Lots of leadership but not from the top

Sometimes we are disappointed in the lack of leadership on climate matters by political leaders.  The former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan talked of that lack of leadership on climate change as “inexcusable” and “shocking”.  He was referring to the leaders of the larger nations of the world.

Most leaders in the world are there, democratically or not, because of a promise of economic growth.  They are so wedded to this creed that it is no wonder that they are much less bothered about cutting emissions.  The zeitgeist ensures that much of their population is very taken with economic growth, and they see things that get in the way of growth as troublesome.

To cut emissions dramatically will mean putting aside the priority of economic growth and placing more emphasis on cutting emissions.  Economic growth might well follow from cutting emissions (many “techno-optimists” believe this), but we will probably have to dig into our capital to get our emissions down.

However, to say that there is no leadership in these matters is wrong.  There is lots of leadership, but you have to look in the right place for it.

Leadership comes from campaigners such as Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, thinkers such as George Monbiot and doers such as Rob Hopkins of the Transition Towns movement.  And from tens of thousands of people around the world dedicatedly serving their communities, teaching people how to live with less, setting up small organisations or businesses which help us grow food, go vegetarian, travel less, insulate our homes and generally make less of a splash.

Blaming the lack of leadership betrays an expectation that someone at the top has to tell us what to do to live in harmony with the planet.  It is a false expectation, doomed to disappoint: the people at the top got there by being absolutely the wrong people for this job.  For real leaders we just need to look around us, locally.

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