To solve Climate Change We Need to … ? Wait! … Who is We?

Jim Rough | April 28, 2022 | Leave a Comment

The climate catastrophe is just one of many “monster problems” that result from our society being in overshoot – consuming planet Earth faster than it can be replenished. 

“Solution actions” are touted and being taken. However, there is currently no collective thinking process to solve this problem responsibly. If you talk with someone about the threat of climate change or about the deeper human predicament you will likely hear the phrase “We need to”; for example, We need to act before it’s too late! We need to change the underlying system. We need to develop collective consciousness. But who is this “We”? There is no wise, capable, global We that can take these actions. 

Instead, there are several smaller “Wes” that do exist, and that can act. And current solution actions align with these Wes instead. In this way, we are like the drunk man looking for his keys under the lamppost because the light is better there than where he lost them. We are working to solve the big monster problems relying on We 1, We 2, or We 3 without the essential one, We 4. See the different “Wes” below.

We 1 – Individuals. For example, We need to: become vegetarian; be the change we wish to see; engage in civil disobedience, … awaken people to adopt the new paradigm of ‘inter-being’; educate people about ‘our’ religious beliefs; take care of climate refugees, etc. One frequent We 1 solution-action is based on the new science. New science has determined that prayers, beliefs, and good intentions affect reality. And especially if 1% or some fraction of people come together in “we consciousness” and recognize that we are part of the ecosystem, instead of it being a resource, a tipping point may be reached to bring a new “global consciousness.”

Usually, the “We” in “We need to …” is an imaginary “We the People

   We 4 – “We the People”.  All of us are in one ongoing creative conversation facing the monster issues, thinking creatively, reaching unity about what actions to take, and providing leadership in making the needed changes. We 4 is capable of achieving breakthrough progress on monster issues, reshaping the system, managing the commons, creating a new story, reprioritizing human values, and removing blocks to the “solutions” of Wes 1, 2, and 3.


But a real solution requires a real “We” to act. Three common Wes are:

 We 1 – Us as individuals… So We can all act appropriately 

 We 2 – Our organization… So We can make big changes

 We 3 – Official decision-makers and leaders… So We can change policy


But what are “We,” you and me, going to do?

We 0 – Actions by you and me.  We can help bring forward the solution strategies of Wes 1, 2, and 3 and/or help facilitate bringing We 4 into existence. This last option addresses the human predicament plus all the monster problems. And it releases what’s blocking Wes 1, 2, and 3.

Yes, this may happen. But even if all individuals were to rise to a new level of awareness, understanding, and consciousness, we are all still embedded in a system that structures competition and the pursuit of self-interest with no provision for the public interest. By definition, a change in all the elements of a system doesn’t change the system. So, this amazing seemingly positive development could just increase the level of despair and anxiety in people, knowing they are trapped in a system that enforces the destruction of our planet. Of course, a higher consciousness of all individuals is desired, but we must also be participants in a new kind of ongoing collaborative, creative conversation that doesn’t yet exist. 

We 2 – The people in our organization, corporation, network, co-operative, church, or social movement. For example, We need to: develop new technologies; elect people who can be true leaders; organize to help climate refugees; use co-ops, land trusts, and ecovillages to model the new system.

Of course, the solutions associated with We 2 are important and valuable. But again, their value is often blunted by our system. For example, environmentalists surely see themselves as serving the public interest. However, in our system, there is no place for the concept of public interest. It’s all just a competition among special interests. So well-meaning citizens seeking to work in the public interest are characterized by our system as just another special interest group. And they are set up to do battle with other special interests, which are usually better funded.

So if there are new developments in energy technology, such as new drilling capabilities that allow geothermal energy to become viable in any location, our system structures other interests to undermine this exciting new development. There are many ways our system will block the effectiveness of “We need to” efforts at solving climate change, where We 2 is the actor.

We 3  The official “We,” decision-makers and leaders. We need to: enact a stronger climate treaty; establish a global carbon tax; implement rank order voting; etc. Good stuff, but again our system constrains these solutions, making true leadership almost impossible. A number of climate scientists, for instance, are frustrated because they keep producing ever more IPCC global reports that describe the dire situation of humanity. In one paper, three Australian climate scientists bemoan what they call the “broken science-society contract” [1]. They call the looming disaster a “failure of leadership.”

But actually, it’s our system again. It doesn’t provide for a science-society contract nor the kind of leadership that’s needed. The unanimous voice of the scientists is just another special interest voice in the overarching political game. 

Yes, the actions of Wes 1, 2, and 3 have made great progress in civil rights, the women’s movement, poverty, decolonization, and more through building individual consciousness (We 1); creating social movements that gather ever more support (We 2); getting legislators to enact new policies (We 3). 

But these kinds of actions aren’t enough to solve today’s monster problems. We 4 must come into existence. We all must come together as a people, face these monsters intelligently and creatively, and reach shared conclusions so that all four Wes can act on what we’ve determined. 

We 4 – We the People. If all people can come together as “We the People,” this changes the system of governance and economics, removes the blocks to the solution-actions of Wes 1, 2, and 3, and opens the door to breakthrough solutions. It’s how We can overcome media silos and clarify the truth of what’s going on; set goals and manage progress on issues like climate change; establish the missing science-society contract; provide responsible leadership to national governments, corporations, and the culture; and generate a win/win collaboration in the public interest.  

There is one more We, We 0 – you and me talking now. What do “We need to” do? Of course, a lot of effort is still needed within the realm of Wes 1, 2, and 3. But even with global consciousness, new energy technologies, and a perfect set of laws, it’s not enough to solve the human predicament that our system is causing. We are like passengers on a ship pre-programmed to hit the iceberg. That’s the bad news. But the excitingly good news is a few of us We 0s could facilitate the necessary ongoing global “We the People” conversation, where We 4 comes into being. This “We” can turn the ship. Hopefully, some of you readers will explore this new level of possibility.  

There are social innovations available by which We 0 can facilitate We 4 into being. These will be addressed in future blog articles. But if you are curious now, let me recommend the free video seminar “Essential Wisdom for Solving Society’s Biggest Issues” at


[1] Bruce C. Glavovic, Timothy F. Smith & Iain White (2021) The tragedy of climate change science, Climate and Development, DOI: 10.1080/17565529.2021.2008855

Jim Rough is a social innovator, Director, and co-Founder of the Center for Wise Democracy . He is a speaker, seminar leader, and author of the book, “Society’s Breakthrough! Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People” (2002). As a business consultant, Jim developed “Dynamic Facilitation” and “The Wisdom Council Process,” which are widely used internationally. He and others teach seminars on these methods. His recent video seminar, “Essential Wisdom for Solving Society’s Biggest Problems” offers a holistic strategy for sparking national and global transformation.

His formal education includes a BA degree in Physics from Occidental College, plus a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Business from Columbia University.

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