In Paris we felt it is possible…

Published: December 28th, 2015

Together with other thousands of people I joined civil society in Paris during COP21. The most palpable feeling was a shared sense of gravity and urgency for action. There was also optimism because we all had high hopes for an agreement that has taken decades to develop.

And of course Paris is just the beginning, albeit a strong beginning (see for example John Sterman’s analysis of the significance of the Paris accord).
Paris sets a direction and a pace for emissions reduction that communities, legislators, nonprofits, businesses, artists, and individual citizens can use to plan for clean energy. Just a few days ago Massachusetts nonprofits and communities succeeded in attaching an expiration date to a new natural gas plant, which will be built at the condition of being decommissioned by 2050, the year when countries are expected to achieve net zero emissions (more info).

In the civil society circles around the official negotiations, it was clear that action, talents and intellects shouldn’t be all about “just” carbon. Our colleagues at Climate Interactive are proposing a “multi-solving approach” to reduce emissions while making progress in health, well-being, and social justice (Read here Beth Sawin’s 60% of Emissions Reductions Pledged in Paris Were Inspired by Multi-Solving).

And another important discussion outside the official negotiations was that the transition to a carbon neutral world cannot happen solely through problem solving. This was clear at PlaceToB, a hostel and co-working space in downtown Paris that organized round tables, creative workshops, radio shows, and media debriefs. There I shared the history of Limits to Growth (and recent data) and guided a visioning practice to open our hearts, minds and will as we built the blocks of a new climate story. We wanted it to be inclusive, compassionate, and deeply different.

Photo: Penny Stephens

With us we had Father Nigel Kelaepa (above), an Anglican priest from the Solomon Islands who traveled all the way to Paris to tell the story of his village and people. He told us that one day he decided to go visit the tombs of his grandparents, but he didn’t seem able to find them any more. He was shocked to find out that the tombs were now under water.

Ultimately the success of the climate accord lies in our individual ability to hold the tension between a difficult reality and an inspiring and uplifting vision of a future that can be smarter and more imaginative than what we have experienced so far. Visioning in fact might well become the most in-need skill on the way to the emerging new normal.



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The mission of the Donella Meadows Project is to preserve Donella (Dana) H. Meadows’s legacy as an inspiring leader, scholar, writer, and teacher; to manage the intellectual property rights related to Dana’s published work; to provide and maintain a comprehensive and easily accessible archive of her work online, including articles, columns, and letters; to develop new resources and programs that apply her ideas to current issues and make them available to an ever-larger network of students, practitioners, and leaders in social change.  Read More

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