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156: Why it's "Not Too Late" with Rebecca Solnit and Thelma Young Lutunatabua

How to combat climate grief and misinformation with science, hope and revolutionary grace!

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About this episode

Reactions to the now infamous presentation of the suspended HSBC Head of Responsible Investing, Stuart Kirk, is still a source of considerable outrage here at Outrage + Optimism.  Kirk’s presentation entitled "Why investors need not worry about climate risk" peddled such dangerous climate disinformation that it prompted Christiana to refer to it in her brilliant op-ed in Investor Week as one of the most irresponsible public statements we have heard in years.  In this week’s episode brace yourself for Paul’s no holds barred account of what he really thinks about Stuart Kirk’s views and hear Christiana expand on why opinions like Kirk’s threaten the emergence of stakeholder capitalism. Tom’s insightful analysis further links the growing movement of incumbents rallying against ‘woke capitalism’ with the corporate disclosure of emissions and climate risk that is about to be regulated in the US and the EU.

Thankfully our main interview this week features a previous, much loved, Outrage + Optimism guest Rebecca Solnit, and the inspirational Thelma Young Lutunatabua whose Not Too Late project offers us the tools to tackle this current wave of disinformation, and provides tangible stories of hope. Hear how the project aims to invite newcomers to the climate movement, as well as providing climate facts and encouragement for people who are already engaged but weary.  Listening to these two incredible women speak about Not Too Late ‘rang a bell of truth in our souls’ as Thelma so beautifully puts it in the interview.

Sit back and be sure to enjoy the remarkable track Preacher Man by Micah Millar.

Enjoy the show!

Christiana + Tom’s book ‘The Future We Choose’ is available now!

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Not Too Late

Make sure to visit the Not To Late project launched by Rebecca Solnit and Thelma Young Lutunatabua

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Mentioned links from the episode:  

Not So Moral Money?  -  link to the Business Green article Christiana mentions in the episode that deunks Stuart Kirk's presentation.    

On Being podcast episode with Tarana Burke speaking about the need for ‘revolutionary grace’ mentioned by Thelma. 

A HUGE thank you to Adam, James and the team at Airaphon this week for editing this week’s podcast while Clay is away!

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Thank you to our musical guest this week, Mica Millar!

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Full Transcript

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

Christiana Figueres: [00:00:15] I'm Christiana Figueres.

Paul Dickinson: [00:00:16] And I am Paul Dickinson.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:00:18] This week, we talk about the outrageous comments made by Stewart Kirk of HSBC and the wider war that is brewing on what is now being called woke capitalism. We speak to Rebecca Solnit and Thelma Young Lutunatabua about their new project, It's Not Too Late and we have music from Mica Millar. Thanks for being here. All right, you two. So big on the outrage this week. Let's just get it out of the way when we start. Christiana, I know you've been like a cork in a champagne bottle over the last few days ready to let loose about this issue. A few days ago well actually about a week ago now that we're recording this, Stuart Kirk, the head of responsible investing at HSBC, gave a speech.

Christiana Figueres: [00:01:04] Ostensibly.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:01:05] Asset management. Asset management.

Paul Dickinson: [00:01:08] The head of irresponsible investing ahead of irresponsible investor. Load More

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:01:11] The global head of responsible investing at HSBC Asset Management gave a presentation entitled Why Investors Need Not Worry About Climate Risk, in which he said things like, "Who cares if Miami is six meters underwater in 100 years?" He was making the point on a regular basis that this doesn't move financial markets. So why should he care? This was picked up in various bits of media, of course, all around the world. But The Wall Street Journal in particular came out and said that Kirk was merely saying what many in his industry believe but are too timid to say. Climate change poses a negligible risk to the global economy. And banks, balance sheets and central bankers are partly to blame for the current economic turmoil because they focus too much on climate change while, ignoring other risks such as inflation. So this has blown up over the course of the last week, creating headaches, of course, for HSBC, but also leading to all sorts of soul searching around the world around how widespread is this perspective? Is this sort of position the reason we haven't made more progress in the finance sector. So let's kick off there and then we'll get to the broader issues afterwards. Christiana, let us have it.

Christiana Figueres: [00:02:15] No, no. I think Paul is ready to go. He's chomping at the bit. So all you.

Paul Dickinson: [00:02:20] Go, Oh, ok, well, I hope you're ready. Buckle up, because this is going to be a ride. This is probably, I think, one of the biggest negatives about men. I feel very, very negative about men. People are always saying kind of more women, but you almost never get men, women saying this kind of thing. It's a very, extremely catastrophic form of arrogance that was expressed by the Stuart Kirk character. Now he is from what's called the economics profession, some of which is sensible, but a lot of it is bonkers. There was a great philosopher called Tolman who said, of all human scientists, the ones most confident of the rigor of their methods and the superior validity of their results are those economists who rely on abstract and universal mathematical systems. The formality of their theoretical arguments gives them an air of logic, reality. The generality of their concepts makes them appear universal. But they are, in this case, supreme muppets. This is a very personal attack on Mark Carney who specifically called him out. And the gentleman wants to be seen as a kind of comedian. Now he makes unbelievably stupid mistakes. The first one is he compares climate change to the Y2K computer problem, which many of our listeners are going to be too young to even know about. But there were some concerns that at the turn of the millennium, computers would fail. It ended up being a trivial problem.

Paul Dickinson: [00:03:36] His ability to compare climate change with that demonstrates that he is only interested in his own voice and creating a ludicrous reputation and occupying some kind of citadel that doesn't exist. His thesis is that because markets markets don't count climate change in their pricing, it can't exist. Whereas the other possibility is markets are wrong. I'm going to go with the latter. The GDP model, which he believes is being rising inexorably all through World War One and World War Two, by the way, fails to grasp that there are non utility costs. So for example, when everyone is blowing each other to bits in World War two, although GDP is rising, it's not necessarily a good thing. When he talks about Miami rising six metres sea level rise and compares that to Amsterdam, for example, he fails to appreciate that this is going to wipe out everyone's lives in Bangladesh and he doesn't care. He says that he learned these things at university in Cambridge. That's an attack on the University of Cambridge. I hope they defend themselves. If you look at his career on LinkedIn, which you can easily do, he's never worked in anything but finance and economics. He knows nothing about Earth system science and frankly, this is where it gets horrific. He believes his underlying thesis is that GDP will rise to such a degree by 2100 that we won't have to worry about climate change.

Paul Dickinson: [00:04:45] What a complete idiot. I first wrote a letter to the Financial Times. They published on this subject 19 years ago, and I observed then that when I was six, humans first stepped on the moon, and my childhood was full of brave visions of interstellar travel. But 33 years later, now, 52 years later, no humans made it to Mars. Supersonic aircraft have been removed from service. It's easy to become confused. And this is what Stuart Kirk did, because he's an arrogant man. He got confused between the revolution in microelectronics that has transformed our lives and the sluggish pace of evolution in large scale technology. You can't double the power of machines every 18 months or halve their price, and so doing, he has no plan whatsoever for changing the acidification of the ocean. And we will not make machines that lower sea level. And I'm sorry to say, and I'll conclude now, but he is so far off on this one. If you look at the science record, we're outside of the range of three and a half to five million years on CO2 in the last couple of hundred thousand years, the temperature has been eight degrees lower and four degrees higher. We're about to bounce out of a steady state and muppets like Stewart kirk seriously endanger our lives and our children. He should never work anywhere, ever again. All right. Okay.

Christiana Figueres: [00:05:59] Paul, I have a question. What do you really think about his statements?

Paul Dickinson: [00:06:06] Well, I mean, what I will do and will come onto this is I do think there are some people who are finding it difficult to avoid judging companies in terms of just money, because when you judge companies in terms of just profit and balance sheets, you've got the absolute precision of mathematics. And the whole financial profession can't deal with dealing with social issues and issues of, for example, ecological security. And so they're sort of saying it's rubbish, but they're saying it's rubbish because they don't understand it. I'm afraid when Stuart Kirk reached the limits of his comprehension, he just went off piste and started insulting the intelligence of decades of geoscientists who've done nothing but look at this subject and the idea that this complete muppet from some dark corner of the finance community knows more about this than the IPCC, or indeed the secretary general of the United Nations is a disgrace.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:07:07] Well, Paul, I mean, a sort of that was a very impressive four minute review of Stuart Kirk concluding discussions about steps on the moon, microelectronics quotes from 20th century economists, ocean acidification and the patriarchy, which was a tour de force, I would say. Cristiana. Is there anything left to add?

Christiana Figueres: [00:07:23] Well, I'm left without words. Obviously left completely speechless here.

Paul Dickinson: [00:07:30] I don't believe that for a minute.

Christiana Figueres: [00:07:31] But but a couple of things maybe. I mean, Paul, thank you for for addressing some of the few complete stupidities that he said in his speech. There is also an article that we will put in the in the notes of the show that goes through the speech. Sentence by sentence. And and really points out how he must have been completely asleep or drunk or something. I mean, you really do not understand. How did he put so many stupid lies, one after the other, but moving away from the speech specifically. I'm really concerned, Tom. And I think that's what you were you were getting to at the beginning, that just as we are beginning to find our way away from shareholder capitalism, where the only purpose and intent of a company and a financial institution is basically profits, period, we have started to move into what is called stakeholder capitalism, which looks at three purposes of companies, which is planet people and profits, of course, without denying the profits. And we're just beginning to understand what that means. And then in, you know, in, in from stage right comes in these concepts that seek to destroy the emerging, emerging understanding of stakeholder capitalism.

Christiana Figueres: [00:09:16] And and those whacks at it are called woke capitalism. And it's just fascinating to me that that profession Paul, which you love, economics, that economists are capable of coming up with such two divergent views as to what money ought to be doing. And now here we go. Right, stage right. Whoa. Capitalism, stage left or stage center or wherever you want to put it. We have a shareholder capitalism. What a battle. What a conceptual battle. At a moment that is... existential. Right. This is not this is not an academic discussion. This is not an an intellectual conversation about which one is better, which one is worse. No, no, no, no. This is an existential moment. And I fear that those who are peddling woke capitalism do so because they can see that we are beginning to really move forward with shareholder capitalism, with being able to put people planet and profit at the same level of purpose, and they're just trying to whack it down. And this is this is absolutely abominable precisely because of the moment, the moment in which the destiny of humanity is in play.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:10:49] So, Christiana, I would completely agree with that and I would go further as well. I mean, if you look at the moment that we're in, right? So we now after years of getting to this point, thanks to the good work of Paul Dickinson and many others, we're finally at a position where corporate disclosure of emissions and climate risk is about to be regulated in the US and the EU. That's a huge thing. It's got huge, big financial implications for for companies. We're at a moment where fossil fuel companies are increasingly being starved of capital as we start to move into a divestment arena era. And as a result of those things and many other things, we're now beginning to see organized pushback and an attempt to discredit the concept of ESG and net zero. And it's really frightening, right? This whole thing about woke capitalism, there are those out there who are spending serious money with communications agencies, creating very clever comms moments where they put these concepts out there to try to remove the legitimacy of what's happening. They try to politicize it, make it an issue that's only relevant of the left, and as a result of that, undermine what we've worked for decades to get to. We have to be front foot on this. And I would say this is a battle of substance, but it's also we're also losing the comms battle at the moment because we're sort of slightly asleep about the fact that this is an orchestrated attack to try to bring these concepts down. And we need to be much more thoughtful about that.

Paul Dickinson: [00:12:10] Yeah, and look at the heart of this. You know, the complaint that I actually fully accept, you know, having spent 20 years in this area, the complaint is that, look, you know, some companies, you know, say they're good and they're not or some investors say they've got good investment funds and they haven't. And it's kind of greenwashing and it's not clear and it's not right and it's not good. And kind of, you know, there's a bit of that is kind of true. Let me explain why. You know, there'll be a lot of people who say atomic energy, nuclear energy is is is, you know, an environmental good. A lot of other people will say that it's an environmental bad. Some people will say like, you know, really big fast electric vehicles and an environmental goods. Some people would say, well, small petrol vehicles are better. I might say videophones are better than both of them put together. But the point is, we're not going to settle those arguments. They're not going to be settled with mathematical precision. And that's the problem that the finance industry has been using mathematical precision to try and govern itself and organize itself for a very long time.

Paul Dickinson: [00:13:02] And it's got to learn to to flex a new kind of muscle, which is very much related to four examples about kind of like what future do we want and ideas of universal ownership. You've heard me talk before a universal investors, which I understand is now better described as system investing. So where investors start to look at the whole economic system and think about how that's going to perform better rather than individual shares. And this this journey we're taking from science based targets for corporations and investors through to science based policy that we need from governments to enact. All of that is is a movement. And I think people like Stuart Kirk are being caught without the sort of sufficiently holistic grasp of what's going on to be able to function. And so they're kicking back. But but just to agree with you, Tom, there are also companies with activities that are going to be regulated out of existence, taxed out of existence. And they are now fighting.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:13:56] Yeah.

Christiana Figueres: [00:13:57] And well they're fighting for their own survival at the expense of the survival of humanity.

Paul Dickinson: [00:14:03] And I wouldn't bet against us because humanity has won in the past and will win again. And by the way, whether they're going to end up in courtrooms in 10 to 20 years for putting money behind, undermining national or even global security, is another whole question that they should reflect very deeply on.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:14:16] But it's worth bearing in mind that, I mean, you know, maybe just pure evil does exist in this world. But I think we know many people who would, potentially play a role in that. And people tell themselves stories to justify their actions, to make themselves on the right side of history, even when they're doing something that slows us down. That's the complicated thing about this moment is everybody is constructing their own narrative that makes them feel I mean, there will be an argument on that side of woke capitalism where people feel like we need to focus more on inflation. And what about the people who are going to suffer? We can't be too fixated on this climate transition. And of course, if you look at it from a scientific perspective, that is nonsense. And that's going to create, enormous suffering as a result of that narrative. But people make themselves into the good guys in their own way of seeing the world. And that's part of what's so pernicious about it.

Paul Dickinson: [00:15:07] And don't get me wrong, by the way, you know, we've all used fossil fuels today. So, like, I'm not like saying, you know, everyone producing fossil fuels, you know, should should be sent to jail. What I would say is anyone who tries to stop governments taxing and regulating greenhouse gas emissions, they are crossing a line.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:15:22] Okay. So anything else to add on this before we go to our interview, which is, I think on a very appropriate topic for today. All right. So today we have a fantastic conversation view with two women, Thelma Young- Lutunatabua and Rebecca Solnit, former guest, author and former guest on this podcast. And the reason we were so keen to talk to them is because they have just come out with a new website and a project called It's Not Too Late. And as you can imagine, this kind of stubborn and determined optimism gets very high marks from us. And so we thought that it would be very interesting to invite Rebecca back and Thelma, of course, her collaborator, and have a conversation with them about what that is and why they feel this is the right moment. So here they are and we'll be back afterwards for some more discussion.

Christiana Figueres: [00:16:15] Thelma and Rebecca, thank you so much for joining us here on Outrage and Optimism. We've had the pleasure of having Rebecca on the podcast before and now this is double pleasure because Rebecca is now joined by Thelma. So we are delighted to have you both here. And as you know, we have invited you because we are so thrilled with your new project entitled Not to Late. We already love the title and we love the concept and we will give you some time to explain it. But before we go into that, could could you tell us how did you meet? Why did you meet? Why did you decide to launch this project? Just a little bit of a of a fun historical background so that we know what the routes are to Not Too late.

Rebecca Solnit: [00:17:07] Yeah, I think we both recognize that there's a lot of climate grief that's connected to climate despair. And literally a lot of people believe that it is too late, that, you know, there's nothing we can do. And you and a lot of it comes from lack of information. So we hear people who are not kind of in the movement saying nobody cares, nobody's doing anything, it's too late to do anything. And we think that a lot of the climate, you know, grief, despair, etc., comes from lack of information, lack of good information, lack of, you know, some of it's specific to the climate science, climate action, climate solutions. Some of it also is frameworks, the ways that people tend to think about power, change, possibility, the future. Et cetera, I think are also impediments to recognizing the possibilities and the urgency of seizing them. So Thelma and I really had a shared vision. It was very funny. We just spent three days together and I was all braced. As somebody who mostly works alone to be like all grown up for when we disagreed and we just didn't get there.

Christiana Figueres: [00:18:26] How wonderful. So for our listeners, we will put, of course, the link to not to late in the show notes so that you can go straight there. But just to give listeners a little background. So if I have understood or if we have understood properly, your project, entitled Not to Late is a website that you have launched with the purpose of being a repository for where you can put up all kinds of information to make it easy for someone who says, Oh my gosh, I wonder dot, dot, dot. And your aspiration is to fill in and be a very helpful tool to help people find out quickly and easily about the the information that they are looking for. But you're doing it from a certain specific perspective and and purpose, which is to mitigate the climate grief and the despair that we see out there from which we assume that what you want to do here is actually to disrupt the current, I would say, almost preponderant narrative that it is too late, that it is too complex, that it is too far away from us, and that it is impossible and that we have basically have to give up. And so I'm would love to hear from the two of you: Why do you think it is so important to disrupt narrative? Why are narratives so important? Why? What is the power that narratives have certainly on on climate change and our action? But in general, why why do we humans need meaningful narratives?

Thelma Young-Lutunatabua: [00:20:08] I can start with that one. So much of the crisis now is also a crisis of imagination. If people can't see the world that we can build, it will be hard for them to then step up and take action and know what to do and where to put their energy and where to put their hands. And so a lot of what we want to do is not just guide people on how to not be overwhelmed by grief, but also help them see the different possibilities, the solutions that are out there, the different ways of being. There are so many communities right now who are building solutions and a lot of them are on the front lines. And so if we help showcase, here's what's possible, then people can see it. Too often we get trapped in the world of doom and gloom and apocalypse, and we have to fight back and show people know like another world is possible. So that's another part of this project. And, and it's a pretty simple project and we just hope the website is kind of that bomb that people can turn to. And when they're having those hard days and they can just turn, turn to that and get some guidance and reflection, like, look, here's how I move from grief to action. Here's my reminder of the world that we can create.

Christiana Figueres: [00:21:35] Can you speak to that? Moving from grief to action. Rebecca, you're so good at that. What? Why, why? Why is that a journey? The grief to action.

Rebecca Solnit: [00:21:46] I just want to say beforehand that there's a website. There's also a steady stream of encouraging social media on Twitter and Facebook. There will be a series of talks in the fall. There will be a book in April. And apparently there's going to be a school curriculum because everybody's asking us for now. So, you know, the project has had a great reception and it's running away with us. And so, yeah, the journey from grief to engagement, a huge obstacle for people engaging is their belief that they don't have power. That and that we have that there's nothing they can do. And so many things in our culture and capitalism wants us to just be consumers. And of course, the whole climate footprint thing is telling us all we've got to do is make virtuous, individual choices. You know, it tells us nothing about how we need system change through collective action, you know? You know, and there's so many authorities like us to think we're powerless and all we can do is ask them nicely to give us what we want. But there are other narratives of how popular movement, civil societies, good organizing have changed the world. I think hope for the future comes in part from studying the past, from the historical examples. From rethinking the nature of power and the nature of change. And I've been writing about hope a lot for 19 years since my Hope in the Dark Essay launched to address the grief and despair when the Bush administration here in the US started bombing Iraq. And I find that a lot of it also is, particularly with Americans, I suspect, a kind of impatience. If we demand this today and we don't get it tomorrow, then we lost. It ignores the complexity of change and that sometimes it takes a while.

Rebecca Solnit: [00:23:45] Sometimes the consequences are huge but indirect. Sometimes change happens in unexpectedly. I'm also really struck by how much people really think that change history et cetera, precedes in some kind of simple and predictable way. If we don't look powerful today, you know, if we don't win today, we won't that tomorrow. You know, whether it's talking about the climate future or the solutions or politics, people thinking that there's this kind of very predictable, foreseeable thing. I ran across this amazing thing yesterday, Moses Maimonides, who I mispronouncing I assume, the Jewish scholar of the 12th century, argued that hope is belief in the plausibility of the possible as opposed to the necessity of the probable. It is always probable that Goliath will win. But it's also true that sometimes David wins. And a lot of my work has been collecting examples of David winning over Goliath. You know, the world is just so damn unpredictable. Both the pandemic and the invasion of Iraq created sudden huge changes in the world order, including around fossil fuel and reminders that things can and do change suddenly. So we not only want to give people good information about the science, the possibilities, the fact that we already have the solutions, that a huge number of people are already engaging. But we also want to give them new models of change, power and possibility from the conventional ones, which I think are inherently defeatist. They're constantly feeding us a kind of defeat that makes us passive, which is very useful for the powers that be. And so in some ways, we see this project not quite as a recruiting tool, but a kind of gateway people can step through from inaction to action.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:25:37] I mean, congratulations on it. We think it's absolutely wonderful. So we were so thrilled. Cristiana sent it around, said and in full caps "They have nailed it with this one", we absolutely love it. So we hope everybody will find it and follow what you're doing. And it couldn't be more important, right? I mean, the research that came out, 50% of young people believe that humanity is doomed in the short to medium term. I mean, this is a generational experiment in anxiety that's having its own impact. I'd like to just take you in a different direction to talk about something that has really been worrying me, which is that as the impacts on climate are manifesting more and more, and as the hour is getting later and later, I'm sensing there's this kind of breathless anxiety amongst the general population who pay attention to this and amongst people who care about climate. There's this sense that because it's become so urgent, we've now got to double down and go bigger on all the things we've been doing. So that means that activists are getting more demanding and more angry and more people in corporations are talking more about sustainable growth and how you decouple. And this is all good stuff, but I'm sensing that a shared narrative that makes it feel like we're all in this together is in a weird way, sort of slipping away from us a bit as everybody doubles down on their bit. And I see a concern that people are spending more time arguing with each other about definitions of net zero and all these other different pieces, rather than staying focused on the fact that we can still solve this and working on the real issue. Could could you talk around that a bit? Do you recognise that analysis and how do we sort of capture and move beyond some of that to this place of hope and determination?

Thelma Young-Lutunatabua: [00:27:17] Yeah, well, there are important conversations that need to be had. You know, we need to talk about the values. We need to talk about how communities are respected through these processes of change. We need to talk about which solutions are actually solutions. So there are so many important conversations that that need to be had. We can't just go full force on everything because that is going to rampage, I think some populations and some people. So I think we do need to make sure that we are making sure that our solutions are grounded in justice and that's important. And at the same time we need to recognise that everyone has a role to play. One of Rebecca and I's favourite analogies is with Gulliver's Travels, you have the Lilliputians who kind of each throw a line up and hook down Gulliver, the Giant. And so if it's everyone taking action everywhere and everyone's kind of throwing, throwing up their line, they can tie down the giant. And so everyone's going to have different roles to play. Maybe it's, you know, an activist in London taking action or or maybe it's a community in Fiji who are working to protect their coral reef or, you know, maybe it's a corporation trying to reduce some of their harmful practices, so everyone does have a role to play. The other thing I'm also really trying to ground in my own practice, I listen to this talk with Tarana Burke and she talked about revolutionary grace and it was so beautiful to hear. And I think as activists, we often forget that aspect of holding grace that, you know, everyone's trying, everyone's doing their best. And and sometimes we just have to hold grace and extend grace to each other. And that's really important, too, because we can get wrapped up in fighting too much instead of just saying we have to reduce emissions now. So that's kind of where I'm at with that.

Rebecca Solnit: [00:29:33] I would just add something that's been really powerful for me. I was very involved in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, in which not because of a Category four hurricane, but because of human failures. New Orleans went 80% underwater and a lot of people died. What was so amazing the next day was that there was bumper to bumper traffic of people trying to get into the city, people with boat trailers. And so for me, the analogy is nobody in what got dubbed the Cajun Navy thought they could rescue everybody, but they thought they might be able to rescue somebody and that was enough for them. And I feel like we're in a Cajun Navy point. We're in an emergency. We're never going to make the world, you know, of 50 or 500 years ago exist the way it did. But there's something we can rescue. There are things we can save, there are things we can protect. There are continuities, ecologically and human culture and place that we can protect, you know, or make or otherwise rescue protect by making healthy transitions. I talked to the climate scientist Jacquelyn Gill at the outset of Thelma and me organizing, and she said two really powerful things to me this is not a pass fail test and 1.5 is not a cliff. We're going to fall off because she fears that if we reach 1.5, people will think, oh, it's all over. But like the Cajun Navy, even when the city was 80% underwater, even when people had already died, they knew there was something worth doing. There will always be something worth doing. And that's the framework along with the Lilliputians against Gulliver that we're really committed to.

Paul Dickinson: [00:31:24] It's not too late. It's never too late. And I love the idea that that phrase rang in your souls with the bell of truth. And absolutely. You know, it's so inspiring to hear you say that this is a crisis of imagination. That's ultimately what we're facing. And it seems and this is just a perspective, but I'm interested in your thoughts on it, that perhaps humanity is is beginning to cross a kind of threshold because of climate change being an intrinsically global problem. You know, a tonne of CO2 anywhere affects the world everywhere that we're kind of we're having to grow, I guess, you know, ethically and emotionally to to face global problems. And that's challenging. But I guess it's also kind of beautiful in a way. Do you see an evolution potentially here if we can get through that crisis of imagination?

Rebecca Solnit: [00:32:14] I think we both feel that the climate crisis demands nothing less of us than than that we make a better world. And again, just like we have the energy solutions, I think we have the imaginative solutions present. As you know, I was talking to Roshi Joan Halifax last night, and we continued after the public part to talk about how present indigenous and Buddhist and other ideas outside of kind of Western capitalism and kind of the fragmentation of the world of isolated individualism. You know, we have those pieces and I've seen those ideas move through even American culture really powerfully over the last 30 years. The fact that indigenous people who are being told that they no longer existed, they were extinct, they were obsolete, are doing so much leadership, is a sign that we do have these other visions already, giving us so much already at work already. You know, these ideas have already taken hold, the seeds have been planted and they're growing. They just, you know, one of the despondent left frameworks I constantly run into this idea we're starting from scratch. Somebody should do something. We should start this. I think that work is well underway. It's not dominant culture in an obvious way, but it's a transformation, you know, deep in people's imaginations about interconnectedness, thinking in terms of systems rather than isolated objects, responsibility, seventh generation thinking and so much more. But I should hand it to Thelma, who she lives in one of those communities in Fiji.

Thelma Young-Lutunatabua: [00:33:57] Yeah. I mean, I think anything that helps people look beyond the individual and look at communities and look at looks at relationality, anything that can get people to that point is is absolutely crucial. We love one of Bill McKibben quotes that one of the best things that you can do as an individual in climate change is stop acting like an individual. And so we need people to realize that that power happens when they come together. And that's something that's really beautiful. And we do want people to realize that their actions have an effect. Um, and so we, we exist in relations with people all over the world, we exist in relation with nature. And, and I think the further we can get people to, to accept that they exist in relationality and they're not just bubbles of individuals, you know, change can happen. You know, people's heart is not inherently self interested. I don't believe in that. People want to have strong communities, so maybe climate can get us on a better path

Paul Dickinson: [00:35:02] System change through collective action.

Thelma Young-Lutunatabua: [00:35:04] Exactly. Yeah. And just one more thing, just to bring up something Rebecca and I always come back to is often people think about climate action as giving up, Oh, I have to stop driving. I have to give up this in order to create a better world, when actually what could be happening is, is through tackling the climate crisis, we actually create a better world. We create communities that are walkable, we create communities that have healthy, breathable air, we create communities where people know their neighbors. So I think it's important to think to keep this in mind is like it's not about necessarily things that you give up, but thinking about maybe we can create something actually even more beautiful from this all.

Rebecca Solnit: [00:35:51] Exactly. Telling the climate story, not as renunciation, but as getting a better world feels like an important part of the story, but it requires shifting from capitalism, which is, you know, or kind of consumerism about having lots and lots of stuff to having more intangible things, having more confidence in the future, decentralizing power literally with energy production, but also dismantling the fossil fuel tyrannies that rule over us, you know, building more, you know, stronger relationships in many ways, more equality, etc.. And so it's complex because it's so easy to recognize, you know, having all the good, all the fun toys and lack of rules to recognizing how much better our lives would be if we had hope and confidence in the future, if we had these connections, if we had the kind of deep kinds of health, that's the health of the system, the health of the planet, the health of our local place, the health of ourselves and our children and and, you know, the health of many species and ecosystems, because the climate crisis is a kind of planetary sickness, and we want to treat it. And fossil fuel itself has been poisoned for 150 years.

Christiana Figueres: [00:37:16] Absolutely. Both of you, I'm sure you know that you are speaking from our heart. You are putting forward in such eloquent terms what we firmly believe in as well. And so thank you for that. Thank you for the compelling and clarity of your of your message and what you say to those who are not yet there. What do you say to those who go like, oh, come on, ladies, you know, stop being such Pollyanna as stop colluding with the green washers, or you just, you know, hiding the fact that everybody is talking the right thing but not doing the right thing. We actually have to get much more under the hood about this. You I'm sure you have heard those arguments. How do you embrace those arguments?

Rebecca Solnit: [00:38:12] Let me see. I feel like. The worst thing we face is in bitterness or grief or despair. The worst thing we fair is we face is indifference. Martin Luther King constantly talked about 'maladjusted', which is a very pop, was a very popular psychology term in his day. You know, women were supposed to be well-adjusted to patriarchy, black people were supposed to be well-adjusted to a racist apartheid society. And he said being maladjusted is, in a way, a kind of idealism or refusal to accept something that should be unacceptable. So I feel like those are people we can talk to and indifference is the worst thing. But I have also found over the years that people, often think that cynicism is realism, but cynicism can be naive, it can be uninformed, and hope can actually be sophisticated, informed and deeply engaged. It requires a sense of risk that's also personal and emotional, as well as taking a chance that maybe we can win. Maybe things will turn out if we give it all our our efforts. So I think, you know, we're good with those people. We can send them to us. This is what we're here for.

Thelma Young-Lutunatabua: [00:39:32] That's great. That's great.

Christiana Figueres: [00:39:34] Well, Tom and Rebecca, thank you so much. This has been so, so delightful. So, ladies, we we could go on forever talking to you and listening to you, especially listening to you because you you sing from the bottom of our heart. So thank you very much for that. Sadly, we do have to come to a close and we have a typical closing that we're not going to use today. We would like to ask you a different question. What out there or in here, either way or both, convinces you that it truly is not too late?

Rebecca Solnit: [00:40:20] Did you want to go, Thelma, or.

Thelma Young-Lutunatabua: [00:40:22] I think I think of my friends in the Marshall Islands. I have a lot of friends in the Marshall Islands and in other atoll nations across the Pacific. And they are relentless. They are not giving up. They have so much at stake and they keep on fighting and they keep on also spreading the world with also joy and humor and and laughter and culture. And it's not too late because, you know, for me, when I struggle with hope, I think of something that the activist Lidy Nacpil told me. She's in the Philippines, an amazing Filipino leader. And I asked her what brings her hope, and she said that sometimes she struggles with hope, but what other choice is there but to fight? And so on the days where it's hard, where days where the impacts and the weight of it all is hard, sometimes I just have to keep on putting one foot forward and just keeping on going because there is no other choice but to fight.

Rebecca Solnit: [00:41:35] Hmm. I would just add that the science tells us it's not too late. This is the decade of decision. It's really important, urgent, more important than anything to make the best choices and not let the worst choices, the choices the fossil fuel powers want to make. And, you know, and you talk to the people who are most informed and they literally say that it's urgent. We're running out of time. It's an emergency, but an emergency means things are still happening, not that it's over. And so it is, according to them, not too late. And so we're here to just try and bring people to strengthen the best possibilities and help help choose them. Help shift what happens.

Christiana Figueres: [00:42:27] Wow. Well, thank you to both of you. Thank you for all the work and the thought and the true, humble prayer that has gone into your into your lives. Thank you for this new project. We will be distributing it high and wide and contributing, if you would like. Really wonderful. Yes. Rebecca's going. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I think you will find you have many allies there. Probably more than than you ever thought who will be happy to to help you populate that. So thank you so much. It's been delightful to have you here and let us continue to be firm in the fact, not the belief, but the fact that it is not too late.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:43:24] How wonderful to get a chance to sit with Thelma and Rebecca and talk about this amazing project they're undertaking. Good on them for diving in and taking the initiative at this critical moment at such an important element of the narrative. What did you both leave that conversation with?

Christiana Figueres: [00:43:38] So, of course, when when we discovered this this new website, honestly, I just thought that the two of them are singing from our hearts as well. Right, because they're so aligned with us about the importance of highlighting and shedding light on the positive things that are happening to balance, not to completely obscure, but to balance much of the doom and gloom with inspiring stories, with hard science. And I thought that their idea of being a repository for people who want that view of climate, what is the science and what can we do about it? Those are the two questions that they are answering, and to put both of those into the same website is just brilliant. And they do it in such a caring and loving and inclusive way. And perhaps some some of our older listeners older means that you've been listening for a while, not that you are older in age, but our older listeners will remember that we had the brilliant Rebecca on our podcast a while ago. 65, isn't it? Podcast number, episode number 65, is that correct? Do I have that number correct?

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:45:07] Wow. How on earth did you remember that? That's very impressive.

Christiana Figueres: [00:45:10] I don't. I don't know. Maybe. Maybe I'm wrong.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:45:12] Are you going to check, Paul?

Christiana Figueres: [00:45:14] But the point is that in that conversation, we had a little chat about the fact that she uses the word hope and we use the word optimism. And I think we very quickly concluded, actually, we're talking about the same thing. Semantics aside, what we're talking about is having a positive attitude that nourishes our capacity to recognize what is being done and and fertilizes our capacity to do more. And and so that is basically the purpose of that website. And I just think it's so, so brilliant, so such a brilliant project. So we wanted to, to highlight that for you and the title is so good Not Too Late because that's one of the narratives that is out there. It's all too late, it's all too expensive, it's all too complex. So not too late. Brilliant title.

Paul Dickinson: [00:46:10] And it's episode 66 of embracing radical uncertainty with Rebecca Solnit. Don't close, close. Look, I agree with everything you say, Christiana. Of course. Well, I don't always, but basically I do. And I think that I was particularly struck by their focus on, yeah, you need this individual action, of course, and that's really important. But she really wants to emphasize how we need system change through collective action. And I think that's absolutely key. And then the other thing that I thought was really fascinating, she was talking about how people feel despondent because they're constantly running into this idea that we're starting from scratch in terms of climate change. And she points out that, you know, when you're thinking somebody should do something, well, actually, a lot of this work is well underway. And I mention this specifically because with one of you two who will remain nameless, I met a philanthropist who was new to the world of philanthropy and had just come into quite a bit of money, and they opened up their explanation of what they wanted to do on the environment by saying, I don't want to do anything anyone else is doing. And just immediately inside of me, I kind of thought to myself, that's not good. And, and, and so actually, here's, here's a case to listen to Rebecca and Thelma recognize that. There's fantastic stuff going on and it needs to grow and get stronger and integrate more and turn into a more effective movement, as you were saying earlier, Tom. But, you know, it's not like we're starting today. We started for some people 50 years ago.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:47:42] Yeah, now I think that's so true. And that gives you such a sense of empowerment, standing on the shoulders of people who came before and connection to others who've worked in space. I completely agree. Yeah, there was a couple of things that struck me beyond what you both said. One was Rebecca talked about patient activism, which I think is the same as what you're talking about there, Paul being part of a chain of those who are really working towards different outcomes. And if you look back then, then you actually realize that if you don't win, today will win tomorrow. And it gives you that sense of actually we are getting there, we are making progress. Now, climate change, of course, is complicated because you can be too late in climate change and that's not good. But nevertheless, I thought that was a sort of expansive comment concept that she put forward there. And I also really liked and we've talked about this before on the podcast that they talked a bit about challenging the idea that climate action is renunciation. I really think we've made a mistake as we've gone down that road of individual action, and I've given up this and you've given up that, and therefore there's a sort of implication of some kind of superiority of an individual as a result of things you've given up. Renunciation is a wonderful thing and it can make you very happy. But if we start using it as a tool to beat each other up around levels of purity, then we're never going to build the momentum and the movement that's going to get us to the outcome we want to. And I think they understand that beautifully. So what a wonderful interview.

Paul Dickinson: [00:49:03] But just speaking to your point that you made at the start of this about, you know, the the sort of forces of coordinated attack, they will pick very much on those points of purity and will always seek to undermine the integrity of any spokesperson. You know, if they've ever kind of lit a candle when they could have know sat in the dark.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:49:20] Yeah, right. Anything else to add before we get the music?

Paul Dickinson: [00:49:24] Deep thanks for all the brilliant people doing all the incredible things. How about that?

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:49:28] Well said. Okay, so as ever we bring you some music to play us out. At the end of the episode. This week we have Mica Millar who is with the song Preacher Man. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for being with us this week and we'll be back as ever in a week's time. We'll see you then.

Paul Dickinson: [00:49:43] Bye.

Mica Millar: [00:49:44] Hey, it's me, Camila, and you're about to listen to my song, Preacher.Man, taken from my debut album, Heaven Knows, which is coming out. This June. I think as human beings, we've somewhat lost that sense of spiritual purpose, and I feel like it's been exchanged for 9 to 5 living. So this song is about taking that leap of faith, the pursuit of dreams and fulfillment in life. And I really hope you enjoy it.

Preacher Man by Mica Millar : [00:50:10] (song plays)


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