Thoughts on The World Mediation Conference in Berlin 2015

I had to keep pinching myself to realize where I was. 4 days of presentations from all over the globe on mediation practice. British Columbia was well represented with 5 practicing mediators from BC. In addition to myself there was Arlene Henry QC, Joseph Boskovich, Norm Smookler and Martyn Westermann.  Although the conference was quite intimate with only about 40 participants, 27 countries were represented and with 5 speakers a day. About half of the participants were also speakers.

The WMO is the brainchild of Dr Daniel Erdmann of Berlin who had the theory that we all have the inclination and in fact some native ability to solve the problems that we encounter around us. He began to gather a group around this idea to develop these abilities into practice. When these groups had come into existance in 4 or 5 countries he merged them together into the WMO. Since then the group has held conferences in several locations in Europe, Asia and Africa. In contrast to the International Mediation Institute in Den Haag which is mostly composed of ex-jurists, the WMO tends more towards the idea that conflict resolution is not in the sole jurisdiction of the legal profession. There was however an impressive list of mediation professionals present.

Dr Erdmann had teamed up with the German Mediation Academy to run this event and Patric Illigen and his wife Sylvia orchestrated our days. The presentations typically of about 90 minutes each were then interspersed with networking breaks that were long enough that by the end of the four days I was starting to know everyone a bit and some people very well.

The presentations illustrated a wide and diverse view of what mediation can be in different situations from our familiar interest based model to evaluative and facilitative.  Perhaps the most unusual was a Rumanian presentation from Nicoleta Munteanu on mediation in classified information scenarios. While I am sure that this is a necessary level of certification in some jurisdictions I felt like I had suddenly dropped into a John LeCarre novel.

Mordecay Cristal was at Camp David talks with Clinton, Arafat and Barak and presented a fascinating account of how even these international level talks have a huge human component that ultimately can determine how it all turns out. I thought of Helen of Troy.

Maria Theologidou a lawyer from Greece presented a fascinating review of dispute resolution techniques in antiquity and mythology.

Sarah Blake spoke about intercultural mediation from her perspective working with Indigenous Australians. Her work has aimed to shift the dominant society view of cross cultural mediation as one that uses the interest based models of the dominant society to jurisdictional convergence mediations that seeks to respect the dispute resolution traditions and methods of both parties equally.

Prof Andrew Goodman a very distinguished lawyer and mediator travels all over the world helping governments and companies set up dispute resolution systems. He talked of our vaunted neutrality as something of an illusion as the mediator will not be able to resist a certain level of judgement about which parties are worthy or undeserving. His presentation method was delightfully and deliberately provocative and generated some good discussion.

And then there was the dynamic Beverley Tarr, a transplanted Brit in Chicago who seems to have single handedly changed the process of divorce in practice and in the legislation in Illinois. She developed a 2 day divorce mediation process that is integrated into legislation.  And yes you read that right, 2 days. She has done over 1400 cases including many high profile and high value cases and the process has been successful in 99% of the cases.

Roland Wilson from George Mason University focuses on East Asian conflicts and Peace issues and is in the process of setting up a George Mason University school of dispute resolution in South Korea. His experience in Asia is extensive in military, government and academic fields. He spoke of the need to ‘people’ international conflict with grass root groups that interact and influence their cultural milieu.

Sandra Thaler an Austrian mediator spoke on the transfer of farms and businesses down through generations. Not only are there the issues of a farm or business being passed to only one descendent and how the other siblings are woven into that process there are also the dramatic differences between the values of generations.

Dr Inge Vanfraechem from KU Leuven Institute of Criminology in Belgium was project manager of a European project on restorative Justice in intercultural settings. The power of RJ while recognized academically is still in its infancy in actual practice.

Douja Elhajj a muslim mediator in Australia has taken on the brave (in my mind) and daunting task of bringing traditional Islamic law and Australian law into balance in her community.

Thalia Veintitimila works in LA with Mexican US immigration conflicts and family reconciliation issues.

Mario Appiano from Turin talked of a familiar subject of getting recognition for mediation as a preferred method of dispute resolution by introducing it at the school level.

Ana Maria Rocha talked about the use of mediation in domestic violence situations. With experience as a lawyer, Member of the Portuguese National Parliament and in international work in compliance with the International Human Rights Standards she brought an unbiased and thoughtful view.

Prof Anna Rosario Dejario Malindog spoke from the Philippines on various mediation practices of indigenous and ethnic peoples of SouthEast  Asia since time immemorial. They certainly have similarities to North American practices and I felt encouraged to look more deeply into these.

Dr Ilona Németh-Kiss a Hungarian lawyer living in Moscow presented her thesis with WMO which took me back to why we choose to be mediators and the high satsfaction rates that mediation engenders.

I have missed some I am sure but you get the idea of the wide ranging experiences represented. There were a couple of speakers who were unable to attend and so one slot was filled with the BC mediation experience. Joseph Boskovich started with a bit of history of mediation in BC followed by Arlene Henry who talked about the present and MediateBC. I finished with an introduction to Journey to Empathy, the use of focused empathy and compassion as an impasse breaker.

In general the BC experience was viewed in high regard as some jurisdictions were just starting out. Afterwards we were approached with the possibility of presenting some courses so I think there is a market out there for BC experience. I specifically was interested in the response to Journey to Empathy. Several people said they were so glad to hear that empathy can be difficult at times. Andrew Goodman was sure that it was not for him and even went so far as to say that this ‘soft’ approach to mediation might actually put mediation into disrepute. I can certainly see where he is coming from with this as in ‘hard nosed’ mediations empathy can be viewed as a weakness to be exploited. However the neurological research on the use of compassion and empathy supports its use as a path to better solutions.

After I left Berlin I was planning to visit a workshop in Geneva on this very subject hosted by Olga Klimecki, François Bogacz and Jeremy Lack. Unfortunately I was not able to make the workshop but François kindly sent me the slides from the presentation.

I remain firmly convinced that Compassion and Empathy are the most powerful tools in our arsenal as mediators. The scientific back up for this is growing by the day. The historical evidence goes back thousands of years at least to the Vedas. Being able to suspend your judgement is more effective than using your judgement to manipulate a solution. Both methods perhaps have a place as many of the presenters showed but even in ‘hard nosed’ international peace deals the participants are still individual human beings.

Martin Golder

Berlin 2015


Revolution revolution revolution

Revolution revolution revolution alternatives few and far between drag out the guillotine or is there another way. A way forward a path a brighter future. Change needed change happening so fast so fast but is it fast enough? Anger shame shame shame the human race so greed driven so blindly driving forward into oblivion. Is it my job to change its course, my job to feed my neighbour, my job to be human.

Greed greed greed. Everywhere I turn. Inside outside I still want more of this or that. More stuff more love more control more bodies squeezing me tight hold on hold on it’s a wild ride. It’s all downhill from here a waterslide to the big splashdown. It’s out of control turning points reached passed by observed unobserved no matter the fact is it is unfolding regardless, irrespective too late for action maybe.

Death death death comes to us all why be worried if it comes to all of us? The universe unfolds as it should or not extinction just another step along the way for me for you for humanity for all life just unfolding as it should or shouldn’t should I be worried should I cry should I do something anything to stop the impotence of the headlong rush off the lemming cliff.

Joy joy joy to the world from who from me from a god of mine of yours existing not existing yet permitting seemingly unjoyful times to befall. Is it all in the eye of the beholder or the consciousness of the creator, the destroyer Kali to the world. To find joy and meaning in a hell of ones own making Victor Frankl like rising from the ashes a phoenix of creation an illusion but I can see it.

Hope hope hope maybe the ultimate sin is the abandoning of hope can I find it anew to power thought intent action action to create life beauty joy as antidote to this oblivion just me just you just local immediate reality is all after all the only place to be or do which ever you wish hold hands hold minds hold hearts together sing dance and love in the now this is after all all there is?

Martin Golder


Compassion week at Stanford 2014

Compassion Week 2014

Stanford Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education

I did promise several people that I would write a few notes about this wonderful week in San Francisco.

Compassion is being aware of the suffering of others and empathizing with it and then being motivated to action to help alleviate it. That action might be one of kindness.
This then can put Compassion, empathy and kindness into context.

Compassion is focused on suffering whereas you can empathize with many emotions including Joy, happiness, anger and even hatred.
Compassion has a motivation to action. Empathy may or may not be action oriented.
Empathy does lead you in the direction of connection to the other in a holistic way. (walk in their shoes).
Sympathy tends to separate you from the other whilst feeling their pain.
Pity is complete separation from the other.

Any of these can motivate action and the action is the ‘proof of the pudding’. If you relieve the suffering of someone it doesn’t really matter to them initially if you act from compassion or pity.

Two years ago I attended the first Empathy and Compassion in Society Conference in London. I wrote about it here. So when I saw that this year it was to be in San Francisco at the Fort Mason Centre whilst I was in Victoria I decided to attend. It turned out that the Empathy and Compassion in Society Conference was now teamed up with two conferences from Stanford, Compassion Charter day and a two day retreat on Campus. I settled on The Science of Compassion, Empathy and Compassion in Society at work and the Living Compassionately retreat.

The Science of Compassion was a jaw dropping two days of PhD research into the physiology of Compassion and how it impacts human interaction. An example: a geneticist shows a slide of the human genome which has a big shift in the middle. He says that normally you might equate this type of disruption in our DNA with a chemical such as benzene. The slide he was showing however was a disruption caused by loneliness. It was however reversible. The scientists came and went and showed brain scans that showed all kinds of brain impacts of both negative emotional states and corresponding positive situations such as meditation. Two weeks of meditation showed large growth in parts of the brain associated with positive mental health. The vegus nerve pathways are the link between the brain and all kinds of parasympathetic bodily functions. The link between healthy mind, healthy body. Meditation affects the brain which affects the heart and other organs instantly and significantly.

Part of me wondered why we in our culture have the need to see the scientific evidence before we can accept knowledge that has been known and documented for thousands of years. We and in that I include myself, are astounded and feel vindicated when the empirical science supports what we intuitively know already. We just know that to be kind is good. We know that a business that treats its customers as real people with all the same loves and issues as its employees and management will do well. And yet the capitalist model of bottom line economics and growth paradigm steamrollers over our basic humanity in its greedy search for growth and profit.

CCARE has as its patron the Dalai Lama and much of that ancient knowledge is codified by Tibetan Buddhism. There were many references to the Dalai Lama and to meditation practices. Some of the early experiments about which I am sure you have read were bringing experienced monks into the laboratory and measuring their physiology whilst they meditated. Seemingly impossible human states were documented. Total control over what we thought of as autonomous bodily systems were observed. Well these experiments have now gone much further as the equipment has become more amazing. fMRI machines that can give detailed pictures of soft tissues such as the brain in real time. To see a series of pictures showing great growth in the brain after just a few weeks of meditation is certainly a motivation to practice. Meditation changes you quickly and efficiently into a happier person. Fact.

Paul Ekman was present for several presentations and showed a short clip of part of his 60 hours of discussions with the Dalai Lama. He asks the Dalai Lama a long and highly technical question about the belief systems in Tibetan Buddhism expecting a long and detailed reply and the Dalai Lama replies “Yes, that’s right”.

Following the Compassion Science Conference there was then a conference on Compassion in the health care field which I missed as I am not in that field. Instead I took the day to explore San Francisco. What a great city. All day I was struck by the genuineness and kindness of strangers. I had warned my friends at home that I would return Californicated.

Thursday and Friday then was the 3rd Empathy and Compassion in Society Conference that had initially attracted my attention in London. This year it focused on Compassion in the workplace. It opened with a short impassioned plea from Karen Armstrong, the founder of the Charter for Compassion. She talked of Compassion as profoundly disturbing, uncomfortable and revolutionary. I am looking forward to watching her talk again when the videos come on line. You can see many of her speeches on line including the original TED talk.

There was a CEO of a major US health providers (big business in the US) who talked of improved customer and employee satisfaction which impacted the bits that good CEO’s like to see improve – the bottom line. Mayors from several cities that had joined the Compassionate Cities movement. The Mayor of Louisville Kentucky talked of the many benefits of viewing all policy through a lens of compassion. All those usual indicators of a healthy city improve with this approach. Other cities were looking at Louisville and wondering what they had done to improve all these indicators.

Compassion really is the magic bullet to solve all issues it seems.

One presentation that absolutely blew my mind was Julia Kim who had flown in from Bhutan where she is a senior program advisor on the GNH (Gross National Happiness) indicator. We all know that the GDP is killing us with its focus on growth and the bottom line. The GNH was developed at the UN where she worked on it and Bhutan agreed to be the test case. The work she has done and is doing was worthy of sainthood. Again I will be watching the Empathy and Compassion website for the video.

A little story. When I went to register I turned around and behind me was Edwin Rutsch of Culture of Empathy whom I had met on line and briefly corresponded with. I felt that I knew him from our on line connection and we immediately bonded. Edwin is a front line empathy warrior. The theory that the PhDs relish is not where his rubber meets the road. He has currently set up an Occupy Empathy tent in Berkeley and meets all comers with fierce empathy. We talked one day of an idea I had to use empathy as a weapon and he immediately started a dialectic between us where we explored that idea. He interviews on line all comers about empathy. His web site has all these interviews available. People who have written books on empathy and even the subject of the movie ‘I, Psychopath’, Sam Vaknin. Sam uses ‘cold’ or ‘mechanical’ empathy and does a great job of ‘outempathying’ Edwin in the video. Every student of empathy should watch it. 

The list of participants is a veritable who’s who of the empathy world but I do have to mention Paul Gilbert a professor of clinical psychology at Derby UK and founder of The Compassionate Mind Foundation.

There are many videos of his on line which can provide a full education in compassion just for the watching. A brilliant man and therapist who entertains his audiences as he dances an impish dance of Joy.

The last two days were devoted to a retreat at Stanford where the practices that lead us to a life of compassion were presented and briefly practiced. It seems that California is at the crossroads and linking point of East and West. Ancient wisdom is studied, proved, codified and packaged into consumer society products. The Tibetan book of the dead is one such ancient codification. A new product from CCARE was rolled out called CCT Compassion Cultivation Training. The first 18 teachers were introduced and we were introduced to the practice. I took care to notice that one of the teachers Magdalena Szpala was from Vancouver BC and we have since connected and started a conversation.

My wife says that ‘Yes, I have been Californicated’. My passion for Compassion has been ignited. If you are going to have an addiction then Yoga, Tai Chi or Compassion are all suitable candidates.

Compassion is a learnable skill that is worth learning because life is better, happier and healthier when it is practiced. It is however like any other skill in that it must be practiced or like tennis, French or ski jumping it will wither.

Martin Golder

Victoria BC

December 2014


The Guillotine Index

The Guillotine Index


When I was about 12 years old I made a model working guillotine in the school shop. I can remember thinking how cool it was with absolutely no negative thoughts about its gruesome purpose. Perhaps this is just the normal emotional intelligence of a 12 year old boy. Perhaps empathy would be a real problem in a killing culture and schools made sure it was surgically removed at an early age. I enjoyed the famous stories of the French revolution as much as I enjoyed tales of war and of cowboys and Indians and other such racist and bloody tales.

The guillotine was really a very efficient machine especially compared to anything else on the market including the latest in ‘humane’ drug cocktails. Firing squads might be good for a battlefield one off situation but for mass eradication they would need to brutalize the consciousness of large numbers of squad participants and they are noisy and messy. Chopping peoples heads off with an axe or sword is likewise very messy and has potential for error and great pain. The electric chair was probably just an expression of the electric age and ‘dying better electrically’. Hanging has been the staple method in many killing cultures and is probably a serious competitor to the guillotine as it is less messy and done right is reasonably efficient.

The guillotine however has one huge advantage over any other method in that it will always be associated with the French Revolution and the rising of an oppressed populace against an arrogant and filthy rich elite class that thought that they were God’s gift to humanity and that they ruled and ponced about by Divine right.

This is where it all starts to be so familiar and how the idea of the Guillotine Index (GI) became such an obvious measure of the potential for revolution in any particular system.

When the private ‘powers that be’ started shutting off water supplies to the poor people in Detroit the GI in Detroit rose to actual revolution levels. The seeds had long since been sown by the autogarchies closing down their factories and moving production elsewhere rather than to pay the pensions that they were committed to. All that was now needed was a trigger event. As the people surged into the streets and onto social media the powersphere folded and gave authority back to the people just in time to prevent more carnage on the streets than is normal for Detroit.

When Nestle’s not so charming CEO started getting major air time on social media with pithy sayings such as ‘water is not a human right’ his personal GI index started the climb to the top where he even outdid Wall street bankers from Goldman Sachs.

When through the wonders of the Internet the world discovers that 85 individuals have the same amount of wealth as 50% of humanity the Global GI index is at boiling and steam is popping out all over the place.

I find that now in my old age I do have some empathy but I really have to work hard to generate it for greed driven arseholes. I realize that is pretty judgemental but then again I’m not perfect. If a coterie of the worst offenders were marched off to the guillotine I don’t think I would shed a tear.

So whilst the GI is a hypothetical index it might be sensible for those who find themselves with an index rating to examine their behaviour and count their chances.

The GI is a number from 1-10. To calculate the GI of any person or group just ask a selection of random people this question. ‘If A had behaved like this at the time of the French Revolution, would they have been sent to the guillotine?’ Simple Yes/No. Score 1 for each ‘yes’ and reduce the numbers to base 10. i.e. if you ask 10 people then the number of yeses is the GI. If you ask 100 then divide the yeses by 10.

The GI is not intended to be a incitement to violence of any kind. Rather it is a measure of the social perception of extreme behaviour to encourage moderation.


Empathy and Compassion in Society


Cuz I cant stop the war

Shelter homeless, feed the poor

I can’t walk on water

I can’t save your sons and daughters

I can’t change the world and make things fair

The least that I can do

The least that I can do

The least that I can do is care

Kid Rock


Empathy and Compassion in Society

This is the title of the conference that I attended in London in November.

All the major sessions were videoed and are available on this site.

I promised a few people that I would write something of my experience of the conference mostly to force myself to write something. I have now been on the road for the last three months and the daily tasks have kept me away from reflection and writing.   Now however we have settled into Granada in Spain for the next cooler months before returning to France in April. So it is time to write.

And read. I have just finished reading a history of the Spanish Civil war which has hardly moved my thoughts to Empathy and Compassion.  In fact after reading about the atrocities committed by both sides I am led to think that all my research into Empathy is perhaps just a Hippie fantasy of an aging John Lennon fan. How could I possibly think that empathy could win over the barrel of a gun. Whole villages of men, women and children herded into bull rings and machine gunned, the destruction of Guernica as an exercise for the Germans to practice an aerial bombardment technique,  summary executions of hundreds a day in captured towns. And on the Francoist rebel side all done as a matter of policy tacitly approved by the Catholic Church. 

As I sit here on the deck writing it is a nice sunny day and we look straight across at the Alhambra with its own confused history of beauty and power. The final expulsion of the Moors in 1492 by the Christians is some kind of symbol of a struggle that confronts us again today. Islamic extremists, Christian fundamentalists, extreme orthodox Jews lining up to hurl taunts and insults at each other as each claims that their God is the right God.

Can Empathy and Compassion make inroads here. Whilst in Israel I saw that any kind of concession was viewed as weakness by the other side. The ‘give them an inch and they will take a mile’ belief was backed up by bitter experiences. So does empathy take the form of ‘Yes I understand that that settlement is on what used to be your family’s land and I can see that that might piss you off but it isn’t going away so get over it’. 

At the conference the participants are mostly all compassionate beings, the already converted. All is warm and fuzzy. Everyone is open and welcoming. Women as the caring gender are in a strong majority. Anything seems possible. All you have to do is be compassionate and exhibit empathy. There is no exhibited anger, no high conflict personalities, no guns.

My research into empathy started about 15 years ago. I had become interested in mediation after designing an addition to the house of a lawyer/mediator. She told me that I had the skills as I had done such a good job mediating between her and her husband on the design. (The old architectural joke is that custom design is 50% marriage counseling).  I took some courses in mediation to follow up on this interest and I was struck by the emphasis on empathy as the essential skill of a good mediator. I was also keenly aware that I didn’t seem to have much.  In mediations I constantly experienced myself thinking ‘Get a life buddy and stop whining’ whilst saying “That must have been very difficult for you”. My mentor the aforesaid lawyer/mediator suggested I write a book called ‘Mechanical Empathy’.  The funny thing was that the mechanical empathy worked very well and people felt heard.  But I couldn’t help feeling that the real thing might be even better. So many of the world’s traditions have some version of the ’Golden Rule’ although the tension between revenge based ‘Eye for an Eye’ traditions and forgiveness based ‘Turn the other cheek’ traditions will always be with us.

So my quest was to find within myself the true empathy that I joked had been surgically removed at British boarding school. Would this empathy make me weak or strong? Is showing Compassion and kindness a strength even though your opposition may see it as weakness? Political theorists talk of using the iron fist at times as the more successful option. When you consider that power in the Arab world has long been wielded by ruthless dictatorships, warlords and tribal chiefs then perhaps this is understandable.  The only power that they have known is the iron fist. Certainly Franco was a believer in this.  It was this quest that brought me to the conference. Many of the world’s top researchers into the science behind empathy were speakers; Dr Olga Klimecki and Dr James Doty. Also there were significant projects based on empathy that were represented by their founders: Mary Gordon’s ‘Roots of Empathy’ and Karen Armstrong’s ‘Charter for Compassion’. 

The content was definitely on my path. I had developed and taught a course on the conscious projection of good will as a tool in mediation. The course is called ‘Journey to Empathy’ and involves the use of meditation to achieve a metta state which can then be projected at the participants.  Exploring some of the science behind empathy appealed to me as I have scientific approach to life in general. The conference was held in the Quaker headquarters in central London.  

My first few conversations before the opening statements were about the science content that had attracted me. The general response I received was that we know empathy works, we don’t really need the science to confirm what we know already. However perhaps when putting a proposal together for funding having some academic verification is useful ammo for the bean counters.  Having read ‘Molecules of Emotion’ and ‘The Empathic Civilization’ I was fairly conversant with some of the science like the famous monkey and the mirror neurons in the MRI machine featured in the great RSA video on Rifkin.

I was looking forward to Dr Klimecki’s presentation as she was the first person that I had ever heard of who has a Phd in Empathy and she was deep into the science that gives a lot of credence to the path that I was on. She researches the plasticity of the brain and how it can be trained in empathy. In other words empathy is not something that you either have or not it can be learned. I think it was the Dalai Lama who said that learning empathy and compassion requires practice of the same intensity that a dancer might use to learn supple and difficult body motions. So practice, practice, practice is the mantra to affect the actual plasticity in the brain that will make compassion central to your ways of being. Dr Klimecki’s presentation did not disappoint me although I was wondering how she was being received by those who had expressed the lack of need for any scientific verification. 

Good article on the conference:

So this is what I wrote back in February in Granada. I did not send it out as I was going to expand it and comment on the other keynote speakers. Since then we have been back on our boat Skookum travelling the waterways of Germany. In some ways the history in Germany had shades of the Spanish civil war in spades. Berlin especially has many museums dedicated to the darkness of history; The Topology of Terror about the SS and the Gestapo. The wall and the cold war, the Stasi and the KGB. Empathy doesn’t seem to have a chance. But then through it all shines the light of beautiful human emotions. Stories of individual actions in the face of unimaginable terror and evil. 

I never did get back to James Doty, Mary Gordon or Karen Armstrong but you can watch their presentations yourself and I encourage you to do so. I did however follow up on Dr.Klimecki and joined a couple of Empathy circles with a compatriot of hers Edwin Rutsch at on Google hangouts. A very interesting technology that gives excellent practice in the mechanics of empathy.

It turns out that like Tai Chi, Yoga and meditation the mechanical practice leads to changes in the brain structure that become real empathy. Or there is no difference between ‘mechanical empathy’ and heartfelt empathy. They are just different places on the same path.


I continue my path.


I offer my thoughts on Berlin here.


Martin Golder

August 2013

Hamburg, Germany.




Earth v Capitalism

As Naomi Klein says in a recent article:

“You don’t let yourself care about something that you have no idea how to fix. Because it’s just too terrifying. And it would derail your whole life”.

“I’d rather fight like hell than give these evil motherfuckers the power to extinguish the desire to create life.”

Read more:


I like her turn of phrase. It caught my attention. I have spent so long training to be a neutral mediator that to characterize anyone as an “evil motherfucker” goes against the grain. I remember a story that Richard McGuigan told me about a mediator in a conflict in Uganda. On one side of the table set out in the jungle and surrounded by heavily armed troops from both sides was the Ugandan government, on the other a war lord well known for recruiting child soldiers by having them kill their families so they are brutalized and have nowhere to return to all in one action. He momentarily thought that he should just kill the war lord and die in a hail of bullets as his contribution to the solution. Being a good mediator however he moved his consciousness into empathy and realized that the war lord had himself originally been recruited this way. He was so damaged himself.

Returning to the “motherfuckers” that Naomi is referring to they are the CEOs and executives of the fossil fuel industry which she says have become rogue corporations bent on profit over the destruction of all life on earth. True. From where I sit she is correct. So if I bring some empathy to bear on the situation I imagine that these “motherfuckers” have some human characteristics. Children and grandchildren perhaps. Why then would they behave in a way that will destroy the future for these generations? This takes us back to the first of the quotations of Naomi from the Boston News article: “You don’t let yourself care about something that you have no idea how to fix. Because it’s just too terrifying. And it would derail your whole life”.

Climate change denialists come in several flavours from the looney tunes of ‘it’s a left wing conspiracy to take over the world government’ types to just plain disbelief that it could be possible coupled with a profound ignorance of science to the religious fanatics who think it is all end days unfolding as they should. Amongst the “motherfucker” group of fossil fuel CEOs there are surely also a fair number of sociopaths, even psychopaths who really do not care at all about future generations. Their only interest is greed and the bottom line as is dictated by their corporate status. What are appropriate actions in the face of this knowledge? Just ostrich like bury our heads in the sand and “please mummy make it go away”. Self sufficiency in food and energy. I’ll be all right Jack. Consciously reduce, reuse and recycle. Protest and political action. Join Greenpeace,, Occupy. Join the revolution. Start a guillotine manufacturing company. All of the above except the first and the last. In the article about Naomi it talks about her upping her game and commitment to fight as if she was not already going full tilt. Her connection with Bill McKibben and has further galvanized her to action. And as she already has an impressive history of going after the excesses of capitalism she has connected the dots and come to the realization that fighting climate change is the same fight and will mean the end of capitalism as it is currently being done. In America fighting against capitalism is still considered almost treasonous. A pollution of the purity of American bodily fluids (Dr Strangelove). Joining the commie bastards. These are dangerous times and as usual the guns and lawyers are with Goliath. To enter battle is to be prepared for individual loss against the ultimate triumph of good over evil. In mediation a major technique is to expand each parties frame of reference until they can see why the other acts the way they do. When we look at the fossil fuel industry we are looking at ourselves. The great wealth of the world has been made possible entirely by fossil fuels. “if not oil, then what?” is a valid question that industry asks us and in blinkered fashion truly does not see the answer. The answer is all around us and many countries have already replaced 20-50% of their fossil fuel energy with renewables. Naomi’s point about the industry that leads her to label them “motherfuckers” in her anger is the structure of corporations that causes them to act as greedy psychopaths with money and profit as the only objective, with no regard at all for the human community. I do however feel optimistic about the human spirit. Goodness is our natural default. The goodness drops away as you move down into the scale of sociopathy to the 1-2% psychopaths at the fringes. Living in Europe with less exposure to the truly lunatic fringes of American politics (and now Canadian too) I find that science and evidence based decision making hold more sway. It has brought very conservative organizations to a belief in in our situation previously only held by the radical environmentalists. The international Energy Agency, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, HSBC, Citi Bank, Price Waterhouse, have all issued reports sounding the alarm on climate change. Most significantly as the above article mentions is the fact that 80% of the fossil fuel reserves currently held ‘on the books’ by fossil fuel companies can never be used. The impact of this carbon bubble bursting will be a huge ‘recession’ in traditional economics. However traditional economics is not going to get us through this. We are looking at nothing less than a complete restructuring of the human social structure currently in use. Remember capitalism and corporate law are human inventions that can be changed. They will be changed and soon. This is the fight that Naomi has committed to. The sidelines will be very small. Martin Golder Skookum Zwingenberg Germany 26/05/2013


Obama’s KXL speech

Obama’s KXL speech

My fellow Americans

One the things about being President is that at some point there are decisions that the President has to make only because no-one else is willing or empowered to make them. Going to war for instance is ultimately a presidential decision and should only be taken when there is irrefutable evidence that there is no other way.

Well it happens that one of those decisions has wound up on my desk. I have been presented with the decision on whether a pipeline should be built or not.  This doesn’t seem like a very big deal compared to going to war or not however this particular  KXL pipeline has become a symbol. As in a game of chess the whole game can revolve around a single seemingly unimportant move so here many forces are coming together around this simple decision.  There are many pipelines crisscrossing this great nation and they have helped to bring us unimagined wealth over the last century. Why should this one pipeline decision be any different and end up on my desk?

The oil industry largely cannot understand the fuss. This is a no brainer in their world. This is just another pipeline that will create jobs and continue the flow of oil on which our nation has been so dependant. What’s more they say that this oil from a friendly neighbour is preferable to oil from nations with the potential for conflict and abuse of human rights.

The environmental movement has mounted a large opposition to the approval of this pipeline seeing in it a chance for me to show that I do actually take the science of climate change seriously. Let me assure you all that I do believe the science. Science is about having a theory and then testing it again and again to see if it holds up. Climate scientists have developed the theory about the atmosphere and CO2 since 1827. More recently they have built sophisticated computer models of our climate which have been tested backwards for several thousand years with great accuracy.  Also since the models came into being the observations of the last few decades have matched the predictions of the models closely.

What does all  this mean? Well events have been moving very fast recently. Many of us are still in disbelief over the fact that human beings could adversely affect the global climate at all.  Well I have to tell you that yes it is true. This summer the Arctic ocean will be almost ice free for the first time in many thousands of years.  The extreme weather events of the last few years are increasingly being attributed to Climate Change. This would not be happening without humanity’s burning of our fossil fuel reserves in a very short period of time. 200 million years of accumulated carbon has been released in 200 years. This is how mankind has made its impact.  I’m not going to give you a science lesson but I do advise you to do the research if you want to understand the science.  Now it is also true that there has been a very strong campaign against the science of climate change because there are vested interests that are going to have to go through major changes.  The discovered fossil fuel reserves that are on the books of the energy companies are now under review because as much as 80% of these discovered reserves cannot be used if we are to hold the planet’s temperature within the 2°C rise that all nations have committed to based on the science.

These are difficult and still contentious issues in some circles but as president I need to weigh all the influences and make my decision based on the facts as I see them.

In terms of this particular pipeline I am not sure that this should even be a presidential decision.  The markets have made these kinds of decisions in the past and maybe they still can.  Already this year the financial and insurance markets have started to absorb the carbon risk involved in the 80% of unuseable reserves and so financing in these markets will be increasingly hard to obtain. This will also apply to financing for new oil reserve explorations.

My fellow Americans we are entering into a new world stage much faster than anyone anticipated. Renewable energy is our only way forward. We must use our intelligence and American know how to design our way forward from the fossil fuel era into the renewable energy era with as much elegance as possible.

It is going to be difficult much as going to war is difficult but it has to be done.

So in terms of my particular decision about the KXL pipeline I am of the opinion that I will be doing the Canadian Pipeline Company a favour by turning it down however I am more inclined to let the free market make the decision. I will not stand in its way but the company should know that this administration is following a path based on science and fact.  Our policies will not support any expansion of fossil fuel use. We will take action to move America away from dependence on fossil fuels whether local or foreign.

This is a milestone moment and so perhaps is appropriate that it ended up on my desk.

Thank you and God Bless America.