The Power of Community to Address the Climate Crisis

For years, the rhetoric around climate change has been aggressive. From the war on carbon to the fight against global warming, articles refer to ‘slashing emissions as though we had a machete’. And, while these terms effectively convey the gravity of the challenge we face, they also sometimes paint climate change as a fearsome enemy that’s seemingly impossible to vanquish.   

That was the assessment from the book, Drawdown (2017), capturing effectively why perhaps, at times there seems to be a collective fatigue or sense of hopelessness that’s felt when considering the steps needed to be taken in order to address our global climate challenge. It’s a tough conundrum to balance the urgency and concern, alongside some hope and optimism. 

However, a new podcast and book are leading the conversation on the theme of possibilism – that is still possible to make a difference, giving hope while also provoking designers into action on the climate crisis.   

Hosted by urbanist Sarah Ichioka and Co-Initiator of Architects Declare Michael Pawlyn, the Flourish Systems Change podcast follows on from their co-authored book, Flourish: Design Paradigms For A Planetary Emergency, which navigates through the ideas of regenerative practice to shape the future of the built environment.  

One such idea is around the need for designers and architects to adopt a ‘possibilist mindset’ to amplify their influence and make the meaningful changes needed in the face of client change. As the pair suggest: “To meet the challenges of our time, we need to transform our ideas of agency – our capacity to bring about change”.  

A possibilist revolution would unlock designers’ power to address our planetary emergency. However, individual action is nearly always most effective when directed towards some form of cooperation. Architects Declare and the Architects Climate Action Network, for example, are coalitions that strive to bring about systemic changes that are difficult to achieve at the level of an individual company or project. 

This was one of the themes on a recent podcast episode, which featured guest Crystal Chissell, a multidisciplinary climate action leader and senior member at Project Drawdown. Crystal highlighted her work as part of the Drawdown initiative, a new resource that will provide advice for people who want to take action on climate solutions, and in particular, those who want to work together collaboratively to do so. 

Throughout the discussion, Crystal also emphasises the meaning of community – not just in the geographical sense – but in groups of people who are brought together by a shared motivation. As an architecture and design community, we are brought together by a shared desire to build a better tomorrow – and we have the power to do so. We must encourage a community for adaptation, for resilience, and for dealing with the challenges that climate change is bringing. 

Crystal also states that her motivations are ones that are probably shared values, she said: “I’m motivated by love, compassion, kindness and cooperation. I don’t think I’m unique in that and I think that we see that throughout our lives and the people we know in the groups that we’re a part of.” 

So, with this in mind, what are a few key tips when it comes to bringing designers together to implement collective climate action?  

Well, here are four suggestions from the recent Drawdown At Work report:  

  1. Form groups with like-minded colleagues focused on creative brainstorming, identifying company leverage points, and instigating collective action.
  2. Conduct power mapping with colleagues to identify networks inside (and outside) your company that can be tapped for change. 
  3. Join action-oriented groups to share resources and build community. 
  4. Learn the latest about global climate solutions and explore ways to work climate into your own job responsibilities. 

The Interface supported podcast series, Flourish, is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify, and also via the Flourish website, where you can also read transcripts of each of the interviews.   

For further information on Project Drawdown and to access their resources, visit: 

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