Raising the sails for when the wind comes

I was pleased to deliver the Annual Quaker Salter Lecture this weekend.

The theme I took were words from Fritz Schumacher. He said, a generation ago, that: “I certainly never feel discouraged. I can’t myself raise the winds that might blow us or this ship into a better world. But I can at least put up the sail so that when the winds comes, I can catch it.”

We have, on the best evidence and despite a recent lowering of consensus temperature projections, only three to five years, no more, to prevent more than a two degree global rise in temperature over time. The longer we delay, the faster the cuts need to become – the greenhouse gases that are forcing temperature rises stick around longer than we do. Beyond this, if we want to level off at no more than two degrees, then we have a choice. We can grow the economy, or we can cut emissions and try and do so rapidly. It is increasingly clear that we can’t do both.

So, the big economic choices of today are for an economy of prevention, a great transition to low carbon living within limits, or one of adaptation, a great disruption of coping, survival and loss.

We hide behind the idea that it might not happen. But whether we acknowledge it or not … or trust that it will fade away, I sense that there is a spirit of great sorrow on the edge of our every conversation about the future.

There are so many imaginative and hopeful enterprises and initiatives for a better tomorrow. These are the sails being raised. But in the name of hope, we have to face down uncertainty and sorrow, no less than we have to challenge apathy.

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