By long-term Findhorn resident, Roger Doudna.
Greetings from the week after “Climate Change and Consciousness – Our Legacy for the Earth” conference (CCC19). And what an Easter week it was! Unseasonably warm sunshine blessed our opening, though, sadly, it also marked the passing of Polly Higgins, one of our keynote presenters who was a brilliant lawyer and champion of an initiative to outlaw ‘ecocide’. That sort of study in contrasts characterised the whole event. Though climate change was scarcely a ‘cutting edge’ topic, the conference coincided with the Extinction Rebellion protests in London, a visit by the Joan of Arc like figure of Greta Thunberg direct from her papal blessing to both the London protests and meetings with leading British politicians. All of which made for a ‘transformative concoction’ both here and elsewhere. Rarely, if ever, has the subject of a Findhorn conference also been the topic of daily mainstream news bulletins. And this whole process culminated today with the announcement that the British Parliament unanimously agreed with Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal (i.e. without a vote or objection) to declare a ‘climate emergency’ whereby carbon emissions will be reduced in the UK to net zero by 2050! How this will actually work out, of course, remains to be seen, (Green New Deals, perhaps, on both sides of the Atlantic?), but it’s certainly a demonstration that direct action can still make an impact on the political process. And though I’m certainly not claiming that CCC19 did the business, it was certainly part of the gestalt process that did. What a great feeling!
The CCC19 keynote presentations were uniformly excellent, the workshops and ‘open space’ events that I attended were wonderful, both in terms of presentation and participation. So many great folks with so many impressive initiatives! And from what I can gather from resident coordinator Graham Meltzer, virtually everyone here had a profoundly transformative experience. But then given that we were contemplating the possible end of the human experience on this planet, how could it have been otherwise? It did get a bit messy towards the end, occasioned largely by the effort by seasoned and accomplished facilitators Robin Alfred and Kosha Joubert to ‘make amends’ to the myriad indigenous elders here for the largely European legacy of colonialism. But then it redeemed itself on the final day with what must have been at least 50 initiatives that emerged from the multiple ‘interest groups’ that were forged through the course of the week. Also impressive was the final afternoon’s ‘commitment session’ and then the ‘triumphal march’ led by an indigenous elder from Brazil, and final appreciations to conference organisers. It certainly suggests that non-resident conference coordinator Stephanie Mines was ‘tuned in’ to something at least resembling a ’divine plan’. Thanks, Stephanie!
For your information, Goran Wiklund, Sustainability Consultant both in Stockholm and here, did a carbon footprint study of the conference itself (after having done similar assessments of the community’s footprint for the past 3 years). It seems that the event produced 386 tonnes of CO2, 337 tonnes of which were from flying. That’s equivalent to about 10% of the entire community’s footprint from 2018 and comprises a sober reminder of the ‘by product’ of such events, wonderful though they may be.
In the lead up to the conference , I participated in a webinar with Findhorn Fellows Kosha Joubert, Paul Allen, and Albert Bates . The four of us were in Paris in December 2015 when the breakthrough Paris Agreement was signed by all the nations of the world except Syria (who has since signed as well). Each of these folks have been active contributors to the UN Climate COPS of recent years and I asked them to elaborate on their impressive work therein. If any of you wish to view it, you can do so at: https://youtu.be/1HupURwMufw One of its most memorable bits is Albert’s claim that if properly scaled to its capacity, biochar related products and processes can alone draw down up to 50 gigatons of CO2 PER YEAR. Not bad when you consider that industrial civilisation in its entirety current emits 37 gigatons per year. Albert develops this claim at length in his recent book called BURN: USING FIRE TO COOL THE EARTH, now available on Amazon. Paul likewise is confident that the technology required for humans to live sustainably on the planet is already in place. All that’s required is for us as a species to use it. Net effect, it’s not a question of whether we CAN avert catastrophic climate change but whether we WILL. I hope you agree we live in increasingly interesting and challenging times. Whether we will rise to what’s being asked of us is what will keep it ‘interesting’ for the rest of our time and beyond.
In an ‘Open Space’ during the conference, Paul lead a discussion around how we might ‘scale up’ to do the necessary business of getting off fossil fuels. I asked him to spell it out for me so that I could share it. I append his piece to that effect.
Notes from Paul Allen following the scaling-up workshop….
We, climate active citizens find ourselves at odds with the large multi-national fossil fuel corporations. Clearly both sides could carry on at loggerheads for the next couple of decades, but time is not on our side – so perhaps some other ‘conciliation options’ need to be explored?
The first step would be to really explore and understand the sources of opposition to what seems to so many of us, the logical transition to the next chapter in the story of humans, nature and energy. Such a transition brings work for many, and there are profits to be had – so exactly what is it that is in our way? Could it be the massive multi-billion dollar block investment in fossil fuel futures, residing on the balance sheets of massive powerful corporations that ‘we’ are now saying must never be burned. If this is the case, those who manage these investments, are, not unreasonably, looking to get a return on this capital – hence the very well-funded opposition to any change. We also need to recognise that many of these mal-investments are from pension funds, hospital and university endowments, which would cause major financial problems if they were to be forcibly written off, even if it was for a very good reason. So progress has been far too slow.
The climate clock is ticking! It is therefore time for some urgent international ‘behind the scenes’ negotiations to come up with a transition pathway that would work for all parties. Clearly the world would need to find a great deal of money to repurpose such a massive investment. After all there are many pension, university and medical funds needing rescue.
There is an urgent need for a global body such as the United Nations / World Bank (backed by a public cultural shift supported by global sportspersons, respected international figures, school strikes, council declarations, XR plus an inter-faith mandate) to raise new capital by a once in a planet’s lifetime Quantitative Easing process, to allow them to compulsorily purchase these un-burnable carbon assets at a good price, with ‘new capital vouchers’.
To become dollars, yen, pounds or euros these ‘new capital vouchers’ must be re-invested in the agreed Global Marshall Plan of ‘Climate Safe’ Clean Energy Futures. These un-burnable fossil reserves could then be held in ‘global trust’ by the UN / World Bank as an intergenerational asset, and very slowly utilised, over centuries to do those key tasks that we really need them for, such as chemical feed-stocks. If deployed in this manner they would last a very long time indeed and cause no significant harm.
If this seems hard to imagine, then it is worth spending time to explore historical comparisons such as the abolition of slavery, when the entrepreneurs of the day who had invested in the capture and transportation of slaves had to bear the losses involved when everyone held captive was released, or the day during the second world war when McNamara shifted automobile industry from making cars to sell on the forecourts of the US to making a whole bunch of WW2 tools.
It also worth encouraging those with the large investments in fossil futures to quietly make their own ‘genuinely independent’ private research into what the cost of adaptation to a post 1.5C world would actually be like, so they can understand the consequences. They need to see things with their own eyes, and understand the real costs. There are many lessons from history, where the incumbency needed to know the real facts – for example Catholic Church had its own telescopes and astronomers, and well understood when it was time to admit the sun, not the earth was actually at the centre of the solar system.
If such a plan could be delivered, through a process of negotiation and compensation (so they were genuinely happy with the deal) – the ingenuity, resources and communications skills that are currently being deployed to oppose the great turning could be willingly brought on board to accelerate the global carbon transition!
Imagine the acceleration, imagine the employment, and economic activity that could be unleashed. Not to mention the re-vitalised sense of collective purpose that could arise across the globe.
We have all the technologies required, that’s not what is holding us back – what is needed are ‘global scale negotiations’ with those who hold these massive fossil fuel futures, driven by one of those ‘once in a generation’ shifts in public culture which demands ‘a better legacy for future generations’.
Exactly who could broker such a deal is not in my areas of expertise, but if it could be achieved to the general satisfaction of all parties, wars over dwindling fossil fuel reserves could be avoided, millions of global jobs created, economies stimulated, massive climate change avoided, and, by no means least, a sense of collective excitement about of global future not seen for a generation could be re-generated.