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
climate change local government urban

Cities of change

Jinty MacTavish

Cities all across the planet are coming from the same place – a desire to ensure that our communities are prepared to play our role in both responding to and mitigating possible future shocks.

Jinty MacTavish is a Dunedin City Councillor. She recently returned from presenting a Council initiative at ICLEI resilient cities in Bonn, and took the opportunity to visit several inspiring developments across Europe.

This is a wide ranging conversation, with many highlights, including:

  • ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability. Resilient Cities Congress 2014. Jinty talks about various blue-green approaches such as Copenhagen’s stormwater management.
  • Copenhagen said ‘we need to have a Climate Change adaptation strategy that prepares us for these big rainfall events that we’ll be getting on a more regular basis, how do we do that instead of just putting in more pipes and more channels and more grey infrastructure, how do we do that in a way that promotes other outcomes – that promotes biodiversity, promotes our city’s livability, the needs we have around recreational space, avenues for active transport. With that overlay, as soon as you start to see things in that way…their entire climate change adaptation programme is based around expanding green space and enhancing water retention capacity in their blue space.

    The Copenhagen approach is to say “we don’t want this climate change adaption to be a negative, we want it to work for us in terms of improving livability”.

  • Berlin’s Templehof airport as a centre for urban regeneration (, 2).
  • Leipzig urban regeneration and Clara Park
  • Freiburg integrated transport planning (Academic paper 1, )
  • Freiburg has seen 30 years of unflinching investment in integrated transport hub with a focus on active and public transport.

    I get frustrated with the speed of change, we can’t move the discussion on fast enough, part of that is that we are hindered by finances, we can’t do things fast enough and comprehensively enough that we can’t prove it works, we do these bits…people say it’s not connected…now we’re focussing on a complete network

  • Locality: Local by Default
  • Bristol: Bristol Pound and Bristol 2015 European Green Capital
  • Local currency has transformed the visitor experience in that community.

    You really get a sense of what an empowered community can achieve when you visit Bristol – there’s not a street that doesn’t have some form of community enterprise on it

  • Cardiff Food Council
  • Categories
    politics poverty

    Child Poverty Panel

    Child Poverty Panel

    What do you plan to do to improve the lives of children living in poverty?

    Tonight’s show comes to you from the political panel on child poverty held in Dunedin on July 10th 2014. The panel was wonderfully organised by the student led group Choose Kids. The session was chaired by Dunedin mayor Dave Cull.

     

     

    The entire, unedited Q&A section is available at http://sustainablelens.org/audio/14/2014-07-17-SustainableLens-ChildPoverty_AudienceQuestions.mp3

    Categories
    government green party politics poverty

    Activist-politician

    Jan Logie

    Can we afford policies to address child poverty? First, Yes. Second, Can we afford not to?

    Jan Logie is a Green MP. Before becoming an MP Jan worked widely in New Zealand social and human rights organisations. She is Greens spokesperson for Income Support, Immigration, Women, Pacific Island Affairs, Ethnic Affairs, Human Rights, Rainbow Issues, Overseas Development Aid and Associate for Housing. We begin by asking if there is a common thread running through all those areas.

    Talking points:

    A lot of what is going wrong in our society is around unbalanced power. That’s around people access to things and it’s also around treatment of the planet.

    I’ve always been bemused by people making social justice separate from environmental issues – it seems to me that the people messing up our planet are the same people with the wealth and the resources. They are able to do both of those things because they have too much power – an uneven share of power.

    Go out and listen to people, rather than tell.

    I really want everyone to be able to live up to their potential and live free lives. Domestic and sexual violence are massive barriers to that in New Zealand…epidemic rates…1 in 3 women likely to experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. In terms of sexual violence, the figures for girls are around 1 in 4, and for boys between 1 in 6 and 1 in 10 are likely to be sexually abused in this country… that’s horrific.

    For some people the silence around these issues and the blame around these issues, will mean that they won’t get the help that they need…the consequences of that violence will be really compounded.

    We need to make this a priority for us to deal with as a country.

    We had a bit of a spate of taking it seriously politically, and then it went off the agenda, it’s almost like “oh we tried…there’s nothing more we can can do”. We’re starting to get another wave of a response, of people saying “this is ridiculous”. It doesn’t have to be like this, we need the systems responses, government departments to actually do what they need to do in response. And they’re not. The systems have been breaking down terribly.

    It is absolutely a result of decisions made around the Cabinet table. Womens Refuges have had their baseline funding reduced over the last six years.

    (On banknotes getting $80M but sexual violence advocates struggling) It’s just skewy values.

    The women’s vote can swing an election.

    What is primarily (but not exclusively) male violence against women is founded on a sense of entitlement…and that is founded on women having a lesser place in society.

    Trickle down has been so thoroughly discredited, yet we hear it all the time….(To see how it doesn’t work)…you only have to look at how productivity has increased so much more than wages.

    Child poverty is outrageous. A quarter of our children living in poverty. Numbers are disputed, but it was about 10% in the 1980s, and now it is around a quarter. And the levels of severe deprivation have increased.

    They aren’t getting enough food, they don’t have warm houses, their houses are damp, they don’t have proper clothing, or shoes without holes.

    Houses full of nothingness.

    We’re taking out all of the things that help our children and young people grow and learn and thrive – they’ve just been sucked out of their lives by government policies.

    Think about how important the first seven years are to someone’s entire life – and what we are doing to them, and as a consequence to all of us. It will require much more expensive interventions later, and it’ll never be an even playing.

    To make inter-generational changes: start. Go beyond piecemeal.

    Claims that you just need to be out working, shows a lack of understanding of the complexity of people’s lives and what we consider work. There’s also not enough jobs. And what about people with disabilities…are we saying that they’re not deserving to participate in society? And the value of parenting? And because levels of social harm haven’t been fully addressed…and not everyone is going to fit into our ultra-efficient high performing world. Some people fit into that and some people don’t – are we saying that they don’t deserve to be able to live a decent life?

    There’s a really strong interaction between income support and work policies, we need to make people help make those links. It is in most of our interests to drive towards a high wage economy, where part of that economy is a decent social security system.

    I’m getting a sense that there is a cultural shift away from individualism.

    A meritocracy, deserving/undeserving poor concept rests on an individualistic approach. I’m sensing a cultural shift towards recognising our interdependence and the links between us.

    The world, sadly, is proving our policies right. (would you like to be wrong on some of them?) Absolutely.

    That’s the biggest question facing any movement for social change. How do we get there? The policies are clear, but it’s how do we bring people to the idea that those policies might actually work, that we all have something to gain from these policies.

    There’s too big a gap between parliament and our social movements.

    I see amazing people doing amazing things, and think this is really exciting, how do we create the tipping point of cultural understanding?

    New Zealand has had a really vibrant civic society, that has characterised our society…the weakening of that it a huge lose to our society.

    In my heart I’m an activist. But maybe I’m too deeply compromised as a politician…I like to think I’m an activist-politician.

    The whole world feels a better place if you are active and trying to create the world you want.

    (Miracle question) If everyone suddenly got that we’re all in this together.

    Resources:
    Bryan Bruce’s survey of political parties on child poverty.

    Patricia Widener who discussed the role of activism and social movements.

    Categories
    government labour politics

    Regional development

    GrantRobertson-01

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

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

    Talking points:

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

    No politician should ever feel that they are above the law

    Willful blindness is not acceptable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (On differences with Greens) Resolvable tensions

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

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

    Growth is possible but we have to rethink what growth means

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

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

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

    We can do so much better to capture value.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Activist: Yes.

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

    Advice: Vote. It does matter.

    Resources
    Labour’s Policy Platform

    Categories
    climate change green party

    Dr Kennedy Graham MP

    Dr Kennedy Graham is a Green MP. After a distinguished diplomatic and academic career he is now Green spokesperson for lots of things (I summarise here as global issues).

    Dr Graham describes his personal journey of working the diplomatic circles while the “people’s environmental movement” progressed from local to global concerns. The “crunch that is going to come” precipitated a move to a move activist role. The perfect storm of a massive increase in population, increasing individual consumption, and a social system entirely dependent on fossil fuels combine to mean we need to engender a massive change to how we live.

    The nature of the challenge is unfortunately not reflected in public statements Dr Graham heard at the Rio 20 conference. He is disappointed by the ‘more of the same’ approach promoted by New Zealand’s Amy Adams. He is critical of the approach he describes at tinkering at the edges of a system that is fundamentally wrong. Indeed NZ’s formal position is one of no paradigm change.

    Despite – or perhaps because of – a career in the diplomatic service, Dr Graham is critical of the structural dysfunctionality in the United Nations. Our global overshoot is a global problem, he says, “but we are attempting to solve it with 193 squabbling independent nation states all seeking to maximise their natural advantage against each other”. This “competitive pursuit guarantees ecological overshoot”.

    We are, Graham says, in a “twilight zone that is part denial, part Gallic shrug of indifference, part catatonic fear”. We need to change how our species lives and our global machinery. We need to change our individual consumption.

    Shane’s number of the week: 96%. That’s a 96% reduction in the use of supermarket plastic bags in Wales with the introduction of a small charge and the plastic bag becoming a social no no.

    Shane’s other number of the week: 3215. That’s the number of records for the daily maximum temperature in the US in June.

    Categories
    green party politics

    Dr Russel Norman MP

    Dr Russel Norman is the Green Party’s male Co-leader. In this interview we talk about the potential for a green economy. Russel says the green economy is good for business, but maybe not all business – there are sectors of our economy that are deeply unsustainable. We need to find ways to overcome barriers to a cultural transformation.

    We ask if he feel like he is pushing uphill? Do other parties in parliament get it? Russel has great insights on why things happen that seem to fly in the face of rational thought. The obsession with motorways comes from a perception that we have to catch up with the rest of the world – even if everyone else has moved onto rail. Structural changes are needed – rail and ports have to make a profit but roads are a loss making service – in effect a massive subsidy for trucking companies.

    Note: this interview was recorded earlier in the week before the Government released the New Zealand Energy Strategy and the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy. The Greens describe the strategies as a “missed opportunity“.