I wrote this for a panel discussion with ideas producer Paul Kennedy at the Banff School on June 18/07. What do you think??
A NEW KIND OF LEADERSHIP
â€œWhere are we going? If so many previous ages ran into natural limits and crashed, how has our runaway trainâ€¦ been able to keep on gathering speed?â€
Ronald Wright â€“ Short History of Progress
The planet is at or over the tipping point at which severe and unpredictable consequences for all life, including people. Western countries are consuming levels of energy and producing emissions that are not sustainable economically, let alone environmentally. Fittingly, Western countries have the knowledge, technology and economic resources as well as the moral responsibility, to lead the way in progressive energy policies that will reduce fossil fuel use, increase carbon sequestration and move to clean, renewable energy sources.
Our current Alberta obsession with fossil fuels â€“ rather than a balanced energy policy – has many characteristics of addiction â€“ habitual use with progressive harmful effects. Other features outlined in The Addictive Society (Anne Wilson Schaef) include denial, arrogance, and interference with life-giving relationships.
As a politician the first step to leadership is admitting that I am part of the problem; the good news is that I can therefore be part of the solution.
I hereby acknowledge that I am an â€˜oilaholicâ€™. I am powerless over my addiction to oil and my life has become unmanageable. Light, heat, transportation and food all depends on fossil fuels. I am also sensitive to the fear among many of us in â€˜Oilaholics Anonymousâ€™ â€“ that coming out may also be dangerous to our health. After all, I lost my job as Health Officer in 2002 for saying (in public) that I thought the Kyoto Accord to reduce fossil fuel use would be good for peopleâ€™s health as well as the environment.
I believe addiction is part at least, of what we are up against, individually and collectively. And as the Stern Report says, we must invest significantly now or pay exceedingly high costs later, in lives and in displaced people from floods and famine.
Leadership for us in the Alberta Liberal Caucus it means very concrete action to set a cap on carbon emissions by 2012 and begin absolute reductions thereafter. In addition our policy would
a) reduce subsidies to the fossil fuel industry
b) increase incentives to level the energy playing field for energy efficiency technology and clean renewables.
c) establish a provincial Council including government, industry, the scientific community and NGOâ€™s to chart a way forward
d) establish a fund, including money from the natural gas rebate program to retro-fit for energy efficient homes and businesses.
A New Kind of Leadership
I am intrigued by the notion of Servant-Leadership (also a book by Robert Greenleaf) which includes elements of adaptive leadership. Servant leaders recognize their humanity and shift, as needed, from leading to following; are able to critique and empower people; apologize when appropriate and inspire where possible; and move from reflection to action and back again. Leadership must be fully human, yet courageous; speak the unspeakable and be willing to be uncomfortable â€“ modelling a new way of living. This is a tall order now, as it has always been. Today, activists, many of them women and youth, community and church groups; even politicians – are shifting economic, social and political thinking and action to emphasize our global unity and responsibility in this. The narrow economic straitjacket must cede to the primacy of environmental integrity. In Alberta today this is still heresy but the 50% of us whose job is not tied to the fossil fuel industry can and must speak this truth to power.
My own recovery from addiction is grounded in faith and the support of my family and community. As a step in my recovery I replaced my car with a bicycle and public transport; we â€˜energuidedâ€™ our home and now heat our water with solar panels. We compost, recycle and try to invest ethically. At a deeper level Iâ€™m also working at simplifying my life, taking regular quiet time, learning to talk out my feelings, and finding new meaning and hope in social justice work â€“ thanks in part to the women in my life.
Good leaders recognize the underlying psychological, social and spiritual and political malaise in which climate change has arisen and for which each of us must take responsibility. It is time for a new politics in which a new type of adaptive leader – Servant-leader â€“ shares with all humanity the need to move through denial and arrogance and grief. And in hope, good leaders acknowledge that in the social and political cauldron of community we may yet learn together to heal ourselves and the planet.