The Day That The Change Became Real

Posted on September 28, 2013 by restorativeleadership
by Seana Steffen, Restorative Leadership Institute

“We are history, you and I today… the day that the change became real.” With humility and earthy grace, Casey Camp-Horinek of the Ponca tribe invoked blessings of hope from the four directions as the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit convened this past weekend. First envisioned by co-founder Osprey Orielle Lake to “usher in a just and necessary transition,” 100 women of renown and impact from the global north and global south gathered to make history.

What history?

A Declaration: Women of The World Call for Urgent Action on Climate Change and Sustainability Solutions. Emboldened by the failure of the world’s governments to take necessary action to avert a global rise of 2.0 degrees Celsius, the first summit of its kind was itself historic.

The event began with its intended outcome: signatories of the Declaration ranged from Dr. Jane Goodall, Hon. Mary Robinson, Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Christiana Figueres and Rachel Kyte, to lesser known heroines like Maylu Waura Txucarramae of Brazil’s Amazon rain forest, Neema Namadamu of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Lene Kielsen Holm of Inuk/Greenland.

“Together we can arrest and even reverse the trend if we take action now,” declared Sally Ranney, co-founder, in response to the indicators that the world’s atmosphere had already hit 400 parts per million of carbon and conservative estimates were charting an alarming 4 degrees Celsius (or 7.2 degree Fahrenheit) increase in average temperature. When likened to a child’s fever, it is easy to understand why the Declaration asserts that:

Climate change threatens life as we know it on our one and only home planet. Our children, our grandchildren and all future generations are in danger. Natural systems upon which all living things depend are in jeopardy.

What change?

The Declaration serves as a “clarion call” for men and women to take all necessary actions individually and collectively, leading the change from a culture of “domination, depletion, and destruction” of nature to one of “restore, respect, replenish.” With a focus on solving the climate crisis, it outlines actions across all levels, from grassroots to United Nations participation.

Predicated on the rights of nature, the rights of future generations, the rights of indigenous peoples and the rights of women, the women’s climate change agenda calls for us to:

  • Cancel plans for future carbon developments
  • Divest from fossil developments and phase out fossil fuel subsidies
  • Establish carbon fees and a Financial Transaction Tax
  • Revise economic indicators
  • Secure a binding, international climate treaty
  • Prioritize adaptation funding specifically targeting community-based and women’s groups
  • Invest in an energy revolution toward 100% renewables
  • Protect 20% of the world’s oceans by 2020, and 40% by 2040

What lessons?

With the invitation to attend the summit, I knew I had a rare opportunity to discover something about restorative leadership in action and what it will take to bring out the best of our diverse humanity for a sustainable world. As I listened I learned from:

  • Lorena Aguilar, senior advisor to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, has chosen the sacrifice of leaving her community in Costa Rica to answer the call to serve. Lorena’s philosophy, salted with a laugh, is that “with lemons, make margaritas.” She teaches us that:

To bring out the best of our diverse humanity takes disciplined intention flavored with good humor.

  • Young leader Thilmeeza Hussain is from the Maldives, an entire island nation at risk to becoming climate refugees. Facing the ultimate threat to their right to exist, she and her community embrace a mantra of moving “forward, forward” rather than avoiding fears of the future. Thilmeeza teaches us that:

To bring out the best of our diverse humanity takes hopeful resolve.

  • Finally, the Declaration itself says: We can and must join together as women to take action with common but differentiated responsibilities for achieving sustainability. Throughout the weekend, delegates willingly acknowledged the different impacts and therefore differentiated responsibilities of being from the global north or global south, regardless their role in causing those impacts directly. Their example teaches us that:

To bring out the best of our diverse humanity takes the willingness to take responsibility with generosity and grace.

To join the movement and forward a vision of promise, see IWECI.