leadership is voluntary

Good Sunday Morning,

Greta Thunberg is a leaderAlthough we don't like to admit it, most of us are very comfortable living in an autocratic world. We talk about "Strong Leaders" as if we expected them to be arm wrestlers and reward those that dictate a course of action, a strategy or even a belief system, by elevating them to the status of leader. We pretend that we elect a Prime Minister even though a majority of MPs can elect any one of their fellow MPs as the "Prime" Minister of the day. We seem to be comforted by knowing that "someone" is in charge, presumably because they know what they are doing.

After the Iron Curtain melted into the dustbin of history, it was surprising that so many Eastern Europeans were nostalgic about the good old days. It perplexed me when I heard stories from my relatives. But over time I've come to understand the basic appeal of autocratic rule. If someone else is in charge and we don't have a say, it's not our fault when things go sour. And that's convenient because we're really too busy with our daily lives to take on the extra work.

I'm a sailor. And when a skipper takes people out on a boat they are advised, usually during the safety orientation, that the captain has ultimate authority on the vessel. When she gives a direct order, it must be followed. It's a tradition on the sea and it comes from the fact that there are times when a split second decision can mean the difference between life and death for the crew. The skipper or captain is responsible for the safety of the crew regardless of his or her competency. If the crew is uncomfortable with that, they don't sail.

Having never enlisted, I don't have personal experience to draw from but it is my understanding it is the same principle that dictates the need for absolute obedience in the Armed Forces. The life and death of many is decided by leaders who take on that responsibility, presumably because they have the wisdom, knowledge and acumen to make the right decision. Trouble is, the history books are littered with examples where that was not the case and as Commander in Chief, Donald Trump pretty much has obliterated that illusion for all time.

voluntary.jpgDemocracy belongs to those who show up and by its very nature that means to be sustained, it also comes with a responsibility to participate. The age of "Father Knows Best" needs to finally draw to a close. And the idea that leadership is reserved for those whom it is thrust upon, who are anointed or who are born into it, needs to die. Leadership is much more dynamic than that and if we are to collectively rise to the challenges of our time, it must not be restricted to those at the top of an organizational pyramid or an org chart. Perhaps that's what Elizabeth is referring to when she reminds us that "Democracy is too important to be left to politicians."

As Dave Meslin in his TED talk about apathy reminds us, leadership is voluntary. "A heroic effort is a collective effort, number one. Number two, it's imperfect. It's not very glamorous and it doesn't suddenly start and suddenly end. It's an ongoing process your whole life. But most importantly, it's voluntary." Becky Bond and Zack Exley also talk about distributed leadership as they recount their experience during the Bernie Sanders Campaign in the book "Rules for Revolutionaries." Seth Godin, Simon Sinek and so many others touch on this as well.

Ava-Hill.jpgThe best leaders are not the most powerful but those that can inspire us to follow their example and encourage us to lead as well. And if we continue that cascade; to inspire others to inspire others to lead by inspiring yet again, we develop a culture that mobilizes the masses, embraces change and empowers us all to join forces to face the threats of climate and social breakdown.

It is not an iron fist that will rescue civilization, although right now China is making a good case for that approach, but the unleashing of human potential at all levels of our society. Unleashing that potential is what this episode of Ideas was all about. Entitled "The Art of Leadership," it explores what turns people into leaders and asks the question: "Can anybody lead?"

One example of leadership is Generation Squeeze: "Hockey Moms, Commuters, Doctors & Kids Defend Pricing Pollution In Court," reads the headline. Generation Squeeze is leading a coalition of groups who seek intervener status in the Saskatchewan and Ontario Courts of Appeal to defend the constitutionality of pricing pollution. Saskatchewan and Ontario provincial governments have challenged Ottawa’s authority to impose a carbon price on provinces who fail to establish their own. “Not only is pricing pollution a national concern, it’s necessary to prevent discrimination against younger Canadians, because climate change threatens our health and the well being of future generations,” explains Dr. Paul Kershaw, Founder of Generation Squeeze, and a professor in the UBC School of Population Health.

Squeeze.jpgAnother example is the Swedish teen who is stealing the show at COP24. “I expected it to be more action and less talking — it’s mostly just small-talking,” she said on Wednesday. “This is an amazing opportunity. But if it continues the way it is now, we are never going to achieve anything.” In a statement to the UN Secretary General, Greta summed it up succinctly.

"For 25 years countless people have stood in front of the United Nations climate conferences, asking our nations' leaders to stop the emissions. But, clearly this has not worked since the emissions just continue to rise. So I will not ask them anything. Instead I will ask the media to start treating the crisis as a crisis. Instead I will ask the people around the world to realize that our political leaders have failed us. Because we are facing an existential threat and there is no time to continue down this road of madness.

"So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge. And since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago."

Alexandria.jpgUnderscoring the sellout of mainstream political leaders, last week Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled back the curtain on the ostensibly “bipartisan” orientation for newly elected members of Congress at Harvard’s Kennedy School in Boston. “Our ‘bipartisan’ congressional orientation is co-hosted by a corporate lobbyist group,” Ocasio-Cortez noted, likely referring to the Koch-funded American Enterprise Institute, which is co-sponsoring the event. “Other members have quietly expressed to me their concern that this wasn’t told to us in advance. Lobbyists are here. Goldman Sachs is here. Where’s labor? Activists? Front line community leaders?”

Bernie Sanders has inspired a series of town halls that attempts to break through this corporate capture and get around mainstream media's lack of willingness to address some of the most important issues of our time. "I think that maybe the survival of the planet that we live on might be an issue of some concern to some people," he tells Naomi Klein in this interview. "The future rests with the grass roots movements."

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared the stage with Bill McKibben at one of these town halls last week where she gave this speech about the realities of this movement: "It's unsurprising that the response to any bold proposal that we have is to incite fear; to incite fear of loss; to incite fear of others; to incite fear of our future. But the only way we are going to get out of this situation, is by choosing to be courageous."

It's been said that in the year 1900 there were 1,000 car manufacturer's spread all over the United States including in little towns like Dearborn Michigan which had a population of 844 souls. If you read the history, Henry Ford had at least as many challenges as the startups do today. But just like then, we are now in a time when innovation is inspiring entrepreneurs to do the unthinkable.

first-ministers-2.pngThe predictions of Tony Seba, although complex, are barreling down upon us with lighting speed while our First Ministers are gridlocked in obscure theatrics over a woefully inadequate carbon tax. Andrew Coyne put it this way in the National Post: "Rather than discuss things over which they have some control, and therefore some responsibility, the premiers demanded the meeting be given over to haranguing the feds for their failure to arrange their own affairs in a manner the premiers might prefer: pipelines, Bill C-69, steel tariffs, refugee policy and of course the federal carbon tax."

Watching the theatrics of the press conferences confirms that Greta's assessment of global leaders at the UN applies equally to our First Ministers here in Canada. Among the lineup, the defender of climate action is also the leader of the government that is spending billions of our money on outdated and soon to be stranded pipeline assets, while enduring the attacks of provincial leaders intent on being even more retrograde. Instead of taking bold new targets to COP24 in Poland, we receive a promise from Minister McKenna that they will set new climate goals - after the next election.

battery_pack.jpgBut by 2020, electric cars will already be cheaper than those with internal combustion engines or ICEs and we will be on the brink of a collapsing oil market. We told you a few weeks ago how mainstream auto makers are ramping up their promotion for 2019 and leading their offering with sexy electric vehicles. Last week I spoke to my sister in San Clemente, in the heart of conservative Orange County, and everybody there who is anybody already drives a Tesla. It is the status symbol of the conservative upper class.

And GM is already shutting down plants like this one in Lordstown Ohio even though President Trump promised Democratic voters that he would keep them open. "Trump didn’t kill the Lordstown plant—decades of decline had weakened it to the point of breaking—but his administration’s policies ultimately made the final decision easier for GM. Tariffs ate into the company’s profits, and, all things being equal, a bigger car makes more profits than a smaller one. Trump’s administration also froze fuel efficiency standards, which took away the incentive to produce smaller cars."

Like in Ontario, people and policy makers are told that the shift in investment is caused by a lack of demand for passenger vehicles and that truck and SUV sales remain strong. But if you take the time to watch this exploration of how the technological convergence is about to unfold, you might agree with me that these boys make some compelling arguments. One is this: "Once people decide that their next car is going to be an electric car, they will simply stop buying ICEs and wait until EVs drop in price to the point where they can afford one." And that causes the bottom to fall out of the market.

Rivian.jpgUntil recently, that was not an option with pickups and SUVs. But now we see Rivian preparing to roll out an electric pickup and an SUV in 2020. "The numbers are impressive," writes Brendan McAleer of the North Shore News. "With electric motors at each wheel providing all-wheel drive and nearly 800 horsepower, both vehicles will run up to 100 kilometres per hour in less than three seconds. They’ll also tow a projected 5,000 kilograms, and have an expected range of 644 kilometres. Rivian will follow Tesla's example and sell cars directly instead of through dealerships."

The shift is already underway and no governing party in Canada seems to be taking it seriously. Bill McKibbon, in a recent interview on Jo-Ann Robert's provocative podcast said that climate change, unlike the other political problems that we face, is time sensitive. "People responded around the world to Elizabeth May's leadership on this issue. The speech that she gave in Parliament during the emergency debate on global warming was very very powerful and very, very important. There are a lot of politicians that I'm cynical about but she is a real leader for the whole planet."

And that leader has an incredible staff that keeps us apprised of her work in Parliament through this weekly review when the house is in session. Here is an excerpt:

Using the links below, you can watch videos of Elizabeth's interventions in the House, keep up with her media releases, and read articles she has written.

COP24.jpgThis was Elizabeth's last week in Ottawa before she flys to Katowice, Poland to participate in the international climate change negotiations (COP24) as a member of the Canadian delegation. At COP24 Elizabeth will continue pressing the Canadian government and all countries to improve their targets to meet the IPCC 1.5° report. To follow Elizabeth at COP24 and watch her video updates, click here.

This week in Ottawa Elizabeth attended the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly to deliver remarks on behalf of the Green Party of Canada. In partnership with the All Party Climate Caucus, Elizabeth hosted a briefing with leading experts to discuss ways Canada can meet the IPCC 1.5° report. In the House of Commons, Elizabeth pushed the government to improve Canada's commitment to sustainable development and urged the Minister of the Environment to stand up to the USA and protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

Greens have started preparing for the campaign of a lifetime. We must break this juggernaut of tepid climate action while embracing the unprecedented advances in automation and a technological convergence that could unleash massive socio-economic upheaval if not managed properly. Canadians are depending on us to stand apart from the Big Three political parties with a bold and clear vision for a future that we can all embrace. Martin Luther King didn't have a plan. He had a dream. And for us it is that dream, of a just civilization which nurtures a thriving eco-sphere on which it depends, that inspires us to lead.

Greens must be bold enough to lead on the national stage and showcase Elizabeth's unwavering dedication to building a better world for everyone. But we must also show leadership in our local sphere of influence. Whether it is taking initiative in our volunteer groups or leading by example in our circle of friends. Leadership is voluntary and none of us can afford to sit on the sidelines any longer. It's too late to be pessimistic.

One last thought. Next week will be our last Good Sunday Morning for a while. As you can read for yourself in the open letter from our EDA Executive, it is now time to shift gears and focus on re-electing Elizabeth May, our gift to Canada. As you might have heard in Jo-Ann's interview, Bill McKibbon stays up late during every federal election to be sure that Elizabeth remains the strong voice in Canada's parliament that she is. He's not the only one. Let's make sure we don't disappoint.

Have a great weekend,


"It is our job to work tirelessly for justice, for peace, and for a planet that can survive with a human civilization that thrives. This is the challenge that we take on as Greens." Elizabeth May, October 19th, 2015

This weekly missive is authored by Thomas Teuwen, our SGI EDA coordinator. Opinions expressed are his own. We welcome your comments and feedback. If you were sent here by a friend and would like to subscribe to our weekly email simply click here. You can also go to the archives section of our SGI website to read back issues. And if you are on twitter please join in on this hashtag.

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