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Pitch

Millions of us communicating through our networks to inspire passionate mainstream commitment to solving global warming.


Description

Summary

To solve global warming we need to mobilize the public will to change all the factors that make climate change worse − a whole system change. This requires innovative communication to reach people who do not seek out information about environmental and social trends and their consequences.

A robust platform for such communication has been developed. It includes

  • A unifying goal: transitioning to a life-sustaining society
  • A simple but comprehensive communication strategy
  • Innovative communication tools that enable people to grasp systemic change
  • Imaginative tactics including social media, workshops and guerrilla marketing.
     

As Paul Hawken describes in Blessed Unrest, there are literally millions of environmental and progressive groups working for positive change. We are in a Great Transition, as Naomi Klein calls it.

Each group pursues its own agenda. But we can make common cause with the goal of aiming to transition to a life-sustaining society.

The Great Transition Communication Blitz is a vehicle for carrying this out. It will be throughout March 2017. During the lead up we will

  • Engage as many groups and individuals as possible as thought catalysts
  • And provide ready to use communication tools to make communicating as easy as possible.
     

During the Blitz itself we will see prominent thought leaders championing the Great Transition to a life-sustaining society. Masses of us will post blogs, email our networks, and conduct transformative conversations with our friends and neighbors. Presenters will encourage their audience to communicate about the Great Transition to their networks.

So people will see the idea of transitioning to a life-sustaining society everywhere. It will act as a positive vision, in contrast to the destructive mantra of economic growth, economic growth. Our communication tools will enable people to go on to grasp the systemic nature of the transformative change we need, and see ways they can personally contribute to it.


What actions do you propose?

This contest is framed as Shifting Behavior for a Changing Climate. The brief seems to be oriented towards shifting individual behavior. However, I am jumping to the next level: shifting our collective behavior.

This is because if we are to solve climate change, together we need to change all the drivers that make climate change worse. These are all the factors that increase industrial production, as well as agricultural practices, deforestation, and the destruction of estuaries. So we are looking at big picture factors as well as local actions.

The big picture factors include:

  • Advertising
  • Trade agreements
  • Devotion to economic increase
  • Corporate control of governments
  • Population growth
     

And psychological factors that promote excess consumption:

  • Retail therapy
  • Compulsive desire for the appearance of wealth and status
  • An underlying lack of a sense of inner well-being that drives retail therapy and desire for the appearance of status.
  • Ignorance of the consequences
  • Lack of a sense of personal responsibility for our collective well-being
     

The idea of changing this whole system is not so easy to get our heads around, which is one reason why people focus on measurable local initiatives. But in my view, on current trends the sum of local initiatives, even though a great deal of positive change is going on, falls far short of accomplishing the required systemic change in the short time frame we have left. We are in an ecological emergency now, and if we do not pull off a rapid transformation, it is game over for the prospect of a humane global civilization.

The late Donella Meadows observed that the most influential point of change in any human system is in the way people think − that is, their paradigms, mindsets, worldviews, frames … their general way of understanding the world.

Of course, this is the most difficult as well. However, if this is what is needed then we should put on our innovator’s hats and work out how to do it. And with the right approach, perhaps it is not as difficult as it might seem. This is what we need to test.

So our approach to affecting people’s behavior around climate change is to enable the general populace − a critical mass of mainstream people − to grasp why large-scale systemic change is absolutely necessary for our future well-being, and see how they can personally contribute to the needed transformational change.

Grasping the concept of whole system change is actually quite easy. Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff spells it out in an engaging way. David Korten’s brilliant The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community goes into great depth.

My article Understanding Whole System Change covers the ground succinctly. It is the basis for an innovative face-to-face communication tool called Kitchen Table Conversations.

The core of this Great Transition Communication Blitz proposal is that we communicate through a wide variety of means to inspire thoughtful passionate mainstream commitment to transitioning to a life-sustaining society. Before I got into more detail about specific actions it might be helpful to review the essence of the needed whole system change.

In my view, it boils down to two operating principles. See if they make sense to you. A life-sustaining society will

  • Operate in good willed collaboration for the well-being of the whole community
  • In the context of living well within planetary boundaries.


A more technical way to put it is that a healthy society will operate on partnership-respect values rather than domination-control values.

The distinction comes from Riane Eisler. It is useful, because at every level including childbirth, parenting, schooling, business practices and global governance we know how to embody partnership respect relating. There are living examples already.

So − to the actions!

There are two kinds of actions: Those in preparation for the communication blitz, and those done during the Blitz itself.

Preparation

Here is an annotated list of roles people can play in the preparation for the blitz.

  • Outreach to engage thought leaders


Writers and prominent bloggers can articulate the goal of transitioning to a life-sustaining society as a unifying goal both for the environmental/progressive movement, and for society at large.

  • Outreach to engage leaders of organizations.


Through their newsletters and on their websites organizations can articulate how the work they are doing is contribution to the larger goal of transitioning to a life-sustaining society.

Organizations can also invite members and staff to become citizen-educators communicating with their networks. Training and ready-to-use communication tools can be offered.


Conversations are perhaps our most powerful means of affecting people's mindsets, because they enable people to think through why we need transformative change, and how we can accomplish it.

  • Preparing various guerrilla marketing tactics to be applied during March.


These include things like putting plaques and videos in professional offices, videos about transitioning to a life-sustaining society in medical waiting rooms, and posters and flyers in public places such as libraries.

Preparing emails and blogs to be sent to our personal networks in March.

This is perhaps the simplest thing a person can do. A sample email to be tweaked and improved is here.

Execution

Obviously we do the things that we have prepared beforehand.

Follow Through

The Great Transition Communication Blitz will raise the global sustainability conversation to the level of systemic change. It will also seed the meme of a healthy goal for society as a whole: transitioning to a life-sustaining society at emergency speed.

Communication about systemic change will continue, of course. And there will also be a great deal of second level activity, including enhanced industrial design, training in systems thinking and creativity, more investment in personal development, and organizational redesign to bring out the best in people.

If things go well and the scale becomes large enough, overwhelming popular support will emerge for the big picture things like campaign finance reform, rolling back environmentally destruction trade agreements and the like.

 


Who will take these actions?

Ultimately, the actions will be taken by the people so eloquently described in the New Climate Magazine proposal in this CoLab contest:

“This next wave of leaders is diverse: scientists, teachers, parents, activists, clergy, students, community organizers, and businesspeople, all unified by the desire to take more personal responsibility for climate change. They are you, your neighbors, friends and family. They are adults with families and careers who care about climate change but have competing priorities in their lives.”

This wave of leaders also includes the young demographic that is so passionate about Bernie Sanders, social entrepreneurs, and the larger progressive movement that cares about social well-being as well as climate change. It is the members of the groups described in Paul Hawken’s Blessed Unrest.

As well, importantly, the actions will be taken by leaders of organizations, and by the umbrella groups such as Climate Action Networks and the Climate and Health Alliance.

The first step, however is engaging leaders at every level. For this we have a small team that is doing outreach. The next phase is to expand this team − and the number of engaged leaders and organizations − as rapidly as possible.


Where will these actions be taken?

The Great Transition Communication Blitz will occur online and on the ground primarily in the English-speaking countries of America, Canada, England and Australia. This is because I can imagine calling up leaders and engaging them through personal contact. No doubt there will be spill-over to some of our other international contacts.


How will these actions have a high impact in addressing climate change?

It is said that without a vision the people perish. The current dominant vision is ‘economic growth’. This is not so much a vision as an ideology, but it is the guide for much policy. And in the meantime most people just try to get on with their lives.

If we can inspire people with a positive vision, and show a path to success, enormous creativity will be unleashed.

More resources will go into renewable energy and improved industrial design. We will pay farmers to reduce atmospheric CO2 by building soil carbon. There will be public will to tax carbon at the wellhead.


What are other key benefits?

When people sense that a new aspiration is in the air, there will be a renewed sense of hope. There will be a unifying sense of common purpose. Some people who are otherwise despairing will move past their fatalism, and feel inspired to contribute to a cause greater than themselves.

People will become passionate about making democracy work. Campaign finance reform will become realizable, and corporations will no longer have the rights of persons.

Is all of this utopian? Yes! Buckminster Fuller nailed it in 1969 with his phrase Utopia or Oblivion. Let’s go for it!


What are the proposal’s costs?

You might think that this will require a massive advertising budget. But not so.

If you look at each individual tactic − emails, conversations, even workshops − they take almost no money. The cost of flyers, even videos, can easily be covered at the local level where they will be used.

The Great Transition Communication Blitz is also designed to not require centralized coordination. This virtually eliminates administration costs, except for the cost of maintaining a data base and regular communication with participants.

Organising for the Blitz is already underway. It will expand largely by volunteer efforts.

That said, our effectiveness will be greatly amplified if we attract funding for the following budget:

  • 2 full-time positions doing outreach & social media
     
  • Database management

  • Graphics and video production for ready-to-use communication tools

 $100,000 all up


Time line

The working timeline for this proposal is between now and the end of March 2017.

After that it is a fresh question as to how to build on the momentum generated.

 

 


Related proposals

The New Climate Magazine proposal suggests that:

“This next wave of leaders is diverse: scientists, teachers, parents, activists, clergy, students, community organizers, and businesspeople, all unified by the desire to take more personal responsibility for climate change. They are you, your neighbors, friends and family. They are adults with families and careers who care about climate change but have competing priorities in their lives.”

They recognize that climate change is a symptom of a society that has not yet learned how to live in balance with the planet. They propose to reach this next wave of leaders through their magazine.

I propose working through networks to immediately engage this next wave of leaders as change agents communicating to inspire mainstream commitment to doing everything required to live in balance with the planet and with the rest of the human community.

 


References

1 Naomi Klein asserts that we are in a Great Transition in This Changes Everything. She makes reference to Paul Raskin’s paper Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead.

2 Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, expressed his support for the Great Transition communication initiative in a blog post.

3 An article in The Fifth Estate about the about the Great Transition Communication Blitz is here.