Friday, December 30, 2011

Uplifting Story: Reviving Coral

As this year draws to a close, I ran across an interesting story about reviving coral reefs. Off the coast of Bali a group has been experimenting for over a decade on building metal cages which are electrified with a low voltage. Apparently the electricity stimulates the growth of coral 2 to 6 times faster! An encouraging step forward given the deterioration of coral reefs throughout the world.

I'm a bit weary of "technological fixes;" however, I'm encouraged by the ingenuity and dedication of conservationists willing to try new approaches that remediate our destruction.

Check out details of article and video at at:

Electrified Cages Revive Near-Dead Corals

YouTube video

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thrive and Beyond...

As the catch-all "sustainability" term becomes more over-used and thereby more amorphous, new terms and language is emerging for what lies ahead. One of these terms in "thriving." What I like about thriving is that is conjures a positive vision for what is possible--- it presents a vision for where we are going and it's an inviting vision-- one that makes us want to be a part of it rather than fostering a bleak survivalist perspective. Starting with a "blue sky" approach for what we want and then calibrating it based on constraints is much more inviting, appealing and powerful than immediately jumping to the constraints.

New books, websites, movies and blogs (see links below) have emerged and continue to be developed asking questions which help to envision a better future for all. They cover topics in: food, energy, politics, entrepreneurship, social action, education, finance, personal development, etc., etc... The conversation about a thriving future helps to bridge the inner world that drives us as individuals with the outer world that we interact with on a daily basis.

A small sampling of links include:

Journey of the Universe:
New Stories:
Pachamama Alliance:
Pioneers of Change:
Thrive Napa Valley:
Thrive Tribe:
Thrive: What on Earth Will it Take?
Thrivability: A Collaborative Sketch:

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bioneers: Education for Action

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Education for Action working group at the Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, California. The objective of this group of about 40 is to find ways of leveraging sustainability education on a national scale. Quite an ambitious goal, yet as we broke it down into smaller chunks, we discovered that there were some aspects that were very doable!

It was intriguing that this group of leaders from the education, marketing, media, business and government sectors, among others, had deep experience and ideas on how best to engage a broad spectrum of people in sustainability education. The process our group underwent included working in smaller groups of about 7 people to drill down on a specific area which was then blended into the outcomes from the other groups. This is a long-term objective in which we focused on achievable goals. I'm excited to see what unfolds.

On a broader perspective, I'm thrilled to see how Bioneers is expanding its programs into: Dreaming New Mexico (a template for implementing regional sustainable practices); Food & Farming, Indigeneity, Women's Leadership and Education. One of the strongest aspects of The Bioneers is its network of people and organizations working of all aspects of sustainable practices. Leveraging this network into more specific programs is a wonderful way to turn the network into meaningful action.

Last year, I remember being pleasantly surprised to see TED talks on an airline flight. I look forward to seeing Bioneers talks in future flights, websites, television, radio and many other outlets. This is already underway as the 'Beyond Bioneers' phase of these ideas are mainstreamed.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sustainable Leadership

As the term sustainability becomes more widespread, its meaning has undoubtedly morphed to mean many different things— living within nature's means; providing for future generations; protecting biodiversity, etc... What I see as emerging is the question: What can I do to make a difference in the world? And this question brings up the notion of leadership.

We may ask ourselves, what positive impact can I have in my immediate community? What can I do that has meaning and purpose? Recently, I finished reading Dan Millman's book, The Four Purposes of Life-- In his book, Millman describes the four purposes from an autobiographical perspective: first purpose: Learning Life's Lessons; second purpose: Finding Your Career and Calling; third purpose: Discovering Your Life Path; and fourth purpose: Attending to This Arising Moment. (FYI, Millman's well known book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior was made into a great film by the same name!).

An underlying theme in all the purposes, and indeed in finding our path, is slowing down and tuning into what resonates within us. It's definitely a challenge given the fast pace lives driven by technology, responsibilities, etc. Creating stillness and observing what's happening moment by moment...

Perhaps this is where sustainable leadership comes in: finding our purpose by creating the conditions that will clarify our life's path-- including, slowing down, observing, creating stillness, and being of service to others.

At a group level, David Logan has an interesting angle on Tribal Leadership. In his TED talk "David Logan on Tribal Leadership," he describes the different stages of tribal leadership and the importance of being able to communicate between the different stages.

Whether at the personal or tribal level, sustainable leadership appears to be gaining more visibility as we search for greater meaning in our actions.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Practical Visionaries and World Changers at Hollyhock

Last week I attended the Hollyhock Summer Gathering in Cortes Island, British Columbia, Canada. This event brings together an amazing group of practical visionaries and world changers. They presented their programs from the non-profit, for profit and government sectors. The presentations ranged form the history and future of solar energy, to the singularity, micro-financing efforts in Africa, youth empowerment programs, poverty projects, plastic pollution campaign and activism through the arts. A common theme is that these initiatives are working and making a positive difference in the lives of people throughout the planet.

What struck me about the participants was their stories of how they became involved in their efforts and their commitment to follow through from their vision through implementation. The location at Hollyhock, a learning center in a beautiful island off the coast of BC, is conducive to exploring out-of-the-box solutions. The structure which included plenaries in the morning and allowed the participants to offer presentations/workshops in the afternoon was a great way to have a wide range to unexpected topics covered. I enjoyed the valuable feedback and exchange of ideas that I received for my afternoon talk, "Creating A Thriveable Future."

The unstructured time during the conference was some of the most valuable ways of meeting new faces and establishing connections. Some of the greatest connections often happen at conferences during meals, walks or impromptu conversations. Kudos to the organizers for keeping the schedule flexible.

Below are some of the books and websites that I learned about and found most interesting:

Becoming Animal, by David Abram
Felt Sense: Writing with the Body, by Sondra Perl
The Singularity is Near, by Ray Kursweil
The Science of Delusion, by Rupert Sheldrake
Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Can Change Your Life, Your Company, and the World, by John Izzo
Voices of the Poor: Volume 1: Can Anyone Hear Us, by Deepa Narayan

A Network for Grateful Living

Co-Intelligence Institute

Compassionate Listening

Ian McKenzie: Penan

John Izzo

Marine Mammal Conservation Through the Arts (MMCTA)

Partnership for Youth Empowerment

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Climate Change and The Release of Pops

I just read an alarming story on the BBC website regarding the release of persistent organics pollutants (Pops); the article: "Melting Arctic releasing banned toxins , warn scientists." by Damian Carrington, 24 July 2011. (Note: original article: "Revolatilization of persistent organic pollutants in the Arctic induced by climate change." published in Nature Climate Change; 29 March 2011).

The article points out that as the planet's temperature rises and the Arctic melts, it's releasing toxic chemicals, banned under the 2004 Stockholm Convention, including: pesticides DDT, lindane, chlordane, PCBs and fungicide hexachlorobenzene (HCB). These Pops, which can cause cancer and birth defects, have been locked in the frozen ice and cold water are now being released due to global warming.

This situation reminds me of what is being played out in the Arctic tundra as the permafrost is melting and greenhouse gases are being released into the atmosphere. These consequences of climate change are surfacing more and more as the global temperature continues to rise. A very sobering account on the impact of climate change.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Renewables and Happiness!

Recently, I ran across a few very exciting solar (and wind) initiatives. It seems like the price point and financing options, such as solar service agreements whereby there is no up-front costs to the home owner), are making residential solar a no-brainer. Solar technology, including solar thermal, and lower production costs are creating a powerful leverage point to make solar affordable and thereby expanding its adoption. It's encouraging when the likes of Google are beginning to play in the "solar sandbox" in a big way and providing the necessary funding to dramatically increase its adoption. Check out: Google's new alliance with Solar City blog post (6/14/11 at 6:00 am):

Google is also setting a new bar by providing electric vehicle charging stations in their headquarters parking lot (a new technology that charges cars wirelessly. Check out: Googles EV charging stations blog post (6/9/11 at 10:00 am):

On the wind front, the concept of community wind, whereby the land owners own the wind turbines, is being taken to new heights by Juhl Wind. Details at:


On Happiness:
A new film is coming out called: HAPPY, from director Roko Beli.
It explores what makes us happy and looks at scientific studies that show certain traits of happy people.
For more info. and to see the movie trailer see:

Monday, May 30, 2011

Local Currencies: Localization Projects Taking Root

Community currencies seem to be on the upsurge as small towns and large cities recognize the value of supporting their local economies. There are numerous models including: BerkShares, Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS), and hours currency.

In Fairfax, California, Sustainable Fairfax, a non-profit, the local Chamber of Commerce and the Fairfax Town Council have gotten together to create a local currency, called Fairbuck. The Fairbuck token has a symbol of a buck on one side (part of the Seal of Fairfax) and a snail on the other (recognition of Fairfax becoming the second CittaSlow certified community in the country). It also has the inscription: "In community we trust." The FairBuck token has a $3 value and is accepted for goods and services by merchants in the Fairfax, California area. Due to launch next month, the Fairbuck is a great example of supporting the local economy by keeping the circulation of the coins locally.

Local currencies are spreading as more communities see the value of supporting their local economies. Some of the more well-known local currencies in the U.S. include: the BerkShares, in the Berkshire county of western Massachusetts, the Ithaca Hours in Ithaca, New York and the Plenty in North Carolina. In Europe, micro currencies are taking off in Germany and the concept perhaps will spread to Asia and Latin America.

For additional resources about local currencies, see:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lester Brown on Climate Change

Recently, I saw a concise and clear (and sobering) video of Lester Brown from the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. analyzing of the impacts of climate change as it relates to food production, water availability and other world trends. Brown highlights the impact of reduced food production as the focal point of climate change as part of what he covers in his latest book, World on the Edge.

Most interesting is the fragility of the world's food system; the impact of higher temperatures and reduced food yields, the effect of soil erosion; the impact of water scarcity, etc... All these trends are impacted by a very short window of time that we have to take action. World on the Edge offers pathways towards solutions to these global challenges we face as a global community.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Three New Documentary Films Envisioning a Better World

Three new sustainability-related documentary films that have been recently released may be of interest:

1) "Harmony: A New Way of Looking At Our World." This film narrated by Prince Charles does a good job of presenting some of the ideas of how best to live in balance with the natural systems. It touches on themes ranging from sustainable farming to biomimicry.

2) "I Am: The Shift is About to Hit The Fan." This documentary film released through limited theaters traces the transformation of Tom Shadyak, a movie director who travels the world asking the questions: "What's wrong with our world?" and 'What can we do about it?" This creates an interesting dialog from leaders including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John Francis, David Suzuki, Lynne McTaggart and many others.

3) "The Economics of Happiness." This film by Helena Norberg-Hodge, Steven Gorelick and John Page tackles the problems with our current economic system and presents the benefits of economic localization. It includes the perspectives of many of the leaders in the sustainability movement including: Bill McKibben, Vandana Shiva, David Korten, Richard Heinberg, Rob Hopkins and many more.

All three films point to solutions that are already happening and making positive change and creating a better world. They also focus on ideas that are spearheading a transformation at the economic, social and environmental level.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Brene Brown: the power of vulnerability

Recently, a colleague forwarded me a talk at the TED conference by Brene Brown, a social researcher. The talk, entitled, "The power of vulnerability," explores some simple yet profound topics that are directly related to our authenticity and well-being.

As we grapple with the complexity of sustainability issues, perhaps looking at these basic human characteristics will go a long way to working effectively together and allow our best selves to shine through.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sustainable Communities: The Oberlin Project

One of the more intriguing sustainability initiatives currently taking place is the Oberlin Project spearheaded by David Orr from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. The College owns a 13 acre plot in downtown Oberlin which they plan to develop and make a LEED platinum neighborhood. Working with the Clinton Global Initiative and the US Green Building Council, this initiative brings together a partnership with expertise in changing neighborhoods and improving peoples lives.

In their effort to revitalize about a dozen buildings in the next several years, this effort may prove to be a viable example of collaborations between colleges and their local communities. Rather than remaining as educational islands, by engaging with their communities colleges have an opportunity to implement their vision of sustainable practices into their local towns. In effect, expanding their ideas into projects that improve the lives of local residents while enhancing their educational mission. Replicating these types of projects may prove essential as we reinvent the meaning of creating sustainable and thriveable communities.