Categories
business

Efficient hippie

Driven by a sense of purpose, Simonne Wood is chair of Sustainable Dunedin City.   Simonne has worked in fair trade, in international relations, in an ethical property company, and now Otago Polytechnic – all “organisations looking to change the world in a positive way”.

 

Talking points

A sense of it being possible to change things

Sustainable language has been co-opted by the elite

Collective impact, a sense that we can all take responsibility for small things

The big challenge is how to do values at scale

You can make a difference, or at least you have a right to try

Sustainable: Trying to live a life without waste and I think waste is what really upsets me, and that’s not waste in the narrow sense of rubbish but rather about people, resources and nature just being wasted.  We’re trying to move to a sense of regeneration, interacting together. 

Superpower: I’m an efficient hippie! Being someone who has fairly non-mainstream opinions and maybe quite idolising views about creating a better world, but someone who executes change in an un-hippie like, effective and efficient way.

Activist:I’m an activist in the sense that I strongly believe in our personal responsibility to take action, for me that mostly means doing things in a non-confrontational way. I believe that most people would like to do the right thing if they knew more about it, so instead of being an angry activist I work to educate people about the issue.

Motivation: The sense of not letting things go to waste as well as knowing that there is an intrinsic value in every person and the natural world that shouldn’t be spoilt and wasted.

Challenges: I would like to get more involved in climate change, water quality and the reduction of waste in the Dunedin City area.

Advice: Sign up to the SDC (Sustainable Dunedin City) newsletter and get involved with the events within the community.

 

Categories
computing development

Technology amplifies underlying human forces

Kentaro Toyama

Technology amplifies underlying human forces.

Kentaro Toyama is W.K. Kellogg Associate Professor of Community Information at the University of Michigan School of Information, a fellow of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT, and author of Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology.

Talking points

I realised that with physics you are trying to understand the universe that is not going to change – it exists and the point is discovery – there’s lots of creativity associated with how you discover those things, but it’s convergent, you are ultimately trying to find one solution to a problem. Whereas with computing and engineering, the interesting thing is that it’s diversifying. You are trying to innovate and create things that have never existed, that people have never imagined and may not come into being unless its creators create it.

I became a bit tired of working on problems that were only going to help people who are already quite wealthy and can afford a lot of gadgets. So in 2004 I moved to India to help start a new research lab there, and changed research direction to look at how technologies can be used to address global poverty.

Initially I thought that we could do projects where some kind of new digital technology would make a substantial contribution to alleviating poverty, to increasing healthcare, to improving education, especially in India’s poorest communities – rural villages and urban slums. But as I did more and more of that work I began to see that it usually wasn’t the technology that made a difference, but who we worked with – our partners…that made a difference whether our outcomes were positive or not.

Curiosity driven research with desire to have social impact

Technology amplifies underlying human forces. Ironically what that means is that often in the very places we want the technology to have a positive impact it fails to gain a foothold because there is either a missing human intention or a missing capacity.

The “cult of technology” is the idea that increasingly we are living in a world where we believe that there are technological solutions to just about everything…classically “there’s an app for that”…meaning that there’s a mobile application for just about any problem that you might have in your life. Technology is certainly powerful, and amplification means that for people who have solid education, who have good social ties, who know how to use technology – they can make incredible use of it. But technology’s positive power isn’t embedded in the technology itself, it actually comes from the use that people make of it – which means that ultimately it’s the people who decide whether a technology is going to have a positive impact, a negative impact or no impact at all.

In the context of international development, what this means is that exactly in those places where human institutions are not functioning, technology is not likely to help either.

Efforts (eg in democracy) are not doomed, work to the extent that they amplifying existing forces towards democracy.

Democracy is inherently a political thing, it requires human beings to push for it, argue for it, …those things can be mediated through technology, but it’s never the technology that causes them.

Very difficult to find good ways to use technology in areas of abject poverty, not because it can’t be done, but because people are missing other things that they need in order to fully utilise the technology…good solid basic education, politically marginalised without strong social ties to people in power…those constraints make it difficult to use the technology to dramatically change their situation.

(On the promise of wikipedia etc)..content is the bare minimum…role of education is motivation

I’m not saying we should give up on technology…better technology better engine, still need a driver.

It is extremely tempting to look for technology solutions for sustainability, certainly there will be technologies that we will have to use to attain a more sustainable civilisation. But ultimately the decisions are very human in nature, and at large scale are political. We have to win those human political fights before the technology will actually have impact.

At some level we all know what we have to do to achieve sustainability – we have to consume less, we need to be more respectful of the environment, we need to make sure that the resources we use are being replenished – and while better technologies can help us do those things better, we’re not even taking the most elementary steps as a society to do the sustainability things we could be doing. Which suggests that even if we had great technology, we still might not use them towards a sustainable ends.

Again, technology amplifies underlying human forces – as soon as we as a global civilisation decide that sustainability is sufficiently important, I have no doubt that we will use the technology that we have, and invent new technologies that will help us achieve it, but until we make up our minds to chase that, it won’t make a difference if we have the best technologies in the world, we’ll still not use them for the right purposes.

I think of social change being primarily driven by a process of human maturation – in the sense of people becoming wiser and better and kinder human beings, we can debate exactly what that means, but most of us have a sense…that there’s a continuum…criminal drug lords…saintly, and there’s a sense of a spectrum of humanity, I think that as people our greatest challenge is trying to move up that escalator, being better versions of ourselves. I think the social change we want to seek is a world where all of us are better versions of ourselves. If we can achieve that, even by increments, then the technology will follow, we will use the technology in better and wiser ways.

(Success) Small internal incremental changes – spending more time on work that has social impact, being less concerned with achievements that have public recognition.

(Challenges) Trying to make the world a more equitable place. The two biggest challenges of our civilisation are inequality and sustainability. They’re both incredibly challenging problems that I’ll be happy if I can make even a small contribution.

Research – find forces that technology could amplify that we have overlooked…for example channelling powerful religious motivations

(Activist) Generally not, but because my impact is through other people, my students or partner organisations.

(Motivation) I think that all of life is basically a succession of moments of consciousness…and each one of those moments has the capacity to be either painful or happy, or somewhere in between. I think that our purpose from moment to moment is to try to make as many of the future moments of consciousness as happy as possible. Those might be my own, but also other people or other forms of life, or other animals to some extent. So to the extent that I can, I would like to ensure more happy moments of consciousness.

The questions of sustainability are whether future generations will have the same potential moments of happiness. Are we right now taking massive withdrawals from the potential for human civilisation to continue having happy moments of consciousness at the level those wealthy of us now are enjoying?

Technology will help as soon as we commit to sustainability as an issue that is important to us. Until then, it’s not a technological question.

(Challenges) I’m very conscious that most of my challenges are internal…I’m aware of a need for comfort, while not doing everything that I can for the goals that I have. I can expect anyone else to change if I can’t change myself in those ways.

(Miracle) Everyone to have increase in some percent wisdom.

Each one of us to pursue whatever we aspire to in a single minded way

(Advice) Follow your heart.

This Sustainable Lens is from a series of conversations at University California Irvine in June 2015. Sam’s visit was supported by the Newkirk Center for Science and Society, and coincided with Limits 2015.

Categories
Fair Trade food marketing

Fostering positive change

Will Watterson

With every dollar we spend, we vote for a certain kind of world.

Will Watterson works in advocacy and public engagement for Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand. Will was in Dunedin accompanying Fair Trade coffee grower Daniel Kinne. We discuss the role of Fairtrade, and explore the role of the story in fostering change, especially in ethical consumerism. We ask what is fair? and how to engage people in this process? (notably though campaigns such as the Great Kiwi Fairness Debate).

Talking points

Passion for social change and environmental change

I got involved in volunteering at the beginning of high school, I thinks that’s where I got my first taste of how it made me feel good to give to others and see other people’s lives improve and transform – and I’ve chasing that feeling ever since in the work that I do.

The idea of taking information and transforming that information into a story…to understand that human beings are story people. Our lives, and those of others around us inform our story.

Being able to take information…to distil it and shape it into story form, so that it is more easily digestible, and people are more easily able to connect it to their own lives and their own value systems, that’s what I learned in my undergrad (English Literature and Theatre).

The industrial revolution was very helpful in many ways – to mechanise as many things as possible, to remove us from the sources and human side of the things that we wear, touch and eat…what attracted me to Fairtrade…was not only the Fairtrade premium…but that I could pick up the coffee packet and read about Daniel and his cooperative in Papua New Guinea…and feel a little bit more connected to the human beings who are doing an incredible amount of work to grow and harvest the coffee.

What is the future that we are wishing to create? What is our utopia, where are we heading as a society? And we know that if everyone in the world lived the way Americans do, or New Zealanders, and consume the way that we consume, we’d need 4 or 5 planets to do that. It’s about acknowledging the fact that we do consume – we do take things from the planet, so if we can reduce the amount we consume, and the energy we use, fantastic..

It’s about acknowledging that every day we spend money, and every dollar we spend is like a vote. We’re voting for a certain kind of world with every dollar that we spend.
When you spend a dollar, are you spending on things that empower the people who produce that product? Are you spending your dollar on things that are supporting sustainable practices rather than unsustainable practices? It’s about becoming aware about where the things that we consume come from, and what kinds of practices and mentalities that we want to support with out consumer dollar.

I like to take a simple approach. I like it but do I really need it? Will it really make my life more fulfilling? Not necessarily – so we can reduce the amount of things we consume.

The things we do buy, need or want – do I need coffee? I love coffee, I’m going to keep buying it – so I’d like to know that the coffee I buy is grown sustainably and is empowering for the people who grow it.

It’s about creating platforms.

(Live below the line) A way of being to put ourselves in the shoes, however inadequate the metaphor is, for a few days, a week, of our brothers and sisters living in extreme poverty – I find that really powerful.

We are indebted to half the world.

The genesis of Fairtrade was the injustices, imbalances and inequities in global trade practices. Fairtrade has developed alternatives, but we want to move back into a space where we are protesting again. Still proposing the Fairtrade alternative, but working with the other players in the Fairtrade movement to protest those injustices that are still occurring in the global trading system.

In an ideal world, Fairtrade does itself out of a job as consumers demand transparency right through the supply chain system.

By buying the Fairtrade mark, you are supporting the infrastructure of being able to audit the transparency of the supply chain.

(Great Kiwi Fairness Debate) Exploring the notion of fairness…stealing people’s parks when they are about to turn in, or taking the last chocolate biscuit…then segway from everyday fairness to interacting with our global neighbours.

A lot of things we consume are made far away, but why should our ethical attitude be any different?

There’s no reason why Fairtrade should be more expensive if you accept that more of the value is going to the growers than to the other players in the supply chain.

The consumer has the ultimate say

As a consumer, I just want to know, is what I’m buying sustainable and ethical? And that’s what is great about the Fairtrade mark.

(Activist?) Change agent. People think of activist as an angry person who is walking down the street throwing things or carrying a big sign. I think there is a time and a place for getting angry. But at the end of the day, being an advocate for change, I’m an advocate for change there all kinds of levers you can pull on for making change, I’m a big fan of working alongside people, and working within to change policies.

It’s important to get messages out there, to continually have conversations at multiple levels of society about what is and isn’t working, and what needs to change and how we can do that.

People aren’t necessarily interested in the run of the mill, the average product any more, people are interested in the remarkable – things that have a story, that are special.

Being special, remarkable is the way of the future, and that doesn’t preclude have sustainable practices.

(Motivation?) Fairtrade coffee in the morning. Little things…inspired by impacts of stories.

(Challenge?) If you spend enough time, it’s easy for your friends, society to put you in a box “you’re that guy”. My challenge is to avoid being stereotyped. Constantly reconnect as mainstream kiwi whole just happens to be concerned about social and environmental issues.

I love New Zealand and our culture and the way we do things so much, I can’t not leave it alone. I can’t not be part of the group of people who are always looking at ways to improve it.

(Miracle?) If I was to wake up tomorrow morning and know that as I potter around my house, everything I am wearing and touching and interacting with, was produced with love, by someone who loved what they were doing and was living a happy thriving life wherever they were.

(Advice?) Look out for the Fairtade mark. Whenever you encounter these kinds of things, just take it one step at a time. Just change one little thing. I like my coffee, so I change that. Just take those little steps, because as you take one step and that becomes regular, it becomes a habit – and habits don’t take effort to maintain. As we build up those habits, suddenly we’ve transformed the way that we live and we’re far more sustainable and happy.

Other resources:
Global Focus Aoteoroa

Global Poverty Project

Categories
agriculture coffee development Fair Trade food

Coffee that’s fair

Daniel Kinne

Producing coffee is intensive work…we want to be rewarded fairly at the end of the day.

Daniel Kinne is a coffee farmer from the highlands of Papua New Guinea. He is also a founding member and the chairman, of the Highland Organic Agricultural Cooperative (HOAC) which includes 2600 farmers. Daniel has been in New Zealand to celebrate Fair Trade Fortnight, through Fairtrade New Zealand and to share his stories on the impact we have on communities like his when we buy Fair trade.

Talking points

We set up the cooperative to give a voice to the grower.

We wanted to group ourselves to get into a system of trade.

Transparency is the main standard in the Fair Trade system.

Everything is done transparently so we don’t feel as though we have been cheated in any way.

Producing coffee is intensive work…we want to be rewarded fairly at the end of the day.

The cooperative is an inverted pyramid, the growers, the general assembly make all the important decisions.

We get a guaranteed minimum price plus a social premium.

We had to meet a set of standards – child labour, environmental, governance.

There are standards of chemicals we are supposed to use, but for use, we are organic, so this is not an issue. But the Producer Support Team of New Zealand Australia Fair Trade helped us identify risk areas in own community – they helped us look at whether our water is at risk, is our forest at risk? What about the soil fertility? This really helped us to understand our environment and how best we could manage it. A buffer zone around a river for example.

For somethings we couldn’t really see where they were coming from…we’ve got huge forest, so many trees, if I cut this we’ve still got plenty of trees. Our country is really young, we have not really experienced that kind of impact – that human activity can have on the environment. But through awareness, and we see on television, newspapers, people are talking “if you are not really careful, all your forest will be gone, the wildlife will be gone, about the future” – so they are telling us about their experience – you see this country it was big rainforest, now all that rainforest is gone due to cattle ranching or logging. We are in our little nutshell, we need to really come out to understand. When people from outside come and tell us such a thing, that really opens our minds – we are unconsciously doing these kinds of things that would mean we would eventually end up where they have ended up – so it is good that they are reminding us, so we can reconsider our ways and how we interact with the environment.

We’ve employed a person to help us write environmental farm plans.

Looking after the environment gives us a sense of satisfaction – we come from the rural area, the environment is very important to us – building materials, health services

Our life is very connected to the forest.

When an environmental officer comes and says have respect for the environment, we have it already so it reinforces us and gives us that broader sense that every one of us should be looking after the environment.

We sell our coffee to a Fair Trade exporter who sells in turn to a Fair Trade certified importer. Everyone in the supply chain of our coffee is certified and audited as Fair Trade.

It is a different relationship, we are working closely with the exporter. Transparency means we know how when he can get the maximum price so we work hard to meet those shipments. The market is there for us to see, so we operate transport and logistics…every day

Fair Trade means we can look at it as a relationship – trust and respect.

It is fair…because get the contract documents from overseas – the importer next down the supply chain. It is transparently available to us. We work out the price breakdown in a transparent manner, made possible by the Fair Trade system.

We get the price, plus a social premium. The General Assembly decides how to spend that social premium – social projects, water quality, roading, schools.

It was great to see our coffee on the shelf – a real sense of satisfaction.

For the consumer they know from the Fair Trade logo that they are empowering rural people in developing countries, but when it comes to the exporter, importer and the roaster – they are looking out for quality, so when the quality comes with a message, there is a market, and everything fits together really well.

If I could have brought my farmers here, they would be really amazed at what you have done here – the farms, the cities, the roads. From one extreme of life to the other extreme. They would say “wow, look at this, look how they have got everything organised, how they keep their place clean…how they live together in a clean and respectful environment”. Then later they would like to meet the consumers and hear about how they enjoy their coffee – this reminds them of the kind of work they are doing over there, and how this is appreciated by the consumer on this side. It connects these two and gives great satisfaction.

Everyone that visits our Fair Trade system has been really moved by the work we are doing.

(Could we do more to connect the producers to the consumers?) That is why I am here – telling our story.

(Activist?) Yes. I see myself as someone who is very strong in trying to bring development to our community, and trying to do it properly so that everyone is happy and we see change in our community. I could consider myself as an agent for change.

(Motivation?) When I wake up early in the morning I think about “alright, let’s move the coffee, let’s help the farmers sell the coffee for a good price, getting the money to the farmer and getting the coffee out while it is still fresh”.

(Challenges?) Developing our own export system.

(Miracle?) If the road system could be upgraded we could work day and night to get the coffee out, supplies in, and really build our community. Roads are the key to the health system, police, education. Our people are hard working, give them a chance and they’ll do it.

We have put some of the social premium in to roads because then we can transport our coffee to the market point – and get a better premium.

The empowerment is coming from the Fair Trade premium, we can move the coffee and still get a good price.

(Advice?) Thank you to the good consumers who are buying Fair Trade produce – you are so wonderful. When we hear of cities like Wellington and Dunedin who are Fair Trade cities, this is really empowering us. We are really grateful. Thank you very much everyone for choosing Fair Trade, it gives us hope and meaning and purpose in the struggling rural outbacks.

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
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
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
government labour politics

Regional development

GrantRobertson-01

Pillaging the planet for every last ounce of resource in the hope that we can continue to live our lives exactly as we’ve always done is not sustainable growth.

Grant Robertson is the MP for Wellington Central. He is Shadow Leader of the House, he is Labour Spokesperson for Economic Development, Spokesperson for Employment, Skills and Training and Associate spokesperson for tertiary education, the SIS and Arts, Culture and Heritage. He grew up in Dunedin and was student president at University of Otago. He was visiting Dunedin wearing his Regional Development cap.

Talking points:

I think the legacy of this government will end up being around cronyism

No politician should ever feel that they are above the law

Willful blindness is not acceptable

I think I’ve got a good sense of right and wrong, and when I see something that is wrong I don’t like sitting by

(on Labour introducing student fees in the late 1980s as part of neo-liberal reforms) I wasn’t a member of the 4th Labour Party then and I wouldn’t have voted for them either – those things took New Zealand in the wrong direction…The Labour Party of today – and indeed the Labour Party of the Helen Clark government – is very very different. I recognise that we do have to re-earn the trust of those people, but I’m from a different generation. I opposed those things, I marched against them and I’ve done my best to undo them.

(Why don’t students protest so much now?) I think it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, education has become very commodified, the people that can afford to be there are there and the people that can’t afford to be there aren’t. Students are trying to get through in the shortest amount of time possible to incur the least amount of debt.

(As a staffer in Helen Clark’s government) Interest free student loans made a huge difference…
I felt a real emotional sense of having wound something back, we were able to bring it back to something better.

(On student allowances) We’re moving to everyone getting an allowance.

20 cuts to loans and allowances in this government, the most insidious cut is the cutting of post-graduate allowances… New Zealand needs more people doing post-grad study not less…mad!

We’ve created a situation where 37% of our population lives in Auckland, projected to get as high as 45%, there is no capital city or large city in the developed world that has that level of the country’s population. It’s not good for country, we’re seeing the problems today and they’ll just get worse.

we desperately need regional economic development…we need a spread across New Zealand in the way in which jobs are created.

Dunedin is an example of a city with huge potential and opportunity, it just needs some support to catalyse that.

The strategic advantages for Dunedin are education, ICT and health.

When you’ve got a regional development policy with a government as an active partner, then you’ll start to solve some of the problems.

(Coal on the West Coast) The Labour Party knows that we have to transition off fossil fuels…we have to go there, the world’s gone there already, its about timing and about phasing, it’s about saying how do we use the resources that we have available to us…we have to have a plan for transition, while the resources are there the Labour Party believes that we should use them but is has to be part of a planned transition.

(On differences with Greens) Resolvable tensions

I’m both cautious and doubtful about oil and gas…it’s being promoted as an amazing silver bullet…but they haven’t found anything. That’s because now they are having to desperately drill in places they never would have thought of drilling, depths they never would have thought of drilling because we’ve reached peak oil.

New Zealand needs to think very carefully about (oil and gas), we don’t have the response capability, and while accidents are uncommon, they are catastrophic. I’m not comfortable unless we have stronger regulation…a regime more similar to the RMA…improve the response capability…health and safety…with all of those changes it it possible for it to be done, but it’s by no means a blanket agreement that it should be. Seismically, areas around the east coast of New Zealand are not appropriate, maybe it is OK over in the Taranaki Basin. But I’m very cautious and very doubtful and it’s certainly not where I think the future of New Zealand lies.

Growth is possible but we have to rethink what growth means

Pillaging the planet for every last ounce of resource in the hope that we can continue to live our lives exactly as we’ve always done is not sustainable growth.

It is growth, but it’s not unfettered growth.

We can’t grow the economy on dairy alone. Paul Callaghan calculated that to keep out standard of living now based on growth in dairy alone, we would have to quadruple our dairy output – well we’re not going to do that we’d destroy our country if we did that. Primary industries have got a place, they’re very important to us, but he future well-being of New Zealanders is in other sorts of industries that are added value, that are lighter on the planet.

We can do so much better to capture value.

There’s a core to me, fairness, opportunity and spreading the benefits of economic development more fairly, more evenly in society…giving all people opportunity regardless of their financial or family background.

At the UN the principle of fairness was key…with the caveat of the Security Council…it is one country one vote, on the floor of the General Assembly Swaziland is as important as the United States – I like that.

It’s quite clear to me that Labour and the Greens will be able to work well together. The Greens have taken a different attitude this time around, they want to be in government…a big call for them but we know there is scope for negotition.

75% of voters who gave their electorate vote to the Maori Party gave their party vote to Labour. I have no idea what the Maori Party is doing on the right – they haven’t got much out of it, I think they’re part of a government that has potentially damaged Maori and Maori aspirations.

(on the Green’s Carbon tax versus Labour’s support for the ETS) I don’t think they are major differences, both of them are aimed at reducing emissions, both set a price on carbon, one’s a market based mechanism, the other is a tax…in end we can talk that through. we both want to do something, we both know that we urgently need to do something.

The current government has utterly undermined the ETS – failed to include the sectors that we needed to include to make it a real scheme…done terrible things to the forestry sector. we need a proper functioning ETS, but we can work on a climate tax.

Other differences (Labour and Greens) resource extraction issues – manageable but quite different policies, minor differences around taxation, but the spirit is OK, and I think the values of the party are ones that the Greens can look at, and say ‘we can work with these’, we are different parties…we work work with the people, more often than not we’re working closely with them, every day.

It’s coopertition, we are cooperating, but we’re also putting our own platforms forward and asking people to vote for them.

(On people not voting) We have to make politics relevant and making our campaign positive, our biggest problem in 2011 was we told people what we were against, not what we were for…we’re talking about the kind of country we want to be.

Non-voting is a global trend and it comes back to the nature of how we do politics…

Social media…is a conversation…it’s hard for politicians to make the time…but I’m keen for it to be me, not someone pretending to be me

The younger generation are interested in issues as opposed to parties (political!)…if you give young people issues that they care about, they’ll get involved.

Activist: Yes.

Challenges: child poverty, economic challenges around sustainable growth and jobs in the regions

Advice: Vote. It does matter.

Resources
Labour’s Policy Platform