Confronting climate change with professor and author Rae André. The book ‘Lead for the Planet’ moves our focus from me/we to Team Humanity. The issues are climate change and energy evolution. Learn more about how decision makers and governments can drive innovators, competitors and scientists for much needed results for saving our Earth.
'Lead for the Planet’ moves our focus from me/we to Team Humanity. The issues are climate change and energy evolution. Learn more about how decision-makers and governments can drive innovators, competitors and scientists for much-needed results for saving our Earth.
About the Guest:
Dr. Rae André, Professor Emeritus, D'Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University and author is a sustainability educator and environmental activist who focuses on working with climate leaders.
About the Show
Podcast Host: Life & Leadership: A Conscious Journey with Dr. Michelle St Jane
A podcast for Global and Re-Emerging Leadership creating community, tribe, a circle of influence, transcendency of compassionate leadership in the world and wider universe. A unique destination for learning about Leadership + Conscious Stewardship + Legacy.
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Michelle St Jane 00:01
Welcome to Life and Leadership. I believe in creating community and action, and creating space to be curious. This podcast aims to take you on a conscious journey to quality, diverse, innovative content in conversation. My hope is that we create a circle of influence, a transcendency of compassionate leadership in the world, and the wide universe.
Welcome to an episode with Professor Emeritus and current Instructor of Sustainability and Leadership at the D' Amore- McKim School of Business at Northeastern University in Boston. I'm here with author Rae André, and we're going to have a rich conversation around will team humanity step up to save the planet. Rae is the author of the 2020 book, Lead for the Planet. She makes a clarion call for action by innovative influences, global leaders, and vivid visionaries to coalesce around climate change and energy evolution while challenging the current chaotic and often catastrophic approach to business at any price, even if it means turning our blue planet red. Rae, who influenced you? And why did you write this book?
Rae André 01:21
That's an excellent question, Michelle. Who influenced me? Some years ago, about 12 years ago now, I attended a seminar at Cornell University that brought in all the wonderful scientists at Cornell to tell all the participants what was the state of the planet. And I was so taken by the information that was there, and so shocked to learn that global warming was already baked in and we weren't going to be able to stop it, and that we could only slow it down. That I immediately jumped in and started to create a course on leadership and sustainability for my MBA and undergraduate students. So it was that knowledge, that scientific basis that is so prevalent, that's so known by everyone now, that at the time was much less known. But that's what inspired me, that fact, basically. And then I went to, in the process of teaching over a period of over a decade, I listened to what my students needed to know. I started out faltering around, looking around, trying to imagine what they would need. And then as I attracted young potential climate leaders, I started to listen to what they were telling me. And over the years, I developed the course based on what they told me and what the science, as it developed, continued to tell me.
Michelle St Jane 02:35
Wow, you're very insightful, and clearly a lot of foresight goes into the programs that you run. So, what were the top three lessons you learned while writing this book?
Rae André 02:45
Top three lessons. First of all, I would say that we tend to depend on cooperation and the belief in cooperation to save the planet. And my research suggests that that is way too slow, that we don't know how to cooperate adequately, and we need to turn in a different direction. And that direction for me is the direction of innovation. Second thing I learned was that the audience in business schools in particular, for real change, is small. Real change meaning change for the planet as opposed to change sustainability for companies. So, I learned that. And the third thing I learned was that I love science. It's so much fun. I love being away from the written word and looking at the numbers and the beautiful pictures of the earth, and all the beautiful polar bears and all of that. So, it's really been a deep exploration for me because I'm a nature girl at heart. I grew up on a farm. I've been a scuba diver and a hiker, and a nature watcher all my life. So that there was this lovely confluence of why should I bother to do this? That just really worked for me.
Michelle St Jane 03:57
Wow, powerful motivators they are, Rae, for sure. I was taken by one of your reviewers, Bill McKibben, the author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? And he reviewed Lead for the Planet. And I'll quote what he said, "The climate movement is not leaderless but leaderfull. We need all the good thinking we can get if we're going to progress." Is he right? Do we have lots of leaders out there who are engaged and interested, and active?
Rae André 04:28
I do think we do. And I think that young people in particular are more engaged than ever. However, I don't think they're pulling together. There's a tendency, especially, let's say, among CEOs, or people in power, who go away, retire, create their own small organization, and put their own stamp on it. But then who pulls all of those organizations together to make really meaningful change? And that's what one of the things that all of our leaders, all of our concerned citizens really need to think about. Who is really going to get it done for the planet?
Michelle St Jane 05:02
Thank you. In the book, you write up the five practices for confronting climate change, and how to engage global corporate leaders across the globe. Could you just touch on the five practices for the listeners, so they'll understand as we go through our conversation?
Rae André 05:17
Okay, so I'm not going to go, I don't want to bore your listeners by going 12345. And it's not memorable in that particular way anyhow but it really is just a story. It's a story about how to get the truth about the planet, in other words, understand the science, and then use that scientific information to evaluate essential risks to the planet. So, it's one thing to know a lot of facts about the dangers we're in. But then it's another thing to turn that into a risk assessment. And there's a whole vocation of risk assessment, for example. And so that's the first two practices, get the truth, evaluate the essential risks. Third practice is that who are the people that are going to act? And who are the people that are going to be pro-greening the economy and people who are being against it? In other words, what we academics call stakeholder analysis. And the bottom line is that all roads lead to government. And we see how useful that is and how weak that is. So that's three practices.
The fourth practice is when you're inside of an organization, how do you influence the culture of the organization in which you work, especially if you don't lead it. If you lead that organization, it's relatively simple, although you need to know where to go to change your organizational culture. Anyhow that's the fourth practice. We all tend to be embedded in organizations, especially work organizations. So, what are the politics? What is the psychology of changing those organizations? And then finally, who is going to do this all globally on a global scale? Who are going to be the people that are going to do this, and what's the plan? We need a plan, as I alluded to before. There's a lot of folks out there that are creating their own organizations or creating their own movement, or whatever it is. And we need to find ways to pull that all together in a plan that we all can relate to if we really are going to solve the problem globally.
Michelle St Jane 07:14
Yeah, and I totally agree with you on global leadership because I did my Master's in Philanthropy. I engaged governments in the country where I'm based. Bermuda runs like a corporate nation. So, I did my doctorate around global leadership to see if that would not trigger some change towards the fulcrum point of balancing the sacred money market, as David Korten calls it, and people on the planet on the other side of the seesaw. So, who are some of the climate change leaders that you know and admire?
Rae André 07:46
Well, right now, since I'm less interested in the cooperative side, and I'm more interested in the competitive side, in other words, I'm seeing cooperation is too slow. We don't know how to do it. And the science backs that up and my book, Lead for the Planet. Lays out that science for people to give leaders advice about what policies to follow. So right now, I'm very interested in people who are innovating and people who are directing innovation. And I think one of the key leaders certainly is Bill Gates and his associates in the Creative Capital fund, which has for over a decade now, funded promising technologies. Al Gore was involved in this with his own organization years ago and continues. Janet Yellen and Mark Carney with a group of 30 who are economic thought leaders are pushing this notion of innovation. There's very little money being put towards innovation, it's only $25 billion per year by governments worldwide. And that's a very small number, as Bill Gates says, it's way too little. But of course, the problem, too, is that we are innovation typically, you didn't have to innovate to a deadline.
But we are innovating to a deadline because of the impending climate change. So, these are the kind of people I'm following now. Bill Gates funded an organization called Heliogen many years ago, and it's a perfect example of the kind of breakthrough technology we need. Let me just say, before I describe a little bit about what Heliogen does, there's a lot of fake innovation out there. Everybody's touting their product, and one of the things that leaders need to do is to be confident that their technology that they're advocating for is actually working. And we've got all kinds of technologies that aren't working, like carbon capture and storage is pretty much just in the early, early stages. And it's not at all clear that it's even going to be possible. And that's just one of the technologies that people are making money off of but are not necessarily going to solve the climate problem because they're not really doing what they say they're going to do. So, a company like Heliogen that Gates funded many years ago has recently announced a breakthrough. Their goal was to improve the amount of heat energy that solar power could generate. So historically, a solar array or solar panels, if heat energy from those panels was concentrated, you could only produce heat at 600 degrees Celsius. Now, they can create heat up to 1,500 degrees Celsius with his new technique. Now, that seems a little abstract and if you're not into the field, you might go, oh that's nice. But what that really does is it makes processes like cement making potentially much more environmentally friendly. So, we can potentially say 40% reduced, I think the CO2 to 40% of what it is now in cement making. And if cement making were one of the countries of the world, as CO2 emitters goes, it would be China, America, and cement making would be number three. So, these folks are not widely known except to an investment community. But I would despair of communities getting together and changing out their light bulbs, compared to what Heliogen is doing. So, I can see from your expression, Michelle, do you have a question?
Michelle St Jane 11:24
No, I'm just blown away by that. That's huge, but I didn't think about that. And I'm a watcher and a seeker. But this one, I did not even see coming.
Rae André 11:36
Well, most people didn't see it coming and I would say that one of the things that would hope your audience could take away from this podcast is that, where do you get good information on energy and climate? I would say that, for me, the Financial Times in Britain is a great source. The Energy Mix out of Canada is a great source. Energy Mix is free, the Financial Times is not. But those are places that focus on these issues.
Michelle St Jane 12:05
Great tips. Thank you very much. There's also this clarion call for a new generation of future leaders. Does this start at home? Does this start in the home? As parents, grandparents, what should we be doing?
Rae André 12:19
You know, Michelle, I'm not an expert on how far down in terms of age you should start talking about climate change in a serious way. Ballpark is raise your children to be close to nature and that's very, very hard for parents today. Make sure that they love the world, the natural world and at some point, I would guess, again, I'm not an expert in this area, but it's going to depend on your child, but in their middle to late teens start introducing them to the more critical aspects of the climate change that we're facing. When you throw somebody a figure, I don't know, it's been, I just checked my data here, make sure it's right. The climate is changing at a pace that's far faster than anything seen in 65 million years. Now, would you give that to a 12-year-old? Maybe. But I would give it to an 18-year-old, and that's a pretty astonishing fact. And then you could build on that, of course, we don't want to just scare people, whether they're young or old. Every time you list a frightening fact they ought to be telling people what they can do about that and what that means. Otherwise, people become afraid and they disengage. So, you can tell people that the climate is changing at a pace that's far faster than anything happening in 65 million years, and this is the plan that we have for reducing the CO2 that is causing that warming.
But one of the things that concerns me about young leaders, newer leaders, let's just take age out of the equation for a moment, but new leaders who are interested in getting involved start to learn everything they can. And my book is really a guide to learning. It encourages people to learn certain areas. Because I listened to my students and I looked for many years at what the scientists were saying, it creates essentially a model or even a checklist, if you will. Study this, study this, study this, study this. So, when you're new, I do think it's very important for you to study and to understand all the negative effects, those are easy to find. Start looking at what other leaders are doing. Consider this notion of cooperation versus innovation. All leaders lead through people and that's what my book is about, is how to lead through people. So, I emphasize psychology, sociology, what they can teach you about leadership in this particular sphere. But then, what happens is people burn out, so you start saying, oh my god I know this and this awful thing, and this awful thing and this awful thing. And oftentimes, unfortunately, the media emphasizes the awful things. And of course, the awful things can be pretty awful, so we do want to know about them. When that happens to you, it is to just pick one or two, or three things that you're going to watch.
The thing that I urge people to watch is the Keeling Curve. Have you heard of the Keeling Curve, Michelle? Okay, so that's the diagram of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere that's put together at the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii, every day they measure it, and then they publish this curve. It's the same curve that you saw in Al Gore's work, where he, in his first film, An Inconvenient Truth, where he climbs on the ladder and shows the increase in CO2 just going up and up, and up. And if you watch that curve, you realize that indeed he was correct, and CO2 keeps going up and up and up, and up and up. And you can see that even though CO2 in the atmosphere is going to be reduced a bit under COVID, the increase is going to be reduced by 7% this year. We're still going up and up and up. If it continues to go up and up and up, we've still got a problem. That's enough to know once you've really studied, like the five practices in my book. And again, my book is just an introduction to those practices. It doesn't pretend to be a definitive textbook. It's meant to, even to guide conversations in communities and universities as well.
And the University of Toronto Press, which published it, also published a series of questions that can be used by communities to discuss the book, so they can have little book groups about that. And on the teaching side, on my website, www.raeAndré.com, on my website, I have a significant group of resources for teachers who might need experiential exercises, who want some guidance about how to think about teaching such a course, experientially, and also that decision making guidebook. All those are on the very first page of my website, and it's all free, so that people can begin to have these discussions. And then again, very few people can continue to absorb all of the information that comes our way about climate. But if you consciously control that, what you're doing is you're building resilience in yourself and in your community, and we all need to build in resilience, because change is coming. And it's coming faster than we ever imagined it would come.
Michelle St Jane 17:23
Thank you, Rae. I will make sure there's a link in the show notes and the transcripts so it's very easy for people to get to the good information that you've been describing. I just wanted to go back and touch on COVID-19. So, what does the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change have in common?
Rae André 17:41
Well, if you think of COVID as a model for the change that we need to address climate change, we see that we have not done a very good job of addressing COVID, especially from a cooperative standpoint. Now I'm speaking from an American standpoint, we have been a disaster when it comes to managing the manufacturer, the rollouts, and so on of COVID. Also, we see that science saved us. And that goes back to my earlier point, cooperation versus innovation. It's the innovation, the brilliant scientist, the focused scientist, the folks who love science, who devoted their lives to science because they loved it, who are saving the planet. And we need both obviously. We need the scientists to create the innovations, and then we need governments and leaders to push that innovation to society. So, we need both, and each of us needs to look into our hearts and our passions and figure out where we can contribute.
Michelle St Jane 18:44
Absolutely, absolutely. So, what lessons might we learn from the COVID pandemic that could help team humanity address climate change? You may have well covered that and if you may add anything.
Rae André 18:56
I would say government matters. Government is good. There's a website called Government is Good, and neoliberal capitalism that suggests that we should absolutely minimize the role of government, sure, we should minimize it to the extent possible. But would we really want to? And would we really want to gut government so that they can’t address a COVID or a climate crisis? No, we don't. We want our government to be there for us when we need them. And so, I think that's a lesson that we learned from COVID under Trump. Now, just today, we are moving to a new administration in the United States. We hope that they can recover from all the problems that Trump and his administration have caused, and we'll see.
Michelle St Jane 19:41
Yes, yes, I realized that. So, I'm going to go a little bit off the topic.
Rae André 19:47
I like that.
Michelle St Jane 19:49
I'd love to know what you are listening to? You've shared about a podcast. What else do you listen to? Music, audiobooks, what do you like to listen to?
Rae André 19:59
I want to mention to you, Michelle, www.sustainababble.fish which is a podcast that is out of Britain. It is funny, it's irreverent, but it's run by two men who obviously think we're in deep poo as they would say. They're funny and they admit what they don't know. They're just very human and how they deal with the world of climate change. I love them, I listened to that. Lately, I've been listening to historic, like David McCullough, reading a lot about the 19th century and the early 20th century. I'm going to publish my grandfather's letters from the early 20th century, and I've been appreciating how simple their lives were, and how much closer to nature they were than we are now. And also, how much more decent the country was at that time, or at least it feels like that. So, I immersed myself in that era through books or through audio.
Michelle St Jane 20:58
May I just interject, those were eras of yellow fever and some amazing epidemics.
Rae André 21:08
I was gonna say but I'm so glad to be living now.
Michelle St Jane 21:12
They also had voluntary associations like funeral societies, Odd Fellows, friendlies, Freemasons. They had little societies that set up social safety nets as well
Rae André 21:26
That's interesting. I don't know a lot about that.
Michelle St Jane 21:28
I'm a history buff, I love history. And my period of history is from 1700 through to 1900. I’ve done quite deep research in my master’s around the Knights Templar, who are credited with studying the banking system. I won't go any further because I don't want to get off topic. So, what else are you listening to
Rae André 21:50
What else am I listening to? Oh, gosh. It's just a side comment. But I don't listen to music much, it's funny. Occasionally, I get up and dance to some music. But I don't know, it's something about the way my brain is wired. It's really wired towards words. So, I listen to public radio. I don't know what else do I listen to? I listen to the birds. The other night, I had an owl in the yard, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the winter here in Boston, going hoohoo-hoohoo. And I heard that sound and it was so precious to me. What happens is our barn owls in the middle of the winter are looking for mates, and he wants somebody to come back and go, hoohoo-hoohoo. And then off they go. So that's the sort of thing I really find very special.
Michelle St Jane 22:33
Do you have a current meditation at the moment, or that's up there with music?
Rae André 22:41
You know what I have, Michelle, is a gratitude practice every night since COVID started, especially. As I lie down in bed, it seems like it puts me to sleep every time. I just start thinking back over the day, and what I'm thankful for on that day, and it's a whole lot. There really is a whole lot despite being here, and COVID, I live alone in my home. It's cold out, but I'm comfortable, I'm safe. And all the things that you might be thankful for, I've got so much to be thankful for.
Michelle St Jane 23:13
Well, I can relate to that. And I am very thankful for what you do in the world, your contribution. And I want to express my deep appreciation for your writing the book, ‘Lead for the Planet,’ your clarion call for team humanity, and thank you for all you do and what I know, you won't be stopping anytime soon for you will be doing as well. Rae. So thank you.
Rae André 23:37
Thank you, Michelle. It's been lots of fun.
Michelle St Jane 23:42
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Professor Emeritus, D'Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University and author
Rae André is a sustainability educator and environmental activist who focuses on working with climate leaders. She promotes sustainability leadership based on the principles that growth is finite, natural capital is priceless, and human progress must be measured in terms of both economics and the quality of life.
An organizational psychologist, Dr. André is Professor Emeritus of Leadership and Sustainability and Instructor in the D'Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University in Boston. Her courses promote systemic thinking on climate change and energy evolution. Aimed at high level undergraduates, MBAs, and professionals, they include sustainability for organizations ("weak" sustainability) along with sustainability for the planet ("strong" sustainability). Her work has reached students in a variety of disciplines from management to engineering to liberal arts.
A best-selling author, her popular press books include Take Back the Sky: Protecting Communities in the Path of Aviation Expansion (Sierra Club Books), Positive Solitude (Harper Collins), and The 59-Second Employee: How to Stay One Second Ahead of Your One-Minute Manager (co-authored with Peter D. Ward, Houghton Mifflin). Her academic books include Organizational Behavior: An Introduction to Your Life in Organizations (Prentice Hall), Researchers Hooked on Teaching: Noted Scholars Discuss the Synergy Between Teaching and Research (co-edited with Peter J. Frost, Sage), and Homemakers, the Forgotten Workers (The University of Chicago Press).
Dr. André is the 2019 recipient of the David L. Bradford Outstanding Educator Award, which acknowledges "consistently demonstrated achievement over a lifetime, focusing on teaching and learning excellence. These individuals have contributed substantially to the Society, and have impacted the field as a whole, with their innovations and ideas extending to a wide audience." The award is given annually by the Management and Organizational Behavior Teaching Society in honor of its founder.
She received the 2011 Fritz Roethlisberger Memorial Award for the Best Paper in the Journal of Management Education for an article on group leadership. She is also the recipient of the Peter J. Frost Mentoring Award (2017) and the Susan B. Herman Distinguished Service Award (2014) of the Management and Organizational Behavior Teaching Society. She served that Society as president from 2010 to 2013.
Dr. Andre received a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Michigan, an M.A. in Film Studies from the University of California at Los Angeles, and a B.A. (Cum Laude) in English from Cornell University.
Her articles have been published in Business Horizons, Harvard Business Review Case Studies, Non-Profit Quarterly, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Management Education, Economic Development Quarterly, The New York Times, Journal of Small Business Management, and Management International Review.
Dr. André is a member of the Academy of Management, the Authors Guild, and the Management and Organizational Behavior Teaching Society. She is a life member of the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Sierra Club, and a supporter of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
She has held professional positions at IBM, General Motors, and MCA, Inc., and has been a visiting professor on the Semester at Sea voyage; L'Ecole Superiere du Commerce, Reims, France; the University of Waikato, New Zealand; and the Ulster University in Belfast, Northern Ireland