Where’s the green vision?

In a recent post, Joel Makower points to the seemingly missing vision of what a “bright green” future might look like as playing a significant role in the lack of on-the-ground support for sustainability.

There’s long been a fundamental problem with the green world รขโ‚ฌโ€ the myriad companies, activists, evangelists, politicians, clergy, thought leaders, and others who, each in their own way, have prodded us to address our planet’s environmental ills. And it explains why, after four decades of the modern environmental movement, only a relative handful of companies and citizens have joined in, while many more have dragged their heels to slow, or even reverse, environmental progress.

The problem is this: No one has created a vision of what happens if we get things right.

I couldn’t agree more – I think it is something that is sorely lacking. For me, one of the inspirational elements of Cradle to Cradle was it’s appeal to our sense of aspiration for a better life. It presented concrete examples of what a bright green future might look like, that there was an alternative to business as usual that met our aspirational needs without bankrupting the planet.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and I’m more and more convinced of the need to reframe the debate about “growth” and sustainability.

Instead of spreading a message of “less”, we need to appeal to our natural, innate, human sense of aspiration – replacing the aspiration for “more stuff” to focus on what really does constitute a “better life”.

Can we do a judo move (I’m channelling Naomi Klein in No Logo here), to take the weight and momentum of this idea of “growth” and “aspiration” and hurl them towards sustainable goals?

Maybe it’s possible, but to do this we absolutely need a vision of what the future could be like – something to aspire to (rather than away from) – as Joel suggests.

In an earlier TED video, Barry Schwartz talks about the paradox of choice – that as we get more options (which, he points out, is often equated with “freedom”) we are actually less happy.

I think many people recognise that our drive for “more stuff” isn’t working. Certainly in my day-to-day interactions with friends and family we collectively recognise the problems in the banking system, in the corporate payouts for un-performance, in deteriorating public health and education systems, of layoffs following multi-million (if not billion) dollar profit announcements. And of course in the global financial meltdown.

A lot of us intuitively know this is wrong. It grates against our sense of justice, of our ideals of meritocracy and our social values. But we feel trapped – lost without an alternative. If only we had… a compelling alternate vision.

This is a latent force that, I think, has yet to be fully tapped. If we can reframe the debate – from the oppositional framing of “growth vs. sustainability” to the inclusive and aspiration embracing “wellbeing and a better life” – I believe we can go a long way to leveraging this sentiment to achieve significant, and rapid, change in our world.

Future is man made (Redux)

After a few months of development (and many months of thinking and strategising) I’m proud to announce the launch of the new Future is man made website.

From the blurb on the home page:

This site … is a place where people can share their ideas for living sustainably. We hope the tips and stories here will be useful for you and that you will share your ideas here too.

As part of the team at WWF, I very much hope that the site will become a hub of activity from folks around Australia can share their stories, tips and experiences to make it easier to live more sustainably.

To kick things off, and as part of the Earth Hour promotional activity, the site has a “60 things you can do in the dark” competition – submit your ideas for a chance to win a Nokia 3250 mobile phone and Planet Earth DVD.

I could go into more details about the strategy, development and details, but really, I’d just prefer to point and let y’all decide if you like it or not ๐Ÿ™‚ Feel free to let me know what you think by leaving a comment here, or through the site’s contact form.

Big props to Digital Eskimo who were fantastic to work with to get the site up and running. It’s been a blast working with them on the project – muchos kudos guys ๐Ÿ™‚

Green Electricity Watch – latest report

Green Electricity Watch reviews Green Power providers across Australia and produces a “scorecard” to help customers determine the wheat from the chaff when it comes to clean energy.

The latest report has just been released. Origin Energy continues their good form, but TRUenergy have also stepped up this year. Check it out if you were thinking of switching to Green Power soon.

And remember, some providers will try to offer you unaccredited “green power” – make sure you look for the Green Power green tick and only get the accredited offerings.

Majora Carter at TED

I meant to post this a while back, but remembered it today and wanted to pass it on.

Abe pointed to a podcast of Majora Carter’s talk at TED. She talks at 100 kms an hour, but packs an hour’s worth of impacting, pertinent and hard hitting commentary into her 30 minute slot.

She links the issues of urban renewal, environmental degredation, poverty and race and shows that there are solutions available if we think more about what we’re doing and how we do things.

I especially like the story she relays about meeting Al Gore.

Anyways, if ya got a few minutes check it out.

Update 20-Oct-2006 The video of the speech is also available on Google Video.

WWF Futuremakers email newsletter design featured by Campaign Monitor

The heading kinda says it all, but we’re very chuffed that Campaign Monitor has featured our Futuremakers email newsletter in their design gallery. The design was created by Massive Interactive in collaboration with us, and we put together the HTML behind-the-scenes.

The HTML is unfortunately a bit of a mess because we wanted the design to look good in a wide variety of email clients (including Gmail and Hotmail) which meant a lot of less-than-satisfactory hacks to get the desired end result.

We’ve been using Campaign Monitor for the last three or four emails that we’ve sent out, and the service is excellent. We’ve run into a couple of small issues, and they’ve been very prompt in responding to our feedback, which has been fantastic.

It’s very cool to be featured in the gallery especially because I was following the gallery well before we were a customer, and learnt an enormous amount about how to develop a compelling newsletter. Their blog articles on CSS and best practices have also been invaluable.

Is the electric car really dead?

There’s a new movie coming out called “Who killed the electric car?” which looks very interesting. But as Joel Makower clearly explains, the electric car is far from dead.

I’ve been following the “plug-in hybrid” story for a little while. Basically, when the Prius came out, a lot of people were asking Toyota if there was a way to get their cars to run purely on electric power. Toyota basically said that there wasn’t a market, so a whole bunch of enterprising hobbiests and businesses started working out how they could do the conversions themselves – and succeeded.

There is growing interest in all electric cars, with battery and motor technologies finally getting to a point to make them feasible. I do hope, however, that as electric cars become more common-place, our energy use also switches to clean sources. Otherwise much of the benefit in terms of emissions reductions could be lost.