By Rick Fullerton | BioOn
my way to a candlelight vigil for climate justice, I wondered who else
would show up. It was minus 5 Celsius and with the wind chill it felt
like minus 25—bitterly cold by any measure. Hardly a day to be
concerned about global warming. Yet some 200 committed souls braved the
cold—some on foot, some on bicycles, and others (reluctantly) by car.
By the time I arrived, the vigil organizers had thankfully decided to
move the event inside. Once out of the cold wind, I was impressed by
the strange bedfellows who had come together to express their
commitment to the future of the planet.
The event’s ad hoc
planning group represented many faith groups, but this was not your
typical ecumenical gathering of various Christian denominations.
Leaders in this service of reflection were Canada’s aboriginal first
nations, Jews, Pagans, Muslims, Christians, Unitarians, and Buddhists.
Clearly, the vision of a sustainable future was sufficiently broad and
inclusive to attract people of many faith traditions.
service itself blended periods of quiet reflection with brief comments
by leaders of the represented groups. Each in turn spoke powerfully of
their commitment to a world where people live in harmony with each
other and with nature. The demonstration of collaboration and common
purpose was evident, along with respect for the profound differences in
spiritual beliefs. Indeed, I think that agnostics and atheists would
have found this service meaningful as well.
I found this very reminiscent of peace marches and social justice
events from the 1960s and early ‘70s. I am encouraged by the grassroots
for addressing the climate crisis and achieving a sustainable level of
carbon dioxide emissions. This movement will grow and we will continue
to see people working together in spite of their
Common cause is a powerful uniting force.
is also important to remember that no matter how many alliances,
coalitions and treaties are created, climate justice is ultimately
about ‘just us’. It is our individual commitments and actions in the
world that make the difference.
While I don’t have any quick fixes to offer, here are a few ideas that may have potential:
1. As within, so without. All change begins with me.
that who we are and what we stand for is the starting point for all
significant change. Looking inside ourselves to clarify what is
important is an essential step. What is our commitment to our children
and grandchildren, to future generations and to other species with
which we share the planet? How do we balance this commitment to the
future with our present concerns and interests? What can we do to make
our actions congruent with our intentions?
2. Build strong, authentic relationships.
is power in numbers. Yet it is most often small committed groups that
produce significant change. Wherever we are in the system, we always
have the opportunity to reinforce and align ourselves with others—to
collaborate, to support mutual efforts, and to realize synergies. In
this regard, one of the most powerful approaches may be to promote
intergenerational conversations so that people of all ages can come
together to create a sustainable future.
3. Accept personal responsibility for the environment.
responsible for global warming and other environmental challenges is an
important prerequisite to moving forward. Resistance that shows up as
blaming others or picking fights is more likely to strengthen the
denial and resolve of those who benefit most from the current
situation. We need to be able to clearly acknowledge and own where we
are before we can take the next step.
4. Create a better future.
of us has a voice and the power to declare possibilities and
commitments. We create the future in our speaking and listening,
inviting others to join in the process. To the extent that we speak
from our hearts about the world we want to create, we will attract
energy, resources and support—and inspire others to act.
5. Act with integrity.
can influence those who occupy positions of power and influence by how
we vote— whether it be by the ballots we check on election day, by the
stores we frequent, by the investments we make, or by the company we
choose. It is by taking actions like these and by making direct
requests and promises based on clear intentions that change actually
In the days leading up to the post-Kyoto talks in
Copenhagen, we will be bombarded with media messages from politicians,
commentators, interest groups, and environmental experts. I urge us all
to listen for the assessments, possibilities and actions that are
offered to deal with the defining challenge of our time. Whatever
happens, we will all have a role to play in creating a sustainable
future. Let’s make sure we do it well.
continue to be struck by the environmental challenges facing planet
earth. With signs of increasing public awareness about the deepening
climate crisis, it is gratifying to sense a noticeable shift taking
place in my own and others’ behaviour. For instance, I see more and
more people supporting recycling programs, choosing Energy Star
appliances, and driving fuel efficient cars. And we change our light
bulbs! Yet is it enough?
At best, such actions represent
well-intentioned but relatively modest gestures when viewed in relation
to the major sources of carbon dioxide that humans influence.
Compounding the situation are the conflicting messages, increased costs
and lack of feedback on the contribution of such initiatives. Still,
these individual decisions to address global warming are essential
demonstrations of the commitment to do whatever can be done to make a
difference. Even if it is not enough, it is something. But what else
might we do?
To help sort out what I might do, I have been
reflecting on the dynamics underlying the choices that we make in
deciding to act or not act when confronted by such big messy
challenges. It seems that, for the most part, we rely on our experience
as the source of our understanding and, in turn, our decisions. Thus,
the educational efforts of environmental leaders do make a difference.
For example, “An Inconvenient Truth”, the Oscar-winning documentary by
Al Gore, and public service announcements featuring authorities like
David Suzuki have helped shift our awareness about the seriousness and
urgency of the situation we face.
Another facet of how
learning is shaping our behaviour can be seen in the school curriculum.
Thankfully, children today study environmental matters and receive much
more accurate and up-to-date information than did many of their parents
or grandparents. Over a decade or two, this knowledge will hopefully
alter the baseline understanding of necessary and beneficial
While we as individuals may argue that we
did not consciously choose to pollute our water, create acid rain,
deplete our agricultural land, clearcut our rain forests, wreck the
ozone layer or cause global warming and likewise, individual actions
alone will note resolve the problems. Rather, the challenge today is
mobilizing urgent action at the corporate, national and international
levels—before the mean global temperature reaches a point that triggers
unstoppable warming or other catastrophic consequences. Failure to do
this soon will cause untold problems such rising sea levels, massive
migration, extreme weather, desertification, widespread famine,
accelerated species extinction.... and ultimately put at risk the
future of life on earth.
In church this weekend, I made a public announcement about the
International Day of Climate Action on October 24, a global initiative
to develop grassroots support for substantial agreement when world
leaders meet in Copenhagen this December. At stake is nothing less than
the future of life on planet earth. As of this morning, there were more
than 3,500 events planned in a total of 161 countries. For more
information or to join a group or announce your event, check out the
official Day of Climate Action website.
issue, of course, has to do with the concentration of carbon dioxide in
the atmosphere and the consequences for warming of the earth. The
science is clear: 350 parts per million (ppm) is now recognized as the
level at which the earth’s ecosystems can sustain life over the long
term. Concentrations above that level produce reinforcing feedback
loops so that the warming becomes unstoppable. Evidence of this is
already observable as the loss of the polar ice cap and receding
glaciers means more of the sun’s rays are absorbed by the earth and
oceans, thus increasing temperatures. And in case you are counting, the
current concentration of CO2 is 387.
None of this will be new
to inquiring readers: global warming has been with us, at least in the
background conversation, for many years. The challenge now is that the
canaries among us—the Sierra Club, the green movement, the
environmental scientists, and leading authors—are often drowned out by
other voices. The result is that we have made significant progress in
raising awareness of the small personal changes that are required. For
example, improvements in recycling and energy conservation do make a
difference. Yet in real terms, it is much like rearranging the deck
chairs on the Titanic. The scale and urgency of the challenge also
demands more significant change.
Elizabeth May, leader of the
Green Party of Canada, says we must do more than change our light
bulbs. We must also change our leaders. In saying this, she is not
referring only to our elected officials (although that is certainly an
important choice we all can influence). But we must also look to other
leaders in many domains of our life. For example, in the world of
business, we can choose to support those corporations that demonstrate
social and environmental responsibility—an important dimension of which
needs to be accountability to the local communities where they operate.
Similarly, we are now seeing a significant growth in eating local, a
trend that will hopefully reverse the trend of agri-business and
declining family farms. Another possibility that holds promise is the
rise in sustainable energy sources, such as wind and solar.
it is important to reflect on our choice about whom we follow, it is
also critical to remember that we also are leaders in our own right. We
are contributors to the global warming conversation, whether we
acknowledge it or not.
What we say or do not say does matter,
perhaps more than we ever know. And what we listen for is equally
powerful, since it is in our listening that we can draw others to
contribute their creativity and commitment to confronting this
After church today, I was pleased to talk with
quite a few people—from seniors to pre-schoolers—including some
individuals I had never met before. It was striking how many shared my
concern for global warming and very obvious that naming the issue and
declaring my commitment did make a difference. Indeed, it may be the
only way things change.
Recently, I have been focusing more and more of my attention on
global warming and, in turn, on understanding my own reactions and responses to
what’s happening. The results so far have been both fascinating and
One aspect of the global warming conversation involves the role
of the media in reporting scientific evidence and projections regarding the
effects of carbon dioxide in heating the planet. In particular, I have learned
about the disproportionate influence of a small number of people in sustaining
doubt about whether global warming is occurring and whether human activity is
the prime cause. The skill and persistence of these individuals conspire with
mainstream media, who espouse the virtue of balanced reporting while widely
publicizing the unfounded opinions of a handful of paid lobbyists and ignoring
the relative validity of thousands of evidence-based scientific studies.
Needless to say, there are lessons here for all in the power of
A related insight stems from a public lecture I attended last
week. A university professor, a key figure on the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change, spoke as a consummate world expert on the science of
global warming, citing studies, data sources and complex projections. His
technical prowess was impressive. And yet, in response to questions from the
audience, he readily confessed his lack of expertise in dealing with
people—individually or collectively. Changing human behaviour was not among his
areas of competence.
Another surprising revelation to me revolves around the very
fundamental question, “Do we care about the future—of the planet, of life on
earth, of the human species, of our community or of our family?” As a grandson,
son, brother, father and grandfather, it is easy for me to take for granted our
place in the cycle of life. Similarly, as one with rural country roots, the
land and water have always been important to me. So it comes as a shock that,
for others, a commitment to the future is either qualified or even non-existent.
The challenge is that this commitment to the future shows up as choices about
the delayed consequences of toxic waste, rampant consumerism, deforestation,
and, of course, the rush to find and burn fossil fuels.
The conversation on global warming is about to get a lot more
attention as world leaders prepare for meetings on a post-Kyoto agreement. Of
course, it is easy to discount the significance of our individual
responsibility or action. There is some logic to the view that the small CO2
contribution of any decision one makes is irrelevant in relation to the Alberta
Tar Sands or the US war effort in Iraq or Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan.
Yet for me, the congruence of my values and actions is central to my legitimacy as
a voice for change and as a model for others to follow. This is, I
believe, as true for individuals as it is for organizations, communities and
So what are the real choices I can make? Well, clearly one is to
use my voice, my writing and my actions to bring attention and informed choice
to global warming. I can choose to live more simply, to consume less—and to
encourage others to do the same. And, recognizing that global warming requires
more than individual action, I can choose leaders who care about the future of
the planet and sustainable life in all forms.
past few months I have been an absentee blogger, a consequence of
having accepted a full-time work assignment that I expected to last two
years or more. I was enticed by a personal request for my services to
lead a strategic initiative that would call on my experience and
skills. So after nearly 10 years as a freelance consultant, I returned
to work inside an organization at age 62. Any major decision
like this comes with
By Rick Fullerton | BioLast week I began a new job. In itself, this
is not remarkable; people change jobs as a regular occurrence, whether
as a result of individual initiative or organizational circumstance.
For me, this latest career move serves as a stimulus to reflect on my
commitments and priorities and how these evolve over time.[Read More]
By Rick Fullerton | BioEarlier this
month, I was away from home for over a week on business. In itself,
this is not a big deal. Lots of people travel more frequently and
farther than I do. Yet for me, this trip was filled with unexpected feelings of gratitude and wonder. At the outset, it was to be a routine work
trip to two cities to conduct seminars at the completion of the MBA
course I teach. What set this apart was the opportunity to be in
Calgary, the home of Canada’s energy sector and fastest-growing city in
the country.[Read More]
last blog anticipated the arrival of a new grandchild, and now I am
pleased to announce that Angus Fullerton Beauregard arrived on March
14th—much to the delight of family and friends! As grandparents, it
seems appropriate to us that he shares Einstein’s birthday. Births,
like graduations and marriages, are major milestones of life. These
events trigger other feelings and reflections, in addition to the
natural joy of celebration.[Read More]
I am waiting for our third grandchild to be born. In fact, everyone in
our family and circle of friends is primed for the big event—but none
more so than the mother and father to be. Their lives are about to be
totally transformed when their love, commitment and belief in the
future is expressed in the arrival of ‘baby’. Birth, for most people, is the ultimate miracle of life. So it is
natural that birth is celebrated universally as an act of creation.
Beyond the waiting, the sacrifices, the preparation and the costs,
bringing a child into the world is a symbolic declaration of
possibility like no other.[Read More]
By Rick Fullerton | BioFor much of my life, I have had a private conversation about dying. It
began as a young child, probably triggered by overhearing my parents
talking about people fighting cancer or other scary diseases. When I
was 12 and our family doctor knocked on the schoolroom door, my first
thought was that he had figured out I was going to die. I was shocked
to discover he had come to tell me my father had died of a heart attack
at just 53. I was devastated![Read More]
By Rick Fullerton | BioWhat fascinates me most at the moment is my increasing interest in
‘everything’. Where in decades past I was consumed by my job, my
family, or my professional pursuits, it seems now that my attention is
drawn to all manner of things. As a result, I am considering how I make
appropriate choices. On reflection, I see several factors that contribute to this expanding range of interests...[Read More]
By Rick Fullerton | Bio
I’m in love (or at least infatuated) with an amazing young woman. She
is in her 20s, about the same age as my youngest daughter. I just met
her last Friday, and we are having lunch this week. Let me explain how
this unfolded and why it is so exciting! For several years, I have been an adjunct professor in the faculty of
management at a local university, where I teach graduate courses in
human resources and management skills. This work is very rewarding, yet
I also seek involvement with people involved in practical field work,
where direct action produces tangible results. One such opening occurred on Friday when my wife, Phyllis, and I attended a thesis presentation by Aliza Weller.[Read More]
Being over sixty and having five grown children, it comes as no
surprise that my wife and I look forward to grandchildren. Like many
close-knit families, we treasure the time our kids have had with their
grandparents. Visits to the island summer home in Mahone Bay or to my
mother in Grand Lake offered life-shaping experiences when the extended
family came to be together. These times were not just about having fun
or creating enduring memories: they were unique opportunities to learn
and grow individually and as part of a larger family. Yet reflecting on the place of grandparents in families and in our
evolving society raises several questions and possible insights.
By Rick Fullerton BioOn Thanksgiving weekend (the Canadian version that happens in early
October), my wife and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary with
family and friends. Our children—now adults living on their
own—arranged everything so all Phyllis and I had to do was arrive at
the church hall at the appointed time. For those of you with younger
families, there is hope! In anticipation of this event, we pulled out photographs and other
mementos of our married lives together and recalled our earlier 25-year
milestone celebration.[Read More]