We Can Do Better

May 30, 2013

May 30, we-can-do-it-rosie-the-riveterOur actions have impacts on our environment, which has limits to what it can take – beyond which we really start to feel those impacts. This may seem obvious, but sometimes it’s these very obvious, common sense concepts that we have the hardest time grasping – so it’s worth repeating.

Earlier this month, one astonished American Senator invoked the logic of common sense during a speech to the Senate on climate change, blasting a colleague for apparently claiming divine intervention would save our planet.[1] Our collective refusal to face the most basic of concepts today, cause and effect, speaks to the arrogance and naivety of our times. It’s also why we just aren’t creating the momentum on new innovation nearly as fast as we should be.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

We’ve all heard this expression, but what does it really mean? Among other things, it means that people often work well under pressure – the right kind of pressure. The pressure that tells us that we have an opportunity right now to do something big, and we don’t want to blow it. The pressure that reminds us that recognizing our limits can actually be the very key to expanding our freedoms, not the other way around. The freedom to innovate, to come up with new solutions, to imagine a brighter tomorrow. The freedom to care about the world around you and what we’re creating, which we often take for granted.

We know we can do better, but it’s only by truly facing our limits head-on that we’ll come to see how much we really want to, and take strong, tangible action in response. We’ve done it in wartime, unifying and mobilizing quickly to face a common threat: the difference now is the threat is our own behaviour, but we need to take just as strong action to fix it.

Healthy Pressure is Good for Business

It is this recognition of limits that spurred 40 major international companies, including big players such as GM, Nike, Intel, EBay, Starbucks etc., to sign a Climate Declaration[2] to Congress back in early April, calling on the American government to do more to “combat climate change.” Some might, in our cynicism, call this no more than good PR spin – but it is more than that. At its root is the most basic common sense understanding that only by recognizing the physical limits of our world can we begin to seize the opportunities within them and build sustainable enterprises that will last. Addressing the reality of climate change now is just good business in the long-run – in fact, it’s the only business that will be able to stand the test of time, and weather the storms ahead.

A Market Shift

We are that market signal to incent a major shift towards better business practice. By recognizing inherent limits to our behaviour, we are not squashing innovation, we are encouraging it. We know we can build much better energy and mobility solutions to meet our needs without destroying our planet – the question is not one of ability, but rather of will. We’ve always relied on our best science in the past to guide business practice and innovation; why is it that some of us are now choosing to reject common sense and head towards a future that is bad for business, bad for the planet and bad for all of us?

The answer, we know, is as old as human society itself: greed, power and force of habit (see past post on ‘addictions’) – all products of behaviour patterns that are being shown to be increasingly destructive and unsustainable. Thankfully, we don’t have to be fated to the future many of these outdated practices provide: by facing our limits, we can create new opportunities that will start to turn this situation around. In many places, we’ve already started to do just that. Join me next week to explore how we’ve triumphed on similar issues in the past, and how many places are already building a better future as they #FaceTheChange.


kai over machu picchu (stylized)


Kai Reimer-Watts
Director of Operations
Our Horizon


[1] See “Sheldon Whitehouse: God Won’t Save Us From Climate Catastrophe” by The Huffington Post, May 9 2013.

[2] See “Sign the Climate Declaration” by the Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), or download a PDF copy of the Declaration here.

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