolding all across Europe at this minute. And that is the protests that are taking place, across Europe and actually well beyond in Latin America and in India by farmers. We're recording this today, on Tuesday the 27th of February. Load More
Tom: [00:03:23] And today tractors have been driven into the centre of Brussels. Manure has been sprayed on police, eggs have been thrown. And Paul, I'm a, you know, I was reading my Daily Telegraph article earlier today and actually I'm in. 

Paul: [00:03:37] Daily Telegraph Tom? You sit with the Daily Telegraph?

Tom: [00:03:37] I'm in no doubt that this is about, I'm in no doubt this is about net zero. Now, net zero is destroying farmers livelihoods. These targets to deal with climate change, to keep us within 1.5 degrees, has been made very clear to me by the Daily Telegraph that what the farmers are doing is they are expressing real anger, that governments are moving faster than they want to. They're introducing environmental legislation. And we are seeing a powerful populist pushback, telling democratic governments that this is too much, it's too fast, and their livelihoods are under threat and they will not accept it. And we now need to see a roll back. This is the sole cause of these protests. It has been made clear to me by the Daily Telegraph. Paul, would you care to respond?

Paul: [00:04:25] Yeah, I mean, I think it's important that our listeners understand that climate change is a terrible threat to the world. But of course, so is the Daily Telegraph. And, you know, Tom Rivett-Carnac, somebody I've known for many, many years and I used to admire, has changed. He's changed his spots, he's had a personality transplant and he's become, really quite a sort of a strange kind of authoritarian, maybe a little bit eclectic, weird, sort of slightly aggressive, sort of nasty, you just turned into a horrible person Tom. Why did you do that?

Tom: [00:05:02] Well, I mean, I just feel like my eyes have been opened. I mean, listen to this, the EU is already painfully aware of the populist rebellion bubbling up against its net zero plans. Tractors have been on the march in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Belgium and the Netherlands. What we are now seeing is a refusal to accept net zero autocrats. So is that really what's going on? 

Paul: [00:05:25] Could I get a job as a net zero autocrat? I mean, I would really like that.

Tom: [00:05:28] I'll call you that.

Paul: [00:05:29] That big desk.

Tom: [00:05:30] That last phrase was mine, that wasn't, net zero autocrats wasn't in the Daily Telegraph.

Paul: [00:05:35] I mean, look, just.

Tom: [00:05:37] What's really going on here? What's really going on? 

Paul: [00:05:39] Well a serious point is, I don't think I've ever before felt sorry for riot police. But there's quite something, you know, you're standing there and all this big black gear with your helmet and your shield, and you've got the tear gas and the water cannon and a sort of 30 tonne tractor goes past you.

Tom: [00:05:54] Yeah, spraying silage and manure.

Paul: [00:05:55] At 50 miles an hour, and you jump out of the way. So, you know, in all seriousness, farmers appear to be unbelievably effective at complaining about the conditions that they are working under. But, thank you for setting this up so, so beautifully Tom, because, of course, I rather suspect, like me, you might agree, that that particular narrative that you just expressed is an extraordinary bit of piggybacking on something completely different, and.

Tom: [00:06:30] So tell me, in what way?

Paul: [00:06:32] Well, it's natural for us to, kind of imagine, because I know that we do, and an awful lot of people who listen to the podcast, have the privilege, I suppose, to work on climate change. And we see things through a climate change lens. So we imagine that this is about climate change. I've been doing some research and listening to some podcasts, where you hear farmers in France talk about this, and I'm going to quote, a podcast called Farming Funny, where some kind of rather jolly farmers discuss these problems. And they had a wonderful person called Morgane Ody, and she's a French farmer who's a leader and very much at the centre of this. And they talked for fully 30 to 40 minutes before mentioning climate change once. They talked about this being about a fair income, that the cost of production was going up, but not prices, that they need to earn a decent income. And they talked about it being a question of dignity. They they did complain about bureaucracy and red tape for subsidies, but they spoke about how in France, particularly the workers unions were there as well, and then got on to points that are almost a little bit more geopolitically philosophical, like, she said, I don't want to export my products to Brazil.

Paul: [00:07:54] You know, there's a lot of hurt around the Mercosur Agreement, opening up markets for food in Europe to, producers from Latin America and, you know, they talked about, the mobilization of Indian farmers being inspired by food sovereignty, not nationalism and, said, look, why import, you know, local food, you know, should be supported and protected. So when they finally, did get round to talking about climate change, they said that it exists. And of course, farmers know all about this and the biodiversity crisis. But again, I actually listened to a different podcast where a Ugandan farmer sort of said, look, climate change is a whole society problem. And farmers who are under the most enormous financial pressure, you know, can't necessarily be expected to, take further risks and experience further complications dealing with this. So that's the sort of the first level of pushback, I think.

Tom: [00:08:57] Yeah, I mean, I think what I'm hearing you say there, and what I would agree is that, first of all, farmers are having a really hard time. And we've been sort of joking at the beginning of this podcast, but that is not a joke. And it's very, very painful if you're living in, an agricultural context and that's your work. First of all, we just experienced the hottest year on record, so yields are changing. The way in which you engage with the land is changing. If you speak to anyone who is closely connected with the land, they will say that. Secondly, there is an increasing amount of bureaucracy from governments, from the EU, from the UK, from elsewhere, in part to try to incorporate environmental concerns into their policies, but not only and we'll come back to that. Secondly, there are rising costs with inflation that are feeding into how farmers are. Paul, you want to come in, you're waving.

Paul: [00:09:47] No, no, I want to say hello to Christiana. 

Tom: [00:09:48] Oh Christiana is here. Christiana, so nice to see you, thanks for joining us.

Christiana: [00:09:54] Hi guys. Hi, hi, sorry that I'm so late here. 

Tom: [00:09:59] That's all right, that's all right, no worries. So, we've basically kicked off this episode, as you know, and we're talking about farming, and we've kind of set it up that also, as you know, what farmers are protesting about is, of course, these draconian net zero targets that are being implemented all around the world. And we're just kind of getting into talking about that. And Paul has explained to me that it might be a little bit more complicated than just purely about net zero. Maybe there's a bit of political opportunism going on here, which may include a whole range of other different issues that are being piggybacked on. So I don't know if you want to come in at that point and kind of give your analysis of what's happening, or if you'd like to listen for a bit and then you jump in in a sec.

Christiana: [00:10:37] You know, I better listen for quite a bit because, jumping in in the middle of a conversation, especially about something as sensitive and as important as farming, could be very dangerous for me and for you. So I will be listening first.

Tom: [00:10:54] All right. So I was.

Paul: [00:10:55] It started badly Christiana, because Tom had been reading the Daily Telegraph and something terrible had happened to him, and he'd developed this whole narrative about climate change and the farmers wanting climate change and welcoming climate change and all sorts of bonkers stuff. And actually, I was proud of having done a certain amount of research and listening to quite a lot of.

Christiana: [00:11:17] As usual.

Tom: [00:11:19] There you go. 

Paul: [00:11:20] As usual, well, you know, the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. So I was doing a lot of research into what these farmers are concerned about. And they're worried, they are deeply concerned about facing abject poverty for, you know, fully the last, you know, few years, the last decade that they've been suffering significant inflation, falling prices for their produce. Farmers in the EU particularly are very concerned about EU markets being opened up, to global competition. And, you know, the dignity of farmers who are having to, one of them who I think was a bit crazy, but he was talking about the globalists want to bankrupt us so they can take our land. Well, that's obviously not true. But the point being, my central thesis from my research was this is almost entirely about poverty and it's not about climate change.

Tom: [00:12:15] So that's helpful and I would agree with that. But I would also say that it is also true that governments in the EU and the UK and elsewhere are trying to integrate climate strategy with their agricultural policy. And we're seeing this in different places where agricultural policy is being evolved to try to be more wildlife friendly, to try to store more carbon in the soils, in a range of different ways. And some of that is creating more bureaucracy for people to deal with in a manner that is then precipitating as one of the causes, this pushback. But what I would also say is that that is being very cleverly captured by right of centre parties to present this as a revolt against net zero, which it absolutely is not.

Paul: [00:13:04] Yeah. No, 100%. And I mean, farmers talking about having to, you know, work all day, and not really be able to survive economically and then to spend a couple of hours in the evening, doing sort of administration essentially online and phrases like, no one answers any emails and there's no one to talk to, which I think we're all familiar with last time we tried to do anything online. But, you know, it's one thing when you're, you know, you're trying to book a hotel or something, but it's another thing when it's your livelihood.

Tom: [00:13:35] When your livelihood is dependent. And actually connected to that issue, so in preparation for this podcast, I actually went and had a conversation with my neighbouring farmer. So I live in a rural area of Devon, and I have a very good friend who farms a few hundred acres nearby, and I actually invited him to come on the podcast and talk to us. And he didn't want to do that for reasons that will be clear in a minute. But he had a really interesting perspective. He said, look, I'm a fifth generation farmer, and what is being asked of me by government is shifting. However, I see that weather patterns are changing. I see that we're in an emergency. So I'm engaging with it and I'm struggling with all these online systems. And when I do that, and I try to listen to what's being told to me, I shift partially away from food production, I shift towards nature restoration alongside food production. And actually financially, this is just the UK, he told me that he can do very well as a result of that. And so his analysis of this situation, and this is why he didn't want to come on the podcast, is that much of this protest is about a nostalgic, harkening back to a imagined status quo in the past, when everything was great and a refusal to change for lots of reasons that many of us can understand. But that what is being presented to farmers is an opportunity for transformation that many of them are being unable to grasp because they are unable to deal with the bureaucracy of transformation. But if they were able to grasp it, some governments and I can't say this for everyone where there are riots taking place, are providing a pathway where that is feasible to do both.

Christiana: [00:15:18] Wow, gosh Tom, I don't know that I can come down that harshly. I think your neighbour is incredibly enlightened and perhaps quite unique, because it seems to me that farmers in Europe, but anywhere else, speaking from Costa Rica, very agricultural country, are actually unfairly squeezed, is my sense. Because as your friend has just told you, he inherited agricultural practices from his grandparents, their grandparents, you know, way up the line. And most farmers, be they men or women, most farmers in the world are women, by the way, are still practicing agricultural practices that they have inherited from many generations in hundreds of years. They're also trying to operate within, financial, political, economic paradigm that operated well in the past. So their practices are the ones of the past and the paradigms that surround them, be they the policies, the subsidies, the trade agreements operated more or less well in the past. The challenge that they face, consciously or not, is not, I would call it nostalgia, I would call it, just complete paralysis because that world that they inherited and that they operated in and that their parents and grandparents operated in is no more, because we're now hit by climate change, invariably, which is the most deeply disruptive factor to agriculture for sure, as well as to everything else. It is completely predictable that we will not return to what used to be the norm.

Christiana: [00:17:41] That is no longer the norm. And so how can you blame them for operating in a reality that doesn't, that no longer exists. And for that reality that is emerging, we frankly do not have the policies, the subsidies, the trade agreements, all of the paradigm that would truly help them to shift from where they were to where they need to go, which is high resilience, regenerative agricultural practices, restoration of nature, a completely different paradigm. But they're not being helped by that, they're not being helped by that, because governments are themselves still struggling to figure out what are the new policies, what are the new subsidies, what are the new agreements. They don't really have a clear idea. All of this, frankly, is they're all in unknown space, trying to figure out together or individually. And so the farmers are frankly very squeezed here, they're very squeezed. I don't think it's about, you know, romantic nostalgia. I think it's frustration. And I'm closer to where Paul mentioned, this is a true threat for them. It's a threat for their livelihood because they're operating according to one paradigm. Nobody's really giving them the support to shift to another paradigm. And the difference between those two is a direct threat to my livelihood. So I'm more in paralysis, frankly, and anger than nostalgia.

Paul: [00:19:25] Thank you for that, Christiana. And let's just, let me give a little bit more what I'm going to call economic context in the EU, because I think it's a great case study, and that's where the.

Tom: [00:19:35] Can I just say one thing before, before you do, I'm really sorry for this. Christiana, the suggestion, though, is that actually some governments are providing that pathway and we know that changing society is partly about policies and it's partly about mindset. And I would not have brought this to this conversation if I hadn't heard it directly from a farmer who'd been on the land for generations. And he said, actually, it's not perfect, it's difficult to navigate. I went on the website myself, and it's incredibly complicated and requires real attention, but a lot of support is there. And actually, if we want to make this shift and we want to restore the soils and we want to be more, progressive in terms of how we deal with our natural environment, some governments are doing, they're doing some elements of that. And farmers also need to realize what you also said, which is the past is not coming back. And they need to embrace a different kind of future. And yes, it is, any time there is major transition in any sector and it involves human suffering that deserves our compassion, but it also deserves the reality that every sector needs to transform, and farming is not excluded from that. So as painful as it is, farmers need to embrace a mindset of transformation, take what opportunities they can and try to move forward and where there's genuine gaps, then we need to try to fill them. I'm not really quite as unfeeling as it probably sounds like I am, but I'm just trying to make the point.

Paul: [00:20:58] You've set up perfectly the comment I wanted to make Tom, perfectly. 

Christiana: [00:21:02] Oh no, and I want to come in also. Now what do we do?

Paul: [00:21:04] You can go first Christiana, because then I'm going to kind of try and bring it all together with my meta analysis.

Christiana: [00:21:09] Okay, okay. Thank God for that Paul. No Tom, I realize that, you know, with a cool head and just, you know, if we're just led by the brain, you're absolutely right. But I put myself in farmer's shoes, okay. And let me just be transparent, my father was a farmer before he became a politician. And so, it's very different, qualitatively different Tom to have inherited agricultural practices from my father and his father, then having to go to a website and having to figure out how the heck do I make this shift. It's qualitatively different right.

Tom: [00:22:01] Totally. 

Paul: [00:22:02] Yeah.

Christiana: [00:22:02] And so for me, that's the frustration, that's the paralysis. Because all of a sudden everything that I have in my legacy, my whole, you know, identity that I have inherited and, and things that I do in my sleep that I don't even think about because I get up at 3:00 in the morning and, you know, the day just goes forward, because that's what all my grandparents have been doing. Now all of a sudden I have to go like, no, no, no, wait a minute. First I have to turn on the computer, go to a website that I didn't even know exists. Figure out, you know what they're telling me. Fill in a whole bunch of documents. Buy completely new, I don't know, seed. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera. It's qualitatively a different enterprise. A different enterprise. And that is the piece, you know, there's a huge delta there. Yes, of course, everybody has to transition. But by God, that's a difficult transition.

Tom: [00:23:01] Yeah.

Paul: [00:23:02] And especially when you are in what I'm going to call here terrible pain right. I once managed to mix up this, supermarket slogan with a line from George Orwell. Everyday low prices is a boot being smashed into a human face forever. If you look at the context here okay, the auto workers in the EU, get 2.8 times more GDP than the agricultural workers. So, you know, when we're, you know, they're in so much stronger position, they're, you know, there are 9.4 million people working in agriculture in the EU. And their average salary is €28,800. And, I'm going to give you just one shocking statistic. You could put five European citizens in a small car, they are the five richest in Europe, Bernard, Francois, Amancio, Dieter and Rudolf. And if they decided to do something about this, they could double the salary of 9.4 million farmers for one year and seven months with just what they have in their bank accounts. So the wealth inequalities are so gigantic that five people would be sitting on $426 billion in personal wealth, and then 9.4 million people would be struggling to make a living.

Paul: [00:24:34] This is the kind of context, and I just leave the last word to somebody that many of our listeners will know, Thomas Piketty, who wrote that incredible book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, in 2014, sold 200,000 copies hard back in 2014, in its first year, breaking a record for the Harvard Business Press, Harvard University Press. But my point is, the thing he said is the 1%, he was referring to the USA but it's a global phenomenon, the levels of wealth inequality are at the level of, almost at the level of pre-revolutionary France. So if you think, you know, the peasants are revolting, and I've heard French farmers say they're happy to be called peasants. They are revolting. They're revolting because absolutely, chronic inequalities in wealth are making their lives insufferable. And it's fixable. But I think we need to think about that, you know, the discussion we've been having, we need to think about climate change, but we also need to think about a societal context.

Tom: [00:25:36] So I'm completely with you there but a couple of things. One is climate change is going to make that wealth inequality worse because it's going to make it harder for farmers, right. 

Christiana: [00:25:44] Way worse.

Tom: [00:25:45] So this is not actually about trying to roll back policies that would protect those farmers by mitigating the worst impacts of climate change. That may, the manifestation of that in the way that the policies are rolled out, it may appear to be back that way, but that is political opportunism, trying to claim that we need to roll that back and it won't help any of them. And secondly, to just go back to the earlier point, what we need, and I don't know how we do this, but we need in the EU and this, because you just gave the number, we need 9.4 million rural entrepreneurs that own land and are prepared to be based in the past, but face to the future, how do they install solar, how do they change their farming practices so they can create more plant based protein, how do they think about different rural forms of income that can enable us to holiday closer to home and find these solutions. I totally accept your point, Christiana, that actually there is stuff that is in our bones.

Tom: [00:26:35] And actually, when you think back to the kind of rural economy, that's the place where many of us kind of idolize this sense that that's kind of where we all ultimately come from. And for this to change and for people in those spaces to need to make such fundamental transformations, goes beyond being painful. It kind of goes against core principles of who you are. But that's what's going to be required of all of us, right. I mean, this is a, these are the early signs of what's going to happen to manufacturing sectors and, you know, all sectors of the economy as we try to pivot to this total transformation of a net zero regenerative economy. So yes, it's painful. Yes we need to have compassion and we need to find the tools, the policies, the education to embrace that and unleash that sense of possibility where you are based in the past, but you're not shackled by it, and you're looking to the future to really try and transform.

Christiana: [00:27:28] Yes, I take that, I take that, as long as it's done in a sensitive and supportive way, rather than ramming things down people's throat because you can't, I mean, especially if you're losing your livelihood, if you can't feed your kids, you know, I don't give a hoot of what's happening around the world, I just want to feed my kids. And so, you know, that's the balance that we have to reach there. How do we do both at the same time.

Paul: [00:27:59] And I mean, if you sort of step back and try and look at the root problem, notwithstanding my long speech about inequality, which I think is a big part of it. But the other one is, I heard some farmers saying, you know, consumers don't pay for greener products. Well, actually, consumers don't pay for defense. Consumers don't often pay for health services. We have to have a system in our society that ensures that funds are found for these purposes. Now everyone sort of says, well, there isn't the money or there isn't the political will. And I think another root cause is, is we still haven't seen governments telling the public the level of danger that we're in and the need for us to come together as societies to solve these problems. I was really shocked to discover that farmers in Germany are very unhappy about having, subsidies for diesel fuel removed, you know, kind of abruptly. And that's kind of logical. You can see why they would be unhappy. Isn't that the focus for the EU electric tractor project. Isn't that when we come together and say, well, if we, you know, if we're going to reduce subsidies for fossil fuels in farming, we need to think about how the EU and kind of an agricultural superstate can develop the technologies of the 21st century, you know, that are zero or, you know, near zero carbon. That's the sort of the step that we still don't seem to be able to make as societies to be able to reconstruct our thinking around this new narrative of national and global security, recognizing that within our societies there's just more than enough money to deal with it. It's just concentrated in these dull lakes where it's doing nothing. 

Tom: [00:29:40] Yeah. So if I can summarize where I think we've gotten to here, it is that we have a kind of a deep compassion for what is happening to a sector in transition, but also a realization that that sector has to transform and that society has to relate, has to renew its relationship with land and the agricultural sector. However, if we're really serious about that, then we need to be really serious about providing the resources necessary for that transition and also facilitating all of the things that we get that that I often see people really light up about. When you talk about a world in which we've dealt with the climate crisis, right. They don't really get excited to be honest about lots of solar panels and green steel, but they do get excited about the butterflies coming back and a boom of biodiversity and the return of the forests and all these other different things. And if we want that as a society, we need to have fair, reasonable, just policies now and throughout the transition to support those people who are living in those places to enable them to actually support that transformation. And they've got to play their role, too, in meeting that with a sense of not being trapped by the past. They can't be expected to do it without that. But with that support, it's actually essential that they help us lead the way through to this transformation, because otherwise we're not going to do it. They're an essential part of it.

Christiana: [00:30:59] I think that's a beautiful summary, Tom. Thank you very much for summarizing that. The only addition that I would make to that is, if there's one sector that we will never be able to do without, it's the food production sector.

Tom: [00:31:17] Right, that's a good point.

Christiana: [00:31:17] You know, I mean, what would we do without food, you know, if push comes to shove, maybe we can go without cars, I don't know, and airplanes and things like that. But food is absolutely front and centre to human survival. And so, you know, for those who are producing that, to understand that they're actually in an absolute critical, unbeatable, privileged position, and that if they do as you were suggesting, if they do change their mindset, if you will, and say like, wow, okay, we actually, you know, have this, have this, the whole transition of the whole economy, but we're sitting at, if you will, at the fulcrum of that. And how can we take advantage of that. That's the point. Instead of, you know, assuming that the whole system is against them, which is, I'm sure, the way it feels for sure, they feel that the whole system is against them. And so the invitation is to shift that and transform it and go like, okay, the old system, we're no longer there. But for the new system, actually, everybody's depending on them, everybody is depending on them, and to understand that there is, at least in theory, although not yet in practice, except for your farmer friend who has figured that out. There's a huge opportunity because we need them, we so need them, but that's not the way that they perceive it.

Tom: [00:32:57] No, no, no.

Paul: [00:32:58] And two little points there, one is, your farmer friend, I do understand, I did hear a farmer saying that they themselves do not share, good ideas enough amongst each other. Actually, there's enormous scope to try and flip that and say, I think I found a way around this, and I want to tell everyone, rather than I think I've found the right way around this and I'm going to keep it to myself, but to Christiana, your point about priorities in our society, I mean, you know, there's nothing particularly wrong with this, but the richest person of all in Europe, Bernard Arnault, he made his €222 billion fortune from Givenchy, Dior and Louis Vuitton. So that's really where we're focusing our society in some regards, luxury goods. Can we not see enormous scope to tax luxury goods and use those funds to transfer to these fundamentals of our society, our food, and indeed, when I heard you talking about bringing back nature, Tom, I was really moved, I think that that's an incredibly powerful narrative that we can kind of, you know, we've talked about how you've got greenhouse gas emissions up, but nature pulling down, and they're two sides of the same coin. But I think that the last and toughest question that I'd like to put to you two, because I don't know how to answer it, it's really easy for us to be so critical. But how could our politicians, our civil servants, thread this needle. You know, what, you know, I can't so easily see the mistakes they're making, and I wonder what's the roadmap if you're in government listening to this podcast, either a politician or a civil servant or in a supporter of government consultancy or whatever, or as a voter even, what's the trick to bring this around to where we all seem to agree it should go.

Christiana: [00:34:50] Tom is the political strategist. Tom.

Tom: [00:34:53] I don't have a political strategy answer for you. I mean, I would say that thanks in large part to the Paris Agreement, we have collective government agreement that we need to do something significant about emissions in the coming decades, and we have not sufficient but meaningful policies around the world to do something about that, that works its way through into legislation and then into regulation. And then people like our farmers that we're talking about here end up having to try to work out what that means for them. Having spent fully 25 minutes on the website, which my farmer friend directed me to, to try and work out what subsidies. I don't know, I mean, I feel like I'm a reasonably well educated person who understands things like the UNFCCC negotiation process, but that is nothing compared to the complexity of trying to navigate the subsidy process in one little country in Northern Europe. So if you then look at the EU process, the thing I would say is that actually, and actually we've had this brilliant brief prepared this week where we've gone through all of the countries in the world where protests are currently taking place. So France, Poland, UK, Germany, Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Belgium, Greece, India, Brazil. The one common thread in all of them is bureaucracy and red tape and difficulty of accessing the solutions. So I would say actually and this is easy to say and it's difficult to do when you're a government, that there needs to be a streamlining of the opportunity and the upside. What is in it for you, that needs to be clearly and easily accessible by people. Because if it's available, but it's, you know, it's complex and you have to calculate it and how it all works. People will just go back to the status quo that they've always done, that instinctive response to do what you've been doing for decades will reassert itself, so I think.

Christiana: [00:36:38] Exactly, exactly.

Tom: [00:36:38] The policies aren't perfect, but some are there and they should be easily accessible.

Christiana: [00:36:43] Exactly, well put Tom. Because, what those, you know, red tape policies and bureaucracy is competing with is what I have in my bones, I don't need to go to any website right.

Tom: [00:36:55] Right, yeah.

Christiana: [00:36:55] So it's a huge, huge competition. I mean, honestly, very difficult to come to that level of behavioural change, that competes with what I've always done, what's in my bones, you know, I get up at 4:00 and I go milk the cows or, you know, tend to the land, I mean, and against that, all of these complicated red tapes and bureaucracies. So well put, well put. It cannot be website, a website, thousands of websites, cannot be the answer. Actually, it has to be, I think what we call I don't know what it's called in Europe, we call it here agricultural extension, which is people who are trained in what the new practices are, who actually go to the farmers and bring them along. It is, you cannot expect anyone to go to a website. I'm sorry. You need the person to person, person to person conversation to bring people over the hump to completely new world.

Paul: [00:38:10] And on that bureaucracy point, if I can bring forward a theory without really any evidence at all, I have a motto, you know, often wrong but never in doubt. And this is something that I fundamentally hold. But the theory there.

Tom: [00:38:24] That's what we love about you Paul, yeah.

Paul: [00:38:26] The theory I have in all seriousness is, it goes something like this. And I've had some professional experience in building a kind of bureaucracy, and you just can't start at 70 miles an hour, you know, you can't do that. There's an enormous attraction to say, well, let's start with a comprehensive baseline and to put, you know, tens of millions of farmers into an infinitely complicated process that the true learning about how to use our amazing internet to develop a new capability like this is to start with something small and manageable and well supported, and then to tend that and build it and grow it from there. And I think what we've seen here is, for understandable reasons, climate change is so big a sort of administrative overreach. Failing to appreciate that that actually is not the way to cultivate a relationship with farmers that you need to start with people where they are, and build up from there. And actually, if you look at the great internet stories of our time, they've all started like that, very, very simple and built up to the complexity that they now have. You can't bring people in at the deep end, it doesn't work, they sink.

Tom: [00:39:37] So true.

Christiana: [00:39:38] And just to finish off, if we're finishing off, to underline what we said at the very beginning, the danger is if we don't do this and we don't hold hands and bring people along in a positive way is, that the far right completely manipulates.

Tom: [00:39:54] Which is what's happening.

Christiana: [00:39:55] Complete manipulation.

Tom: [00:39:56] Yeah, absolutely. And it's so easily done and reframed in that way. And then we have like people like our friends at the Daily Telegraph and many other right wing papers who say this is an attack on net zero. And like so many things, right, it's a truth told with bad intent, right. It has a seed of truth to it which makes the lie that much more pernicious. It's not the totality of the truth, but there are some elements of it which makes it land with people and makes it powerful. 

Paul: [00:40:23] And commercial interests, commercial interests supporting that, I mean, you know, we do have a very assertive, industry wide campaign funded by industries that are threatened by the transformation. Anyway, sorry Tom.

Tom: [00:40:36] No, I think that's it. Unless anyone else had anything to add. I think that's a wrap for this week. Thanks for joining us, Christiana. Lovely you could come in and, great to have your views. Ad now we're going to be doing a Q&A next week so please send us your questions, this is specifically about Christiana and Isa's nature series. Not next week Sarah is telling me, no next week not. This is helpful guidance.

Paul: [00:41:00] I would say not, not.

Christiana: [00:41:02] Next week, sorry Tom, but next week.

Tom: [00:41:04] It is the week after next.

Christiana: [00:41:06] The week after next. 

Tom: [00:41:07] Excellent, okay.

Christiana: [00:41:07] Next week we celebrate Women's Day.

Tom: [00:41:10] Next week we celebrate Women's Day, so PD and I won't be here.

Christiana: [00:41:12] And then the week after that.

Tom: [00:41:14] We do the Q&A. So we need your questions on the brilliant nature series that Christiana and Isa ran, so please send this in. We'll put that out on social media as well, and we'll leave you with a piece of music. Now, this artist, Olivia Fern, was suggested by a listener who listens to the podcast and said this would be a brilliant person. We reached out, here she is with her song, Calling Us Home. Enjoy and we will see you, or Christiana will see you for International Women's Day next week. Bye.

Paul: [00:41:40] Bye for now.

Christiana: [00:41:42] Bye.

Olivia Fern: [00:41:45] Calling Us Home is, on the one hand, about my own personal relationship to the land and how she speaks to me, but it's also in a wider sense about how, as a species, we really need to hear her call, the call back home to the earth and to the right relationship with her and in turn, our own hearts really, because our disconnection from the earth is also a mirror of our own disconnection from ourselves and our wild nature.

Clay: [00:45:58] So there you go. Another episode of Outrage + Optimism. So I'm Clay, but more importantly, who you just heard was Olivia Fern. Now, Olivia is an artist based in the Lake District National Park in northwest England. Absolutely stunning part of the country and equally beautiful music to match. Last week on the show we had on Luke Wallace, who brings music and education and storytelling together. This week, another artist bringing music into places we need it. Olivia is known for playing not only festival gigs, music gigs, but environmental activism events and has recently been recognized by the Arts Council England to receive funding to put on this tour of a concert and singing circle events for women, as well as record new music centered around bringing women together to sing. Check this out. So there's a tour happening soon between end of March and middle of May, where Olivia is inviting women across the UK to participate in these singing circles. Meant to encourage, uplift and empower women through discovering their voice. These events are free and if you are a woman in the UK, you can go check out more details on Olivia's Instagram on how to participate. I've got my phone here. I'm actually watching a reel on her Instagram now.

Clay: [00:47:29] And yeah, the dates are between end of March through mid May. Such a cool idea and a great way to explore the power of your voice. I can't stress this enough. We love this kind of event here at Outrage + Optimism. Yeah, Olivia, this is so cool. Oh, and if you go to one of these events, do give us a shout about how it was. There's no prerequisite of being a singer to join. Absolutely, a welcoming and inviting opportunity with a concert by Olivia to follow. So again, check the show notes for more info on how to attend, oliviafern.com. Thank you Olivia and thank you to listener Ciara Shannon for emailing me. Hope I got your name right. Let this be an encouragement to the rest of you who may have a music suggestion for the podcast. You can email me clay@globaloptimism.com. Okay, speaking of the importance of women's voices, next week we are celebrating International Women's Day here on the show. Very much looking forward to that. And just a schedule update the following week. We need your questions for a mailbag episode. We've done these in the past. You submit a question, the hosts answer it, and discuss.

Clay: [00:48:52] Now, there are many ways to submit a question written or recorded. If you go the extra mile, wait, do people say kilometer like the extra? I've never heard that. Maybe they do. But anyway, if you go the extra, unit of measurement and film your question. Uh, no promises, but that's great for us because it could be a fun piece for our listener community to see on social media. And obviously, we'd get your permission before we posted it, but I'm literally coming up with this idea right now. Sorry, Kam-Mei, I didn't run this by you anyway. However, you want to submit your question written or recorded, please send it to us on Instagram, LinkedIn, via email. We've got our eyes on our inboxes and we really want to hear from you. This episode isn't possible without you. We'll be bringing on Isabel Cavelier, who co-hosted the nature series with Christiana that came out a few weeks ago. Very excited to take your questions. All right. That's everything from us this week. Thanks for joining us. You can find us online and subscribe to our newsletter via our website, outrageandoptimism.org see you all next week.


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