Future proofing leads to better public discourse
Learning how to engage more effectively with the future and with climate change is concomitant with a more effective public discourse.
Public discourse in many countries is fractured and polarised. Different voices and approaches to society have always existed. What has changed recently is that the voices are no longer listening to each other. The danger is that each faction will start to see "The Other" in the other voices and when that happens fear creeps in and countries split. There are many examples of this throughout history.
Even if this extreme perspective is too much for some, it is certainly the case that when faced with existential threats such as Covid-19 or climate change that polarisation and lack of discourse hinders effective responses.
Healing these wounds will take personal awareness, mutual respect, creativity, action and acknowledging, but moving on from, past guilt and disagreements. These are themes also explored in the following sections, but I've added the additional motivation of personal development.
The extremely significant implication is that the approach to improving our public discourse require much the same shift in personal attitudes that are needed to be ready to be future-proof and able to tackle climate change.
Some of the lessons from our community Covid-19 responses can feasibly be taken forward to help us address public discourse and climate change. For example:
- Acknowledge that there is an external problem to which we need to respond
- Mutual trust that others will take equivalent action (e.g. other businesses are furloughing staff, other countries are paying for testing)
- Feedback and transparency highlights benefits of participation (e.g. falling infection rates, hospital system is still working, information is available and folk are curious to find out what is happening)
- Respect for others (e.g. social distancing, not mocking mask wearing, acknowledging the experience of being furloughed or being stuck at home)
- Shaken from the status-quo (e.g. businesses are dependent upon the state not separate, the world is a big place and externalities have a direct impact on me)
- Role of the state and community (e.g. health service, furlough, community shopping networks)
- Helping neighbours today is more important than worrying about past arguments
- Business owners have created new business models in order to cope or to explore new opportunities (e.g. online food tasting sessions with mailed-out samples)
- We've managed to cope without access to things or services that might previously have been considered vital (e.g. fast fashion, commuting)
The question that follows for me is: "So what version of these responses are useful in regard to personal future proofing?
I think there are two branches, one that supports you as an individual and one that supports your role in society.
You as an individual:
- Creative - new business models
- Diversification - shaken from the status-quo
- Taking action - helping neighbours
- The past is done - helping neighbours, respect for others
- Cognitive bias - acknowledging an external problem that doesn't fit our usual world view
- Future self - will my future self look back with pride
- Simplification - realising that some things in life are more important than others and we didn't need the "others" after all
Each item in this list is discussed in more detail over the following chapters.
You in society:
- Mutual trust that others will also taking action
- Visibility that others are taking action
- Feedback highlights benefits of participation
- State, business and citizens all work together
Each item in this second list is discussed in the following section "Small Cogs and Rapid Change".