Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Payments for Ecosystem Services: best practice guide


Payments for Ecosystem Services: best practice guide

A best practice guide to assist with the design and implementation of Payments for Ecosystem Services schemes.

PDF, 10MB, 85 pages

By Bridget Elliott on 25th June 2013

Defra has recently issued a Best Practice Guide on Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES), the publication of which fulfils an important commitment made in the 2011 Natural Environment White Paper.  The Guide has been published alongside an Action Plan for developing PES which sets out actions government can take to facilitate the emergence of practical and innovative schemes.  The Guide was prepared by an expert consortium with hands-on experience of developing PES schemes and was produced in collaboration with potential users through a national workshop and consultation on an early draft. The Guide is divided into three parts: Part 1 provides an overview of PES including key principles and concepts; Part 2 provides step-by-step advice for designing and implementing a PES scheme; and Part 3 signposts further information and resources. The Guide is accompanied by an annex which sets out case studies of existing PES or ‘PES-like’ schemes from both the UK and overseas.


‘Future Bristol: Low Carbon 2050’

By Bridget Elliott on 25th June 2013

The City of Bristol has developed an online, interactive vision of what the city could look like in 2050. The website ‘Future Bristol: Low Carbon 2050’ presents two hypothetical scenarios, each featuring a different mix of low carbon measures, technology and infrastructure. The aim of the website is to prompt public discussion about how Bristol can become a low carbon city, and in particular, discover how the Bristol community feels about the two different scenarios (and the various low carbon features which make up each scenario). Ultimately, it is hoped that this website will provide a tool to help shape the future that the Bristol community would like by providing valuable evidence to inform local policy.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Scaling up Climate Action in Cities

The World Bank Institute Climate Change Practice (WBICC) has initiated a comprehensive capacity building program on Scaling up Climate Action in Cities. The initiative aims to support the development of sustainable, climate-friendly cities through knowledge services and technical capacity support to urban practitioners on how to develop and finance multi-sector, city-wide climate change action programs.  
It draws on the experience of pioneering efforts, for example the Rio de Janeiro Low Carbon City Development Program (LCCDP) - a comprehensive, cross-sectoral climate change mitigation program at the sub-national level that integrates low carbon concerns into the process of identification, assessment and approval of projects and policies within a developing country city. The program is expected to enable all future decisions in the city to be reviewed through a climate lens. In 2012, the program was certified using a combination of ISO environmental and GHG standards by environmental auditor DNV (Det Norske Veritas). In the initial assessment DNV concludes that if implemented as designed, the Program is likely to contribute to the achievement of Rio de Janeiro's climate change mitigation goals.

This webinar discusses the Scaling up Climate Action in Cities program, and look at the example of Rio LCCDP and how this can be applied to other cities around the world.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Turn down the heat : climate extremes, regional impacts, and the case for resilience


This report focuses on the risks of climate change to development in Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and South Asia. Building on the 2012 report, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided, this new scientific analysis examines the likely impacts of present day, 2°C and 4°C warming on agricultural production, water resources, and coastal vulnerability for affected populations. It finds many significant climate and development impacts are already being felt in some regions, and in some cases multiple threats of increasing extreme heat waves, sea level rise, more severe storms, droughts and floods are expected to have further severe negative implications for the poorest. Climate related extreme events could push households below the poverty trap threshold. High temperature extremes appear likely to affect yields of rice, wheat, maize and other important crops, adversely affecting food security. Promoting economic growth and the eradication of poverty and inequality will thus be an increasingly challenging task under future climate change. Immediate steps are needed to help countries adapt to the risks already locked in at current levels of 0.8°C warming, but with ambitious global action to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, many of the worst projected climate impacts could still be avoided by holding warming below 2°C. 

Complete Report in English

Official version of document

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

10 Ways to Cut Global Food Loss and Waste

This post is the third installment of WRI’s blog series, “Creating a Sustainable Food Future.” The series explores strategies to sustainably feed 9 billion people by 2050. All pieces are based on research being conducted for the 2013-2014 World Resources Report.

An amazing 24 percent of all food calories produced today go uneaten. Reducing this loss and waste is a critical step toward generating enough food for a population set to reach more than 9 billion by 2050.

Fortunately, there are low-cost methods that can begin saving food immediately in both the developing and the developed world. WRI’s new working paper, Reducing Food Loss and Waste, identifies a number of these strategies. Some methods cut loss “close to the farm,” while others reduce waste “close to the fork.”

Reducing Food Loss Close to the Farm
Improved storage methods

Simple, low-cost storage methods can drastically cut food loss, especially for small-scale farmers in the developing world, who frequently lose food to factors like pests, spoilage, and transportation damage. For example, a system developed by researchers at Purdue University in which grain is stored in three interlocking plastic bags locks out pests and keeps grain fresh for months. The Food and Agriculture Organization has built more than 45,000 small, metal storage silos—just big enough for use by a single farmer—in 16 different countries. These silos have cut food loss during the storage phase to almost zero. Even using a plastic crate instead of a plastic sack during transport can cut loss dramatically by preventing bruising and squashing.

Redistribute food

Some perfectly good food just never gets eaten. It might be because a farmer can’t afford to harvest an entire field, or because a grocer has ordered too much of an item and can’t sell it all. One way to reduce this type of food loss and waste is to simply redistribute food by giving it to food banks and similar outreach groups. An Australian organization called SecondBite, for example, redirected to community food banks 3,000 metric tons worth of food in 2012 that would otherwise have been thrown away.

Reducing Food Waste Close to the Fork
Better food date labels

Confusion around “use-by,” “sell-by,” “best-before,” and other date labels can lead people to throw out food that is still perfectly good to eat. For example, one survey conducted by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) in the United Kingdom found that one-fifth of food thrown out by households was incorrectly perceived as being out of date due to confusing labels.

Retailers can alleviate confusion by removing certain date labels, such as “sell-by” dates in the United States, which only convey information to the retailer. Tesco, for example, has piloted a program in which “display until” dates are removed from packages, leaving only a “use by” date. The grocer found that this change has been well-received by customers and also leads to less waste at the store level.

Reduce portion sizes

Huge portion sizes at restaurants and buffets can lead to large amounts of food waste, as people are unable to finish the meals they order. Restaurants can reduce this type of waste—and their own operating costs—by offering smaller sizes of menu items.

There are also some more creative ways to cut this type of waste. For example, Michigan’s Grand Valley State University introduced a tray-less system in its cafeterias. Because students could no longer load up trays with food, the University found that over the course of a year, each student was wasting about 56 pounds of food fewer than the year before, or about 28,000 fewer pounds overall.

Launch consumer awareness campaigns

Consumer awareness campaigns reveal how much food people actually waste and provide simple solutions for cutting down on that waste. Grocers can play a part in these initiatives. For example, stores run by The Co-operative Group in the UK print storage tips for fruits and vegetables directly on their plastic produce bags. Initiatives such as cooking classes and information displays sponsored by local governments and community groups can also provide consumers with information that helps reduce waste.

5 Cross-cutting Ways to Prevent Food Loss and Waste

Although these initiatives can all help reduce food loss and waste immediately and cost-effectively, the global community will also need to take some bigger, cross-cutting steps to tackle this issue. WRI’s new working paper identifies five key recommendations:

  1. Develop a food loss and waste measurement protocol: What gets measured gets managed. A global “food loss and waste protocol” could provide companies and countries with a standardized way to measure and monitor food loss and waste.

  2. Set food loss and waste reduction targets: Setting time-bound targets inspires action by raising awareness, focusing attention, and mobilizing resources. Targets at the global, national, sub-national, and business levels will help spur action on reducing food loss and waste. For example, the European Union has announced a target of reducing food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2050.

  3. Increase investment in reducing post-harvest losses in developing countries: A great deal of food loss in developing countries happens “close to the farm,” but only about 5 percent of agricultural research funding goes toward minimizing post-harvest losses. Doubling this amount of funding would be a huge step in the right direction.

  4. Create entities devoted to reducing food waste in developed countries: WRAP is a good model of this sort of entity. The organization is independent of the national government, but works closely with business and governments on waste reduction. For example, it works with manufacturers to minimize waste during factory processes, convenes voluntary agreements with grocery retailers to reduce in-store waste, and conducts consumer awareness campaigns to educate the public about household food waste.

  5. Accelerate and support collaborative initiatives to reduce food loss and waste: International initiatives such as SAVE FOOD and Think.Eat.Save bring together a wide range of actors like private businesses, governments, and intergovernmental organizations to tackle food loss and waste. These initiatives provide a space for inspiring action, effective collaboration, and sharing of best practices.

A War on Food Waste and Loss

By 2050, the world will need about 60 percent more calories per year in order to feed 9 billion people. Cutting current food loss and waste levels in half would shrink the size of this food gap by 22 percent.

The world faced an analogous situation in the 1970s with the energy crisis. In the face of record oil prices and growing demand, several industrialized nations essentially declared war on energy wastefulness, significantly improving their energy efficiency. A “war on waste” has yet to be waged when it comes to food. Given that food prices have hit historic highs and global demand continues to rise, now is the time to start slashing food waste and loss.

  • Installment 2: Reducing Food Loss and Waste

    About 24 percent of all calories currently produced for human consumption are lost or wasted. This paper examines the implications of this amount of loss and waste, profiles a number of approaches for reducing it, and puts forth five recommendations for how to move forward on this issue.

    Download the report PDF, 1.1MB


Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Future Cities Are Smart Cities

In the midst of rapid technological innovation, our cities are becoming “smarter.” We may have passed the first part of the digital revolution, but the fact stands that technology is now an inseparable part of our lives. Smart cities around the globe are adopting new digitally based infrastructure and introducing new services in this arena to maintain global competitiveness.

Recognizing this trend, the European Union has founded the European Commission for Smart Cities and Communities. Realizing that cities are key to future sustainable development, the commission seeks to address crisis-era problems of an aging population, unemployment, and the ailing commercial-industrial sector. Milan is one such example, maintaining an active website dedicated to tracking public hearings, progress, and resources regarding the initiative.


The main objective of the smart city is to promote an ICT (Information & Communications Technology) led development in several key areas including economy, mobility, environment, and quality of life. Programs involve funding for hi-tech startups, hybrid and environmentally friendly transportation, smart grid implementation and energy efficiency, as well as improved educational and health systems.

ICT education is also an important part of this development. Pablo Chillon defined the term digizens, educated digital citizens who are both comfortable and capable of effectively using these resources. Because the public is at the heart of this endeavor, participation is imperative for success. These proposals give us the opportunity to create an inclusive economy that combats spatial exclusion, provides sustainable housing solutions, and reinvigorates urban cores.


Cities should ideally implement a systemic digital plan into their long range vision; this strategy can be a useful method for promoting the participatory process that is essential in finding community consensus. This also has potential to influence new models of urban planning, which will undoubtedly change in regard to future communication and interaction patterns.

What policies or actions do you think are necessary for your smart city?

Credits: Photographs by Maxwell Vidaver. Data linked to sources.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Sustainia100 - 100 innovative solutions from around the world


More than a model and a vision, Sustainia aims to be the world’s one-stop toolbox for sustainable solutions. Sustainia100 is an overview and inspiring catalogue of solutions already out there, which will make Sustainia a reality.

Sustainia100 is an annual guide to 100 innovative solutions from around the world that presents readily available projects, initiatives and technologies at the forefront of sustainable transformation.

Our 2013 edition of Sustainia100 is coming out June 9th – and there is plenty to look forward to! Sustainia received 500+ submissions from 79 countries for this year’s guide. The final 100 solutions are deployed in two thirds of the world’s countries – including Kenya, India, Mexico and South Africa, making the Sustainia100 guide reflect innovation from the traditional western hubs as well as parts of the world that are normally not well covered.

Identifying 100 innovative, sustainable solutions in 10 key sectors, spanning from energy, transportation to fashion, food and education. Sustainia100 gives investors, regional developers, business leaders, politicians, and consumers in-depth insights to the most promising projects and technologies within their field.


More publications:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Seven Paths to a Meaningful Life

By Philip Zimbardo

The following is adapted from a commencement address Philip G. Zimbardo delivered at the University of Puget Sound earlier this month. Dr. Zimbardo, a giant in the field of social psychology, is now a professor at Palo Alto University, a professor emeritus at Stanford University, and the president of the Heroic Imagination Project. In the text of his talk below, we have embedded links to research supporting his advice to graduates.

As I now complete my 55th year of teaching psychology, I am ever more grateful for the unique opportunity we teachers each have to learn from and share in the youthful exuberance of our students.

Teachers who inspire their students are everyday heroes, who should be more treasured by our society, as should parents and guardians like you here today who have sacrificed much for the well-being and success of your longtime students.

I wish for all of you graduates a happy life and one that contributes to the collective good. To help you on your way, I want to lay out seven paths to personal happiness and collective well-being based on insights from my research on evil, heroism, time, shyness, and the power of the social situation.

So, here are Dr. Z’s seven paths to a fulfilling life, both personally and communally.

1. Use time wisely and well.

Time is our most precious asset, never to be wasted, and always to be used mindfully by balancing its three energy sources: Being well-grounded in a positive past that links you to your family, identity and culture; being open to the power of the hedonic present that connects you to the energy flow of the moment; and also in being motivated to succeed to the full extent of your ability in your hope-filled future that in turn, enables you to soar to new destinations.

With that temporal balance comes a new flexibility in adapting to the many situational challenges you will face. Respect and learn from the past, yours and those of others. Selectively immerse yourself in a present-orientation that fosters human connection and compassion, while opening you to appreciate nature and art more fully. Use its pleasures as self-rewards for the hard-earned successes you have won, and will achieve by being future-focused.

Finally, although there is never enough time in our fast paced lives, we each must learn how to make time for family, make time for friends, and make time for personal fun.

2. Love a lifetime of learning.

For several decades, you have been living a rather privileged life—one filled with the entitlement of being free from many societal obligations in order to think, to learn, to reason, to question, and to create. It is now time for you to more fully appreciate that gift by continuing to be a studious student for the rest of your life. As you do so, in Life 2.0, you will add on the commitment of making your community and your nation better in every way that you can.

For me, my continual joy in being a somewhat ever-older student means that I am always filled with curiosity and wonder, asking why, discovering how, challenging ignorance, and demanding evidence for all assertions by the “true believers.”

3. Nurture your passions.

In addition to making your usual, to-do list of tasks for the day, try making a second private list of what it is that you really want in life each day. Discover what you really feel passionate about and make that an essential focus and energy source in your life.

Doing so means that passionate endeavors will become a source of personal pride, which will help guarantee that your life will never be “meaningless” to you when you look back on it in the future, as too many economically successful business people have sadly reported.

4. Transform shyness into social engagement.

Practice becoming the socially engaging host at life’s parties instead of resigning yourself to be its perpetually reluctant shy guest.

Just as we all have a choice of being a leader or a follower, we each choose whether or not to adopt a shy persona, or a more outgoing one. Shyness is a self-imposed social restriction that limits others from having access to your inner strengths and virtues because you have created that social barrier. My metaphor for shyness is that it is a self-imposed psychological prison, in which one gives up freedom of association and freedom of speech—the most prized and hard-won freedoms of any democracy. But it is our own thinking and feeling that makes it so, not any natural law of nature.

One unexpected joy of graduation and moving on to new venues is that no one there yet knows that you are shy, so you can start all over and fool them into being excited to come to your parties, where you will dance with them, like in novelist Nikos Kazantakis’ wonderful Zorba the Greek.

5. Remake your image.

It is time to trade in your familiar, comfortable habits for personally challenging, novel adventures that can liberate you from the boredom of predictability. From time to time, consider violating the expectations others have about what you are expected to do, or you have come to do routinely and mindlessly.

To rise above the mundane, it is time to take more calculated risks, to learn from your mistakes, to try harder and think wiser the next time around. The simple solution for avoiding cognitive dissonance when your decisions do not work as you had hoped is to practice saying, “I made a mistake. I’m sorry, forgive me, Let’s move on.”

6. Become a positive deviant.

One source of negative group power is the pervasive pressure of social norms over each of us to not take action in emergency situations, to not get involved, to mind our own business, to do nothing when we know we should do something.

Most of us, when we witness examples of bystander apathy, typically say, “I would have gotten involved!” However, when we are actually caught up in the social drama of the social situation, the majority of us cave into the social norm of being helpless, mindless bystanders.

Time to change that. Practice being a social deviant in small ways to experience the power others have over you. Try putting a black dot on your face for a day. When questioned about this out of character marking, simply say, “I just felt like doing it, no big deal.” If you can resist the pressures friends and family and strangers will most likely impose on you to get rid of it, you will have gained a new sense of inner power of the one over the many.

Last, and for me most important, is path seven.

7. Train yourself to become an everyday hero.

Finally, it is time to start a new social revolution by becoming a willing social change agent, prepared to change the world for the better, each day in some way, by standing up, speaking out, and taking action, to do the Right Thing when others are doing the Wrong Thing, or the No Thing. You will make a commitment to challenge all evil in whatever forms it takes, doing so with moral courage linked to righteous integrity.

Let the most valued private virtues of compassion and empathy be your guiding light, but let readiness to engage in everyday heroic action be your daily goal and your most respected civic virtue. Develop a personal code of honor that you are willing to share with others.

Heroism can be developed, can be taught, and can be trained, like other vital individual characteristics, such as assertiveness and mindfulness. Heroism is acting on behalf of others in need or in defense of a moral cause despite potential risks and costs. Thus, it requires a socio-centric orientation rather than an egocentric one. Egocentrism, like pessimism and cynicism, is an enemy of heroism.
You will be more likely to notice someone in need if you have developed the daily habit of opening yourself to other people by routinely noticing what others are doing and imagining what they are feeling. One way to do so each day, in some way, is by trying to make other people feel special, respected, and valued—by sharing with them justifiable complements, while acknowledging their unique individuality.

Also remember that when people are organized into action networks, they carry out the most effective heroism, not as solo warriors. So learn to persuade others to share your vision of what needs fixing, by assembling your buddies into a Hero Squad to challenge collectively the evils of action, such as bullying, gender violence, discrimination, corruption, fraud, slave labor and sex trafficking, while also opposing the more pervasive evils of inaction, such as ignoring the threats of the devastating consequences of global climate change, and the failure to remedy the socio-economic devastation of our Native Americans by decades of non-action or wrong actions of our government agencies.

The challenges before you are many, the opportunities endless, all awaiting your solutions, your youthful energies, and most of all, your glowing idealism ready to be infused into a new kind of smart and wise social activism that can reshape our society in the next decades.

My call to action: Just Do It—But Do It Heroically.

Go forth in peace and joy and love to remake the world for the better, bit by bit, person by person, cause by cause, and heroic action by action.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

DELTAS 2013 Presentations

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Thursday, May 23, 2013


Please click here to download the final Program from DELTAS2013VIETNAM.

Please click here to download the final Communiqué of Cooperation from DELTAS2013VIETNAM.

Please click here to view photos from DELTAS2013VIETNAM.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Wisdom of One Place: Why We Need to Know Where We Are

By Fred First

Fred First, teacher then physical therapist, is now an embedded naturalist and armchair biology-watcher. Blogger, author, and photographer, Fred is involved in sustaining the creative economy and relocalizing agriculture in Floyd County, VA.

My brief return to the biology classroom in 2005 after a 17-year absence brought a shocking revelation: the outdoors was an alien and unknown place to my students.

Out of 120 on field trips near campus along Virginia’s New River that semester, only one student could call one of some 50 observed living things by name: poison ivy. Everything else—birds and bushes, wildflowers and vines, insects and fungi—were anonymous strangers.

That revelation disturbed me. What would become of this place if future generations were so out of touch with the natural world? A short while later I learned that this oblivion had been given a name: nature deficit disorder. Reading that phrase for the first time confirmed to my dismay that my students’ nature blindness was not an isolated condition; but I also took encouragement knowing that others were becoming aware of the need to reverse the consequences of this retreat indoors.

I’ve since come to think of our latter-day denaturing as just one among several interrelated but broken bonds within the tattered web of human identity. Many of us also suffer placelessness and eco-apathy—distortions of perception that prevent us from clearly seeing ourselves rightfully integrated in our here and now.

Writer Eudora Welty perhaps holds the key to the needed remedies in this one statement: “One place understood helps us know all places better.”

To restore wholeness to the brokenness we’ve inflicted on the planet’s living systems, we need go no further than that one place just beyond our doors—to sense and know that accessible fragment of the whole of nature that we can see, taste, hear, smell and wrap our heads and hearts around in our own nearby terrain.

As we succeed with that reintegration of human lives with nature, we also will grow to appreciate the places where our stories unfold, to reclaim sense of place—an identity with the where of our lives in all its uniqueness of topography and history and culture. We become placed persons even as we become a renatured people.

From this reintegration with nature and place may evolve eco-empathy: an organic personal-ecological ethic that puts each of us back into the web of right relationships, back not only into local nature but into the intended natural order as stewards with a seven-generation commitment to the well-being of people and planet.

Broken relationships with nature and place have been wrong roads on the map from which we have blundered our way to a desolate mental and spiritual landscape. We need a new map, a new story of who we are that reveals that web of inter-connectedness we have learned to ignore. Better maps require that we become wiser, not smarter. Wisdom is wielded in fostering and guiding vital relationships to nature, place and community.

One place understood helps us know all places better. One mountain stream, one wildflower meadow or mountain bald or beaver pond better known helps us both to know and to hold an empathetic bond with all meadows and balds, forests and wetlands, and with their non-human inhabitants. Our species becomes placed properly as one living actor in the larger web called Life on Earth, but one with awesome obligations.

My students’ indifference to nature facts, I now understand, was a symptom of a broader blindness to essential relationships in their lives. This blindness also made them indifferent to where their water or food or electricity came from back in their home towns. As denatured and placeless humans, they were barely aware of who or where they were in the context of nature or the landscape or time.

If we are successful in renaturing, relocalizing and instilling a personal ecology, we may yet reconcile relationships for tomorrow’s children and students, and for all of us—bringing us closer to healthy and just and whole ways of thinking about ourselves within our personal habitats, neighborhoods and the grand web of being.

This reconciliation will be local, relational, and personal. It is possible, within our grasp, and already underway.

In this hope, we may come back to the best of our selves, with wisdom and humility, whole and thankful within our one known place in nature, and connected by that understanding to better care for all places.


Top Photo by Ashley Turner

Additional thoughts:

The Nature of Place: Fred First at TEDx

Getting to Know My Place: Searching for Authenticity in a Virtual World — by Richard Louv

Peace in Nature: Aylee Tudek, 16, Shares Her Sense of Wonder

What’s Good in Your Hood? Nearby Nature and Human Hope — by Akiima Price

Friday, June 7, 2013

Landfill Harmonic

 A cello made from an oil can and pieces of wood thrown in the garbage; a saxophone made of spoons and buttons. These are the instruments crafted by Nicolas, a recycler with no previous experience making musical instruments, living hand-to-mouth by the garbage dump in Catuera, Paraguay. Inspired by this initiative and creativity, Maestro Luis Szaran, director of "Sounds of the Earth," formed a "recycled orchestra" with children living at the dump. "Our main goal isn't to form good musicians, but to form good citizens." Now 30 members strong, listen to the sweet sounds of these recycled instruments and the hopes and dreams of the children who play them.

Landfill Harmonic
Alejandra Nash & Juliana Penaranda-Loftus

   To demonstrate that creative and simple solutions can bring powerful social transformation to the poorest communities.

    Creative Visions Foundation (CVF) provided Landfill Harmonic with production and outreach services from project inception including pro-bono legal, public relations, and strategic partnerships. CVF raised funds through individual donations and foundations and helped market the online trailer that reached more than 850,000 people. Additionally, Landfill Harmonic has been featured in other CAP member newsletters, and was invited to present at TEDx San Diego through CVF.

Too many children in the world are born into lives with little or no hope. Our film reveals a mind-boggling, inventive effort to change that - musical instruments made from trash. In the barrios of Paraguay, a humble garbage picker uses his ingenuity to craft instruments out of recycled materials - and a youth orchestra is born. Music arises and children find new dreams.

Our film will showcase the power of creativity, hope, empowerment, and community work. We began official production in 2011. We filmed some of the children who learned to play violin, flute, drums, cello, string bass, and more - all made from recycled metal drums, tin cans, and plastic pipes. Their spirits soar with each note they play.

We are returning to the village in 2012 to update the progress of three young children who recently entered the orchestra. Landfill Harmonic shows how trash and recycled materials can be transformed into beautiful sounding musical instruments, but more importantly, it brings witness to the transformation of precious human beings.

Our lives were changed in making this film so far - and with your help in allowing us to complete it, we hope to change yours.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Getting to Sustainable Energy for All by 2030 [INFOGRAPHIC]

The idea of “powering the world” seems a bit overwhelming… and probably unlikely, if we think strictly in the context of how we generate and distribute power in the developed world. If, however, we focus on readily-available energy sources that people in the developing world can use for common, everyday tasks – like cooking or charging a cell phone – getting energy to the entire world doesn’t seem quite so far-fetched, or so unsustainable.

The World Bank’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative focuses on how to get “modern energy” to the entire global population efficiently, effectively, and with the lowest environmental and health impacts. The infographic below provides a look at the initiative’s three main goals; if you’re interested in digging deeper into the research and thinking behind these goals, the Bank has a ton of content available.

No doubt, some will find action by the World Bank controversial: feel free to share your concerns with us. I like what I see in terms of realistic, measurable goals; if you do, also, please share your thoughts, too.

sustainable energy for all infographic


Eight Guidelines for Urban Design: Keeping Creativity at the Heart of Cities


The buzzword ‘creativity’ comes in handy when making top-down planning strategies sound somewhat more positive, inclusive or even alternative; making them attractive not just to cultural practitioners and publicly funded arts organisations, but also to local residents and businesses who associate creativity with notions of change and innovation. However, this often ignores the fact that creativity cannot be used interchangeably in different contexts. What creativity signifies in some cultures is very different from others. Whereas in Europe creativity stands for originality, in other parts of the world it signifies how well someone can replicate ideas. There is no common ground in defining what “applied” creativity is. In cultural strategy, creativity is often used as a proxy for how much cultural consumption infrastructure a city offers. Planning creativity in favour of consumption is a risky undertaking that often gentrifies original clusters of cultural production.

In this post I will explain the reasons for this and will conclude with a toolkit on how to sustain the field of cultural production.

Cities were extremely important for the emergence of contemporary cultural production as they are places with extreme spatial and social density, access to infrastructure and with labour specialisation and cultural emancipation. In the UK this led to the emergence of what was first called cultural industries, now known as the creative industries to allow an expansion into technology and innovation markets.

Cultural production

Cultural production requires a complex contextual setting to access both cultural content and cultural audiences. Philosopher Pierre Bourdieu (The Field of Cultural Production) describes this as a process of artistic position taking within a distinct field of forces and power relations in an urban ecosystem. With forces he means the different interconnected ‘scapes’ of cultural flow, for example ethnoscapes, financescapes and technoscapes (see Appandurai) that form part of the socio-cultural-economic relations triangle. Power relations are determined by the position we hold as either cultural producers or consumers.

At the development stage of a specific culture-led urban regeneration project, cultural production is often sidelined by extensive investment in cultural consumption infrastructure and venue-based activities that are costly and need to be subsidised over a long term. Culture in the context of cultural and creative industries is confronted with the tension between cultural content and cultural instrumentalisation. The latter is the cause of disparity between the image of a creative city and the practicabilities of physically embedding culture and creativity in cities.

Economic growth

One form of cultural instrumentalisation is represented by Richard Florida’s creative class model, which positions the creative city as a place-marketing strategy. Culture becomes merely a means to non-cultural ends as entrepreneurial city leaders favor short-term economic growth over long-term activation of cultural assets.

Creativity and cultural production become secondary in this narrative, leading to the alienation of local creative activity through a) perceived displacement caused by changes to the local field of cultural production, and through b) physical displacement such as gentrification and the inaccessibility of affordable work and living space. Hence cultural production and in effect also consumption cannot be sustained without subsidies.
(Besides sustaining the material fabric of cultural activity, it is crucial to maintain the contextual field of production from which cultural content emerges!)

Social cohesion

Creative city advocator Charles Landry has since the late 80’s consulted city councils on how to make cities more beautiful, liveable and socially inclusive. His socially creative city goes hand in hand with the emergence of alternative cultures in the 1960s and 70s, from which ideas about active audience engagement, museum learning and visitor participation came from. This again brought forth social inclusion legitimation programs in which art institutions had to monitor their work with communities and evaluate projects in order to receive public funding.

Local authorities and cultural institutions became trapped in the legitimisation process of commissioning culture. This fostered the emergence of high-cost flagship cultural facilities that stimulated cultural consumption as a ‘safe’ public investment option, without actually creating the space from which creativity would emerge from cities, rather than being imported into them.


So, what would a policy look like that fosters local cultural production and creativity?

1) Understanding the creative industries
Creative city policy makers should not rely on the given categories of the cultural industries (for example fashion, media, fine art). They should instead operationalise interdisciplinary work to broaden cross-sector growth possibilities and an understanding of the needs of the creative industries in other business sectors. This would stimulating new cultural content and non-normative approaches to urban problems for example.

British Council Toolkit: Mapping the Creative Industries

2) Alternatives to culture?
The creative industries are often praised as the saviour of urban economies despite being precarious sectors with little long-term employment and revenue stability. Policy makers need to assess whether their urban strategy requires cultural resources or if there are alternatives in solving urban problems.

3) Land-use and infrastructure
Beyond assuring openness towards infrastructure and land use strategy, we have to create an awareness for the involvement of creatives professionals in policy/public consultation. Creatives need flexible space and not an expensive flagship development that they cannot access (means have to match ends after all).

Case study: Cultural production, place and politics on the South Bank (Peter Newman & Ian Smith)

4) Stakeholder analysis
A detailed stakeholder analysis is necessary to determine local cultural actors and networks of cultural production (creative workers and the creative class are not the same stakeholder group and need different support structures). It is financially and culturally more efficient to operationalise already existing cultural resources, rather than displacing them with imposed networks and structures.

Case study: Urban development and the politics of a creative class. Evidence from a study of artists (Ann Markusen)

5) Home-growing talent
Home-growing creatives is a highly important element of anchoring cultural production locally. In creative city literature, education often becomes sidelined, assuming that creative talent is simply floating around freely. Education is about providing quality teaching and access to networks and knowledge. In today’s mass education market these virtues are long gone as arts students for example have little academic challenges to conquer, while spending all their fees on art school studio space and scarcely allocated tutorials.

Case study: The art of innovation. How fine art graduates contribute to innovation (Andy Pratt et al.)

6) Governing principles
Planning and jurisdiction boundaries are often misidentified and cause complications at the implementation stage, hence many initially promising developments being conformed to investors needs or bogged down completely. Much work needs to be done analysing the proposed cultural support mechanisms qualitatively before reaching the policy implementation stage (to avoid an expensive overhaul of an unsubstantiated strategy).

Case study: Beyond the Creative City. Cultural policy in an age of scarcity (Jonathan Vickery)

7) Communicating goals
While working with ‘creatives’, the necessary formal structures of policy development will still be required in providing a structured and accountable response to specific urban problems. This confirms that a balanced conversation between authorities and cultural stakeholders is necessary to map collective goals.

8) Conclusion
Planners, policy makers and creatives need the willingness to learn from policy mismatch, in order to follow an open strategy agenda that would allow for the right support structures to foster connectivity and growth. For cultural production this would mean sustaining the field of production (i.e. the local urban identity) and providing the possibilities for creativity to remain at the heart of the creative city.

Case study: The cultural contradictions of the creative city (Andy Pratt)

Silvie Jacobi is an artist and cultural strategist studying urban geography and creative industries at King’s College London.

Images via Metro Centric and Buildington


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Celebrating World Environment Day with a Focus on Food

by Jane Lee

June 5th is World Environment Day! Tell us about one thing you would do to make our planet a better place. For inspiration, read below to find out what the UN is focusing on in 2013…

In 1972, the UN organized the first World Environment Day with the purpose of encouraging individuals all over the world to take action on behalf of our environment. This year, the UN Environment Programme has chosen to spotlight the theme “Think.Eat.Save.”

A focus on food couldn’t be timelier. As global debates about climate change, population growth, biodiversity loss, and natural resource depletion intensify, it’s important to think about how the basic human act of eating affects all of these vital issues.

Fresh vegetables

Photo credit: Lars P.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), one third of global food production is either wasted or lost. 30 percent of the world’s energy goes toward food production and distribution, but of that 30 percent, up to 40 percent is wasted when food is thrown away or goes uneaten. These are alarming numbers, especially given the fact that 925 million people across the world go hungry.

Wasted food isn’t the only problem. Inefficiencies in production and distribution methods cause even further losses of natural resources and energy. For instance, meat and dairy products are some of the most resource-intensive and environmentally harmful foods to produce. The meat industry requires vast quantities of water, land, feed, and labor while at the same time it is responsible for an estimated 18 to has much as 51 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Crops grown in industrial-scale monocultures require large amounts of fossil fuel-based fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. And produce that is shipped from halfway around the world or processed foods that are double-wrapped in plastic packaging are just two examples of how energy and resources are expended even after a crop has been harvested.

Beef Cattle Factory FarmPhoto credit: Socially Responsible Agricultural Project

Liquid fertilizer applicationPhoto credit: eutrophication&hypoxia

But despite the fact that food waste and the environmental costs of food production continue to pose serious problems, the good news is that there are numerous ways for individuals and communities to make an impact for the better. People all over the world are working tirelessly to transform our food system into one that is sustainable and nourishing for everyone along the food chain. Whether through political activism, community organizing, research, education, or simply changing your own day-to-day habits, there are countless ways to make a difference. Here are just a few of the many ways you can reduce waste and your environmental footprint when you eat:

    • Learn more about the global food supply chain. Check out these resources on!
    • Buy only what you need. Come up with a list before heading to the market to save time and money as well as prevent unnecessary food waste.
    • At meals, eat multiple servings of small portions instead loading your plate with food all at once.
    • Composting is a great way give new purpose to food scraps and food waste. Find out if your local community has a composting program, or try making compost on your own!
    • Buy food that is seasonal and locally produced. It’s fresher and took less energy to get to your kitchen.
    • Choose foods lower down on the production chain. Cut down on meat and dairy as well as processed foods!
    • Plant seeds. Whether you cultivate a small window box or your entire yard, it’s empowering and eye-opening to grow your own food!

To learn more about global food issues, check out the Permaculture Supporter and Sustainable Farmers and Gardeners groups on!


Seeking communities

By Paul Born

"The Seeking Community is organizing around three themes: enjoy each other, care for one another, and work together for a better world. To enjoy each other is build the social capital and resilience between us. The premise of social capital is that resilient relationships are the glue that binds us. If we know each other well enough and enjoy each other’s company, we will be more likely to look out for one another and care about their well-being.

When mutual acts of caring happen, you will most often find a deep sense of belonging. There seems to be a connection between giving and receiving, caring and feeling cared for. Jeremy Rifkin’s book The Empathic Civilization has inspired us greatly. As humans, our ability to share in another’s plight connects us. Empathy is innate and natural.

To combat our fear, we can simply gather with others to first make sense of the worry and secondly, to work together to improve the condition. However, we do not want to organize against others and to allow our fear to drive our response. Instead, we want to unite our altruistic intentions, a process we call collective altruism to better the conditions around us. The joy of working together for a better world in this way opens us not only to others but to each other.

We all have many communities in our lives and that we have a choice about how deep or shallow our experiences of community are. Living in a neighbourhood means you live in a community. Waving to your neighbour as you drive into your garage may be all the community you want—this is a shallow experience. On the other hand, inviting your neighbours to join together with you and each other in friendship is a deeper experience. Community, I say, is not an option, but the experience you choose is."


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Community Wisdom

By Karin Iona Sundberg

Community Wisdom Lesson 1: Deepen connections with others. In community there is more at stake and more opportunity to come together to resolve challenges. Utilize the potential to learn from one another; emphasize the importance of kind honesty and keeping resentments clear. Experiment with group dynamics.

Community Wisdom Lesson 2: Deepen connection with spirit. Learn from the wisdom of indigenous cultures; use rhythmic celebrations to infuse the community with a sense of the sacred within everyday life. Have fun together.

Community Wisdom Lesson 3: Deepen our connection with place; commit to knowing it well. Watch the seasons unfold; tune in to the beauty of nature. Notice how the place where you are (family, work, neighborhood, community) shapes and grows you—that you are “of” a place—and how this elicits an innate responsibility, a sense of stewardship.

Consensus is a powerful tool, but perhaps not for every decision a community needs to make. Create a management team that listens to members’ considerations and makes decisions on certain issues. Establish a Board of Directors to get support and outside perspectives.

Work to create a clear, succinct, specific vision for the community. The broader the vision is, the harder it is to run a business or create alignment within a group. Having a clearly defined vision can help guide community members in making decisions on directions, opportunities, and incoming people.

Community is our heritage; that creating community wherever we are is life-giving and essential both for our highest good individually and for our culture. Through community we can create openings—in ourselves, into issues, with nature, beyond the mind—and let light shine in.


Characteristics of the Servant-Leader

-by Larry Spears

In "The Servant as Leader" he wrote, "It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant--first to make sure that other people's highest-priority needs are being served. The best test is: Do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?"

At its core, servant-leadership is a long-term, transformational approach to life and work--in essence, a way of being--that has the potential for creating positive change throughout our society. 

Characteristics of the Servant-Leader

After some years of carefully considering Greenleaf 's original writings, I have extracted the following set of characteristics central to the development of servant-leaders:

** 1. Listening. Leaders have traditionally been valued for their communication and decision-making skills. While these are also important skills for the servant-leader, they need to be reinforced by a deep commitment to listening intently to others. The servant-leader seeks to identify the will of a group and helps clarify that will. He or she seeks to listen receptively to what is being said. Listening, coupled with regular periods of reflection, is essential to the growth of the servant-leader.

** 2. Empathy. The servant-leader strives to understand and empathize with others. People need to be accepted and recognized for their special and unique spirits. One assumes the good intentions of coworkers and does not reject them as people, even if one finds it necessary to refuse to accept their behavior or performance.

** 3. Healing. One of the great strengths of servant-leadership is the potential for healing one's self and others. Many people have broken spirits and have suffered from a variety of emotional hurts. Although this is part of being human, servant-leaders recognize that they also have an opportunity to "help make whole" those with whom they come in contact. In "The Servant as Leader" Greenleaf writes: "There is something subtle communicated to one who is being served and led if implicit in the compact between servant-leader and led is the understanding that the search for wholeness is something they share." 

** 4. Awareness. General awareness, and especially self-awareness, strengthens the servant-leader. Awareness also aids one in understanding issues involving ethics and values. It lends itself to being able to view most situations from a more integrated, holistic position. As Greenleaf observed: "Awareness is not a giver of solace--it is just the opposite. It is a disturber and an awakener. Able leaders are usually sharply awake and reasonably disturbed. They are not seekers after solace. They have their own inner serenity."

** 5. Persuasion. Another characteristic of servant-leaders is a primary reliance on persuasion rather than positional authority in making decisions within an organization. The servant-leader seeks to convince others rather than coerce compliance. This particular element offers one of the clearest distinctions between the traditional authoritarian model and that of servant-leadership. The servant-leader is effective at building consensus within groups. 

** 6. Conceptualization. Servant-leaders seek to nurture their abilities to "dream great dreams." The ability to look at a problem (or an organization) from a conceptualizing perspective means that one must think beyond day-to-day realities. For many managers this is a characteristic that requires discipline and practice. Servant-leaders are called to seek a delicate balance between conceptual thinking and a day-to-day focused approach.

** 7. Foresight. Foresight is a characteristic that enables the servant-leader to understand the lessons from the past, the realities of the present, and the likely consequence of a decision for the future. It is also deeply rooted within the intuitive mind. Foresight remains a largely unexplored area in leadership studies, but one most deserving of careful attention.

** 8. Stewardship. Peter Block has defined stewardship as "holding something in trust for another." Robert Greenleaf 's view of all institutions was one in which CEOs, staffs, and trustees all played significant roles in holding their institutions in trust for the greater good of society. Servant-leadership, like stewardship, assumes first and foremost a commitment to serving the needs of others. It also emphasizes the use of openness and persuasion rather than control.

** 9. Commitment to the growth of people. Servant-leaders believe that people have an intrinsic value beyond their tangible contributions as workers.As a result, the servant-leader is deeply committed to the growth of each and every individual within the institution. The servant-leader recognizes the tremendous responsibility to do everything possible to nurture the growth of employees. 

** 10. Building community. The servant-leader senses that much has been lost in recent human history as a result of the shift from local communities to large institutions as the primary shaper of human lives. This awareness causes the servant-leader to seek to identify some means for building community among those who work within a given institution. Servant-leadership suggests that true community can be created among those who work in businesses and other institutions. Greenleaf said: "All that is needed to rebuild community as a viable life form for large numbers of people is for enough servant-leaders to show the way, not by mass movements, but by each servant-leader demonstrating his own unlimited liability for a quite specific community-related group."


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Creating a Sustainable Food Future, Installment 1: The Great Balancing Act

How can the world adequately feed more than 9 billion people by 2050 in a manner that advances economic development and reduces pressure on the environment? This is one of the paramount questions the world faces over the next four decades. “The Great Balancing Act” seeks to start answering this question by exploring the scope of the challenge and proposing a menu of potential solutions. This working paper is the first in a series that forms the foundation of the “World Resources Report 2013-14: Creating a Sustainable Food Future.”

WRI working papers contain preliminary research, analysis, findings, and recommendations. They are circulated to stimulate timely discussion and critical feedback and to influence ongoing debate on emerging issues. Most working papers are eventually published in another form and their content may be revised.



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How can the world feed more than 9 billion people by 2050 in a manner that advances economic development and reduces pressure on the environment? This is one of the paramount questions the world faces over the next four decades.

Answering it requires a “great balancing act” of three needs—each of which must be met simultaneously.

  • First, the world needs to close the gap between the amount of food available today and the amount required in 2050. According to new WRI analysis, we’ll need about 60 percent more food calories in 2050 than in 2006 if global demand continues on its current trajectory. This gap is in part a function of increasing population and wealth. The United Nations projects that the global population will likely grow from 7 billion in 2012 to 9.3 billion by 2050. At least 3 billion more people are likely to enter the global middle class by 2030, and they will almost certainly demand more resource-intensive foods like meat and vegetable oils. At the same time, approximately 870 million of the world’s poorest people remain undernourished even today.

  • Second, the world needs agriculture to contribute to inclusive economic and social development. Agriculture employs more than 2 billion people around the world—more than 28 percent of the global population. And according to the World Bank, growth in the agricultural sector can reduce poverty more effectively than growth arising from other economic sectors. We need a strong agricultural sector if the world is to develop in a way that reduces poverty, alleviates hunger, generates revenue and jobs, and benefits women.

  • Third, the world needs to reduce agriculture’s impact on the environment. For instance, agriculture was responsible for approximately 24 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 and therefore contributes to climate change. Agriculture is the dominant driver of tropical deforestation. Furthermore, agriculture accounts for about 70 percent of all the freshwater withdrawn from rivers, lakes, and aquifers.

There is no silver bullet to accomplishing the great balancing act. But there are potential solutions. When combined effectively, these solutions could close the food gap, contribute to global development, and reduce food’s environmental impact.

In The Great Balancing Act, we propose a “menu” of these potential solutions. Some menu items reduce projected growth in consumption, such as decreasing food loss and waste. Other menu items increase food production, such as restoring degraded lands back into agricultural productivity. No item on the menu can achieve a sustainable food future by itself, and the relevance of items will vary between countries and food chains. But the combination of solutions should help feed the world while contributing to poverty reduction, gender equity, ecosystem conservation, greenhouse gas emission reductions, and sustainable freshwater management.

The Great Balancing Act is the first in a series of working papers that we’ll roll out over the course of a year. Each subsequent paper will take a detailed look at a potential solution that could help achieve a sustainable food future. These installments will set the foundation for and culminate in the World Resources Report 2013-2014: Creating a Sustainable Food Future. To learn more about the series and sign up to receive updates, visit the World Resources Report website.