Despite public policy and supranational policy being part of Edgeryder’s origin story, we have kept policy makers at arm’s length, cherry-picking with who (and on what) we would work. We did not plan to get into any long-term alliances in this space.
And yet, we have decided to make an exception, and sign a partnership agreement with Climate-KIC (some formal checks are still pending). Climate-KIC is the EU’s largest public-private partnership, tasked with addressing climate change through innovation by achieving deep decarbonization across cities, while tackling land use, agriculture and industrial manufacturing, and securing finance. It works with 280 partners across academia, business, the public sector and NGOs, and has supported more than 2,000 startups to date, leveraging more than €2.5bn in funding.
Here is why.
We believe climate change is the defining challenge of our time. It trumps other challenges, because we can’t fix anything if we don’t survive first. Back when we started, we used to talk about “resilience” a lot. Since then, climate science has hardened. We now have a better idea of what we are looking at: a toxic mix of heavy weather, rising sea levels, habitat destruction, new fancy diseases and desertification. This mix, in turn, causes social turmoil, including poverty, displacement, forced migration. And what do we have to fight all that? Goodwill, and makeshift toolboxes of solar panels and dry toilets. We are not even making a dent.
This is not good enough. We need to reallocate our best resources to climate-proofing humanity. We have not done it before, because the conditions to leverage that kind of work were not in place.
Back in 2012, as the Edgeryders community was coming together, Vinay Gupta wrote this:
Those conditions, it seems, are finally about to change.
Under new management, Climate-KIC seems to have embraced the urgency like few other human institutions, at least in Europe. In their space, this means being grim and hopeful at the same time; starting new and bold programs that they are not sure yet how to deliver. They understand that any delay is self-harming at best, and predatory at worst - and that done is way better than perfect. Their senior management – and their overachieving, intimidating CEO – appear to support their staff in “going out and breaking things”, if that brings results.
And that gives us the chance to break the “strange melancholy” that Vinay noticed back in 2012.
In these situations, we expect a certain amount of shooting from the hip. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because you can almost always adjust your aim as you go. Climate change won’t wait for us to perfect our strategies, so it’s absolutely critical to get things started. Climate-KIC have proven to be good at starting things, setting ambitious targets, mobilizing financial support, convening lots of public sector institutions, private companies, and universities.
But good is not enough: the task at hand is so enormous they would have to be superhuman. Superpowers are not on the menu, but they could get the next best thing: your help. The help of us all, in fact. Together, we have accumulated a capital of domain- and local expertise; relationships with underutilized “unusual suspect” actors at the edge of society; little-known solutions that are already working at the local scale and only need a push to multiply their impact. This capital must now become a trellis for the climate effort to build on.
In a way, this is the perfect storm that the Edgeryders community has been preparing for. The sane, sensible solutions have failed to deliver. All that’s left are trying the weird, scary ones. Desperate times call for radical measures, and rational, unflinching radicalism is what we grew out of, and where we belong. The need is so great that the people on the edge might find themselves at the center of the action: in a sense, the climate crisis might turn out to be a great equalizer.
Here is how we plan to help:
- Develop a new Edgeryders team. There’s plenty of expertise in the other 5,000 people who have created Edgeryders accounts, and plenty more out there: but we need a lens to focus it all, advocate for a radical, solarpunk approach to climate change, and find the resources needed for that approach to make a difference. We are calling the new team EarthOS. This name was invented a decade ago by our co-founder @matthias, as he was working on an open source “operating system for the planet” that would allow everyone to live in personal freedom, community autonomy, and reasonable prosperity. We are claiming this tradition as a central part of Edgeryders. We hired @ilaria to coordinate the team.
- Contribute to building a culture of rational radicalism in Climate-KIC and the European climate policy space in general. The emphasis being on the word “culture”. We need a much better intellectual arsenal. Not just “solutions”, but a solid, transmissible, system-level understandings of the sort of transformation we, as a civilization, are trying to achieve. A perfect example is how climate activism is being held in check by economic insecurity: as all past prosperity has been built on the destruction of nature, too many people are unable to see a future for themselves in a post-carbon world, and stall the necessary change. We need to respond by controlling the narrative. But, a winning narrative requires solid cultural underpinning. That is why we are engineering a collaboration between science fiction authots and economists to imagine completely different economic systems.
- Connect the Climate-KIC funding streams with radical ideas and delivery capacity. Climate-KIC is, at the end of the day, a financial pipeline with advanced strategic capacity. Their core business is shifting (EU) money where it can make the most difference towards climate change mitigation and adaptation. Their impact depends on the right kind of people and organizations stepping forward with good projects, and delivering them on time and on specs. We are going to work with them, to advocate for investing in small-and-nimble organizations, informal networks of citizens, hackers, solarpunks, and more.
We start immediately with two projects. One is an effort to bring solarpunk tech and ethics to Europe’s ports. Another one is a prototype for deep green, social, affordable urban living. More are coming, and we will use this space to share information about what we do and recruit collaborators.
So, if you are already working on climate (in the broadest possible sense), or want to get involved, tell us about yourself and your work here.
Photo credit: John