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Framing our collective activity

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Josh Introne

May 18, 2011
08:23

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Our first contest was about a global agreement to reduce emissions. Several community members have suggested that this was not the right kind of question to be asking. So, what are the right kinds of questions? And how can we ask them in a way that leads to long term solutions to the climate change problem?

John Dumbrille

May 18, 2011
10:52

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Maybe we could take the approach of the Transition Town movement: How do we build global resilience in our communities/ the global community.

Josh Introne

May 18, 2011
02:25

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Thanks John, nice to see you here - do you mean, as a contest? Or some other kind of activity? How do you envision that playing out? What would the outcome be? And could you elaborate a little on what you mean by resilience? I mean, I *think* I know, but want to be sure.

John Dumbrille

May 19, 2011
11:07

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Hi Joshua, Reslience includes stronger immunity to damage as well as mitigating damage. To me, "increase global resilience" is a more visceral, personally engaging banner to follow than "reduce damage." From what I can tell, Climate Colab is about creating models of behavior and judging outcomes. It could be viscerally engaging if the models of "my world" not only included mitigating externals (CO2 tonnage; sea rise change) but also internal, personal and community based factors. For instance: on a personal level, it is possible for me to stop driving a car (++ external outcome) but actually wreck my life/potential and the well being of others because I can no longer get to work ( --- internal, family and community outcome). In this closed model example, mitigation of CO2 output does well in a colab model, but sucks for me. I dont know how to model this, or create a contest or game around this. Maybe there are ways to track impacts of local or national initiatives. For more on resilience, a guy here on Bowen Island, Dave Pollard, wrote something a little while back http://howtosavetheworld.ca/2008/09/16/the-transition-town-phenomenon/

James Greyson

May 20, 2011
07:33

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Hi John, thanks for these ideas. I live beside Lewes, England, which has been a transition town for over 3 years. There are great things going on (esp community owned solar) but there isn't an answer to your dilemma of personal/global emissions trade-off. In fact public transport is getting worse and a 10 year campaign to build a cycle path to Lewes led to a path that goes half-way and then vanishes! This doesn't reflect badly on the transition project but seems to suggest it needs more power or support to make it happen fast enough. What do you think? I also find 'reducing damage' not very engaging. Funny that this has been the strategy of policy-makers and most green movements for decades, with the paradoxical result that damage of most kinds has steadily increased. Global resilience sounds like a really interesting way to frame another strategy that combines transition initiatives' local focus with national and global changes to deliver the power and support needed everywhere. For example more advanced national visions about transport and home-working might make it possible for you to keep the work and stop the car? I recall living in Cologne 20 years ago and buses being so reliable that there was no need to own a car. 'Global resilience' or 'global transition' sound like brilliant titles for a proposal in the current contest. What would the global economy need to be doing to make it possible for local transitions to happen everywhere? James

Josh Introne

May 20, 2011
10:11

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Responding first to John here - I think this bit: ". It could be viscerally engaging if the models of "my world" not only included mitigating externals (CO2 tonnage; sea rise change) but also internal, personal and community based factors." Is a really good bit - these global models are a little too abstract to really understand. I believe we can connect up individual carbon models to connect individual actions to changes in global emissions, but this does nothing with the cost side of the equation. Any thoughts on that specifically? Or perhaps we could crowdsource that aspect? You know, ask people to tell us how much the transition to a lighter weight footprint might cost. Or what strategies can be employed to make it a more palatable course. Maybe that's where our collective ingenuity can really shine. I also like the word really like the word resilience, and think it should play more of a role. It seems to change the focus from mitigation to adaptation, doesn't it? I think that's going to be part of any real "solution." However, something nags me about prioritizing resilience. I guess it feels a little like "oh well, this is happening let's buckle down and weather it (no pun intended) as best we can." That's a response to the symptom rather than the cause, and if we are to have any hope of surviving in the future we've got to get to the root cause somehow. But, maybe I'm missing the point? I'm also concerned that resilience is a particular perspective that fails to address the diversity of perspectives that are going to be out there in the world. We've got people who will be losing what meager livelihood they have, or worse completely displaced with no where to go. We've got others madly striving to obtain the riches they feel they deserve in the face of the west's historical gluttony. I don't see how resilience addresses those issues, and I think they are huge issues.

Mike Matessa

May 21, 2011
12:39

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I think John makes a good point that Climate Colab could be an engaging site that quantifies outcomes of local behavior. Beneficial outcomes could include direct measures addressing climate change (CO2 reduction) or indirect measures (efficient energy use, local food/gardening, local solar/wind energy production). The indirect measures can result in C02 savings, money savings, and resiliency. Here is some work I've seen on quantifying outcomes: Transition Town Totnes is mapping individual actions to cost savings and carbon savings http://www.transitionnetwork.org/projects/transition-together Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory calculates carbon footprint and cost savings from housing energy upgrades. You can see it in action at http://hes.lbl.gov/consumer/ where you put in your zip code, press the Calculate button on the bottom of the next page, and then see a graphic of potential savings of carbon and cash.

Josh Introne

May 23, 2011
09:28

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Ok, thanks. So, I think this idea of quantifying local impacts is pretty concrete, and it looks like there are some resources for putting it together. I not sure exactly how to envision this as an activity on the CoLab. I'm going to start a discussion about "quantifying aggregate local impacts" - I think there are lots of details. I'll post a link in this forum. But I'm still sort of curious about framing. The comment that we frame this as "resilience" instead of "emissions reduction" or "damage control" is on point, and I've voiced my concerns. We also received some other comments in our interviews, such as: 1. " I think the models have to be centered on the ecology, if you were to create a contest that's worthwhile, as far as I'm concerned. It has to be centered on ecology about ecosystems, how they're going to survive and what happens to them if we continue our current consumption patterns. And then, give people the choice, the option. And if it's realistic enough, they will begin to see that they'll be all alone, and start eating each other, unless they start doing something." -- sailesh-rao 2. "All these sustainability plans everybody talks about - these zero carbon, zero net energy, all this crap - is bull. It's highly oversimplified, emotionally appealing advocacy on the belief that nature is somehow going to respond to social pressure. It's not the case. Nature's not going to respond to social pressure. Getting outside the box of our cultural models and getting outside the box of our cultural models and understanding the real world that we're interacting with, that's what solves the six men and the elephant problem. You've got to realize that there's an elephant." -- phil.henshaw 3. " I think that there's a tendency in all human endeavor, especially when it comes to solving global problems, to try to look for solutions of the kinds that we've previously looked for. We tend to look where we usually look rather than look where the solutions might really be or on the scale that the solutions might really be needed." -- blindspotter (Note: I've only attributed quotes where I've received explicit approval from the author that they are ok with the attribution). So - those are pretty deep comments; they are all asking for paradigm shifting thinking. How do we take those and turn them into design guidance? I'd love your thoughts. Maybe it's not something we can do, maybe it's just too hard a problem. But I think it's worth talking about.

Josh Introne

May 23, 2011
10:14

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I have added a discussion about the idea of quantifying local effects and impacts over here: https://www.climatecolab.org/web/guest/discussion#discussion%3DpageType%3ATHREAD%2CthreadId%3A7313 Please add your thoughts!

Phil Henshaw

May 23, 2011
12:01

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The one I'd recommend, for how individuals can understand their own energy and CO2 footprints, would also help you clearly understand what is and is not meant by "zero carbon" or "zero net-energy" claims. That's my new resource page (still in development), for just that. www.synapse9.com/pub/SEA A new method of doing global energy accounting simplifying things a lot, actually, from having to correct a very major omission in the standard accounting method for environmental energy accounting. Businesses now count up all the fuel purchases they make, and add the fuel purchases of their *producer product* businesses in their supply chain. They have NOT been counting the energy uses they pay for as a cost of business for the businesses offering *producer services* in their supply chain, only those for producer products. So... that results in under-counting the total energy demand by nominally ~80%. How that simplifies things is that, ironically, producer services don't even record their energy uses. So you can only estimate them by the amount of money they are paid, and absent other information need to consider their energy impact to be "about average". That hugely simplifies everything, but takes a while to understand, starting with how the global average energy/$ is a very stable ratio, and can be known fairly precisely. The Systems Energy Assessment (SEA) research paper shows that when you go to a great deal of effort to combine both ways of measuring, the exact accounting of the standard method is off by 500% and the quick method, using 8000btu/$, is only off by 15%. That using average spending habits rather than searching for records of energy uses FAR more accurate. For example, a business will count the economic benefit of expanding the community that gives them development credits, causing the increased housing, commerce, infrastructure and services that the income to the community generates. Those large energy and other environmental impacts are all counted as business development benefits, but not counted for government environmental monitoring, using standards like the GHG protocol or the common measurement method LCA. I'd be interested in what anyone thinks.

Josh Introne

May 26, 2011
11:40

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Could you post a reference to that bit about undercounting energy usage? I'm not a climate expert, so it would be good if you provide supporting information here so I could educate myself. In any case, this is really getting into detail about science / economics, and is not so much about a particular framing that can be used to drive a solution process via the CoLab. Or, maybe you are implying such a framing, and I'm just too boneheaded to understand. By way of example - our initial framing was to approach solutions to climate change as a strategy / set of strategies for achieving emissions reductions, beginning with the question "What kind of emissions reduction plan can the various global geo/economic blocs agree to?". I think John suggested a better framing might be "How can we improve the resilience of the population in the face of climate change?" or possibly "How can we make people aware of the consequences of behaviors on the environment?" Or maybe a better framing is "How can we encourage the global population to reduce consumption?" What do you think?

James Greyson

May 26, 2011
05:56

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Hi Phil, Your insights are a lovely example of finding something generally missed by others. I'll try to look up more about this in future and add any thoughts on accounting at the link given by Joshua since this looks like part of a 'quantifying impacts' discussion. Joshua, I too would love to hear what others think about how to frame our collective activity on the Climate CoLab. The CoLab's aim of harnessing collective intelligence has immense potential to stimulate change as it opens up the question of what to do about the climate in important ways: • Open to collaboration between climate experts and non-experts. • Open to a variety of approaches and understandings. • Open to collaborations between approaches. • Open to challenging assumptions so we can move from collective (herd) thinking to collective (re)thinking. The discussion above about resilience is really useful for starting to get a feel for how different terms engage people's imagination and map onto the scope of the problem. My impressions about resilience are much like yours, that it seems to emphasise our capacity to cope with turbulent change more than our capacity to lead effective change. However there is a large area of overlap where many activities (eg local food+energy security) both stimulate change and protect against turbulence. Resilience also invites enquiry about the kind of change that's needed, not just to get more resilience but sufficient resilience. The term can stretch to fit, as John offered with 'global resilience', which suggests to me a global scale response allowing civilisation (all communities), ecosystems and the climate itself to be resilient and to avoid dangerous runaway situations. The various goal-related terms (resilience, sustainable development, security, etc) seem largely interchangeable and all potentially stretchy to fit the multi-problem multi-scale territory that we're in. Any of them could be helpful for engaging people in discussions and contest proposals where co-intelligence emerges. Different terms might produce proposals with varying approaches, for example resilience might focus on what's needed to achieve community-scale initiatives everywhere. Really keen on your comment about paradigm shifting and Phil's "Getting outside the box of our cultural models..." This is tricky territory since there is practically nothing in the way of evidence to say "here's the recipe for change that has previously worked sufficiently". So despite the tone of certainty implicit to almost everything said about protecting the climate and creating a survivable future, ironically we can be more certain that the basket of approaches attempted so far is not working. Admitting that some of our certainties might be unintentionally counterproductive is scary and taboo in most organisational cultures but it does offer an excellent starting point for creative rethinking. If it helps to throw in suggestions for ways of reframing responses to the issue of climate, there is an article here, http://bit.ly/workingprocess . The thread running through it is the option of approaching the climate issue without separating it from all the other issues (such as the consumption patterns and vast inequalities mentioned by others). This points towards root causes as the prevailing paradigms or world-views that together generate the symptoms we call climate change. Then tackling climate would be not so much about what we recognise as climate policy but rather 'paradigm policy' that exists so far under the radar. A specific question in the CoLab could be left quite open, perhaps "What would it take to really tackle climate change?" I also like the version circulated by Lisa Jing, "How should the 21st century economy evolve bearing in mind the reality of climate change?", since the economy embodies much of the prevailing paradigms. Very interested to hear of others' thoughts on the right kinds of questions for the CoLab to ask.

Chris Smerald

Jun 2, 2011
04:19

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As an addition to resiliance (life not being too messed-up) I would suggest a focus as well on quality of life improvements in wideing circles: self, community, country, other people, other communities other countries, our descendents). While the negative will motivate some, the positive may motivate more. I am strongly wedded to the idea that people do care and will do things that are economically negative, in order to do good -if they can see or imagine the good they are doing. And, there are ripple effects from one influencing many that I suspect could be mathematically modelled to give people a sense of how much compounding impact their efforts might yield (e.g., how many dominoes they might impact just by pushing one or two over.). Work calls...

David Haaren

Dec 16, 2011
09:27

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The CoLab does a great job of making possibilities entertaining thanks to all its contributors. http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.feature/id/1907?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Enewsletter&utm_campaign=Green%20Business%20News%20from%20SustainableBusiness.com%2012%2F13%2F11 The article link above about Durban COP 17 includes: "A call for proposals to host a Climate Technology Centre and Network goes out in January - it will be operational by March 2012. Its purpose is to facilitate deployment of low carbon technologies, build national and international capacity, and support R&D of new clean technologies. Questions of intellectual property ownership remain."

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