Extract from an interview with Christiana Figueres (former Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC) at the Spirit of Humanity Forum, Reykjavik.
Q: What inspired you to participate in the Forum?
CF: It is very clear to me that everything we do in the outside world is only the extension, or the result, of what is happening in the inside world. So, that is where we have to start if we want to change anything on the outside.
Q: At the Spirit of Humanity Forum, we are exploring how inner transformation can bring about global transformation. With your extensive experience in international politics, leading the historical Paris agreement and bringing together different parties, how would you see that happening?
CF: I don’t think there is one perfect answer that covers everything, but one way I can share is from my experience when I took over responsibility for holding and guiding the international negotiations on climate change. Six months after the Copenhagen meeting 2009, with the debacle that unfortunately was the result of that conference, I was given the responsibility of picking up the pieces and doing something with it.
The power of thought
I realised that there was a predominant feeling of hopelessness, that we would never be able to address climate change, it was too complicated, too expensive and most people said to me that it was too late anyway so we shouldn’t even try. It became very clear that with that mind set that we would for sure never be able to reach an agreement. So, instead of changing what the agreement would look like, I started with the mind set we bring to the challenge – the power of thought.
It was the shift from feeling helpless to feeling enabled, understanding that there is an infinite source of strength and wisdom within ourselves which we only just barely tap into and, if we tap deeper into it, we have everything that it takes to construct a different reality from the one that we are perceiving right now.
We need to re-connect with ourselves, each other and with nature
Q: If the world is mirroring our consciousness, how do we need to change in order to address the huge challenges we are facing now?
CF: At the risk of being a reductionist and bringing it down to one concept, I think it has to do with connectedness. Over time we have disconnected ourselves as a human race, certainly from nature and we see the result of that. We have disconnected ourselves from each other and we see the result as a lack of solidarity and compassion, and we have disconnected ourselves from ourselves. So, this is a process that will not happen overnight, but I do see a lot of evidence of re-connection, certainly with young people for whom I am very grateful, of young people who are really beginning to understand that we need to re-connect with ourselves, re-connect with each other and re-connect with nature. And in that re-connection to understand that actually we were never disconnected, it was only our thinking that made it so.
We need to take time to listen deeply within ourselves
Q: What can we do to re-connect?
I don’t think it is so difficult. You need to separate yourself on regular basis from everything that happens out there, from all the noise, and all the activity and conversations. Just separate yourself from all of this for a few minutes, or more, every day and listen. It is all about deep listening within ourselves. As we do that, we discover a huge universe that is there, not just about ourselves but everything that is. I know it sounds simple, but it is very profound.
Q: So, you are actually talking about inner work, taking time to reflect, sit in silence and meditate?
Yes, some people prefer sitting while meditating and I prefer that as well, but we can also take this time while walking in nature, running or in any activity, as long as the activity is not taking up our attention, but rather use the activity as a background and in the foreground is the capacity to re-connect with ourselves.
It is about solidarity
Q: At the Spirit of Humanity Forum, we are reflecting on core human values in governance, such as love and compassion, those values that connect us all, but many do not see them as a serious solution to the problems of the world, like climate change. What is your view?
I don’t know how they cannot be a serious solution because it is very clear that we are not going to solve the climate change in a timely fashion unless we truly understand what solidarity is all about. At the root of it, climate change is a hugely unjust phenomenon that we have created. It is completely unjust to the most vulnerable people in the world who have not caused the climate problem. They have not emitted and will probably not emit in the future. It is completely unjust towards the present younger generation and future generations who have also not contributed to the problem. So, this is about solidarity. Geographical solidarity, to people we don’t know and perhaps will never know, but equally important to keep them in our awareness. So this is truly about putting right a very wrong situation in which we have allowed our business of the moment, our daily activities, to distract us from understanding solidarity. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that every human being alive today or in the future has an opportunity to live a dignified life of well-being.