As we prepare to launch our 5-year project to Bridge the Gap such that in 2020 a future of sustainability is predictable, I think it’s important to create the full scope of what this is. In one sense, yes, it is a project with a clear intent of bridging the emissions gap of approximately 8 Gt of annual greenhouse gas emissions between what is predicted in 2020 and what is required to put us on track to not exceed the safety window of a 2 degree C temperature increase above pre-industrial level.
However, if all we do is close the emissions gap, then I suggest we will have missed the boat, we will not have mined the climate change crisis for the full opportunity it offers.
One of the most illuminating aspects of having engaged in this situation for the past two years is the dichotomy of everyone involved wanting the same thing, and at the same time, of not being able to impact the situation consistent with ending the crisis and ending it in time.
Person after person, scientist after scientist, diplomat after diplomat, activist after activist, business person after business person, etc. have all told me why what needs to happen, can’t., that we are doing the best that we can, given “the way things are”. What they say (and these are incredibly committed, hard-working, brilliant people, many of whom have dedicated their lives to this cause) is what comes after “You have to understand.” “You have to understand that the markets simply won’t support this kind of radical change, that the current political climate won’t allow for us to move any faster, that this issue is just too complex to nail the solution down in any kind of specific time-frame, that this is just how X country works, etc.”
What is glaringly apparent as a matter of having ventured into the belly of the beast and watched and listened is that the real crisis here, the real issue, is not carbon, it’s not emissions, and it’s not methane or the ozone layer. The real crisis is a crisis of context.
The crisis before us, the one I suggest as the one with the biggest possibility and opportunity, the crisis for us to foment is that we are faced with a circumstance (and greenhouse gases are a very real circumstance) that our current context, the current condition that gives us who we are for ourselves, who others are for us and who we are for others, what the world is, how the situation of climate change is there for us, etc. is insufficient for what is wanted and needed. The future is calling for whole new ways of being and acting, distinct from the ways of being and acting that got us where we are.
An amazing thing about the climate change situation and what makes it so ripe as an access to a world that works for everyone is that it hits so much of what is there that gives us our “world.” Agriculture, economics, natural resources, energy, human conflict, our relationship to ourselves, each other and the world, education, politics, business, all those and more are at play in the dynamic of the situation, both in how we got into this mess and what is being called for to effectively deal with it. And I suggest it is a new order of effectiveness wanting to emerge, not effectiveness as we have known it.
If we stay in the current context (a context built of unchallenged myths, sayings and assumptions) and work harder, faster or more innovatively, then I suggest we will miss the real opportunity that is there for us to seize. The real opportunity of climate change.
This crisis gives us a real chance to do a critical investigation of the contexts that leave us constrained in the matter of climate change (and not limited to this situation), doing the best we can in a world of “the way it is,” a world that’s fixed and unmalleable. Those unexamined constructs that keep the actions necessary to sufficiently impact this situation out of reach.
This current situation, climate change, gives us our shot at transforming ourselves and our world far beyond the situation itself. To call forth a new future, a future of a different order, not some version of what has been. A future that begins with a critical examination of the contexts that give us life as we know it.
For example, the current context of economics. Not that our economic models are inherently good or bad; simply that they exist and operate as a function of “sayings” that constitute their frameworks and that give the people who live inside those frameworks a particular view of the world, and with that, particular ways of being and acting. Sayings that when examined can be seen as “matters of language” and not “matters of truth or fixed reality.” Sayings like “Wealth is limited/scarce” and “For me to have enough of what’s important for an abundant life, you need to have less.” As an aside, the world of abundance/scarcity is a critical area of investigation and impact in this exposure and shifting of context.
This is only one example, one area of exploration and discovery that points to the work and the opportunity of the next five years, the work of investigating and altering context such that not only do we bridge the emissions gap, but we use this situation, the first situation in history that has called for 196 nations of the world to come together in alliance to address, as our opportunity to transform what it is that we are, and in that transformation to bring forth a world where the disconnect between what people want and what is actually happening begins to disappear.
That is the real gap we are out to bridge.