Sustainable Management of Risk – How can we deal with risk reasonably and responsibly?

IESP Workshop , GIZ Feldafing, April 14-16, 2016

Thoughts and Reflections

Position Statement by Willi Kiefel, Tuam, Ireland

Personal Risks

I prioritise these as follows: health, social and family relationship, financial situation,
I would reflect on any serious situation and would then discuss these with my family and friends, seek advice, Perhaps I might also seek advice from “wise” people within my network of friends and acquaintances.

The next level of risk would be at the level of local communities, county and state.

For example if there is a new development announced in our area- how high will noise pollution or general environmental pollution really be?

I would discuss this first within my family, then neigbours; I would also try to get additional, reliable information, for example from the County Council, perhaps also from experts before I would plan my/ our next steps.

In general most of us will deal better with problems and risks of a “daily occurrence” because these would be seen as real and also because they are in the present or at least in the near, foreseeable future.

National / International Risks

The situation changes when risks seem to lie outside the personal sphere and concern situations in the future for which I can’t relate to any tried and trusted method for resolution. Such risks could be the break-up of the EU; even a new European war.

Although, bad as this scenario may seem, I trust that there are methods agreed amongst states to pull back from the brink. And let reason prevail.

I presume that in strategic planning departments in the offices of European Leaders such scenarios have been simulated- in strictest secrecy! Europe has seen so much improvement in standard of life as a result of a long period of peace; they won’t risk that.

Global Risks

The “Economic Globalisation” could be a bigger risk. However, it is not that easy to grasp and is below the level for personal engagement for most people.

The risks of globalisation are in the long-term effects as the efficiency gains from globalisation are bought with the loss of resilience. (“If China coughs, the German automotive industry gets a cold”)

Greatest Risk: Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and similar institutions have scientifically demonstrated Climate Change is man-made. They have explained how planet Earth is warming because of the ever increasing emissions of CO2 and other gases into the Earth’s atmosphere.

This warming is the result of a philosophy of ever increasing (material) growth. This “Growth Philosophy” believes in the “self regulation of the Markets” and quick profits. It has become the Rich World’s sole economic philosophy.

It assumes that Global Commons such as the Earth’s atmosphere, the oceans, soil, fresh water, bio-tops and jungles are abundant and can be used and exploited freely and without obligations. But it creates climate change which causes extreme weather situations, like hurricanes and extreme storms, extreme droughts on the one hand and on the other extreme precipitation. In addition, we observe an unprecedented rate of loss of plant and animal species as well as soil erosion, desertification, melting of glaciers, etc.

The effects of our Economic Growth Model may not hurt us so hard yet so that the population would accept drastic and transformative changes.

But if we let it go on unchecked, the price for corrective change will get ever higher.

Another sad side of Climate Change is that it hits primarily the people who are least responsible for it; that is the people in the “Global South”.

The current Economic Model is therefore not just unsustainable, it is also unjust.

Another point: The global risks from climate change are unique, insofar, as the knowledge of their causes and effects are based on an unprecedented comprehensive scientific analysis IPCC reports, et al.)

An analysis which is built on unique international cooperation.

It has been recently accepted over 190 participant countries at the World Climate Summit (COP 21) in Paris. (1)

We need to change our thinking

Change we must, if we want to hand on a world to our children which is as good as the one which has been passed on to us.

The change must begin in our heads. “The change of society must begin in the heads of the people, before it can translate into new technical and economic systems” (2)

Priorities for “The Change” or a “New Narrative”

Solidarity is just as important as personal freedom

For me, this means a change of our “Global North” lifestyles, which in turn would mean less material consumption and more social engagement and more “cultural” activities.

This would mean a transfer of growth of economic capital to social and cultural capital.
This transfer should be accompanied by joined-up thinking on social and cultural innovations. (3)

I also think we also need to substantially ramp-up a “Circular Economy”, combined with the phasing out of the fossil fuel economy in favour of a de-carbonised economy. (4)

Focus on full education rather than full employment

This change could be supported for example by the introduction of a Basic Income model. (5)

Furthermore, the increasing trend in industry towards use of robots and networking of robots (6).

It will lead to a substantial change of “classic” employment models. “VW employs more robots then workers in production in Wolfsburg”. (7)

Focus on Social Justice rather then Property Rights

Focus on Participatory Democracy rather then Representative Consensus Democracy
Philosophers and thinkers have already formulated proposals and drafted models.

For example Ortwin Renn (8) or the German Advisory Board on Global Change (WGBU) (9)
WBGU in its Flagship Report 2011World in Transition – A Social Contract for Sustainability
WBGU also proposed a concept of selections by lots in its reflections on how the interests of future generations could be represented in present parliamentary decisions. (10), (11), (12)

I would like to conclude with Laudato Si: “… May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.” (chap. 244)

Willi Kiefel, April 2016


2) German Advisory Board on Global Change ( WGBU) “The Great Transformation- Can we beat the heat”, 2013
3) Michael-Otto-Stiftung, Hamburger Gespraeche fuer Naturschutz, 2012: “Letzte Ausfahrt Wandel?”- engl. Last Exit- Change,;
5) ( )
6) ( )
7) ( VDI-Nachrichten, Dec. 4, 2015 – in German)
8) Renn, O.: Risk Governance. Coping with Uncertainty in a Complex World. London (Earthscan 2008)
9) chapter 5.4.1., also
10) ), chapter 7.3.1“Proactive State with Extended Opportunities for Participation”
11) Michael Reder, Mara-Daria Cojocaru ( Hrsg.), “Zukunft der Demokratie – Ende einer Illusion oder Aufbruch zu neuen Formen?”, Kolhammer Verlag, 2014; (engl.: “Future of Democracy – transition to new governance models)
12) Patrizia Nanz, Claus Leggewie, “Die Konsultative- Mehr Demokratie durch Bürgerbeteiligung”, Wagenbach Verlag, 2016) engl.: Citizen Consultation – more democracy through citizen participation)
14), chapter 14

Regarding IESP, the organiser of this workshop outside Munich in April 2016, see:

Addendum: Report from Dublin Climate Conversations 2015

Involvement of and Participation by the General Public – “Dublin Climate Conversations” (13)
”We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all…” (Laudato Si, chapter 14) (14))
To progress this idea further a group of NGO’s, Congress of Trade Unions, Charities, Employers Organisation, artists, farmers, fishermen, musicians, graphic designers and general volunteers have organised and carried out a series of Climate Conversations in 2015over 5 evenings in Dublin under the headings:

Communicating the Challenge
A New Economy
Sustainable Use of our Land
Prophetic Voices
The Call to New Horizons

I was part of the organising committee for these Conversations.
The main reason for these conversations was the non- acceptance of the scientific explanations and forecasts around Climate Change by society at large, and that it had not led to wider societal discussions and engagement.
The reason for this, we concluded, was that the Climate Change discussion has only touched the “left, or the rational part” of the brain and not so much the intrinsic, emotional side.
To improve this deficit we put a strong emphasis on artistic contribution in our series of 5 Climate Conversations.
So we managed to include musicians, graphic artists, poets and comedians in our conversations.We also managed to get a good gender, age and inter-generational balance for these conversations.Furthermore, we provided a safe space where different views can be expressed and shared and tried to get the audience involved and capture their feelings/ senses/ intuitions. We opened up the conversations through live-streaming and video uploading to make the process available to a wider audience.
I believe that Dublin Climate Conversations were unique in their structure- 5 iconic locations in Dublin, artistic contributions, scientific background information, educational project ideas and above all striving for cross community engagement and encouragement.
These conversations got good coverage in the media as well as by the General Public.
For example our Tanaiste Joan Burton demanded in Jan 2015 a National Conversation of how Ireland should deal with the “One in a Hundred Year’s Flood” Problem.
Or the editorial page of the Irish Times carried an Opinion Piece on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016, that a re-think about Ireland’s Flood Problem is required. (15)


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