Change. This one word can create a world of emotions in the human mind. Change. What’s the first thought that comes to your mind and what, if any, emotions does it stir? This is a question that I’ve often considered as it applies to the human effort to address sustainability, climate change or the desires of those that are trying to make a difference. Change. It’s not a word that humans quickly warm up to. The human mind has a natural tendency to avoid change. It often requires heading into an unknown, into a path that we’re not used to or something outside of the status quo, especially as it applies to social or political issues.
I’ve recently been watching an interesting television documentary series hosted by neuroscientist Dr. David Eagleman titled, “The Brain“. In it he explores the inner workings of the brain and takes viewers on a visually spectacular journey into why they feel and think the things they do. In the latest episode he lent his focus to genocide, exploring how the human brain relies on other brains to thrive and survive and our need for acceptance in society. This relates well to the problem we have trying to tackle sustainability and, in particular, climate change.
To steal a paragraph from PepsiCo.’s Manoj Fenelon on the value of questioning, he states, “Change comes from transforming the level of consciousness of people that operate within the system. This is not to say that we shouldn’t focus on the policy realm or on science and technology, but I think the problem is if people aren’t experiencing a change of heart, none of the other stuff is really going to matter”. He goes on to say, “I think there is a view that’s percolating throughout the business world that the “contract” between employees and the company needs to be renegotiated on a human level to be one of synchrony of purposes and aims. So it’s almost like you’re not looking for a job right now. Instead you’re looking to join a movement”. These movements don’t necessarily have to be led by the supply chain but they can be. That’s the cusp of the interesting world that we’re entering. Will supply chains be the champions of movements toward a better world and will they bring masses of people along?
In my mind, this equates to sustaining “behavior” as much as trying to sustain sustainability itself. Asking humans to “change” seems to be a monumental task to begin with but, trying to sustain that change, if that change can even be accomplished, is like trying to lift yourself up by the handle as you stand in a bucket. Do we have to wait until the sky is actually falling before we realize that we need to change our behavior? Apparently, it would seem so, but for those still holding out on the concept of man-made climate change, are you really willing to take the risk of the consequences that will befall us if you’re wrong in your thinking?
Maybe the increasing tide of “greening” the earth is all a big hoax and the increasing movement towards sustainability is all for nothing. Perhaps Mother Earth will have her way with us regardless of our efforts to the contrary but, breathing cleaner air or developing more sustainable business practices is not going to hurt anyone and the alternatives to us “trying” to act on climate change may prove disastrous if global warming turns out to actually be man-made.
What is it that has many of us trying to make any change at all? Is it fear? A fear that the sky may actually be falling? A fear of the dire consequences? A fear of a darker future? Perhaps, but I think it goes well beyond just fear itself. I think it strikes at a more tribal human emotion. An almost instinctual human emotion that has served the vast majority of homo sapiens well over the years and is bringing about a change that we don’t stop to think about or give much credit to. It’s an emotion that overcomes and is actually the exact opposite of fear. Hope!
Hope has a way of instilling confidence. Confidence in our self-worth, in our capabilities and in our way of viewing the world around us. It allows us to move forward in the face of fear and, more and more, it’s taking a stronger foothold in the way we view our abilities to make a difference.
After September 11, 2001, we nearly all felt grief and fear but, a huge upswing of togetherness, of idealism, of helping, of sacrifice, of pride and patriotism, a sense of working together and being connected and a need to view our lives as something more, even if it wasn’t familiar, safe or easy. Hope allowed us to pull together in the face of fear and rebuild that which was heartlessly taken from us.
For decades the depiction of the state of our planet has been forced upon us with an endless monotony from the doomsday voices of catastrophic events. Glacier melting. Population explosion. Killing the earth. It’s been a societal back-and-forth between hope and despair, one that has driven many to insulate themselves from the facts, because it simply stretches beyond their comprehension and they just don’t want to think about it anymore.
That back-and-forth has now taken a cumulative change of direction towards hope. More and more people have decided to quit just sitting back and doing nothing about it. They’re not concerned with their odds of success; they’re digging in and doing something about.
Real hope starts with truth. One truth that is virtually undeniable can stand out against and prevail over others. The truth of how much is being decimated can prevail over the truth of how much we can do, how much is possible and the actions we are capable of.
The influential not-for profit CDP released the latest figures in its annual report on corporate carbon emissions disclosures on behalf of 822 investors representing $95 trillion worldwide. It reveals the extent to which corporations have shifted their strategies over the past five years to become part of the solution to the climate challenge.
In the finance world, Goldman Sachs this month announced it would increase investments in clean energy to $150 billion over the next decade, multiplying its previous amount in that sector by almost four. “It is our job to accelerate and lead this trend of allocating capital in technologies responsible for less carbon in the atmosphere,” said Lloyd C. Blankfein, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs.
The tides are turning. The tipping point is near. The passion for rescue doesn’t consider the odds. It is a strengthening, breathing hope. With each action we take, on whatever scale, hope for our future grows stronger, hope prevails.