Tipping Point

On Thursday, I have the privilege of speaking briefly at the opening event for Tipping Point. The questions on the agenda for the evening are:

Where’s the silver lining?
Can we re-imagine the nature of art and the culture of our relationships in the crisis of climate change?

And here’s what it’s all about:

Following short and sharp provocations and reflections on that topic and question ( 5-10 mins each) from scientist Anne Henderson-Sellers and artist Lucas Ihlein, Dick Robertson from TippingPoint will facilitate a different kind of extended conversation, ( from 6pm-10pm) using Open Space,  in which the audience decides what should be discussed.

What follows is a night of vibrant and creative conversation that leaves the participants engaged, connected and with an action plan.  Eating and drinking is encouraged through-out!

It should be an interesting event. I encourage folks to follow the link above to find out more about Anne Henderson-Sellers – her ideas on that site are compelling and intellectually challenging – particularly the concept of “environmental triage” – in which decisions will have to be made on which emergencies to act on as a priority, and which will have to be left until later (or never). Juicy stuff…

On the monetisation of community resources

smh article 10 mile diet

Some fascinating issues continue to be raised by the Artist as Family.

The family, which made a Food Forest in the grounds of a church in Surry Hills, recently received a request for a photoshoot for an article in the Sydney Morning Herald with a local chef who was planning a “10 mile dinner”. The family declined permission, on the grounds that the food forest is a community resource, and not available to be transformed into a capitalised form of food production. The eventual news article, sans Artist as Family, is here.

I’ve responded in the comments to the Family blog, trying to tease out some of the things that arise from their refusal to participate in this monetised food economy.

So I thought it might be useful to cross-post from here, as others might like to weigh in to the discussion too.

The Committee Begins!

environment committee header

Yesterday I attended the first ever meeting of the MCA’s environment committee.

It felt historic, somehow. Tony suggested that this may have been what it was like, 25 years ago, when Occupational Health and Safety Committees were just starting out. By now, OH&S is ubiquitous, compulsory, legalised. But back then, it would have seemed like radical new territory. What sort of scope should such a committee have? What is its purpose? How should it all work?

Here’s my sketch of the attendees of the meeting. From memory, the table was square, rather than rectangular, but you get the idea.

first environment committee meeting attendees

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Is Christianity Good for the Environment?

is christianity good for the environment?

I picked up the above flyer a month or so ago, at St Michael’s Church during the Artist-as-Family’s plant in day.

I was all set to go to the talk this weekend, but Patrick from Artist-as-Family just told me it’s been postponed. Apparently they’ve had a few cancellations from potential speakers for the event.

So – anyone have any idea who would be good to address this hot topic? And does anyone have any opinions about an answer to this question?

Worlds Within Worlds

art: 99%futile, 1% effective

Last week I attended the Hothouse Symposium at the Sydney Opera House.

One highlight for me included a talk by Bruce Taper from Kinesis. In a rather mythbusting presentation, Bruce told the story of advising City of Sydney for their 2030 sustainability campaign. Actually, I’d like to get hold of his slideshow, because it was quite powerful in its demonstration that the goal announced by various governments of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by “whatever percent by whatever date” is often – in a word – impossible.

He also criticised the BASIX building sustainability index, which gives a green rating to buildings and appliances in NSW. In many cases, Bruce said, new buildings with a five-star rating still end up with a much greater environmental footprint than older buildings which were constructed before the rating system even existed. We have to be wary of these external accreditation systems which end up being hollow gestures: commerce-friendly badges and ‘eco-bling‘ trophies.

[UPDATE: see Bruce’s clarification about my not entirely accurate comments on BASIX and the star rating systems…]

I was also struck by Tony Fry‘s keynote talk. What strikes me as interesting in Tony’s approach is that, as a design educator, he’s not getting his students to make ‘green friendly’ products. Rather, he’s been training them up to be ‘disaster ready’ – planning for the reality of the future world to come (a rather grim world it seems) where millions of climate change refugees (especially, in the early stages, from low-lying Bangladesh) are “unsettled” from their homelands, consequently unsettling the comfortable lives of wealthy westerners. How ready are we to adapt ourselves to a new way of living?
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The Plastiki has arrived


Environmentally auditable events keep flooding in! I don’t know whether it’s because I’m paying more attention, or as my friend Bec C. says, all this stuff is “so hot” right now in late 2010…

But anyway, I’ve just heard that “Plastiki”, the sailing boat made from 12,500 plastic PET bottles has arrived in Sydney.

Tonight, there’s a gala event where you can go hear all about it:

An evening with David de Rothschild: The Plastiki Expedition
Presented by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science

When: Wednesday 28 July 7pm – 9pm
Where: At the Sergeants Mess, Chowder Bay, Mosman (click here for Google Maps)
Tickets: $50 (Concessions $25) including drinks & canapes

Hear David de Rothschild, adventurer and environmentalist, talk about his momentous voyage across the Pacific on the 18 metre catamaran Plastiki made from 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles.

I can’t make it myself, as I am already busy this evening, but if anyone gets down there, I’d love to hear your reports…

I quite like the Plastiki diagrams, where they outline all the ins and outs of the boat and its processes:

plastiki stats

Auditable Events: Hot House

hothouse image

Tomorrow and Wednesday I’ll be across the Quay from the MCA, attending the Hothouse think-tank symposium thingy about, well, um, y’know, art and eco stuff.

I’m particularly looking forward to meeting and chatting with a few of the presenters, like Bruce Taper, who is described as a “Life Cycle Analyst”, from a Sydney-based company called Kinesis:

Our purpose is to develop new strategies and mechanisms to increase our clients capacity to tackle climate change, understand and manage their emissions portfolios, and promote sustainability.

The fact that Kinesis can support a dozen employees in this venture is a strong indication that “managing an emissions portfolio” (!!) is fast becoming an integral part of corporate business strategy.

However, it seems to be getting harder to come up with terms that don’t disappear into fashionable meaninglessness (like “sustainability”). Tony Fry, a bit of a legend and one of the keynote speakers at the symposium, has come up with his own term, “sustainment”, in a bid to sidestep the linguistic sludge of “sustainability”… I’ve yet to hear him speak, and will be interested to see how this new word works…

In the Balance artists Karl and Tessa from Makeshift will also be speaking… And Carbon Arts looks interesting too…

Maybe see you down there?

Join the Plant-in Day!

food forest in progress
[The Artist-as-Family’s Food Forest in progress, as of July 8th, 2010…]

Patrick Jones, Meg Ulman and Zephyr Ulman-Jones work together under the moniker of “The Artist As Family”.

For their contribution to the In the Balance exhibition, they’ve been making an urban “food forest” in the grounds of St Michael’s church in Surry Hills. Check out their blog to see the work in progress, it looks rather lovely!

Tomorrow, Saturday July 10th, they’re having a Plant-in Day. Everyone and anyone is invited to come along and join in, bring something to add to the forest. In this post here, they make some suggestions for what you might like to bring along. (I’ve got some fennel seedlings that have needed planting out for a while now…)

Here’s the info from their callout:

Bring something edible, Cadigal or beneficial (herbs, perennial vegetables, ground-cover foods) to plant on the Food Forest floor between 10am – 4pm on Saturday 10 July.
Make a day of it and bring a picnic to 200 Albion Street, Surry Hills, Sydney.

During the day and into next week, I’ll be trying to assemble a rough list of the Food Forest’s energy expenses, as my first environmental audit case study. Patrick says he has all his receipts in a big pile, so it should be possible (to some extent) to trace the resource consumption involved in the production of the project.

Auditable Events, (number one)…

There’s no shortage of work for a budding auditor to attend to! Megan, one of the registrars at the MCA, just sent me through the following, which starts in under two hours!

3.1 Lessons learned from Kenmore ‘s Geothermal HVAC System, 2007-2010

Australian Institute for Conservation of Cultural Material NSW Division and Association for Preservation Technology Australia Chapter presents Lessons learned from Kenmore’s Geothermal HVAC System, 2007-2010 with Rebekah Wood, Director of Architectural Restoration, The George Washington Foundation, Fredricksburg , Virginia USA .

This talk gives insights into the challenges of implementing a geothermal heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system at Kenmore, a historic house museum managed by the George Washington Foundation in Virginia , USA . It includes an overview of the system’s components and year-round operations. The talk also reviews the operation of the system over the past three years in order to put into practice a relaxed standard of environmental controls developed for historic house museums in order to safely balance the environmental needs of the historic building, the collections contained within, and the physical comfort of human visitors.

When: 5.30pm for 6pm-7pm, Thursday 8 July
Where: Australian National Maritime Museum, Ground Floor Boardroom, Wharf 7 Building, Pyrmont
Contact: RSVP to http://www.icssydney.com.au/form.php?fid=48
Further information here

my report on attending this talk is here