Understanding transitions may be critical to our survival

Understanding transitions may be critical to our survival

By James Dyke, University of Southampton

Big jobs. Sisyphus by Shutterstock
Mopic

Next time you have a bad day at work, consider Sisyphus. His annual appraisal by the ancient Greek gods was so bad (over the previous 12 months he demonstrated deceitfulness, greed, malice and homicide) that he was reassigned to rolling a massive boulder up a steep hill only to find that when he neared the top, the boulder would somehow always slip through his grasp and return back to the bottom. This was a job not just for life, but for eternity.

If Sisyphus had somehow been able to crest the hill, then at least he would have been able to demonstrate the important mathematical concept of critical transitions, abrupt and often momentous changes. Continue reading

Battle for hearts and minds on climate change will be fought across generations

Battle for hearts and minds on climate change will be fought across generations

By James Dyke, University of Southampton

Winston Churchill, not a man concerned about making enemies.
Cecil Beaton

Last week there was a bit of a hullabaloo when it was discovered that the international programme director for Greenpeace, Pascal Husting, was flying to work from Luxembourg to Amsterdam a few times a month. Sensible arguments could be made for this arrangement and in the bigger picture this cannot be considered an important issue. And on some level, it just didn’t seem fair to single out Husting in this way.

It wasn’t fair. But politics and campaigning isn’t fair.

You cannot have a senior member of an organisation taking regular short haul flights for a group that has in the past asked its members to break the law and risk limb and even life to protest exactly against that. At some point someone should have paused for thought and asked: “I wonder what this would look like if it became common knowledge?” If they had, then Husting would have done much earlier what he has now committed to do: take the train, and acknowledge that this was a lapse of judgement.

So now we can all move on.

Except some won’t because this incident will be used to further sharpen the axes wielded against Greenpeace. Greenpeace is by its nature a controversial organisation. If nothing else it confronts power, and power typically never cedes an argument lightly. Nor does it play fair. Continue reading