20 November 2009

An Economy Fit for a Low Carbon World - The Pre-COP Earthcast

3.30am Oz time, unfortunately...

From Earthscan, 20 November 2009

Wednesday 25 November 2009
5.00pm GMT, 9.00am PST, 12.00pm EST

>> Can economies be redesigned for a low-carbon future?
>> What opportunities does the financial crisis present?
>> Is a constructive agreement likely at Copenhagen?

Tim Jackson developed the first Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare for the UK (a ‘green GDP’) in the 1990s, and is now one of the most influential advocates of worldwide economic reform.

Focusing on climate change mitigation and happiness as measures of economic success, his recent book Prosperity Without Growth ‘has already begun to redefine the debate about how to achieve a future of human and planetary well-being’ (Juliet Schor, Boston College) and we are thrilled to provide you with this opportunity to debate the issues online.

In this special pre-Copenhagen Earthcast the expert panel will examine the challenges that lie ahead if current economic systems are to support the development of a low carbon future, and will be answering your questions submitted during the event.

Tim Jackson will be joined by Robert Costanza, contributor to the Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 2010 and ecological economist Peter Victor for a debate that will explore ways of reorganising economies so that emissions reductions and well-being are prioritised.

Tim Jackson is Economics Commissioner on the UK Sustainable Development Commission, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey and Director of the ESRC Research Group on Lifestyles, Values and Environment (RESOLVE).

Robert Costanza is the Gund Professor of Ecological Economics and Director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont, USA.

Peter Victor is an ecological economist, author of Managing without Growth, and Professor in Environmental Studies at York University in Toronto, Canada.'

Viral Marketing Success Story‏

Alright - this is both goofy and GODDAMN annoying!

BUT - its been effective in terms of viral [pardon the pun!] marketing - nearly one million hits in six months!!!!

Anyone who is working to be a 'meme engineer' or change agent or influencer should be dissecting these kinds of things and using the criteria eg.

1. uses existing cultural reference [the song]
2. rhymes and mantras [word 'riffs']
3. goofy and annoying!
4. new perspective [from the pigs]

Investment In Ecosystems Will Reap Rewards: UNEP

The Ecological Society of America and CSIRO were doing work on this ten or more years ago!

Still concerned about REDD/carbon/forests/applying market principles to a situation where it is the system conditions that need to change/how this plays out for developing nations...

Reposted in full from Planet Ark, 20 November 2009

'Nations that take into account natural resources in their investment strategies will have higher rates of return and stronger economies, a report backed by the United Nations' Environment Programme said on Friday.

With less than one month until a UN climate summit in Copenhagen, the report urges policymakers to reform their economic policies to stop the destruction of natural resources such as forests and oceans.

"Repairing the ecosystem by replanting forests, restoring mangroves along coastlines or rebuilding coral reefs are very smart ways of doing adaptation. People going into Copenhagen are not necessarily aware of these things," Pavan Sukhdev, the leader of the study prepared by UNEP's Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity Initiative, told Reuters.

For example, planting and protecting nearly 12,000 hectares of mangroves in Vietnam costs over $1 million but it saves over $7 million in dyke maintenance expenditure.

The report estimates that investment in mangrove and woodland restoration could achieve rates of return up to 40 percent, tropical forest investment up to 50 percent and grassland investment 79 percent.

"We studied the economics of using nature better - through adaptation and restoration. In each case we found the benefits exceed the cost, typically between 3 and 75 times," Sukhdev said.
Brazil, India and Indonesia emerged as leaders in leveraging natural capital, while Korea has also got good plans, Sukhdev added.

"Governments need to pay attention to this report and start looking at nature in a more holistic way," WWF director Gordon Shepherd said. "With smarter approaches to economics this can change but right now we are paying for their ignorance."

The report also calls for reform to subsidies which harm the environment. The worst subsidies are for fossil fuels, which total between $240 billion and $300 billion a year globally.

Global fishery subsidies, which amount to $34 billion out of a $90 billion market, should also be reformed to prevent the collapse of fisheries around the world.

Measures to combat deforestation, which accounts for almost 20 percent of current greenhouse gas emissions, should also be given priority.

Under a UN-market based forestry scheme called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), rich countries reward developing nations for preserving forests to prevent emissions through the use of an expanded carbon market.

REDD+ expands the idea to protection, restoration and sustainable management of forests.
Several nations want to see REDD incorporated into a new global climate agreement.

"REDD+, as well as ecological restoration, need to be given a bit of a fillet through the Copenhagen process. These are the first two steps on the ladder. When these get going then a lot else will fall in place," Sukhdev said.'

Bystanders or Upstanders?

...also applicable to sustainability!

Are you a bystander, or an upstander?

From The Word Spy, 20 November 2009

n. A person who takes action, particularly when the easiest or most acceptable course is to do nothing. [Cf. bystander.]

The examples of local "upstanders" (as opposed to bystanders) lead to exhibits that explore larger, history-making conflicts and the consequences of the action, or inaction, that followed. The result is a powerful, 90-minute tour of what it means to be a positive member of a multicultural society. —Robert L. Smith, "Exhibit on diversity shows there's work to do: Global Village," Plain Dealer, October 22, 2009

Related Words:
actorvist community animator condo commando lactivist upshifter

Australian Heatwave In Carbon Trade Battle

Excerpt from Planet Ark, 20 November 2009

'Australia's government demanded on Thursday that conservative rivals stop opposing carbon trade laws, citing a heatwave searing the country's biggest cities as evidence of Australia's vulnerability to climate change.

With Australia on bushfire alert, the government said record temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) across three states this week showed the need to act urgently against climate change.

"November this year has seen a long and intense heatwave across much of southern and eastern Australia. The trend is absolutely clear, the climate is warming," Assistant Climate Change Minister Greg Combet told parliament.

The opposition is negotiating changes to the government's carbon trade laws, which will be voted on next week in parliament's upper house Senate, but some opposition members are not convinced that human activity is driving climate change.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said negotiating with the opposition was like dealing with a mediaeval court.

"It is as if we are back into the trial of Galileo or something and they are simply arguing somehow that the science is fiction and that they alone, in their own prejudiced universe, occupy fact," Rudd told parliament.

The government wants carbon trading to start in July 2011, covering 75 percent of emissions in what could become the second domestic trading platform outside of Europe.

The ETS legislation was rejected by the Senate in an earlier vote this year and a second defeat would give Rudd a trigger for a snap election.

Senior conservative lawmaker Ian Macfarlane said he expected a deal with the government by next week, despite up to 30 rebel opposition MPs promising to vote against the scheme.

"I'm negotiating on the basis that by the time the Senate rises at the end of next week, he (Rudd) will have what he is demanding, but it will be on our terms," Macfarlane told radio.

The government, short of a majority in the Senate, has been negotiating changes with the main conservative opposition bloc to secure seven extra votes needed to pass the carbon laws.

The government has already bowed to a key opposition demand to permanently exclude agriculture, which accounts for around 16 percent of Australian emissions, but the opposition also wants more concessions for coal miners...'

Chinese Taxis

The scale of China is mind boggling...

From Planet Ark, 20 November 2009

'Taxis line up to get their tanks filled on a viaduct in Chongqing municipality November 19, 2009.

A gas shortage that has hit central and eastern Chinese provinces will give a small boost to gasoline sales by China's oil duopoly, as slower gas supplies force taxis to gas stations, industry officials said on Thursday.'

Plastic Protest

From Planet Ark, 20 November 2009

'An employee of Mumbai Educational Trust (MET), which runs educational institutes, adjusts plastic bottles in an installation made of approximately 40,000 plastic bottles to protest the use of plastic, in Mumbai November 19, 2009.

The 120-feet high installation was made by employees and students of MET, organisers said.'

Tooth Fairy Treasures

From Inhabitat, 14 November 2009

'For Australian silversmith Polly van der Glas, diamonds aren’t a girl’s best friend; raid the Tooth Fairy’s war chest for dendrites in the rough, which she sterilizes and then hand-sets in sterling silver.

From solid canine-encrusted signet rings to delicate molar-embellished earrings, these toothy trinkets are a quirky take on recycled jewelry—and our idea of luxury gems.

So what do you think? Champing at the bit for your own fanged finery or avoiding like the plaque…um…plague?'

19 November 2009

Guilt Complex

Excerpt from the New Internationalist, 1 November 2007

'It’s time to dismantle the guilt industry, argues Adam Ma’anit – or else be smothered by its monopoly on our lives.

In his thought-provoking essay The Happiness Conspiracy (NI 391), John F Schumaker described the damaging psychological and social effects of a society single-mindedly fixated on the pursuit of personal happiness above all other concerns. ‘No-one is less able to sustain happiness than someone obsessed with feeling only happiness,’ he observed.

By chance, Schumaker’s essay appeared in the NI special issue on carbon offsets (CO²nned), in which I alluded to guilt as one of the possible motivating factors behind people’s desire to ‘neutralize’ their ‘carbon footprints’. The implication was that the drive to offset was partially fuelled by people’s guilt feelings about their individual environmental impacts and/or lifestyle. This seemed to chime with Schumaker’s characterization of ‘happichondriacs’ obsessed with personal satisfaction.

Thankfully, offsets have had a lot of bad press since that magazine came out, being criticized as a voluntary ‘guilt tax’ or a ‘modern-day indulgence’. But despite this, the industry still grows, with major deals having been announced with the likes of Land Rover and Qantas. With regular negative publicity on the ecological impacts of SUVs and air travel now common, people are turning to the palliative of offsets in droves. This made me think about the nature of guilt. Is there substance to allegations of liberal guilt? If guilt is a factor in an ethical person’s psyche, are our efforts to get rid of it compromising our ability to effect lasting and positive social change?

In the past year, we’ve noticed at the New Internationalist that there seems to be something of a resurgence in the use of exploitative images of impoverished children by child-sponsorship agencies – something the NI has campaigned against vociferously in the past. The pitch goes something like this: ‘For only pennies a day you can save Tommy/Elizabeth/Some-Western-sounding-name-so-the-donor-can-relate, from a life of disease and poverty...’ If it’s on television it’s accompanied by dramatic music that implies impending doom for this cute wide-eyed child you’re looking at now, if you don’t hand over the dosh. The overwhelming emotion many conscientious people feel when confronted with such messaging is – GUILT. Huge, heaped shovels full of the stuff. The more privileged your life and the greater your awareness of that privilege vis-à-vis the misfortune of others, the more likely you are to feel it kick you firmly in the keister.

This is guilt marketing. Charities do it because it works (to a degree at least). They seek to engender (with the best of intentions) an aching sense of compassion for the less fortunate, which can have the side-effect of triggering an overwhelming sense of guilt in the more fortunate. This preys on the consciences of their intended audience so much, that at some point they’ll desperately want to assuage it and turn to these bastions of goodness for relief, however fleeting. In our hyperconsuming society, if it can be boiled down to a simple purchasing decision, all the better...

The syndrome tends to be more severe among liberals, which is why conservatives love to paint liberals as ‘guilt-ridden wusses’. US activist David Morris explains why: ‘Conservatives and liberals take a fundamentally different approach to politics. Conservatives are driven by rage; liberals by guilt. Conservatives attack. Liberals equivocate. Liberals inhabit a world painted a thousand shades of grey. Conservatives live in a black and white world. Conservatives believe they are battling evil. Liberals believe they are struggling to overcome human frailties.’

Psychologists might argue that the source of conservative rage may in fact be guilt too, it’s just that they then quickly move on to anger as a reaction (not the healthiest of coping strategies, but a coping strategy nonetheless). White people feel guilt when they learn about the mechanics of racism. Men feel it when they are confronted on their sexism. The rich might get a pang or two when they pass homeless people by. How they react may be determined by ideology, but guilt is too often a source of tension in the conscience of all.

Institutionalized religion and guilt certainly seem to share a cosy communion. The Catholic Church is probably most well known for its litanies on guilt and original sin (an existential guilt) and its attendant infrastructure of confession and absolution. But almost all religions have some grounding in this most complex of human emotions. Hindus and Buddhists fret about their negative karma. There is a huge body of literature on Protestant guilt. I write this not long after Yom Kippur, the Jewish ‘day of atonement’ which is usually one of the most angst-ridden holidays of the Jewish calendar. Atonement is also a central theme in the month-long Ramadan of Islam. Ironically, such festivals often generate more guilt as people struggle to live up to some perceived standard set by themselves, their family, community and society. ‘Religion is mainly based on the idea of sin, or the feeling of guilt arising from an inability to fulfil prescribed standards. Without this conception, religion has no meaning,’ observed the psychologist León Grinberg.

So central was this emotion to religious doctrine in the Middle Ages that the powerful Catholic Church developed a sophisticated economy literally built on guilt. Catholic doctrine maintains that the time you spend in Purgatory after you die is related to how much sin you have accumulated in your life. If you want to cut down the waiting time, you need to unload some of that sin by submitting yourself to some form of repentance.

The Church hierarchy – adapting to the rise of a new mercantilist ethic that was transforming feudal society in Europe – came up with the idea that they could make guilt itself a tradable commodity. The thinking was that the clergy were so righteous and had so few sins, that there was effectively a surplus of good deeds in the Church. They figured that all this surplus ‘good’ sloshing around wasn’t doing much good, so why not sell the excess as ‘indulgences’ to the masses who led more sinful lives?

The Church appointed ‘pardoners’ – such as the one immortalized in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – who would be the primary brokers of this fledgling guilt economy. Those who could afford it could essentially buy a ‘get-out-of-Purgatory-free’ card. The infamous pardoner Johann Tetzel is said to have kept a chart listing the price for each type of sin. Tetzel’s infamy was recorded in Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: ‘soon as the gold in the casket rings / the rescued soul to heaven springs.’ The Eastern Orthodox church had a similar system that traded in the currency of ‘Absolution Certificates’.

The Catholic Church’s doctrine of indulgences was one of the primary factors which led to the Protestant Reformation. But even for Luther’s Protestants, there was still a debt to be paid – and if you didn’t pay up, your spiritual legs got broken. ‘If we understand [God’s] law properly and comprehend it in the best possible way,’ he wrote, ‘then we will see that its sole function is to remind us of our sins, to kill us by our sins, and to make us deserving of eternal wrath.’ This debt, accrued through our accumulation of sin, could only be paid by Jesus. So, according to Protestantism, if you want to be free from debt, you have to sign it over to Christ. Make a deposit into God’s savings account and you will be ‘saved’...

In the context of morality, those we deem to have higher morals than us (activist leaders, visionaries, revolutionaries, martyrs), may – whether consciously or unconsciously – have the power to induce feelings of guilt in others for not making the grade. As French philosopher Roland Barthes wrote: ‘I call the discourse of power any discourse that engenders blame, hence guilt, in its recipient.’

All of this has profound implications for our understanding of the mechanics of guilt. But what does it mean for social change? Guilt certainly does motivate some people to take action, but in the end, does it do more harm than good?

Guilt activism employs a similar dynamic to that of guilt marketing. Activists of whatever political stripe hold themselves and society to high standards. They often fail to meet those standards, and so often find themselves wracked by guilt. They might then throw themselves even more firmly into activism in order to help assuage some of that guilt. The more intensely they work, and the more dedicated they feel they are to ‘the cause’, the more they might feel able to purge some of those guilt feelings – or at least alleviate the symptoms. Trapped in a cycle of guilt, regret, repression and then more guilt, they might repeat these patterns for years and gradually become ineffective (or in extreme cases self-righteous); or they might suffer ‘burnout’, just as aggressive guilt marketing by charities might result in so-called ‘compassion fatigue’...

Psychologist Mary E Gomes, in her study of burnout, found that guilt was often the drug of choice used by activists to keep themselves going. The ‘activist super-ego’, she said, ‘requires endless personal sacrifice and is an almost sure-fire route to burnout.’ She described how overwhelming this could be. ‘They typically responded to incipient feelings of burnout by rigidly adhering to their activism programme, or even pushing themselves harder, using guilt as a motivator. Along these lines, a former peace and social justice activist described the hardest thing about being an activist to be: “the voices that I carried with me – you’re not doing enough, you have to do more. There’s no time to stop. There’s poor people, there’s starving people, there’s homeless people. That constant feeling that I didn’t deserve a life until everybody got life.”’

Gomes also expressed concerns about how such activists affect others in their social networks and peer groups. ‘As activists internalize an unrealistically high work ethic, they may begin to pressure other activists to work beyond their capacity, setting up a chain reaction of guilt and pressure...

One day, after a trip to the planetarium, [a friend, who felt guilty for not composting her organic waste] experienced an overwhelming sense of joy at the revelation that we are all essentially stardust. So moved was she by this simple realization that she began to see composting in a different light. Rather than seeing it as her moral duty, she saw it as an affirmation of life and existence. This narrative of soil and stardust inspired her to action more than any guilt-tripping ever could. Her humanistic conscience fully engaged, she’s now getting into urban gardening, has become an avid bird watcher and amateur historian. She’s also happier than I’ve seen her in a long time, more motivated, and healthier – radiating a kind of confident positivity that is downright infectious...'

'Doomsday Vault' - Crop Insurance Against Climate Change

For those of you who have not heard of it, no I am not making this up!

Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Norway

'The Svalbard Global Seed Vault...is a secure seedbank located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen...The facility was established to preserve a wide variety of plant seeds from locations worldwide in an underground cavern. The seed vault holds duplicate samples, or "spare" copies, of seeds held in genebanks worldwide. The seed vault will provide insurance against the loss of seeds in genebanks, as well as a refuge for seeds in the case of large scale regional or global crises.'

Reposted in full from Planet Ark, 19 November 2009

'Seed banks need a further $250 million to preserve all varieties of food crops including those which may best survive future climate changes, the Global Crop Diversity Trust said Wednesday.

The crop trust is the main supporter of a seed vault in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, intended as a global back-up for food crops, and says it needs more money to complete that project and support other, more accessible seed banks worldwide.

"The reality is that this is a resource which is still not protected, the wild relatives of our cultivated crops are still endangered in the field but are a potent resource for climate change adaptation," the executive director of the trust, Cary Fowler, told Reuters.

The trust joined 60 agricultural experts in a statement published Wednesday at a Food Summit in Rome, highlighting the threat to food security posed by climate change.
Seed banks could preserve the crops that will emerge as the most resilient to future warming, the signatories said.

"The magnitude of change now being forecast, even in relatively optimistic scenarios, is historically unprecedented, and our agricultural systems are still largely unprepared to face it," a statement read.

Fowler estimated Svalbard had copies of nearly half a million food crop varieties, representing most of the diversity of major crops, compared with 1 to 1.5 million distinct varieties of all food crops.

Funds were needed especially to support working, local seed banks. "Something in the area of $350 million in an endowment would generate enough income annually to conserve all of crop diversity forever. We have about $100 million now, we're a third, a quarter of the way there," he said.

Government leaders and officials are meeting at a U.N.-led, November 16-18 food summit in Rome to discuss how to reduce hunger in the face of a global economic downturn.

World leaders meeting at a U.N. global warming summit in Copenhagen in December must address the issue of agriculture.

Farmers would encounter problems "they have never before experienced," they said, referring to hotter days, shorter growing seasons, more drought and new combinations of pests and diseases.

"We're saying no credible agreement on climate change can ignore agriculture," said the crop trust's Cary Fowler.'

Bringing Developing World Toilets to London

19 November is World Toilet Day - funny name, serious stuff...

'2.5 billion people worldwide are without access to proper sanitation, which risks their health, strips their dignity, and kills 1.8 million people, mostly children, a year; the majority of the illness in the world is caused by fecal matter; diarrheal diseases kill more children in the developing world than malaria and HIV/AIDS, 5000 children die every day from preventable disease; and it impacts on ability to attend work and school; lack of facilities is a direct cause of girls dropping out of school/illiteracy...'

Excerpt from Water Aid UK, 19 November 2009

'One of London's most popular public toilets will be transformed beyond all recognition on Thursday 19 November, World Toilet Day, to resemble some of the most hellish loos on earth.

Life without a proper toilet is a reality for 2.5 billion people in the developing world. For one morning only, members of the public are being invited to see for themselves the kind of squalid toilet environment that billions across Africa and Asia have to live with every day.

To raise awareness of the global sanitation crisis, WaterAid and award-winning ad director Kit Lynch-Robinson are creating a chilling scene in the Hyde Park Corner men's toilets – complete with rubbish dump, maggots, rusted pipes, a stagnant stream and a unique toilet scent, Eau de Toilet.

Members of the public will be able to experience the paradox between the above-ground world of London’s beautiful Hyde Park and the loos below, as two very different worlds are brought together.'

18 November 2009

shmeco - Share Your Sustainable Living Story

Check out shmeco.com, a new social networking site for sustainable living launched by South Australians Judy Celmins & Pia Vogrin, already with 500+ members:

'What is shmeco?

Pronounced SHME- CO
What does it mean: SH, HM, Me, eco meaning every one has an eco story to share.

What is shmeco.com?

A social networking site using the latest in Web2 technologies to create a community umbrella for Sustainable Living...

The site concept was created by Judy and Pia as an opportunity to allow the flow of real stories and experience in the sustainability sector using the latest in technology.

This process allows for connections to be made at many levels within the broader community that assist in the spread of the sustainable living message.

shmeco.com is the space for the "Sustainable Living" sector. The shmeco community will be creating an online "Eco-pedia" of real stories and connections with the sustainable activities in every day life.

About the shmeco creators: Judy Celmins & Pia Vogrin

Judy and Pia bring extensive marketing, media, and event management skills to their newly created company "shmeco.com". Through established careers, we have built personal networks within industry, media, community groups and individuals with much of our work based in the environmental sector as well as a commitment in our personal lives to lead more sustainable lifestyles...'

17 November 2009

Want Two!!

...sums it up nicely!

by Seppo Leinonen

Finding the Self Interest Story

Loss of polar bears? Meh. Retreating glaciers? What? Climate refugees? Nowt to do with me...

My HOME under threat and I can't get insurance??? Something needs to be done about that!

Excerpt from The Australian, 14 November 2009

'Almost 250,000 homes, now worth up to $63 billion, will be "at risk of inundation" by the end of the century, under "worst-case but plausible" predictions of rising sea levels.

The study - released ahead of the crucial Senate vote on Labor's emissions trading scheme - modelled the effect of a 1.1m sea-level rise on cities and towns around Australia.

This is a higher level than the 79cm end-of-century rise predicted by the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but in the mid-range of some subsequently published research.

It found between 157,000 and 247,000 homes "at risk of inundation" - meaning they would be permanently flooded or frequently flooded by storm surges or king tides - with hospitals, water-treatment plants and other public buildings also found to be at risk.

Even Sydney airport would be at "increased risk" of inundation, according to the study, written by the Department of Climate Change with input from CSIRO, Geosciences Australia and scores of academics.'

The Ecology of Finance

From the new economics foundation

'The financial system needs to start working like a productive ecosystem. It should be characterised by diversity and an ability to sustain specialised and adapted life in the face of external shocks. Instead of a monoculture of mega-banks deemed too big to fail and answerable only to the demands of private shareholders, an ecology of finance would involve a range of different financial institutions.'

Shell House

Fantastic! I want one...

Nautilus House, Naucalpan, Mexico

Excerpt from World Architecture News, 16 Jul 2007

Footprint Forum 2010 - Meet the Winners of the 21st Century

Denying the Climate Holocaust

Excerpt from Crikey, 16 November 2009

'Climate sceptics resent being called deniers because of the odium associated with Holocaust revisionism...

We think of climate deniers as being immoral because we suspect them of being motivated, not by truth-seeking, but by political goals, a desire for funds from fossil-fuel companies or personal aggrandisement.

Those who adopt a duty or virtue ethic would probably feel more personal antipathy towards a David Irving than towards an Ian Plimer or Andrew Bolt. There is something especially repugnant, even evil, about Holocaust denial. Denying or covering up a monstrous crime makes Holocaust deniers somehow complicit in it.

Better to have your daughter marry a climate sceptic, who is perhaps motivated by contrarianism, foolishness or self-importance rather than wickedness.

If, like me, you adopt a virtue or duty ethic, but one tempered by consideration of the consequences of an act, climate deniers are less immoral than Holocaust deniers, although they are undoubtedly more dangerous.

However, as the casualties from a warming world mount over the next decades, the denialism of those who continue to reject the scientific evidence will come to be seen as more and more iniquitous. So the answer to the question of whether climate denialism is morally worse than Holocaust denialism is no, at least, not yet.'

16 November 2009

Share Your Soles - Used Shoes Transform Lives In Poor Countries

...this initiative should have some sort of slogan about the shoe being on the other foot!

Reposted in full from Planet Ark, 16 November 2009

'Mona Purdy, a Chicago hairdresser, has seen what a pair of used shoes can do to change the lives of poor children.

At a Jamaican orphanage, girls suffering from deformities and burns couldn't believe the shoes Purdy had given them were theirs to keep.

"They had not had Christmas, ever. Christmas was giving them these used shoes in March," said Purdy, the founder of the charity, Share Your Soles, her voice cracking with emotion.

"I'm thinking, 'I shouldn't be here. I should be home with my kids.' After I saw these kids I realized I am so supposed to be here."

The impetus for the charity began 10 years ago when Purdy participated in a race in Guatemala, where local children put hot tar on the bottom of their feet and ran along the side of rocky course.

It was fortified when she learned that in many countries having shoes is a prerequisite for attending schools, and how walking in bare feet can cause injuries and infections that can lead to amputation.

"It blew my mind. I didn't know kids didn't have shoes anywhere," said Purdy, a divorced mother of three, recalling what led her to start the charity in her suburban Chicago home.
With more and more shoes being donated, it later moved to bigger warehouses and expanded to more countries with the help of donated space and shipping.

Now volunteers from all walks of life help sort the footwear that arrives in bags, boxes and barrels at the 400,000-square-foot (122-meter) warehouse in Alsip, Illinois, from shoe drives and drop-off centers across the U.S.

Elegant sandals, sturdy hiking boots, gym shoes and tiny baby shoes are cleaned or polished and sent to countries such as Uganda, Peru and Lithuania.

"If you see anything that you have to think twice about throw it out," Purdy told high school volunteers recently, emphazing the importance of respecting the dignity of the shoe recipients.

The students are taught to sort the footwear - snow boots go to American Indian reservations in South Dakota, rubber boots are destined for people scavenging garbage dumps in Haiti and slip-on water shoes are headed for the Amazon.

Soccer cleats go everywhere.

"I'm trying to teach these kids that if you do something small you won't save someone's life, but you can change someone's life," Purdy said.

Collecting and distributing 900,000 pairs of used shoes over the past decade has changed Purdy's life. She is now the executive director of a charity which has no religious or government affiliation and has helped the needy in at least 29 countries and several U.S. states.

She has resorted to bribes in some countries to ensure the shoes aren't sold, been infected with parasites and suffered from fevers. But whatever adversity she encountered, it has been diminished by the joy she witnessed.

At an all-boys orphanage in Ecuador, even a mismarked box of girls shoes was welcomed.

"The boys were so happy that they got some shoes even though they were little girls' leather school shoes. Some had straps and little bows on them," she explained.

With the 10-year anniversary of Share Your Soles behind her, Purdy would like to become a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. She also wants to apply for federal grants to bolster the charity's $975,000 annual budget.

"It might begin with shoes," she said. "But it doesn't end there."'

Quotes for Changemakers VI

'Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.'

St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)

15 November 2009

The Death of Gucci Capitalism

Reposted in full from the New Statesman, 23 October 2008

'We are witnessing the death of a paradigm. As is usual at moments of mourning, the new reality is being met by denial, resistance and anger from the initiators and defenders of the old faith.

It would be parochial to think recent events expose only flaws in the banking sector - micro-flaws - and the outcome will be a mere tinkering with the financial system. The dominant economic theory of the past 20 years - a theory that put liberty before equality, gave markets more power than states, and saw risk as a public good that shouldn't be restrained - is now defunct. The laissez-faire capitalism embraced by the US and the UK some 20 years ago and foisted on the poorest countries of the world by the World Bank and IMF has had its day.

This does not mean all versions of capitalism are now redundant. But that the Anglo-American version, which actively decoupled the economy from social justice, must be buried; and the public will not tolerate its resuscitation.

Now that the cracks are so evident, jobs are in peril and household wealth is collapsing, the public is angry - and not just at bankers. We are beginning to see a fundamental outrage at the whole interconnected mess of a system: at energy companies who record massive profits, yet allow pensioners to struggle to stay warm in winter; at CEOs who can earn up to a 1,000 times the salary of their average worker; and soon, any day now, at those politicians who allowed this to happen.

The public recognises it has the moral right and authority to condemn the ideology that resulted in this. It is a fundamental change.

Smart politicians will recognise that this is a tectonic shift - a change in the balance of power from high finance and big corporations to the people - and will seek to build political capital from it. We are all socialists now, it seems. John McCain, David Cameron and Gordon Brown attack bankers' irresponsible behaviour and salaries, and call for state intervention in the financial markets.

But these calls will not get them elected or re-elected if they are addressed only to the banking sector. The financial crisis was a manifestation of a fundamentally flawed way of thinking that will hurt real people as the world enters a global recession. It will hurt not only those in the countries that preached the paradigm, but also those in countries that did not. The poorest nations will experience the double whammy of having had to deregulate, privatise and open up their markets to be eligible for aid money, and now see the pledges not met. This is the first full crisis of globalisation, a recognition that in a tightly interconnected world, one country's troubles become each and every one's. It is the first collective "lose lose".

The smartest politicians at President Bush's economic summit will be those who are not only willing to differentiate themselves from the laissez-faire past, but willing to hijack the meeting and turn it into a transparent exchange of ideas about what kind of world we want. They will be those who are not looking for a quick fix, but are capable of dismantling their prior assumptions about which ideas and theories to embrace and which to reject.

The smartest politicians will be those who understand that when the facts stop fitting the world-view, they must remake the world-view, not recreate the facts. In that process, they must draw lessons from the past 20 years. No more "one size fits all" economic prescriptions. Countries have to have the freedom to determine their economic policies to meet their own needs. And the myth that "a rising tide lifts all boats" must be jettisoned. It was never true. Social mobility in the UK has barely improved in 40 years. In the US, a quarter of the wealth is in the hands of just 14,000 families.

The next phase of capitalism will combine policies of localisation with an understanding that there are problems we share - such as carbon-dioxide emissions - that cannot be tackled alone. And it will actively seek to redefine what is valuable, so children growing up today do not make the mistakes of this generation in confusing success with the ability to purchase another pair of Nikes or a Gucci bag.'