Category Archives: communication

25. Documentaries

We are up to Week 10 in my course and we have looked at all sorts of ways sustainability has been communicated, and currently the focus is on film and documentaries.

So, over the last few days I have watched my fair share of documentaries on sustainability issues and today I posted a small list of my favourites…so far… We were supposed to post one, but I put up six and they are:

AS AN OVERALL VIEW:

The Century of the Self (TRAILER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_YLy6yZeaw)
The Crisis of Civilization (TRAILER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7Oq_J__ouc)
 
ON FOOD:
 
ON WASTE:
The Clean Bin Project (TRAILER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhBBziXFrNQ)
 
…and I am anxiously anticipating the release of Just Eat It (by the people who did The Clean Bin Project: TRAILER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkASAZGIuu0)

There are many more that I want and need to watch including all of the Years of Living Dangerously TV series, The Economy of Happiness, The Corporation, Trashed, Baraka…and there are others…but I shall revisit those here, if warranted, as I get through them.

The documentary I watched today was The Age of Stupid (TRAILER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZjsJdokC0s).

If I had watched it in 2009 when it was produced I would have been very moved and indeed probably agitated into commencing my sustainability journey earlier.

Two things.

1: What rock was I under in 2009 that I did not even KNOW about this movie?

2: We have done very bloody little in the past 5 years to seriously address climate change, and here in Australia we have probably retreated in our efforts to fight climate change in any meaningful way. This doco is well worth watching—pitched as if looking back to the turn of the 21st Century, it reports from 2055 as to how things unfolded, following a number of story lines in parallel from different parts of the globe.

I have to say I had total WTF moments where I just could not believe the irrationality of some of the real life participants. Highly commended, albeit a bit on the depressing side if you, as I, feel frustrated and cranky about how sustainability issues including climate change appear to still be without any tangible traction.

 

 

 


23. Some interesting quotes

Just a few of the really interesting quotes from the materials I have read over the last few weeks:

“Since 1950 alone, the world’s people have consumed more goods and services than the combined total of all humans who have ever walked the planet” (Tilford 2000)

“Sustainability isn’t hard; it’s just not simple” Jedička 2010

“Nobody wakes up in the morning calculating how to trash the planet. Instead our daily lives are a series of choices, each minuscule in its daily impact. But when multiplied billions of times, day after day, year after year, the impact is enormous” Jedička 2010

“Human wellbeing does not require high levels of consumption” Jedička 2010

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little” Edmund Burke

One of my other really favourite quotes is rather longer and comes from a paper I read by Bob Doppelt in Semester 1, but it sticks with me as I think about what comes next, and what is really important to us all…

It comes from a paper entitled From me to we: The five transformational commitments required to rescue the planet, your organisation and your life [Systems Thinker Vol 23 No 8 Oct 2012]. It goes like this:

Imagine, for a moment, that a genie suddenly whisks you away from your everyday life and makes you the world’s most powerful decision maker. At your fingertips is the most up-to-date information about the planet’s economic, social and environmental conditions. You can use that data to make any type of decision you want about how resources and wealth should be allocated and how things should function.

But there is a catch. The genie has also given you amnesia. You cannot remember your social status, nationality, gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, how much money you have, or even who your parents are. Consequently, you don’t know what the effects of your decisions will be on your loved ones because you don’t know who you are or where you live.

Under these conditions, what decisions would you make? Would you use as much energy, consume as many resources, or generate as much solid waste and greenhouse gas emissions as you do today? Would you seek to to accumulate as much personal wealth or power?

We need to shift the focus of ME to WE: to treat others as you would want to be treated—to stop focussing on personal wants and needs and choose to see things through the eyes of others.


22. Letter to the Editor—getting my cranky on o_O

Week 4 and we have to submit a Letter to the Editor.

At 250 words it’s not a big task but it has to be engaging, pithy and talk about a sustainability issue.

No surprises that I wrote two. Both reproduced below, but the one I ended up submitting was the one on food—just because the consensus in our workshop was that it was probably more interesting.

Dear Mainstream Media

How do you disappoint me? Let me count the ways!

You disappoint in the way you ignore the environment and yet promote the economy. Were you out of the room when we all worked out that without a suitable, equitable environment you can’t have a society, and without a society there is no need for an economy?

I did a review of online news sites, both newspaper- and TV-based—mostly Australian, but some international—and out of twenty, only three of you have a dedicated tab for the environment on your main page! So, brick bats for most of you, including The Age, The Australian and the Daily Telegraph[1] PLUS Aunty ABC (now that’s disappointing), SBS and all the other Australian TV-channel websites. Bouquets for Deutsche Welle, The Conversation and The Guardian.

I am interested in which came first: do you choose to present what you think readers want; or does your content drive public interest? Whatever the case, you are kidding yourself if you think that what is happening with the DOW is more important than rising CO2 emissions.

It’s clear from the IPCC, NASA and other scientific bodies that environmental issues including climate change, species loss and over consumption (to name but a few) should be part of our daily dialog. In my opinion you have a duty of care to all of your readers to inform and promote debate.

It’s time for you to step up and create a space for the environment on your main sites and not bury such vital content on some sub-directory, out of sight and out of mind.

[1] According to Onlinenewspapers.com these are the three most accessed Australian online newspapers.

Full-frontal on food

Here are a few ‘fun facts’ first up.

According to Foodwise, Australians discard up to 20% of the food they purchase —that’s one in every five bags of groceries—gone…in the bin!

An estimated 20–40% of all fruit and vegetables are rejected before they reach the shops because they are ‘not pretty enough’ aka they did not reach consumer or supermarket cosmetic standards.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one-third of the global food supply doesn’t even get to people.

Sadly, the environmental implications of such waste are bigger than you think.

Just to produce this food requires great volumes of water, energy and other inputs. Try to imagine in your mind’s eye the progression from paddock to plate, and account for the fertilisers, the pesticides, the storage, the packaging and the transportation. All. Wasted.

And when the discarded food is dumped—mostly as landfill—it decomposes anaerobically to produce methane, one of the most potent of all greenhouse gasses. In the USA, the EPA estimates that nearly a quarter of all methane produced is from uneaten food.

Since the industrialisation of food we seem to have been overtaken by an overwhelming attitude of super-sized profligacy.

Right now we need to strip things back—become more ‘food aware’ and show some respect for what sustains us. Here are seven simple ways we can all reduce our food waste: buy local produce; choose fresh over processed; cook less food; use up any leftovers; shop for only what you need; understand the use-by/best before labelling system and resist the temptation of take-away.


21. Communicating sustainability…in the beginning

OK Dear Reader, I am back to the blog! And yes, I know it has been a while, but this semester I hope to keep on top of things a bit better on a weekly basis, as a journal of stuff that is my passion: sustainability.

Since my last post I have had three amazing experiences. The first was to do a small presentation to the Innovation and Sustainability Centre at USC on our backyard veggie garden and aquaponics system. It was a bit nerve-racking but the PowerPoint held together and people asked questions at the end, so all good. As part of the presentation I developed a systems diagram of the inputs, outputs, throughputs and loops that happen in the backyard of our small suburban block. It looks messy (you should see the actual garden!) but it shows how we blend and interface, where we can, all component parts.

Backyard sys diagram_4

The second amazing thing was that I was asked to help critique the first semester course I had just completed: SUS101. What a privilege! The course was such an eye opener  in so many ways and has encouraged me to pursue some of my bigger (sustainability) passions, which include food and consumption. But being asked to feed back into that course (which had just been reworked and rewritten) allowed me an opportunity to ‘play it forward’: to contribute so that, I hope, the next cohort gets even more out of the course than I did.

The third, but certainly not the least, was the opportunity to attend a lecture by Tim Flannery at USC. Tim is an amazing man who is so knowledgable and so generous with his time. His half hour lecture was followed by a one-hour Q&A! For a bit more on Tim Flannery check out these links [http://www.claxtonspeakers.com.au/speakers_profile/752 and https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/contributors/tim-flannery]

So onto this semester and what it holds!

SUS202 is Communicating Sustainability. It’s a big area and I am hoping to find some answers. Why are we still having the global warming ‘debate’? Why, when Rachel Carson wrote and published Silent Spring in 1962 are we still poisoning our planet (in more ways than I can even conceive) 50 years down the track? Does the allure of money make us mute to speaking for our environment: that which will sustain us? Is there a silver bullet, a way that what should be heard, will be heard above the almighty din of disinformation?

In this first week we have been set reading tasks and also invited to watch a TEDTalk: Mark Pagel, a biologist whose topic is ‘How language transformed humanity’ [20 minutes: see: https://www.ted.com/talks/mark_pagel_how_language_transformed_humanity]. It is indeed interesting stuff, but I get it, that we have language and have been able to cooperate and communicate and refine ideas is peculiar to our species. That language divides and unites us at the same time is confounding. That language can be used to subvert and empower us is equally perplexing. Would one language solve everything? I go with no, but will let you be the judge.

Another TEDTalk I found (stumbled upon) is by Keith Chen, a Behavioural Economist from Yale. His talk is well worth the watch, but I ask you to substitute the idea of ‘saving money’ with ‘saving the environment’…now there’s an interesting area for study: that the language you speak has an impact on your ability to project: to live sustainably now to have a better future [12 minutes: see: https://www.ted.com/talks/keith_chen_could_your_language_affect_your_ability_to_save_money/]