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Our Insights 27 Jul 2010

Fusion Cuisine

By Peter Zollinger

Two of our recent blogs illustrate perfectly the contradictions and challenges of both collective and individual action: First, there is Alicia’s outrage at the lack of the same re the Gulf oil disaster. And then, most recently, Patrin has been sharing her challenges to become No Impact Woman.

Such contradictions and challenges are integral to our human existence. The art is to use them to energize and kick us into action.

A fusion of collective and individual action, that is. One does not go without the other. There needs to be balance to make real impact and develop a voice to be heard.

How to take the best of both worlds and unleash new fusion flavors? Well, experimenting is fine. But you still have to respect the basic laws of the culinary (and chemistry) sort. Applied to the issue at hand – our energy future and own footprints – outrage is in order. To direct it mainly at BP, however, misses the point and carries with it a sour taste of hypocrisy. It is all our thirst for oil as well as expectation of comfortable retirement thanks to our pension funds (who hold most of the oil stocks) which are the principal drivers behind the oil-dependent energy system we have.

A promising fusion for a New World Cuisine therefore implies that we carefully direct collective action where it hits a real systems leverage point. Outrage needs to happen on the steps of Congress, at Westminster, in front of the Bundeshaus in Berne. And at the ballot box, of course. The law makers of this world need to understand that they will only be elected on a now-carbon energy future platform. The trustees of our pension funds need to understand that we want them to achieve long-term investment returns derived from positive impacts only.

Individual action, meanwhile, is critical for impact, consistency and legitimacy. This means absolute personal impact reductions for all of us. There is no way around it. We all need to strive to get our own personal footprints down. Massively down. Rationalizing our current lifestyles or accepting to be victims of circumstance won’t do. Luckily, quality of life is not directly correlated to stuff and distance.

And, remember what we tell our clients, buying emissions compensation is only the measure of last resort.

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