Positive Impact Blog

Thought provoking insights for change makers

COP 21: Are current events shaping long-term decisions?

With the COP21, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change starting at the end November in Paris, I was anticipating to dedicate my blog this month on the topic of climate change. Nobody of course anticipated the possibility of the terrorist acts in the weeks leading up to the climate conference. I reflect in this blog about the effects of major current events and how they contribute to important long-term decisions we might otherwise not have taken.

We all remember the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011 which was a result of a tsunami wave that impacted the nuclear reactors. As a result, the German and Swiss governments took the courageous and significant decisions to set an end to their usage of nuclear power as a local energy source. It is believed that the Fukushima events played a favourable role in these important decisions.

Sometimes, we are afraid that terrible events simply end up with more regulations and restrictions without addressing the connected root causes. Such sentiments were expressed loud and clear after the inland security measures in the United States following the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The same concerns are now expressed after the Paris attacks which have resulted in tighter security measures and more power to the police and security forces at the expense of “democracy”. And while we all hope to be living in safe and just societies, we never quite know what price we have to pay for it.

Now, what if there were increasing positive outcomes of disastrous events? What if there were more ‘Hurricane Katrina’ outcomes, leading to more trusting communities, significantly better schooling and other highly positive social impacts as we can so gladly observe in New Orleans over the past decade? What if?


Hurricane Katrina sparked some positive changes.

What if the Paris terrorist attacks happened at just the right moment, so that we feel that little bit more human to realize that we are indeed one people and that indeed we live on one planet and that those in positions of decision-making power at the COP21 in Paris can indeed make the miracle we need come true and ensure we do not go beyond the two-degree temperature ceiling we need to survive on this planet? What if?

After all, Canada has just elected a new Prime Minister who finally gets it – just in time for the Paris climate talks. And President Obama is showing signs of being able to resist some strong forces and thus put an end to the planned but highly disputed North American natural gas pipeline. I am one of several thousand academics who have signed an urgent pleading letter to those in power to not exceed a 1.5 degree temperature ceiling. Our students actively send #EarthtoParis images and messages speaking out for the engaged civil society that we also are.

This is a message of hope. Hope, I find, is a noble human trait worth cultivating. A positive force in the face of adversity and difficulties. Let us hope for that miracle in Paris that we need in the coming days and weeks. And that Paris will be remembered for that unlikely positive outcome from a moment from absolute darkness. One candle can light an entire dark room. I am hopeful and I hope so are you! How do you spend your hope energy? What do you hope for? Whatever it is, hope it with all of your heart!

Author: Katrin Muff PhD

Katrin Muff is a thought leader in the transformative space of sustainability and responsibility. From 2008 to 2018, she led the Thought Leadership activities in the area of conceptual design at Business School Lausanne, where she acted as Dean from 2008-2015 until self-organization made such a title redundant. Under her leadership, the school focused its vision on entrepreneurship, responsibility and sustainability in education and research. Her business experience includes 10 years at ALCOA (GM in Russia, Industry Analyst for Global M&A in the U.S. and Business Analyst Europe), 3 years as Director, Strategic Planning EMEA at IAMS Europe (Procter&Gamble), and 3 years as a co-founder of Yupango, a coaching consultancy dedicated to start-ups and training management teams.

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