Categories
climate change psychology

Head in the crowds

We talk with Prof Marc Wilson of Victoria University of Wellington. Why is there such a gap between science and people who don’t believe in climate change? Psychology. Marc says that what we believe, we believe for a reason, and in this case a lot of disbelief can be linked to views on hierarchy versus equality, and orientation to authority. And this leads to entrenched positions that can’t be overcome with more facts. He says that we’ve probably saturated the market of people who will be convinced by facts.

So how can we make a difference? Marc points to changing the way we communicate “what kind of world do you want to live in in 50 years?”.

Marc is encouraged by the crowds that turned out for School Strikes for Climate. He says the very act of coming together with like-minded people is an accomplishment. Despite criticism, marchers shouldn’t feel guilty because they are carrying a mobile phone, or wearing a plastic jacket – they are part of systems that will take a long time to change, and that calls for perfection are intended to be dis-empowering. So rather than aiming for perfection, it is OK to aim for good.

Definition: Language of sustainability has been misused. Need to describe in terms of passion and energy.

Success: Students

Superpower: Tenacity, thick skin (Brian Dixon says he should have said communicator).

Activist: Increasingly. Did think that soience had to be objective, but now realises that everything is value-laden and to pretend otherwise is to do science a disservice.

Motivation: Sense of obligation. But not hard as every day exciting and different. We (university) everything has to change because the students do.

Challenge: Ongoing research into adolescent self-harm

Miracle: Emotional skills curriculum

Advice: Aim for good.

Marc was in Dunedin to speak as part of NZ Psychology Week “Living Life Well”. His talk The Elusive Climate Consensus:If it’s so obvious, why doesn’t everyone believe (or not) in climate change?

Categories
education local government

Lively communities taking sustainability seriously

Alexa Forbes

If I can’t gain the trust and respect of the people that don’t understand how they are harming the environment, then I can’t do the work anyway.


Alexa Forbes is a researcher and development and sustainability advisor for Otago Polytechnic’s Centre for Sustainable Practice. She is a District Councillor for the Queenstown Lakes District Council. She is a musician, a journalist and founder of a successful communications business.

We open the conversation with her context – where did you grow up, what did you want to be when you grew up? It turns out that Alexa has a colourful background with a lot of stories so it takes longer than usual to get to what she is doing now.

Talking points

Going to Vermont as an AFS student – shaped a lot of my future thinking

I’ve never really been on much of a mission – things just happen.

Where did sustainable practice come from? I’ve explored that recently – I’m studying for a Master in Professional Practice – it comes from my childhood. An interesting childhood, I come from a doctor and an activist, artist musician mother. A lot of environmental concerns built in really early in my life. We were always in the bush, camping, tramping, learning to fish, to hunt – learning to be careful of the environment, to respect it, and to try not to damage it and to be part of it – that was always important.

Sustainability was a spearhead for me – I was working as a journalist, and watching tourism grow…exponential growth…impact on the Queenstown environment

I thought I would love Queenstown to start thinking about the impact of tourism

There were campaigns – take only photos, leave only footprints – and I thought these were feel good, but a lot was being left, damage to our ecosystems that was not being acknowledged, not being addressed.

There’s something in this…

Tourism and the environment is a major tension in Queenstown – most of my job is drawing attention to the tension

I’ve sat in rooms with tourism leaders when I’ve challenged them on environmental impact, and they’ve looked at me like I’m mad and said “we love this environment, we make a living from this environment, we would never hurt it”, which tells me something about the massive amount of ignorance. But I wouldn’t get very far by telling them that, clearly, so I have to be quite careful and unpick some of the knots in people’s thinking.

I’ve never considered myself a greenie – I just think I’m sensible, and a good mother.

Do I need them to vote for me? We if I don’t, I don’t get in and I can’t continue my work, but that doesn’t really concern me either, because if I don’t have their buy in then I can’t continue my work anyway.

I feel that I’m better off on inside than outside.

If I can’t gain the trust and respect of the people that don’t understand how they are harming the environment, then I can’t do the work anyway.

(Compromise?) I operate from a set of values.

I don’t know – none of us know – whether we’ve gone past the ability to retrieve or regenerate ecosystems to a level that they are still friendly to humans, we don’t know if we can managed that or not. But concentrating on recycling schemes and changing lightbulbs is pretty much just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

I’m operating within a value system, I would get nowhere by holding a firm activist position, I do view myself as a bit of an activist, certainly an environmentalist,

I’m an activist in that I try to get people to recognise and to question what they are doing.

I don’t expect the helicopters to close down, but I do expect them to accept that they are externalising costs onto a future community

That’s what I want people really understand – when you are doing what you are doing, how are you thinking about mitigating the costs that you are putting onto your grandchildren? That’s a line in the sand, people should know that I won’t move from that.

I follow the Natural Step System Conditions. (see previous SustainableLens conversations)

We’re still very head-in-the-sand in New Zealand, we still believe the 100% Pure. We can still pull that wool over our own eyes.

None of us has come up with how we can do this quickly enough to make a difference.

I have to operate from my values in the most pure way that I can.

It disappoints me that our government refuses to take responsibility – I don’t know what they are thinking. Making it worse in so many ways. Allowing the dairy industry to externalise its costs. All over the country ratepayers are paying to clean up after the dairy industry – it’s not good enough.

It appals me, I can get really angry, or I can go back to my own values, and say I’m not going to allow traffic to increase in Queenstown under my watch.

(Can Councils deliver intergenerational equity?) It’s the only vehicle we’ve got.

You have to take that into account when you are voting, what are you voting for? Are you voting for peoples’ values? We have to get away from a from popularity contests

We (with Ella Lawton) stood for Council because we thought it was a place we could make some change. I think we’re making headway – enough for me not to have thrown up my hands in horror.

I don’t concern myself with whether I’ve got a job tomorrow – I’m quite capable of going back to my old job – and frankly, Council pays a lot less – so it’s not about that.

Here we are, sitting in this amazing nexus of change – exponential change in technology and exponential change in our environment, and in that nexus we face exponential social change. Every thing is changing so fast technologically, everything is changing environmentally much faster than we expected, much faster than we ever thought it would, so it is making us socially incredibly uncomfortable.

I’m one of those people that think that technology will save us if we let it, but we have to change – we have to understand our true natures.

Part of that for me was understanding our waste.

(Success?) I just got a distinguished alumni award from Otago Polytechnic. Selling my business and being willing to embark on a new Masters and a a new career.

(Motivation?) I love life. I really do love life. I love my work with Otago Polytechnic, and I love my work with the Council.

(Activist?) I’m starting to be. I didn’t think I was, but I am starting to think that I am now. I try to keep it low key. I’ve only just realised that my opinions are a bit more radical than most people. I though that most people thought like me until quite recently, so now I’ve become a bit more outspoken – I didn’t realise that it was unusual. So I’m comfortable with that box – I’m an activist on the inside really. I like to stir people up and challenge their thinking. I don’t want to hurt them, and I don’t believe that I’m always right. My own thinking needs challenging, and I don’t want to take hard and fast positions that force people into corners because it’s not helpful and I might not be right.

I go for a consensus model, but I’m not sure that’s right. Looking back on the last three years we’ve always gone for consensus…but I think it has watered some things down too much. That’s a hard one. When you vote against something, personally you’re counted as voting against that and that may have some personal benefit, but – and this is why I’ve gone for consensus, are you better to just go a little way along the way, to put the shot across the bow, planted the seed, let’s move on. So in the past…once it is lost…let’s make this the best it can be, but I’m not sure that it is always right.

(Challenges?) Moving my projects on further. Transport Strategy…would positively affect so many people’s lives. And in education, the programme we offer really on the edge we need to mainstream sustainability – or the education for it

(Miracle?) People will have woken up to the environmental challenges and to their externalisation of costs to the next generation, and that the y want to educate themselves to stop doing that.

(Advice?) Please wake up, look at what you do and ask “am I putting costs onto my children and grandchildren by doing this? How could I do thins properly? And it’s not just about recycling. Look at yourself, look at the way you live, look at why you are, how you are – that’s a most enjoyable thing to do. Give yourself time to reflect properly on where you’ve come from, why you’re here, and what you want to leave behind.

Categories
climate change communication science

Science communicator, a bit subversive.

Tim Flannery

My working definition of sustainability is a world that isn’t creating more problems than it solves.


Professor Tim Flannery was named Australian of the Year in 2007 and until mid-2013, was a Professor at Macquarie University and held the Panasonic Chair in Environmental Sustainability. He is the chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council, an international climate change awareness group. He was the Chief Commissioner of the Climate Commission, an Australian Federal Government body providing information on climate change to the Australian public, which was disbanded by the new right-wing government in 2013. Almost immediately afterwards he announced that he would join other sacked commissioners to form the independent Climate Council, that would be funded by the community. Prof Flannery is currently a Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne. He started his career as a mammalogist and his work has earned high praise, prompting Sir David Attenborough to describe him as being “in the league of the all-time great explorers like Dr David Livingstone”. He has published extensively but his two most famous books are “The Future Eaters” published in 1994 and “The Weather Makers” published in 2005. We literally could go on and on talking about Tim’s achievements but we have to stop somewhere so we can actually let the man do some talking…

Talking points

As much a science communicator as a scientist

Somehow I was fascinated with science from an early age

I remember finding my first fossils on the local beach, aged about eight, and taking them into the local museum and having them identified, that was a formative moment – one of those things you’ll always remember

All the time I was doing my arts degree I was volunteering at the museum – working on fossils, learning everything I could about science.

The curator would ask who wanted to go on field trips – my hand was always up.

They clearly got that I was interested in this sort of stuff.

The guy in the lab coat could have been the curator of fossils or the cleaner – it doesn’t matter to me, he changed my life.

What I love about museums is the reach into the community.

Even when I was running the museum, if the opportunity arose to talk to kid about what are interested in, I would always grab it.

If you see some kids looking at the exhibits, take the time to talk with them, it could be hugely important.

My favourite places – swamps where I looked for frogs – were being filled in with rubbish, the beach with oil and junk floating in the ocean and thinking this is not right. I asked my mother about it and she said “that’s progress”, and I decided then that this “progress” was a pretty bad thing.

I put my hat in the ring for a job – the only job in the country I really wanted, a scientist at the Australian Museum in Sydney – curator of mammals.

I did twenty marvellous years doing survey work in the Pacific Islands.

We called it Rattus detentus because its ancestors had been detained on Manus island, also we were well aware of the plight of the detainees there.

(A slight subversive name?) Yeah, just to let people know they haven’t been forgotten. What can a scientist do with that sort of stuff, not much really, but this was an opportunity, and that name will be there forever, so they will be remembered.

Boaty McBoatface – if the people want it then I’m firmly of the view that they should get it.

I don’t like power structures…there is true wisdom in the people, if you can tap into that wisdom you will achieve great things as society.

As the new director of the South Australian Museum…engaging with the SA government that I became aware of what a huge challenge this climate change issue was.

Future Eaters: The people of Australia were really the first to start eating their future, eating into their capital that was meant to sustain them into the longer term.

A spectacular manifestation of the nature of what it means to be human.

The book came about from 15 years of questions I just couldn’t answer.

There’s something about my personality. I do think about difficult questions, and I tend to do it from first principles basis. I can’t just live in Australia without understanding the place.

Some of those questions are big and complicated, and do take a while to work through, but I’m very happy doing that, picking away at the puzzle, a giant jigsaw no-one’s ever done before.

Weather Makers: I tried to distil the science into a form that was understandable by the public but still faithful to the original research – all held together with a story of human impacts on this very complex climate system.

There was a nasty backlash…once climate change became a political issue in Australia there was no holds barred…it was really scary for a while, I had to have federal police protection at home for about four months – that was tough.

There’s a lot of economic interests in Australia, tied into the fossil fuel industry.

We had a bigger share of the export market for coal than Saudi Arabia does for oil.

Those industries were very embedded in government and society.

But I knew the reason this was happening is because I’m winning, I’m having an impact. If I wasn’t having an impact then none of this would be happening, they wouldn’t be bothering.

(Geological time-scales it doesn’t really matter what we do) That’s true, but what sort of argument is that? Where does that leave us as human agents? Where does that leave us in terms of care for our children and future generations?

This has to relevant to us as people in some sort of moral framework we live in.

(Are we at the point of people understand climate change but don’t want to?) If I believed that I’d be doing a different job. I think that carrying on explaining it is making a very big difference.

People come up to me all the time saying I embarked on this career, chose this PhD, because I read your book and wanted to do something…some of those people are now running significant companies – renewable energy companies and so forth.

So it makes a difference but it takes time.

I’m a really big believer in the wisdom of common people – if you can tap into that , into people as individuals and their sense of what is right and wrong, then you’ve done somthing very profound, and that’s what my life has been about. It hasn’t been about going into politics and trying to lead people, I’ve been much more interested in releasing the latent good and capacity in people.

When you reach out to people as individuals, even those antagonistic people, you get beyond the façade – the frightened person or the smart arse, and you can reach a real person in there, and that is where the reason and where the goodness lies.

empowering people with knowledge, reaching them as individuals, that’s the important stuff, it’s not about political leadership, nor parties or ideologies, it’s about somehow unlocking that individual goodness and letting that flow upwards into some sort of societal structure or shape that gives meaning to all our lives and makes things better for all of us.

You have to treat people with dignity and engage in a dialogue.

We are now committed by virtue of the greenhouse gas we’ve put into the atmosphere for the temperature to rise by about 1.5 degrees by the middle of the Century. We’re getting into the danger zone (has been at +1.2 degrees for a couple of months).

This El Nino has done us a favour in a way, it’s spiked temperatures by about a third of a degree – it’s giving us a little window into the future.

In some places, this view seems OK, the great Autumn we’re having, but look north to the Great Barrier Reef, we’ve just learnt that it is 93% bleached, a bleaching event six times larger than anything we’ve ever seen before. And there’s massive and long lasting consequences from that on the reef ecosystem.

Arctic ice is at its all time winter low.

The thing to remember is that climate change is a process, not a destination. It’s a process of change. 1.2 degrees will transform to 1.5 degrees then 2 and 4 if we don’t do something about the driver.

Scientists are now increasingly prepared to say “this weather event would not have occurred were it not for human greenhouse gas pollution”. That’s a big breakthrough – linking individual weather events to the cause.

This is a collective action problem – it’s something the whole world needs to act on together.

The capacity of any society to do anything about this is driven by passionate individuals.

We need that drive to come from society…to drive down emissions.

But my personal view is that’s not all we need to do, we also need to get some of the gas out of the air. That’s going to require the development of a whole series of new technologies over time.

Technology is a tool…you’ve got to have a spanner to fix the car. But having a spanner is not enough. You’ve got to have the knowledge to know how to use the spanner, and you have to have the will to actually employ it

You need all of those things, you need the technology and you need the will-power to use it. We need the right regulatory structures and the right enabling circumstances in society for this to happen.

(is third wave technology a green myth? Carry on having a party, technology to save us is just around the corner?) Excellent question, one we need to answer.

From 2016, two things are very clear, first, that we have to reduce emissions as quickly and as hard and fast as possible whether we develop new tools or not. The second is that we don’t really know at the moment whether those tools will have the capacity to draw enough CO2 out of the atmosphere at the scale needed.

At the moment humanity is putting 50 Gigatonnes of CO2equivalent into the air every year. Now, if you want to plant trees to take 5 Gigatonnes out of the atmosphere per year, you would need to plant an area larger than the size of Australia. This is a very large scale problem.

Can we manufacture carbon fibre out of the atmosphere at a scale that will make a difference? Carbon plastics, CO2 negative concretes? Silicate rocks to draw C02 out of the atmosphere? Seaweed farming? Can we do it at scale? We know all these things are possible at very tiny, laboratory scales. But do they work at the gigatonne scale? That’s the question we need to answer by 2050 if we’re to have the hope of any of these technologies making a real difference.

(Scale of problem is going to need solution at that scale, which is more industrial development, which will make extinctions worse…will a focus on climate change make everything else worse?) eg seaweed farming which are a great place to grow proteins.There’s a lot of biological desert in the world’s oceans that could feed the world…if we could cover 9% of the world’s oceans with seaweed farms we could draw down all 50 Gigatonnes.

If we can take the problem – atmospheric CO2 – and turn it into a solution (eg sky mined carbon fibre) that competes with other polluting industries you’ve done something major.

This is where technological advancements can take us, not just into a more industrialised dirty future, but as a replacement for already dirty processes, and thinking differently about the world in ways that might make a difference.

My working definition of sustainability is a world that isn’t creating more problems than it solves.

There are always uncertainties, but you have to move forward, you can’t be paralysed by uncertainty.

We can have sustainable growth, it depends on what is growing and for how long, but there’s a billion people out there living in abject poverty who need betterment and a better quality of life, so we have to have at least enough grow to give them a decent standard of living.

Limits to Growth – general sentiment was right, but was wrong in that people thought we would run out of resources, but it turns out that there are lots of resources – particularly mineral resources – the volume you have is proportionate the amount of energy you’re willing to put into getting them out.

The big limits to growth turn out to be the rubbish bin – earth’s rubbish bin, the oceans and atmosphere. That’s the real limit, once the rubbish bin got full…that’s something people didn’t foresee.

We need a big political change…it entrenches privilege, it disenfranchises people…

A vision of where I think we might be going that solves these problems. Imagine a situation where politics is not a career. an you imagine if each one of us had the experience of sitting on a jury to decide the size of the defence budget, or how the health budget should be used, or an aspect of foreign policy.

Division of labour works in every area of human life and enterprise, except politics. It’s the one area where we all have to pull our own weight as citizens if we want to have a decent and just and prospering society.

(Superpower?) Empathy

(Success) Probably too early to tell, but the establishment of the Climate Council, adopted by the people of Australia. It’s taught me a lot, that process, a lot about structures that work, and how you engage people.

(Activist) No, I don’t see the world in those terms. Activist entails that there is a power out there, an authority that we’re fighting back against, and my world paradigm is not like that, I think that the big decisions need to be made outside the political system, and there’s a role for leaders outside the political system to engage in dialogue and influence the public dialogue about things…so no, not an activist, maybe a public intellectual.

(Motivation) I think it’s curiosity first and foremost about the nature of the world. And somehow I’ve always had this view that we need to leave the world a better place than we found it – and the only way to do that is to really understand the world.

I find this a paradox in me, because I’ve lived through a period where the world has self-evidently got worse, in so many ways over my lifetime – we’ve seen so many extinctions and all sorts of things happening in the environment, and yet I still have this belief that we need to leave the world a better place than we found it. So I don’t know how to explain that, except that it is a profound conviction that I have.

And real faith in human nature and people, that is the most important resource that we have- our fellow human beings and unlocking the full potential of ordinary humans to engage in the world and determine their own fate in a wise consultative way is just so central to what we are as a species.

(Challenges) Staying fit and healthy. Re-engaging in the Pacific Islands.

Community projects in the Solomon Islands trying to foster community conservation – which is really the most important type of conservation in those societies.

I reckon it’s like for a woman putting on that lipstick in the morning, you do that and you look great…well climate change is one of those things where you just can’t go and put on the lipstick in the morning, it’s too long a process, there’re very few moments where you can say we’ve won, we’ve done something, but this Pacific Islands work (community conservation), is great, “wow, I’ve already got some success”. The rest of it – climate change – will be a slow grind, I’ll be an old man before we can say we’ve overcome the problem, if I’m lucky enough to live that long.

(Miracle) To have us on a downward trajectory of about three parts per million of atmospheric CO2 per annum – a slow readjustment of the system back to where it needs to be

(Smallest thing) Get engaged with a group of like-minded citizens, because anything we achieve is achieved together.

( Advice) You’re a long time staring at the lid – get out there and do something, don’t waste any time.

Professor Flannery was in Dunedin as guest of the Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago.

Categories
community democracy development

Empowering communities

SteveClare_N-01

If you believe you can make a difference then you can make a difference.


Steve Clare is Deputy Chief Executive of Locality. Locality is the UK’s leading network of development trusts, community enterprises, settlements and social action centres. Steve describes how community asset ownership is a route to sustainability.

Talking points

Community organisations making a difference

Board drawn exclusively from an area of social housing runs successfully with a turn-over of £8-10M, assets of £30-40M.

Really entrepreneurial and yet they are community owned, community run, open to everybody within the community. It’s about having more say, more control about what happens, in their community.

Enterprise and community asset ownership is a route to transforming communities, and a route to sustainability.

We would argue that transferring assets to community ownership is a better long term bet in terms of the future prosperity of the community – rather than just selling them off for a quick buck.

The world is moving to a sharing economy.

The very local and the global are more than ever, two sides of the same coin.

The next door community doesn’t have to be physically next door.

We’re seeing a fundamental change in the economic paradigm

…based on a model of an ever growing economy, an ever expanding tax income, and an ever increasing spend on public services…that’s changed, the economic crisis has led Europe to austerity policies…some people think ‘oh well, eventually it will get back, get better, the economy will grow and we’ll get back to the way it was’, I think that’s a mistake – it’s never going back to the way it was.

The post-war model of ever increasing economy, ever increasing tax income, ever increasing spend on public services – it’s broken, much as we might regret it, it’s broken. That has led to fundamental questions being asked about the relationship between state and citizen, state and communities, and who does what, and who is responsible for what.

People taking control of their lives.

Local people understand local problems, local challenges and local opportunities better than some faceless bureaucrat no matter how well meaning they may be.

Dis-economies of scale

People aren’t widgets.

Local solutions are best driven, best decided upon at a local level.

A cross in a box every five years in an election is not democracy. Local ownership, local control starts to ask questions about whether there are other things we should be making decisions about locally.

The options and opportunities that digital technology brings, I think there is scope for a different sort of politics.

We have a 21st Century society, we have a 21st Century population, we have a 21st Century economy, but we still have a 19th Century political system which is no longer fit for purpose.

People will mobilise in response to closing a hospital or library, the challenge is to then get people to start asking deeper questions.

Libraries are being decimated by public spending cuts…that’s caused a lot of controversy. Some people have responded ‘we”l take over the library and run it as a volunteer service’, well meaning but personally I would query how sustainable that is. The other approach…is saying many libraries as they are at the moment, are 19th Century institutions that are no longer fit for purpose. What we need to do is reinvent the library as a 21st Century – it isn’t about a place where you store large lumps of paper ie books, it isn’t a place where you deal with ebooks either that’s a dead end… what you can make a library into is a real community hub, a store of local knowledge, a place of empowerment, a place where people can learn, share, swap ideas and skills, linking to technology, linking to the maker-hacker movement for example. The 21st Century library for me can, and should be a vibrant essential part of any community.

If nothing else changes, changing ownership is not going to work.

A service or building that isn’t working, is still not going to work if all you change is who owns it.

Getting local people involved

Government policy tends to be focussed on deprivation – what’s wrong with a community – a deficit gap model. I think we need to turn that around to asset based community development (ABCD). The starting point has got to be what are the assets within the community – the people, the skills, the networks.

In my experience, every community, no matter how challenged or deprived, always has a huge rich seam of potential and creativity. If you keep telling people that they’re a waste of space, if you keep telling people that they have nothing to offer, if you keep telling people that they’re a failure it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Once people start recognising that they can do something about their lives, that they do have choices, that you always have choices, sometimes the transformation is remarkable, you can almost see someone growing like a flower bursting into bloom. I think the same thing applies to communities.

If people think don’t think can do something then they won’t try. If people think they can do something then they will.

Many of our members are extraordinary people, but they were ordinary people until they became extraordinary by doing something, by taking action. By refusing to accept no as an answer.

It’s about working together, genuine partnerships…I don’t think any one sector has the answer. But what I do think is that the paternalistic, top down, system drive, scale approach that the public sector has is no longer fit for purpose.

Creating situations where people can do things for themselves, then stepping back and letting people get on with it.

People don’t want to live in a place that’s the same as everywhere else.

(Motivation) I hate with a vengeance oppression, inequality, seeing human lives wasted. I love with a passion seeing what people can become, the changes that they can make to their own lives, their children’s lives, to their communities.

The perception that people are fundamentally selfish is completely wrong. Anyone who understands history understands the role of the commons, of sharing, the fact that as a species we’ve moved forward through cooperation.

The idea that we act as rational economic beings is demonstrably nonsense, that we’re driven by indviduals needs is demonstrably nonsense, that you get jobs growth through increased productivity is demonstrably nonsense, – much of the current science of economics belongs in Harry Potter.

The established political system is the problem not the solution.

(Activist?) Yes. My work is my life. I don’t go on demos as much nowadays, but I hope I work in different ways.

I’m much more cynical nowadays days about gesture politics. If you’re going to do something, as far as I’m concerned, you damn well do it properly, you do not give up. I’m less keen about people who say “we want this, we’ll go out and fight for this, oh, it’s hard, we’ll give up”.

The collaborative economy is a game changer.

I saw a great quote the other day: “Social entrepreneurship used to be an oxymoron, now it’s a tautology”.

(Advice) I like Ford’s quote: “If you believe you can, or you believe you can, you’re probably right”, I think that’s such a powerful thing

If you believe you can make a difference then you can make a difference.

Opening people’s eyes to the possible, to the wonderful things happening out there by people just like them.

Categories
ocean

Dream a little

Bronwen Golder

I’m an advocate for balance, for a recognition of different values that are weighed equally. An advocate for cultural and environmental values that are considered equal to economic values.


Bronwen Golder is Director of the Kermadec Initiative, part of the Global Oceans Legacy programme of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Bronwen worked as a corporate banker in New York, then spent 20 years working internationally for WWF before returning home New Zealand to lead the campaign for the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

Talking points

The Kermadecs is an extraordinary underwater world, and the wonder of it is that it is basically untouched, near pristine. Too often in the conservation community we talk of conservation battles – protecting the last of a habitat, or the last of a species, and the Kermadecs is one of those places that is untouched – it gives us the opportunity to pursue a campaign that’s about the conservation of celebration, positive conservation to protect areas that are there as they have been for a very long time. Those undisturbed spaces are increasingly precious.

We have a changing baseline – the more and more we disturb it, the more we think that’s normal.

Because in the ocean environment we have these areas that are essentially untouched at scale, they function at scale – as healthy systems.

The minute you start to erode that scale or healthy system you start to erode the whole system.

It’s an incredible opportunity to do something positive in the conservation sphere.

I’d hate to be here in 20 years…saying we’re trying to protect the last 10% of the Kermadec marine ecosystem.

I’d hate for future generations not to have any fish to eat because our oceans have become unproductive.

(what did you learn as a banker) The skills about how do you assess risk, and what are the questions that you should be asking based on the information that you have, a level of critical thinking….you make a recommendation, and that recommendation can have risk lying within it, but you have to be confident that you can manage that risk.

Ethics is what you bring as an individual to the work that you do. You always bring that personal lens.

A lot of the economic development work ended up being connected to the environment. People such as the Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust, those people who 25 years ago looked at their local environment, identifying the things that were really special.

Ecoregion planning – planning at the scale of ecosystems.

My most rewarding time at WWF was seeing change happen – when you help to make change happen.

One of the things I’m most proud is of is designing and developing an approach to conservation planning and implementation, change makers…bringing together a group of people and thinking about what do we aspire to, then working to identify what we need to trigger, what are the the things we needed to leverage on the way to achieving that goal.

Working with colleagues and stakeholders to really leverage change, and to inspire change. Because those are the things that over the long term are sustainable. Those are the things that people buy into, and they sustain beyond you.

I often thought that my job was to become unnecessary. And that process was absolutely formulated around the idea that we inspired others to embrace the conservation agenda.

The Kermadecs will be a sanctuary for our children, and their children. To help form and reinforce their ethics, their sense of a healthy planet.

We have two values systems challenging each other. One is we have this near pristine marine environment, and we should be celebrating it as a natural space, protecting it for nature and for science and to ensure we have healthy oceans. The other is we need to grow our economy, there are minerals there, we don’t know how much, but it’s important that we find out. There’s a cultural clash there.

I’m not anti-exploration, I’m not anti economic development in the marine environment, our campaign has never been against anything. What I would argue is that there are areas of our ocean space that should be protected. And there are areas that should become a negotiated space.

We should be looking at full protection of a meaningful percentage of our marine space.

We haven’t been able to break through the sense that we should be looking for what we can exploit before we look at what we can protect. I think some levels of protection have to come first.

We’re looking for leadership from government, a recognition that management of our ocean does include protecting some of those places, in perpetuity from any form of destructive activity.

If there are activities that are going to disturb other areas of similar environment, it’s actually more acceptable if some of that area is protected.

I find the dialogue with industry at the moment a very constructive one, because from both sides – from the conservation side and on the extraction side – we’re recognising that the balance is not right. Because we don’t have balance, neither use – a protective use, or an extractive use – is being sanctioned.

(Letters to George) Getting people to think about really is that they want the next generation to find when we’ve all left.

What is the planet that we leave them? and what are the messages that we leave them with so that they take it on for the next generation?

Whether we fish our ocean or whether we protect it, we all have the same level of responsibility and accountability for what we leave.

I asked them to dream a little.

When you can bring science together with community, together with government, together with industry, to work towards a vision, that’s a very powerful thing.

What keeps me awake at night, is why don’t we seem to have that national vision, that commitment to something extraordinary that the generation of 2050 can inherit? Why aren’t we having that conversation about our ocean space? Why is our ocean space just a conversation about conflict? Why do we have a polarisation between those who want to extract resources and those who want to protect it, rather than a collective vision for our marine environment?

I’ve been intent within the Kermadec campaign to focus on the positive. To focus on celebrating a really special place.

(Motivation?) George. The next generation, and the one after that, and the one after that.

(Activist?) I’m an advocate for balance, for a recognition of different values that are weighed equally. An advocate for cultural and environmental values that are considered equal to economic values.

(Challenge?) There’s an awful lot of hope, how do we bring that together so that we really light the fire?

(Miracle?) Prime Minister convenes a forum of top ocean thinkers and stakeholders, and say “you have six months to come up with a plan that recognises and respects all values of our society in terms of this ocean space”. Then tomorrow he can create the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

(Advice for listeners?) To be involved. To care enough to have a voice. We’re all making changes, but sometimes we forget that protecting the environment is part of the sustainability equation. Advocating for nature within our political environment is a really important thing. Nature needs a louder voice.

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 green party politics transport

Changing transport win:win

Julie Anne Genter

I realised that there’s not much you can do to improve things (in urban planning) if you don’t address transport…it affects many of the public spaces between the buildings, it impacts on the energy we have to use to get from place to place, and it also has a big impact on household expenses.


Julie Anne Genter is a Member of Parliament for the Green Party. Amongst other roles, she is spokesperson for Transport.

Talking points

Transport is the easy win:win the thing we can change that would have a positive economic impact, positive impacts for society, and very positive impacts for the environment

How can walking, cycling and public transport possibly be more expensive than every household being utterly dependent on two or more cars?

“No blood for oil”…I was 12,and that made perfect sense to me, we shouldn’t be going to war, and certainly not for oil.

It would be useful to have more critical training. In politics there’s a lot of logical fallacies being used and they’re repeated in the mainstream media. It’s not that hard to pick it apart with training in critical thinking, but if people haven’t had that training there’s no reason people should be able to innately do it.

(On the argumentative theory of reason) Most people are quite bad at abstract reasoning…reason isn’t something that people use individually, it’s something that functions in a collective, it works through argument.. .people are really good at arguing their case, they’ve already got a position and they’re really good at finding arguments to support their position – whether they are logical or not – so reason operates as part of a group, we argue and debate, it is the wisdom of the crowds that sorts out which argument is best and makes the right decision.

Maybe what we need is critical thinking, but on the other hand maybe what we need is to be less afraid of having open debates…maybe that’s what’s missing in our democracy is having more people engaging in debate.

(one of the four values of the Green Party charter) appropriate decision making…decisions will be made at the lowest level at which they affect people…it’s important for all of the different points of view to be represented in political debate and that we have to be willing and open minded about listening to each other in order for us to make good decisions as a society…that doesn’t happen in parliament, the political parties already have their positions decided and most of the debate is just for show.

We’re not really listening, it’s like one party gets in power and they do whatever they want, then another party gets in power and does something different, but aren’t collectively having a debate and making decisions based on the information that’s available to all the different citizens of New Zealand, and I think we’d make better decisions if we were able to do that.

Spending almost half the entire transport budget on 4% of vehicle trips is a huge opportunity cost – those projects aren’t going to substantially reduce transport costs for households or business, they’re not going to reduce congestion in the medium or even short term…dumping more cars onto congested local roads…and it’s so crazy…spending this much money on new highways when we know highways don’t reduce congestion, they don’t increase economic productivity…what we could buy with 12 billion dollars to invest in the rail network, in public transport, in walking and cycling in towns and cities…we could have a much more balanced transport system.

It’s very strange that the rail network is expected to be funded by the profit from a rail company while we’re dumping billions of dollars on the state highway network.

the government treats them as two separate things…despite there being obvious benefits for the road network from improvements in the rail network.

Very few people benefit from the status quo

Getting more people onto public transport, walking and cycling is great for freeing up the roads for people who need to drive, including the truck drivers.

It’s a huge opportunity, it’s going to be so easy to do things smarter because we’re doing them so stupidly at the moment. What a win:win, we could spend the same amount of money on transport from a government perspective but spend a lot less in terms of vehicles and fuel, get massive health benefits…

When you look at the benefits of reducing vehicle dependency, it can be justified on economic grounds alone on the money your save, but also there’s the health benefits, benefits in terms of reducing air pollution and water pollution, benefits in terms of using land more efficiently, safety benefits…

(do we have the population density?) We had high functioning rail network and public transport before when we had a smaller population, more spread out…being a long skinny (country) lends itself to rail

Our system is built now for the car, and that has spread things out.

We don’t have to keep doing it…if we invest in the alternatives, people will still be able to drive but some people will have the option to walk, cycle or take public transport, and move their goods by rail or coastal shipping, and that will make the roads function better and people will make different location decisions.

We’re not talking about replacing the car, about replacing every car trip people make now with a public transport trip or a bicycle trip, it’s about getting it from 8 or 9 out of 10 to maybe 5 or 6 out of 10 – an incremental process. But that incremental change of getting back in balance requires a total revolution in funding and policy because otherwise we’re going to keep going in the car dependent direction.

People everywhere systematically overestimate the importance of car parking and car access to their businesses

It’s either a vicious or virtuous cycle and we can quite easily break the vicious cycle of car dependence because we’re the ones who started it….transport and planning bureaucrats who made the decision to do everything around cars

Electric vehicles solves the fuel problem but not everything else

(about the response to banners on the beach protesters being dismissed because they drove their car there) their argument is that you can’t argue for things to be different inf you are living in the world as it currently is – I don’t think that is a good argument, it says ‘if you want things to be different then you should somehow make the different’, but that’s what people are trying to do. I don’t blame people from using a car because we’ve created an environment where it is pretty difficult to do anything but use a car. That’s why I’m advocating for government to change its funding and policies to make it easier for more people not to rely on a car.

People are saying they want other choices, but they can’t go and live in a cave somewhere and change the world.

The only place where people call the Greens crazy is the National Party in parliament..they repeat this point over and over again in order not to have to engage in a proper debate with us, it somewhat works but it’s starting to make them look bad – for example over the climate plan…they called us “off the planet crazy” but they haven’t got a real argument.

I’m not anti-car and there’s nothing anti-car about our policies, this is going to be good for people that need to drive… we plan to increase road maintenance, increase the programme of road safety works, have a more ambitious road safety target…

Resources
Green Charter
Green’s Climate protection plan

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

Shane’s number of the week: 2%.  Global warming will cut crop harvests by 2% each decade (more>>>).
Sam’s joined-up-thinking:  Jon Kolko describes the empowering role of teaching entrepreneurial hustle – the idea that you can actively cause things to happen rather than passively have things happen to you (more>>>).

Categories
communication documentary ocean science

Whalers turned citizen scientists

Tess Brosnan


The story of how whalers have become passionate protectors is the story of the change we all need to make

Tess Brosnan describes herself as a humble reporter on a quest to package science stories better. Tess has almost completed her Masters in Science Communication. Her film Whale Chasers, tracks the story of Cook Strait whalers who are now passionate about the future of whales and every year undertake the Cook Strait Whale Count. This is, Tess tells us, an iconic example of Citizen Science. We talk about science communication, documentary film-making, citizen science and hopeful tourism.

In her thesis, Tess describes how citizen science is helping to bridge the gaps between two communities who need to better understand each other. Hopeful tourism is a new discipline which aspires to do the same, rejecting prevailing tourism ideology. There is much evidence of a desire for more meaningful experiences which contribute to fulfillment of life purpose, rather than exploitation of people, animals and environment, materialism etc. There is also an immediate need to reduce human impact on our ecosystem, and for fine-scale monitoring to protect this ecosystem. It is here that citizen science may prove to be the perfect new form of tourism, mitigating human destruction, helping science, and instilling joy, knowledge and stewardship into those who participate.­­­

Film-making 101: don’t squeal when you see a whale

I’m not an activist, I’m a packager, I can be more useful by remaining neutral

Whale Chasers premiers at the Regent Theatre on the 25th October as part of the Science Teller Festival.

Shane’s number of the week: 95. Ninety five percent certainty that climate change is a result of human activity according to IPCC.

Sam’s joined up thinking: A European Commission report this week puts a price on the underpresentation of women in the ICT industry. The European Commission estimates that bringing more women into the ICT industry would boost European GDP by €9 billion. That ICT suffers underrepresention is not new, the challenge is what to do about it. This week I’ve been considering the new landscape of qualifications for computing and wondering if the new structure will help. I’m reminded of the computing for social good discussions we had with Mikey Goldweber and ask if we’re still missing the boat.

Categories
communication science

The story and the science

Jean Fleming


The good story will always win – even over facts, so we need to make sure science has both the story and the facts right

Jean Fleming is a Professor of Science Communication in the University of Otago’s Centre for Science Communication, where she convenes the Popularising Science MSciComm. She is also a reproductive biologist in the Department of Anatomy, with research interests in the molecular and cellular origins of ovarian cancer.

Talking points:

information is easy, but there are no easy answers for attitudes and wisdom. Emotional connections through stories.

not everyone can look at the bigger picture, science communication can help with that

Science communication is jolly good fun

You can’t stop people believing the wrong information, we’ve got masses of information out there – information not wisdom, and people will believe what they feel comfortable with

With that masses of scientific information emerging, perhaps too much for people to digest – we need to help tell the stories

rise and rise of market and corporate idea that science must make a buck

Somehow we have to step down from growth

Despite all evidence, great denial about Climate Change, (mostly engineered by vested interests).

People do need to know what is happening to contribute to societal debate

(Am I an activist ?). Not quite yet, I’ve got to retire first next year. (Alan Mark said he was an activist, a requirement of an academic), actually yes, I’ve been an activist all my life. When I went to the royal commission on GM I had to suddenly wear a bra, and be like a judge, and so that really put the kibosh on me being a real activist for quite a while – I’m just beginning to come out the other end now. I was a great feminist in the 70s and 80s. And that got knocked out of me but the dark is rising.

Shane’s number of the week: 10. Ten years of Pacific cooling. In the last 10 years there has been a slowing in the increase in temperature across the globe from that predicted by the increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. So since about 1970 the increase in global temperature has tracked the increase in CO2 levels very closely until about 10 years ago when the correlation started to diverge. Climate change deniers have made much of this and it has been a bit of a mystery – until now. There is a cooling effect on the atmosphere – one of the many long term climate altering cycles… so Waters in the eastern tropical regions of the Pacific have been notably cooler in recent years, owing to the effects of one of the world’s biggest ocean circulatory systems, the Pacific decadal oscillation. Here in the pacific we are used to El Nino and El Nina affecting our weather and climate patterns but this is a longer cycle which brings cooler weather and can last decades. The last time this oscillation was in its cooling phase was back from the 1940s to the 1970s (Scripps Institution of Oceanography and supported by the US government’s National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration NOAA, and was published in the journal Nature).

Sam’s joined-up-thinking: The Audacious Student Business Challenge has expanded this year to encourage business for good with a social enterprise category. It has also moved to encourage wider participation with a new crowd-sourcing platform Skulksource. You can encourage the development of sustainable start-ups by voting for the fledgling businesses such as:

    • Spread the Help: Spread your donation across multiple charities, and Spread your Help to your community, by giving.
    • Resource Locus: Resource Locus proposes to foster farmers’ market culture by providing an online meeting place.
    • Flowbot: An innovative, reusable drink bottle to help fight obesity in kids through interactive design.
    • Ecoplug: EcoPlug is a simple way of bringing homes and offices into the 21st century
    • Dunedin Street Bikes: Using on-street fleets of bikes to improve social mobility, the environmental image of Dunedin & its economic development
    • Fur Retreival: Ethical Possum eradication to ensure the sustainability of the eco-system through natural methods
    • Humblebee: Taking the toxic out of protective textiles and staying dry in a deluge using nature’s ancient tech
    • Farmscape: An educational game that teaches people about sustainable agriculture. #farmerfromwayback
    • Eureka Energy: Eureka energy provides small energy solution to create a more sustainible future
    • Fixing Faults: Fixing Faults gives you the space, skills and resources to turn your boring junk into funk!
    • HandiConnect: HandiConnect – Connect handicaps to the world and help them live a life with no difference.
Categories
climate change politics

Dr James Hansen

 

We interrupted our normal program to bring you James Hansen’s lecture that he gave at Otago University on the 18th May 2011.

He talks about climate change, what the future may hold for our children and grandchildren and how we may be able to solve some of these problems.

 


Categories
climate change green party politics

Jeanette Fitzsimons


Jeanette Fitzsimons in a wide ranging interview talks about lignite mining, her current tour with James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute, why politicians are not moving on climate change issues, her view of what an activist is and life after being an MP.

Shane’s number of the week: 50% – the UK govt. has just  announced that it is to adopt plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% on 1990 levels by 2025 reaching 60% by 2030.

Categories
government green party politics

Metiria Turei MP


A Green MP since 2002, Metiria was elected Green Party Co-leader in 2009.

In a wide ranging and fascinating interview we talk to Metiria about her father, green politics, rude politicians, poverty, what a sustainable economy would look like and whether she would like to be the first co-Prime Minister of New Zealand Aotearoa.

Metiria’s focus is policy work that helps build a more fair society, as well as electoral law reform and children’s issues. She’s previously led campaigns to save our National Parks from mining, protect the Mokihinui River, and has fought for greater protection of marine animals and the marine environment. Metiria also advocates for implementation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, restorative justice, and a quality public education system. With a law degree from Auckland, Metiria has previously worked as a lawyer at Simpson Grierson and as an advocate for the unemployed and beneficiaries.

When able to escape the world of politics, Metiria spends time with her family in Dunedin.

 

Shane’s number of the week:  90%

– there is a 90% increase in the risk of psychological illness when you experience food insecurity in New Zealand.

Sam’s joined up thinking:  Earth Day – “mother earth is having her human rights recognised” but we’re a long way off an understanding of what this means (read more>>).