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Gudrun Cartwright

Gudrun Cartwright

April 29, 2022

Are you a tempered radical?

As a sustainability professional our job is to make change happen and people don't like change. So you need to keep yourself psychologically safe.

Which means you need ways to understand your situation.

So let me introduce the Tempered Radical

This framework from Meyerson and Scully, way back in 1995, seems to describe our position perfectly.

A Tempered Radical is committed to their organisation's success and also to a cause that might be at odds with that organisation's main goals. Which is an edge we walk daily - between commercial pressures and the need to create a future where people and nature can thrive.

When I first came across this paper I had a huge aha moment.

You see, I often feel like like I am too radical for my workplace, I am too straight to fit into the activist community

Which means I often feel pretty alone. Manifesting as a general sense of unease. Not a pleasant place to be.

But, if I remind myself that actually, I'm a Tempered Radical, I can relax into the reality that this place I inhabit is, by it's nature, uncomfortable. And one of my main goals is to learn to sit comfortably with discomfort.

If I go one step further and add the permaculture principle of 'the edge is where the action is,' I can see that this is the place I want and need to be.

It's so easy to feel overwhelmed by the climate, ecological and social crises we see all around us. And frustrated that the response is both slow and, as yet inadequate. That's a healthy response to living on our particular edge.

And it's OK to not be OK sometimes.

So let's breathe. Relax into the discomfort. Do what we can. Take care of ourselves. Then we can make a little progress each day. And when we all do that, big things will happen.