What You Can Do About Climate Change and Imagining the Sustainable Future

by | July 12, 2019


Image: REUTERS/China Daily

Someone in the Crowdsourcing Sustainability community recently went to see the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, speak at MIT on climate justice. She was so moved by Mary’s presentation that she sent me the video.

And I liked Mary’s final message so much that it’s making its way to all of you…and inspiring a crowdsourcing activity about imagining the future which I hope you’ll contribute to at the bottom.

Mary Robinson’s whole presentation is quite good, but the 5-minute clip I’m referring to is geared up if you click on the video below. If you’d rather read it, you’ll find the text underneath.

Mary Robinson’s message on what we all need to do now

“It’s pretty shocking that in the 21st century we still have significant proportions of the world who are in the dark as far as energy is concerned, but who now could leapfrog into clean energy. And that’s the point. It’s the exciting moonshot sense of what we can do that I wanted to get across.

So rising to the challenge of addressing the threat of climate change can be truly transformative because we can’t do it without that solidarity and relationships. Instead of being more and more populist and competitive and nationalistic, we actually have to do the opposite and go back to that framework of the 2030 agenda about leaving no one behind – prioritizing the furthest behind first.

Let me conclude by saying the three things I say to any captive audience I address now – and you’re pretty captive, you can’t escape – I’m going to hit you with my three things that I feel we all need to do now.

1. Everyone needs to make climate change personal in their lives.

Meaning you’ve got to do something that you weren’t doing before because you recognize the importance of climate change. And I give the example that I’ve become a pescatarian. I no longer eat meat – you know I love lamb from the west of Ireland but I’ve given it up. And I don’t cheat. Nor do I go further like others are doing like vegetarian, vegan, etc…at my age pescatarian is enough. I’ll stop there, but it costs me, so I’ve done my bit – I’ve done something.

Then when you’ve done that…

2. Get angry with those who have more power and more responsibility and should be doing far more.

Governments at every level, including the city level. Business, particularly fossil fuel, but all business – agriculture, transport.

And then the third thing is possibly the most important because we don’t talk about it enough – and this is exactly where I want to talk about this.

3. We have to imagine this world that we want to get to as fast as possible. And that is what we’re not hearing enough about.

Actually people are worried about climate change, but even more worried that it’s going to undermine their way of living. And I think we’re not thinking enough about what the 2030 agenda told us about production and consumption. We cannot have a world where we’re completely dependent on producing and consuming in order to fire our economies and grow. We’ve got to have a different way – we’ve got to be more sustainable – less use, less extraction – we’ve got to live more sustainably with mother earth and the ecosystems that sustain us, and have a holistic approach to life in general and the ecosystems.

That means we have to do some of the things that I grew up with in fact. Reusing, darning, passing down clothes. But also much more human relationships. Neighborhood relationships…

…We need to have a real sense of a future that is actually more human. It’s a future where we have much more sense of solidarity and relationships. We’ve gone very far away from that and I think it’s the economic system that’s driving it, the wealth inequality that’s driving it, the sense of fear that’s driving a populism – all of this is kind of a sign that we’re not in a good place in our world.

If we can take the existential threat of climate change seriously enough, it can be the driver of a new way of living – which we’ve committed to – governments of the whole world committed to the 2030 agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement. And now we have to make it imperative that we actually take that completely seriously and over the next 11 years get on course for a safe world – and not having school children say ‘why should I go to school? I have no future. You’re not protecting us.’

That’s the challenge. And now I’d love to hear from you.”

– Mary Robinson

So let’s do it – let’s imagine the world we want to get to.

Collectively imagining the sustainable future we want

This is the kick in the butt I needed because it’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

We’re going to crowdsource all of our ideas to collectively paint a picture of what this better, more sustainable world that we want to get to actually looks, sounds, smells, tastes, and feels like.

We need to paint a picture of what we’re striving towards – otherwise we’ll never get there.

We can’t just be against climate change. We have to be for something.

Instead of just being against coal, we can be for the hundreds of thousands of people’s lives that would be saved each year thanks to cleaner air.

Instead of being against red meat, we can be for healthier, plant-based diets that may also actually taste better than the processed meat so many of us eat regularly.

And imagine a city that is people-centric rather than car-centric. There would be less noise when you walk down the street, more communal spaces to for people to hang out, more green, more bicycles, walkers, music, laughter…and cleaner air.

Less individualism and loneliness. More interaction and community.

So now I invite you to imagine – it’s 2050 and we’ve done everything in our power to transform all aspects of society to a truly sustainable world.

What do you want this better future to be like? How is it different from today?

Share your ideas of this better, sustainable future so we can all help bring them to life.

“The problem human beings face is not that we aim too high and fail, but that we aim too low and succeed.” – Michelangelo

“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating the future.” – Jimmy Bertrand


I hope you take a minute to come up with one idea for the sustainable future you want to live in and share it with everyone here!



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