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Karen O'Brien, Author at cChange

We need measurable results

What would it take for you to believe that YOU can transform systems? For me, it was a long and winding road – a journey that started when I read “From Personal To Planetary Transformation,” an article by Dr. Monica Sharma. Monica is a world-renowned expert when it comes to designing change, leading change, and being change. The Transformation Leadership for Sustainability program that we now run with Monica is designed to help you generate measurable results. It’s not so much about doing different things, but doing things differently. And as you’ll read here, what I learned is that every journey to results starts with showing up.Read More

Sustainability is a Matter of Time

Having goals for the future is important, but if they remain as nothing more than targets and objectives, we will never get there. We need to transform the future here and now, to recognize that each of us matters when it comes to individual change, collective change and systems change.Read More

A 2°C World? From Probabilities to Possibilities

How do we realize a 2°C world? Modeling future emissions scenarios provides useful information, yet often underestimates the possibilities for people to deliberately transform themselves, their systems, and their futures — for the better. If we want a sustainable future, it is time to focus not only on probabilities, but on possibilities.Read More

Taking a Stand for (Social) Science

There is no doubt that we need to take a strong stand for science. But it is also important to take a stand for social science, and to stand for a science that connects with society. I am marching for science because we need integrated research to address complex global challenges. We need research that excites and engages society in equitable, ethical and sustainable transformations. So let’s remember that the March for Science is actually a march for both science and society.Read More

This is Transformation

Note to self: “This is it. This is exactly the transformation that you have been talking about, writing about, researching and teaching. And it sucks. But that is part of the process. All the hype about green transitions represents business as usual and innovation as usual; seldom is it truly transformative. The real transformation is underway.”Read More

Transformations 2015: ‘Aha’ Moments

‘Aha’ moments refer to flashes of insight that occur when we suddenly see things from a new perspective. It is easy to dismiss or ignore the significance of these moments in our busy lives. Yet if a single conversation can trigger a single thought that changes the way that we see things. maybe we are overlooking the power of ‘aha’ moments and underestimating our collective capacity for transformation. Read More

Is it Time for a Quantum Leap?

Is collective change possible? More and more people seem to be convinced that humans are incapable of individually and collectively responding to a challenge that is as big and complex as climate change. Can quantum physics provide any insights and lessons on how to do this? Quantum social theory suggests that our thoughts and actions matter much more than we think. Read More

Staying Below 2°C — What’s Realistic?

With so much knowledge about change, why is the climate changing faster than we are? Realistic scenarios for limiting climate change to below 2°C include many assumptions about change, and some of them seem laughable. Or are they? In a superconnected world, the question of whether we can consciously evolve the system is critical, especially if we are the system.Read More

My ‘Aha’ SYR Moment

The IPCC Synthesis Report tells us that substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades can reduce climate risks in the 21st century and beyond, increase prospects for effective adaptation, reduce the costs and challenges of mitigation in the longer term, and contribute to climate-resilient pathways for sustainable development. Can we synthesize this into a successful story of transformation?Read More

The March Against Folly

Historian Barbara Tuchman tracked the historical “march of folly,”marked by misgovernment that continually goes against self interest. Two days before the UN Climate Summit, tens of thousands of people will be taking to the streets in what is expected to be the largest climate march in history – a march against the folly of current climate policy. However, bending the course of history calls for transformations that address the root causes of folly. The power of the People’s Climate March lies not in influencing the leaders who are meeting in New York to discuss ambitious actions, but in empowering those who are ready to take responsibility to lead now. Read More

The T word: Powerful and political

What’s in a word? Everything. The word ‘transformation’ has tremendous power to raise political debates about the present and future. Decisions and actions are never neutral, and without these debates there is a potential for the concept to be not only used, but also abused. The important discussions ahead are not about whether transformation is necessary, but about “what kind of transformations” and “who decides?” Read More

The Anthropocene Perspective

The Anthropocene describes a new geologic epoch that is characterized by a strong human influence on Earth system processes, not the least the climate system. Although the term Anthropocene has not yet been officially adopted by geologists, the concept is significant–not for what it describes, but for what it does: It challenges us to consider new perspectives on human-environment relationships and to engage with the world in a caring and sustainable way.Read More

The Common Thread: It’s a Relationship Crisis

The climate crisis. The coronavirus crisis. The refugee crisis. The economic crisis. The mental health crisis. The list of crises is both endless and overlapping these days — a sure sign that there is something bigger going on. Something systemic that affects the things we all value, including life itself. Now might be a good time to step back and take a different perspective, to see if we find a common thread running through all of these crises. If we do, it might become clear to us that we are dealing with one big crisis — a relationship crisis.Read More

Pulling out of Paris: A Cosmic Wimpout!

Trump’s announcement that he will pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement on climate change scored no points with anyone who knows anything about climate change. It will go down in history as both a “cosmic wimpout” and a train wreck – unless we change the game. The stakes are high and the dice are loaded, and maybe the timing is perfect for new rules and even a new game.Read More

It’s a small world (after all)

Fifty years ago, Walt Disney opened a 15-minute cruise around the world at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California. Following its debut at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, “It’s a small world” became a successful Disney attraction that can be viewed today at its theme parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. Yet a cruise to view singing dolls from around the small world is …Read More

Climate Change: It´s a Relationship Problem

Climate change is a relationship problem. It is about how how we relate to each other, to the environment, and to the future. At the end of the day it is about how we relate to change. Since systemic change usually comes about through changes in relationships, we might want to think about what relationship experts would have to say about climate change!Read More

Transforming Paradigms: Easier Said Than Done?

Shifting the dominant development paradigm is vital to sustainability and equity. But how do we do it? What does it take? Thought experiments and “what if” questions have the potential to transform business as usual, education as usual, research as usual, and even science as usual. But real transformations occur only when we occupy and embody a new paradigm. Do we dare to go there? Read More

Let’s Talk about Change

It’s 2015, the year that we begin to take the ‘change’ part of climate change seriously. Sure, there is already a lot of talk about transitions and transformations, and more and more people recognize the need for systemic change. But how do we actually change these systems? Systems are made up of relationships, and to change systems we have to change relationships. This involves seeing the connections and patterns that make up systems. To do this, we need to engage with the personal and experiential aspects of change.Read More

Technology to the Rescue?

One report after another confirms the message that technology will come to the rescue and solve the climate crisis, if not in the form of energy- and resource-efficient innovations, then through some form of geoengineering. Humans are good at creating, innovating, and finding solutions, but this usually comes at a cost, both social and environmental. Technology is the easy part, but is it the real solution? The key lies in seeing and sensing the connections.Read More

Is anybody really listening?

Eloquent words and colorful images are not enough to catalyze effective responses to climate change. For messages about climate change to influence anyone’s viewpoint, there is a need to shift from monologues to dialogues. Dialogues create room for the new to emerge; new and original thoughts can be generated, leading to new ways of seeing both problems and solutions.Read More

Climate Change Matters

At the end of March, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release the Fifth Assessment Report from Working Group II on Climate Change Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation. This is the report for anyone asking the question “climate change, so what”? The report add details to some of the patterns and trends that have been emerging for decades. Together, they tell an important story about the potential of present generations to influence the future. Read More

Adaptation vs Transformation

Many are starting to talk about adapting to global average temperature increases of 3°C or 4°C or more in this century. If it is possible to contemplate and plan for adaptations to dramatic, non-linear climatic changes, why is it so difficult to consider dramatic, non-linear transformations to sustainability? Transformation as a process can rupture the seemingly inevitable trajectory of climate change, allowing new ideas to take hold and replace the very assumptions upon which the future is being built. This may be the single most effective adaptation strategy for humanity.Read More

The Power of Dissent

All over the world, young people are dissenting from unsustainable trajectories in ways that go far beyond traditional environmental activism. Most successful social movements have involved a combination of dutiful, disruptive, and dangerous dissent. Rather than adapting to a catastrophic future, youth activism shows how we can collectively be a powerful  force for change.Read More

The Power of Small Ripples

Do individuals really make a difference? Can small ripples create big waves? The best way to find out is to experiment with change and discover the relationship between personal change, collective change, and systems change.Read More

Reverse Global Warming? Game On!

At a time when some politicians still do not take the problem of climate change seriously, it’s exciting to read a book that takes solutions to climate change seriously. Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken, is the most comprehensive attempt ever to measure and model how we begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reverse global warming. If you have ever thought to yourself that it is “game over” with climate change, drawdown will convince you that it is “game on.” Read More

The Future is Now

Wow. We had temperatures of 8°C (46°F) in Oslo on December 31, 2016. And rain. 2016 is very likely to be the warmest year on record. Again. It’s as if nature wanted to provide us with a final wake-up call before moving into 2017. This should be thought-provoking. Or action provoking. But is it? And if it is, what exactly are those thoughts? And where are the actions? Maybe it’s time to express principled outrage and take the cCHALLENGE. Read More

Political Agency is the Key

The 1.5°C goal does not require a miracle. It does, however, require that we exert political agency. As we enter the aftermath of Paris, it is time to expand our understanding of the role of individuals in transformative change.Read More

Climate Change: A Challenge in Managing Risks

Read the full manuscript and download the slides for Karen O´Brien´s keynote speech at the “Our Common Future under Climate Change” conference July 8 in Paris. Talking about climate change risks, she is arguing that the biggest risk of all is the risk that we are addressing the wrong problem. Read More

What if the Right Track is the Wrong Path?

This is the year for aligning climate stabilization pathways with sustainability pathways. The big question is whether we have the courage to rethink our ideas and approaches to development as usual, and to stand up to those who use their power to perpetuate unsustainable pathways. Arguably it is only in changing the way we relate to other people, species, and generations that we are likely to find the real solutions to climate change.Read More

Life as an Experiment

There is a big difference between experimenting with life by changing the global climate system, and living life as an experiment by generating social transformations to a thrivable world. Join us for the cCHANGE Challenge — a conscious experiment which, in contrast to climate change, is ethical, equitable and sustainable.Read More

Time to Activate the Trim Tabs

Turning things around involves more than trivial changes; it involves transformations in structures and systems that produce outcomes that are no longer considered desirable, such as rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. it involves activating the trim tabs. Succesful trim tab work has two requirements. First, the key leverage points must be correctly identified, so that efforts and energy do not push things into the wrong direction, exacerbating problems instead of alleviating them. This calls for careful analsyis combined with intuition and wisdom. Second, individuals and groups who can carry out the trim tab work must be mobilized, energized, and supported.Read More

Youth: Transformation is Fun!

Young people are transforming the world, and they are having fun doing it. The youth climate movement has important lessons about collective action for those of us concerned about climate change, not the least because they know that fun is a critical ingredient for transformations to a more equitable and sustainable world.Read More

Can I make a difference?

A large-scale transformation to sustainability – one that is both ethical and equitable — calls for unprecedented changes in the way that we think and act, whether it is towards the environment, one another, other species, or future generations. The question of whether we, as individuals, can make a difference when it comes to addressing complex global problems such as climate change is both relevant and significant. Yet what if this is not actually the right question? Read More