Solving Tough Problems

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VB: A sense of urgency seems to exist with the issue of climate change, but translating it into actual action, rather than just window dressing, is the challenge.

For example, the whole popular movement of “going green”, recycling, solar and wind power, and other such actions may divert attention from getting at the core of the climate change issue, which is fossil fuel and other serious contributors to greenhouse gases. Yet it’s a genuinely difficult problem, and there are multi-billion dollar interests at stake in preserving the status quo.

The aim is to mobilize public and private action to address the challenge of climate change. I think within the next few months you’ll be seeing some public statements in the media in Canada, which I’m happy about. Really big changes have to be made by a lot of parties quickly.

VB: While you were at Shell from 1988 to 1993 one of the global scenarios you worked on was related to climate change.

In a way it’s a sobering experience to work in Israel because I get to see what it looks like to be faced with an existential threat.

Mankind is faced with an existential threat in climate change but people don’t quite get that yet.At least in British Columbia the mood is pretty good.They’re winning slowly but surely, they will say, through the courts.Somebody said to me in Israel that it’s almost impossible to solve, to create a peaceful solution to, a problem which is characterized by a severe power asymmetry.Because the powerful people can always walk away and say “to heck with you”.But it’s sobering to see how that looks up close and personal.VB: Who are some of the thinkers or authors who have had a significant influence on you and your approach to tough problem solving?knew that he had to use the language of power in order to effect change. I think the good news is the situation has the hope of coming right.Because aboriginal people in Canada are winning the power battle.We’ve been working since August 2007 with a group that goes by the name of 3E, the Economy, Energy and Environment Initiative.It is trying to bring together business people from the industrial, finance and energy sectors, environmental activists, academics, researchers and politicians to shift Canada from being a laggard, which it is at the moment, terribly embarrassing, to a leader in this field. Simply because it can only be addressed through international collective action, and there aren’t a lot of good precedents for that.

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