I woke up early this morning, pre-dawn. Storm, wind and rain. For some reason, I had a strong urge to watch a bit of the classic film “Blade Runner”. I was surprised to note that the future it depicts so compellingly is dated November 2019 — just around the corner. Fortunately, our world does not yet look the way it was portrayed in that dystopian vision from 1982, full of smoke and flames and killer living robots. But in some ways, Ridley Scott got it right.
This same morning, I read an article about Elon Musk and his plans to send paying customers off in a giant rocket to colonize Mars, in less than 10 years. Link to article & video
“Start a new life off-world, in the colonies!” says a big advertisement blimp in the opening sequences of “Blade Runner”. (See photo) Maybe we’ll be seeing ads like that pretty soon.
And if the Republican candidate wins the US election, I’m betting Elon Musk gets a line of ticket buyers to Mars outside his door, longer than the queue for a new Tesla.
“The word ‘debate’ loses its meaning when one candidate is serious and the other is a vacuous bully.” So wrote the New York Times in today’s edition, and I could not agree more. I am breaking with my usual habit of staying publicly neutral on US electoral politics and strongly endorsing Hillary Clinton for president. I hope you will too, and if you are a US citizen, please be sure to vote, and please encourage others to vote. This is the most crucial US election of our lifetime — I certainly hope the ugliness of the campaign and the risk factor attached to a major candidate (the Republican candidate in this case) never gets this bad again. The Times’ editorial endorsement echoes my own thinking.
A few important facts that Americans must keep in mind as we head to the voting booth in 2016:
The Republican candidate has said publicly, “I would bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” adding, in other appearances, “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work—torture works,” and “If it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing to us.” (Links to sources provided below.) Regardless of what one thinks of this candidate, one should never forget that the candidate has strongly advocated torture.
The US is a party to at least four ratified international agreements against torture. Ordering the use of torture can be construed, in armed conflict situations, as a war crime.
Advocating torture is universally considered immoral. If elected, it means the candidate could also be ordering the women and men in national service to commit war crimes.
And it is clearly established that it doesn’t “work” as a way to get reliable and actionable intelligence. The US Senate concluded an in-depth study on “enhanced interrogation techniques” — a deplorable and Orwellian way to say “torture” — less than two years ago (Dec 2014). The results were published and are easily available, and they are summarized here:
These facts should not be drowned out during the rest of this campaign season’s deeply unfortunate noise.
It is truly excruciating to observe the constant mendacity, meanness, and boastfulness of the Republican candidate (I am a dual US/Swedish citizen and grew up Republican, but currently have no party affiliation). It has been a bitter disappointment to see such callow campaign methods win popular support.
If he wins, he has vowed to tear up many of the US policies I hold dear, including the Paris Agreement on climate change and the disavowal of torture. If he loses, he will nonetheless leave behind a deep well of poisoned civility, further polarising a nation.
Recent interviews with committed voters for the Republican candidate indicate that many are aware of the risks and dangers inherent in the candidate’s positions and reckless character, but they “don’t care” because they just want change, and preferably dramatic change, of any kind. (See link below.) They are genuinely hurting, and the Republican candidate is exploiting that pain.
The Democratic candidate was recently criticized for a thoughtless statement that included the word “deplorables”. It is useful to look at the definition of that word, “deplorable”: “deserving strong condemnation; completely unacceptable” and “shockingly bad in quality.”
In my view, the Republican candidate’s campaign, including the positions he has taken and the statements he has made on many issues of deep concern to me — related to climate change, human rights, the US’s global responsibility, the role of women in society, and many more — is deplorable.
Note: This is copied from my public Facebook page and is the first in a series of short posts on current US politics. I do not usually comment on politics but the stakes of this US presidential election are extremely high and make silence unethical. We need to speak up for honesty, integrity, knowledge, humility, and wisdom in politics and public discourse, and not cede the ground to baser methods of public campaigning.
Link: New York Times article, “We Need Somebody Spectacular”
Be afraid. Be very afraid … of the Anthropocene.
This is the message from Clive Hamilton writing in Nature, the preeminent science journal, in his recent editorial (see sources below). Humans are unequivocably a planetary force for change, and a group of scientists with the authority to decide such things now agrees that this new planetary epoch deserves that special new name. But it should only be framed negatively, insists Hamilton. “The idea of the Anthropocene … should frighten us. And scientists should present it as such.”
That’s wrong: scientists should present theory and evidence. The rest of us then decide what to feel, and do. Leave the incitements to fear to … well, Clive Hamilton.
Meanwhile, the Guardian prevents a more balanced approach, in the person of former UK Royal Astronomer Martin Rees. He doesn’t downplay the enormous risk, the possibility of the “darkest prognosis.” But as he also notes, wryly, “It’s surprising how little we can confidently predict.” And there is also an “optimistic option,” Rees writes. “Human societies could navigate these threats, achieve a sustainable future, and inaugurate eras of post-human evolution even more marvellous than what’s led to us.”
Whether it means the end of human civilization, or the beginning of a new era of galactic conquest, scientists still have to decide when, exactly, it started. But the leading candidate for a starting date is around 1950, when nuclear weapons, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and other massive imprints on the planet began leaving their signature for future generations to find.
What do you think? Will being fearful of our new responsibility for managing (some prefer stewarding) the whole planet help make the “optimistic option” more possible? I don’t think so.
Personally, I’m committed to the “bravely-face-problems, navigate-safely-through-danger, achieve-sustainability” option that Martin Rees outlines so eloquently. Even if I also believe we have no idea exactly where we are going.
And if we succeed — that is, after we achieve sustainability, against all the admittedly scary odds — who knows what might happen?
Hamilton on fear of the Anthropocene (but he makes good points about how to identify it):
Guardian news story on scientists assessing the new epoch:
Martin Rees on “darkest prognosis” and “optimistic option”:
Also see BBC News on the Anthropocene meeting and the search for a definitive start date:
Parachuting Cats into Borneo – and Other Lessons from the Change Café offers the reader a complete Master Class of tools and approaches for promoting positive change, in the form of an easy-to-read business book.
The book has been drawing praise and endorsements from reviewers the world over, including Unilever CEO Paul Polman, German social scientist Ortwin Renn, former African Union Commissioner Bience Gawanas, and green business guru Joel Makower, among many others (see below). Publisher’s Weekly in the US called it “a shrewd and discerning look at systemic change” that was “insightful” and “particularly valuable” — both for making change happen and dealing with daily work life.
Parachuting Cats into Borneo takes its name from an historic, cautionary tale about what can go wrong: about two-thirds of efforts to make positive change in organizations and institutions end up in failure, according to studies cited in the book. Klimek and AtKisson bring over fifty years of combined experience to the table, to help readers avoid common obstacles and equip themselves for greater success.
While aiming to support positive change of all kinds, the authors build on decades of experience working with the special problems of sustainability transformation in companies, governments, cities and institutions. Sustainability has been an especially valuable learning arena, note Klimek and AtKisson, “because achieving [sustainability] requires altering some very deeply embedded human habits, concepts, and attitudes.” The closing chapters are devoted to building capacity for leading change in one of the most demanding, and increasingly essential, challenges of our time: making sustainability real.
If you would like a review copy for a publication or for an organizational bulk order, please contact the Center for Sustainability Transformation (CforST.com).
EARLY REVIEWS FOR PARACHUTING CATS INTO BORNEO
by Axel Klimek and Alan AtKisson, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016
“A fascinating account of the cultural, psychological, and institutional barriers that prevent more change programs from succeeding – and how to overcome them.”
–Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever
“I’ve been waiting for this book, from these gentlemen, for years. Decades of distilled experience, insight, wisdom, guidance, and delight about engaging the most challenging parts of change―people and groups of people. (Technological innovation is simple by comparison.) Only one in three change initiatives succeed, the authors tell us. This little book, and the thoughtful systems and tools it offers, might just help you boost your odds.”
–Gil Friend, chairman and CEO, Natural Logic, Inc.
“Parachuting Cats into Borneo takes change management off the white board and places it into your own hands―inviting you into a café conversation with the authors, who put together a thoughtful collection of practical tools that I found valuable even after 25 years in the sustainability and social change field. Grab a pen and some paper (and a coffee!). This book will take you on a thought journey, best when you have a change process and goal in mind. And who doesn’t?”
–Gillian Martin Mehers, managing director, Bright Green Learning; coauthor of The Climate Change Playbook
“Welcome to the world café―where it’s raining, well, cats. Axel Klimek and Alan AtKisson are hosting. Slow down, relax, and prepare to change the way you think about change.”
–John Elkington, co-founder, Environmental Data Services (ENDS), SustainAbility, and Volans; coauthor of The Breakthrough Challenge
“We live in times of continuous accelerating change―as I have personally experienced―and yet we have difficulty adapting to it. That’s human nature: We like the comfort of stability and predictability. Here Klimek and AtKisson draw a short and very easy-to-read roadmap for implementing sustainable change. A great effort and recommended reading.”
–Nani Falco Beccalli, former President and CEO, GE Europe
“Change is difficult, and usually takes time, but this book gave me hope that change will happen, whatever time it takes, and guided me through the appropriate sequence of steps I should take to achieve my mission―slowly but steadily. The book presents a combination of concern, determination, and faith: concern about people and nature, the determination to continue the path, and the faith that what we are doing is right. I received this book on June 11 and started reading it the morning of June 12. I powered off my mobile, and I went on reading ‘til the afternoon of June 13. At that time I discovered that it was my birthday; I think that this book was the best birthday present I had this year!”
–Boshra Salem, director, Office of International Relations, Alexandria University; member, Women in Science Hall of Fame (Egypt)
“Parachuting Cats into Borneo is a great guidebook for leaders and individuals who want to create transformational changes in any society, community, organization, workspace, or family they are a part of. The authors have done a great job illuminating not only the most up-to-date ‘skills and knowledge’ on change processes, such as a system approach and coaching, but also ‘attitude and being,’ or how leaders can develop themselves and cultivate organizational cultures. I have been using these approaches in Japan and elsewhere in the world, and they have proven to be effective in work for many clients across sectors.”
–Riichiro Oda, president and CEO, Change Agent, Inc. (Japan)
“The one thing we all have more and more of is CHANGE, and we all need to become more skillful in navigating through it. Klimek and AtKisson are great companions to have with you on your change journey, providing guidance, great stories, and good company.”
–Peter Hawkins, Professor of Leadership, Henley Business School; chairman, Renewal Associates (UK)
“This book is a must for anyone who is involved in change processes toward a more equitable, humane, and environmentally friendly world. It is not the usual ‘how to do and get what you want’ instruction book. No recipes, no safe or proven success guidelines, no software program for making changes happen! It is a book about personal and group empowerment. It orients readers to become agents of change based on their own resources and their own creative ideas. And all this for a common purpose: to reach a more sustainable future for all.”
–Ortwin Renn, scientific director, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (Germany)
“Parachuting Cats is a small book with a really big bag of tools for the change agent’s toolkit―describing how, when, and where each can best be used. Some are tools for personal change that make one a more effective change agent; others are tools for helping organizations and communities create lasting change. Highly recommend for all sustainability professionals or anyone working to make the world a better place. I could and will reread this book at least ten times and get more out of it each time.”
–Maureen Hart, executive director, International Society of Sustainability Professionals (USA)
“An apparently endless stream of conferences and workshops is applauding the big transformation toward sustainable development. And is tiring. Real action is not following suit. I see a growing disconnect between advocacy and personal behavior (and the behavior of advocates’ home institutions). Yet never before has humankind been in a better position to successfully end hunger and poverty within the limits of ecological boundaries. Never before have there been so many experts and campaigners dedicated to making this planet a better place. But, strangely enough, all this does not yet deliver. Action is often halted. Advanced thinking is often restricted to special interest groups. Experts are arguing within the boundaries of their own unconnected communities. That is why this book is timely. The authors bridge change attitudes on the personal level and the structural level. They help us understand (and change) the patterns of our very habitudes―and, fortunately, they never forget the importance of changing vested interests and political structures in a democratic society. Absorbing Klimek and AtKisson’s recommendations has added value to both my thinking and acting.”
–Günther Bachmann, secretary general, German Council for Sustainable Development; advisor to the Global Network of National Councils for Sustainable Development
“Spanning change management, leadership, strategy, and spirituality, Klimek and AtKisson’s volume is an indispensable guide for current and would-be sustainability leaders.”
–Michael Kobori, vice president of sustainability, Levi Strauss & Co.
“Parachuting Cats offers a deep dive into what it takes for our economies and our families to flourish within Earth’s finite limits. For all the attention paid to technologies, policies, leadership, and ‘corporate social responsibility,’ creating the change we want to see in the world means understanding how societies and institutions transform. In the end, it’s the system, stupid, that needs transforming. Klimek and AtKisson tell us how to do that. This is a vital read for our turbulent times.”
–Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor, GreenBiz Group; coauthor of The New Grand Strategy
“Many of us need to change ourselves or to bring about change through our work but always get stuck in a rut because we need confirmation to do the right thing. This book helps us enter into conversations to see within and around us and to make that so-needed transformation.”
–Bience Gawanas, former commissioner for Social Affairs, African Union
“As a funder, I was drawn to organizations that had both a clear vision for the future and an approach to the inevitable difficulties of change. If this valuable toolkit had been around, I would have sent a copy with every grant check.”
–David Grant, former president and CEO, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; author of The Social Profit Handbook
Parachuting Cats into Borneo distills our many years of working together into very readable little book on how to make change happen, and also how to avoid the common pitfalls that prevent change from happening.
“But what about those cats?” you may immediately be wondering. “Did they really parachute cats into Borneo? And why is that the title of the book?”
The short answer to the first question is yes. I won’t give away the story here, because I want you to buy the book. You can even follow the footnotes to the academic sources and the evidence about what actually happened. (But you may already know this story from many other sources, including the song I wrote about this historical event from the 1950s.)
And why this title? Two reasons: (1) To draw attention to the book, and (2) to reinforce a key point. All too often, when trying to change things for the better, we end up changing them for the worse. And then we have to take even more drastic action to try to fix the new problems we have inadvertently created.
“Parachuting Cats into Borneo” is a true story, but it’s also a metaphor: it’s something we always want to avoid having to do! We have loaded up this book with tools, methods, advice, coaching, and stories to help you increase your chances of success as you try to make your organization, or your corner of the world, a better place.
So that you don’t have to parachute cats into Borneo … or anywhere else!
With over 60 years of experience between us, Axel and I believe that this little book can truly be helpful — to anyone trying to start, lead, manage, or fix a change process. In almost any context.
And that means: helpful to just about everyone.
And hopefully, also, a pleasure to read. (I am glad to report that the early reviews are very positive.)
On September 1st, the cats are coming!