Foglio's Field Notes

Leif Utne's random rants, musings and meditations

Archive for the ‘sustainability’ Category

I’m Going to the Tällberg Forum!

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TF09I am thrilled to say that in just two weeks I’ll be in Sweden attending this year’s Tällberg Forum, a prestigious conference on sustainability that takes place in Sweden every summer. This invitational gathering brings together 450 leaders in government, business and civil society from around the globe, from Rwandan president Paul Kagame to human rights activist Bianca Jagger, NASA climate scientist Jim Hansen to former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland to InterfaceFlor CEO Ray Anderson, among many others. This year’s theme — “How on Earth can with live together, within the planetary boundaries?” — asks us to “search for the underlying causes of the global crisis, and start the process of envisioning ways out of it.” As the conference website says:

Five dimensions of this challenge will guide our work: the planet, the economy, technology, learning and security/governance/diplomacy. These five dimensions represent inroads into understanding and addressing the global crisis. While strongly inter-related, there is great potential for better understanding and innovation within each. A range of sessions will be available for each dimension during the Forum, where groups of different sizes can engage in prototyping work or open conversation. Many of these sessions are organized in partnership with selected institutions, projects and initiatives who choose to bring their concerns and ideas to the Forum…

The conference asks us to take “the essential but difficult step from ‘systems thinking’ to ‘systems doing’.”

New Leaders Program
Perhaps even more exciting than attending the four-day Tällberg Forum, June 24-29, I’ll also be participating in the Tällberg Foundation’s New Leaders Program (NLP), a three-day intensive just before the Forum, with 40 emerging young leaders between ages 30 and 40. The NLP is a course on looking at global problems from a systems perspective, as well as an opportunity for mentorship and networking. On the third day, when the other attendees show up, the NLP participants get to faciliate the first set of breakout session of the Forum, titled “What We Want to Talk About.”

I’m deeply grateful to the 20 people who have donated more than US$1,500 so that I can attend the NLP. You know who you are.

Reporting from Tällberg — Stay Tuned…
I will be reporting on the proceedings in Tällberg via this blog, as well as posting photos to my Facebook page and shorter updates to my Twitter feed. Please stay tuned, and let me know if there’s anything in particular you want me to look into while I’m there.

Written by leifutne

June 9, 2009 at 1:05 am

Chris Jordan’s Mandala of the Movement

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E Pluribus Unum / The Many Become One

I used the image above to illustrate the previous post, but I realize the caption didn’t really explain its relevance to the OpenWiser campaign. Here goes.

Chris Jordan’s image “E Pluribus Unum (The Many Become One),” depicts the global “movement of movements” described by Paul Hawken in his book Blessed Unrest, as a 50’x50′ mandala. The lines connecting the 108 points around the circle are actually made up of the names of the 110,000+ organizations in the WiserEarth database rendered in 4-point type. Chris is hoping to find a sponsor to commission an installation of the full-size image somewhere in Vancouver during next year’s winter Olympics.

Written by leifutne

June 8, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Van Jones for Green Jobs Czar?

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powershift-09-van-jonesI’ve been sitting on this story for two weeks, but the green blogs are suddenly abuzz with the rumor that Van Jones may be appointed the White House’s new “Green Jobs Czar.” (See here, there, there, and elsewhere.) So I guess I’ll add what I know.

A close mutual friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells me that Jones has passed the requisite FBI background check, and is set to assume the new post of “White House Special Adviser for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation” on March 16. Jones would be in charge of doling out the half-billion dollars in the recent economic stimulus package that is destined for areas like conservation, energy efficiency and clean tech development. He would also be an influential voice in the debate over how the $80 billion for clean energy in the stimulus package is spent.

[UPDATE: Kate Sheppard at Grist quotes an anonymous source close to Jones who says that “‘green jobs czar’ is an overstatement.”]

I can’t imagine a more appropriate pick for this job than the author of the recent book The Green Collar Economy and president of the Oakland-based group Green for All, whose slogan, “building a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty,” should be adopted by Obama himself. And it’s a fitting trajectory for someone who has been beating the green jobs drum for four years. (I interviewed Van for Utne Reader in June 2005 during the UN Green Cities Summit, when he was taking the “green-collar jobs” meme out for an early road-test.)

Hopefully government work won’t require Jones to tone down his fiery rhetorical style. His ability to cast his environmental justice mission in stark moral terms — “do we want eco-apartheid or eco-equity?” — should be seen as an asset by the White House, even if it makes some of the suits on Capitol Hill squirm. And he has an amazing gift for connecting with audiences that might not agree with him on everything. He reportedly had a crowd of evangelical Christians in L.A. so fired up about their religious duty to protect God’s creation they were practically writhing on the floor speaking in green tongues.

Some cynics are questioning whether Jones should take the job, suggesting that he might be more effective on the outside than in government. That thought had crossed my mind, too. But despite his rock-star status among progressive enviros, he’s not yet a household name like Al Gore, who I honestly believe really is more effective where he sits now than he would be in the White House. (An Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize wouldn’t hurt, either.) Would conservative leaders like Paul Wolfowitz or John Bolton have been more effective at advancing their agendas during the Bush years if they had stayed on the sidelines, speaking at conferences and pumping out policy papers for think-tanks? I think not. Government is exactly where Van Jones should be.

The optimist in me has to wonder, too, if Jones’s appointment isn’t a sign that president Obama may be backing away from his support for so-called “clean” coal. In his keynote speech at the PowerShift ’09 conference (see video below), which brought 12,000 young climate activists to DC to lobby Congress for green jobs and clean energy, Jones said: “There is no such thing as the tooth fairy. There is no such thing as unicorns. And there is no such thing as ‘clean’ coal.” (download audio)

Van, the world’s been waiting a long time for you.

Written by leifutne

March 9, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Video: Van Jones Goes to Washington

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One of my personal heroes, Van Jones, president of Green for All and author of The Green Collar Economy, testified last week before Congress on the importance of focusing on green jobs in the economic stimulus package. Jones tells the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming that this Congress has a historic opportunity to solve the two greatest challenges facing the US — the economic meltdown and the climate crisis.

Written by leifutne

January 18, 2009 at 9:47 pm

On the 10th day of Christmas my brother gave to me…

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Voltaic solar battery-charging backpackI arrived home on Sunday to find the coolest, geekiest Christmas present I’ve ever gotten: a Voltaic Converter solar daypack. I try not to be too covetous of material things. But this is one I’ve had my eye on for awhile. (Thanks, Sam! You’re the best.)

Its sleek black fabric is made of 100% recycled PET (soda bottles). It has three PV panels sewn into the back panel, which can output up to 10 volts in peak conditions, though normal output is 4 volts. A red LED in the middle of the logo indicates when it’s charging, which so far seems to be whenever there’s even minimal light. It came with a battery pack and 11 different standard tips, so it can charge most handheld electronic devices.

Around the city, it’ll probably be mostly a sort of eco-geek status symbol. I can’t wait to roll up on my bike at next month’s Green Drinks with this on my back.

But I can definitely picture situations where it’ll be useful when I really am off the grid — like when I’m hiking and I need to keep an extra pair of rechargeable AA batteries at the ready to power a camera or flashlight. And I imagine it’ll come in very handy when we’re on the beach in the Dominican Republic next month and keep running down the batteries in our portable blender.

I have yet to actually try charging anything with it. Will post more when I do.

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January 6, 2009 at 2:11 am

NYT: Design Loves a Depression

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This hopeful piece from yesterday’s NYT, Michael Cannell argues that, just as the Great Depression begat early modernism and democratized beautiful design, the current economic downtown could usher in a new golden age of democratic, functional — even green — design.

Design tends to thrive in hard times. In the scarcity of the 1940s, Charles and Ray Eames produced furniture and other products of enduring appeal from cheap materials like plastic, resin and plywood, and Italian design flowered in the aftermath of World War II.

Will today’s designers rise to the occasion? “What designers do really well is work within constraints, work with what they have,” said Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art. “This might be the time when designers can really do their job, and do it in a humanistic spirit.”

In the lean years ahead, “there will be less design, but much better design,” Ms. Antonelli predicted.

Let’s hope Cannell’s right.

Sidenote: Is Dwell really “old paradigm” like Architectural Digest, as Cannell suggests? My old Worldchanging colleague Sarah Rich might beg to differ.

Written by leifutne

January 5, 2009 at 3:11 pm

“World-changing” is now a marketing term

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My friends over at www.worldchanging.com will get a kick out of this. The inside front cover of the July/August issue of Sierra features a two-page ad for Honda’s Civic Hybrid. Under the banner “Environmentology” (not quite sure what that means, but it sounds nice) artistically rendered in images of plants, the company rightly touts its 32-year history as a fuel-efficiency innovator.

Civic Hybrid ad

Here’s the passage that caught my eye:

Civic Hybrid ad (detail)

In 1974, Honda introduced the ingeniously simple Civic CVCC. World-changing (sic) for its fuel efficiency and low emissions, the CVCC demonstrated our spirited commitment to environmentally responsible technology…

“World-changing”? Maybe. While Honda has been a leader in green car technology for a long time, it’s important to note that average fuel economy across the industry, even for Hondas, is unsustainably low. Appopriation and imitation are of course the sincerest forms of flattery. Kudos should go at the very least to Alex and Jamais at WC for changing the lexicon. It’s nice to see Madison Avenue’s taking notice.

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June 20, 2006 at 8:58 pm