Where Would You Be The Most Use?


Saturday, 9.00pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful. – Margaret J. Wheatley

It’s no surprise that affluent people use more of everything – your income is a good predictor of the emissions you create and the contribution you make to climate change.

We’re seeing more extreme weather patterns in the news and that’s what the climate models and systems dynamics models tell us to expect. A few years ago I sat through a presentation by Dennis Sherwood that showed me how this logic worked – and I started to see what the problem was, perhaps for the first time.

In a nutshell, as the world warms we get more storms, more flooding and more extreme temperatures. All of which have been in the news recently.

The people who have the least responsibility for what is happening might also be the ones that are worst affected. Then again, disaster isn’t democratic or fair. I found this article on climate migration by Jamie Beck Alexander eye opening, because people are moving now to where they think they might be safe, but Jamie also asks you to think where you might be of use.

For those who can’t move, how will they adapt? Do they need technology and money or do they need something else – perhaps draw on their history and lived experience to find solutions that will work for them?

In this TED talk Bunker Roy talks about the barefoot college, a sustainable development project centered around the capability of women to change their situations, creating and engineering their own solutions.

We have to find ways to make a difference where we are, identify points of leverage on which we can act and make change happen. This isn’t easy – in fact it may be harder in developed countries where there is infrastructure in place that locks in unsustainable practice.

I remember growing up in a place where we had a bucket of water and a jug to use for a shower. When it was done, you were done. Now, water keeps coming out of the shower, as if by magic, heated to an unimaginably wonderful temperature, and you never need to leave the cubicle unless you want to. Saving water becomes a choice rather than the default – and that’s the biggest problem for the affluent. They don’t need to turn off anything – so they have to choose to do so. They have to choose to have less, to use less, to do less – and that’s not easy.

There are ways to deal with these problems – ways to help some people live better lives and ways to help others live with less impact and we have to engineer these solutions and create the principles that will help us exert the leverage that’s needed for us to change. It’s not easy but it has to be done. And we have to work out where we can help.


Karthik Suresh

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