News & Updates


Mindshift – Part 2 – Unseen Addictions & Short-term Thinking

Are you feeding your inner Windigo? In my previous post on Mindshift we explored the idea of world views and the state of human separation from the family of life. The idea that our perception of the world is limited by the bubbles created by our mind-sets and how we see ourselves in relation to others within the global socio-ecological system. But what locks us into those bubbles and how might we break free and shift our minds?

Now you are probably wondering what all that has got to do with Windigos? In fact, what is a Windigo?

A Windigo (or Wendigo) is a supernatural being (a monster) belonging to the spiritual traditions of Algonquian-speaking First Nations in North America. In most legends, humans transform into Windigos because of their greed or weakness. Various Indigenous traditions consider Windigos dangerous because of their thirst for blood and their ability to infect otherwise healthy people or communities with evil. Windigo legends are essentially cautionary tales about isolation and selfishness, and the importance of community.

Source – The Canadian Encyclopaedia

In her book, Braiding Sweet Grass, Robin Wall Kimmerer explores the idea of a Windigo mind-set born from our own fears and failings; a name for that within us which cares more for its own survival than for anything else. We should recognise that we all have the capacity for self-indulgence, a hunger for happiness which is ever elusive and never sated. The Windigo stories are tales of caution which arose in commons based societies where sharing was essential to survival. Individuals who took too much and endangered the community were banished. We have all been banished, consigned to loneliness by our obsession with property.

Windigo tricks us into believing that belongings will fill our hunger when actually it is belonging that we crave.

Robin Wall Kimmerer – Braiding Sweet Grass

All of us (in Western cultures) are unwittingly trapped in a Windigo mind-set. Our economy is based on fabricated demand (an illusion of scarcity) and the need to consume to acquire possessions as symbols of status and success. A mind-set which masquerades as “quality of life” but eats us from within. It is a mind-set which is driving an unsustainable lifestyle and taking us to the brink of destruction and despair.

So how can we break free of our bubble and step out of the Windigo mind-set?

The first step is to acknowledge it – to understand our addictions and compulsions – what is feeding our Windigos? Don’t get me wrong we all need to nourish ourselves, it is when we take more than we need, more than our share that the problems begin. Here we are not just talking about food there are many kinds of “nourishment”. Tich Nhat Hanh describes these in his book  Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet.

…we speak of four kinds of nutriments: edible foods(what we eat and drink), sense impressions (everything we consume through our sense in terms of images, sounds, music, movies, websites and so on), volition (what we consume in terms of our deepest intention [e.g. life ambitions such as fame and fortune, status]), and consciousness (what we consume in the collective energy around us). All these sources of nutriment can be healthy or toxic.

Tich Nhat Hanh – Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet

When I think about my addictions in this context I realise that my life is full of acts of consumption from coffee and chocolate to electrical gadgets, apps on my phone, the internet, Netflix mini-series, books… Are all of these essential to my well-being, am I using more than my fair share? What impact is my consumption having on the well-being of others (both human and more than human)?

This begs another question – how do we know what our fair share is, what are the limits to our consumption?

All living beings have just 4 basic needs to sustain them – air, water, food and a place to belong (a habitat, a home). It is easy to take some of these for granted. The supply of good quality of air and water is limited by the capacity of the planetary systems which recycle them. The availability of food is limited by water, sunlight, the quality of the soil, the availability of seed, the annual cycles of replenishment. The availability of habitat and quality space in which vibrant communities can thrive is finite and dependent on the limitations of air, water and food as much as on the area of suitable land. To understand these limits we need to gain an understanding of time – what is the capacity of the ecosystem functions which meet these needs and how quickly do they cycle?

Here we come up against another mind-set – Short term thinking fuelled by an addiction to time and ever faster technology:

  • Email, social media
  • Online shopping, same day delivery
  • Credit and buy now pay later
  • Short term government planning, short election cycles

Even if we try to imagine longer term processes we often think in a human centric way:

  • Saving for pensions
  • Space exploration projects
  • Power supply infrastructure
  • City building

Short term thinking limits our capacity to imagine the timescale required for longer term planetary processes:

  • Forest growth
  • Water cycles
  • Soil regeneration

Without an ability to think longer term it is difficult for us to understand what is our fair share. The short term mind-set has led us to deplete the planetary resources, which are essential for all life, at an alarming rate. If we wish to be good ancestors we urgently need to break free from this mind-set.

Roman Krznaric explores the concepts of short term and long term thinking in his book The Good Ancestor – here is a short video clip to get you started.

The Good Ancestor – the legacies we leave

Is it possible to defeat the Windigo, to reign in our consumption and thirst for instant gratification?

Of course it is – we need only look to the teachings of the indigenous cultures from around the globe who are more in touch with the natural rhythms of Mother Earth. Peoples who understand the economy of the commons (based on  maintaining abundance not creating scarcity) and recognise that our basic needs are met not by the purchase of commodities but by the sharing of gifts and a mutual respect for the needs of others (both human and more than human).

It will not be easy. We will need to do more than define new policies and create new structures. We will also need a change of heart. We will need to re-connect to Mother Earth, to our true sense of what it is to be human. To re-learn that gratitude plants the seeds and care-giving tends the garden of abundance.

In the next instalment of our regenerative journey we will take these ideas further and begin to explore the process of Re-connection and consider how we can transition from a fragile failing social ecological system to a thriving one.

To keep up to date with the new Regenerative Concepts as they are released you can subscribe here.


Climate Journey Update – Dec 2022

When I embarked on my Climate Journey my focus was on reducing my carbon footprint with the expectation that I could make year on year improvements. On a path from 18 tons CO2 per year to a net zero target of 1.8 tons CO2 per year I have already made a lot of progress – a footprint of 3.2 (compared to UK average of ~13 and Global average of ~4.4 tons CO2 per year) is very commendable. However, making further reductions has proved to be an elusive challenge – my carbon footprint (calculated using Carbon Independent calculator) appeared to be pretty much unchanged from last year – why?

Because a carbon footprint is too simplistic, it focusses only on the things you can easily measure. A fact that I explore in some depth in the Shadows and Beacons concept. Up to now I have been able to reduce the measurable aspects such as home energy but this was countered by an increase in travel (all be it using electric car and train) so overall this year my progress was minimal – I have gone as far as I can within the limits of our current energy system.

Until the carbon intensity of the UK grid reduces further I can have little more impact on these aspects (the average carbon intensity of UK electricity is the amount of CO2 produced per kWh of energy; in the past two years this has actually increased!). The further decarbonisation of our grid will depend on government policy and market forces. Choosing a green energy supplier goes some way to influencing this; lobbying MPs and local government officials for urgent change is also important and this is something I do as often as I can.

In the meantime I can turn my focus from footprints to shadows. If I do that I can see that I have made progress and achieved much of what I set out to do in 2022 (and more) – its just not possible to put into numbers. The Global footprint calculator suggested that, because I had purchased a new laptop and some clothes, my Global footprint had gone up to 1.4 earths. Again this is a little misleading as the calculator does not capture the quality or durability of those items. I was careful to choose items which will last and I plan to keep them for many years so the impact will be spread over multiple years not just this one.

Paying more attention to the sources of the things we buy is an important part of reducing our Climate Shadow. This applies particularly to food as nearly a quarter of global emissions relate to this. I have continued my efforts to source organic, seasonal and where possible local food. We have grown more of our own food from organic seed (sourced from the brilliant Vital seeds and Real Seeds). We have used more of our own compost and saved more of our own seed to use in subsequent years. We have also extended our food focus beyond vegetables to other staples, sourcing as much as possible from bulk suppliers of organic produce and buying less from the local supermarket.

The link between the Climate and the Ecological Emergency is becoming more and more apparent. The health of our ecosystems and their resilience is driven by biodiversity. This diversity comes in all sizes from larger mammals to insects, plant and microbes. In our modest garden patch we have been working hard to allow a wilder habitat to develop; to grow native flowers, nurture insects and birds. We have also paid much more attention to our soil. When I tested the soil in our beds earlier in the year I was shocked by how poor they were. Not just in terms of mineral nutrients but also by how little organic matter they contained and the small amount of soil life (nematodes, protazoa, fungi, microbes etc.) that they supported. So we have embarked on a plan to regenerate our soil using the No Dig approach and tried to use rainwater for irrigation where possible as the use of chlorinated hard tap water is far from ideal for maintaining soil health. Not all things go to plan, however, and the drought conditions we experienced highlighted the fact that our rainwater capture and storage is not sufficient. This has prompted me to look again at our water use in general and this will be an area of focus for next year.

Improving the way in which we produce or our own food at home goes some way towards reducing our Climate Shadow but we have less control over the impact the food grown elsewhere. We often think that we are at the mercy of the wider food system. But even here we are not powerless, our purchasing habits can make a big difference. As we move into the coming year I will be sharing more on this as part of my exploration of Regenerative Concepts – keeping my Climate Beacon burning brightly. I hope you will join me for the next steps on my Regenerative Journey


Mind-shift – part 1 – World Views & Separation

Mind-shift is the first stage in our journey towards a Regenerative future. It involves the exploration of Mindsets and Worlds views, our Cultural memes and how we need to change them. Building upon our earlier post on this topic, we will start by considering the origin of our World views and the impact they have on our relationship with Mother Earth. Let’s begin by asking a question:

Our Planet and Human Society is becoming increasingly fragile – why?

The answer lies in the way we perceive the world around us, our perspective. Usually we consider perspectives as seeing things from different vantage points or maybe a zoomed in view through a microscope or telescope. BUT – what if there is a filter which adjusts what we see, one we are not even aware is there  – what we see through this filter is our World view and it differs from person to person.

A World view is influenced by our cultural background and our experiences, we create our own filter over time and we are not even aware we are doing it. It is as if we exist within a bubble and only when we become aware of our filters and someone helps us to burst the bubble do we get a chance to see other views which might matter maybe as much as, or even more than, our own immediate concerns.

Photo by lil artsy on

So what affects our World views?

Ever since we (humans) learned to write things down we have become more and more separated from the world around us. Primarily we use our eyes and record what we see, sometime we capture sounds, but neglect our other senses, touch, taste and smell. We try to describe and explain (to rationalise) things that are far too complex for us to fully appreciate with such a limited range of senses.

How often do we learn about things that have been recorded in this limited way – as a second hand observer?

The answer is, almost all the time!

When I think back to my school days I remember learning about glaciers in geography lessons. We used a text book which had descriptions, diagrams and one or two pictures – did I know about a glacier? Not really, not until I stood on one, smelt it, heard it, felt it. Even then I only had a momentary glimpse of a small fraction of what it really was.

In the book “Original Wisdom” by Robert Wolff, the author recounts a story in which he journeys from a village deep in the jungle accompanied by a tribal elder (a shaman of sorts). They travel to the coast. The elder has never left his valley before, he has never seen the sea and yet somehow without even touching or tasting the water he knows that the sea is salty. How did he know this? No one had told him. Was it magic or some deeper sense of the world around him, perhaps he was using senses that most of us have forgotten how to use or maybe he was just paying more attention.

This separation from the world by reliance on books (and more recently films and videos) has limited our understanding of the world without us even realising it. If you ask a child – where does milk come from? They might say, from a bottle, from the fridge, from a shop. If they are lucky they might say a cow. If they are luckier still they may have seen a cow being milked. Or maybe you ask – where does bread come from? A shop? How many of us have made our own bread, seen the flour being ground, seen the wheat being harvested, planted a seed? We might have learned about all of these things at school or watched a documentary on TV but that is not the same; we don’t really know about these things – we have lost the direct link to the world around us, living within a bubble of human perception.

Why does all this matter?

It matters because our world is in trouble, things are starting to behave differently, seasons are less reliable, weather more extreme, flooding and droughts more frequent. Much of this fragility has been caused by the way we have been living, living separated from the world, not fully appreciating the way things are linked together. Forgetting that we are a part of the world not separate from it. Our dominant World view has become very Ego-centric – where people prioritise the wellbeing of themselves and the others in their social group. This Ego-centric view also conceptualises Man (and indeed commonly men) as being at the top of the pyramid and in a more important position than all other creatures and nature itself.

Seeing the world around us as other has led to us to exploit it, to believe that it is in service to us. Just because we have developed ways of describing  and rationalising (explaining) our world it does not mean that we are somehow superior and in control of it. We consume resources with no perspective on how quickly they are replenished, no sense of the earth’s capacity to deal with the waste that we produce, little sense of the time frame over which the systems flow.

In contrast, an Eco-centric view focuses on the wellbeing of the whole system, where mankind is viewed as an equal component in a more reciprocal and symbiotic relationship with the rest of nature. We need to re-learn how to adopt this wider World viewto see the global systems around us.

From – Lehmann, Steffen. (2019). Reconnecting with nature: Developing urban spaces in the age of climate change. Emerald Open Research. 1. 2. 10.12688/emeraldopenres.12960.1.

How can we do that?

The answer is remarkably simple – by paying more attention – reaching beyond the bubble that confines our understanding.

Lets consider an example. Imagine you are out with friends, its lunch time, you’re hungry, you decide to get a bite to eat. You opt for a quick, simple hamburger, ready in ten minutes, only a couple of pounds so it won’t break the bank.

When we make choices like this we seldom (if ever) stop to ask ourselves – where does this hamburger I’m about to eat actually come from, what is the true cost of making it?

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on

Let’s, for the sake of our story, ask ourselves that question. To go some way to answering it we need to break our burger down into its various parts, the bun, the beef patty, the tomato etc. The bun might be made from wheat flour, wheat grown somewhere like the Ukraine. The beef might be from a cow reared in the UK, probably fed on grass supplemented with soya. The soya may well be imported from somewhere in South America. Our tomato is most likely imported from somewhere warmer, maybe from Spain. All of these things, the wheat, the grass, the soya, the tomato need soil, nutrients, water to grow. What kind of soil/land, how much water? The true cost in terms of natural resources is hard to quantify.

Ok, so by now you are thinking – enough already – I don’t know. All I want is a burger, not a geography lesson, I don’t have time for this!

Now we get to the very nub of the issue. Because we have become so separated from the natural sources of things we find it hard to have a sense of their true value. Most of us don’t grow our own food, we probably don’t buy much, if anything, from a local farmer. We get it from a supermarket, a restaurant, a street vendor – the links to nature are so distant we forget they are there at all – we have become completely disconnected from the global ecosystem.

Our disconnection means we have little (if any) perspective on how robust/strong/stable that system is. Systems have flows/cycles/capacity limits – there are limits to our consumptionour Planet and Human Society is becoming increasingly fragile because we are exceeding those limits!

So what can we do?

  1. We need to shift our mindsets – see the systems better and understand that our relationship to the system needs to be Eco-centred not Ego-separated.
  2. We also need to understand the global ecosystem better – adopting a holistic view, focussing more on connections than on individual parts; shifting from control (ego view) to collaboration (eco view); thinking about flow and cycles in the system and getting more in tune with the longer term processes that sustain it.

Sounds simple doesn’t it, and yet, for some reason, we find it difficult. In the next instalment on Mind-shift we will explore the aspects of our human nature that tend to lock us into our bubbles and how we might learn to break free and Re-connect with the world.

Over the coming months we will be taking a deeper dive into some of the topics discussed here. To keep up to date with the new Regenerative Concepts resources as they are released you can subscribe here.


The Rocky Road of Hope

If, like me, you have followed the emergent trail of headlines and commentary post COP27 you may be forgiven for feeling more than a little disheartened and left with any sense of hope hanging by a thread.

The world could still, theoretically, meet its goal of keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, a level many scientists consider a dangerous threshold. Realistically, that’s unlikely to happen.

Peter Schlosser in The Conversation

Despite the general air of gloom there was some good news; the “loss and damage fund” gave a long awaited sense of Climate Justice to the nations in the front line of the Climate Emergency. Although even this may provide a false hope if the underlying causes of Climate Change are not given urgent attention.

In the end, if all fossil fuels are not rapidly phased out no amount of money will be able to cover the cost of the resulting loss and damage. It is that simple. When your bathtub is overflowing you turn off the taps, you don’t wait a while and then go out and buy a bigger mop.”

Yeb Saño, head of Greenpeace’s COP delegation in Positive News

So are the UN COPs a waste of time? Should we all give up on the idea that we can make any progress in terms of dealing with the global addiction to fossil fuels? No, absolutely not! Now is the time to double down and look at every possible means for effecting change. If we look more closely at what happened at COP27 there are signs that the commitment is there, that there are countries willing to take the first steps forward.

The COP27 outcome is a timely reminder that curbing the growth in fossil fuels will not come about through consensus-oriented negotiations among governments that include those corrupted by the fossil fuel industry. It will require social movements pressuring leaders to legislate a managed phase out of fossil fuels, while ensuring a just transition for affected workers and communities. And it will require pioneering governments to work together internationally to forge new alliances that accelerate this goal.

Fergus Green and Harro van Asselt in The Conversation

“But what about the Fossil fuel lobby?” I hear you ask. Certainly based on how things played out at COP27 they seem all powerful. Especially at the moment in the midst of an energy crisis they appear to have a lot of sway.

But the COP process must change if we are to really make headway in fighting the climate crisis. With over 600 fossil fuel lobbyists patrolling the halls and striking deals on the side for new projects, and even the BP chief executive listed as a country delegate sitting in negotiations, this was like inviting arsonists to a firefighting convention.”

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, in Positive News

But the Fossil Fuel lobby’s influence stems from money, if they have less money they will have less power. There is much that can be done both through taxation and through divestment that will reduce that influence and help to shift attention to more viable, climate friendly alternatives. We all have a role in making that happen, we need to stiffen our resolve (and our shoes) and be willing to walk together on the rocky road of hope.

If you would like to find out more about how you can take steps towards a better future have a look at the Climate Solutions – Money page.


Hope & Action

You may be forgiven for thinking that all the promises resulting from COP26 were just hot air. Very little seems to have happened since November 2021 and in some cases we seem to be going backwards. Certainly the UK response to the current energy crisis, with a proposed return to fossil fuel extraction, puts the goal of limiting global warming to +1.5C very much in doubt. However, the UK is but one actor on the global stage and elsewhere there are signs of hope. The US Senate recently committed to a significant, 40% reduction in green house gas emissions, a welcome boost to morale and a big step in the right direction. As we approach COP27 in early November (just 43 days time) you may be wondering whether it will be a re-hash of the same old words or will something new emerge; is there any point to these seemingly endless discussions?

There are reasons to hope, if we look back to the ultimate success of the Montreal Protocol on Ozone, which followed a similar arduous path, we can learn much.

Why was the Montreal Protocol successful, and how should the implementation of the Paris Agreement learn from it?

The Montreal Protocol worked for a number of reasons. Firstly, the public were aware of ­­– and understood – the dangers that CFCs posed, and the effect their continued use would have on the environment. The public’s support for change, drove industry to change as well; in this case, stopping the production of CFCs and switching to a less harmful substance. It showcased the positive effect that behavioural change can have, even if it starts with something small such as an  individual deciding not to buy any products with CFCs in them. Also important was the role of scientists, and in particular “scientists as advocates.” The dangers of CFCs were communicated powerfully by scientists and crucially, that message was accessible enough that the person on the street could understand what the threat was, and what they needed to do about it. These are all lessons that need to be understood when it comes to the Paris Agreement and climate action; namely that when individuals change their behaviour by consuming differently they can drive industries to change, as those industries are then caught between a ‘greening’ consumer demand and international and governmental policies focusing on climate action.

UNFCCC Blog Post

It is clear that to effect global change we need both government actors to legislate, to write new laws, we also need citizens (like us) to hold them to account and, equally importantly, to tell the world (and in particular industry and commerce) what we want by changing our behaviours.

If ever there was a time to act, it is now. Why not write to your MP, attend an event, make a positive change, talk about your concerns. Great Big Green Week (24 Sept to 2nd Oct) is just around the corner perhaps there is something happening locally to you which could help you take a step on the road to positive action.


World Views – what is in a piece of paper?

I was recently inspired by an idea shared by the poet and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn. An enquiry into the way we perceive the world around us. I thought I would share it with you as it highlights the importance of our own world view and how that shapes the way we make sense of things which in turn shapes our behaviours.

I invite you to do a little thought experiment:

  • Find a piece of paper, any paper will do.
  • Now take a few moments to observe it.
  • Write down a few words in answer to the question – What is in that piece of paper?

Most of us, including me, write down things which describe the look of the paper and what we think it might be made from; things like, its flexible, grainy, made from wood fibres etc. Few of us look beyond the material aspects of what is in front of us but if we think about it there is so much more…

If our sheet of paper is made from wood then there is a tree in our paper. The tree grew in a forest, on some soil, it needed sunlight, it needed water. The water came from rain, from a cloud, from the sea. All of these are in our paper. The tree was harvested by a lumberjack, perhaps they had porridge for breakfast and used a petrol powered chainsaw. They are also in our paper. So it goes on until we logically conclude that the universe is in our sheet of paper.

When we do this kind of experiment we realise that everything is interconnected and we need to step back and see the links to fully appreciate things. We are in the universe and it is in us.

Over the coming months I will be adding some new concepts to my web site – Regenerative Concepts – stepping beyond our focus on Climate to look at other parts of the planetary puzzle. To take our first step towards a regenerative future we need to realign our World Views. Moving from a way of seeing things as separate to seeing everything as interconnected; nothing as created or destroyed but simply transformed into something else; nothing as permanent but simply as part of a flow.

World Views – How aware are we of the mental models which shape us?

To keep up to date with the new Regenerative Concepts as they are released you can subscribe here.

Every day is Earth Day

April 22nd is designated as Earth Day – a day on which we are encouraged to think about our planet, our lifestyles and the changes we can make to live within the planetary boundaries. To celebrate this fact many organisations held events, shared news and inspiring stories – my in-box was flooded with messages, social media streams were filled with posts. Yet once this tidal wave has passed I am given to wonder how many of us will think about Earth today and indeed every day hence. We need to.

We need stories and inspiration every day to help us see the path forwards. I am always looking for ways to make this easier to do, both for myself and others. One way is providing tools to help us see where we are and where we need to be, to provide suggestions of steps, big and small, to take us in a better direction. One such tool I recently found is Giki Zero – a foot-printing tool with a difference. It not only helps you evaluate your Carbon footprint, it also looks at other aspects which are less direct and relate to our Climate Shadows and on top of that provides user with inspiration on steps they can take and helps them set goals to work towards.

I tried it out and was pleased to receive a great Giki score of 1,362 (with an estimated carbon footprint of 2.14 tons CO2e per year). I was also delighted to learn that, even thought I have been focusing on improving my footprint for a while now, there are still more things I can do that will make a difference!

If you are looking for some inspiration to help you make every day an earth day then why not give it a try!

Climate Impact – Shadows and Beacons

As our understanding of the impact that we can have on the climate and health of our planet evolves it is necessary to challenge the way we think about things and whether our attention is focused in the right place. With this in mind I felt it was important to add a further Climate Concept to my library – Shadows and Beacons – if you have a few moments to spare I would like to share with you my thinking behind this concept and how it has changed my perspective on the way we measure our Climate Impact.

Trying to understand our Climate Impact and the effect that our daily habits and actions have on this is not simple. When I first started on my Climate Journey I quickly latched on to the idea of being able to calculate my carbon footprint and identify the things I might be able to change to reduce it. Four years on and I feel quite pleased with the progress I have made on my journey. I have significantly reduced my footprint but, how much effect has this had on my overall climate impact?

During one of my Climate Conversations workshops we were discussing carbon footprints and one of the participants cited a value for the UK carbon emissions which was quite different to the value I was used to seeing. When I dug into this further I realised the number they were using only included direct emissions resulting from activities within the UK and excluded emissions relating to imports. This made me stop and think; I realised that the value of a metric such as Carbon Footprint is limited by what is included in it.

This reminded me of a question that one of my mentors used to ask me:-

What is more important – doing things right or doing the right things?

Confused? I was until I thought about it more. It’s actually quite simple and we can use the carbon footprint of a car as a great example. When trying to understand how much impact our car use has on our carbon footprint we jump to the thing which is most obvious to us and the easiest to quantify – the emissions from the fuel. We then think about how to reduce that and some of the solutions we come up with are things like: drive the car less, car share, try to drive in a way which is more fuel economic, switch to a more fuel economic car etc.

All of these will reduce the emissions from burning the fuel but is this the right thing to be focusing on? What about all of the emissions that were generated to create the car – the embodied carbon? For cars this can be quite large and generally the bigger the car the bigger this number is. When considering the embodied carbon the way to reduce the impact is to keep the car for a long time and get as much use as we can from it. If we look again at some of the solutions we came up with to reduce the impact of our fuel emissions we can see that some of them are potentially in conflict with reducing the indirect impact from the embodied carbon.

Okay! – I hear you say – so that is all well and good but the indirect impact is hard for me to measure so how do I know how much impact I am having? This takes us right back to the original question. All of us are comfortable when we can measure something and see that we are making progress when we change our habits – we can get a good sense that we are doing it right. We are much less comfortable with fuzzy things which we cant easily (or precisely) measure. This can drag our attention away from the right things to be doing. So perhaps it helps if we use a different metaphor for the fuzzy things, such as embodied carbon, that make up our indirect impact. What about thinking about this as a shadow?

The Climate Shadow concept was recently introduced by Climate activist and writer Emma Pattee.

I visualize my climate shadow being made of three parts: my consumption, my choices, and my attention.

Emma Pattee

This is a powerful way of thinking beyond our carbon footprint to other aspects which are also a part of our climate impact equation and may be more significant. We have already touched on the indirect impact relating to embodied carbon which links to our consumption habits and also to our choices. What we buy, it’s quality, how and where it is made and, how often we replace/upgrade it all contribute. In this way our shadow reaches across the globe and can create ripples in the system as our choices influence the success of businesses and the choices of others.

The attention we pay to our actions and choices and, the attitude we broadcast either by creating a sense of apathy or amplifying a sense of urgency can have a negative or positive impact. Perhaps it is my pedantic nature but this is where I feel that the shadow metaphor breaks down a little. It works if we think about negative actions/attitudes which clearly we want to reduce but to me the positive aspects of supporting sustainable businesses, of spreading hope and amplifying urgency requires a different metaphor – a Climate Beacon which can light a path for others to follow.

Addressing our Climate Impact is very much about focusing on doing the right things  – these can come from paying attention to aspects of our direct carbon footprint in the wider context of the shadow our actions and choices cast and the way our attention serves to amplify positive change within the system. So far I think I have done a reasonable job of reducing my direct carbon footprint but my shadow is larger than I realised and reducing this will need more of my attention as I continue on my Climate Journey. Hopefully by sharing the new Climate Concept – Shadows and Beacons – with you will help to keep my beacon burning brightly and light a path for you on your journey too.

If you would like to receive regular updates from Climate Concepts and your own free copy of the Climate Concepts Infographics which includes the latest – Shadows and Beacons – concept then you can sign up here.

Visualising Climate Solutions – How can a bathtub help?

Trying to make sense of proposed Climate solutions and policies can be very challenging. Experts often get caught up in jargon, figures, complex graphs. The non-experts are left scratching their heads and either find themselves dismissing the explanation or blindly following it; neither of which is ideal.

During the many conversations and workshops on Climate Solutions that I have run over the past couple of years I have found simple analogies a very useful means of helping to get complicated ideas across. Perhaps the most popular, and most powerful, of these is the Climate Bathtub. This concept helps to show the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions (the flow from the tap) and the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (the water in the bath); not forgetting of course the greenhouse gas removals represented by the drain. To see how this concept works you can watch our short video.

Anther tool I use frequently in my workshops is the Climate Simulator (En-ROADS, developed by Climate Interactive.) This tools enable the use to enter potential solutions/policies and see what effect they might have. If we combine the Climate Bathtub concept with the information provided by the simulator we can readily see whether the proposed set of solutions/policies are likely to be sufficient.

Using the bathtub to explore different scenarios

In a recent post I shared the analysis of the COP26 policy pledges which suggests that we are currently on a path similar to scenario 2 shown in the graphic above. Click here to find out more – Read More

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Looking Up and Beyond to COP27

Was COP26 just a load of “blah, blah, blah” as Greta Thunberg put it? At a recent webinar hosted by Climate Interactive their director Andrew Jones reviewed the pledges made at COP26 and used the En-ROADS simulator to visualise their potential impact. As you can see from the image below the pledges to start phasing out coal, stop deforestation, electrify our transport system and reduce methane emissions could make a difference; significantly flattening the greenhouse gas emissions curve and potentially limiting warming to +3°C by 02100.

COP26 Pledges visualised in the En-ROADS Simulator

From this analysis it is clear that we need to push much harder to achieve the changes that can keep the goal of +1.5°C alive. Even if we flatten the emissions curve the overall level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continues to rise.

Plot showing how greenhouse gas levels still rise even though we have flattened the emissions curve

What we need to do is take actions that will decrease emissions to half the current level by 02030. This is theoretically still possible if we curb fossil fuel use and methane emissions, work hard to improve energy efficiency and invest in carbon sequestration technologies. These actions are increasingly urgent and more significant commitments will be required at COP27 next year if we are to succeed.

We all need to keep our Climate Conversations going and commit to putting Climate Solutions into practice wherever we can.  If you want to join us as we continue our journey and invite your friends, family, colleagues to come along too just follow this link and sign up for regular updates.

If you want to dig deeper and gain a wider perspective on what different people and organisations thought about the outcomes from COP26  here are some links which you may find useful.