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193: Momentum VS Perfection

The Biggest Question in Climate Right Now? (Part Two)

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About this episode

Welcome back to part two of the mini-series Momentum vs Perfection!

This week Tom Rivett-Carnac and Fiona McRaith deepen their exploration of the tensions in the climate movement outlined in episode one, and look to see how we might begin to move past the current impasse to accelerate action in this decisive decade. 

Tom kicks off the episode by recapping the learnings gleaned from the previous episode’s conversations. He reflects that “holding fast to what we know is important and also adapting to be practical to make progress when we need to are both important’

Disagreement, we learned last week however, is inevitable and Tom and Fiona question whether part of the solution lies in being comfortable with dwelling with empathy and understanding in the apparent dichotomy we find ourselves in.  

Journey with Tom, Fiona and their guests as they seek to answer the burning questions that they hope might unlock a trajectory to collaborative, joyful action. Some of these questions include:  

  • Is a rebuilding of trust and understanding among the different actors key?

  • What part does the ‘moveable middle’ play on the spectrum of momentum and perfection. 

  • How do we ensure inclusivity and engagement of those whose voices are not currently represented in the wider movement? 

  • How do these divisions present in the corporate world where the sense of urgency is well embedded but transition to action is hesitant

  • What role can impartial actors and data play in pushing forward the momentum and perfection agendas?

  • Can the capitalist spirit ever be used as a force to accelerate change as long as it is rooted in good intention

  • Is connection and personal relationships key to building the sense of common purpose and approach we need now?

Helping Tom and Fiona to answer these questions is an incredible line-up of guest speakers: 

  • Justin Forsyth, Co-Founder Count Us In, a radical collaboration of business, faith, sport, and civil society to inspire a billion people to take climate action.
  • Farhana Yamin, Lawyer/Author/Activist & Keynote Speaker. Farhana is an internationally recognized environmental lawyer, climate change and development policy expert. She works part time at the Doc Society coordinating the Climate Reframe Project which seeks to amplify the voice of climate activists and experts from racialized minorities in the UK environment movement.
  • Peter Bakker, President & CEO WBCSD, the global CEO-led community of the world’s leading sustainable businesses working collectively to accelerate the system transformations needed for a net zero, nature positive, and equitable future.

  • Sister True Dedication, Zen Buddhist monastic teacher in Thich Nhat Hanh's Plum Village Community

  • Prof Helen Pankhurst CBE. CARE International, MMU, UOS. Senior Advisor at international humanitarian agency CARE International, women’s rights activist, and the direct descendant of Emmeline Pankhurst and Sylvia Pankhurst, both leaders in the suffragette movement.

If you missed Part One of this remarkable and timely conversation, please take time to listen  here for insights from previous movements, generational collaboration, the value of civil disobedience, the role of data and measurement, and whether agreement between sides is necessary for advancement.

Please don’t forget to let us know what you think here, and / or by contacting us on our social media channels or via the website. 


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Fiona McRaith, Manager, Engagement & Delivery and Special Assistant to the President & CEO, Bezos Earth Fund
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Justin Forsyth
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Plum Village has announced its first long-format online course, Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet. Launching in late spring 2023, sharing Thich Nhat Hanh’s engaged Buddhism teachings with a wide audience, nurturing insight, compassion, community, and mindful action in service of the Earth and bringing to life teachings in Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet

Helen Pankhurst, women’s rights activist and Senior Advisor, CARE International 
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Learn more about Pankhurst’s great-grandmother Emmeline Pankhurst and grandmother Sylvia Pankhurst, both leaders in the suffragette movement. 

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Full Transcript

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

Fiona: [00:00:15] And I'm Fiona McRaith.

Tom: [00:00:16] We're back for our second episode in our mini series exploring some of the tensions we have observed in the climate movement and how to move to accelerate action in this decisive decade. Thanks for being here. So Fiona, it's great to be back here week two with you. And just to pick up where we were at the end of the last episode, I felt like we were sort of verified in our perspective that both of these approaches holding fast to what we know is important and also adapting to be practical and make progress when we need to are both important. And people kind of saw that and something resonated with everybody that we spoke to and also the many messages we've had since this podcast went out last week. But there was also agreement that this slows us down. But then from some people that maybe disagreement is inevitable and maybe not too much of a problem. So I think I'm beginning episode two, if anything, more confused but at a higher level than I was before we started episode one. So I wonder where you are.

Fiona: [00:01:21] I'm, I live in a state of perpetual confusion, so I'm right there with you. 

Tom: [00:01:27] I'm glad we could contribute to that.

Fiona: [00:01:30] No, I mean, I think it's it's something that's becoming more clear to me is that the confusion is also part of it. Part of the solution is perhaps being comfortable with not fully understanding or seeing the through line, though of course, that's so contrary to what we might seek. And honestly, that's contrary to what we've set out to do. So so I'm I'm certainly I'm in the same boat Tom.

Tom: [00:01:54] I don't know if it's contrary, though, because, I mean, I think one thing that I picked up from the first episode from people like Adam Kahane and others, is that just dwelling with the apparent dichotomy, this different, helps us. That's kind of how we move beyond it, to try and solve this in the world by controlling people to approach things in a particular way is probably a fool's errand. But understanding it, dwelling with it, having empathy for everybody along that spectrum, that feels to me like the seed of where the solution probably lies at the beginning of this episode.

Fiona: [00:02:25] Completely, and I think doing that enables greater trust in every actor as a part of that process, or even just in the value of all components of that process.

Tom: [00:02:35] Mmm, great. So we're going to kick off and we're going to kick off actually by revisiting an interview that Christiana, Paul and I conducted a couple of weeks ago with Avi Persaud. He is Special Envoy to the Prime Minister of Barbados on Investment and Financial Services, and he's really the intellectual mastermind behind what's become known as the Bridgetown Agenda. And we'll be hearing a lot more about that this year. So we wanted to play this to you again because during our conversation he summed up really well how he saw the potential detrimental impact of a self righteousness may be an obsession with perfectionism and how that can affect the climate movement and how we need to move beyond it.

Avinash: [00:03:13] So I think for whatever reason, and I don't know why, but this is a moment, the moment is here. I don't know whether it was the the amazing floods in Pakistan, whether, you know, the scorching summer in Europe, whether it was the floods in America and California and Southern America. It's a shame it takes those things. But for whatever reason, there is a moment here where people kind of recognize we have a global problem. We have to come together and have a collective solution. And they're looking for ideas. A vacuum has emerged where there's a sort of a sucking of less, yes, let's do something. What what should we do? And Bridgetown is sort of saying, well, here are five things you can do. These are five practical things you can do. Now, you don't need to wait for five years. You can do them now, do them this year. So I think that that that excites me. Um, I think what, what outrages me is there's a tremendous amount of, of self-righteousness in, in all of these issues from, from all sides. And it bothers me, I mean, I'm sort of thinking, well, yes, you know, they are self-righteous positions one can have, but we don't have time. Time is running out, you know, and so we need to act and so does this help us get somewhere or does it not? And there are a lot of great there are a lot of people who are sort of indulging, I think, in a self-righteousness that does not move us to where we need to be and we don't have the time to to we don't have that gives them the luxury to to indulge in that. I think the key is not being too prescriptive. And I say to people, if there's one of the five you like, join us. If you're two, three, four, you don't need to believe in all five or all at the same time. We just need as many people as possible. And each one of these things and maybe each one has its own coalition. But I don't think you need to believe in all five. If there's one of those five that excites you. Join us.

Tom: [00:05:18] So I wonder I mean, it's interesting here as we're talking about this appreciation for different approaches, Avi seems to be saying here that we need to let go of the need for perfectionism and instead get behind a solution, even if we're not wholly in agreement. But it's also interesting that he's also holding pretty fast to some fairly radical things that he's pushing the world towards. So he's kind of holding fast to the outcome and being much more focused on momentum in the implementation of that idea.

Fiona: [00:05:44] And I think also something he said was, it's okay if you don't agree with all of these five, if you agree with one of them, you can be a part of this initiative.

Tom: [00:05:52] That's right, yeah.

Fiona: [00:05:53] And that is, I think, something that's often lost or forgotten and contributes to the challenge that we're talking about between perfection and momentum.

Tom: [00:06:03] It's a good point. You can pick the bit that works for you. You don't have to try and do everything. That's a really good reminder. So so we're going to start our episode properly now by going into a fascinating conversation that Fiona and I had with Justin Forsyth. So Justin has worked with two UK Prime Ministers. He was an Assistant Secretary General at the UN when he served as Deputy Head of UNICEF, and he was also the CEO of Save the Children and as one of the driving forces behind the Make Poverty History campaign and as Co-founder of Count Us In, we asked him how his experience of overcoming diverging tactics could now be applied to the climate movement.

Justin: [00:06:51] What I've learned most is that you need a kind of menu of strategies and tactics that work together to achieve impact. I mean, with Make Poverty History in 2005, which is a long time ago now, we had a kind of insider outsider strategy, pressure from the inside, real leadership from Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. I actually went into Number 10 to work with Tony Blair as his adviser on it. But we had this Make Poverty History campaign that engaged and moved the public, and it was that pincer movement that really achieved maximum impact. And the big outcome that we actually finally got at Gleneagles and this artificial debate between the insider outsiders I think is false. But I also think maybe there were three parts of the pincer, not two. There's the high level leadership which comes from within. It can also come from high level lobbying, the the activists, the movements. And then I think it's kind of the bit in the middle, which I'm most interested about at this moment in history, which is how you engage this movable middle, because I think this is the group that politicians and business leaders know to smoke, but you need the other two bits are really important, too.

Tom: [00:08:02] So tell me, let's go let's talk about the G8 summit in Gleneagles. That is this famous story that there was this two handed strategy that Tony Blair was negotiating with heads of state inside. And there was kind of a left hand strategy to just almost like rile up the activist movement on the outside so that he could point to that to strengthen his hand in the negotiations. Talk a little bit about that because that's such an amazing example of, how did that happen and how did you get the activists to trust you that you were on both on the same side?

Justin: [00:08:33] Well, there were real tensions, but there were extraordinary people like Richard Curtis and his partner Emma Freud and Bob Geldof and these NGOs, Christian Aid, Oxfam, Save the Children and others all creating Make Poverty History. I actually chaired, I think, the first meeting of Make Poverty History. And then Tony Blair said, why don't you come and help me from the inside too, and then link with this campaign as it builds. And that's what we did. And we orchestrated it in a very intentional way. I mean, in the final negotiations that we had in Lancaster House, just around the corner from Hyde Park, where Live Aid was about to happen, the negotiators at one of the toughest moments when we're trying to get breakthroughs on aid and debt and HIV and AIDS, could hear the music of the bands as they warmed up. And we actually took they're called Sherpas, I mean, because they helped prepare their leaders for the summit. The chief negotiators of each leader to the Live Aid concert that Bob Geldof put off. So there was a they were they felt the pressure. And Tony Blair said from the very beginning and Gordon Brown actually, who they were amazing double act, is keep the negotiations open until the very end, until actually we get to Gleneagles to the leaders are sitting around the table. Allow me to do the final bit of negotiation so that the pressure can really mount and then I'll push it across the line.

Justin: [00:09:54] And that's not usual. Most of the negotiations in the past, all the difficult bits have been done before and the leaders pitch up and have a nice whiskey or glass of wine and chat and do important business. But the actual text is already agreed and that caused a lot of tension. Enormous amount of tension. I remember one moment when Michael Jay, the the UK Sherpa, he we were in in fierce negotiations lots of of of of of text was unagreed, not agreed and he started banging the table and he said you know what will your children your grandchildren think of you if we don't get this breakthrough that will help lift hundreds of millions of people around the world out of poverty? You know, he's a very mild mannered, very senior diplomat. I think he was the head of the Foreign Office and he was waving this text and and he got too close to a candle and it caught fire. And the whole of the Africa communique text went up in fire. And at that moment and I won't say which Sherpa said this, said it pity it wasn't the climate text too because we were negotiating both climate change and Africa. So it was really tense and dramatic. And actually the other Sherpas got quite annoyed at us not landing the deal and pushing stuff into the summit itself.

Tom: [00:11:09] Right, of course, because for them it sort of feels quite, quite stressful, right, that their leaders are going to arrive and it's not resolved. And I mean, I remember in Paris when we were having problems, you know, I would then give a call to my friends at 350 or Avaaz or Greenpeace and say, look, we've got a problem in here. And they'd show up with trumpets and banners and and then I could go along to the negotiators and say, look at these lunatics, you know, we're going to have to do something about this. Where it was it was all kind of orchestrated behind the scenes. Other examples where you were in trouble and you picked up the phone and talked to the activists and got them to play a particular role to help you.

Justin: [00:11:42] Definitely. I mean, you know, we had we had we had a really tough the big deal done at Gleneagles on Africa and poverty was, you know, a hundred billion of extra aid and 100% debt cancellation. But one of the other issues which I personally feel was most important was allowing everyone to have access to antiretrovirals for HIV and AIDS. Almost nobody did that. And now millions and millions of people do who who've managed to live as a consequence. And we were negotiating this very specifically with the Americans. And I'm literally as President Bush was flying in to Scotland, we still hadn't gone done a deal. And one of my civil service colleagues, a really amazing character, was doing this negotiation with Air Force One as it was landing in Edinburgh. And we finally got a deal with the chief negotiator on the US side and we knew we hadn't got anyone on side. So we knew that Bono and George Clooney and Richard Curtis and others were just down the road in Edinburgh and we got them to work the phones to the Sherpas and the leaders of other countries. And we actually went round that night a little cheekily, I've never told this story before and we told every other negotiating team that they were the only one hanging out and hanging who hadn't yet agreed the deal when actually we'd only got the American side. So we kind of bounced them all into it. But at the same time, we the campaigners, were also working the phone and they had also a big public concert in in Edinburgh with hundreds of thousands of people on the streets. So that outside pressure, high level lobbying and then inside a leadership was a very powerful cocktail. And in the end we got that deal. And millions and millions of people now are alive today. And the campaigners should feel extremely proud that they helped make that happen.

Tom: [00:13:33] I'd just love to ask you about trust, because what this is based on is a is a deep level of trust between the inside game and the outside game and what happens when you lose that trust because we've lost it now. We're now in a situation where activists don't trust those who are inside doing the negotiations to be representing their interests, and we have to try and reconstruct it in the climate world. So you were you were resting because you came from that activist world on a deep well of trust with the individuals who could pull the levers that you needed to pull. But those who are in these positions now don't have that. So how do you try and go about rebuilding that trust to enable the kinds of strategies you've just talked about?

Justin: [00:14:18] I think it's very tough. I mean, actually, we lost a bit of trust in the end. I remember walking across those were very dramatic few days, just giving that Gleneagles example. Again, the bombs went off in London. We won the Olympics with a terrible terrorism attack. And in the midst of it, we did these deals, which all added actually to the pressures and the tensions, and we got the deal in the end, these big breakthroughs. We walked across the lawn from Gleneagles to the media center. I was walking next to Tony and he said, are the NGOs pleased? And I had in my hand the press release from one group of NGOs. We just got 100 billion of extra aid a year, 100% debt cancellation, universal access to, and on and on. And this headline of this press release said, this is a disaster for the world's poor. And I said to Tony, I can't really tell you this, but this is what they've said. And he said, it doesn't matter, Justin, we've done the important thing and we've done the deal. And he went on and he and he lavished praise on the Make Poverty History campaign at the press conference. It wasn't their official position, but it was a sizeable group who had decided to be negative. And that same group then at the pinnacle of influence. And they could have held the G8 accountable, accountable on the implementation of this, also then went on to disband Make Poverty History, which was an amazingly stupid tactical error just at the moment because they couldn't agree on how to divide up this huge database of names that they decided it was better to disband it and then give it to all the bigger members of Make Poverty History.

Justin: [00:15:52] So that really did affect my trust, actually, with a number of those key players, not all of them, Bob Geldof, Richard Curtis, they were complete stars. A number of the NGO leaders were, but there was a sizeable group that were basically playing politics for their own, you know, image and brand and their own narrow organizational interests. And that's made me feel even more, and we've talked a lot about Make Poverty history, but much more widely in the 15 years since then is that we've got to think of new strategies, not just with NGOs for engaging this movable middle audience and why with Count Us In, we do so much through football and entertainment and the power of culture. I don't think NGOs are the only players that engage in this audience. Actually, they're not. It's really other things in their lives. And I think, you know, I think we need multitude of change strategies, and NGOs are one bit of that equation.

Fiona: [00:16:44] You talked about the three strata of of kind of high level leadership activists and then the middle, which you called the movable middle. And I and it's interesting that we kind of focus on these two chasms because they're so loud. And then there's this giant silent bit. And I wonder if you could just talk a little bit more about in the 15 years since Gleneagles, why you've kind of come to believe and focus on that silent majority, the movable middle.

Justin: [00:17:12] Yeah, I definitely think you need all those three bits. I'm a big fan of what the movements are trying to do. I mean, I think what Greta and Fridays for future and all of this is really important as part of change and the high level bit, but I think we've neglected the middle bit which we we kind of had with Make Poverty History. But in the subsequent 15 years, I think we've lost in poverty and climate change in other big democracy campaigns and other things. And I think we need it more than ever, partly because of populism, partly because the media is changed dramatically. I mean, with Make Poverty history, we got to people through the mainstream media. Facebook actually didn't really exist apart from on the campus at Harvard with Zuckerberg. I mean, we had no Facebook. Unbelievable in campaigning terms. But so the media has changed. The public have changed their attitudes to politics. You know, all of this has changed. And that means that the movable middle, in my view, is more important. All the politicians in the world, center right, center left populists are fighting for the movable middle, as business leaders are, because it's where money is. So I think they hold enormous sway, but they've disengaged from activism, I have to be honest. So the activists are important. But unless you get the movable middle on the pitch, you're not going to change anything. This bit is is for me. You can't achieve the big transformational change without it, but you need very different strategies. They're not going to sign petitions. They're not going to go on the streets. They're more going to engage in the ways that we're trying to do through culture or sport or entertainment with Count Us In. But that doesn't mean we don't need the activists and it doesn't mean we don't need the high level stuff. We need all of it together either sometimes orchestrated, sometimes a bit more chaotic. And we just need I think Tom, you talk about the big tent. I you know, I think that is such a fundamental concept. We need that big tent approach like never before.

Tom: [00:18:59] I mean, climate change is such a fascinating issue because nobody wants the climate to warm. Right. Nobody out there, not a single person on the planet is trying to create a warmer planet. It's an outcome of how we all live, and yet somehow we're able to divide it between ourselves and this massive breakdown and this projection of bad intentions on each other. I'd just like to hear you talk a bit more about that. How do we get beyond that projection of bad intentions? I know that's the tricky bit, and so I keep coming back to it.

Justin: [00:19:25] It is hard, isn't it, because people are, you know, whatever I think it actually was Tony Blair said to me, for any great campaign, you need a problem, a solution and a villain. I think it was Tony, it might have been Peter Mandelson anyway. But that and that villainization of people is part of campaigning. And actually, I do think you need the hard hitting activist campaigning, the things that really shake the tree at moments. And that is a really important part of achieving change. I just think if that's only what you're doing and that's the only bit of the strategy, it's not going to work in today's context. I mean, it never would, but even more now than ever before. So we need that. But we need that movable middle and then we need the kind of high level bit which I also think is equally important. You can achieve amazing amounts. We got massive breakthroughs through some very high level lobbying on some completely different issues like landmines and and cluster bombs, particularly the cluster bombs issues, just by some really serious high level. I've seen that on climate change, extraordinary stuff that you guys have done through that high level influencing. I think it's about the trust thing is is also about just respecting the complementarity of strategies. And I'm seeing the best in people. I mean, you know, I had the privilege a few times from in government and from working. I worked a lot in the anti-apartheid movement a long time ago of meeting Nelson Mandela. And he always found the best thing in every individual we know from the stories from prison. He did it with his own prison guards. I mean, you know, he became the godfather to one of his to one of his prison guards children.

Justin: [00:21:11] I mean, he always appealed to the best in people. And I saw so often with leaders, big political leaders, if you could find that thing inside them that was really important and appealed to that, that they would actually step beyond the limitations of of their political environment. So I think I think, yes, we occasionally need to do the villain and the demonization, but I think this this respect for the complementarity of strategies and this attempt to appeal to the best in people and to be hopeful and optimistic, I think is a much better way of achieving change. And also to believe that none of us have the complete answers. I definitely don't. And I'm working on the movable middle at the moment, think that that by itself is enough. We need the the tough activists too. And I've been one at different times. I mean, I've also been you know, I used to go in when we were campaigning on AIDS drugs. I go and occupy GlaxoSmithKline meetings. And, you know, I remember Tony Blair's Sherpa had a few before I worked for him ringing me up and saying, the prime minister's personally disappointed with you because I think we'd produced little packets of peanuts at the Canadian G8 with peanuts for Africa to to and given them out all to the journalists. And in another one we said, if this is a summit, we'd hate to see the valley, you know? So, you know, I've done my fair share of criticism, but I'm increasingly of the view that we've also got to do the hope and optimism and appeal to the best in people and to engage this movable middle audience, as well as the more radical and tough stuff.

Tom: [00:23:05] So Justin introduced a few really fascinating concepts for us there, as well as sharing these amazing stories that I think really underline this combination of perfection and momentum and what what it looks like when they really work well together. But I also loved his description of the moveable middle because it sort of made me think in a different way that partly what we're talking about here is two ends of a spectrum that have an awful lot in between them. And in some ways, both of these approaches are trying to affect and shift this much larger, movable middle. And maybe we'd be wise to focus a bit more directly on that.

Fiona: [00:23:38] Yeah, I agree. It also just reminded me that, I had before this conversation been thinking about this question only as a member of the climate movement already, I hadn't been thinking about folks within perhaps a middle ground or a more general public who doesn't live and breathe this in the way that I might, which is also just such a narrow view of of what's needed to face this problem. So like you and I are tackling this problem, but a lot of folks might just be getting engaged in the climate space and it's so necessary I think, Tom, you and I have talked about this before, but going from denial to despair is is the kind of place where a lot of folks are sitting.

Tom: [00:24:22] Yes. Without the intervening steps in between of determination to do something.

Fiona: [00:24:25] Completely. And the way that different let's just call them parties or different folks along the spectrum within the climate movement might accidentally be contributing to that jump because it's so progress is so stagnant. 

Tom: [00:24:39] No, for sure. And I think one of the other interesting things about the interview is that Justin described his own journey, which maybe is pointing to what you're saying, that he shifted in a way from a sort of sense of perfectionism in his early days when he was more of an activist to being more about the momentum and how do we make change and how do we make progress based on where we are and what we can achieve.

Fiona: [00:24:57] Which I feel is a bit like your trajectory as well.

Tom: [00:24:59] That's true. That's a lot like my and a lot like many people I know. But the person we're going to talk to now has made the other journey. So Farhana Yamin, who I've known for a long time through the UN negotiation process, environmental lawyer and a climate change and development policy expert. For 30 years, she's been a huge figure on the international climate scene. She played a pivotal role in Paris, but she shifted after Paris from feeling like she wanted to focus on the change that she could achieve through these international structures to being what we're calling here probably more on the perfection end of the spectrum, gluing herself to the railings outside Shell in London, joining Extinction Rebellion. So it'll be interesting now to go into this conversation and understand that journey and what that was like for her, why she took it and where that leaves her now.

Farhana: [00:25:52] Saying that I made this decision to leave the diplomacy legal advisory role that I had been playing for the best part of 25 years makes it very grand. It makes me sound like I sat down and thought through all the pros and cons and it wasn't quite like that. And I sort of want to say it was more like a a breakdown and a withdrawal and a shutting down of my body, that meant that I found it more and more difficult to say to my clients in in this case, the small island states that I'd been working with, that the next COP would fix it. I just couldn't physically do it and sit and write the papers and the briefings and say, you know, the the COP is going to deliver the the results that you're hoping. So it became just really physically difficult to to be there and carry on. And as you know and many others who know the diplomatic process, it's actually quite gruelling and intense. And, you know, you're working more or less 18 hour days for two weeks at a stretch with many things in between. And I, I felt depleted and exhausted. And and I had a sort of breakdown, really. And I also felt that those in in philanthropy and the NGO community, the think tanks, the people and colleagues that I was closest to, did not understand the frustrations that the small islands and people like me were going through. It was impossible to talk about it in 2017, 2016, 2017 onwards. Load More
Farhana: [00:27:25] And so that's that's kind of the backdrop to why I withdrew completely. And I actually spent lots of time in Devon. I did nature retreats. I felt that was more nourishing. I felt I was with a bunch of people with whom it was okay to say the process sucks and we're we're in trouble. They were the ones who were saying that they were the one receiving and hearing and understanding that the science was being ignored. Whereas, you know, in in now looking back, you know, this is pre Extinction Rebellion, this is pre Greta coming along. This is pre all of those things. Now it's become okay to say that it's become acceptable. But in my circles, in 2016, 2017, you were seen as being a, you know, negative. It was seen as negative and bad form. And, you know, if you if you you were seen as as letting the side down if you weren't fully on board. So I think this goes to the heart of what you this episode, as I understand will be about tactics and how we bring people together. Because if you literally feel shut down, shut out, unable to say your truest feelings as well as your analytical head is telling you, you know, scream louder, then it's not a convivial way to have agreement on what to do next. As I said, my initial reaction was to to withdraw and find a tribe, find a community, find these activists who were saying the same things, who were as frustrated essentially with the top down, frustrated with politicians, and were brave enough to say it.

Farhana: [00:29:00] And they gave me the braveness that I needed to then come back into those processes as well as still be part of those social movements and to to speak my truth, to speak the scientific truth, to speak the truth that politically we needed to do something different than continually be on the same track, trying to do the same thing the same way, which hadn't really delivered. And I think, you know, it goes to the heart of how then we bridge and bring together those who are going to work in frankly, and this is, you know, a very live topic right now. Will, you know, how will we handle working, for example, through to COP28 with the huge diversity of movements and voices, some who now see that process as completely toxic and as not capable of delivering? You know, they literally don't feel heard at all. So the point of turning up, spending all that time, if you feel like your point of view is not going to be represented or taken seriously and in some way, you're going to be deeply maligned for even saying it, you know, then then, you know, that's that's a divisive basis on which to go forward. And so I think it was a very painful time. And luckily, I feel I feel now I have the best of both worlds.

Tom: [00:30:12] I think one of the things that I observe that I think can be unfortunate is that, for example, somebody working in corporate sustainability who will have probably gotten into that job because they care about the climate and they want to find a leverage point and then they feel like they try to make progress, but they might be demonized by others because they're part of that process. Do you think it's important that a member of XR and a sustainability officer inside a corporation that is far from perfect feel like allies, or do you think it doesn't matter if they do?

Farhana: [00:30:42] I think they can't say it. But often what I what I sense and I have had it said to me is that they're quite grateful, actually, for all of the radical action taking place. So they because they themselves have often been limited, given a tiny budget, not been taken seriously by the full board, they will probably be on the side of those who are pushing for even greater action by that company or by that sector or nationally. That's what I found. So in that sense, they are allies. They like the fact that an action happens directly outside their doorstep or is targeted at them, that can be difficult. But in most cases, you know, corporate social responsibility, you know, agendas and budgets and the power they have within a company is very small. And that's why, for example, climate litigation is proving more successful because the minute a lawsuit lands in your company's letterbox, it will get straight to the board, whereas a CSR officer and a report is not, you know, a serious enough player in the company's governance. So until we have, you know, parity in terms of power within a company that the CSR officer, the the chief sustainability officer is really able to drive the agenda, really able to say yes, no and have decisions that make real impact on the company's business model. Then, you know, then I think we will be in a much better place than we are now.

Farhana: [00:32:15] You know, bringing everyone's voices, especially those who've been excluded or not seen as providing thought leadership and solutions is absolutely critical. And one of the initiatives I'm working on is called Climate Reframe, which is a UK based initiative initially set up in 2019 to platform and give voice and highlight the contribution of the black and brown people in the UK, including all of the racialised minorities who are working, people like me working in the climate space but weren't seen as the experts or called by the media or really getting much traction even in the mainstream environmental movement. So this initiative called Climate Reframe, which I work on and taking forward in its next in its next phase, you know, is really necessary because, you know, large sectors of of British society, especially the environment sector, are very white. And so obviously that that is changing and it's a very good thing. But I think the newcomers in this area who are creating those changes, as well as the old timers, you know, they're like me really feel actually people should acknowledge that. And it's it's sometimes an uncomfortable thing to acknowledge that the legacies of racism and discrimination are still with us. But you can't move forward and create a fairer society if you're not willing to see how much unfairness there still is. And my sort of one big takeaway that I say is, you know, fairness is a solution.

Fiona: [00:33:55] I think as well as we talk about themes or common elements within the themes that we're starting to see come together out of these interviews. And as we seek to answer this question, is the the really strong necessity not even need it is a necessity to have inclusivity and diversity as a part of this process. It is not possible to meet the urgency or deliver with the integrity and the perfection that's needed unless you have a diverse group of stakeholders who are all equity stakeholders in this conversation. And that has been something that's missing from these conversations for far too long. And I know Farhana spoke about this and ensuring that the that amplifying the voices of those previously excluded from the conversation is taken into account. I think oftentimes momentum, the momentum side quote unquote, air quotes for listeners, the momentum side of things, diversity or equity or inclusion can get lost very quickly. It's one of the first things to fall out because there's not time or we'll circle back around to that when we're talking about how how to deliver these solutions or whatever, whatever insert bit there. And actually it's just not possible to even achieve the momentum or to meet the urgency without inclusion at the outset.

Tom: [00:35:25] Yeah. It's such an important issue and I think what you phrase it very well there Fiona, in the sense that that is not separate from the outcome we're seeking. That's a fundamental and integral part of it. And we're not going to this just won't happen unless that's properly understood. So that's a point really well made. I always learn so much talking to Farhana, and I think one of the interesting things here was she talked about the role of gratitude for the role that others play and that in her experience and I hope this is true in many cases, but certainly it's true in a number of cases that corporate leaders might be grateful for the the voice of alarm that activists raise that helps them push their organizations in a more positive direction. And I think that has a sweet spot, doesn't it? Because if it gets pushed in a manner that is too confrontational or removes their authority or makes them feel disempowered, then they won't be grateful for it. But if the push comes in an effective way to raise the issue internally, that's probably very helpful inside a corporation to an individual who wants to move forward. And I hope the same goes the other way, that activists also feel grateful to those individuals in corporations who are working hard to try and create these changes. It's a very difficult thing to do that inside a corporation. You often don't have the resources you want. You're fighting to make your case. So I hope that goes both ways. That sense of gratitude.

Fiona: [00:36:43] Yeah, I think it's a little bit of awareness to leverage momentum in a within your, momentum and perfection honestly within your entity. So whether you're within a corporation and instead of hearing these calls for urgency or more integrity or getting it more perfect, you can actually harness that and leverage those calls to drive progress within your organization. Seeing those folks as allies, even if you've never talked. And again, for me, it comes back to this trust that what folks are calling for is not to call out, but calling for greater progress.

Tom: [00:37:24] Mmm, yeah, there's themes emerging, isn't there, of like, places where those qualities can shift from being, you know, negative and accusational and shaming to being empowering and ambitious and constructive and inspiring. And actually, I think one of the recurring themes that we touch on here is it's about the qualities. It's about the ways we engage. It's about the intentionality, it's about the kind of outcome we're trying to drive towards, and it's about personal relationships between people on different sides of this apparent divide, actually understanding that they can move forward collectively together.

Tom: [00:38:13] Now, nowhere I would say at the moment is this tension stronger than in the corporate climate world. There is so much anxiety now around the threat of greenwashing from corporations. There is a large number of activists that have lost all faith that corporations are actually doing what they say they're doing and meeting their commitments. At the same time, Fiona, both of us know people inside corporations that are really working hard to try to shift their companies and doing amazing work, sometimes against challenging odds. And this is one of the issues where I see this division at its most painful, where everybody sort of has their best intentions at heart. But there can be a lot of accusations and a lot of division, a lot of pain between those two. And and probably no one is closer to this or understands this better than Peter Bakker, who's the President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. He gave us some valuable insight into how companies are currently responding to this and ultimately what needs to happen. And I just need to add here that Peter was our first choice of guest for this conversation, but we also wanted to talk to a corporation about what it's like to be inside a company and have these accusations thrown at you.

Tom: [00:39:25] And it was telling that nobody wanted to come on. And I think part of that is because they know there's not much in it for them to come out and say this because their words might be taken out of context. And I think that illustrates the problem we have. But we have Peter, and he's fantastic. So let's listen to this.

Peter: [00:39:56] Yeah, I think any question around climate in particular is is always one of glass half full or half empty. I think we've certainly made great progress in terms of mobilising the agenda into corporate boardrooms. It's it's no longer about philanthropy or CSR. It's now really about mainstreaming sustainability into the corporate strategies, into the procurement, into all aspects, even into the the investor side of the conversation. So I think the awareness for the topics, the understanding how deep the system transformations need to be to get on top of these challenges is now really where a lot of progress has been made. And we're actually in a strange way, the COVID crisis has helped us mobilise that even more because people are understanding better than before that how everything is interconnected. But the glass half empty side of the story is that is translating into action, but nowhere near fast enough yet. And and that is where I think the story now is. You know, we have a couple of thousand companies who have made science based targets. That's great. But not all of them have created transition plans to actually deliver against those targets. And even fewer of them have begun to disclose the progress against those transition plans. So, yes, the commitment levels are good. The understanding awareness in boardrooms is really now there, but the translation into transition plans and action, that's where we fall short. The sense of urgency is now really well embedded everywhere. I and of course, you know, the term business in itself is a difficult term to talk about because, you know, there's 64,000 listed companies. There's millions of small and mid-sized companies.

Peter: [00:41:55] But let's let's stick to the large multinational companies that we do a lot of work with at the WBCSD. The sense of urgency is really there, the understanding that this will lead to deep transformation of business models of products is really there. The the fear that you have a bit is the first mover disadvantage. Is capital market really there to support us? Are we able to really explain the risks of the transitions and will particularly investors support us? And then of course, there's the the civil society, the broader public view of companies. And it's true that, you know, companies who stick out their necks first despite some of these uncertainties and whether it will work, are often the ones who will also get the main beatings in the public opinion. And, I think the true leaders understand that and accept that. But if it if it spirals into some of the conversations that we currently see where, you know, board members are being taken to court and held personally liable, then from an NGO point of view, I can understand why that is an interesting avenue to explore because you know, it it will lead to a conversation on what is actually the fiduciary duty of a board and a board member. And from that point of view, those are important cases to pursue. But from an actual will this help create more companies that are willing to stick out their necks? You know, you could have an opposing view that that might actually scare people somewhat away in doing this. And that would be, in my mind, uh, well, a shame and a wrong outcome.

Fiona: [00:43:42] Yeah, I agree completely. I mean, I know that there's been the First Movers Coalition, which is trying to galvanize a group of first movers to, to help mitigate that. At WBCSD, how how is it that you kind of I think what you said about the glass half full, glass half empty is completely true, and then some would say, well, it's the wrong glass altogether. What you're filling it with is the wrong liquid altogether. So how would you even address those types of critiques that kind of take it outside of even the like the traditional analysis of, yes, this progress is great, but it's not urgent enough, with you're not even looking at the right variables.

Peter: [00:44:21] Yeah, that's that's, I think, a question that is interesting. But you know, we at WBCSD and the companies that we get to work with, I always say we are the real economy with all the good aspects and all the bad aspects of that. And we understand certainly here in this shop that climate change, but you know, biodiversity loss, inequality are the three urgent challenges that we need to deal with. And that means we need to really transition the real economy into an economy that is net zero nature positive and more inclusive. I think conversations about, well, it's the wrong glass altogether or the wrong liquid going into the glass are conceptually super interesting and important to be had. But it's it's one where the economy that we currently have will not be helped with in transitioning. So in our shop, our focus is completely on we now understand the targets, we understand particularly in climate, the very limited timeline that we have to get to those targets. The big question is now how are we going to get there fast enough with the support of the key stakeholders around us and stakeholders in business. First and primary will be the capital markets, the investors in the financiers. But absolutely, we need to bring the broader society with us on those journeys and make them understand the challenges, but also the incredible push that is now behind it. And, you know, if I look inside some of the companies, automotive companies take one. I mean, four years ago, if you would have walked into a boardroom of a car company and said combustion engines are dead before 2030, you would be thrown out of that boardroom, probably even before finishing your sentence.

Peter: [00:46:17] Today, that's all the conversations that are going on in these boardrooms. And not because people like myself walk in and try to cause trouble, but because they themselves are spending all their days, how can we as fast as possible move to the other solutions, the electrification of mobility? So I don't think that always comes across well, though, and that's that's really a communication challenge that these players will continue to have. I think it is important and useful to have multiple players. So activists, you know, coming into AGM's and asking pointy questions is a good thing. You know, companies being challenged for the progress they're making is a good thing. I don't think that alone will change companies trajectories or the overall system, but it certainly is is a constantly reminder that there is an audience out there that has views, that is concerned and that wants the system to change. So from that point of view, I'm okay with it. The thing that I find interesting is if you look at the the actual need to transition to a net zero model for a company or for the economy as a system, we have made great progress in talking about facts. We call them science based targets. There's trajectories and all that stuff is now well embedded in business. On the other side on how companies are being measured and held accountable.

Peter: [00:47:50] We don't have enough facts. Now we still don't have accounting rules on how companies should disclose their their their their climate performance. We still don't have consistency and comparability in company performance. And that's why, you know what what we've been seeing more and more, is we need to think about this in two tracks. One is absolute pressure on the actual transition. So new technologies, new business models, whatever it may be. But the other one is we need to really go deep on the accountability side of things. And that means a couple of things. Companies need to set science based targets and need to have transition plans that they need to disclose. Need to have a corporate accountability system with greenhouse gas protocol scope three that we consistently measure the emissions that companies produce and they need to disclose them through a standard and, you know, ISSB is the emerging global baseline so that when company A versus Company B shows their performance, we can actually compare and say, hey, this company is really making progress and that company is just making good progress in talking. And then we can hold companies truly accountable. And that's what I've always said. You know, it's in the end of the day, it's the accountants that will make the progress happen, because that's where, absolutely, it's not whether we like Company A better than Company B or their CEO is able to make better speeches than the other guys. It's the facts will have to talk.

Tom: [00:49:25] And presumably you feel like that voluntary disclosure and accounting can only go so far and this now needs to move out of the hands of the sustainability team and into the compliance office to actually respond in a legal manner to their investors through regulators.

Peter: [00:49:39] Yeah, no, absolutely. So I think we've made good progress in recent years that the consolidation in the alphabet soup of disclosure frameworks is finally happening. ISSB is now out there and somewhere this summer will publish their climate disclosure framework. From my point of view, one of the big breakthroughs that we all need to push for during COP28 as many countries as possible should make that the mandatory disclosure framework for all businesses. Then there is still work left to be done because Greenhouse Gas Scope 3, how do you get the metrics into the disclosures? But that as a statement of intent, we need accounting rules to make it comparable to to really hold companies accountable, that's going to lead to the acceleration that we need.

Tom: [00:50:26] And just so earlier on, you talked about the sort of what can sometimes happen that NGOs pressure can actually not lead to more action on corporations if it goes too far and if the tolerance is not great. What are some examples of ways in which that interaction can work well, where the outside pressure and the ability to be more pragmatic can interact in a manner that does provide an opening and an opportunity for real progress?

Peter: [00:50:51] Yeah. I mean, I think the the best examples that I've in recent years seen is in the plastic arena where, you know, some of the films David Attenborough and others showing the incredible negative impact that plastic waste in ocean has on animal life and and even now gets into microplastic into your food, that's raising a level of awareness also in business boardrooms. That make people understand that unless we find solutions, the license to operate for these products or these companies will be coming to an end. And I think even the the case, which is now, I guess 2 or 3 years ago, where Shell, as the company was taken to court in the Netherlands for not doing enough. And and their their plans not being truly aligned with the Paris Agreement and losing that court case has had a positive impact on the on the attention in the board and the acceleration of their plans. I think those things are all good. I think one of the fundamental problems that we currently have is that the NDCs, which will lead to disappointing outcomes in the global stocktake during COP or just before COP28, there is no mechanism to link those to actual company emission performance, which is a strange thing to say because we know that somewhere around 70% of global emissions are company emissions.

Peter: [00:52:21] So the fact that we haven't yet created a language to link those is something that we need to urgently work on. And again, that's where the carbon accountability is such an important element. It would be helpful to get some stories out there on what are companies actually doing and and showing what emission reductions those actions have taken. But the reality is, at the end of the day, quite simple emissions are still rising. So whatever companies are doing, it's not leading to the bending of the curve that we all think we know we need. And so from that point of view, rather than telling more stories about, you know, how great company A, B or C is, we need in COP28 to get real examples on the table of unprecedented in scale action areas with investment dollars behind those action areas where companies are translating whatever the commitments are they've made into transition plans, investments and and real transition action that that they are committing themselves to.

Tom: [00:53:33] So what's so interesting about Peter, I mean, he's seen this from so many different perspectives. He's leading an NGO now responsible for driving credible and ambitious corporate action, but he's also been the CEO of a major company. So he understands some of these different pressures. And I thought it was really interesting to hear him be totally uncompromising on the necessity of strong data and good disclosure and mandatory reporting and all these other great things. But also to put his hand up and say, look, you know, there are certain NGO tactics and he talked about the fiduciary duty of board members being held personally responsible as one example that he held up, and that if NGOs pursue some of those tactics, they can actually really scare the leadership into not wanting to do anything. So there's there's a tension here that I thought he navigated extremely well, not holding back on the necessity of something really credible, but also being realistic about how we go about doing that to encourage momentum and not try to be punitive towards those that we want to help change.

Fiona: [00:54:31] Yeah. I also he mentioned the role of activists at annual meetings or alongside corporations, which is something we've talked a lot about. It's not that they're contributing harm in any way, but that they need to be respected and listened to in the appropriate channels. I also think something that maybe we haven't talked about as much and in some ways should be this impartial actor within this equation is the role of accounting and data and reporting against both urgency and the perfection side and these kind of impartial actors in holding everyone accountable on all sides.

Tom: [00:55:13] I think that's so true. And I go back to I think we played in the first episode, a clip when I interviewed Nigel Topping at COP26, and I said, you know, I see these two different groups that we've now come to call perfection and momentum, and how does that dichotomy get healed? And he said, look, it's only going to be healed by real action. And real action can only be demonstrated when there's real data. And so there's a whole value chain of things that need to happen that can give comfort and confidence to enable us to come forward and say, okay, let's collaborate on moving ahead. Now, we have a fabulous conversation to share with you now. We really wanted to talk to somebody who had a deep perspective on the qualities that are necessary to try to transcend these issues. As Fiona and I have been exploring, this isn't something that you can legislate and resolve. This is about people and how people get along and how we approach change and how we deal with our emotions and urgency and other things. And and and all of our guests have had insights into this. But but the next guest, I think, brings another level of insight. Sister True Dedication, who is a Buddhist practitioner in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh at the Plum Village monastery, has been a good friend of ours and a good friend of Christiana's as well, of course, for many years. And we spoke to her about all of these issues and about how can we actually move through some of the challenges to address the deeper elements to enable us to move ahead as a collective community that are concerned about the future. And she talked about some fascinating things, including how engaging the competitive capitalist spirit can actually be a force for good. So here's Sister True.

Sister True Dedication: [00:56:54] So I feel that from our perspective, we kind of see the humanity in it. You know, everyone is a human in this and everyone's going on their human struggle and has to act from where they are. We can't pretend we're somewhere where we're not. So but we wouldn't ever give up on people that we you want always to engage people in. What would be the next challenging thing? And actually, the great thing about the kind of capitalist spirit is they're always trying to be one up on each other and one step ahead. So you just keep challenging. You know, I think part of the answer is to keep challenging everyone. But definitely intention is really, really important. And actually at a personal level for these business leaders or for politicians, for investors, you know, at a deeply human level, the in the Buddhist framework, as you know Tom, like, the value of their actions does lie ultimately for them in the intention that lies behind them. So if we are making these actions and changes only for profit at a deep level in their heart of hearts, they know that. And that intention is not going to nourish and enrich them and their children and grandchildren as much as an action born from good intention.

Tom: [00:58:12] That's I think that's a beautiful place to go in terms of the unity is actually in the intention and the ways in which that intentionality manifests in the world will of course be multi will be a multiplicitous. There'll be there'll be as many as there are individuals and we should celebrate that. But it's actually what that presents is a requirement on us to examine our own intentions and say, well, am I doing this because I'm seeing a commercial opportunity here that may or may not lead to the outcome? Or am I doing this because I want to be part of this transformative opportunity for what it means to be a human on this planet at this moment?

Sister True Dedication: [00:58:49] Yeah, exactly. And I think when we when our intention is well aligned to these great human values that are there in all world religions, values of service, of protecting life, of being generous, of supporting diversity and creativity in the world, and then in the planet and beyond our species. That kind of intention also gives us a huge source of energy. So I think, you know, guilt, greed, craving, these are energies that and intentions that deplete us, but positive intentions, you know, the creativity that we can release when we're doing something to protect the planet or to protect a future for our children and grandchildren and descendants, that can motivate business leaders and investors to incredible levels of creativity and problem solving. So I think that's also the sort of hidden power in having right intention is as a human species, we are smart enough, we're resourceful enough, we're collaborative enough to solve these problems when we know what we're solving them for, we're really solving them to have a livable future for ourselves and the planet.

Tom: [00:59:55] So I love that intentionality. That's the closest we've come so far from a kind of unifying way of seeing this that brings together these momentum and perfection philosophies. But once you have an intentionality of transformation, the way that manifests in the world can also either tend towards collaboration or it can tend away from it. You know, we we all know people who their intention is so pure to change the world that they cannot compromise on anything. They go out there and they say, well, this is it and I'm the guardian of the truth and this is the direction I'm moving in. And that that that that can end up being quite constrained for some people because they it's very painful. You see the sense of I see what's happening here and I see how bad it could be for everybody. So therefore, I'm going to hold fast to these ideals and that that has a role, but it can also have a hardness to it that prevents moving forward and finding solutions in the messiness of the world.

Sister True Dedication: [01:00:55] I think something that I've learned from our teacher, Thay, Thich Nhat Hanh, is to always keep our compassion and kind of faith in humanity and see everyone we're working with or collaborating with or even working against, let's say, to really keep our focus on everyone's humanity. We can lose a lot of energy in the mental discourse of criticizing and judging and attacking others. What's far more valuable and far more important is to be models of the kind of change we would like to see in the world and to cut everyone some slack, to allow people to be human, to be flawed, and to know how messy life is. We can have an ideal, but living up to it is a training and a practice. And we live that every day in the monastery. We have very we have a very specific code of our ideals and ethical principles that we are seeking to live up to. And that's a dynamic. And so in the Buddhist tradition, we would see a very active, vibrant dynamic between the ideal and the reality. And we're constantly moving between the two. And we don't say that we wait for to be completely enlightened before we take any kind of action, for example. We, our teacher always, always pushed us to take the action right away. And you'll learn in the doing how to do it better. And for us, community collaboration and collective action is so important because we're giving each other feedback all the time, and that's how we grow in how you apply the ideal in practice.

Sister True Dedication: [01:02:32] So we fall short every day, every hour of every day, but we know what we're striving towards. So I think the danger is that if we lose or sort of leak energy in criticizing each other, whereas looking ourselves at the kind of communities we want to build. And so when we talk about all going in the same direction, I think, you know, if we stick in our own lanes, if each stream just be our own stream heading towards the ocean. And, you know, I think there are so many ways that we can enrich and spend our energy investing in all these different streams coming to the ocean, whether we're activists or researchers or policy folks or investors or business people. There's so much we can do within our field to change our way of working and yeah, bring more intentionality to what we're doing. But I think, like you say, to not worry too much about what the other side is doing because otherwise we can lose so much energy in that. But there's so much we can already do, a lot to take good care of, let's say our own people in these different in these different fields.

Tom: [01:03:38] Could I invite you to talk a bit about the role of idealism in the world? Because I'd love to just to sort of hear you talk about that and we can think about where that fits.

Sister True Dedication: [01:03:49] So I think when we think about, change it's very easy to think in practical terms. We're thinking about economic decisions. We're thinking about money, we're thinking about laws. And if we focus only on that level, we miss the deeper kind of change that humanity really needs to enact and embody to guarantee a future over the coming generations for ourselves and for this beautiful planet in its current manifestation or generosity or understanding, I think a lot of the ideals they're not far from many of us. You know, we would all like by the time we're on our deathbed to have lived a life where we were a good person or a good a good leader, a good business person, a good politician, someone who contributed something and, it's very important to keep our eye on that prize, as it were. We want nothing more than to live in harmony and for our ideals to be driven by a sense of respect for life, of respect for diversity, diversity of ways of living, for example, for justice and equality. All of these things come naturally when we see our interconnectedness with the rest of the world. And so I think I don't know, for me, I would just I feel that sometimes the framework of success in climate or in business can be too narrow, that that folks aren't deeply looking at really what they want their living legacy to be. There's a dynamic between reality and our ideals, but we should always allow ourselves to be drawn forward by our most radical hopes for humanity and for our descendants. And even so, some days we fall short, even though some days we have to make a compromise, the next day we stand up again and we say, maybe I can do better today.

Sister True Dedication: [01:05:51] Maybe I can do better next week. Maybe I can do better in each moment. We can always go take actions that are more aligned with our deepest values. There's this great anecdote that our teacher told us because one time we were invited to teach mindfulness in the military and even our teacher received an invitation. So does the Zen master go to teach mindfulness in the military? And everyone was kind of like, oh, and no one was quite sure, like, what's the right answer? And he gave a very long explanation that, um, to say that. And he gave some examples of different wars and different military leaders that had tried to find solutions to wars where, you know, fewer people died rather than more people dying. And he spoke about the importance of being open in our practice of nonviolence, that we shouldn't be absolutist or extremist or fanatical even about the principle of nonviolence, because sometimes actually you want in a in a war there to be a general who is virtuous, who is brave and courageous and can make the wise, compassionate decisions that reduce the amount of violence that takes place, reduce the lives lost and so on. And so in our ethical framework as an engaged Buddhist, we don't exclude anyone from the practice. And so our teacher went on to say, it's like, well, if you exclude the military, then do you exclude fishermen? Do you exclude farmers? Like are you saying that there are certain people that you won't teach mindfulness to? And so for us, we we try to real to practice true inclusivity, like true non-discrimination by opening our hearts to everyone, including those people who maybe are only a tiny bit there.

Tom: [01:07:41] I love that story and that example and that sort of points to one of the things which I've noticed recently is that there's this real concern around greenwashing. I think it pokes at this sense of injustice that someone might be saying something and doing something else and creating this terrible future for all of us. And and we can all understand that and feel that sense of injustice and what it pokes at. On the other side, if you're a company that maybe starts out without the best of intentions, greenwashing, then your employees get used to the idea that you're a greener company. You end up moving in a direction almost unintentionally, and it almost ends up becoming reality because you've stated it. And that statement kind of comes first and then it sort of almost manifests itself. So I'm a bit worried about condemning that too quickly because I also think that sometimes there's a role for that. Just putting yourself out there and then reality coming in behind you.

Sister True Dedication: [01:08:36] Absolutely. And then there's another risk, which is why this is a kind of subtle point, which is the cynicism can then creep in and and then especially in the greenwashing. And that can become really corrosive because it's just lip service. And then everyone accepts that this kind of language, this kind of imaging, this kind of messaging, it's just it's just a front. It's just fake. And then at a human level, for those employees, for that leader who is going in that direction, that's corrosive also at a human level for them. So because, you know, it is about hearts and minds that kind of radical transformations we need to see in our collective consciousness, in our systems, in our society. It is not a problem to be solved, it's not a practical economic problem. It is not a financial problem. It is not a communications problem. It's really a heart level problem. And that's, I think, why idealism is so important, because if we get caught in the practical decisions, you know, with every climate conference, with every deal, people are negotiating with every new policy, you get so caught in the practical, we forget that if we can all broaden our way of seeing things and let our hearts lead us, that will be the easiest way. Easiest is not the right word. That will be the most radical way to effect change.

Tom: [01:10:11] So hearing Sister True's spiritual approach took me back to the very first conversation Fiona and I had for this series with Helen Pankhurst and the one thing she considers essential to a successful outcome for any movement.

Helen: [01:10:25] And there is a humility that's required by any campaigner to accept that you have no idea which particular pinch point is going to lead to change and in what combination. And therefore having the humility to say, I will do my bit, I will care passionately about it, but I will celebrate the successes of any of the other actors in this. And I really don't know. At the end of the day, I have no idea which part of the story might actually result in the change and in history, there are so many examples in which it's the counter-intuitive leaders talking to each other that have achieved change. It's not necessarily the people who you would have thought would achieve change that do. And I think the same applies in the environmental movement. We all have different roles to play. It's important that we see the depth and the breadth and the wonderful diversity of who's been doing what for centuries actually, and not just say it's our bit that matters and it's only us because there is a dangerous simplicity of perspective on that, which really doesn't help the climate, the world, the planet.

Helen: [01:11:37] It does force us to realise how insignificant we are in the whole story. So holding on to that and saying, well, I do care deeply, I'll do my best. And another point I wanted to raise is we're all conflicted and we're all complicit. We're all complicit in this degradation of the climate, of the environment, we're all killing, killing our planet. We're all doing it. And therefore, that should help with the humility, shouldn't it? Knowing that we are part of the problem in all sorts of things, and yet we can also be part of the solution. And we're better at the solutions if we realize how to bring how to bring the different bits of the story together, rather than just do our own bit and ignore the rest because that just will never work. It'll never work. My personal motto is fun and purpose. I think you have to be positive and energized and optimistic to make a difference. But if you don't use that as a drive for change, then you're just mucking around.

Tom: [01:12:40] That's so good. Because, I mean, we sometimes we're guilty of sort of climate change is very serious business. It's very consequential, most consequential decade in human history. We might not make it. You know, there's a lot of that going on, which is not great for anyone.

Helen: [01:12:53] No you see the optimism and the fun can reduce a little bit the stress that can then allow you to keep going.

Tom: [01:13:00] Yeah. And it makes you more effective, right? It makes the movement more effective and more fun and more inclusive. So, yeah amazing. Thank you, Helen.

Fiona: [01:13:38] So Tom, are you less confused than at the beginning of this episode or at the beginning of this journey?

Tom: [01:13:45] Well, that's a big thing to claim to be less confused. However, I actually think in a funny way that it's it's actually quite simple. And that there is we can really tie ourselves in knots about this. And I think many of us do. And we can get very frustrated that people don't share our view of how the world changes and what we need to do. And we wish that others would come along with our view of what's necessary. But actually, I think and this is a sort of like like many good answers, it's deceptively simple. The answer is to sort of take a breath and be grateful for the fact that there are so many people with so many different approaches and so much creativity and determination and courage and and thank goodness that there's so many different approaches because different approaches are needed to solve different problems. I think that we would almost completely solve this collective problem if rather than each of us jumping in and trying to change others, we just stood back, took a breath and said, amazing, look what they're doing. It might not be how I would do it. Let's try and work out how we now collaborate with their perspective and my perspective and fit things together. We strengthen our relationships. We have more fun on this journey to try and solve the climate crisis, which is the greatest task that any generation in history has ever had the privilege to undertake. That we get into, that we enjoy it, we have fun, we celebrate each other, and we collaborate in a deep way, respecting so many different points of view. I think Adam Kahane is probably right. The tragedy is that we feel we need to solve it, and if we can get beyond that and celebrate it all, then I think we've come a long way towards what we need to do.

Fiona: [01:15:30] Absolutely. I often think back to the phrase it's not a silver bullet, it's a jigsaw puzzle. There are different pieces also in in every problem or every thing that you try to wrap your head around. Very rarely is there one thing that lends absolute clarity. But when you piece together trust and humility and action and integrity and fun and community and data and all of the things that we've heard from our incredible guests, you you start to see a path forward that that might not have existed. And it is simple, but it's also takes a huge amount of, a huge amount of perspective to be able to see and to be able to even believe in that. And I think I'm still confused, but I have a greater sense of clarity in my confusion.

Tom: [01:16:29] And one thing that also, so I love what you just said, and one thing that also strikes me is this is going to get harder. The the current evidence suggests that, you know, the big jump is yet to be made on our collective ability to deal with the crisis. So this is the climate crisis is not going to seem any less urgent in two years or five years. We're still going to be right in the eye of the storm. And it's really hard to take that breath and step back and appreciate difference when you're trying to do things in a hurry. So there's a couple of counterintuitive things here that we're saying of like when you're in a hurry, you have to slow down and we don't really mean slow down. We just mean take a pause so that you're not so reactive about things. And that solves so much of what we're trying to do because it's really hard to be calm in a crisis. But that's what you need. You need people to be calm in a crisis if you want to move forward and solve it.

Fiona: [01:17:20] Absolutely. One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given in one of the most stressful situations I have yet to be in was, Fiona, why don't you close your eyes? And this was from a dear friend of mine. It was truly needed. And they said, just close your eyes and take three deep breaths. And then when you open your eyes again, things will seem like you can tackle them more easily. And it was still completely hard and challenging, but there was just a centeredness about how I how I felt connected to myself and my ability that hadn't been there previously, so.

Tom: [01:17:52] And, and that is the basis of collaboration and compassion and all these things we need. So I want to share one more thing, and then I want to close by asking you how you've enjoyed hosting a podcast. And that is what so much of this reminds me of is the conversation we had with Joan Halifax and what Christiana often quotes back to us in the Global Optimism team, we're often faced with these real tensions in the world. And and what she says is you need to face them with a strong back and a soft front. And I think that really encapsulates what's necessary, if you meet the world with too much brittleness and judgment and determination, then you tend to get something bad back. But at the same time, if you don't have a strong back, if you aren't able to back up what you know is needed with some courage and some backbone, to excuse the pun, it's not a pun, is it, it's well. And can't follow up with some strength. Then, then you'll never get anywhere because you'll just be a jelly and you'll roll over. And that's also not what the world needs right now. So the combination of those, those things, I think we as a climate movement need to get good at, and I'm sure we will. But Fiona, how have you enjoyed being a host of Outrage and Optimism for two weeks?

Fiona: [01:18:57] To avoid answering that question. 

Tom: [01:19:00] And are you outraged or optimistic?

Fiona: [01:19:03] Another thing that came has been a theme throughout the entire Outrage and Optimism podcast, but came up in the recent conversation with Johan and Sandrine was that we humans have created these differences within ourselves, but the world, Mother Nature is all interconnected and all one thing. So if we can kind of tap into that, it might be a little bit easier as well to see it all coming together. So you asked me how it's been hosting a podcast. So hard, listeners I'm sure I was about to say listeners, I probably sound really eloquent, but don't believe it. That is the expert editing and work of the team that that pulls this all together. But in all seriousness, that is 100% true. It's it's really challenging, but it's also a huge amount of fun and it's been really a privilege to dive in deep to a question that kind of underpins everything that I work on day to day and that we work on day to day. And to think this through in a with a depth and a really fun team. We've actually been practicing a lot of what we've been talking about. Lots of laughs, lots of humility, definitely for me and and just a huge load of of trust and and community in doing this. So thank you all of the Outrage and Optimism team for having me on.

Tom: [01:20:28] It has been a lot of fun. We've really enjoyed it. Thank you for taking the time and thanks for joining us. Listeners, this is the end of our little mini series. We hope that you have enjoyed it. We'd love to hear from you. A huge thanks to the team. These podcast episodes are orders of magnitude more difficult to do than our normal ones, and people have to edit bits and put them together. So this has been a big team effort. Thank you everyone for all of your work, Sarah, Catherine, Clay and everyone else. And we will see you back with Paul and Christiana next week. And then we're going to leave the very final word to Christiana Figueres, who explained beautifully the concept of soft front strong back that we have come to as one of the principal conclusions of our two week podcast special. Bye. 

Fiona: [01:21:12] Bye.

Christiana: [01:21:13] I mean, I just leave it with, again, renewed admiration for the depth of her commitment. And she she is the teacher from whom I learned this amazing concept of strong back, soft front, that is four very, very simple words, but that encompass such a deep insight as to how do we show up in the world. And we've been talking a lot over the years on this podcast about how do we show up? And there cannot be a clearer synopsis, a clear summary of how to show up, but rather with a strong back and a soft front, and not the opposite, as she has so eloquently explained. It's been, you know, something that has been very helpful to me over the years. Honestly, it's just life wisdom. That's all it is. How can we be better human beings on this planet during the time that we're here? Period. It's not about dogma. It's not about, you know, any kind of religious beliefs. It really is just life wisdom. Because what I'm learning from these various teachers is we have to be able to recognize the strong emotions that we have. Right. Not turn away from our sadness or despair, you know, our anxiety, not turn away from it, recognize it, because otherwise it just comes up to bite us and at the same time understand that the despair and the anxiety, the grief and the sadness is not us. It is a part of me, but it is not me. And being able to find that space between the deep emotion and who I am, allows me to then make space for other feelings and other emotions, such as engagement and commitment to providing solutions. Because the the moment that we think that we have been over overruled, if you will, or overtaken by the anxiety, the grief, the despair, and that that is us, then there's no oxygen there. Then there's no capacity to do to help to contribute to any solution. So it's that space between the emotions. It's not denying the emotion, but it is opening a space between the emotion and who am I.


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