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.

 

 

Reporting and risk

Tis a very cold, snowy day here in the Gatineau Hills. I don’t know how many of you experienced the great ice storm of 1998 but since that time, weather reports here seem to have changed. Many criticized ‘the system’ for not being able to predict the severity of the storm, but how do you predict an event that is so atypical and happens about once every hundred years? Life is random and chaotic, and if we are lucky, we will die in our sleep well into our eighties. Our perception or risk can be so distorted by what we hear, take the misinformation about crime currently being put out by our government and its impacts on seniors. I keep trying to convince my aging mother that crime rates have steadily been decreasing, but she doesn’t believe me, how do we get the real information out there when our political leaders rather than leading, are contributing to a culture of fear?

Our perception of risk is so shaped by our media and the integrity of our leaders–the information given to us. For example, going back to the weather, we now have temperatures reported with a wind chill factored in. We have severe cold warnings, I have never felt so cold! What has changed, in fact, temperatures and winters here in Ottawa appear to be getting milder. Winter is a magical time, when things slow down, a good time to reflect and write, to ski, to skate, to snowshoe. Yes, it is important to know weather conditions, but the context in which information is presented is so critical.

There is a tendency as we age to become more conservative, but I refuse to become fearful of my environment, of the magical natural world in which I live. What does an induced culture of fear do to our lives and how we play?

We can act Now

Winter is upon in the East, and this weekend will be lots of snow and cold. Many complain at this time of year, but I wonder, winter for me, is a time to slow down, to think more about whether or not I want to drive, and just to be.

A dear friend sent me this article in the New York Times on Kristianstad. The city has crossed a crucial threshold: the city and surrounding county, with a population of 80,000, essentially use no oil, natural gas or coal to heat homes and businesses, even during the long frigid winters. It is a complete reversal from 20 years ago, when all of their heat came from fossil fuels. It generates its energy from biogas, a form of methane, using all of its waste products from agriculture, its landfills and so forth, to generate its energy. Kirstianstad didn’t create a new industry, it closed the loop, although a significant infrastructure investment was initially required, Kristianstad has gone further, harnessing biogas for an across-the-board regional energy makeover that has halved its fossil fuel use and reduced the city’s carbon dioxide emissions by one-quarter in the last decade.

The start-up costs of the centralized biomass heating system cost $144 million, including constructing a new incineration plant, laying networks of pipes, replacing furnaces and installing generators. The payback has already been significant: the city now saves approximately $4 million each year to heat its municipal buildings rather than it would spend if it still relied on oil and electricity. If the costs of GHG emissions was factored into its savings, they would be even more each year, as we are still far away from having the real costs of production included into the costs of doing business.

So what is stopping us, why do the United States and Canada at the national level drag their feet and resist embracing what is clearly the emerging new economy and social innovation of the future? Reduce your input costs, control your output costs, both of which are going to become increasingly more expensive, now and get a jump start on your competitors.

How to Save the World

This grey, dreary day in Ottawa has made me think about some of my earlier posts, our failure to communicate the urgency of environmental issues, and to spur people to act now. This video by Victor Frankel, a concentration camp survivor, who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, has a key message. I read this book in my early twenties, which gave me the tools to transcend the tragic loss of a wonderful human being in 1998. Combined with the lessons in this second video, maybe we can change the world.

Crowd Accelerated Innovation

This amazing, empowering video shows how web video is changing and can change the world, using the ideas of crowd, light and desire. Desire is the critical key and together they form a lethal combination (medium) to attracts people to new ideas, simply invite the crowd, turn up the light and build the desire. Based on a new paradigm of openness, millions of people could be empowered to change the world. The speaker reminds us that the dark side of the world allergic to the light, so how can we use this concept of crowd accelerated innovation for sustainable community development? I throw that challenge out to all of us. Innovation comes from groups, social innovation does not happen without collaboration, a picture, music file, software, under-reported significance of the rise of on-line video, share talent digitally. Its conclusion is one of the powerful visions of how we can remake our world sustainably.

Social Capital and Network Formation

When I started my social capital research over four years ago, my purpose was to try and discover how to use network formation before a crisis to try and mobilize action around environmental issues. We humans are an odd species, in spite of our language, our ability to predict, we seem to respond best to crisis, especially when we can’t see, feel or smell them until it is too late, climate change being one of the big ones. This video is a wonderful in terms of explaining how network formation could be used strategically for social change. It also relates to my theme of how to communicate in a meaningful way, what is happening to our world. I would very much appreciate your ideas on how to advance this as a meaningful strategy.