Editorial 

Leadership and thinking of others

If for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us; please get out of the way.

       Kevin Conrad, representative of Papua New Guinea

 

Conrad’s comment to the United States, made at the final day of the climate conference in Bali last weekend, ranks as one of the best zingers of 2007. Coming at the end of a conference where many of the 190 countries had grown desperately frustrated by the United States’ position — which was supported by Canada and Japan — and after a U.S. representative had earlier asked other countries to “get in line” and follow its lead on climate change, Conrad’s remarks have been credited with triggering an about face by the U.S.

It didn’t exactly lead to universal agreement about how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to sustainable levels. Rather, the conference ended with agreement on a “road map” for negotiations over the next two years for a new and more comprehensive treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. That, apparently, is reason for hope on the climate change front.

But quite aside from the conference outcome, what little Papua New Guinea showed the rest of the world was leadership. Timely, poignant and deeply relevant, Conrad’s comment rallied the world to a cause that cannot be ignored. And that sort of leadership is particularly important at this time of year.

Leadership, by definition, means thinking of others, usually how to lead them. We often associate leadership with government, industry, military — organizations that have a clear hierarchy. But in any ranking of nations Papua New Guinea would be well below the United States and dozens of other nations. Yet, in one moment Papua New Guinea brought context to a stalemate situation, which led to agreement on a new direction.

Whistler, like the rest of the world, has a stake in climate change — not just in what sort of weather and how much snow we get but in how it affects others around the globe. Most people in this town, and in this corner of the world, recognize they are fortunate to be free to chase their dreams and take on challenges that, in other parts of the world, they probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to pursue. Those opportunities are seldom achieved in isolation, without help from others. Being in one of the richest countries in the world doesn’t hurt either.

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