Climate change is a symptom of a larger malaise arising out of our existing worldview. The proposal focuses on alternative worldviews
Our approach to accept responsibility and act against climate change is largely determined by our worldview, which is dominated by the prevalent socio-economic philosophy. To elaborate, the current economic philosophy of a ‘free market economy’ coupled with the emphasis on continuous growth for a growing population is in direct conflict with a real limited world battling with limited resources. Our collective social psyche shaped by religion also supports an unabashed anthropocentric view of world where man is made in god’s image and is expected to rule over the earth and has claim over everything the earth has to offer.
These underlying themes are strongly etched in the socio-economic culture and any contrarian worldview is not only difficult to accept but is also prone to ridicule. The solutions required to tackle climate change raise the very same contrarian questions and therefore do not get the necessary traction that is required. In this context, if we really want to change attitudes or do something about climate, the problem statement itself has to be reworded. It has to be acknowledged that climate change is not merely a scientific or an environmental problem; it is a moral and an ethical problem and has to be tackled at a philosophical level.
What actions do you propose?
Background before proposed action
At the philosophical level, there are very compelling and sensible alternate worldviews from the field of economy, ecology, religion and science that support and even vigorously encourage a shift from the current socio-economic paradigm and way of life.
Alternative worldviews in economics: In particular, the concept of steady sate economics, fully developed by Herman Daly, combines the limits-to-growth arguments, with the theories of welfare economics, ecological principles, and the philosophy of sustainable development to develop a persuasive case for a steady economy that actually provides more welfare value and cultural growth to the human society. The center for advancement of steady state economy(CASSE), based in Arlington, US, advocates the concept through different outreach mediums. The zeitgeist movement, a global movement with no affiliation, approaches the problem from the perspective of a ‘resource based economy’ and considers that most of the moral ethical problems stem from a flawed socio-economic structure. The venus project, founded by Jaque Fresco, also propounds a similar view on allocation of resources and the obsolescence of the current economic system. Other alternative worldviews, from E F Schumacher, Lester Brown, etc. raise the same questions about the effectiveness and the relevance of current socio-economic system in a changing world.
Alternative worldviews in ecology: The deep ecology movement, advocated by Arne Naess, hits at the root of anthropocentric thinking and advocates the concept of interdependence and sanctity of all non-human life forms, irrespective of their instrumental value. The abiding theme in the deep ecology movement is a deep appreciation for richness and diversity in nature rather than homogeneity or monopoly. This movement in being actively advocated by the foundation for deep ecology based in US. The concept of holism as opposed to anthropocentrism has also been strongly advocated by James Lovelock in the concept of Gaia; the earth, as a living system.
Alternative religious worldviews: Ancient Indian philosophy has been deeply rooted in the concept of interdependence and respect for ecology and environment. Even beyond India, eastern philosophy and religion has also been, in general, more egalitarian and broad minded in defining the concept of interdependence and equality between the Earth and the Man. This equality is emphasized in the insistence of many of these philosophies to adhere to vegetarianism and practice economy and prudence in the use of natural resources. In India, particularly, many ashrams and religious leaders (Auroville, Anand Ashram, Amritanandmayi) with millions of global followers adhere to a different mode of economic and social living by forming communities that take only marginal part in the monetary economy and live in a better harmony with nature.
Alternative worldviews in Science: While a strict scientific worldview would abide by the truths discovered by known scientific disciplines (biology, physical sciences, etc), new scientific thought, reflected in many scientific musings after the discovery of quantum science, question the ‘truth’ of observation itself (Hiesenberg’s uncertainty principle) and the effect of consciousness on physical reality. But the most important worldview from science comes from climate science itself. There seems to be conclusive scientific evidence that for the first time in evolutionary history, humankind may be the causative factor in the sixth round of extinction, now apparently underway. There is a dawning realization that that mere technological and scientific progress may not be enough to solve/explain all the problems of the world and that non-scientific ways of engagement could also be viable alternatives to bring about real change
All these worldviews, though diverse, actually recognize the shortcomings and the problems of the current socio-economic model and propose a simple alternative model of living, essentially a new culture of living. However, despite the similarity, there are no linkages between these philosophies/systems and each of these systems works in isolation.
To effect a real cultural change to tackle climate and associated broader ethical questions, it is very important to bring these alternative philosophies together on one platform so that people who are aware of climate change and feel a need to act are inspired and emboldened by these alternative concepts and by the work that these institutes and individuals are doing.
To recap, in addition to communicating and emphasizing on action, it will be equally important to show various alternatives that will open a path to self-enquiry and self-actualization for really dedicated individuals, who can then influence others to follow their lead.
To start with, we propose creating a charter of common objectives between these institutions/ individuals. This charter will be circulated to these institutes along with a concept note outlining the need for an integrated action based on common denominator. This charter would serve as a template for the creation of a new website /blog and a bi-monthly online magazine with an appropriate name. The key objective of this exercise would be to understand the underlying themes of each alternative schools of thought and ultimately evolve new models of social, political and economic way of life
However, we believe that this exercise will, in itself, not have the required impact without a larger action involving direct public engagement.
This engagement component is felt necessary because as specialists, we have a tendency to get trapped in intellectual constructs of our own choosing and are unable to communicate ideas, however transformative, outside our cliques. Economists can only communicate ideas to economists, scientists to scientists, and so on. This tradition of cloistered thinking has to be broken and efforts have to be made to choose a simpler language pared of jargon and conceptual complexities. This idea will be rallying force behind the publication and public engagement activities proposed under this initiative.
In this context, the process of refining the charter and evolving new models will also engage other constituents of the public such as students, journalists, religious leaders, policy-makers, etc.
The publication part (the website/blog and online magazine) of the proposed initiative would focus on the study of alternative worldview concepts, case studies of alternative communes/communities or religious organizations important system changes and news related to climate and ecology , stories and poems with the theme of climate, ecology, holism, etc. ,
The second and larger part of the action will be direct public engagement to interact with and communicate these alternative worldviews to a larger audience through public engagement, cross-disciplinary debates and focused workshops.
As India is a young country with a median age of 27, young population, who will face major impacts of climate change, has to be a major participant of this public engagement. Even among the young, it will be important to target young adults, graduate and postgraduate students who can be encouraged to think outside their area of study and interest.
Other key constituency will be journalists. Engagement with media will be structured with an eye to create a pull for other constituencies. We expect that media coverage of the engagement exercises will help create awareness among other potential constituencies and generate curiosity about the initiative.
In this context, the proposer along with the collaborators, Alternative Futureswww.alternativefutures.org.inand Prof Sanjeev Ghotge, climate change specialist from Pune, India would engage with these two constituencies. The target numbers for engagement will be about 500 students in first year and about at least 1500 students in subsequent years. This outreach activity will mainly target graduate/postgraduate students (from different disciplines) from top universities and educational institutes in India.
In addition, a one day workshop will be organized in New Delhi in early September to discuss the charter and to debate and seek new ideas for public engagement from thought leaders, prominent intellectuals, economists, environmental campaigners, NGOs, social activists and young students.
In subsequent years, more such workshops will be conducted to discuss new evolving lines of thoughts and models and to fine tune outreach activities.
Other than the proposed event, we would try to facilitate thematic events sponsored by participating organizations which will be conducted across the country/globe. Prominent personalities from politics, philosophy, literature, and academia will be invited to be a part of the dialogue.
Going forward, there is a possibility that the movement may be taken forward by some interested institutes and organizations by forming a new knowledge exchange and research institute that takes on research in new fields like science, sociology, and political science to widen the scope for developing alternative world views.
Who will take these actions?
The proposer (an individual) will work with the following collaborators
Alternative Futures (AF) is a non governmental organization in India. AF is a research group working on social, policy and technological innovations and viable alternatives for development and social transformation (www.alternativefutures.org.in)
Rakesh Kapoor, the Founder-Director of Alternative Futures, works on the interface of science, technology, society and the future and on issues of sustainable lifestyles and development. He is also consulting editor of Futures: the journal of policy, planning and futures studies (www.elsevier.com/locate/futures), since 2003 and a fellow of the World Futures Studies Federation and was its Director during 2008-14. He has edited some special issues of Futures including ‘India@2050’ (2014), ‘Global Mindset Change’ (2010), ‘Transformative Initiatives’ (2007) and ‘Indian Futures’ (2004). AF, through its experience and linkages in the sector, will facilitate public engagement activities on a large scale in addition to working on developing the alternative worldview idea.
Prof Sanjeev Ghotge has been involved in climate change related research and has been a regular contributor to national and international journals, books and other online media. He has also been invited to speak at numerous national as well as international conferences and discussion roundtables on climate change. He will collaborating in development of the concept and will also play a role in public engagement with students.
The proposer along with the collaborators will draft the charter and share it with identified organizations. Subsequently, the same group will create content, collate and publish the website and the online magazine
Public engagement component will be planned jointly by the collaborators and will be managed by Alternative Futures, which has the linkages, event resources and expertise to undertake large scale public engagement exercises.
Where will these actions be taken?
Primarily, the first scene of action will be India with a focus on students and media. All the research, content development, publishing activities and public engagement will happen from India in the first year.
As we grow our network and connect with like-minded individuals and institutions globally, the scene of action is expected to be more dispersed and spread across geographies including Africa, APAC, continental Europe and the US.
How will these actions have a high impact in addressing climate change?
The public engagement exercise will inspire students to question the dominant worldviews and think about alternative models of living. A young population that questions the shibboleths (instead of accepting them in toto) and respects diversity of thought could be the potential prime mover for a transition in the society.
In addition, this action will, for the first time, bring diverse alternative theories and philosophies (with the same underlying themes), together and present a larger systemic picture of an alternative socio-economic paradigm. The potential for self-enquiry and inter-disciplinary knowledge coming out of this proposal can also have limitless potential to develop more robust transition models for facilitating the ultimate shift to a fully alternative socio-economic paradigm that is climate-fitted.
What are other key benefits?
We do not believe that communication and awareness generation can spur action on their own. A bigger challenge for effecting action is related to the ability to influence the social and cultural context of the issue at hand.
The proposal looks at the problem from a system’s perspective and focuses on bringing about sustainable changes through cultural interventions. Unlike other tools that are space and time dependent, a system change in more permanent as it changes the cultural context of the issue by engaging the actors philosophically through a motivated thought process.
What are the proposal’s costs?
1st year: USD 50,000 per annum
Subsequent years: USD 40,000 per annum
For the first year
USD 20,000 direct costs (for website, content generation, communication, consumables, remuneration)r
USD 30, 000 for organizing public engagement activities
For subsequent years
USD 15,000 for direct costs
USD 25000 for Public engagement activities
It is envisaged that the staff costs will go down after 1 year as contributions increase in number. Further, after the first year donations and institutional support are expected to infuse some funds for pubic engagement activities.
For all the received funding, the proposers will publish an audited financial report annually along with an annual report on activities.
0-6 months for preparation of common charter (this will include parallel public engagement activities with key institutions)
0-6 Months: One day workshop will be organized in New Delhi in early September to discuss the charter and to debate and seek new ideas for public engagement from thought leaders, prominent intellectuals, economists, environmental campaigners, NGOs, social activists and young students
3-9 months for public engagement with students and media
6-10 months Agreement on common charter and engagement with identified individuals/institutions, select students and media for revision and review based on feedback
10-12 Content development for the website, blog and online magazine (the first edition) and intensive engagement with media
Beyond 12 months model development, publication research and increased public engagement
- The Concept of Steady state economy, Herman Daly
2. Center for Advancement of Steady State Economy
3. Mission Statement, The Zeitgeist Movement
4. The Venus Project, Jaque Fresco
5. Book: Small is beautiful: A Study of Economics as if people mattered, E F Schumacher
6. Book: Plan B 4.0: mobilizing to save civilization, Lester Brown
7. Deep Ecology Movement, Arne Naess
Book: Environmental Ethics : The Big Questions, David R Keller
8. Foundation for deep ecology
9. Gaia Theory, James Lovelock
10. Auroville community
11. Ananda Yoga Village
12. Amrita Ashram