Posts Tagged ‘Provocations’

The Positive Deviant: Sustainability Leadership in a Perverse World

Posted in Opinion, Research by Kate Archdeacon on August 6th, 2010

Source: Forum for the Future

Forum Founder Director Sara Parkin’s new book, The Positive Deviant: Sustainability Leadership in a Perverse World, is the first to bring together sustainability knowledge with the leadership skills and tools for leaders in the low-carbon economy of the future. It contains all you need to get started, and to continue growing your effectiveness, even in a world that remains perversely intent on the opposite.  Whether you are new to the whole idea of sustainability, or reasonably well informed but not entirely confident about what to do for the best, this guide will help you ‘do’ sustainability.  Free of checklists and policy recommendations, the focus is on you, and on developing your capacity to identify the right thing to do wherever you are and whatever your circumstances.

Download the introduction from Earthscan.

Beyond Hope, to action

Posted in Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on December 3rd, 2009

An unusual post for us, here at Sustainable Cities, but potentially relevant as Copenhagen takes centre stage.

Image: greenpeace via flickr CC

From the article “Beyond Hope” by Derrick Jensen, Orion Magazine.

THE MOST COMMON WORDS I hear spoken by any environmentalists anywhere are, “We’re *%$#@*”. Most of these environmentalists are fighting desperately, using whatever tools they have—or rather whatever legal tools they have, which means whatever tools those in power grant them the right to use, which means whatever tools will be ultimately ineffective—to try to protect some piece of ground, to try to stop the manufacture or release of poisons, to try to stop civilized humans from tormenting some group of plants or animals. Sometimes they’re reduced to trying to protect just one tree.

Here’s how John Osborn, an extraordinary activist and friend, sums up his reasons for doing the work: “As things become increasingly chaotic, I want to make sure some doors remain open. If grizzly bears are still alive in twenty, thirty, and forty years, they may still be alive in fifty. If they’re gone in twenty, they’ll be gone forever.”

But no matter what environmentalists do, our best efforts are insufficient. We’re losing badly, on every front. Those in power are hell-bent on destroying the planet, and most people don’t care.

Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nature, Science and Livelihood: effective carbon capture & storage

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on November 2nd, 2009

Source: The Ecologist, from the article  “Forests and oceans more effective than carbon capture technology”, Oct 14

Image: brentbat via flickr CC

Two new reports say existing forest and ocean systems offer the most cost effective way to capture and store carbon – far cheaper than industrial Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology.


Research led by University of Michigan has shown that there is more potential than we realise for forests to act as carbon ‘sinks’. The study looked at 80 forests in the developing world over 15 years and found that local ownership rather than government control of the land was the best guarantee against misuse. The research suggested this is because local communities were dependent on the forests for their livelihoods, and so valued its preservation more highly.  ‘The urgency of the global need to increase carbon storage in forests and local reliance on forests for continuing livelihood benefits through extraction of forest biomass make it especially important that scientists better understand the relationship between carbon storage in forests and their contributions to livelihoods,’ said lead author Professor Arun Agrawal. ‘We show that larger forest size and greater rule-making autonomy at the local level are associated with high carbon storage and livelihood benefits,’ he said.

Marine Systems:

In a separate development, a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has estimated that marine ecosystems are storing carbon equal to half the annual emissions of the global transport sector. It says that 55 per cent of the biological carbon captured in the world is removed from the atmosphere by marine organisms, producing so-called ‘blue carbon’. Unlike carbon capture and storage on land, where carbon may be locked away only for decades or centuries, that stored in the oceans remains for millennia. ‘We already know that marine ecosystems are multi-trillion dollar assets linked to sectors such as tourism, coastal defense, fisheries and water purification services: now it is emerging that they are natural allies against climate change,’ said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director. ‘Indeed this report estimates that halting losses and catalysing the recovery of marine ecosystems might contribute to offsetting up to seven percent of current fossil fuel emissions and at a fraction of the costs of technologies to capture and store carbon at power stations,’ he added.

Kate says: Unfortunately, this is not necessarily all good news… Check out this article in the Guardian on how carbon absorption is raising ocean acidity to corrosive levels.

“Know the Number” Campaign & Carbon Counter

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on July 2nd, 2009

Source: GreenRazor, the GreenPages Newsletter #89

Carbon Counter
Image: Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors

The Carbon Counter and “Know the Number” campaign is part of a groundbreaking climate change awareness and education initiative sponsored by Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors group with scientific data supplied from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and include all long-lived greenhouse gases covered under the Kyoto and Montreal Protocols (24 gases excluding ozone and aerosols). The Counter, which stands over 21 meters (two stories) serves as a blatant reminder of our continuing damage to the atmosphere.

Read the rest of this entry »

Event – Postgraduate International Course on “Global Environmental Change” – 9 to 16 November

Posted in Events, Movements, Research by fedwards on August 8th, 2008


Integrated Assessment of Global Environmental Change Many aspects of our planet are changing rapidly due to human activity. Over the last 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in other comparable period of time. All these changes, including climate change, land use change, pollution and biodiversity loss are
strongly interrelated and cannot be seen in isolation. Because their impacts influence the entire planet, the combined changes are commonly recognized as global environmental change.

To study and understand the causes of global change and possible responses and to learn how to use scientific information in Integrated Assessments. The course is not only meant to discuss the latest scientific findings on global change issues, but also to train skills that are needed for making this knowledge available for policy making

This multidisciplinary course is especially intended for PhD students from the natural and social sciences.

The summer course will be held 9-16 November 2008, at a central location in the Netherlands.

The course will consist of lectures by prominent international scientists, model exercises and exercises in writing texts for Integrated Assessments. Besides the regular lectures, each day will end with a stimulating aperitif lecture, which will include controversial and philosophical topics. Active discussion with the lecturers will be stimulated by asking participants to prepare propositions for each lecture. Interaction with lecturers and fellow participants will be further stimulated by poster presentations.

Finally, a small group assignment will encourage discussion the lectures, guided by topical questions. The study load is equivalent to 3 credits (ECTS).

The course is primarily intended for PhD student, and is limited to 30 participants. However, motivated post-docs and other researchers are also encouraged to apply.

You can send your application to the SENSE Education Desk ( before 1 September 2008., including:

  1. Your Name
  2. Name and address of research group
  3. Status: PhD student/ postdoc/ other
  4. If applicable: graduate school name
  5. a short motivation letter, and
  6. CV

After a selection procedure, you will be notified about participation by September 2008. You can also register online

The course fee is EUR 500, except for PhD students from the Research Schools SENSE, PE&RC and Mansholt with an approved Education Plan (TSP), for whom the fee is EUR 350. For a few participants from developing countries the fee may be waived. Fee includes B&B, coffee, tea, lunches, dinners and course materials.


  • Rik Leemans, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
  • Robert T. Watson, University of East Anglia, UK
  • Ekko Van Ierland, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
  • Frans Berkhout, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Pavel Kabat, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
  • Carolien Kroeze, Wageningen University
  • And many others

SENSE Research School for the Natural and Socio-Economic Sciences of the Environment (

Lindsey Wuisan
Environmental Systems Analysis Group
Wageningen University, The Netherlands

Model – Urban farms

Posted in Models by fedwards on July 30th, 2008

The abstract below is from Metropolis Magazine, Visit the post to see some incredible pictures of how some people transform urban spaces into production zones.

Urban Farm
By Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson
Friday, June 20, 2008 5:17 pm

Summer kicks off in earnest today with the official opening of the annual Young Architects Program installation at P.S. 1. This year, WORK Architecture was selected for their ambitious vision of transforming the angular concrete courtyard into a lush urban farm. We got a sneak peak of P.F.1 (Public Farm One) last night.

Architects Amale Andraos and Dan Wood created a living structure of plants and vegetables out of inexpensive, recyclable materials. Large tubes of coated cardboard filled with a clever combination of fabric inserts and soil are connected into a sweeping wave, creating a kind of flying carpet of food. It’s as if a farm has blown in and landed in Queens. (It reminds me a bit of Bill McDonough’s plans for rooftop farms in the Chinese city of Liuzhou).

Read more:

Urban Farm

Provocations – A four-day work week?

Posted in Models by fedwards on July 25th, 2008

Discussed recently in the Post-Carbon Cities Newsletter for July,, was the idea of a four-day week driven by energy consumption concerns. See the article below. To view the newsletter visit

“A four-day work week? State workers in Utah are now working four-day weeks. So are county workers in Marion County, Florida. A handful of cities in Nevada, California and Arizona are experimenting with the idea, and Suffolk County, New York and the state of West Virginia are also considering it.

In both private and public offices, the four-day work week is an increasingly popular response to high energy costs. Cutting work days saves employees money because it reduces their commuting by 20%. And if the four days are the same for all employees, it can also save city, county or state governments money in facilities. Marion County officials expect this measure to save them $250,000 in energy costs this year. North Miami hopes to save $200,000 by closing its city hall one day a week – but some argue that there may be tradeoffs in service.

That last point is debatable, because while the facilities will be open fewer days, longer hours may make services more available for citizens who work during the day. At any rate, the four-day workweek is part of the toolbox for officials dealing with energy uncertainty.”

'productive weekend1' by Divwerf

Resource – Feel like some inspiration?! Check out TED! Ideas worth spreading!

Posted in Models, Research, Visions by fedwards on July 10th, 2008

As reads from their website, “TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader. The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes). This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. More than 200 talks from our archive are now available, with more added each week.

TED is a fantastic, inspirational resource which offers a range of talks that would engage the Sustainable Cities Net audience. For example, related themes include A Greener Future?, Design Like You Give a Damn, Inspired by Nature, Technology, History and Destiny, The Power of Cities, The Rise of Collaboration, and more…. Check it out and enjoy!

Event – Peak Oil, Climate Change and the Sydney Transition: Permaculture’s Latest or Greatest Challenge? – 21 July

Posted in Events, Models, Movements, Visions by fedwards on July 4th, 2008

Please find message below from Permaculture North, Sydney, Australia of the forthcoming lecture regarding transition towns and relocalisation of community to address peak oil and climate change.

Monday, 21st July 7pm for 7.30pm sharp start
Ku-ring-gai Centre for Seniors, 259 Pacific Highway Lindfield

Peak Oil, Climate Change and the Sydney Transition: Permaculture’s Latest or Greatest Challenge?
After decades of debate, challenge scepticism and uncertainty there is now a growing global consensus on the reality of global warming, though still debate about solutions and weak commitment to action in many nations. Peak Oil – though first predicted in 1956 – is a newer debate and is going through a similar cycle. There are still nations and vested interests in denial and plenty of sceptics. There are plenty of others hoping for a ‘techno-fix’ to the Peak Oil issue. The impacts of Peak Oil, however, are starting to bite right now, much earlier than severe climate change effects. Rising fuel prices, rising food prices, airline cost-cutting and price increases, transport industry struggling and even food-riots are current daily news. We may have much less time to adjust to Peak Oil than to Global Warming. No one can know the exact impacts or timing, but the future scenarios all seem to involve both energy and climate volatility and uncertainty.

Transition Sydney has been formed to stimulate and support local action initiatives aimed at building community resilience and planned adjustment to a world where cheap energy is no longer available and our personal and collective carbon footprint must be reduced to save the planet’s climate and biosystems. Such community-driven ‘relocalisation’ initiatives are likely to prove the most important response to the future challenges, particularly if government responses prove ineffective or even dangerous.

In a multi-media and interactive presentation, Peter Driscoll and Andrew Harvey from Transition Sydney will provide key information on Peak Oil and Climate Change and how these two realities might interact. They will examine possible future scenarios and possible solutions. The vulnerability of the Sydney Region – a metropolitan conglomeration of over 4 million people, 40 local government areas and 8 large city hubs will be discussed. They will then focus on the areas of Sydney serviced by Permaculture North’s activities and activism, the actions that can be undertaken and the central role of Permaculture in building localised community resilience. Finally they will discuss the Transition Towns model of community engagement with local councils to develop local energy descent action pathways for their communities.
After the meeting we will have an open discussion and debate about permaculture strategies to transition. Be prepared for a thought provoking and stimulating meeting this Monday that will get you planning for action.

More information can be found at Phone 1300 887 145, or email info

Provocation – Towards zero carbon in building design

Posted in Models by fedwards on July 1st, 2008

Please find an abstract below from an interesting article which discusses some of the issues involved in going for zero carbon emissions in building design. The full article can be viewed at

Abstract: “Whole-house thinking”, Dr. David Strong, The Ecologist, 20/06/2008
“What’s the point of zero-carbon homes that aren’t fit for habitation? There is more to sustainable building than meeting Government targets, argues Dr David Strong

The UK Government has declared a laudable and ambitious plan to ensure all our new homes are zero carbon by 2016 and new non-domestic buildings zero carbon by 2019. The impact of this plan has been felt throughout the property and construction industry, and the drive towards zero-carbon has already had a powerful effect in galvanising the house-building and property development community, and in stimulating innovation. I am not sure that would have happened without such a strong legislative and policy initiative.

Of course the huge surge in interest in sustainable building is good news. After 35 years working in the industry, it is highly gratifying to see sustainability finally reaching the top of the political, planning and construction agenda. The emphasis being put by the Government on more energy-efficient buildings, and greener communities generally, is a truly welcome and encouraging sign.

However, those of us who are passionate about delivering a genuinely sustainable built environment currently face a real dilemma.

Here’s our problem: there is so much more to delivering exemplary built environments than zero carbon. In fact, there is even a danger that a fixation on zero carbon may result in highly perverse outcomes and deliver seriously damaging and unintended consequences in terms of sustainability – with the pursuit of the ‘best’ becoming the enemy of the good.”

The full article can be viewed at