How Can We All Hear That the World is on Fire?

Credit: World Bank, Indonesia

By Andrew Bovarnick

The annual rhythm of the United Nations year peaks with the
General Assembly in September. One month on, it’s a good time to
reflect on this year’s gathering which was remarkable for its
focus on fighting climate change, the transforming effect of one 16
year old girl telling it like it is, and the way people heard her
words in a way they haven’t heard before.

“People are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing, we are in
the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is
money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth”

The world has heard many comprehensive scientific explanations
of what we need to do to combat global heating. All of those were
many times longer than the 495 words that Greta Thunberg used in
her speech to delegates, and yet her words had a galvanizing effect
on everyone who heard them, and she is spurring more people to act
with a sense of urgency that was never triggered by thousands of
pages of carefully argued science. Why are so many people hearing
these messages as if for the first time?

The reasons behind this are important to explore and should
cause us to think about how we try to bring about change in the
world. They are embedded in human psychology, and can help us learn
how our messages are received by those we would wish to

Understand these human foundations, and we will understand why
sometimes our climate change arguments hit home, and sometimes they
seem to hit a wall. It’s all to do with calm, clear messaging,
which can arise from within, as it seems to for Greta, or for the
rest of us through the use of mindfulness techniques to calm
ourselves before we speak.

Andrew Bovarnick holds Sustainable Development Goal 13: Take
urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts at the
Good Growth
(Peruvian Amazon, May 2019).

We need to light a fire under the seats of decision makers. Greta
has sparked the flame but we must learn how to keep it burning
brightly. Extinction Rebellion is certainly fanning the flames but
what can we as development practitioners do to keep up the

A calm and direct voice helps us to hear these messages better
than the raised voices in a high-volume argument. Research has
found that the human ear closes down to reduce the volume of
strident speech, so a measured approach cuts through more
effectively than raised voices.

Note how Extinction Rebellion, though determined to get their
point across, are unfailingly polite and forever apologizing for
the disruption they cause. Getting the tone of voice right – and
using techniques such as meditation to build audible compassion and
empathy with our audience – helps people to feel safe and truly
hear the message.

How can we do this?

In UNDP’s Green Commodities Programme we have developed a
series of carefully designed processes that bring all the relevant
stakeholders together into carefully curated safe spaces where
people can explore differences, find common ground and build
sustainable commodity solutions together.

We call it Multistakeholder Collaboration For Systemic Change.
It instils trust amongst stakeholders, builds resilience to
external shocks, and produces a community of stakeholders that can
calmly hear each other’s ideas and problems.

If we are to take the actions we must take to combat climate
change, we need not only to change what we do, but also consider
how we think and speak. And we must create collaborative spaces
where we can be calm and feel safe if we are to truly hear each
other’s solutions.

The post How Can We
All Hear That the World is on Fire?
appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Andrew Bovarnick is Lead Natural Resource
Economist and Global Head of UNDP’s
Green Commodities Programme

The post How Can We
All Hear That the World is on Fire?
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
How Can We All Hear That the World is on Fire?