Taking a holistic approach to the Anthropocene challenge

We had a passionate conversation at the Prosperous Planet office today as we were struck with how many voices there are out there listing their top three or five or ten action points to target the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis, the inequality crisis, and so on. The questions we discussed were – who do we listen to? Who is trustworthy and has a mandate in these questions? How can we ensure that our actions have the desired impact? At Prosperous Planet we believe that there are three perspectives that need to be considered regardless of the specific question, to ensure that the sustainability actions are actually viable:

  1. systems thinking, which acknowledges that everything is connected in the Anthropocene
  2. the importance of innovation & organizational learning, to navigate a rapidly changing world, and
  3. dual focus, on the process related as well as the content-related aspects of the change journey. 

Taking actions without a holistic approach to the Anthropocene challenge will likely not take us far enough. So on that note, in addition to reading Mc Kinsey’s latest paper on Climate math, also have a look at Otto and Donges’ paper on Social tipping points for stabilizing the Earth’s climate. Combining both of these lists of action points, and embedding YOUR actions in a deep change process framework like Prosperous Planet’s Innovation Process will however be a good place to start.

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McKinsey’s 5 critical shifts to follow the 1.5-degree pathway:

  • Shift 1: Reforming food and forestry – Changing what we eat, how it’s farmed, and how much we waste
  • Shift 2: Electrifying our lives – Electrification is a massive decarbonization driver for transportation and buildings
  • Shift 3: Adapting industrial operations – Electrification needs to extend across a broad swath of industries as part of a collection of operational adaptations
  • Shift 4: Decarbonizing power and fuel – The power system would have to decarbonize in order for the downstream users of that electricity—everything from factories to fleets of electric vehicles—to live up to their own decarbonization potential. Renewable electricity generation is therefore a pivotal piece.
  • Shift 5: Ramping up carbon-capture and carbon-sequestration activity – Carbon capture, use, and storage. In simplest terms, use a suite of technologies to collect CO2 at the source, say, from industrial sites.

Otto and Donges et al 6 concrete actions to induce positive social tipping dynamics and a rapid global transformation to carbon-neutral societies:

  • Action 1. Remove fossil fuel subsidies and incentivize distributed energy generation
  • Action 2. Build carbon-neutral cities
  • Action 3. Divest from assets linked to fossil fuels
  • Action 4. Reveal the moral implications of fossil fuels
  • Action 5. Strengthen climate education and engagement
  • Action 6. Disclose greenhouse gas emissions information
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