After 3 years of remarkable progress, a glimpse into See Through’s current internal ethical debate regarding money
Speeding up carbon drawdown – progress report
After nearly three years of seat-of-the-pants navigation towards its Goal of Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active, See Through’s growth has been remarkable. Numbers are starting to reflect the results of our ad-hoc ascent.
See Through’s total global reach, measured in members of its website visitors, Facebook Group members, podcast listeners and other social media followers, is around 250,000. Most are in our pilot UK groups, but since expanding the same model internationally, numbers are following identical growth trends.
Our reach is still growing at double digits per month. This puts us on track to pass 500,000 by mid-2024, and to double again by the end of the year.
Total marketing budget, including tax: $0.00.
See Through has grown too fast to keep track of the number of people who’ve volunteered their time, goods, services or resources. Our 2024 wishlist includes setting up a volunteer database, which will provide more precise numbers, but we know that having started with a handful, progressed to dozens, we can now count high hundreds, maybe low thousands, of See Through Volunteers over all our projects.
We also have a core group of volunteers to administer, manage and speak publicly for us, in addition to the expanding international roster of experts in specialist fields, and grass-roots deliverers of See Through projects.
Experienced new volunteers are joining as we expand, making the organisation more stable and diverse as we grow.
See Through’s ultimate goal is to measure our influence in the precise, objective units used by carbon accountants, CO2e (tonnes of CO2 equivalent reduced or sequestered) as a result of our activities. We’re developing three mechanisms to deliver this:
- Content-to-CO2e Reduction (C2C): is in the final stages of testing (see our Christmas Sweepstake Competition for details)
- See Through Carbon: has launched the first of 5 pilots, and is about to launch Pilot 2 in the new year
- Magic See Through Mirror: has been made hugely more practicable by recent advances in Large Language Model (LLM) AI like ChatGPT
We hope to be able to start delivering CO2e numbers some time in 2024. In the meantime, another metric is the number of recent unsolicited approaches we’ve had, at CEO or senior executive level, from multinationals, businesses, councils and other carbon-generating organisations.
Over the last four months we’ve had a dozen or more such meetings, with more scheduled for January 2024, with leaders and decision-makers from state-level councils, to multinational corporations, billion-dollar-plus companies in different sectors, and Silicon Valley AI start-ups. Each has recognised the value of one or more of our projects, and approached us to ask us how they can help.
But we keep hitting the same obstacle…
The No Bank Account Iceberg
These meetings have followed a very similar pattern, which has become the main focus of internal debate.
We call it ‘The NBA Iceberg’. Here’s how the meetings tend to go:
- CEO kicks off the meeting stating they share See Through’s goal of measurable carbon reduction, and that they’re interested in discussing Project X
- We welcome their interest, and ask if we can first show them how Project X is only one of a couple of dozen similar projects, and how they all fit into the bigger See Through picture
- Having seen our slide deck outlining the broader scope of the See Through project, CEO expresses astonishment at its scale, ambition, sophistication, attention to detail, originality, innovation and creativity.
- Typically around the 30-minute mark, we hit the No Bank Account (NBA) iceberg
We know we’ve hit the NBA iceberg when the CEO reflexively asserts some version of the following:
Of course, when your projects start to scale, you’ll need money.
What follows is a prolonged debate not about our mechanisms for measurably reducing carbon (what we want to focus on), but about the economic, philosophical, even moral niceties of whether an alternative, non-financial model exists that would permit their organisation/business/NGO to collaborate to further See Through’s carbon-reducing Goal.
The majority of these meetings end with no practical outcome.
In all cases so far, the CEOs have agreed with every step of See Through’s argument/logic/rationale, but most baulk when it comes to matching their professed desire to measurably reduce carbon with our suggested actions to demonstrate this.
The Leap of Trust
Sometimes, CEOS explicitly reject our concrete, specific suggestions for action. More often, they’re shelved while they
- ‘consider their options’
- ‘consult their attorneys’
- ‘try persuading their investors, shareholders, board, lawyers, accountants or staff’
or some other Inaction variant.
As do-ers with a mission to ‘Help the Inactive Become Active’, this is frustrating. Having invested considerable time (2-7 hours, often over multiple meetings) to get to the point of action/inaction, it’s weird to be asked:
- What’s See Through’s ‘ask’?
- What would we get from giving away something for nothing?
Our stock responses are:
- Remind the CEOs that they, not us, were the ones who asked for a meeting. Moreover, we’ve just given a detailed explanation of exactly how they could help our mission, whose values, logic, implementation and methodology they’ve said they admire.
- Ask them to answer their own question. Why did they originally approach See Through? Why have they just taken hours from their busy schedules to ask us questions? The answers are a) repuation b) integrity, c) branding. These all derive from the very thing they’re now citing as a stumbling block – the NBA Iceberg.
These CEO meetings end at exactly the same point, having gone through the same process, arriving at the same fundamental question:
Do you trust us?
All of us – including See Through’s core group at these meetings – have had Money Goggles strapped on since birth.
Money Goggle lenses make us see the ‘real world’ as driven by transactions, all mediated and valued solely in dollar terms. With Money Goggles, IP must be jealously protected, cash is the only key to unlock data citadels, and trust is delegated to lawyers, contracts and other people paid to anticipate the worst, cover all options, and suspect everyone of ill-intent.
These meetings usually end up with See Through asking, in some form or other, the question:
If you can’t trust volunteers motivated only by carbon reduction, with no bank account to even offer a mechanism to scam or defraud you, who can you trust?
For 90% of CEOs, so far at least, this is not a question they’re prepared to answer with action.
See Through’s internal post-mortems have resulted in various efforts to anticipate, pre-empt, truncate or accelerate these digressions from our Goal of measurable carbon reduction.
Articles based on these conversations, and examples of real-world alternatives published over the past few months include:
- Money, It’s a Gaslight: Climate Change and Finance: an overview of the paradox of modern society placing more value on something we’ve made up (money) than something we’re made of (carbon)
- Bartering for Carbon Drawdown – It’s a Serious Business: the economic theory, and cautionary case studies, and practical experience, supporting our No Bank Account approach
- 5 Ways To Measurably Reduce Carbon Without Money: a short menu of options for non-financial transaction for the more practical minded, who want to cut to the chase
- AI’s Dirty Secret, or How To Spend Half a Million Dollars of Supercomputing: a podcast detailing, over 10 Episodes, a blow-by-blow case study of one of the 10% of CEO’s who did trust See Through with a substantial, no-strings-attached donation
- See Through Carbon Competition: What Happened Next: The real-world results of one CEO taking the leap of trust, to the tune of half a million dollars, and how See Through used this donation to speed up carbon drawdown by helping the inactive become active
We’ve yet to hear any specific objection or disuptation of anything in these articles and podcasts, but it’s also true that none appears to have made any appreciable difference when it comes to converting CEO worlds into action.
See Through’s growing core group of administrators, brains trustees, advisors and experts, all with decades of experience in the world of Money Goggles, continue to struggle with the NBA iceberg.
Put simply, is abandoning our No Bank Account approach a practical inevitability, as many (but not everyone) operating in ‘the real world’ based on Money keeps telling us?
Or should we risk destroying the integrity we’ve gained so far by using CO2e as our only currency, as a practical expediency?
We’d much rather be spending our time measurably reducing carbon, but you’re more than welcome to join the debate.
Email email@example.com with any thoughts, ideas or suggestions, keep reading the newsletter and checking the website for updates on our progress, and NBA iceberg navigation…