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We-think sustainability

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Alternative titles:

  • We-thnk we can tackle climate change
  • Sustainability for all

The following short article - original version by Phil Green, Founder, Sustainable Community Action Wiki - http://sca21.wikia.com is in response to, and contribution to, Charles Leadbeater's We-think project. / External link: We-Think


"Sustainable development is never going to materialise as a result of edicts from New York or Geneva. It needs to be constructed, shared and implemented in a truly global way that takes account of traditional, local and non-Western approaches." Steve Bass, senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development and former chief environment advisor at the UK government's Department for International Development.


Climate change Edit

Climate change has been described as the greatest threat facing humanity (1). Like everything else our response to it is influenced by how we organise things.

Awareness of the scale of the challenge makes it seem obvious that this isn't something just for experts, but that we all have to be involved in some way or other.

Awareness of urgency of the situation makes it seem that old ways of treating most of us as passive consumers, incapable of interest or involvement in higher purposes, or patronising us in other ways, just won't do.

Given both the scale and urgency, institutional and establishment responses that are primarily about the self-interests of organisations and elites look just plain absurd. Top down won't fix it. It'll barely scratch the surface - too little, too late.

Open and inclusive ways of organising - ways which tap into everything on offer on the sliding scale of contribution, on the other hand, look increasingly like our last, best hope.

Valuing the commons, getting up on the stage and hands on innovation Edit

The environmental and sustainability movements aren't exactly strangers to these things - think Green Fairs, Greenpeace, Eco villages, Permaculture, Clean Up the World, naked bike rides, Critical Mass, city centre beaches, microgeneration and low carbon community initiatives. There are already (November 2006) well over a hundred Local Post Carbon Groups (2) around the world. Concerned environment and sustainability activists long ago began deciding not to wait for government or our so-called leaders (7).

Valuing where we live Edit

If the next big thing is us, then part of it will be about where we live. Of course there are the trends affecting cities, but there's also a scenario - Peak oil, or when the oil runs out - that may affect landscapes and localisation everywhere. As well as valuing personal individuality there may a valuing of more locally distinct communities, a reaction against the likes of 'clone town Britain' (3)

If the genie is already out of the bottle it seems unlikely that people will accept recent rhetoric about double devolution and localism not being matched by local democracy that feels more open. Up to two-thirds of UK citizens don't believe they could influence decisions affecting their local area (4). To enable properly informed democratic debate, especially at local level, officialdom will have to become less possessive with 'our data' (5).

Arguably there is an advantage to central government in 'letting go' more at the local level, which is simply that it can then focus better on brokering the inevitable conflicts between the local and the strategic. Such conflicts, for example over the future of airports and air travel, traffic congestion, where we get our power from, adapting to specific climate change effects, etc, will arguably become more serious the longer we fail to get our act together in response to climate change, peak oil and other sustainability challenges.

Valuing where and how we work Edit

If the next big thing is us, then part of it will be also be about where and how we work, and who we work with. As well as with offices, there's huge potential for somebody, somewhere to revolutionise our creativity and collaboration in the increasing amounts of time we spend in partnerships, face to face networking events. conferences or gatherings of one kind or another. So that networks of real life face to face events, parallel to and mutually supportive of electronic networking, could begin to replicate the sort of collaboration being achieved online.

Attraction not doom and gloom Edit

I can't help thinking that part of the reason its been easy in the past to succumb to doom and gloom in the face of climate change is just a reflection of the fact that much of the establishment (who have a big influence on the media) resents the truth of it that we're going to have to change. There are signs though that there's now more acceptance that change can be viewed as opportunity. (ref?)

There's been a (UK) government initiative recently called 'Together we Can' (6). Although like all government initiatives it may not escape some cynicism, it at least begins to say what it's about. Together we may be stronger, but also there are ways of coming together which don't ask us to give up our individuality, our diversity, our creativity and our willingness to challenge and be challenged (fairly), but actually rather value those things. Ordinary people, communities and the more progressive and enlightened parts of business and government don't have to succumb to negativity. This late in the day in our response to 'the greatest threat facing humanity' we can't afford the luxury of a negative thought.

Only connect Edit

"Action is eloquence." William Shakespeare

If you'd like to see a more sustainable world, join with us. Add your voice to the growing accumulation of 'we-think' - our collective best shot at what it is we need to do to make it so. To splice together a couple fo quotes - "only connect" (E. M. Forster) so that more and more of us can "... be the change that you want to see in the world." (Mohandas Gandhi). Sustainable Community Action Wiki - http://sca21.wikia.com

References Edit

  1. Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director, Tony Juniper, Transport 2000 News release, 13 July 2005
  2. www.relocalize.net
  3. New Economics Foundation
  4. Recent research for the department for communities and local government shows that people want to have a greater stake in their local neighbourhood. Two-thirds of those asked did not believe they could influence decisions affecting their local area. Just one in five was satisfied with the opportunities available to them to participate in local decision-making, with one in three dissatisfied. The Guardian Tuesday October 24, 2006. / 37 per cent of people feel they can influence decisions affecting their local area. 20 per cent feel they could influence decisions affecting Great Britain. Source: 2007 Citizenship Survey, Communities and Local Government. Both measures have fallen since 2001 where they were at 44 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.
  5. Free Our Data, a Guardian Technology campaign
  6. Together we Can
  7. Nearly 90% of the UK population claim to take small steps themselves to reduce their own carbon emissions, whilst only 4% of the population think UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has made effective progress on the issue whilst in office. Two thirds of the population are concerned about climate change, and over 40% claim climate change policies would influence their vote. Source: FoE press release October 24 2006

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