Sunday, 25 February 2007

Selling Sun Cream to Eskimos

You might of heard a little about the Nobel Peace Prize 2007 nominations. The names are said to include ex-vice president Al Gore, the Bolivian President and Opray Winfrey (they gotta be kidding, right?!), although we will never know for sure as the names are kept secret for fifty years. Ever wondered how the prizes work?

For me, and I suppose this blog, one candidate stands out, Sheila Watt-Cloutier. Sheila is an Inuit or more commonly known as an Eskimo. What most impresses me is that Sheila was brought up in the traditional way, in fact for the first ten years of her life, her only transport was a sled and a pack of dogs. Naturally, this is not the reason for her nomination.

After her education at McGill University in Montreal, Sheila became spokesperson for the Inuit people holding many representative positions and contributed to the negotiation of the Stockholm convention. Her most recent work is taking on the US government for the violation of Human Rights of the Inuit people. It sounds a little over board, but I think Sheila is putting a face to the climate problem by telling the Inuit story, maybe a story like this:

ps: before you start you might want to look up Shaman and taboo

Did you enjoy it, thought so. Here are another 2 short scenes, I love the the way the question is answered .

Hope they will never need any, sun cream that is, but that is up to you and I.

Well done and good luck Sheila!

Friday, 23 February 2007

Financial organisations lead the way

A recent article in computing magazine reported on the initiatives undertaken by the likes of HSBC, Lloyds TSB and Nationwide to be more energy efficient. HSBC is piloting virtual boardrooms across the world from June 2007 in a bid reduce both the cost and the environmental impact of air travel – a flight to New York is equivalent to 1.2 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide. Amongst other initiatives is the drive by both Nationwide and HSBC to encourage customers to stop paper statements and complete all banking online. As an avid online banker I find the convenience of paying all my bills and transferring money part of my everyday life and would be severely inconvenienced without it.

However, I am still guilty of receiving my paper statement every month and will continue to do so as there is some part of me that thinks this big IT system containing all of our information will one day fail and I will have to rely on my trusty paper statement to remind me who and what I pay every month. This leaves me asking myself the question, “am I a laggard” for not wholly embracing e-banking? The argument becomes more compelling when I realise that I didn’t know what blogs, mash ups, and flickr were until January 2007. Moore’s admittance in Crossing the Chasm that he too falls into this category when adopting personal technology offers me slight solace (that and the fact that when I read on in the article, the take up of online statements is less than 18%)!

Having diverted slightly, I want to finish my blog by telling you all that the article also taught me something I will think about as I leave the office every night – switching off the lights will provide enough energy to make 1000 cups of tea. Maybe I will educate my colleagues by advertising this at the door, on recycled paper of course!

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Ecobuild at Earl's Court

Next week at Earls Court, London the stage will be set for an exhibition around the construction industry looking at Energy efficieny, sustainability... Amongst the various exhibition halls will be Ecobuild looking at "designing and building a sustainable future". Sustainablogability will be there to report back on the event...

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Google Generation still in Nappies

Confused about the title? Let me explain a little. The first time I heard the phrase, google generation, was in Tony Blair's final Labour Party conference speech. Name-dropping, Me? Never. In fact Mr Blair is just one in many world figures that talk about this phenomenon in public speeches.

I like the Wikipedia definition of Google Generation the most. Briefly, it is the generation whose first port of call for knowledge is the internet. That is definitively me, and as you are reading this, it is probably you as well.

I was talking about the title wasn't I, "nappies", do you know how many were used in the UK last year? 3.5 Billion give or take a few. Problem is they can take up to 500 years to decompose.
Sustainable? If so, for how long? What will the google generation do?
Type in a string like nappy recycling, wait 0.033 secs and read the answer…..

On this occasion, besides massive recycling plants, no viable answer comes back; in 2007 we will no doubt send 3.5 Billion little bum wrappers to the tip.

Last week I heard something that really got me thinking (they don’t happen often). It was this:
In society, as we face large and complex problems, instead of looking forward to technology, innovation etc. Look back, how did our ancestors deal with these issues.

Think I’ll try this string, "potty training 1900's", see where it goes. The second item is a story told by Gramma Geri about her Scottish mother in law, who toilet trained her new born in six weeks. Picking up on this, further searches reveal societies and organisations devoted to these techniques called "Elimination Training". As expected in this day and age, I could join clubs, talk to people and learn more. Overall pretty convincing stuff. If we were planning another baby, I would struggle for an excuse not to at least try it. On the whole it sounds a good solution, well maybe not for Pampers.

Hopefully I have got the point across, or maybe google generation still in nappies was a subtle metaphor for how we are in our infancy in knowledge management and collective problem solving. Or perhaps, to qualify my first bash at blog and social computing. Na, I am not that clever, anyway here is a picture of my dog.


Friday, 16 February 2007

Is it the influence of Sustainablogability or just a hot topic in 2007?!

I listened with interest to the news this morning that the organisers of Live 8 are planning Live Earth this Summer.

The BBC website states that the organisers expect Live Earth to become "the model for future carbon neutral concerts" ( but I'm a cynic at heart and I wonder if the hot topic for 2008 will still be the climate change debate?


Will Mechanical Turks Save the World?

For those who have never heard this term, a recent article in the Independent Newspaper outlines how you can earn money from the internet by doing such bizarrely different tasks such as language translation to answering off-beam questions. Before you all rush to earn your fortune, the hourly rate on offer is usually way below minimum wage, but it is interesting how the wisdom of the crowd is now being used to complete tasks which were either expensive or impossible before. What is more interesting is that the Mturk-ers providing their services for next to peanuts are actually doing it - this can only be explained by the social computing phenomenon that has lead to MySpace, YouTube and the rest.

But is this relevant for sustainability? Well, this shrinking virtual world surely omeans that searching for services becomes easier and hence less of the world's resources will be consumed in the hunt for a provider. In the old old days, if you wanted to translate something, you probably invited suppliers for interview, set up a contract and posted the information backwards and forwards. In the future, no search or contracts will be necessary as the market will provide the lowest cost (and CO2) solution.

So will Mturks save the world? Well, not quite, but maybe this ultimate market solution will start to chip away at some of our assumptions of where work resides and thus gives an opportunity for consumption reduction.


Saturday, 10 February 2007

Creative Energy Homes Project

Nottingham University
set up its Creative Energy Homes Project bringing networking between academia and the building industy to look at how to reduce carbon emissions using modern methods of construction (MMC) getting away from the traditional brick & mortar techniques. Over the coming months 6 new homes will spring up at the campus allowing comprehensive studies to be carried out for future reference


Zero Carbon Homes

The hot sustainability topic on the UK government's sustainability website is housing... Our homes account for c. 27% of all the UK's carbon emissions. The government's aim is that all new homes will be zero carbon by the 2016.

Earlier this week (7th February) the gauntlet was thrown down to the construction industry by English Partnerships to speed up its response to climate change by building zero carbon developments. Trevor Beattie, the Director at English Partnerships responsible for the aptly named "Carbon Challenge" said “Climate change is with us now – so now is the time to act. English Partnerships is already working with developers to accelerate the move towards zero carbon development and this challenge will redouble our efforts.

“The built environment is one of the most significant contributors to global warming, which means our work can have a massive impact on leading the way in cutting domestic carbon emissions.”

The challenge particularly hopes to tackle the efficiency of new housing stock...
...however over 13 million homes in the UK are inadequately insulated according to the National Insulation Association - and at the current rate of c. 450,000 per annum cavity wall insulations we have a long way to go!


Sustainability - what does it mean?

So what does Sustainability actually mean then? It would seem from reading through the press and CSR literature different things to different people and organisations. In the olden days we would take the tried and trusted ( or should that mean tired and dusty) English Oxford Dictionary meaning almost as gospel however perhaps nowadays we would turn to the global world for comment by referring to a Wikipedia definition:

"an attempt to provide the best outcomes for the human and natural environments both now and into the indefinite future. It relates to the continuity of economic, social, institutional and environmental aspects of human society, as well as the non-human environment. It is intended to be a means of configuring civilization and human activity so that society, its members and its economies are able to meet their needs and express their greatest potential in the present, while preserving biodiversity and natural ecosystems, and planning and acting for the ability to maintain these ideals in a very long term. Sustainability affects every level of organization, from the local neighborhood to the entire planet.Sustainability is an attempt to provide the best outcomes for the human and natural environments both now and into the indefinite future..."


Friday, 9 February 2007

A mystical journey

Scenario gazing is really relevant to help us draw conclusions about the sustainability of our planet. However, where we need to find frameworks to make sense of the future, earlier cultures were able to understand the future by making sense of uncertainties that they saw developing by the simple art of story telling. This mystical film tells a story about our current environmental problems from the imagined viewpoint of a native American: