There is no lack of urgency. But we are not moving.
About 4.8 million people live in Ireland, roughly a quarter of them in the greater Dublin area. Ireland is known as the Green Island. Rolling hills and uncounted sheep and cows along the country roads illustrate this romantic notion.
Here’s some less romantic news: from 2020 onwards, Ireland will pay hundreds of millions of Euros in annual fines for exceeding its greenhouse gas emissions targets. No doubt, we all are culprits with our high carbon emissions lifestyles.
Therefore we should all easily empathise. Why?
When future consequences of our present actions are negative, most of us focus on what’s easy and right in front of us: fast food and cigarettes, countless evenings spent as couch potatoes, airborne weekend shopping trips.
Change of scene: Dublin city centre’s nitrogen levels are causing serious health threats to the city’s population. Respiratory disases, amongst them asthma, are rising dramatically. Emissions from transport are the main course for the severe air pollution in the in city centre. Ok , that’s right now, but at present it effects only a few people, and you and I aren’t one of them. So does this explain the inertia with regards to reducing traffic from high emitters?
Let’s change perspectives to those who rarely think about climate change, nor about health. People who just want to get to work and back each day to make a decent living. Well, they struggle right now as well, and every day.
Dubliners are stuck in traffic for a whooping 10 days each year.
That is: 10 times 24 hours. That’s 30 full work days, or 10 days of relaxing holidays. It’s time not spent with friends in the pub, in nature, or doing sports.
Overall it’s obvious that EVERYONE suffers from the status-quo.
The country which pays huge fines, the vulnerable whose health is at risk or deteriorating already, and those who depend on their mobility for their living. So how come nothing changes?
Who is responsible for making the necessary changes NOW?
At Climathon last week, that question created pause, and then the answer was:
Noone and everyone.
And that is a common answer these days. Many different authorities and departments have decision making power for different parts of the city’s transport infrastructure. Powerful interest groups have plenty of influence. So no single entity or person is authorised to come up with and implement a holistic solution on their own. Moreover, all parties have their own pain points and perspectives on what needs to be done (and possibly who needs to be blamed for the stuckness of the whole system).
It’s actually not unlike the different needs and pain points of
a car driver, and
a public transport user.
They all have different ideas about a well working and fair transport infrastructure. They all want to be able to get around safely and fast. And they all, more often than not, experience the respective others at fault or in the way.
Dublin could be any city. Ireland any country. And this scenario is also reality for leaders in companies.
Most leaders cannot make decisions on their own anymore.
It’s therefore not surprising that so many multinationals are as stuck as Dublin seems to be.
It’s not surprising that allegedly powerful decision makers lack a sense of agency and potency.
But that’s not true! There is agency.
Granted, it’s shifting from individual to collective ageny. Which is why today’s task is to create new decision making cultures, where all affecting and affected parties come together and share perspectives in order to see the problem through many eyes, and in order to understand what results they COLLECTIVELY create.
Social technologies for systemic change, such as the MIT based Presencing, have a track reckord of allowing systems to see themselves fully, so that all actors can see how they collectivelly create the results that none of them wants.
Seeing the whole picture allows change to happen from within. All the creativity needed for successful large scale change initiatives lies within the stuck system itself.
And the first domino stone to get it into motion is a conversation that matters.