Norwegian psychologist and author Per Espen Stoknes is - in our opinion among the most interesting figures on the international green scene.
A true Reality Hacker, he has found his way into the heart of the Norwegian Business School (BI) - and has collaborated with forces as diverse as Jørgen Randers and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has also authored several books on climate change, money and psychology - including his latest book What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming.
# What are you doing right now and how does it relate to your work as an environmentalist?
I’m writing a new book on the psychology of “growth”; some people can’t get enough of economic growth, believing it will solve almost all our ills. On the other side we have apocalypse-porn-addicts, who find economic growth to be the reason of most of our problems. They therefore call for “degrowth”. I want to nuance and rethink what growth is: from gross growth as in GDP - to good growth, as in ’smart & green’.
# Does Green Growth imply that we can consume our way out of the trouble we are in?
Not at all; It means that we must clearly distinguish between material consumption, measured in tons - and monetary consumption, measured in money. Material consumption can be expressed as resource use in tons/yr, ecological footprint or in energy units.
The point is: we can increase monetary consumption while reducing material consumption and resource use. One example is if we eat organic food or sustainable, fresh fish from an upscale restaurant, located in a plus-house building. Then I pay more, but consume less resources relative to buying hamburgers from MacDonalds, which is high resource use / low monetary consumption.
# You hold that we are stuck with some outdated economical ideas. In what concrete ways can we as individuals take hold of and shape our economical system into a tool that serves people and the planet?
As individuals we all have four roles that open up a distinct sphere of influence: as consumers, workers, owners and citizens
-As consumers we can shift our purchases gradually to the greenest option available. There’s a big gap between people saying they want to buy sustainable, and actual behavior in the stores. Learn lots of ways of how to close this gap.
-As workers and employees we can influence our teams, projects, bosses to secure and improve profits by shifting from brown to good growth strategies, applying the six steps at your own job.
-As owners we may have a house, a plot of land, or even some investment in pension funds or otherwise. By investing in greener buildings and soil we can have a direct influence on the emissions. By disinvesting from fossil investments, and reinvesting in green bonds we can influence – through teaming up with others – the structure of the economy.
-As citizens our most powerful role is to stand up and speaking out to our electives. It’s not just voting, but also committing to and voicing support for less income taxes combined with higher carbon prices, which balance each other out. As citizens we also participate in the public sphere as neighbors, through NGOs and social media.
# In your work you emphasize systemic change as well as the need of a new mindset. What is the role of consciousness expansion in your view - and how do we get there quickly enough to react to the present situation?
In Jungian psychology there is another idea about ‘inflation’, which means when we’re being possessed by an archetypal idea, and our sense of cock-sureness grows inflated beyond all reasonable bounds. It’s important to recognize how psychological ideas and language become social constructions that then shape our shared, physical world. If we want to change the direction of growth, we must also become aware our inner, unconscious myths and emotions that underlie our ideas and conceptions of ‘growth’. Not least which orientation and qualities we expect the growth to take.
# What is the future of work? What will the workplace of tomorrow look like? Will there be work?
Many ICT-oriented people would say increasing cognification, more streaming, robotification, screening, sharing and filtering; ie. more artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things.
I’d like here to mention: More vacation, better work-life balance, better resource-productivity.
# Please give away one tip of a great piece of literature, a record, a film, or something that you would not want anyone to miss?
A great book on this topic: Ralf Fuchs: Green Growth - Smart Growth
My latest favorite album: Just the Two of Us, Album by Cæcilie Norby & Lars Danielsson.
Learn more about Per Espen Stoknes site at www.stoknes.com. We can also warmly recommended the Green Growth at the Norwegian Business School, which Per Espen runs together with the living legend of sustainable thinking, Jørgen Randers.