January 9, 2013
In an era of decreased budgets at every level of government the disasters caused by storms like Super Storm Sandy present us real problems. They also are causing us to be creative and to form unique partnerships. While building hard infrastructure is expensive and time consuming, partnering with nature and allowing the re-establishment of buffering wetlands may be more cost and outcome effective. Our choices may have more to do with habit than rationality.
In his November article on the Sustainable Cities Collective website Colin Cafferty discusses the value of buffering wetlands. Filling in wetlands and building close to the water has made us vulnerable to sea level rise and storms. “New York’s wetlands … are actually a key difference for the protection of the city’s citizens against future flooding disasters. Wetlands provide natural flood control by temporarily holding and absorbing floodwater, reducing the energy of storm surges and helping to control erosion of the shoreline.” Similar arguments were made following Hurricane Katrina about the impacts of the loss of gulf wetland communities.
Cafferty argues that the lack of planning and development guidance to protect these important “green or soft” infrastructures has boxed us into a difficult position. “President Obama has pledged to rebuild storm-torn neighborhoods in Queens and Staten Island – but is this really the best way forward?” The question seems to be, do we want to rebuild in ways that we know are prone to flooding and so be forced to spend more money protecting vulnerable communities or to give some of the land back to the wetlands that can absorb the storm surges and protect remaining communities? “…the cost of building storm surge gates … could cost a staggering $23 billion. Building new wetlands and restoring existing ones, which are allowed to flood and cushion residential areas and offices, is potentially a far more affordable approach.”
As Colin points out our reaction to events like this illuminate how our minds work. It reminded me of an exercise used by Harvard Business School professor Max Bazerman. In his classes he auctions off a twenty dollar bill with four rules:
1. Everyone is free to bid
2. Bids are to be made in one dollar increments
3. The winner of the auction wins the bill
4. The runner up must honor his/her bid, while receiving nothing in return
February 6, 2010
Most people believe that sustaining the planet is a good idea, given the impacts that human civilization is having. Business has played a big role in creating those impacts, and has been playing a big role in trying to address them. The problem is that sustainability only looks at half of what needs to be taken into account when thinking about whole living systems. Sustainability primarily addresses reducing impacts and increasing efficiencies. Corporate sustainability programs are wrapped almost entirely around these goals.
But every experienced businessperson knows you can’t make a healthy business by only reducing inefficiencies. The experience of running a successful business teaches that it’s the ability of a business to generate value that is the real source of its vitality and viability. You can only make a healthy business by figuring out what you want to grow, how to grow it effectively, and then defining inefficiency as anything that doesn’t produce what you are trying to grow. What is true of business is also true of the planet. More
December 7, 2009
I sit and listen to the speakers at the Energy conference in Beirut, Lebanon present their papers and reports. One after another they describe what it will take to become a low carbon society. I wonder, do they really not understand that carbon is the basis of all life? A low carbon world is one where little or no life is happening! “Low carbon society” points to the biggest problem we have with reversing global warming, and creating healthy watersheds, cities and even our planet: not the carbon itself, but our way of thinking about it.
If we stood in the shoes of Life, we would hear her call us to increase our connection to the natural cycling of carbon as it regenerates life again and again. Life isn’t looking for carbon neutrality or carbon negative solutions. She wants carbon active, carbon engaged in life-generating processes. She wants us to be educated about carbon and how it works. She wants us as partners in the cycling processes that engage carbon with water and oxygen—molecules in motion that evolve the expression of a living planet. She wants us carbon positive, doing positive things with carbon. More
October 6, 2009
spreading the story
When I was a keynote speaker for The Competitiveness Institute last year, I was swamped by people who wanted to talk about the failure of the clustering model of economic development. They were from Africa, Ireland, South America— many other nations and regions around the world. “Why did some work, some seem to work only to fail later and some never get off the ground””, they wanted to know. I stayed an hour talking with them.
Sept 29th, Obama gave a speech that may foster the same questions in a few years. The call is to return to innovation as the basis of greatness. They Office of the President’s Economic Council issued a white paper to announce and detail this call for a Strategy for American Innovation. The intention is very important—sustainable growth and quality jobs. And they are to be place-based, meaning in their case the “targeting of places and drawing on the compounding effect of cooperative arrangements”. The intention is a good start. But it has the same challenges as the concept of clustering, which is also promoted by the National Council of Economic Development. Until they understand the living systems approach to organizing economic planning and exchange among humans, we will have the same failures, shortfalls and episodic successes that cannot be rationally unexplained.
I will say here, what I said to the folks at The Competitiveness Institute, from regions, cities and counties who inundated me with their questions. You can only succeed IF you organize around the unique story of that Place. That is the true meaning of place-based. Otherwise it is like trying to change careers at mid-life because you want to make more money and you have defined your next career move based on what is paying the most at the moment. It likely is not something you are particularly suited to or even evokes something you are passionate about. Not a good career defining process. Better to be who you are in life, uniquely, and so it is for your city and region. That is what Story of Place branding and development process is about. It grows sustainable economies and quality jobs that spark and regenerate innovation as a part of its nature. It is built into the infrastructure. More
September 23, 2009
Photo: Heather Yaryan
That we are seeing a rapidly expanding focus on sustainable cities is hardly surprising. Cities have become the principal engine of economic growth in a global economy—and they are having a disproportionate effect on the ecosystems of their regions and the biosphere as a whole.
Currently, the pressing nature of climate change and peak oil, together with our long love affair with technology, have made efforts to reduce the impact of cities the central focus of the sustainable cities movement. While critical, meeting the challenge of a deteriorating planet requires more. It demands that our cities become active contributors to the social and ecological regeneration of their regions. Cities at the forefront of sustainability are recognizing that they need to take up both halves of the sustainability challenge—reducing damage while growing connection to and among the living systems of their place. More
September 8, 2009
Carol Sanford and Joel Glanzberg on Chautauqua, KVNF, Public Radio. We explore the meaning of Story of Place® in creating Developmental Economies® and regenerating communities.
“Developmental Economies®” (DE) involve the Business community in a different and more effective way. DE is a way of improving the vitality and viability of existing business and creating and incubator for new businesses that extend the uniqueness of the region and its “vocation”. Every PLACE has a uniqueness and out of that comes an opportunity to create unique value-adding (rather than value-added) offerings that cannot be copied and as a result become valued in the region and beyond for their uniqueness and distinctiveness that mirrors the PLACE itself. The cities where this has happened, for examples Portland OR, Curitiba, Brazil, have increased greatly the wealth and prosperity of a place and overcome the hazards that traditional economic development causes. It also makes a more cohesive community within its diversity of creativity. You can stream it or download it for listening to later.
August 10, 2009
by youngrobv (Rob & Ale)
Throughout history, countries that have shipped their raw materials to other counties for processing have lost out to the converters. The further along the conversion process a company is, in adding value, the more viable it is through time. Nations, and the businesses in them by and large, become stable and wealthy because they can make and provide goods and services, not because they own a source of basic commodities. Even with soaring international prices, the amount of income generated by mineral resources in a modern advanced economy remains relatively low compared to the converted products into which they are made. The tendency is to seek efficiencies for a competitive advantage, leaving other nations and businesses to make the real wealth off the resource. This is a losing strategy in the long run, and the long run is getting closer every day. More
July 30, 2009
I love chocolate. My favorite is the seventy percent cocoa kind. I always read the package for source information and buy Fair Trade Certified. Because of that certification, I am trusting that the contract manufacturers’ workers and the indigenous craftspeople and field harvesters are paid fairly. I trust that they work under safe conditions and under global standards of health protection. I am so thankful that someone is doing that checking for me. I also know that I am only achieving part of the goal that I have as a conscious consumer. It is necessary but not….well you know.
When I buy household products, I want non-toxic products so when they go down the drain, or into the air, they are not harming the very sources of life (or humans). I want the materials that make it up to not destroy habitats with their by-products. I want raw materials to not come from substitution of invasive species for indigenous habitat (like palm oil’s rampant proliferation has). I want fish and wildlife, trees and habitats to benefit from my way of living. I want to know how corporations are working with the earth and her living systems. But again, this is part of my concern, not all. More
July 16, 2009
photo by freewine
Most managers, public or private, have a tendency to look for performance indicators that they can measure. This seems logical–you want to know how you are doing, so you look for acceptable ways to quantify your performance such as LEED building ratings, or how a supply chain is rated in terms of fair trade, or how much carbon you have as a footprint. Indicators gives a sense of security because you feel like they can tell you how much of a difference you’re making, or that they can predict, like an early warning system, when things might go wrong.
Unfortunately, most of the time this does not happen. Indicators are often so off-base that they can cause disaster for the company or the environment. That is because most managers reduce performance indicators to what they can measure easily and directly. It seems so obvious that we cannot even conceive of another way to do this.
July 2, 2009
Climate Change is beginning to look like a real movement—front page news instead of weekend science columns; multiple new conferences and publications; new and newly converted organizations getting on the bandwagon. Stimulus programs have made it a resource magnet, sending local governments scurrying to find projects under its umbrella. Even the companies we loved to hate are putting out ads assuring us they too are on the job fighting climate change. This is finally beginning to look like an unstoppable train—which means it is even more important to make sure we’re on the right track. But early signs are raising some serious concerns that old patterns are pulling us in the wrong direction. More