Monthly Archives: March 2014

5. Lights…I see lights!

I seem to be reading so much more these days. Reading has always been a bit of a chore for me: I am a slow reader and because of my background as a publication designer and sometimes-editor, I tend to pick fault with bad grammar and spelling mistakes—I guess I am easily distracted.

But I am giving myself permission to be who I am, accept the slow reading pace, maybe look at ways of improving it, but derive the positives from perhaps having to read things two or three times.

But it seems these days, at every turn, I am adding another book to the list I need to read. Just now I read an article shared on FaceBook and it really resonated with me—it is like a shining light of sense and hope!

It is by Dr Nafeez Ahmed (executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development ) and the article can be found at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/18/transition-tipping-point-revolution-doom

He ends this splendid piece with:

“We do not have the option of pessimism and fatalism. There’s enough of that to go around. Our task is to work together to co-create viable visions for what could be, and to start building those visions now, from the ground up.”

I am adding his book to my must read list (which is growing by the moment). I do hope it is avaibale as an eBook so I can get it sooner rather than later!

Part of my list as at 22 March 🙂

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4. The course and the passions

The course I am doing is a Graduate Certificate in Sustainability, and compared with my undergraduate degree there are many differences. This time around I have a passion in my belly, more time to focus on the subject (my study load is a quarter of what I was doing way back when) and I am less likely to spend hours at the uni bar or asleep on a pile of books in the library 🙂 I will be doing four subjects over four semesters.

The subject this semester SUS 101 covers seven modules over 13 weeks:

  • MODULE 1: Living in unsustainable times: sustainability and indicators of change
  • MODULE 2: Biodiversity, capacity and limits to growth
  • MODULE 3: Interdependence: ecological, social and economic systems
  • MODULE 4: Justice, equality and ethics
  • MODULE 5: Diversity, innovation and design
  • MODULE 6: Governance and power
  • MODULE 7: Agency and participation

When I started the course I had so many questions, I guess many naive, but they are slowly being addressed (answered?) with the course content, the reading and the related surfing I am doing on the web. Bless the www!

My current passions have to do with the overarching issues of sustainability with particular reference to climate change (a real biggie!), what drives us to consume, how food can become more sustainable and why we are addicted to plastics (hopefully the focus of my final piece of assessment).

Some stuff to go look at on each of the above:

SUSTAINABILITY AND LIMITS:

One factoid that shocked me is that out of  9 measured areas that constitute a safe operating space for humanity, we have already exceeded 3: biodiversity loss, human interference with the nitrogen cycle and climate change. Originally reported in Nature (see: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v461/n7263/full/461472a.html) which is behind a paywall, it is also covered well in Solutions in the article ‘How Defining Planetary Boundaries Can Transform Our Approach to Growth’. (see: http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/935)

Globe_limits

The globe represents the proposed safe operating space for the nine planetary systems. The wedges represent an estimate of the current position for each variable. The boundaries in three systems (rate of biodiversity loss, climate change, and human interference with the nitrogen cycle) have already been exceeded. (from Solutions)

CONSUMPTION:

I have only read the first chapter of Affluenza: when too much is never enough (Hamilton, C. & Denniss, R. 2005)but there are some gems here. For example:

“In the coming decade most of our income growth will be spent on consumer products the craving for which has yet to be created by advertisers. Our public concerns may be about health and the environment, but our private spending patterns show that the majority of Australians feel that they suffer from a chronic lack of ‘stuff’ … People in affluent countries are now even more obsessed with money and material acquisition, and the richer they are the more this seems to be the case.

… Rich societies such as Australia seem to be in the grip of a collective psychological disorder. We react with alarm and sympathy when we come across and anorexic who is convinced she (sic) is fat, whose view of reality is so totally distorted. Yet, as a society surrounded by affluence, we indulge in the illusion that we are deprived.”

Also, go have a look at:

FOOD:

I am fascinated that we accept that food is trucked for kilometres (and sometimes from one corner of the globe to another) and that we don’t seem to bat an eyelid. We are in an ‘entitlement zone’ that requires we have what we want, when we want it, even if it is not seasonal. We will consume food that has been picked when green, treated with chemicals to maintain it as it  is transported and placed on shelves and not seem to either know or care. Even worse, we will buy eggwhites in a carton and avocados in a plastic container.

I know that not everyone can grow their own and/or afford organic options. One article I read (US based) piqued my curiosity (see: http://www.cuesa.org/learn/how-far-does-your-food-travel-get-your-plate) and the fact that at my uni, USC, has a project based on the fact that students can no longer afford good nutritious food is both heartening but also a bit jaw-dropping. Called ‘The Moving Feast’ (see: https://www.facebook.com/USCediblegarden) it aims to provide a solution.

PLASTICS:

OMG where do I start? Probably here … and here … Suffice to say I am looking closely at my plastic addiction/dependence …

… but also some good news!


3. …support from above :)

… this just in on the uni ‘Blackboard’ site that links us to the courses we are studying, from our course co-ordinators/tutors Lisa and Noni:

Also carrying on from some of the discussions that have happened in the tutes this week about the overwhelming enormity… maybe even wickedness… of the sustainability issues facing us and the difficulty of personally coping with sustainability stress and trauma in what might be the “most psychologically trying time in all of human history”—we just wanted to share this interesting blog site with you.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-green-mind/201311/despair-courage-hope-in-age-environmental-turmoil.

The author gives some advice for how to deal with the psychological distress, awaress of these issues may provoke.

Timely, very timely (and well worth a read)!


2. It was never going to be easy …

Where do I start?

I am a fifty-three year old woman. I have lived what I think is a rather charmed life and have been successful in a number of areas as, I think, evidenced by myriad things: I have many people I can call my friends, I have two amazing lovely sons, a wonderful relationship with my new man (and his son) and even a ‘we-talk every-other-day’ relationship with my ex. I have owned and run my own business for many, many years. I have employed people, donated time and money to causes, felt like I was living a good life.

As I settled into this, our third year in our lovely old Queenslander cottage on the Redcliffe peninsular, and as we busied ourselves with fixing up bits and pieces that a house of this vintage will always need, I decided to brush off the books and go back to university. I had the option of putting some qualifications to what I do as my day job, as a publication/graphic designer, and yes, that may have been a reasonable option, but instead I have decided to study Sustainability at the University of the Sunshine Coast after a lot of thinking and searching and raking over the options.

But it is not an easy path. I hit the wall emotionally yesterday, having paid lip service to the confronting nature of this area of study only last week when I quipped with one of the tutors: ‘It’s amazing you are not all on Prozac,’ to which she replied ‘How do you know we aren’t?’

Yesterday I had this over-welling of how enormous the issue of climate change is, and how small and insignificant I am, but at the same time, how hugely responsible I feel for all of us being in this state. It feels like a lose-lose situation.

And this is hard for me … I am typically a positive person, happy, quick witted and a pain-in-the-bum extrovert who will more often than not find the ‘Polly-Anna moment’ for most situations. My partner had to put his arm around me as I wept. I had just told him how we had to get rid of all the plastic in our lives (or at least start with the plastic bags), how I was never going to colour my hair again, how I have adopted a moratorium on buying anything new and that we should have just one car between the two of us, and in the not-too-distant future that should be an electric car … and … and … and …

He says what I am experiencing is similar to what happens to people who become counsellors.

Today I am a little less ‘in my head’ and a little less self-flagilating, but I feel like I have to get this down … get this out of my system and maybe out in the sunlight … maybe to share?

Believe me, I do not want to be painted as a doomsday person. I don’t. But I think if we tippy-toe around what is happening and don’t start to read, and think, and talk and act, then, well, we will be at the mercies of what will come—our environment and this planet can only take so much abuse.

I truly don’t know where to start. This blog is primarily for me, to help me keep track of things I read and watch and how I react. It is not a prescription for others, but if you want to share some of this journey, watch some of the clips and read some of the books, then that’s a good thing?

I think part of my awakening started last year when I happened upon or was pointed to the YouTube clip posted by a US high school science teacher, Greg Craven. It’s a good place to start (almost 10 minutes peeps).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zORv8wwiadQ


1. Why wicked?

Sandro Botticelli, Dante’s Inferno: XIII, The Violent against Themselves (1480s - 1490s?)

Sandro Botticelli, Dante’s Inferno: XIII, The Violent against Themselves (1480s – 1490s?)

It was easiest to grab this definition from Wikipedia:

“Wicked problem” is a phrase originally used in social planning to describe a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. The term “wicked” is used to denote resistance to resolution, rather than evil. Moreover, because of complex interdependencies, the effort to solve one aspect of a wicked problem may reveal or create other problems.

I am three and a bit weeks into my studies and the stats just keep coming, not to mention the plethora of topics that just need to be addressed. It’s a big mess. Will little things help? Practical or theoretical? My mind is opening up to the so much … and aside from what will happen, and how can we make a difference, I want to know how we got here.