The one ring – Global warming in your workplace
4 April 2019 at 9:00 am
Global warming is the one issue that rules us all, the one issue that binds us, writes Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter, in the first of a series called Fighting Global Warming in your Workplace.
If you’ve read J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, or seen the films of the book, you will probably remember that the basic premise is that no matter what the hobbits and other good guys do, if they can’t destroy the ultra-powerful one ring, they are doomed. So, even though nobody particularly wants to walk hundreds of miles across monster-controlled wild lands to throw a piece of jewelry into a volcano, there’s no choice – they have to do it.
Right now in human history, global warming is the equivalent of the one ring. As Sir David Attenborough recently warned, if we cannot limit the rise in global temperatures, then the collapse of civilization is on the horizon. What this means is that whatever the mission of your company or organisation, it will be impossible to achieve if there is global climate catastrophe. Global warming is the one issue that rules us all, the one issue that binds us.
There is no future for any social enterprise, sector, cause, business or institution if we cannot tackle global warming. It is the uber issue; the ultimate risk-amplifier: and, if we do not act, the window beyond which there is no light. Whether you are involved in social welfare and human development, or the arts and cultural preservation, or health, or agriculture or education, Indigenous rights, human rights, children and youth… or any other issue under the sun, or whether you are for-profit business, your mission cannot succeed if we do not prevent global warming catastrophe.
In that sense, every organisation is a climate change organisation; every workplace is a climate change workplace.
You may well have never thought about your work as a climate change organisation before. On the other hand, it is very likely that you personally know about global warming. Like a clear majority of Australians, you probably also wish that the Australian government would take action that is proportionate to the threat.
Maybe you even wake up worrying about climate change at 2am. If so, you are not alone. And like others waking up in the dead of night, you are probably wondering, “what can I do?”
There is, of course, a lot that you can do (and may already be doing – and if so, then good on you and thank you!) to play your part in the fight to tackle climate change. You can get involved with Greenpeace (that would be so great – we’d love to have you as part of the crew) or a bunch of other great climate and environment organisations (shout out to friends and allies, love your work!) and you can go to rallies, ring your local politicians, volunteer your time and all the other important ways of demanding urgent climate action.
But what about at your workplace and within your organisation?
According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy infrastructure and industrial systems on an unprecedented scale. Fortunately, we have the necessary technical and policy solutions to get there.
But that is not the direction we are going at the moment. Right now the world is on a trajectory to around 4 degrees of warming within the lifespans of children who are alive today, playing in their kindergartens. It is a horrifying scenario – but one that can still be avoided. Hope is having a plan.
Weirdly, what we can do within our workplaces to push for the unprecedented action needed to tackle global warming and build a better, cleaner world, is one of the areas that has received the least attention. The omission is strange given how much of our time we spend at work – and also because our workplaces are so important to building a clean energy world.
Every organisation can play a part in making the unprecedented transition that is necessary to save civilization – and is a precondition to the organisation’ succeeding in its own mission. And importantly, leadership can come from anyone and everyone within a workplace or organisation.
So, let’s get to work.
In a series of articles for Pro Bono News over 2019 called Fighting Global Warming in your Workplace, I am going to be reflecting on what can be done and talking with people, in their workplaces, about the serious practical steps that any business or organisation can take to be part of the solution; the total effort that is necessary to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees. Along the way, I’m hoping to gather feedback and ideas to share. The truth is we are all in this together – and we have to get that one ring into the volcano.