About the author Stephen Hinton started out as a Science Teacher, went over to Management Training and then Program Management in an international telecommunications company. He is now working as a change agent to promote activities towards sustainability. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden.
Inventing for the Sustainable Planet A blog novel By Stephen Hinton
Version 2.00 First published 2005-02-28 as e-book on avbp.net Second version 2007-11-13 as e-book on avbp.net Third version 2008-06-20 on Lulu.com Copyright ÂŠ Stephen Hinton 2008 The right of Stephen Hinton to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright and Designs and Patents act 1988. All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. stephenhinton.avbp.net
Journey one: Getting There
Journey two: From Danger to Going in Circles
Journey Three: Trains
Introduction to Technosphere
Journey four: Grow Food Everywhere
For new readers
Journey five: Logistics and Economic Growth
Module based design and manufacturing drives re-localisation 33 Journey six: Connecting Money and Environment
Journey seven: Learning Sustainability
Journey eight: Focus on Sustainability
Journey nine: Community Action
Journey ten: Drinking Water
Journey eleven: Developing Sustainability Circles
Journey twelve: Radiality Unfolding
Preamble Max Wahlter is my alter ego and blogger. This book is a rearranged collection of blog entries. The place Max visits is, of course, by its nature fictional. However, all the Internet sites mentioned, the Imagestreaming methods and the facts gleaned during the verifications are 100% accurate to my knowledge. I would like to thank Dr Win Wenger for his invention of Imagestreaming and for so generously making all instructions and assistance available via his site www.winwenger.com.
Journey Preparation 27th September Max here. Journalist covering technological development. Hard up, overworked and not really enjoying my job. So I've decided to do it. I heard about it at a management conference on creativity. All you do is formulate a problem, turn on the tape recorder, and start describing what you see. You 'visit' a place that has solved that particular problem. I tried it at the conference and it seems to work really well. The method turns everyone into Leonardo da Vinci. I'm going to find out about sustainable technology, I've always wanted to be an inventor and sustainable technology is useful and urgent. I might even be able to make some money at it. And I'm going to post the transcripts here. I've already done a few. 29th September Before I do this I will go over the techniques in case any of you want to try this out. It’s very simple: you work out what you want to know, and ask politely to travel to a land with this knowledge. You put the tape recorder on, close your eyes and describe aloud everything you see. And keep describing, keep the flow coming. For me - let me describe the problem as I see it. We citizens of Earth have not achieved a sustainable way of life. Us ‘haves’ exert a large ‘footprint’, requiring a lot of natural resources for our way of life. And the consumption of these natural resources leads to pollution. For the ‘have nots’ whilst their footprint is smaller, they are moving toward a ‘have’ way of life; living in cities, increasing resource usage. And the outlook is bleak. The Earth just cannot support everyone living the way the so-called developed world does. So my quest: a land where people live in a sustainable way, with the standard of living, akin to say, of Europe. Show me the technology that I may learn, document and pass on to others. That's all for now I'm going to set the tape recorder up. I feel quite excited. 30th September Hey I did it. I put the tape recorder on, closed my eyes and I there I was in some kind of lobby. And then I arrived. I've finished editing this first part of the tapescript. Check it out…
Journey one: Getting There Tapescript part one I see myself in some kind of waiting area, and I'm sitting on a wooden bench. I realise I need to take that lift. I hasten over to it, there on the right. Inside it seems old, no feeling of modernity about it at all. Yet that seems deliberate somehow. There aren't many straight lines here. Instead it is bulbous, in cream-coloured enamel. On the left there is a large steel wheel about half a metre in diameter, like something you might find on a sailing yacht. Oh, the door is already closed. There is a green button with GO on it. I press it. The lift rushes upwards and I feel both the G forces and the excitement of exploration of a new country. The lift doors open automatically and I step out into something that at first glance reminds me of an airport. A shiny, clean marble floor leads into a large corridor on the right and another curves away to the left. In front of me are stairs leading down to what looks to be an exit. Just on the right of the hall there is a kiosk, and directly in front of me a flower bed of what look to be artichokes, which are covered by a thin brown sheet. I bend down to examine them. I know nothing about artichokes - are they artichokes? I look up at the lady serving in the kiosk. ‘We take every opportunity to grow food wherever we can’, she says. ‘There is a library you know.’ I sense she knows my mission here. I thank her and go off down the corridor on the right. It does look like an airport. I see shiny tails of what looks like aircraft in the distance. And I feel I'm on the edge of a discovery. I walk past a cafe serving chips and leaves of salad. Past a notice saying something about insects control and stuff like that. I can just see the tail of the aircraft. Big and chunky. I smell rape seed oil. Vegetable based fuel burnt in giant jet engines. Is it really possible? Anyway... I don't like airports - how did I get here? I would like to look around locally and see how they live. I retrace my steps and turn past the kiosk and down the steps. At the bottom I see I have to put on Wellington boots. I see a sign reminding me of cleanliness, and a rucksack to keep my indoor shoes in. As I start to open the door I notice the special airlock and that it is hermetically sealed. So I open the hydraulic to get out, and notice the foot scraper which sucks the soles of my boots and I'm outside. The first thing I notice is no asphalt. Only gravel to walk on. The explanation hits me, natural flow of water through the ground, gravel paths allow that. Asphalt is banned here! It seems everyone here walks around in Wellingtons; it's the done thing, and natural permeation of water through the soil is a major aim. It's a nice place, like a park. I continue along the gravel path, there's lots of water here - lakes and ponds - it's all nicely done with flowers, plants. 3
I turn left to look at what seems to be a large round cylindrical building partly hidden by bushes. Reading the sign on the back I see it's a biogas generator. Am I in the middle of a sewage works? I am! The whole area is a sewage plant! One of the byproducts is these brown covers I saw outside the lift. I don't know how they work but I guess they fertilise the soil. And keep weeds off and moisture in. That's what I call recycling. And ingenious, a multi-function use for everything. Recreation, biogas, sewage treatment, fertiliser production. Cool. I'm on to something here. Sustainable technology encountered •
• • •
Separation of internal environments in buildings from the outside ... I have no idea why they do this. Why do they want this area so clean? At the same time it is an area where water is treated, so maybe it is a requirement if an area is used for both recreation and water treatment. Rape seed oil based jet fuel ... I'm no chemist so I won't pursue that, but it sounds plausible. Biogas production from sewage treatment ... already being done, so I won't pursue that. The covers used for growing ... that sort of covering is already available but it is not bio-degradable as far as I know... on list for further investigation.
Tapescript part two I seem to be approaching a greenhouse. I take a look inside - they're growing tomatoes. A man is in the greenhouse, he appears to be working here. That's clever – there's even another activity in the area. Where you grow is where you walk is where you treat water and recycle sewage. And, they are taking every opportunity to grow food. That's a nice expression and a nice principle. I am eager to explore this method... I could try to ask the man a few questions. ‘Excuse me what's going on here?’ ‘It's just a greenhouse.’ ‘Do you work here?’ ‘Yes I do.’ ‘How do you distribute the food?’ ‘People come and pick it when they want to’. ‘What about payment?’ I ask, used to everything costing - I feel I've said something really stupid and that he knows something I have no idea about because he just laughs and smiles. Interesting. There seem to be many secrets here. ‘What about the covers I saw outside the lift?’ ‘We don't use them on tomatoes.’ How do you get around the city?’ ‘We walk, that's the way to do it.’ 4
I wander off from the greenhouse with the feeling that somewhere close by is a cafe. I'm troubled by the lack of electronics here. I mean, if they have big planes they must have technology. I recognise that tree, it's a Hazel tree. Hazel nut trees! So it's not just a park, it's a park, water treatment plant, a place to grow food and aesthetically pleasing and no bicycles, people just walk here. It is the simplicity that surprises me. And here's the cafe and a sundial. And a big pillar where people post messages and they do like to post messages, it seems to be part of the culture here. There's one for me - I read it. It's OK - enjoy yourself - it's fun. Someone knows my hang-ups and what I need to hear, yes on this visit I need to relax and enjoy myself. I am stressed because my job has no future, I'm trying to find an alternative living, and even doing this creativity exercise I'm unrelaxed. I'm too good at being uptight, I know. So, I'm starting to get into the local culture. And it's a wandering around in Wellington boots type of culture. Asphalting is forbidden. The whole area forms part of natural water cycle. That's why bikes aren't allowed. A special kind of cleanliness is mandatory in this area. It's completely clean and unpolluted. Gravel is the key to natural water treatment and there's also the efficient use of land. Wait a minute how do they run the cafe with machines where not a drop of oil is allowed? I see the answer ...only vegetable based oils and natural rubbers. I must say it's been a pleasant place to visit. I could get into this kind of calmness. It's funny, but although I haven't seen anything to spark off these thoughts, I sense two things. One, this culture has a focus on seeds and growing things. Two, they view the animal side of the human being in a special way. They call it ‘the organism’. Don't ask me how I came up with this! I go back to the door. I put my shoes on, stand on the grill and again they get the sucking treatment. This is to remove environmental poisons. I go up the steps and cast a thought to the kiosk - what do they sell there? I get the feeling they are encouraging people to grow food. There's a sign saying 'Today: Tomatoes'. They are selling some kind of tray thing that they are grown in. The lady seems to know a lot about my project and says: ‘Draw your conclusions and raise your questions before coming back.’ ‘Yes I will do that’, I reply. Feeling tired, and feeling I can't take in anymore. I thank for my visit, get into the bulbous enamelled lift, push ‘GO’ and down I come. I come out into a busy thoroughfare. Let's call it a day. Verification notes: rape-seed oil fuel I did one of those tests on your personal eco-profile. I was doing great, not using the car to travel to work, living in a relatively small flat etc. Then, they asked me how much I travelled by plane. My profile shot up way above average. 5
So it is true, that in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, for your personal eco- impact you should reduce air travel. Or use fuel from renewable sources. Then late last week a motoring journal on TV showed a group of people who took used cooking oil, put in an additive, and off they went in a diesel Volvo. So organic fuel sounds feasible. But it still does not solve the problem of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Verification notes: walking everywhere Not a bad idea that. If we walked to work instead of sitting in cars or on public transport we'd be a whole lot healthier. And walking is a good fat burner. I saw a calculation that you could burn ten kilos in one year by walking three half hours a week. People in medieval times would walk long distances every day to fields or local markets. But how do you plan towns and cities around walking? Method notes The method seems to work. I find it interesting that I ‘see’ things as well as pick up impressions. The method also acts as a teacher.... Like it told me to relax and have fun and enjoy my visits as well as telling me to frame my questions, which reminds me I must do that for my next visit. Reflections Journey one. My intuition tells me I have seen this ‘sustainable place’ from one angle and there are many more angles. Maybe there are other ways to get to this land and reveal other aspects. Questions for next time: how do they handle ‘we walk everywhere?’
Journey two: From Danger to Going in Circles Tapescript I'm sitting on a wooden bench in the waiting area again. Behind me is some kind of succulent plant. Round the corner I see the lift I went up earlier. I see more lifts. I go over to a grey one, seems rather unassuming. There is a red light above a button with the ‘call’ on it and some buttons under it. It arrives and opens. This one is different from the first, it is fitted with mirrors. There's a guy in here I say ‘Hi’ to him. He says; ‘Do you want to do this?’ ‘Yes. Is it dangerous?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘How dangerous?’ ‘There's a war on.’ I ask the guy for help, I tell him how important it is to find sustainable solutions. While I am saying this I realise two things: 1) I am in the wrong lift. 2) If you are looking for environmental- friendliness the last place you want to look is in a war-zone. I learn something every time. Tapescript part two Wiser now, I get back to the lift I saw before with its beige enamel exterior. The big wheel is still there and the button with ‘OK’ on it. The door closes. The lift goes up. It opens at the place I was before – a foyer, to the right an airport in front of me a kiosk and stairs leading down to the park area. They have some kind of special activity going on with placards everywhere. One placard says PORENA. They have hung up flags, too. I turn left and walk along the corridor. They have put up bits of trees to decorate the corridor walls. It's very nice. The decoration has a natural styling to it, bringing me close to a feeling of being in nature. The sun is shining through the corridor which forms a bridge that passes over some kind of road or walkway. I know what I expect. It's still gravel. I suddenly get a flash of the gravel path once having been a road with many cars passing along it. Of course! I asked to go to a place that had solved the problem. So there is a historical development I could investigate if I wanted. I walk along a bit and see that the main part of the building is one story up. I also get impression that there are many openings like the one I just passed over. This is to not break the continuity of the natural surroundings, and so that people can walk everywhere without having to make detours around long buildings. I come across a collection of offices. 7
The first one is the office of leaves, whatever that means. It contains workbenches and what looks like grey steel filing cabinets. ‘We are cataloguing them’, says the girl. ‘Something to do with structure?’ ‘That's right’, she says. ‘It is for what we call biomimicry - finding examples of engineering design from nature to mimic in our own engineering. It is useful for engineering comparisons, calculations, explanations, mechanics etc.’ I walk on. I now see the building I am in is sort of on stilts to allow access between one side and the other - it's easy for people to walk everywhere. Precisely what my first visit told me. Although I am surprised, because it's just too simple. It's such a simple way to reduce ecological footprint. I am now entering an office which deals with another cornerstone of the ecologically sustainable country – planning. I see from diagrams on the wall that the park I visited last time is actually the centre of the city. The park is surrounded by buildings placed radially. The building I am in is used for work. I inspect the plans closer. The city looks a bit like a mandala - one of those Indian paintings. The outside rings are residential. Residencies are located on the periphery to bring them close to nature. There is a computer program behind all this. Everything is carefully calculated to place everything in walking distance of everything else. But there's more. The whole calculation is based on the understanding of stress. If you know what stresses people it is easy to work out optimal proximities. A guy offers me a green drink. ‘Have a drink -it's green vitamins made from the water plant Spirogena. Go on, Chlorophyll’s good for you.’ Leaves again! These guys have another feeling for nature than I do. Anyway the Spirogena drink is minty, quite good. Reminds me of mint tea. ‘So, what do you do here?’ I ask. ‘Town planning and architecture and radiality. Ten kilometres. Everything is 10kmor less from the centre.’ ‘And the plan allows food to grow everywhere. We take every opportunity to grow food.’ ‘It seems to me,’ I muse, ‘that the further you go out the harder it is to get around as the further you have to walk.’ The guy looks at me and tries to convince me that I still haven't got it and have forgotten the water. I'm not much of a town planner myself, I was hoping for something like an invention. He informs me that the science of radiality is highly developed, with mathematical formulae underlying the practice. And books are available. ‘Thanks:’ My last question: ‘Do you work with radiality then?’ ‘Good gracious no. Work is much too stressful. It stresses the organism too much. No-one works in Porena.’ 8
Latest Medical Invention Announcement This product is a sensation. Clinically proven to reduce coronaries and other heart-lung diseases. Clinically proven blood-pressure reducing. Clinically proven to prevent diabetes 2. Clinically proven to help resist colon cancer. Combined with appropriate diet, regular doses over longer period will bring about weight loss permanently. Preventative effect on osteoporosis. Clinically proven. Reduces pain in joints and other complaints of locomotor system. Clinically proven to suppress worry and tension, mild depression and sleep disorders. Dosage: once a day. Extra dose 3-5 times a week for weight loss. What IS it, you ask? Where can I get it? What does it cost? How much are you willing to pay for a monthâ€™s dose? $10 $100 $300 What if I could give it to you FREE! Ready? It isâ€Ś 30 minutes a day brisk walking. Add 3-5 times a week walking 50 minutes at hearty tempo to increase fitness and lose weight.
Tapescript part three: Trains I wander off further down the corridor. A blue and white sign is directing me to the TRAINS. There’s the C train and there might be another, an A train I’m not sure. ´’Where does the C train go?’ I ask a passer-by. ‘In a circle.’ I walk down the stairs and stand on the platform. First, I am struck by the look of the train. It looks kind of old and rickety. Secondly, I see an interesting principle: The separation of the biosphere from technology. They treat the biosphere as one living organism, and as far as possible keep machines away from it. Radiality…why does that come up? I guess if you have a city-planning concept built on circles it makes sense for a train to go in circles. I have taken in a lot of impressions, and frankly I’m feeling tired so I retrace my steps back to the lift. I pass an ancient looking weighing machine with ‘I Speak Your Weight’ on it. This time I buy one of the artichokes from the kiosk before stepping back into the lift. Sustainable technology encountered during journey two • • • • • • •
Biomimicry. Radiality= the city planning concepts used to fulfil the ambition of everything being in walking distance from everything. Trains going in circles=see above and everything within walking distance. Encapsulation= separating technology – the technosphere – from the biosphere. Old technology= I am not sure about this one, but they seemed like they were keen to keep old stuff, the rationale I leave you and my next visit to ponder over. The organism= (maybe I met this earlier) the Porena name given to the ‘animal’ side of the human. I guess as opposed to the ‘spirit, heart, intellect’ (I am guessing wildly). Not working= work (quote) stresses the organism too much.
Journey Three: Trains Tapescript So my request this time is to understand how the transportation system works in the sustainable society. I am particularly fascinated by the idea of the technosphere isolation from the biosphere. And how the transportation system helps live up to the promise of ‘everything is close to everything else’. I guess I have started to call the society or place PORENA, I have no idea of its significance, but it was on a billboard in my last journey. Let me start. I'm again outside my nice bulbous cream coloured enamelled lift. Either side of the lift are two - they look like - feet. The feet of a sphinx. Ugly things, really no idea what their function is. This time, the lift moves sideways. It stops and I jump out into a busy thoroughfare. Daylight is coming through a high window and I think we are underground. The A train is to the right. Following the signs I arrive at a station with a marble floor. I go down some steps to a platform. What looks like a typical underground train comes into the station. No! It's more like a tram and an old one at that. It gets its power from overhead lines. Two carriages. They remind me of the trams in Brussels. The seats aren't too comfortable either. ‘Can I buy a ticket?’ I ask a fellow passenger. ‘No, It's free!’ ‘Ah good!’ We are off again into the tunnel. I get talking to the man sitting beside me. The tram runs from one side of the city to the other. It stops every 1-2 kilometres. And interchanges with the other line. ‘How fast does it go?’ ‘30 km/h.’ I then try a more technical approach‘What about the technosphere, is it sealed from the biosphere?’ ‘Not really.’ ‘What about the central park area?’ ‘That part is sealed. That's a special no-go area.’ ‘But what about the pollution from this tram?’ ‘There is not a lot -it is run on electricity.’ I ask if he knows where I could get a full description of the system and he points me to an information booth as we arrive at the end station. Verifications Growing food everywhere. Recent articles on ecological experiments in Sweden have shown you can successfully grow blackcurrants etc on a 11
grass roof, and in a greenhouse/conservatory they regularly grow 75kg of grapes a year. Radiality. I started trying to play around with the idea of radiality, and I needed to look up a load of formulae to do with circles. Didn't get very far. My maths is rusty. Technosphere: some mention of the idea is given in the book Cradle to Cradle; http://www.mcdonough.com/cradle_to_cradle.htm talks about reuse of technical nutrients in the same way nutrients cycle throughout nature indefinitely. Tapescript I try a new tactic. I enter the information booth for the local transport system, and ask the clerk if I can see the world through her eyes. Porena POD. Porena has a local system of POD trams. Small cars, computer controlled running on conventional tracks. The trams only stop where people want to get on or off. You program your destination at the station, and a POD going in that direction stops. You confirm your destination as you board and off the tram goes. They find their own way through the rail network. One advantage is that the system fits demand always. No timetable. The A train and the C train connect with the POD system. The PODS are driven by solar cells on the roof and by collectors at the stations. The whole system is designed to be as unobtrusive as possible and blend into the landscape. The D train is an intercity train running in tunnels to separate the technosphere from the biosphere Method notes Now I have a problem. I saw a TV program a few years back about a POD system in Chicago. Porena's system is almost identical. So now I am having doubts about the method. It feels like I am projecting. I think you need to be very succinct in your questioning. And very intense in your description. There is a risk you fill in the blanks yourself without being open to seeing new things. Reflection: Sustainable solutions are simple solutions involving existing technology â€“ like walking everywhere.
Introduction to Technosphere By Max Wahlter Economic growth is widely accepted as the best way to create an acceptable living standard. The World is seeing economic growth and living standards. Average world economic growth is happening at a rate of about 4% per year, in some places like China growth is exceeding 9%. Creating this growth requires an increasing spiral of mineral extraction and commerce in the form of production of products and services and their sales, distribution and end of life handling. This technological, commercial and economic activity uses a lot of energy and natural resources as well as vast inputs of human activity. For example, the average American uses 600 litres of water a day, the equivalent of 25 barrels of oil a year, produces many kilograms of garbage. Metals and other elements essential for this system are brought in and out of the country by the shipload. The end of life of each cycle of activity outputs substances categorized as garbage, waste, emissions and refuse. This categorisation denotes they are no longer deemed useful for the technological activities and are deposited, burnt or otherwise disposed of. Although some recycling occurs, where the substances are reclassed as useful resources, a lot end up back in the Earthâ€™s crust in landfills, or are released into our water or air systems. One reason these resources are waste is that they are combined with other substances and so difficult to separate they cannot usefully be put back into the technical and commercial system. Constant resource depletion These resources include metals, trace elements, elements of organic systems like nitrogen and phosphor, fossil energy. Whilst all were once seen as a resource, at the end of life of a product or service they end up as waste, and are treated in such a way as to be virtually unrecoverable for re-use. For example phosphorous, an essential ingredient in fertilizer, comes mainly from three mines in the world. The mineral is needed for all agriculture that does not reclaim minerals back to the soil. Yet large amounts of phosphorus are emitted to the sea where they are virtually irreclaimable, as the present system finds it cheaper to mine new sources rather than recycle. Apart from this, these substances can cause problems as they journey through the biological system. In some cases substances enter the biosphere and cause problems with the workings of the climate systems (greenhouse gasses) and eco systems (persistent herbicides). In some 13
cases, these substances act as an extra inflow of nutrients to cause imbalance in population growth, for example phosphorous promotes algal blooming. This linear flow of material from mine to waste disposal presents several challenges. The first is destruction of natural capital. You could say a nation is endowed with resources like metals, fuels, organic resources and these are used once, never to be available again to future generations. For example, babies in Kuwait and other Arab states are being born into a country whose oil supplies are on the decline by 8% a year. This is in a situation where the population is growing. In real terms, there are less recoverable natural resources per capita now than there were say 30 years ago. This could maybe be justified if these resources had been used for the benefit of these coming generations to invest in renewable energy generation, education, large-scale projects which will last generations. But they have not. For the coming generations, creating a standard of living will be harder. The second area of challenge is the work needed to keep the linear flows running. This work is the input of working hours and energy. This work input itself depletes natural resources, especially fossil fuel. The third challenge lies in the effect of all this activity on the surroundings. Mining, manufacturing and commercial activity all burden the environment and impact health, agricultural land and thereby the capacity of the area to carry future generations. Finally, setting up the linear systems and infrastructure is an investment which creates a dependence on its continued use. Rethinking fundamentals is needed Let us leave the discussion of â€˜how did we get here?â€™ for another time. We need to be looking at how to change the way we run our societies to reverse this sorry trend. The linear way of thinking is so ingrained in the way we do things that it controls our actions and decisions almost invisibly. A conscious effort to rethink is required. Which is why we should talk Technosphere. Technosphere modelling shows how living arrangements could be set up to satisfy needs of current generations and actually improve living standard opportunities for coming generations. Technosphere thinking can help redress imbalances in todayâ€™s systems.
Illustration: Technosphere in principle
The technosphere approach sees a combination of technical systems existing within the biosphere. The biosphere is the natural layer above the underlying rocks that accommodates all living organisms and includes the hydrosphere and atmosphere. Materials of non biosphere origin (i.e. originating from the geosphere.) entering the system are identified as technical nutrients. The concept of services is central to Technosphere thinking. A service is a human life support activity, for example provision of food, transport, housing or clothing. At the end of the service production cycle, technical nutrients return to the start of another cycle or they return to the start of the cycle they just left. They do not return to the geosphere or technosphere. Although the Technosphere exists within the bio- and geosphere, they are in principle separate. This means there is no or at least restricted exchange of nutrients between the two systems. Where they do meet, special conditions apply. See below. The system interfaces refer to where the technosphere meets the bio- and geosphere. The dotted line represents the extent of the technosphere.
Characteristics of the Technosphere approach include: •
Technical nutrients: Anything coming out of the Earth’s crust is seen as a technical nutrient. This means it should go into the society’s technical systems and be recycled indefinitely. Separation of spheres: The biosphere should be kept away from the Technosphere, and visa versa. For example, fossil fuel has no place in the air or water. And water and microorganisms have no place in fossil fuel. However, the Technosphere can augment the ecological systems they interface with, by providing for example biological nutrients to improve agriculture or improve raw water for drinking water production. Design for recycling. All components of the Technosphere are designed to function within the systems of the sphere through manufacture, assembly, use, repair and reuse and recycling. The components are re-introduced after end of life into new components. Design for enrichment: Components and systems are designed to improve the resources in the Technosphere. For example, we could imagine a vehicle that captured nitrogen from the air and released it as fertilizer. System interfaces. Where the biosphere meets Technosphere the exchange of nutrients is carefully controlled to ensure that:
No technical nutrients enter the biosphere to upset ecological systems or to deplete the resource pool o No biosphere components enter the Technosphere to upset the workings of the systems. Clarity of purpose. The purpose of the Technosphere is to provide a standard of living for the inhabitants in the area the technical systems operate. This is important as creating a Technosphere system merely to make money so someone can buy Technosphere services makes little sense. Apart from this Technosphere does not specify how monetary systems would work. o
Applying Technosphere thinking Some examples: Service; availability of bicycle. Instead of owning bicycles they are leased. At regular service they are repaired, parts replaced are recycled. Irreparable parts go into a nutrient recycle process. New bicycle parts are made or the recycled raw materials go to other processes. This system is characterised by interchangeable parts, easily disassembled into basic materials. A typical description of a section of the Technosphere (or technome as an analogy with binome) contains the following categories; • Service Provided • Systems involved • Nutrients input • Nutrients Output • Main critical techno - biosystem interfaces • How these interfaces are managed • Living standard service provided • Performance (eg m3 per dollar, per employee) • Quadruple bottom line performance over time, i.e. effect on health, the environment, society as a whole and the stability of the managing organisation.
Features and benefits • • • •
Focus on interface, ensures clarity of thinking and regulates the loss of technical nutrients, something which is today unclear. Clarity of purpose: by defining the purpose of the technical component in terms of its contribution to standard of living directly, sub optimization is avoided. It also engages ingenuity into solving the right problem in the right way, by defining the problem in terms of need for living standard services. Definition at nutrient level. Clarifying at nutrient level what belongs to which system overcomes the need for regulating each individual system component.
Parent powered Ferris Wheel example of sustainability thinking Sustainability requires new, creative combinations. One way to achieve this is to ask questions like; ‘how can we set up a fairground which amuses children, has low environmental impact and provides a stimulus to adult exercise at the same time?’ The fairy tail trail in Sörmland in Sweden demonstrates these principles on the parentpowered Ferris wheel. Tiny tots shriek with joy as they fly through the air propelled by calorie-burning parents. Wonderful!
Journey four: Grow Food Everywhere Prologue Strangely enough, even though I have not actively worked with Porena recently, it has been working with me - a lot of things have fallen into place. For example, looking back over what has happened I see I was encouraged to ask specific questions. Whatever the question was, it got answered. Often with a surprising answer. If it wasn't surprising it probably wasn't coming from the right place. On the other hand I am still not any closer to ‘bringing back’ my sustainable, money-making invention.
Tapescript To today's question. Explain more about how growing food everywhere works. Large beige - coloured tiles make up the floor of the entrance hall. It seems to be a long way to the entrance area. I walk toward a bench with what appears to be rubber plants growing behind it. I sit down on this shiny, highly varnished wooden seat and look around. Seeing a moving pavement, with a PORENA sign over it, I walk over and get on it. At the end, steps lead down to a flat, wide open space looking like a construction site. Coming out into the sunshine I see a large, round aircraft, like a flying saucer. Metallic, round and shiny sitting on legs. Steps lead up to the door under a PORENA TRAVELS sign. People are sitting in a circle, in comfortable seats. I join them. I guess the craft is getting ready to leave. ‘Where am I?’ ‘This is the Library.’ I see no books, maybe there is an electronic thing to... ‘It's in the chairs, what you need comes to you.’ There a few magazines around, I pick one up from the gap between the chairs. PORENA library. This seems to be an instruction booklet cum magazine for the library. A picture of the library itself. People walking in to it. The latest news is a multiplicity screen on the roof, whatever that is. I turn to the section marked multiplicity. A cross between a book and an etch-a-sketch shows up, with instructions to ‘hone in on what you want’ using the knobs. Finding it hard to concentrate and take it all in, I flip to the next page, an article about walking and then about growing plants, featuring the seed trays and cassettes I saw in the kiosk. It's all here, I'm on my way. 20
The urge to explore further takes me up the stairs, and it’s not a library I see but some kind of control room. Knobs and dials everywhere – I could swear I was on a flying saucer. Slipping into the pilot’s chair in the middle of all these controls, I see ‘Porena’ on the center of the screen. You cannot just get into a flying saucer, which is also a library and fly it. Or can you? Looking at these controls it hits me. The most ecological machines are the ones that you cannot do any damage with. Ones that are failsafe. Completely. Like they are talking about controlling cars on the motorway, and letting the driver relax. This one does the thinking for you. A guy come up behind me and, following his encouraging remarks, I push the lever to my right. The doors close, and very slowly and gracefully we take off in the direction of Porena. We’re flying low and slowly over fields of what looks like bamboo or another fastgrowing energy crop. I get the idea it’s for energy anyhow- green oil. I walk back down the stairs and start to engage passengers (is that what library visitors are?) in conversation. I ask: ‘Is there anybody who would like to show me how you grow food everywhere?’ I get invited home. After landing we walk to the housing area. The houses, or maisonettes, are built in wide circles. They are cream coloured with tile roofing. My host shows me the wheat grass on the balcony. The corn etc, all grown in what appears to be ordinary potting soil. Here’s what I got out of the interview. They don’t have to grow food at home, because everybody grows food everywhere. The cassettes I asked about contain cotton wool and start seedlings off, they can replant them on the balcony or in the area outside. This family has a skylight in the roof to let in natural light, and they put some plants under that. Artificial light is not ecological and is not used. I asked about composting and for that I needed to go outside. On the southern side of the maisonette the front doors open out onto a glazed-in section, rather like a conservatory. Here, the heat from the sun warms the air, providing insulation and extra heating for the houses as well as a growing area. This is communal and tended by everybody. The principle is permaculture. That is to say a plant and leave concept, bearing fruit and nuts annually requiring the minimum of tending. I have to ask: ‘How can you get along as neighbours, all helping out? Surely someone will slack!’ The explanation comes back; ‘Everyone helps out as they understand it is in their own interest.’ In the glassed area they grow green peppers, corn, sweet potatoes and tobacco for medicinal purposes. Tobacco is decorative too. Outside, towards the centre of the area, they have the composting machine. It looks like a large black cauldron. They dry the organic matter first, using heat from the sun, before it crumbles into a kind of powder to be put back onto the soil. Another thing, all buildings are designed with growing in mind. Hortiarchitecture. Cool name, huh? 21
I return to the craft, push a button labelled ‘Return’, the door closes and we hover off. Technology notes Flying saucers I see the ecological in these craft. Flying slow (need less fuel, need no road/ rail infrastructure, nature unspoiled). Failsafe technology (no destruction from crashes). I also liked the idea of making them libraries so you can use the travel time. Growing under glass on the southern wall. Warms up and insulates buildings while providing growing facilities near the house, as well as a nice extra room. Cassettes. I have seen small mini- greenhouses about the size of a lunchbox with ready-to-plant seeds and dried potting soil on sale at garden centres. These cassettes seem to be the same idea. Reflections Porena Philosophy. This is what I have gathered so far. Like my boss says, you have come at something from enough angles to be able to say you understand it. I am not sure I have covered enough angles. Anyway. My description of it, and it is mine I underline again, goes like this: Porena Philosophy focuses on the organism (described earlier like the part of the human that evolved in the pre-historic times), making up a community living in the biosphere. By reducing the risk of subjecting the organism to undue stress (that is, outside naturally occurring limits) risk of permanently damaging environmental pressure on the biosphere is minimized. That is to say reducing the risk that the ‘footprint’ exerted by the human community will not be sustainable. To take an example in the ascendancy, the organism is so stressed by hunger that the community takes to fishing the seas to the extent that stocks of fish are reduced to a level of possible extinction. I remember picking up, again not explicitly so I must tread carefully, that there were five main stresses. Let’s speculate: 1) Nutrition 2) Shelter 3) Mechanical 4) Societal, communal 5) Toxic
Which makes me think... how do they get this over to people? And what education system do they have? Must be the subject for one of the next journeys. Societal stress. They say they are going to cut back on staff even more at the journal. I am getting to experience this stress on my organism first hand. Although I know I am good at my job and intellectually know I can get another eventually, I am sure my body is taking the toll. I’m sleeping badly and get pains in my chest occasionally. And not being able to pay my bills for food and my flat is so terrible a prospect that I’d take a job that poisoned half the rivers if it meant I could pay my bills.
More reflection: Maslow’s hierarchy revisited Regular readers will remember that in the sustainable society of PORENA, a lot of work was done to understand what they called the five stresses The theory was that there are limits in all these areas, and exceeding them is deleterious to human health. That is to say, it puts a stress on the human organism that the human cannot resist for a long time without a breakdown in health. The clearer these limits are understood, the better work, buildings, society, production, etc. can be designed. There’s more. If you could reduce stress levels in these areas, you would achieve a change in behaviour. There would be a rapid reduction in destructive behaviour, and consequently in the sustainability-reducing effects of this behaviour. This could be actually what Maslow wanted to say with his hierarchy model. This model is a sustainability promoting invention. Psychology could contribute to development by illuminating how these basic needs could be met. By doing what it could to reduce these stresses, society would reduce destructive behaviour.
We have to find ways to side-step this gigantic supply chain using up energy and spewing out waste, that in our (the consumer’s) name is ‘helping us fulfil ourselves’. To enjoy your life, to fulfil yourself does not have anything to do with what you work with. You work primarily to keep life supported. The first two Maslow steps. Then, the other steps should be accomplishable with the minimum of consumption of energy and resources.
For new readers Here's a synopsis of events so far. I, Max Wahlter, picked up some good creativity techniques at a management seminar. (I'm a journalist covering technology and entrepreneurship.) Looking to getting my career going in a better direction I decided to try the techniques out to invent sustainable technology and then market it. The method involves you 'journeying' to a place where these problems have been solved and describing into a tape recorder. These blogs are my tapescripts and notes. However, I went to a community living in a sustainable way expecting to see a culture like mine with new ecological technology. Instead I find a new ecological culture with technology I am familiar with. And my job is looking even more in danger at the Journal. I'm feeling a bit at the crossroads, but I'm carrying on trying to understand this community a little better. Hang in there with me.
Journey five: Logistics and Economic Growth The question I have concerns economic development. How can you have economic development, (includes organizations balancing their books and increasing GDP) whilst a society has to drastically reduce its impact on the environment? I would like to see a society that handles reducing environmental impact drastically whilst growing economically. I would like to visit a place that has achieved that and is good at balancing the two. Tapescript I enter the departure lounge, again a shiny bench and rubber plant. I hear someone say ‘So you want to do something different?’ The man I am meeting is a facilitator. His role is to help communities through the process of reducing energy intensity and environmental degradation whilst maintaining living standards. He has a lot of techniques and methods up his sleeve, and runs a special facilitating network. ‘Why don’t you revisit PORENA instead? The problems are related’. (It is true I had this question as well on my list. Why I wanted to revisit PORENA was to investigate the problem of distribution and logistics, getting things to households, like TVs, furniture, computers etc.) Not one to mistrust wild impulses in an image stream, I set off for PORENA. Round the corner a London bus is waiting. I get onto the old-style Double Decker. The conductor rings the bell and we set off. We travel past the side of a mountain. We speed along a dual carriageway and turn off into a small country lane. I see the now familiar walled city, surrounded by hills. The bus pulls into the arrivals area and I walk off straight up the stairs to the circular walkway on the second floor. For Imagestreaming to work I know I must create a beachhead door. What better than the door to the logistics office which turns up on the right? I open it and enter. It’s a rather busy office with people milling around, some looking at giant maps. ‘Excuse me; can anyone explain how logistics works in this place?’ ‘Sure, where would you like to start?’ I look over their shoulders and the radial plans of the city. The tubes are the best place to start. The city has an underground system of tubes, working on a vacuum. We start in the residential area, to visit a distribution point. It is sort of like a small hut where the goods emerge from. Under the hut is this underground pipe-way. I think the dimensions are 6 by 2 meters or maybe handling two or four pallets. Anything that uses a pallet can be sent that way.
Cross-section of pipe-way showing carriages 26
‘How do goods get sent here if that is their destination?’ I ask. ‘They are pushed out from the pipe system onto a passive conveyor belt. Most things can be put on it; furniture, etc.’ ‘What carries it?’ I ask. ‘How is it conveyed, controlled?’ The system is controlled from one distribution point. Goods arrive for example at the station and are loaded into the pipeline. The pipeline holds capsules containing the pallets. The capsules are pushed around and controlled rather like a physical version of the electronic packages that make up the Internet. ‘So you transfer packages via this system of tunnel ways to this point, and people come and get them when they are available.’ ‘Oh yes! There is plastic over the pallet to protect it from the weather. The left-over package material goes in the other side to be sent for recycling.’ The pallet rolls down under gravity back into the pipe. I wonder about heavy stuff. How people carry furniture etc. to their houses from these points. I see they use a hand-powered cart with fork lifts and lifting devices to carry heavy furniture to the residences. They are communal and kept in the communal storeroom. Medium size stuff, computers etc, come the same way. That brings me to consider the security problem. Someone else ‘receiving’ my package... but I get no answer just now, the whole possession thing is not cleared up in my mind. We walk back to the control room. I wonder how these things are propelled. Something to do with air. Are they blown along in a vacuum tube? I think I have seen a design like this for office documents. There’s a machine blowing air into the system which keeps it moving. When it comes to its destination, a door opens and it gets shot out into the distribution point. Is their some kind of hydraulic principle here – the way air acts hydraulically, like a big piston pushing air slowly into a narrow tube? I would have thought blowers would be the answer. As I describe, the images become clear. Each capsule, which fits exactly into the tube, runs on rails, pushed around by air. The capsule carries the pallets inside until it arrives at its destination. There is an electronic sender on each capsule/pallet. The capsule shoots around the system, the sender makes points change and airlock doors open up. The capsule rides along the rails 30km/h, comes to its exit, points change, track exits onto an airlock, and it pushes its load onto the passive conveyor. I study the plan on the wall. It is not really radial, more like a mandala. One dark-haired person presents himself as an expert. I ask to see the overall layout. Time for borrowed genius. I enter through his head into his eyes. The map on the wall shows several circles. It seems to be a continuous loop, you go from one to the other and back the other way. The capsules are controlled by radio tags.
Goods come in from where they are manufactured in the second zone, just outside the inner administrative zone. Trains come in leave stuff and take stuff. Everything is transferred to the pipeline system. Then it goes to the manufacturing area. After that it leaves for its final destination, a distribution point. They have actually abolished parts of large goods retail as I know it. Retailâ€™s virtual here. You order what you want and the goods go direct from manufacturing to customer. You can get what you want a little more customized that way. Everything is assembled on site. This is to achieve a minimum of material in movements. As much as possible is done locally. We are not talking sand to silicon chips to TV. What we mean is that the final assembly is done locally. This final assembly is possible like this because of the way products are designed. Each product is assembled from a combination of modules. Assembly is done by a specialized assembly house, and the products are designed to be easily assembled in these houses. The manufacturing area also houses component manufacturers who either make components or modules. Heat is reused into the heating systems, so manufacturing is advantageous to have in cities. And you have a lot of people around who can walk there. Tapescript notes: At this point I believe it might be advantageous to explore what one â€˜cellâ€™ or section of the pipeway might look like so I drew a diagram.
When a capsule reaches point L1, the radio tag causes the points to switch it into the siding and up to the distribution point â€˜Outputâ€™. The goods are pushed onto the passive conveyor. I think the capsule, as it is on rails, is easy to manually push back into the pipeline system. For that to work all airlocks should be shut except (b). The truck rolls passively into the siding. If someone at the input point has called a capsule, and one is detected in the siding, there is an automatic opening of airlock (c). Airlock (d) opens and the capsule is propelled toward the input point. Once filled and pushed back into the system, starting with airlock (d) opening briefly to allow it to pass into the siding, as it closes (a) opens and then (c) to send the capsule back to the main circuit.
I leave my logistics genius and try to find someone who will help me with the propulsion system. I see a big cylinder construction from the window of the control room, and this is part of it. He takes me down near the park, to show two gigantic cylinders. Inside them there are pistons driven by an electric motor. These produce the propulsion force, not a blower. Each exit point keeps pressure up via the main outlet airlocks. Think of the cylinders as a bicycle pump. You can run the whole system like this just on two propulsion points. The pipeline is like a cycle tire. The role of the pumps is to keep the 29
pressure up. I hear 3 bar (three times atmospheric) for 30 km/hr but I am no expert on this side of things. The pressure disappears every time the doors open so the doors have to close quickly. (I see a likeness to the ghost train at the fair but say nothing.) At the exit points, gravity slows the capsules down, although they do have their own braking systems. The capsules have low rolling resistance and can be pushed by hand. People power is good. I am reminded again of the PORENA philosophy of not taking away physical efforts from daily life, rather avoiding stressing or straining the body. The pumps are located at strategic points around the circle. Control is passive. A control logic is built into the system. Trucks can move around empty or be waiting at special sidings. You can always call for a truck. Turning to a more general discussion of logistics, I get the feeling there could be actually 4-5 different types of vehicles in Porena, even motorized vehicles. Maybe we can talk about construction or rebuilding where larger things need transporting. Like construction vehicles? They are actually not against using lorries for construction. That is where motorized vehicles come into their own; earth moving and earthworks. Anyway, diesel engines can be run on vegetable oil for example. Large lorries can be driven on the gravel road. Once the area is built you can use the other systems. You have the canal, which is very efficient as well. What about daily logistics? This is what the barges on the canal are for. The shops come to you. Clothes and shoes? You pick up what you need from the barges. Food is grown everywhere so you just go and get it. Small quantities for everything seems to be the rule but I have never really understood why. I wonder of there is not some secret of logistics here I am missing. If you remove roads and do not transport people you reduce transport consumption drastically so then what you have is left to transport is household goods and larger stuff via the pipeline system. You can even get a pallet delivery with a lot of household stuff if you need to stock up in bulk. Before I leave, I am invited to ride around the system in the inspection capsule. It works just as I imagined - even felt a bit like the ghost train at the funfair. In the background you could hear the ‘thud thud’ of the cylinder propulsion system almost like a heart beat. The airlock doors throw themselves open as you approach. I leave with what might be more questions than I came. Reflections: Economic growth/Logistics What I liked … an economical, effective form of transport logistics What surprised me… the propulsion system. And the re-thinking of product and manufacturing! What can be used immediately… maybe this sort of thing exists already. Investigate. The re-thinking of manufacturing might contain an 30
element of a business idea, but it is close to the way Dell works today. And Ikea. Verifications: Pipeline A recent study by Henry Liu of the Freight Pipeline Company, deems it highly feasible to replace much of New Yorkâ€™s road transport by underground freight pipelines. Benefits include reduction of transport costs, better environment and safer handling. It verifies our earlier contention that cities are for walking in, not for motorized vehicles. Any city that introduces this kind of transport will be well on its way to lowering CO2 emissions from transport. The transport network would also favour manufacturing clusters in a region, enabling components and sub assemblies to be efficiently transported between production facilities. The amount of material transported into and out of New York is phenomenal. A good percentage of the food New Yorkers eat comes into the city to be processed at Hunts point. Some 30,000 trucks a day enter the area. Then there are the mail and parcels, container shipments, construction works etc. Twelve thousand tons PER DAY of residential and industrial waste are picked up and compacted to be transported out of the city to landfill. The direct cost is estimated to $1 Billion. Indirect costs to the environment and health of all those trucks passing by are not included. The report calls for six types of freight pipeline: (1) tunnel construction, (2) transporting municipal solid waste, (3) transporting mail and parcels, (4) delivering goods on pallets, (5) dispatching containers from seaports to an inland inspection/transfer station, and (6) ferrying trucks with their cargoes. Go to http://www.freightpipelinecompany.com/ to learn more about underground freight pipelines.
The pipeline added to the original plan of PORENA would look something like the diagram below.
Further questions. Still not resolved the possession/money/work equation! And the facilitator said the issues were linked. How are they linked exactly?
Module based design and manufacturing drives re-localisation By Max Wahlter One major change brought about by the rise in energy prices was the shift to module based product design and manufacturing. On the face of it, the change was minor, but it required a major shift in. attitude. Our reporter talks to Jeff Handly, from the PORENA manufacturing and distribution unit. Many people still don’t see the difference between module based manufacturing before and after the energy shortages – can you explain? In module based manufacturing final assembly is done by one local unit which is not owned by the brand, and the product goes straight from manufacturing to the customer. The other main difference is that the product always goes back to the factory. It is never scrapped. So the life time of a product is far longer.
Diagram: from minerals to scrap
The other difference – and this is what gets some people – is that each product actually has more material in it. This is because there is more redundancy in each module used to make up the product. Thanks. Can we start by reviewing the shortcomings of design and manufacturing for retail before the energy price hikes? As fossil fuel production reached a plateau whilst demand and prices rose, the average number of steps to get a product to the customer was seven. Each step was energy consuming, and the transport between steps started to get impossibly expensive. And the average usage life time of a product was short, much shorter than its MTBF – mean time between failure. The amount of scrap was incredible, much too much to be taken care of effectively. The average amount of material converted to waste 33
was 30 kg for every 1kg of product. That meant – with a product life time of 3 years – a total of 31 kg of waste for 3 year’s service. The question became: how do you provide people with good quality products, in wide variety, that can be updated as well, without many manufacturing and transport steps and waste creation? The first thing to do is eliminate the last step … the retail trade. Getting your goods straight from manufacturing eliminates transport, warehousing, retail space, etc. It also makes sure you manufacture exactly what the customer wants ... no unwanted products sitting on the shelf. The next step to eliminate was scrapping. Components – and we are talking everything from furniture to TVs – all have different life times and uses. For example: when people scrapped their VCRs for DVDs 80% of the components were similar. So this was solved by designing products for update. You just took the product back to the manufacturer to get it updated, upgraded, mended, whatever. Either the component was re-used directly or recycled. These components can be seen as nutrients – technical nutrients. Either they can be broken down and fed into another process or broken down to their constituent elements. Either way they are designed to be re-used. This ties together with the third step, dematerializing of brands. The brand as we knew it evolved into being a pure design company – and I don’t mean just physical design, but technical as well. The dematerialized company provided manufacturing instructions to an assembly company, which was local. Consumers ordered their product, and the assembly shop put it together based on designs by the brand. The components were mostly standard with a small percentage of custom parts. This paved the way for the fourth step: eliminating the shipping of finished goods. All that is shipped is modules to be put together locally. The assembly is carried out in the same organization that takes care of service and upgrading. So you would find at least one assembly and service shop at each town. I understand this thinking led to new services and whole industries changing the way they do things. Some amazing things happened. Component manufacturers and module manufactures made sure there were CAD/CAM representations of their products. This meant that brand name designers could sit and electronically design their products, loading in the components to their design applications. Another thing that it gave rise to was the technical nutrient bourse. An on-line exchange of components for recycling or reuse. So how much more effective is module based manufacturing? We estimate there is a 30% reduction in energy intensity in the whole system, without counting the average lifetime of the product is extended from 2 to 12 or even 20 years. 34
Perhaps you could go over the main features and benefits of the system again for listeners? Sure, let’s see… • One local assembly shop; gives economies of scale for assembly and recycling, and closeness to the customer. • Brand as design. Allows companies to concentrate on their particular Brand values and look and feel - using global competence to reach a pinnacle of excellence whilst giving them global reach. • Standard modules. These modules actually allow for more variation and product variants, which are often endless. • Return to local assembly point. The benefit is no scrap, 100% recycling, a long lifetime which is energy effective, and no mass transport of goods. • Long product lifetime. This reduces the overall ecological footprint of the use of the product over its full lifetime.
Journey six: Connecting Money and Environment Preamble: I am fed up with trying to understand this money thing. I know there is not just only to everything. Just because PORENA didn’t use money it one answer doesn’t mean everywhere else cannot. Money can be a good thing too! The aim of this visualisation is find a place that has used money to create a very fast transformation from an explosive growth society emitting large amounts of material into the biosphere to a sustainable society where money has been the principle instrument of this change. A curiosity: earlier on in PORENA money was seen as a bit of a problem as people had forgotten its purpose. It had got so complicated they decided to abandon it. Tapescript I follow my own instructions, formulate the challenge (we are asking for a situation where money is the instrument of change) and sit in the exit lounge on a bench. The facilitator turns up. ‘You again!’ he says. I reply; ‘My quest is different this time, it is to find how society has gone rapidly from explosive growth over to a sustainable society using money as the instrument of change.’ ‘That’s a tough one,’ says the facilitator, ‘I am not sure I can help you’. There must be one of these lifts that can take me where I want to go. He looks puzzled. I ask ‘What are you doing here then if you can’t help?’ ‘Don’t go with me,’ he says. I look around this gigantic departure lounge and mall. Further down the mall a green lift seems to be calling me, The button on the outside of the lift says ‘money’. So I guess this must be right. It seems to be similar to the other lifts, painted very plainly in a light green. ‘Using the money’ is on the lift button. I push it and off we go. Slowly, with the lift cranking ‘budda budda,’ we ascend. I notice I am alone. I lean against the metal handrail, unsure of what is going on. Apprehensive. Is this right, good, possible? Is money a good way to create change towards sustainability? Am I the right one to ask the question - I have no head for economics? The door opens onto a rock tunnel. I go through into another door, this time opening onto an underground control area. Maybe I have ended up in an ecological footprint monitoring area. A lot of people are staring at a lot of screens in what I think they call ‘the pit’. And up in the control room managers, I assume, are staring down at them. A gigantic screen seems to be showing the news or something like it. 36
I enter this control booth. People are moving knobs, staring at the screen. It seems to be a monitoring station - you would think it is NASA. It IS a national body – or an international body of some sort. ‘Can you tell me what you are doing?’ I ask one guy. ‘We are monitoring the waves, the airwaves, for the news’ I feel confused until I understand that is what HE is doing, monitoring the news for economic information. But if I am to find out how you use money to get to sustainability I need to talk to an expert down on the floor. I go down to the floor and ask. ‘Sure, let’s grab a room with a whiteboard,’ a guy says. ‘Wait up! Is this going to be complicated?’ I ask. ‘Not really.This is how we use money to accelerate sustainability’. He draws a diagram of time vs emission, with time on the horizontal axis. This represents an index which all countries have agreed to follow. There is a straight line descending from the present levels to levels equivalent to a limit per inhabitant that does not exceed what nature of the equivalent area can absorb. It looks to be over 10 or 20 years. The index is connected somehow to money and the price of goods. The total amount of money in the country is connected to the rate of reduction in emissions. Everyone wants the value of the money to go up I am thinking, realising I know nothing about economics and wondering why I even started on this exercise. A total monetary index based on the currency values at the starting point. That index works … I am not getting it…. Time for borrowed genius. I come behind my guide and look through his eyes.This is how it works. All developed nations agree on a starting point. They agree on a certain GDP (Gross Domestic Product), number of inhabitants, and the footprint exerted by the nation. They also agree initial currency exchange rates in order to fix the GDP relative to each others.
From this they work out the footprint per inhabitant at the starting point. Then, they calculate the theoretical footprint limit for the nation, based on its area and a few other factors. From the theoretical footprint limit it is possible to work out the footprint limit per inhabitant. 37
Now, that would mean a decrease in the footprint exerted by a certain percentage. For example, a nation like Sweden which is just about its theoretical limit (i.e emissions are equal to the carry capacity of its total area,) might only have to achieve a few percent reduction. A highly industrialised, densely populated country like England would have a much higher percentage reduction to achieve. The value of this reduction is set equivalent to the corresponding percentage of GDP. Say a reduction of 20% was needed. This would be equivalent to 20% of that nation’s GDP. To make it easier to follow, every nation had these figures converted to an index where 100 was starting footprint per inhabitant and 0 was target level. This reduction was to take place over 20 years. Debt was 0 at year one, and 100 percent at year 20. So if a nation did not reduce its emissions at all, it would have a debt of the equivalent amount to the other countries. Existing footprint and existing currency are combined into the index, all put into a currency basket. I am really not sure I understand what he is saying. ‘What about … can you make a difference between environmentally good transactions and those that aren’t? Would the less environmentally sound transactions cost more? Is there a coupling, a connection between the two?’ He replies, ‘to understand that you need to look at the way the nation involved in the scheme operates.’ And this is why you need central monitoring. It is the central monitoring centre that puts the environment and the currency together. And it is the deciding body. A bit like having a central bank. To understand how that works in practice we have to go out in the street. We go to the local market. I see on the market stall that prices and taxes are different. There is a tax on everything. The tax helps the government. It takes money in to pay for the environmental debt, as a tax on top of the price of the goods. So for example if something is taxed highly, the tax goes into government funds which are earmarked either to pay the debt (to the IEF?) or to solve the problem and thus not incur the debt. If it doesn’t work you will have nations owing a lot of money. If it does work they will not owe anything as the footprint will be reduced by the equivalent amount required in the index. The nation could also ‘buy’ some other nation’s footprint absorption ability if the other nation’s own footprint was less than its land area. This nation has decided to add a tax on top of all consumer goods sold. The environmentally sound product is cheap for the consumer to buy as tax is low. Unsound products incur higher tax and are relatively more expensive. ‘It all requires monitoring’ says my guide. ‘Why were you monitoring the news?’ I ask. ‘The body monitors what goes on in each country and how the news is spread. This is because consumer attitude and all kinds of human factors can come into play to affect the mechanism.’ ‘Now we are half way through the year. Some are making it some are not. Those that are not will be asked to pay, and that money will be used to fund a task force to redress the emissions.’ 38
Where there is a technological solution, applying it is the cost of cleaning emissions up. This is difficult to pinpoint so there is an agreed set of standard costs for each emission type clean-up to assist with comparisons when monitoring progress. For those countries that are able to go below the planned limits, they are able to sell their goods cheaper as there is less tax on them and they become more competitive. And the goods are better for the world as long as the right logistic route is found to supply other countries. So this is using competing and money by re-drawing the playing field. ‘Anything else?’ ‘How would you define the tax?’ I ask. The reply reveals it is defined as a percentage scale based on GRI (Global Reporting Index - www.globalreporting.org). It puts goods into 12 categories based on GRI, with yes/no questions covering 50 different analysis points. For every product you sell you submit a declaration, from that your tax category is worked out for that product. It makes it more complicated but with modern techniques it is possible. Tax groups are from 0 – 12. For example, local produce sold in the market is group zero. ‘How does that affect wages?’ ‘No difference there.’ ‘VAT?’ ‘VAT is included in the tax group’ ‘And the black market?’ ‘There will always be a black market whatever you do. It will be for environmentally unsound goods of high value. The tax is only on the consumer, taxed when it is bought not when it is produced.’ The high tax ones, you should keep the price down, to do that production should be efficient so the incentives are there to reduce the tax, not go into black marketing. The decision was taken among nations in a federation. It was taken as a decision between those countries with high emission levels per inhabitant. It gives other countries with low emissions an advantage. Those countries with low levels were not in the reduction basket. I get frustrated: ‘I can’t see America going along with it. There is not enough incentive.’ Once you understand that release of materials into the environment is essentially expensive the system is good because it encourages efficiency, which brings competitiveness. The system is very good because it encourages you, like best practice, like accounting follows best practice, because it represents what is considered to be the limits to what the Earth, or the part of the Earth the country is sovereign over, can handle long term. It connects a monetary figure to the limits of emissions for what the biosphere can take. I put a question. How do they work that out? We go down to the control room. I see the currency monitoring system. It reminds me of a stockbroker’s room, where the figures come up. They are being monitored continually. The footprint of the nation broken down into greenhouse gasses: carbon dioxide, methane, ethane, etc. 39
The countries are listed down the left, and along the top, metals in use, metals dumped. Dumping: you need to measure what you dump, which is mostly estimated. Household rubbish not sorted and has a high tax. Its contents are estimated. By testing samples of household waste regularly a reasonable estimate can be achieved. The tax is collected in order to offset the debt. The money should be used to put activities and packages in action to rectify the problem. If the audit by the federation reveals the footprint is not reduced by the required amount, the debt is collected. And the money used to rectify the problem. The federal agency then uses it to put the problem right. It is an environmental undertaking, not a sustainability one. Reaching sustainability is up to each government. I strain to understand the real name of this body it looks like EEF or EMF or something. The European Environmental Foundation. Economic Environmental Foundation. Federation. European Environmental Fund.
That is where we are. The foundation is given money in order to work with the nations. Each nation gets recommendations, reports and then the money is given back as grants depending on what needs to be done. If for example people are using a lot of transport then the funds are given back to address that. Got it! And then it is monitored again. There are reports written and published. These are followed by the news. What we are watching on the news is the reaction in the country to the most recent EEF report and recommendations. The first question was how they managed to get countries to set the federation up in the first place. But having achieved that, the nations gave the federation the task of 40
connecting money to environment. To find a starting point and carrying on with it and monitoring it. Finding a working method. I suppose you can describe the method as reporting and then setting currency and deciding the level of contribution based on the debt incurred. (The cost of cleaning it all up in ten years) The aim is to reduce the footprint to what can be absorbed in that country. Although footprint trading within the federation is allowed. That is why the currency has to be aligned. If you have the same currency you cannot do that. It has to be a tax if nations share a single currency. It could be handled in a tax union or federation though. Letâ€™s take an example. Start in 1990 one dollar is ten euros. The Europeans reduce their footprint faster than the Americans do. Now. For the same goods, as the Europeans are better at reducing footprint, their products are cheaper (incur less national debt). This means there is a relative inflation in the US and a relative rise in the exchange rate dollar- euro. The Dollar becomes more expensive to the Euro plus for the Dollar the Americans have a larger federal debt. After two years the Americans pay for the year gone by. So that money is taken, and after the audit the Federation gives the nation tasks to do and offers to help using best practice. Remember we are aiming towards significant reduction, extreme reduction. Every month a reduction is required. Then some of the money is used for subsidies as funds and grants and it comes back to the country under the jurisdiction of the EEF. This is like quarantining funds, or lending them at zero interest.
As the currency is higher, products are more expensive and it is more expensive to go there and trade. So the rise means their products that still sell will get more money for them and they have more money to pay the tax.
‘That is neat!’ I exclaim as I start to see some kind of symmetry. ‘We think so,’ my guide replies. The report is done once a year, the debt is charged, the funds transferred, and distributed. The EEF then initiates actions and prioritises countries and aspects of countries to pay the money back in one way or another. If you keep on track there is no money to pay. Being a real amateur in economics, and feeling I have had more than I can handle, I take my leave. Reflections: connecting money and environment I think I understand the basics of this: that each nation has a debt equivalent to the extent its footprint exceeds the country area, in proportion to its GDP. Either the country reduces its footprint or incurs fines. These fines affect the national economy negatively but help other more environmental countries. The fines are used to pay for cleaning and resolution of the problem. The details of how this affects inflation and currency exchange rates I would like to leave to an expert. A method reflection: I have worked with something I know nothing about. I have learnt a lot. This includes being forced to look up the basics of economics in order even to be able to type up the tapescript. I have noticed the last few days that I have taken in economic information on the news in another way. So Imagestreaming like this is a good way to learn a new subject. The problem will come with verification. The only way I can verify this is to give it to someone who understands macro economics. Yet I daren’t in case the person laughs and says things like ‘so out of my depth, wasting time etc’. On the other hand, why are economists not working on this to come up with something better? – It really is urgent! Reflections: characteristics of sustainability A friend writes: I live across from a park, and just in front of my house the municipality planted a bunch of new plants. The plants were small and people were walking across the plants in order to get to the park instead of using the designated entry points. This of course damaged the plants feeding into the spiral of walking through the plants, damaging the plants, getting into the park at points other than the designated ones... Now, one might think that people do not care and that was my first thought. But my wife bought a yellow tape and put it across the place where people were getting into the park and the people stopped going through it! The tape is not a physical obstacle nor an enforceable one. Maybe people are not paying attention, maybe they only need to be reminded, 42
that the fate of the little plants was in their hands and that they could save them by just taking three more steps. This example confirms that: - Existing technology is sufficient - Behavioural modification is a big part of it - Sustainable development is actually very simple - It requires a new attitude to combining and multi-use - Most people have no problem understanding it …and that indeed working to bring these issues to the forefront of our minds is a necessary activity.
Journey seven: Learning Sustainability Tapescript Today the bench in the waiting area is not oak but redwood - beautifully varnished redwood. It curves in a long arc. I am more nervous now; I need to muster up courage. The creative process is not painless. I see how closely-held values get challenged in processes like these Past a newly varnished boat-like shape, a cream coloured lift and a grey coloured lift stand invitingly .I feel I should take the grey one. In the lift there is a whole array of buttons. And paintings. I push the button which says UP. Alone in the lift, I check out the paintings: juvenile depictions of cows and fields and farms. When the lift arrives, the doors open up in front of a group of young kids. They are just playing. See-sawing right in front of the lift having fun - it's like a playroom in kindergarten. In the quest to understand how a community can adopt the PORENA way, I end up in a playroom. Is this right, is the method playing games with me? Get a grip on yourself Max; you promised you would give the method a chance. Keep describing. ‘Hello, is there anyone in charge here?’ A little girl wearing a black dress comes up to me so I ask: ‘Hi, is your mummy here?’ ‘She's at work.’ ‘Who is in charge here?’ ‘Mrs Fernaster.’ ‘Can I meet her?’ The little girl takes my hand and leads me to Mrs Fernaster’s office. ‘Hi! I'm studying how societies use technology to live in a sustainable way. I’m interested in how sustainability, or the principles on which the community lives, is brought across to members of the community. I have picked up that one of the keys to this may be the understanding of stress on the organism.’ Mrs Fernaster replies by promising to show me something that will help me. We look at a wall covered with children’s paintings. A tree. A house. A dog. A river. I glance at the pictures but don’t get it. I remember how I tried to look through someone else’s eyes in a previous journey. I stand behind Mrs Fernaster. The children’s paintings show that the ability to perceive and understand natural processes, and to be a part of them, is inbuilt. The pictures themselves show elegant composition. And the ability to understand complex interactions and relationships. What I am wondering about maybe seems so hard to find because it is already there. Inside of everyone. Child development in fact mirrors the biological process, and includes everything man needs to adapt to the world. It does not need to be taught, but it needs to be learnt. It doesn’t need to be learnt, that will happen. It needs to be given the right conditions to be learnt. That’s quite an insight. 44
â€˜Mrs Fernaster, is there anyone you could put me in touch with, like a professor or something who could give me a deep theoretical briefing?â€™ I feel a bit like I am intruding on the kids, they seem to be having a good time. I am standing in front of a man in a brown suit, with wire-rimmed glasses wearing a woollen knitted waistcoat. He invites me into his office. On a large whiteboard he starts to draw vertical lines about 5cm apart. Horizontally he draws a flat line through the middle of the vertical lines, which rises to a peak and then tails off. Straining to understand, I catch that the curve represents biological stress, negative and positive. It has to do with hormones and the period of formative years up to the age of ten. I am getting that education as I know it is completely wrong. It is the environment the child experiences that forms the ability of the organism to survive. The functional efficiency of the epimyler. (I must research this one) changes over time up to 17. So if it is good for the child it will benefit the adult, and the formative years are a preparation where the child and the environment interact so the child, naturally programmed to take in the processes around it, reaches a state of intuitive capability. Feeling like I have taken in more than I can digest in one go, I thank my hosts and leave. Verification notes Epimyler: The Professor points out that the nervous system, or the learning capability, is an intrinsic part of man. As the youth reaches maturity, the ability to understand the natural cycles she is part of diminishes. He said something about the functional efficiency of the epimyler. My short research revealed that. - nerves are covered with myelin, a fatty sheath - dysfunction of myelin is implicated in Autism and Parkinsonâ€™s disease - there is little reference to what is outside (epi) the myelin. Some other research turned up a combination of computers and Bushmen knowledge. Scientists have given Bushmen somewhere in Africa hand-held computers to register animal observations. Apparently, these Bushmen can read animal tracks, or spoor to such a high degree they can, for example, tell if an animal is being chased by a human or another animal. All intuitive knowledge. My linguistics classes from way back told me that you need to learn a language at a young age in order to get the best chance to sound like a native. Combinations of muscles and nerves not used up to the age of about 20 simply wither, so you may not be physically able to make some sounds in the foreign language. So, sure, by living and interacting in the environment at a young age the child/youth will pick up all they need to know to survive in that environment. 45
Walking everywhere According to an article in NEWSWEEK, October 6th 2003, recent research reveals suburbanites are walking less, and gaining weight. In fact the less dense housing is, the more likely people are to be overweight. Town planning is given as one of the causes as there is no ‘meaningful’ places to walk to, like neighbourhood shops. ‘We are building obesogenic environments,’ says Dr Billie Giles-Corti of the School of Public Health at the University of Western Australia in Perth. Some good news… Prince Charles is building an experimental town in Poundbury, designed to get people out of their cars. Sounds like the technique of RADIALITY, touched upon in an earlier visit would be useful. Unfortunately I did not go into the techniques very much. Something for a later trip.
Journey eight: Focus on Sustainability Next question. You are in a community that is not acting in a sustainable way and you want to focus people onto sustainability …how do you do that? I want to talk to someone and go somewhere to find the answer to this. How do you bring people together from diverse areas and focus on sustainability. And how do you formulate a sustainability challenge? I believe that advanced problem-solving techniques could be used if only we could formulate the assignment succinctly. Tapescript I see a nice polished bench in a gigantic mall, familiar from last time. A large door, like an airport entrance is in front of me. To the sides are other lifts, exits and shops. Which way shall I go? Which lift? Bright light shines through the entrance in front of me so I exit through that. An escalator takes me up a flight to a covered walkway. I see gardens underneath, connecting out to green areas beyond. The semicircular roof, made of glass lets in a lot of light. In itself a good invention. Round the next corner and down an escalator I descend into a garden. A fountain coming from a Roman-urn like sculpture sends water into the pond around it. Goldfish swim under Lilly leaves floating on its surface. I look down at the small bushes surrounding the pond and out of the corner of my eye I see a park bench. I go over and sit down. A guy turns up, wearing a red shirt, khaki pants and sandals. He is bearded and looks a bit bohemian. ‘You wanted to know about something?’ ‘Yes I did, I need to know how to focus on sustainability.’ ‘Come with me.’ I follow after him into a grey lift, which descends not vertically, but at angles downwards. It opens onto a corridor. I follow down another corridor into a large underground area that looks like a control room of some kind. He invites me into a meeting room at the side. We sit down opposite each other. I check the room out: white board, flip charts, simple chairs, nothing out of the ordinary. ‘How do you focus on sustainability, how do you get people together to work on sustainability?’ He looks down at his paper. ‘I don’t know’ ‘Why not?’ I ask. ‘You asked how you focus on sustainability,’ he replies. I ask him laconically; ‘and what is that outside then? The room monitors footprint, collects data and makes it available. The data is updated hourly. A large screen shows weather patterns, another, ozone layer status. A 47
guy sitting at a terminal is collecting data via the Internet. Indicators as such are collected and collated. Another operator is compiling a table of fuel use, carbon dioxide release. Another, population figures, and other water quality. In real time monitoring. A direct feed is available for TV stations and other media. ‘Why did you bring me here, my question was about focus?’ I exclaim. He replies; ‘This is one way at least; it is very easy to do, and use the data for more studies.’ As you can see the footprint of the population of the world exceeded the world’s capacity in the 70s. It is that serious. I work it out: ‘But OK, my question was how do you focus on sustainability and the answer is focus on footprint. I did not ask how you focus on solving sustainability issues.’ ‘You didn’t ask that and therefore did not get an answer.’ ‘Anything else?’ I ask. He draws the diagram of the four circles of sustainability. Enterprises, Communities, Individuals and the Environment. He explains how all four circles affect the footprint and all need monitoring. I have at least some answers. I thank him and take my leave.
Method notes I can really confirm that you get what you ask for in Imagestreams. I will try to remember to state my quest succinctly in future. I will even state it into the tape recorder so I have an exact record of what it is I asked for.
Journey nine: Community Action The assignment is to go to a place where people come together in groups to cooperate to find solutions to sustainability issues across all aspects of a particular administrative area. I would like to visit a place that demonstrates a methodology for it. We have covered working together toward sustainability from several aspects, but just this aspect has not been covered. It would be great if we could do that, especially using Imagestreaming. Tapescript I am on the bench in the departure hall. I see the leaves on the plants behind me, reminding me of earlier trips to PORENA. A lift to my right with large ‘wings’ on either side invites me in. I push the ‘up’ button, enter the lift and look out the window on the left side. ‘Go on, press the green one!’ someone says. We ascend very fast. I feel the G forces on me. The lift is enclosed in some kind of high tower parallel to a rock face which rushes past me. The whooshing of hydraulics in the background make it like a fairground ride. It stops, and the doors open onto a walkway over to a mountain side. It is extremely high up, and I get wobbly legs as I walk over it. The lift has followed the sheer rock face of a mountain. A brick entrance in front beckons. It looks like a portal to a castle, but there is a smaller door where people seem to be going in. ‘Do you charge entrance?’ I ask the uniformed man at the door. He shakes his head. The place looks like a tourist attraction. I buy a guide map. ‘I’ll show you the way,’ the guy behind me says. ‘Thank you.’ I like it when people help out in image streams. We exit onto a cobbled square. I am invited into some kind of town meeting. People are seated in rows looking at a facilitator standing at the front. I find myself being impatient to follow proceedings and mumble something about when they are going to get started. ‘Be quiet, it will work, sit down. No need to take notes,’ says the guy next to me. The facilitator starts; ’Welcome everyone to the meeting. Anyone new here?’ I put my hand up. He nods and pulls a map down from the roof. This is the area we have to work with. The map is huge, covering the entire target area. Everyone studies the map. People come up and put coloured yellow sticky notes on the location most appropriate for an asset or concern. I watch. Cool idea.
Everyone chips in. Air quality is put on the side as a general concern, as well as a specific note over the city. Someone puts wind power out on an island as an asset. The map is quite full of sticky notes. Everyone sits back and looks. What have we got? The assets and concerns get categorized and worked on. Assets are red. Concerns are yellow. Why are assets red? No answer yet. The facilitator gets major categories, or themes, written down on the flip chart to the right side of the map. Concerns on the right, assets on the left. Itâ€™s like a cafĂŠ type of workshop where everyone works in small groups at round tables. Each category relates to specific location points on the map. For each concern category the next step is to look at behaviours. I ask about assets but understand they are left for the moment. One behaviour related to air quality is driving in the city, I see. Something to do with acceleration and fuel use. Now we have to rank the behaviours in terms of contribution to the concern. This is going quickly. It is put onto a flip chart. Behaviours are ranked to each concern and each concern is related to a location in the area.
Now, we match behaviours and assets in separate groups. We move to sit at small tables. Each table has a concern and ranked behaviours to work on. I join in the ‘driving in the city’ one. The behaviour is ‘Putting your foot on the accelerator.’ If you do not put your foot on the accelerator you never burn any fuel. Why DO people put their foot on the accelerator`? We look at it systemically. Maintaining a continuous traffic flow at a low speed 30 km/h would discourage acceleration and driving fast, thus reducing emissions. So that would be the task to stop the behaviour. Not really eliminate but reduce. The next step is to establish a reasonable level of behaviour to reduce to. ‘Pay attention - this goes quickly,’ someone says. It is not reasonable to reduce goods transport, but reducing the number of private journeys is. Nothing else related to ‘Putting your foot on the accelerator’? Next step: what kind of assets could be brought to this? The group brainstorms: universities, schools, interest groups, nice walks, parks, a boat, a barge, water in the canal, water, railways transport, else? Under physical assets they list bicycles, bike paths, a computer controlled traffic light system, etc. We now have a list of the assets that could be brought in to solving the problem. A reasonable behaviour to aim for gives a steady 30km/h and reduction of journeys by 10%. Next, presentation of the challenge. ‘I can’t believe how fast this went - only ten minutes,’ I exclaim. ‘You’re new here aren’t you?’ someone says to me. Ok next stage. We don’t stop – it must go quickly. Now a presentation from each group, as each posts their flip-chart onto the wall. ‘Why did we not talk about alternative fuels?’ I ask in plenum. ‘No-one thought to mention it.’ ‘Well, I am taking it up now’ I reply. They write it up on a flip-chart for remaining items. The behaviour-cantered approach calls for you to specify a behaviour that is reasonable. Take putting alternative fuel in your car or truck. As there is no alternative fuel to put in your car we cannot treat the point as a legitimate challenge. I get the feeling that although this kind of meeting is focused on what is achievable today, one output might be issues, impulses etc for the experts to take up for longer term approaches. I suspect long term approaches are going on in parallel with this process.
Next, people are walking around having a break looking at the answers which have been put up on the flip-charts. The problem is at the top, the negative effects of behaviour on the right side, assets on the left. In the middle is the ‘how can we’ and ‘what is a reasonable goal to aim for’. We look at these. I notice the expert group. They are available to help with figures and facts. They have helped with what is reasonable. They represent different departments. I see there is no lack of knowledge about different aspects. Let me record some of the issues as I sip on a glass of green spirogyra. On the right is a chart about drinking soda drinks. To the right of that, the number of liters a day, on the left as an asset, research organization, companies that sell drink dispensing machines, TV, bicycles, Internet, CD’s . The challenge is to encourage people to cut down on fizzy drinks and drink more water instead. How do we do this now? We need to regroup. People choose where they want to work, but representatives must be brought in. The asset reps must be engaged and knowledge reps available. I start to see the flow. One group hands the work on to the next one. First though, there is a vote as to which challenges to prioritise. Everyone gets some sticky circular labels. They put these red blobs on the paper for the concern they feel is most important to address. People go round voting. Experts cannot vote because they are biased (they are itching to vote). I cannot vote as I am not a member of the community. I can watch. Fuel is one, soda is the other and the last is growing your own vegetables. The vegetables one impacts the transport one. Now we have three things to work on. This is where Imagestreaming comes in, each person takes a partner and they sit down at the round tables. I mumble how Imagestreaming about Imagestreaming is difficult. ‘It is not!’ says someone behind me says; ‘hang in here!’ Each pair works on a problem. I see a guy talking aloud: ‘I see this place with pots growing in their house and vegetables and there is an ornament and it’s a vegetable pot as well. You buy it from the local supermarket as a 52
kit with instruction leaflet. You could also call it a local - grow your food at home shop.’ His friend had one Imagestream too. They have described it to each other. Now they scribble furiously, getting it down on paper. To get it all down they drawing pictures and diagrams in pencil on one A4 sheet of paper. The numbers of solutions are gigantic. People are taping them up on the wall. Each solution is photographed digitally to be made available on the web. That will make up the end of round one somehow. We need to rest, take time to reflect and not go further. The mind must work with this, but we need to look at the solutions and come back and re-group for the next sessions the next day. It would be fun to join in the next session the next day. It looks like people take their rest rather seriously. So I need to take my rest seriously because the solutions are all there. We have come to cognition (understanding the issues and mechanisms), we need to go next to co-ordination and collaboration. Well that was fun. What about the web? All info goes on the web so people can go in and see the results, it is all documented. One digital picture per flip chart/paper. The other things will be used later. The A4 paper solution preserves the inview/overview stability of the process. As I take my leave I decide to see if I can take the stairs for the exercise.
Follow-up to tapescript. What surprised me • • • • •
How fast it can go. The focus on behaviour as a lever. The use of what we can do now instead of looking at (as I have seen many do) new technology. The insight into the importance of rest. Lean documentation.
Verification needs • • • •
I wonder what it would cost to print up such a map. I will ask around. I’m a little unsure about the ranking of behaviour process. Is that done using the voting stickers or another method? No mention of constraints in the problem solving challenge formulation. I am unsure the problem is formulated succinctly enough to evoke ‘sweet spot’ solutions. Asset engagement. I get the idea the sticker changes colour from supposed assets to engaged assets. 53
Questions remaining Interested as to how they ‘sold in’ this event. Subject for a new visit? Fascinated as to what the next step will be. Practical uses seen already: I will try describing my inventions in pencil and paper on one A4 and scanning them in. The idea of quick processes bringing concrete deliverables before the end of the day is helpful. Lean documentation is a great idea I could use in many contexts. Especially as my mobile phone has a camera in it! Tapescript: Day #2. Ok - tape’s on. I want to go to the follow up of the previous workshop about the methodology for co-operating in a community to address sustainability challenges. They pointed out the need to wait – it’s been two days. If I remember, we got as far as generating solutions and documenting them on one A4 paper which was posted on the internet. I close my eyes. I am in the departure lounge; the guy who came with me last time turns up and takes me to the same lift. We enter. I see traffic down below. Up we go …fast. The rock face looms close as we ascend. The lift stops with a bang, doors opening onto a walkway that has a high fence which arches over, presumably to stop people climbing up. Cars move on the road below. ‘Come on!’ the guy with me says. I stop at the door as the area seems to be closed today. ‘It’s OK it’s a special session for us today,’ he says. We walk over the cobbled square to what looks like a Town Hall. As we enter we see people wandering around drinking tea and coffee and studying the solutions which are posted up on the walls. I get offered coffee and a bun and welcomed. ‘Have you looked at the solutions since last?’ someone asks. ‘No,’ I say rather surprised. (How could I do that this is a fantasy? – The thought goes through my mind but not onto the tape.) ‘Tut tut tut, you are meant to do that!’ she admonishes. I reply ‘yes, well I couldn’t … I …oh never mind, I saw nothing anyway except I saw something of the growing food at home shop idea’. ‘Maybe you would like to join that group?’ she says. ‘Thanks I’d love too.’ People group up. The tables are numbered, one per solution. A list on the wall shows which table is which. I ask someone: ‘is there one table per solution or issue or what?’ He replies, ‘don’t worry just work at your table and it will become clear’. I see our table, and join the group. We sit at a round table, with chess-like pieces, or markers like the ones you use for the board game Ludo, laid out on it. A large paper worksheet sits on the table I cannot make out what is on it. 54
First, introductions to the group participants. We have the horticultural college, someone from the garden center, gardening enthusiasts. I look for the guy who did the image stream. It is not necessary to have that person along, but it turns out he is sitting just across from me. He laughs ‘I’m not necessary! The image stream really gives voice to what we already know’. This is a leader –less activity, and I am itching to get in and LEAD the proceedings. I resist the temptation and wait. ‘Shall I start?’ says the guy opposite me. He starts off with a summary: partly to reduce transports, partly to increase the amount of locally grown food is the idea to grow food at home. The behaviour is to grow food at home more with an increase of 10%. ‘Ten percent do you really think that is reasonable?’ I wonder. ‘Yes it is,’ comes the reply tersely. Some of the solutions called for Garden Centres offering grow food at home solutions. The agricultural college would help. These people are here to contribute. Other solutions from the image streams were growing cabbages etc in the garden more. The behaviour was to plant more. These solutions are described on the large worksheet in front of me. The guy from the horticultural college says ‘I could…produce a brochure’. That gets written down on the paper in the centre on an activity list. Someone else’s I could is ..sell all the things needed to do it at home from the garden shop. The enthusiasts say they could run a few study circles. I could work on the figures, how many people we need to engage and the spread. Someone else will write the stakeholder list. I ask who else will do an I could. I am warned not to try to get ahead of the game. ‘I could put up web pages,’ someone pipes up. All ‘I coulds’ are now captured. The markers are put into an ‘effort required’ space in the column next to the activity column. Some activities have three, some one. Effort in time is meant here to cover the next week specifically. If it is independent of other activities it has a yellow marker in the next column. There is a connection between the brochure and what comes in the shops so no marker next to those. The activities are then grouped into different time blocks.
I ask how the spread of home grown food is going to happen, all I see is these volunteers and you need to reach a good proportion of households, I would guess. ‘You won’t know until you have worked it out. And you only have to work with assets so we take these three steps. The commitment that is needed is already secured.’ 55
‘It IS this simple,’ someone else says; ‘you are trying to complicate it!’ ‘Why don’t you go and look at the other groups?’ a group member suggests. I wander off to the air pollution group. Again I see the blue, red, yellow markers. Red for effort, yellow for dependencies and blue for grouping. They have quite a large group, about a dozen, with several experts. A driving instructor, driving enthusiasts a transport group. They have decided in what order they are going to do things. 1) They are going to find bottlenecks where traffic stops. 2) Cycle paths and walking paths are going to be documented. I walk over to the facilitator to ask more questions. He doesn’t seem to be doing anything. My first question is about coordinating between groups. All results are documented so each group sees the other’s results and can check for overlaps, synergies etc. Second: the next steps. The group will continue to meet regularly once a week for a couple of hours to carry on the work. All in the same room to allow coordination and create momentum. Third: The follow-up. ‘For the follow up - you should attend one to see how that works. You have seen how we go from analysis to working group. The Imagestreaming creates a quick solution. The focus is on implementing as fast as possible. The preparation is done deliverable-based as much as possible. When the preparation is done - you are prepared to go to the next step when the research is done and the deliverables are there. We need one or two weeks more to get the preparation done.’ Delegates will now just go home and post the results of their work on the project site. Some will have the task of coordinating between groups. What is not voluntarily offered is not done. If they do not get enough volunteers it just does not happen. It is all based on will. No-one would offer to do something if they were not prepared to do it. In some cases you need to go back to the asset responsible to get commitment for their time, and get it confirmed to engage assets. Assets are either engaged or not. I ask about how the whole thing was developed. ‘Is that important?’ he replies. ‘No,’ I say. ‘How do you train people to do this?’ ‘You just do it. People come along and hang in there. We have a facilitator group who develop the methodology. Then we monitor progress. That is OUR Imagestreaming, OUR planning. We use the same methodology.’ I move into borrowed genius mode. I merge with him and look through his eyes. I see he has at this point basically nothing to do. Everyone is working away so he wanders around to look for co-ordination needs and synergy. He goes over to the fizzy drink consumption reduction group. The expert group is now dispersed into the action groups. The work the experts do is pre-budgeted for these activities. Each group member’s time is budgeted. People here are very careful about budgeting their time. In the case of the fizzy drinks, they are entering into voluntary agreements about displaying fizzy and still drinks together. The markers were also used to estimate impact of each activity. The paper has a line for questions; these are researcher activities, treated in more or less the same way. 56
The invitation to these sessions was sent out widely. Transparency is achieved through everything being made available on the Internet. We can have a reporter here to do a piece for the local newspaper. Through the eyes of the facilitator it is very simply about getting people to get to the behaviour quickly. And the genius is skipping a load of unnecessary steps. The reason for the approach where people and organizations pre-commit their time and then offer to do activities is that it requires less management. In the beginning it is difficult to sell in. Once you have done it people find it fun and everyone wants to continue. People enjoy it and it is not a lot of work. A lot of what is happening in the workshop has to do with peopleâ€™s responsibilities at their work anyway. Because the experts are present there is never any waiting for information. And they are good. I release the facilitator. He rings a bell for the five minute mark. People are photographing the papers to put onto the web. The follow up meetings will happen once a week and then the implementation. Something for the next visit. I look round for the guy who brought me here and realize it is the facilitator. End of session for today. What surprised me I am surprised by my own reaction. These exercises are alike a novel I canâ€™t put down. I am dying for the next step like dying to turn the page over! Is it just me getting excited about new ways of collaborating? Verification needs Iâ€™m not sure that you can describe activities without more planning. Questions remaining How to invite to a session. I should have asked about measurements. Practical uses seen already I like the idea of a board and markers.
Tapescript: Day #3. We have got to the point where we have completed two visits. We sought a methodology for acting community wide on sustainability. The first phase was analysis, the second preparation. We need now to understand about implementation. Hopefully groups which have met once a week to continue the preparation will be ready for implementation. I am asking to go back to see the preparation turned into implementation. Now to the Beachhead – a lift. The facilitator is sitting next to me on the bench. He says ‘hi’ and asks if I’m ready. I sure am. ‘Shall we take the steps?’ he asks. ‘It IS possible.’ I opt for the lift. I notice the cows and farmyard scene from earlier trips I wonder of these are significant. I push the green button again. The rush from the lift hits my stomach for a few seconds and with a bump we stop and the lift doors open onto the walkway. All the big doors are open at the gate; it looks like a festival is going on. There are a lot more stalls here on the square than before. People seem to be having festivities or a market - local food maybe. The town hall is on the left and I follow my guide into it. Everyone is sitting down getting ready to start. I sit on a bench at the back. Are there more people here than last time? I’m not sure. Tea and coffee looks to be prepared on the side for later. The facilitator stands up, pulls down the map and says: ‘Implementation’. To the right is a list of what was decided already. It looks like we are going to look back, focusing on three different priorities decided in the first session. The facilitator summarizes. One: air quality, people were looking for solutions for transport. The behaviour related to it was driving in the city. The other was fizzy drinks as a health hazard. The third was to address growing more food at home. We are having a presentation of each group as a summary. ‘Am I going to have to listen to all these presentations?’ I say. ‘Relax they are very short,’ a voice behind me whispers. The fizzy drinks problem was the amount consumed by kids. The behaviour was they and their parents buying them. The approach was to replace the drinks with flavoured mineral water. All shops have agreed to voluntary practices of equal display. The suppliers sell just as many drinks as before so they are OK with it. That is more or less agreed. The implementation plan is not done yet. They’ll do it later. They do have initial voluntary agreements. Driving. The approach is a green wave through the city, that is to say to keep the traffic lights at green for a wave of traffic to pass through, and reduction of speed. Reduction of the number of journeys is called for as well. The assets are walking, cycling and something about using a boat. 58
‘Is the boat asset secured?’ someone asks. ‘Yeah. They need to do a business plan first, though.’ Growing food at home: assets were supermarket, garden centre, horticultural college and enthusiasts. ‘We have a brochure ready, for distribution and we are ready for the study circles.’ People are sitting still, looking at the facilitator. ‘Have you done this before?’ I ask a guy next to me. ‘Of course I have,’ he says, unconvincingly. ‘Have you?’ I ask quizzically. We divide up into groups on these three themes. It is all set up on the tables. I want to go to the growing table. I see again we have counters, but the questions are different. We have a stakeholder list, which should have been filled in by now. It might need checking. I still get the feeling people haven’t done this before. How come? They seemed to have done all the other exercises. It seems to have to do with losing confidence in what you are doing. The further you come to having to ask commitment from somebody, and to open your proposal to scrutiny, the more you could lose face. I guess people here have been involved in this process before, but obviously, asking the community to do these things is something that they have never done before. This is more of a leap into the unknown. I reflect that although people know the answers, and answers are better than no answers, there is still room for self-doubt. OK. we must move on. You have to fall forwards and use the obstacles. The main protagonists are the main people to be communicated to. You reach them where they are doing the behaviour in question. We should concentrate on that point of behaviour. On the desk is a large board with a circular diagram on it. In the middle, a symbol: a foot on an accelerator or plant in a pot. Several circles are placed inside each other. A broad circle on the outside has smaller sections in it. The board has a green blue background reminiscent of a Monopoly board. In the middle is the symbol for the targeted behaviour, at the top are a line of stakeholders. To the right are markers and counters. Around the symbol at the centre the systems are represented by small symbols. They have put in traffic lights, public transport, cycle paths and walking paths.
Stakeholders, systems, I realize I am staring at the board and not following the group. The facilitator asks if we have seen the table. ‘What are we going to do?’ I ask. ‘We are going to connect systems, stakeholders and behaviors.’ Yeah, systems stakeholders and marketing. The marketing is around the outside, a market effort for each system to support each change of the system. What we have to do now is to identify the system changes required, and then identify the marketing needed for each of those. My group was the garden one but I am stuck in the air pollution group. I just want to join in, the exercise is very engaging. One guy says – ‘let’s check all systems involved’. Another reads them up. System Traffic lights Transport system Bicycle Walking
Changes Green wave and 30 km/hr restrictions (for heaviest routes) and slip roads Routes developed etc. Setting up new public transport alternatives including water transport. Cycle path connections improved, definition of routes improved. Some structural changes in the paths. As above.
The cost and time needs working out for each systemic change. These changes are actually part of what the departments should be doing anyway, and what the voluntary groups see as their purpose. It is just that they are coordinated in this way to increase the promotion of sustainability. Next: marketing. In order for the systemic changes to work how much marketing is needed towards people who use cars? The green wave is marketed through the local newspaper. Speed cameras will add discipline. People are moving pieces around – why? They are not sure either. The facilitator comes over and praises our work. ‘Next you have to bring stakeholders in to help with the marketing.’ Each stakeholder has their own color. One stakeholder has to do with an advertising agency. For each section of the marketing, group members are placing stakeholder pieces against them. It is becoming clear that some of the stakeholders are system owners. I leave the transport table to have a look around, people can look at the others’ tables and have a coffee and go to the loo. I grab a coffee. I chat to someone; ‘are you enjoying it?’ ‘I am nervous about how it will end up - I have a feeling it is not going to work in the end. I am worried that when it comes down to it nothing will happen. It makes me nervous, like about what could go wrong, that people will not change anyway and think we have been pie in the sky-ing our time away.’ The other groups have written down what negative, counter forces would be in play. These are in the black circles around the marketing circle. ‘Come and sit down,’ the facilitator calls out. He explains about the negative side. The closer you come to making a change the more nervous you feel. This is less fun than earlier. What you have to do is approach it systematically and use the energy in your reaction. Each group is asked to inventory threats and counter-productive forces. Says the facilitator: ‘let us put on our black hats to look at the forces that would stop this behaviour change’. ‘Think what could go wrong and put it in the first square outside marketing. And then think of its impact and severity. Then discuss how to stop, prevent or reduce its impact.’ Going back to the centre. I am still on the driving one. I listen. They start with the system for traffic lights. It is calculable, and not very difficult. The only thing that could go wrong is that we cannot get the technician time to do it. The time has been allocated already so the risk is low. The speed cameras are a larger investment, 100,000. To get the budget for that? Maybe we could get the money from somewhere else. If we don’t get it we could erect the camera shells and not connect all of them. That is noted on a sticky note. Next point: to get people cycling. The barrier is it takes a lot to change people’s habits. The marketer suggests a cycle day to try out all the paths as a publicity stunt. The ad agency could help. It is not an asset more a stakeholder as…. I fumble to try to understand this … something about the information department of the local municipality having outsourced municipal information handling to the agency and therefore they are a stakeholder as they are overall responsible for the 61
information put out in the municipality’s name. Or something like that. For walking we do the same thing. Mark the paths out, plan a campaign. Where will the money come from? If we do not get the money we have to prioritize things, and rank the impact in terms of priorities, rank the risks and the impact of not having the change and how to handle it. The next part is time …when…. The facilitator pointed out that the closer to a decision the more nervous you get. I muse over this. That is where the stakeholders come in. I see! To get stakeholder representatives together to agree is the final part of implementation planning. And that would be at the next sustainability council meeting. Where all of this we are planning is to be presented. The costs for amelioration need estimation as well. Someone is getting out a sheet for the ‘I could’s’ ‘I could estimate the costs of the cameras.’ ‘I could estimate the costs of the signs.’ ‘I could think about the cycle day.’ ‘I could think about the walking day.’ Marketing activities are represented under the stakeholder list. These require a stakeholder analysis for who will be involved. The activities are given titles. In a box on the left the person responsible is noted and to the right crosses to represent which stakeholder to engage for decision and or marketing. I note that implementation is more difficult than inventing, which was rather simple. I walk over to the plant people. The problem there is one of convenience to householders. You need to engage every consumer. To get over that, they propose readymade home food growing kits and the study circles. We have stakeholders engaged. The supermarkets shouldn’t mind because although they sell less food, they sell more growing packages. The brochures come free. The cost has been worked out for each deliverable. The main barriers are supermarket resistance, and people’s resistance. Then a systemic, logistic barrier, you need wheelbarrows to move the stuff around. The next step is the sustainability council, with a plenary meeting as a formal meeting with a chairman etc. Everyone needs to have their deliverables ready. The boards are filled in and the information transferred to an electronic text document. It is written up in a standard format to as a report, with the diagrams etc. Someone in the group has volunteered to write up the application which goes to the stakeholders’ representatives to get the formal decision.
It needs to follow several headings.
Next time we will look at preparation for the council meeting. The nerve-racking side of this interests me. People seem to be worried about asking others for things and asking formal organizations to change their systems. You reduce the impact of that feeling by breaking it down into short enough steps. That helps to reduce tension. And also looking the risk straight in the eye and breaking that down into details until you feel you are on top of it. It’s getting real, much more real. There is one more meeting before the plenum to polish all this up. Some coordination to be done. It is all photographed so everything is put on the web. I figure I have had my time here, and covered everything so I leave the Town Hall. Funny, this last exercise has been a bit of a strain. I need to walk around to clear my head. I pick up a juice at one of the stands. ‘See how it helps to have a market place to focus activities!’ says the lady at the stand. I can see that, a physical site to focus activities. ‘The local newspaper helps and a place where you can go in and see what is happening and to plug yourself in to different groups.’ I could always look into the plug-in aspects of this. I leave the facilitator cleaning up after the session, he seems to be dealing with people’s concerns that they are going too fast, and biting off more they can chew. I take the lift down to the departure hall and park myself on the bench. The facilitator turns up. ‘I’m not sure about the worry and tension in all this,’ I say. ‘That’s just you. It is what you have to work with. Not everyone can handle every different phase. Your difficult phase is preparing for implementation. I look forward to seeing you at the next phase.’ 63
What surprised me Reasonableness is better than setting stretch goals. I think it is a more natural approach. Natural systems all have levels that if you keep within stress is minimized. Verification needs Is water transport more efficient than motor transport on land? Yes!
Questions remaining • •
Being able to add up time and money Being able to put time limits on activities and coordinate them together.
Practical uses seen already • •
I like the ‘I could’ idea. I also like the idea of having a fixed project structure you ‘fill’ with content. This would work with regular or oftenrepeated multi-stakeholder projects where the stakeholders get used to delegating assets for this type of work.
Reproduction of tools encountered I tried to draw the ‘board’ as encountered in the exercise.
I think you start from the center and identify the systems involved in the behaviour. You then rank the impact and identify changes that could be introduced. From that you identify effect and cost. To market the system change and its behaviour you identify activities and their cost, barriers to change, their severity and ways to minimize them.
Day #4 I have just drawn out the worksheet for the previous exercise. I still need to test it. In our quest to find a methodology for how the good forces in a community could work together for sustainability we realize they take it in several steps, each phase has different inputs and outputs. Last time we saw an implementation diagram and an I COULD (action) list. Committed representatives, Engaged assets Concerns Objectives of involved organizations
Prioritized areas for action Action briefs Creative Solutions
Proposed Solution Detailed approach Basic plan of action
Implementation plan Proposal to Council Inspirational PowerPoint
We did not get as far as them actually engaging or preparing to engage stakeholders. I am fascinated how that will happen and how to take care of nerves. Tapescript The facilitator is on the bench looking at his watch. ‘So you are ready for another round of punishment facing your demons?’ He says. ‘Yes I am, of course’ I reply. He hurries me over to the lift. On the right side of the lift is a window looking down onto the departure area. Maybe the farmyard scene painted on the rear wall of the lift and met in a previous trip, relates to helping people find that natural ability in themselves to implicitly understand and interact with natural systems. A good and powerful thing. We have been given the impression by the people around us we cannot do it, yet I believe we have this ability. ‘Stop philosophizing,’ says the facilitator ‘push the button’. The lift bumps to a halt onto the walkway over to the entrance to the town. We turn left over the courtyard to the Town Hall. Two doors loom large over me. I put my hands on the door handles. 66
I brace myself because the doors act as my ‘beachhead’ where the solution is behind these doors. I need to open them quickly for best effect. ‘Come in,’ someone says. I notice it looks more like a church, or a converted church with the pews still intact. Church-like walk in music is playing on the organ. People look to be in a contemplative, serious mood. I wonder if I actually ASKED to see preparation or just put the tape recorder on and if that will affect the output of the exercise. A ceremony seems to be taking place. To do with being in touch with the earth. It’s non- religious, but people are appealing to their higher selves. A priest is saying ‘to our highest power whatever that means to us we ask that we can bring together… to make a change and that we are…’ Can’t hear the rest. People go and sit around the tables. The facilitator pulls the map down and people quieten down. ‘Implementation, implementation, implementation’ he says, ‘is everything’. ‘What are we going to do now?’ he asks. ‘We have to get the plan ready’ someone says. ‘How are we going to work together to turn the plans into proposals?’ ‘This is something we KNOW how to do, we have been doing this all our working lives. The question is, shall we leave each group to manage this section for themselves, or shall we give guidance?’ A group member replies; ‘because we like working with the board and pieces, we would like guidance’. ‘Why did you like the pieces?’ ‘It helps to have something more concrete to touch and feel!’ ‘The more you can to touch and feel and visualize, the better you can plan’. But you still have to convince these stakeholders that the plan is going to do what you set out to do, to make an impact on this behaviour. What about testing, trying the idea out on a small scale? So that is the first exercise, work up an idea of how to test so you can be absolutely sure it will work and convince the stakeholders. I join the group working on growing food at home. The plan is in front of us, but we have another sheet to fill in for testing. We are testing the idea that people will grow more if they have the components available with training and help. ‘Let’s run one course’ says a volunteer. ‘Invite a few people’. The group concurs. Shall we have a draft of the brochure to try out on the group? But what about the things needed? We’ll get one shop to supply everything and run the course near the shop. We’ll run it for 3-4 weeks and review then. I start to think…rings on water effect spreading of ideas. And notice the facilitator staring at me harshly, with a ‘don’t jump the gun’ look. I slink off to the transport group who are in deep thought. ‘How can we test the green wave?’ ‘We can do a walk though on paper, then the traffic office has software to do the simulation’ 67
That is to test it will work with the journey time and the traffic flow. Someone suggests having a camera to film the traffic flow in time-stop before we do anything. We can use this to visualize flow if we play the film. Then we could try a few bits of town, film that. Anything else? Working with people’s driving skill. How to drive in the green wave. The driving instructor could put instructions on the Web for driving in the green wave. ‘How could we test that?’ We could do tests on a Sunday with a green wave driving testing day. The driving instructors would do this as a freebie to get publicity for their eco driving courses. Already allocated resources! The fizzy drink group is debating the voluntary agreement. Do agreements really work? People are talking about the ‘measure’ part of SIX SIGMA. (This is a management tool not known to most people. But…I realize all tools and experience can be used.) They want to measure the impact on sales by changing the display – they can test the agreement just on the display changes. The schools want to ban fizzy drinks, which will signal something to the parents. ‘We can try the ban in one school,’ a suggestion comes. Facilitator says ‘rings on water, rings on water’. You can see how the behaviour change could spread like rings on water. In the test there should be the seeds of the spread to a wider audience. In the test you sow the seed to create the spread. Next exercise: how can we use the test to spread the results wider? A group member of the horticultural group says if they could do one good circle first, then they can do a ‘teach the teacher’ circle to turn delegates into circle leaders themselves. Just setting up everything at home is the most difficult thing. Once you get going it is easy. The circle does not have to last a growing season. I start to mention when and how long but the facilitator encourages us to just concentrate on the way the rings would work. ‘Really think about how you can reach out to people to reach out to others.’ Instruction leaflets can be printed out and spread. The supermarkets are a chain so someone there could spread the idea. One supplier of all needed equipment could sell all equipment etc. ‘Any ideas on marketing the availability of these home growing kits?’ asks the facilitator. ‘We could mass market though the local newspaper. We could do a neighbor thing, invite people in for a demo! Ideas are being written down. I try to see how they are writing it, a simple list seems to suffice. The other stuff was complicated with the circular diagram. Not this bit. The apartment block owners are listed as assets. The plan is to invite residents to see home growing in action. The ideas will spread, it is hoped, by word of mouth, ‘Rings on water’ for the transport group is more difficult. I go over to them to see what they have thought. Walking poles. It is the family and friends. Walking together. 68
Let’s have a walk day. That is repeatable. And a transport-less day to close off the city. What would get one person to mimetically pass the idea on? That is, like network marketing systems. The walking routes map? Give the map to a friend. It is a nice present. They continue discussing. If people see people walking more that will have an effect, and people will realize it is easier than to drive through the city. You could make it harder to drive through so people want to walk. Someone suggests testing the paths. They will need test walking carried out by enthusiasts. They report back to the infrastructure side. They can organize a sponsored walk-in, backed up commercial assets. I am getting a picture here of a list of companies as assets. Next to the company name and contact person is detailed the type and amount of resources they are willing to commit to the action. I suppose at this point we break or what? The facilitator says the other groups are finalizing their ‘rings on the water’ ideas. We need now to debrief what have we learned. It is important to test the idea, and how to spread it like rings on the water. A question comes up about management: ‘Does it need a general management approach or do we need to manage per group, meeting once a week to keep it on track or would you need extra ways of managing this?’ ‘I could put that question to the group,’ says the facilitator. I go to the fizzy pop group. They seem to have the idea that reporting back once a week during the trial is enough. They would do a weekly report to the steering group. The plant group seems to be of the same opinion. A weekly report to the stakeholder rep., meet once a week to put the report together and then send it off to the representatives. The transport group does not really see they have any responsibility over traffic. The thing they need to do is to engage the resources from the transport section of the municipality to do the test. Then they need to do a presentation of the results for all municipal representatives and other stakeholders before introducing the green wave, before testing. It all seems fairly logical and a reasonable answer to the management question. The facilitator again: ‘Are you ready to make the proposal?’. We know what will happen, we know how it will be managed. The sheets in front of us are about what will happen during the test phase activities, who is involved and what the reporting is. I see squared paper. Is it filled in by week or by day or what? It is flexible maybe? Nope, the granularity of planning is down to days and weekly reporting and what is being done where. I get the feeling of ‘a day’s work’. That is to say, work is divided into what shall be accomplished on any one day. That seems to me to reduce stress a little and make work more pleasurable. There is a space for a stakeholder report and meeting. I am not sure if I am there, and am seeing the whole plan. This is just for the trial. The rings on water are not yet planned; it will be planned at a separate planning session. This must be planned in as well. They fill that in. 69
We have the report, because the heading areas are; what’s the problem, what are we trying to achieve, what systems are affecting it, what will it cost, etc. We need to plan for when the report will need to be ready. One meeting will be held next week after that the report is sent to the steering group. The steering group has three days to read the report before the council meeting. So we have one meeting to prepare the council meeting. You have until that time to work out who is going to write the report, to send it among yourselves. Then you need to fill in the plan to complete the report to work out when the planning of the ‘rings on the water’ will take place. Work out the budget by taking the figures from the circular diagram and put them into a spread sheet and then into the report. If assets are not engaged you need to have a discussion between the asset’s rep in each group to get the engagement. What more? The facilitator asks if this feels better Everyone: ‘YES’. ‘It is because you are getting down to details and you can see what you will say to people and how you will handle their questions and you know you are doing something important that you know it and feel it.’ This isn’t just any exercise it is important and connected to you as a human, and connected to your genes, to alleviate a very serious situation. The rings on water will have a real impact if done properly. The other things were about how marketing can support rings on the water. That needs to be done before next time and to have a full marketing section in the report. The report needs to cover what is unsecured, this section asks for the securing of assets and that is argued plus and minus in the council meeting. Questions? ‘What about the report format?’ ‘Write it any way you like as long as it has those headings,’ replies the facilitator. ‘You have the tools, i.e. the plan and the other bits. Tell the story, if you like, of how it all should work when the behaviour changes.’ ‘What is marketing actually, in this case?’ I ask. ‘The use of mass communication devices to the public about what you are doing.’ I was asked to ask about plug-in opportunities – how others can become volunteers. The facilitator; ‘a sustainability office is there to offer plug-in opportunities but you could also invite colleagues.’ He continues; ‘think also about the effect of these activities. When we get a result. What about when we are finished? Could we make this work permanent? ‘And how THAT would have rings on water. How could we spread this methodology, having several of these going on and coordinated?’ That might be the subject of a separate café-type workshop using this methodology. The facilitator has a sudden need to drink a non harmful fizzy drink; ‘You can stay behind to chat if you like - otherwise we can break here.’ Some groups are finishing up the time planning, how they will be doing the preparation work for the coming days. Next week’s session will tie everything up and prepare for the meeting with everyone in the so-called in plenum session. 70
‘Do we need a preparation for the in plenum?’ ‘See how you feel when you have typed it all up.’ I think to myself that I would like to know what happens pre-plenum so I will try and do it. A report responsible person comes over. ‘They will read the report before the meeting. You will do a quick presentation of what you want to do. They will listen. You will be asked for how much you want and the status of what you have and the impact of having the resources unengaged. You will come with a recommendation as well.’ ‘You have to have everything ready. Including saying when the stakeholder committee would meet, who they are etc. So it is not difficult. As there are pre-engaged resources, suggested changes should be brought up. In some cases you might need more or even less. You should attend one to see how it would work.’ The council is moderated by the chairman of the sustainability committee. I wonder about the committee. They have actually not been involved in prioritization, but we have already arrived at proposals for implementation of actions in prioritized areas. The priority decision was made in the first session. The stakeholder reps are in the group so they accepted the decision. Each member organization is still working on its own priorities. They will disengage if they are not interested in the priorities of the community group. Hence the voting must be done correctly at the first session to accurately reflect stakeholder organization’s priorities. People are discussing getting the report writing done. ‘Writing always helps you think better,’ the facilitator says. I agree. I move to go but something is keeping me here. I can always come back, a lot of verification needs to be done. I am quite satisfied. I know about the in plenum session, I can document this including reports, engagement, budget etc. I drag myself away from the proceedings; people are still making telephone meeting appointments. I go out to the second day of the festival. I thank the woman on the stall for her advice from last time. A volunteer plug-in stand is next to her. They have a brochure about what is going on in the community to support sustainability. ‘Is it not premature to have a brochure about all this?’ I ask ‘Not really, the assets are pre-engaged, we are saying we are working on it. If we end up not doing it we will communicate why.’ ‘We have some prototypes of growing at home, people are already trying. There’s nothing to stop enthusiasts having a go.’ I stroll over to the exit I see a portcullis over the door - not seen that before - or is it fake? The sea breeze hits my face as I walk over to the lift. In the lift, then down to the first floor, I go back into the lounge. But it is not over. ‘Oh no!’ says the facilitator. He is sitting there on my bench. ‘You are not going yet because you have forgotten something.’ ‘PowerPoints?’ ‘Yes you need a nice PowerPoint for the internal presentation. A five minute presentation of the vision, with pictures. You need to spread the vision, it is not enough 71
to have a report. You need a vision - a shared vision helps the spread of the idea, you can show it, communicate it even on the web.’ Everyone will be asked to do one of those in the plenum. Don’t forget it, bye. Day #5 Preamble The theme of this visit is looking at the methodology for crosscommunity wide collaboration towards sustainability. What we ask to look for this time is how they actually prepare to present their proposals to the council. And get them approved and get them through. Last time we got as far as people preparing to write the report and I typed up the headings for the report. If I remember correctly they prepared how the idea would be tested and a simple time plan to complete the proposal to the council. Tapescript I see the lift in front of me; I stand behind the ornamental plants. On the other side is the bench I sometimes sit on. I see a guy with grey hair, looks like the facilitator. ‘Good afternoon! ‘You ready?’ ‘Anything I need to know before I go,’ I ask – ‘no tricks?’ ‘No tricks this time.’ We go over to the lift and push the button for up. ‘You don’t like surprises do you?’ says the facilitator. The lift ascends slowly. ‘Why so slow?’ I ask. ‘They had complaints.’ I think going slowly is worse – more time for vertigo. The lift door opens onto a brightly lit bridge. We cross over. I notice the portcullis again, this time with ivy growing on it. Not a lot is happening on the square. ‘Shall I go over to the Town Hall again? I ask. ‘Yes, same place as last time,’ replies the facilitator. Hands on the door 1-2-3 open! A musty, churchy smell hits my nostrils. Reminds me of my old Sunday school. We go into an empty meeting room. A piano stands in the corner; there is a stage at the opposite side. People start to bring in tables and arrange them in a large U around the room. They are setting up a mock council meeting to prepare for the real thing. Each group will present their section and the others will ‘play’ council members. To the left of the stage is the running order for the council meeting, to the right the order in which sections are to be presented. In the middle is an overhead projector, but I think a ‘beamer projector’ is available too. 72
We start off with the first item which is fizzy drinks. The first part is the vision power point. The presenter is talking about the dangers: pictures of damaged teeth, etc. They use the map we had in the first session to illustrate the extent of the problem throughout the community. It covers the number of people affected, the areas and the negative effects. The dietary effects, the health effects, the effect on insulin and diabetes frequency. Then the mechanism of how insulin works in the body. He goes through the solutions: Alternative products, banning in the schools etc. They show a picture of voluntary agreements, substitution, banning. Some graph of expected results then how they expect testing to go. Questions and comments from the council: The other groups pitch in. They are actually quite struck by the impact of the presentation. ‘What about the ability of schools to ban these drinks. Can they really do that?’ ‘Schools know how to do this and that they can do this’ ‘How far established are the negative effects on insulin production and the effects of raised insulin levels on child health? ‘Researchers have a wide range of tests to confirm results’ Next, comments on methodology ‘Should you present about the testing, or just present the problem and solution?’ Any suggestions? The facilitator asks. Discussion leads to the consensus that it is best to tell the whole story from need to solution to testing and implementation. ‘Happy with that?’ ‘Yes, thanks.’ Next, the group is to present the time plan. They show it on the overhead, and everyone gets a paper copy. It covers one page, in colour. Activities are listed down the left. • Enter voluntary agreement • Ban fizzy drinks in school • Test spread • Alternative drinks are ready • Measurements using Six Sigma methodology • Spread voluntary agreement by shopkeepers • Brochure • And the time for the spreading of the behaviour • Final follow up using Six Sigma on sales We are only discussing sequence and time, not resources. Over to the group to practice answering questions. ‘I am unsure about the mechanism of the test - is it just a few weeks long – of the rings on water?’
‘The association of shopkeepers will use this presentation to ‘market’ to their members. The local paper will be involved. There is an information campaign by shopkeepers towards the newspaper.’ ‘Can I ask about the process for testing the effect in an area? Won’t people go to another shop that sells more fizzy drinks?’ ‘The fizzy drinks will still be on sale, just not as prominent. Then the school will inform parents, who are in that catchment area.’ ‘The displaying changes will create a long term effect’ Next, feedback about the presentation of the plan. ‘Good,’ someone says, ‘good to show different phases, good that it’s on one paper, good to show steps down the left.’ The phases comprise test, implementation, spread & follow-up.
Plan Test Implement Spread
The next bit is engagement. The group now shows the budget and engagement slide. Activities are at the top now, down the left is the stakeholders and level of engagement details. Numbers are needed, and column for confirmed engagement or not. Then, yellow, red, green markings on the right side. The red marking shows which areas are not engaged and the decision needed and impact. The presenter gets ready to talk us through it. We have engaged the local shopkeeper association and the school. There is now agreement with the local newspaper. That is marked in yellow. They are uncertain as to whether the effort is needed or not. If I were running the local newspaper I would say ‘If it is newsworthy we would print it. ‘We will do all we can to assist’ I look for a red-marked column. Either the spread will take longer or will cover less area. One of the supermarket chains is outside the voluntary agreement. That would have an effect on the spread by slowing it down. Extent and impact are on the squares in the next column. Another red section has to do with transport is it? No, the ability to get the range of the substitutes out in time because of production schedules. It will affect the rings on water but not the test. Here we ask them to hurry up production schedules ‘Anything else we have learnt?’ ‘Good on one page only.’ ‘The colouring is useful.’ ‘The diagram is in the proposal.’ 74
What comes next? Approval from the committee. They ask stakeholders to agree to continue with the project and formally agree to commit resources. There is a show of hands here. Unanimous. Next stage is ‘Do we approve the plan?’ This can be up to reporting back on the first trial. Approving the whole thing with amendments, without amendments or not approving. Here they come to the point where they must convince the committee that what is being done will impact enough, that this is worth prioritizing. The role play continues. ‘Someone asks why fizzy drinks should take precedence over, say overweight?’ ‘We actually have a transport action which will partly address overweight. Anyway, this one gives long term effects.’
So to summarize, they role play each section, role play the questioning, give feedback on presentation skills and argumentation, handling questions. They practice until they are happy with it. To follow up, once the action is approved, the council sends out a press release, which goes to the sustainability office, then to the groups I wondered about communication. A simple web page communicates results ongoing. The local paper has a role. ‘You’ve got it!’ The facilitator says, ‘and this is how we train people.’ The council meets regularly. On the agenda are applications for new actions, application to close projects and interim progress reports. The portfolio of actions is managed as a continuous process. Spreading the methodology is built-into the process. You have to be involved once to understand it. Then the facilitator group works to develop methodology and how to spread it in order to be able to intensify the work. ‘Another time maybe?’ the facilitator suggests. I thank everyone for a very effective process – five times ‘You are always welcome back with difficult questions or whatever.’ ‘Good luck!’ I see there is some kind of report gong on giving a community wide picture. That is a separate organization who acts in the expert groups and are responsible for data gathering. This gives footprint, GRI indicators etc. Each organization has its own report, each consumer reports in. I walk back over the square and take my leave.
Follow up to Community Action I like the idea of engaging stakeholders in a way that uses already pledged resources and ties it in to their existing goals. I like the idea of the standard project structure using only existing infrastructure and technology. Especially, I like the way the stakeholder committee approves which challenges to approach and the group focuses on achieving visible results. I also realize the whole thing as it is may not work in practice. It may need developing. I saw an exhibition of Leonardo daVinci’s notebooks. His sketches looked very much like he was. They seem to just come from nowhere. A program on TV showed how they tried to take his drawings and build full scale models. One comment was that he often got things ‘the wrong way round’ or ‘purposely put mistakes in’ to confound people who would steal his secrets. For me, I believe they were more like ‘right brain copying errors’. When I review the process for Community Action I see that I haven’t quite got the whole thing right. Parts of it do not ‘hang together’. This is not to say that the insights are not deep; they are. I met a standard methodology, based on what can be done today, using precommitted resources, maximizing effect through cooperation – the whole thing seems to be extremely powerful. And definitely a good tool for communities who have decided to go down the energy reduction/sustainable development path. One thing I do take on board is the persistence of this facilitator person. I’m getting the message that in order for change to happen, a separate group of people with very special skill sets needs to be formed. This group is independent of the group working locally, but an essential part of the change. This group needs to work with itself to spread and develop techniques. The facilitator seems to be saying to me that I should be concentrating on just this area.
Journey ten: Drinking Water Preamble I’ve been Imagestreaming sustainable inventions for a few years now. In the earliest sessions I was requesting to closely study a settlement with ecological and sustainable living arrangements. I started concentrating on the social organization rather than the technological infrastructure. After having completing a few writing assignments in the water industry I realized that in none of my streams did I understand how good, clean, healthy drinking water was supplied. This is a bit of an oversight on my part – I got transport, manufacturing, organization of work, energy – most of the essentials. I need to go and look at water. The Quest To visit a place, PORENA or similar that, in the framework of a sustainable way of living, provides good quality drinking water for residents. Tapescript I’m on the bench in the departure area. Everything is so familiar I notice many of the lifts, trains and other departure possibilities from earlier streams. I wander up to a train station. A fast train attracts my attention; it is aerodynamically formed, pointed at both ends and painted in white with red stripes. A large wide door opens, I get in and sit down. The door closes and we are off. It's a train to Porena. It shakes and rattles as we go over the points, picking its way out over the multitude of tracks that lead from the station. Next, it travels over a river bridge and into an old fashioned tunnel. We start to pick up speed and are quickly into the countryside. I see the unmistakable white walls of Porena and we glide into the tunnel that goes under the city. The train stops at the underground station. I walk up the stairs and into the corridor of the work section of the central building. The sign Water Board on the door beckons me in. As I enter I see several people busily working at their desks. One looks up and comes over to me. ‘Hi - you are here to visit us?’ ‘Yes,’ I say. 'I need to know about drinking water'. He takes me over to a tap and pours out a glass of water. ‘Taste it!’ It tastes good, and I detect no trace of chlorine. ‘How do you do it?’ I start to pick up key words. Rain - Sand – Collector. 77
They have a big sand bed, the rain falls on it and it runs through the sand and is collected into one pipe, by gravity. Questions pop up rapidly. How deep is the sand? And how wide is the bed? How many people use it? The system supplies one million residents. The beds are separated and localized to provide the immediate neighbourhood. They show me a picture of how the sand beds are spread around the city, between the houses. ‘Not surface water?’ I ask. ‘No, rain water,’ they reply. They collect the rainfall. And as they never pollute it, the rain is always a good source. Furthermore, they explained that theirs was not a universal solution. It depends on climate. Their climate is temperate and enough falls as rain for their needs. They do not seem to collect water off the roofs so much, just that which falls onto the sand bed. ‘Can I see one,’ I ask?
Side elevation of typical installation
They show me on the map where the sand beds are, between the housing areas. You are not allowed to walk on them, or dirty them in any way. We decide to go and look at the ones in the central area. We walk out through the back and down some steps. We arrive in the park area, and quite close we see the circular sand bed, about 20m in diameter – 2 or 4 meters of sand deep. I get a rush of disbelief but I shall carry on anyway. This one is inside the circle in the clean area, the park. It's as high as me – higher almost. A set of steps lead up to the edge so you can look over the bed. I climb up and look over. I ask if I can touch the sand - they say no but I can look at it. The sand looks fairly clean except for some small plants growing on top of it. They rake these off now and again. This makes it look like a Zen garden – with rake marks in various patterns over the whole surface. I can imagine raking these beds 78
can be a bit of a meditative exercise. The rain water drains through the sand and runs into a collector at its base. Because it is rainwater there are no organic pollutants in it. Other particles are removed as it drains though the sand. I ask; ‘How did you get the sand here? ‘We went and got it. It took a lot of work but it was worth it. This is a - build once use forever - system.’ ‘How do you clean it?’ ‘We’ll tell you later.’ We go back up to the Water Board offices. I get to see a model – there is a drain at the bottom, a plastic tray, like a leaf. It is UV resistant, light and trough shaped. The water drains though to the bottom where it runs into a collecting point, an underground well or storage tank.
It was built cut and cover. They dug out a pit. In the base they built the tank with watertight bricks. Then they laid the collector plates and over that they filled the bed with sand. A pump pumps water up to a tank in the roof. From the tank the water runs under gravity to feed the taps in the household. They show me a diagram. A pressurized submerged pump is controlled from a pump-house. They also show me how there are two systems: white water for drinking and grey water for other uses. I comment: ‘This seems fairly clear. What about cleaning?’ ‘You just drink it.’ They are saying it's clean there is never any bacteria that can get into it as long as the network is kept clean. I ask about samples and stuff. ‘They take regular samples. There is no point of use cleaning.’ All seems very simple. One of my guides is an expert. I ask to borrow his eyes I get the feeling of a water reservoir – I will ask questions first. Q. How is it taken from the artificial well to the roof tanks? A. A pump in the pump house pumps it round and keeps it under pressure. Q. How many of these beds are in use and where are they situated? 79
A. They are situated in the green area, between the houses around the outer part of PORENA city. They get some roof run-off from the roof it seems out here. In the central park area they just collected rainfall. I explore the way they clean the top of the sand. The rake needs to be long enough to reach the centre from both sides of the bed wall. Depending on where it is situated and how much run off is diverted through it, one bed can supply 20 to 100 people with 10 to 20 litres a day. I ask to visit the residential area. We leave the office and start off towards the canal. We walk through rather charming narrow cobbled streets. Between the rows of houses there are growing areas. The housing is quite dense and full of variety. ‘We like variety,’ my guide says. The placement of the beds has something to do with the train. They locate the sand beds at the furthest points from the train. Two beds are located together, and they do not allow trees to grow around them. They look like swimming pools. I walk around to inspect these installations. I see they get some water from the roof which is led via a gutter through the air. I ask about the history of these installations. They must have put a lot of effort into making them. I gather that after work was abolished, sustainable drinking water was among their top priorities. They came up with the sand bed ideas and started to try it out. They came up with the ideas of building the well in waterproof brick. To ensure no contamination, the beds were located between the stations, and an integral part of radiality thinking. I glean that the sand bed in the centre of the park is a fountain as well – a combined fountain water feature and water purification installation. My next question: what about cleaning the sand? The top layer is taken away and it is replenished now and again. Rain brings with it particles and bacteria. This aerial plankton and stuff only gets in the top layer. ‘We rake it off. The Water Board looks after it with volunteers. The sand is taken away for compost. We get the sand from the sand pit – there are plenty of places to get it.’ My guides start winding up: ‘Have you seen everything – any last questions?’ I ask about grey water. ‘Grey water is another story – come back to see how we do that connected to biogas and etc. A whole new ballgame.’ I understand from my hosts that the important thing is to stop polluting the air. Then rainwater becomes the best water solution. If you are going to have a city with people living close together you need to work on creating infrastructure. This is needed from the beginning and planned from the beginning. You need to work out the areas rainfall etc. Once you decide on the mathematics and the planning constraints it’s easy to do. They welcome me back with other questions. I take my leave back to the station and the train which is already waiting. I meet the Facilitator: ‘Still trying to do it by yourself?’ he says. 80
I get it. He’s saying it is facilitation and group development that is key, not the actual technology. He’s probably right. Next time maybe. What surprised me I was surprised by the simplicity in just filtering through sand. I would be thinking they need to disinfect or use UV light or all kinds of industry standard solutions. I was also surprised I missed it earlier visits – you can really see here you get what you ask for. The attitude that each area has its own micro climate and its own conditions to work under should not have surprised me. A one size fits all solution does not work when you are re-localising. Verifications Internet search of water purification methods show that sand beds are common and well known –but not for rain. http://www.oasisdesign.net/water/treatment/slowsandfilter.htm
A few rainwater purifying experiments turn up on search. http://www.uoregon.edu/~hof/S01havestingrain/index.html
I can ask industry experts if this could work. Otherwise a simple model could be built What could you use TODAY and what could be done TODAY? This exercise has made it painfully obvious that NO EMISSIONS should be permitted into the air that can pollute rainwater. Lobbying for stricter regulations is one thing to do. Remaining questions Grey water purification hangs together with this - but how?
Journey eleven: Developing Sustainability Circles I ask to see a country where people regularly work towards sustainability. How do people organize themselves to work towards sustainability? Tapescript I see a grey lift. Lifts normally have open spaces in front of them. This has walls, rounded at the top that sort of funnel you in to the lift doors. Red lines in the metallic surface of the walls stretch towards the lift. The lift entrance looks like the front of a modern train with its headlights full on. As I approach the lift doors I see how high they are. Like an entrance to a great cathedral. I see people in cages being transported up but become confused as to whether this lift has any doors or not. No buttons to press, you just get into a cage. People are coming in and out so I follow one and get into a cage. The lift rises up in a grey brick-lined shaft. We arrive onto a wide open square, lined with cobblestones. The square is built on the top of a hill, to my right a church-like structure draws me over. The church is built in a 1600’s style. As I come up to the door, which looks firmly bolted and closed. I get close enough to read the sign: ‘No religion’. (I had had thoughts that sustainability might induce the sort of fervour religion would. I interpret this as being told firmly I am wrong.) To the left a stall offers rock, trinkets, souvenirs etc. I ask the guy behind the counter: ‘anyone working with sustainability?’ ‘Yes sure, over there.’ He points to another building on the square. This seems to be old as well, guessing around the 1700s. I open the solid wooden door and descend down some steps straight into a meeting room. People are sitting around in a circle. ‘Come in’ they say, ‘and join us’. I sit down on the last empty chair in the circle. ‘So today’s question is…’, says one of the delegates. Silence. They are waiting for people to come up with the question. The silence is not uncomfortable. The room reminds me of a town hall. Many windows. I get the impression of a twelve step program, expecting someone to say ‘I am Fred I am an unsustainable ..ic’. You might expect, working with sustainability, there to be whiteboards, flipcharts plans, priorities, process descriptions etc on the wall. I would expect that. But there is nothing. In the middle of the circle, nothing either. I break the silence: ‘how does this work then?’ ‘We sit in a circle and we take whatever comes up’ comes the reply. ‘OK! My question is how do we get everyone working on sustainability?’ 82
I feel that everyone is with me, giving me their support and attention. Trying to help, being there to help. ‘So you mean er…. what do you mean?’ We need to frame the question more succinctly. Surprised, I feel no animosity from them. I remember meetings I have been involved in at work you always felt people were out to find fault or get out of helping. This meeting feels more genuine and creative. ‘How do you go from one single person wanting to do something towards sustainability to working in a group with others?’ The group is helping me along; ‘OK we’re here, we’re other people. We may well work with you. But you still need to be more precise.’ ‘When they come together how do they run it, what process do they use?’ ‘So we are looking for a process’, someone says, ‘Right?’ ‘I suppose you are right.’ ‘The process would start with a question and end up with a proposal.’ ‘What do you do with the proposal?’ I ask ‘It should end up with a voluntary action, which is tested and reported back.’ ‘So we sit here, work out a suggestion and then report it back.’ I summarize. ‘That’s it!’ I have just written up the script from the first part of the venture to gain insight into how people can regularly work with sustainability. A group exercise has just produced a methodology where you we sit in a group, work out a suggestion and then report back how it has gone and what’s been learned. Tapescript Back in the session, I ask: ‘Can anyone join?’ The moderator replies: ‘Yes, we just sit down and get started.’ ‘Sounds good to me,’ I say. ‘can we follow the same process around my question about how to run these sustainability processes?’ The group nods silently in agreement. I start: ‘Do you call the meeting without an agenda?’ ‘That’s right, that is to a take-up meeting. There, you take up anything you want. Then comes the report back meeting.’ I rephrase the task as succinctly as I can. ‘What process do we use to involve people in sustainability?’ My group works to frame the task: that we should focus on behaviour change. The output would lead to more sustainable behaviour in individuals. These individuals are acting either as consumers, citizens or in their job. I would like the focus to be not on the process but the interaction with the world. Now, in my case I am asking the group for help in bringing about a change in behaviour that has to do with engagement. That is to say that people spend more time involved in sustainability and sustainable behaviour development. 83
It should be fun and stimulating to do. And feel like you are doing something important. It should be productive and involve everyone. So we have started and formulated our question. I ask for more suggestions, I see a woman wants to say something. ‘So what can we try? Sit down and talk to friends?’ ‘We suggest you look at behaviour. Say what behaviour leads to nonsustainability.’ Then we talk about behaviour. At this point I realize that the proposal in front of us is to try what we are actually doing now. Non-sustainable behaviour is not to work with sustainability at all. The group discusses what would be reasonable to aim for. We discuss once an hour, once a day, once a week, once a month. The group agrees once a week for a couple of hours is reasonable to create momentum and focus. Someone asks: ‘Are we sure why the behaviour is damaging?’ ‘Well if we don’t do it nothing will happen. So we need an hour or two a week.’ The proposal is to try to define a way of working which would take us from no times a week working with sustainability to once a week for a few hours, that feels reasonable for everyone. I am struck by how easy it is to work with the group as they all genuinely want to help. No politics. Someone starts writing it all up, to go out on the Web, available for everyone to engage as well. I ask for suggestions on how to test the proposal. A member suggests each of us take the written description of the steps involved, grab friends and go away and try it. We then report back to this group how it went and share experiences. I feel I still have not reached completion, and again plea for help. ‘Can we trial it now or is something missing - let’s review.’ The group reviews: Bring together a group of people to meet once a week. In a circle, anyone takes up anything. Frame the issue by defining the sustainability – negative behaviour and what would be a reasonable change. The group then works out suggestions how to reach a change and plan a trial. ‘Good spot for a break’, someone suggests. I go out and go to the loo. I joke with the guy standing next to me that I find myself thinking about the urine I am producing - is it being drained away in a sustainable way? Am I even urinating in a sustainable way? I muse that the method has really got me focused. Back in the room they are serving water and some juice, some green spirogyra. I have been doing these exercises a long time but I must say this is one of the most interesting and enjoyable exercises I have been on since starting with PORENA. Back to the circle. A guy at the other end speaks: ‘We now have a proposal, but could we evaluate the proposal by looking back on what we have done so far?’ More group input. You evaluate what you have done against the purpose. 84
‘Let’s evaluate the first part of circle. The purpose is to take up something which is not sustainable and to find … to come up with ways to make it … more sustainable. What went well?’ We agree that the framing the behaviour and setting clear goals was useful. That everyone worked in a circle, and people were involved and genuinely engaged. Documentation was not that important, but good as a one page reminder. ‘What could be improved?’ Someone offers: ‘We could talk about rules of interaction between us all. Clarity of rules would make it easier to act in the group.’ As an improvement suggestion: We include a step where the group itself agrees on rules of interaction. And agreement on purpose. We could have started with that. Maybe questions are generated. We should make a list and go away and find the answers. Research. We add research to the method. We have now tested the idea. What is next? I ask. ‘How do big things get changed? - We are a group of individuals.’ The answer is simple. Each large organization has a group member with a mandate. The group members go away with suggestions and questions to their organization. I think I have this now. They ask me if I have more questions. ‘Have we evaluated the first session properly?’ We write the steps on a poster. (Are there twelve steps is that why I thought that earlier?) My next question: ‘Do you use the PORENA Imagestreaming and visualizing techniques? ‘We use them to come up with proposals.’ Learning by doing. I actually learnt by doing. That is part of it. I go back to twelve steps. If I remember correctly twelve steps are accompanied by twelve principles. I start to read from the large poster on the wall. Each group formulates its own principles and rules. Each group is independent. Group members participate as individuals, mandated representatives of associations or organizations. Group members are responsible for their own behaviour We want to have fun and be creative We have a genuine desire to help each other. Each group is independently financed. Focus on change of behaviour. Learning by doing, the practical application of proposals. Can’t read the rest. I still doubt it can be done in just the few hours these people are suggesting. However, this exercise has actually been an illustration of the method and it didn’t take that long. We have succeeded in stating the issue, working out a solution and reviewing the proposals. 85
What we need to do now is test it again. In our case we have a proposal. We could all go away and run similar groups to try it out. I get an feeling of realization coming on: ‘In my case, I asked for a solution, have now got one and would need to go away and try it to follow the principle. Everyone takes responsibility for their own behaviour. Because I asked you for help I must now go try it out. Otherwise I would be wasting your time! And I will review it with you as you involved yourselves.’ ‘You got it,’ says someone. I thank everyone, get back into the lift and arrive back on the ground floor.
Journey twelve: Radiality Unfolding I need to change tactics. My search for technological solutions to ecologically sustainability turned up a surprise. In Porena, as I now call it, sustainability is based on culture, not technology. Technological inventions like the automobile, the radio, TV etc, have all spread rapidly in our society. But in Porena it is ideas that have spread at that rate. How? That’s what I would like to explore here today. Something tells me to enjoy myself. I remember the message left for me in the central park on my first visit - enjoy yourself! Tapescript I’m looking at a tiled floor. I look up; I am in a waiting area. Some distance away I see glass doors and a London-type double-decker bus. As I approach I see PORENA on the front as its destination. Up on the top deck, a few people are already sitting waiting for departure. The street outside is wet from the drizzly rain that hits my face as a light spray as I go over to the bus. The road looks like a bottomless black river reflecting the streetlights through the darkness. The bus leaves, turns a corner out onto a concreted dual carriageway. ‘Fares please’ I hear the conductor turn up. ‘I’m going to PORENA’ I say, wondering how I will manage this as I have no money. No problem - the conductor just shakes his head slightly and moves off without saying anything. There is obviously no fare to PORENA. Why does that make sense? Daylight comes, and the bus passes through gates opened in a high fence that is topped by barbed wire. The thought strikes me for the first time that a place like this may need to be separated from places which run on other principles. The bus is now going along a dusty lane, through green countryside. Trees flank the lane and I see green fields either side of the road. In the distance I see what I presume I have come for, the city. The buildings reflect white in the sunlight which contrasts with the green hills behind. We arrive at some kind of terminal building. I get out of the bus into the warm sunshine and go straight into a glassed hall similar to the one I left. I find the lift - my cream-coloured lift which has always been there. Already now it looks like people are moving around one floor up. Again, I get the impression the building is circular, and on stilts. I take the lift to the walkway above. I come up on the long corridor that seems to sweep around. Like the airport, I never really explored what was to the right so this time I walk past the cafeteria. They serve chips and mayonnaise, and the gift shop on the left. On the right I see the tail of a large airplane. Continuing, in the shop there are some books on display. I recognize the name of the author but can’t quite take in the significance of what I am reading. A special stand for this author’s books contains titles like ‘Porena Classic’ and ‘Porena Tales’. Special editions. I don’t want to look but have no idea why these books are confronting. 87
Ok this is a visit, I can steer it. Not wanting to look into these books, and feeling an eerie feeling of being closer to something than I would like, I carry on. The urge to drink coffee hits me. Coffee! - a good idea, always enjoyable. Organically grown. I sit down and join someone at the table. I feel the need to talk to someone, just talk. ‘Hi, I thought I would meet you here’ A guy in a checked shirt looks straight at me. ‘I figured you would be needing some help by now.’ ‘Tell me about how you live your life,’ I find myself saying. ‘Well today is like most days, I got up this morning, I live on the outskirts. There’s a lot of nice canoeing out there.’ ‘Did you take the train?’ I ask. ‘No.’ ‘Did you come here to work?’ ‘No. I was planning to meet you.’ ‘That’s great - you can help me out then? What do you suggest?’ I reply. Well, he said: ‘What do you want to know?’ My reply: ‘to know how you got rid of the cars.’ I know this is the big one. It’s not really the cars in themselves; it’s the need for individual transport that creates automobile traffic that creates environmental hazards. ‘OK, let’s go and take a look.’ He replies with a smile. We go down to the ground again and under the building I said, ‘This used to be a motorway, didn’t it?’ I could see that when I first came. Is that true?’ ‘Yes it is, actually to show you this was part of my plan. Think of this as a study trip. Now, the roads were removed as part of making everything close to everything else. We gradually adapted the city along radiality principles. I follow a circular path and then come out into a natural environment, trees, - a small wood. ‘But how did you manage that?’ I asked in amazement. ‘Surely it is difficult to get consensus from everyone to do such a radical thing - I mean some of the buildings were probably in good shape?’ ‘Everyone was in agreement.’ He explained there was no need for a lot of argument and debate about it. I fumble to understand ‘I can’t understand that. Everyone was in agreement. No I don’t believe what is going on here.’ He replies; ‘I know it’s difficult to follow, let me show you around.’ My guide leads me through the woods, and I look up towards the treetops. The trees are high and mature, they must have been standing here a long time. We come to a landing stage. We get into a canoe and paddle along what appears to be a canal. To my left are wetlands that seem to stretch quite a way. As far as I can tell the wetlands are part of natural regulation of water levels and water purification. To the right, I see the perimeter of PORENA, with houses behind a screen of high reeds. Each house has a landing stage close by. We turn into my guide’s house. Screened by tall reeds, it looks idyllic. 88
‘This is my favourite form of transport,’ I say. ‘But what if it rains?’ ‘If it rains we wear rain clothes,’ he replies. That makes sense - ask a stupid question in this place and you get a straight sensible answer. I see solar collectors on the roof, a nice balcony and a feeling of close to nature. It’s a very pleasant place. Although they are close, you don’t see the neighbours because of the reeds and shrubs around the landing stage. We walk over the wooden patio, and I see he has food growing on the deck in large pots. We go in through glass doors. Inside it is comfortable, rather conventionally furnished. I especially like the breakfast bar overlooking the patio - to have breakfast and look out onto the canal and the wetlands seems a great way to start the day. I suddenly start to think about shops and things, ‘What about supplies?’ ‘Supplies come on a barge. And they come often.’ We walk out to the front of the house as a barge arrives. Soaps, toiletries etc, are available in small packs. I mused about that. Small packs mean you transport a lot of packaging per contents. On the other hand if you always have small quantities in concentrated form you transport less water. My guide nods out towards the barge as it ties up at the jetty. ‘I’m proud of the barge. Take whatever you want you need no money. We stopped money. Actually it was lot easier to stop money than you might think. Just make everything free and money is not needed. We just let it go.’ I think what might happen if one part of society stopped using money while others carried on using it… maybe the system could be abused. But I get no sensible answer. ‘What about the rest of the world around you.’ ‘What about it?’ ‘There must be a pressure on you.’ ‘You don’t need it, really.’ ‘And jobs?’ ‘Well if you stop money you stop jobs as you stop ownership. Tricky, as ownership and money aren’t the same thing. We had a credit system, and used it to redistribute resources. Everyone got a minimum credit. Those who got rid of their cars when changeover came had no problem.’ I ask: ‘Can you show me the rest of your apartment?’ My host shows me through to the other side, which is rather different. This is the side that faces inwards towards the centre of PORENA. There is a wide-open space and then other dwellings. The space between the buildings looks familiar to me. These are the communal growing areas I saw in my previous journey. They make up some kind of circle inside this outer circle. I see the houses curving round and I say aloud: ‘Of course this is radiality again.’ ‘Radiality?’ My guide says – ‘you know about that? I work as a radiality expert. Well, it is about time we got together.’ ‘I need to know about radiality,’ I say ‘I’m all ears.’ 89
‘There are several basic concepts of radiality. The first is the allusion to walled cities. Walls were built for defence, but they also work for temperature control. Cooler in summer by creating shade, and warmth in winter by keeping cold winds out and storing heat. We put solar collectors on the outside of our ‘wall’.’ ‘The city is made as a giant ring. The outside of the ring is residential and the inside for activities and inside is the park and water purification and biogas production area.’ I comment ‘It seems like a very simple design’. ‘It is, but constructing it wasn’t. We created the ring bit by bit, by removing roads and demolishing the existing buildings and replacing them with the radial design. We did it to reduce distances. You know, the idea of putting everything close to everything else.’ ‘But how does that work in practice?’ I ask. ‘I mean you need a transport system to make that work?’ ‘Not in this case, the buildings in the common activity part revolve. So you never have to travel anywhere. Stand still and it will come to you!’ ‘Hah!’ I say, ‘now you are kidding me - revolving half a whole damn city you have to be joking! ‘You’re not joking. I see - but you’re right it’s ingenious. Wait, and where you want to go turns up.’ ‘But then the people in the building are moving. I never noticed it - why not?’ ‘Maybe you were not in that part.’ ‘Come to think of it I noticed all the corridors curved. The whole thing being built as a ring explains that. Wait a minute. If I get on that thing how do I get home as it turns away from where I live?’ My host replies as straightforwardly to this as all the earlier questions: ‘You either wait and your home will turn up or you take the train.’ ‘Don’t you get sick if it turns?’ ‘It doesn't run that fast - you hardly notice it.’ Struggling to take it all in I request more explanation. ‘I must say I’m having a hard time understanding this revolving thing, I hope you don’t mind me badgering you about it? You can’t revolve a whole thing that fast. You can’t.’ ‘It revolves at 5 km/h’ Like when I was there. I didn’t notice. ‘Oh not all of it moves, part of it moves.’ My host draws diagrams and I ask and ask. If I were to summarise I guess it would go like this: The area of common activity is a ring around the central area, of 10 km in internal diameter. Inside the ring, raised on stilts, is a rather wide set of railway tracks upon which the rotating buildings rest. The roof is covered with solar cells that provide the main source of power to batteries and electric motors.
The speed is 5 km/h and it takes one day for the circle to revolve. The circle contains a long corridor. If you walk at 5 km in the direction of movement you travel relative to the ground at 10 km/h In my first journeys I encountered trains so I ask how these fit in. ‘You have seen different stages in the development of PORENA. And we always keep part of our development as a living textbook. As well, keeping old things going is often more environmentally sound than creating new ones as the energy investment is lower. We may find something better than the revolving ring, but we will try hard to preserve at least parts of it now that we have built it.’ Reflections Removing money I am unable to verify this type of measure, although experiments with alternative monies, payment forms etc have always been going on. What intrigues me is the connection between stress and money, my perception of danger. If I believe my existence is threatened if I do not get money then I will, in that frame of mind, do many unsustainable things. I have to see that I am not life threatened before I change behaviour. The key to creating a working sustainable society is therefore to reduce the five areas of stress. And I am not in that situation. Work is going badly. I may be losing my job soon. And this experiment is not finding me new work. But in my heart of hearts, I must go on. For the good of everyone, even if it means I end up jobless. What started out as an experiment to find myself a new living has gone over to being an experiment in finding how we all can live. That feels good, really good, better than any “job satisfaction” from a nine to five. Maybe there is a key there somewhere. Tapescript I take the opportunity while I am at my guide’s house to explore the area of work. Earlier attempts have had people using the word in ways not meaning do-a-job-andget-paid. I have already gathered that multi-functionality calls for people to work from home. To have buildings going in two places is inefficient: homes being used evenings and mornings and workplaces mostly during the day. And travelling to and fro every day takes a lot of energy. I continue: ‘Perhaps you could explain this, no-one works but everyone works. Money is banished and not needed - no-one needs to work but everyone does. Please explain. And what about you? How come you work as a radiality expert?’ ‘I got interested. And started, just like that.’ He sees my puzzled expression.
‘I’m obviously making it more difficult than it is. I went along and I asked questions, and I hung in there with people. I asked and people gave me answers. So this is a ‘go along’ society. Everything is completely open so if you want you - go along.’ ‘Education is open to everyone. People are always organising lectures and seminars. I got involved, went along to the education, I got asked to help out. It works well - if you want some thing done you ask people, make appointments and work things through.’ ‘Oh! You have an office; a place of work so to speak?’ ‘I work from home. Everyone works from home. But in the rotating part there are meeting places, sure.’ ‘I mean, it is nice to be at home. With nice homes to be in you can work from home and remember it is multi-functional. We do not want to build a lot of places that are not being used very much, for example in the evenings and weekends. Then the central part is a social place.’ ‘Can you tell me the story of Radiality?’ I ask. My guide takes a moment to collect his thoughts: It became clear to a lot of people that work as we knew it was in itself not environmentally sustainable. The purpose of work was to produce goods and services needed to support life, but it was getting so that to support life you had to come up with more and more ways of creating money, which meant more and more products and services being created and in circulation. This in turn meant a larger and larger footprint of environmental burden. So it was suggested the alternative approach should be to answer the question: How can we produce the goods and services needed to support life, maintaining a comfort level and at the same time keeping the environmental footprint down to sustainable levels? When the idea was introduced that we banish remunerated work and cut down physical travel to a minimum everyone accepted it because they had had enough of driving to work or sitting on public transport. So the benefits of the scheme were obvious from the beginning. My guide’s explanation gets me thinking. I always think that simple issues never get resolved because they always get lost in the complexity of the current situation. And in democracies everyone has a say and you never get away from people looking primarily after their own immediate interests. ‘I’m a sceptic,’ I say. ‘I love the idea but… I mean how did you get the idea over? Most issues get lost in complexity.’ He replies ‘It was so simple that there was nothing to argue about. You need mass transport to get to work. Take work away and you take a lot of transportation needs away. Take transportation needs away and you can start to reduce the transportation infrastructure. Remember the stresses. If you believe you need to go to work to survive, and the best way is to go by car, then even if somewhere deep down you understand the environmental impact, the survival need will override the environmental priorities. If the car is not needed for survival- and it wasn’t as we banished work and improved access - then another important factor is that people have a need to contribute 92
to the common good. When all of this was removed people acted quickly to completely remove the car. The consequences of removing the car and asphalt roads is pretty obvious to everyone so... The ideas came out in the books I mentioned earlier, and they just spread. If ideas fit like that and the cognitive congruence and consequences are obvious then the spread comes quite rapidly.’ ‘These books,’ I say, ‘How did they come about?’ ‘You have obviously forgotten,’ he said, ‘you might want to sit down before I tell you’. Verifications Radiality I decided to try and analyse the concept further. I wrote a report, you can read it in the appendix. Anyway, it checks out. You can have a city with minimum transport, 18 kms across, holds a million, and a ring of buildings rotating in one day. Check it out. Cognitive congruence One description of the way ideas spread has been produced as part of Memetics – the study of how ideas – memes – gain people. In the case of PORENA it looks as if the ideas were spread by novels. This in itself does not surprise me as novels have always spread ideas and visions: Utopia, 1984, Brave New World and many more examples. So an invention for spreading sustainable inventions is the novel. Any takers anyone? Tapescript My guide explains how PORENA came to be the way it is, from a work and technology driven community to the sustainable radiality- based phenomenon it is today. ‘A series of books came out. It started with Porena Tales. The books got everyone talking about abolishing work, etc. Before you knew it, the idea was accepted and people started trying the principles the books outlined.’ ‘Whoa, you’re going too fast - which of the principles was that then?’ I ask. ‘Well, it’s hard to nail it all down into a timeline exactly. The idea that a society’s footprint should not be more than the biosphere can stand was the first. Then, following on from that, multi-functionality of living areas along with minimising the impact on the biosphere, like not putting in stuff that will need cleaning up later. This caused us to ponder how we had got into this position in the first place. Work came up as an explanation, and money. If you get convinced you need money in order to survive, then you need to get money by working. That’s OK, but it can get out of hand. If left with a choice of doing a high-environment impact action or starving, people chose the former. So that led people to accept that neither work nor money were doing the job they were first intended for. Both were working in a dysfunctional way to encourage high-footprint activities. 93
The five stresses started to be accepted. As people realised they were being stressed unnecessarily they started growing food everywhere. And then working from home more. And then some people tried community experiments with abolishing work altogether. As that became socially acceptable, more and more joined the movement. Companies and especially local authorities started opening up to share knowledge and skills and people started coming along to get involved. At that point, the radiality scheme was started, and reliance on work was reduced as transport costs went down. We’re still evolving, the rotating city is the latest step in the path.’ ‘That’s great!’ I say. ‘Who was it who wrote these books?’ ‘You keep asking that,’ my guide replies. ‘What puzzles me is that you don’t remember – it was you, yourself.’
Reflections It seems the method I have chosen to search for ecological inventions has left a clear message. Use stories to propagate the ideas. The novel must be the most powerful medium (still) of spreading ideas. But it also leaves a challenge. It means I should put these pages together and find a way to publish them. Do I have the courage of my convictions, to spend my time trying to get them published instead of finding a job? It puts me up against the same dilemma the people of PORENA faced. Dare to break the vicious cycle of - need money, work with whatever to “survive” - mentality. Dare one take ONE step towards breaking the cycle? What, in the context of this modern society, are the possibilities? Just talking about it is good, but let’s be concrete and pragmatic. What can we do tomorrow? Then you the reader. Is this just a story you read or are you prepared to face the five stresses within yourself and spread the message? As you have read the story you surely have equipped yourself with the tools. Or perhaps like me you will tell the story to others. Or use Imagestreaming to get more insights and share these. You might want to lend this book to someone else, or give it away as a present. Whatever you do, wish me luck, I feel I have just started. And I wish you enjoyment of your life, that is surely the most important of all.
EPILOGUE: Producing a standard of living In my quest to find out how a standard of living could be produced for all sustainably, that is efficiently and with minimum impact on the environment and health, I visited PORENA again. The country of PORENA abolished work as we know it some time ago after they realized paid work was actually fuelling the development of a nonsustainable society. The whole system was threatening the environment, people’s health and creating a society that was not pleasant to live in. Many people were actually ‘out of work’, which was draining resources. On the one hand they set up strict rules for emissions of all kinds into the environment and on the other they made housing, education, food etc. free. They also focused on producing a standard of living for all cheaply, environmentally and in a socially sound way. Removing the stress on the individual – meeting physiological needs – is at the heart of the PORENA way. How they managed this is still unclear to me, but to make a start I was invited to meet the management of the city of PORENA for an Interview. Hustled into a meeting room I was introduced to Aaron Heathcliffe and his team. Aaron is in his late 50’s bearded, wearing a dark grey suit. He introduces me to the management team, who all work through a series of networks, I am given to understand. Everyone here is a volunteer on this, a management team that looks after the overall running of affairs in the city. ‘None of us have to do this; we do it because we love it! We feel it is important, that we are OK at it and we want to do it,’ says Heathcliffe. Accommodation is produced on a voluntary basis as well. Those who are on the housing production and maintenance network design build houses as they are needed. ‘Remember, a house built to be energy efficient and built to last is highly cost effective. We use local techniques, local materials and design to suit local needs; there is nothing radical about that.’ Heathcliffe also means that there are no secrets to clothing production either: ‘Clothing is the same as for shelter- local material, local fashions, local production – you make do with what you have locally.’ The people of the city grow food everywhere. When they were looking into banishing paid work many had said ‘I have to go to work to put food on the table for my family’. So they decided to remove this particular stress by building greenhouse extensions to living accommodation and grow food in public places. Says Heathcliffe; ‘You have to grow food everywhere. Transportation costs are kept to a minimum. Another benefit of growing close to use is that you harvest just what you need and it keeps longer and waste is at a minimum.’ 95
One real revolution can perhaps be seen in PORENA’s social system. Often described as ‘the just go along place,’ removing paid jobs means anyone can go along and help out to their own abilities and interests. One factor, again related to removing stress, is that people need to feel a part of society. Obviously, when there are things to be done people like to pitch in together and help. Another factor was that of health. By limiting the functions powered by fossil fuels to the ones that either saved lives or replaced damagingly heavy, monotonous or dangerous work, a lot of activities required muscle power. These provide an opportunity for useful, social exercise and to promote health. Says Heathcliffe: ‘your network marketing is good as it does not exclude everyone. That is really important for the way human beings function. This has been known throughout time, that inclusion is a powerful part of society, yet you use it and develop it far too little.’ Heathcliffe defends the PORENA model as being extremely efficient: ‘It is so easy to do anything we want- we have endless numbers of people available. Say we wanted to build another canal – we could do it tomorrow. Just put the word out we want to build a canal - people would say `that’s cool´ `when can we come? ´ You would have volunteers for everything from planning, designing, engineering and those who did the planning would be well into pitching into the physical digging as well.’ He often asks people to think about the kind of society they would like to live in: ‘Do you want a society that has to write complicated contracts, that says `we can only afford this number of people you can’t help out we don’t have the money to employ you we’ll do it on the cheap´’. No-one wants to live in a society like that. Everyone wants to live in a society that says ‘We need a canal’ and everyone goes ‘OK! We’re in’ and then ‘Fine! What can you do? Where do you want to help out?’ They also take great pains to ensure the city is a great place to live in from other aspects. Very aware that the society I come from is addicted to short-term hits of happiness they are quick to point out that PORENA functions in more of natural rhythm. Says one of Heathcliffe’s managers; ‘Do you understand why we like this place? Life here is so cool! We have such a good time. We are pointing out that the city breathes awakens, projects happen, sleeps - depending on the time of year in a yearly cycle. As food is grown everywhere people are close to natural rhythms. People know when to sign up for activities as they come every year.’ Focus in PORENA is also on health, although I got some funny looks when I asked about health care. I get the explanation that they treat health more like a veterinarian would. People who work with health - it is their job to keep healthy people healthy. 96
That means infrastructure, nutrition, shelter, security not getting hurt and people not getting sick rather than actually ‘caring’. Health promotion and maintenance is what they work with. And I understand that this is a big part of standard of life production. It is far cheaper and easier to keep healthy people healthy than to treat sick people. A set of people work with health in a network. You can have a health check anytime you like. And there are clinics available for all kinds of treatments. The whole fabric of society is intended to be heath promoting: people walk everywhere and use people power wherever feasible for tasks like digging and working on the fields and marshes and harvesting. That is physical work that is not too strenuous and it is muscle building and heath promoting. And if you do not feel like doing it you do not have to. It is good to strain the muscles as a complement to walking. Muscles need to be challenged by pushing and pulling things. But it has to be done right. People need to learn how to do that. And for carrying and transporting goods there is an array of carts to do the jobs. My conclusions: by starting simply from local conditions you can create a standard of living for all by: • Removing stress from people – providing basic shelter, food and inclusion • Including everyone in the production process. • Limiting the need for fossil fuel to dangerous or life-saving tasks. • Focusing on health promotion • Following the natural rhythm of the day, season and year • Removing money and all the costs associated with its handling
What can we take away from this meeting? Is this feasible for our world? One thing quick research turns up is the lack of an agreed, sustainability oriented definition of standard of living. It may be that climatic and other conditions make it difficult to find a global comparison, although here again the UN have made a good start. One simple measure that could be done right away is for each country to define what it means by a basic standard of living. They could then measure what percentage of the population was living at it, what it was costing, its environmental impact etc.
Reflections But perhaps what is on many peopleâ€™s minds as they read about PORENA is how did they manage to get everyone on board? How did they get the whole society pulling in the same direction, and learned to let everyone into the various tasks and functions needed to run the place? Inventing for the Sustainable Planet continues with more adventures in sustainability innovation. http://porena.blogspot.com
RADIALITY REPORT Introduction Background & Purpose Radiality, a city planning methodology, was discovered during creativity exercises to identify sustainable technology. This report summarises the details of the idea in order to provide a basis for communicating and verifying the principles. Creative exercises like these often produce conflicting information. The reader may wonder if this report does not contain such conflicts. Experience has shown however that the solutions produced by this type of exercise contain deep intuitive insights which a) are valuable despite conflicts and b) looking into the conflicting information often reveals further insights. What is Radiality? Radiality is a discipline of urban planning. It works to minimise the ecological footprint of the city whilst ensuring a sustainable, health promoting urban environment. Radiality Principles • • • •
Everything is close to everything else Minimise dependence on non-renewable source transport Walking is natural transport medium To minimise the impact of the city on the environment, transport driven by non-renewable energy sources needs to be kept to a minimum.
Therefore, the guiding principle is ‘everything is close to everything else’. Defining close, the dimensions are based on what is a natural daily walking distance for the human 18-65. We already know that inactivity is not good for health. And walking is both a natural form of exercise and transport. Therefore, radiality utilises walking as the main form of transport. The design of the ‘everything close to everything else’ means also that transport associated with goods and services is reduced. The largest transport need to human society is food and water. Therefore radiality calls for urban environments to be as self-sufficient as possible in food and water. Food production is carried out throughout the city, and especially a separate area in the centre produces both food and clean water. 99
Radiality solutions Multi-functionality Firstly, to make the city as efficient as possible, population density is kept high. For the area to provide comfort and convenience requires the multiple use of land: multi-functionality. This is manifested in several ways, for example all green areas are available both for recreation and growing food. Wetland areas are used for water treatment as well. Separation There is also the separation of technology and the natural environment. The central part of the city is separated from the effects of technology, thereby allowing the natural environment to, in an uncontaminated way, produce food and cleanse water. For natural water circulation, run-off and cleansing to function with minimum contamination and obstruction, automobiles and trucks are removed and paved, asphalted roads and paths are replaced with gravel. For walking to be facilitated as far as possible, buildings are stilted so people can walk under them. Outer circular canal Water-born transport is effective for heavy loads, one solution to bringing goods to residential areas is to use barges sailing around a peripheral canal. Circular and Cross-town train A system of trains both circular and cross-town provide fast transport to all urban areas from all urban areas. Again, supporting ‘everything close to everything else’. Revolving circular building complex In our exercise, we encountered a solution where a circular building complex runs on rails. Work is carried out partly from the home, again following the multi functionality principle. The central building complex functions as a communal meeting and work area. Example PORENA In our creative exercise we encountered a population of nearly one million. The radius is 9 kms. This gives an area of: πR2 = 254 km2 (22/7 X 9 X9 ) The residential area is a band 2kms broad. The total area of this band is the total area of Porena minus the inner circle The area of the inner circle is πR2 = 154 km2 (22/7 X 7 X 7) So total area in residential band is 254-154km2 = 100 km2 100
Now, the population of the densest part of a city is 14,000 per square km. If we took say 10,000 per square kilometer the total population for the residential band would be 10,000 X 100km2 = 1000,000 This would give an overall density of: 1,000,000 people/254km = 3937 people per km. The farthest from a train line is 2kms in residential areas. See the diagram below.
Note: By removing roads and other areas needed for cars, up to 40% of city space is saved. The radial solution with the simple train system puts everything close to everything else, defined as being accessible within 20 30 minutes. The maximum travel time would be from the outskirts, 2 km from a station, to another dwelling. Walking time, maximum 30 minutes plus 30 minutes Train time. Circumference (2Ď€R) =22kms (2 X 22/7 X 7) 101
At an average speed of 50 kms/hr, Half of the circle (11km/50km/hr) = 0,22/hr = 13 minutes roughly Add ten minutes for waiting Maximum journey time is 1 hr 23 minutes. At faster walking times and no wait, journey time is 20mins +20mins + 13 = 53 minutes Savings in travel time are afforded by the revolving section of the administration complex. The Circular rotating building complex has a radius of 5km. Circumference = 2πR, =31.4kms. (2 X 22/7 X 5) Speed of rotation, 6kms/hr. One full revolution takes 5.2 hrs at 6km/h. (31.4/6) If you walk in the same direction as rotation you travel at 12kms/hr… by walking! Summary: A city like Porena designed radially, with a circular train line and two cross lines, allows a million people to live in a radius of ten kilometres. The design utilises walking at the frequency considered healthy. Reference Key numbers and terms Population density • London inner city 14,000 per km2 • London outer city 5,000 per km2 Walking Speeds • Brisk 5-6 km/hr • Normal 4 km/hr Minutes per day spent walking = 60 Distance Good distance is 10,000 steps, equivalent to 8-10 km 102
Very healthy is 18,000 steps, equivalent to 14-18km Mathematical formulae Circumference = 2πR Area =πR2 Speed = distance/time π=22/7
How to debrief imagestreams I have found debriefing to be extremely valuable. It produces such a rich flow of insights and ideas that things continue to fall into place sometimes years after an imagestream. These notes are my suggestions based on experience. Take what works for you and leave the rest. I encourage everyone to work out their own methodology as they go along. And then break it – you don’t want to get into a rut! It is good to keep an archive of your imagestreams. I recommend after trying several methods, that you always record your streams, even if you do them with a live partner. The best format is a digital voice recorder, and transfer them over to your computer. Always back-up on CD regularly. Type up the notes, adding as much as you remember to make the meaning clear. A good idea is to succinctly write down the background to why you are doing just this imagestream purpose and goal One reason for doing this framing is that you always get what you ask for. In your attempt to formulate your quest you may ask inadvertently for things that you are not exactly after. This is especially true of restrictions. Say you want to go to a place that has solved a certain problem, if you did not specify that the place should have the same societal structure as the one we are living in you may find they have something completely different. If you were looking for a solution that will work in your context you should specify that. I then like to clean the notes up and publish them on my website. This is not necessary, but the discipline of writing for others forces you to take their standpoint and be clearer in your communication. In this context we extend the idea of ‘live listener’ to a much wider audience. Keep both the notes and the sound recording. Sometimes I need to read the notes a few times to "get" what the insight is. Re-reading tapescripts often raises questions of what exactly was going on during the session. You can get insights you do not manage to describe – or they come as fleeting impressions. You can always go back to the tapescript to help recapture the moment. (You can always go back and do a new imagestream as well.) But that it just the beginning. If you are just going to imagestream and not interact with the world in new ways, you are missing out on what can give you. However, the gap between insight and action is often very wide. You will need to take small steps towards implementation.
Here is my list of questions I ask myself after having done the first typing up. It is good practice to ask these methodically, and keep them in your notebook for future reference. 1) List everything that surprised you. 2) Draw diagrams and write descriptions of inventions you found. 3) Try to sketch "realia" e.g. information posters, signs, powerpoints make models maybe. I have never tried it with children but I would love to teach , then do a beachhead session and then point them to craft materials to get them to sketch and make models of their inventions. 4) List what is to be verified and go do it. Internet works just fine. Do not just use search engines, there are encyclopedias like Wikipedia and Encyclopedia of the Earth. 5) What could you use TODAY and what could be done TODAY? This is a fantastic way to start bringing insights into practice. You can often find small actions that are fun and easy to do. My experience is that insights from imagestreams often work surprisingly well. 6) What questions remain? List these as targets for future image streams. 7) Notes about the methodology itself - if I can improve it for next time, what I learned.. 8) Other ways to describe the insights: write an article from the future, a research paper, a power point presentation, do a documentary or build a model. 9) Other musings, sidebands etc. Remember too, that the answer you get is right and WILL work in the appropriate context. However, you may not understand WHY it is right. To convince others you will need to approach the insight again, this time as a salesman learning a new product to sell. So donâ€™t be surprised if you explain your insight and get funny looks, and not be able to answer peopleâ€™s objections. Listen to them and address them. They will help you sell your idea later on.
Published on Jun 2, 2010
Published on Jun 2, 2010
Max Wahlter, a journalist specializing in science and technology, decides his new career is in sustainability. He comes across an innovation...