Climate change – why we need to rekindle our focus on this wicked problem

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Climate change struggles to stay at the top of the news agenda. COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, the Queen’s Jubilee and the cost-of-living crisis are understandably taking our attention. But this year’s World Environment Day is a timely reminder that climate change continues to be the most pressing existential threat to our planet.

Just over a year ago I wrote an article on how best to tackle a problem as wicked as climate change, it requires something more than just a news headline – it takes coherence and wisdom. Fundamentally, we must recognise the characteristics of a wicked problem and develop solutions that are similarly multi-dimensional, agile and integrated.

In my book, Wicked & Wise, co-authored with Ken Wilber, I outlined the approach we need to take to address the issue of climate change in a chapter dedicated to the topic. In this blog, I want to focus on what practical steps we can take, as individuals who may feel powerless in the face of such enormous challenge.

It can be helpful to look at such complex issues through the ‘I, WE and IT’ perspectives. It reminds us that we are both part of the problem and part of the solution. It helps us acknowledge that while we can’t fix everything on our own, we can do something positive to affect change.

As my colleague, Alan Littlefield, wrote recently, everything starts with the ‘I’ perspective – the individual choices we make. The choices we make change the culture that ‘WE’ experience and that ultimately drives government and business to act and do something about ‘IT’. Governments are reactive and they tend to respond to the culture and collective pressures of the electorate. We, as individuals, and we in our organisations, do have some power.

This means starting by looking at the individual choices we make. The UN Environment Programme has some great suggestions for steps that we can take as individuals. And we can put pressure on key influencers, like politicians, too. Our voices matter and the more we speak up, the greater the chances of those big actions to address global warming being taken.

But it all starts with ‘I’. My guidance would be to start with simply starting to look at your choices and how you can better support climate change activism as a consumer. Start with something simple, reducing your plastic waste. Everything we buy has an environmental footprint, the next time you do a food shop try not to rush, take your time and try to choose items that exist outside of plastic. It’ll be harder than you think, we’ve become accustomed to everything being wrapped in plastic, including fruit that has some protection, like bananas, apples, avocados, oranges etc . This simple observation will help you see the scale of the problem we are facing and how we each need to adapt and change our behaviour to better support our planet. By being more informed as a consumer you can start to have an impact.

Change does not need to feel overwhelming. Simply reading this blog has helped you become more aware of what you (and I) can do, and when governments and business (WE) work together with coherence and wisdom, I am hopeful that we will be able to address the wicked problem of climate change (IT).

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