Thursday, October 18, 2007

Back to basics (6): Ever heard of "craggers"?

I just returned from Germany speaking at a CSR roundtable that E&Y has started to offer quarterly in their offices, this time Düsseldorf. The Anti-Law of Jante (see Back to basics (5)) immediately came to my mind when the organizers told me that this was now the second meeting where the normal 20% no-show rate of registered participants didn’t work, the place was packed with 120 people and extra chairs were necessary. It was a nice mix of male and female participants, coming from several sorts of organizations, many of the participants still pretty young. Are we finally all waking up?

On my train ride back to Amsterdam I found this article in the International Herald Tribune* that caught my attention because it introduced a new abbreviation: “CRAG”, meaning “Carbon Rationing Action Group”, groups of volunteers (you might say on grass-roots level) that “aim to hold each other to account by imposing fines on members of the group who fail to keep their individual emissions under a certain quota”. This CRAG phenomenon has started in the UK, but I learnt that there are not only around 20 CRAGs with more than 160 individual members in the UK, but already many more that started in the U.S., in France and many places elsewhere. The members of the group define the rules, so fines are not common everywhere. A London 60 staff consultancy has also decided to voluntarily attempting to keep their personal annual emissions under the British average of 6.000 kilograms CO2. Some CRAG’s allow their members to roll over their credits accumulated during a low-carbon year to allow for occasional high-carbon indulgences like flights.

Two things are worth mentioning here. First, what would all of this be without transparency, both in terms of now being able to define allowed emissions for each individual (based on the available data), and secondly to be able to be held accountable based on the individual real consumption of CO2. These people test out new ways of living together, helping each other through learning, and last but not least can share experience with those who like the idea that every individual should have an emissions account in the future. Well, why not, if this system allows for some flexibility (where do you live, what are available options and barriers to access new technology, available income, cultural differentiation, etc.)?

Secondly, this is the prototype of testing the possibility of the Anti-Law of Jante where the individual can show that a different world is possible without going back to Stone Age and that “the public perception that you’ve got to be rich to be green” is not true. Clearly, the major problem remains to “persuade the wider public that individual efforts, resulting in only microcosmic cuts, were worthwhile, particularly at a time when emissions are skyrocketing in other parts of the world like China”. I am convinced that we all need to start somewhere, why not starting a CRAG?

* Neighbors agree: Thou shalt not emit, IHT, October 17, 2007, Page 1 and 10


Stephen said...

Lately I've been reading a fair number of articles about how we are so far down the climate change path, that even if we were able to stop emissions tomorrow, we won't be able to stop climate change -- so why bother?

In the face of such literature, I'm glad to be reminded of the humble concept of changing individual behaviour as a means of making an impact. "Craggers" are a great example of this, and I'm not ready to write them off. I don't think we should under estimate the impact that small changes make when accumulated.

What happens when six billion butterflies flap their wings?

Stephen Albinati

avaiki nius agency said...

Many times, climate change seems caught up on debate over what is right or wrong.

Often, it is not this argument or that which is right, but a combination of the two.

Cragging sounds like a brilliant way for 'ordinary' people to get a running start at rapidly shrinking deadlines towards worst-case scenarios.

If we all then cut consumption rates to about a tenth of what they are now, we might just survive as a species!

Now ... about those solar flares, glacier tsnunami, plate tectonics and sundry other extinction level events ...