A long term collaborative project, the “NZ Progress and Wellbeing Progamme”, (which was previously called "What Matters Most to New Zealanders") involves significant community engagement in the development of a national vision(s) and a set of wellbeing and sustainability indicators to measure progress on these visions.
In order to achieve sustainability, we need scenarios of where we want to go: not only warnings and plans, but also reports as if we'd already made the transition. Who would have suspected they'd come from the south Pacific?
New Zealand, apart from supplying the setting for The Lord of the Rings, is a good place to think about sustainability. A small nation, it is relatively free from imperial delusions. Surrounded by water, it's heavily dependent on foreign trade, exporting (for example) dairy products, meat, wool, and wood. Foreign trade would be adversely affected by a sharp rise in the price of oil. One analyst who takes account of the global peak of oil production, argues that New Zealand may be one of the first countries to achieve sustainability, driven in part by need.
In the sustainability field, we face the challenge of extreme complexity and gloom scenarios. We hear mainly bad news: scarcity and decline. It is extremely easy for people to feel overwhelmed or depressed. We find ourselves living in fear and fear inhibits the creative response required.
How can we successfully rise to these challenges? In theory, development that is sustainable and not damaging to the planet is doable. In reality, there are challenges at every step, and so far our record on moving towards sustainability in a collective manner, with a common framework, appears to have been quite feeble.
A sustainable world that works for the 99% is possible, if we can respond to climate change, economic injustice and resource depletion at the same time. The transition to a renewable energy economy can be a valuable frame for that discussion. Just as the financial elites brought about the economic crisis, they are blocking the renewable energy transition to reap more profit from their fossil fuel investments. Because of fuel depletion as well as climate change, further delay may prevent a successful transition. Social justice and sustainability advocates can blow the whistle on the 1% for this issue too, and collaborate to speed up the transition locally.
Whether they benefit from visionary leaders, flourishing social enterprise, or commitment from community activists, the following 10 cities are well worth a visit to experience their transformation and resilience.
When “green,” “sustainable” or resilient cities come to mind, the usual suspects crop up: Portland, Amsterdam, San Francisco and even high-tech Abu Dhabi score plenty of attention. As more cities push their green agenda the way they promote business opportunities or local tourism, some cities are way ahead of others. Mayors now try to jockey themselves to the front of the sustainability beauty contest with some cities here in the United States showing far more success (Chicago) than others that miserably fail (Los Angeles). Around the world are many cities that have responsive government, vibrant passion at the grass roots level, or both...
When the time came to pull up stakes, our desire to pursue self-sufficiency meant that a destination with a temperate climate and reliable rainfall was a prerequisite. A job opportunity came, we did our research, weighed the pros and cons, and trusted intuition that this place offered better-than-average odds of weathering the gamut of changes that seemed to be imminent.
There are four characteristics that are essential for sustainability leadership – not just in theory but in practice too says Nicolas Ceasar:
At a recent conference, one participant observed that looking for a sustainability leader was the wrong way to approach this and that we were seeking the wrong thing. The reason given was that leadership for sustainability is not something that can nor should be embodied in a sole heroic individual. Instead it is diffuse, pluralistic, collective, facilitative, and has more feminine attributes. Therefore the true sustainability leaders are, and sustainability leadership more generally is, far more relational, far more inter-subjective and far harder to spot.
What is the ‘Sustainable Economy Framework’ (SEF)?
The SEF sets out the parameters for a sustainable future economy that can help today’s investments and business decisions deliver sustainable value over the long term. The SEF defines the characteristics of a sustainable economy: one that operates within safe environmental limits and enriches people’s lives.
Money and market values cannot be used to evaluate real wealth from the environment. - Howard T. Odum
Odum’s energy economics begins with an understanding that energy provides the foundation for all life processes, but that all energy is not equal. As energy is transformed through an ecosystem, quantity decreases as concentration increases. Odum coined “Emergy” to account for the variations of energy quality. In Environmental Accounting: Emergy and Environmental Decision Making (1996), he explains how energy provides for “real work” and “real wealth” in any biophysical system including a human economy: Understanding the economy requires that both money circulation and the pathways of real wealth be represented together but separately. Money is only paid to people and never to the environment for its work… Therefore, money and market values cannot be used to evaluate the real wealth from the environment. When the resources from the environment are abundant, little work is required from the economy. (1996, p. 55)
An alternative to the current linear paradigm is to develop productive systems that minimise external inputs, pollution and waste (as well as risk, dependency and costs) by adopting a circular metabolism. There are two principles here, both reflecting the natural world. The first is that natural systems are based on cycles, for example water, nitrogen and carbon. Secondly, there is very little waste in natural systems. The ‘waste’ from one species is food for another, or is converted into a useful form by natural processes and cycles.
Contrary to popular belief, humans have failed to address the earth’s worsening emergencies of climate change, species’ extinction and resource overconsumption not because of a lack of information, but because of a lack of imagination, social scientists and artists say.
I wondered whether in seeing resilience just as something we do in order to be prepared for a crisis, we were missing a trick: that we might instead see it as an opportunity. How might our settlements look if we began to think in terms of resilient food, resilient energy, resilient economies? Might this shift in thinking actually contain the potential for an economic and cultural renaissance for the places we live? It felt to me to be a powerful question.
What does it take to achieve a sustainable future? The UN’s Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Global Sustainability’s final report, released on January 30, thinks that transparency is needed. Yes, you read that correctly. The Panel’s report thinks that by making both the cost of action and inaction transparent “political processes can summon both the arguments and the political will necessary to act for a sustainable future.”
Establishing a UN panel for biodiversity loss will give the issue the same status as climate change, which is the need of the hour.
Biodiversity loss is probably a challenge that is often ignored as climate change looms. Currently the world is losing species at a rate that is 100 to 1000 times faster than the natural extinction rate, further, it is currently seeing the sixth mass extinction.
Much of my time is spent talking about sustainability to people who think like I do. We have a great time discussing the problems and the needs as well as confirming our own beliefs and actions. As like-minded people often find each other, I imagine this is the case for many people dedicated to making a difference in creating a sustainable world.
Real change will come when we can talk with others who don’t think like us.
As change makers, we encounter resistance to change on a regular basis, both internally and externally. Change is nothing new, but what is new is a growing understanding around why we resist it and what we can do to begin to soften that resistance.
I’ve encountered a lot of talk about thriving lately. Everywhere I turn I am hearing that word: movies, meetings, online and personal conversation. It used to be that sustainable was sufficient. That word has now become inadequate. Now we need something more.
The green movement needs to focus more on resiliance. And we can take notes from those surviving zombie take-overs.
When Lloyd declared that building green was no longer enough, we have to build resilient too, he suggested that we need to move away from our obsession with high-tech green gizmos and make sure that at least our basic needs—food, water, shelter and warmth—can be met even when we experience disruptions to power, our economy or other shocks that we may not be able to predict.
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study is a major international initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity, to highlight the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, and to draw together expertise from the fields of science, economics and policy to enable practical actions moving forward.
Resilience is a word that captures much of what has occurred over this past year: the Arab Spring; the anger that has boiled over into first the Tea Party and then the Occupy movements; strapped municipal budgets; and coping with an onslaught of natural and man-made disasters around the world. Whether we are talking about economic resilience, political resilience or social resilience, the R word captures what many at the grassroots are facing at a volatile time.
Children are massive consumers. Parents are even more to blame. But we don't need to buy into the consumerism that surrounds us. Sustainable parenting is a way to save money, spend more quality time with our children and ensure we don't compromise future generations.
TreeHugger, and much of the modern Green/sustainable consumption movement, has popularized the notion that a modern aesthetic, better design, and an intelligent approach to technological progress and conscious consumerism—perhaps coupled with some modest but not insignificant behavior/cultural change—would be enough to take sustainability mainstream.
It was an enticing promise, but many people are beginning to think that it has failed. And not without reason.
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