Tag Archives: climate change

Planning to give up fossil fuels

Decorative image from video mentioned in postAt the start of last month, I wrote about the need for national plans to ween us from our addiction to fossil fuels [see ‘Bringing an end to thermodynamic whoopee‘ on December 8th, 2021].  If we are to reduce carbon emissions to the levels agreed in Paris at COP 21 then the majority of the population as well as organisations in a country will need to engage with and support the national plan which implies that it must transcend party politics.  This level of engagement will likely require us to have a well-informed public debate in which we listen to diverse perspectives and consider multifarious solutions that address all of the issues, including the interests of a fossil fuel industry that employs tens of millions of people worldwide [see EU JRC Science for Policy report on Employment in the Energy Sector] and makes annual profits measured in hundreds of billions of dollars [see article in Guardian newspaper about $174 billion profit of 24 largest oil companies].  Perhaps, learned societies nationally and universities regionally could collate and corroborate evidence, host public debates, and develop plans.  This process is starting to happen organically [for example, see Climate Futures: Developing Net Zero Solutions Using Research and Innovation]; however, the urgency is such that a larger, more focussed and coordinated effort is required if we are to bring about the changes required to avoid the existential threat [see ‘Disruptive change required to avoid existential threats‘ on December 1st, 2021].

Saving ourselves

I thought the photograph with last week’s blog [see ‘Happy New Year‘ on December 29th, 2021] might cause some comments.  It was taken during a road trip in the USA as we were heading west on the Interstate 90, just west of Murdo in South Dakota, on our way to Yellowstone National Park from Michigan where we lived for nearly a decade.  It shows a skeleton dinosaur being led on a leash by a skeleton human.  As a genus, non-avian dinosaurs existed for about 150 million years and the last one died about 66 million years ago. Our genus, Homo, has only been around for about 2.5 million years so there was never an overlap with dinosaurs. Our species, Homo Sapiens have only been around for about the last 200,000 years. These time-spans are not long relative to the age of the oldest rocks on the planet, which have been estimated to be 4.6 billion years old, and implies that the Earth survived perfectly well without dinosaurs and humans for billions years.  We have thrived during an epoch, the Holocene, during which the climate has been relatively stable compared to the previous epoch, the Pleistocene. However, if we cannot resolve the existential threats facing our species then it is likely that, like non-avian dinosaurs, we will only exist as skeletons in the future and the planet will adapt to existence without us.  Perhaps the emphasis of many campaigns associated with climate change should shift from saving the planet to saving ourselves – we might be more focussed on coming together to address the selfish challenge.


Helen Gordon, Notes from Deep Time, London: Profile Books, 2021.

Disruptive change required to avoid existential threats

Decorative ink drawing by Zahrah Resh 2005It is easy for ideas or plans for transformational change to transition into transactional processes that deliver only incremental change.  Transformational change is about major shifts in culture, strategy or technology that causes substantial alterations in structure, organisation, behaviour and performance; whereas transactional changes occur within the existing structure and organisation.  Leading transformational change is hard and requires courage, vision, a willingness to listen to all stakeholders, decisiveness and communication, i.e. procedural justice and fair processes [see ‘Advice to abbots and other leaders‘ on November 13th, 2019].  If any of these components are absent, especially courage, vision and decisiveness, then transformational change can transition to a transactional process with incremental outcomes.  When the need to change becomes urgent due to existential threats, the focus should be on disruptive change [see ‘The disruptive benefit of innovation‘ on May 23rd 2018] but there is a tendency to avoid  such transformations and retreat into transactional processes that provide the illusion of progress.  Perhaps this is because transformational change requires leaders to be selfless, courageous and to do the right thing not just the easy thing [see ‘Inspirational leadership‘ on March 22nd, 2017]; whereas transactional processes occur within existing frameworks and hence minimise psychological entropy and stress [see ‘Psychological entropy increased by ineffectual leaders‘ on February 10th, 2021].  This tendency to avoid disruptive change happens at all levels in society from individual decisions about lifestyle, through product development in companies, to global conferences on climate change [see ‘Where we are and what we have‘ on November 24th, 2021].

Image: Ink drawing by Zahrah Resh, 2005. See ‘Seasons Greetings in 2020‘ on December 23rd, 2020.

Acknowledgement: thank you to a regular reader of this blog for the stimulating this post with a comment about transformational change left to the last minute becoming transactional.


It is hard to remain positive

Frequent readers of this blog will have noticed that I am regular reader of the FT Weekend pages.  I particularly like the ‘Life & Arts’ section for its balance of opinion and reviews.  However, one weekend last month I was depressed by two articles I read in quick succession.  Shannon Vallor described life as an ageing roller coaster with failed brakes and ‘accelerating climate change, a deadly pandemic and unravelling global supply chains’.  While on the facing page Nilanjana Roy wrote that the ‘past few decades have brought humankind and most other species on Earth to the brink of destruction’.  I was depressed because I agree with their analysis and our leaders seem either unaware of the impending crash of the roller coaster or unable to construct a global strategy to avert the looming destruction.  However, spiralling into negativity does not help because negativity tends to promote fight-or-flight survival mechanisms that can lead to narrow-mindedness, a lack of creativity and limiting one’s options to the tried and tested actions which are unlikely to avert destruction.  Whereas a positive outlook broadens your repertoire of options and builds physical, social and psychological resources.  Positive psychological capital, associated with hope, efficacy, resilience and optimism, leads to higher positive outcomes including commitment, successful outcomes, satisfaction and well-being.  In the face of apparently insurmountable challenges it is difficult to remain positive whether you are leading a small team, a department, an organisation or a country; nevertheless it is important to remain positive because research shows that the ‘happier and smarter’ approach works better than the ‘sadder but wiser’ style of leadership.  Of course, extreme positivity is usually delusional or irresponsible and can lead to complacency; so, you need to dodge that too.


Kelloway EK, Weigand H, McKee MC & Das H, 2013. Positive leadership and employee well-being. J. Leadership & Organizational Studies, 20(1), pp.107-117.

Nel T, Stander MW & Latif J. 2015, Investigating positive leadership, psychological empowerment, work engagement and satisfaction with life in a chemical industry. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology/SA Tydskrif vir Bedryfsielkunde, 41(1):1243.

Nilanjana Roy, Lessons from 1971 for eco-activists today, in FT Weekend 9 October / 10 October 2021.

Shannon Vallor, Tech’s future shocks, in FT Weekend 9 October / 10 October 2021.

Youssef-Morgan CM, Luthans F. Positive leadership: Meaning and application across cultures. Organizational Dynamics 42:3:198–208, 2013