Categories
economics engineering systems

Strategic sustainable transport

Henrik Ny

If you come back a year later and they’ve got recycling in the office rather than looking at the main process, that’s a sign that they are not really buying it.

Dr Henrik Ny is a researcher and Sessional Instructor at Blekinge Institute of Technology. His research interests include ecological economics and sustainable product development. He has worked to integrate lifecycle assessment into the environmental management system and the waste treatment and recycling efforts of major industrial companies. Henrik’s current role is to run large research projects together with industry and public institutions. The largest so far is a regional electric vehicle project called Greencharge.

This conversation is one of a series of four recorded at Blekinge Institute of Technology Department of Strategic Sustainable Development in September 2014.

Talking points

I studied engineering as a route to sustainability.

If you did it from scratch it would be much easier…but it rarely happens that you get to do something from scratch.

My PhD was a toolbox for companies to practically integrate strategic sustainability into their products and systems.

Rather than just looking at the systems as they are, we started looking at applying the principles for sustainability.

Substances from the earth’s crust should not be allowed to increase in the system – because then we will have problems now or in the future. So this makes the process of increasing concentrations a problem – before you know what consequences they give.

Chemicals – combinations of emissions from the earth’s crust – these should also not increase.

The third is about other ways to break down natural systems.

The fourth is about social sustainability, because even if we address the ecological issues without the social people will not deal with this in a good way. We need to be happy at the same time.

We have focussed on the process conditions – the increasing concentrations, we’re working with others (Rockstrom) who have set up the boundary conditions for how far those processes can go.

Companies are beginning to understand that so long as they are acting in an unsustainable way, they are taking a risk. It sometimes takes while for them to understand that.

If you are working with someone who is trying to improve, it is sometimes counter productive to be too dogmatic. I never tone done the science or the consequences of something, but I am trying not to tell them how they should run their business.

If you come back a year later and they’ve got recycling in the office rather than looking at the main process, that’s a sign that they are not really buying it.

The nature of something that is so big – holistic – is that sometimes it is so big and blurry that you don’t know where to focus…that’s the value of the framework.

We have added a scoping phase to Life Cycle Assessment where you use the principles of sustainability, so that you can see, just by knowing that you’re looking for substances from the earths crust what you’ve up against… the idea is that you can keep track and not get lost into the detail.

If you want (your analysis) to become dynamic, then you use scenarios and tweak it, system dynamics from a strategic perspective.

The challenge is to do something complex enough to address reality, but not so complex that you don’t understand what is going on.

Putting social systems into that makes it more complex.

(Green Charge) The technology we need is more or less here – so it is more of a social- economic problem: how can you mobilise the necessary actors to act in a coordinated way to make this possible and affordable.

We could say this is how you should be sustainable, but if everyone is bankrupt before they get there then little is won. So we try divide in two steps. First a wish list of the things we want to do. Then we prioritise based on short-term economics.

So we try to find things that will give you money now, and prepare for coming steps.

(are we close to the tipping point for sustainable transport?) Not yet, but within five years.

The status quo is a big barrier.

As long as there are a few good examples of success, we will move forward quite quickly.

Those who don’t move will lose in the transition.

The strategic framework raises a few principles as a common guide for any actor. It is built at such a level that anyone acting in society could, for example identify according to principle one, how they contribute to increasing concentration of substances from the earth’s crust. That can lead to common goals, with different types of actors working together.

The strategic sustainability framework provides a common language so that people from different positions can work together.

When you put a price on externalities and internalise them into the economy, then you are making the economy better. But even with this environmental economics, we might consume them (the environment) anyway but at a higher cost. Ecological Economics attempts to limit this with quota and so on.

We need to think about growth in more nuanced way. Many times growth today is just expanding a wasteful business model where you waste a lot of resources, then you expand that and waste a even more resources. If you transition to a business model where you waste less resources, then you can have economic growth while not wasting as much. It is difficult to achieve this in practice – to have both growth without systematically eroding the environment.

There are different ways to fulfill needs that wouldn’t show up in our current economic systems.

Just enough is not enough. Restorative sustainability…systems that start to improve themselves again. I think this is necessary, because we have destroyed a lot of things.

(Motivation) Realisations when I was very young – looking a car exhausts and asking where they go. The realisation that this is not going to work. Then being able to be part of the solution and just looking at the problem. And I’m quite curious and I like solving problems, simplifying, explaining…and here is the biggest, most interesting problem we have.

(How many people do we need?) Amoeba theory…

(Activist?) Depends on what you mean by activist. I don’t generally go around telling people what they should do. And I’m not fundamentalist in that I do everything right always myself. I try to make the big things right and recognise that sometimes you need to make compromises.

(Challenges?) Run Green Charge to fruition. Develop the road map, develop a big systems model to look for transition points.

(Miracle?) We have the technology…so one, a sudden global awareness that we need to change to become sustainable, and two, this is how we should do it.

(Advice?) Don’t despair. Most of us are aware that there is something wrong with the world today, but most of us are also quite frustrated that we don’t know what to do to fix it. But there are many things you can do, use the internet, find things to do, trying to reduce your own energy bill for example will start helping the world.

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
sociology

Societal tensions

Katharine Legun

Environmental/economic tension is rising and this overlaps with questions of social equity – who is benefiting from extraction and who is suffering ills from that?

Dr Katharine Legun is an environmental sociologist in Otago University’s Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work.    She is interested in the relationship between the economy, social organization, and the environment.

Talking points:

Stretched out commodity chains have separated the consumer from the environment.

Food is an essential resource that goes beyond nutritional aspects – food politics is concerned with social security and your place in the world.

I believe in the power of conversation and political dialogue – this enables democratic processes

Economy, environment and society are not actually separate, but separated in institutional practices.

Resources: Dunedin free university

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