I just received a mail from XR rejoicing that MPs will on Wednesday vote on the declaration of a Climate Emergency…and now another one informing me of upcoming meetings with government officials.
“Hi there“, states the first mail,
“This Wednesday MPs will vote on whether to declare a national climate emergency.
After months of grassroots actions across the country from school students striking to Extinction Rebellion mobilising thousands across London, politicians have now begun to react to the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis…”
Again, such a vote appears to be a folly, like much of what we have seen in Brexit. On which basis are the MPs to decide?
One leading MP and former Secretary in the UK government ( I will not mention the name) confided to me in a personal conversation that he had read “a couple of books on climate change”, an that he did “not believe in it”. (It is one of the candidates who vied for the job as PM, can you believe it?). Before going into a vote on the declaration of a “Climate Emergency”, wouldn’t it make sense even for Extinction Rebellion to re-confirm what the data are and to create a “joint understanding of the problem situation” in Parliament? We cannot afford another chaotic policy making process, certainly not on an issue of existential relevance for humanity.
So here now, is my sort of protest against Extinction Rebellion, in the form of an open letter. (Unfortunately they neither reacted to my three mails sent to them nor to the two suggestions for a “constructive approach” published on this website – are they any better than the government they criticise?)
The key appears to be negligence. “My generation has done terrible things”, says David Attenborough. Michael Gove now admits: “We (i.e. the government including himself in the first place) “have not done nearly enough” to stop Climate Change.
You will agree, we all and our governments have been negligent by not putting effective processes in place to stopping Climate Change. Yes, you accuse the government of negligence and incompetence in dealing with Climate Change. It is clearly necessary for us to look into where the deficits are and how to fix them.
But the question I am asking me now is:
How negligent is Extinction Rebellion? How negligent are you?
Do I now have to sit down with my lonely placard opposite of the headquarters of extinction Rebellion and protest against the negligence of Extinction Rebellion, the very same negligence you accuse the government of?
Or are you going to listen and engage in a constructive discussion? Perhaps before you go into a meeting with the government officials?
Are you going to act responsibly?
- Is Extinction Rebellion even less effective and efficient in their approach than the government they criticise for being negligent?
- What is effectiveness and efficiency in policy making at all?
- How do we ensure the utmost degree of effectiveness and efficiency in policy making?
- How to choose the very best problem solving approaches?
- Which role does analytical competency play in solving the greatest problem humanity has ever faced?
- Which role does know-how in problem solving methodologies play in this respect?
You accuse the government of negligence (rightly so, in my understanding).
- Is Extinction Rebellion negligent as well?
- Don’t you have to examine the foundations necessary for an effective problem solving process before you design one?
- Or ask people, who might have relevant know-how is such areas? (such as experts in problem-solving methodologies at universities?)
I sincerely and honestly praise you for bringing the issue of Global Warming on top of the agenda. People have complained about the protests. Yet, they clearly have been necessary, just as the protests of the young people following the example of Greta Thunberg.
But there is a difference between “raising attention to a problem” and “solving a problem”. You very effectively and with perseverance managed to raise attention to the problem of Climate Change. But is this sufficient to also solve the problem effectively?
Stopping climate change is a gigantic task, larger than anything the world has ever seen. Solving the task appears, if not impossible, so at least, close to impossible.
What we need to do now is to create “the most effective and efficient process only conceivable” to address and solve the problem.
The first step in problem solving is “the creation of a joint understanding of the problem situation” …in the beginning at least among the policy making institutions, then also in the entire population. If I am not mistaken, this is actually what Extinction Rebellion rightly suggested as the first necessary step.
So, why not follow through with this proposal and now take step two ahead of step one???? – Again, many people will not understand, why we should declare a Climate Emergency now. But we must create their understanding and support.
Yes, maybe your demand to create a Climate Emergency now serves as a further impulse for re-assessing the facts and for making people recognise and admit that Climate Change truly is a problem of “existential relevance” we are facing.
Still, in order to solve the problem we won’t get by the first necessary step: Creating a joint understanding of the problem situation.
What would be the sensible thing to do now? ( yes, it is my opinion, but it appears to be your obligation to engage in a constructive debate on it)
- Meet with the government officials.
- Agree to put a work group together which determines the most effective and efficient way forward (open the process up to the public to be sure the path chosen for coping with the problem is the most effective process conceivable – we sort of need to find the very best path through the Himalaya to get across, it is a significant loss of energy to go into the wrong direction first and then having to see one must return)
- That work group must, in my opinion, use the systemic problem solving steps I suggested on my website and in my other letters to you.
- As mentioned that work group would as a first step create a joint understanding of the problem situation in government and society (as XR also rightly suggested – sorry if I repeat myself – just to present the necessary sequence).
- The first consequence of this joint understanding might then be: The declaration of a Climate Emergency.
- The other consequence will probably be that the UK (re-) establishes an independent Government Department For Climate Change Policy.
- The new Secretary for Climate Change Policy then develops the most suitable strategy together with all parties interested and concerned (complete transparency and involvement of the public – that is what you rightly request.)
- Is a Citizens’ Assembly truly the most effective and efficient way for moving forward – or is it a waste of valuable time and funds, and even worse, does it put the process for addressing Climate Change into an ineffective direction, will we eventually have to turn back and select another strategy?
- To insist on a Citizens’ Assembly without making sure what the most effective and efficient approach might be appears not diligent and, therefore, negligent as well. (am I right or wrong – we are obliged to examine a fundamental “hypothesis” of such critical relevance – are there better processes to involve the public, is a crucial question ).
- And generally: Is it negligence or not to not include someone in the problem solving process who has a website called “optimizingdemocracy”, has twenty years of experience in thinking about the effectiveness and efficiency of policy making and has even studied Operational Research and Systemic Problem Solving Methodologies? (yes, I am obliged to suggest I have highly relevant qualifications – check it out, verify, you are obliged to check the veracity of this “hypothesis” as well, you ar obliged to listen (one failure of government is that it does not listen and does not examine relevant proposals on how to make government effective.)
- I am also trying to get the government to understand this. So far they failed.
The fundamental starting point we must agree on is this one in my opinion:
We must agree on the crucial need to find “the most effective and efficient way forward”.
That is a question of methodology.
Do you think it would be necessary to include someone who has substantial knowledge on such issues and has spent twenty years tackling such questions in your work group and in the talks with government?
What must I do, to convince you that focusing on “maximum effectiveness and efficiency” is of decisive relevance now.
You want to declare a “Climate Emergency”. If the problem is of existential relevance for humanity then not focusing on “absolute effectiveness and efficiency” is absolutely negligent.
Do I have to glue myself now to the doors of XR to bring this message home, or are we going to talk?
In 2016 protesters suggested: “Climate change department closed by Theresa May in ‘plain stupid’ and ‘deeply worrying’ move” (The Independent). They were right. It was wrong. The fault is connected with fundamental deficits in government strategy making detected by Parliament already in 2012 (!!) and which have not been fixed by now (Another matter of substantial negligence in government – and Parliament? Of relevance for all of policy making including Climate Change – the Parliamentarians themselves mentioned it in 2012, but did not fix the problem! We must now.)
XR is going to talk with a government which appears “not capable” of effective policy making (to use a more neutral word than “stupid” – analytical competency is crucial in government – how do we make sure we have analytically competent leaders – see also the horribly chaotic Brexit process)
The crucial question is: How do we make sure the policy making process is as effective and efficient as only conceivable?
Should we include people with know-how in the creation of effective processes or not?
With kind regards, from a supporter and member of XR,
Hans Peter Ulrich
P.S.: Sorry the letter is a bit long. But it took you also a couple of days to get the government to communicate.
It might, as a final point, be of interest to you that I also wrote a nine page letter and a two page letter to Theresa May on the issue, and a letter to Michael Gove. (Yes, you are right, persistence is necessary.) Both have not replied, even if the issue I discuss in the letter are of central concern, the effectiveness and efficiency in policy making. In Ireland observers blame the tense situation there on the “complacent stupidity” of some parties involved (The Week, April 27th). In America, a public report identified a “culture of complacency” as the key reason behind the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. If we are to solve the Climate Crisis at all, we need to establish the highest analytical competency in government and we all need to act with he highest degree of diligence and commitment. Otherwise, overcoming the problem of Climate Change will not be possible.