Reflection on Culture: Carbon Reduction and Carbon Removal

I need to begin by saying that I love a good argument. My partner and I are well-matched in this trait – we so enjoy debating ideas that our daughter has learned to scuttle in and out of the family room undetected for fear of being drawn into our lively discussions.

That said, I’m also a recovering smarty pants… so that I am also developing a keen and persistent sense of my own internal desire to “take a position”, “offer a perspective”, and “fix a problem”. Oh my word, these conditioned tendencies (CTs) in me are strong and (like many a privileged Gen Xer out there) were installed in me when I was very, very young.

There’s a kickback to the “smarty pants” self-awareness journey. Because being a “smarty pants” is prevalent pattern in our culture – when you start to see it in yourself, you start to see it everywhere else too. And let me tell you, I can genuinely appreciate why my daughter prefers to dodge such interactions.

Such is my reaction to the ongoing battle surfacing around climate change – in particular – the epic battle taking place between carbon reduction and carbon removal. One need only look at any social media post by a climate technology organization to take in the emergent polarity. The basic argument: “any dollar spent on carbon removal technology is a dollar that is better spent on carbon reduction and / or nature based carbon removal solutions”. Add to this that “climate change emerged from technology; so it is unlikely that technology can get us out of this mess.”

Let me tell you that I can feel the “smarty pants” CTs firing up every time. Except that now, I see it for what it is… a desire to feel some sense of control within what is essentially a very complex, volatile, ambiguous, and uncertain future.

Such debates (however satisfying to our CTs they may be) struggle with the foundations of the climate change – our plight is such that any intervention to address climate change positively should be well understood over being well debated. Climate change cannot be fixed simply by carbon reduction or by carbon removal – we need the best of both to address this global problem. For this to happen, we need to hold our collective “smarty pants” CTs in check and use the precious time we have to better understand the relative goodness of proposed solutions (across multiple perspectives) and progress our collective agreement as to what that good can and should look like for each.

Not as satisfying as a good argument for me and my fellow smarty pants out there… but a far more generative and inclusive discussion, and one that even someone like my daughter would feel drawn to engage in.

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