Categories
democracy government green party law Middle East peace politics

Civility to fight injustice

Golriz Ghahraman is an international human rights lawyer who is also a former refugee from Iran.   She has worked to restore communities after war and human rights atrocities, particularly in empowering women engaged in peace and justice initiatives.   She is standing for NZ parliament on the Green Party list.

Update:  this was recorded on 28th July 2017, broadcast 3rd August 2017.

Golriz:

“I prosecuted for the UN, but I also defended”.

Defence comments at 10mins, 20mins & 25:05

Talking points

Standing up to might – don’t take no for an answer.

Bringing down the bad guys.

Each (horrific) situation begins with dehumanising a group

Changing back to language of inclusion.

Sustainable: Environmental and social justice measures are intrinsically linked so we need to sustain humans at the same time that we sustain the environment.

Superpower: Making an argument and being persuasive.

Activist: Yes, activism is the rent that we pay for being on this planet.

Motivation: Justice, I’m the type of person who gets deeply annoyed by injustice, getting involved and fighting for the justice system.

Challenges: Getting into parliament is a pretty massive challenge for me.

Miracle: On a global scale for me it would be about democracy, about giving that dignity to all global citizens. The only way we can be sustainable is through self determination.

Advice: Please vote, not everyone can.

Categories
democracy dunedin ecology local government

Environmental strategy

Jinty MacTavish

We need infrastructure and systems to support positive environmental outcomes.

Chair of the Dunedin City Council’s Community and Environment Committee, Councillor Jinty MacTavish on the draft environment strategy Te Ao Tūroa – The Natural World.
Good friend of the show, Councillor Jinty MacTavish is back to talk us though Dunedin’s draft environment strategy Te Ao Tūroa – The Natural World.

The draft strategy has three themes:

  • Theme 1: Treasuring the environment / Kaitiakitaka
  • Theme 2: Healthy natural environment / He ao tūroa, he ao hauora
  • Theme 3: Environment for the future / Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri, ā muri ake nei
  • Consultation on the strategy is open until the end of August.

    Talking points

    Not having had an environment strategy has been a fraught thing for five years because it means that environmental concerns or issue have, I think, been inadequately considered as part of report development and subsequent Council decision.

    This is a starting point for conversations rather than a final document.

    Staff went back through the last 5 years of submissions, 11,000 submissions and pulled out the key themes people we telling us about the environment.

    (Mayor Dave Cull’s introduction – all part of the Dunedin Ecosystem) Yes, I don’t think we’re entirely there yet, that concept of humans as part of ecosystem isn’t quite reflected right the way through the document, but he intent is there.

    .

    Ecotourism is an activity that leverages environmental strength

    (11% of City protected, cf 33% nationally) Proportionately, we could be protecting more of our land. In terms of a gradation from natural environments to human dominated space, we’ve got a bit of work to do in thinking about projecting land for its natural value alone.

    When we started this strategy, we quickly realised that if we were just doing for Council’s influence in terms of land it owns, it would be pretty limited when we’re talking about the environment.

    I fought hard to get in here human connection with environment… there is challenge for us in helping people understand their role in the ecosystem when they are only seeing a very small part of it.

    The presence of the Otago Regional Council as an environmental regulator doesn’t mean that we ought not have people dedicated to getting outcomes on the ground in terms of this strategy. we’re hoping for feedback from the community on the types of roles that will be needed. The Economic Development Unit, for example, is populated with people who are charged with delivering on specific projects under the Economic Development Strategy.

    Working with different stakeholders, range of mechanisms and incentives…

    Whenever you are writing an environment strategy, it is tempting to think of the environment as something that it “out there, that we can put a fence around and as long as we’re protecting it from possums and not developing it then it’s fine”, but we all know that that’s not going to work, that we are part of this ecosystem and that we need to be adapting and changing the ways that we are operating if we are to ensure that our environment in the broadest sense has a future.

    Clearly our systems are not sustainable. We are too carbon intensive, we are destructive in that how we create our systems at present. We need to be starting to think about how we design our infrastructure and systems that support positive environmental outcomes rather than being just less bad.

    Unless we as a population really understand what it is to be part of an ecosystem, and understand and treasure and feel connected to the ecosystem of which we are a part, we’re simply not going to care about protecting it. You need that motivator, you need that connection, you need that physical connection.

    We should be designing infrastructure that enhances connection, not cutting off connection.

    I would love to hear from people what parts of the environment they don’t feel connected to, and what would facilitate that connection.

    The theme is about community connection, it’s not just about me caring.

    I think there is a growing sense of the collective

    We need infrastructure and systems to support positive environmental outcomes.

    We need to move beyond the minimalist mentality, the mentality that says we can only ever do less bad. Then we can start to think about setting some aspirational targets in terms of giving back to our environment.

    You can clearly have appropriate development, and you can have inappropriate development – and what this document is saying is that we want to set some pretty high standards for the type of development into the future to ensure that environmental concerns and aspirations are wrapped up in that development and taken into account at the front end. So that we don’t see the sort of development that erodes the life supporting capacity of our systems.

    We have to as aspirational with this document as we have been with all of the others.

    We have to be aspirational with our environmental goals, because when we get to conversations about trade-offs or synergy points, the environment strategy needs to be putting just as strong a stake in the ground as any of the other strategies.

    (Is it possible to tell the percentage of Council spend that will come under this strategy?) No, everything the Council does will be influenced by this strategy.

    Categories
    community democracy development

    Empowering communities

    SteveClare_N-01

    If you believe you can make a difference then you can make a difference.

    Steve Clare is Deputy Chief Executive of Locality. Locality is the UK’s leading network of development trusts, community enterprises, settlements and social action centres. Steve describes how community asset ownership is a route to sustainability.

    Talking points

    Community organisations making a difference

    Board drawn exclusively from an area of social housing runs successfully with a turn-over of £8-10M, assets of £30-40M.

    Really entrepreneurial and yet they are community owned, community run, open to everybody within the community. It’s about having more say, more control about what happens, in their community.

    Enterprise and community asset ownership is a route to transforming communities, and a route to sustainability.

    We would argue that transferring assets to community ownership is a better long term bet in terms of the future prosperity of the community – rather than just selling them off for a quick buck.

    The world is moving to a sharing economy.

    The very local and the global are more than ever, two sides of the same coin.

    The next door community doesn’t have to be physically next door.

    We’re seeing a fundamental change in the economic paradigm

    …based on a model of an ever growing economy, an ever expanding tax income, and an ever increasing spend on public services…that’s changed, the economic crisis has led Europe to austerity policies…some people think ‘oh well, eventually it will get back, get better, the economy will grow and we’ll get back to the way it was’, I think that’s a mistake – it’s never going back to the way it was.

    The post-war model of ever increasing economy, ever increasing tax income, ever increasing spend on public services – it’s broken, much as we might regret it, it’s broken. That has led to fundamental questions being asked about the relationship between state and citizen, state and communities, and who does what, and who is responsible for what.

    People taking control of their lives.

    Local people understand local problems, local challenges and local opportunities better than some faceless bureaucrat no matter how well meaning they may be.

    Dis-economies of scale

    People aren’t widgets.

    Local solutions are best driven, best decided upon at a local level.

    A cross in a box every five years in an election is not democracy. Local ownership, local control starts to ask questions about whether there are other things we should be making decisions about locally.

    The options and opportunities that digital technology brings, I think there is scope for a different sort of politics.

    We have a 21st Century society, we have a 21st Century population, we have a 21st Century economy, but we still have a 19th Century political system which is no longer fit for purpose.

    People will mobilise in response to closing a hospital or library, the challenge is to then get people to start asking deeper questions.

    Libraries are being decimated by public spending cuts…that’s caused a lot of controversy. Some people have responded ‘we”l take over the library and run it as a volunteer service’, well meaning but personally I would query how sustainable that is. The other approach…is saying many libraries as they are at the moment, are 19th Century institutions that are no longer fit for purpose. What we need to do is reinvent the library as a 21st Century – it isn’t about a place where you store large lumps of paper ie books, it isn’t a place where you deal with ebooks either that’s a dead end… what you can make a library into is a real community hub, a store of local knowledge, a place of empowerment, a place where people can learn, share, swap ideas and skills, linking to technology, linking to the maker-hacker movement for example. The 21st Century library for me can, and should be a vibrant essential part of any community.

    If nothing else changes, changing ownership is not going to work.

    A service or building that isn’t working, is still not going to work if all you change is who owns it.

    Getting local people involved

    Government policy tends to be focussed on deprivation – what’s wrong with a community – a deficit gap model. I think we need to turn that around to asset based community development (ABCD). The starting point has got to be what are the assets within the community – the people, the skills, the networks.

    In my experience, every community, no matter how challenged or deprived, always has a huge rich seam of potential and creativity. If you keep telling people that they’re a waste of space, if you keep telling people that they have nothing to offer, if you keep telling people that they’re a failure it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Once people start recognising that they can do something about their lives, that they do have choices, that you always have choices, sometimes the transformation is remarkable, you can almost see someone growing like a flower bursting into bloom. I think the same thing applies to communities.

    If people think don’t think can do something then they won’t try. If people think they can do something then they will.

    Many of our members are extraordinary people, but they were ordinary people until they became extraordinary by doing something, by taking action. By refusing to accept no as an answer.

    It’s about working together, genuine partnerships…I don’t think any one sector has the answer. But what I do think is that the paternalistic, top down, system drive, scale approach that the public sector has is no longer fit for purpose.

    Creating situations where people can do things for themselves, then stepping back and letting people get on with it.

    People don’t want to live in a place that’s the same as everywhere else.

    (Motivation) I hate with a vengeance oppression, inequality, seeing human lives wasted. I love with a passion seeing what people can become, the changes that they can make to their own lives, their children’s lives, to their communities.

    The perception that people are fundamentally selfish is completely wrong. Anyone who understands history understands the role of the commons, of sharing, the fact that as a species we’ve moved forward through cooperation.

    The idea that we act as rational economic beings is demonstrably nonsense, that we’re driven by indviduals needs is demonstrably nonsense, that you get jobs growth through increased productivity is demonstrably nonsense, – much of the current science of economics belongs in Harry Potter.

    The established political system is the problem not the solution.

    (Activist?) Yes. My work is my life. I don’t go on demos as much nowadays, but I hope I work in different ways.

    I’m much more cynical nowadays days about gesture politics. If you’re going to do something, as far as I’m concerned, you damn well do it properly, you do not give up. I’m less keen about people who say “we want this, we’ll go out and fight for this, oh, it’s hard, we’ll give up”.

    The collaborative economy is a game changer.

    I saw a great quote the other day: “Social entrepreneurship used to be an oxymoron, now it’s a tautology”.

    (Advice) I like Ford’s quote: “If you believe you can, or you believe you can, you’re probably right”, I think that’s such a powerful thing

    If you believe you can make a difference then you can make a difference.

    Opening people’s eyes to the possible, to the wonderful things happening out there by people just like them.

    Categories
    computing democracy development

    Democracy = sustainability?

    Somya Joshi

    There is a sense of double standards, sustainability should be a global concept, it shouldn’t be hypocritical in the sense that you have one set of standards that apply to the developed world and another to the developing.

    Dr. Somya Joshi is with the eGovernance Lab within the Department of Computer Science at the University of Stockholm. She specialises in technological innovation, particularly in how it translates into transparency in governance, education, & environmental conservation within the developing world. She has worked extensively in the field where policy making and citizen participation intersect. She is currently working on analyzing the impact of new social media tools that enable citizens to participate in democratic processes, both in Africa in Europe.

    Some terms you might not be familiar with: HCI Human Computer Interaction, ICT4D Information and Communication Technology for Developement, ICT4S ICT for Sustainability.

    We ask if does openness = democracy? and does democracy = sustainable? and what is the role of information technology in this?

    Talking points

    Quite early on I was fascinated by how our own relationships with our world are changing, and changing because of technology mediation.

    Is sustainability part of the philosophy of people (in India)? I would argue that it used to be, up to a time when everything got scaled up. Now with enormous populations, Sustainability always takes a back seat. The rhetoric of development is all about economic progress, and environmental sustainability is just such a low priority

    A fear of being left behind. Having a lifestyle your parents or grandparents couldn’t. Why should we make a sacrifice when people in the West haven’t? It feels patronising getting told about sustainability from a European or North American who haven’t followed what they are preaching now.

    It’s a short term perspective versus a long term, in the short term sustainability doesn’t feature anywhere because its all about how quickly you can enjoy a lifestyle which others are. But in the long term perspective, countries like India are actually hurting themselves…they are depleting their own resources at rate that is unprecedented.

    But on an individual, family level, why shouldn’t we have car when that is not even questioned in the US?

    The economy is based on certain resources that are taken for granted now, but your children will not have time to enjoy them.

    When I think of Sustainability and education in a place like India, it’s not just about environmental sustainability, it’s also social sustainability, where certain very basic things need to be taught about equality.

    We often see technology as a one stop solution. We get technology physically to children but there is often no real though about what happens next – about behavioural change.

    The lack of political will to change the power dynamic – you’ll find in Europe as much as in Africa. The difference is Europe has a longer tradition politicians needing to make decisions transparent – up to a point of course.

    Greater transparency does not always equal greater accountability.

    To be on equal footing with politicians and hold them accountable, citizens need the capability to participate in the dialogue. To come into the space as an equal…

    Participation can become quite tokenistic, ticking a box ‘we consulted people’. You have to have a plan…bring everybody to as much the same capability as you can…

    The first stage is building capability, so that people can participate in a meaningful way

    Technology should be able to give meaningful choices to people, not restrict choices

    In the developing world there is a feeling that sustainability is an elitist concept, that people who can afford to talk about sustainability are the ones with their bellies full.

    There is a sense of double standards, sustainability should be a global concept, it shouldn’t be hypocritical in the sense that you have one set of standards that apply to the developed world and another to the developing.

    A focus on human behavioural change will have the most impact in bring about any long term meaningful change

    We’ve seen innovative ways of using technical solutions – they are great and a must – but we shouldn’t limit ourselves to thoats say “right, our consumption is going to carry on the way it is” and we won’t ever put ourselves out of comfort zone, we’ll just find a technical solution to fix it.

    Sustainability should be about getting out of your comfort zone, chnaging your own patterns and behaviour to put less pressure on the planet. (which is hard if you’re not in the comfort zone). Exactly, and the first world has been in that comfort zone a long time, and they’re in no mood to let go of that.

    The best initiatives leapfrog barriers.

    Collaborative technologies…the arduino revolution

    The focus is always how to design a technology then how to find a problem to fit around it. There’s a lot less critical discussion on how behavioural practices can be changed. Technical parameters are easy to define, human ones not so much.

    Sustainability has to have meaning for that audience, it is not something imposed from above. If it is participative, if it has meaning for that community, then it has greater impact and outcome.

    Voluntourism is OK if there to engage, and not paternalistic.

    Motivation: nature not exotic thing, it is part of our everyday lives, we are totally dependent on it.

    Activist: Yes, extreme (my colleagues think I’m), willing to get off plane of theoretical understanding and applying it in your everyday life, and being consistent with that. We have so many inconsistencies, we can be strongly motivated by sustainability, but our everyday life choices decisions and life practices don’t support that. It becomes about practicing that and supporting that at every level of your life. It is inconvenient, it is about getting out our your comfort zone, but we’re at a stage where we can’t not do that.

    Challenges: making more political, why people have differential access.

    A lot of the disrespect that exists today for nature and ecological factors is that people are so removed from it. There is a lot of taking for granted, overuse and abuse of the environment because people are so removed and disconnected from it.

    Resources:
    We talk about the work of Dr Andy Williamson (previous interview), and John Mann’s work in Cambodia (previous interview, EducatingCambodia.com).

    SustainableLens apologises for the concrete mixer that appeared outside the window near the start of this interview. It goes away after a few minutes although returns right at the end.

    Categories
    democracy politics

    Systematic disadvantage of ecological interests

    Lisa Ellis

    For policies such as preserving fragile habitats, democratic policy flux means there’s only really one medium term policy outcome and that’s extinction…
    We need to adjust our structures so that there’s fluctuation within a sustainable range.

    Lisa Ellis is an Associate Professor in University of Otago’s Department of Philosophy.

    Talking points:

    (on difficulty of senior management dealing with sustainability issues)

    You need someone with access to reality bringing those messages up

    We shouldn’t expect enlightenment at the top to save us

    One thing that climate deniers have on their side is a really simple, easy to communicate message – that these elite people who are nothing like you, want you to make sacrifices for no good reason – it’s a very simple message, wrong, but easy to understand.

    As we make our baby steps towards an appreciation of complex reality, which is chaotic with feedback loops, where even the best modellers are modest about the probabilistic nature of their predictions, it’s very difficult to mobilise the majority in any democracy behind a probabilistic slogan.

    “If we all make this change then probably most of us will be better off, but we’re not sure” – nobody is going to go out and vote on that

    The message hasn’t gotten through or people wouldn’t be hoping for a Promethean solution… a silver bullet technological solution for anything that nature throws at us (which assumes a divide between humanity and nature).

    The timeframes are difficult for us…but if you have access to family photos of really good fishing expeditions, you might notice that the futher you go back in time, the larger and more delicious the fish your family caught were – the prize winning fish are shrinking.

    (see for example)

    You don’t have to go so many generations forward to get at the structure of contemporary environmental conflict – the majority sustainer, minority extractor

    The future generations problem is a flaw in our current political structure

    The structure of environmental conflict is straight democratic, we have political structures that disproportionately represent a tiny minority interest – those with interests in the extraction of resources

    We systematically disadvantage ecological interests vis a vis extraction interests.

    If you are trying to keep your seat at the table but your opponent is continually willing to break off negotiation because the default position is continued extraction not conservation, then you are going to be led willy-nilly to make continued sacrifices in order to keep the negotiations going…So you find yourself mystified, “Why are representatives bargaining away ecological interests?”, they’re doing it not because they are stupid, but because they are structurally disadvantaged.

    There are really tough conundra, but we don’t have an alternative to democracy. It is based on a set of easy to understand ethical principles – opposition to injustice…

    The very flux that democratic changes of government introduce into the policy making world (and of course if you have a democracy you must have changes in power, otherwise it’s not a democracy) but if you have changes in power then your policy changes, well if you policy was conservation and every move for conservation is temporary, but every move for extraction is permanent, then you have a real problem with unifying democracy and conservation policy, because you’ll necessarily have changes in policy, that’s what democracies do, that means sometimes the extractors are in power and sometimes the sustainers are – well everytime the extractors are in power they can make permanent changes, every time the sustainers are in power they can only make temporary changes, so…for some sorts of policies such as preserving fragile habitats, democratic policy flux means there’s only really one medium term policy outcome and that’s extinction.

    We need to adjust our structures so that there’s fluctuation within a sustainable range. (eg Portland’s approach to development).

    How is it that this lie that opposes all our interests has become the dominant ideology to which we all submit? Simple message, powerful interests. But these messages not impossible to counter. Unfair ideologies tend to fall when message gets through of the logical of equal justice.

    All science is normative

    The world is giving us messages that are harder and harder to ignore.

    Shane’s number of the week: 40. 40% of bumblebee foraging trips were successful in a pesticide environment compared with 63% in a control environment (Feltham in Nature).
    Sam’s joined-up-thinking: Sam is currently studying the relationship between the sophistication of ethical views and position on an anthropological/ecological worldview continuum.

    Categories
    democracy participation

    Mending democracy

    Andy Williamson

    Dr Andy Williamson is founder of Future Digital, an Associate at Involve, and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Manchester.   He is author of the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Social Media Guidelines for Parliaments.   He explains why he thinks politics is fundamentally broken, and what we have to do to fix it.

    Talking points:

    (Am I an activist?). I can be. I can be stroppy and awkward when I want to be. I’m don’t think I’m an activist particularly, my role is perhaps more of an agitator. I have the privilege of working on both sides of the system. I think one of the problems of activists, is they become…activist can be a negative term because an activist can be seen as someone is simply taking one issue a little bit too seriously, and shouting a lot about it – they’re probably right and have a good point, but they can be a bit of a one trick pony, and that can start to be a bit of a pain in the side, and they’re really necessary and they do a really good job, but actually there’s a need for a second lot of people who come along and work with both sides. The future isn’t about us of them, it’s not about citizens and politicians – we talk about “citizen engagement”, it’s almost patronising. We should be talking about participation in the broadest sense, we should be looking at partnerships. The role that I have, and I’ve created a fascinating niche in a way is that I work with both sides. …. So I’m more of an agitator for change across the whole system than trying to be dogmatic about the need to create this revolutionary change.

     

     

    Categories
    democracy politics

    Hordur Torfason

    Hordur Torfason

    Hordur Torfason describes himself as a reluctant activist. He would rather be writing lyrics than organising a revolution. But while the former make him famous in Iceland in the 70s, the latter has made him globally famous in the new millennium. Trained as an actor, he sees the role of the artist is to criticise, that criticism is a form of love. After the crash of the Icelandic financial system Hordur began what became the “cutlery revolution” that eventually saw the downfall of the government. We ask what the world can learn from the Icelandic experience, both in the revolution itself and the in establishment of a citizen-led government. While there have been some successes – a new citizen developed constitution and laws protecting freedom of expression, Hordur answers with a firm No when asked if Iceland is still citizen-led. There is still much to do.

    Hordur is joined in the studio by his husband, Italian architect Massimo Santanicchia who is able to give his perspective on the extravagance that led to the financial crash.

    Anger used violently to destroy is the easy way, but we talked together and used our anger as a positive force, peacefully.