We believe the key to a better future is listening to and understanding the perspectives of others. This week, we highlight excerpts from a blog post by Chad Park, Executive Director and founding member of The Natural Step Canada (TNS), a non-profit organization focused on accelerating the transition to a sustainable society.
Chad’s blog post explores the benefits of engaging with people whose interests and perspectives are different than our own, the energy system we need and how to get it, and why TNS engages with Suncor. The views, opinions and positions expressed are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect those of Suncor.
On why it’s important to look beyond your allies in tackling the energy challenge:
“ … transformative change really does require understanding and working with those whose interests and perspectives are different than our own.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the hyper-polarized debates about Canada’s energy system and response to climate change, arguably our most important sustainability challenge. My observation has been that while many people tend to lament the polarization, we also tend to go back to mostly working in the realms in which we are most comfortable, mostly engaging with people who share our views. What do we miss when we follow these patterns?
Among other things, we might miss opportunities for innovation. Billions of dollars are being invested in technology to reduce emissions in the fossil fuel industry and in new clean energy technologies. While a big part of the solution to our challenge surely lies in the realm of engineering and technology, we also need to invest in social innovation. Social processes have a huge role to play in evolving the cultural narratives, relationships of trust, and policy frameworks that help accelerate new solutions. The tricky part is that some of this investment will surely need to come from sources very rooted in the “current reality” of the system.”
On the energy system we need and how to get it:
“We need to move to an energy system that is fully aligned with those science-based sustainability principles – i.e. an energy system that provides the necessary energy to meet our various societal needs and that does so without resulting in the accumulation of mined materials or persistent substances in natural systems, without eroding the capacity of ecosystems to regenerate, and without eroding social systems by inhibiting any people from meeting their needs. This is perhaps humanity’s greatest challenge, and it’s not something at which we can afford to fail. No doubt here that our current path is taking us in the wrong direction and that we need to change course quickly.
The question, then, comes down to strategy. How are we going to get there?
It is a very complex issue, and there are many strategic paths we must attempt and pursue to enable the transition. My own view is that the issue is not nearly as straightforward as the public debate might suggest and that we need to re-frame the conversation to be less about “good guys and bad guys” and more about the working together collaboratively to change the system. We think that this requires positioning our current energy system as a platform from which we can move toward the energy system the future requires of us. I outlined that viewpoint in the article Good guys & bad guys: They're all part of the same unsustainable system I wrote almost two years ago. I also wrote on this topic in an Op-Ed published in the Edmonton Journal.
Whether you agree with the sentiment of these articles or not, I believe we each must play to our own strengths in trying to enable the required transition to a sustainable future.”
On why TNS engages with Suncor:
“There is clearly a need for strong voices raising the alarm bells about the problems with our current energy system and our current path. Thankfully those voices exist. At The Natural Step, we believe that the best role we can play is to create opportunities for powerful experiences that help people to see these issues differently, and especially so for people in positions of influence. This means that our strategy is to engage – and we have a long track record of doing so with a wide range of organizations.
In this case, our experience has been that the people we deal with at Suncor have indeed been willing to engage. Not only are they willing, but they do not shy away from the tough issues and are keen to engage and to learn – and to help bring a more systemic view of energy issues to others.
We are conscious of the fact that this alone cannot be equated with sustainable practices or business models. Nor are we naïve to the fact that we are a small player in the grand scheme of the energy system and even of Suncor’s corporate strategy. We have our eyes wide open in this regard. That said, we’ll certainly have even less influence if we choose not to engage at all.”