How do you build a movement of change to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis? Will you be part of the Countdown?
Anna Triponel & Anna Turrell
“Launching the Countdown means asking ourselves the big questions: what’s the state of the climate today? What does climate science know? How are we going to achieve a net-zero future? How do we center climate justice in our work?”
Countdown is a global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis, turning ideas into action. The goal is to build a better future by cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 in order to achieve a zero-carbon world — a world that is safer, cleaner and fairer for everyone.
Tune in to the Countdown on Saturday October 10 at 4 pm UK (10 am Eastern) to hear from over 50 speakers on urgency, leadership, transformation, breakthroughs and action. The Countdown launch will be live on Youtube and you can sign up for updates beforehand here.
On September 24, we discussed — with Al Gore, Chris Anderson, Lindsay Levin, Melati Wijsen, Jo Confino and other participants — the importance of building a global movement in the race to a zero-carbon world. The burning question was: How do we engage far greater numbers of people to help accelerate and mainstream solutions to the climate crisis? The following captures notable remarks from the speakers. The words are theirs. See you on October 10 at the launch!
Vice President Al Gore
· The crisis is getting worse faster than we are developing solutions but we are gaining momentum. We have reached a political tipping point, and we are seeing reasons for optimism. Let us be optimistic, but also realistic.
· We still have the ability to fight the most catastrophic consequences. We started late, but we are gaining momentum.
· We have the biggest fight of any of our lives before us — it’s a privilege to have this fight, but we have to rise to it.
· We are hard-wired to respond viscerally to immediate threats, but we also have the ability to use our reasoning capacity to deal with larger and more complex issues (e.g. the civil rights movement, the suffragettes, the LGBTQ movement, the Black Lives Matter movement). There was plenty of despair in those moments too. But those who kept going, won the day.
· As Nelson Mandela says, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
· Now we have the Paris Conference to build on, thanks to efforts by Christiana Figueres and others. The upcoming Glasgow Conference is important, as all nations are being asked to increase their ambition.
· Training can help engage people, especially now that it sits alongside a weakening of the anti-climate movement. We are most certainly past peak oil, we are seeing divestments of stock from oil and gas and diminished level of activity. We are seeing a shift in politics, with the young Republican committees asking the Republicans to change their position on climate so as not to lose young voters.
· It’s a privilege to have work that justifies pouring every ounce of energy you have into it. People who were part of larger movements feel the same thing. John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg had the same kind of passion.
· What we have seen with the climate crisis and pandemic is that this has revealed the systemic injustice that has been going on for too long.
· Don’t give up. Damage has been done. We have an obligation as human beings to recognise that this moment in time coincides with the only moment when those of us who are alive now can stop this destruction of the ecological integrity of the only planetary home we have. We have the tools available and we have the opportunity to move.
Melati is an 18 year old Indonesian/Dutch activist and change maker. She founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags with her younger sister to stop single-use plastic in Indonesia, and has been leading the movement driven by youth since 2013.
· The most important, when growing a movement, is that it has to come from a place of authenticity. Take the time to connect with people. Why do they want to change? Why do they not want to change? Create stories, and focus on community-building.
· Education needs to change so that people learn how to engage with real-world problems and can become active change-makers. Our current education system is failing our times.
· As young people, we have become activists because we have no other choice. We feel the urgency, and we are speaking our own truths. We are given this opportunity to share our ideas and reflections. But putting young people to the front cannot become the new green-washing: young people have to be involved at all levels.
· Activism is now a lifestyle for youth.
Head of TED
· You change the world because of the power of an idea. TED was created because we believed that there’s nothing that an idea can’t achieve if people believe it.
· But we noticed a year ago that there were a lot of ideas widely held, but nothing seemed to happen: they did not lead to impact. We decided we had to lean into impact and take ownership to activate ideas.
· The climate is the issue that most of our community cares about the most deeply, with Al Gore’s 2006 TED talk making people understand that our future depended on us finding solutions.
· Countdown was built on the insight that the best chance at action is bringing together people who are traditionally siloed. When you bring people out of their silos (e.g. politics, business, science), magic can happen. Fundamentally, we are seeking to bring people together so they can engage solutions that depend on all of those pieces.
· The theory of change goes right back to the origin of public speaking. Villagers discussed ideas, looked each other in the eye, and decided to act together — to do something brave and bold and difficult together. With Countdown, we are looking to bring the world together so that we are not just figuring out technical solutions, but also allowing people to see in each other why they should step up their own level of ambition.
· Most CEOs and political leaders have kids. They are asking them: what are you doing? This is shifting from not being able to do something because it’s economically too difficult, to we have no choice.
· When we connect, when we see how our relationships connect, when we see each other in each other: we make different choices. By meeting people whose lives are very different to our own, by listening to stories: we create learning experiences for leaders around the world. (This is the focus of Leaders’ Quest).
· The climate is the issue of all of our generations. We need a lot more depth and influence, and we need compassion. This is related to empathy: the ability to see ourselves in one another, to stand in someone else’s shoes. This is fundamental to how we shape the world around us. Without passion and wisdom, we are not equipped to do it.
· We are skilled at innovation but less at collaborating. How do you build amazing collaboration? Win the war and not the battle? This is about generosity and inclusion.
· This is about having lots of conversation. There is an erroneous idea that for my idea to be important, you need to be wrong. We have to re-wire our economies, we have to change everything, we need many different people with many different perspectives. This means bringing everyone in and listening to all stories and ideas.
· We are defensive, when we feel we are not being seen. What does it take to be on this long journey, and how do we recharge? By sitting down with those with opposite views, everyone can change.
Jo Confino concluded the session by observing that people want to be inspired. There is lots of grief out there, and we need to feel it. Grief can take us down, or inspire us to rise up. People like this — who are part of this movement — change the world.
The Countdown launch will be live on Youtube and you can sign up for updates beforehand here.