One-week 'think tank' - the new way of meeting?

Northern Norway: Deep powder snow. Challenging skiing on 35 degree slopes. Workshops and lectures at high altitude. And a gathering of people with a strong commitment to the environment and sustainability, dedicated planet lovers.

After a week with the Tarfala Think Tank - a group of researchers, innovators and leaders that has gathered annually since 2017 - Ecogain's Anders Enetjärn is struck by the power of this kind of dedicated meeting, and the leverage it can provide, at a time of great urgency.

Two quotes from the week in Lyngen:

"We are facing a massive collapse because we will not be able to cope with the challenges of the planet. And it is only after the collapse that we will be able to rebuild society."

"No, we don't have time for a collapse, we only have 25 years to completely transform society. And we know what to do."

Do you recognize the thoughts? Sometimes hopelessness, sometimes hope.

The second quote comes from Johan Rockström, one of the initiators of the spring-winter Lyngen Think Tank, with workshops and hikes in the high mountains of northern Norway. The quotes show the range of perspectives among the 25 planet lovers from academia, business and civil society who met this year at what started as the Tarfala Think Tank 2017.

Science, tough skiing and socializing on the schedule

For the last two years, I have been one of the invitees. This year the "skiing bar" was set high. Everyone had to pass the kickturns in steep terrain uphill and drive safely downhill on a 35 degree slope.

But what does it do to people who experience a transformative week, filled to the brim with science, physically demanding activities and socializing? When you are taken away from your normal work and everyday life, and spend all your waking hours doing what you are most passionate about in the world - together with other extremely competent and equally committed people?

For us, the week in Lyngen meant that we quickly got close to the most important issues in life; the planet, humanity, relationships, inner drives and our own bodies.

Imagine a whole week around difficult questions about the future. Sharing heavy messages about the planet, yoga together, time to talk and get to know each other's inner drive during physically hard days on steep slopes. To be in a landscape with avalanche risks, which at the same time is so outstandingly beautiful, which makes us all so small. And not least to share the exuberant joy of powder skiing. I will never forget the hugs and tears in Lyngen after the best runs together.

I've been thinking about that a lot since this year's Think Tank participants parted ways. It provided energy, ideas and drive.

Johan Rockström shook us all up on the first night

The structure of Think Tank Week is simple: days of skiing and hiking, evenings of lectures and workshops. Everyone contributes their whole soul, in everything.

On the very first evening, Johan Rockström gave his lecture on the status of the planet. And even though we all already knew, it was shocking. The latest IPCC report's conclusions on the threat to planetary stability are stark. Biodiversity, the health of the planet itself, is the main concern.

The climate crisis is accelerating along with biodiversity loss, and preventing this trend is increasingly important for climate action. Biodiversity solutions sequester carbon and are a practical way to work on climate mitigation. That's why it's so relevant to the climate issue to internalize biodiversity in the business context. We see that pressure now, all of us who have worked on these issues for a long time.

For me, Rockström's illustration of the 'corridor of life' (see image), which has served us so well throughout the Holocene, was more powerful than scientific data. It showed the time perspectives, of course, and that we are now moving out of that narrow, comfortable corridor.

Wasting natural resources is a systemic failure

Personally, I will take home many insights from this week. Perhaps most importantly, that it is a gross systemic failure that people and companies still do not have incentives for frugality. That it is still ok to use natural resources for products and consumption that create so little social benefit.

I also take with me the uncertainty that we don't know whether we will be cold or warm here in the north. "The cool blob, the only blue dot on all orange temperature maps of the Earth, is south of Greenland. It represents the tipping point that can slow down the entire AMOC (Atlantic meridional overturning circulation), which includes the Gulf Stream, and which can therefore give the Nordic countries a climate that is 20 degrees colder than today.

Colder or warmer - does it matter? Because it's precisely the ignorance that's unpleasant. Either way, we are at risk. But there is still hope.

We know what to do - and we have 25 years to do it

I am so happy for those who take a holistic approach to all of humanity and the planet. Like the top-touring professor Per Espen Stoknes, who through Earth for All points out how a justice transformation can lay the foundation for more trust between people within and between countries, and thus for the necessary decisions on climate and biodiversity.

And indeed, Johan Rockström also conveyed hope. It's time to celebrate that we have finished negotiating, all the conditions are in place. Just deliver now! Change the narrative, said Johan. We already know all the solutions. "It is all about scale and speed. We have 25 years to go", was the message.

Meetings that generate new thoughts and ideas are needed more than ever

We realized that we were part of a success story. And we went home with a question: maybe all planet lovers need meetings in completely new ways to shake things up and lay the groundwork for the bold and much-needed decisions?

"The magic is when you come up with incredible thoughts and ideas that you never thought of before". So said Åsa Wikforss, Swedish Academy Chair No. 7, recently in her P1 Sunday interview with Martin Wicklin. That's exactly what I think! We need to create more space for incredible thoughts and ideas in our everyday lives. More think tanks, more walk-and-talks, more nature experiences and deep conversations.

The only people we missed in our talks in Lyngen were the politicians. But we think tankers will make sure they get a pat on the back about the climate, biodiversity, the Nature Restoration Act and other vital issues at stake in the EU elections.