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Changing our Mindset to Meet the Moment: Expanding What Is Possible in 2023

Ben Packard
Ben Packard

Another new year brings new possibilities for climate action. While significant progress in policy and practices are taking shape around us, there is still a long way to go to diversify and scale solutions in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and other critical climate targets.

Rather than thinking in purely technical, policy, or financial solutions, I am thinking a lot about the need to change our collective mindset about how we meet the demands of the moment. Changing mindsets is multifaceted, but two aspects I am particularly curious about for the new year are: the need to rethink our openness to taking risks on new ideas and how we need to reimagine the diversity of talent of the workforce that is going to deliver on our ambitions for climate action.

Expanding what is possible

It is fantastic that more entrants from all sectors are beginning to grasp the enormity of the climate challenge, with talk of adopting new forms of energy, shifting systems of accountability and transparency, and bringing more voices to the table. And yet, rather than seeking to understand the potential in the new actors and new solutions, many are quick to shoot down ideas simply because they are unfamiliar, untested, or imperfect. An example of this backlash is the criticism for the calls for performance rankings of ESG funds, to better understand how our investment decisions are connected to a low-carbon economy. While there are good questions being asked about how we measure the data, let’s not reject the core idea that improved transparency on performance and the consequences of our endeavors is vitally important.

In 2023, let’s explore before we reject. Let’s open our minds and our hearts and invest in new collaborations that grow our shared understanding of what is possible. Let’s take more chances in unconventional ideas, because the conventional ones aren’t going to get us there alone.

Preparing the workforce that delivers on 2050 targets

As we endeavor to meet the plethora of goals that have been established between now and 2050, we need to also think about the workforce that is going to do it!  Growing and diversifying our workforce is a key component to scaling climate change solutions, and this goes far beyond creating more “green jobs.”

Yes, we need to exponentially grow the number of people working to decarbonize transportation, energy, and buildings, but every sector and community will be affected by the impacts of climate change. The bigger story is that every one of us will need to learn how to mitigate and adapt our roles and organizations to collectively reduce greenhouse gasses and increase resilience. This is not an emerging sector, but instead a systemic transformation that will affect all jobs in all sectors, all over the world.

The question then becomes, who will be leading us through this transition and what skills, support and training do they need? We know that communities on the front lines of climate change that are hit first and worst are usually communities of color and lower income. What can we do to increase opportunities for and the benefits of taking action on climate for these communities? Key components of our success in meeting the challenge of this moment are growing workforce capacity to understand how climate is affecting our jobs and increasing the representation from communities most affected by climate change into said workforce.

Investing in the future

Over the past 5 years at EarthLab, I have learned that hopeful action can mitigate the paralyzing grief and anxiety that we can all feel in facing climate change. That is why I am proud that our organization cultivates future leaders, promotes and connects the vast research capacity of the University of Washington in service of a more sustainable planet, and invests in community-generated solutions at the intersection of climate and social justice. As we enter 2023, we are excited to play a role in shifting our collective mindset in how we understand and respond to the changing climate.

With an open mind,




Ben Packard
Harriet Bullitt Endowed Executive Director