Category Archives: food

26. Food for thought campaign

I have been a bit neglectful of this blog, but maybe with the end of semester and the quiet period which usually happens around Christmas-time (for my work) I actually may be able to get the pile of reading done and get some more ideas down on this page.

My reading list includes (but is not limited to):

  • Naomi Klein: This Changes Everything
  • Paul Ehrlich: One with Nineveth
  • Russell Brand: Revolution
  • Simon Sinek: Start with Why
  • Jared Diamond: Guns, Germs and Steel
  • Jared Diamond: Collapse
  • Mark Lynas: Six Degrees
  • Clive Hamilton: Growth Fetish
  • Helena Norberg-Hodge: Ancient Futures

…plus anything else I have listed here earlier and not got to 😦

And I still have to finish the Yale Online course by Kelly Brownell: The Psychology, Biology and Politics of Food (see: http://oyc.yale.edu/psychology/psyc-123)

So, in the meantime, here is the essay: the communications strategy that I wrote for my last assignment for this semester. I have taken the liberty of slightly editing it (to my horror, after it was submitted and marked, I reviewed my work and found at least three literals 😦 )

I hope you find something that inspires you!

Task 3: Communications Strategy SUS 202

To develop an effective trans media communications strategy that informs public action, it is best to devise a holistic approach that touches on the facts of, debate about, and action for the sustainability issue at hand (Newig et at. 2013).

By combining the principles of social marketing, (French 2009), psychological and behavioural change research (Reynolds 2010, Sharp et al 2010, Cialdanni et al. 1981, Crompton & Thogersen 2009 and McKenzie-Mohr 2000) and sustainability communication theory (Cox 2007, Futerra 2005, Moser 2010, and Nisbet & Scheufele 2009) it is anticipated that the following strategy will deliver positive behavioural change within the target group: making them more food aware and less wasteful.

The Food for Thought Campaign

The issue: Food waste

According to the Food Waste Avoidance Studies 2010 ‘People waste food because they buy and cook too much, don’t finish their meals, and don’t store food correctly’ (Sustainability Victoria 2011). Other contemporary studies show that landfill comprises up to 62% of organic materials (Closed Loop 2014), with significant contribution coming from Australian households—only 33% of the Australian adult population composts or recycles food waste all or most of the time[1] (ABS 2007). Domestic food waste has significant environmental, social and economic implications, which can and should be addressed.

Communications goals

The ultimate goal of this communication strategy is to change attitudes and behaviours of individuals towards food and food waste and further to influence individuals’ actions and decision making about the foods they buy, cook, consume and discard. Modelled on the work reported by Sharp et al. (2010 p 257)—specifically the NLWA campaign, it is predicted that attitudes and behaviours will change in a meaningful and measurable way.

While it is planned as a seeding project, it is hoped that resources developed and made available both at delivery (guest presentation) and mirrored online, will endure over time, enabling the target audience to use and distribute the resources and in effect become messengers in their own right.

Target audience

Research has shown that a significant proportion of Australian adults (41%) are unaware of the impacts of organics in landfill (Closed Loop 2014). While it would be desirable to design a campaign to connect with all Australians, this strategy proposes to engage at the community level with service groups (Rotary, Lions and Apex). Perhaps this group can become what Kevin Allocca (2010), Trends Manager at YouTube, describes as ‘Tastemakers’: those who will introduce the insights of this campaign to a larger audience.

According to surveys and audits conducted by the Victorian Government (Sustainability Victoria 2011), three of the top four groups of food wasters include households with incomes more than $130K per annum, households with incomes of $65–80K per annum and families with children. The service group demographic captures all three of these identified segments.

As service group members, the target audience is already one receptive to ideas of improvement, positive, lasting change, and social justice. This group will include men and women who range in age from 18 to 80+.

Framing

Reynolds (2010) echoes the assertions of Newig (2013) when he states that ‘telling people what to do is, usually, not enough. Nor is informing them why they should do it’ (p. 42). Further, ascertaining beliefs, motivations and behaviours, understanding the environment in which the audience lives, and building a package of opportunities, services and support that responds to their real-life wants and needs, enables the adoption of new, socially beneficial behaviours (Kotler & Zaltman 1971). For this service-based oriented audience, the framing of the ‘Food for Thought’ campaign will be based on social progress lines: highlighting positives the audience can use in their daily lives, that can be shared with others and that will deliver ‘triple-bottom line’ benefits (social, economic and environmental) for all.

Key messages

According to Warde (2005) consumption patterns are seen as embedded within social practices and not seen as a result of individuals’ attitudes, values and behaviours. The issue should be framed in a way that informs and empowers the audience: for them to take control and to question the status quo (do we even recognise that we are wasting so much food and what the implications are?). To know and to do and to effect change will be powerful. By focusing on enabling action through practical and achievable lifestyle tips rather than as an exhortation or instruction simply about waste (Sharp et al. 2010) should convey a sense of helpfulness in the presentation.

A personal narrative journey will be woven around three key messages that will create a strong focus for the campaign, and allow for extra, reflection within audience. The chosen messages are:

  • ‘Knowledge is powerful and transformative’
  • ‘Every little bit counts’
  • ‘Be challenged: look for the improvements’

The beauty of these messages is that they can be transposed onto other sustainable lifestyle issues for example energy and water use, and single-use plastics.

Messengers

As detailed in Sharp et al. (2010 p 256), ‘engaging enthusiastic champions as part of the process early on is deemed a key success factor…to help develop social norms’. The ‘Food for Thought’ campaign hinges on the delivery of information by a food waste evangelist who can be identified by the target audience as ‘one of their own’—chosen from the same general demographic. According to Fenton (2001), a trusted messenger will be the most persuasive. The material has core messages and will follow a narrative arc, but the presentation, by its very nature will be able to be tailored by any individual who is passionate about the issue and wants to share their own journey.

Modes and tools

As studies have shown (Sharp et al. 2010) behaviour change is most impacted by a campaign based on a collection of tools and measures. While this campaign has a guest presentation at its core, supporting, ancillary materials will also be made available.

Conducted over five weeks for each group, the campaign takes the following form:

1) Pre-presentation survey: Week 1

An information-gathering survey will be designed and distributed a week in advance for audience members to complete and bring along on the night. This will help inform the presentation and prepare the audience.

2) Presentation 1: The Introduction and Challenge: Week 2

The core component of the strategy is a guest presentation, as per the time and format of the chosen service club. Typically this is a 10–20 minute timeslot with a further 10 minutes for questions and answers. Depending on the presenter and the facilities available, the following is a list of presentation aids that can be used:

  • a quick ‘Go Soapbox’ session designed to include the audience via smartphone participation in real-time data gathering on pre-presentation attitudes and opinions.
  • Powerpoint or Prezi presentation — a narrative based on personal experience and practical advice for addressing food waste supported by sourced food waste facts and figures.
  • Point specific info graphic postcards which include blog/website details and Twitter hashtag information.

3) The challenge: Weeks 3–4

Willing participants register to participate in a two-week challenge to monitor their ‘normal’ base-line food waste for a week and then to implement thoughtful food practices for a subsequent week and report their responses. The challenge will be delivered either as hard-copy or online survey thus catering for audience preference and access. Participants will be prompted via email to help manage the process. A dedicated blog/website will serve as a focal point for ongoing questions and answers.

4) Presentation 2: Revelations, insights and discussions: Week 5

As this campaign is designed to inspire and engage on a personal level, it is only fitting that results from the challenge and insights gained by the participants be shared with the group. It is essential that issues of privacy be observed, but both quantitative data from the challenge be graphed and presented, and with permission, qualitative observations shared. What is hoped is that participants will be inspired to seek answers to bigger picture questions involving legislation around food labeling and opportunities for waste collection.

5) Online and other resources: From Week 1 and ongoing

All info graphics will be designed into a set of postcards that will be available at the presentation and also distributed via Avante Card (if, for no other reason, than to reach a wider audience). These same graphics will be made available for distribution as individual graphics on FaceBook and attached to the blog/website where all info graphics will be available (to download and print or to share). This blog/website will also serve as a central hub for useful links to other resources on food waste and other relevant sustainability topics. These will include, but are not limited to, book reviews, courses, documentaries, TEDTalks and websites.

PDFs of the info graphics could be further used to illustrate a series of ‘Letters to the Editor’ for local newspapers and/ or made available as part of a feature article in the organisation’s newsletter or magazine.

Monitoring and evaluation

Because of the design of the campaign which includes feedback at the time of the presentation, and data as gathered in the form of the challenge, it should be easy to see the impact of the campaign on the core target audience.

Data will also be able to be monitored as to impact based on the number of hits on the blog/website, the number of tweets on the presentation and also the tracked as distribution of single-issue info graphics as shares on FaceBook and beyond.

Reynolds (2010, p. 45) suggests that ‘engagement in a new behaviour can fundamentally alter how we perceive ourselves’. This is surely the enduring hope of those who work to promote sustainability issues. It is anticipated that through the ‘Food for Thought’ campaign, real and lasting new behaviours will result—and maybe from that, engender a greater understanding of ourselves as thoughtful citizens—open to tackle other sustainability challenges in ours lives.

References

Allocca, K ‘Why videos go viral’ 2011 TEDYouth Filmed Nov 2011 http://www.ted.com/talks/kevin_allocca_why_videos_go_viral/transcript?language=en

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007). 4102.0—Australian Social Trends, 2007 Household waste Available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/
E1E64A4DB813BC8BCA25732C00207FF7?opendocument

Cialdini, RB, Petty, RE & Cacioppo (1981) ‘Attitude and attitude change’ Ann. Rev. Psychol. 32, 357–404

Closed Loop (2014). Australia’s attitudes to compost—survey April 2014
Available via download from http://www.closedloop.com.au/uk/news-and-events/australian-attitudes-towards-composting

Cox, R (2007). ‘Nature’s “Crisis Disciplines”: Does Environmental Communication Have an Ethical Duty?’ Environmental Communication, 1 (1) 5–20, DOI: 10.1080/17524030701333948

Crompton, T, & Thogersen, JB (2009). ‘Simple and Painless? The Limitations of Spillover in Environmental Campaigning’. Godalming: WWFUK, Available at http://www.wwf.org.uk/

Fenton Communication (2001). Now hear this: the nine laws of successful advocacy communication [online] http://web.undp.org/comtoolkit/whycommunicate/docs
/Tools/NowHearTheNineLawsofSuccessfulAdvocacyCommunications.pdf

French, J (2009). ‘The nature, development and contribution of social marketing to public health practice since 2004 in England’ Perspectives in Public Health, 129:262
DOI: 10.1177/1757913909347665

Futerra Sustainability Communications Ltd. (2005). Communicating sustainability: how to produce effective public campaigns. UNEP/Earthprint.

Kotler, P, Zaltman, G (1971). ‘Social marketing: An approach to planned social change. Journal of Marketing 35, 3–12

McKenzie-Mohr, D (2000). ‘Promoting Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing’ Journal of Social Issues, 56(3), 543–554

Moser, SC (2010). Communicating climate change: history, challenges, process and future directions. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 1(1), 31–53.

Newig, J, Schulz, D, Fischer, D, Hetze, K, Laws, N, Lüdecke, G & Rieckmann, M (2013). ‘Communication Regarding Sustainability: Conceptual Perspectives and Exploration of Societal Subsystems’ Sustainability, 5, 2976–2990 doi:10.3390/su5072976

Nisbet MC & Scheufele, DA, (2009). ‘What’s next for science communication? Promising directions and lingering distractions’ American Journal of Botany 96, 1767–1778 doi:10.3732/ajb.0900041

Reynolds, L (2010). ‘The sum of the parts: Can we really reduce carbon emissions through individual behavior change?’ Perspectives in Public Health, 130: 41
DOI: 10.1177/1757913909354150

Sharp, V, Giorgi, S & Wilson, DC (2010). Delivery and impact of household waste revention intervention campaigns (at the local level) Waste Management & Research 28, 256–268 DOI: 10.1177/0734242X10361507

Sustainability Victoria (2011). Victorian Statewide Garbage Bin Audits: Food, Household Chemicals and Recyclables Available online via http://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/

Warde, A (2005). ‘Consumption and theories of practice’ Journal of Consumer Culture 5 (2), 131–154.

[1] while the same study showed that 84% of Australians sorted recyclable from no-recyclable waste all or most of the time

 

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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.


17. More on food…and waste…and…

For my final assignment (due in eight weeks LOL!) I am supposed to revisit my first assignment, which was a poster on Coal Seam Gas (and fracking). The final assignment is to take this information, and further research, and take it to a new level, and a new context and write a magazine style article, but I have decided to look at food and food waste instead—with permission of course!

I have been busy revisiting materials I had seen many moons ago, and indeed being drawn to look into new areas. It is a fascinating process. 😀

On food

I highly recommend hunting down and watching Food Inc by Robert Kenner. Here is a trailer for the film: see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rjh5aZKgtSY

While reviewing this I also happened upon an interesting interview with Robert Kenner on a channel called Bring Your Own Documentary. It’s an interesting format and a nice discussion about elements from Kenner’s documentary. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Oq24hITFTY

This led me to FixFood (I think also linked to Robert Kenner), a website that talks about many issues. Go have a look at: http://www.fixfood.org

I then got sidetracked (as I had read a fellow blogger’s comments about GM foods and Monsanto) and so spent a good hour watching a documentary called Percy Schmesiser—David versus Monsanto. Compelling viewing, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omtYlsG1P5U

On food waste

An interesting development on recovering home food scraps (the average person throws out the equivalent of 1 in every 5 bags of food they take home from the supermarket) has been tackled by the Leichhardt Council in Sydney, Australia. It’s a good interview, hosted by Natasha Mitchell on Radio National: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/food-waste/5375576

Dana Frasz has following her life’s passion to address the food waste issue in the USA. Here she talks to an audience as organised by Pachamama—it is well worth the listen. Honoring the Sacredness of Food by Reducing Food Waste by Dana Frasz: http://www.pachamama.org/blog/honoring-the-sacredness-of-food-by-reducing-food-waste-with-dana-frasz

Which bought me full circle to where I started at the beginning of the week, which was to watch a few online vids about William McDonough (under the banner of resilience, adaptive capacity and efficiency—for my course). McDonough is a very interesting character. To many he is a visionary, and he is … but from what I have read and watched, I would add that he is sadly misdirected, and very driven by the dollar—which is a pity. Anyways, go have a look at  http://vimeo.com/3237777 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoRjz8iTVoo for a taste of the McDonough vision—a vision of ‘cradle to cradle’ design and turning waste into food.

What have I been doing in my spare time, you may ask?

I am also hot on the heels of all things plastic. I have found an amazing source and downloaded some technical data/information about packaging from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. Worth a visit: http://www.sustainablepackaging.org/default.aspx

I had better get off the content bandwagon and spend more time on what I am supposed to be focussed on—in the coming weeks—social justice and the politics of neo-liberal economic theory! Woo-hoo! Bring it on! 😀

 


15. Food glorious food?

Our current (group) assignment involves ‘food insecurity’ and sustainability. It is worth 10% … and yet I have read and read and read and I could indeed, just keep reading.

We are almost to the final draft, which I will then go and make pretty (as is my want) but it is safe to say that we have sliced and diced this thing to bits … all puns intended. In all honesty, instead of the 2,000 word essay, what I want to submit is something like the following:

On sustainability:

Just stop buying crap would be a good start. Oh, and listen to our climate scientists.

On food security/insecurity, I would borrow heavily from Michael Pollan of The omnivore’s dilemma (and other books) fame:

‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants’.

but I would add:

Your food should grow or live as close to you as is practicable.

But of course this is far too simple for what is a really complex, multi-dimentional problem, but hey—I think it would be a damned good place to start 😀

As I have said, I have read so much stuff. For the purposes of a university paper, it has involved searching for and finding original research, and combining that with other papers, and segments from books. It is, after all, a piece of academic writing. I do struggle though to set limits as to what and how much I read, as the internet is both a blessing and a curse in the way you can find so much material. Mostly I am compelled to read it.

I cannot complain about my head being full—it is indeed a wonderful state.

What I have found to be truly inspiring is the material in TED Talks. I had known about TED Talks before I started studying, but I do turn to them, on the whole, for much more palatable information—most of the speakers are great entertainers as well as being very knowledgeable. A few gems I have watched recently on the topic of food and would recommend:

and just now, looking for, copying and placing these links I have found even more I think I need to watch (maybe today):

And just for fun, here is the graphic I made for our report—taken from some data (actually taken from two sources and melded). It shows the  results of a survey of university students: the amount of food they consumed from each of the five food groups is shown as a percentage, while the number of recommended daily servings from this group, is the big number at the top.

Food_icons

At the ripe old age of 53, I discovered so much about food groups and serving sizes and serves per population segment. And yes it is, or can be complicated—overly so, as also evidenced by the myriad diets on the market. It makes me think that Michael Pollan actually nailed it!


7. Climate Change recharge

So today, dear readers, I watched and completed the first module on Climate Change through Open2Study, as hosted by Dr Tim Flannery and Prof Lesley Hughes. Really, really informative and well presented. See: https://www.open2study.com/courses/climate-change

I encourage anyone who has even the vaguest interest in the concept that humans may be impacting on our climate to give this a bit of a go. It is totally free! And it won’t bite you!

I have also started collaborating with those in my group on the second task in my course. It’s a bit of a mind spin—I have never been keen on group projects: instinctively I like to run my own show, and having been in groups and having assessed group assignments I know that inevitably there are stronger and weaker contributors—although I think our group is pretty solid. We only have two weeks to come up with the report (on poor diets of Uni students in the context of sustainability), and using the tools, including a group think-tank area called the Wiki, is a new thing for this old dog.

Other interesting developments of today:

  • the interchange happening between me and my partner is amazing. He is a big Lean Thinking advocate and there are really lovely synergies in what I am studying and how he thinks about processes. In a lead-up to starting my study I did a bit of research to decide if this was going to be ‘it’ for me…and in the process I discovered aquaponics. Being the ‘can do’ kinda man he is, it was literally a matter of a week from talking about it, until we had our system up and cycling. 6–7 weeks into the experiment we are harvesting vegetables and watching with wonder how the fish (mostly Jade Perch) have grown from 1cm to 7cm and put on considerable bulk. He has now taken over my white board with ideas of a community based sustainability group, and this loops back to one of our original discussions about local, community-based aquaponic installations as a feature of future communities.
  • I read on the FootprintNetwork blog that Earth Overshoot Day was on my birthday last year 😦 Translated, that means that as I was celebrating my 52nd birthday, on the same day (approximately) humanity’s ecological resource consumption exceeded what Earth can renew. See more at:  http://footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/blog/#sthash.HOTQlC7i.dpuf
  • I have more books to read (thanks Lisa), including:
    • Lindsay Tanner’s Dumbing Down of Democracy;
    • Mark Lynas’s Six Degrees;
    • Jared Diamond’s Collapse; and
    • Juliet Shor’s The Overworked American

I think I need many more hours in a day!

 


6. Population and consumption

I had a big win yesterday as I managed to find two of the three books I wanted in the library:

  • Confronting Consumption, Thomas Princen, Michael Maniates & Ken Conca [Eds]
  • The New Economics of Sustainable Consumption: Seeds of Change, Gill Seyfang

I was looking for, but did not find, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring which is the seminal work on environment and human impact on it written in 1962. It’s probably something I should buy anyways.

My head is in a bit of a spin, and comically, only after three weeks of doing this course I feel like I can and should try to change the world. I have NEVER felt like this before.

The lecture yesterday covered two main areas of concern: population and consumption. As a species we have been thinking about limits and population since the late 1700s and it seems from then until now, we still seem to apportion the ‘blame’ for ‘overpopulation’ on the unwashed masses—in the 18th century the church firmly blamed the unbelievers and today we do the same with ‘the Third World’ or developing nations. How crass.

As of this week, world population sits at around 7 billion souls. The projections for population growth are on a J-curve, are exponential so we will, as a planet, continue to grow and grow at an alarming rate. But what is the carrying capacity of the planet? There are many studies into this with a wide variation in opinion, but most scholars have agreed on a range of of 8–16 billion. But of those, let’s say we top out at 8 billion souls (and that is conservative), at what level can this population be sustained? The simple answer is that we cannot all be a Gina Rinehart 😦

I completed the Footprint Calculator exercise (see: http://footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/calculators/) and to sustain my lifestyle, it would take 2.1 Earths. This is a shock, as I have what I consider to be a smallish footprint—I work from home so I don’t use the car a lot (in fact going to uni to participate in this course is my biggest journey creating a bit of personal cognitive dissonance), we grow a lot of our own food, we keep chickens for eggs and recycling, have a substantial solar panel array (we feed into the grid), 4,000 litre capacity rainwater tanks for the soil garden, and a small but viable aquaponics system). Indeed it IS a smallish footprint, as most Western consumers would need 5–7 Earths to sustain their consumptive lifestyle.

So peeps…what the hell are we going to do about this?

It’s a tricky subject as we are so entrenched in this, our consumer society. I am a big consumer, and in the past, was an even bigger consumer. My reading this week is of the above books and probably other things I will inevitably find on the Net. So much of who we believe we are is invested in the possessions we have—and most of this is driven by corporations wanting to derive a profit through sales via the very persuasive advertising and marketing industries.

My interest in human behaviour—what motivates and drives us, and something which I could have spent more time on in my undergrad Psych degree, is being reignited in me.

As a closing note, two contrasting costs presented in the lecture:

  • cost for establishing clean water and sanitation for everyone on the planet = $9billion
    vs the money spent on ice-cream in Europe in one year = $11billion
  • cost for basic education for the whole planet $6billion
    vs the money spent on cosmetics in the US in one year $8billion

Oh, and in Australia, we spend more on our pets in one year (excluding purchase and vet bills—so focussing on food and toys and such) than we do on foreign aid.

 

 


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!