Monday, May 31, 2010

The secret powers of time

Great animation about different time perspectives from different time zones and different people, and the effects for all of us.

Interested for more? See when Philip Zimbardo, has the full (real) presentation here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Seasonal Ingredient Map

Easy overview of seasonal food in US plus find ingredient descriptions, shopping guides, recipes, and tips

We don't have that for Europe.. is it because we eat even more locally? Or just a language barrier, or just that we travell less and do not care what other countries are doing, again- eat more locally. Come on.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The orang-utan gets to have a well-deserved break

The orang-utan, as well as Indonesia's rainforests and carbon-rich peatlands, finally get to have that break you've been asking Nestlé to give them. Earlier this week the biggest food and drink company in the world announced it was committing to stop using products that come from rainforest destruction.

From Greenpeace's newsletter (click to read full article)

Communication for another development

The irony in this field is that the world "communication" has many interpretations. This leads to the confusion so evident in the latter to the professor. The different interpretations stems from a variety of myths: (1) communication can be improved in any time; (2) communication is the same as medium; (3) communication units in agencies have a clear mandate; (4) communication is about sending information; (5) information will do the job.

"participatory communication shapes the very nature of development, while 'telling' communication simply promotes the desired development outcome.
Three coordinates that guide our actions and the ability to choose different communication functions for each initiative; Campions- have a sincere belief in helping people discover their own potential; Context- communities, geography, culture and history, organisations, donor institutions and corporations, government, politics, policies, funding rules, media, time; Communication-from just telling to a mix of telling and listening to a focus on listening, exchange and dialogue (advocacy and participatory)

"If this sounds basic and straightforward to you, good for you! It took us twenty-five years to figure it out"

From the book Communication for Another Development- Listening Before Telling. Windy Quarry and Ricardo Raírez

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Französisches Viertel

Second of four best examples of sustainable neighbourhood (in the world?); the Französisches Viertel, Tübingen in Germany. First post was about the Vauban district in German Freiburg and third and fourth are from Sweden; Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm and Western Harbour in Malmö

Tübingen is a university town 45 km south of Stuttgart. Its population is 87,000 and has been growing for a long time, mainly due to migration. New areas needs to be planned. Here is an example from Südstadt.

PROJECT APPEARANCE DESCRIPTION; Französisches Viertel (French Quarter, 9.8ha) is now an area for 6500 people and 2000 jobs. The land was before an area with former French military barracks, now an area with new housing in between; including mixed-use, high-density and car-reducing transport concepts, and advanced landscape, water and energy solutions. Kindergarten, schools, meeting rooms, studio for artists and a lot of open space. In one of the picture, a special playground with arrangements for watergame. Mix of old and new, big and detailed, community gardens and plants on the balconies. The organic process required a relatively high freedom in design.

Strategy; The strategy was implemented by making use of a Städtebauliche Entwicklungsmassnahme ("Urban Development Act", S165 BauGB) which allows a municipality to remain in control of the development process. The framework contained a written part, describing both physical and social objectives, and a master plan, resulting from an open competition that was won by three architecture students in 1992. Land was advertised in the local media. Public events organised by the agency served as participatory platforms through which people interested in joining a partnership could get to know each other. In the first round, the fundamentals of planning information on the citizens arranged themselves into groups, a decision which is primarily from the respective life situation is: families with children, older people, adults without children, professionals, youths, students and women to interests of a female-planning resume. Once an interest group had formed, the agency could decide to grant a site option, usually for a period of six months. Options were given upon provision of bank securities by each member and an assessment of the group's social composition. In making this assessment, the agency aimed to establish a true social mix, with no dominating social factor. Applications were decided on public meetings, on which the agency had to justify any rejection. These interest groups expressed their specific demands on the design of public space in general and in relation to specific spatial situations. Initially this was done in an initial brainstorming session on this first night, then later in the formed working groups were formed from each stakeholder group spokesman elected were the following, which one continuously held working group met in the supervision of a neutral moderator was here the comparison between the well various interests held, with the help of a landscape architect as a "drawing hand" was a specific plan.

Participation: Initiating top-down
Participants: citizens who made it higher than that of a foreign design
Structure: Municipality of Tübingen, partnership groups
Financing: No specific subsidies were given beyond the standard tax breaks available nation-wide at the time (Eigenheimzulage - now discontinued).

Thursday, May 13, 2010


First out of four best examples of sustainable neighbourhood (in the world?); the district of Vauban in Freiburg, Germany. Next post is Französisches Viertel (French Quarter) in German Tübingen and then two exampes from Sweden; Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm and Western Harbour in Malmö

Freiburg in South-West Germany is called one of the greenest cities in the world. Not only because of its surroundings and closeness to Black Forest but because of its green policy, the political perspective.

The green movement in the city began over 30 years ago with the succesful campaign against the proposed nuclear power plant an nearby Whyl. After the Chenobyl disaster 1986 the municipalty desided to abdon nuclear power. Same year, Freiburg became on of the first cities in Germany to establish an Environmental Protection Office. Freiburg is now famous for the large investment in solar energy, public transportation and high use of bicycles. But in Freiburg its more; "citizens of Freiburg really do identify themselves with this policy".

PROJECT APPEARANCE DESCRIPTION; Vauban, a neighbourhood project, 38 hectares big, with 5000 inhabitans and 600 jobs, is one of the best examples of how to build urban spaces with ecological awarness. The neighbourhood is traffic-calmed, with majority of households not owning a car. Two large garages are situated in both ends. Low energy building is obligatory; zero-energy or energy-plus buildings are standard for the most. Between the housing the rows of old trees have been preserved as much as possible. Flat-roof with vegetation, store rainwater which is reused. Schools, kindergarten, youth facilities, civic meeting places, market place, restaurangs and cafeés as well as spaces for recreation and play can be found here. A tramline goes to and from the city center, rail covered with grass to reduce the sound. Single houses are promitted which leads to a compact urban building structure. The overall look is 2-4 stores high houses which are very diverse; every house have its own appairience, with a lot of green in the between but as well as at, over and around the houses.
Strategies; Several different ways to enter the area; the Genova Housing Association originated from Forum Vauban and was founded in 1997 to allow people with low incomes to be part of the Vauban project, the Students' Union, SUSI created dormitories with rooms for 600 students in six old barracks and three new buildings and the Buergerbau (Citizens' Building Stock Corporation) specialises in co-ordinating the building cooperatives (Baugruppen) as well as private developers. 15 baugruppen (several households get together, decide on a piece of land, plan a building and hire an architect and building team, thus saving money and time), co-building and co-housing were formed, each consist 5-15 families. To organise the whole, organisation Forum Vauban, founded in 1995 to support the planning and building process. Their maninly activties are;
  • Supporting the implementation of community-based building projects such as "Baugruppen" (groups of building owners), co-housing and co-operative building.
  • Realisation of a sustainable model district, especially in the fields of traffic and energy.
  • Coordination of the social work and implementation of a neighbourhood center
Participation: Bottom up
Participants: far-reaching citizen participation initiates model projects which go beyond sustainable measures set by a city.
Structure: forum of inhabitants (Forum Vauban e.V.), city council working group Vauban, building administration/project group Vauban
Financing: urban developing measures; provincial revitalisation programme Baden-Württemberg, model projects funded, amongst others, by the EU (LIFE programme) and the German Federal Foundation for the Environment, private investors

Read more;
Sustainable Urban District Freiburg-Vauban
Freiburg Green City

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Personal reflection on why and how

It seems that some people are born with an alturistic way to look upon the world. Altruism, definded as an unselfish consern for the wellfare of others is also used in biology where one can count how good it is to "help another" in a matter of pretect the genes in a family or colony, so called kin selection. Example is social insects and the naked mole rat. In our society, people can behave alturistic and have courage to stand up for others who can't speak up. But a lot of people have the never-ending question "how would this help me" (we might do some calculations for them, hm?).

In a world out of balance, we need to work with all. Even with people who do not think like us. This is the challenge.

But to start with, we should look to ourselves. How do we contribute to a better world? What is alturistic in my behavior? I nag alot about a vegetarian diet to cut low of the resources and everything what''s around. I know when I don't eat meat/milk that I use 1/3 of the agricultural land compared to a person with a mixed diet. I have no clue what local or seasonal choices adds to this but I know that the way of my eating habits affect my own impact on the world and that is other people in the world. Choices like I don't want to buy new things when I can find old things in the same condition, is another, seperate my garbage, buy organic and I do not own a car seems to me like I do like a lot of others does..

A woman said to me once that "no of course, we have to deal with our own problems first, before we can save the world", and its still in my head because this was a response to if I could go and help them in their exchange clothes day. I try to in my head in every choice I do, see the impact for both environment and humans. So would this not be an action, i.e "one small step to save the world"? I think that a lot of people think in this way, and they are really great, they do what they can do in their everyday life, but not in mass actions or demonstrations. So question is; does everday environmently behavior as action, counts?

What I think or you think, does it even counts in the big picture? Is it anyone that can see how I behave and act and think? If I have an environmental profile I might not buy so much stuff as others, and how do we measure "less". Does my lifestyle effect anything? Compare it to someone that buys a car and we need 100 of people like me? Or how is it? Or is it just a feeling of good alturistic behavior?

Example; for my owns sake I tried to be a vegan for a while, but as eggs are good nutritions, I stoped. Now, everytime I buy organic eggs, it feels as I do something good- because this will acually be counted. But if I buy lintils instead of meat- is that anyone who sees that? And even more important- if I done that for 12 years- does it counts? I know for my own that I try to make an even more delicious meal every time, and if I have friends or family over, it can affect them- but really, how can low-consumption be measured? Sure- it feels good for me, but its also a heck to find all good food, to think in every choice, even if I'm "use to it". So truth out, is it really alturistic (does it make it any better for others), or is it a selfish way to get the feeling "I've done my part".

In last conference/meeting with the group of "buy environmently friendly" (handla miljövänligt), from Society of Swedish Nature Conservation, a discussion about the organisation's labeling, Bra miljöval (one of strictest requirements in Sweden and most used) was brought up, and the question; how would the dream society look like in the future? was answered with -yes labeling is a way we are doing it, but we do it because it should be worthless- the goal is to have everything labeled". That future is maybe not for us who lives here right now, so being environmently friendly is both a direct act (counted as a demand for more organic stuff) and an act to future generations (organic production can run in the long-term). But an environmently friendly behavior that are based on a minimalistic way of shopping, is hard to see. In the other hand, a top-down attitude in terms of "someone else have to do it", "if it's that bad, we need to change"(means, restrictions from government) or "technology will fix the task" is not in the right line. Why haven't it already saved some of our resources for example? Last post show hos fisheries is in deep danger, and more examples can be found all over in different areas!

Why sustainable thinking is so boring for some, is because we need to think of how we act, how we consume, how we built, how we produce. We can not just do what we want, we need to think of the consequences in the long-term. The alturistic way thinks about the wellfare of other humans, now and in the future. But in a modern society where we don't have insight in everything we need to ask other, or put our trust into others who can labeling it. So is that a good society? Sure I can do the choice of being environmently friendly or I can have no knowledge at all; I can choice a nice, funny, interesting, nutrition right package! Choices! I have an environmentalist lifestyle or NOT.

The thing is that people don't have the interest in everything. And we (environmentalists) need to understand that, because it is hard also for us to do "right" in every situation. I think that in many situations it might not be right at all. To collaborate in those situations and discuss happens all the time, by science, labeling groups and in NGO's. But do we have the right answer? And if we have, who cares? Who are the people who will follow?

Information is not even the beginning on the task we have to deal with in a sustainable society. Some people are sensitive to it, want to discuss it, want to act in a way of involve more people. But not to forget, is to ask who those "more people" are. Everytime we do something like an "exchange clothes day" it will gathering a lot of people that just think in the same way as the people who organise it. So is it an improvement? We should make it easy for all. If we want to exchange clothes, we should be able to do it every day. To make it as easy as the alternatives should be the answer. And it is not before that, we can say that we fully act according to our arguments and puts this in the context of sustainable development i.e "save the world".

Like with the labeling- goal is to make it worthless, so should living in a society be without a need to feel to act alturistic, it should just be there naturally and right; wellfare should be equal.

Human made disaster- coral reef

Another great summary from TED. Coral reef ecologist Jeremy Jackson; How we wreckled the ocean.

The habitat distruction is unbelievable,
the area of the ocean floor that has been transformed from forest to level mud,to parking lot, is equivalent to the entire area of all the forests that have ever been cut down, on all of the earth in the history of humanity, and we manage to do that in the last 100 to 150 years.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Keep the flow

Have you, after meeting new people, felt that "that person was not my type" or "we didn't have "that"-the flow, or "that was a weird meeting" or even "what just happen there?". I admit, that happens to me a lot. But as well, other times its the other way,"we just had that flow" or "the meeting was so good, energy sparkeled everywhere" or "what a lovely person" or just a little dumb smile that holds to next meeting, maybe some angry eyes walking on the street.

To feel it in every situation- like in the shop, seeing people on the street walking, meeting friends friends, or at conferences, before lecture starts in the morning- is maybe not something we reflect and remember the rest of the days, but if you meet someone a little longer, its like you got to know them in relation to yourself and how you can work together- even if it just for a clue.

Some know the dance of meetings well, and can talk to almost anyone- question is if they are intrested in everyone or just social talent. Others might care a lot but can not even ask the questions she or he wants to, to not be rude or too curious. Some talkes about their experiences, their reading news, drinking habits or late nights- but is it a social skill to just talk when its not interesting to any?

Things that can be good to use in a good conversation can be used from the book Interviewing for solutions (De Jong, Berg 2007), where some of the "Skills for not knowing" also can be good in a meeting with a new person.

  • Listening (who and what is important for the person)
  • Affirming perceptions ("uh-hm", "sure","I can understand why you did...")
  • Responding (ask questions of why/how/when..)
  • Complimenting (respond to something said before, can be a question)
  • Key words (see if special words are used)
  • Paraphrasing (what they just said)
  • Natural empahty (not too much, be carefull with own experiences)
  • Normalizing (all kids do like that..)
  • Relationship questions (who/how/why do you know)
  • Scaling questions (0-10 in happieness etc.)
  • Nonverbal behavior (body language)

Another way of doing it well is with Nonviolent Communication (NVC), which is a way of talking to make sense between two people so they really understand each other. NVC can be used in a conflict or just to smoothering a conversation. The homepage present, Nonviolent Communication as;
a way of relating to ourselves and others, moment to moment, free of past reactions. By learning to identify your needs and express them powerfully, as well as to bring understanding to the needs of others, you can stay connected to what is alive in you and create a life that is more fulfilling.
The book Nonviolent Communication (Rosenberg, 2003) gives many examples of talks between wife and husband to find the needs that are there but which are not listening to, e.i not understood deeply, and also how to understand and solve war-situations with the methods. From the homepage;

How to do that [understand another's needs] can be with some concrete skills for manifesting the purpose of creating connections of compassionate giving and receiving based in a consciousness of interdependence and power with others;
  1. Differentiating observation from evaluation, being able to carefully observe what is happening free of evaluation, and to specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us;
  2. Differentiating feeling from thinking, being able to identify and express internal feeling states in a way that does not imply judgment, criticism, or blame/punishment;
  3. Connecting with the universal human needs/values (e.g. sustenance, trust, understanding) in us that are being met or not met in relation to what is happening and how we are feeling; and
  4. Requesting what we would like in a way that clearly and specifically states what we do want (rather than what we don’t want), and that is truly a request and not a demand (i.e. attempting to motivate, however subtly, out of fear, guilt, shame, obligation, etc. rather than out of willingness and compassionate giving).
Try to have a flow of a conversation, when one of the people do not care about what the others are saying! We have always "eldsjälar", "enthusiasts" (driving forcees), which can be good at their specialties, but what to do with the rest? Just assume that we do not want to talk to them, because they does not seem to want to talk to us?

In the process of sustainable development, we need to talk to everyone, even if difficult. But to start we might believe that it is easier if we do something together?! To have a common goal, or having the feeling that we need to do something, is the first step. Next is to create confidence in this process. This confidence must be built on the feeling of being important.

Eldsjälarna can't take the full process by themselves, even if other people "seems to think like them". To make this balance walk is to walk on the thin rope between two trees, with help from your friends on the sides. It takes a bit more time, but everyone gives their energy, concentration and collaboration. And in the end it feels like we were all in the process, and all of us made it flow.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Upon Equality

May Day. Stockholm, yesterday.

Good weather, great company, a lot of people and a huge message.

The fact that we "must" demonstrate, means that equality as a human right is not a general view, there is a conflict between the importance and current situation. In the picture, some of the demostrants of the Left Party, and the banner in the left says profitability against community. Although Sweden is one of the most equal countries in the world, we have had in recent years the right-wing party in government and the views if Sweden really is an equal country mension that good, are apparently different. Since we are about to vote again very soon, our biggest party, the Social Democrats was also mostly yelling against the incumbent government in its demonstration walk.

Why we need more equal communities was proved with the book The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, that came out last year. List below is from the homepage of The Equality Trust.

1) In rich countries, a smaller gap between rich and poor means a happier, healthier, and more successful population. Just look at the US, the UK, Portugal, and New Zealand in the top right of this graph, doing much worse than Japan, Sweden or Norway in the bottom left.

2) Meanwhile, more economic growth will NOT lead to a happier, healthier, or more successful population. In fact, there is no relation between income per head and social well-being in rich countries.

3) If the UK were more equal, we'd be better off as a population. For example, the evidence suggests that if we halved inequality here:

  • Murder rates would halve

  • Mental illness would reduce by two thirds

  • Obesity would halve

  • Imprisonment would reduce by 80%

  • Teen births would reduce by 80%

  • Levels of trust would increase by 85%

4) It's not just poor people who do better. The evidence suggests people all the way up would benefit, although it's true that the poorest would gain the most.

5) These findings hold true, whether you look across developed nations, or across the 50 states of the USA. ´

- The Equalily Trust.

Ending this post with an interview with the authors to the book The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone seen in YouTube.