Love in the time of a Greenpeace campaign
I penned this blog yesterday afternoon and posted it to LinkedIn. Not everyone who visits my blog is signed up to LinkedIn so I thought I’d also share it here. I hope it invites reflection.
Photo by Bernie Boston, taken 21st October, 1967
Greenpeace's Global Palm Oil team today released their latest report targeting the palm oil industry. "Final Countdown: Now or Never to Reform the Palm Oil Industry" targets many industry players, TFT among them. It's an extensively researched paper detailing bad practice by 26 so-called 'dirty producer groups', TFT member Wilmar International the most prominent.
I don't agree with Greenpeace's criticism of TFT (see page 20) but others will write and speak about that in the coming days and weeks. Good luck to them all.
I'm more interested in pondering Greenpeace's naming and shaming approach and reflecting on how it's worked over the 50 years since Greenpeace emerged at the back end of the 1960s, around about the time when the bloke in the picture above was putting flowers in the barrels of MP's guns during a Vietnam war protest in the US.
I spend my time these days trying to inspire people to change away from the path we've been taking for generations. It seems to me that we're heading in a very bad direction. There's a new acronym that's caught my attention recently. INTHE stands for Inevitable Near Term Human Extinction. Some argue human extinction is never going to happen - some argue climate change isn't real! Some argue there's a risk but it's hundreds of years away while an increasing number of scientists are raising red flags that the worse effects of climate change are upon us, are happening way before climate models predicted and will be very, very bad indeed. Professor Jem Bendall from the University of Cumbria in the UK recently published a paper entitled, "Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy." Professor Bendell makes a clear case for near term societal collapse and yes, the very real possibility, indeed the inevitability of INTHE. It's a beautiful paper where he shares his reflections on how to grapple with the despair. I share his concern and wrote about this back in early 2013 when I was neck deep trying to transform the palm oil and pulp and paper industries.
Today I want to put flowers on the end of the mallet Greenpeace is using to beat the industry. Naming and shaming grabs attention but it leads to a risk management and compliance response, seldom true, deep and lasting transformation. For all its campaigns, Greenpeace, like the rest of us, is staring at the very real prospect of INTHE. Perhaps they feel it's better to go down fighting than to meekly give in, I don't know, but my sense is that all the fighting not only hasn't gotten us very far, it's an essential part of the problem.
Back in April I visited the Ivory Coast where I spent a day walking and talking for eight long, hot, humid and very sweaty kilometres with around 50 people from a palm oil plantation company. A few days later, I walked and talked for about 10 similarly hot, humid and very sweaty kilometres with more than 250 people. There were folk from local communities, companies, NGOs and the government forest service. We planted trees, we spoke together and something changed. People are now walking and talking in forests there on a regular basis - they want it, they value that time together, free from judgement. A new dialogue of possibilities is forming because when people walk and talk in nature, magic happens and the unexplored, even sometimes the unimaginable becomes possible. I made a video (click below) during the second walk where I share some of the experience, some of the thinking. Forgive me, it's almost 14 minutes long, but you might enjoy walking in the forest with me to hear some of the ideas.
I've been saying for years that the only path to solving our problems is to travel the difficult road of speaking with those we're in conflict with. It doesn't have to be meek, not at all. It should be truthful, respectful, compassionate, humble and courageous. It's worked time and time again with the work I've done behind the scenes in the palm oil, pulp and paper and wood industries. It's led to transformative decisions that Greenpeace and other NGOs celebrate as their own unique campaign successes, no understanding or acknowledgement that anyone else might have helped shepherd change through while they were busy yelling.
My first response on reading the Greenpeace report this morning was to send the global Greenpeace palm oil team love and compassion, yes, a hug. They care and that's a beautiful thing. Others do too and that's similarly beautiful. It's difficult to feel love for someone that is beating you with a shame mallet but if we can, and if the mallet holder receives it in the spirit in which it's given, perhaps we can move beyond mere risk management and compliance and secure the deep change, the deep adaptation we're going to need to perhaps avoid INTHE. More beating, more shaming, more wars only create more brokenness in the world, more wastelands as people bunker down in their corners. We need to invite people into the light, to a place that's safe, beyond right and wrong as Rumi so beautifully put it, to the field where we might actually find a path to life.