Beyond Denial: Staring into the face of Climate Change

Australia is on fire, literally and has been for several months now.  Yet we are confronted by the spectre of leaders minimising the deflecting dialogue around the causes of the unprecedented weather events taking place all around the world.

Several years ago I was in retreat with global leadership development practitioner Meg Wheatley.  Meg was firmly of the view that the planet had reached its tipping point and that all that was now possible was to work toward creating pockets of humanity in a society increasingly under threat. It was a confronting experience.   I didn’t and still don’t know whether Meg’s conclusion is accurate.  There is something inherent within me that believes we can’t give up.  Meg wasn’t asking us to give up though, instead she was stripping away what she described as the illusion of hope.

She argued that as long as we naively hoped that ‘things would turn themselves around’ that we wouldn’t allow ourselves to look deeply into the realities of climate change, the environmental consequences and the incredible social upheaval that will result.

The real question was whether or not I could bear to agree with her.  Most of the week was spent in meditation, holding that question. That was just five years ago.  Those conversations felt more distant, more hypothetical then.  Meg was holding us to the fire.  I hadn’t been ready or willing to stare into the face of the future.

Something has shifted in just that short time.  These days I am coaching clients as they step out of the Fire Command Centre, for moments of brief reprieve after weeks on the front line.  We look to the sky and it is perpetually orange.

A young doctor recounted to me on Christmas Day that the MRI machines at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hosptial had shut down.  Smoke levels were so high that the machine registered a fire within the unit itself.  There was of course no fire either in the MRI machine or the hospital.  The medical staff and patients were experiencing the flow on effects of the fires, hundreds of kilometres away.   The delicate interconnections and balance of our lives are becoming more evident.

I didn’t know whether Meg Wheatley was right five years ago – but I did learn to understand the power of sitting, without distraction, in the tension of the question.  No Netflix, no glass of wine, no social media, no excuses.

So what are we going to do folks?  Denial is becoming more difficult, but still there are those with deeply vested interests who cling to denial.   Knowing my own capacity and need for denial, sitting with it day in day out in those days with Meg, now brings a level of compassion.   The fact of the matter is that I was held in that place, by a team of practitioners who were able to meet our panic, our fighting back, our grief. They created a container that somehow allowed us to show up a little more.  They held us as we looked into and spoke about the anxiety that too often is left operating in the background, flooding our survival circuitry and driving reactive decisions and behaviour.

As leadership consultants, facilitators and coaches we have a role to play in holding and supporting leaders and communities to look into the face of what is happening, without deflecting.  Just as Meg and her team held that role for us, at CLE we are committed to doing the same for others in 2020.   We will build the skills of practitioners to support deep enquiry, and equip other practitioners to assist communities to unite, beyond the shock and disbelief, to stare into the face of what is happening and make choices about how they want to live and what we are truly committed to.

Please join us for


Tuesday January 28, 2020 
10am – 5pm

RSVP  to confirm your place, and for further details.

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