Whether we think in seasons or quarters, this past one has been a time of reckoning across the world. From the U.S. Congress to the E.U. Parliament to COP 17, “leaders” met and allowed impasses to pass as outcomes. Such inaction from our global leadership has life-threatening impacts, both for quality of life and life itself. None are more likely to feel those impacts than our youth. I was moved deeply when I read an account of a young leader responding to inaction at the recent U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP 17). Anjali Appadurai, a college student and delegate, poignantly declared to the plenary and its diplomats: “You’ve been negotiating all my life… In that time, you’ve failed to meet pledges, you’ve missed targets, and you’ve broken promises. But you’ve heard this all before.” With a dramatic break in protocol, she then moved off the microphone and called:
To which the young generation in the crowd responded by standing.
Anjali: “Equity now!”
Crowd: “Equity now!”
Anjali: “You’ve run out of excuses!”
Crowd: “You’ve run out of excuses!”
Anjali: “We’re running out of time!”
Crowd: “We’re running out of time!”
Anjali: “Get it done!”
Crowd: “Get it done!”
The “people’s mic” filled the constrained space with a refreshingly uninhibited message from the future and demonstrated unflappable courage in getting heard. Message received. So now the question becomes, what will it take to “get it done”?
It will take a dramatic shift in our leadership practices, embracing sustainability as an ethical imperative for the 21st century and using guiding questions in our work like:
Which choice will bring the highest benefit to all?
Another world really is possible if we are guided by such an expanded vision. Consider how our actions and inactions as leaders shift if we ask ourselves in every moment of choice:
What will provide the highest benefit for all?
… and then make that choice with the best information that we have available in the time that we are given.
Imagine a world where leaders lead from such an ethic of community!
We owe that possibility to our children and the future generations of all species.