Category Archives: Uncategorized

What is reconciliation?

I write this post today on the anniversary of my beloved son’s death, May 10th, 1998. It is interesting how grief flows, starts and stops, and then moves on. Those who have yet to experience it, don’t understand those of us who live this journey. I think sometimes they think we are stuck when we remember after so long. It is not intentional, some years I almost forget and other years, it is like yesterday.

Fear and Lying

Just read an interesting article on visioning exercises. Essentially, it claims that most visioning exercises are not grounded in reality by being absent from place, we are bound by our ‘expectational reflexivity’. Further, by ignoring our fears and uncertainties over the present and the future, is a major barrier to fully engaging with the challenges and opportunities of a sustainable future.

Similarly, my former doctoral supervisor, dear colleague and friend, Dr. Stuart Hill, leads visioning exercises by asking people to tell the most outrageous lies about the sustainability accomplishments they have achieved, and then they backcast to talk about what is preventing them from acting on their ‘lie’.

I am going to write Stuart and ask him if he has a paper on his technique. Stay tuned.

Saunders & Jenkins. (2012). “Absent fear”: Re-envisioning a future geography. Futures, 44: 494-503


Form and Function

Kaid Benfield, director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a recent article, reviews a book by Jeff Speck entitled Walkable City. It is a novel way to review a book, an excellent communications technique by offering to sit down with the author over a drink to offer his critique. His article goes on to share a very substantive discussion about urban walkability.

Every Action Counts

I found this video to be very powerful, we forget how everyone, every step makes a difference. Acting builds even greater agency to do more, to make a difference. There is an article by Bandura, entitled, Human Agency in Social Cognitive Theory, that talks about self-efficacy, the ability to get on going even with setbacks and failures. For example, Gertrude Stein continued to submit poems for 20 years before one was finally accepted. “Early rejection is the rule, rather than the exception, in other creative endeavors.” Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime. Hollywood initially rejected Fred Astaire for being a balding, skinny actor who can dance a little. Decca Records turned down a recording contract with the Beatles, “We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on their way out.”

The time between between discovery and technical realization typically spans several decades. Maybe we have been more successful at communicating sustainable development than we believe, now we need to get the urgency out there without forgetting people’s needs for self-esteem, showing the successful innovations and building more agency.

Humour, Beauty and Truth

This video on ethical oil makes me wonder if we can get farther communicating the issues with humour than with messages of ‘doom and gloom’. But what is the balance between facing the problems without becoming disempowered, between realism and hope? Perhaps through multiple ways of communication, through multi-media channels with humour, and I think, most importantly, always illuminating the power and beauty of nature. You may wish to view our youtube channel, HEADTalks, where we are experimenting with multiple ways of communicating about sustainable community development.

The Power of Voice

Maybe this video answers some of the questions I have asked about how to communicate, how to engage more people in our conversations to live more sustainably? What are the 10 things YOU know to be true?

Some Answers about How to Communicate More Effectively

This list of readings gives some great ideas about our failure to communicate and things we should think about when trying to get people to move to action, including ourselves.

Jay Griffiths. 2009. “The Transition Initiative: Changing the Scale of Change.” July/August 2009. Orion Magazine. (Last accessed November 1, 2011).

Franke James. 2009. Bothered By My Green Conscience. British Columbia, Canada: New Society Publishers.*See: newer visual essays and more about her workshops at

Frances Moore Lappé. 2011. EcoMinds: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want. Philadelphia, PA: Nation Books.

Renee Lertzman. 2008. The Myth of Apathy. The Ecologist. (Last accessed October 26, 2011).

Renee Lertzman. 2011. The Myth of Apathy. Sustainable Life Media. (Last accessed October 26, 2011)

A Dialogue Between Renee Lertzman and Kari Norgaard. 2011. Ecopyschology 3 (Last accessed October 26, 2011).

Kari Norgaard. 2011. Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions and Everyday Life. Cambridge, MA: M IT Press.

Amy Seidl. 2011. Finding Higher Ground: Adaptation in the Age of Warming. Boston: MA: Beacon Press.

Sandra Steingraber. 2011. Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children In an Age of Environmental Crisis. Philadelphia, PA: De Capo Press.

The Old Debates no Longer are Working

So, after a long time I changed my header, and with my cropping, how much do I affect your perception? I am so very tired of the same old scripts, especially the election here in Ontario, McGinty, he is the tax man,can people not realize what this polarized debate is doing to our society? Where are the progressive policy discussions? These boom and bust cycles of reducing taxes is destroying the good society. I have started to blog on my research site about this. Regardless of your politics, where is the evidence, but maybe it is not about evidence, but ideology? McGinty had done the most for energy efficiency in the province, education, what is the meaning of evidence based policy making when we are proceeding with the ominbus crime bill, in spite of all the evidence, in Canada and the United States?

Reconciliation and regeneration

Design will Save the World

Friday night and I have been suffering from a virulent gastro-intestinal virus going the rounds. My sister remarked the other day that people think climate change is all about global warming and cooling, when it is about increasing severity and frequency. She also stated that the same thing is happening with being sick, people are now getting colds that are lasting 3 to 4 to 6 weeks, when they used to last 3-4 days. The same with viruses, apparently this one, lasts about a week and a half, rather than the more typical 24 to 48 hour maximum.

There’s a Frenchman named Patrick Blanc who has been designing vertical gardens that loop up hotel walls and germinate across shopping mall interiors in Paris, Kuwait, Bangkok, and Gdansk. From his headquarters in Sweden, Folke Günther developed a vertical growing wall to promote more efficient and ecologically sound urban farming. He has named it the “Folkewall,” after himself, but vertical gardens are also being called “growing walls” and “living walls.” He has a very interesting blog about how to get rid of carbon dioxide, improve the soil and earn money, all at the same time. Arbo-architects Ferdinand Ludwig, Oliver Storz and Hannes Schwertfeger call their work “building botany.” They make building structures that are a fusion of trees and steel pipes. The two intertwine such that organic and inorganic become a single being. Essentially, they want to make living, breathing, growing houses (Spaces and Flows Newsletter, February 2011).

Here in North America,  a colleague of mine from Ryerson University, Professor Nina-Marie Lister participated in a design competition for building highway passes for biodiversity conservation. Some of the designs are really awesome, again showing the power of design to connect or disconnect us from our landscapes, check out their video.

Can one really improve on the design of the hummingbird in this header–the beauty of the colours, his fuel efficiency, the contribution he makes to the system through pollination, and just the sheer magic of his being? So, designing with nature, rather than over nature, will save the world, simply redesigning one building, one community, one region at a time.