February 2012

Reflections from Greenpeace on the need for new strategies for a paradigm shift

It was March 2010, and our executive director, Kumi Naidoo, addressed his first executive directors’ meeting. It was just after COP 15 and we were all still not over its failure. Kumi expressed his concern: “We are winning many battles, but are loosing our planet”. His talk resulted in Greenpeace executive directors across the world addressing what we needed to do differently.

A number of initiatives were agreed directed at the way we campaign, the way we are organised, where we put our human and financial resources, etc. One of the initiatives was the way we address (or not) the dominant socio-economic paradigm, which is core to the problems we face today.

Uygar Ozesmi, executive director at Greenpeace Mediterranean who led the initiative, says, “A holistic, ecological view has always informed Greenpeace at heart. We acknowledged that the environmental problems are caused by human society and how it situates itself vis-à-vis nature. Thus, we must seek the root cause of the environmental crisis in the dominant socio-economic paradigm we live in. Without challenging this paradigm, we will not be working for sustainable solutions. Therefore it is critical that Greenpeace begins to develop a language and narrative that highlights the need for a paradigm shift, articulates an alternative vision, and embeds these narratives in our work.’

Last year we amended our long-term programme aim to express the need to redefine progress. So far, progress has driven human societies to plunder the Earth’s resources, with no regard for the long term or the planet’s ability to nurture life. We need new, high value, low impact models of progress which measure human wellbeing in terms of peace, social justice and the enjoyment of a thriving natural world. Each of our campaigns needs to eliminate, not manage, the environmental problem it addresses.

The Smart CSOs Lab, therefore, came at the right time. Even though in Greenpeace we believe that we are pretty good at creating fundamental change, we realise we need to advance our campaigns to generate transformational change rather than incremental change and take more of a multi disciplinary approach. We too are caught in our ways of working and default settings.

The creation of the Smart CSOs Lab was an important foundation. The workshops that were conducted so far and its agreed initiatives are setting us off in the right direction and will help us in Greenpeace to create the right progress. We now need to increase the teamwork between Greenpeace and the Smart CSOs Lab and its network. We hope that together we will be enabling the needed transformation for the Great Transition.