Why not do the big, hard things to change the world?

So screw the little things. Here are 10 big, difficult, world-changing concepts we can get behind:

These hard things have to do with: Nuclear weapons, diet, women, poverty, transparency, green cities among others.

via Worldchanging: Bright Green: Earth Day: 10 Big, Really Hard Things We Can Do to Save the Planet.

RIP Elinor Ostrom, Economics Nobel 2009

IASC deeply regrets the passing of Elinor Ostrom | IASC-COMMONS bookmarked on diigo

Here, also a short post I wrote about her work after she received the Nobel in Economics: Local cooperation can overcome climate change , and a recent article on the importance of her work for the Rio+20 conference: Elinor Ostrom’s trailblazing commons research can inspire Rio+20

Local cooperation to overcome climate change

I want to use the occasion of Blog Action Day to reflect a bit on how Elinor Ostrom’s work (this year’s Nobel in Economic Sciences) may help us deal with climate change. In short, many solutions will emerge from collective action at the local level that solve problems according to the different local conditions. One challenge will be to ensure that these local experiments and solutions will learn from each other.

Here are a few points from Lin Ostrom’s work that I think are relevant for the climate change discussions:

  1. Her work clearly refutes the Tragedy of the Commons as a myth shows that shared resources can be managed collectively.
  2. State and private property are not the only models of ownership and management for resources; for centuries local communities and small groups of forest dweller, farmers and fishers have been managing resources collectively developing at times very sophisticated management systems.
  3. The state is not always the best actor to manage shared resources – it is often better to allow for local variations and give autonomy to local groups so these can identify the best solutions for the specific context.
  4. We have to work together across disciplines and topics to see the right patterns and make the right connections to identify solutions that work.

What does that mean for climate change?

  1. It is possible to manage our shared resources (the earth’s diverse ecosystems and the atmosphere) that are crucial for our climate system to function without state control or privatizing them.
  2. New forms of ownership that transcend the private and public realm and that put the responsibility in the hands of the users (all of us) can trigger local action.
  3. While a general climate treaty will help to galvanize action across the world, governments have to be bolder to allow and support local changes and give people the chance to experiment with different ways of dealing with the challenges posed by climate change.
  4. The climate change space is still far too fragmented to come up with solutions that will be effective and have the support of a majority of societal actors. Environmental conservation, rights of local people, or business opportunities that carbon trade schemes offer do not have to be competing with one another, but they are in many cases today.

For more on Lin Ostrom’s work go to IU’s Workshop on Political Theory that she founded and still directs and the website of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC), of which she was the founding president.

Music gets people aligned to form community

Very interesting panel on Music and brain activity from the World Science Festival with Bobby McFerrin:

I have a feeling that most everyone here at some place inside, they have sincere desire to participate, to become part of something, which is a very strong need in all of us, I think, to be part of some kind of a community and have some kind of a relationship whether it is with another person or music. So, I find very very easily, regardless of what country or culture that I am in, to give an invitation for people to sing and they readily jump on it.

See him in action:

Found through Ribeezie.com

What is good about collapse of our civilizations?

Interesting, yet glooming discussion about our future and whether it is worth saving industrial civilization between George Montbiot and Paul Kingsnorth.

While I generally agree with George that we have to face the issues and act, I also found myself agreeing with Paul on one point: We humans do take ourselves too serious thinking that we have the power to make or break life on earth. Rather, what we are doing is to destroy the basis for our own survival.

Civilisations live and die by their founding myths. Our myths tell us that humanity is separate from something called ‘nature’, which is a ‘resource’ for our use. They tell us there are no limits to human abilities, and that technology, science and our ineffable wisdom can fix everything. Above all, they tell us that we are in control.

I disagree with his conclusion that we should not even try to do something and can only prepare for the inevitable. Rather, I think above quote suggests that we have to find our way back into nature fast, and work with it instead of using it… and I have hope that we can before it’s too late!

How can we convince people of the value of openness?

A post in World Changing asks Why do People Desire walls? and lists an impressive number of walls that have been build in recent years:

The list of walls she gave is absolutely alarming, especially considered that she focused on the ones that have risen since the much celebrated fall of the Berlin Wall: the U.S. border with Mexico and the Israeli West Bank barrier these two share high technology, sub-contracting and they also reference each other for legitimation, Post-Apartheid South Africa’s internal maze of walls and check point, Saudi Arabia concrete structure along its border with Yemen, India’s reinforced border with Pakistan and Bengladesh, Botswana’s electric fence along the border with Zimbabwe, the wall between Egypt and Gaza, etc. But also walls within walls: gated communities so popular in the U.S. in particular in Southern Californian communities living closer to the Mexico border, walls around Israel settlements in West Bank, walls around the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem and the walls that partition the city itself, the triple layer of walls around Spanish enclaves in Morocco, the wall of Via Anelli inside the Italian city of Padua that separate white middle class with immigrants living in an “African ghetto” i’d recommend Italian readers the documentary Stato di Paura, you can find the trailer here, the Baghdad wall built by the U.S. military, etc. [original post contains links]

Do people desire walls? or do they simply not see any other solution to guarantee security in the short term? How can you reach short-term security without undermining long-term stability? What economic, social, and political interests are linked to building walls?

Check out the interesting video projet by the Israeli NGO B’Tselem mentioned in the post.

Low price = good?

There is more and more writing about the need for a change in lifestyle and business strategy, e.g. here or here. Yet, we still seem to be addicted to accumulating material wealth:

It’s not just cheap oil we’re addicted to: it’s cheap everything. And the world we’re entering isn’t really of Peak Oil as it is one of Peak Consumption.

via America’s Addiction and the
New Economics of Strategy – Umair Haque

A new book by Anthony Giddens, applies a well known paradox to the climate change debate and the slow progress we make in solving the mess: that people do not act on an incrementally growing threat until it becomes visible, by which stage action may be too late.

So if most people still think that the lower the price, the better, how do we get them to see the damage that does and the opportunity that lies in doing thing differently?

Get connected and build a new operating system for Earth

I am back from my trip to Washington, DC and New York with lots of follow-up work – more on that in the coming days!

For now I just want to share a quote from a Commencement Address Paul Hawken gave earlier this year. The quote speaks for itself:

At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

Found on Triple Pundit.

Citizenship, communication and politics

Interesting talk in the face of the ongoing events in Iran:

Clay Shirky shows how Facebook, Twitter and TXTs help citizens in repressive regimes to report on real news, bypassing censors however briefly. The end of top-down control of news is changing the nature of politics.

via Clay Shirky: How cellphones, Twitter, Facebook can make history | Video on TED.com.