Shelly Alcorn

Climate Collapse + Transformative Adaptation

A few months ago I had the honor of being on the Association Chat broadcast with Dr. Rupert Read (@GreenRupertRead) and Kiki L'Italien (@kikilitalien) talking about the state of the climate crisis and the failed COP26.

You can watch the video below, and I encourage you to do so. As a part of that broadcast, I mentioned ten things associations need to be doing right now to help address the catastrophic situation that we find ourselves in, and here they are:

1. Your strategic plan needs an overhaul. When I say overhaul, what I mean is to set it on fire. We can no longer effectively plan for anything on the timescales we used to. That thinking was outdated ten years ago. Now, it is simply folly. I have developed a process to use transformative adaptation as the basis for any strategic planning efforts you may wish to engage in. Please stay tuned for more and if you are interested, let me know.

2. Deploy your lobbyists. Associations in the United States have a literal ARMY of lobbyists on standby to deploy at a moment's notice. The problem is, we hide behind this idea of "relevance." Climate chaos represents a clear and present danger to every single person you represent. If we stopped hiding and started using our lobbyists to engage on issues that matter, we could push the needle and push it quick.

3. Sustainability will not save us. In the 1970s we had the environmental movement - but we failed. In the 1990s and early 2000s sustainability was the drumbeat - but we failed. The last shot to gain a foothold on the beach is regeneration of our social, environmental, spiritual, and economic systems. I will blog more about the specifics of regeneration so you can get up to speed on it. I'm not saying sustainability doesn't have important tenets in it, and I'm not encouraging us to abandon all of those efforts, however they will not be sufficient in and of themselves and it's time we admit it.

4. Get your members on board. Forward thinking associations are going to analyze their members' industries and professions to see how they can rapidly and drastically reduce their carbon emissions and shift their business models to be more regenerative. Provide the leadership your members need. Without a healthy environment and a functioning society, your members' businesses have no chance to thrive.

5. Join Fridays for Future and strike. Encourage your staff and your members to join in with non-violent climate action. Why are we leaving this to Fridays for Future and their school strikes? We should ALL be striking on Fridays to bring attention to these issues.

6. Stay Remote. There is NO reason to go back to the pre-pandemic office life. Absolutely none. There is no reason to air condition our homes and our offices. Estimates are as temperatures continue to increase, global carbon emissions from air conditioning by itself will add .5 degrees to the overall total by 2100. In a world where every .5 degree increase is exponentially worse, we need to realize air conditioning won't help us adapt.

7. Hold more regional meetings. Carbon emissions from travel are a problem. Large annual conferences have a huge carbon footprint, even if they are "sustainable." Break it up and get local.

8. Radically reinvest in chapters. I have never been a fan of chapters because of their governance issues and other challenges. I'm now ready to admit I was wrong about centralization. Your association's long-term success will depend on decentralized, locally focused chapters of members. Get the resources together and ensure your chapters are strong. All global concerns end up playing out locally. Empower your local leaders to lead.

9. Enlist sponsors and affiliates. Work with your sponsors and affiliates to ensure they are getting beyond sustainability and are embracing regeneration instead. Evaluate your partners and make your support contingent on their sincere efforts to address our collective climate emergency.

10. Invest in mental health. Ecological grief is genuine and growing. As our societal pressures continue to mount, your members will need access to mental health services. Develop programs and partnerships and recognize our collective mental health is going to continue to degrade unless we all start taking care of each other. Your association will need to support members in ways you never imagined. Get ready to help.
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