Categories
education

Education of positive discourse

Oonagh McGirr is Deputy Chief Executive Learning and Teaching at Otago Polytechnic.

Talking points:

Other people motive me, just working with other people is a privilege and a pleasure. I’ve worked in lots of places, Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland, England and now in New Zealand. So, I feel really privileged because its basically like a great long observational piece of work where you go around a meet lots of people and conclude that was are all basically the same.

People should start being kinder to people on every level.

Be aware that when you wake up in the morning that you need to make a genuinely kind act which is selfless.

We need to get beyond a discourse of deficit

Be kind, there’s enough for everybody

 

 

 

Categories
business education innovation maori psychology

Giving life to learning and purpose to life

To say that Mana Forbes has a background in education and IT is a massive understatement.  He worked on computers when they had whole rooms, and is heavily involved in education including Te Wananga o Aotearoa, including Te Mana Whakahaere Council, Hamilton Raroera Campus Manager, Foundation Director Te Arataki Manu Korero (Elders traditional knowledge Diploma Course), Foundation Manager Te Puna Rangahau Iwi Research, Foundation Trustee Aotearoa Scholarship Trust, Foundation Executive Member of Te Runanganui o Ngati Hikairo, and the Foundation Licensee of the first Early Learning Centre Raroera Te Kakano.    His educational philosophy is one of empowerment based on capabilities and an understanding of self and purpose.  He is now working with Minded to bring these resources he has developed to the mainstream.

 

Talking points

Opening the door to participation

Looking and thinking: we don’t need to be the same.

Giving life to learning and purpose to life

Nurturing the desire to care

Developing a sense of responsibility

Celebrating success

Fulfilment of your exit strategy

Cries we should be following are those of young people left by wayside of schools operating on a paradigm of one, without communication and relationship

Project-based learning: whole of person and guide them through

Get it out there – at scale

Sustainability: Replenish

Success: Minded.  The development of the course, I think the direction of what we are teaching is so important for today’s learning, and so important for preparing people for living and communication and working relations.

Superpower: My ability to connect the dots and work alongside with other skilled people.

Activist: In some regards yes, the areas that I have passion for I will embarrass myself and people around me and thump the table to make a change, I don’t want people walking out the door thinking that I wasn’t passionate about this particular purpose.

Challenge: Trying to get the establishment and trying to work with the government structure and understand their way of thinking.

Miracle: For the ministry of education saying that we realise the benefits of this and we need to have this in all of our high schools and middle schools.

Advice: If you can make a difference, work out what that might mean to you, your family and the wider community.

Categories
community social work

Engaging community

 

John Stansfield teaches Community Practice at Unitec in Auckland where they teach both undergraduate and post-graduate programmes in community development as well as social work and counselling.  He’s worked extensively in community development in his own community – notably Waiheke Island – as well as Palmerston North, Papua New Guinea and other Pacific islands.  He is chairing the upcoming Aotearoa Community Development conference.

 

 Shane Welcome to the show John.

 

John: Thank you very much, gentlemen.

 

Shane: What we normally do is start off with a little bit about your past. Where were you born John?

 

John: I was born at a tragically early age in Auckland and I grew up initially in Te Atatu which is a glorious suburb on the harbour, in the upper harbour. I went to school there and lived there until I was about a teen or so when my parents had some kind of crazy idea and moved just to the Bible belt of Mount Roskill which amongst the many facilities it didn’t have, it didn’t even have a pub. I became bored with it quite quickly and at 18 I decamped and went and lived in the bush in Papua New Guinea for eighteen or twenty months or so.

 

As far as growing up I’m still doing it. It’s been a long and difficult childhood.

 

Sam: What did you want to be when you grew up?

 

John: Goodness. Retired.

 

Shane: You went to Papua New Guinea and then you came back to New Zealand obviously at some point. What brought you back and what did you learn in Papua New Guinea?

 

John: Papua New Guinea was a transformative experience. I went there in 1976. It was a newly independent country. In fact tried to go in 1975 just as it became independent but they didn’t have embassies, you couldn’t get visas and it was terribly difficult. I got there and I worked as a motor mechanic in training, people in small engines in the bush in what’s now called Sandaun Province which was then the West Sepik as a volunteer and lived very simply in villages. Met all kinds of fabulous, fabulous characters. The ‘land of the unexpected’ as they call Papua New Guinea has a way of seeping into you and calling you back. I think I’ve been back more than twenty times since I left. I was fortunate enough, in fact, to go back and do some teaching up there, then later to go back and do some work for Oxfam. It’s a fabulous, fabulous country.

 

Shane: What first got you interested in going to Papua New Guinea? That’s not a standard path. Most people when they’re 18 head off to Europe or America. Why PNG and-

 

John: Well, in common with most 18 year old males it was not a rational decision. I think it was something which came about as an argument in a pub about whether I should join this movement to not have beer and pies on a Friday and put the money into aid and development, and being fond of beer and pies as my girth will tell you, I had to argue against it all. Actually I argue against just about anything, and said I’d far rather do something more practical with my skills and somebody called my bluff and said, “Actually there’s this unpaid job in the bush in the mosquito infested hell hole.” The West Sepik has the best mosquitoes in the world. They need clearance from civil aviation to land. They frequently make off with calves and small children.

 

My bluff was called and I couldn’t back out and I went.

 

Shane: That must have been an amazing experience. Obviously you’re extremely fond of the country and the people. You came back to New Zealand what was your plan when you came back? Did you have a plan?

 

John: Sitting around in the bush with not too much to do but chew beetle nut and occasionally get a bit of wireless you get a bit of time to think and I decided that I really wanted to come back and study social work, but particularly what I thought was community social work which turned out to be community development. Just to add familiar with the term, I think of it as community development is the crucible of democracy. It’s the place where citizens come together to share their dreams and plan their common futures. It’s a way of collectively organising to make life better and that became my discipline and I’ve kept it for the rest of my life, and something I’m enormously fond of and very proud of and which defines me. These days I’m a senior lecturer community development, having become too old for useful work, I’ve returned to academia where it’s not object to advancement. I’m on the Board of the International Association of Community Development, and I’m chairing the Aotearoa Association and chairing the National Conference, and I’ve been fortunate enough to go on tour in March last year through India with twenty other community development practitioners. It’s fabulous. It’s better than religion.

 

Shane: Community development obviously is different depending what communities you’re in. The community in Papua New Guinea might be different to what community here or in Ireland or in India. What are the common themes and what are the differences and what do you have to be careful of going in…?

 

John: The great trap in community development is you really can’t have much of an agenda of your own. You have to help people find the agenda that they want. To give you an example, I chair a fabulous little organisation called the Waiheke Resources Trust. It does all kinds of fabulous projects in community development. We got a little grant here at council to see whether we could do something about food waste. Almost all the work that’s done on food waste is done after you’ve wasted the food. It’s a deeply stupid place to intervene in a problem. Myself and a young colleague intern wrote a paper doing a Lit review from around the world on food waste and said, “You got to start somewhere else”.  We put this thing through to the Ministry for the Environment and they were pretty excited about it. Then they had a change of leadership and no one was really excited again.  We pitched away and did a little trial at home. Ultimately we got the local council to say, “We’ll put some money behind you. Go and see what you can do.” They sent us off to a fabulous community we chose on Waiheke called Blackpool. Blackpool has a resident’s association which exists under the name BRA. The Blackpool Residents Association that came together when the community was flooded some years earlier. It had been little bit in abeyance.
 

 

We got that community together and we said, “Let’s spend an afternoon dreaming about what we’d really like in this community.” I kept in the background that we had a couple of young women, one of whom was working for us and one of whom was working for council in facilitating this process. “That’s good, we’ve got all your ideas, we’re going to write them up, we’re going to bring you back and John will cook you a lovely three course dinner with wine and candles and everything, then we’ll narrow it down and we’ll come up with what we’re going to do.” What we were wanting to do was inject some enthusiasm around sustainability and food waste. What the residents came up with is that they really wanted a pub. I thought fantastic, I can go back to the council and say, “Mr. Mayor, thanks very much for your money. Got nowhere on the sustainability, but the residents would like a pub, preferably on your land.”

 

This could be the severely career limiting approach but actually we worked with that community and they got a pub, it’s a fantastic thing. It’s called the Dog and Pony and it pops up. It’s a pop-up pub, it pops up in a public building every few weeks and people bring their biscuits and their nibbles and their bottle of wine or their homemade beer and their violin and they have a fabulous time in their own community and they walk to it, walk home. No one gets killed in the process. The purpose of that story is to illustrate how it’s actually got to be the community’s decision what they want. Having got there and had the pub delivered, we were able to see who leaders were in that community and get alongside them and say, “Can we do something around food waste?” We did a fantastic trial there and really significantly reduced the waste of food and learned a whole lot that we’re now rolling out in other communities.

 

Sam: Is that easier or harder on an island?

 

John: It’s much easier on an island. Everything’s easier on an island. Not everything, you would run out of water here, that’s not easier. Your relationships are far more intimate. Everybody’s recycled. You have to be a little bit more both self-reliant and collectively reliant on each other to make things work. There’s an opening. I think on this island it’s a very proud history of concern about the environment and of being unafraid to stand up and be counted on things. We were the first place in New Zealand to be nuclear free. I think we were the first council to declare ourselves GE free. When the boats left for Moruroa, they largely came from Waiheke. We’re a great bunch. It’s very easy to find other people of like mind in this community to do something that’s better for everyone.

 

Sam: Then you have a council that is representing all of Auckland and does things like destroy your waste management system.

 

John: You’ve got to have the time sense of a geologist to appreciate these things you see. We originally had a couple of roads boards here, that then got made into the Waiheke County Council. I remember the Waiheke County Council very fondly. A place where politics became a blood sport and source of local entertainment where people jostled to get a seat at the local council meeting, try deftly to be upwind of Fred Burrock who hadn’t washed. We were one fantastic county. We did things like say, “It’s our island and we’re going to green it.” They built their own nursery, employed four or five islanders and every ratepayer could front up and get three trees any time he liked. They get your fruit trees and fruit trees were planted on the road verges, in public parks and all over the place.

 

That was fabulous. Then it was compulsory amalgamated with Auckland City Council which is no longer. Waiheke revolted of course because the first thing that the good burghers of Rocky Bay knew about the amalgamation is they came down their muddy track with the carefully sorted recycling was a big flash new council truck going past and threw the whole lot into a compactor and took it off to a hole in the ground. We were pretty vexed and aggrieved about that.

 

When the Royal Commission on the Governance of Auckland asked the then 1.4 million people of the region to comment on their plan, 28.8% of all submissions came from the 0.8% of the people who lived on Waiheke who demanded that the commission come here and explain themselves about how we were going to do without local governance. Ourselves and the Great Barrier community won their own local governments back. Yes, it’s true that we did lose the fabulous social enterprise in rubbish but we’ll win it back. We [inaudible 00:12:46], we can write.

 

Shane: It sounds like there was already a community there to work with. How do you development a community where the one doesn’t already exist or it’s very fragile?

 

John: There’s been some great work done around that in New Zealand and overseas. In fact, I had a cup of tea this morning with my very good friend, Gavin Rooney who at 76 has just retired from being a senior lecturer in Community Development. He was the first local authority community worker employed in New Zealand. They put him in the new Nappy Alley suburbs of Massey out in West Auckland. When he finished his term, they didn’t appoint a new one, the council, because they had so much trouble with the last one. He just very patiently went around, getting to know people, linking people up. Getting conversations going about things. Similarly a great New Zealand community worker was Wendy Craig who worked in the Takaro community of Palmerston North. Was very famous there when the hospital board were considering closing a maternity unit. Wendy got a whole bunch of mothers with crying babies to go to the hospital board meeting. I think it was a bit of judicious bottom pinching during the meeting because the meeting had to be abandoned there was so many crying babies. The board got the message, they shouldn’t mess with the women of Takaro.

 

It’s a gentle process of getting to know people, finding their interests, linking them up with each other. Making it possible for people to believe that they can control their own futures and have a say. Once you get to that point it’s pretty unstoppable.

 

Sam: We visited Oamaru last year, or the year before, they have got a really strong transition town movement. They’ve got a really good summer school and they’ve got their, what do they call it…The waste recycling system, they’re planting trees on every street frontage. Whole pile of things. We thought, “This is amazing. We have to go and find out they’re managing this. How is the whole town in behind transitional Oamaru?” It turns out it’s not. There’s about six people doing everything but what they’re doing is doing things that other people would get engaged in. Even if they think the transitional town people are a bit weird, they still recognise that having fruit trees in front of their house is a good thing.

 

John: Transition towns, it’s somewhat kind of like a brand really. They came to Waiheke and the next thing we noticed was all kinds of things we’d already been doing with transition town things. That’s good. They’re able to reach a different constituency. Every little tribe that marches in a similar direction that reaches a new constituency makes us all collectively stronger. It’s great.

 

Kaikoura is another place that’s fabulous. Kaikoura, when I was down there last week helping sort the rubbish on the line in the recycling plant because her brother, Robbie Roach, is the manager of Innovative Waste Kaikoura. He is facing a mountain of construction and demolition waste and working out has a community they can make the best of that. Wonderful. There is actually a lot of be said for rubbish. I started to think that we’ve got to grab hold of all the rubbish and keep it for the poor before the rich find out how bloody valuable it is.

 

Sam: One time I visited Waiheke and the rubbish was sitting in some sort of carton or big crate thing on the wharf. I thought, “All the people that go over the wharf can see this is the result of our through-put.” It’s nice and visible. You don’t need to have a website or anything. Unfortunately that’s gone. My question though, was is there a tipping point of how much community engagement you need to actually make a difference?

 

John: If I refer back to my good friend Wendy Craig, who’s a very wise woman. She said once, “If you’re fun to be with, they’ll always be people with you.” Two essential ingredients for good community development are fun, coupled with a deep seed irreverence, and food. If you put those two things together you can find ways to build bridges and get people engaged. Once people become engaged in their own neighbourhood and there’s oodles of research out that says people want to be more engaged and they want to do that locally. Somewhere where they live. We just seem to have built a social structure that’s going entirely in the wrong direction for that. Some clever marketing guru gets hold it, they’ll be community development on sale.

 

I suppose there is a kind of tipping point but it’s a tipping point. It just takes a little bit of enthusiasm in pulling people together and it has its successes and its failures. It requires some judicious thinking about what would be good early successes because nothing succeeds like success. People’s experience of a win is very empowering.

 

Sam: You’ve written about foreign issues. You write about gambling and the relationship between gambling and public health. What’s the cross over between that and the collective organising and community development we’ve been talking about?

 

John: Sure. This second stint in academia. I was here in the mid-90s and I founded a graduate programme in not-for-profit management. I started to wonder, I actually wondered this on a beach with a great American guy called Tim McMain. We sat on a beach and wondered this together whether the biggest threat to biodiversity was not the loss of Hochstetter’s Frog, or the Maui dolphin, but the most important biodiversity was the biodiversity of thought. What I observed happening around the world in terms of governance and management was that there was starting to be a one true solution, one size fits all. Funnily enough it happened to be the one that culturally suited white men in suits from Boston. You saw other ways of doing and knowing and thinking being pushed out to the margins. When I looked at the impact of that on the community sector I became deeply concerned at the kind of corporatization that was happening all over the place that was actually driving out the most important thing we do in the community organisation which is giving people the opportunity to belong. Belonging is just really important for people and for healthy societies. If you don’t think it’s important, go to court on a Monday morning. You’re not going to find many playcentre mums.

 

We started to think about this thing about actually the way we manage community organisations has to palpably different, it has to have its own kaupapa, it has to have its own culture. It has to have a consistency, because you don’t have the same tools. You don’t have the same money that you can incentivize and you don’t have the legislative power of the state. All you have is trying to get people to line up around some values.

 

I did that for nine years and then I did a dangerous thing – I had a holiday. I woke up from that I thought, “I wonder if I’ll still be here, preaching on like this in thirty years time. I should go and find out if it works.” I looked for a broken community organisation which was the Problem Gambling Foundation. I was fortunate enough to be appointed their CEO, and I had a really fantastic five years. Learning about gambling and its impact. My thinking is very influenced by the late, great Bill Mollison who developed Permaculture. I’m sure some of your listeners will know about Bill and he and David Holmgrem’s work.

 

When I got to the Problem Gambling Foundation, things were quite broken so I couldn’t hop into the track and blast off into the sunset. None of the gears worked, the wiring was buggered, and the finance system didn’t work. It was just a bloody mess. It was a lot of grunt work to be done for about three months. While I was doing that I decided I’d have a Masters level education in gambling. Every night I would read two or three hours worth of papers from around the world about gambling. What I quickly found out is that more than half of them had all the validity of 1950s tobacco research, and for exactly the same reason. Just as the tobacco companies corrupted the research sector by buying it, so had the gambling industry. That really made it hard. I didn’t know. I didn’t know what the answer was. I had to keep looking, keep looking, keep looking. One night about 10:00 I came across one statistic and it showed me that ten years earlier, no New Zealand women had come to treatment for gambling problems. Yet, now in 2003 this was, more than half the people coming were women.

 

If you approach that bit of statistic with the traditional addictions lens, and addictions looks at the person who is harmed after the harm has happened and says, “What is the matter with the person?” Then the question you ask is what happened to New Zealand women that they all got so weak over ten years? Mine has not been a life which has been surrounded by weak New Zealand women. I tend to end up with the very mouthy, stroppy ones. There’s still time. It’s a species I’m interested I’m explore. I thought, “This just doesn’t make bloody sense.” I fell back on my trade union background, I thought, “If I’d gone to a mill and there were three blokes sitting around with their arms cut off, my first thing wouldn’t be to get them into a support group and say, “now come on you fellas, what happened in your earlier lives that caused you to cut your arms off?” Essentially that’s what we were doing with gamblers. We were getting people who would come in who were deeply harmed and saying, “This is your fault in some way.” It isn’t.

 

The normal outcome of regular use of a pokie machine is that you’ll be harmed by it. It’s a deeply, deeply pernicious industry and it extracts money out of the communities that can least afford it. You follow the capital flows? It’s a transfer of wealth from the women to the men, from the brown to the white and from the poor to the rich. Once I understood that, I knew that it was deeply offensive and I could have a great deal of fun fighting it. It’s just like any other kind of plunder, environmental plunder or community plunder.

 

Shane: Why has New Zealand’s society allowed that or constructed a system? This kind of gambling, for instance, isn’t simply legal back in Ireland and I was really shocked when I came over here to see the pokie machines and the casinos. What allowed that? What was the construct there?

 

John: I’ve always wondered if in Ireland the reason it didn’t go ahead was because the church couldn’t find a way to control it. Just as an aside.  The way gambling gets in everywhere is a bit of a standard method and it’s lies, deception and corruption. They have fantastic relationships with senior people in government. I can think of a fellow in a one man party, and I don’t mean David Seymour, who in his entire career in politics has never voted against the gambling industry, the liquor industry or the tobacco industry. He stands for Family First party. Think about that.

 

They use all kinds of chicanery in communities and they have got oodles and oodles of money. I often used to say, “Any idiot could run a pokie trust and usually does.”

 

Sam: What do you do about trying to change that behaviour if you’re taking that collective responsibility role that you’re talking about. The point is that it’s already normalised.

 

John: People aren’t stupid. In fact what you see happening with the pokie industry up until the last two quarters is a poisoning of the well. There’s very few people in this country now who don’t know somebody or some family that’s been blighted by those machines. It’s really, really hard to walk into anywhere they are and imagine that there’s something glamorous going on. All you really have to do to fight against this is number one, tell the truth, and we tell the truth about it on a daily basis through a news feed called Today’s Stories that a wonderful woman named Donna in Auckland puts together every morning. Gets on my desk about 7 a.m. and it’s a summary of all the gambling stories in New Zealand and around the world.

 

You find things like the second biggest motivator for organised fraud, white collar crime, and this is a top accounting firm study, is gambling. Unless you look at the charitable sector alone in which case it’s always the highest motivator. Gambling is only allowed in our society really for charitable purposes but the people most likely get harmed by the charities. When you start to tell that story repeatedly it starts to become true. The latest surveys by the Department of Internal Affairs now show that the majority of New Zealanders don’t think it’s a good idea to fund communities out of the gambling industry. While the minister, Minister Dunne, is desperately trying to liberalise the regime and ensure that pokie machines are a sustainable industry. You can’t put glitter on a turd. It just isn’t going to work. Ultimately, people will throw them out and I think we will look back on this period of our history with a sense of deep shame and say, “How did we allow that level of exploitation of our poorest and most vulnerable citizens.” Make no mistake it’s the poor who pay the price of pokie gambling.

 

I put a picket on a pub in Manurewa years ago and they have 5.1 million dollars from that poor, poor, poor South Auckland suburb leave town. Some of the money went to charity, it went to the Otago Rugby Union, and the Canterbury Jockey Club. The horse owners which apparently is a sport. Not one red cent went back into that community yet there were moms dropping the kids off at school in their dressing gowns coming into that pub playing those machines. Desperate to try and win some of it back.

 

Sam: Talking about stories and telling the truth, I’m thinking about now as we move very quickly into what’s being referred to as post-truth, or whatever. We’ve been having the same thing on a lesser level for quite a long time here about the story, it’s all right Jack, everything’s wonderful on Planet Key. Is that making it harder to engage communities because they’re being told so strongly that everything’s all right?

 

John: Yeah. There’s certainly something very comforting about the news according to Mike Hoskins. It doesn’t really bear looking at. Put it in context to the States, I was in the States during the period of the conventions. I just couldn’t believe it. Come on, you people, you’re not stupid are you? What’s going on? You wonder how long it would be before particularly working class middle America wakes up and realises they’re seriously being duped. There is I think a real risk in our society in the decline in journalism. I don’t mean that journalists are any less than there ever were, great journalists in this country but there’s a hell of a lot less of them. They’ve got a hell of a lot less time to do their job. There’s a lot of stuff that’s just sliding by. I just about fell off the chair when I read that we were the least corrupt country in the world.

 

Sam: You’ve written about gagging, I think in relation to Christchurch. Do you think we’ve got a problem with people in government, local government, national government, being told what they can and can’t say?

 

John: Yes we have. It gets passed down so that one of the real roles of the community sector, and community development organisations is to get people together and speak on their behalf. What we’ve seen with the rise of contractaulism and the relationship between government and the community sector is that those contracts are used to exercise gagging and changes in governance and all manner of restrictions. I remember at the Problem Gambling Foundation getting told that we provide free counselling services in prison. That we would not be able to have a contract if we continued to provide free counselling services in prison. Their organisation was actually born in prison. A couple of guys realised they were in prison because they gambled, they decided they were going to do something about it. We had very deep roots to that. I said to the officials at the time, “Hell will freeze over guys. Let’s see who’s going to blink first.”

 

We were a long time, many, many, many months with no income. Staring down the barrel of that thing. You can’t withhold medical treatment, which is what counselling services, from people in prison. That’s in breach of international human rights codes. We won’t participate with it. Boy, did that organisation get punished by the Ministry of Health for having an ethical position. They certainly did. They still got that ethical position I’m proud to say.

 

Shane: Do other organisations look at that example and then think we’d better not cross government?

 

John: Yeah. Absolutely. A terribly expensive case for an organisation to have to take. All brilliant work that was done by a fantastic team of lawyers but by golly it doesn’t come cheap. Just to preserve what you already had.

 

Shane: What we’re saying is what we’re seeing happening in America in a radical and very clear way, has been happening slowly here for a long time?

 

John: Yes, I do think some of that but I also think that we owe it to our communities not to be timid and not to self-censor. I can put up with being censored by the state, I can rebel against it, I can speak out against it, but I’m far more worried about people doing the Nervous Nellie and self-censoring to please.

 

Sam: You’re Head of Department of Social Practise-

 

John: I was Head of Department, I’m happily now … Poor Robert Ford has that honour. I’m now Senior Lecturer in Community Development.

 

Sam: Okay. You’re teaching people how to be community development practitioners.

 

John: Yes.

 

Sam: Are you training them to be trouble makers?

 

John: Absolutely. Definitely. We’re training them to be true, to look at injustice and impoverishment and know where they’re going to stand. Really they are the most delightful students. It must of been 2015 I think, I had a student come into my office breathlessly and say, “I did something!” I said, “That’s good, we’ve all done something. What is it you’ve done?” “I can’t even tell you.” She passed me a phone and she set up a Facebook page to plan a protest on TV 3 about the proposed closure of Campbell Live. I said, “That’s fantastic. Terrific! We’ll talk with the class about it.” She said, “I’ve never been to a protest before!” “Oh well, that’s fine. We’ll have a look on the computer, we’ll find you one to go to.”

 

Her group of them went off down and helped the McDonald’s workers fight the good fight against zero hours contracts. Then they lead a protest march to TV 3 and they got inside and occupied the building and had a wonderful time. Sat on the floor and slapped their thighs and said, “This is what democracy looks like,” and I was terribly, terribly proud of them because that’s how you build a people who will not be bowed. The risk that we have all around the world at the moment is that government’s lose the understanding that they government by consent and that that consent can be withdrawn.

 

Sam: Those young graduates of yours, the ones you’ve trained to be trouble makers, they have to go into organisations that rely on government funding.

 

John: They do.

 

Sam: How are they going to manage that tension?

 

John: Life’s full of difficulties. I talked to one just the other day who did a TV show by posing as school children buying single cigarettes. She’s happily found work in a tobacco control agency. I think young people are actually pretty smart. What I observe happening around the place is some very good advocacy training is going on. I went out on Saturday night and I met Sandy, the producer of the documentary Beautiful Democracy which is about the young people who lead the TPPA protests. Gosh, my heart was so warmed by the fact that these young people were really deeply thinking about their tactics, what would work and trying things out. Doing fantastic research. Really deeply engaging in this society because engaged citizens aren’t the ones you’ve got to fear. It’s the ones who aren’t engaged you’ve got to be worried about.

 

Sam: You are chairing, I think, the Community Development Association conference coming up-

 

John: I am. yes, it’s a fantastic honour. I’m thrilled to bits.

 

Sam: What sort of things can we expect? I should say I’m going to it.

 

John: It’s going to be fantastic, really is. We’ve got, as of this afternoon, 170-odd people from around the world coming. What we’re doing is we’re using a community development lens for by and large people are community activists, community development practitioners and academics and leaders. We’re using that to look at the United Nations have deemed Agenda 2030. Which is the goal of sustainable development. Ordinarily if you wanted to talk about the United Nations, you put me into a deep sleep instantly. The seventeen goals for sustainable development are a fifteen year plan for the whole world, and they are just about the most important things we could be dealing with. It’s ending poverty, it’s ending hunger. It’s about having gender equality, it’s about having good health care. It’s about having good education, and other things that you wouldn’t expect. Like access to clean and affordable energy.

 

One of the guests who’s coming in is Kalyan Paul who’s from Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation and is from Ranikhet in the Almora District, Uttarakhand in the foothills of the Himalayas. I went up and visited him and he works with the forest dwellers and the people who live in the deep, deep valleys. We were talking about Agenda 2030 which brings together a lot of social goals with a lot of environmental goals. He said to me, “Look, it was inevitable. This is completely inevitable. We’ve known this would happen.” Where did he bloody know that sitting up here? He said, “You can’t protect the forest if the people have no fuel for their cooking. You simply can’t do it.” The only way we’ve managed to protect all this beautiful forest is by addressing the problem, and that is they built small biogas plants. They take the cow dung and human dung and produce gas which does the cooking and lighting. The houses don’t need to walk miles into the forest and cut the trees down. Then you can protect the forest.

 

Very practical solutions but based on some really good deep thinking. This wonderful confluence of the social and the economic and the environmental. It’s a really exciting time because many people in community development actually have got a huge contribution to make to the way we take this stuff forward. Companies are looking at this stuff. One of the big multi-nationals, I can’t remember exactly the name. They probably made your toothpaste and soap this morning. They have so many tens of thousands that they give out in grants and they have so many thousand days a year of corporate volunteering. They just announced Agenda 2030, as of June all about volunteering, all about donations and everything, are going to be targeted on the seventeen sustainable development goals. All of our industries are going to be measured against their contributions to those goals. This is really big, big stuff.

 

Sam: All right. We’re running out of time and I’ve got seven questions to ask.

 

John: I’ll try to be brief.

 

Sam: We’re going to have to rattle through them. What is your go-to definition of sustainability?

 

John: Pass. I haven’t got a short one for that. The Brundtland Commission which is to consume today only so much as to ensure tomorrow can. Is still pretty good.

 

Sam: That’ll do. How would you describe your sustainable super power? What is it you’re bringing to the good fight?

 

John: A really good sense of fun, a deep reverence for food and a great love of people.

 

Sam: I think I know how you’re going to answer this next question. Do you consider yourself to be an activist?

 

John: Absolutely. Activism is the rent price that you pay for living on the planet.

 

Sam: Have you always thought that?

 

John: Pretty much I think. My mom would say so. She said I was this troublesome in primary school.

 

Sam: Have you ever been a position where you couldn’t be?

 

John: I’ve often been in a position where I couldn’t be as activist as I might like to be. I know some fabulous people and I was reflecting with Gavin this morning on an experience I had in a government committee meeting where I felt that the principle that was being applied was deeply, ethically wrong. The others stood with me, he lost it as a vote but when I put it out, impassioned it out, others stood with me. You go, okay, I just didn’t win it today. I’ve got to come back and be better next time.

 

Sam: You said something that was deeply ethically wrong.

 

John: Yeah.

 

Sam: Where did those ethics come from?

 

John: Gosh. I think you get a lot of them from your mom. I know I get my sense of fairness from my mom. She’s still alive, she’s pretty smart. She knows that if she cut an apple, I’d want to have the biggest bit and my little brother get the smallest bit. She’d do the Solomon trick, she’d say, “You cut and he chooses.” Never seen the precision going into cutting an apple like that.

 

Sam: Do you think that people like coming through school getting that stuff?

 

John: You have your moments of despair about it. I have an absolutely 18 year daughter of whom I’m incredibly proud. She’s on every kind of activism there is. She is on so much more activism at 18 than I was that I feel very hopeful for the planet. Again, meeting Sandy on the weekend and looking at the film and the other film around indigenous housing and some of the young people coming through the programmes that were involved, I think there’s some pretty fabulous young people out there.

 

Sam: What’s your daughter going to do with that? There’s not many programmes like the one you teach where we’re actively teaching people or even allowing people to be activists.

 

John: She’s going off to Victoria University next year and I said, “Are you going to do politics?” She just looked at me, she said, “You don’t think I get enough politics at home?” She’s got a love of languages, she’s travelled, she’s Maori so she’s going to do some Maori studies and some law and some languages. Whatever she does and learn she’ll make a big difference with her life, I can just see it.

 

Sam: What motivates you? What gets you out of bed in the morning? A pretty stunning view I must say.

 

John: It is a stunning view. I leave it in the dark, can you believe it? I belt out of bed before 5, and I’m out of here by half past to go all the way to Henderson to do the job there. Lovely team of people that I work with. I think that most people want a job worth doing, they want a team worth belonging to and they want leadership worth following. Two out of three ain’t bad.

 

Sam: That’s quite a commute.

 

John: It is.

 

Sam: Ferry and then train?

 

John: It’s currently either car or bicycle to the ferry. Then ferry and then most of the time it’s taking the little campaign car that we have because it’s got to live in a concrete bunker. At that time of the morning I can be in my office by 7 which gives me clear, early part of the day. When the new trains come and we’ve got a route that doesn’t go by Kazakhstan that might be an option.

 

Sam: What challenges are you looking forward to in the next couple of years?

 

John: I’m really looking forward to the conference and that’s challenging on day by day basis. Got one of the young graduates managing that process. It’s just fantastic. A young woman that can take any pile of drivel that I put on the page and turn it into something that looks like a masterpiece, so that’s fabulous.

 

After the conference I’m planning to do a major piece of research in New Zealand on the behaviour of funding organisations and the processes and how this does or does not contribute to innovative and sustainable funding relationships. I’m planning on doing that piece of work for a few years. I’m just finishing a piece of work on the living wage movement, and also helping on a project looking at South Kaipara community economic development scheme which is featuring in the conference. That is all pretty good.

 

Sam: You’re a busy chap, especially with the dancing in the garden stuff?

 

John: Dancing in the garden is a great deal of fun, yeah. They’re going to get a film maker there.  He just as to look at me in a certain way and I can’t help myself. I become a total show-off really. The garden is very important to me. I have a great garden here, it’s still looking fabulous but we’re entering drought now so it’ll all be dead in a fortnight. Organic food, really, really important to me. Food’s really important. Sharing it with people.

 

Sam: Two more questions unless I get distracted.

 

John: Sure.

 

Sam: If you could wave a magic wand and have a miracle occur by tomorrow morning what would it be?

 

John: My standard reply to that is that every wish that would ever have would come true but I don’t think that’s going to wear in this occasion. Gosh. Would we have to fix the climate. That would have to be the top. The two problems we’re going to deal with are inequality and the climate. If we get those things stopped the rest of it’s a piece of cake.

 

Sam: What’s the smallest thing that we could do that would have the biggest impact on either or both of those?

 

John: I think if we all really looked at inequality in our society and started having a real discussion about it, and saying, “No, I don’t believe these Kiwis really want to have a third of children living in poverty.” That’s been able to perpetuate because we have not been having the conversation and we have to have that conversation really, really robustly.

 

Sam: Last question before we get in trouble with the Buddhists, do you have any advice for our listeners?

 

John: Live long, it’ll damn your enemies.

 

Sam: Great. You’re listening to Sustainable Lens on Talk Access Radio 105.4 FM. This show was recorded on the 26th of January, 2017. Our guest was John Stansfield

 

Categories
business education philosophy

continuous happiness

 

Dr. Gagan Deep Sharma is from the School of Management Studies at the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi. He works and teaches in finance. with a focus on sustainable investment, humane business, and the response of technical education to sustainability.

 

Sam: Welcome to Sustainable Lens, Resilience on Radio, a weekly show on sustainability topics brought to you by Otago Polytechnic. Each week we talk with somebody building a positive future and we try to investigate what drives them, what is their sustainable lens, how they’re acting as a sustainable practitioner. Today’s sustainable lens is that of Dr. Gagan Deep Sharma from the School of Management Studies at the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi. He works and teaches in finance and he’s working in sustainable investment, humane business, the response of technical education to sustainability, and so on, all particularly with an Indian context. Thank you very much for joining me.

 

Gagan: Thank you.

 

Sam: Let’s start with the big questions though. Where did you grow up?

 

Gagan: Oh well, I come from the province of Punjab in the northern part of India. I come from a small village, I was born in that small village, Rampur. I took my initial education from there and grew up there to a middle class family, service family. Yeah, just like that. Then I took my higher education from the same district.

 

Sam: What did you want to be when you grew up?

 

Gagan: Well, it was different when I initially thought. I thought I would be studying law probably. But, as I grew up, I thought that law is not my cup of tea, so I thought I’d rather go with teaching, and I ended up teaching.

 

Sam: What did you do your higher degrees on?

 

Gagan: I did my masters in commerce and philosophy. Punjab University is my university. Punjab University is one of the better universities, better known universities in India, and globally also. Then I did my doctorate in the field of management. I did it on the stock markets of South Asian nations. Yeah, so I studied the linkages between the stock markets of SAARC, South Asian regional block that we have.

 

Sam: The sustainable, environmental, social thing that you have going now. Has that always been a thing for you?

 

Gagan: Actually, it has not always been, but let me bring into perspective the other part. I started reading a lot of literature, not only on my field, not only on management, finance, and stuff, but I started reading literature on different fields like, for example, poetry. For example, on the short studies, the novels, the fiction, the prose, all of it. While going through that, I myself developed the interest to go into the poetry. So I wrote two books of poetry, which were in my local language, Punjabi. When I saw the field of finance and management from a poet’s view, that was a different lens altogether. That gave me a broader thinking, broader way to look at the things. I thought that finance, management, all these things, economics, by itself cannot be looked at in isolation from the other things of the world. This is where the initial change in my focus comes.

 

Secondly, in 2010, I came across a workshop, which was an eight-day workshop on human values and ethics. It was done by an electronics engineer, Ganesh Bagaria.  He is an electronics engineer, but he was talking about a different perspective. He was talking about what is the human goal, what is the goal of the family, how do we look at the universe? This was sensational for me. I was taken aback and I was shaken. “Man, what are you doing? What kind of stock markets, what are you talking about? Have you tried to put your things into this perspective? Have you tried to look at the world from this angle?”

 

The answer from within myself came, “No.” Then I thought it’s never too late to start thinking on the right lines, so I thought I’ll just look at the world of business, the world of management, the world of economics from the angle of a holistic perspective. This is the second way, the second shift that happens in my thinking philosophy. So from then on I shifted. As I said, I did my doctorate in global finance. All the doctorates that I’m guiding now are not in global finance. Those are in integrating finance with a holistic development, or sustainable development as you may call it.

 

Sam: If you had had that lens earlier, would you have not done that doctorate? Or could you have applied that lens to the doctorate that you did?

 

Gagan: Yeah, actually. Again, I did my post-graduation in 2001 and I started my doctorate in 2008. Had I had that lens before, I think I would have finished my doctorate by 2008 rather than starting it, because that lens does not hinder you, it helps. The biggest problem in the doctorate research is to find a problem, which problem to research on. Had I had that lens before, I think I would have had the problem before I could be able to identify the problem, well before. And I would have finished my work and then I would have been better placed to … I think would have been at a more advanced stage in my research on humane model than what I am today.

 

Sam: So this workshop that was transformational for you, it was on human values and ethics. What prompted you to go to that?

 

Gagan: Oh, it’s not so formal, but yeah. My university, probably I’ll put it in a very funny way, that two of us who were pretty naughty kind of. I was heading the department there, so my principal wanted to punish me. So he sent me for eight-day workshop. He said, “You should go there.” So I didn’t even look at the curriculum, what are they doing. I just thought that it’s a different place, so I’ll go, I’ll have fun. The other friend of mine, we thought that we’ll have some wine together and then enjoy the evenings. We won’t go to the workshop, as such. We’ll go on the first day and we’ll go on the last day. We were suited, booted. We wore our ties, we wore our suits. We were on the seventh heaven.

 

Then on the very first day when we went to the workshop, they told us to sit on the ground. The workshop was conducted on the floor. They said, “Sit on the floor.” So how would we, dressed in the suits with the ties, with all those formal pants and all, so how would we sit there? But we just talked that it’s rubbish how these people, I’m kidding. Then we thought, “Okay, no problem. Let’s spend an hour or so and then, well, anyway we are gonna run away. And we’ll be back only after eight days, when the concluding session is underway.  Yeah, that was the thinking, but …

 

Sam: What did they say in that first hour that got you to stay?

 

Gagan: Oh yeah. Actually, it was a very planned workshop. They had the plan to trap people like me. The plan was such that, initially, they got some people who came and spoke for two to five minutes. They were the people like me who were trapped before. They were sharing their own experiences, that “This is how we came. This was the philosophy with which, and all the thinking with which we came. And then we came here for an hour and then stayed for eight-odd days.” There were people who said that, for example, there was a guy who had worked in Septem used to be a real big company. He was a vice president there. He was wearing a kurta and a typical Indian dress. That guy was talking that “I left my job of vice president Septem. Another guy said that “I left my job, IBM, a very high position, and I started doing this.” That got us. We thought that “Let’s listen to everybody. This is not this place to run away, so.” Before I spoke to my friend about my intentions not to leave, he spoke to me and said that “Look here, I’m gonna be here.” So that’s it.

 

Sam: You said that was run by an electronics engineer?

 

Gagan: Oh yeah.

 

Sam: That seems a bit surprising too.

 

Gagan: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I’ll talk about it in slight more detail. That electronics engineer, he was dressed in a kurta, white coloured. He seemed to be an ordinary man, I mean really ordinary man, because it is Uttar Pradesh in which this workshop was. Uttar Pradesh is the name of the province. I thought that “He is such a layman now. What can he teach me?” When they read his degrees while introducing him, they said that there is no book in the library of the university, IIT, that he has not read. Every book in the library at that time has been seen issued to Ganesh Bagaria.

 

He has been going through the philosophy which we call as coexistentialism. This philosophy is called as coexistentialism. He has been into the philosophy of coexistentialism for long. You saw my presentation yesterday. I quoted A. Nagraj a number of times. A. Nagraj is the man who actually gave this philosophy. He went into the stage of samadhi in ancient Indian system. There is a stage of samadhi where you just get relieved of everything else that’s happening. He went into the Himalayas and did the samadhi for years.  After coming back he didn’t speak anything at all for years. Because he got realised to the coexistence. This is what he writes in his books. Then he wrote 13-odd books of philosophy. If I tell you the ideas of those philosophical verses, he wrote on human behaviour, he wrote on economics, he wrote on science. I mean whatnot, law? Whatnot, constitution? He wrote all those philosophical books, 12-odd books. Ganesh, he read all those books.

 

And not only that, all those books, he was in close company, he came across A. Nagraj like I did with Ganesh. He spent a lot of time and then discussed all those things with him. And he started looking at electronics engineering, or for that matter engineering, from that lens. That’s how he got into it, but yeah, I got into it like this.

 

Sam: So we don’t have eight days, but can you give us an insight into what the philosophy is?

 

Gagan: Oh, okay, why not? About eight days first. It is not necessarily eight days. The workshop is done for one day, for two day. I myself ran these workshops later for two days and three days for my students. Then it is also run for eight days, but as I said, in my feedback … We don’t call it feedback, we call it self-evaluation, which we do on the eighth day, on the last day. What I said in the self-evaluation was that I am afraid that this workshop was not eight day workshop. I’m afraid that this workshop is going to be running within me forever now. Eight days, you’re right you said you don’t have eight days, but I’m sure you have life. Not only you, but the listeners also.

 

What is it all about? It talks about the four levels. It says that, initially, it begins with what is the goal of the human? What is your goal, right? We keep on saying that, for example, my goal is say social benefit. People say my goal is natural benefit, this this this this this. The workshop takes you to the straight white, that through all that, you’re actually not looking at all that. Those are the means to an end, and the end is your own happiness. The ultimate goal the workshop proposes, it’s run in the form of a proposal, not in any form of sermons. Not any form of verdict. It is run in the form of a proposal. It proposes that the goal of a human is continuous happiness. That’s it. I want to be happy and I want to be continually happy, that is it, nothing more, but nothing less.

 

Then, for achieving the continuous happiness, it talks about the human programme. What is the programme that you have to achieve that continuous happiness? About the programme, it states that there are two important things in this whole universe. One is the human. Second is rest of the nature, right? Rest of the nature can also be classified into three orders. One is material order, plant order, animal order. And the fourth one, as I said, is human, so human order. There are four orders in this world. Material order, plant order, animal order, and human order.

 

Then the first three can be put into the head of rest of the nature, and the fourth can be put as a human. So human and rest of the nature. For carrying out your programme, for reaching your goal of happiness, the human needs to be in harmony with the other humans, this is what we call relations, and with the rest of the nature from which we take the physical facilities. In order to achieve the human goal, the three things that human needs to do is … number two and number three, I’ll come to that first. Number two is relations with the humans. Number three is physical facilities with the rest of the nature. And number one is right understanding about both of them. How much is required, how to get it, all of that. It is about understanding about these two.

 

In this way, this is the kind of human programme that is required to attain that human goal. This is the first thing. This is to happen within yourself. At the level of individual this is to happen, this understand is to happen, and then you are to realise that “Yeah, this is what I’m gonna do.” This process begins. Once this happens with an individual, the second thing which the workshop proposes is that it happens in the family. At the level of individual, as I said, at the level of self, what we call, it is continuous happiness.

 

At the level of family, so once this happens within the individual, within all the members of the family, when the family is prosperous … And I have developed my own definition of prosperity where we say that what you have upon what you need. What you have upon what you need. Prosperity has to do more with the denominator than the numerator. While we are working towards what you have, have more, have more, have more whatever you have. And if you do not know exactly what you need, then the glass will never be full. If I remove the base of this glass it’ll never be full. Things are like this only.

 

Therefore, in the family, it tells you about the denominator also. It guides you towards the denominator. What exactly do you need? And what exactly do you need is in terms of both second and third, relation and facility. It is not only about the facility, but also about the relation. When we do it this way, then the family has a possibility to be prosperous.

 

And when the families are prosperous, then the third goal at the level of society is fearlessness. Since when we are not prosperous, we will try to grab it from elsewhere. In poetry, I say usually that when one gets frustrated, one will choose the weapon. And with the weapon, the one who is weak will kill himself and the one who is slightly stronger will kill the other. Both of them are dangerous for the society. And both of them are achieved only when we are, not prosperous, but when we do not have the feeling of prosperity for that matter. When the feeling of prosperity is there within the families in the society, there is a possibility of fearlessness, which I think is a goal at the level of society.

 

And when you are fearless at the level of the society, when you know that you’re prosperous. You do not have to exploit the nature for attaining your own goals. For example, let me bring into perspective the example of my own province, where in order to … Because we people, the farmers in my area, we did not have a sense of how much exactly do we need. So we went for chemical farming and we have ended up damaging the air, we have ended up damaging the water, we have damaged the quality of land, we have damaged the quality of human beings because we are using that much chemicals. Reason? We did not know exactly where to stop. How much do we want to earn? We did not know what we need, so put infinity as a denominator, so the end result was zero. And as a result we kept on exploiting the nature.

 

When we are in a position to attain the first three goals, at the level of individual, at the level of self, we are continuously happy. At the level of family, that we are prosperous. At the level of society we are fearless. Then at the level of nature, we will live with mutual fulfilment. We will fulfil. Just in order to, I’ll take a minute, I know that I’m going a little in too much of detail, but this is eight-day thing that I’m talking about and giving eight minutes is fine I guess.

 

When we look at the four orders that I spoke to you about, material, plant, animal, and human. We look at these four orders. The first three orders cannot think. The fourth one can. Out of material, plant, and animal, these three cannot think. Arguably third can think or may not think, this is arguable, but the first two certainly cannot. Fourth can. And if we look at the damage that has been caused to the nature, the first three are very certain. The fourth is uncertain. If we look at the first three, material, plant, animal, plant knows what to breathe in and what to breathe out. Human body also knows. But the plant also knows what to do, where to grow up. It has a certain behaviour. If I throw this glass from up side, it’ll go down, that’s it, right? There’s no uncertainty in it. If I crush it, it’ll be crushed. If it is strong then it’ll probably crush my hand. The first three are certain behaviours. The fourth does not demonstrate a certain behaviour. And all the damage that has been done to the nature has been done by the fourth.

 

It is important for us not to manage the other things. We are too busy managing material, we are too busy managing plants, animals, all those things. Without feeling the need to manage ourselves, to think within ourselves and understand that it is the human which needs to be corrected, nothing else. This is almost all that the workshop speaks about. As I said, this is in the form of a proposal which one can verify at one’s own level. The good thing about this kind of a workshop is that now, we started small. Those people started very small. Now they are multinational also. We are holding these kind of workshops overseas also. Some workshops have been had in South Asia. We are planning to expand overseas also. These kind of things, wherever required will be done. This is not done for the sake of material. This is not done for the sake of money, no money is involved.

 

Sam: When you, after eight days, went back to work and you went away as somebody that was all into high finance and you went back, what did you say?

 

Gagan: Oh, I did not say anything, I did. Two of the important things that I could do … Rather, three of the important things that I could do. I was too much into research. There were 23 students who were studying in the MBA programme, I was heading the programme department, I was head of the faculty there. I called my staff and told them that “Guys, look here. We are not going to do anything which does not have a purpose.” So all the research, those 23 guys, our students, they were supposed to write a project each. We told them that “Okay, all those 23 projects will be with a goal. And they have to be placed somewhere within this.” I handled it myself and looked at all the 23 topics myself and made sure that those are somewhat related and somewhat placed within this framework. Then we went ahead and did those projects, 23 projects.

 

Okay, now, this is one. I’ll talk about the outcome also. The second important thing was that, since I was heading the faculty, I was also to look after the industry placement of those students. I must admit that this was the first batch of MBA holder, and the placement scenario was not too good. Employability scenario, not many companies are coming to employ those people. So when we did this exercise of 23 people doing their own projects on some meaningful issues, I requested my principal who punished me to come out to give me some funds, and I want to publish a book of the summaries of those 23 projects. I wanted the students to come up with the research papers out of those 23. I submitted all those 23 papers into SSRM, which is a social science research network, and got those published there.  Sanjit is one of my students, but he’s a friend and he was a colleague there, so I got him to do all those things, and he did. He also attended a workshop by the way, and is doing a PhD under me on similar topic.

 

I wanted him to look at these 23 papers and then we submitted it to the network, and then we got it published in the form of a book. Then I sent those books to almost all the industry that was around. To all those companies, with a sworn letter from my end, that “This is what our students have done. I’m sure you’ll look for the right tenant. And I think you can evaluate these people on the basis of that tenant.” So we did that, and what happened next is anybody’s guess. All those 23 people got their own offers, didn’t they? This is how I propose that, when you do the right thing, you do not have to work for the outcome. You work on the input and the outcome follows. This was pretty strange, and after that I’ve never looked back. I’ve thought earlier, I was also thinking that I would have to work for these people’s industrial placements separately, I will work for the research separately, I will work for the academics separately. But then when I realised that this is what, this.

 

This isn’t about this part, but I would again put into perspective one more thing. The other thing that we did was that, both of us who were there at the workshop, we thought that “Once we have some more understanding about it …” So we attended two, three, four more eight day workshops. This time we requested the principal to punish us again. We attended three, four more workshops, and then we maybe thought that there is somewhat clarity about it. We started with a smaller version of it, one day, two day workshop for all the university students at our campus itself.

 

Okay, so we could give this as a thought to those students. By the way, I forgot to mention that this was also a course which my university introduced, compulsory course for the students, which will run into four credits. Three credits later. But what we did was voluntary, one day, two day workshops, weekend workshops. I’ll tell you what happened again, another important aspect of it. The students who went to this workshop, when they come to me and say, “Sir, there is construction going on within the campus. There is labour which is working, they are living in the tents. Their kids are there. They’re here for around a year or so, two years, three years, whatever time it takes for the construction to finish. And those kids are not going to the schools.”

 

I said, “That’s true, but what can we do in it?” They said, “You talked about society in that workshop. We want to begin with an evening school for those workshops, and whichever student is free will go and teach.” I said, “That’s, wow …” I said, “I do not, there’s nothing stopping, so let’s go on.” We started with it. We gave it a go-ahead and the students started with it by themselves. We gave it a name, called Prayas. Prayas is effort. Hindi version of effort is Prayas. So we said, “Okay, let’s do it.” We started with it, we did it, and while doing this thing, I was also looking at the PR part of my college, public relations. Some of my friends who were in the media, journalism and media, they came to me and asked me, “Sir, give us some story. Not news, but some story.” I said, “Okay, fine, I’ll give you one story.” So I got them to interview those students who did that. They did a story, it was a national story, it got published.

 

Next day, newspaper carries the story that the students, the engineering and management students, opened the window of opportunity for the underprivileged lot. Story gets published. Next day, the education secretary of the ministry calls my principal and says, “How dare? How dare? We are promoting and we are boasting that our state does not have a single student who does not go to school. And you are teaching people, you are mentioning in your story that this is what is happening.” So the principal said, “I’ll get back to you.” He called me up, “What’s going on?” I said, “Let me show you what’s going on.” Both of us, we showed him, “This is what is going on. Anything that you want to say about it?” He called education secretary back and told him that “This is what we are doing, we are gonna do it.”

 

Sam: Because it’s the right thing to do.

 

Gagan: Yeah, it was the right thing to do, so we did it. And then the government wrote to us that “We would like to adopt this as a school,” which my principal denied. He said, “No, I do not want the government to do it. I will continue doing it. I will have my people continue doing it because the people can do more than the government can.” These are a few of the things that did follow the workshop.

 

Sam: Just in terms of the framework, the self, family, society, nature … The first one, the continuous happiness self one, is that different to the satisfying rational man generating selfish happiness that you would’ve come across in the finance and the stock markets and things? Is that a different concept or is it the same thing?

 

Gagan: No, it is different. Well, we need to classify in that, individual, you need to classify human into a coexistence of body and self. There is nothing religious in it, there is nothing spiritual in it. But scientifically, there is a thinking pattern within us which can be called self or conscious, and then there is a material component, which is the body. Body, again, acts certainly, with certainty. If you hit like this, it’ll pain. Self is the one which is conscious. So between body and self, and there are needs of the body and needs of the self. Needs of the body are limited, certain. And the needs of the self are different.

 

When you look at the facilities, facilities are required by the body. For example, there is extent, there is a limit to how much you can eat. The body cannot tolerate, we cannot keep on eating, eating, eating, eating, eating. But the self feels, I should eat more, I should eat more. It is the self. Your stomach is full, but your mind still feels, “Yeah, more.” That feeling of more, wanting to have more, is there in the relation of man. Right, so-called relation of man.

 

But when you look at the things from this lens, suddenly you realise that there is extent, we have to be actually relational.  In that way, classifying it into body and self is what is different in this theory. In the typical theories, we only look at human, I think most of us we look at human as body. When we call ourselves selfish, there is no self-involved. It is bodyish, not selfish. I myself often say that being selfish is the best thing to happen. If you know what is in interest of yourself, that’s fine, that’s perfect, then the goal achieved.

 

Sam: So when you apply that lens to technical education, and you’re looking at a school of management or electrical engineering or whatever else it might be, what does this lens offer to how we develop that education?

 

Gagan: Firstly, I’ll slightly modify the question and then answer it. Rather then, remove the word technical and let’s apply it to education, and then let’s come over to technical education in the second stage. Education will give us the right understanding, which I spoke about, about the relations, about the facilities. What do we require? What does a human require and how do we get that? Two things, what and how. What to do and how to do. “What to do” is value and “how to do” is skill. There are two types of education. Value education is the one that deals with what to do question. And the technical education is the one that deals with how to do question. No kind of technical education, or value education, can be enough in isolation. It has to be looked at in an integrated fashion.

 

“What to do” needs to be addressed first, even for the technical education students. Even for the technical students, like we spoke about the electronics engineer, and myself for management, professional student of management, student of finance and economics. What to do needs to be addressed first and then we need to address the how to do part.  You cannot take for granted that these are the skillsets to be developed. We only need to look at the need, that what exactly do we need? What kind of skills do we need? Why do we need that? What is the placement of those skills in the entire system? And then we impart those skills.

 

The technical education, now coming to the part of technical education, needs to look at what exactly is the technicality that we need to impart to our students. Once we did valuable to do that, then we should think of ways and means to impart that. For example, as a school can representation also yesterday, we need management graduates. But do we need management graduates only to solve the multinationals? Only to solve the companies like, for example, you look at the telecom companies, you look at the e-tailing, retailing companies. Do we only need the management graduates to sell their products? Or can the management graduates also look at the problem of the India? For example, I take the case of India. The problem is that we do not produce what we should produce. We are producing what we should not. We are producing through chemical methods and we do not produce through natural method.

 

There is a reason to that. The reason is that when you use the natural method, the output falls initially. Cannot an engineer, who’s an agriculture engineer, cannot he study what is the extent of the fallen output? How much output fall is there? For how long it falls? If we can think about these questions, for how long the output falls? How much does it fall? Are there any natural ways in which we can stop these things? Or reduce these things? If we can think of the ways and means, then this is one part. This is one engineering, thinking about it, finding the answers to these questions. Second is that cannot the education people go out and spread the answer to these two questions to the whole farming community? And then tell them that “Okay, this is what … So don’t be afraid of it.”

 

Once we are able to reach to the farming community, then the management graduates can make groups out of them and get to know exactly what to produce from the market area, from the sense of the market, and then act as a bridge between these two. Engineers can further help, electronics engineers can further help through agri electronics, through concepts such as green engineering and all those things, as to get the maximum out of the system that we already have. The management graduates on the other hand can also tie up with the bigger chains like Walmart, with the bigger chains, and then supply to them the natural product, which you and me and all in India, all of us in India, we are just ready to pay any price for it, provided we get the right quality of food.

 

If this can happen, there’s a very simple solution through which we can not only do good in terms of facilities, because we don’t only require more food in that terms, we also require the right food. The right product is also important, the quality of the product is also important. Going by that, I think this will solve the facilities in a good way, and we will be able to maintain the relations with the human order and with the rest of the natures. In this way, technical education has to fit in this system.

 

Sam: Is this a lens that is universally applicable? Can you point this lens at anything?

 

Gagan: Oh yeah, why not? Why not? It is only about understanding the lens first. It is not a material lens that you can just see through. It has to happen within yourself. You’ll have to realise the real things, and then only this happens.

 

Sam: You study humane business, which could be seen as a contradiction, if you’re managing a business in terms of maximising return, but I think you’ve just answered it in that it’s not … That question is too far down the track. You would see the question being asked much earlier, I suspect.

 

Gagan: More, I think, this is okay. Actually, Sam, I’m coming up with a model, I’m doing a research myself on the humane business, so I’m soon going to come up with a model of humane business. Maximising return, I put it the other way. The concept that I am giving is holistic value. We have talked about three things previously in economic literature. We have spoken about wealth, we have spoken about profit, we have spoken about value, and we’ve also spoken about return. What business generates, for me, is holistic value. As I said, if you’re able to generate the holistic value, your product sells itself.

 

For example, we spoke about the natural business example. I do not have to hire a Bollywood star to sell my natural product. I don’t have to pay to him for all that. I simply have to tell my people that this is what is good for your health. And not only tell them, I have to make them realise this. Once that happens, once they’re educated, so it is not marketing, it is education. Once those people, my consuming class is educated about it, your product sells itself. This is where I say that this business is not against the notion of profit. This is for the notion of profit. But profit is a term which we only used towards the stakeholders and that also for the share owners, just for the share owners. If we look at all the stakeholders, who are those stakeholders? All of them? Again, we put it in another way that the stakeholders will include the individuals, it will include the families, it will include the society, and it’ll include the nature. In the individuals it’ll include employees, it’ll include the consumers, it’ll include your share owners, your investors, and the ones who are not connected with you directly. All of them.

 

When you do the right thing, it’ll generate return for all of them. I think that’s more important. Profit? We are not leaving aside the profit. We’re including the profit within it. I’ll take a very small example in a minute. There are millions of farmers in India who are producing, and they’re dependent upon the government to buy their produce. The government in India, I’m not sure if you know about it and your listeners know about it. The government in India comes up with a minimum support price for agricultural produce every year, MSP. The farmers sell their produce at that MSP, minimum support price.

 

I came across a farmer … I came across many farmers, but while interviewing one of them for a research project of mine. I asked him that “What are you producing?” Most of the farmers in my area are producing wheat and barley. He was also wheat and barley. He said, “I’m producing wheat and barley through natural way.” I said, “Okay.” Just in an informal talk, I said that “Mr. Singh, will you please reserve some wheat for me this year?” We were in the month of February, it was in the month of February, and the produce was to come in April. I said, “Will you please keep it for my family, some produce? Maybe a couple of quintals? 200 kilogrammes my family will consume in a year. So will you please keep that?” He said, “No, sorry.” I said, “Sorry? I’m coming to interview you. I’m a university professor. I’m a high ended guy and I’ll pay you whatever it takes.” I thought, “How did he say no to me?”

 

Then I asked, “Why?” He said, “Sir, my produce comes in April, but I only take orders till May previous. So anyone who gives me order till May 2016 will be given the produce in April 2017.” Ooh, one year waiting. This is how the produce sells itself.  Mind you, this produce sells at more than twice the cost. More than twice of the typical produce, which is a chemical produce. And he does not have to use any chemicals in the produce, so his cost also comes down after a few years. This is how. This generates profit. Will you say that this does not generate profit for him? But it also does generate profit or value for the consumer, because other consumers will eat the chemical produce and then they will attract problems, diseases. The land will be in a problem. The other produce, which Mr. Singh is producing, generates not only the profit for him, but the value for all of the four stakeholders. This is what is holistic value.

 

Sam: So how does your framework relate to the notions of sustainability?

 

Gagan: I’ve already explained to you what is this framework all about. Let’s revisit what is sustainability now. UNESCO says that “Sustainability involves not consuming what belongs to your future generations.” Nagraj says that “Sustainability is not only that …” I mean, he does not use the word sustainability as such, but in his view sustainability is not only this.  You do what UNESCO has said while also adding value to the four levels. While also adding value to the human, to the individual, to the families, to the societies, and to the nature. In this way, the framework that we have discussed involves sustainability, but it involves more than that. Or it involves sustainability in a broader way. It does not look at sustainability only in terms of facilities. It also encompasses the relations between the humans or with the rest of the nature. And therefore, we do not go separately, for example, in one man, for society, for governance. We do what we are supposed to do, and everything else is outcome, is a byproduct.

 

Sam: How would you describe your superpower? What are you bringing to the superhero team?

 

Gagan: I’m simply bringing the kind of a need to think on what is required for yourself. Not just be preconditioned and thinking that I require a Nike t-shirt and that’s it. You need more. Not just what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but how will you live between breakfast and lunch? How will you live between lunch and dinner? How do you feel during that time?

 

I’m bringing the need to understand: What exactly do you need? What exactly do you need when you reach that point? Then you need more for your family. What do you need for your family? What do you need for your society? What do you need for the nature? All this, and there is no conflict of interest between these four, right? Usually we presume that there is a conflict of interest between families, there is a conflict of interest between Sam and Gagan, for example. There is not, there is none. I’m bringing this coexistentialism into the perspective. This is not being superhero, this is just being human. There’s nothing like superhero.

 

For example, I once asked Ganesh … We brought it into perspective, I asked him that “Sir, what is subconscious?” Said, “There’s so much thought about subconscious.” He said that “You better be conscious. So if you’re conscious, that’s it.” Similarly, someone asked him that “Do I need to meditate?” He said that “Once you realise what is to be done, once you realise all this.” So meditation goes on 24/7. If you are not to meditate separately, you exactly know what you are to do. Meditation is talking to yourself, knowing what yourself needs. If you know what yourself need through your conscious yourself, there is no need to be subconscious or unconscious of whatever.

 

Sam: What’s the biggest success you’ve had in the last couple of years?

 

Gagan: Well, Sam, a lot. On my family front? On my individual front? On the society front? On the nature front? I’ll talk about all of them in a minute.

 

On my individual front I’m relaxed. For example, I know I’m earning enough. I’m not seeing a need to go for extra earnings. I don’t need to go for anything extra than that. I’m okay. This is for my individual front, and I’m happy. I do not have to worry for the things. I do not have to worry for my facilities, I do not have to worry for my relations, I’m okay. Things are fine. Things are going fine. I will not say I have achieved, but I am in the process at least.

 

On the family front, which is the most important for modern man. I will give you two or three important things. My wife and I, we live together. My parents and my wife’s parents live in Punjab, which is a province 300 kilometres away from my place where I work, uni. We go to the families whenever we go to Punjab. We go to the families, we spend time with them, everything fine. When I was to come here, I did not have to worry about my wife being at home alone. There is so much bonding within the family that I’ve spoke about this and both the families offered, “We will come and stay with her.” My parents are staying with here. That’s the one part at the family level. I do not have any confusions, we do not have any questions. My wife had also gone to the workshops though. After the marriage she went to one, and one she had gone into before the marriage itself.

 

Second important thing, which I think the most important thing. My father was diagnosed with a tumour a year and a half back. We thought that we would go through the allopathic treatments and all that. While I was going through the workshop and all, allopathy said that we will have to conduct a Whipple procedure, which is a medical procedure, which is a very lengthy procedure and a very complicated one. You have to remove some parts of the body and then … It’s a very complicated procedure. Very costly too, but cost didn’t ever matter much. Health mattered. We were prepared to go for the Whipple procedure. It was slightly malignant also, the tumour.

 

While I was going through the workshops some years back, 2010, I came across the first workshop, and this was in 2015 when we came across the problem, we got to know the problem of my dad. While going through the workshop and while talking to those people, I had come across that Nagraj, he has also written about the medical sciences. About what are the natural ways to cure different things. What should we eat, what all should be done. So I took my dad to Nagraj. One of the fellows who lives with him, Mr. Sudhan. We went to Sudhan and Amba, who is the daughter of Nagraj, and Nagraj, who was sick. He was at the age of 97 at that time. We went to him, I took my dad to him. They said it’s fine, his self is fine. His self is clean. It is just the body which needs to be taken care of. They gave some medicine, some natural medicine, and said that “You will have to eat these for six months.”

 

We said, “Fine, this is nothing. Nothing much in it.” Just for six months, and this would’ve been in October, so this was pre-conference. He took those medicines for six months. Then I again spoke him that “Okay, this is what it is. What to do next?” He said that “Okay, as it’s your family, let’s go ahead and eat these medicines for three more months.” He kept taking the medicines for three more months. Then, after those three months, we went to him. He looked at, they would just touch from, they would just see the nose and then feel what exactly is the problem. They would not do any other diagnosis that just the nose. Then he checked it and he said, “I think the problem is gone. But, again, as I say for my family, let us eat it for two more months. Half for one month and then further half for the last month and then done.” I said, “Okay, fine,” so we did it. After 11 months we underwent all the tests, all the chemical tests, the CT scan, the 19.9 test, all the tumour tests, everything, and there is no tumour.

 

Sam: Wow.

 

Gagan: This is at that level of the family I think I could not achieved this for any other way. I think this means the most to me, and to you, and to all your listeners. And those guys did not charge anything. I would have paid millions of money and then still, I’m not sure if we could have cured. We would have harmed his body till that required to be opened up. And all the doctors were saying that “This is foolish. You should not do this. You should go for the procedure.” Then when the results came and the same doctor looks at the report and says, “There’s not any tumour. Gone.” This is at the level of the family that I have achieved. That I can relax and I need not to think much about the physical problems that we come across or we may come across in the times to come. And I do not need money for it, I need relations.

 

At the level of society, I think I’m doing something worthwhile. I’m in the process of doing something worthwhile. I’m guiding two, three PhDs which are on this line. In the times to come, I’m going to come up with a model, as I said, humane model of business, which I think will go a long way in the business due to the right thing. That is what will happen at the level of society. It is already in the process of happening. I also know more about how to manage my team because I can understand. I understand myself as a human, so I understand others also as humans. It is easy for me to manage the teams.

 

For the nature? All this is nature. For the nature, you do not have to plant trees, right? There are many people who plant trees. You only have to not to disturb it. That is the biggest thing that you do. You don’t have to disturb the nature, nature will take care of itself. In that way, I think I have achieved these kind of things at all the four levels, yeah.

 

Sam: Do you consider yourself to be an activist?

 

Gagan: Yeah, I’m an activist because I work on myself, that’s it. Working hard on yourselves is an activism by itself. If you work on yourselves and the people can see you, this is what you are doing. The people who are close to you, they understand this is what he is doing and he is able to achieve some results. This transforms them also. This generates the eagerness to understand what you have understood, or what you’re starting to understand. In that way, I believe that activism is not much about showing what will … It’s not much about showing, but it’s more about doing on yourselves.

 

I come from kind of a family of activists. My grandpa was an activist, my maternal grandpa. He was an activist, he was a union leader. My father has been fighting all his life for the literary causes. I also kind of used to think that I’ll be a reactive activist, but then I realised that activism is more about this, rather than what I used to think before.

 

Sam: What motivates you? What gets you out of bed in the morning?

 

Gagan: Usually I just get out of bed and do some work for my family. For example, I go to the kitchen straight away and then get some water. I’m used to taking some hot water with some lemon and ginger and honey. That’s my first thing in the morning. That I do not only for myself, but also for my wife. I come from a society which is different. The wives do everything. This is something which I do. Then of course there are certain things, cooking, I do not know much about it, so she does it. It’s not that it’s only her who’s doing all this.

 

Sam: What challenges are you looking forward to in the next couple of years?

 

Gagan: Well, we have different challenges Sam. Actually, capitalism has 20 different set of challenges at us. I spoke about working on yourself, but the whole world is hell bent upon work letting you work on yourselves. For example, I thought of … the title of my second book of poetry was Man is Never Alone. So I say this in a different perspective, and you can sense your answer out of that, that the whole world is hell bent on making people alone. For example, the selfies, right? You don’t even have to rely upon others to take your photo. You can yourselves as selfies. You do not have to do anything, you just sit in a room then do all the communication by yourselves. While you and I are sitting here, we could have sat here and work on our computers or on our mobiles and communicated to the rest of the world without feeling the need to communicate with each other. The whole world is hell bent upon making people feel isolated. And isolated, but busy. But man can never be isolated.

 

This is the challenge, the biggest challenge is that it is very difficult to realise that they need to think about themselves also. They will think about material, they will think about plants, they will think about animals, they will think about the body, but not the self. The biggest challenge is that capitalism is trying its best not to let this happen. So how will we make it happen? You create a challenge. I’m sure, once we are able to talk to the people and once we are able to demonstrate what is right, rather than preach what is right, the challenge will be met.

 

Sam: Two more questions. If you could wave a magic wand and have a miracle occur tomorrow morning, what would it be?

 

Gagan: Oh, people understand.

 

Sam: That’s an easy one. And lastly, do you have any advice for our listeners?

 

Gagan: Well, yeah. Your listeners should not only listen to the show, they should also listen to themself.  Listen to what are their needs in terms of relations and facilities. Then read the proposal that I spoke about. Read a little bit more about the proposal that I spoke about. The website is coexistence.in. They can go there to the website, coexistence.in, and then read a bit about the proposal. And if they need to, I’m being all available to cater to them. As I said, there is no material involved, no money involved, nothing. We can simply speak about this and help them understand what theirself needs.

 

Sam: Thank you very much for joining me.

 

Gagan: Oh thank you. Thank you sir.

 

Sam: You’ve been listening to Sustainable Lens, Resilience on Radio, a weekly show on sustainability topics brought to you by Otago Polytechnic. The show is co-hosted by Shane Gallagher and me, Samuel Mann. We broadcast on Otago Access Radio, oar.org.nz, and podcast on sustainablelens.org. That’s Sustainable Lens like a lens we’ve been talking about. On sustainablelens.org, we’re building up a searchable archive of conversations with people from many different fields who are applying their skills to a sustainable future. In our conversations, we try to find out what motivates them and what it means to see the world through a sustainable perspective, through their sustainable lens. Tonight’s sustainable lens was that of Gagan Deep Sharma from the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University in New Delhi.  He works in the School of Management Studies. You can follow the links on sustainablelens.org to find us on Facebook to keep in touch, and you can listen to Sustainable Lens via iTunes as well as all the other sort of pody places that you’d find that sort of thing. We’re everywhere. But do like us on Facebook. That was Sustainable Lens, I’m Samuel Mann. I hope you enjoyed the show.

 

This conversation was recorded in December 2016 at the 5th International Conference on Sustainability, Technology and Education 2016.

Categories
community development maori

Rejoicing in who we are

Pita Tipene

Pita Tipene is of Ngāti Hine and Ngāpuhi and has an educational background having taught in Tai Tokerau secondary schools and worked in a number of regional and national administrative roles in the education sector. His is the current chairman of the Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust and has a number of other governance roles amongst his people including Deputy Chair of Te Runanga o Ngāti Hine, is on the Waitangi National Trust, and the Federation of Maori Authorities.

 

Sam: Welcome to Sustainable Lens: Resilience on Radio. A weekly show on sustainability topics brought to you by Otago Polytechnic. The show is co-hosted by Shane Gallagher, who’s not here tonight and me, Samuel Mann.  Shane is not here tonight because I’m in Northland, in Kawakawa in the offices of Pita Tipene of Ngāti Hine.
Pita:

 

 Mihi
Sam: Ngāti Hine, that’s the Hapū isn’t it?

 

Pita: Ngāti Hine is the Iwi.  Ngāti Te Tarawa the people who live in the valley of Motatau and surrounding valleys. It’s where I was raised. It’s the Hapū and part of the greater confederation of Hapū of Ngāpuhi here in Tai Tokerau Northland.

 

Sam: It’s a very active group. I’m seeing forestry and health centres and things?

 

Pita: Yeah we like to think that we’re very active on a whole number of fronts. We’re being left with a legacy of hundreds or thousands of years that people like me need to keep up with. We’re always focused on kaupapa. What’s the word for kaupapa? The various aspects that our ancestors have left for us. We remain focused on them principally. Our vision statement which Maori is Mau Ngāti Hine ano Ngāti Hine ekororo, which if you were to ask me what it means in English, it’s all about self-determination and self-reliance.

 

Sam: At this point I normally ask people where they grew up, but you’ve just answered it. Let’s just check. You grew up here?

 

Pita: I did. I grew up in Motatau, which is a small in valley in the inland valleys. I was schooled here in Motatau primary school till I was 14.  Then I went away to boarding school in Auckland. From there I went to university, and then I became a teacher and taught in Northland schools at Whāngārei Boys High and Bay of Islands College. Then I went into working with schools in Northland and eventually it led me into doing more local education work with the hapū, with the tribe. It has since led to a more political role.

 

Sam: Let’s go more slowly through that shall we? What was it like growing up?

 

Pita: It was fantastic growing up. When I look back I can see clearly, but when I was growing up I couldn’t see it. In hindsight we had the most wonderful parents and extended family. We were raised on a dairy farm. My job was to help milk cows, make fences and do all the other things you would otherwise do on a farm. We always had lots of food. We may not have been well off as some people would view prosperity, but certainly looking back we were surrounded with love and everything that we needed in life. Particularly the values I think that have led us to being what we are now.

 

Sam: What are those values?

 

Pita: Particularly Māori values. Looking after other members in our family, looking after the land, working hard, being industrious, making sure that we’re working with the rest of the community, and honesty, truthfulness, all of those virtues that you beg were to surround the world, I think.

 

Sam: I imagine that the dairy farms then weren’t as intensive as dairy farms are now.

 

Pita: Certainly not. Every family, of which they would have been 50 families in our local community, had between 20 to maybe 80 cows. The milking sheds were very small. We produced cream not milk. We raised calves for the following years and pigs and every other kind of animal. That allowed our family to be self-sustainable, but it also allowed us to support other people in the community and particularly the marae, which was the focal point of the whole community where deaths were mourned and weddings, birthdays and every other celebration was held. We had to put our shoulder to the wheel by providing labour through everything else for the community good.

 

Sam: Does this still exist?

 

Pita: Yes it still very much does exist, although I think, and when I talked about legacy, our ancestor Kawiti who died in 1854, he was renowned here in Northland for leading the war against the English, the treaty of Waitangi having been signed in 1840. Five years later Kawiti and Hōne Heke led the war known … generally now it’s the Northern wars against the forces of the English. During those tumultuous times he made a number of prophesies. One of the lines he uttered was “kei poi pakeha koutou” which means you must not be assimilated in your ways into the English culture, which means retain your land as a basis for you to stand on. Retain your culture and your language and ensure that you stay together as a people and keep up your culture in order to sustain yourself over the long term.

 

Sam: Land, culture, language, how closely linked are those for you?

 

Pita: They are so closely intertwined. You can’t really divide them. Ngāti Hine is a tribe that is probably more well off than many others in that we retained most of our land. The land blocks if you go through places like Motatau and Matawaia which adjoin each other. All of that land is still owned by our families. That allows us to have a place to stand, to practice our culture. In 1975 a national research project was held about the state of Māori language in New Zealand. It was led by Dr. Richard Benton. The results of the survey said that there were only three places in New Zealand where today Māori was still spoken as an everyday language of conversation.

 

Those being Ngāti Hine, Tuhoe – that you would know – and Te Kawa in the very far north. When you look at what all those places have in common, they are a little bit more isolated than most places and it’s allowed the culture to be retained and to flourish.

 

Sam: You saw a pathway that led you out of those valleys. You wanted to be a teacher. What prompted that?

 

Pita: I didn’t want to be a teacher. I was led down that path. I could have taken a number of paths, but there were little things in life that lead you down a particular path. One of those being in about 1973, I was a 12 year old some trainee teachers came from Auckland to teach in our school. They carried out a few tests of the students. When they took me aside and looked at the results of my tests, they made it pretty clear that I was … what I thought they were saying was is that I was above average. They made it very clear that I needed to figure myself to go to university and follow that path of learning and it really made a difference in my life.

 

I felt, “Well, maybe I do have some ability!” I didn’t really think that I had. That encouraged me. Somewhat all of my family went to boarding school and there are 10 of us. I’m number eight out of 10. I was sent to St. Stephen School just south of Auckland. Spent five years there and got all of the qualifications that were then available.

 

Sam: I talked to Chris Sarra from the Stronger Smarter Institute in Australia. He talked about the impact on him, an event that he particularly remembered was a teacher that was handing back an exam and said, “Sarra got 75%, must have been an easy test.” Two things that that did to him is one: It stopped him trying any harder because 75% must be good, but second, it made him realize that what teachers do and say is as important as what they teach.  About the expectations, that we need to raise the expectations. Every teacher needs to believe in every kid. It’s a similar thing to what those trainee teachers did for you is believed in you.

 

Pita: That’s not to take away anything from the teachers who taught me every day. I think they all had their particular ways. They all seemed to care. Some used the care, some used the stick. It all came together and worked. I think they were all trying to get the same results, which were to get me to try harder. Those were some of the methods that used to channel me on to a more positive pathway.

 

Sam: You eventually trained yourself to be a teacher?

 

Pita: Yeah. I went to university. Did a degree that focused on Te reo Māori as a major and also geography. Eventually I became a Te Reo Māori language teacher and a geography teacher. When you get into those environments and the people around you are all dedicated to achieving their goals, you get swept along as well.

 

Sam: Why geography?

 

Pita: I think geography because my geography teacher at St. Stephens was a very good teacher. She really gave me some impetus with the subject particularly given that it’s about people and it’s about land. I think I’ve always had a passion for people and land in terms of a social approach. It was very much my cup of tea.

 

Sam: Then you went to teacher training?

 

Pita: I did.  At first I came back here to the township of Moerewa. By then my wife and I had had a child, so I needed some money. I worked in a local freezing works for two years. I worked on the mutton chain.   In those days we got paid some big money. That helped us get established before I went back to training … teacher training in Auckland. Then began teaching in earnest at schools.

 

Sam: You taught in a variety of schools?

 

Pita: Not really. I only taught in two, but then I became an advisor to schools for Māori language. I travelled the length and breadth of all of the schools north of Auckland.

 

Sam: Eventually you found your way moving from that to you said to more local education?

 

Pita: Yeah to local education for Ngāti Hine and working with the local schools in this particular area. I have a passion for our people of Ngāti Hine. I wanted to focus my work on our own people which led me to getting into more political aspects of what Ngāti Hine was trying to achieve, which as I’ve said earlier was self-determination and self-reliance.

 

Sam: Why?

 

Pita: My father who died in 1979, I was 18 and was still in my last year in secondary school, had said to me prior to dying, passing away that…

 

Haere ki te wharewananga, ka reira koe ka matau ai, engari me hoki mai koe ki te kainga, konei koe ka mohio.

 

…which when translated means go away to university for there you will find knowledge and you will also get some qualifications, but ensure that you come home because here you will acquire … how would I describe it? Wisdom and common sense. To answer your question …

 

Sam: Did you understand what that meant then?

 

Pita: Not really. I’m still not sure that I understand it now to be honest. Ngāti Hine, we have our own customs than most. He was saying don’t ever lose the essence of what we are as a people because otherwise we could be anybody in the world. You will stand as a person based on those very cultural aspects and most that we have here in our unique valleys of Ngāti Hine. I’m still searching.

 

Sam: Tell me about the work you were doing when you said you were trying to focus on the local education, focusing on the local people. What were you doing on a day to day basis? What does that mean?

 

Pita: At first it was getting an education strategy for Ngāti Hine, but it’s grown into much more than that which is an overall strategy for Ngāti Hine, using our whānau, our families, our marae our cultural centres and our hapū to be self-sustainable. Above all things one of the focal points for us is to ensure that Ngāti Hine retains its sovereignty. As far as we’re concerned, our Rangatira or chief who signed the treaty of Waitangi with Governor Hopson in 1840, he uttered some words at that time and they were taken down, which basically said, “When everyone else signed on February the sixth 1840, he refused to sign because he said his chiefly authority would be undermined and he would no longer be able to do the things that he wanted to do.”

 

Which meant his tribe would not be able to do the things that they wanted to do. He didn’t sign. Although he signed a little bit later on and that’s famous in itself because even though he signed a long time after everyone else, his name was recorded as the first one because he signed above everyone else. Then five years later it precipitated a full scale war where many, many people were killed in this area. The upshot was is that the Governor pardoned Kawiti, pardoned is the word, and Ngāti Hine retained all of its land and still retains it now.

 

Above all things we want to retain our land. In fact we want to get our land back into our hands as a basis for our people to stand and grow and sustain themselves which is why I put my name up for election on a Ngāti Hine forestry trust. I’m now the chairman after being a trustee on there for the last 12 years. I’m also the deputy chairman for Ngāti Hine Whānau which is a tribal authority. At the base of the tribal authority are all 13 of marae. Membership or representation on the runanga, the tribal council has its membership through each of the marae. When I talk about Sovereignty, we prosecuted a case to the Waitangi Tribunal.

 

An independent inquiry set up here through statute of New Zealand. We prosecuted a case against the government, against the crown in 2010 and 2011. We had not ceded our sovereignty to the New Zealand Government and that in fact they had … achieved sovereignty in an underhand way. We spent five weeks of giving evidence. In 2014 the Waitangi Tribunal came back and upheld our case and said, “Yes there is a strong case that the hapū, including Ngāti Hine, have not ceded sovereignty.” In 2016 and beyond, we’ve got to look at what that means for us as a tribe here in this area and how in fact we will get back the authority that was once ours in this area knowing full well that we only make up maybe 40% of the population in this area.

 

Sam: What would you like it to mean?

 

Pita: I think it means that, in my mind, that the lands of Ngāti Hine are back in our … under our administration and that we are administering governance as we see it. Sovereignty, when people talk about sovereignty, they invariably start talking about sovereignty in terms of political sovereignty. You get sovereignty that manifests itself through economic sovereignty, and when you look at some of the other tribes throughout New Zealand who’ve settled their treaty grievances against the government, say Ngāi Tahu in the South Island and Waikato Tainui, they got treaty settlement packages of 175 million in 1995.

 

Their books last year, they’d grown that well over a billion dollars. It comes down to having that economic muscle to do the things that you want to do in your area.

 

Sam: What do you want to do?

 

Pita: Ultimately we want to ensure that our people have the wellbeing and prosperity that they deserve. That is their right because every statistic at the moment will tell you that we are an impoverished people even though they have wealth in their own ways as I did when I was a child. We’ve got to work on improved wellbeing because our health statistics are terrible, and prosperity to have a high standard of living. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re cash rich. In terms of prosperity we want to have options in this world. We want our children to stand anywhere in the world with confidence and competence.

 

If they’re to do that, they need a tool-box full of all the skills they can stand on good stead anywhere in the world. Above all things they must have their language and their culture that belongs to Ngāti Hine.

 

Sam: Pull all those things together you’re involved in several different aspects of it whether the trust, or however you’re managing it, in health and forest and education? They are all contributing to the same bigger picture?

 

Pita: They’re all contributing to the same aspiration, which is about self-reliance. I think key to that is education. I think that as much as you and I are both having a cup of tea, that’s an English Breakfast and it’s a manifestation of colonisation. That we have been well and truly colonised, and it’s what our ancestor Kawiti said in 1846 about being assimilated. I guess we … when I say education above all things, you can have skills like technological skills but we need to liberate our minds from our colonial past. At the same time, and this may sound very, very selfish, but just like any culture we want to take the best of what’s on offer while retaining all of the strengths that we have as a unique people.

 

Sam: What do you see as the future for this area? You haven’t mentioned tourism.  What’s the role of that in this area?

 

Pita: All of the economic areas that we have some strong resources, land, people, skills, the beauty of the Bay of Islands, all of those are attributes that would be foolish not to harness.  Tourism is one of those areas. I talk to people who administer the mini-cruise ships that are now coming into the Bay of Islands. If I put it this way in the 1820s and 30s, the Bay of Islands was full of ships that came in for wailing and what have you. When the sailors came to the Bay of Islands after several months at sea they wanted certain things. Our local chiefs used to provide them with all of the things that a sailor might want.

 

That’s no different in 2016 when large cruise ships with anything between 2,000 and 5,000 passengers come in. They’re all wanting something different and Ngāti Hine needs to pull its shoulder to the wheel to help provide opportunities for tourists to come inland and also make use of the money that they have in their wallets. Just like anything else we’re looking for prosperity in a number of ways and tourism is one of them.

 

Sam: We’re in Kawakawa, which is famous for two things:  Hundertwasser toilets and a train line down the middle of the road.  Maybe that’s why it’s so famous with my family.

 

Pita: What’s probably not known very much is we have the final Pā which is the defensive fort.  Ruapekapeka … the battle of Ruapekapeka 1845/46 it’s a place that people get a chill running up their spine when they go there because although the palisades, defences have been taken down, the ditches and the defensive ramparts are all still there and the  stories are still there. You’ve got the Waiomio caves. You’ve got a whole lot of marae. You can go anywhere in the world but the only place that you’re going to meet Māori, feel their customs and see their customs and experience those things are in places like Ngāti Hine.

 

Sam: What would you do for the money? Would you mine?

 

Pita: Mine minerals?

 

Sam: Yeah.

 

Pita: Depending we always look at things on a case by case basis. If there is any possibility of it being detrimental to the environment then the answer would be no. If they could be extracted in a way that’s safe for all concerned and we’ve got proof for that, yeah we’d consider it.

 

Sam: With any of those economic activities, there is a balance. The forestry will be having an impact on the water quality. It’s almost impossible to avoid. Do you have a world view about how those things are managed, those tensions are managed?

 

Pita: Certainly from a Ngāti Hine forestry trust I am the chairman. Our people as shareholders make it very, very clear that they’re not happy with the Pinus radiata  we have over our lands. We’ve therefore come up with a strategy of what we call a mosaic approach. We will return the land to its natural cover, natural vegetation, but there’ll be an intergenerational approach but we need to start now. We’re looking at manuka as a way of retaining some cash flow. We’re forced to re-plant pine again in some areas. In the mosaic approach means we’ll look at native trees allowing to regenerate on some blocks.

 

Actually planting some ourselves to ensure that we’re starting the mosaic approach. Eventually we don’t want to have Pinus radiata out there on our lands. Although I think we need a lot more science around the environmental questions that are posed. Much of it is perception. We need the science.

 

Sam: You’re encouraging people to go off to university to get science?

 

Pita: Yeah, certainly. We’re really, really keen to get our people involved in all aspects of the work that we’re doing. We haven’t got … We’re probably a little bit better off. I’m not being arrogant about this. We’re probably a little bit better off than some of the other Hapū and Iwi tribes in Northland, but still we’re nowhere near the capacity and capability. We need to achieve the vision in a quick way.

 

Sam: Still quite a lot of those logs getting shipped off to Korea or wherever it is.

 

Pita: Yeah. We’re not pleased with it which is why our forestry trust is providing some leadership for all similar sized trusts in Northland to come together because we know that critical mass is needed if we’re going to control the value chain. That’s what it’s all about really in the end. One thing is to understand the value chain because for far too long people like me have been passive managers of their own land. All of our block had been leased out to a foreign company. They had the stumpage rights so eventually although we got an annual lease, they took the logs, and had control over the logs. The majority of them would have been sent overseas.

 

Some would have supplied the domestic mills, which give our local people jobs. In the end we want greater value add. We haven’t got the capital to provide the startup for any value added mills. We just need to get into a position where we can collectively, and so far we’ve got over 50,000 hectares of trusts and other entities who have created a coalition on Northland of mighty land owners. We can now say to potential investors, “We can supply you with certainty over a long period because we have 50,000 hectares plus of Pinus radiata. If you’re willing to invest, we will enter into some partnership to ensure that everyone benefits, including our local communities,” because we don’t want to continually see logs being shipped off overseas and then returned as a table that you and I are now sitting around.

 

Sam: Not just paper mills, you’re trying to build the furniture?

 

Pita: Aye too, but boutique industries where small towns and communities can work together with a collective strategy.

 

Sam: You’re about to lose your railway?

 

Pita: By all accounts.

 

Sam: Not the steam one, the real one.

 

Pita: Yeah. They call it mothballing which is the same thing. The moment you mothball something it will deteriorate. We need a government that is going to invest in our local community and our region. I think they are but for political reasons that anything else.

 

Sam: As far as that is the … back to the geography in both of us being able to see the whole system as a system and as separate bits. Is probably what leads to things like closing railways because the railway is not paying for itself but we’re having to invest so much money on the road. Those two things don’t ever get on the same bit of paper.

 

Pita: I think there’s a bit of siloed thinking. One thing that I can commend the government for is that I think they bring a more holistic strategy to their approach. Different ministries and agencies within the government are really only interested in their own imperatives and the KPIs that each of the CEOs have on their contracts. That forces them to think in isolated ways.

 

Sam: I’m told you have grandchildren. When they have grandchildren how do you want them to be living how do you see them living?

 

Pita: It’s like when I said to you when we first started this interview, do you want me to speak in English? I want them to be able to speak in English because it’s a fantastic global language but I also want them to speak to their Māori or te reo Ngāti Hine. I want them to … I suppose I’m trying to articulate what our mission is all about which is to allow them to be strong Ngāti Hine people based on their own language and culture.  Stand anywhere in the world with all the other skills that they need to do that as well. I want them to be proud of who they are because I think in general subliminally that our people are … think of themselves as second class citizens. We’re slowly but truly breaking out of that mould.

 

Sam: For not knowing their background detail, I don’t think that anybody I’ve spoken to in the last couple of days is not proud of who they are. Maybe you think something different because you’re closer to it. You’ve seen behind the curtain.

 

Pita: I know quite a few Māori and Ngāti Hine who are not proud of who they are. I’m not necessarily talking as though, how can I say this? When I say that within themselves, they put themselves down because they see themselves as a second … that being Māori is not right so they purposely suppress themselves without even knowing it. Maybe subliminally there’s something in their makeup that’s telling them that they’re not up there and that anybody with white skin is. I go even further to say that many of the institutions that run this country and provide education, health and every other services institutionally racist towards Māori as well.

 

Sam: In expectation?

 

Pita: In expectation and in practice. I can give countless examples. All other things are changing for the good. There was a time not only women did not have the vote but Māori didn’t have the vote. That tells you what people were thinking of Māori and women. Things have obviously changed over time. There was also a time not long ago when Māori were led into more hands on subjects, practical things. They couldn’t do math and science. They had to go and do wood-turning and things like that. Although much has changed in our education system, there are still those subliminal aspects. You can hear it in people’s everyday language.

 

They say, “Oh I’ve got a lot of Māori in our harvesting group because they’re good at that work,” which tells you they are better for holding a chainsaw than being the manager.

 

Sam: Is there a short term effect for that or do we have to … is that long term? Is that getting the kids when they’re young believing that they can do it and taking them right through that chain? Can we be the ambulance of the ultimate cliff or do we have to …

 

Pita: Oh no the whole system needs change. When you look at it, our education system was brought over from where you come from, from England. Its very core is to retain power and authority in a certain class. Even in England the lower classes were suppressed and weren’t offered an education that would bring them up into and have abilities like the upper class would have. The system we have in New Zealand is still a carryover from that. Even though we’ve slowly but truly tried to change it.

 

Sam: You are changing it with things like the education trust?

 

Pita: Yes. Certainly. It’s why our grandchildren go to Kura Kaupapa where everything they’re taught is taught in Te Reo Māori. That’s really trying to break them out of the mould and unshackle them from colonial thinking.

 

Sam: This show is called “sustainable lens”. I don’t hear the term sustainable much around here and our mutual friend Philip Crawford describes that as because it’s more a way of living than a thing you do. You don’t do it anyway then green it. This is the way of being. What’s your take on sustainability and what you’re trying to achieve?

 

Pita: I think that sustainability is a term that’s thrown around a lot but understood. People don’t actually stop to think what it means, myself being one of those. I think it’s really akin to the word that I use that’s central to our vision statement which is self-reliance. We just need to sustain ourselves as people through the future. What that means is that as individuals, as families, as Māori, in our cultural sectors and as a tribe, we need to be able to rely on ourselves for food, and every other aspect that will ensure that we have well-being, that we’re healthy and that we have prosperity. I guess that manifests itself at the moment.

 

We would have the highest… some of the highest percentages or numbers of people that reliant to live everyday through benefits from the government. That’s really what we don’t want. Having real jobs, warm, safe, secure homes, really at the basis of sustaining ourselves, growing our own food to ensure that we are reliant on ourselves.

 

Sam: If and when you get a treaty settlement, if or when, how are you going to stop the calls for a big party? The ones that are for handing out cash? Because it sounds to me like you’re going to be wanting to invest in jobs and homes.

 

Pita: Yeah. The answer to your question will be when not if.  When it does come, we want to ensure that it’s being controlled by the people in each of the areas so that I’m not a great believer in the trickle-down theory.  While on one hand we need to keep some critical mass of funds that can be managed for the greater good. There really has to be some injection of real funds into the communities without breaking down the critical mass. It’s a fine balance between keeping generic pull to invest and distributing it amongst the people to get immediate change. Provide some impetus in the communities.

 

That’s going to be the trick as far as I’m concerned. I’m very, very conscious of the fact that treaty settlements are not the vision. There are already a number of initiatives that are happening in terms of economic and social improvement like Māori first re-collective like Te Matarau Education Trust that Phil Alexander Crawford is involved in.   We come in to give on a regional basis. To get our heads around the problems but more importantly to put in place the solutions of which the treaty settlement is all about.  If you can get millions of dollars them I would like it to be 1% of the general loss of land and other assets over the last couple of hundred years.

 

While that is always hugely frustrating, we need to use any cash settlement in any other part of the general settlement like the return of lands for the benefit of our people.

 

Sam: What’s the biggest success you’ve had in the last couple of years?

 

Pita: It’s a very good question. If you were … If I was to think of something tangible, it would be the sale of our forest within our general forests where we made a stumpage sale to foreign firm, foreign company. They paid cash up front, put it in the bank account. That’s something you can see easily its really tangible. There’s money in the bank. Our ancestors had grown trees for that very purpose and we managed it carefully. On another more general way I think it’s the ability of our people here in Ngāti Hine to come together on a regular basis and celebrate who we are because it’s the relationships that are more important and to celebrate success.

 

We hold festivals where our people come back from wherever they may live in the world mostly from Auckland. We celebrate who we are on our local marae. It’s over a couple of days and it’s just fantastic to see people on the stage and the food it’s cooked and everything else that are part of festivals. The people rejoice in who they are.  In a more intangible way there are some real success stories like that. In another couple of months for instance we’ve invited all of our people and their literally could be hundreds who kayak down our local river from the three bridges north of this town down to the Opua Wharf.

 

It’s a 13k trip and we start the river will be hopefully wide enough to fit a kayak. What was once our state highway number one we went … we plied the river now there’s nobody who knows the river. By getting down in a kayak, we can see some of the environmental issues that we’re faced with. Spiritually we are very much part of the river and the river is very much part of us.  In terms of successes you can measure them in ways like that. Other things, I’m the chairman at our Motatau Marae. It took us five years to rebuild our dining room, kitchen, ablution block. It was a huge community to gather together I would say three million dollars fund raising and acquiring grounds.

 

In the end it’s a magnificent building. It serves our people well. More importantly the journey of collecting the money and building was absolutely fantastic.

 

Sam: That’s similar to that ‘rejoicing in who they are’ stuff, isn’t it?

 

Pita: It always is. That’s the best stuff. The money you can go and get that and put it in the bank and use it wisely but it’s the people relationships that are more important. It always comes down to the fact that we like to express ourselves as a people in our own unique ways.

 

Sam: We’re writing a book of these conversations. We’re calling it Tomorrow’s Heroes as if we’re writing it 20 years in the future looking back at the work that people are doing now, people such as yourself and whether or not you want to put yourself on that pedal stall and describe yourself as a hero, I’ll do that for you. What is your super power? What is it you’re bringing to this good fight?

 

Pita: Nothing special at all that I bring. Probably the only thing that I bring is perseverance. I have no real skills but I’ll always keep my shoulder to the wheel. It gets really challenging at times. Putting your head above the parapets means a lot of people want to have a go at you. Those people are in the minority. The majority of people I think appreciate the work that we’re all doing. I’m very much a people person. I’m part of a team.

 

Sam: Do describe yourself as an activist?

 

Pita: In my own funny little way. I’m not and out activist but I like to say things absolutely plainly. I like to be forthright so people don’t misunderstand me.

 

Sam: What motivates you? What gets you out of bed in the morning?

 

Pita: Both my past and my future. As I said we have a legacy of a number of people. My parents for a start, grandparents, our rangitira Kawiti and Sir James Henare and Tau Henare, you could name quite a few people. In the end it’s all of them together who have left messages for us to pursue a goal of self-reliance. I just want to be part of that journey and to provide any leadership that I can. At the same time it’s going to be lovely to have our grandchildren living nearby so I pretty much see them every day. If I can take them to the kura to their school every morning, that’s a bonus. The conversations I have with them and the values that I try to install in them is a real motivation in itself.

 

Sam: Is that in terms of motivation in terms pure in the goal of self-reliance is it? What’s the driver there? Is that an obligation?

 

Pita: It really is an obligation. One of the sayings of Sir James Henare who was my dad’s first cousin who said “ma to werawera o tou rae te mahi o to iwi ka tu tangata ai koe” which means by the sweat of your brow and working for your people will you find … only then you will find fulfilment. You will not find it in cash; you will not find it anywhere else. You will find it in working for your people.

 

Sam: You have to stick your head above the parapet as you said to achieve that.

 

Pita: Yeah, somebody has to. There’s a lot of reluctance by some to do that. They don’t want to be in that world but I realise that I have to amongst a number of others.

 

Sam: What challenges are you looking forward to in the next couple of years?

 

Pita: I’m looking forward to our tribe Ngāti Hine withdrawing from Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi O Ngāpuhi. That’s provided for in legislation. We’re working through that we’re down to the last parts of the complaints which will allow Ngāti Hine to govern itself without any interference. Also to bring about a treaty settlement that’s a fair as possible because it’s never going to be fair. That’s got a whole lot of challenges in itself. About all things it’s about my own family. You can’t really look anywhere else and think you’re going to play a part if you can’t get your own house in order particularly around the grand children and making sure that they’re able to be raised in an environment that’s safe and secure.

 

Sam: How close have you managed to pull off the community-land-people connection that you had growing up for your family? Have you tried?

 

Pita: Yeah to a certain extent. I look back and I think I’ve got a few regrets in how we raised our own children. You get a second chance when your grandchildren are around. Most people try to learn from your mistakes. There was a lifestyle in my 20s and 30s that was pursuing other things. Seeing that I’m absolutely proud of our children and that they are great people doing really well.

 

Sam: They’ve got the same passion?

 

Pita: At this stage of life yes. Some of these things grow on you. I was on a totally different drive when I was a 20 and a 30 year old. As some of the leaders in our own small communities start to pass away and you start looking around and you realise that you really have to step up and fill the bridge. It grows on you. Like many of my relatives they say “wow learning about our genealogy is a fantastic thing. Now I know what our parents were trying to tell us”.

 

Sam: If you could wave a magic wand and have a miracle occur when you wake up tomorrow morning, what would you like it to be?

 

Pita: It’s really to achieve the vision that our people in this area and I’m not just talking about Ngāti Hine, I’m talking about the surrounding tribes. The aspect that our ancestors were trying to achieve. I would like New Zealand to be a bilingual country. That you and I could speak Māori, speak te reo Māori as competently as we’re now speaking English. All of us like it’s just a normal way of life. That we’re not having to fight to have Māori as a way of living. I just think that little New Zealand doesn’t see that. What I see is a thing that we should be aspiring to. Certainly our politicians don’t either because they reflect middle New Zealand.

 

In a wider sense I want New Zealand to be a bi-cultural country. I mean bi-cultural not multi-cultural.

 

Sam: What’s the smallest thing that we could do that would make the biggest difference towards that?

 

Pita: For me it’s working with my own family getting my own house in order.

 

Sam: One question to end with then, do you have any advice for our listeners?

 

Pita: These really needs a lot more thought… I think that we’re all seeking to be a global community and to be truly global we need to both cultivate, strengthen and enhance the small villages that we have throughout the world. To retain that uniqueness and unity through diversity as a key. That’s what I believe in – as long as we can accept and understand the differences just looking what’s happening in other parts of the word that divergence of culture is leading to a lot of loss of life and some real anxieties in some parts of the world and we’re not … we’ve got obviously anxieties and challenges in our own community but be contrast we know some of the other things that are happening in other parts of the world.

 

Sam: Thank you very much for spending some time!

 

Pita: It’s my privilege. It’s really important that I reflect on some of the things that have happened in my life because I never get asked questions like these.

 

Sam: More than happy to oblige. You’ve been listening to Sustainable Lens: Resilience on Radio. A weekly show on sustainability topics brought to you by Otago Polytechnic. The show is co-hosted by Shane Gallagher and me Samuel Mann. We are broadcast on Otago Access Radio and podcast on SustainableLens.org. On SustainableLens.org we’re building an archive of conversations with people from many different fields who are applying their skills to a sustainable future. In our conversations we try to find out what motivates them and what it means to see the world through a sustainable perspective through their sustainable lens.

 

Tonight’s Sustainable Lens, he might not describe it that way, but let’s do that anyway was that of Pita Tipene from Ngāti Hine. You can follow our links on sustainablelens.org to find us on Facebook, to keep in touch and you can listen to Sustainable Lens on all poddy places as well. That was Sustainable Lens. I’m Samuel Mann. I hope you’ve enjoyed the show.

 

 

 

Categories
children computing design

Children as design partners in technology and sustainability

Allison Druin

We’ve got to start with the large to be able to connect the dots of excellence.

Professor Allison Druin is a Professor in the iSchool and Chief Futurist for the Division of Research at University of Maryland. She has been a leader in the the use of children as design partners, which has been widely applied, including to digital libraries for children (eg ICDL). She is currently seconded to the National Park Service, where she is Special Advisor for National Digital Strategy.

Talking points

With an inventor scientist father and an artist mother I’m a mix between the two of them

My undergraduate degree is in graphic design…A wonderful thing, I always say to people, if you want a real degree: problem solving, creativity, exploration – go get yourself a degree in design, it’s incredible.

I realised that I think like a designer -sometimes visually, sometimes problem solving – but really it’s about what are the parameters in front of me, how can I think out of the box to make something better than it is today.

Then at MIT, in my head I was translating from design-speak to technology-speak.

Not just how technology affects children but how children affect the design of technology

I was a big proponent – back when this was a bit of the lunatic fringe – of really hearing the voices of users as designers, as participants, full participants in the design process.

Rarely do you get a chance to ask kids who don’t have a lot of experience with technology, how do you tell stories? Why do you tell stories? What matters to you with stories? and then to work with them to figure out what that means in terms of new technologies.

It’s a people-led process – its understanding the needs of people, the desires of people, it’s also understanding how processes work, and how they are broken. And where you can bring solutions in that make change

We’re an information-centric world – the scale and speed that information moves, and we need better solutions, we can’t just keep doing the same things faster.

When we do amazing research for a particular population, it spreads like wildfire to what the rest of the world needs

The sooner you can get kids into the design process, the better the outcome will be, and the shorter the process will be in terms of back-end testing.

The notion of cultural tolerance was always underneath the surface of everything we do.

It was never about how do we make kids better readers, it was always how do we help people think about each other, oh and by the way, make them a better reader at the same time.

National Parks Service…a long time partner…maybe it is time for me to come in and think about a national strategy

How do we make it so that kids have a lifelong experience with parks? The pre- and post- experiences can be enhanced with new technologies

Today’s kids will look harder at the mountains if they’ve got a cellphone in their hands.

They’re thinking deeply about what is it that I am doing so that then I can report back to my friends.

Kids have a hard time not being able to be reporters themselves, not being able to share that experience.

If we do let our technology separate us from our physical world too much, that is a bad thing, but with embedded, mobile, ubiquitous technologies we can have physical/digital switching seriously, without a context collapse.

So what sort of language do we use with the Park Service about digital?

What does it mean to have 24/7 to the front door of the parks? Traditionally we built larger and larger visitor centres with beautiful exhibits, but what happens if the mobile app is the front door?

What would it mean if kids could digitally tag a landscape – to tell other kids this is a really cool place to go?

The messages, themes, are really important – the parks are about stewardship, about learning. The parks are not necessarily glorified vacation spots.

The parks are our best idea in education – they’re about teaching the American public that we need to be stewards of our own environment, or else there’s not going to be an environment.

Traditionally we’ve not been able to implicitly share these themes – some administrations haven’t wanted us to focus on climate change or the science behind things. Thankfully in more recent times we have been able to say the science matters, climate change matters, how do we look to ensure we are preserving

This goes for digital too – how do we look to digital to preserve what we know and what we care about?

The first innovation of the Park Service was the campfire (talks), before that they were really just to protect the land from poachers. In the campfire discussions we started talking about the stories behind the wilderness, the culture and the heritage that we have.

(Success) People taking up the methods: children in the design process.

People don’t question why we need to have children at the design table anymore, they just question why we haven’t done it sooner.

(Activist) I think all good academics, researchers, thinkers, are activists. Because we have to share ideas, we have to share what we are thinking. And we have to convince people that what we are doing matters, is unique and truly is a contribution.

(Motivation) Being able to help make change in this world.

CHI Conference (of which Allison is 2016 co-chair) theme is CHI for Good.

Making a little bit of change is going to make the world a little bit better in the long run. It’s not about making money, it’s not about better law, it’s about making people’s lives better.

We’re in a field HCI Human Computer Interaction, that starts with humans,

I’ve never seen such a uniformly positive response to a conference theme in 30 years of coming to this conference.

(how will it stick, not just be the year CHI was good) People really care deeply about change, and keeping that activist-change idea in the CHI community.

We’ve found that the impactful research is where you create innovative technologies that have broad impact.

(Challenges) HCI at scale.

It’s not about one type of user, one type of interaction. How do we work for multitudes of users, in multitudes of contexts, with multitudes of data.

(Miracle) I use this question. My most favourite answer was from a kid who I asked if you could wave a magic wand in your library, what would it be? And he didn’t know what a magic wand was – he had learnt to read reading his Mom’s magazines in the beauty shop. Once I had explained – if you could just change something, what would it be? He said, “I’d put grass on the floor of the library”. I said “what?” and he said “I’ve always been afraid to sit in the grass and read a book where I live, and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do”. So if I could wave a magic wand, I’d give grass everywhere so kids could feel safe, to learn, to be quiet, to explore, to do whatever they wanted, to sit and read a book.

That’s the challenge – HCI, technology at scale. When I got to the Park Service one of my colleagues said maybe you should start with one small thing and grow it. But I said that’s the problem, we’ve been doing that for too many years, we’ve got to see the larger picture. We’ve got to start with the large to be able to connect the dots of excellence.

We do so many wonderful things in this world, but they don’t seem to be connected to the next wonderful thing. In those connections, that glue, that’s where change can happen.

Working with children as design partners – it’s the surprises that make it worth doing everyday.
Could I have imagined that a kid would ask for grass on the floor the public library?
What does that mean? Can technology help? I made a digital library that makes it as fun to do the reading as the searching.

(Advice) Be a futurist. If all of us collectively could not just try and predict the future, but really try and prepare for it. And in preparing for the future we do what matters today – and the rest is commentary.

My children insist I put up this one too:

Allison Druin 2

 

This conversation was recorded at CHI2016.

Categories
geography history landscape urban

Environmentally engaged students and communities

Eric Pawson

An educational activist…encouraging other people to find out how they can best act in the world.

Eric Pawson is Professor of Geography at the University of Canterbury. He has written several books on New Zealand’s environmental history and his recent work concerns biological economics. He is President of the Ako Aotearoa Academy of Tertiary Teaching Excellence – we discuss his approach to “classrooms without borders” and his experiences in community-based teaching and research in post-quake Christchurch.

Talking points

We saw the industrial revolution as a economic process, rather than a series of independent technological innovations.

Working with local schools…adopting the lake shore as a series of outdoor classrooms.

(Success?) Student projects in the residential red zone

How community aspirations might be accommodated around the landscape transformations

Flashpoints can unstick reputations…water quality may be such a flashpoint for us.

(Motivation?) Working with other people on things that are rewarding – that have intrinsic value and a wider purpose. Rather more that information transmission – I don’t believe in an information transmission model of education – I think that education is something that people create for themselves with a certain amount of assistance and guidance. A process of guided self-discovery.

(Activist?) It depends what you mean by activist. An environmental activist in the conventional sense of the word – no. Yes, an educational activist in the senses that I’ve been describing – perhaps less putting myself forward, and more encouraging other people to find out how they can best act in the world. If that’s an activist, then yes.

(Challenge?) I’m retiring – so many exciting things to do, so many exciting places to go. …I will carry on with the community based teaching.

(Miracle?) Not sure I believe in miracles. (the smallest thing that would make the biggest possible difference?) There are an awful lot of people in my home city (Christchurch) who are still in very difficult situations with insurance companies and unmended homes… it is a travesty that after five years we haven’t been able to take care of everybody. I would like us to wave a collective wand and fix this.

This conversation was recorded at the conference of the NZ Geographical Society.

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
electricity generation energy engineering

Civic science – what are you good for?

Phil Taylor

We sell electricity in units, rather than as a service – so the electricity companies want us to buy more. So the market is diametrically opposed to energy efficiency. Every time we use less energy they make less profit.

Prof Phil Taylor is Director of the Sustainability Institute at Newcastle University. We talk about his increasingly transdisciplinary career and the changes required for a transition to a decarbonised energy system.

Talking points

I was always searching for application domains, reasons for doing it.

My career has become more and more interdisciplinary….really stimulating and challenging.

The big question for me is about seeking sustainability, sustainable solutions. It’s about trying to understand complex systems.

I’m a systems thinker, I like to think of things as complex interacting, interdependent systems. I tend not to be a component person, or a siloized thinker, I always look for understanding the complexity and the interdependencies in a system – and therefore I try to solve sustainability problems but I’m always looking at the earth, or an engineered or a natural environmental system and that leads me to need to develop relationships, working partnerships with people in different disciplines.

Influences…Centre for Alternative Technology….Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful.

There was a gap in my career, my undergraduate training as an engineer – sustainability was never mentioned, early industry…before I came back to sustainability.

It wasn’t about new energy, at best it was efficient use of old energy.

The automotive industry…just felt like toys for burning petrol.

As soon as a saw a career opportunity in sustainability I jumped on it.

That’s how I got to interdisciplinarity, I realised that it didn’t matter how clever the piece of hardware or software was, unless the commercial and regulatory framework changed, and people’s energy practices changed, we wouldn’t get to the decarbonisation that we need to avoid catastrophic climate change.

The transitions required in each field are related but different.

The challenge in energy is to cut across the silos and stakeholders. You can’t make a case for energy storage if you are only looking at the wires, or only looking at the retailers, or only looking at the generators. If all these things are separate, you can’t make a compelling business case for something that is hugely transformative in just one of those silos – it takes an integrated approach.

We sell electricity in units, rather than as a service – so the electricity companies want us to buy more. So the market is diametrically opposed to energy efficiency. Every time we use less energy they make less profit.

Consumers need to be empowered to take part in the smart energy system. People and organisations – their choices about the energy they use and when they use it,are crucially important.

More diversity in when people use energy enables a more sustainable system.

We might chose not to drive across town in rush hour because we can see the congestion…but we don’t have the same visibility of energy congestion. We just flip the switch and the power comes through

It needs a mix of information provision, awareness and incentives.

You have to start with demand. If we continue to use energy in the way we are now, it doesn’t matter what we do with renewable energy, we’re chasing a moving target and we’re doomed.

We have to get demand down while we work on the technological breakthrough. But even if we get the breakthrough, it’s not going to make much of difference unless we get the regulatory, commercial and social changes to go with it.

Population change, and the thirst for growth in businesses will outstrip most, if not all, technological developments we’re going to make over the next 20-30 years.

Civics…means asking yourself what are you good for? as much as asking yourself what are you good at? So a goal of the Institute is to drive social impact.

One of the measures of interdisciplinarity is how early in the research process did that start? Did you actually frame the research questions in an interdisciplinary way. Not just the researchers, are the end users, the communities involved in this early framing process?

The research metric framework doesn’t favour interdisciplinary research.

Sustainability is now hard-wired into engineering courses.

Science Central…will become an exemplar of urban sustainability.

We want to make planning of cities more inclusive…in a “decision theatre”.

(Superpower) Bring about change – overcome social, cultural and organisational inertia.

(Success) Securing funding then running, the biggest smart grid project in the UK – Customer-led Network Revolution, done with industry it took a socio-technical approach to smartgrids. It took interdisciplinarity seriously.
People are flexible in time of energy use, and are willing and able to do that.

Tipping point is decarbonising the grid.

(Activist) If I’m in a romantic view about myself I would like to think that, but if I’m really honest I’d say no. I’m too part of mainstream academia and industry to call myself an activist. I’d have to be a bit braver.

I’m drawn to that quote – is it better to be on the inside, part of the establishment, be challenging person in that establishment – I think I am – is it better to be outside as an activist trying to get change that way. I suppose I’ve chosen the former as a better way to get things done, but it does mean you have to compromise to some extent.

(Motivation) Seeing real impact, working on genuine problems, working with people, enthusiastic about what they are doing

(Challenge) Realising the vision on Science Central.

(Miracle) Low cost, long life-time, environmentally benign energy storage. (how far away is that?) Not tomorrow, ten years at the very least.

(Advice) Be careful about listening to anybody. Be prepared to change your mind – revel in being proved wrong, see that as a positive thing.

Categories
community community garden food

Community gardens community hub

Sophia Leon de la Barra

The single most powerful thing we can share with kids – they’re the custodians of the land – they have to take care of it, and here are some ways how.

Sophia Leon de la Barra is the coordinator for the Waitaki Community Gardens in Oamaru. Trained as a statistician in public health, she now runs the community gardens as a community, education and social hub.

Talking points

A glossy magazine for a sustainability strategy didn’t really feel like sustainability in action or practice.

I feel like a contemporary custodian of the land.

I found Oamaru and was fascinated that these eccentric people could be celebrated, and work together.

Our philosophy is around sharing life skills.

Gardening has skipped a generation, an effect of the commercialisation of supermarkets and urbanisation.

The knowledge is there, we just need to tap into that wisdom.

My job is really about people.

Community gardening is about food production, but also valuable learning opportunity and social experience.

Plant a seed, pull a weed, harvest a vege.

(On community gardens and time banking in Lyttleton) Sometimes you need a bit of a crisis to drive you to into an alternative economy. Adversity reveals character and reliance on neighbours.

Food is one of those integral things.

It is all too easy in a globalised economy to eat food from all over the world, but the environmental cost is not really factored in…how can a Korean ice-cream be cheaper than a local one? When people start looking at the logistics of global systems – this is crazy.

Growing food connects people to their environment.

Growing your own food is an empowering experience – it just tastes better.

If people want to engage it can scale up.

I measure our success by how well we are doing in sharing knowledge with the next generation. We’re reconnecting kids wit the process of food, with cycles of nature.

(Success?) Oamaru food forest.

Everybody’s got this about collaboration and making things happen.

A can do attitude – everybody’s got their own projects – so they totally get it, they get you want to do something new and want to help you.

The community garden, community hands in soil – truly intergenerational.

The single most powerful thing we can share with kids – they’re the custodians of the land – they have to take care of it, and here’s some ways how.

(Activist?) Yes. Activists are people who just do things really. If you get something done and it creates a positive change for someone else, then you’re acting on your principles, implementing – activism.

(Motivation?) Well-being of people, health is our greatest wealth, and the more we can do to share that the stronger we’ll be as a whole.

(Challenges?) Get more involved in Council – I’m standing for election next year.

(Miracle?) Make everybody more time rich, so they can engage in community projects.

(Advice?) If you’ve got something you’re passionate about, dig it, do it.

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
engineering transition engineering

Transition Engineering

Susan Krumdieck

Everything around you is an engineered system – start demanding of the engineers to change things.

Prof Susan Krumdieck is developing Transition Engineering at the University of Canterbury. We talk about green energy mythologies, transition engineering of complex systems, growing up in Colorado, and how her son’s persistent questioning led her to look for ways or making real change.

Talking points

My concern is what we are doing that is not sustainable, and changing that – transition engineering.

People can adapt to whatever situation they’re in, and they can do that if they have the ability to see what’s happening, understand what’s happening, trust one another and work together on it.

Mechanical engineers have made these big systems work really well, but they have not been given the task of winding them down in a way that is sustainable.

The conundrum, that if you are going to engineer your systems even more tso that you can overcome bad behaviour – you’ve introduced more reliance on the engineered system instead of reliance on people thinking.

How engineering interacts with people is at the core of sustainability

We tell ourselves these big stories – and then start to believe them.

Green energy mythologies – may be as important as mythologies have always been for people – that we have a belief in our own progress and in our own development, and

we need stories and mythologies that support that belief. But the facts tell us we are in trouble.

Our development, our progress – that we’ve been so success at is a trap, and a bit suicidal – a lot suicidal – and we don’t know how to deal with that except to believe more in the story.

The party we’ve been having – we’ve come to a trough that is bottomless, an all-you-can-eat banquet with a free returns card, and we we’ve come to think that’s how things are, but we gotten quite obese – it’s not good for us, it will kill us, and yet we’re afraid of change.

We know continued growth is doomed, so we’ve shifted our growth over to the green category – it’s still doomed, the miracle green energy is a myth.

Basically anything that anybody sends you with a big “Yay!” Solar roads, house batteries…everybody, your green energy myth radar should just ping.

Solar panels…something that says to people something about you that you will probably be quite smug about…it will fulfil an emotional need that you have, but what

I call it is green bling. – you didn’t need it, it didn’t change your circumstances or add value to your life. It is decoration for your house, not a legitimate part of the energy system. But something you couldn’t see – perhaps insulation – would make so much more difference.

If we really want to talk about the route to sustainable, what we really have to talk about is what is not sustainable – that’s it.

We’ll never really be sustainable. All we can do is look at the most stupid things we do, and tell the engineers that are making them “thank you very much, but we want something that isn’t that bad, we want you to rethink this.

Anything that is disposable, not reusable, not returnable – all of those we’re engineered that way on purpose, we can change that.

Engineering has to be where we start with these changes.

Somebody has to actually do things that changes things – transition engineering.

Adaptive change have to be engineered – it has to be done on purpose.

Green energy myths give false hope.

Simple solutions might be the answer, but they have to be real.

The way we use energy has become so embedded in our social structure and our belief system – we’re talking a fundamental change in our shared cultural values.

It is possible to do change- to take on what seemed like impossible situations. We’ve done it before in safety engineering and environmental engineering.

You can’t solve the world in one do, so frame the problem – every engineered system can be re-engineered.

The entire profession is responsible for everything that we’ve done that is unsustainable.

We’ve reached a point where our progress, our own technological success is indeed the biggest threat to us.

At the turn of the last Century, our factories, mines and transport were engineered in a way that they were extremely successful for the owners, investors making huge amounts of money…but people were dying or being maimed at rates we can’t contemplate today…so there was a huge change over 40-50 years – that was the impact of safety engineering.

The change was exponential, so huge at the beginning – so simply think about what’s wrong and work on that.

When we make a big mess we need the engineering field to look at itself and say “we can do better than this”.

Everything around you is an engineered system – start demanding of the engineers to change things.

You are in a system that is engineered to work beautifully, it is also self destructive, it is also designed to fail.

Turn around and look at the people who designed these systems and say “I hope you’re busy figuring out how to change things”.

We need the emergence of transition engineering just like we needed safety engineering, natural hazard engineering, environmental engineering.

We’ve got ourselves into a progress trap, we’ve done a very good job and now it is the biggest threat to ourselves and we need to figure that out. We as engineers need to get together and do what we do and get this sorted out.

Most people don’t understand what is going on behind the engineering curtain, but they can demand that engineers fix this stuff they’ve made.

(Activist?) Indeed an activist within the engineering profession. I am pushing the comfort zone of the engineering professional to challenge them to take on this responsibility.

They say “we already do sustainability engineering – recycling systems and so on” but this is a bolt-on to unsustainable systems. We need engineering to boldly take on the big unsustainable systems.

I wish solar, wind, hydrogen were miracle solutions, but they’re not.

If I can help any engineer not waste the ten years I wasted on Hydrogen, then that gets us closer to real change.

Transition is about change, about changing engineering, and if you can change engineering, you can change the world.

(Motivation) My son said “Mom, you have to do something, if something doesn’t change then it’s going to be really bad, you have to figure out how to change things”.

There’s a future out there where we have changed things now. In 100 years we people look back, it’s a good thing that that thing happened. What is that thing?

Anyone who is trying to work on a positive outcome is part of the positive outcome.

The difference between a future where the experiment we started a couple of hundred years ago, the future where we keep hoping for green technology miracles and the don’t come but we keep hoping and telling ourselves that story as civilisation winds down in not a nice way and in the meantime they didn’t change to make the climate more liveable, and a different future, where something profound happened.

Ask 100 people what changed 100 years ago that made a profound change, not one would say “safety engineering”.

(Challenge?) Establish transition engineering

(Miracle?) I think about this all the time – what is the trigger point for change? For me it is funding to establish transition engineering.

(Advice?) Stay with the math and science, especially the young women. We need people who understand that it’s complex systems but you can change them – you just have to think in systemic ways – and if we could could get women to be half of the tiny percentage of people who are engineers, we’d we well on our way.

Do not accept anything less than a global perspective, learn what is known but do not accept that we have to cook this planet as part of human requirements.

Categories
architecture education

Making a difference at architectural scales

Tobias Danielmeier

I rank architecture by going to look at the bathrooms…it is the utilitarian areas that reveal weaknesses…but sustainability weaknesses in architecture are much more disguised.

Tobias Danielmeier teaches and researches sustainable architecture in the School of Design at Otago Polytechnic. He was instrumental in the First Light House – the first Southern Hemisphere entry into the Solar Decathlon. He is also interested in performative architecture – a combination of how a building works functionally and in telling stories.

Talking points

I rank architecture by going to look at the bathroom…it is the utilitarian areas that reveal weaknesses…but sustainability weaknesses in architecture are much more disguised.

There is ideally a marriage of people and place – how the building sits in within its environment.

We’ve seen a shift in how students treat sustainability. For a long time now they have been driven to change the world, then this changed as they saw the problems as too big, we can’t tackle them; the changed again, but now this is changing back again to more inspirational values – we can make a difference.

Connecting with regional experiences, authentic experiences..craft beers, regional cuisines…this is what I mean by post consumerism architecture.

(Activist?) Passive activist. Opening minds of young people.

(Motivation?) Good architecture – striving for better tomorrows.

(Smallest thing that would make the biggest impact?) Better public transport – different ways of achieving the 1/4 acre dream. Not compromising on luxuries, but achieving them in different ways.

(Advice for listeners?) Investigate localised energy production. Try to become energy independent.

Categories
law planning policy

Fragmented landscape: fragmented law

Pip Wallace

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

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

Talking points

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Changes can be made.

Life can be hard – we should always try.

We are not applying precautionary principles with sufficient active intent.

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

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

We are driving production because we are buying it.

Should future generations have access to pristine resources?

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

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

(Activist?) No.

(Motivation?) Deep love for this country and kids

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

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

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

Categories
economics

Scarce resources: economics and sustainability

Dan Marsh

The study of how people chose to use their scarce resources in attempting to satisfy their unlimited wants. This explains both economics and sustainability.

University of Waikato’s environmental economist Dr Dan Marsh on the potential benefits for a sustainable future from the application of economists’ focus on allocation of scarce resources in the face of unlimited human wants.

Talking points

Economics is not the bad guy in sustainability. Economics is really about people, why they do what they do, and how we can help people, societies to be better off.

A lot of people think that economics is all about money, that we’re more-or-less the same as accountants, but that’s really not the case – what economists study is how to improve human welfare.

Economics is a really great training in a way of thinking – a way of approaching the problems humans face, which is a great foundation for almost any career – how to think, how to analyse, how to take decisions.

The study of how people chose to use their scarce resources in attempting to satisfy their unlimited wants. This explains both economics and sustainability.

The economic study of scarce resources…we only have one world, we only have a finite world, a finite amount of land, biodiversity, all kinds of things, and we’re worried we’re using too much of it. Yet people always want more. No matter how much we have, we seem to want more.

Economics is saying we’ve got this scarce resource, we’ve got humans who want more and more – how can we allocate what we have in order for the greater good, the best outcomes in terms of human welfare? That is what economics is all about.

A lot of people think that economists just want growth and the expense of other things they don’t really care about – I don’t really think that is true. But economics is a very broad profession. I could say I don’t think it – and that would be true – but someone else could find an economist who does think that.

Economics is not like accounting, not a set of things that all economists should use, say and do. There is no defined body of knowledge in economics – in political terms, people who study economics go from the far left to the far right and everything in between.

Growth is not fundamental to being an economist.

Economics should be able to help people (government, policy makers) work out how to give the people what they want. Most people want to improve their incomes…if we want higher incomes then we need growth – this is simply responding to what people want – the way democracy is supposed to work. But, some people have focussed on a narrow kind of growth, and taken insufficient account of the effects of inequality, and the environment. I would agree that this has happened.

Externalities are central to economics. For me it is about setting the framework so the kind of growth we have is the kind of growth people want. And the kind of growth people want, is sustainable growth.

(Is sustainable growth a sensible term?) I believe it is. I’m somewhat of an optimist in this regard. Optimist in terms of what might be possible with technology, also an optimist in terms of how people and human societies can develop.

An important way of thinking about this is the capital approach. Capital can be divided into three main kinds: Natural capital (environment), social and human capital (people, knowledge, health, well-being) and economic (things that we make). When people say ‘growth is not sustainable’, they are assuming that in order to grow we have to have more natural capital.

The kind of growth I would like, would ensure that we don’t use more natural capital, perhaps cutting back on it, as we look after improved technology, education to grow human capital.

We can see this in natural resource per computing power. By 2020 if everyone has a ‘super computer’ in their pocket, imagine the growth in human welfare from that, a massive change and potential for improvement in human welfare that is using a remarkably small amount of resources.

I like to focus on management, and what governments should be (rather than focus just on individuals and business) for we have to have the right frameworks to give individuals and businesses the right incentives that will make it easier and reward doing the right thing.

We’re a long way from being able to bring into play all the externalities. But there are quite a few areas that we’re beginning to get the basic rules right – incentives for sustainable behaviour.

We we buy something, on average, assuming the market is working, then we are paying the market cost – because otherwise business will go out of business. But we will only be paying full cost when we pay for externalities and only when everyone along the supply chain has been forced to pay for it.

Taking account of all externalities is difficult. I’m a practical person, just taking nito account the main ones is difficult enough – it is probably an unrealistic goal.

But markets undoubtedly fail, and when government intervene in markets they sometimes make things worse. We might meddle so much in our effort to make markets take into account all externalities we might get it wrong and make it worse.

I’m not sure who said that ‘climate change is the mother of all externalities’, but it’s right.

Climate change is the biggest and most worrying externality in the world.

Economists tend to favour emissions trading or carbon tax as they would encourage people who can reduce emissions at the lowest cost to do so – and that’s a very desirable thing.

Sometimes people take the approach that “polluting is a bad thing, find the polluter, tell them what to do”. Economists take the view that we need to get the rules right, get the incentives right to find ways to encourage reduction of pollution at the cheapest cost and we’ll get more reduction – it will cost less, and we’ll have more money for other things.

Often the most expensive reduction is 10-20 times more expensive than cheaper options encouraged by trading. The Rotorua lakes, the cost per unit of nitrates leached into to the lakes, this averages hundreds of dollars per kilogram, but farmers can reduce the same for a few dollars. Why would we start with $100/kg rather than a few dollars?

For the good of the environment, we will get more improvement.

The same applies to the cap and trade around Lake Taupo, a scientifically established bottom line, then discharge allowance within that – yes they pay for the right to pollute. Does this “paying for the right to pollute” matter? Assuming that we have correctly calculated the cap – that this is the sustainable level, does it matter that someone has bought that right?

I understand that people don’t like the idea of someone buying the right to pollute, but the fact is that this mechanism allows us to get pollution reduction at the lowest cost. That person who buys the right to pollute, who sells it to them? The person who can reduce their pollution at the lowest cost.

Non market valuations – natural, spiritual, aesthetics – these things not usually measured in the markets, but environmental economists have developed methods of valuing these things. In some cases a non-market valuation can assist in difficult decisions.

Even people who say the environment shouldn’t be valued end up doing it implicitly (case study of Manukau sewerage treatment).

Quite often for some social questions, it’s not appropriate for economists to be telling people what to do.

The way I see it, it is for society to decide on how it wants to run society – what are its core values, to decide on what is ethical or not ethical – and for economists to use their skills to work within these constraints to try to help society meet what it wants to do.

People have tried to value a species (for example Costanza’s total value of ecosystems, 97, 14), but it is open to dispute. Environmental Economists would focus on changes and changes you might be considering.

Trying to value change in species and biodiversity using non-market techniques is interesting but tricky and highly contested.

Bateman‘s work in the UK to produce a national ecosystem assessment decided not to value ecosystems, so instead used a constraint approach.

We should be cautious about claims about dollar values on species and biodiversity change.

Economics can help us think about benefits and costs that happen at different points in time. The Stern Report on the economics of climate change for example.

The key driver is how much we value costs into the future.

Discounting is a reasonable approach for the next 10-20 years, but I don’t think it is reasonable for inter-generational decisions. Unless we use a discount rate of zero, it will mean we put no weight on future generations – most of us would agree, that’s not ethical.

We do struggle with longer time periods, but we’re all making decisions about how we weigh costs and benefits…all the time, to pretend we can’t do it is now very helpful, the economist’s approach is to see how people are doing it (investment decisions in schools etc).

If the discount rate you use is too high it will mean you start putting a low rate on costs (and indeed benefits) into the future and we should be cautious of that, particularly for intergenerational issues where I think that result might conflict with what we muight conclude from ethics.

(What’s the alternative?) Economists might try to contribute but we shouldn’t pretend that we’ve got the only answer, we should acknowledge that that’s about ethics and what people feel is right.

(Activist?) Yes, in the sense that I’ve always been. I always says what I think or say I disagree, I’m not too worried about putting my head above the parapet. I am actively involved in trying to use environmental economics to improve New Zealand’s environment. I’ve always argued in favour of the environment, typically trying to help decision makers better understand the value of the environment to the benefit of the environment.

(Challenges?) Too much to do.

(Miracle?) The National Government brings in changes to make NZ’s Emissions Trading Scheme really work, so people who are emitting carbon really would face a realistic cost of carbon. I believe if we could do that, over time we really would get a reduction in NZ’s carbns emissions, and we could do it in the lowest cost way. The main problem is the international linkage – the trouble is the European ETS caved in under pressure and caused the price to crash and our transferrability means our price has crashed. So we need to reduce our transferrability in order to get our incentives correct. It’s really sad the way things are at the moment, it’s not working because the price is too low.

(Advice?) Study economics.

Categories
business

Is business the sustainable solution?

Eva Collins

The majority of existing businesses can still be characterised as having a compliance-based relationship with sustainability, but there are hopeful and interesting things happening.

Dr Eva Collins is Associate Professor in Strategy & Human Resource Management at the Waikato Management School. We talk about the tensions of traditional business models (e.g. continued growth) with the concepts of sustainability (e.g. limited natural resources) and explore creative solutions – can business be a solution to sustainability instead of the problem?

Talking points

There was a disconnect between human rights and corporate lobbyists, but it is harder to maintain that disconnect once you know people – past the stereotypes it’s a person with values and beliefs.

Business (in NZ) is often considered a necessary evil

Voluntary environmental programmes…have a role, but are not a replacement for regulation.

Government regulation sets the floor, voluntary environmental programmes are the stretch.

For the leaders it’s showing others what can be done, but you also need that floor, and in New Zealand it’s a very light floor.

I’m a believer that business can do more than just be the problem.

I checked out environmental books from the library, and this librarian said “what is an academic from the management school doing checking out environmental books?” That is absolutely the perception.

We’re seeing in the megatrends..shifting values and transparency. Businesses are now accountable for what their suppliers are doing.

I’m interested in the power of commerce to change these issues.

Part of my work is the incremental side, about business doing the small things. But then there are people who start a business, who are entrepreneurial to solve a social and or environmental problem – I’m very interested in that.

I take a strong sustainability perspective – bounded by the environment.

Self interest is OK if it is a starting point to get us to where you want.

Experience with Fishbanks (simulation game) shows that self interest rules the day until past the tipping point and can’t recover

If we rely solely on self-interest we won’t get to outcomes we’re looking for…government has to have a role

We would be rational, but we can’t because we don’t have all the costs.

People notoriously say that they’ll pay, but when it comes to it, they won’t.

All Good Bananas case study

There is a tension between traditional business model and sustainability: pressure to grow; return to shareholders paramount; short term focus. Absolutely tensions, this is the interesting part for me.

Also how to bring in longer term views, indigenous perspectives, biomimicry…
Biomimicry is a good example – there’s no such thing as waste in nature. We see some companies exploring that – Interface carpets.

Looking at tensions and pressures in business models – circular economy, sharing economy – these things are not threats, rather, different ways of doing business – which is a threat if you don’t want to change.

The notion of the sustainable practitioner in business is highly contested. A values led organisation, long term focus, circular business model, adds to social fabric. Hopefully the workplace infects its individuals. But this is two way, people who have those values bring it – work can help spread those values.

It might not be what you do, but how you do it.

We don’t have enough planets to support the “sell more stuff” in a take/make/waste model, so stuff needs to be made better and last longer.

90% of what we buy is thrown away in six months – this is a huge scope for business opportunity to change from take/make/waste model

We might be getting away with it now, but we won’t be getting away with it for very long.

There is a huge scope for business to be be successful if they look at different ways of doing business, and I believe that change is going to be forced upon them.

We’ve looked at planetary boundaries from a New Zealand perspective. Water, biodiversity and climate change are the top three boundaries for New Zealand.

Businesses have not historically thought about the pricing of environmental services, and the planetary boundaries starts to put it in a language where it makes sense to business.

It changes the language, it changes the mindset.

Self interest might be the starting point but I’m OK with that if it gets us to where we need to go.

Equitable access to water is going to impact businesses and cities. This is just getting on people’s radar. Even in the Waikato, water is going to be fully allocated in the next five years.

There’s no denying that many of the problems are from business. I think though that individual consumers have a role and responsibility, I think that governments have a role and responsibility. But I do think that business has the reach and resources that government no longer has, and increasingly the motivation to do something about these issues.

In this country in particular, business is considered a necessary evil, and that positive aspects of the business are weighted heavily.

Increasingly entrepreneurs, particularly on the social side, but also environmental, saw an issue and wanted to use business to solve that issue. This has the potential to be much more impactful.

New Zealand businesses are much more engaged in social initiatives and that makes sense because they are small businesses embedded in their community – so socially proactive, environmentally compliant.

The majority of existing businesses can still be characterised as having a compliance-based relationship with sustainability, but there are hopeful and interesting things happening.

We have students do a personal sustainability audit, they find that transformational.

Future business leaders are our hope for the future.

(Activist?) Yes, I how in how I teach. I am an activist teacher because I want certain outcomes and I’ll pay attention to how I teach to get those outcomes.

We have learning objectives for them to help change the world. That’s how high a bar I set.

I don’t tell students that there’s only one way, there’s space for different voices – thinking critically is what we are supposed to be teaching them to do.

I tell students what my bias is, then I try to present both sides. I’ve had complaints that I give too much credence to the other side.

(Motivation?) Nature is the source of my inspiration.

(Challenges?) Short-term thinking. I want more change from that, quicker. You can’t discount incremental thinking, but I have less and less time for it.

(Miracle?) More of a global shift, quicker.

(Advice?) It’s worth going out there and getting engaged. Even when you get frustrated about the pace of change, it is still inspirational to get out there. Whether it’s the social or environmental side, there’s still lots to be done.

Categories
business marketing values

Valuing value

Phil Osborne

If you can be a better consumer, then we can change the world.

Phil Osborne teaches and researches marketing at Otago Polytechnic. We talk about the role of marketing and the relationship between values and value, before exploring what the sustainability agenda can learn from marketing.

Talking points

At the heart of marketing is exchange, it connects producers with consumers

Products become redundant in a new view of marketing

Value is subjective

Things only become valuable when we use them.

In the 60s-80s we had this surplus to get rid of, and we didn’t think about why customers wanted to buy these products.

I see value as in economic value with a little v, and Values with a big V. Values is what society or individuals are starting to see as worthwhile.
So, value in terms of a market exchange comes from the Values of society.

Marketing is a child of the industrial revolution which privileged the view of the firm – they made massive gains in the factories and efficiencies. Look, society is must better off because we can produce these things. And because society was supposed to be better off, the production view was privileged. But now this has flipped, the service dominant logic asks “is it products we want, what do we do with those products?”. So service dominant logic is still about exchange, but exchange of service.

Marketing had a lot of currently useful generalisations, and at present, a lot of those are no longer useful.

At heart of marketing ethics is a satisfied customer.

How do measure satisfaction, I think there’s an ethical way of doing that. If they are getting their product or service delivered in an unethical way, it’s likely to impact on their satisfaction. The ethics of marketing becomes very transparent. The snake-oil salesman is a generalisation for a reason – people don’t like that approach.

Ethics in business school has become a much larger and more obvious subject to deal with since Enron example, and what happens when you let businesses run away with the efficiency model.

In developing sustainable practitioners, that ethical transparency is gives to sustainability – ethics in the end is an individual choice, organisations don’t actually make decisions, individuals within the organisation make decisions.

If you are in a organisation and you feel like they’re about to do something unethical, it’s only individuals who can make that change.

“Is it legal?” has been the standard in business, but that is changing, I say “if your grandmother knew you were doing it, how would she feel about it?”

Students find it hard to think about their great grandchildren, so my analogy allows them to plug into the understand of their grandmother – but this is really about getting them to think about the future.

We’re on cusp of dawn of the end of dinosaurs of organisations. Questions being asked: How do we create organisations that allow employees behave ethically. How do we reward whistle blowing? This is a positive thing, an age of these questions being asked. And they’re not being asked around the water-cooler any more, well they are but water cooler is the internet and the boardroom.

Marketing has always been about sustainable business, the heart of marketing is about relationships. And those relationships can only be sustained when we are doing things that we each like.

Marketing can bring to the table the role of representing the customer at that table – the marketer is the customer’s voice in the organisation. The voice of sustainability among customers is becoming larger and larger – and the marketer is the one that is going to carry that voice into the organisation.

So how to we value sustainability? It typifies the dominance of the paradigm that we want to value it somehow, to put a number on it. And we can put a number on it in that customers are starting to think about maybe I’m not going to buy that thing because it is cheap because I don’t know what their organisational practices are like.

Brands indicate a level of trust. In the future I think we’ll see that the brands and trust value will enable us to understand the value that customers are putting on sustainable practice.

(how do we wade through the marketing greenwash?) Greenwash was the marketing response when we still had that sales response – let’s trick our customers into thinking we’re green by putting dolphins on there. The can’t do that anymore. We might have gotten away with that in the 70s or even the 90s. Nowadays you put a dolphin on there and someone is going to go and track why that dolphin is on there.

Customers have a role in not falling for greenwash. And call it out

(Are you an activist?) Yes. I’ve had 7000-10,000 students over the years. If I’ve made even half of them consider their practices differently and decide not to stuff a leaflet in your letterbox without any understanding of what that is doing, then I’ve made a few changes.

I think we’re all activists as consumers, we all have the chance to be activists. If all you take from understanding marketing is being a better consumer, then we can change the world.

Marketing is no longer a simple relationship. Society’s conversation about sustainability is influencing consumers’ beliefs, which then has to influence the marketing conversation. It is not longer a delivery of products – a monolithic dyadic conversation dominated by the marketer to a dialogical, learning together, thinking about what is best for society.

(Motivation) Making a difference.

(Challenge) Changing the perception of marketing.

(Advice) Become a more conscious customer, every time you spend money with an organisation you are voting for its continued existence. So think about whether you condone it.

Categories
design

Beyond ecodesign

Yorick Benjamin

I don’t think “ecodesign” goes deep enough – it’s more about optimising the status quo rather than challenging it.

Dr Yorick Benjamin is the Director of Sustainable Design at the Falmouth University. His interest and background is in the pragmatic realisation of sustainable design products and methodologies and he has been active in a wide range of projects both nationally and internationally since 1988. Yorick’s latest work is a collaboration on the design of Sustainable Bus Shelters for Cornwall Council; 50 shelters of different sizes have been digitally manufactured using local companies and are in public use today.

Talking points

There is a need for much more responsibility in terms of product….closing loops, circular economy, don’t downcycle…

Material science has to focus on natural and renewable – almost forgotten since we industrialised

We’re only a small element, but what we can do is to show best practice in terms of using materials wisely, using them for appropriate purposes, and using them in ways that are improving people’s lives in a very obvious way.

Are design ethics and profitability in conflict?

Retrofitting sustainability to an existing design is very hard, almost impossible.

I don’t think you can retrofit at scale, it means changing infrastructure…I prefer to be supporting and growing the pioneers…the new providers.

It doesn’t matter if we get it wrong at the smaller level, so long as we learn and correct.

I want to see us make a difference and the way we do that is to make the physical artefact, get it into market to change people’s opinion and give them examples of best practice – in doing that it is OK that we get it wrong sometimes.

One of the hardest messages to get across is that you are buying product longevity…it is difficult to get that across when people’s profit horizon is a year or less.

A broader way of considering design: students don’t start with designing a tap, they start with water.

(Motivation?) Doing the right thing, making designers who are competent, happy, enjoy their work, make a living, but do the right thing and are actually ambassadors for sustainable design and the values that underpin that.

(Activist?) No…I’m hesitating, when I was younger I very much was an activist…we founded Green Drinks…I see myself as an enabler, a facilitator, but also having the vision I hope – which is to see the bigger picture, which is how we can make this gear up, get sustainable products out there.

There’s no point doing sustainable design if you can’t get products out there, you have to actually make something.

Categories
education systems

Transforming education

Stephen Sterling

Professor Stephen Sterling is of Head of Education for Sustainable Development at the University of Plymouth. His argument that education needs to both transform and be transformative has transformed Education for Sustainability, both in the UK and internationally.

Talking points

I was an environmentalist before the term was coined

I read a book Teaching for Survival, about the time of the first big environmental conference in Sweden… and I thought, I’m going to get into environmental education, because that’s what’s going to make the difference.

(When did it become sustainability as we know now?) There was sent discussion pre-1987 but the Brundtland report was the turning point…the debate shifted up a gear and sustainable development became part of the currency.

1992 was a key point with the two streams really coming together

(Masters programme developed by WWF) Originally called Masters in Environmental and Development Education, it brought together the two streams, later it changed its name to Education for Sustainability.

“What’s your definition of sustainability?” is not a sound bite kind of a question. I tend to get round it by saying it’s the sorts of approaches (to education and learning) that we need if we are to assure the future economically, socially, and environmentally.

I see sustainability as a set of system conditions…conditions that for all intents and purposes can last forever, whatever system you are talking about. Sustainable Development is a pathway towards those conditions, but it’s a dynamic state.

I remember Crispin Tickell…talking about those three dimensions…not just in terms of having the three dimensions – because people think if you’ve got the three that’s it – but in terms of “seeing them in terms of each other”.

I make the distinction between the weak and strong sustainability diagrams. I go for the strong sustainability diagram – a systems diagram with concentric circles – economy being a subset of society, society being a subset of environment. The Venn diagram is good as a teaching tool – asking what is right and wrong with it? – but in terms of representing reality we have to go with a strong systems diagram.

Recently I’ve been working on, if you’ve got the philosophical ideas, how do they apply in a practical setting. The application of the ideas and their implications…is a challenge…how to reorient (higher education) towards sustainability.

I think one of the key problems with our western psyche is a reductionist mindset

People think that’s something that geographers and scientist should do, but we put it into yet another box

Sustainability is not the key issue…the problem is unsustainability

The key issue is why is a lot of what we do unsustainable?

What informs worldviews and mindsets…what does the required change in mindset mean, and what is the role of education in getting us there?

Education itself is not necessarily a solution unless we look at the assumptions and paradigms that influence educational policy and practice.

How can we rethink educational paradigms, policy and practice so that it is more amenable…the challenge of unsustainability and the opportunities of sustainability?

We need transformation in learner and process

We need learning processes that go deeper than content…engagement of deeper parts of our beings…requirements for teaching contexts

Getting people to think about deeper questions, their own assumptions and social assumptions…that’s where reflexivity comes in, and you can’t achieve a level of reflexivity with learners unless you have teaching and learning situations that stimulate that kind of reflection.

Always it’s a matter of bringing in sideways views and surprises in teaching methodology. For people to think “oh, ok, well..” and starting thinking and questioning and making enquiries that they wouldn’t otherwise not have made.

A lot of it is focussing on issues that are not amenable to standard solutions, maybe present ethical dilemmas and so on. That demands a deeper level of reflection than simple factual stuff.

Different disciplines will have different content bases, but sustainability demands a deeper response, making connections which otherwise wouldn’t be made.

I’ve made a career of trying to encourage teachers and learners to think in more holistic ways.

(How much do you need to front-load with gloom?) Not an easy question to answer – differences of opinion. Reality or disempower? Tendency…is to front-load too much around big issues and trends.

I think we need a degree of realism…there’s enough research reports to refer to…but balance that content around all the considerable initiatives, positive, driving forward that sustainability is inspiring.

Relational thinking.

Adjectival education…all about trying to improve relationships with something – relationality. ‘Education for change’ movements are all about trying to change relationships for the better.

Gregory Bateson in 1972 said we are governed by epistemologies we know to be wrong – objectivism, materialism, reductionism, dualism and so on. These ideas are part of the western intellectual legacy. These ideas cut us off from each other and from the environment. What we need to do is what Peter Reason calls an extended epistemology: embracing the other. Our relationship with others, our relationship with the natural world, our relationship with animals, our relationship with future generations. That idea of relationality is key to sustainability. A lack of relationship – a lack of identification, a lack of empathy – at it’s heart underpins unsustainbility, because we’re left with individualism.

We live in a systematic world

Everything is highly interconnected, and that’s been exacerbated by the technological revolution and globalisation, we need modes of thinking that are adequate to that highly interconnected world. If we think in a reductionist and individualist way, also an aggressive and competitive way, that’s going to cause more harm than good.

We need to think in a way that we are more aware of systemic consequences because they happen anyway

We need to use everything we’ve got at our disposal, some people are dismissive of social marketing “that’s not proper education”, but we need to use everything we have, time is short, if you can give people financial incentives to ‘do the right thing’ then that’s a start, and they might go beyond that to ask why they are encouraged to do that.

There’s no single answer to any of this.

All the issues tend to be related, we can’t just tick off climate change and say ‘well that’s done’, it has huge links with other issues, that was pointed out by Club of Rome, 40 years ago. We need to see issues together. That aside, the issue that worries me that doesn’t get much attention which I think is addressing biodiversity.

People tend to think biodiversity is ‘just a few plants and animals, very nice but we can afford to lose a few’, but that’s the web of life that supports everything else.

Quite apart from the arguments for the intrinsic value of nature – they have a right to exist in their own right – that’s whole idea of ecosystems services. The functions the ecosphere performs are vital, if that breaks down you can forget economic growth.

Clearly putting everything in terms of what nature does for us is important, but it shouldn’t be the only reason we’re looking after nature – intrinsic values not instrumental values

The Future Fit thinking framework is a practical guide

Focus on problem solving worries me

We live in a culture…coming out of our scientific legacy…we tend to think if we can define a problem then there must be a solution.

Clearly a lot of problems are amenable to simple problem solving…but not all problems are, and sadly a lot of sustainability problems are not of that character – they are complex, wicked problems that are not amenable to simple problem solving.

Learners need to be given a range of problems, from simple problems right through to complex issues – and get them to think how they should be approached differently, and that gives them an intellectual toolkit – to recognise that there’s no single category called problems, and that there’s a whole spectrum of different problems of different nature that require different approaches

Wicked problems can be approached…we can take actions which have beneficial systemic consequences. But if you take ill-considered unwise actions you start having a number of negative consequences that you didn’t foresee.

Critical thinking, but then what? What is your response to that? If you manage to raise someone’s critical awareness about an issue, but then don’t offer them a way of taking that inquiry forward, allowing them any form of engagement – that’s a bit of a half step – leaving the inquiry half way through

(Motivation) From when I was a kid, I’ve felt part of the whole, I’ve been outward looking, been aware of others – nature, animals, people, people and my place in relation to them – I’ve always felt that way and wanting to make a change for better

(Activist?) In a kind of way, yes, but not in the way that term often implies. I can look back over the last 30 years and know that I’ve enabled quite a lot of change to happen. To that extent yes, but I’m not out on the streets with barricades.

(Challenges) I find myself in a fortunate and privileged position, I want to use it wisely and well because it’s a responsibility.

I don’t write a lot of academic journal papers because I don’t think they make much difference, I’m in this game to change thinking and action.

(Miracle) What’s been frustrating has been a lack of real understanding by government and senior civil servants…if governments really understood the depths of challenges we’re facing nationally and globally over the next 20-30 years, maybe they would be more supportive the changes in education that I’ve been advocating

The reason governments don’t respond is for one of two reasons, one is that they don’t understand it, the other is that they do understand it. Because if they do understand, it means a radical shift in policy…and they’re not necessarily up for that.

(What could we do to simplify sustainability narrative?) An extremely good question, we’re stuck in a semantic problem, for some people we need to get away from the sustainability narrative itself and put it in terms people can come to terms with on their own terms.

Systems thinking is a way of getting people to recognise the dynamic nature of things, and their place in it, and the importance of taking note of consequences.

(Advice) Get informed, and get involved. There’s so much people can do at any level. At lot of it is possibly difficult but it is in many ways exciting.

Note: this interview was recorded in the week of the Scottish Independence referendum in early September 2014.