--- On Wed, 2/11/11, JP Office
From: JP Office
Subject: RE: Selling out?
To: "Kevin Lister"
Date: Wednesday, 2 November, 2011, 14:17
Dear KevinSelling Out?Thank you very much for your email. As you can imagine, it’s a familiar critique for all of us in Forum for the Future, and one that we’ve had to deal with on a regular basis since the Forum was established in 1996. But let me try and answer it a bit more personally than might usually be the case – especially since you do seem to hold very strong views on this, with which you are only too ready to accost me every time we bump into each other!You may or may not be right in your assertions about the urgency in all of this, about the inherent unsustainability of biofuels, about the moral wickedness of anybody flying, about the need for sacrifice and so on. You embrace very absolutist positions on all of these things, and have understandably come to the conclusion that our collective ability to change people’s minds and their behaviour depends on not deviating from those absolutist viewpoints.Having spent quite a chunk of my life (15 years) “on the front line”, as you put it, I couldn’t help but notice that the number of people who shared my “front line” views in those days hadn’t increased that much over the 15 years of the duration. I discovered for myself that people didn’t respond particularly well to a set of arguments driven by primarily guilt, fear, anger and the promise of permanent sackcloth and ashes.So when I left Friends of the Earth in 1991, I decided to try something a bit different, and to work with (rather than against) people in positions of influence in business and government. Hence the Forum, The Prince of Wales’ Business and Sustainability Programme, the Sustainable Development Commission and a number of other initiatives that I’ve helped establish along the way.15 years into that journey, do I feel that I’ve made more progress by adopting that “inside track” than by continuing to campaign against those same people of influence? I do – but not with any great elation, simply because progress has been (and still is) gut-wrenchingly slow – and wholly inadequate given the scale of the challenge. And we are at one on that score.But do I feel personally compromised – from an ethical position – working with the likes of Jaguar Landrover, Shell, TUI (thanks, by the way, for keeping the list so short!) and many others seen by campaigners such as yourself as being in the front line of destroying the Earth’s life-support systems? I do not. In a modest way, all of us in the Forum think that what we’re doing is important work, which we know results in a lot of organisations acting in less unsustainable ways in the short term even as they work out what it means to be genuinely sustainable in the long term.But do I then feel personal discomfort in doing that work? Yes, I do, from time to time.And I guess the question that I keep asking myself is whether or not that discomfort might reach the point where I could no longer continue to work in this way. It’s possible. I’ve never ruled out returning to that “front line” at some point in the future, and since the demise of the Sustainable Development Commission, I’ve ended up doing a lot more campaigning work anyway – including my work on population about which you are so disdainful.In short, I admire the uncompromising spirit in which you address these issues, though I do not share the non-negotiable black and white absolutism with which you present your moral universe.Very best wishes