“I have a dream” is perhaps one of the most instantly recognisable speeches of the twentieth century, but apart from that I’ve known little about Martin Luther King. So I was delighted to discover he was an ecological thinker. Ahead of his time? or revealing universal truths?
Along with his well-known worldview of prophetic Christianity, interconnection and interdependence were central to his thinking, and consistent themes in his rhetoric. King saw reality as an interlacing network of relationships, viewed the nations and peoples of the planet as one, and linked various social injustices, saying, “All of these problems are tied together.” “One cannot be concerned just with civil rights. It is very nice to drink milk at an unsegregated lunch counter—but not when there’s Strontium 90 in it.”
The ISM (Individual Social & Material) Tool was originally developed to help policy makers engage people and influence their behaviours to deliver improved outcomes, strengthening low carbon policies and delivery. I’ve been commissioned by the Scottish Government to develop a version for communities working on climate change issues. Continue reading “Developing the ISM tool for communities”→
Gavin Schmidt argues that once scientists enter a charged public debate, they will inevitably be perceived as advocating for one side or the other – whether or not that is their intention. And it fact…
it is almost always the case that a scientist speaking in public is in fact advocating for something—deeper public understanding of the science, more research funding, a more informed public discourse, awareness, and, yes, sometimes for specific policy action. Each of these examples is a reflection of both a scientific background and a set of values that, for instance, might prize an informed populace or continued research employment.
He recommends scientists recognise, and are explicit about their own values:
Responsible advocates are up-front about what is being advocated for and how the intersection of values and science led to that position. On the other hand, it is irresponsible to proclaim that there are no values involved, or to misrepresent what values are involved. Responsible advocacy must acknowledge that the same scientific conclusions may not lead everyone to the same policies (because values may differ). Assuming that one’s own personal values are universal, or that disagreement on policy can be solved by recourse to facts alone, is a common mistake.
Much of relevance here to anyone engaging in public debates of this kind, professional scientist or not.
Stories are powerful ways to communicate, indeed in my work I often encourage people to consider using ‘narrative’ to engage others more effectively.
But stories can be damaging and disempowering, especially ‘hero’ stories when essential elements of the original message are lost and forgotten:
The Jungian analysts, Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, have summarised this problem within contemporary Western culture as our desperate reliance on heroes to solve our current crises.
These stories of heroism have been misinterpreted to not only create an interpassivity among some, as they wait for salvation, but also lead others into a language of war, in which humanity attacks, conquers and dominates the hostile natural world. Self-proclaimed heroes look to expand their dominion over the planet and exploit resources in the name of saving humanity.
The concept of “work life balance” implies that ‘work’ and ‘life’ can be separated, put on different sides of the scales, that they are in opposition to each other, that more of one means less of the other.
That metaphor has never really worked for me, perhaps in part because I grew up in places where waged jobs were the exception, but also because most of my working life I’ve tried to do things that were important to me: for some of those tasks I’ve been paid, for some I’ve done them anyway. Continue reading “Down with work life balance”→
Interested developing your personal responses to the professional challenges of sustainability? Join me and Dave Key and Margaret Kerr of Natural Change Ltd for Tending the Flame.
A deeper understanding of the state of the world can motivate us to make more of a difference, but it can also make it more difficult to be optimistic about the future. This can lead to anxiety, stress, burnout and in some cases serious mental health issues. Not good for us and our families, not good for our colleagues and employers – not good for the planet.
Engaging with clients and colleagues can be difficult when we carry this burden of knowledge:
should we share our concerns, and if so, can we do this in ways that are helpful and sensitive?
or should we paint a positive picture of the future, and if so, can we do this with honesty and integrity if we feel differently in our heart of hearts?
Tending the Flame is an opportunity to take time to reflect and explore these issues in a safe space with the support of like minded peers and skilled facilitators. The retreat will be based around individual reflection and group-work outdoors in the beautiful wild landscape of Glen Prosen.
Another month, another important U.N. climate change conference. However, even if a deal can be reached – despite the urgent need for it – there is no guarantee that global greenhouse gas emissions will actually be reduced significantly and that dangerous climate change can be averted. Psychoanalytic theory provides disturbing insight into why this may be so – and it is all to do with the split psychological makeup of those who work at the forefront of climate science, policy and activism.