Dear Partners, Associates and friends of GRLI
The title track and video background to this newsletter is the 1992 IBM advertisement featuring two elephants navigating their way across the Namib desert. The song is “He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother” by The Hollies.
Arguably the most urgent work of our time is deep regeneration of the natural environment through restoration of life-sustaining relationships at multiple levels. This work requires an unwavering commitment from those prepared to do the heavy lifting needed for whole person, whole institution & whole system transformation.
The growing certainty of sudden climate tipping points (see the upcoming IPCC report) and recent "unprecedented" weather extremes (record highs in North America, devastating rainfall and mudslides in Asia, flooding and deadly wildfires in Europe) has been accentuated by a “space tourism race” amongst the poster-boys of late-stage capitalism whose effective tax rates appear to be inversely correlated to their carbon footprints. A quick reality check… at the time of writing companies had 5 years and 8 months before depleting the emissions budget for keeping global temperature rise below 1.5°C. The Amazon is now emitting more carbon than it absorbs.
An extraordinary regional example of multiplied effects leading to tipping points in ecosystems was seen in British Columbia, Canada where the town of Lytton set a new all-time high temperature record for 3 days in a row (reaching 121F/49C on 29 June) only to be destroyed by wildfires the following day. The British Columbia heat-related death toll exceeded 700 people, their fruit-growing regions lost up to 75% of major crops, and it is estimated that more than a billion sea creatures perished on the BC coast. While horrifying individually, together these events and actions constitute species level extinction events akin to the 2019/2020 Australian wildfires.
Meanwhile the global pandemic continues to unfold with the global south disproportionately affected as had been expected. The third wave of infections in Africa arrives at a time when only 1% of the continents’ 1.4 Billion inhabitants have been vaccinated. This is in stark contrast to the accessibility of vaccines in the north where zoo animals are now receiving their first vaccine doses. The failure to ignite global solidarity within the pandemic context naturally draws in question our collective handling of the Climate Emergency and 6th mass extinction event.
Which brings me back to the refrain of our title song…
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.
Looking after ourselves necessitates looking after everyone. There can be no “us” without “all of us”. Simply tolerating or including the other (be it historically disadvantaged human brothers and sisters, our siblings from the animal and plant kingdom, or life-sustaining ecosystem services) will not be sufficient. Those with the ability and the surplus capacity to do so need to prepare for fully empowering and, if need be, carrying their global siblings.
So, what might prioritising “all of us” look like? Perhaps it manifests when progress is made on declaring ecocide a crime against peace, or when a global minimum on corporate tax is touted, or when the COVAX Alliance ramps up efforts to bring 520 million vaccines to Africa, or when long-standing symbols of hate are being removed in recognition of the need to create a new inclusive shared context, or when small steps are made towards making work more humane.
- In a time of permanent crisis, how can we prioritise “all of us” at the me, we and all of us level?
- How might locally bound empathy and solidarity be expanded to encompass the globe?
- How can we move beyond inadequate pledges that minimize inconvenience for a few only to be carried by the suffering of billions?
- Global responsibility? We hold the questions.
In this newsletter we highlight a new journal article co-authored by GRLI Guardian Nicola Pless reflecting on the role that leadership has played in the response to the global Covid-19 crisis. We're also pleased to share the full 5-part series of the Responsible Leadership Dialogues with Nicola Pless and social impact investor Peter Wuffli. Also, an open access opportunity from Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, with thanks to our Emerald Publishing colleagues.
You are invited to view recent events, including the 7 July HESI event where GRLI hosted the closing keynote panel with teen climate activist Bea Harrison, a Teach the Future volunteer, and Labode Popoola, Vice-Chancellor of Osun State University. And also the June 17 PRME Global Forum where I joined in a panel alongside GRLI Board Member and AACSB President and CEO, Caryn Beck-Dudley, among others.
We call your attention to updates and events from our Founding Strategic Partners: EMFD's fifteenth anniversary edition of Global Focus magazine and AACSB's 5 August 2021 Global Governance Summit: Re-engineering Governance for Good.
Finally we are pleased to welcome two new representatives to each of the GRLI Board and GRLI Guardians.