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Tempest in a coffee cup?

Tempest in a coffee cup?

Very serious problems face humanity. How will we respond?

I grabbed my morning coffee and sat down with my iPad to bring in a new day. It’s a routine start for me, and that got me thinking. What happens when our comfortable routines — and, for that matter, our whole lives — are impacted by climate change and the calamities it will bring?

As I perused the headlines, one caught my eye in particular: Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown.

The story talks about how the US government is planning for large-scale civil unrest. Their strategy relies on coercion and force, bringing “warfighter-relevant insights” to deal with everything from armed militias and internal terrorism, to rightful disagreement and peaceful disobedience.

The article got me thinking about how ass-backwards that kind of thinking is, how misguided our leaders are on how to truly address the challenges we face as a planet.

Rather than using force to divide and conquer, we need to be focused on things that bring us together, strategies that bridge and share, feedback mechanisms that strengthen our responsiveness and planning, and communications that informs and empowers.

“Engagement strengthens everyone and everything.”

Working on projects around the world, I see the role played by strong, clear and engaging outreach, whether it is to educate people, rally their efforts or focus their energies.

Engagement strengthens everyone and everything. Force only degrades our humanity and perpetuates the systems that subjugate, control and exploit. The choice couldn’t be simpler. Right?

In India, this choice is especially pressing. From social and environmental issues too numerous to list, one rises quickly to the top for me: the rising sea-level.

Some 1 billion people live in low-lying coastal areas around the world, with rough estimates of 200 million living along coastlines less than five metres above sea-level.

While the exact numbers for India are not easily available (or reliable), one only need think about large parts of Mumbai and Kolkata submerged, or the deltas of the Ganges and Cauvery lost, or the disappearance of the Lakshadweep Archipelago. Literally tens of thousands of square kilometres will be lost and thousands more vulnerable to catastrophic storms, erosion and flooding.

Millions of people — many living on a meager $2 a day — will be forced from their homes, pushed into cramped living spaces, starting a mass migration that will rival any seen around the world. The desperation of an already vulnerable people is made extreme, putting unimaginable pressure of the environment and already limited resources, and destabilising the entire country and region.

Think India’s bad? Do some research on the delta that is Bangladesh.

So, is force the best way to solve the problem? I fear that it will only make it worse. Much worse.

So, what’s needed instead?

First, we need honesty — an open, transparent and fact-based assessment of the challenges. This will give everyone both the information and the responsibility to find and implement solutions. These are important elements to building connectivity in order to support actionable ideas and the efforts needed to achieve them.

Second, we need strategies that leverage individual and community strengths, while acknowledging and addressing our weaknesses. Crucial is embracing our commonality and shared path, acknowledging that real solutions are borne from working together.

Finally, we need to support change. As individuals, families, businesses, organisations, communities and nation-states, we need to radically shift our behaviours. Less greed, less consumption. More sharing, more caring. It will require adapting to instability — of food, resources, climate and humanity — and abandoning failed ways while adopting new ones that work.

A hopeful pipe-dream? Perhaps, but survival demands on us trying.

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