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197: What If Our Best Times Are Ahead of Us?

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About this episode

Welcome to another bumper episode of Outrage + Optimism!

This week we kick off  with a rather triumphant Paul Dickinson revelling in the news that Fox News personality, Tucker Carlson, has parted ways with the corporation.  First David Malpass, now Tucker Carlson... We can’t help but wonder who else features on Paul’s mysterious list? Don’t worry Tom, you are quite safe. For now…

Christiana, Tom and Paul cover other big news in the US including Biden’s re-election bid; a White House commitment to put  $1 billion into the Green Climate Fund; the announcement of the launch of Carbon Management Challenge;  and an anticipated Biden vs Trump showdown. 

The recent spring meetings including the G7, IMF and World Bank gatherings also come under the hosts scrutiny.  With many of our previous guests, including Avi Persaud, calling for the timely reform of these institutions to fit the challenges of our current times, Paul suggests: “We're on the way towards finding a more enlightened, politically conscious, environmentally conscious World Bank.” We remain stubbornly optimistic that this is the case!

Our interview this week is with two formidable and fantastic women: (Mama) Mary Robinson (Chair of the Elders) and Hafsat Abiola, (President, Women in Africa (WIA) Initiative), who together have launched Project Dandelion, an incredible initiative that has grown out of the Connected Women Leaders network. Both women offer an insightful and moving vision of why Project Dandelion, which at its heart is rooted deeply in achieving climate justice, is so important to unite behind and why women might be best placed to lead on this. 

Finally, we play a brief clip featuring Mary Robinson taken from a short film entitled  How Do We Get the World Off Fossil Fuels Quickly and Fairly? This film, recently made and released by our fantastic friends and partners over at TED Countdown serves as the second installment of their brilliant TED Countdown Dilemma Series. Be sure to watch the many varied viewpoints offered by an impressive line-up of guests here.


Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders 
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Hafsat Abiola, President, Women in Africa (WIA) Initiative
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Connected Women Leaders (CWL) and Project Dandelion
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How Do We Get the World Off Fossil Fuels Quickly and Fairly

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Full Transcript

Christiana: [00:00:00] Hello everyone. And before we start, we have to make a very exciting announcement. We would like to share that we are celebrating our fourth anniversary. We released our first episode interviewing Sir David Attenborough exactly four years ago in 2019, on April 25th, to be exact. So we are celebrating four years. We are celebrating our listeners. We are celebrating the progress that we have seen in climate change. And we are still outraged that the progress is still not enough. But happy anniversary to Outrage and Optimism and all our listeners. And now for the episode.

Tom: [00:00:59] Hello and welcome to Outrage and Optimism. I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac.

Christiana: [00:01:02] I'm Christiana Figueres.

Paul: [00:01:03] And I'm Paul Dickinson.

Tom: [00:01:05] This week, we talk about big news in the US. We touch on the meetings of the World Bank and the IMF from last week and the G7 summit in Japan. Plus, we speak to Mary Robinson and Hafsat Abiola. Thanks for being here. So we've got a lot to crack through this week. Nice to see you both. First of all, thank you, everyone, for dialling in to the live show last week, we so enjoyed it. We're definitely going to do more of these. This is a really personal triumph for Paul, who's been pushing us to do these for ages. And Paul, you were right.

Paul: [00:01:45] It was a personal triumph for me yes. Huge, yeah.

Tom: [00:01:46] A personal triumph, yeah. And let's kick off with quite a lot, obviously has been happening. We're recording this on Tuesday morning and the last 24 hours, Fox News parted company with Paul's favourite host, Tucker Carlson, and Biden announced his intention to run for a second term. So these are pretty tectonic shifts. Obviously, they go well beyond climate but affect climate in a big way. And I remember recently, Paul, you talked about Tucker Carlson's climate scepticism and his sort of desire to push US society away from action. So should we just kick off there and talk about these two things that have occurred and how we see them landing in our world? And then we'll get more into specifics?

Paul: [00:02:24] Oh, sure. Just a quick word on Tucker Carlson. I mean, we're seeing a trend. We're seeing a trend here. I mean, you know, we called for the removal of David Malpass from the World Bank. He was then removed. And then I specifically called for the removal of Tucker Carlson. He has now been removed. I mean, just to remember on the 10th.

Christiana: [00:02:41] This this sense of global impact, Paul, that you are fertilizing further and further is just really quite, quite endearing, I should say.

Paul: [00:02:52] Well, you know, endearing for everyone except Tucker Carlson. I've just got a note here from Sarah that she's got a list of other names she'd like me to read out. But specifically, it was on the 10th of September.

Tom: [00:03:04] Am I on it? 

Paul: [00:03:05] Last year that Tucker Carlson said renewables are not going to save us this winter. We need fossil fuels. And then it was in March this year that Tucker Carlson made a 20 minute special, specifically suggesting that climate change really was, didn't exist or wasn't a problem. And and, you know, I was just shocked because I commented on that in response to the IPCC. Of course, Tucker Carlson's removal is related to the cynical promotion of election fraud on Fox News. The payment is pretty spectacular. It is of the order of something more than 700 million, although I understand it is actually an allowable business express. So Fox will very sadly get some sort of tax relief on it. But even so, I think it's it's a great day and one where we might start to see that truth actually matters in mainstream media. And if you can show damage because there's lies, for example, about climate change or about elections, then lies have consequences. And that's a good thing for the world.

Tom: [00:04:06] Do you buy that Christiana?

Christiana: [00:04:06] Well, let me say I wish I could, and I think that would be really good evidence of what hopefully is a trend. But I think we should be careful about not taking isolated cases and then generalizing and say, and therefore this happens because. Because there are always proof points of many different realities at the same time. And we who look at the world through positive and optimistic lenses would would always be tempted to look at something that occurs and want to draw a conclusion or a generalization or a trend. So I would like to, that would be my definitely my my reaction. But let's put it out there as a possibility with a question mark and look for more proof points. There you go.

Tom: [00:05:05] With intentionality, exactly. And and the other big thing, of course, I mean, you know, Biden announcing that he was going to rerun we went into this in length a while ago, Christiana, and you just expressed your astonishment that we came to this point. Right? I mean, you know, he is he's he's he's going to be in his early 80's by the time the election is run next year. And he's been a pretty transformative climate president, IRA and Bill, as we got used to calling them the bills that were passed have made a big difference. And just this week, he also committed $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund. He announced the Carbon Management Challenge, which is an attempt by the US to actually regulate emissions from power plants. This is all part of the Major Economies Forum summit to happen this week. These are big commitments. This is the US stepping out and you know, obviously on climate finance it's still not enough. We know that over over many years, but it's a big intentionality that the US wants to play its part. Were you impressed by those?

Christiana: [00:05:56] Well, I think we have said a couple of times on this podcast that the three regulations that have been passed by the US definitely puts the United States from a regulatory point of view at the top of all other countries and regions, in fact even beyond EU. And we saw the EU playing catch up, which is exactly what we want to do. We want to cause a race to the top. But, but yes, this is very surprising. If you had asked us a couple of years ago, would would would Biden have the popularity that he does? Would he, in fact even survive, frankly, through the four years, let alone announced a another run for the presidency? I think no one would have said with certainty that they could put their name to that to that option. So we're thrilled.

Tom: [00:06:54] Yeah.

Paul: [00:06:55] Biden versus Trump, right. That's what it's going to be.

Tom: [00:06:58] It sounds familiar. Exactly. Yeah, it looks like it, right? I mean, it doesn't look like it can be anything other than that, so.

Paul: [00:07:02] There is so much riding on that, You know, the credibility of the, you know, the most influential democracy in the world is, you know, absolutely on the line here.

Tom: [00:07:14] Plus the future of the planet and a few other small things.

Paul: [00:07:17] I think I'm going to hide.

Tom: [00:07:21] Now. We're cracking through it this week because we don't have very long for this intro chat and of course, it's going to be a fantastic conversation with some guests in a minute. But the other thing it would be good to touch on, Christiana, you and I were in Washington, D.C. a couple of weeks ago for the spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank. This is such a pivotal moment for those big institutions we're seeing, as we had listeners who remember Avinash Persaud, the senior advisor to Prime Minister Mia Mottley on the podcast a few weeks ago, talking about the necessity to reform international financial institutions and how that's such a cornerstone of climate action now. I attended a dinner that you chaired that Prime Minister Mottley was at. I saw Avi Persaud lots of times throughout the week, and every time they just felt like they were able to embody this sense of righteous outrage that things haven't changed, but also a sense that momentum that now is the time with Ajay Banga coming into the bank with people listening in a way that they haven't before. Where are you both in terms of the hopeful narrative that this is the moment for reform of international financial institutions to help us really get climate finance to where it needs to go? Load More
Paul: [00:08:24] And it falls to me to go first. Oh no, Christiana, you're going to go first. Go for it.

Christiana: [00:08:28] Well, I would say bittersweet, Tom, because to improve equity to loan ratio by lowering it from 20 to 19%, we already talked about that last time or to two podcasts ago. Yes, a movement in the right direction. Absolutely not enough. Absolutely not enough. But as we know, all of these changes that have to do with policy and with politics take a heck of a long time. So kudos to all who left the spring meetings of the World Bank Group having planted seeds of transformation, seeds that need to be watered and need to be fertilized. But pretty quickly, because we do have to see much more financing of the soft World Bank type go to developing countries due to the impacts that they are critically feeling already from climate change, let alone embark on any mitigation, but just for their adaptation, the damage that is already happening. They really need access to that soft money.

Paul: [00:09:49] You know, I'm totally not an expert on these international institutions. I do think that, you know, legitimately there are questions about, you know, this unfettered capitalism is like the World Bank just a bank or is it a bank that does something else? And one of our many millions of brilliant listeners wrote to me after our dial in last time and spoke a little bit about the thing about capitalism. What does it do? It actually kind of it makes the rich richer and kind of, you know, the fact of the matter is that that's what the system is doing. And he quoted Stafford Beer, this famous system scientist who said POSIWID the purpose of a system is what it does. Right. And the reason I mention that is because seriously, I mean, if you're wondering what the system's purpose is, it's what it's doing. It's very worth well remembering that. I'm glad you laughed because jokes are only funny if it's a little bit true. Now, the point is that, as my friend pointed out, history suggests that if capitalism is balanced by a political system that actively, for example, redistributes from the rich to the poor or takes into account climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, then it's a pretty powerful combination. But it's very important that you don't have subversion of that political system by financial interests. So I think that, you know, we're on the way towards finding a more enlightened, politically conscious, environmentally conscious World Bank. That can only be a good thing. And it's worth us remembering that these international institutions and the principles that they operate under are and should be constantly evolving, because that's the only way we're going to improve our systems and get a better world.

Tom: [00:11:22] Yeah, yeah. And I totally agree with that. And also take your point, Christiana, about, you know, we're watering seeds that need to be nurtured and this is going to take a little while and my observation is that the the momentum for transformation is now pretty well embedded. Where that goes into, will it be enough, will it go far enough, how quickly will it happen? I think is an open question. But my god, Avi Persaud and Mia Mottley deserve, I don't know, Nobel Peace Prizes or something for what they've done to build momentum. I mean, it's such an obscure area of international finance that most people don't understand and they've been able to build an incredible movement around it. So it's been fantastic.

Christiana: [00:11:56] The other thing to remember is that the watering of those seeds don't depend on only watering the soil of the World Bank group. It it all of this functions as a well, Tom, as we know, as a complex adaptive system. And so when there's progress in other areas, in other spaces, it also helps. And all of this is mutually reinforcing, which takes me to the G7 meeting. Listeners will remember that we already previewed the fact that there was going to be a G7 Ministers meeting in Japan. Let me just remind us all, since our memories, me, my memories are fading with respect to all facts, but just to remind everyone that the G7 as a group is the group of the seven largest industrialized countries. It consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States and the European Union. And it was not a head of state meeting that we had. It was actually the that head of state meeting is coming up in May. But the meeting that we just had, April 15 and 16, was the meeting of the G7 Ministers of climate, energy and environment. So smack in the middle of our interests and therefore it is actually quite impressive that as part of the communique that came out from that meeting, they did approve the text and I quote, accelerate the phase out of unabated fossil fuels.

Christiana: [00:13:42] Now, it seems perhaps innocuous, but to move from a phase down, which is the text that is currently the approved text within the UNFCCC negotiations to this text that says phase out of unabated fossil fuels is actually quite a step and and is a very good step in the right direction. Now, I do have to say that the text says phase out of unabated fossil fuels, which means that there is still political room for the use of technology that captures CO2 emissions, otherwise known as carbon capture and storage. So that I think, is still a next step to come in the future to phase out fossil fuels and not allow for the use of carbon capture and storage. But right now there is political tolerance for that and the work that is being done is to move from phase down to phase out. So, good on the G7 ministers and can that be adopted in COP28 is the question.

Tom: [00:15:04] And what are the politics of that Christiana. Who, I mean, do you think who was the holdouts? Because I mean, I suppose the fact that it's G7, if you go back to the COP, it was it was China and India that kind of nixed that idea of phase out. So I suppose it is impressive to see them move forward, but it's not like the G20 doing it. That would be an even stronger political.

Paul: [00:15:20] Yeah, China and India are not in the G7. 

Tom: [00:15:22] That would be the next thing. Yeah.

Christiana: [00:15:23] Yeah. But as they say, we plant seeds and then we water them.

Tom: [00:15:27] And then we water them. Paul.

Paul: [00:15:29] Yeah. No, it goes a little bit back to the conversation at the start. You can't take one one Tucker Carlson does not denote a spring to misquote the phrase about a sparrow or whatever it is. But you know, you can take these data points and you can look forward and you can be hopeful. And I think particularly with the G7 announcement, we can look forward and be very, very hopeful that that language of phase out starts to become the norm. And that language then informs investment decisions around the world and policy decisions. And, you know, with luck, we get where we need to go a little bit faster. And it's all about speed. As we all know.

Christiana: [00:16:06] There's quite a movement there, Paul, to to pick up on that. Quite a movement out there in the climate community to upgrade that language at the COP coming up in Dubai at COP28. Now, you can imagine what that would say about the political economy that we're trying to to design here. If there were a decision on phase out of fossil fuels at COP28, not just because it's an upgrade from what we have, but that it would occur in in Dubai. Yes, there would be absolutely amazing. So let's put our little prayers and candles in that direction.

Paul: [00:16:56] Well, we've seen Dr Sultan, the President of the COP, say that the last barrel of oil will be pumped one day and then the oil age will be over and it will be a time for celebration. So, you know, in principle, he agrees. It's just a question on the date.

Tom: [00:17:11] Yeah, just a tiny question of is it in the next ten years or the next thousand years. But I think we know the end of that margin that we need to be on. Now, we need to invite our guests into the podcast in just a second. So we only have a couple more minutes. The two other quick things that I wanted to mention are, number one, there was a pretty big event in London this week where Extinction Rebellion hosted what they call the Big One. And what's interesting about it is it's the first time that XR have pivoted to post obstructionist tactics. They think that they need to create more of a centrist movement to bring more people in. It's really interesting and we'll get more in future weeks into how that landed and maybe speak to some people who put it together. And the other thing to mention is that good old Mike Bloomberg gave his company to Bloomberg Philanthropies. So he's going to bequeath Bloomberg L.P. to.

Christiana: [00:17:55] Wow that news to me. That's amazing.

Tom: [00:17:56] Bloomberg Philanthropies. Yeah. Which is huge. So when he passes on, it will be managed by his friends and family and all of the profits will go to philanthropies. That's much bigger than the Patagonia announcement that got more press a few weeks ago. It's a huge deal.

Paul: [00:18:09] That's a very, very valuable company. And by the way, I did go to the XR demonstration and somebody, one steward from XR pointed out to me, you know, it was the police that were blocking the roads. It's kind of it's a sweet inversion of the thing. But thousands of people, you know, outside the parliament, you know, demonstrating that government must do more. You know, there's a kind of there's a kind of symbolism there that's very powerful.

Tom: [00:18:32] Great. Now, I think we can invite in our guests. So Clay, Sarah, how do we make that happen?

Paul: [00:18:38] Before that, can you introduce them Tom?

Clay: [00:18:40] Well, actually, Tom has to go and I'll bring them in in just a second here. But we still need to introduce our amazing guests. So Paul, who is joining us today.

Paul: [00:18:51] Two great leaders. First of all, Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland. She's Chair of The Elders, this incredible community of leaders who have moved along in years but used their incredible wisdom to guide others. She's also a very long time climate justice advocate. She's also Co-Founder of Connected Women Leaders and founder of Project Dandelion. And with her on this interview, we also have Hafsat Abiola and she is a Nigerian human rights, civil rights and democracy activist. She's Founder of the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND). And she seeks to strengthen civil society and promote democracy in Nigeria. She's President of Women In Africa Initiative, the WIA, an international platform for economic development and support for African women entrepreneurs. She's Co-Founder of the Connected Women Leaders and also a founder of Project Dandelion. So here's the interview.

Christiana: [00:19:50] So Hafsat and Mary, thank you so much for joining us today on Outrage and Optimism. We are actually very excited to know that you have done at least a soft launch already for Project Dandelion, and we wanted to invite you to share with our listeners what Project Dandelion is, why you named it that, because it's actually a very meaningful name. And how did you come, not just the two of you, but the other women involved. How did you come to the idea that this is necessary? Give us a little background.

Mary: [00:20:32] Okay. Will I start Hafsat? Okay. This is about women leaders stepping up with a climate justice campaign because we need it. We need it because we're not on course for a safe world because of the climate crisis. And we can come back to the detail of that. How do we get to the dandelion idea? We needed an urgent context, a kind of moonshot we talked about, and then earthshot and John F Kennedy, I was talking to my fellow Connected Women Leaders and they pushed back on a moonshot like John F Kennedy because it was male, it was technical, it was competitive, it was military. Nothing to do with, you know, feminist thinking. And so we gradually came around to what we call Project Dandelion. The dandelion is the only flower / weed that grows on all seven continents. It's very resilient. If you've ever tried to get rid of the damn thing. It's, poets write about it. In Nigeria in particular, I understand it's used by farmers to regenerate the soil, so it's regenerative. And how do you spread it? You blow. So we felt it was the perfect symbol for a messaging by women leaders of urgency and that the climate crisis is basically a communications crisis. And I hand over to Hafsat to tell us more about Project Dandelion.

Hafsat: [00:22:05] So it was actually Mama Mary. And forgive me, Christiana, the more time we spend together, I'll get to calling you Mama as well, because I'm African and you are elders and I'm not really allowed in the culture to call you by your names. So.

Christiana: [00:22:20] There we go.

Hafsat: [00:22:24] It was actually Mama Mary that awakened not just me, but many, many women that were not really involved in climate to common responsibility. My own focus in my life has been about fighting for democracy, fighting for human rights in Nigeria, fighting for economic empowerment of women, and I always thought of climate as something that the, you know, those women that had very long hair or spiked hair, you know, very avant garde women in my university when I was in university, women almost on the margins who were vegan or vegetarian, who wore sandals and that those were the things that they did that it was important to do. But it was almost like a specialized field that had very unique understanding about how not to use fertilizer, how to compost, but it couldn't really apply to everyone, and you just needed to recycle and be responsible in your consumption and leave them to do the rest of it.

Christiana: [00:23:30] Sort of esoteric, if I could say.

Hafsat: [00:23:33] Yes, yes. So and then also I felt like, you know, that, you know, maybe I'm already doing enough of other things. But Mama Mary pointed out that you could be doing fighting for democracy or economic empowerment. But if there's no planet, if the planet is not habitable for human beings, then there's there's nothing you can do, actually. And so this issue has to be priority. And so everybody has to get involved. And then we also found that based on all these meetings that we keep hearing about, COP26, COP27, there will be COP28 also this year in the Middle East that all these meetings and all these commitments that even if the world achieved those commitments, we're not in line to meet the 1.5 degrees increase in temperature that is the maximum if we want to keep the planet somewhat habitable.

Christiana: [00:24:31] Somewhat. Exactly. Good point.

Hafsat: [00:24:34] We're going to fly past that 1.5 degrees. So everybody has to pay attention because somehow where we are in the world, where all the energy has come to in the world, is not enough to keep us at 1.5. So that means we need more energy, more people involved, more momentum built up. And there are people who are coming up with the solutions, Indigenous people are coming up with solutions. People, scientists are coming up with technology. In fact, what we understand now is that we actually have enough technology and other solutions to solve the crisis. We just do not have the political commitment, the political will, and we do not have enough of everybody saying, let's do this. We're all divided. The Africans are saying we didn't create this. Why are we expected to participate? Working class people in France are saying it's going to cost us more money. We can't afford it. Everybody is saying something, but nobody is saying sign me up. And that's what we need.

Christiana: [00:25:45] And so Hafsat, what what is Project Dandelion signing women and men up to? What the diagnosis is, I think we can quickly agree to as you have very clearly explained now. But what shall we do about it? And in particular, how do we bring climate action together with equity, with justice, with broad participation? How are you planning to bring all of that together? And if you sign up, let's say our listeners sign up for Project Dandelion, what will you be expecting them to do?

Hafsat: [00:26:26] We have actually seven things that we've, we're asking people to do. And I'm sure Mama Mary, maybe you can help me pull it out because I don't have the, um, the thing here. But the very first one especially important is that we need to stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. You know, the fossil fuels are creating emissions that are feeding the climate crisis. And yet governments all over the world, even in my country, in Nigeria, are subsidizing fossil fuel use in the tune of billions. That money can be reallocated towards renewable solar energy. And if we have enough momentum around this, governments can do. In Nigeria now the current government is actually looking at stopping to subsidize fossil fuel and the country is up in arms, saying it's going to cost us more to use the bus because it will have to pay more for petrol. So so even when the government is ready to take courageous action, there's pushback. That's why we have to create the understanding among people to give the public decision makers the space to act with courage. That's just one thing. But we have, I think Mama Mary is looking. Did you find it?

Christiana: [00:27:47] I can give them to you. I can give them to you. 

Mary: [00:27:50] Yeah, you give them to me because you've got them. 

Christiana: [00:27:53] Okay. Stop subsidizing fossil fuels, which Hafsat has just addressed. Make real the loss and damage fund. Drive monetary reform at the World Bank Group, such as the Bridgetown Initiative, which we have been talking a lot about on this podcast. Increase the resources to developing countries, learn from Indigenous people, ensure that clean energy development respects local communities, their land rights and their water rights. And here we go, build an unstoppable women led movement which is rooted in optimism, a movement which embraces the transition to a clean energy world. So it's a fantastic vision.

Mary: [00:28:36] And, you know, the the great leadership we got on that was from another member of our group, which is called Connected Women Leaders, Jade Begay. She is a she has her tribe in New Mexico. And in their tribe, they have a saying, what if our best times are ahead of us? We need to think about that much more. You do, Christiana, but enough people don't. What if our best times are ahead of us and they are? We're on the cusp of this clean energy world. What we have to do is push, and we need women to come together in strength to push by having this as their priority for the next seven years. It's a seven year earthshot push Project Dandelion to get us where we need to be. Some will do some things, some will do other things. But this is what is needed.

Paul: [00:29:33] Thank you both for your extraordinary leadership. And if I might ask you a question, Hafsat you've taken on the perhaps mothering responsibility quite young, and it's a beautiful world, mothering. I mean, it's such a nurturing concept. And you also have pointed out that 1 in 4 women in Africa become entrepreneurs in the African continent, and that when women have economic power, they have more voice. So do you see some kind of integration between an economic and political movement driving for democracy and I guess, freedom in the African continent?

Hafsat: [00:30:11] Yes. You know, um. Africa has been powering the world. You know, I'm always saying that for the last 400 years, you know, we've provided people with help build the United States of America. I've helped I've helped build Brazil, so many countries, um, that we've also now we provide resources like petroleum gas, you know, with the current crisis in Europe, we're providing gas in from Morocco, from Nigeria. Um, I think lately we found also in Uganda. But I think that Africa can also help lead in a new direction, help us lead into an opening of the world for sustainable use of energy and for a different way of, um, of living on the planet in a way that is in harmony with the rest of the planet. And within that, I think women should take the lead. You know, the women in Africa are very brave because, you know, in some parts of the world, I think in the United States, it's 17% of women that start a business. On the African continent we lead the whole planet in the proportion of women that do start a business with fully 25% starting a business, they take this risk because there are no jobs to be found. So they have to create the jobs for people. And what we're trying to what we need to teach African women is how do you create jobs in fields that are sustainable? How do you, um, so some of the women in our community, we have 10,000 that we train every year and we have a community of about 200,000 now in every single African country.

Hafsat: [00:31:55] And so some of them are in construction among them, you know, many will be they'll be doing cement and cement, as you well know, is one of the most polluting form of construction materials in the in the world. But also among them are women that are using recycled waste to create blocks for building. Then also, there's a lot of our women are farmers. Most of the people that work in Africa work in farming. But there are ways that you can farm that are polluting and there are ways you can farm that are sustainable. And again, within our community are those women that are pioneering sustainable use a means of farming. And if we can take these women and help them, use them to teach and mentor other women, it can create a mindset shift on the continent and a change in culture, you know, because the truth is, Africa has contributed about 3% of the world's pollution of the emissions we know. We're also the poorest continent, and we don't even have the resources to adapt to the the climate crisis that has already been experienced on the continent. But we also have a responsibility now that we're pursuing growth to grow green. We have a responsibility because the planet cannot afford for us to do it any differently. And it's very difficult to tell people grow green because they don't even know what that is. We have indigenous people like Hindou, who is part of, Hindou Ibrahim who is part of our community from the Chad Indigenous community.

Hafsat: [00:33:36] But so many of us like me, have been trained in Western schools. We don't have any knowledge of the indigenous wisdom anymore. So we have to re-learn. And you know, for men it's very difficult for men, adult men, to be able to say, we don't know. But I think for women we can say because our ego is not as big, we can say we don't know. We want to know. We need to know. Why, because we have children. And my two children went on a school trip the other day. They're 16 and 14 and they trust me. They trust their dad as well, but they trust me to do my best. And I cannot imagine a situation where because I'm embarrassed that I don't know, I continue doing the things that I shouldn't do and sacrifice their future. I refuse to do that. Today, when I was coming back from Münster on the train, I was in Germany yesterday. And by the way, Mama Mary, the University in Münster want to work with us. They are so excited to work with us. And I was on the train coming back and I saw on one platform many children. I didn't even know where they were going. And I thought to myself, our children, those are our children. They're going they're just going about their lives. And they look at us adults and they think the adults have it. They're taking care of it. We must take care of these issues. And so when I look at Africa and I've been reading the studies, incredible flooding Paul.

Hafsat: [00:35:10] Incredible drought in East Africa. Incredible people, displacement of people now because of the climate impacts. Loss of economic activity. We are losing about 25% of agricultural productivity because of climate. There's a country in the gateway into Africa called Senegal. A little village of a country tiny, but it's a powerhouse in Africa in terms of culture and contribution to the continent. They have one major food that is based on rice. They actually right now food self-sufficient in rice. But because of climate that's going to disappear in the next 10, 15 years, we have to train them to accept other foods. There is so much work to do. So we can't there's an urgency that is hard to explain and which is why I'm so grateful when Mama Mary, when I was in London at Oxford, actually just about a week ago, the women there told me that they had a meeting with Mama Mary, that the meeting started with tea, went on to dinner, and that they were there till early hours. I don't even know if she remembers this. Maybe this is what she just goes around the planet doing. By the end of that meeting, that organization and their work is just to make documentaries, made a commitment that their documentaries will focus on climate. That's what she's doing is going all over the place, get recruiting people. And we need to because this many people think, oh, this is a problem ahead of us. No, no, the problem is now.

Christiana: [00:36:51] Hafsat, you on the agricultural productivity that is being lost, especially in Africa, but not only in Africa. That brings up a topic that I wanted to invite you both to speak to, because when you say we need to bring the concept of green growth to everyone so that everyone understands what it is, but I just wanted to bring that together with the first part of your intervention Hafsat about Africa is definitely not responsible for climate change and is definitely feeling the impacts of climate change more than any other continent. Now. I would assume that it is difficult to go out there and invite women who are tilling the land to grow green, to go to what we call regenerative agriculture sheerly from the perspective of we cannot pollute anymore because, as you say, the agriculture that we have, the agricultural practices are polluting practices. But it's not it is actually not about not polluting. It is about regenerative agriculture that speaks to the productivity of the land and regaining regenerating that productivity. So I just wanted to bring those two arguments together because, yes, regenerative agriculture is less polluting, but that cannot be the compelling argument. It has to be about how do we regenerate and restore soils that have been depleted in order to protect the the food supply for our families. Is that not true?

Hafsat: [00:38:50] May I speak? Let me speak to that very briefly, because I don't want to hog the space and I want to give the space really to Mama Mary. But just on this issue that you mentioned. Isn't it the, aren't you, aren't we all inviting the African people to return to indigenous wisdom? Because when we sit with indigenous people, they will tell you the many practices our people have known for thousands of years.

Christiana: [00:39:17] Known and forgotten.

Hafsat: [00:39:19] Yes, we forgot because we went to the modern schools and we were not taught those things. But those indigenous people that retain that knowledge still have it. Now, when we speak to Africans and we say to them that what this is what we're talking about, you know, they get excited. You know, you are all not aware because you are as I look at you, I see you are of a particular race or subrace because we are all the human race. It's only one race, but you are a particular sub race. If you look at my hair, my hair is in Nigeria or in Africa, among black people, we call it natural. For a very long time we used to use chemicals. We used to straighten straighten our hair. We know most of us, most African women are no longer doing that.

Christiana: [00:40:06] Don't do that.

Hafsat: [00:40:06] No longer doing that. That's revolutionary because we woke up one day and say, let us return to our own identity. So this invitation to return to the wisdom of our people comes at a time when even we are naturally embracing our own identity. Why? We understand that the world, that Western countries and all other groups of people have so much to teach us.

Hafsat: [00:40:31] But we also understand that within ourselves there's inherent value that we are not inferior. And so it's an invitation that is perfectly timed, that at a time when we are growing in confidence, we need to look. If you talk to Hindou Ibrahim, who I know, Mama Christiana, you've already interviewed in your on this podcast, she will talk to you about the ways in which our people put water when water is cast, there's a way that they find to water the soil that is so efficient. It's indigenous to our people and has been long forgotten. Now we must remember why because there is a water crisis at the same time that there's all this other crisis we're talking about. There's also crisis in accessing water on the continent of Africa. So we have to go back to what some people always knew how to do and start practicing that as well. So there's a lot of indigenous knowledge that we must bring to the fore. But it's not only Indigenous knowledge, we also have to appeal to scientists. There will be some things that will that Indigenous knowledge will not solve, but we can also use science for that.

Paul: [00:41:43] So we are sadly having to bring this to a close and it always ends with us with with a simple question to both of you. Let me please, if I may start with Mary. Your initiative is absolutely inspiring. Can you tell us when you look forward, one thing that you find gives you some degree of outrage, but also what gives you some degree of optimism?

Christiana: [00:42:10] Or a lot. Because Mary has a lot of outrage, thank god.

Paul: [00:42:13] And straight after that, we will ask, I'll ask the same question of you Hafsat. Mary.

Mary: [00:42:17] Yeah, Christiana is right. I have a lot of outrage because, you know, I see governments and corporations, particularly the fossil fuel companies, you know, not wanting to to listen to the science or believe the science or to do a kind of greenwashing communications that muddles things. And it makes me angry because we're talking about, you know, the future of our children and grandchildren, our nephews and nieces and their children and grandchildren. And I didn't grow up in a world where I felt I may not have a future. I speak to so many young women now who say to me, they don't all call me Mama Mary, but they say to me, I don't think I'm going to have children. I don't want to bring children into this world. It's a really sad, sad thing that angers me that I'm full of outrage about that, that we have got to the stage where that's what young people are saying and they are saying it, unfortunately. And we also have quite a high suicide rate, as we know, because of mental health issues, some of them related to not seeing that there is a viable future for our world because they've read the science. So that's why we need the optimism. That's why we need Jade Begay's wonderful.

Mary: [00:43:36] What if our best times are ahead of us? Because they are. They're just around the corner. If we can just get over this hump. And Christiana, I want to remind you, when we were preparing for the Paris Climate Agreement, you would be the first to acknowledge that as we went into Paris, we were not going to get the 1.5. India had objected. Other countries were hiding behind India. It wasn't going to happen unless and the unless was the marching in the street. 1.5 to stay alive. Indigenous peoples, young people, even progressive business. Everybody marched 1.5 to stay alive. And inside, Tony deBrum, the Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, was saying in the ear of the other ministers, do you want my people to no longer be a sovereign nation? Do you want us to go under? Is that what you really want? We must get 1.5. And the whole, you know, coalition that was formed was to get 1.5 into the text. It would not have happened without the push of this broad civil society. We need now a global push. Women led, but not, of course, women only. Women led because it's our time. It's on our watch because it's absolutely vital.

Paul: [00:44:49] That's an incredibly optimistic vision. Thank you. Hafsat, one thing that outrages you, but really what makes you optimistic also?

Hafsat: [00:44:58] My outrage is that I feel like we've been living hundreds of years with exploiting the weakest and not really showing compassion or even an understanding that we have a common humanity. You know, and as an African, I can go on about this, but there's really no need. But my optimism is because, this all movement is happening at a time that women are waking to their own power. And women understand every woman, as a woman has a child, she has an understanding that she's responsible for all children. You have that understanding. It's something about just and even when you don't have a child, you just maybe because we're socialized to be just deeply nurturing. And I'm optimistic because I want the women, you know, this is happening at the time that women are aware of their own power, then we can help balance the power of men. And then together humanity can actually rise. Because I feel like we've been going around in circles because the men have been waiting for the women's power to balance them. And now is the time that the women are rising. We've had like Mama Mary, who was President of a whole country. Many women are rising all over the world in different spheres. Just as the world has come to the to the cusp of extinction, and we, together with men, lead us away from that and evolve in a new direction.

Paul: [00:46:39] Thank you. 

Christiana: [00:46:40] Wow, those are powerful words. Women are rising just at the cusp of basically human extinction and working with men to walk us back from that brink. Um, I think Mary absolutely subscribes to that vision as well. In fact, Mary lives that vision. Well, Mary and Hafsat, how wonderful. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you for coming on. But more than that, thank you for initiating together with so many others. This is very much collective leadership of.

Mary: [00:47:17] Absolutely.

Christiana: [00:47:17] Project Dandelion and and so exciting to see women rising and and stepping up to the to the challenge really quite exciting. So thank you so much. Thank you for your time. But also thank you for blowing seeds into the wind.

Mary: [00:47:36] Exactly. 

Paul: [00:47:46] What an amazing interview. And everybody's left. And it remains to me to reflect on the extraordinary words that are said. Christiana's had to go. And I'm very touched by Mary's leadership. There's a positivity about her and the way she speaks and her confidence about the climate crisis. That is very empowering, I think, to all who hear her, but also to learn more from Hafsat about her extraordinary vision for Project Dandelion, but also her kind of deep understanding and care, calling Mary Mama Mary and Hafsat herself lost her mother when she was 21, who she was killed in a political crime and have set since then. In her own words that I heard her on on a different podcast, talking about being and becoming a mother to her brothers and sisters and having actually that notion of maternal responsibility is so beneficial when she talks about how women are coming forward now when the world is in such jeopardy. That is extraordinary. Her life experience, her recognition of how Africa in many ways that great continent has powered the world and yet has not caused the problems we are now facing, but is full of women entrepreneurs the highest percentage in the world coming forward to provide the solutions.

Paul: [00:49:16] I'm so much looking forward to hearing and seeing more about what Project Dandelion is going to achieve by networking women as natural leaders at this time in the sustainability crisis when we need female leadership more than ever before, it makes me think of other great women leaders that certainly have influenced me, from Tessa Tennant to Anita Roddick and of course, to our dear Christiana. Okay, let's finish by having some more words from Mary. Mary's actually been working closely with TED on a short film as a result of a Dilemma series covering a different dilemmas as part of TED Countdown, which is their great climate change initiative and this particular one, and there'll be a link to it in the show notes is called How to Get the World Off Fossil Fuels Quickly and Fairly. That's it from me this week. Very much looking forward to seeing you next week. Bye for now. Thanks for being here.

Mary: [00:50:16] There was a great opportunity to move with all the skills that the fossil fuel industry has built up over the years, convert over to clean energy. That would have been a wonderful moment. If that had happened. Things would be very different. We don't have the time now to get into a long transitioning kind of discourse, which is what most of them seem to want. They lack the urgency of now in their talk. We all need to do three things. We need to make the climate crisis very personal in our lives, change our habits a bit as a result. Secondly, we need to get angry about those who aren't doing enough. And thirdly, we need to imagine this world that is around the corner. Nelson Mandela famously said it always seems impossible until it is done. And I love that phrase.

Clay: [00:51:12] So there you go. Another episode of Outrage and Optimism. I'm Clay from the Outrage and Optimism team. No music this week. We really want to focus your attention on the TED Countdown video titled How Do We Get the World Off Fossil Fuels Quickly and Fairly. And I hope you enjoyed that little supercut of Mary that I made, my favourite quotes from that. I've watched the film three times now and watching it is such a helpful way to align and realign our minds to what are the real, you know, tangible, workable disagreements of this crisis that we need breakthrough on. And that's that's where you come in. So I want to give kudos to the TED team for putting this together. It really stands out because so much media in our climate space falls into describing the problem endlessly. And then, you know, I'm including us in this. Sometimes we need a cathartic release of our reaction to how endlessly the problem can be described, and we can kind of doom speak ourselves into squandering the precious time we have to act. And so back to the usefulness of the film, it is so timely and useful because it identifies these exact spots where the diverging positions have stalled progress. And it's worth repeating that both outrage and optimism are flourishing together in this piece. You'll really like it. You'll hear from experts, including guests previously on this podcast, Laurence Tubiana, Lindsay Levin, Ramez Naam, Tzeporah Berman, Luisa Neubauer, and of course, Mama Mary. It's free to watch on YouTube and on countdown.TED.com. I've got a link for you in the show notes, and TED is actually coming to Detroit this year, so let me know if you're coming. I'd love to see you there. Here. Actually, I'd love to see you here. Thanks to Mary Robinson and Hafsat Abiola for joining us on the show today. Project Dandelion is live, and if you're looking to be a Connected Women Leader, there's literally a website for you connectedwomenleaders.com. How about that? Project Dandelion, which is part of the Connected Women Leaders, has a pledge that you can sign in our show notes. I'm sure you heard it mentioned earlier. So I just signed it. And I'm asking all Outrage and Optimism listeners to consider signing it as well. The climate movement can't succeed without women's leadership across the global South and the global North. It's time to recognize everything that women and girls have given, are giving and continue to give to the movement. So go sign the pledge. But need I say anymore? Mary and Hafsat, everyone. Okay, one last thing before I go. We have a newsletter that goes out every other Tuesday. It's an Outrage and Optimism newsletter. It's made for you.

Clay: [00:54:02] So our team works hard to give a bit more depth and awareness on the issues to our listeners and well, readers. But that's you. And for fun. This week we put a music track you should check out at the bottom of the newsletter in the tips from the team section I'm going to tease you with. I could just tell you, I could just tell you what it is. But you know what? I want you to go check out the newsletter, subscribe. So I'm going to tease you with three words that describe this thing that's at the bottom of the newsletter. Okay. I didn't actually come up with the words until now, so I got to think about them. Um, all right. Okay. Here we go. Prince Tzeporah Shredding. Yeah, we'll go with that. That's good. Only way that you'll make sense of this is if you check out our newsletter and subscribe. This is a little cruel the way that I've done this, but I'm having fun. Link in the show notes to check out our newsletter. I am away next week from the podcast. I'll be with some of the monastics from Plum Village. Our good friends. So someone from the team will meet you here at the end of the next episode. Have a great weekend and we'll see you right back here on Thursday. All right. Bye.


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