Season 1 Episode 12: Sam Baker Edited transcript

Conversations on Climate – Season 1 Episode 12: Sam Baker Edited transcript

Section one: the walk to COP

Chris Caldwell: Thank you so much for coming in and speaking with us today.

Sam Baker: Glad to be here.

Chris: I believe that you’re also somewhere between Hungary and Bulgaria right now. Could you tell us a little bit about your Walk to COP initiative?

Sam: Certainly. I took part in a walk to COP 26 in Glasgow last year. It was a physical walk. Those of us who did it very much enjoyed it and we thought that, in a very small way, we added some impact. We thought we’d replicate it in some shape or form for COP 27. It’s a lot further, obviously, from Glasgow to Sharm el-Sheikh than it is from London to Glasgow. Rather than make this about a small number of people physically walking, we tried to create a mass participation initiative which allows people to participate wherever they are — to walk, to feel that they’re part of a collective walking from north to south toward COP 27. They’re actually walking wherever they are. To keep that sense of a journey alive, we’ve got 12 town hall meetings. The first one is on the 22nd of September in Scotland, and then we’ve got the last one in Egypt on the 7th of November. And, you’re right, we had Hungary last week and then we’ve got Bulgaria in two days’ time. 

Each of those town halls is an exposition of local challenges, climate challenges and local responses. It’s an opportunity for us all to understand the similarities and differences in how climate change impacts these different societies, different geographical settings and different economic strengths, and to understand how people are responding. It has been absolutely fascinating! It’s going to be tremendous going forward as well. After Bulgaria, we’ve got Turkey; then we’ve got Lebanon; then we’ve got Jordan. I am very much looking forward to those. This gives us a sense of a journey from north to south, even if it’s virtual.

Chris: Fantastic! And this is now your full-time job.

Sam: This year, this has been my full-time job — and it is a full-time job! It has been 24/7 recently but it was a little bit softer to begin with. The whole of this year has been planning for now and trying to execute this Walk to COP 27

Chris: Fantastic. All right. That brings us to your background and where you came from. It’s an absolutely remarkable story for someone who was at the peak of a career that many people would seriously envy. You decided to walk away from 26 years in a blue-chip consultancy, where you were a partner, to go into climate activism. Could you tell us what brought that about?

Sam: Before I went to London Business School — which is, of course, where our connection comes from — I spent six years in Tanzania. Three of those years were in the VSO — Volunteer Service Overseas — and that gave me some exposure. I didn’t go there to save the world. It was more adventure based, but it did open my eyes to extremes of different levels of aspiration and opportunity. And it did remind me of my incredible privilege. It also allowed me to understand a little bit more about NGOs and the UN system and various other bits and pieces. I parked that and I went to Price Waterhouse Coopers and then I went to London Business School — which I very much enjoyed — and then entered Deloitte. I spent 20 whatever it was years at Deloitte. 

Most of the work at Deloitte up until 2015 was focused on profit and growth, typically for large organizations. It might be a part of that organization or the entire organization, but the mantra, as you know, was ‘profitable growth’ in some shape or form. It was a little bit frustrating to have that question set to you because the question back to the client would always be, what are the parameters within which you want me to work? What are the non-negotiable elements of your business model, your purpose, your impact, your whatever it is that allows me to then answer that question without just starting again? It wasn’t really a question that they could ever answer back. And so, implicitly, when you work within a sector, you rarely offer people solutions outside of the sector because that would be too broad. Nobody actually says that, but it would be too broad. That was always part of the questioning I suppose I had. 

Then in 2015, the SDGs were published and in 2016 we had the Paris Agreement. I had a fantastic job with the GSMA, which is the Mobile Operators Association. It’s a global association and it’s very well-funded because they have the Barcelona meeting — or they did pre-COVID — where they make large amounts of money. It’s a well-stocked association and does a fantastic job for the global operator industry, particularly around, for instance, education in Africa — where one of their focuses would be on digital education. 

I had a year-long project with them and it was all about trying to establish their purpose. We all agreed that part of the purpose of the global mobile operators should be about the impact they have on the world. We decided to think about what that impact was by taking the SDGs and working through the 168 or 169 SDG targets underneath the 17 SDGs. We worked all the way through that framework and connected it to a large number of data points which the mobile industry has and we collected industry levels across about 70 countries. 

Amazing piece of work — flawed, of course, to try and create that but it opened up a whole world. What is business actually trying to achieve? What actually is a good thing in the world? And what is a bad thing? How do you make those trade-offs? The SDGs are incredible. It’s been called the strategy for the World — an incredible thing for people to sign up to. Incredibly ambitious in retrospect, but also fraught with conceptual difficulties. How do you create a trade-off between one target or another? Or one goal and another? It’s very difficult to work with, but it’s the best thing that we have for thinking about all the different economic, social and environmental challenges in the world and what we should be aspiring to.

Chris: The SDGs, or the Sustainable Development Goals, were set up at the United Nations.

Sam: Exactly. In 2015 it was signed by every participating country in the United Nations to be met by 2030, but they haven’t had a huge amount of traction with big organizations in the West. In the countries which are more reliant on aid, it’s a much greater currency of conversation. In, say the UK, you get a big organization and people are still confused about what the SDGs are. Notwithstanding that, it is an amazing framework. It was an amazing achievement to get them signed and to enable people like me to get in and try and think about what this actually meant for an industry or a sector.  

Rolling forward, I got into impact measurement and what companies and organizations are supposed to do and then trying to think about the connection between the two. Then we got into trying to create a purpose business in Deloitte as well. It was a fantastic time — really thoroughly enjoyable — but big business is not quite ready to transform themselves on the basis of the impact they have on the world.

We’ve heard huge amounts about ESG and about impact measurement, monitoring and evaluation etc., but it is still elusive. It is still underinvested in. The key thing that organizations — and not just in the private sector — fail to do is to own that impact and bring it into the heart of their business model and their strategy. There are some exceptions — and they are generally smaller businesses — but I think that’s generally the case. 

Over the following five or six years at Deloitte, I very much enjoyed my time trying to build this portfolio, this type of business. At the same time though, there was a sense that my central job was to help organizations transform but, if they weren’t prepared to transform and I wanted to continue on that path, then there was a natural schism. There was an inevitable schism from being a very successful, financially remunerated and earning partner at Deloitte and somebody who was trying to create a change against a market which didn’t really want to accede to it. You can see it in many other people’s careers as well. If you’re searching for how you’re going to have impact, you’re not best placed to sit in a very large, hard-driving organization with a very traditional set of metrics requiring full-time commitment and concentration. I think the space, the breadth of time, the opportunity to think and experiment — it is not fair to do that in an organization where you are expected to do something else.

Section two: stepping away and stopping to listen

Chris: But there was a clear opportunity in there. You were advising people on their ESG goals, on their environmental goals and their sustainability goals. Even if you’re moving one of these behemoths a couple of degrees to the left or right, you can still make a pretty material impact. What made you decide to leave the big brand and the big possibilities to impact big firms in order to go out and become a full-time, dedicated activist?

Sam: Two things: demand and supply, if you like, or both sides of the coin. On my side, it’s too slow. I interviewed 450 businesses in one of the last projects I did at Deloitte around the climate narrative. We had a structured way of asking the questions. We interviewed this large number of organizations. We put it on a database on an attributive basis and opened it up free to everybody. Anybody could access it. We wrote a couple of reports and, on the one hand, it was fantastic. There was an enthusiasm and a passion and excitement about what they were doing from the people that we spoke to, who could be in strategy or investment management or investor relations or, obviously, sustainability or perhaps a special climate unit. But when you step back from it, you realize what a small proportion of the overall business that was — whichever way you want to express that in terms of activity or influence or anything else. 

It just reinforced this idea that we actually have a system in business which expects the units within the system to operate in a certain way and those businesses do — implicitly or explicitly, they operate in a certain way. Working within those businesses, particularly big businesses, to try to make incremental change just didn’t feel sufficient to me. From my side, that was the situation. From the Deloitte side, I think it was obvious—’are you going to advise CXOs and do transformation or not?’ In my conclusion, it was very difficult to do that.  

There was both push and pull around changing effectively what I’ve done and where I found myself now. I still don’t know where the best place is to apply myself. I’ve done this Walk2COP 26. I’ve done this work with Deloitte. I’m now doing Walk2COP 27 to mobilize and create mass participation in huge numbers of conversations. And I’m searching for the next piece. I’m relishing the opportunity to think and search and try to find the place to make the biggest impact, as opposed to being overtaken by the local demands of any particular organization.

Chris: Looking back on your time at Deloitte, what are you most proud of?

Sam: There are various projects. Certainly, the work at the GSMA was most transformational for me. Whether or not I was proud of that is a different question, but the work that we did together with the team was amazing. We did something called Digital with Purpose in 2019 with an organization called the Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative, which is a collection of telcos and technology companies. That is now being called a movement — the Digital with Purpose movement. I am proud of that. We did some very interesting internal work around purpose at Deloitte as well. I can look back at all of these things and, maybe pride is the wrong word, but those were good things to do. We learned a lot. We pushed ourselves; we explored; we learned and we inspired each other.

The proof of the pudding there is in the number of people that I’m still in contact with — there are people who are first, second, third, fourth circle out from the people I talk to every day. They know what I stand for. I know what they stand for. That relationship was forged through the work that we did together. That is probably what I’m most proud of.

Chris: Fantastic! Moving on from the impact you had at Deloitte’s to the impact you’ve been having more recently, can we talk about your walk to COP26? Can you tell us what you learned, what you gathered from it?

Sam: The Walk to COP26 was — first of all, we felt it would be a super interesting thing for us, the participants, to walk for 26 days doing 20 miles a day. Every great step was a step away from a corporate context, a step away from a desk and a chance to speak to people about climate change and to listen — which is more important, actually, than speaking. That was very attractive. We had something very local to do to keep busy — which was to put one step in front of another and feel like we were making some sort of progress in some bizarre way. Really, it was to try to enable us to step away from an institution — to recognize how institutionalized our thinking might have become — and to begin to feel and hear and understand what different types of people in different walks of life say about climate change. That was one thing. It had more of an impact on us, perhaps, than anybody else. 

The second bit was to bring business and not for profits and students from universities or schools and local authorities all together in a series of town halls. We had about eight town halls on the way up. I knew from the 450 interview exercises I mentioned that everybody talks about collaborating. Certainly, all the corporates talk about collaboration — ‘it’s not something we can do alone. We’ll work on this together.’ Proper collaboration for big business is very difficult. It’s fraught with challenge and conflict. It’s just a very difficult thing to do. 

One of my observations was, collaboration around climate change is not just with other people in your sector or somebody up or down your value chain. It’s actually with the community. It’s actually with government. You have to get everybody to play together. That’s even more difficult. In a very small way, the idea of those town halls was to bring together those different constituencies in a location and get them talking — in some way get them to know and to understand each other. I think they created impact in a way because people met each other — people who didn’t know each other. In Moffat, Scotland they said it was the best discussion the town had had on the environment or more broadly. Bringing people together, creating those connections, getting people to learn from each other, these were the small ways that we made an impact. And that’s the way that we shaped and designed Walk2COP27.

Chris: It’s another town hall structure, but virtually done. How did you find the bridge between the physical to the technical? Are you a technical person? How did you manage to overcome that gap?

Sam: I started at Accenture. I did three years at Accenture consulting and I was a COBOL programmer for a while. I didn’t know how to use a keyboard and I’m still not sure I that I do. I would not call myself a technical person. However, I do recognize the incredible benefits from the reach, the efficiency, the effectiveness of all these things that we’ve been gifted with. As long as you have got your broadband — whether it’s Zoom or Team School or any of the social media platforms or getting a website up and running or pinging an email to a hundred people, it’s just incredible what you can do. I am not a real techie, but I do appreciate the incredible productivity and things that you can do.

Chris: One of the reasons why we always do these conversations in person is because there’s a different energy — there’s a different type of conversation you can have that’s really difficult to have on a screen. Have you found that the interactions within the virtual town halls have been as productive as the ones in your physical town halls?

Sam: The thing I’m missing from COP26 is the physical, personal mission of trying to get from London to Glasgow. You were tired at times and you were stressed and you had to get to the next place and you got shin splints. It was emotional. It was physical. It was — sort of everything, right? Whereas, if you are effectively orchestrating this thing from behind a computer screen, it does feel different personally. Notwithstanding that, if I can set up a working group in, say, Lebanon or Jordan and have 20 to 30 different organizers represented who I’ve never met before, you do establish good relationships and good links. And you do understand a little bit about the country and the personal situations that people are facing — so it is a gift. But, you’re right, there’s a physical dimension which is difficult to replicate — that you can’t replicate.


Section three: catalysing climate action

Chris: You set up four very clear objectives for Walk 2COP. Net zero is the one that everyone will know about. What about the other three?

Sam: We are really trying to catalyse climate action. We’re catalysing climate action through three different ways and we define climate action in four outcomes. The three ways are: first, to create an opportunity to learn — and that’s for ourselves and for everybody else as well. The second is then to forge solidarity — to make people feel like they’re in this together so we have the courage to act and to act in awareness of everybody around us. The third is allowing people to make connections, be they somebody who does passive house speaking to somebody who does wood design or something else and they happen to be in the same village in a Belgium. There’s a connection made — bang!  

The way we define climate action is in terms of four outcomes. The first outcome, as you said, is decarbonization — aligning to net zero or the race to zero, which is the Climate Champions version of that. Many of us are very familiar with that. It’s a reduction of manmade emissions and huge amounts of work thinking about what net zero really means and what the level of emissions reduction should be — either at a national level or an organizational level. And, indeed, where those emissions come from, obviously. The emissions piece is also known as mitigation.  That piece is relatively well understood by many.

The second one is resilience. Resilience is really the flipside of adaptation — can we adapt or can we be resilient in the face of the challenges from climate change that we foresee or that are coming upon us? This is more difficult to conceptualize and to define because, for instance, one person’s resilience might be somebody else’s lack of resilience. In theory, you might actually improve your resilience at the cost of somebody else’s. Whereas, if you reduce your emissions, it seems good for everybody. So, conceptually, it’s a little bit more difficult to understand. And, also, you’ve got to think about what is your baseline of resilience? Is it the way you currently live, operate, act and you’re trying to protect that? Or is it the way that you did it five or ten years ago? 

Although it is a more difficult topic, the principle is very clear. Basically, we’ve got to withstand the challenges we know are going to happen because the climate is going to continue to heat up whatever we do now. And we know the extreme weather events will increase, whatever we do, and the terrible impacts of desertification etc. are going to be upon us. We know we need to prepare. Reports are very clear on that. Resilience is that act of preparation or the outcome of that preparation, both for societies and the environment. It is really, really important. I think everybody recognizes that it has been slightly deprioritized compared to mitigation for lots of reasons, but it’s very much back on the table — not least, because we are all beginning to suffer now in every economy and in every geography. In the past, it was the poorer economies, not the richer economies who were suffering. It was a little bit easier to think, ‘well, it’s a shame, but it’s not really our issue.’ 

The third one is justice. Justice is, again, quite difficult to put in a little box. At the highest level, there are a number of different elements to justice. One is voice — are we allowing everybody to have a voice in how we construct the future in the face of climate change? I think that is one very, very important part of justice and of being inclusive. 

There is a second part of justice which is asking, whose fault is it? And, therefore, who has to do something about this? That’s the second very important part that COP27 will be opening up and examining.

The third bit of justice is really similar to the first part. The STGs have the same concept, which is: leave nobody behind. Can we really say that we’ve operated with justice if a proportion of society, an individual, just doesn’t have a voice? We can’t leave them behind. We have to incorporate everybody. Justice is multifaceted, but I would point to those three things as the most important. 

The final one is circularity, which is really just saying, we don’t want to construct a world, we don’t want to address anthropogenic climate change in a ten-to-20-year time frame, which then results in a system that creates additional massive environmental and societal issues. The concept of circularity — the concept of being in a relatively closed loop, of thinking very hard about what comes in, how you manage it and managing what comes out and making sure that, to the extent possible, you have a closed loop — is a very powerful concept and helps us to try and think in a truly sustainable way going forward.


Section four: COPs and the conversation on climate

Chris: Moving back to COPs, for right or for wrong, the COPs have tended to dominate the conversation on climate and the conversation on how organizations and how governments and people think about the climate process. What’s your view on the role COPs play and how COPs has evolved over recent years?

Sam: 2015 was when I got into Sustainable Development Goals. I got into climate change in a much more dedicated way only three years ago. So I’m not a veteran COP watcher or COP attendee — which actually is very interesting for me because I can observe and listen to people who have been. The first observation is this: it is the 27th year, actually it’s the 28th year because we missed one with COVID, and it’s unbelievable that we have COP. This has been so known about.  It has been so important that there has been an all countries, UN driven conference of the parties every year to try and tackle climate change. Even when I got into SDGs, I only saw climate change as one of many challenges. I didn’t see it as the main fact. I fiercely defended the fact that there was no prioritization within the SDGs. It is only recently that my eyes have begun opening — last year through the IPCC reports, but also many, many other sources — to the impending horror and, in fact, the visible horror in some areas, that we need to try and avoid. It is staggering to me to figure out where was I? What was I doing? I was head down, looking after myself — not looking after anybody else — during that period when all these things were happening. So that’s one thing. 

The second thing is — for people like me, who are lay people when it comes to COPs — they’re quite difficult to unpack. There was quite a lot of good media coverage of COP26, which I think helps explain it and open it up, but it’s quite difficult to unpack, to understand. It’s quite technical. There are technical forums and there’s technical language. I felt, and I heard from others, that COP26 was a reasonable bridge between the more technically presented processes and outcomes from previous COPs and something which was, perhaps, more of the people. That’s a very good thing because you need things on a calendar and broken down for everybody to focus on. It is global. You have got all the countries there and there’s an opportunity for it to be a massive focus for everybody.  It can be used to put pressure on governments, on business and on almost everybody else, to step up. You don’t want a rolling maul of targets and commitments and piecemeal reporting. You do want a bit of a calendar to run these things. From my perspective, it’s incredibly useful as something that we can all rally around, but we do need to understand it better. 

In England, at the beginning of the journey to COP26 and we were visiting schools and very few students had heard of COP or understood what it was about. It could have been because it was at the beginning of the journey or because it was in England but, as we got close to Scotland, all the hands were going up and people could talk about it and say what it was. Everybody knew about this and they were engaging in some shape or form. It was very powerful. We have something that we need to defend. We all need to participate, even if we’re not asked to. It’s a great opportunity to massively leverage what’s been done before and to try and change the outcomes in the short term to be more positive, more dramatic, more transformational. 

Chris: It felt like COP26, at least in the build-up, was set up to be another monumental occasion — like a rerun of Paris, which was the last one where people thought, ‘oh my goodness, we’ve made some serious progress here!’ Is that just my perspective on it? Being UK, Ireland based, we got to hear all of the media kerfuffle in the run up to a UK based — Scotland based — COP. In your work with Walk2COP27, do you find there is a similar level of building momentum in Egypt?

Sam: Yes, I think so. I was in Deloitte when we were warming up to tackle COP26 and, obviously, it was pushed back because of COVID. There were valiant, monumental efforts by many people to create this big thing around COP but it was also late and it was also fragmented and it was almost not the thing that it was intended to be — though it hit very close to it. Part of that was COVID and the uncertainty, but it was also because it is an intensely political forum and things are moving quickly. You could feel everybody looking at everybody else and wondering who’s going to be there? How seriously are they going to take it? What do we need to do, as opposed to, what should we do? I do think COP26 was a big thing, particularly for us. Obviously, huge numbers of people went — whether invited or not, which is fantastic. 

It was the fifth year since Paris and the expectation was the NDC, the Nationally Defined Contributions, would be pulled out and polished and represented and would be in line with the Paris Agreement — which, of course, they weren’t. For lots of reasons it was always going to be quite a big thing. The host country has resources and put some of those resources to play in, for instance, The Climate Champions. 

When we roll forward to this year, I have been a little bit disappointed — certainly from conversations with big business, who are wondering what other people are going to do and, therefore, what they need to do, as opposed to what they should do and how far they step forward. And people are also talking about COP28, which will be in the UAE.  There is more excitement because it’s in the UAE as opposed to, perhaps, this one. People have also talked about it being difficult to get to and about the local constraints.  For instance, some of the NGOs said it has been difficult to get a number of people accredited.  

I’ve heard the positive things — people really wanting it to be a massive success — but I’ve also heard a combination of deep polarization and logistical challenge. And of course, the BBC have got a number of different bits of the narrative — neither of which is wholly uplifting and promoting this as a really important meeting. I have been a little bit disappointed in how it’s been categorized and talked about in many quarters. I really do wish them all the very best though and I’m sure huge amounts of effort are going in to making it as successful as it can be. 

Chris: Absolutely. I know it was an emotional time at COP26. You talked about your own journey getting up there but, in the relatively short aftermath, you came out and you said you thought it was a disgrace and it should provoke outrage. Upon reflection, do you still feel that way?

Sam: Again, I go back to being a layperson. You’re comparing the challenge, which is running away from us, to what’s coming out of the meeting. People who follow COP and the people who are deeply into the politics of it all are over here, feeling like an incremental step is a good thing. But the rest of us are looking at the issues and the challenges here and we’re saying, well, it doesn’t really matter what’s gone before. It’s just not fit for the purpose. That’s where the frustration came from. 

As an example, think of the emotion and the sense of success and unanimity and consensus that came out of the Paris Agreement — that sense of achievement. And yet, here we are six years later and we’ve come out with a set of national plans which keep us to 2.4 degrees, as was my understanding — there’s a bit of a range, but 2.4 degrees was the higher end of the range — as opposed to the two or, hopefully, 1.5. degrees commitment the Paris Agreement came with. That, in itself, is so disappointing. Then, the news afterward is, in large part, around the use of language and the success of having coal actually cited in the final document.  For people who haven’t been part of those 26 sessions, there is such a gap between that and the reality of what’s happening and what needs to be done.

That’s where that frustration and disappointment and anger came from. It’s still there but I feel more part of it now and more responsible. I don’t feel I can throw stones from outside. I feel I’m part of the issue, not almost part of the solution. I desperately want to be part of the solution. I feel compromise when I think about it because I recognize I’m part of, or have been part of, the challenge.

Chris: One part of you seems to think that the COPs play an important role in keeping everybody focused. On the other hand, you said that you don’t think that they’re really fit for purpose in moving at the pace we need to. What changes would you make? If you had a magic wand, how would you make that the process better?

Sam: I’m not well suited to comment on how they are organized, the process of reaching agreements or otherwise. One thing I’d ask for with the magic wand would be to have heads of state at those meetings. Some of them have been there at times. Boris Johnson was in Glasgow. I think he was prime minister then. Having heads of state as a mark of huge importance would make a big difference. 


Section five: the influences of geopolitics, media coverage and activism

Chris: You seem to be touching on momentum issues here again. Given recent events, do you see that COP is less in the headlines because people have got other priorities?

Sam: I think climate change as a topic as has lost momentum. Whatever anybody thought about the outcomes of COP26, certainly in our world here — just from media footage — the interest and general public awareness was massive.  They reached stats in the US as well where 80% of people think it should be a policy priority regardless of whether Democrat or Republican. That sense of people being aware and understanding — which is a precursor to action — is highly reassuring, exciting and inspiring. But we’ve then come out of COVID and we’ve seen the supply chain challenges from COVID—we would have seen that anyway — and inflation and cost of living challenges overlaid with the horror of the war in Ukraine. The impact of the war in terms of energy prices is also feeding through into cost of living and there are the energy security issues resulting from that as well. Those things, without a doubt, conspired to change geopolitics and national priorities around the world. 

In the UK, we can see energy security concerns have resulted in talk about lots of oil and gas licenses and fracking. We’ve had people in government saying they can’t afford to address some of our net zero commitments this year or next year. The language is extraordinary! You can’t afford to do something which is going to trash the next generation and the environment and society as we know it! It’s extraordinary talk. It’s absolutely extraordinary. 

You can hear and see similar levels of concern reflected in lots of countries, particularly through these town halls we’ve been doing. Something like 7% of our natural gas comes from Russia. Some of the countries in the town halls rely on 10 times that — so big, big challenges and local priorities. One of the unexpected and exciting things that happened at COP26 was the China-U.S. bilateral agreement that disappeared in a puff of smoke because of the geopolitical challenges created through the war in Ukraine. Lots of things have been going on, all of them taking or sucking away energy — some of them creating direct counter momentum and a narrative against climate change.

There has been a little bit which has helped. With energy security, in theory, if you do have a strong investment in renewables in your country, then that is a way to get energy security. In some quarters, certainly, that investment in renewables is happening—it is just very likely to be happening at the same time as prolonging coal, prolonging nuclear and prolonging oil and gas in some shape or form.

Chris: Would you consider yourself an activist?

Sam: I have huge respect for what I would deem proper activists. I’m very young, naive and new to this whole area but I consider the proper activist to be somebody who is fierce and courageous in the face of disapproval from the norm — almost by definition. They are going out on a limb. They’re isolating themselves. They are absolutely sure of their convictions. And they’re helping move the centre by extreme action. I’m not that person. 

I would like to call myself a climate activist but there are a couple of things that hold me back. One is I don’t want to take away from the people I would consider truly courageous in this space. I would include people like Christiana Figueres in that. I don’t want to take away from people like her. I am also still exploring how to make the best impact. When I do look into that, I’ll be able to call myself an activist with more confidence because you need mega conviction — not just about the issue you are addressing, but about how you’re addressing it as well. I’ve been a strategy consultant for 30 years. I’m thinking about all the options. I need to look into how I actually deliver the impact as opposed to spreading myself a bit thin. 

Another thing is, you have to make some difficult choices if you’re going to be an activist. You are going against the grain. You’re going against that big middle ground of people who have an accepted way of thinking about things and doing things. That will make you unpopular and that requires courage. Once again, I’ve managed the conversation rather than necessarily found one niche or found my place where I can express what I really believe and think needs to happen — recognizing, though, that this will mean a very significant impact on the status quo and the incumbents, which in itself will then become very unpopular.

Chris: If it’s popular, there’s no need for activists, is there? Given the current situation in the world, what is the role of the activist right now in keeping climate on the agenda and keeping us to, hopefully, somewhere beneath two degrees?

Sam: Assuming that most of us are aware in some shape or form — in the UK particularly after COP26 — we might consider ourselves opinionated about what’s happening in climate change. The issue we’ve all got is the dissonance between that and buying your coffee and sitting down and turning on your computer and wondering what your kids are doing or whatever else. These things are so normal and mundane and every day and what we’ve always done. Awareness of climate change challenges that in a huge way, which says actually it’s not going to continue like that. It’s going to differ. 

Many of us are struggling to bridge that gap and say, if I know this — and I do know this — how do I reconcile this with that? The trouble is one of the ways we live with that dissonance is to ignore it. We carry on in this world and just pop into this every so often — so we can make ourselves feel good and so we don’t look stupid in front of people. 

The activist’s job is to take that and just ram into this and say, ‘guys, stop it! You’re pretending everything is normal and it’s not! You’re ignorant and you’re not opening your eyes. You’re being naïve. We’re going to disrupt and we’re going to try and make everybody wake up and understand that we’ve got this huge challenge. We’ve got to move together to change things for the better.’ I think that’s the role of the activist.


Section six: reparations, justice and collaboration

Chris: One of the major themes of the up-coming COP in Egypt is reparations. People may have come across the concept in different contexts but the way it applies in the climate world may not be familiar to people. Could you describe what reparations means to a delegate at COP?

Sam: The framing of it is typically loss and damage in the COP world. It goes back to what we were saying about justice. It has been well understood for a long time that the societies creating climate change — and who have seen many benefits from the causes of climate change in terms of standards of living etc. — are not the ones suffering the greatest impacts of floods, rising sea water, desertification etc. Loss and damage/reparations is really about trying to think of a framework which allows some form of payment or assistance from the people who created the challenge to the people who are then suffering from it. 

After the recent floods in Pakistan, I saw a number saying Pakistan will need 30 to 40 billion dollars just to get back to where they were before the floods — presuming, of course, the water subsides and everything else. That would be a third of the amount of money that was agreed upon in total to move from the richer countries to the poorer countries as part of a payment of 100 billion. Clearly, that 100 billion is completely inadequate if one country with one weather event can be taking a third of it. And, by the way, that 100 billion has not been fully paid anyway. 

It is very clear that, somehow, countries need to come together — not just to say whose fault it is and who should get the money. We could just start off and say, well, obviously, we need some form of insurance. We don’t know where the biggest challenges are going to hit. So wouldn’t it be sensible to pool our money and create a massive insurance fund and then pay it out when it’s needed. That is one level at which you can think of it.

The second level is, if there is asymmetry between who has the money and where the challenges hit, then, obviously, there has to be a set of rules around this — not least because the people who have the money are typically the people who created emissions in the past and created this historic challenge. We need a set of rules which makes sure that these underlying principles of justice, fairness and equity are put in place.

Chris: You will have people coming out and saying, we can’t afford this now. Look how difficult our own lives are. Our energy is cut. Prices have gone up. We should be looking after our own populations first. How would you respond?

Sam: There are a number of ways to respond. We’ve had some really interesting people responding to that in the different town halls. We didn’t do this in COP26, but the faith groups were pretty well organized at COP26, so we brought them on board for COP 27 to help with this initiative. We had somebody from Green Faith talking in one of the town halls and she was very clear, as you would expect, on the moral principles that should underpin this. For her, this is a moral priority that’s wholly in line with the major religions and how they think about caring for each other in society. And therefore, it’s a prerequisite to living the life you want to lead as a Christian or Muslim or whatever else. That was one view. Now, that doesn’t really go down in UK politics for a number of reasons. 

Of course, there’s lots of self-interest here as well. One of the more obvious ways of thinking about self-interest is through immigration. The UK seems to be obsessed with immigration. Arguably, that’s exactly why Brexit happened. There’s an ongoing debate by the people in the know about whether or not Syria was really tipped over the edge by climate change — but that created a massive exodus and a huge number of immigrants into Europe. Everybody recognizes that if climate change continues relatively unchecked — as it is at the moment — that will be nothing compared to the mass migration that we will face and have to manage. So you can look at it in a number of different ways, but it is not an issue that you can isolate to a country or to a particular landmass or a location.

We’ve spent however many decades driving globalization, particularly in the private sector. What do we think is going to happen to our global supply chains, our networks, our security? It’s a bit clouded at the moment because of COVID and because of the war in Ukraine. But, even without that, climate change is evident in things like the Rhine in Germany, where there are months in the year when you can’t deliver or collect things from up or down stream. That supply chain is going to impact all of us. The way of life that we have established is increasingly dependent on what’s happening outside our national boundaries. The more that people suffer from floods or hurricanes or whatever else is within your national boundaries, the more that is going to create a narrative, a dialog, argumentation around putting money to play there — but it cannot be at the expense of a more cohesive and a more communal response to challenges elsewhere which, ultimately, we are dependent on.

Chris: Collaboration has been a major theme of our conversation so far. You talked about how you’ve been trying to create these little pockets of people talking together and feeding off each other. In an article you wrote, you mentioned the butterfly effect that you were seeing from the conversations people were having around your Walk2COP26. Do you have any little anecdotes about the effects that you have seen over the last year from these chance encounters? 

Sam: The butterfly effect is the most lovely metaphor. If you’re an optimist, you reach for that and you put a lot of faith in it. By definition, it’s quite difficult to understand what happens after the ripple reaches the other side of the world, but there are certainly some little bits and pieces I can share. Somebody was put in touch with me because they were looking for a job in the UK around sustainability and climate change. We engaged. She ended up walking with us on COP26. She happens to come from Lebanon. She then helped me develop the working group in Lebanon for Walk2COP27. Separately, somebody I met in Turkey, who is part of Walk2COP27, introduced me to something called Women in Renewable Energy, which is a Canadian based organization going worldwide around, obviously, women in renewable energy and related skills. Through this lady from Lebanon’s involvement in Walk2COP27, they got to know each other and now she is starting a UK chapter of Women in Renewable Energy

In a very small way, if we’ve managed to create a few of those connections that get people together and allow new things to happen, that’s exactly what we were hoping for. That’s a small example but there are other bits and pieces. Yesterday we had a clubhouse session as part of Walk2COP27. Basically, someone from Turkey was talking about something. Somebody in another country heard them talking about it and asked them for professional training. It was just a combination of serendipity and creating the platform to allow those things to be fostered. 

This is where we come back to the role of social media in a connecting people. For people, particularly people who don’t have much experience, to go out and make connections on social media is actually quite difficult.  Once you’ve met these people and then you reach out to them on the platform it is very different. So trying to create those opportunities for young people, or for anybody else for that matter, to meet others and then have the option to follow up on the social media platforms is a part of helping that butterfly effect — that serendipity, that network of connections, actions and activities that that you can’t necessarily see directly, but you’re pretty sure are happening.


Section seven: slowing down to move forward in a different direction

Chris: It’s clear you’re a firm believer in action — be it from an individual or from a corporate basis. You also believe that we’re running out of time. Things are not going quickly enough. Why did you choose walking in particular? Was there something philosophical about it or has walking just always been an important part of your life?

Sam: Challenges and mini adventures have been a part of my life. I’ve walked in the mountains and things like that but I had never really walked a long way before. That, in itself, was appealing. But the hope was that walking would give us an opportunity to engage with people in a different way — at a slower pace than sitting behind a screen, buzzing away and doing a job. That was that was the real hope. That’s really why we did it. 

Once we want to engage in an issue — and particularly this issue — we’ve got many choices on how we do that. It requires a bit of thinking to work through what you want to do, what you’re good at, or what you have the opportunity to do. That was also in the back of my mind. I wanted to have an opportunity — not just to engage with nature, have a bit of an adventure and engage in a conversation on climate change with lots of people from different walks of life— but also to try and think through the choices that I wanted to make going forward in my life.

We did meet some incredible proper walkers. One was a guy called Push Krishnamurthy. He is English — a long time Oxford worker who was originally from India.  He is phenomenal. I think he is now 71 and he’s done a lot of Gandhi style walks in India with free trade people and also with Oxfam and others in the UK. We met people like that who were proper walkers. Hats off to them! We were just tourists. 

There’s something very compelling about it. Maybe it’s the pace. Maybe it’s the slow level of activity. Maybe it’s the sense that you are going somewhere, even if you’re not really. You may question the impact you’re having but you are actually feeling, in some shape or form, that you’re making some progress. And that helped as well.

Chris: Interesting. Speaking of Gandhi — Gandhi, Tolstoy Kumar, and many other activists, have all drawn a straight line between pace of life and injustice. Was there something to that — to choosing a slower pace to combat injustice? Both are themes we’ve been coming up with today.

Sam: I have spent most of my life doing stuff — doing lots of stuff and being massively busy. For a long time — probably up until the last couple of years — it never occurred to me that I might have actually been having a negative impact on the world. Some of the things I did might have had a negative impact but, in the back of my mind, I was thinking, well, I’m feeding my kids and I am doing what I’ve been told to and I’m not breaking the law or anything. I didn’t feel the need to over-think it. Of course, now we begin to realize the system that we’ve been promoting and working in has indeed created massive challenges for future generations. That is a very, very sobering thought. 

Now, you can begin to understand what that story about going slow really means — because the busier you are and the more stuff you do, the less opportunity you have to step back and say, what am I actually trying to achieve? I might have made money. I might have got a promotion. I might have sorted out the security issues embedded in my job — but what is it that you’re actually trying to do? What negative impact are you having? Who are you supporting by doing what you’re doing? What business practice or approach to the world are you supporting — tacitly, implicitly? All of those things now speak very significantly. To me it is quite challenging because you think, ‘oh my God, maybe all the things I did in the last thirty years, in totality, had an incredibly negative impact on the world. Instinctively, I’m thinking, well, yeah, I did contribute to all the environmental and social issues that we see at the moment — and not just by being blind, but by actively supporting the system and the organizations which brought us to where we are.

By slowing down, you’re going to be more thoughtful. By slowing down, there’s less chance of losing yourself without context in a small part of a company, organization or set of rules that somebody else has laid out. 

Chris: There’s clearly a conflict, though, between the urgent need for action and the need to stop being busy — to sit back and take the time that’s required to be strategic and to think about how to best use your time moving forward. That’s that seems to be the point that you’re at now. Is that correct?

Sam: Yes. And that is difficult because, on the one hand, if we all slow down and we all question the choices and why we were trying to put more money in our pocket or whatever else we were trying to do, then there’s an opportunity for that slowing down to have a very powerful impact on what we’re trying to achieve. That’s one thing but, clearly, we’re not in that position at the moment. People are holding onto this system because it’s what they know — and there’s a terror in giving up something without knowing what you’re going to get in return or knowing what’s going to happen.

So, I agree, it is difficult because there is a requirement for people to be dedicated and committed and work hard in order to try and address the challenges that we face. We know, perhaps, some elements of how we should live if we want to live in harmony with the world, but, at the same time, we want everybody to do that, not just ourselves. Do you then try and emulate that as the best way of getting other people to follow you? Or, do you have to emulate them in their intensity, in their commitment and everything else, to try to change their minds and get us all living in the right way as we go forward? I don’t know.

Chris: It’s extremely difficult. It seems to me that the closer you are to these issues and the more emotionally attached you are to them, the more difficult it becomes. If you’re just living in your bubble and just earning and getting promotions and these issues aren’t part of it, you’re less likely to feel the pressure of the impending crisis. The further along that trajectory you are — from being in your bubble to being an activist — the more likely you are to feel burnt out and crushed with all of the weight of the world on your shoulders. What advice would you give to people who are moving up the spectrum about how to best deal with the increasing level of pressures they’re going to be putting on their shoulders?

Sam: This challenge is on us and it’s not going to go away. I think you need to embrace it, maybe not wholly, but if you embrace it and feel you’re at least trying to address it in some shape or form, that can go some way toward assuaging the angst that you might have as you learn more and realize more about the actual situation. That’s one thing. 

The second thing is you can’t keep a lid on it. You might be able to for a period of time. Lots of people are pretending it’s not going to happen or pretending it’s not their job but would you rather know now and begin to think about what you want to do about it? Or would you rather put it off and then open that box when things are even worse in ten or 20 years — rather like I have in the last ten years. How was I so blind?  You don’t have that time back again for sure.

Chris: There’s an expression I’ve been hearing quite a bit recently — it’s ‘either make time to look after yourself and be healthy now or make time to be sick in the future.’  In exactly the same way, we need to be looking after the world now or we will be dealing with some major issues in the future.


Section eight: regional contexts and points of consensus

Chris: There were some great conversations going on within the clubhouse. What have you learned from them? Was there anything that surprised you from these conversations?

Sam: It’s a strange thing because, almost by saying humble, you’re not being humble—it’s sort of a weird word — but I’m humbled. It is difficult not to feel humbled when, for instance, we had a 16-year-old Pakistani girl talking about the issues in Pakistan and talking about the voice of women and girls and the impact on women and girls and the voice of women and girls in climate discussions. It was such a privilege to hear her with her passion and her hurt. It was so inspiring and it was so moving. It was fantastic! And that’s all on replay so people can listen to it. Was that learning? I don’t know, but it was moving. It was phenomenal. 

There are some technical things I’ve learned. I didn’t really know anything about Passive House. I learned quite a lot about Passive House — as a layperson. There are all sorts of technical things to learn. 

Chris: When you move from your town halls — from France to Hungary to Turkey to Jordan — how does the conversation evolve? How has it differed? Are people talking about the same issues or different issues, aside from carbon? We are just going to park carbon. We know people talk about carbon, but has the conversation differed around everything else related to the climate transition?

Sam: One of the surprises came out of a French town hall. The last question I try to ask is always, if you had a magic wand, what single thing would you ask for in order to increase the speed, the scale and the impact of the transformation we need? In France, it got down to education. Nobody would say that education is a bad thing — but where would you put that as a priority? In my mind, I’m thinking education takes generations to work through and then the person who’s educated has to act and so on. But, to a person, they ended up saying education was the most important — but not necessarily education of kids.  The corollary point was made that, actually, education of adults — working people and retired people — was needed to change their minds and their activities, their behaviours and the way they vote. 

That was a huge difference because the responses in the UK, whether that was Scotland or England, were a combination of policy and organizational action and reasonably technical approaches to ‘we’re doing this’ or ‘we’re doing that’ or ‘we’ve got some sort of solution for this.’ Or, ‘we need to scale it.’ Or, ‘we need policy’— all that sort of talk. Whereas in France, it’s education — which I thought was absolutely fascinating. 

Clearly the contexts do change. We’ve talked about the energy crisis. That is impacting some of these countries very, very differently. Also, the strength of the grassroots or the NGO sector differs. Sometimes that is seen as a very powerful and a really exciting voice. And, sometimes, it’s been seen as less mature and more evolving. As you go into some countries and you ask around it is quite evident — you quickly bump into the same names. Whereas in other countries, it’s like being in London asking about a medium-sized business — there’s just so much on offer. So yes, the contexts changed and moved around subtly. 

My selection of speakers obviously influences that but people are also facing very different issues. I’m looking forward to the ones that we’ve got coming up in the Middle East. In Turkey we’re going to be talking about agriculture. In the east of Turkey, there has apparently been a lot of challenge around desertification and agriculture — changes in agriculture are need in order to keep yield up. That’s going to be super interesting. In Jordan, the focus is on water and then in Lebanon, the focus is on community energy. They can’t really rely on the grid so they’ve got to create more of a community energy type approach. So there are big differences. 

What’s interesting is, once you get into talking about climate change and resolutions — what’s being done — it does feel a little bit more similar than the contexts really are. It’s the conversations before and after where you realize how very different these contexts really are. Somebody says, ‘oh, we just had another blackout,’ or ‘I can’t afford to drive into town anymore, so I’m going to only do on Fridays.’ 

If you put the town halls and the clubhouses together though, there are a few things that have come out of them which, again, are in areas I didn’t necessarily fully appreciate or understand. One is the desire for people to vocalize the need to change the system. It might start with an activist who we’ve invited — a particular youth activist — but then people agree and people in business agree or people in business associations agree or the local government agrees. It’s vocalized in many different ways but, in general, it’s that concept that you can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet or you can’t pursue growth at the cost of all — whatever variations on a theme. The bottom line is the obsession with growth — particularly when the growth is measured through consumption or a proxy for consumption — is not commensurate with a sustainable future. It surprised me that that’s come through so frequently and so often.

Chris: Tell us a little bit more about your feelings on this and on the role of business activism and the whole idea of degrowth and the constraints we have, naturally, on a finite planet.

Sam: It’s easier to point at what’s wrong than it is to say how to construct the future. It is evident that expressing one of the most important goals as an output number — which is, as I said, a proxy for consumption and which doesn’t talk about distribution — can’t be right. And when that system is not only endorsed at a governmental level but then gets translated into a system in which large and powerful organizations are trying to drive increased consumption without any understanding — let alone concern — about the broader impacts they might be having on society and the economy, it becomes very dangerous to us all — especially in the medium and longer term. 

There’s another very interesting debate, which is sometimes used to counter the ESG and responsible business discussion. There are people who say, ‘do we want unelected bodies to be pushing a social and environmental agenda when they haven’t been elected? What is their role?’ Too often that’s used as a counter to advocating for responsibility in business. It shouldn’t be. Of course, they should be thinking about social and environmental challenges and issues — but they should be doing it within a policy framework that is well understood and robust. 

We have found ourselves in a place that we don’t really want to be. You can look at it either in terms of all the climate change stuff that we’ve just been talking about or you can look at the mental health of our children — which we keep getting told about — or we can look at what we’ve got in our homes — why have we got all this stuff in our homes?  Which of those things gave us lasting happiness or fulfilment? Somehow, what might have been a tremendous mission initially has lost its direction and resulted in unintended and negative consequences. If there were a time of poverty when there were basic needs to be met and you needed economic opportunity to address some of that need, there would be a much more clear-cut argument for a more naked form of capitalism. We can certainly point to much progress in many countries on that basis. But I think once you get to a certain level of income, you don’t see the gains in happiness and fulfillment thereafter. It goes up to a certain level — and that level is incredibly low when you compare it to the incomes in the US, the UK and developed nations.

To summarize, I can point very clearly in my mind to what I think is wrong and inappropriate. How do you then reconstruct that? What I can sense is that what people are terrified of is chaos. They don’t want to go from something they recognize is hugely compromised to chaos — that would be worse. They do want a safe way of transitioning to something different. At the moment, we’ve got a lot of people thinking about degrowth and you’ve got a lot of different points of view in politics around what we should or shouldn’t do, but I don’t think we have enough of a blueprint to give confidence to the people who are sitting in their incumbent situations and businesses. It’s too easy for them to say, ‘well, that way is chaos so we’ll just carry on doing what we’re doing, even though we know it’s compromised. 

Chris: There’s also the global issue of degrowth, where you’ve got some countries that have grown massively and other countries that still have a large amount of GDP development that needs to be done to raise people out of poverty. It’s an extremely thorny issue, to say the least.


Section nine: inspiration, optimism and hope

Chris: You mentioned earlier on that you went into schools during your Walk to 26. What did you take away from being in the schools and talking to those young people?

Sam: First of all, there was an abiding interest and curiosity in the topic overall. It’s clear that they have been taught and the concepts aren’t foreign. It’s also clear that they want to continue to talk about it and debate and discuss it. Almost always, there are a small number of people who are absolutely on it — the mini Gretas — which is a good and a bad thing. It’s sad that it tends to be a small number of people, but it’s a great thing that they’ve got the courage to stand up and stand out.

When we mixed up the students with the adults, the adults always behaved when the younger people were are around — as long as the younger people were given a voice. That was fantastic to see — adults all suddenly listening and leaning forward as opposed to pontificating as we are all prone to.

It was the genuineness, the directness of the questioning and the commentary, which I think was so refreshing. They weren’t asking because they had a reason or a back story or whatever else. It was just the right question—why this or why that? Or how? Somebody asked, ‘I want to do a campaign, on whatever it was, but I’m worried about the emissions content of the posters I stick on the walls. It’s just a great, simple question. 

And it was the generosity of spirit as well. Admittedly I’d spend the whole day walking with shin splints and I was cold and wet but the thing that almost made me cry in Scotland was somebody staying. There was a group of little girls who stayed behind to ask questions. Just the fact they stayed behind was already emotional. It was like, ‘oh my God, they actually want to ask us more questions. I can’t believe it.’ That was exciting. And then, one little girl put her hand up and said, ‘It’s not a question. I just want to say thank you for coming to see us and saying what you did.’ The three of us on stage were just wiping away the tears. It was amazing. The interaction was so rich. 

We didn’t do enough interacting with schools. It’s not quite as easy as interacting in corporate or in the universities, but it is so rewarding.

Chris: fantastic! This that may partially answer the next question. On your LinkedIn profile you’re wearing a T-shirt that says ‘Optimistic Stubborn Climate Activist.’ How do you stay so optimistic? How do you stay optimistic and stubborn?

Sam: That T-shirt was apparently distributed at COP26 in the Strathclyde Union by somebody who claimed that they were printed in 2015 by Christiana Figueres — or by a team. I don’t know if it is true or not, but I grabbed one. It doesn’t quite fit me but it is a fantastic T-shirt. It’s my favourite.

Optimism is tricky because it comes back to these two bits. You don’t want to immerse yourself in the minutiae of your life and forget everything else because that can make you feel okay in the face of it. But, at the same time, you don’t want to immerse yourself in the big challenges and stare at the rising emissions rates over here and read the IPCC reports every morning. Part of it is trying to create a blend of the two to allow you to live your life and allow you to do normal stuff, and yet to do that within the context of this challenge. I think that’s part of it.

The second thing is, this thing is so big, so fundamental that you do have to feel you’re doing something which, in some way, contributes or, at least, doesn’t have a negative consequence. That’s what I’m casting around trying to do.  Meeting all the other people who are also trying to do that — who are so dedicated and committed to what they’re doing — that gives me optimism and that gives me strength of purpose and inspires me.

Section ten: future directions

Chris: Will there be a Walk2COP28? 

Sam: If I go back to France saying education is required, I think there is a huge amount of education required in this country and in every country we’ve touched on. It’s not necessarily the facts, the figures or the fact that climate change exists but it’s understanding the implications and the segways into other challenges. It’s all the things that we’ve talked about — degrowth and consumerism etc. I certainly haven’t managed to put it all together in a very cohesive narrative and I’m quite sure that many others haven’t either. If I put together the facts that I’ve been studying and spending a lot of time trying to understand over the last few years, I’m still not quite there. I shouldn’t say ‘quite’. I’m still not there. I’m being told by all sorts of different people that education is crucially important — and I can see it. 

I’m thinking the next step for me is actually to get into some of these really interesting organizations or collectives — I don’t know what you call them — which are driving different types of climate education. There’s The Climate Reality Project that Al Gore set up — there’s a network of people with a specific sort of narrative, which is huge. I bumped into that in Turkey. So that’s something I’m going to pursue. There’s Climate Fresk, which started in France. It’s a climate game which you can take to companies, organizations or even schools. There are different levels of it that you go through in a three-hour setting. It tries to get people to challenge and question. My next step is probably to explore those avenues in my quest to find the best way to contribute. It won’t be only that — and I will keep the possibility of a Walk2COP28.

Chris: Is it too late to get involved in Walk2COP27?

Sam: It obviously depends on when people listen to this but, not at all. Walk2COP27 runs officially until the 7th of November. There are a number of different ways to get involved. First of all, if you get on the website,, you can register. And that means you register on the app and you log your distance and we translate that into trees. We’ll plant those trees through Jane Goodall, in Burundi, as a result of the kilometres walked. So that’s one thing — join as an individual or join as part of a team. The second thing is to attend the town halls. Come, listen, engage, ask questions and challenge as we hear these fascinating town halls yet to come. The third way to engage is the clubhouse you mentioned. There are still 10 to 15 sessions of the clubhouse to listen to. The fourth way is on social media. You can engage in the conversation and look out for us on #walk2cop27. And we’re very happy to amplify your good stories or you can amplify ours. It doesn’t really matter which one. So yes, there is still opportunity.

Chris: Fantastic! If you were going to give a one line pitch about why someone here should consider getting involved, what would it be?

Sam: A one line pitch…

Chris: You can go to two if you need.

Sam: As individuals, we are all walking or running or cycling or traveling in a wheelchair in our daily lives — translate that into something which results in trees planted in an important part of the world, which has suffered significantly from climate change. More importantly, feel part of this big collective on the walk to COP27.

So — join us to feel part of a collective and feel the solidarity, but also to turn what you do anyway into a benefit for other people.

Chris: Finally, just by way of wrapping up, you’ve clearly taken an enormous step in your life from the past to the present. If there are other people considering dedicating their careers, their professional lives, their time and their money to being an activist or being more involved, what advice could you give them? What do they need to think about? And what will be facing them?

Sam: First of all, I’d be delighted to speak to them. There are many, many people I’ve encountered who are seeking exactly that.  They are asking, do I build on what I’ve done in the past? Do I do something different? How shall I address and approach this? It’s like looking for any job — you’ve got to think about some of the basic requirements. You can’t have your cake and eat it. You can’t have the most money, the most short-term acts, and want to save the world as well as this. 

There’s a set of criteria that you need to write up. First of all, it very much depends on what stage of your career you’re on and what stage of your life you are in. It’s very important to think about what you can do in your network but, also, what you are motivated by. A lot of people in more traditional professional careers haven’t had the time necessarily to think about what motivates them or what they are necessarily good at. They’ve been good at their job. That doesn’t mean to say that’s the best thing that they could possibly do.

We shouldn’t just think, okay, I’ve done whatever it is — maybe a thousand business plan inspections — and so, therefore, I should find a way of doing that same thing in a green way. Actually, I might do something completely different. It might be something more creative. It’s a really interesting and fascinating opportunity for everybody to step back and think about the motivation, the capability and the opportunity they have and try and put those together and then take a step.

There’s something else about this. First of all, don’t do it in isolation. Talk to a lot of people — and most people do. The second thing is, do take a step of some shape or form because, what I’ve found is, as you’re sitting in a particular situation you might be able to see two, three steps, away — left, right, centre, straight on. If you then take one or two steps, you then see a different set of two or three steps in a slightly different direction or in a different way. By making a move you will change and you’ll change the things that you think you can do and also what you can do.

I would advocate change at all costs. The question is, what does that look like? And how far? How quickly? But do it now. Don’t wait.

Chris: Fantastic! Thank you. That was brilliant. 

Sam: Thank you.


To view the Full Episode with Sam Baker go to the Conversation on Climate podcasts page.

To view the episode on YouTube go to the Conversations on Climate Channel and subscribe to stay on schedule.

To listen to the Conversation with Sam Baker on the go, go to the Talk Climate Channel on Podbean.

You can find the related article on Linkedin at the Conversations on Climate newsletter.

The Press release for Season 1, Episode 12 can be found on our press releases page.

View the edited transcript for Season 1, Episode 6 of the Conversations on Climate podcast


DOWNLOAD CHEATSHEET for Season 1, Episode 6 for Sam Baker’s top tips.


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