Outreach and Social License
In our work, there are some people it is easy to get in touch with: fellow team members, climate scientists, people from climate NGOs and in other climate work. Government regulators whom one must talk with.
But our work is for all of humanity. And while we can’t talk to all 8 billion, we should go out of our way to talk to people whom we can’t just pick up the phone and call. We want to hear from people who are not normally represented in climate discussions, and in particular we want to hear from people who might feel that they are directly affected by our work.
We call this activity “outreach”. Simply put, it’s reaching out, particularly to underrepresented communities, describing briefly what we do, and then listening. When we describe what we do it’s just to give enough context for a conversation. Our job is to learn. Do they have questions or concerns? Are they interested, or worried? Or do they have other concerns and little interest in what we do?
Clearly our work is driven by the science of the climate and therefore depends on conversations with scientists, and the reading of our instruments. But that means we must prioritize outreach activity to make sure our actions also depend on opinions and interests different from our own.
In fact, “Outreach” is what we call the entire department where marketing is done. This is to remind ourselves every day that our most important messages come from outside, not the other way around.
When working at a global scale, not everybody can keep up to date with everything we are doing. Although we may have all required permits and legal licenses, people may still have questions and concerns. Those non-regulatory “permissions” are called our "social license".
A social license comes from confidence in the integrity of the team doing the work. That comes from transparency in things like our safety studies, permits we have obtained, or where we are operating can be reassuring. Our own demonstrated integrity making and meeting commitments. Even our outreach contributes in a small way, though that is not its purpose.
But those are all internal factors. When someone sees a wind turbine, they generally believe that it was erected under relevant safety regulations. But what about projects out at sea? How can you know we have all the correct permits and follow the appropriate safety procedures?
For that we are governed by the Climate Restoration Safety and Governance Board. Before we engage in activity it is reviewed by a panel of scientists, ethicists, representatives of frontline communities, and faith leaders to make sure we are in compliance and that, in their judgement, not ours, we have the appropriate safety studies and procedures. If we receive approval, we will be subject to regular monitoring to ensure we remain in compliance.
In mid 2022, Rocío traveled to Ecuador to speak with some communities there. Here is her summary report:
The Otavalos, Ecuador
We at BDC have a commitment to contacting, consulting and getting input from indigenous peoples and underrepresented groups. In this vein, we set out to speak directly with the Indigenous communities of Pinsaquí, Espejo and Cotacachi in Ecuador.
These peoples are known as the Otavalos, they are subsistence farmers, their native language is Kichwa. They use traditional farming methods that for centuries have addressed crop productivity, soil, erosion and weed control. They have a great connection and respect for our Earth and all things alive. Part of that respect is not wasting any food. Nothing goes to waste; all fruits of the earth benefit people, animals and soil.
I already had established entrée to this community from my field work in the mid 2000s. I expanded my relationships during this trip and practiced full immersion as a method of getting close to people, building relationships and gaining their trust. I asked them questions about the climate in an informal conversational manner. They felt safe to talk to me directly, authentically about what is going on for them and their communities with the climate.
I asked them these questions:
Have you noticed any changes in the climate?
What solutions do you have to deal with these changes?
Why do you think these changes are happening? I described how global warming works (religion was discussed)
What are your thoughts about the use of technology to bring greenhouse gas levels to a healthy level?
These are the things we learned:
There were no climate deniers. All community members are experiencing the effects of climate change. They are in the front lines, already at the effect of the changing climate.
It is all about the food. During the rainy season, it rains more intensely and for longer. During the hot season, it is hotter and for longer. As a result, they are experiencing crop failure now.
Catholics and Evangelicals support cleaning up the pollution in the air to healthy levels
I met no concern about the use of technology to bring greenhouse gasses to healthy levels. They told me they use technology that produces pollution, like the automobile. They consider greenhouse gasses to be a form of pollution in the air.
Transparency and Accountability are important. Everybody has a phone and they would love for us to keep them informed and updated via video. This was an explicit request.
The Key Takeaways
These communities are not surprised or concerned with the use of technology to clean up the air from pollution (dangerous greenhouse gasses)
They are in the front lines, they are smart, resourceful and use great common sense. Being in the front lines causes great existential anxiety. They are experiencing that now.
They are available and ready to partner with us, to collaborate. They just want to keep informed and updated via video. Everyone has a cellphone.
They want ‘their weather back’
Food is not only used for sustenance, it is also central in their rituals and cultural traditions. The changes in the climate also affect their ability to retain their culture and their traditions.