The fire alarm that causes no reaction

Ingmar Rentzhog, founder of We Don’t Have Time, comes on stage and the audience expects the usual welcome speech. They don’t get one. They get a fire drill. Here’s why.

The fire drill with CEO of We Don’t Have Time Ingmar Rentzhog at the international launch of the ‘Climate Emergency Plan’, 24 Nov 2018. Photography: We Don’t Have Time.

Stockholm, Sweden, 24 November 2018. The Emergency Plan Seminar is about to begin, and Ingmar Rentzhog enters the stage dressed in a black suit and white shirt.

He has the attention of everyone in the crowded conference hall, and of thousands of others following the online broadcast from around the world.

Ingmar quickly presents himself and then says:

“I’d like to start today by having a fire drill. I want you to imagine that we´re not sitting on the ground floor of this building, but on the top floor of a skyscraper. Now I want you to listen very carefully.”

Ingmar Rentzhog stops speaking. An alarm bell starts ringing loudly, and lights are flashing.

“You hear the alarm. You even see the flashing lights. You’re feeling worried”, Ingmar Rentzhog says. “So you look at your neighbours. But they don’t react. Everyone is just carrying on with business as usual. Time goes by, so you think that this must just be a false alarm. A couple of minutes later you start to smell smoke. And you even begin to see the smoke.”

[At this point, smoke starts pouring out on stage and down to the audience.]

“So now you’re feeling really worried. You look at your neighbours, but they aren’t reacting at all. They’re just carrying on… business as usual.”

Ingmar Rentzhog at the ‘Climate Emergency Plan’, 24 Nov 2018. Photography: Adam Johansson.

The smoke starts drifting away. Ingmar Rentzhog continues:

“You may think that this is an unrealistic scenario, but in fact, this is exactly how humans react. Studies have shown that if no one else runs, neither do we. And if you think about it, this is how most of us are reacting to the ongoing climate crisis. But the problem is that after smoke comes fire.”

[Flames are displayed on big screens at the back of the stage.]

“And when you see the flames you don’t look at your neighbour anymore. You start running for the exit, you start running for your life. But remember: we’re on the top floor of the skyscraper, and it will be too late.”

He pauses. Lets the information sink in. Then he rounds off his speech by saying:

“Scientists have been ringing the alarm bell for over a century now. We see the flashing lights, we see the warning signs, we even smell and see the smoke. And some of us have already died in that fire. We still have time to act, but we don’t have time to wait. And that’s why we’re hosting this seminar here today.”

To learn more and see the whole seminar, click here.

Written by Markus Lutteman 
Proofreading by Jane Davis

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