14 May 2011

Green Map System: Open Source Model to Foster Sustainable Communities

In the mid-90s, I was involved in getting the first Green Map (now lapsed) for the southern hemisphere produced for Adelaide! Open source tech and mobile applications now make this an even more powerful approach to finding green/sustainability sites and services, in any city, whatever language (as a common set of icons are used)

Reposted in full from Inhabitat, 12 May 2011

'Have you ever visited a new city and found yourself eating at the same tourist-oriented restaurants or buying wasteful plastic trinkets to give to friends? Have you been frustrated by a lack of local produce, community gardens, or composting stations in your home town? In a bustling metropolis like New York, green resources and businesses can be hard to find, even though they are present in almost every neighborhood, which is why a group of local designers led by Wendy Brawer developed the Green Map System, a tool that eases the search for a more eco-friendly life. During the Festival of Ideas, we stopped at Green Map’s booth to learn more about the organization and its hopes to resolve the lack of accessibility and visibility of New York’s sustainable urban features through an open source mapping website.

By compiling information on green places and initiatives from the citizens themselves, Green Map hopes to accelerate the growth of sustainable, interconnected communities. Green Map System was established in 1995 with the mission to promote inclusive participation in sustainable community development through the mapmaking medium.

The Green Map website provides adaptable tools and a graphic language, while local leaders and residents throughout the world create and populate the cartography with personal, intimate knowledge of places. These inventories turn into practical sustainable living guides for residents, and greener tourism options for travelers. Participants in the mapping process can access the interface online through user profiles and mapping groups, or can participate in workshops provided by the organization. The collaboration between individuals to inform themselves and others about their neighborhood enhances the general public’s knowledge about the area and fosters community building.

The communities then publish their graphic guides with the help of Green Maps, in various formats and graphic styles representative of each project. Green Maps in New York City include the Powerful Green Map, created in the aftermath of the 2003 blackout with the intent of teaching New Yorkers about their energy choices, and possibly preventing future blackouts. Green Maps can act as devices for education and change towards more sustainable communities.

With the implementation of smartphone apps and Open Green Maps in the last couple of years, Green Map hopes to expand the network of sustainable communities that have coalesced under the program. The i-phone app, winner of Treehugger’s 2011 Best of Green “Best Eco App for a Smart Phone,” includes a “What’s green nearby?” feature, which pinpoints sustainable businesses in the immediate surroundings of a mobile device. The Open Green Map, a participatory mapmaking website with more than 16,000 locations on view, provides an interactive platform to share insights, images, and impacts of local green sites of all kinds. Individual, thematic maps can be opened for a city or neighborhood, and all locations in user-created maps are compiled into a global Green Map.

Sites are organized within three main categories: Sustainable Living, Nature, and Culture and Society; icons on the map indicate the subcategory each location represents. Additional information about each place is presented real-time through an interface similar to that of Google Maps. Locations in New York City include East Village community gardens, organic and local food restaurants, and social service organizations. Open Green Map connects the local economy, green development and ecotourism movements, engaging citizens with local environment, climate and equity issues in New York and worldwide.'

13 May 2011

Three Types of Economic Interaction

Reposted in full from Symbionomics, 11 May 2011

'Economic interactions can be boiled down to three core patterns. I will make no attempt to take an ethical stance on any of them, though their ethical implications are obvious. Let me also say that this post is a gross over-simplification. However, sometimes, over-simplifications can be valuable tools for helping us see where opportunities for innovation lie. That is my intention here.

Pattern 1: You’ll do that

Otherwise known as brute force. Basically the point is to get someone else to do something that benefits you by threatening violence. Examples include slavery, serfdom, empire building, and extortion. People who engage in this behavior calculate, consciously or otherwise, that the *other* is so different from them that the trust needed for reciprocal trade is impossible. Since even the most rudimentary trades are based on unconscious cultural assumptions, one can see why the threat of violence might appear an easier way of getting value from people. However, violence requires the perpetrator to expend considerable resources in the process. While in the short term, the resources expended may seem worth it, this strategy is, overall, a relatively low-yield investment. History has shown again and again that societies that are built on this kind of economic interaction ultimately wind up self-destructing.

Pattern 2: I’ll do this IF you’ll do that

Otherwise known as trading. As people began to develop a basic trust in the *other*, they learned that they could expend considerably fewer resources to get things of value by engaging in reciprocal exchange. Once, long ago, this process was done with direct trade (asparagus for shirts). About five thousand years ago, we learned to substitute information tokens for actual goods, and money was born. Using this method of economic interaction requires that we share enough context with the “other” to trust that they won’t take what they want by force or flake on their end of the deal. Strong legal institutions have helped establish this kind of trust. Today this is the primary way we interact with society at large. But even with today’s light speed monetary transactions, the core remains about parting with something of value to get something of value.

I don’t want to talk this pattern down too much as it is a huge improvement from the “You’ll do that” way of doing things. However, there is still much inefficiency in a reciprocal economy. For instance, economic interaction doesn’t happen without agreeing on what each party will part with. And such blocks routinely prevent what would be valuable interactions. Also, this zero-sum logic usually results in people looking to get the most from others for the least of their own.

Pattern 3: I’ll do this

Otherwise known as gifting. Examples include tribal cultures, small villages, and what’s left of that today, families. When people share enough context and identity that the wellbeing of the other is seen as part of the wellbeing of the self, then gift economies become the most efficient way of interacting. Gone are any of the inefficiencies of force, or of haggling out a deal. When people are on the same team working for the same goal, reciprocity becomes irrelevant. How many times do you see basketball players striking deals on the court: “I’ll pass you the ball now, but you have to promise to pass it to me next time.” When people share common goals, reciprocity just gets in the way. This isn’t to say that some people on the team don’t pull more weight than others. In fact, when contributions are severely mismatched, other kinds of inefficiencies crop up. However, on a team everyone tends to see what everyone else contributes, so the process is highly self-regulating.

I believe this kind of economic interaction represents the future of the global economy. We must recognize our shared identity on this planet, both in terms of the impact we are having on the broader environment, and in terms of the impact we are having on each other. We must recognize ourselves as team humanity, and develop the information systems needed to make this third mode of economic interaction the primary driving force in the economy.'

11 May 2011

The Ultimate Dog Tease

Sourced from YouTube, May 2011

We haven't had a funny in a while, and this one is a pearler. It has gone viral, with over twelve MILLION views in one week.

10 May 2011

The Magic Box of Money Creation

Sourced from Critical Mass podcasts, 8 May 2011

Mike Freedman, currently producing the documentary film, Critical Mass, talks with Ben Curtis and Ben Dyson from Positive Money UK to talk about the way money is created, how it affects everything from politics to the environment, what's wrong with the current system and what we can do to fix it.

09 May 2011

Collapse P*rn?

The content of the message, all true (and the same a large number of people have been saying for many years), but the way the message is delivered?

Excerpt from Climate Denial, 29 September 2010

'A movie that is now being launched in the UK called Collapse shows Michael Ruppert chainsmoking his way through visions of social and economic disaster. It is symptomic of the utterly self defeating way that peak oil and climate change are typically communicated...

What is interesting is the way that footage of Ruppert is interwoven with a rolling news format of economic and social collapse. Recent documentaries and disaster movies now frequently use a collage of rapidly edited random footage taken out of context. This slick style aestheticises images of destruction and objectifies the suffering of the people who appear, all too briefly, as bodies being blown up or swept away.

Four years ago an excellent report by the Institute of Public Policy Research identified alarmism in words and images as one of the dominant narratives about climate change. Gill Ereaut wrote:

The sensationalism of alarmism and its connection with the ultimate unreality of the movies also serve to create a sense of distance from the issue. What is more, in this ‘unreal’ and awesome form, alarmism might even become secretly thrilling – effectively a form of ‘climate porn’ rather than a constructive message. Alarmism potentially positions climate change as yet another apocalyptic construction that is perhaps a figment of our cultural imaginations. All of this serves to undermine the ability of this discourse

By this analysis ‘Collapse’ is an 82 minute long apocalypse pornfest that further reinforces the association between the visual aesthetics of disaster and concerns about resource shortages, peak oil, and, by association, climate change.

In terms of public motivation this is very bad news. Repeated research has shown that apocalyptic language and images create a sense of powerlessness and actively undermine peoples’ capacity to act. They can also directly feed a range of associated denial strategies including a short term hedonism and nihilistic cynicism that can be very appealing to young people.

Increasingly - as we are seeing with the political polarisation in the US and Australia- people are not weighing up climate change or other resource issues on the strength of the solid evidence but are choosing between competing worldviews that deliver a package of lifestyle, political and ethical decisions.

On the one side people are presented with a cornucopialist future of endless expansion, built on technical ingenuity and personal freedom. This has now become absorbed into a wider right wing narrative of globalisation, corporatism, minimal government and free markets.

On the other side the apocalyptists promote a future of decline, conflict, corruption, personal guilt, and collapse. This worldview has become deeply associated in the public mind with climate change and peak oil and this movie reinforces it in every way.

So if Ruppert is right he is following the worst possible strategy for raising concern about Peak Oil. By emphasising and reinforcing the existing worldview divides he is following a script that could have been written for him by those opposing action.

That is if he is right. But I think he is wrong. I think that capitalism is, for all the reasons that its defenders use, far more resilient than most apocalyptists believe and has repeatedly shown its capacity to postpone the impacts of resource shortages. What is more, there is overwhelming evidence that even when people do face problems they are far more likely to work together and seek collective solutions than to panic and riot. The images in this film of looting and rioting are rooted in a very American fear of the underclass.

This does not mean that I do not think that we are running into severe problems. There is no doubt that our resource use is insanely short sighted and we are already seeing the first shortages...

Of all resources, the most precious is the willingness of people to listen and change. This too is finite and only changes between generations. We only get one shot at this and we’re really blowing it...'

08 May 2011

A Strategy for National Security - Sustainability

Excerpt from New York Times, 3 May 2011

'Here’s a proposition: The death of Osama bin Laden brings a moment to talk about something other than threats — not because they don’t exist, but because for the country to see and speak of nothing else is mortally dangerous.

Col. Mark Mykleby, a senior advisor on strategy to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Capt. Wayne Porter of the Navy wrote a paper calling on the United States to focus on social policies, education and sustainability...A National Strategic Narrative,” a paper written by Captain Porter and Col. Mark Mykleby of the Marines, which calls on the United States to see that it cannot continue to engage the world primarily with military force, but must do so as a nation powered by the strength of its educational system, social policies, international development and diplomacy, and its commitment to sustainable practices in energy and agriculture.

“We must recognize that security means more than defense,” they write. After ending the 20th century as the world’s most powerful country, “we failed to recognize that dominance, like fossil fuel, is not a sustainable form of energy.”

The two officers each have more than 20 years of service, and now work as special strategic assistants to Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Their paper, which is not an official policy document, was published last month by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, and is available on the center’s Web site, wilsoncenter.org...

In their paper, the officers argue that the United States has to move from “containment” — the foreign policy established after World War II to limit the expansion and influence of the Soviet Union — to what they call “sustainment” or sustainability.

The first priority, they write, should be “intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth.” They go on to say that the country’s security may require “a hard look at the distribution of our treasure,” arguing that the historic focus on defense and protectionism has meant the neglect of international development and diplomacy. And with technology piercing the isolation of nations, they write that the United States has a stake in helping countries held down by illiteracy and poverty.

Finally, they write, the world population is projected to reach nine billion by midcentury and the country must face the demands for water, food, land and energy...'