WTF – why the obsession with “the government” fixing climate change?

t’s the end of January 2020 in Australia. We’ve been fighting catastrophic bushfires and heat wave conditions for months. (Like Greece and the Arctic Circle from Alaska to Sweden in 2018 ).

Then this showed up in my LinkedIn social feed – a video put together by some of Australia’s best and brightest comedians:

VIDEO: Who is responsible for the Australian Bushfire Crisis?

It’s an awesome production – one full of passion, great imagery and reasoned arguments.


Does it really make sense in the third decade of the 21st century?

Is “government policy change” the 21st century way to make the world better?

(Or is “government is responsible for the environment” just a mental habit left over from the 1950s – before industry went global? Or is it part of some subtle mass media conspiracy to distract us from the main game?)

In the 21st century, governments DON’T deliver disruptive economic innovation at scale! It comes from college dorms, spare bedrooms, garages, business incubators – then the best goes global.

Why does economic innovation matter?

The root cause of our biggest environmental challenges – from ocean plastics to global warming – isn’t “government policy inaction”.

The root cause is the archaic dig it up/ use it/ throw it away design thinking that Pliny the Elder was complaining about way back in the 1st century AD.

Those are the under-reported, unwritten assumptions behind the development and construction of the vast majority of the products and services we use every day.

These once-unchallenged design principles are what is decimating the ecosystems that deliver our food, water, air and climate AND they’re not controlled by government.

Today, they’ve been radically upgraded by the world’s best and brightest – and their new design thinking is spreading.

So is the best, most powerful action we can take (outside of election campaigns) to mount endless campaigns for “government action”?

Or is there another, more powerful, more responsive audience we could be targeting? (And are they going there anyway?)

We need supply chain innovation

For at least as long as scientists have been predicting global warming (in the 1860s) inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs have been working on solutions. EVs and solar panels date from the same decades (yes, solar panels and EVs were invented back the 1800s).

The efforts of our best and brightest thinkers have redoubled since The Limits to Growth was published in 1972.

Today we have a wealth of design thinking and practice that smart entrepreneurs – like those creating the renewable energy revolution – are bring to market faster than ever before.

It’s about innovative industrial design, not “government policy”

“Business is the only mechanism on the planet today powerful enough to produce the changes necessary to reverse global environmental and social degradation.”

Paul Hawken (since 1973 in “The Ecology of Commerce”)

Take a moment to LOOK at the smartphone in your hand. Where did it come from? What about the communications infrastructure behind it? And the awesome apps you run on it? (The ones that let you make and share world-changing videos.)

Where did EVs come from? Who’s doing most to get to Mars? Whose launch rockets are designed for recapture and reuse?

Sure, there is government funding in the process – education, incubators, research dollars – but that’s NOT what delivers innovative products to a global market.

The next industrial revolution is alive and well and already delivering solutions

The design of industry is making a step change. In fact, it already has. If you’re interested, check out approaches:

The time for “government leadership” was 30 years ago. Today it’s increasingly irrelevant. Today, what we need is disruptive economic innovation at scale – and it’s already happening.

Drawdown is doable today – no government required

Back in 2013, veteran environmental entrepreneur Paul Hawken launched Project Drawdown.

He wanted to find out IF, HOW and WHEN it would be possible to achieve drawdown – “that point in time – year on year – when we draw greenhouse gases out the atmosphere instead of emitting them”.

He set his team a serious challenge – to limit themselves to EXISTING, SCALABLE TECHNOLOGY.

What Project Drawdown’s 70 advanced research volunteers from 22 countries discovered in their first 4 years of analysis and modelling was:

  1. By 2050 (if we pull our socks up).
  2. Using just 100 existing, scalable, scientifically valid – and mostly commercial – solutions.
  3. The 80 existing, commercial solutions are all no-government-required, no-regrets opportunities for business, career and community development.
  4. Collectively, globally over 30 years they offer SAVINGS in costs avoided of $74 TRILLION over and above the existing industrial status quo.
  5. The process of shifting to an economy that consumes greenhouse gases that their “plan” describes is estimated to create up to 1 billion new jobs.

When will the wider world notice?

According to Australian commentator and author Paul Gilding, some time between tomorrow and 2025. Why?

1. The technology to dramatically lower emissions is available, scalable, superior and investable.

2. Physical climate change is obvious and accelerating.

3. Public engagement and political momentum are rapidly turning.

4. The financial markets are primed – from central banks, to lenders to stock markets.

Paul Gilding, 2020 Cilimate Contagation – 2020-2025 – so it begins

Thirty years of R&D and commercialisation is scaling

We have commercial bioplastics and microfibrillated cellulose and a wealth of smarter, cleaner, safer, renewable materials to replace oil derivatives and timber.

We have a wealth of renewable energy solutions AND the smart storage and control systems to integrate them into local networks as well as the 20th century grid.

We have EVs commercially available and spreading, with AVs on the way.

More and more of our economy is going “service and sharing”, from ride sharing to accommodation.

So WHY this preoccupation with demanding government action?

[NOTE: Let’s get specific here, “government isn’t acting” is a massive over-generalisation. There are many, many, many national, state, regional and local governments around the WORLD taking significant, constructive, beneficial action. From Germany and Washington State to the Australian Capital Territory, there IS real government leadership.]

This is a world where national governments can’t deal effectively with tax havens, let alone the disruptive impacts of Uber and AirBNB or chronic underemployment.

So why is it so surprising that those national governments whose election campaigns are largely funded by “old industry” aren’t responding? (It IS regrettable – but it’s NOT where the main game is any more.)

We can do it without waiting for “national government policy leadership” – and we are

Community innovators, renewable energy entrepreneurs, software developers and radical industrialists in global corporates are changing the world without “policy change”. (It might have been easier if they had support – but the survivors are so robust they WON’T be stopped.)

Are you finding it “hard to know what to do in this crisis”?

So to anyone out there who’s finding it hard to know what to do in this crisis – look BEYOND government action.

Tune in to the wealth of solutions we already have

Start with Project Drawdown – either directly or through Damon Gameau’s 2040 documentary.

Then get explore for the underlying design solutions that are driving our finer future:

Then go local and find out who’s too busy changing the world to bother with “government action” – there WILL be someone near you working on the solutions above.

If you want to keep challenging the government, that’s fine too. Especially – vote for the environment.

But if you ONLY play the “we need government leadership” game then you’re missing out BIG TIME!!!

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