Speech made at Cambridge Carbon Footprint’s AGM 2011

May 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

Speech made at Cambridge Carbon Footprint’s AGM May 19th 2011 about  the year 2010, the future of CCF and the changing roles of myself and co-founder Andy Brown

2010 was a difficult year for anyone working on climate change. Although widely predicted, the outcome of the Copenhagen negotiations in December 2009 was a shock. The reverberations continue to disrupt the work of people at international, national and local level. Climate change has slid down the public agenda. Consensus has evaporated. Instead of the congruence and determination that international agreement would have brought everything is up for grabs – the science can be questioned, commitments can be reduced, urgency has vanished.

Psychologically one might expect to find the mix of feelings associated with a serious loss of hope – rage, denial, apathy, confusion, depression, despair – and it is not surprising that the movement has been slow to re-group. There is a lot to take in, from the reality that the world seems set on at least a 4° C future to the implications for bio-diversity, species survival, population movement, social distress and the capacity of the world to feed itself. Many people have spoken to me of their confusion and fears for the future.

In the face of this it is not surprising that people have been taking time to reflect and it is encouraging that some genuinely new ideas are emerging. For example, wide enthusiasm for the ‘Common Cause’ report signalled an interest in moving away from marketing approaches and focusing on values based strategies that might deliver more lasting change.

Here in Cambridge we have faced our own highs and lows. Working from a psychological perspective is difficult and the temptation to retreat into exhortation or factual detail can be strong. Nonetheless I have been encouraged by the interest in the perspectives that CCF brings, evidenced particularly in the enthusiasm for Carbon Conversations nationally. Another factor on the up side was the second Akashi festival in March which proved an enormously enjoyable and inclusive event, attended by over 500 people from across the City’s diverse communities. The Open Eco-House project was a similarly enjoyable and well-attended event, creating a positive buzz around the possibilities for people to transform their houses for the future.

Organisationally CCF has had to take some difficult decisions. 2 years’ intensive fund-raising has failed to secure sufficient funds to pay a full-time director to replace me and in November we also heard that no City Council core funding will be available after the end of March 2012. In August it was decided to try to ease the burden of overwork on me by having the trustees take on active management roles, sharing the Director’s responsibilities between them and myself. This re-organisation took place in September/October 2010 and things have developed since then, rather differently from how we imagined. From the end of May I will no longer be employed by CCF on the national Carbon Conversations work and will not be joining the trustees – as previously planned, or taking any further active management role. Andy is stepping down as Treasurer of the organisation and he has also resigned as a trustee.

It’s now 6 years since we set up CCF so I wanted to say a little bit – in preparation for the discussion that is coming later –  about our experience of the last 6 years and the work we have tried to do. We had a number of motivations, but chief amongst them was the conviction that climate change could not be dealt with without a more creative approach to the problem, particularly in engaging those who did not see climate change as their concern. It was important to both of us to move away from the old assumptions of the environmental movement about the importance of reason and information but also not to be captivated by newer ideologies and to remain up to date with policy, scientific and technological developments.

In the work we have initiated for CCF we have drawn deeply on my professional work as a psychotherapist to understand how people defend themselves against uncomfortable truths, how identity is tied into patterns of consumption and how we need to face loss and grieve for what has to pass. The combination of this with Andy’s technical understanding as a professional sustainability specialist gave CCF its initial impetus and unique flavour. We have also drawn broadly on research in climate change communication, on work in risk psychology and behavioural change, on participatory engagement strategies and on community work practice. Much of this has been translated into practical projects such as the carbon footprint interviews, workshops and presentations, Carbon Conversations and the Akashi project. We have also tried to ensure that it informs the practical work on housing and other aspects of carbon reduction. Some of this work has been very successful and has led to national recognition, particularly for Carbon Conversations and for Shilpa Shah’s work on Akashi. We have become increasingly committed to the centrality of training – particularly in psychological and communication skills – in delivering a successful project.

CCF is at a crossroads. It needs to find a new way forward and this may be different from the path that we took it on. If this is to be a creative path, then it needs the input of many different people – to provide new leadership, enthusiasm, vision and practical activity.

The organisation currently needs people to fill many roles and functions – as trustees, as part of a management team responsible for the projects, and as key volunteers. We hope that some of you who have been involved in CCF in the past will step forward to help create some new strategic objectives for the organisation, play a part in its democratic control and put new energy into existing projects and activities.

Neither Andy nor myself will be taking any part in determining the new direction of CCF or in managing it in the future. However if the new organisation wants either of us to provide advice and training in the areas where we have specialist expertise we will be happy to do so.  We wish the organisation well for the future.

Rosemary Randall and Andy Brown

May 19th 2011

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§ One Response to Speech made at Cambridge Carbon Footprint’s AGM 2011

  • bitterjug says:

    Challenging times and surprising news.
    I wish Ro and Andy the very best and also CCF as they invent their own way to be active in the future.

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