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Strategic Despair and the Indecency of Hope

October 21, 2018


I was in conversation with a board member earlier this week and part of our discussion touched on the latest IPCC climate report. In a word:  6,000 scientific studies suggest we are unlikely to avert the worst of global environmental disruption. This board member, recently retired from a large multinational firm, said something that I cannot shake:  "we’ve crossed the line."


The reality, I know, is that we crossed the line many times and many years ago. The ecological footprint calculations for years have suggested we have spent down our planetary budget earlier and earlier each year. When consumers run out of money they can zoom right past zero with a credit card.  On earth, the "credit card" is the future; the credit card is our grandchildren; the credit card is the lives of people in Florida, Puerto Rico, and California. 


And perhaps it was my naïveté that thought that we might preserve more of what we had. I can be an optimist to a fault. I thought that business could keep us from crossing the line. I thought that sustainability in business, the fact that we could "do well by doing good" would save more of what matters. I thought we could keep from crossing the line.


I was wrong. In fact, when I was born (1974) by many estimates, the line had already been crossed.  I was born into ecological deficit. 


That doesn’t mean I am giving up. That would be cowardice. I will never ever give up on good work to be done. "On the last day of the world /I would want to plant a tree." W.S. Merwin. This is my own reckoning with what this work is really about.