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‘The Solution’: a short story about the Leadership By Example Principle

What if I told you that most likely the only hope we have for solving the global carbon emission crisis, which according to scientists threatens to destroy life on this planet as we know it, is one simple principle relating to human behaviour?

It is a principle which all the way through human history has been an important ingredient in all major transformation and sudden changes in our societies. It is also the ingredient which moves us when we watch those movies about our great legends, about the heroes who tackled historical challenges and threats.

We could call it the Leadership By Example Principle.

There are a number of abilities which are important ingredients in the Leadership By Example Principle. Some of the most important of them are:

Unselfish caring and compassion for others, even people you do not know. Confidence and unbreakable belief in a vision, combined with the ability to visualise and engage others in it. All of which requires a great deal of both passion and optimism.

So what if I told you that everything starts from there when we talk about how to deal with our energy and carbon emissions crisis?

Individuals taking action
What I am suggesting is that cultivating this principle has the power to actually solve this enormous crisis in our society which exceeds anything humanity has ever been confronted with before. Never before in all those years our species has walked on the Earth have we had to deal with a problem of this dimention.

This goes beyond normal politics and what democracy can handle. I suggest we forget spending more time on the ongoing failures of leadership at national and international level. Forget the United Nations and the fruitless climate negotiations in that forum which are deeply compromised by vested interests in the fossil fuel industry.

The solutions lie in individuals taking action and showing leadership by example at the community level.

Now I can hear voices saying: “No way. How can what we do as individuals possibly have any meaningful effect on the 98 million tonnes of carbon pollution we collectively put into the atmosphere every day? What will it matter if I change my ‘carbon behaviour’ as long as everyone else doesn’t? My actions will always just be an insignificant, tiny drop in the sea.”

The thing that you have not taken into account, then, when you think like that, is the power of exponential growth. Also called The Domino Effect. The Snowball Effect. The Butterfly Effect… It has many names. Scientists call it Trophic Cascades, and they are able to show how trophic cascades can create dramatic changes in nature.

If we can find the right domino to knock over, the resulting cascade of reactions can – and will – change the world.

Understanding how the Leadership By Example Principle can work in combination with the Trophic Cascades Principle is – if you ask me – that ‘domino’, or that ‘killer app’ which we have been waiting and looking for.

We just need to be able to see it, and to explain it.

Less complexity
Complexity paralyses us. What we humans like in our lives is simplicity. Which is why, to restore a healthy balance to the entire planet, we actually need to narrow all the choices there are down to a few of the right incremental changes.

Many of us have made use of this knowledge in our personal lives. You make one simple, but incremental change, and stick with it, and have patience, and eventually, it turns out that you have managed to change your life. And when that happens, the life of those around you usually change as well.

If we accept this premise and these principles for a start, then education to create awareness about the them, as well as about issue of carbon emissions and how to solve this crisis, is where everything begins.

So it begins with saying: Climate change is not some “global issue”. Climate change is personal. The crisis starts and ends with you.

The job we need to get done is to make everyone around us understand this. To understand that the solution to this immense challenge humanity faces – with climate science predicting that unless we manage to get our carbon emissions under control, we are heading for catastrophic changes already within just a few decades – lies within ourselves, within our individual actions, and how a Trophic Cascade of actions and events – as more and more people around us start doing the same – becomes the solution we have been looking for.

Booklet to illustrate this
‘The Solution’ is the title of a 36-page booklet which contains inspiration and ideas as to how to get started on this collective ­as well as personal journey.

The story illustrates what it is we can do to raise awareness and start a conversation not so much about the problem with climate change, but about the range of solutions we need to install to ensure a safer climate in the future.

The solution to the carbon emissions is clear: renewable energy in a fossil fuel free world. But how do we get there? To become part of that solution we must all ­educate ourselves – along with those who are dear to us – so we can make the right choices.

Fossil fuel costs are rising. Quickly. In Australia, the surge in gas prices has been breathtaking – with gas prices tripling in little more than a year. Electricity prices have more than doubled over a short period as well. In the same period, renewable energy costs have been falling, and they keep falling.

It is really not that hard to figure out what we need to do at a practical level. But wanting to act still raises a lot of questions. It appears to be complicated. The vision with the ‘The Solution’ is to address and remove that haze of doubt and inspire to simply get started with implementing the solutions we need.


On this page:
Introduction to the booklet

A vision for our city

Introduction to the booklet ‘The Solution’

Climate change poses many questions to us. There is an overflow of information about the impact our carbon emissions have. We hear about the myriad of scientific reports, we see the issues being debated in the papers and on tv. It appears to be a very, very complicated problem.

This booklet presents a simple vision for what could happen if a community or a city – such as Geelong – decided to make a difference by saying: “Really, it is not that complicated at all.”

The booklet’s author, Mik Aidt, is a Danish journalist who moved to Geelong with his family in 2013.

“People often ask me: ‘So what can I do?’ This booklet and the accompaigning website is a response to that question.

The story in the booklet provides a very simple answer, which my eight-year-old son Alex helped me to find: speaking with confidence and enthusiasm about that there is a solution. And that it is very simple.

It is a matter of figuring out how we can literally speak the solution into existence. That is something which can only happen by talking about it face to face. I have studied the issues of climate change and communication about climate change for a while, and I have learned that when we bring simplicity, optimism and fun into addressing the issues of carbon emissions and climate change, we can inspire collective action at the kind of substantial level which the world urgently needs to see now,” said Mik Aidt at the Sustainability Expo in Geelong Performing Arts Centre where the first edition of ‘The Solution’ was launched on the 8th of February 2014.

“Scientists and the United Nations tell us we must cut the carbon emissions relatively quickly in order to prevent a global climate catastrophe. Half of Arctic surface ice has already melted. Our politicians, who really ought to be the ones taking action on this, currently aren’t doing what needs to be done, because their voters aren’t pushing them to do that. Every year the global carbon levels just keep rising and rising. So, this is where we are at: Citizens and communities need to step in and work from ground up.”

“What will it take to get us involved like that, as individuals? We will only step in at the moment when we feel it makes sense because we are part of a greater movement, a collective effort. What the last five-six years have taught us is that all the factual and very scary information which the climate science provides doesn’t seem to be doing the trick. It doesn’t get us up from the couch.”

“As a kickstarter we need a simple and positive vision that a great deal of us feel we can subscribe to and would like to become part of. We need artists with imagination and good contact to large groups of fans to help us with communicating this vision. And we need children, because not only are they the ones to take over this world we are leaving to them, they are also good at communicating this kind of vision with striking simplicity, yet allowing room for being playful and abstract.”

“So far the vision, and the booklet itself, has received an overwhelmingly positive response here in Geelong,” said the 51-year-old journalist: “Now we’d like to help spreading it as far and wide as we can. For instance, we hope to create a public art/expo event around the solutions-theme in Geelong on 27 April 2014 – the Renew Geelong Picnic.”

Relevant companies and projects are invited to place an ad in the next edition of the booklet. We are looking for sponsors to help provide schools in their area with free copies. Printing 150 copies costs around $1,200.

If you would like to support or help the project with fundraising ideas, with financial support or distribution services, then we’d love to hear from you at info@climatesafety.info.

Open source: If you would like to re-publish the booklet in a customized version for your city, then contact us so we can send you the high resolution photos and layout-document. It was produced in InDesign 4.0 on a Mac.

Online bookstore
The booklet currently sells as print-on-demand on Lulu.com for AUS $17.00, or £9.00 excluding shipping. It is published by Centre for Climate Safety, Geelong, 2014. 36 pages.

» You can purchase the book on  lulu.com

» Download/open the booklet in PDF-format: www.thesolution.org.au/booklet

» Webpage with more information about the book: www.climatesafety.info/thesolution

» Geelong media release in PDF-format: TheSolution_MediaRelease01.pdf


From the ground up

“We must continue relentlessly to pursue the solution until that day when the world again is a safe place to live for all ­living things and beings on this planet.

Individuals who are ­investing wholeheartedly in clean ­energy and energy efficiency are ­showing the way. They are the true champions of our time, creating a ­decentralised energy reform from the ground up.”
Mik Aidt

The snowball-effect of optimism

The doom-and-gloom perspective and fright of the impacts of climate change paralyzes and creates apathy, whereas optimism and a “from the ground up”-approach is much more likely to start the kind of infectious snow-ball-effect which we need to see now. In an abstract way – with photos and a little ‘children’s tale’ – this booklet ‘The Solution’ outlines how the upgoing spiral can be started.

The aim is to help creating that kind of confidence and “we-can-do-this-ourselves”-attitude that can turn the current underground movement of solution-builders into a mainstream movement. To help get the snowball of optimism rolling.

Getting people to invest time and money into initiatives which have a real impact on our atmosphere and reduce lots of carbon emissions can be done without actually having to mention that word ‘climate’ or keep blasting out the frightening doom-and-gloom tipping points which scientists tell us we are quickly approaching.

The idea with the booklet itself is to throw it into ‘creative commons’ circulation with numerous customized, local versions of it – ideally one version per city who embraces it – and then to continuously upgrade it with more pages containing solution-oriented ads, simple guides, hands-on advice, and toolboxes.


Click on the cover to see the booklet (in PDF-format)

Click on the cover to see the booklet (in PDF-format)

Mik Aidt launched the booklet in Geelong on 8 February 2014. Photo by Suzette Jackson

Geelong, 8 February 2014. Photo by Suzette Jackson

ikon_pdficon_small-arrow_DOWN » Booklet download weblink (PDF): www.climatesafety.info/thesolutionpdf

» The shortcut to this web-page is: www.climatesafety.info/thesolution

“If there is a world here in a hundred years, it’s going to be saved by tens of millions of little things.”
Pete Seeger (1919–2014), in a 2007-interview republished by YES Magazine


Book: Climb the Green Ladder

Here is a book which “argues that leadership for sustainability does not always have to (and hardly does) come from above. In fact, small-scale, bottom-up initiatives like recycling in the office, switching off the computer at the end of the day or reducing paper consumption and waste are very easy to implement and will have a positive impact not only on the company (saving money) but also on your personal career.

The book ‘Climb the Green Ladder: Make Your Company and Career More Sustainable’ is a perfect gift to employees, colleagues, and all those who want to lead a more sustainable life, but don’t know where or with what to start.”

» Read more: www.sustainability-leaders.com

Artist Keri Smith introduces her contribution to Post Carbon Institute’s Public Energy Art Kit, ‘Own Your Power’.


Sources of topics and names mentioned in the longer version of ‘The Solution’, and some of the articles, videos and quotes which the text is refering to or which have been giving inspiration to the story ‘The Solution’.

The Green Ninja

If you have not yet met the Green Ninja yet, then… here you go:

The key to transformation is simplicity itself

“We can endlessly get lost in the complexity of sustainable development, but the key to transformation is simplicity itself. Don’t take my word for it; just listen to leading politicians and business leaders.
They recognise that at the core, all we really need to do to unlock the creativity and innovation that can turn us away from social and environmental disaster is to change our thoughts.”
Jo Confino


“Martin Luther King did not stir his audience in 1963 by declaiming ‘I have a nightmare’ ”
Anthony Giddens, in his book ‘The Politics of Climate Change’


“It’s been said that the most common way that people give up their power is by thinking that they don’t have any, but we do. We have real power, and it’s not coal-fired or reactor based. It’s community power, and community power is baseload power because it’s always there.”
Dave Sweeney, the Australian Conservation Foundation


Living, breathing reasons to care

“Without a way of translating the dry, faceless facts of climate science into living, breathing reasons to care about climate change, meaningful public engagement will remain out of sight.”
“We have failed, collectively, to make climate change something that inspires passion in all but a vocal minority (on either side of the argument)”
Climate Outreach and Information Network – in a new 15-page briefing paper entitled ‘Climate Silence’

The Copenhagen Wheel

» Take Part:
This Device Literally Reinvents the Wheel—Bicycling May Never Be the Same
The Copenhagen Wheel acts like a biking partner, without the awkwardness of tandem riding.


10 percent is allegedly all it takes

“Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when 10 percent of the population are deeply committed to an idea, the idea will always be adapted by the majority of the society. Below 10 percent, there is no visible activity. Above 10 percent, the idea spreads like wildfire.”

» Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New Worldview

Science Daily – 26 July 2011:
Minority rules: Scientists discover tipping point for the spread of ideas
Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.

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