Each week I write between 2,000 and 4,000 words to bring you an episode of the Sustainable Futures Report. I also write to the paper from time time and sometimes I get published. Today I’m going to share with you a couple of those letters and a letter written by someone else. I’ll also share the words of a judge in a recent case against Just Stop Oil activists. A very different judge from the one I mentioned last time.
Finally I present my guide to dealing with denial. You can listen here or you can watch me on YouTube.
Tax Cuts or Inflation?
I got this letter published in my local paper and also in The i.
Apparently, tax cuts, which will give people more to spend, will stimulate growth, whereas pay awards, which will give people more to spend, will boost inflation. Ami missing something?
The i-paper, along with the New Scientist, is campaigning against the dreadful state of the nation’s rivers and the government’s inaction about it. I wrote,
Cleaning our rivers is a worthy cause, but the words “deckchairs” and “Titanic” come to my mind.
The overarching crisis is the climate crisis and it is clear that the government wishes to block all mention of it. Journalists covering Just Stop Oil demonstrations have been arrested and imprisoned - yes, here in the UK! Demonstrators have been told that they cannot mention the climate crisis in court. One was jailed for doing so. Other climate demonstrators accused of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance are in prison with no date for a trial. The government has enacted the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act (PCSCA) to restrict demonstrations and is now processing the Public Order Bill in an attempt to bring in the more draconian measures that were kicked out by the Lords first time round.
The words “1930s” and “fascism” come to mind.
Smelly rivers are a scandal, but the climate crisis is an existential crisis of infinitely more importance.
Has the i the courage to campaign on this issue? (Or indeed to publish this letter!)
Why am I not surprised that it wasn’t printed?
Here’s a letter, not by me, that was printed in The Guardian.
Growth or Degrowth?
I have read many Guardian articles on “economic growth”, but on reading this one (Britain the only G7 economy forecast to shrink in 2023, 31 January), I felt I had to write to you. On Friday 27 January, I and six other women received suspended prison sentences for carefully cracking windows at Barclays global HQ in April 2021. We did this to call out Barclays as Europe’s biggest fossil fuel funder, and one of the world’s leading “investors” in ecosystem destruction and plastics pollution. But I also took that action, and risked prison, to call out the whole political economy and the growth-based system that is driving us all off a cliff.
I find it deeply distressing that the Guardian does such strong journalism on for example, carbon bombs and the truths behind carbon offsets, and yet seems not to join the dots with economic growth. Surely you understand that GDP has an almost 1:1 relationship with both energy and materials use? And this isn’t going to change any time soon, certainly not in the handful of years we have to body swerve away from Earth system tipping points.
“Green growth” doesn’t exist in a world where we have already broken most planetary boundaries. Humanity must shrink its usage of materials and energy, and associated waste and pollution, or ecological, economic and societal collapse will follow. Even IPCC reports have started to mention degrowth.
Please report the truth about this in every article on “economic growth” – make clear to readers that alternative economic models exist, eg degrowth, and that the current system is not inevitable, but that if we continue with it then suffering, collapse and mass death are.
I covered Just Stop Oil last week, and mentioned the judge who stated that the climate crisis was irrelevant to the proceedings and jailed a defendant who dared to mention it. Another judge in another trial took a very different view. Here are the words of District Judge Graham Wilkinson at Wolverhampton Magistrates' Court. He was sentencing seven Just Stop Oil protesters after they disrupted operations at an Esso fuel terminal in Birmingham.
"As a judge my overriding duty is always to uphold the law without fear or favour.
"This is not a court of morals, it is a court of law, if I allow my own moral compass or political beliefs to influence my decisions and ignore the law where it is convenient to me to do so then the court becomes one where the rule of law no longer applies.
"If judges across the criminal justice system did the same then there would be no consistency and no respect for the law, decisions based on the personal beliefs of members of the judiciary cannot be consistent with the rule of law and the ideal that each law will apply to all equally.
"Trust in the rule of law is an essential ingredient of society and it will erode swiftly if judges make politically or morally-motivated decisions that do not accord with established legal principles. Indeed I would become the self-appointed sheriff if I acted in such a way.
"It is abundantly clear that you are all good people, intelligent and articulate and you have been a pleasure throughout to deal with.
"It is unarguable that manmade global warming is real and that we are facing a climate crisis. That is accepted and recognised by the scientific community and most governments (including our own).
"Your aims are to slow or even stop the advance of global warming and therefore to preserve the planet not just for generations to come but for existing generations.
"No-one can therefore criticise your motivations and indeed each of you has spoken individually about your own personal experiences, motivations and actions. Many of your explanations for your actions were deeply emotive and I am sure all listening were moved by them, I know I was.
"In simple terms you are good people with admirable aims. However, if good people with the right motivation do the wrong thing it can never make that wrong thing right, it can only ever act as substantial mitigation."
The defendants were all convicted of trespass and given a 12-month conditional discharge plus costs.
The Interview that never was
In March 2022 I was invited by the Preferences and References Podcast Team to appear on their show. In the belief that it's always a good idea to get more exposure I agreed and put the date in the diary. The date was in fact almost a year on, scheduled for 5.30pm last Saturday, 18th February 2023, but I put it in the diary and forgot about it. On Saturday I duly opened up the correspondence and noted that I should log on a few minutes early so that they could set up the sound levels and so on. At 5.10 I logged on to the meeting which was clearly headed “60 minute interview with Anthony Day” and saw the message “Waiting for the host to start the meeting.” At 5:30 I sent them an email: ready when you are. At 5:40 I sent them another email to say I couldn't wait any longer. So the interview didn't happen. Strangely, two hours later I received an email thanking me for taking part and inviting me to send my comments. I did so, pointing out that the meeting had never started so I'd never been able to join it. I'm still waiting for a response. I'm a little annoyed because I did actually do some preparation for it. We were going to talk about the Road to Net Zero, so I was all ready with an explanation of the greenhouse gas effect, the shortcomings of offsets, and all the things we need to do to make sure we get to net zero. And by the way I wasn't sure that net or zero were especially good targets.
Listening to an episode of the Preferences and References Podcast I don’t think their audience would have had any interest at all in Net Zero, so it’s perhaps just as well it never happened.
Taking the Stage
Sometimes you get the opportunity to take the stage. Either a physical real life stage, or maybe you're making a presentation on Zoom or Teams. How do you get your message across, especially if you have a difficult or sceptical audience?
A few weeks ago I was asked to explain just that to a group of sustainability professionals. This was part of a workshop series set up by Toastmasters International. This is what I told them:
I Don’t Deny It
I don't deny it. I don't deny climate change. I don't deny there's a climate crisis. I don't deny that it's caused by human activity. But we as sustainability professionals know that many people do, in fact, deny it. Some are utterly bigoted, don't want to know. Some people are not sure. Some people are too preoccupied with other things going on in their lives, like cost of living and everything else. So tonight I'm going to talk to you about preparing to present, preparing to present to a difficult, a challenging, a skeptical audience. Well, how do we start?
A famous person once said, "Start with the end in mind." And I think that's a very good piece of advice because I think the most important part of a speech is in fact the end, because that's what you leave your audience with. That's what they're going to remember. So how can you end your speech? There are many, many different ways. You might want to go out with a strident call to action, like, "Become vegan and end the curse of livestock production." Or you might want to go for something more informative, more gentle. "Think carbon because your carbon footprint and your impact on the planet are all affected by your choice of what you eat, use or wear. Think carbon." Or we could go for the motivational big finish. "We can change the world. We can change it together. We can change it now."
So how do you actually decide how you're actually going to end your speech? Well, the first and the most important principle I'm going to share with you tonight is “know your audience.” Now, we're not talking about a comfortable, cozy, Toastmaster audience tonight. No. We're out in the real world talking to people that we've never met before. A room full of strangers sitting there thinking, who is this person? Are they any good? Don't let that worry you. What you have to do is to empathise with those people. Try and understand what they're concerned about, why they've come to this presentation, what they want to know, what their fears are, what their concerns are, what their worries are.
Now by looking at the organisation that's actually arranging the particular presentation that you're delivering at, you get some idea of the sort of people who are there. And you can tell you're going to get a quite different reaction from the Global Warming Policy Foundation from a local Greenpeace meeting. But you may be able to talk to the organiser and get some idea of what people are expecting. Or indeed, you might even be able to talk to some of the delegates beforehand and find out what they want. But it is crucial, first of all, that you understand that you know your audience so that you can build the answers to what they are worried about into your presentation, and you can be ready to answer those questions that they have when you come to the Q&A session at the end.
The second thing I believe is critical is “know your topic.” What do you mean? We're all sustainability professionals here, aren't we? Of course I know my topic. I'm sure you do, but I think you may well know it too well. And the risk is you'll drop into acronyms and jargon and you'll skate over topics which are so familiar to you that you've got no idea that some people haven't really heard of them and they're not quite sure what they're about. So you have to make your presentation accessible. But it can be a bit difficult, a bit of a tightrope, because there will be people in your audience who do understand quite a lot, and you don't want to patronise them. So you can use techniques like, "Let's remind ourselves how the greenhouse effect works." So you're indicating to one group that we know you know this, and the people who really didn't are saying, "I knew that." So you're stroking everybody's ego.
The other thing to remember is in a Q&A session, we all get caught out from time to time. If you've got a question that you can't answer, don't try and blunder your way through. Admit you don't know the answer, but get the contact details of the person who asked the question and promise them an answer. Find them an answer and send them an answer. Maintain your credibility.
So how is the audience going to react? Well, you're more than likely going to have a mixed audience. You're going to have the bigot who does not want to know. You're going to have people who are looking for information they don't know and they don't understand. And you're going to have some people who know quite a lot. It'll change according to who is actually listening. You need to empathise, not criticise. As I said, you may get somebody heckling at the back who's determined to make their point and to rubbish everything that you say. Don't try and take them down, not even if you've got 10 years experience on the standup comedy circuit. Don't try and take them down. Don't argue, because if you lose your cool, you'll lose your audience. Hopefully, if you have got a particularly annoying or worrying person at the back of the room, they'll annoy and worry the audience and they'll shut them up.
So as we move towards the end of your speech, what's the objective? Ultimately, some people you will inform, they will learn more. They will understand more about what's going on. Some people will have their existing enthusiasm reinforced. There's still that bigot probably at the back of the room, but you may be able to crack open the dark door of doubt, just leaving a little crack for somebody else to leave a next time. So that's your big finish. And depending on your assessment of the audience, you will deliver it in one of the ways I described earlier or another way altogether.
So as I come towards the end of my speech, what's my big finish? Well, my message is that I believe our message is to make people aware that we're going to have to change things, but in doing so, we can make a more sustainable, a safer, and comfortable future. Our message is to encourage people to take actions to achieve that. And if they're unable to take those actions, then we need their understanding and their permission for those of us who can take those actions to do so. So my message to you as my audience tonight is that our task is vital.
Our task is urgent.
And make no mistake, our task is difficult.
But I'm confident that we will achieve it.
In fact, I don't deny it.
That’s it for this week. Thank you again for listening. I have a number of things follow up. I know some of you want me to look in greater detail at population, and I certainly haven’t finished looking at offsets. I’m recording an interview on that early next month and will let you know when it’s ready for publication. I did an interview on the consequences of the climate crisis for the insurance industry the other day. I’m waiting for them to transcribe the interview as promised before I can publish that one. Anything else I should look into?
Become a Patron
I’m going to mention Patreon, as I frequently do. I have a small core of loyal supporters to whom I am very grateful. They provide a valuable contribution towards the cost of hosting the Sustainable Futures Report and enable me to subscribe to journals which help with my research or help to buy particular articles. As you know, the Sustainable Futures Report is non-profit, without advertising, sponsorship or subsidies. I like it that way because I’m completely independent and beholden to no-one, apart from you, the listener.
I would like a few more - no, a lot more - patrons to make a small contribution each month. Not because I want to grow rich, but because I want to share the message with more people and to have the resources to promote this podcast to the wider audience which I think it deserves.
If you’re not already a patron hurry over to patreon.com/sfr and sign up, and I’ll never mention it again. Well, not often.
Thanks again for listening.
That was the Sustainable Futures Report .
I’m Anthony Day.
Bye for now.
Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/wilhei-883152/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=705667">Willi Heidelbach</a> from <a href=“https://pixabay.com//?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=705667">Pixabay</a>
Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/pplbuilder-3104838/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1596210">Michelle L Steffes, CPLC</a> from <a href=“https://pixabay.com//?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1596210">Pixabay</a>
Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/stevepb-282134/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1619740">Steve Buissinne</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com//?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1619740">Pixabay</a>