After just returning from the COP25, it seems that there is a big disconnect between knowledge, action and shifting mindsets.
As we’ve seen, most of the commentary coming out of the United Nations political negotiations on climate change is mainly negative.
Most of this negativity relates to the fact that the countries cannot agree by consensus on how to most effectively come up with rules that enable every country to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
It has become clear that there is an increasing need to shift the mindset of everyone involved, but this is of course easier said than done.
Shifting mindsets from me to us and we
One attitude that has become blatantly obvious is that the current mindset is very much entrenched in national interests and priorities vs. a global view of the problem and solutions.
I was really thrilled to be involved in the new UNFCCC inter-agency initiative during the COP, Resilience Frontiers, that is solely focused on futuristic thinking on a global scale that includes innovation, foresight, and frontier technologies in delivering solutions to our issues.
I was in charge of running a session each day, the brainstorming session on each pathway, where we invited experts and the audience to jointly reflect on the different options and strategies that we should have in place if we want arrive at a future that we want.
Our pitch was very much focused on a successful future and we posed questions like “What does a future look like in 2030 and beyond when we have had strong climate action and fulfilled all the Sustainable Development Goals?”.
What was fascinating was that most attendees did not necessarily have many answers to such futuristic questions but could identify rather things that have gone wrong and why the world is failing.
The failures are seemingly much easier to imagine than a successful bright future.
From a mindset point of view, we do need to pause and ask ourselves: if we cannot imagine a world where we are happy, resilient and adapted, can we find the pathways to get there?
We did however come across with multitude of insights on where innovation lies, which technologies are showing promise in delivering faster and more transparent climate action on the ground, and how some of these initiatives could be brought to bear at the global scale.
Many people did remark that our Resilience Lab, as we called it, was one of the few spaces at the COP25 where people could really see glimmers of hope and keep the discussion going on how, despite the slowness of the negotiations, we can progress in our ideas and strategies for a better, more resilient future.
Visualising the future
In the leadership and management literature, one of the key advice is to visualise the future: don’t know where you want your career to go? Visualise the best outcome and find your career calling.
Don’t know how to be more confident? Find your Alter Ego and visualise the persona and the outcomes you can achieve.
Want to achieve something that is greater than you? Find your grit by imagining yourself in that position and with that outcome.
All of these books and ideas are based on visualising the future, and then backcasting our steps in how we can actually get there.
So why do we have so hard time visualising a global resilient future where we have made the right choices, and we have progressed what is good for the whole of humanity?
It seems to me that we are truly stuck in a mindset where we are bombarded constantly with bad news, whether these are political mistakes or just simply drastic scientific findings about the state of the environment.
So it is incredibly hard to shift people’s mindsets into something that seems unlikely and almost impossible to achieve.
I don’t mean that we have to become Polyannas who are naively ignoring the evils of the world and live in some sort of fantasy land where they are out of touch with reality.
But we do need to find ways to shift mindsets, broker better deals, and find those agreements where we can change national or individual priorities towards more global common good, whether that is within organisations, communities or countries.
Shifting from individual to the bigger picture
One of the common challenges for leaders still today is how do they set a vision so compelling that everyone in their organisation is passionate about it and buys into the vision in a manner where the common goals override individual greed.
The most effective organisations have learned how to do that and numerous examples exist in how people work together to achieve common goals.
A good example from science is the ozone hole and how scientists and nations came together to address the urgent issue.
In fact, we had Professor Mario Molina as one of our speakers at the Resilience Lab to discuss the climate change issue and what society can do to get its act together.
Very humbling to meet such a pioneer who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry due to his groundbreaking work on detecting the ozone hole; these findings enabled governments across the world to agree on laws to regulate the substances that contribute to ozone depletion.
But how do we actually get people to shift their mindsets?
The truth is that in order to enact change, we need to see the change “lived”.
We need to see examples of positive change, of innovation, of leaders thinking and doing things differently.
In other words, we need to normalise the global mindset and this can only happen if we mainstream a new way of thinking into our every day lives and thoughts.
In the IPCC session on Women in Science and Leadership, we also noted that by the simple act of seeing women in leadership positions, other women can envision themselves applying for similar positions.
It is the every day examples that encourage change and visioning of a future.
Going forward, I hope that the ideas around the Resilience Lab and Resilience Frontiers overall continue to inspire people to think differently, and to harness those ideas for change.