Categories
community management policy poverty religion social enterprise social work values

Social justice management framework

Bonnie Robinson is exploring the intersection of social justice and management.  She is drawing on a career in social services and putting it into practice in her role as Chief Executive of HBH Senior Living, focussing on meeting the needs of vulnerable older people.

Talking points:

Change comes about from change at systemic level

You can make a difference to individuals’ lives, and we should, but it shouldn’t be all you do

We need a funding system which allows for much greater flexibility and innovation.

We are actually here to help people have fullness of life and allow them to continue to grow, not just provide medical or disability care.

It’s about acting to achieve positive change.

It is not morally tenable to make a profit out of distress.

I’m no longer marching in the streets waving placards, but I’m trying to shift people’s thinking about an issue.

Social justice and sustainability are interwoven – a lack of justice is not sustainable

Challenge things that need to be challenged

 

 

 

Categories
policy science

Challenging deep assumptions

Hans Bruyninckx

Over the long term a pillars model is intellectual nonsense, you cannot have a little bit of sustainability on a finite planet.

Professor Hans Bruyninckx is Executive Director of the European Environment Agency. He says we need to move from a focus on efficiency, to one of transition.

Talking points

It is a time we need to challenge things.

We need to challenge ourselves through better analysis what is driving fundamental unsustainability – how we produce things, how we consume things – and at the same time how we overcome that, and how we organise a transition to a more fundamental sustainability on this planet.

I wanted to do research that had relevance and I strongly believe in the responsibility that comes with knowledge – the privileged position which you have as a researcher in society.

I feel incredibly privileged (to be leading EEA), this is a fantastic organisation.

We take a systemic view, we look at four systems in society we think will need to become fundamentally more sustainable: energy; food and agriculture; transport and mobility; and urban and built environment systems.

All of the elements are connected, pieces in the knowledge puzzle, and our value is in connecting the dots.

Sustainability for me is living well within the limits of the planet.

That means taking those limits very seriously as a boundary condition, it’s not “living well and also thinking about the environment”, it’s living well with the limits of the planet, it’s a very different thing.

We need to move away from this idea that that we somehow have to pay attention in the socio-economic also to the environment and when we do we call it sustainability. In the long run, on a finite planet with limited resources with more people rightly demanding a decent lifestyle.

Sustainability is not about adding a little bit of environment to social and economic development – it’s about fundamentally organising our society while embracing the boundary conditions, and these are about environment and climate and natural resources, that’s the real meaning for me about sustainability.

We need a higher integrated approach (than a pillars approach), the issue is not adding a green pillar to the economy and then a bottle of champagne when the green economy grows 50% (from 6% to 8%) – the real success is greening the economy, which is a very different way of dealing with natural resources. (Sustainability is)… going from a linear model where you dig stiff up, you produce something that you use a limited number of times, then you throw it away. We need a circular economy, it’s about decarbonisation of our core systems, rethinking our energy systems, it’s about fundamentally understanding our ecosystems and the value of natural capital.

The so-called conflict between agriculture and nature – which you see in many countries – I don’t think the fundamental question is how we can solve the conflict between nature and people and farmers, I think the fundamental question is how we have come to a system of food production and consumption that is a key stress factor on the environment, when the basis should be the environment. That points to a much more integrated view of long term sustainability.

Over the long term a pillars model is intellectual nonsense, you cannot have a little bit of sustainability on a finite planet.

We will have to make our core systems of production and consumption essentially sustainable.

We have decoupled our economic production to a large extent from forms of pollution, but in essence, we need to move to a deeper, more systemic long term thinking.

Moving from the Venn diagram to an egg model: where we organise our socio-technical system with the environment, not just taking environment into account – that’s a pretty fundamental paradigm shift.

We need to understand the dynamics of locking in the characteristics of our current unsustainability, and then we need to understand how we can nurture more niche innovation and give that the space to become more mainstream and to upscale. We have to accept failure (in those innovations). The change we need is so fundamental it will require experimentation and it will require thinking and acting out of the box – and we can’t expect everything we invest in to work.

Encouraging niche creativity and innovation, and at the same time understanding what locks us into unsustainability is key.

(can we get transition incrementally?) The jury is out there. Yes, in some way we can go in incremental steps – if you think of urban mobility… Copenhagen’s mobility has been incremental but challenging deep assumptions – it is now operating at the speed of the bicycles – that’s quite a paradigm shift.

I think it will be a mix of more abrupt change and incremental change. We need to understand where the tipping points are – when can we say we are really entering a new paradigm. Last year was the first year that we added mode renewable energy capacity than traditional capacity – is that a tipping point?

It’s easy to shout from the sidelines that we need a revolution, but when you’re trying to push from within the system you realise that you shouldn’t under estimate the forces that are embedded within the current system.

I believe in the capacity of the system to point in the direction. The 7th Environment Action Programme is a very progressive and rather fundamental document. It was formulated after the Global Financial Crisis and people said “it’s all going to be about the economy and jobs now”, but this proves them wrong.

I believe in the adaptive capacity and forward thinking of institutions, but of course you need pressure from society, academic and other knowledge work to point in the right direction, critical forces outside and inside the system.

What we do (EEA) should be aligned to the policy agenda, how we do it comes from our independence – we are a critical voice.

We (EEA) don’t consider communication as a tail-end add-on to what we do, it is an integral part of the approach we have to policy making.

If we understand that the challenges of changing our system are rather complex and there are degrees of uncertainty in that, then we should find a language, find images to communicate that – because it would be almost intellectually dishonest to present them as single cause issues, or simple issues. We see that on social media “if only we would do this simple thing we could solve it” but it probably would not – most issues in society are rather complex, if it only took a five minute decision in one direction, then we probably would have done it. We have a duty to explain complexity, but we do it in terms that speak to those who have to make the decisions, and that’s not easy.

We need to move from an efficiency to a transition paradigm.

The air we breathe, that enters my body is the result of polices that have been implemented or not, so in a way that is political, what I eat is political, my body is political.

The structured agency debate – we all have responsibility, but we do it within systems that surround us.

(EEA’s) communication framework, five narratives, storylines that frame things. One of our core storylines is that environmental issues are not at the outskirts of the debate – this is about production and consumption, hence who we are as a modern society. So it’s at the centre of the debate, the centre of distribution and hence the centre of societal issues.

For a lot of people, environment is sort of on the outside: “if we solve the social and economic issues, then we’ll have time to talk about the environment, you’re not in the room”. Well, yes, we are in the room.

Living well within the planet’s limits is a necessity, not a luxury.

We (EEA) are not doomsday thinkers or communicators. Yes, we have serious information, and yes we need to face reality – whether it is implementation gaps or trend lines that are not positive…but I think we have found a language to say “the problems are serious, but we see a lot of pathways, or at least potential pathways to move out of this and go into a better life that is future oriented”. That, I think has opened a lot of doors for our message.

Areas of the world clearly need qualitative growth, but that doesn’t mean we need to organise those urban infrastructures around individual car use, that doesn’t mean we need to organise food systems based upon unsustainable consumption of meat and sugar – but the need for qualitative growth we cannot ignore, it would be unethical.

We need to reflect on what growth means in a global perspective and also draw the consequences of growth for those not in need of quantitative growth – the contrary, and need to reflect on the footprint of our current lifestyle.

(Success) The agency produced a State and Outlook of the Environment Report that made clear the need for transitions in a way that engages others to discuss and think of a positive future, and not in a way that closes the debate or marginalise the environment.

(Activist?) I consider myself very much convinced of the responsibility that comes with knowledge and the specific knowledge in my role, so yes. I think I have the responsibility to use the agency (small a) I have as an actor, so in that sense I could be considered an activist.

As an academic I was active in environmental organisations. I don’t see a conflict, I had a very clear line.

(Motivation) I love what I am doing – it’s science based, knowledge based policy work. I don’t just manage, it’s knowledge and value based in a highly relevant context, I find that fantastic that I’m allowed to do this.

(Challenge) Translate our fundamental analysis in a way that keeps the momentum going in Europe, going in the direction of transition.

(Miracle) The discourse that environmental and climate policies are against economic interests would disappear from our planet. (On a daily basis – other places learn from Copenhagen’s mobility pattern – what a difference).

(Advice) Pessimism has never really solved anything, we have to be realistic optimists – that motivates us too, to be active participants in change – in other words, if you want to change things, try to be the change you want to see.

Categories
law planning policy

Fragmented landscape: fragmented law

Pip Wallace

Just as we know our landscapes are fragmented, so too is our law. A double-up of our problems.

Dr Pip Wallace is convenor of the environmental planning programmes at Waikato University. We ask her why she has described environmental law as a fragmented landscape.

Talking points

Often there is not careful recognition of the environment’s rights.

A lot of the work I’ve done recently looks at how the law works to distribute harm and benefit to non-human aspects of the environment.

The law is focussed on the regulation of people and their actions in relation to how we use and allocate environmental resources

The definition of the environment at law is huge – it involves people and communities as well.

There are core frameworks, some of which have core principles – resource use and how far you can go, but in my mind they are a bit weak in terms of protecting the environment.

(How does law cope with the complexity of the environment?) Recent work that I’ve been doing suggests we’re not dealing with it very well in a range of areas. I’ve come to the conclusion that we have problems with the level of standard that we apply in terms of protecting the environment, we have real problems with being consistent across environments and across species. We also have considerable difficulty in implementing what we say we intend to do.

Just as we know our landscapes are fragmented, so too is our law. A double-up of our problems.

This is especially problematic for fauna moving across a fragmented landscape.

Law relies on scientific definitions, but has great difficulty with topics such as resilience that have a clear scientific definition but has been transposed into socio-cultural areas as well, the word becomes used in different ways. Same for ecological integrity…sustainable management.

Wildlife Protection Act, absolute protection from direct harm…but premise diluted by how the law is constructed and applied.

There’s a very muddy area related to incidental take – a poor intersection between the Resource Management Act and the premise of absolute protection in the Wildlife Act. The law suggests they should be protected, but the implementation is not good in New Zealand.

The Resource Management Act…sets out a framework in relation to all resources.

The Resource Management Act was ground breaking…it followed a philosophy of integration. Prior to that a lot of our law was in pieces. It came into being along with the understanding about the interconnection of our resources, and that you can’t direct deal with these things in isolation. The law was designed to reflect the interconnection of resources and nature – dealing with all aspects at once, together. This was clever – a good thing to do.

It was also governed by the purpose of sustainable management – which introduced the idea of environmental limits. Again, very progressive and good.

There are attempts to weaken the Act now, I find that frankly hard to understand. Why you would ever need to weaken the environmental protection provided by the RMA when in my view it is insufficient.

Around 5% of resource consents are notified, below 1% are declined.

Instead what we are seeing is intensifying and increasing loss of biodiversity, increasing numbers of threatened species and an increasingly degraded environment.

To strengthen the RMA, we should be more robust about enabling coexistence.

How we deal with avoidance of effects is not very brave.

Spatial effects such as corridors are not well managed by law.

Wildlife property of the crown, it is seriously struggling to manage its property.

Mobility in the past was a survival strategy has become a liability in the anthropocene. (Kakapo versus petrel).

Changes can be made.

Life can be hard – we should always try.

We are not applying precautionary principles with sufficient active intent.

I believe that if we plan and conserve the environment then we’ll have a better chance than we do currently.

I think it is the belief that we can have access to everything that is driving the problem. We need to look at our patterns of consumption and the way we use resources and consider what it is we wish to leave for our future generations. I’m sure we will be viewed as a very profligate generation, I’m sure that people will look back and heap shame upon us for our inability to control our consumptive choices. We are all responsible for that. We shouldn’t say “it’s a wicked problem, there’s nothing we can do about it”, I think we need to affect change sooner and be more thoughtful about the choices we do leave our children and grandchildren.

We are driving production because we are buying it.

Should future generations have access to pristine resources?

People who are environmental planning…genuinely interested and engaged in a sustainable ethic and wanting to make a difference. But room for a range of perspectives.

Planning an uncertainty and scientific uncertainty is one of the greatest challenges of any planning or policy

(Activist?) No.

(Motivation?) Deep love for this country and kids

(Challenges?) Persevere with improving systems to work better to do what they are supposed to do.

(Miracle?) Enough food and clean water for every creature. But if I could have one more miracle, on a more local scale, it would see taiko the black petrel, back breeding successfully on mainland New Zealand sites

(Advice?) It is incumbent upon us to be positive about our world.

Categories
business economics policy

Creating change

David Bent

A responsibility mindset – a focus on compliance – is not a strong narrative for change.

David Bent is Director of Sustainable Business at Forum for the Future. He is also a policy fellow at the Centre for Science and Policy at the University of Cambridge.

Talking points

15-20 years into my career it is the right moment to to ask the big questions, and the right question after working with business for 10+ years on becoming more sustainable, it seems the right time to ask “what’s the role of business?”.

Business as political actors

The more we found better ways of representing cost on how much effort it would take for a company to move from its current position to being sustainable, the less likely they were to use that information to do anything about it – for one thing, you were telling them off, and the other, you were making the opposite of a business case…we were framing it all wrong. We were starting with a responsibility mindset, the business has a negative impact on the world, what can we do to make that impact less. The switch now, is the world has an impact on the business, what can the business do to be successful in a world dominated by sustainability. That opens up a whole new terrain of things you can do, including looking at the opportunities, and framing things as strategic risks, that if you do nothing about then your entire industry is at risk.

A responsibility mindset – a focus on compliance – is not a strong narrative for change.

How can we create change by helping leading businesses go further, faster?

Our system innovation approach is deliberately aligning all of our work to create change at a system level

How can we help individual companies play their part in the transition to a sustainable global economy?

A move away from framing things in terms of responsibility- which rather traps you in ethics and duty and you have to hope that people share your value set – to a frame based on sustainability, how will you be successful in the long term?

How can we scale up what seems to be working? What can we do to scale up innovation so there is system level change? How do you scale up impact?

Our (Forum for the Future) founders had had a long time campaigning, and post-Rio 92 they could see that campaigning by throwing mud wasn’t enough, people where saying “yeah, I get it, it’s important, now what should we do?”, so Forum was founded on the basis of partnership and long term working

One of the primary things we provide is being a critical friend

Part of what the change agents in the companies are looking for, is someone who can bring the difficult truths to a conversation. That does lead to delicate balances: “what is the most this organisation at this time can handle, with a view to them being able to handle more in a years time?”.

With the best will in the world, even with the pioneering organisations we’re working with, they are to some extent dependent on the status quo, and we’re trying to change the status quo and create disruption in the interests of people who don’t yet exist in the form of future generations, and it’s very difficult for future generations to pay current wages.

Sustainability is not a collection of individual things, but it’s a relationship between all those different things.

We meed to maintain a transdisciplinary systems view…to see the connections, and to see the dynamics, and to play out and see what the unintended consequences might be requires seeing the connected whole.

What historical examples are there in our shift of energy sources that happened at a global scale and happened quickly? The one that gives me hope, bizarrely, are the shift from coal to oil…and the abolition of slavery, a move from a seemingly free resource with negative impacts occurring on people the political elites of the time didn’t care about – in that case people who were slaves, in our case people in the future. It took a generation, but it is possible to make those massive changes…the political elite can see a viable alternative. A third parallel is the transition to the welfare state.

(Michael Jacobs four conditions for creating the Welfare State) Massive crisis – opportunity for change…business elites could see a viable path…that someone has laid the intellectual groundwork…and a popular movement.

We had the crisis – the global financial crisis – and that disproved the intellectual foundations for the previous two decades – that if you leave companies alone they won’t be so stupid as to hard themselves…it turns out the bankers are that stupid. We had a popular movement, a spasm of anger – who got us into the mess and who is paying for the mess.

…but in London there weren’t enough people who feared that they would down-grade their current and their children’s prosperity…the interesting thing about austerity, is to what extent are people giving up hope that the future is better than today. At the moment, the way people are reacting to that in the UK and across Europe, is they are turning to nationalist parties.

The facts don’t back up (nationalist) story, but nevertheless the story speaks to people being very much afraid, feeling that globalisation is taking things away from them, and losing hope for the future and turning nationalistically- turning inwardly to deal with it rather than turning outwardly.

Part of the story has to be making ourselves more resilient by distributing the risk and ability to respond across many different nodes, and acknowledging interdependence – what happens way over there affects us here. It is in our enlightened self interest to make sure that things don’t get really bad in Africa. I want the people in the tropics to have the capability to choose how to live their own lives rather than being subjected to have to respond to e vents far beyond their control.

We know a lot about the boundary conditions we have to live within…then there’s the social and political foundations – give people the capability to make choices in their own lives…that’s moderately well known: a degree of equity; interdependence; you need access to energy, health care water, sanitation … those end goals and the boundaries are like the table on which you can put your coffee cup of sustainable economy – that’s well known. What we don’t have a good grasp on, is how we make the transition from here to there. There’s a couple of things that make that really difficult. One is that it has to be economically viable at each step of the way – the current ways of making profit have to finance the things that drive us in a different direction, we have to allocate capital away from stuff that is familiar and currently turning out profit…and put that investment into things that are a bridge into the new future. The other problem is that every step along the way has to be politically viable…without knowing how that is going to happen we’re adding decimal points on the end of a universal constant, it doesn’t make any difference.

Businesses need to make a reason for change….seeing that the long term success of their businesses, their shareholders is in creating a more sustainable world.

The buy-in of a certain group of the business elite is there, we now need more unusual ambassadors.

Humans have evolved brilliantly to respond to things that are urgent that we can see and touch and feel – if you’re a monkey in a tree that’s absolutely what you have to be good at – and what we have in the crisis – the slow, grinding, unfolding crisis that we have – are things that our actions today affect the world in 25 plus years, climate change experience of the next 15-20 years was set in train by accumulative behaviour up until about 1990.

Our evolutionary heritage, and our political systems are really badly set up to deal with climate change – in many ways that’s why there is a crisis, it’s in the gaps of how we deal with things. If we could deal with it, we would have dealt with it, but we can’t deal with it and that’s why it’s ongoing.

Rational argument hasn’t carried the day, so in some ways we need something that will loosen people’s ties to the status quo. We missed the opportunity of the financial crisis…we didn’t have a strong enough intellectual alternative, equivalent to Keynes, then may be we could have replaced laissez-faire markets with something else.

A resilience narrative gives agency, it gives them stuff to do in their locale, it gives a way of thinking more into the future. But the thing I don’t like about it – its shadow side – it accepts that some sort of crisis is inevitable, that we can’t really avoid some sort of downside in order to create action, and there’s still an eternal optimist side of me that says, with enough workshops and podcasts we’ll be able to act before we’re in that situation, but that was probably five – ten years ago.

So there’s something appealing as well as appalling in the resilience narrative that could bind people together to act.

(Motivation?). Social justice and creating change for social justice.

I am annoyed when there’s persistent injustice, in particular where’s nothing the people at the end of that can do anything about it. We’re at a complicated moment in history – fairness always means different things: fairness of outcome, fairness of process, fairness of opportunity. There’s a mixture for me of fairness of outcome and fairness of opportunity, and we have to acknowledge that at the moment we’re not set up for that – and for me this makes what are seen as environmental issues are really social issues. If we take climate change – it’s been caused by the emissions of rich countries, it’s going to affect poor countries, and affect choices and take away the ability to have to have the life that people want to lead in the tropics in the first instance, and that’s not even remotely their fault, and that’s the social justice question. The environment is the means, but the real motivation for me is the social justice question. And what gets me out of bed in the morning is creating change to avoid those injustices.

(Activist?) No. For me an activist is someone who’s primary way of trying to create change is protesting outside the castle walls. For me, we need the activists at the gate, banging and causing elites to understand that there’s need for change, my role is the advisor inside the court that helps the barons do something about it. You need both parts of that movement, you need the activists and you need the ones helping those with resources and power do something about it. And that help might include getting out of the way. Inside the gates and therefore not activist.

(Challenge) How can we take advantage of the windows of opportunity that come along? To avoid the worst and get the best.

(Miracle) Smallest thing that might make the biggest difference. Extend the time horizon of decision makers – to 10-15 years planning horizon, you would have enlightened self-interest – thinking about not just your entity, but all the things your entity relies on and all the things it impacts on. Once you have that time horizon then you start thinking about who else shares those goals to create a good context for my entity.

(Advice) There is always something you can do wherever you are. It is easy to think these challenges are so enormous that there’s nothing you can in any situation it’s about what “they over there should be doing. Well they should but there’s also things that everyone can be doing

If everyone does lots of little things, they do add up.

Categories
policy urban

Sustainability at scale

Thomas Bergendorff

The first step is getting the people in the room, and then you have to get something done

Thomas Bergendorff is coordinator at Stockholm Royal Seaport Innovation. Thomas is goal is finding innovative sustainable solutions on a large scale. He does this by bringing together companies, academics and the City of Stockholm, working across sectoral boundaries to work towards delivering upon ambitious environmental and sustainability targets for a large scale sustainable urban development.

Talking points

The first step is getting the people in the room, and then you have to get something done

We have to change the world

We have to do something, we can’t just point finger and hope that someone else will fix it for us

I have got the best job in the world.

We have to keep working, knowing a miracle isn’t going to happen, we have to keep working at it bit by bit.

Transformation depends on what timescale you are looking at, incremental change looked at over a longer time scale – we can look back and realise that was a transformation.

Short term thinking is part of the problem, that’s what got us here. Thinking like little kids.

We need a transformational change, that’s a lot of incremental changes to get us there. But it’s not all linear, those incremental changes are getting us to the window of opportunity – an institutional, political, financial, right-people-at-the-right-time window. You do incremental change until you get to the window of opportunity, and then you go with a big, real transformation.

(Activist) Not really, a facilitator that enables other people to be activists, much as I would like to be an activist, because it’s much more romantic to be an activist. I’m doing the necessary work so that other people will be the activists.

I’m a generalist with a wide ranging programme. But how do I prioritse, am I doing the right thing today?

How do we do as much as possible? What are the optimal processes and tools?

My goal has to be to get as many things off the ground as possible. We need tools and processes to do that.

Don’t worry too much, just follow your heart and work hard.

Categories
climate change policy

Climate change diplomacy

adrianMacey_formal-01

 We have a target gazetted to reduce emissions by half by 2050, and if you look at projections, they’re way up, double by 2050.  How do you join those things up?  There’s currently no government statements around that.  The target was put in place in 2011 but since then it’s hard to find any mention in official government statements, or any action by government departments.

A New Zealand diplomat with postings including Bankok, TokelauParis and Geneva, Dr Adrian Macey was New Zealand’s first climate change ambassador Dr Adrian Macey.  He describes his proudest achievement as chairing the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol negotiations during the critical year where it was established that there would be a second commitment period.   Dr Macey is currently with Victoria University’s Institute for Governance.

Talking points:

As a diplomat you follow the will of the government of the day but you always avoid closing options

You can see climate change as a moral issue – responsibility for future generations – you can also see it as an opportunity – if your city is using lower carbon, lower energy, that’s more money staying in the local pool.

Consumers have some ability to affect things, but it’s very hard in the absence of long-term central government policy

When you put together all the pledges that everyone has made, it doesn’t add up to what we need to do to keep warming down to 2 degrees.

Developing countries need money on the table to support their efforts on mitigation and adaptation.  The developed countries need to take historic responsibility.

The language used is important, “grave concern” was useful to change minds.

Three factors helpful in current rounds: greater certainty, plain language, mainstream estimates.  Still worrying, doesn’t mean complacency, but looks more manageable from a policy sense.

Perverse tendency, you can’t use the fear for too long.  There’re two levers civil society has tried to use, one is fear of terrible consequences and the other is guilt or shame – you should be doing more, it’s your duty to future generations or other countries – neither of those levers can be effective indefinitely.   We’re coming back to rethinking by civil society, using another register.  One example is Greenpeace’s report on the future of energy,  looking at the future of renewable energy – that’s appealing to a different part of government.  Governments have an interest in having sensible policies, and if something looks rational and achievable – and not constant hammering about guilt and shame – then maybe that’s going to prove a more effective way through.

We need massive changes in the energy system it’s not something the citizen as an individual has much control over…individual choices of consumers – buying something with a slightly lower footprint –  are not quantitatively all that important, though they are from a moral perspective, but the big shift we’ve got to do is get off fossil fuels.

The transport sector is the one we’ve got to deal with.  The difficulty is that our country is long, narrow and not very highly populated – but that’s the obvious area for gains.

Businesses that have a stake in our “clean green reputation” – those people are in a position to try to influence government.  If they think that where we’re heading is a bit out of kilter with that image we have of ourselves as we start to lag behind.

There’s no easy glib response, that if a few 10,000 of you do x, then you’re going to make a massive effect, we have to get at the energy systems.

Rich countries need to accept historical responsibility,

 

 

 

Categories
climate change communication policy politics

Shifting the paradigm

Nathan Argent

Nathan Argent is the Chief Policy Advisor for Greenpeace New Zealand. He says we need to challenge the current narrative, that fossil fuels are the future: “New Zealand can get back it’s Mojo, putting us back on the world stage for being the innovators of a smarter greener society, that’s the challenge for us”.

Talking points:

(Am I an activist) An activist largely depends on peoples’ definition an perception of what an activist does. The young me was definitely an activist, I’ve been with Greenpeace now for nearly 12 years. Am I active in trying to change the way we do business, the way we power our homes – that we do in in a much smarter cleaner way, that we reduce pollution? then yes, I’m an activist in that sense, But I think as I’m becoming older and my experience and knowledge has grown, I’m probably more of a pragmatist..pragmatic but in a disruptive sense.

I’m probably more of a pragmatist..pragmatic but in a disruptive sense. Thinking about the landscape, thinking what are the pragmatic ways that we can reach our goals, but ensuring that those goals are always pushing the boundaries of change. Trying to disrupt the ways we do things, trying to shift the paradigm.

One side to Greenpeace, we need to be out there agitating, and we are reliant on the vast number of people who come to us to volunteer to be part of the grassroots activist movement, but we are also an organisation that has to through necessity sit at the boardroom table and engage with business, and push business in the right direction – and sometimes hold their hand if need be.

Sometimes once we’ve put someone on the front pages if need be – if they’ve done something wrong, my job is to go in there to work them to get it right – to embed more sustainable ways of doing business.

We are an activist organisation, but there’s also a degree of pragmatism as well.

The lions share, 90% of our work is solutions focussed – thinking about he science, working with experts, academia to think about the best and quickest way that we can deliver those solutions to our environmental challenges, the greatest of all being climate change. A lot of our solution side work never gets any pick up. The media perception of us and that’s largely the lens through which people see us is all about us breaking the law or climbing onto ships to stop them coming into port, so we need to think about how we tell our story better, but sometimes the substance of that solutions is seen as not really newsworthy when I would like to see that it should be.

People on the phone think “oh no, Greenpeace is on the phone what have I done wrong”, when that’s not the case at all, I see them as an important stakeholder in the problem and want to work with them to try and find that solution.

Our role is to keep pushing the envelope. There is a real sense of urgency about the work we need to do. Not just as an organisation, but there’s a sense of urgency that we’re not doing enough as a society to deal with the problems we have. And that’s when we go back to being the activist organisation, we need to keep pushing the envelope, we need to keep spiking interest in those issues, so that we create the space for that conversations to be had and for those solutions to be found.

At the moment we (NZ) has got a government tat is very pre-occupied in investing all its political capital in resource extraction, typically oil and gas, and that’s largely overlooking that fact that New Zealand as a country has become very good at through several generations at generating clean green energy. We are also very good at pioneering innovation…(yet we’re investing in inviting oil and gas companies to come here).

Given that there’s a growing sense of urgency globally about climate change, and countries and businesses around the world are investing the types of technology that New Zealand is very good at…we would rather see the NZ government put its emphasis on supporting our own engineers and innovators now before it becomes too late.

We don’t endorse any party…we will work with anybody who is prepared to have a conversation about delivering those progressive policies that we need to embed. But, by the same token, as a lobby group we are politically active, and we will criticise a government for not doing the right thing.

The current government in NZ has been woeful on its efforts to tackle climate change, their rolling back of environmental safeguards across the board, our emissions profile is going up instead of down, and we’re not growing our clean energy potential in the way that we should be, so we will be critical of that.

We need to fundamentally challenge the paradigm, we can’t continue to grow and grow and grow infinitely and and just tweak it to a cleaner smarter way. Perhaps growth is too often used to talk about the economy. As part of a transition – this is the practical side of Greenpeace – the radical side of us would say we need to fundamentally address growth, and really think about how we sustain ourselves and embed the environment and understand that the environment is core to everything that we do and we are dependent on our environment. But I think that as part of the transition we need to position ourselves in the debate.

Climate change is the greatest challenge we face, if you look an environmental, or developmental challenges – even if you can separate the two and I don’t think you can – climate change will lead to displaced populations, lack of water resources, more extreme weather events – the impacts are very broad, very widespread and will have severe consequences for many regions or the world.

The way we see it is, all roads lead to dealing with this overwhelming challenge that is climate change.

Climate change is the symptom of everything we do.

The scientific community needs to become better at communicating what they do.

There should no longer be any oxygen for the climate denial debate.

Conversation is dictated by me trying to reason with them about the scientific certainty about climate change, when I’d much rather be talking about what we could all do to deal with the problem. Accept that there is a problem we need to get on and do something collectively, and dealing with the problem doesn’t need to be that painful.

In the longer term it makes sense to do things in a cleaner, smarter cheaper way. If we get locked into a high carbon economy, that’s going to cots you and I a lot of money – there’s going to be a lot of stranded assets. So why not start now.

It’s about putting in place those safe-guards so our kids have got a future to look forward to- that we don’t have oil washing up on our beaches, that we’re no longer inhaling pollutants in the cities we live in, it all makes sense, why would we disagree with it when the outcomes are better for everybody, and most importantly the planet.

Is it the neo-liberal ideology that the markets will come up with a solution? Markets are the problem. Climate change is an absolute market failure. And the market hasn’t come up with a solution.

Plans to feed the world from NZ with dairy product… completely fails to recognise the limits of our country. We can’t multiply our dairy industry by a factor of two or three to meet these needs. It would ruin New Zealand.

Until there’s a price on activity, and you can continue to externalise costs so that the rest of the taxpayers have to pay because we suffer because we can’t swim in the rivers of the taxpayer has to pay for clean-up programmes, until you start making the farmers pay for the resource use, then there’s no incentive for them to do things in a cleaner way.

(On carbon pricing increasing the cost to families) It’s a politically paralysing story to tell when it’s an incomplete story. There’s always a lack of political will to do something if it’s going to hit the taxpayer in the pocket and this is often a reason for not doing stuff. The cost needs to be kept with the producer, but the whole premise of increasing cost is to make them change their behaviour, but the system seems to be incomplete.

Our actions are often bourne of frustration – it’s the final tool we’ve got in our toolbox when dialogue has broken down.

We do have to put things in the public eye. Sometimes the most effective thing in moving a company is consumer pressure. Unless consumers know that there’s a problem with the products, and that through their buying power they can change the company’s policy, so sometimes that’s the most effective thing.

Companies are acutely sensitive to their brand. We use that a lot and we’re not shy about saying so. Sometimes putting a company on the front page of a paper is the most effective way you can get them to move – and move really quickly.

This can transform an industry, as a major player doing the right thing, and telling their customers they’re doing the right thing they get an advantage, and that can be the gravity or the catalyst for others to be doing the right thing so it has a positive knock-on effect.

(On criticism of anti-oil protesters driving cars) It is demotivating , because people think “Well, yeah, actually I did drive my car here. Does that make me a hypocrite?”, well no I don’t think it does. We all pay taxes, do we not have a right to say where our taxes should be spent, whether it’s on education or arms. The system is not working, it’s failing, pollution is an absolute failure of the current system we live in, does that mean we’re not allowed to ask questions and challenge that and ask that it be done in a better smarter way. Ideally we’d all drive electric cars to those protests, but currently we can’t because the system doesn’t allow that. But surely we’re entitled as individuals to ask that we do change the system. Then we won’t need to drive to protests, or banners on the beach, because there won’t be a need to do so.

Other Sustainable Lens conversations mentioned in this podcast:

Mike Sammons
Naomi Oreskes
Rob Burton.

Categories
design policy

Science meet policy. Policy meet science.

Life at the intersection of science and policy.

During her career in management and governance, Dr Maggie Lawton has help lead New Zealand’s organisations down the road of a sustainable future. She describes her work as “Strategic Sustainable Design”. Not considering herself an activist but as a change agent, Maggie sees her role as “staying inside the room” – helping guide policy and decisions. Amongst other roles, Maggie now leads Otago Polytechnics Centre for Research Expertise in Sustainable Practice.

Shane’s number of the week: 9. Nine of the ten hottest years on record have been since 2001. 2012 is on track to being the ninth hottest year on record.

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: This week a new report into consumer attitudes was released. The Regeneration Consumer Study is an in-depth online survey of consumer attitudes, motivations and behaviours relating to sustainable consumption among 6,224 respondents across six major international markets.