The Climate Summit’s Real Voices of Global Leadership

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Damon Winter/The New York Times

It’s pre-dawn on the morning of the People’s Climate March. The air is moist and crisp, autumn dancing in the air with summer’s yawning presence. The UN Climate Summit, intended to catalyze action for the 2015 UN Climate Negotiations, convenes this week. Yet the most remarkable display of leadership may be the catalytic momentum on the streets. September 21, 2014 marks the largest convening of global citizen action in the climate change movement: 310,000 in New York City alone.  

As I write, I wonder what’s worth reading that hasn’t already been said about the climate change threat and the need for positive action. It occurs to me that what is most important to say again and again is what has become a bit of a restorative leadership mantra: each action and inaction impacts. Leadership that recognizes the interconnectedness of all life faces and embraces the ultimate responsibility of knowing that how we lead our communities, our organizations, and our lives charts a course for our common future.

The question then becomes, which future are we choosing each moment? How can each choice we make serve the possibility that this global ecosystem, which birthed the miraculous gift of life on Earth, can continue to sustain our common needs, our common rights, and a future reflective of our collective best?

I feel great gratitude for the known and unknown voices that have the courage to take ultimate responsibility this week on the streets and in the boardrooms, from Seattle to New York, and across the 2808 solidarity events in 166 countries.

I thank voices like those in the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Declaration including global greats like Jane Goodall, Vandana Shiva, Mary Robinson and Sylvia Earle who know that:

“We have a choice: between a path of continued peril and a path towards climate justice and a safe and clean energy future. We can and must join together as women to take action with common but differentiated responsibilities for achieving sustainability.”

I thank voices like the Rockefeller Brothers Fund embracing ultimate responsibility and taking a stand for a new future with old money by divesting from fossil fuels. And I thank Bill McKibben and the small group of students who each took a continent to initiate’s global campaign that grew into the fossil fuel divestment campaign.

When the call to take action came, I had so many other competing priorities that I could rationalize being as important as attending the People’s Climate March. But then I remembered what my colleague Van Jones says: “Democracy is not an app.” There is no substitute for showing up.

This Climate Summit week would not have started with such great progress had the many who amassed and the few with leveraged influence chosen not to show up intending that their actions and inactions would serve the highest benefit to all. Now is the time to ask ourselves: How can we best show up this week of global action? And how will we take our restorative leadership to the next level this year of planet-critical momentum?