what are we going to do about it?

I have been to the Sustainable Living Festival (SLF) over the weekend (promoting oases Graduate School). The SLF was a fabulous display of the energy and passion for the sorts of practices and solutions that may help to resolve our crisis of sustainability.

One of the stall holders though in her website makes the point that “(m)any of us are now switched into green habits” and then describes another green habit to switch on –  the payment of a fixed fee for enthusiastic community groups to plant trees to offset an average year’s carbon emissions. A great idea to make offsetting easy.

Despite though these great ideas being pursued by the individuals, groups and organisations at this festival the following questions emerged.

I would note though the answers to these questions suggest other alternatives that work alongside, are complementary to, the many and varied work that individuals, groups and organisations are doing in moving towards more sustainable living.

My first question is, why aren’t stall holders who seem to be doing similar things, for example offsetting carbon emissions, talking to/working with each other? (BTW I have suggested to a SLF Committee member that a stallholders session is held at the next Festival as a way of helping of enabling this and further I volunteered to be part of arranging this). 

Secondly why was a “debate” held? Have we not moved on (particularly those at the Sustainable Living Festival)  from the position that we need to argue the case, to the need to find ways to move more collectively on these issues? Isn’t the metaphor of battle inappropriate at this stage? (See my post on processes for more on the etymology of debating). Who are we “battling” with? And were the people or groups that we need to battle at the SLF?

Further, another festival, this one “of Ideas” had the theme in 2009 “Climate Change/Cultural Change” and this year has the theme “The Pursuit of Identity: Landscape, History & Genetics”.

If the cultural change of the 2009 title was/is required then how do we go about doing this?

I would contend, as would many change management practitioners, that this, cultural change, doesn’t happen effectively by telling about the nature of the problem and describing solutions derived in a disconnected way. Cultural change takes time it is not a one-off event or even a small number of events.

At these three festivals the headline program was filled with lectures. Lectures provide excellent means to pass important information on but little to engage the audience more generally .

What intrigues me about this is that we still aren’t “getting” that we need to work more collectively, it still seems sustainability is a more or less individual pursuit. I recognise though that individuality is deeply embedded in our society.

It seems to me that there is lots of information about climate change available to us now and having decided that this is an issue (the SLF for example are describing their mission as “a safe climate”)  then “what are we going to do about it?” seems to be the right question for our times.

Bringing together people allows for an ongoing-ness to be generated. It is this ongoing conversation or dialogue or deliberation that I would like to “harness” but maybe a better word is “enable” to emerge and to continue.

Any one want to join in this enterprise?

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About Jenni

I am interested in working with others to enhance the sustainability of human systems. My practice is to engage with people by drawing on their own ways of knowing and understanding. I orient people toward the “pull” of future intentions, rather than the blind "push" of past habits and "best practice". I encourage people to break out of their cognitive silos, to think laterally and to focus on the whole problem systemically in all its inter-disciplinary complexity. My practice works through the essential processes of innovation – mobilising resources, enrolling peers, engaging allies and building public support. This form of engineering practice is about manoeuvring, dissolving boundaries, always being in action, and recognising that function, congruence and transformation are emergent properties generated through active learning by doing.
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