Categories
conservation biology dunedin education volunteering

Giving back to restore

Alyth Grant retired from an academic job teaching German and has launched into a retirement role with the Orokonui Ecosanctuary.  She tells us that the sanctuary is about protecting an ecosystem, it’s not a zoo.

Talking points

It felt like this was my opportunity to give back to what I’d always loved doing

It felt to me like my opportunity to give back to the natural world of your life to the bush which I had laughed all those years. But it was also an opportunity to learn a lot

It’s very exciting this hands on stuff I just loved. And of course, the other huge benefit is you meet a whole new circle of friends who were doing the same thing and share the same passions.

(on the future of the sanctuary)  That’s a very big question, one would hope that it will continue. And I think one … that one of the most important things to happen is recruiting new volunteers, younger volunteers because we all are 10 years older than we were when we started and that’s why the educational side of the programme is vitally important.

I think the sustainability aspect comes…in we have an excellent education program most people know Tahu Mackenzie by now and she has (worked with) preschoolers who are already learning how to plant how to read how to look after the new trees… they learn about all aspects of the wildlife it or economic and it goes right through to high school students to programs that are linked in with their NCEA curricula and lean on to university students – ecology students in particular who are doing their own projects for for masters degrees and PhD degrees. Now, all of those young people right through are getting what I lacked in my childhood, that involvement with the outdoors, the learning what it takes to look after this beautiful world we live in, and New Zealand.

I think it’s when you begin to understand that it’s a whole ecosystem that we’re trying to look after.  And and that’s what our Ecosanctuary really is about isn’t just a zoo, we have to tell people all the time because you can promise that they’re going to see this (animal).

(Do you have a go to definition of sustainability?) I don’t, I mean, I need the the dictionary meaning of the word, what it means for us individually is very different. I think it’s what we can do ourselves to the overall thing, whether it be getting involved as I’ve done and some sort of specific project aimed at trying to restore our environment to something better than it has become.

I’ve been a teacher all so many years, that it’s going to depend a lot on education, from childhood onwards through to the adults who perhaps didn’t know about it earlier on, like me,  so that it’s an ongoing thing that we take it for granted that we have to look after our environment.

And as part of the education I think we need to become more politically aware, I think we fail our own society and not doing enough at school level to become good citizens to understand what it is to be a voting person, member of a community and informing ourselves of what the issues are for our community and for the world.

(superpower)  The willingness to talk about it? I think as much as anything,  Well, I guess it’s the background and teaching and communicating as well as the willingness to be involved physically and things I was brought up to be reasonably practical person. So I enjoy that combination, I think.

(motivation) Life is still interesting…what keeps me interested in life. I’m still learning stuff.

(miracle) Get rid of plastic,  I get angry every time I go to buy something  and everything’s in plastic packaging. And while it’s lovely to think that we can do something ourselves about getting rid of plastic single use plastic bags, I think the bigger issue is a huge one. And it’s how do you persuade manufacturers to stop packaging like that, I mean, I  can remember when you went to the hardware store, and they would weigh out some screws for you or count out some screws for you. But that doesn’t happen anymore because they want to hang everything on hooks.

(Advice) get out in the environment, do whatever you can, in whatever small way something that makes you feel good about yourself and about the world you live.

Categories
community

Altogether community

Marie Laufiso

The key is relationships. Everyone has a story about everyone else – you have to get past those stories and talk real.

Marie Laufiso is a Dunedin-born Samoan who has contributed a lifetime of community support and activism. She tells us how her family upbringing in Brockville brought a sense of obligation and a “from the margins” thinking that brings both challenges and innovation to the wider city.

Talking points

Poverty and lack of access to resources is inter-generational – it builds up.

My mother said, Brockville is our village – we take care of the needs of the village – its people and its place.

We watched Cowboy and Indian movies – rooting for the Indians of course.

We felt a strong sense of place but also a dislocation, of being born in someone else’s country.

The key is relationships. Everyone has a story about everyone else – you have to get past those stories and talk real.

We have to figure out ways to invest in our own children

Dunedin as a community means being serious about supporting whanau. It means not imposing what we think are the best solutions without having first had meaningful conversations

Key volunteers are tired, worried about the future – they need our support.

When I think of a compassionate economy, I think about people who actually care. A society that is just and peaceful.

(Sustainability) A society that takes care of all of our people, then the people would take care of the planet.

(Superpower) Listening

(Success) My family together supporting my brother through his illness.

(Activist) Yes. A community worker.

(Motivation) Obligation. I said I would, so I’d better.

Challenges) Being really clear about legacy we’re leaving children.

(Advice) Keep it real.

The show was first broadcast on the 11th August 2016.

Categories
community transition towns

Transition Oamaru

Gail May-Sherman

I would like to do the sorts of projects that 30 years down the line, if the world has gone to hell, people will say “thank god we did this”, and if 30 years down the line nothing has gone to hell and everything is fine then people will say “oh my god, I’m so glad we did this”.

Gail May-Sherman is chair of the Natural Heritage Society – the group behind Transition Oamaru and Waitaki District.

Talking points

There’s a group of people here who shared our ideals and really wanted to make a difference.

We need to interact with people – we need to be unified in times to come.

We are preparing out community for changes

Trying to get people to understand that lifestyles need to change and it needs to change pretty rapidly

Realisation that just organic farming wasn’t enough – we need skills

We don’t expect everyone to stand up and be warriors

Whether these changes happen or not, I’m want to able to say I’m so glad we did this.

Our criteria for a course in the Summer School is that it has to help our community either by keeping certain skills in the community, or by helping people reach out and become more connected to each other.

Music brings people together

in the Summer School, we’re not trying to convince anybody of anything, we’re trying to offer things to make sure our community has these skills. Whether these bad things happen in the community or not, it will still make our community a better place.

I would like to do something positive, regardless of what the future holds.

I grew up in Colorado – changes in the climate are much more obvious there than in New Zealand. When I was a little girl, if you planted a garden before the 1st of June, there was a really high probability that you would lose everything to the last frost at the end of May. By the time I left, if I hadn’t planted by garden by the end of April, I wouldn’t get a harvest. Because not only had the frosts left by the middle of April, but by the middle of June temperatures would be 37-40 degrees C, and they would stay that way for three months, with effectively no rain – and watering restrictions because of droughts, extreme droughts. Gardening became an entirely different thing. I have two children. I saw these changes happening to where I grew up. I used to read the newspaper…I saw what was happening with politics and finances, and I saw people around me becoming desperate, living amongst relatively affluent home owners, but still people were struggling, yet the prices of everything were increasing, and there was this tremendous pressure to keep buying. And then we learned about Peak Oil, and the US without cheap oil will be a disaster. So I slowly but surely felt like a person chained to the rail-road tracks and saw the train coming. I felt like myself, and my family, and everyone I loved was in terrible peril, because I couldn’t see any way of making where we lived a place that could survive the kinds of changes that seem to be coming on us. So when we decided to leave, I promised myself that wherever we went I didn’t ever find myself in that position – that I felt totally helpless.

The US is a place that’s on a track and I don’t see it going off – it’s going where it’s going, and I don’t think you can change it – I’d be delighted for someone to prove me wrong. But here you can make a difference.

Anywhere you go, you find the same mix – people who see what is happening and who are afraid and want to do something about it, and people who either don’t see it at all or see it and are afraid and therefore want to pretend it doesn’t exist. I wouldn’t want to speak for anyone, but I do believe that that there are a large number of people who simply choose not to believe it because believing it is too hard, too scary.

We can complain, or we can see opportunities. It behoves us to make the best of the opportunity, because that’s the way it is. Turn challenges into community vision and do something really valuable.

I would like to see Oamaru become a city where community members are connected, and know each other and take care of each another. Where we can supply our own basic needs – our food, shelter and clothing. Where our energy requirements can come from non-polluting – or at least, less polluting – more long term sources.

There are all these challenges about reducing our fossil fuel consumption, while not forcing people to go live in caves – a phrase I hear a lot “you guys just want us to go live in caves” – but that’s exactly what we don’t want. So we would like to see Oamaru use a lot of solar and wind power.

A town like Oamaru has very few energy needs that cannot be met through alternative energy sources if we put our minds to it.

The biggest factor is getting people to remember how to take care of each other – to me that’s the biggest goal, to get rid of that social isolation that is such a part of modern life.

Being old isn’t such a tragedy if you are surrounded by a community that cares for you. being young having children isn’t so difficult if you are surrounded by a community that cares for you.

Pick one project, Get people together even if only half a dozen, and get that project working and visible and strong, and you will get more people interested and eventually you will be able to spread your fingers into other pies. The school connected us to a wide variety of people with a wide variety of skills that have now taken off with other projects – so it helps if your project connects a whole lot of community members to begin with.

(Success?) Summer School, community garden propagation, food forest project. In the last few months we’ve taken on at least five new projects.

(Activist?) Kind of. When I think of activist I think of people who go with signs and protesting – and I do that from time to time. I guess I’m an activist but I do it more with an idea of cooperation. When I think of activist I think of people who are trying to make conflict with a particular source that aggravates them – I am not a very conflict oriented individual….I am activist that works through cooperation rather than conflict.

(Motivation?) the future I see my children having. I watched the Soylent Green dystopian vision when my son was about six months old. In the movie one of the characters is an old man who remembers life back when energy was plentiful and food was plentiful and there was flowers and trees, and it suddenly occurred to me that my son was that old man – he was the generation that was was very likely to be the last ones that would remember that kind of world. Unless we change something dramatically, by the time my son is an old man things could be very much worse. And now my daughter is about to have her first baby. Not only would I like my old age to be relatively pleasant, I would like their old ages to be relatively pleasant too. That’s probably the biggest thing that motivates me.

(Challenges?) Getting our community to recognise a need for a change in the way the economy works. We need to start realising that the emphasis on stuff has to go away. We need to learn to live without growing – you have to learn to live with what you have. The last 150 years of growth brought to us by the fossil fuel industry has been fabulous, but we can’t do that any more. We need to change our priorities so that rather than having more and more and getting bigger and bigger, we can live comfortably with where we are.

(Miracle?) Change in attitude. Having people recognise that we can’t keep exploiting things – we have to live in balance. If I could make the fossil fuels go away in a single whoosh then I would, but only if I could be sure it wouldn’t make everyone’s lives hell. That’s the problem with magic wands – you never know what the consequences are going to be. So I don’t want to say there’s one little thing, but if I could just make people see that we can still live wonderful happy lives, they don’t have to be tarred and horrible and miserable…without constantly getting more stuff. If I could get everyone to see that could be not just as nice but could quite easily be preferable as a lifestyle, that would be the wand that I would wave.

(Advice?) If you think that these issues are a problem then you need to start acting on that, it is time for everyone to act. You don’t have to start whole movements, but you need to start making changes, and you need to start supporting other people in making those changes.

This series of conversations in Oamaru was prompted by discussions with Phoebe Eden-Mann following her OU Geography field trip to explore Oamaru as a transition town.

We are very grateful to the helpful folks from 45 South Television for the use of their studio.

Categories
community geography

Communities at scale

Sean Connelly

The real challenge, no matter what scale you are taking action, is to be aware and responsive to what’s going on at other scales.

Dr Sean Connelly is a lecturer in Geography at University of Otago. We talk about how sustainability at a global scale is made of sustainable local communities – but that there’s a long way to go before those two are in harmony.

Talking points

Local populations get caught up in global environmental movement

If we are concerned with building and scaling up our actions, it’s hard to imagine what things look like at the global level, whereas we can easily talk about what happens in our own back yard.

My entry point is the unequal relations between the local and the global – local populations impacted by decisions made at much larger scales, often with very little thought given to their needs, or what control they have over their own environment, lifestyle and social well-being.

The real challenge, no matter what scale you are taking action, is to be aware and responsive to what’s going on at other scales.

Everything is interrelated, everything is complex, we live in one global system – with all kinds of subsystems but they are all interrelated.

Being aware of those interrelationships is really difficult, and in some ways being aware of the local offers some appeal. It can be romanticised as the wonderful place – everything’s fine, we can do things in our locality and forget about the challenges of making the connections beyond this place. but how do we connect a whole bunch of different localities around similar kinds of issues?

Human geography, people and environment – where do we place our emphasis.

(Human relationship with nature?) Challenging. Look at the state of the environment, locally, nationally and globally – there’s a lot to be concerned about, enough to suggest that our relationship to the environment should be rethought. We should be thinking about that relationship differently.

There are exciting and inspiring stories of people rethinking practices.

(On introducing sustainability in education) Start with state of the environment – why is this stuff critically important. But is is challenging to start with doom and gloom, it can be disempowering, the last thing you want to do is start by saying the future is pretty bleak. So the challenge it to tell it like it is, this is the state of the environment, but also to tell inspiring stories. This is the case of the present, our future is not locked in. We have complete control over our future – this is something only we can decide.

The term sustainability can be a quagmire…but this notion of, I don’t want to say balancing because I think that is where a lot of the discourse around sustainable development falls down, this notion of balancing and making trade-offs between the economy and society and the environment – but rather it is about how do we view those things as mutually reinforcing and integrating them, thinking about them much more holistically.

How do we embark on initiatives that don’t trade off any of these things against the other?

It is hugely problematic to put a dollar value on nature – it reinforces the very things that we don’t want to be doing – the whole problem is that setting a dollar value means it is expendable, we can use it and abuse it and just trade it for something else.

Engaging in food as a community, not just a commodity.

The scale issue is the critical challenge. Whether talking about food or energy, we can point to innovative examples, but they are still quite small – they don’t have huge impact on the way the majority of us go about our daily lives.

A lot of the food system infrastructure is social infrastructure. The real value of farmers markets, is the social relationships.

(Activist?) Yes. And that is particularly touchy for a Canadian at this point. Interesting things going on right now around the tar sands, the RCMP spying on environmental organisations concerned about blocking pipelines…claims of environmental radicals attempting to highjack the regulatory process…so this can be seen as a threat or source of pride – yes I am a radical. We’ve seen all kinds of people, grandmothers, people with children in the streets saying “you know what, I am a radical” We should all be radicals.

(Motivation?) All kinds of possibilities, for me this area of sustainability is so fascinating, there’s so many different aspects and entry points, and it is absolutely critical, the most important issue we’re facing, not just as individuals but as a species. And there are all kinds of inspiring activities that are going on.

(Advice?) If you are concerned with issues of the environment and sustainability, then follow your passion, no matter what it is that motivates you, there’s a sustainability angle to it.

Categories
computing design energy

Participating co-developers

Maria Angela Ferarrio

The task becomes to bring values into technology you develop.

Dr Maria Angela Ferrario is a Senior Research Associate at Lancaster Management School working on Catalyst, an EPRSC funded community-led research project aimed at developing next generation digital technologies for social innovation. Her research interests lie in innovation studies, interdisciplinary research methods and the impact of digital innovation on society. We talk about the On Supply initiative on the Isle of Tiree and using participatory development to overcome tensions between innovation and sustainability.

Talking points

There is a thread – understanding of human relationships and human dynamics, how we interact and how this is communicated.

Digital innovation for social innovation, and what sustainability means in that.
The sustainability of life on the planet as a frame has been a the forefront of my mind since I was a teenager.

I had a problem, innovation, especially digital innovation seems to be contrasting with sustainability. So I questioned that a lot.

(Italian philosopher) Innovation is going to happen, you decide whether it happens with or without values you believe in.

The task becomes to bring values into technology you develop.

Being open to change, and values of democracy and participation at the core of technology.

Respect for people we work with – the people we work with are equal partners in research.

How technology could first investigate and then facilitate the synchronisation of energy consumption to the time varying availability of renewable energy supply.

We used to have energy on demand, now that is not the case, what does that mean to our daily behaviour?

Energy as a community resource

Core characteristic is the time varying ability of energy supply

(Children exploring with energy treasure hunt) thinking about energy as positive force you can harness, but also something you need to respect.

A Real butterfly affect…you do not know the reach or the ripples of your actions…that a child found a previously thought extinct butterfly on a school trip exploring energy makes me hopeful there are many different entry points to complex societal problems – they can be tackled in many different ways.

The most important thing is a mind set that is open to change and also open to let things go, and also open to transcendence.

Our participants were most definitely co-developers.

Establishing an empathetic relationship with the element (wind) makes the value of the number deeper and more connected to action and change.

(from participant) “…we are in a privileged position to learn to synchronise our lives to natural rhythm.

If I can adapt my life to the production of natural renewable energy that won’t be to the detriment of the planet, I don’t see why I’m not going to use my time to do that.

The key motivation for people was to learn how to synchronise their consumption behaviour to the availability of clean energy for a time when renewable clean energy has a bigger share in the basket

We are aware that at the moment we have energy whenever we want, but we are also aware that we are having a detrimental impact on the environment

So it’s a good thing for me to prepare to change my patterns of consumption for a time when renewable energy is going to be more available and at the same time learn practices that are less aggressive on the prospect of sustainability of life for the planet of the future.

Even I, totally committed to the sustainability agenda, found myself going to the shop to buy a coffee (after experimenting with a self imposed rule of not brewing a coffee when the campus wind turbine wasn’t spinning).

This mentality of “I need it, I need it now”, is so ingrained in us. We need to accept that, or weakness, but it’s good to be aware of that. It’s good to play with technologies that unearth that.

We learned we live in an industrial age still. The 9-5 pattern, going to work regardless of the light…we started thinking, what if our life practices were more in tune with seasonal patterns.

I’m very conscious that energy is a metaphor for climate change, sustainability.

The way we approach sustainability should be grounded

(Motivation?) The life on the planet. I’m not religous but I quite treasure the fact that I had the opportunity to be alive on the planet, and like me, the billions of different people and creatures.

For me, sustainability is giving the opportunity to this life to be self sustaining.

(Activist?) Active but not activist

(Challenge?) Sustaining myself because when you start getting your head around the complexity of the word sustainability, you can see how you may try to work on a path of values that are quite contrasting from the mainstream, so it’s a bit of a compromise between the two.

(Miracle?) For me the miracle is that everybody at the same time will wake up with a magic wand – the most interesting experience of seeing how people decide to have the world look like.

(Advice?) Use less the word “wrong” and ask more the question “why?” whenever we hear words and sentences from people we do not agree with.

Categories
community development

Thinking small for big change

BobNeville-01

(on Regional development chasing big business) That’s very prestigious for an economic development officer. The idea of working with a couple of loonies out the back of a real community somewhere, who can’t even articulate what they want, and they’ve got no money – no one wants to do that, but that’s where it’s all at, that’s where the seed is, and when you realise how much there is, and if you’ve got a way of sorting that seed out, you regenerate your community.

Bob Neville founded Community Regeneration. Bob has extensive experience in Regional and Community/Economic/Social Development with Local Government and Community Development Organisations, with a focus on and passion for small rural communities. He is the author of author of Think BIG…focus SMALL – an introduction to the Natural Science of Small Community Regeneration.

Talking points

Communities are just like gardens.

We’ve become very government dependent, but they don’t have the resources needed

If you are consistently regenerating your backyard garden, it’s going to give back to you. But if you just sit and look at it, it’s going to die – well communities are exactly the same. They are a multiplicity of different people, and services and infrastructure, and when they are established – just like the garden, they need to be continually regenerated at every level.

If the community waits for government to do the regeneration, it won’t happen and as a result the community will start to decline.

Communities are defined by the people that live there – parochial boundaries.

The objective we get a core of people who are interested in and concerned – before it reaches the frog in the saucepan syndrome – people who love their community and want to see it sustained.

There’s a big difference between regeneration and development, we’re not talking about development, we’re talking about sustainable regeneration.

Do you want a way to progress the things you want to do?

Community regeneration is the bridge across the canyon.

Every individual community is totally different – no two are the same.

A process is needed to get past the challenges of community groups.

Of 100 community groups, about five or six were really functioning effectively. The rest were groups by name.

The pace at which you move is determined by the collective capacity of that group.

Ideas are the seed that established every community

Business ideas…exist in a stable community at about a rate of 20 per 1000 population per year…and a similar number for community development projects…but most of those ideas go nowhere – those seeds are not taken seriously and they don’t have a process to take them forward.

The number of ideas is determined by the degree of social challenge already existing in the community.

The one thing that surprises me the most, is not so much the idea, as individuals’ conviction that their idea is unique and uniquely able to work, even if all the evidence points the other way. But as a facilitator you can’t tell them that, they have to see it themselves.

You have to respect people’s ideas and let the mirror try and tell them. They have to make the decision.

Most struggling small communities don’t have the capacity for capacity building.

Fly-by night gurus come in with a cocaine-like fix, they all goes out on a high, but then a couple of days later they’re thinking ‘how the hell are we going to do that?’. Once the fix wears off the community is back where they started. They were made to feel good for a while, but they have no process, no capacity, to make it happen.

Building an inclusive community.

Top down of community is not really thinking of what future will hold.

Debt is OK, but I’m anti continual economic development fuelled by debt

The idea of continual economic development founded on debt is economic disaster.

There has to be a way of doing a business that works

Natural Science of Small Community Regeneration.

It is difficult to get communities to see below the radar – to value micro enterprise.

(on Regional development chasing big business) That’s very prestigious for an economic development officer. The idea of working with a couple of loonies out the back of a real community somewhere, who can’t even articulate what they want, and they’ve got no money – no one wants to do that, but that’s where it’s all at, that’s where the seed is, and when you realise how much there is, and if you’ve got a way of sorting that seed out, you regenerate your community.

We’re only at the beginning of this industry. Those communities that capture this vision and come on board now, will become pioneers in this industry.

(Motivation?) I’ve got a passion for what I’m doing, that developed into a obsession, now it’s tempered back to a passionate obsession.

(Activist?) No, I’m a thinker and a doer.

(Challenges?) People accepting new ideas.

(Miracle?) For individuals to realise that they are responsible for destiny of their own lives, their own families, and their own community. And they need to be regenerating their patch, whatever it is.

Identify what piece of the puzzle you can fill.

(Advice?) Remember New Zealand and Australia are the best countries in the world.

Life is not about what you can get, life isn’t about accumulating things and wealth, it’s about fulfilling that seed that’s inside you that is trying to get out.

Find that seed that is within you and let it grow.

Categories
communication community computing

Playfully supporting system change

Stephen Blyth

 

Playful ways of engaging people in a way that gets people’s attention – a laugh or a smile is vital.  If we are browbeaten into being involved, who’s going to last?

 

Stephen Blyth works to empower people in Tangata Whenua, community and volunteer groups.  He is a Net Squared Ambassador and we talk about that role – it’s not about a long list of apps, but about getting a better understanding of where technology fits in to support social change.  Stephen found himself helping to create the first version of CommunityNet Aotearoa in 1998.  He’s barely turned his back on the community and the internet ever since. After leading this pioneering community website he has worked in a wide variety of advisory, capacity building and communications roles for government agencies, and tangata whenua, commuity and voluntary sector organisations. Currently he is instigator of Common Knowledge, a provider of services to good causes to help them effectively use the web, and works part-time for Community Research.

Talking points

I decided to spend my career involved in change.

There’s a large number of people on the planet, we’re a finite planet, the quality of life that we’re experiencing is very different in different parts of the world and even within our own country.

I believe that everyone could have a good life, with rewarding work, healthy families in an environment that is sustained for all our future generations.  But unfortunately we seem to be trapped in a pattern that is going against the inbuilt and inherent care that we as humans have for other people.

What has to change is quite a lot, but in a way it’s getting back to living out some of the human values that have been brushed over in what I consider a very materialistic, individualistic society.

It’s not about doing without. The way that we live,  highly urbanised, driving everywhere, thinking that we can buy happiness – just doesn’t gel for me.

We really have to fight to make sure that other world views are heard.

We need the time to create things, we’ve gotten sucked into the idea that we have to buy everything.

A 40 hour work week is the norm – more for many people –  is that as satisfying as it could be for an individual,  or could some richness and other benefits come from being part of an active community?

People participating on their own terms.

Often in a workplace the work is about the skills and experience you bring, but not about you – you have to leave yourself at the door – there’s not a role for the fuller complexity of your life.  In a community setting you can be more yourself.

We undervalue the important services, but its not about the individuals, it’s about the structure that we’re in, and it’s a structure of great inequality.

There’s an inbuilt inertia and an inbuilt set of set of incentives for a certain group of people to maintain things as they are.

There’s a different way of doing things, we don’t all have to become mini-businesses.

We’ve held ourselves hostage to a set of assumptions that a health society is about growth.

The danger of monetising everything, costing harm as monetary harm, that it leads “pay it  off, pay some money and eliminate the harm”  – but its a falsehood – the harm still exists.

I want to encourage more cooperation – individual achievements still respected, but people coming together in a common place.

People are no longer loyal to one community group – I like this cause now – so a lot of work has to go into staying visible.  But ethics and a good perspective are key.

Technical tools for social change.

(On campaigns such as Greenpeace’s polar bear costume) You’ve got to appeal to people, and its not just about ideas.  That’s one of the traps for people who really believe in good causes – “if only people understood the rational, logic of the ideas about parts per million, or the concentration of this…” that would win people over, but its actually also about your heart.   So you need to attend to both.

I know that there’s a lot of bad stuff, but I choose to get involved in things that will give me the energy to carry on.

My personal line on activism is where it causes harm to others, I struggle with this, and I respect others for the line they walk – sometimes a very fine line.

Local groups are about engaging people in local stories, the numbers (of people) don’t matter so much.

We can’t privilege one set of knowledge over another.

Activist?  Change maker.  Activist sensibility in critiquing and wanting to challenge.  I’ve definitely had my moments.

Challenges: Fighting apathy and cyncism.  The challenges we face are so huge.   It worries me deeply, especially as a father – what world are we creating for our children?   So I’m challenged by my own sense of whether I can make a change.    I involve myself in things that reward me and give me energy to carry on and make a change.  As long as I’m involved in the fray in the smallest way I’ll be happy.

I wish to stay positive and surround myself with people that have that sense of positivity that we can bring about the change that we so deeply need.

Advice: Be kind to yourselves, be dedicated to the sense of change but have fun.  Whatever we need to achieve won’t be achieved in our own lifespan.  We’re not going solve this just by our intellects, we have to bring our full selves, so allow yourself to have some fun.

Categories
climate change oil politics

The rise of the hyphenated activist

Anadarko's drill ship the Noble Bob Douglas drilling off the Otago Coast.  Credit: Damian Newell aboard the Oil Free Otago flotilla.

Dr Patricia Widener hails from the Sociology Department of Florida Atlantic University. She studies the effect of the oil industry on communities.

Talking points

I study the conflict and contamination as communities respond to the oil industry.

Even the threat of an oil industry can damage a sense of place

For many places the oil industry is not something people have considered

New communities are being forced to assess what oil means to them. In a way oil has been invisible to us, its always been available to us, it’s such a part of our lives we don’t critically think of all of the meanings petroleum until these new projects are announced.

Oil splits communities.

If people are afraid to take a strong position, that’s a problem, that’s an environment that is not conducive to everyone discussing it, debating it forming their own opinions about it.

If they are not shy about holding a position, but afraid that they’ll be rejected, a stigma for that position. In a democracy shouldn’t be happening, in a democracy, everyone should be comfortable talking about their position, how they got to that position and why they feel strongly about it.

People can be criticised for taking a position against a project – but that’s democracy.

Small businesses in business associations

Communities are not able to assess projects on a equal playing field, they only have tidbits of information.

We say we are aware of climate change and we are addressing it, and yet we are increasing fossil fuel production. To a community that makes no sense. It is confusing for community members who need to make decisions on specific projects that potentially will produce greenhouse gases.

National responses are very mixed, but a community itself has to make a decision on an actual project. It’s not an abstract conversation, it’s a specific project – or potential project that’s coming in.

Both signals are happening. Yes we’re dealing with climate change, yes we’re increasing fossil fuels production and use. Both of these are happening at the same time. People, agencies, governments are saying both without connecting what that actually means.

I’m concerned about the focus on individual energy use, while at the same time giving industry a pass.

Until there are locally alternatives to driving the car – we’re mobile people – we do need to transition, and it’s not happening.

It is a diversion and it is easy to focus on and target the individual, and blame the individual for the problem. And this serves industry to target the individual.

It serves as a diversion to get the eyes, the gaze, the critical thinking away from industry and onto households and individuals.

We still need to drive less, the developed wealthy world, we live beyond our means, beyond the world’s means.

Oil is pleasing, it is so close to our lifestyles, the pleasurable parts of our lifestyles, but we need to be thinking about what it means when other areas or other communities are negatively impacted.

It is really difficult for us to think about how what is pleasing to us may cause someone else’s suffering. We don’t want to dwell on that so we give industry a pass.

We see oil wealth and hope that it is going to solve problems, but it can lead to inequality – it doesn’t mean it is going to reduce poverty and inequality.

Rather than individuals’ choices, the focus has to be on the political economy of oil – to make changes there.

Democracies need spaces.

(On potential for oil jobs in countries of abject poverty) It’s really hard for someone who has a job and isn’t experiencing dire poverty to criticise someone for wanting a (oil) job someone needing a job for themselves and their family, but could there not be developments for other jobs? Ones that are do contribute to the community, that do build livelihood, economic security and sustainability. A concern is when it (an oil job) becomes the only option, and there are no other options for the community – and they are risky jobs.

We need to make connections. The extraction, production, consumption and disposal – that’s the flow of the product, and along the entirety of a product’s life are inequalities, injustices and risks. If we think of ourselves as part of a global society – and we’d like to think we do, then we’re obligated to think of the harms associated with our products.

We can also see a flow of activism or resistance along the flow of petroleum.

We need to disengage from the industry that is causing harm. But we’re in a protracted age of oil, we have a fossil fuel addition. So despite climate change awareness, despite increasing knowledge of harms…we haven’t stopped or slowed down.

The political economy of oil is so entrenched, communities would struggle to resist it.

Industry is working on extraction to depletion.

Ask decision makers: what are you doing about climate change, how is increasing fossil fuel production an answer? I’m not hearing anyone answering this. It is staggering that projects are getting the green light without that question being answered.

What does it mean when we are producing something with global (negative) impacts, are you comfortable with that? And increasingly people are not comfortable with that.

(Am I an activist?). Yes, I’m a sociologist-activist.

We’re seeing the rise of the hyphenated activist…the professor-activist, the lawyer-activist, the farmer-activist, the grandparent-activist, the student-activist. A lot of people are doing both, and they’re doing both because these problems are coming closer to where they live, work, study and play. At that point, when you take a position on something, you have a multiple presence – you are what you are and you’re an activist, or advocate. Not against, but advocating for. For communities, for environment, advocates for – not against.

Be informed, to increase awareness about environment and community, take a position on that, and be heard with regards that position. Democracies rely on that.

Photo: Anadarko’s drill ship the Noble Bob Douglas drilling off the Otago Coast. Credit: Oil Free Otago flotilla.

Categories
conservation biology marine mammals ocean

Dolphins:communities

Tara Whitty

I don’t come in saying “hi guys, I know you’re struggling to survive, let’s save the dolphins”.

For me it has become as much about understanding and helping these communities as it is about helping the animals.

Tara Whitty describes herself as an aspiring ecologist, conservationist, do-gooder and wanderer. She is also a PhD student at the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Tara has developed an interdisciplinary approach, “mapping conservation-scapes,” synthesizing methods from ecology and social sciences. Conservation-scapes are the set of factors composing a conservation situation, encompassing: how human activity overlaps with and impacts organisms; sociocultural and economic drivers of human activity; and governance structure and potential for management. Tara is applying these conservation-scapes to developing an understanding of Irrawaddy dolphins in Malampaya Sound (The Philippines) and Guimaras Strait, Philippines; Trat coastline, Thailand; Mahakam River, Indonesia.

Talking points:

The over-arching issue is how do we look at fisheries management in a way that might contribute to dolphin conservation.

Socio-ecological systems: Systems that involve links an interactions between complex human systems and complex natural systems

I hesitate to distinguish between human systems and ecosystems. Ecosystem based management explicitly states that humans are part of ecosystems.

I’d like to see an set of social-environmental metrics…so we can rate sites based on social cohesion, community engagement, strength of enforcement…develop sets of profiles.

We can learn from areas such as public-health, they’ve had a long history of balancing collecting information and taking action.

The dolphins are not doing OK, they are being caught as by-catch at an unsustainable rate

Sometimes I would forget I was working on dolphins, because I was looking at very entangled issues of fisheries management, and those will take a long time to fix. Even if it doesn’t save the dolphins, it’s worthwhile doing it but you’re going to hopefully improve the ecosystem as a whole, including to improve human livelihoods. But realistically speaking I don’t think it is going to happen in time for these dolphins unless some serious triage efforts happen quickly.

Tara Whitty was in Dunedin as as part of the Biennial Conference of the Marine Mammals Society. Her talk was titled “Mapping conservation-scapes of Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) and small-scale fisheries in Southeast Asia: An interdisciplinary approach”.

After we recorded this session, Tara was awarded the J. Stephen Leatherwood Memorial Award for the most outstanding student presentation on marine mammals of South and Southeast Asia, with particular emphasis on conservation. Congratulations Tara.

This is the fourth in the Sustainable Lens #whaleofasummer series recorded during the Biennial Conference of the Marine Mammals Society.

Categories
heritage museum

Heritage: place, past and future

Neil Cossons (University of Liverpool - with permission)

Many of the best things have happened because of lunatics with fire in their bellies – I like to think I’ve been an animator of lunatics

Sir Neil Cossons is a leading authority on heritage and industrial archaeology. During his career he has led major museums – from 1983 to 1986 Neil Cossons was the Director of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and for fourteen years Director of the Science Museum, London. He has served as a non-executive director of British Waterways Board. From 2000 until 2007 he was Chairman of English Heritage, the United Kingdom Government’s principal adviser on the historic environment of England.

Sir Neil was Director of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum from 1971 to 1983. Sir Neil has published several books. He was knighted in 1994 for his work in museums and heritage.

Sir Neil was in Dunedin to help celebrate the 150th Celebration of the Dunedin Gasworks Museum.

Talking points:

All history is a form of myth, but accepting the inadequacies of the process you can get something back from the process

The real job is stimulating people to use their imagination

I regret not having been enough of a lunatic

I think the best thing I could do was support activists.

The role (of government heritage organisations) is in recognising the energy, intellect, knowledge and activist capacity of communities to do good things

One of the aspects that appeals to me, rather perversely, is where you see groups (as is here in Dunedin with the Gasworks) taking on what for most people would be either a lost cause or something where people say ‘why on earth would you bother – Gasworks – horrible places’ and really bringing them to life

Trainspotting:
Ironbridge
Science Museum, London
Elgin marbles
Trent Lock
SS Great Britain
British Waterways
Bletchley Park
Beamish
Preston Bus Station
Skansen Museum (Stockholm)
Plimouth Plantation
Queen St Mill, Burnley

Categories
management marketing

Dr Nicola Mutch

Why would a successful humanitarian organisation want to sell their soul to a corporation? Why would a successful business give up their profit motive and waste time hugging tress?

Actually it turns out that the partnership in a corporate social responsibility relationship has considerable benefit for both parties. For both there is brand building, capacity building and engagement in a broader community. Dr Nicola Mutch is the Marketing and Communications Manager for Otago Polytechnic. She recently completed her PhD in the area of power relationships in corporate/non-profit partnerships. We talk about what each side hopes to get out of a partnership and how that changes as the relationship develops. She describes the potential for that relationship to go wrong – through abuse of the power relationship – and what can be done to avoid it. Perhaps surprisingly (well to me anyway) that power relationship can go both ways.

We talk about thoughtful organisations, about shared value sets, and consider what it is that gives a partnership credibility.

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: Extending a guidelines for design of a showcase building Sam thinks about the design of sustainable experiences.

Trainspotting: Anton forgets what show he is on and deviates via Mars.