Martin Wright is a writer, editor, speaker, enthusiast, focused on stories of a hopeful future (Twitter, Keynote speech at 2018 Global Good Awards). He is currently chair of Positive News, “the magazine for good journalism about the good things that are happening:. I got to know Martin when I was working for Forum for the Future, and he was editor of Forum’s magazine, Green Futures (now discontinued).
Key theme: “It is important to infuse people that it is possible that the future can be brighter than it is today. And that they have agency, they have the skills, the energy to make it to make that happen.”
We recorded this in late March 2022 (about 4 weeks after the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine). There is a little bit of swearing (one use each of f*cked, sh*t and b*gger).
Forum for the Future in India (note: a while ago. I had Senior Management Team responsibility for Forum in India, and so was, briefly, Martin’s line manager).
Academy of Ideas “Free Minds for a Free Society”. Martin enjoys speaking to them to get outside the environmental bubble. While I think that is is an important thing to do, I worry whether this particular organisation’s contrarian stance is in good faith (see, for instance, this LRB article).
Martin says the government is ahead of the public on climate change. Subsequent polling shows it might be the other way round, for instance here, 76 per cent of Conservative voters thought “the UK should try as hard as possible to be a global leader in getting to net zero and develop new green industries and jobs, even if it is more expensive”.
Ashden Awards here. (Full disclosure, in 2017 I worked with Ashden on its strategy.)
At 29 minutes, I was wrong that renewable energy is 5 times cheaper than gas. The latest figures are 9 times cheaper.
0:51 – Q1 What are you doing now? And how did you get there?
06:06 – Q2. What is the future you are trying to create, and why?
10:29 – BONUS QUESTION: Where do you place the responsibility for the perception of a doomsday environmental narrative?
21:04 – BONUS QUESTION: Given we have agency to make a better future, what could we be using our agency for?
29:23 – Q3. What are your priorities for the next few years, and why?
32:47 – Q4. If someone was inspired to follow those priorities, what should they do next?
34:20 – Q5. If your younger self was starting their career now, what advice would you give them?
35:22 – Q6. Who would you nominate to answer these questions, because you admire their approach?
35:22 – Q7. Is there anything else important you feel you have to say?
-“I think it is important to infuse people that it is possible that the future can be brighter than it is today. And that they have agency, they have the skills, the energy to make it to make that happen.”
-If you ask most people what the environmental message is they wouldn’t say “we can change things ourselves, and we can get the grips of these things, and really make a difference”. They’d say the message is: “Oh, god, it’s really bad.” And either “I don’t know what to do”, or,” Oh, it can’t be that bad. I don’t really believe you.”
-“I think that narrative is still the dominant narrative. And I think it needs to be changed. If, if we are as a whole to create a a brighter future.”
-“I think there is that strong sense in the media, that the media exists to expose wrongdoing. And if you’re not exposing wrongdoing, is somehow the soft end of things. People will say that’s what sells newspapers. And I actually don’t think that’s true. And certainly the experience at Positive News is that actually when things get darker time there is more of an appetite for hearing about ordinary people getting out there changing things for the better.”
-“I think helping people feel better, albeit feel better, in a way that’s grounded in evidence that they should be feeling better, is really, really important. You know, it’s important to have a world in which people don’t feel more shit than they need to. And that, and when people feel, feel better, feel that, you know, the world out there, as I’m looking out of my window is not a terrible, terrible place. On the whole, they do feel more motivated to take action. Now, they might be motivated to take action in the face of enormous threat, but they feel motivated to take action, because they feel they can do something.”
-“You need that sense of wow, this would be really good [from real examples, such as heat pumps and wind farms]. In order to get politicians the courage to keep doing things, which a lot of people want want to happen.”
-“So part of the part of the part of agency is creating the political space for governments and others to take decisions which might otherwise be seen as politically infeasible.”
-“I would like to find interesting and lively waves of both enabling positive stories, both enabling positive story, shaping and enabling positive stories to reach reach a wider audience and seeing things myself at firsthand while I do so.”
-“I also want to make sure that I make time. And it’s time, it doesn’t just mean clock time, but sort of soul time to appreciate the absolute fantastic beauty of the natural world.”
-“People should do something which feels absolutely natural for them. They should do something entirely goes with the grain of what they’re good at and what they like. They shouldn’t feel that they should they shouldn’t be led by shoulds.”
-“Trust yourself, trust your instincts, you know yourself better than anyone else. And you know, better than anyone else, what you are best at doing.”