T191. International Cooperation

 

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Project Save the World Podcast / Talk Show Episode Number: WRS6
Panelists: Mike Simpson
Host: Metta Spencer

Date Aired:  22 February 2021
Date Transcribed and Verified:  16 April 2021
Transcription: Otter.ai
Transcription Review and Edits: David Millar

 

Metta Spencer  

Hi, I’m Metta Spencer, have you been cooperating internationally? Well, maybe we should all improve our international cooperation a bit. So today we’ve come to an expert, we’re going to talk with Michael Simpson was the executive director of the British Columbia Council for international cooperation. And the main thing they are doing these days, as I understand it, bless their hearts, is working on the Sustainable Development Goals. And you can’t beat that. One of the things that Michael and I want to talk about is the way a number of our potential disasters are interlinked. And so that we have to deal with any one of them, you have to deal with all of the others or some of the others, and how that makes it possible for us to arrive at fixes that we might not be able to have otherwise, because we can solve a whole bunch of problems at once I get take such comfort from that. And I also take a little pleasure in talking about the Sustainable Development Goals. Because I, as a project, save the world has six global threats that we try to address. And sometimes people say, well, you’re really overdoing it, aren’t you? You can’t do that many things. And I say, Yeah, well look at the Sustainable Development Goals. They’ve got 17. Right. So, we’re going to solve all 17 global threats today. Right? Good. Hi, Michael. How are you, Michael?

Mike Simpson  

How are you? Metta? Good, we should be able to get it all solved in about an hour if we’re if we’re, if we’re good.

Metta Spencer  

Well, it shouldn’t take any time for 17 global threats, right? No problem at all. And you started for a number of years as a filmmaker.

Mike Simpson  

Yeah, many years ago, when I in my 20s and 30s, I made films only on environment, human rights and development. And then eventually, I started to work, because I used what was called a participatory filmmaking process… got kind of involved in the actual films.

Metta Spencer  

…you jump in front of your own camera?

Mike Simpson  

No, I never did that. But I did jump into lots of situations. And a lot of those situations that I was working on had to do with…, wars in Central America, or… the conditions and issues… in different parts of the world around conflict, and, and peace… — that was a major part of what I did — and environmental sustainability. And eventually, because of that, I started to get more and more involved with nongovernmental organizations, and sat on boards and so on. And eventually, I just decided, you know, one day after being in in West Africa, during the war in Sierra Leone… I decided that I wanted to work with NGOs. So, I started an NGO… worked with… for a long time, called One Sky. And then eventually, when I moved to Vancouver, I started working with the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation, which is a network of non-governmental organizations. There’s about eight — because I think there are a number of them in Canada, are there. Are they all Canadian? And they’re all somehow tied together? Yes, basically, there… are… eight provincial and regional councils. So, there’s one in Ontario and Quebec, and so on… eight of them… they’re bound together in what we call the inter-council network, which is a council of councils, if you can think of it that way. And there’s also actually a national council, used to be called the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, it’s now actually just simply called Cooperation Canada. And I sit on the board… kind of related in some ways to sustainability… the Canadian Environmental Network. So, I’m kind of a network guy. Think of me as a network guy…  because networks actually tackle that very thing you talked about,

Metta Spencer  

now, these local, provincial networks, do you have autonomy? Or do you coordinate exactly what you’re going to be working on? So, you’re all working on the same issues?

Mike Simpson  

No, we all have autonomy, because I think in each region, you see these regional ways of doing things. And people kind of specialize or focus in each of the regions on the things that are of interest to their members. —  They exactly what are some of the local BC issues? I can I can gather that probably forestry and fishing. Right?  Yeah. But I will say the one thing that does bind us that makes all the councils come together is that we are actually all focused on international cooperation. So many of the groups are working overseas. So, they’re not just local and, in fact, you don’t do local. Well, this is where it gets complicated, because, in actual fact, international cooperation had a long history that comes out of the 60-70s and 80s and 90s. But if you look at what happened with the Sustainable Development Goals, It’s the first time that people have said on our planet, that some of the issues that we face have… a universal character, meaning they’re showing up everywhere. So, if you think of poverty, for example — for many, many people, we think of poverty is something that takes place in Sub Saharan Africa or in a refugee camp in a fragile state. But if you actually look at Canada, you can find some statistics… disaggregate the data, and you look into certain places and certain situations… where poverty is absolutely present in Canada, and in some very… dire situations. So, when… the Sustainable Development Goals came along, in 2015, people did a reset internationally. And they realized that many of the problems that we face, the roots of them are actually universal. So, Canada is one of the highest consumers of energy on the planet… where’s the problem? If you’re in Africa, and you’re trying to get access to energy, and you have no access to energy? Is it possible that maybe rich countries and rich people have… exorbitant access to energy, you’re actually using up the planet’s supply? So that’s where we get into these issues of climate justice and all these things, it’s a new way of thinking as of 2015, the world has fundamentally changed in terms of how we feel we are we are as a community, because it’s becoming much more global.

Metta Spencer  

Why 2015,

Mike Simpson  

if you go before 2015, you have the period where we were trying to do the Millennium Development Goals, the MDGs. If you look at the focus of the MDGs, there was eight of them… or if you wanted to go even earlier to Agenda 21, to the 1990s, when we all met in Brazil, and we set up the agenda for the 21st century… there was… a certain number of things we wanted to solve to make the world a better place. Most of those things were aimed at what we call the developing world back then… And this is the idea that there has been a disparity since World War Two between countries that had… quite a bit of access to modernity, and countries that were challenged in that respect. But what we’ve discovered… now about the world is… that just because you’re ahead economically, does not mean that you’re ahead morally, or that you’re ahead in so many other ways. And so, what happened in 2015, was, it was the first time that the agenda that the United Nations would set for the world was actually distributed. Everybody said, “Let’s do this”. The MDGs were written by 10 men in a room, the SDGs were actually written by 1000s and 1000s of people who brought forward what they felt were the most important issues. And ironically, that’s… why you have such a long list. Because if you do go out and ask everybody, what are the problems that you’re facing, you get a very long list. And so, 17 was the minimum list. There are actually 169 sub targets of all the things that — if you ask people in every part of the world that they care about. So, it’s… what your focus is, and what Save the World is really interested in. And it is interesting to look back at the history of where did some of the issues, the pressing issues of the 1980s (nuclear war, for example), where did it go in terms of the trajectory? … it actually goes off the map in around 1992… but it’s coming back… it’s come back to haunt us because… in the 1990s… people wanted to move into the environmental-sustainability issue. And so, Rio was… all about that. And agenda 21 was all about that — — people felt that the Cold War was over — that that was you know, we’d handle that looks like Gorbachev and Reagan had had, you know, taken care of it and many people still think so, you know, well, there’s people today that don’t remember that year, there was 35,000 nuclear warheads… pointed at each other on the planet, and there was

Metta Spencer  

— 60,000… It’s the day that I got alarmed. It was after the Three Mile Island thing. And I have I’m going to be on the lookout for the cause of my life because I need to, and then somebody said, you know that I would have guessed at that point that there might be 10 or 20 [thousand] on the planet. Yeah. Somebody told me there were 60,000

Mike Simpson  

Yeah, what’s sad is that we still have we still have the capacity.

Metta Spencer  

And we have generated, you know, like 510 less than 10,000 I

Mike Simpson  

I think now… but you don’t need that many. That’s the interesting thing is today’s weaponry is,

Metta Spencer  

yeah,

Mike Simpson  

we don’t need 35 or 60,000. You can blow up the world many times over and cause a nuclear winter very, very quickly.

Metta Spencer  

But what was one of the important things is not just the fact that they’re so damn dangerous. But that we’re diverting resources, away from the things that we do need to deal with in order to pay for these wretched things. It’s less safe rather than safer. So, from my point of view, you know, I’m very enthusiastic or when no, and then I get enthusiastic about the Green New Deal, it covers a lot. They don’t cover militarism, to notice that they don’t talk about reducing military expenditures, or even cutting down the risks caused by these miserable weapons, all kinds of miserable weapons. So, I think that you we could take the Green New Deal and, and inject a few more little points. And it would become really important because I think that the problem of weapons is, here, I’m giving a talk,

Mike Simpson  

you know, I…  totally hear you. I totally agree too by the way.

Metta Spencer  

And I think it’s really central to the whole package, that everything goes through nuclear and other warfare kinds of situations. So, if we don’t handle how, we solve our international conflicts, yeah, short of killing each other, or trying to maim each other, then we can’t do you know, we can’t really accomplish the other things might be able to make some progress. So yeah,

Mike Simpson  

well, ironically, you’re actually going right to the roots of the international cooperation sector, the entire sector that I work in — its roots came out of that, out of the Second World War, we had just killed, I think, what is it between 54 and 18 million people on the planet — which puts the virus in perspective, some days, right, just how many people were killed. And what people decided at that point was that the roots of conflict, were actually, you know, in these disparities, and in these differences that we had, and if we could work on those, it’s cheaper than war. It’s just literally cheaper than war, to put money into all the things we need to do to save the planet. And ultimately, that’s true today, too, because people will say… the Sustainable Development Goals. Oh, they’re very, very expensive. We’ll never get them done. And the bottom line is, is that you just have to look at the overall budget. I mean… let me give you an example. In Canada, I mean, we very quickly in Canada, say we cannot afford to be able to spend money on Overseas Development Assistance, or working with other countries to make some of the issues that we’re facing — like refugee camps or humanitarian assistance –that we say, we can’t afford that. First of all, Canadians are very, very, very, very ignorant about the actual amount. If you ask the average Canadian in a poll, how much money do we spend on that? They’ll say that a quarter of the Federal dollar, so 25 cents on the dollar goes to ODA. Now, that’s just fundamentally not true. Believe it or not… less than a quarter of a penny goes into actually the problems that we’re trying to tackle. Now take the same argument, say, Okay, well, where’s the money going, then? And you realize… we can quickly increase the military budget in Canada by $70 billion, you know, and the equipment and things that we’re buying, like when you look at the actual military apparatus, and you go… where’s the money come from? For that, you realize that there’s actually lots of money on our planet — it’s where do we focus it? And that’s one of our biggest challenges is that people just fundamentally don’t understand the expense of war. And the I mean, how expensive is it to get into a nuclear winter? It’s very expensive if we just wanted to look at it economically, and forget the moral side of it. You know, just from an economic perspective, you basically bankrupted the planet instantly for centuries, by doing that. And so, the things that you’ve been working on the six global threats that I see you working on are absolutely linked to the Sustainable Development Goals. There’s no question that there it’s the same Good, good fight that you’ve taken on, I’d be curious about

Metta Spencer  

these additional sub categories that you say are so numerous.

Mike Simpson  

Yeah, well, they’re just targets, think of it as like, each one of the goals will have a sub- target that is important. So… health and wellbeing is goal 3. And under goal 3, I think it’s 3.2, or 3.4… forget which number it is, but there will be the desire for the world to protect itself against infectious diseases. And you can see that if you don’t do that… that was decided in 2015, we had to tackle the key global infectious diseases like malaria, or tuberculosis, or whatever they happen to be. Well, you can see from the COVID pandemic, how important it is to have a global perspective on that issue. Because if you don’t tackle it together as a world community, then you cannot tackle it as an individual country or even a local community. And this is one of the underlying principles that you’re talking about, about the interlinkages. The idea that if you didn’t tackle climate change, then you cannot tackle gender equality, or if you don’t, or vice versa — or if you don’t tackle gender equality, [you] fundamentally cannot address… freshwater. Particularly… if you travel or you look around the world, and you realize that people will be tackling one subject, and not realizing that the… root structure of why they can’t find the solution is because it’s actually lying embedded in another subject… Like — climate change is a classic, we’re all very worried about climate change. But we do have to look at the relationship between climate change and clean energy, for example, goal 7… 13 is climate change. Goal 7 is clean energy. Well, if we don’t link those two, we fundamentally can’t solve one or the other. And if you don’t look at clean energy, then… you can’t tackle climate justice, which is the idea that some countries have had more access to carbon for a lot longer period of time, and others need it in order to be able to get the things done that they need to get done.

Metta Spencer  

Yet, we don’t have 17 different goals. But we do have a platform for survival. Yeah, we had people propose planks, as if we were a political party. And we were preparing a list of our specific projects that we would try to accomplish. And within, let’s say, climate change, there would be several different ways to do it, including changing the way to sustainable sources of energy, etc. and other things like managing carbon sinks so that our forests and our oceans are handled. So, all of those are, in a way, part of this list of 25. planks that take care of six, all six of the global threats. And of course, they’re really interdependent. It costly to you know, for example, we have one of our goals is to prevent famine, another one, prevent pandemics, and, of course, another one to prevent war. Well, these are so related, because, you know, no, in a war, famine nowadays is not, has not been caused by shortage of rainfall, by and large, not at all. It’s caused intentionally as an act of war, where one country lay siege to whatever is in Yemen, they try to starve them to death. So, famine is really a weapon of war. And, and then you say, well, pandemics. In fact, when people are in a famine, they don’t usually die of starvation, they’re weakened to the point that they’ve been susceptible to disease. So, they actually die of some infectious disease that becomes an epidemic in the areas. So, all three of these are completely interrelated. Yeah. And then, of course, we’ll talk about global warming, as sure enough, when we have global warming, really drying up the planet, and so and causing floods, and so on, that’s going to cause food shortages. So, we’ll have famines, again, caused by, you know, climate and so on. So, I think these are so connected, you say that your group has been working on looking at the whole package is a system, what you got to document or somebody tell me about that document? —

Mike Simpson  

I wanted to ask you a question that gets asked of me a lot when it comes to the interlinkages. And it’s just… which one of these do we work on? Because you have only so much energy in a day. And if you know that they’re all linked, then should you work on issues of famine? Or should you work on nuclear proliferation? Should you work on nuclear bombs or nuclear energy? Or should you work on clean energy because you could go out all day and work on promoting solar power, for example, and you don’t have enough time at the end of the day to also work on gender equality? So, one of the questions I get asked a lot is, which one of these do you do you work on? Given that they are all interlinked? I’m kind of curious in your case, because you might.

Metta Spencer  

Everybody is already working on all of you to some degree. The problem is that we work on them in silos. And people working on famine, don’t know that they’re on the same team as people working on pandemics, or people working on war, etc. We… don’t think that we’re all in a common project. But we think… that we’re competing with each other for resources. Yeah, that’s, that’s stupid, because we’re really everybody’s on the same team. If we just get acquainted, you know, that’s what we need to do is recognize that we’re that all of these are teams that are maybe specialists but, but also there’s a general overview that needs to be emphasized that all of these are we’re in the Business of saving the world? Yeah.

Mike Simpson  

Well, here’s some good news for you that you’ll like this, because what we did is we wanted to find out who’s on that team that you’re talking about. And so, we went around to… 32 communities in British Columbia, we drove around and visited every single one. And we sat down with all of the leaders in each of those communities, in roundtables, to understand who in their community is working on which of these problems, and that might have the 17 goals. And then we started to realize, wow, there’s actually like, every single community, if you sat down and did this exercise of community mapping on the wall, every single one of them would stand back at the end of the evening and go, “Wow, we’re covering every single one of these because there’s somebody in our community working on every single one of these things”… almost every time and sometimes many different groups and each one of those goals. So, you know, we did we actually created a digital map, it’s called the movement map, you can find it on our website, or just google movement map. And you’re going to find a picture there of the Team Canada that you’re talking about, guess how many groups are working on the SDGs? You’re not going to believe this? We didn’t, we had no idea. But it’s hard to guess I’m just going to tell you; I think there’s 12,800 groups. Does that cheer up your day or what like that? You see… we tend to think that we’re just a small group working in a church basement or something. But if you take all those church basements, and all those groups together, and you put them all on a map, and you realize, wow, there’s a group in Cornell, there’s a group in Smithers, there’s a group in Guelph… tons of groups in Toronto. And so, you can find out where they all are, and you can find out what they’re working on. And you realize we’re covering every single part of the plan.

Metta Spencer  

But how do you? How do you find Oh, it was hard to get… need one mailing list, you know, that has Yeah, contact for all of these people? And we’ve got —

Mike Simpson  

No, it’s already there. It’s already on the map. You can go there right now and get it is quite amazing. Like you can go in and just click and I want to look up who’s working on goal 16: peace, bang, you’ll find every single community listed, every single group, you’ll find their webpage, their organizations, their phone numbers. Well, it was a lot of work, we sat down with a bunch of mappers, young volunteers at first, eventually got a little bit of money to pay them. But basically, they have a bunch… very clever people sat down and they went through all of the databases of the nonprofits, checked their websites, and then went through them. to figure out which SDG they’re working on, and which of the sub-targets they’re working on, and which of the indicators they’re working on. And it’s all been mapped. So, we have for the first time ever in Canada, and we’re the only country in the world that’s done it. Now Germany is trying to follow what we’re doing. There’s a bunch of people in Latin America and Africa –we’ve just mapped in Minnesota 800 groups just in the state of Minnesota. So, the maps going kind of international, because the idea is if we could figure out, see up until now, Metta. We’ve known what we need to do, and we have 1000 theories on how to do it. But the one question nobody ever asked was, well, who’s doing it already? Because there’s an impression that we have to start this from scratch, but you know, that you’ve been working? How long have you been working on peace issues? Let me ask you that, how long have you?

Metta Spencer  

Well, let’s see in the 40s. I was…  interested in in the 40s. Up here, you know, there have been times when I, I did more navel-gazing than I did activism. So, I can’t really tell you a good straight answer. But I suppose,

Mike Simpson  

but it’s been a while you’ve been working on. It’s not like you just started

Metta Spencer  

during the Vietnam War. I remember marching in San Francisco carrying my son piggyback in demonstrations. Okay,

Mike Simpson  

… Metta, you’re reminding me of a film I shot years ago for the Voice of Women. And I interviewed a woman and she was in her 90s. And she had been a peace activist. And she started listing the wars. And she went through every war as to how she had been a peace activist. And then there was this kind of silent moment where she kind of just lost herself in one of those wars, in a moment of memory, it was very emotional stage in the film, because one realizes this is something I say to young activists all the time, I say, I’m not really so concerned that you stay in our movement in our organization or in our network. What the dream is, is that when you’re when you’re 90… that you’re still going, that’s the dream, because one has to realize that we don’t even — with the SDGs, the idea is we’re going to get to 2030 — But I promise you when we get to 2030, we will not be living in a utopian perfect planet, it’s not going to happen. So, the question is, how do we stay active? How do we stay engaged with the world caring about it enough that we’re going to be able to see that this isn’t a fight that stops tomorrow? This is one that will continue forever?

Metta Spencer  

I think in any lifecycle there are periods when people become less active because… you’re on the ladder, they’ve got to, you know, get their credentials… their CV looking good and, yeah, and then the best time — I think young people, you know that they they’re changing all the time, so you can’t really expect them to stay on track. But the beauty is when they get to be 65. That’s the time to recruit them. Because right, yes, retiring, they have a lot of free time. And they’re still smart, they know a lot of stuff, and they’re ready to go is a great time to become an activist again, and a lot of people do. You know,

Mike Simpson  

here’s a thought, too, because you see, I work with a lot of young people, we send a lot of young people to the climate change meetings, I think British Columbia Council has, like the largest youth delegations to go to the high-level political forums of the UN, and the climate change, we’re the only group that sends massive numbers of youth. Now, here’s the thing… I’m a youth advocate. But… what… the youth are telling us these days, when we do these roundtables, they’re saying… what they want is not to be isolated as youth but to be working intergenerationally. And therein lies a whole new way of seeing the world …

Metta Spencer  

find it. I think that if you’re hearing that I think that’s a change, it is a variance. When I’m thinking for example of the Iraq War, when I was still teaching, all of a sudden, I was at the Mississauga campus at U of T. And all of a sudden, my little, I had a little workshop room where we did peace studies, Resource Center with a lot of documents and things like that had two rooms, and it was be filled up at noon, with the students coming in wanting. And the lovely thing was, it was their project, it wasn’t mine, they were excited about it and engaged with it. So I have the feeling, or always have the feeling that when young people do something, it’s at a time when they’re trying to become independent more, and they want to do it on their own. And it’s not easy to recruit young people into old people’s organizations. You’re saying now they want to do more energy or right generationally, then I think that may be a new, a new phenomenon.

Mike Simpson  

Because you know, I think it’s new. Yeah, it is a new phenomenon. I think there’s a reason why, why it’s new. Because if we look at how the movements in the 60s, they were, there was a lot of antiestablishment anti system was a fight against the system. Right. And it was a fight against how things had been. And if we also look at the demographic wave at that point, there was a strong baby boom generation that really led that that alternative way of thinking, but what we have now is, is sort of different in the sense that we’re very globally interconnected. And we’re also facing challenges that everybody knows, every single generation knows that nobody represents the problem there. We’re collectively the problem, climate change, every single one of us is involved in driving cars, and cars and the modern economy. And we can see that actually, collectively, we’re sitting in a problem that nobody knows the answer to, therefore, we were going to have to think together is there’s a lot of talk around the so-called wicked problem-solving idea that the problem is so so wicked, that no one perspective is going to be able to solve this one. So, you can’t stand up as a youth and go well, I know how to do it. Because you actually don’t. And nobody in an older generation can say this is how we’ve always done it. This is how it should be. That was the 1950s, their 60s fight. Today, we’re sitting in the year 2021. We have all these different perspectives, global perspectives, multiple generation perspectives. And we’re for the first time ever realizing, wow, if we don’t put all these together, and be inclusive of who is at the table, then we fundamentally aren’t going to solve this one. And so, you’re seeing kind of a little bit more humility in terms of people realizing No, we’re going to have to actually, we’re going to need, for example, your experience. You know, you say you’re turning 90, we need the intergenerational experience, because there’s young folks that come along, they never went through a war. They don’t understand what was Vietnam, actually, what was the felt sense of Vietnam all about. And so that’s something my age that I’m kind of between you and the young folks, I’m 56.

Metta Spencer  

Wait, I really want to work more closely with you guys. Because I didn’t realize that you had done this spectacular. I can hardly imagine collecting 12,000 names of organizations, do you have like a file for every one of them? or How did you

Mike Simpson  

Know what?… to be honest, it was it was hard to collect them. But it’s even harder to maintain those numbers. So, what we’ve done is, we’ve encouraged people. So, for example, if an if a person is watching this program, and they’re not on the map, forgive us, it’s because of the way that we did the searches using known databases from… each provincial government… And then in the end, they all shared so it was really good. We got all the databases, and then for the first time ever, went through them and categorized them, and figured out which groups are actually working on the SDGs. Once you’ve done that, I mean groups change… addresses change… the challenge is to keep the database… up to date. So, we’re still kind of working on…  In the meantime, … it’s a very inspirational place to find out who is doing what. So, if you want to know, let’s say… there’s a tidal wave in Indonesia… and you really feel concerned and you want to find a group that’s working in that area, and has been working on the ground. Because this is the key thing about the map, you see is that what it’s stating… there’s 12,600 groups, and they’ve all been working on this. And some people been working on this for 30-40 years. You realize we’re not starting from scratch with the SDGs. We really aren’t. And you know, this will give you a kudos… when I look back at the 80s, and I look back to my own involvement in the anti-nuclear movement back when I was a young student… I actually credit your generation for keeping this planet alive. Honestly, I do. Because I believe that if… the few, the Helen Caldicotts and the people who stood up during those years, and brought our attention to the idea that we could annihilate ourselves on this planet, you know, those are the same giants upon whose shoulders we’re standing today, same in the environmental movement, you go back and you look at the people that drew our attention to the idea that… we’re polluting the very place that we live, all of those people that kept that story alive, that narrative alive, they can all be seen. Now, on this map, there’s 12,500, there’s hundreds, thousands of people involved now — behind the map. And you realize that it’s actually a living story, that in the fact that we’re still alive, the fact you and I are having this conversation, we haven’t been blown up, the fact that we’re still somehow limping through COVID on the planet. Yes, there’s a lot of wars, there’s a lot of things going on. But somehow through this week, we’re still going. And that to me is, is that’s not a coincidence … there’s a reason, if there were nuclear buttons that people could have pushed, they would have pushed them, but somehow, we stopped it. And that’s where I just want to… say to you and your generation, because… you’re a different generation than mine… you served to keep my generation alive. And I hope in my work, to serve, to keep the next generation alive so that my eight-year-old daughter… makes it through this… what I’m loving, is that all these generations now are coming together. And we’re seeing the global discourse, the common global discourse now is the SDGs, it is peace, it is a way to move forward. And I see a lot of hoping that like, there’s a lot of reasons not to be hopeful when you do what we do. But there’s a lot of reasons also to realize we’re still going. I mean, it’s kind of amazing.

Metta Spencer  

It’s, you know, the best of times, and the worst of times, in some ways the risk is greater than ever. I mean, I talked to people about things like methane leaks in the Arctic. And, you know, nobody knows anything about that. But you know, that may be the most dangerous thing facing humankind right now. It could be an extinction event. And you know, and people are just not quite sure how serious it is, you have to work it out. Yeah. But, you know, clearly,

Mike Simpson  

I was just gonna say, you know, you know, people don’t realize that methane is at currently, I think it’s 83 times a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. So, when you release a little bit of methane, it has the impact of eighty times as much carbon. And then what you’re talking about, which is the releasing of [methane]… in the Arctic, a nightmare amongst climate change scientists for some time, because it points to what they call a tipping point in climate change, where if it was released quickly and fast, it can fundamentally go from being like a slow exponential curve to a sudden dramatic rise. It’s what they call the toilet bowl scenario. And that toilet bowl scenario… it’s the same one that worries scientists about the oceans. And the acidification of the oceans is that we may hit a point of acidification where it just toilet-bowls on us… all those things are sitting there actually, you know, I’m curious, you’re you’ve seen a lot, right. I mean, you. You mentioned the number of wars and crises, and you said, we’re at a particular point. I’m curious how you view with your experience, how do you view… the year 2021? Like, do you think we’re just still climbing like that? Or do you see tipping points happen? Now?

Metta Spencer  

Look, I mean, different people? It depends on who you talk to. Later this week, I will talk to a guy who’s very optimistic. One guy is very optimistic that yes, we’re going to make, we’re going to stay within two degrees. And that’s the crucial thing from his point of view, because… he thinks that all we need to do is reduce carbon emissions. And I think that’s so true. I think we actually suck it out of the existing atmosphere and put it away… I’m not going to challenge him particularly because that’s one point of view. Then there are others who… are really alarmed about the possibility that at any moment, there could be an explosion of methane from under the sea. And one that he figured he said… if 8% of what we think is there should come out at once, it would raise the atmospheric temperature by 1.4 degrees centigrade, which then would warm it enough so that the rest of the 92% would, and it would be game over for all kinds of life, not just people. Okay, so there’s the global warming threat. just terrible. And the nuclear threat is sustaining itself. You know, they keep modernizing nuclear weapons, and people have no idea how risky it is, that could be accidentally in use. So, the people like Bill Perry, who was probably the most knowledgeable person about nuclear weapons on the planet, because he was Secretary of Defense… he says that we’re in much worse shape now, at much greater risk than we were during the Cold War, of nuclear war. I know, it’s crazy. So here you have these two catastrophes. And yet, you can see all of these opportunities, and all of the ways in which we’re really on the verge of really, really making some progress. So, you know, I view it —

Mike Simpson  

Yeah, I view this very existentially, because I think that… if you can see a technological threat… like nuclear power, like nuclear weapons, and you can see how technology itself can be so pathologically dangerous. But then, look, we’re in a zoom conversation right now where we can converse about these subjects. And people are doing it all over the place right now, to change minds and attitudes. And it’s happening at lightning speed. Why? Because technology has allowed us at the same… there’s a balance going on here… not just technologically but also sort of ethically, in the conversations that we’re having. Because 50 to 100 years ago, we would have talked about conquering nation states and the Westphalian system. And we would nobody would have even hesitated to talk like that. Now, you couldn’t get away with talking like that. You just fundamentally can’t. Right. So, there’s — 

Metta Spencer  

no there are people who do… I guess I would in in a way disagree with you to the extent of saying that, yes, this technology is wonderful at, but it’s also being used by crazies.

Mike Simpson  

It’s being used by crazies, but it’s being used by saints at the same time. And this is the part that’s interesting to look at is to go well, I don’t have as much historical perspective as you do, which is why I think it’s interesting to ask you, do you think, because that balance has always been there, otherwise, we’d be dead? Right? I mean, this is the bottom line… are we unbalanced right now? Or do you see tipping points in one direction or the other? And this is something that I think is an interesting thing to is particularly talking to young people because I you know, the amount of dejection and sort of hopelessness about climate change is overwhelming. It’s the same feeling that people had in the 80s, when they thought they’re gonna get blown up… with the two-minute atomic clock, you remember that the feeling that maybe you’re gonna die at any minute?

Metta Spencer  

Well, look, you made a video… where you talked about celebrating hopelessness. I never feel hopeless. Because… my energy doesn’t come from hope, sense of duty, that if I… know that I’m doing, what I’m supposed to be doing…  of course, I’m never really sure. But I’m pretty sure sometimes that this is something I should be doing. And, and if I think I’m supposed to be doing this, and I know it’s not going to work, but I still think I should do it, I’ll keep doing it…  it never, never throws me in that sense. But I think you’re also pointing at the worst threat of all, which is the tendency that people have to deny the catastrophes or potential for catastrophes. And one of the things that disaster researchers in sociology find is that it’s very universal, that if you warn people that there’s a disaster coming. Let’s say you go around the street with a bullhorn in your car saying, “Run for your lives because there’s a high dam that’s about to break.” People will just forget it… they won’t do it. You can’t get people to respond to the warnings about disasters. Yeah, well, this thing about denying scary things is a very widespread phenomenon. And that is what is, is the energy behind people who on the right… the Trump people… the people who simply are more concerned about going backward in time going making America great again, or Russia great again, or Brazil great again — all you have to do is go back to the way it used to be. And you’d be great. Well, that’s because they are denying the threat that we actually are facing. And how do you overcome that? That I think is the worst problem of all. Do you have a theory…? I’m going to be talking to a guy later this week on that very topic, denial of a blow-up trying to convince people that there’s a real threat, when they don’t want to believe there is. What do you do? Yeah.

Mike Simpson  

Well, you might…  Can I can I just ask you one question first, because you… said …that you get your energy… your underlying source of energy is around duty, a sense of duty. And I’m curious, it’s duty. So, when you think of yourself, and you’re in duty to what, what is that? And where does the energy come from? Because sourcing these energies to the social activists over time, like if I said to somebody, look, I want you to be able to get to the age of 90 and still be doing social activism like this friend… Metta. And they’ll say, Well, how am I going to do that? Well, I’d say source the energy of duty. But what would it mean? Like how would you explain that to somebody,

Metta Spencer  

The source that most touched me, at a certain moment of my life was reading a book by Viktor Frankl, “From Death-Camp to Existentialism”, I think they retitled it something like “Man’s Search for Meaning”. And he describes being in a death camp, a Nazi concentration camp where… most of the people were going to die. And… he talks about giving meaning, trying to help the other people around him find the meaning in their lives… he doesn’t talk about God gives you assignments, he doesn’t use that language. He just says life, like, gives you assignments to do, and you have to be on your toes to look at what your current assignment is, that you’re being told… This is what you’re supposed to be doing. And of course, there’s a danger… that crazy people believe that… God’s telling them things to do. And you know, that’s just part of being psychotic… mentally ill. But… if I feel I have a duty to be doing something, which I do right now, this is my duty to be doing this show with you… there’s a possibility that I could be kidding myself, you know, that I could be deluding myself and, and so on. And so, I have to be a little humble about talking about… told me to do this, or… don’t need to do this. But I think it’s it whether you say it’s God telling you to do it or, or life is presenting you with certain challenges, that it’s that it’s quite possible to deny them … and ignore them? You … have to actually intend to be looking, to find them.

Mike Simpson  

Yeah, you do have to be searching your question. I’m not sure I’ve answered… bring up Viktor Frankl’s searching because actually, he… was a trained psychoanalyst. And… what’s interesting about his work… because he… was working with people in the middle of a — over our entire planet, in our entire history, there is nothing more horrifying than the Holocaust — what he tuned into in that context was that people… were essentially oriented towards meaning. And what you are describing right now is that essential core, and it shows up in so many perennial philosophies, I mean, it shows up in so many different religions and so many different spiritual paths, that ultimately, when we sense into who we are, and what are we trying to do, how are we trying to show up in this brief life that we have on our planet? In this context, there is an enormous amount of orientation towards meaning, and not necessarily money and happiness and a new RV and a new car. Ultimately, we all know that if we go through that, there’s something else going on. Now, here’s what I think is interesting… actually expressed in the development of an adult human being. Kids go through a stage where they’re pretty centered towards themselves, they’re egocentric… they just want their food and their cookies and so on. But eventually, they’ll reach out and they’ll realize, okay, I got this sort of other boundary around me, my group, my family, and so on, right. But if you look at the later stages of this, you’ll see that people grow and see that… they start to embrace wider and wider senses of care… who they care about. So, they go beyond even their family or even beyond the… ultimately… they start caring about the earth and the planet and the trees. Now what’s going on in that… development of the care structure goes right back to what you’re talking about, which is a sense of self, towards others and duty towards others. But ultimately, if we examine that, we would see that we actually start to identify as other — this is the critical leap, is that you start to realize I am an expression of the interconnected web of life. Therefore, I do care about that jungle, not because it’s a jungle faraway in another country, because that jungle is me. This is how we manifest it together, right?… and this, interestingly shows up in every mystical tradition, going right back to Meister Eckhart, or any of the ones you want to name… And they all start to clue into the same sense of a duty or a calling, because they identify with, not as or against, but with. And this is something I find intriguing, because that sense, is more and more being articulated in the global discourse. And I said, you wouldn’t get away with it today to talk about the nation-state. I mean, if you went to the United Nations right now, and you tried to talk as a nation-state, and you tried to ignore the global discourse of the SDGs, you will ultimately fail. 193 nations signed that thing five years ago, and it fundamentally… talks about all of us on a planet with no planet B. And ultimately, from I mean, I’m ranting, but here, but ultimately, this is at the core of the human experience, is to show up like you’re doing. I mean, good on you for doing that. You do this every day. You talk to people, and you show up and you stay active. And when I see your life and what you do, and I just can’t I mean, there’s no question that there’s hope. There’s absolutely no question.

Metta Spencer  

Well, I take the same type of encouragement from what you’re doing, too. Because you know, I didn’t know you. You got good, energetic sister. Boy, she’s dynamite.

Mike Simpson  

Yeah, she’s a lot of fun.

Metta Spencer  

Yeah, she she’s like my brother. Yeah,

Mike Simpson  

Well, I’m glad that we made this connection. today. And after say, good, good on y’all trying to promote your channel, so that people can see the grassroots. By the way, what you’re doing is really intriguing, because… what you’ve done here is, is kind of a new form of democracy, which I find very exciting, too, is that people are able to get on a YouTube channel, have these kinds of conversations? No, that’s not broadcast to the entire world. We’re not on CNN, but we can have the conversations that need to happen, because they wouldn’t happen on CNN. Do you see what I’m getting at? Like, there’s no room for these kinds of conversations. But these are the critical conversations that people that community at the community, grassroots level wants to have. And what I get excited about is that, you know, when I talked about the map, 12,500… if there’s 12,500 conversations like this going on, it’s an unstoppable force. So, the technology is there, the people are there. And I would encourage anybody who’s watching you to get inspired.

Metta Spencer  

And when you’re thinking, it’s a matter of sharing, of getting aware of each other as partners. Yeah, it’s just, you know, just love you already know.

Mike Simpson  

Where you go, yeah.

Metta Spencer  

We just have to get aware of each other. Because there are a lot of folks like you out there.  Yeah.

Mike Simpson  

Yeah, that’s the good thing is, there’s no shortage of people connecting them. I think that’s why I got into networking, because you can connect them, if you can connect a shortage.

Metta Spencer  

I am very enthusiastic about networks, as opposed to another organization. I don’t want to form another organization, there are 12,000 of them it looks like, but what we needed, I thought was a web page where people could come and share ideas and be aware of what all of these other people are thinking about and doing. So, we have this web… page, called tosavetheworld.ca. And people can go there and post their ideas and share you know, like listserv or something like that.

Mike Simpson  

Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s awesome.

Metta Spencer  

Okay, how can I work better with you? Because if you’re if you’re doing this, if you’re in BC, but you know, this is your this is exactly this SDG thing is really what we need to all be focusing on, right? Yeah.

Mike Simpson  

Well, you know, what I say when people say, “How can I get involved?” I usually say, Well, how are you already involved? And can you build on your current environment? Because everybody comes to these subjects with an expertise, they might have been a teacher, they might you know, who knows what they’ve done? Maybe they’ve been an engineer or something, right? But your life has led up to this point. And you have created yourself as the extraordinary person that you are. And then the question is, how can you launch from that into just simply connecting… that’s the trick is to no longer be in isolation, but to connect, and if you can connect with another person… that’s where networks are great. You can go to an organization… If that doesn’t work for you, you want to have a broader view, connect with a network. There are networks… anybody can become an individual member of our network. But there’s other networks… peace networks, there’s your network, tosavetheworld.ca. The key thing here is to make the leap. The key thing here is to say, Okay… I’m no longer to show up alone, I’m going to show up… with other people. So, my special sort of nature is going to leap in. And I’m going to work with others in a… unified way. And there’s a lot of conflict in that, there’s a lot of trouble in that, but… it’s also the answer. It’s the answer to how we’re going to solve some of the problems. And… we don’t just go in with the group that you’ve always gone in with, or the people you’ve always gone in with, if there’s a way you can make the leap. And being with other groups and other ways of thinking. That’s the big message we’re getting today about inclusivity. And about, about having a lot of different people at table from a lot of different backgrounds. And particularly what we talk about in the in the SDGs… very deep in the principles of the SDGs is the concept of leave no one behind. And … there’s a lot of problems with that how it’s phrased, but the idea is that there are people that never get to the table, that never get to be involved in conversations, and can we reach them, get involved… where your passion shows up, and then just take that passion and connect it to this idea that you’ve come up with, which is that if you’re working on climate change, and that’s your passion, just be able to see the link to peace. Instead of seeing it as… your silo and they’re doing their silo, … just make that leap, which is wow, if I’m working on climate change, and I tackle the… justice nature of climate change, if I can see the link between climate change and war, which is so obvious in places like Syria, and so on, if I can make those links, then I’m now thinking with this global mindset that you’re talking about interlinkages. It’s the fun, it’s the big leap, in… 2015 to 2020, we’ll go down in history as the period of time where we started to make the leap.

Metta Spencer  

And then we will how people are monitoring progress. And what are the next stages? I mean, I heard about the launch of the SDGs. But I am not sure how it is there. Is there a process of evaluating how we’re doing? And what it’s going to be like when we finish it, etc.? What’s going on organizationally? Yeah,

Mike Simpson  

That’s a really good question. Because you know, it lay at the heart of the SDGs as well, which was that we people were getting pretty tired of people going to the United Nations making fantastic statements about what they’re going to do, and then not being held accountable. And so, the accountability side of it was that if you’re going to say, we’re going to eradicate poverty, what are the numbers? And this is where we realized, so there’s 169 sub-targets, 17 goals, but there’s actually I think it’s 241 indicators of success. And —

Metta Spencer  

they took off measurements of  —

Mike Simpson  

Let me give you an example… on poverty, we know an indicator for… a country… to help on the whole issue of international development would be that you spend 0.7% of your gross national income GNI on ODA. So that’s an indicator, very specific… you can measure it, every country… report. Same thing with… the national indicators for contributions on climate change. We know what… everybody agreed in Paris… the national indicators, and every country puts forward their commitments — like Canada, now we can measure ourselves against progress on goal 13. Now, as these — 

Metta Spencer  

How often do they submit reports?

Mike Simpson  

Every country has to submit at least two reports. Canada has submitted one report, many countries are on their third report already. And this is all done. Every summer, the countries come together at a meeting called the High-Level Political Forum [HLPF] and people compare notes as to how are we doing on the planet? How are we doing on these SDGs? How far do we have to go? How far have we come? That’s the big question. And we can see on progress on the SDGs that we have fallen behind…. COVID has made us fall even further behind on… poverty needs… we needed to get 800 million people out of extreme poverty in 800 weeks when we started the SDGs. Imagine that’s a huge number of people, almost a billion. By the way, it’s… not even close to what we faced in the 1990s… we had multiple… numbers, more people that were living in extreme poverty. So, we’ve really brought poverty… down in an extraordinary way since the 1990s. And now we have about 800 million left. Well, we were doing pretty good. We were tackling it through 2015 but then along came COVID and… the World Bank just released a report saying we’re back to 100 million. So, we’ve gone backwards because … COVID smashed economies around the world. So… we can see the progress and the … numbers, and we can see the indicators. And this is another thing that your viewers fundamentally need to understand is that we are not actually falling behind… we’re actually gaining ground. Like we really, we’ve gained huge ground on, for example, literacy for the girl child — access to education is a fundamentally different picture on the planet than it was in 1992.

Metta Spencer  

And that’s so crucial for global warming. You know, that is one of the big factors making, reducing overtime. Yeah. Okay. So

Mike Simpson  

You brought up this idea of like, how do we measure it, and this is where I just put some, some we can measure it, there’s a lot of the indicators that we… still don’t have the ability to measure. So, it creates a big problem, right. But I will say that if you do look at some of the measurements, you can see that we’re gaining, and we’re losing. And we have to look at why are we gaining? Why are we losing? And… how do we fight this good fight that we’re in, on the planet, right? Anybody could get involved and look at the indicators. And we ourselves put out what’s called a “shadow report” — the government puts out a report, and then along comes civil society… and we actually look at all the statistics and we go, “Well, actually, wait a second. Here’s another story.” — And so, then we put out what’s called a “shadow report” … and we talk to the government about it, and I think we’ve produced about five of those right now. Or —

Metta Spencer  

Your organization BCCIC…

Mike Simpson  

B C’s, the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation and the webpage is bccic.ca. And on there, if you look, you’ll find the SDGs. And you’ll find all the reports. And we you know, we put out a report… on Canada… called “Keeping score,” which is all about the indicator frameworks… to understand how’s Canada doing… measuring our progress, are we doing a good job or not? A… There’s another interview you could think of in the next few week… the Canadian Auditor General will put out a spring report through the environmental commissioner’s office on Canada’s progress on the SDGs. And I look forward to understanding whether we did very well or not because when they first came along, they put out a report, the auditor put out a report… the Canadian government made all these promises at the UN, are we doing anything? And they found that on seven points of preparedness Canada had fallen far, far behind other countries. And actually, this is the sad story of being Canadian, to be honest, is that other countries have taken SDGs very, very seriously. They’re not taking it very seriously in Canada.

Metta Spencer  

Canada has less so. Oh,

Mike Simpson  

The Canadian story unfortunately is a bit sad. It’s a good story about civil society. Like I said, lots of groups involved, lots of groups doing the work. Unfortunately, the Canadian government has actually fallen behind on this one quite dramatically, actually.

Metta Spencer  

Well, we got to pull up our socks

Mike Simpson  

So, pull up our socks, exactly — 

Metta Spencer  

being hopeless. And

Mike Simpson  

I never to sad be hopeless. This is very interesting. I did talk about that. But I always said to see both sides. Because if you can hold hope… hopelessness tells us a lot. Like if you look at climate change, it looks pretty hopeless. But that can be motivating. Right? So you have to be hopeful whenever… Always be hopeful. As hopeful as you are, as hopeful as I am right now. Honestly, got to hold hope. It’s —

Metta Spencer  

been exactly the most energizing conversation in a long time. Ready to go. How about All right,

Mike Simpson  

well, let’s get on with you. Have a good day, Metta. It’s such a pleasure to talk

Metta Spencer  

Wonderful. Sometime, thanks.

Mike Simpson  

All right. Bye bye.