C2GTalk: An interview with Sandrine Dixson-Declève Co-President of the Club of Rome

How can the idea of a planetary emergency help the world emerge from crisis?

20 July 2021

This interview was recorded on 29 June 2021 and is also available with interpretation into 中文, Español and Français.

Understanding that we face a planetary emergency can help countries and citizens around the world overcome our many interlocking crises, says Sandrine Dixson-Decleve, co-president of the Club of Rome during aC2GTalk interview. Bringing international, national and local leaders into inclusive, people-focused governance processes can help our emergence into a new type of civilization. 

Technology has a role to play – if governed properly – but cannot be relied upon to ‘save’ us. In particular, climate-altering approaches like solar radiation modification (SRM) or large-scale carbon dioxide removal (CDR) need governance in order to manage risks. Science and stories are needed to help citizens understand potential futures, and to find a way forward for people, planet and prosperity.  

Sandrine Dixson-Declève is currently the Co-President of the Club of Rome and divides her time between lecturing, facilitating change in business and policy models and advisory work. She holds several advisory positions for the European Commission: Chair, Expert Group on Economic and Societal Impact of Research & Innovation (ESIR); Assembly Member, Climate Mitigation & Adaptation Mission (DGR&I); Former member of Technical Expert Group (TEG) on Sustainable Finance and current member of Platform on Sustainable Finance; United Nations: Food Summit Action Track 5 Resilience, She sits on the Boards companies/organisations/institutes such as BMW, EDP, UCB, Climate KIC, UCL-Bartlett School of Environment and the IEEP. Sandrine is also a Senior Associate and faculty member of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), Ambassador, for the Energy Transition Commission (ETC) and WEALL. She co-founded the Women Enablers Change Agent Network (WECAN) and has been recognised by GreenBiz as one of the 30 most influential women across the globe driving change in the low carbon economy and promoting green business.

Below are edited highlights from the full C2GTalk interview shown in the video above. Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

In August of last year the Club of Rome launched its Planetary Emergency Plan 2.0, making the case that we are living beyond the carrying capacity of the planet.  We are putting human systems on a collision course with natural systems, of which we are a part.  Could you help us understand a little bit about the core ideas behind this concept and then maybe how they relate to the various ways in which the world is approaching its many interconnected crises? 

Absolutely.  As you may or may not know, the Club of Rome was started by Aurelio Peccei more than fifty years ago, in 1968, and in 1972 with the publication of The Limits to Growth Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, and the other distinguished scientists who worked on the modeling of actually where population growth would continue to put stress on the planetary boundaries, indicated that we would have continuous crises. 

And for the last fifty years the Club of Rome has been discussing this, has been speaking about it, publishing, and engaging with policymakers to ensure that we take into consideration the fact that we are as human beings really putting stress on these planetary boundaries.  Three years ago, with the climate crisis, and what we were claiming to be a climate “emergency,” we felt that it was important to bring out our Climate Emergency Plan at the Potsdam Institute.  I know that you have also interviewed Johan Rockström recently, and he and I felt that it was necessary once again to speak about the fact that we are in an emergency.  Actually, Mark, interestingly enough no one was using the “emergency” language. 

We came out in August, and then in September Greta Thunberg actually hit the streets, and I think the voice of the youth was absolutely fundamental in starting to open our eyes once again to the fact that we truly are in an emergency. 

So what has happened over the last three years?  The Climate Emergency Plan has turned into a Planetary Emergency Plan because we have been hit not only with climate crises — all those crises that we were told were going to hit us by Donella Meadows and Dennis Meadows 50 years ago — but we are now confronted with a biodiversity crisis and the fact that we are losing the extinction of species every single day as well as now the health crisis.  If you take those tipping points together and if you look also at the human dimension, we felt it was absolutely essential that we start to talk about this existential crisis and that we clearly state that we are now in a planetary emergency, that it is no longer just a climate emergency, and that these tipping points together are now creating the greatest existential risk. 

How do we then move forward?  The first was claiming that we are in an emergency, and we have now a series of jurisdictions across the globe — more than 1900 different cities and 23 nations — that have declared an emergency.  So for us the case within the Planetary Emergency Plan was to first declare, but then the second was to ensure that actually we bring in key actions, that we activate the different necessary local authorities, national authorities,  different agencies around this emergency and around ten core actions and commitments for the global commons because we know we are fully dependent on our forests, on our oceans, on our rivers, on our cryosphere, the Arctic, etc., but also that we have ten key new calls to action for transformational change, which span the need to shift out of fossil energy and to ensure that we also move into a circular and regenerative economy, and then thirdly and importantly that we look at that human dimension, that we bring in here just transition plans, that we work more with indigenous peoples, who are actually the keepers of our land, small holders, small farmers, and that we take into consideration that this is a journey that has to be communicated to people and give them the possibility to emerge from the emergency. 

One of the key messages that we also have in this Planetary Emergency Plan is that once we declare an emergency, let’s be clear that we can actually emerge if we do it now because we don’t have enough time.  That is a little bit the genesis of where we come from and why we feel that it is so important to start to work with nation-states but also local authorities and citizens to understand what the emergency means in practice and translate that into key actions. 

This rarely happens, but just now that you linked the words “emergency” and “emerge” I realized I had never linked those two ideas before.  Obviously, it is an emergence of some sort.  At the same time, I have been at various events where people are talking about emerging.  Tell me a little bit more about how you link the concepts of emergency and emergence or emerging? 

For the Club of Rome and also the work that I do in advising different corporate organizations as well as non-governmental organizations and also governments, I think it is really important that we talk about emergence.  It is almost like a renaissance.  It is a positive connotation of the emergency.  But you can’t have one without the next. 

Unfortunately, humanity often has to have its back against the wall before it starts to act.  That’s why we still need to ensure that we anchor emergency plans.  But then the beauty of emergence is to say that we as humanity, if we do use our collective wisdom, if we do understand the benefits of technology for people, planet, and prosperity and not just for profit, if we start to shift into a new type of civilization — so this goes beyond just the technocratic understanding of the emergency and just putting in place technological actions.  This is about systems change.  This is about understanding that actually we are at a time where not only have we gone beyond our planetary boundaries but where our economic system does not service people, planet, and prosperity, where we have not taken into consideration the true value systems that we need actually — tapping into the subconsciousness that is coming out of Covid-19, by the way — and understanding what truly is essential. 

I think there is a beauty in emergence which demonstrates that, okay, there is a level of despair in emergency, but if we can come together and look at a new civilization, a new society, one where we don’t have to just think about gloom and doom, then we can bring some level of light, creativity, co-creation, and the beauty of building a better future bouncing forward rather than just building back better.  I think that actually is the excitement of the emergence. 

Let me just add one last point.  Within the Club of Rome we have set up five key what we call “action hubs.”  These impact hubs are looking at not only financing change but change in the finance system, rethinking the finance system, transformational economics, for example, for the 21st century, looking at new indicators for well-being, new indicators for economic development, which we are working on with the Potsdam Institute, by the way, and the Norwegian Business School and coming up with a brand-new model, which we are calling the “Earth for All” model and project, which is building in turnaround pathways, again an excitement behind the emergence, and then working with youth through our youth hub, and then understanding how all of that comes together. 

You mentioned “limits to growth” earlier on, obviously in the foundational documents.  Back then, of course, there was a warning that humanity’s behavior would lead to a convergence of crisis — convergence, emergence.  Anyway, we didn’t act accordingly. What have we learnt since then?  Part of it will be the context has shifted, and some of these things have emerged as predicted, but what have we learnt since then about how to communicate about this and how to translate this understanding into actual action by governments?  Are there some key points along the road where the Club of Rome took some lessons and is applying that now? 

I think what we have really learned is that science-based decision making, for example, is fundamental.  If you look at the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that has come out, we talk about Net Zero for 2050.  Now we are going to have to think about Net Zero for 2030.  If there is a willingness and not short-term decision making, which unfortunately is also part of the learnings, that with the current political system as we have it and the short-term decision making, we therefore again are caught in a system that doesn’t put in place the real systems shifts that we need to deal with this emergency that we have before us.  One of the key learnings there is ensuring that we actually get the political will to translate the science into policy, and that is really fundamental. 

I think the other key learning is that you have to bring onboard international, national, and local leaders.  We can see it from the Paris Agreement and also the work we did through Paris.  The local authorities have been phenomenal in working with their communities, and in fact they have been the first.  Even in the United States (U.S.), when we had President Trump in power and when he pulled out of the Paris Agreement, what kept on going in terms of decarbonization in the U.S. economy was the cities.  It was the states.  It was their decision. 

So I think the big learning there is that the big kind of only international sphere of decision making or national sphere is not going to work.  The whole bottom-up movement, the citizens’ movement, the voice of the youth, the way in which we can optimize and bring different stakeholders and have radical partnerships, are also the key learnings. 

So we do have a lot of possibilities within our toolbox.  We have the technology, we know we have the capital and the financial possibility to shift, and we know now through many surveys that people are saying, “We want change,” coming out of Covid-19 but also prior to Covid-19, and many of them are realizing that this is the first generation that is going to make less than their parents, that we have the highest level — in particular in the West — of suicide rates, and the highest level of mental illness and disenfranchisement.  So there is a malaise, and I think that all of this together demonstrates that there is a growing part of society that is calling for a change. 

Some of what you were talking about is very much in line with what the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative (C2G) considers to be governance.  It’s not just governments; it’s a much broader concept, bringing in decision makers, discussions, and learning across all of society at different levels. 

Putting this within the frame of emergency, does that affect the way decisions are made, how risk is calculated?  Does it potentially even imply, as in the case of some concepts of emergency, suspending governance norms and rushing to — for example, in Covid-19 we saw a change in the speed at which vaccines could be delivered, at a broader level do we see a shift in the way we actually go about governance under an emergency framing? 

Absolutely.  Of course, the call for better governance and more targeted governance cannot be superseded by governance for the few and not having a continued public discourse or democratic system.  I think governance is absolutely fundamental coming from the principle that we need to ensure that the decision making is made for the people and for citizens and also trying to enhance obviously again the livelihoods of these citizens. 

If we think about the emergency plan, an emergency plan should influence decision making and action taking.  When a nation declares an emergency — in the same way that a business declares an emergency — you put in place the right actions, you put in place the right agencies, and you put in place the right people and policies to shift.  So you have to design the plans, you have to break down the silos, and you have to ensure that when you do that you continue to communicate. 

Those are the opportunities.  It actually is a better form of governance in my view because it is a governance for people, planet, and prosperity working together to ensure that we make this work.  And let me say that in that sense, the “well-being governments” of New Zealand, of Iceland, of Scotland, of Wales and Finland, who have had well-being indicators in place since before Covid-19, and also a way of communicating that was totally different and was much more around ensuring that people understood why we might have to put certain policies in place but not using them to strong-arm and curtail freedom, which I think is very important. 

These are the benefits, but let me get you into the risks, because there are some risks clearly.  I think the key risk is the misuse of power and autocratic decision making, the fact that actually we are not taking this new governance model in an emergency realm as a way to ensure that we protect people, but instead this is all about power, and power of the leader or of an individual. 

Also, the immediacy of needing certain solutions, and that means starting to pick certain winners.  This is where geoengineering could become an issue.  That fact that we are going to race as fast as possible to what we think could be the most effective and fastest solution, or as some would even claim, “Let’s get off the planet and go to Mars.”  I would say our mission is not to get to Mars or the moon; our mission is to save the planet.  We are not just going to evacuate. 

This in itself could be a real risk, and if we don’t in particular put in place the right governance and rules to ensure that we don’t get into that risk area and that we manage our risks properly, then I think we have a proper plan in place, but those are definitely potential risks.  And then public panic, that we enhance the panicking of people, the despair, that we do not explain properly again that this could be an emergence or a renaissance. 

Risk is notoriously difficult to communicate about.  It is complicated, especially when you are trying to assess the risks of doing something against the risks of not doing something, and then of course risks are different for different people and people have different frameworks via which they decide how to assess risk.  What are you learning about how you get a broader conversation with publics in some sort of broader governance system about risk, helping people to understanding risk, in a way that doesn’t make everyone’s eyes glaze over and using all sorts of complicated mathematical formulae and so on?  How do you get people onto the same kind of understanding of what would be considered a good result and a bad result?  What are you learning about that? 

I think beyond obviously the evidence, the case studies, and the science we need to get better at telling stories.  We need to get better at bringing examples to people that they will understand.  The risk to an Indian woman or a German man is totally different, and even within either Germany or India the risks are completely different depending on where you sit in society and where you are. 

I always find it quite amazing that if you say to someone, for example, “Climbing onto this plane, the pilot is claiming that it is going to crash or actually it has a 90 percent possibility of crashing, would you, even if it was 2 percent, climb onto that plane and still allow the pilot to fly you?”  I think if we explain in the same way about the planet and say, “The direction that we are taking right now is basically going to make us all crash; we will no longer have homes; we will no longer have livelihoods; we will continue to have more pandemics,” but don’t just explain that in a vacuum.  Give them a very specific case that they might understand or going into a boat that is going to sink.  I think that is a way where people will start to think: “Hold on.  There is a risk here.” 

Translating that risk into action we know is very difficult.  Some individual people and citizens will go ahead and shift their lifestyles and are ready to do so.  Many, however, will be waiting for the political will, for the levers to come actually from politicians and business leaders, and this is where I believe we need to strong-arm a bit more our political leaders and our business leaders and indicate that they have to be part of this emergence, that we cannot do it without them.  It is not just about citizen will.  It will be about putting in place the right governance and the right rules that are comparable to the risk at hand. 

Let’s jump into climate especially as we are hearing a lot about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in the news recently, some quite alarming things, but also just a general sense from a growing number of very reputable bodies that 1.5 °C is looking like a very difficult if not close to impossible task at the moment.  The World Meteorological Organization I think suggested the chance of reaching, at least temporarily, 1.5 °C over the next five years is 4 percent.  We are seeing a lot of these kinds of warnings. Obviously to achieve net-zero emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 °C you are going to have to see transformational emission reduction and large-scale Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR).  Are you seeing the planetary emergency framing helping leaders to move beyond rhetoric and actually start taking the decisions that need to be made?  We feel a lot in the air of commitments, but are things actually really beginning to happen at the pace and speed and limited time that is left, if there is any, to limit warming to 1.5 °C, and how is the emergency framing playing into that right now? 

I think if you look at the secretary-general, who is already using the emergency framework of the United Nations, it is pretty clear that the emergency framing has now basically come into the discourse. The key problem we have now is that before we thought that the emergency was not here right now.  We were still able to say: “Okay, yes, we’re moving into an emergency, but we have until 2050, and then we can actually hit net zero in 2050.”  But now we are hearing from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and recent scientific reports that, no, we don’t have until 2050, and many of us have been saying this for quite some time.  But the clarity of the message will be coming out in August in the final report. 

So what do you actually do then?  I think, yes, the emergency framing is now part of the discourse, but it is translating that discourse into action. 

We are seeing a series of different types of initiatives that are moving forward and that are getting us into this real transformational thinking.  We have the Race to Zero, which is being led by the champions for the United Nations Conference of the Parties 26 (COP26).  We have the Race to Resilience, which is bringing all these different business leaders and local leaders together where they are really starting to commit to a shift.  We also have clearly our own emergency plan, and we are starting to see that our calls for at least 50 percent reductions each decade is now being taken into consideration with the 2030 calls.  But again, we have to rethink because things are changing so fast, that that is not even enough, and we are going to have to go even further. 

I think the third — in fact, three and four — key area is the fact that we have more and more reports indicating that the technology is here, whether it is parity of pricing with regard to renewables.  We look at the impact assessment report recently that says also that we need to move faster and we can do it with the technology that we have and new innovations.  I am ambassador to the Energy Transition Commission, which has come out with a series of reports on electrification, power, and green hydrogen. 

So we know we have the technology.  We have more and more of our finance leaders, whether it’s Mark Carney, who was previously at the British central bank, but also others, who are saying that we can do this. I think the key now is the speed and the fact that we have to — and this comes back to the previous point — get better at describing what the future looks like.  If we don’t do that, I am worried, Mark, that we will not get people on the journey, that they will protest in the streets.  We already have social unrest.  We already have the gilets jaunes just because we increased the diesel tax in France.  We will have more people protesting if we cannot show them what the future looks like, that it is not just about sacrifice, that actually it is creating a more balanced economy that fosters well-being.  I think that is fundamental. 

I wonder if I could just ask your thoughts on the Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) part of the equation.  Is that something that you are considering?  There is a lot of interest in it right now.  Is it possible to tackle some of the hardest-to-abate emissions?  Do you think there is a way in which society can produce some of those options, both nature-based and technology-based without undermining emission cuts, and how much is that part of your thinking now? 

I think we need all tools in the toolbox right now.  Absolutely we need to think about carbon removal, and we do need to bring it into a perspective that isn’t just about offsetting, that it doesn’t just become an easy way out. 

The biggest problem with humanity is that it is complacent, and complacency is truly what’s killing us.  That is also, by the way, I think the beauty of the message of emergence: Let’s really get down and demonstrate, against all odds, that actually we are truly wise.  As Jane Goodall says, “We are the most intelligent species, but we are not necessarily the wisest.”  Can we prove Jane wrong?  Can we actually prove everyone wrong and say, yes, collectively we can come together, use these different tools in the toolbox, and work together to enhance that? 

My only caveat to that is that we have to stop thinking that technology is going to save the day.  If we don’t shift our consumption, if we don’t shift our ways of living and actually look at a new type of economy, a finance system that underpins this shift, then we won’t get there. 

I just want to touch on one of the issues that C2G is very focused on, which is the governance of a new potential set of approaches that people are talking about, which I don’t think anyone yet is saying “saving the day.”  It just might be another way to reduce risks, so for those arguing in favor of this research, called solar radiation modification (SRM),  the idea that you might reflect some sunlight to lower temperatures potentially to give yourself a bit more time, although some people have rejected that concept of buying time, but at least reduce the risk of overshooting temperature goals, and this may come to a head as we also hit some potential tipping points. Ideas to brighten marine clouds, increase ground reflectivity, spray — this is the controversial one — reflective aerosols into the stratosphere, and I think the IPCC is going to be taking a good look at this in its assessment report. At the same time clearly, there is a lot of uncertainty and concern about these ideas and their governance and what effect even their consideration might have on other action.  How might the planetary emergency approach help us think about governing the consideration of the research — or even at one stage potentially the deployment — of some of these ideas?  How can it help people think about the risks of doing something against the risks of not doing it?  Can the emergency framing guide people in the governance of these approaches? 

I started my career by putting environmental management systems in nuclear facilities.  So let me take the nuclear risk and the emergency risk.  In a nuclear facility there are clear protocols of what to do and what not to do.  My message on this particular point — and has been from the beginning in terms of an emergency plan — is that we have to put in those protocols of what we should be doing and what we cannot do. The protocols are not just about the technology.  The protocols are because they understand that people will take risks and that people are a risk, no matter how they handle certain emergency situations.  They may cause an emergency, and they may not handle an emergency properly. 

So I think it is very important when we look at the way in which we proposed our emergency plans to also take into consideration that if you work in an area where there have been emergencies in the past you learn from that.  You put in place the right protocols, the right governance rules in order to ensure that actually you get out of the emergency, and then you truly protect people, prepare for the next emergency, and then transform if you need to transform.  That is also part of the messaging that we are coming out with a group of experts in the European Commission on research and innovation because we’re saying we have to think about the protect, prepare, and transform elements of the way in which we deal with emergency planning. 

How does one find those protocols when sometimes the discussion may not allow essentially guardrails but actually pit people who have a fundamental ideological position towards one side or another, that “We should not do this” or “We should be exploring this?”  How do you go about helping society to take decisions when especially, let’s say something like stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI), which can touch on our entire understanding of who we are, how we relate to the cosmos, religious points of view, and what humanity should or should not be doing?  How can you translate some of those big questions into what might sound like a more technocratic process of going about designing rules, regulations, guidelines, and safeguards?  How do you square those different aspects of taking decisions about this? 

Clearly it is going to have to happen at the international level as well as at the national level.  As we have nuclear protocol treaties or other treaties we will have to think about a treaty in terms of governance because it could truly either get into the wrong hands or also truly have an impact.  It is very difficult to know right now what this technology could do if it was applied in many countries, across many atmospheric territorial areas as possible.  I do worry about that.  I think that is why we would need to look at the international level in terms of what types of governance rules we would need to put in place. 

But I also think the key issue that we have is that we still have this siloed thinking and this siloed approach to policy.  If geoengineering or any other aspect of geoengineering or carbon removal or, as you indicate, solar radiation modification (SRM), is truly going to come into being, it has to be looked at in a broader package of what the other tools in the toolbox are so that we can decide — again, together — what makes the most sense.  Because, yes, we may have to immediately agree, as soon as possible, in particular with the IPCC report that is coming out that we are going to have to go even faster.  So what does “going even faster” mean?  And then evaluate that and optimize by decreasing the silos in these different approaches and ensuring that we really bring in all of the different possible mechanisms to enable us to get to decarbonization faster.  That would be my first point. 

I think that the other key point would be that any type of emergency framing at the governance level which would enable some of these technologies to come to fruition would really need to be very clear in terms of the decision-making process: Who actually has the ultimate say?  Again, coming from my nuclear hat here, it is very clear in the protocol who has the ultimate say in terms of either a nuclear accident or the way in which you are actually managing a nuclear site?  I think all of that needs to be very clearly outlined in whatever protocol or treaty that we put forward. 

You mentioned that “We can’t rely on technology to save us,” I think that was the phrase that you used.  Saving is an interesting one.  It has all sorts of connotations, the concept of “saving.” What I have learnt as I have been exploring some of these issues is the degree to which you often find that you think you are having a conversation about one thing, but actually you are often having a conversation about a fundamental attitude towards technology or nature, and sometimes you see these two in opposition.  There is a good book written about it called, The Wizard and the Prophet: A History of the Environmental Movement. We have always got this duality where you have to pick sides sometimes, and you hear this in the discourse: “Nature is good, technology is bad” ,“No, we’ll only get it with technology.”  Are nature and technology in opposition, or are there ways of finding a way to bring this together to somehow overcome the difficulties, misunderstandings, and sometimes the fundamental moral disagreements that people have when we are having these difficult discussions about geoengineering or any other difficult technologies?  How do we reconcile nature and technology moving forwards? 

I think that’s a very good question, and I would like to maybe take a step back in terms of what I think is the ultimate hampering of humanity in making the right decisions, and that is the human being, him or herself.  I think the biggest issue is that we have this disjointed approach to the way in which we deal with technology and nature, and we have a disjointed approach in terms of the way in which we actually look at the world around us rather than realizing, as my co-president at the Club of Rome would say, that “We are part of nature and nature is part of us.” 

And we produce technology.  Technology is not produced in a vacuum.  “Let’s pretend that technology is not actually being invented by human beings.”  So it’s too easy to blame technology and say that technology does not have a role, but then we have to ask ourselves: “What is the purpose of technology?  What is the purpose not only of technology but our economic system?  What is the purpose of our financial system?” 

If we then go back and ask that question, that is when we start to unlock the real issues and the challenges.  Because the purpose of technology — and I grew up in Silicon Valley, just outside of San Francisco and Palo Alto, the heart of the dot-com boom and the information technology (IT) boom.  And the fact is that we now have the highest percentage of heroin users in San Francisco.  We have the highest percent of homelessness just around San Francisco.  You cannot tell me that this dot-com boom, IT boom was technology for the people.  People are becoming homeless because they cannot afford to live in these areas, so we have totally forgotten actually what technology is for.  We have forgotten what the market is for. 

I sit on the UN (United Nations) Food Systems Summit, and we talk about resilience in food systems and we talk about access to nutritious food.  What about access to food, full stop?  What about access to water?  Technology can enable us in some ways, food-smart technology, but just putting in place the right rules and the right ways in which we can enhance access to food, the right distribution systems, etc., will also enable us as will ensuring that the soil that grows, that we don’t deforest as we actually trade in certain commodities, etc. 

What I am trying to say, Mark, is that I often find that we always ask the simple questions, but we don’t dig deeper into the real causes of why we got to where we are, which is the greatest existential risk to humanity.  And we are our largest culprit.  We are the ones that are making that the greatest risk.  It is now the time to admit that nature, technology, and the human spirit together could potentially get us out of this mess if we act fast enough. 

If I could just finish on one slightly personal note.  When anybody spends too much time in climate and reading all these documents, especially emergency, and realizing the scale and complexity, it could become very difficult to deal with emotionally.  It can lead to despondency and grief and even some forms of trauma.  How do you maintain your enthusiasm and sense of optimism whilst also not downplaying the gravity of the crisis and accepting it in all its deep complex difficulty?  How do you manage that personally? 

It is not always easy, and I must say that when I joined the Club of Rome I really started to read all of the publications and thought to myself, My God, we’ve been talking about this now for the last 50 years.  I had already started 30 years ago my career in this area, and I am still actively involved. 

Part of the problem is that we don’t understand history, and we don’t bring history and our learnings to bear, and that is something that excites me, that we can learn from the past, that we can also learn from the incredible heroes and heroines that we have had in the past and in the present as ways to really get us out of this mess, working together in some incredible situations — conflict zones, fragile zones, and in urban zones, rural zones, etc. — people who are really constantly positive and trying to create a better life, not only for themselves and their families but for others. 

I am also a mother, and as a mother I have no choice.  I brought two children into this world, and there is no way that I am going to give up until my last breath trying to make sure that their lives are as good as mine was.  That’s my fundamental goal in life, to ensure and secure the well-being of my children and future generations. 

I guess the last point is that I really believe that we can get through this.  I like the idea of innovation.  I like the idea of coming forward with new ideas and working together collectively to really get through the hardship.  I am not frightened by hardship.  I think that is a problem, because most people are.  But we have to understand that if we are going to see the light, sometimes we are going to have to have some gray, and it’s that gray that will start to enable us to get towards the light. 

So for me it’s important to continue to wake up in the morning and to believe that we truly can do this, even if it is daunting, and even if most of the studies that are coming out today are demonstrating that it is going to be an incredible challenge.  But I don’t see any way out, and here I am continuing to pound the desk and talk to you about the key challenges that we have before us and the possible opportunities. 

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