Ian Sutton: Top-down/Bottom-up responses to our predicaments.Sutton-Ian-2020-07-10-cropped.jpg

Top-Down/Bottom-Up Responses

When faced with a crisis such as climate change, we can respond in one of two ways: ‘top-down’ or ‘bottom-up’. Both are needed, and most of us work in both areas. The top-down approach calls for working with governments (international, national and local), business corporations and large non-profits in order to change the system. The bottom-up approach involves individuals working either by themselves or as part of a small community to develop a lifestyle that is appropriate for the changing circumstances. Voltaire’s famous phrase, Il faut cultivar notre jardin — we must cultivate our garden — summarizes this approach. Both approaches are needed, and most people will work in the different zones at different times, often depending on their interests and talents.


The top-down approach is important because the decision made by high-level authorities affect everything. For example, there is little point in “cultivating one’s own garden” if the climate is changing so drastically as to require totally different gardening techniques. The bottom-up approach is needed because it demonstrates a real commitment to change, and it because it allows the people involved to develop practical responses to the changes that are taking place. Above all, the bottom-up approach demonstrates personal integrity. As Ghandi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”


The two site that we publish  represent these two approaches. Technology for a Changing Climate is mostly to do with the top-down approach, with a particular focus on the real-world practicality of many of the proposed solutions and responses to the dilemmas that we face. This site — Faith in Changing Climate — focuses on how individuals and small communities can respond.

The boundary between the two approaches and the two sites is fuzzy, and there is a good deal of overlap. Therefore, the two web sites “talk to one another” a lot, and share much information.

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