Tuesday 9 November 2021

Climate action inspiration + COP26 hope (I hope)

I don't usually weigh in on world affairs here. I think about them, of course, as most of us do. Talk with friends. Take action where I can, particularly locally, and try to live low-impact ("no impact" is unattainable, of course; the name of my blog was always intended to be aspirational and playful, by the way, not prescriptive). But this feels different. The climate crisis makes it different.

Now that we're halfway through COP26 in Glasgow, I feel compelled to say something. Still not sure exactly what. What could I possibly say that might help?

So I'll start with this. Perhaps like you, I feel frustrated, disappointed and powerless as I watch this latest climate conference unfold. I feel a sort of national shame that Australia's prime minister fronted up with the bare minimum in terms of a climate policy, what amounted to "the price of admission" to Glasgow. 

I'm afraid, too, that COP26 will end like other COPs, with world leaders hearing stirring speeches - by the likes of Sir David Attenborough and Barack Obama - then failing to make rock-solid commitments that will stop global temperatures rising more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. 

There have been big gains made this time, I know. Historic agreements to reduce deforestationmethane emissions and investment in coal and increase funding to Indigenous conservation projects. It's not just governments making promises: hundreds of financial institutions in 45 countries agreed to limit greenhouse emissions. 

It was heartening to see travel, the industry I've been part of for more than 20 years, taking a stand with the new Glasgow Declaration, which urges tourism businesses of all kinds and sizes all over the world to reduce emissions by half by 2030. You can read my news stories about it and what it means for travellers here and here, and my interview with one of its chief architects and co-founder of Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, Jeremy Smith, here.

Is it all enough? 

According to the International Energy Agency's latest analysis, if all the promises from COP26 are kept, and funded, the planet may not warm more than 1.8C by the end of this century. But it's a big "if", particularly when China and Russia didn't even attend this year's make-or-break conference.

What I keep coming back to in the midst of this fragile hope is that, powerful as world leaders are, the real leaders in this crisis are emerging from elsewhere. They're students like Greta. Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, even multinational CEOs (and CSOs - Chief Sustainability Officers, it's a thing now!). They're already doing things some governments keep saying are impossible. In some industries, governments just need to get out of the way - oh, and stop subsiding the global fossil fuel industry to the tune of $500 billion a year. 

Want more hope? Here are a few more things I've found inspiring lately:


Greta Thunberg: A year to change the world is an excellent 3-part BBC doco now streaming on ABCiView (in Australia). It's full of insights and experts talking about what's happening to our planet, and what needs to happen to reverse that. And at the centre of it all is the now 18-year-old Swedish student who remains quietly powerful and incredibly human and open about things like her discomfort with crowds and chaos.

With every speech at every protest march and every conference, she fine-tunes her message: listen to the science, not to her, about what we need to do. I'm in awe of her.


I've just finished reading Beyond Climate Grief, by science journalist and Catalyst presenter Jonica Newby. It's a fascinating and engaging deep-dive into the emotions swirling around the loss of our "heart places" due to the climate crisis and the aftermath of natural disasters, particularly the catastrophic 2019-20 bushfires in Australia, with insights from various people interviewed on where to go from here. 

I'll also read anything written by environmental author and Guardian columnist George Monbiot, like this story last week: COP26 has to be about keeping fossil fuels in the ground. All else is distraction. 


I could probably list a few podcasts about climate action here. But if you're like me, and feeling a bit swamped by all the climate news at the moment, you probably need to hear a little silence right now. Or the birds outside your window. Or the hush and rumble of the sea, if you live near the coast. 

I'd recommend being outside as much as possible too. Standing under the sky or the stars or the trees. Looking down at your feet on the ground. Here we are, living through this time together. It might not be a fair world, but no matter how old we are or where we live or how much money we have, or who we vote for, we'll all be affected by this climate crisis, if we haven't been already. Which means we're all invested in finding solutions.


Sometimes when hope is thin on the ground and we feel powerless in the face of a crisis, I think we have to draw on another resource we all have: creativity. Imagination is more important than knowledge, Einstein famously said. Of course we need both, and we all need to find ways to act, wherever we are and using whatever abilities we have. 

But imagining is vital too. If we can see the future we want up ahead, it'll be easier to draw "roadmaps" to get us there. Imagine the power of collective imagining, all of us envisaging a cleaner, wiser future where we all live our lives knowing that every action we take - the food we eat, the vehicles we ride or drive, the homes we live in, the work we do, the people we vote for - is regenerating, supporting and contributing to a healthier planet, which in turn sustains us and all the other living beings we share it with. Wouldn't that be wonderful? 


  1. Great read, Lou. I have now added Beyond Climate Grief to my summer reading list!

    1. Thanks Sarah! What an interesting couple of COP weeks it's been... I have a copy of Beyond Climate Grief I can lend you! :-)