I once met a man…August 05 2020 | Dave Fardoe
So a couple of days ago I was speaking to “Chuck”, let’s call him “Chuck”, and I outlined the reasons for a global shift in thinking, or at least I thought I did. His response was almost immediate and quite firm – I’m a child of the 70’s, he said, and grew up with the threat of an imminent ice age, the idea that we all have to go back to living in caves, tear down capitalism and put the world under a collective vegan regime to protect the planet….., it’s all middle class, North-London rubbish…… quite a rant in fact.
Now, this could put you off your game, or you could look at “Chuck” and ask yourself the question, what’s wrong here? Why does a well educated intelligent 50 something firmly believe it’s all trash? Is it that he can’t see the plastic in the oceans, or that his view holds that climate change is a natural cycle and we should just get on with it. Perhaps it’s his view that the current economic models are just fine and we can continue to abuse the natural resources ad-infinitum. or maybe he is just tired of all the continual noise and little action and a bit bored of the subject; whatever, it made me think.
What, I wondered would it take to shift his mindset? Obviously I don’t really know his circumstances, and they will have a bearing, yet, I wanted to know why he was so jaded. A clue may lay in the terms of reference he himself used, “A child of the 70’s”, “Imminant Ice-Age”,”Middle class, North London….” What can we draw from these snippets? well let’s be honest, not a lot and mostly assumptions, but let’s have a go. Child of the 70’s would suggest he was born late 60’s which would put him now around 50 years old, probably most of the way through whatever career he choose, and pondering the possibility of early retirement at 55 if he is lucky, or looking at the next 17 years to carve our a new phase of his life. Now 17 years is a chunk of time, enough for instance to build a company from scratch or to write a world beating novel, or to start a global campaign for change. Maybe all three. Middle class North London… Well that suggests he isn’t or at least doesn’t consider himself middle class, maybe he is upper middle and looks down on the middle class, or maybe he is lower or working class and considers the middle class as privileged snobs. North-London would suggest he is not from London or has at least rejected that group. Maybe from the North West, Liverpool or Manchester – putting together the pieces we can assume Chuck is a 50 year old Male, from the North of the UK who thinks economic reform, climate change and environmentalism is a waste of his time. Sadly he is not alone. Currently today we have a huge cadre of politicians and world leaders thar either think the same or simply don’t care. This is actually illiustrative of two problems. Firstly those who deny the need for change, and secondly those who accept the challenge yet don’t care.
Take the second problem, the don’t care group – it’s easy to see why. We live for around 75 years. Of those we are told what to do by adults, for the first 16 or so years, we stuggle to build a life, career and raise a family for the next 35 years or so and finally we hit our 50’s realise we have passed the half way mark and wonder where it all went. Life is simply too short to worry about a plastic bottle that will take 400 years to decompose, the mortgage payment is due this month. That time factor is a real one, and it’s a huge contributor to the don’t care camp – remove those pressures and guess what, most of those people would care and would take action. We need to help this group refocus that’s all.
Take the former position, the denial of the problem. that’s atually more tricky – why would someone deny what is obvious? There are many possible reasons – one could be the feeling of futility, another could be the catastrophising that has gone on to date and so far, it hasn’t happened – The boy who cried wolf – maybe the evidence is out of reach or inaccessible to them. The reasons for denial can be many. Carl Rogers, the father of person centred counselling once said, We will look at the evidence and do one of a small number of things with it, we will accept it where it supports our position, change it to support our position, or ignore it where is counters our position. Accept, Change or Ignore – depending on our position. Think about that for a moment…
We need to recognise these groups exist and find ways to reach them, The lifespan problem is the easiest to solve, We are aulturistic in nature, yet we prioritise. we simply need to shift the mechanisms we use to define those priorities. In 1996 huge floods in China caused billions in damage and lost thousands of lives. The Chinese government recognised tht deforestation was a root cause and now pay to reforest and maintain forest in the affected region. In Costa Rica populations were paid to protect the rainforest and species, Costa Rica now has one of the largest eco-tourism economies in the world. Currently today, the Amazon rainforest is being destroyed to make way for beef farming yielding maybe $500 per acre from the production of beef. The impact of burning forest to make way for cattle has been calculated as costing the global population $28,000 per acre. The economics are there, just hidden and countries take a protectionist and isolated position. Which leaves our Brazilian farmer with what choice?
We need to change the way economics are taught and to realise how powerful a force the foundations of our economic thinking is.
It is easy, too easy to dismiss “Chuck” and people like him as out of touch, too old, too jaded, inconsiderate and in many other ways, yet we do them and ourselves a disservice in the process. We need to understand the positions they adopt, the motivations they feel and the priorities as they see them. Forget tearing down capitalism and a global vegan world, it won’t happen, and I’m not convinced it should either. However change is needed across all aspects and the more we polarise our arguments for change in isolation the more resistence we will meet. To change economics we need to change politics, to change politics we need to address social issues, to address social issues we need new economics….
I’m grateful to have met “Chuck” he made me think and consider the lines of reasoning – I still disagree with him and no doubt he would disagree with me, yet we live on a single planet and we both hope for a positive future for ourselves and our next generation. We just see how to achive that differently and we need to find the common ground. Progress is being made, and it is positive. There is a groundswell of learning and collaboration and I’m very upbeat about the future. I look forward to seeing it and all that we, as humans, can do when we focus on the positive and build the world we want. As a well known physicist said…
“Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”Albert Einstein.