More reflections on sustainability events…

I have been to a session about sustainability for diverse communities. It seems that there is lots of work that has been/is going on around getting food (transport in food miles), water, energy and waste (generally but also of these items) through the GreenTown program. Examples are provided at Environment Victoria’s website. This parallels the wider community campaigns around these issues.

The themes that emerged for me from this work are training of community leaders and assessors, who provide assessments,  information, simple tools and some engagement. The recipients are gaining some understanding of some aspects of sustainability. They described quite good outcomes from this work (three times better than other programs). It is necessary to shift people somewhat though it is largely a one way interaction.

I was drawn back to my thinking about what is required for sustainability…we need to choose what it is that we are trying to sustain…these programs choose what the topic is, that is food (transport in food miles), water, energy and waste (generally but also of these items).  The choice of what to sustain is a deeper and wider question that I think cannot be answered through these types of programs. Another different style is required.

I was though interested in commentary made by Angela in describing her work with trying to keep the Merri Creek clean by engaging with the businesses that are in the catchment for this watercourse. She described a series of engagements with the businesses and working alongside them to identify their issues, linking it to something that they can understand (bringing in the freshwater invertebrates from the creek, linking the discussion to fishing, etc). Training of liaison people to be able to do this work including shaking hands so that people can “eye” them…etc. She also made an impassioned plea for more time to be spent with people (rather than going for large numbers of more superficial engagements).

I couldn’t agree with her more…it takes time for people to engage in this…it takes time for our minds to “open” and we need a process that allows for this “opening”…face-to-face works because the liaison people can “follow” the line of thinking of the person(s). Writing does not work in this way and entering with a script also does not allow for this…

I was further interested in commentary made about generations – that the elderly (especially migrants and refugees) can know more about sustainability than their offspring, although they may not describe it in these terms, they recognise the principles. Further there is a return to interest in the “home” culture by third generations. Here then is a resource that is available to “tap” (though this is a terrible metaphor). It is though a resource that doesn’t get used up it can be revitalised by engaging with it.

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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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