It is not new news that the world is facing a collection of crises: scary statistics, disturbing photos and warnings about the pending disasters have been regular features in the media for some time now. However, the linkages between these numerous social, environmental and economic problems are often overlooked and potential solutions seem to remain relegated to the sideline. Hopefully we will reach a true turning point soon, and if nothing else the, the recent summit was definitely a call to get up off our collectives asses and do something about it.
With 38 speakers over two days, followed by another day of workshops and ‘change rooms’, it certainly was jam-packed, and the organisers should be congratulated on a fine first effort. I have pages of notes I could share, but that would be a very long post indeed. The over-riding highlight for me was that despite the odds rapidly stacking against the struggle to save the earth from ourselves, there are real people out there doing real things to make a real difference. Yes, the lack of political will to support such ventures needs to be overcome. Yes, there is red tape. Yes, huge investments in unsustainable endeavours are ubiquitous. So what? David didn’t run screaming for the hills under Goliath’s shadow did he?
Collaboration and partnership. Innovation and urgency. Restoration and revolution. These were key themes echoed throughout the gathering. The need for transparent sharing of ideas for the common good – this is not about short-term profit, empty promises and green-washing, it is about working together to fix the future, after all, there is no planet B.
I found the thoughts presented by Gunter Pauli, Jason Drew and John Liu particularly inspirational – examples of positive change and tangible results from innovative thinking.
Why would you use a precious resource like potable drinking water to wash away good fertilizer? Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? With water and agricultural stress both legitimate threats, why would you waste both? Well, this is effectively what many flush toilets in first world countries do. When millions of people have no access to drinking water, others are using it for sewage. Just because you have one, doesn’t make it good. Clearly city infrastructure can be vastly improved, if not totally redesigned. Jason has seen this as an opportunity: one of his companies takes human waste from waterless toilets, converts it into fertilizer and puts money back into poor communities. It’s not a perfect system, but a whole lot better than the accepted norm….
I think this is what we need now. Smart action through sustainable solutions: regardless of the prevailing political or economic situation. If we wait for governments to lead the way, and incentivise these actions on a large scale, it may be too late. Corporations have the power to initiate major change, and pressure is building for them to move in the right direction, but overcoming the doctrine of profit above all else is a tall order.
We (you and I) need to act now. We need to be change agents. The summit was certainly a good platform to share ideas of how to do so, foster partnerships and cultivate ideas. From Project 90 and friends; Robert Zipplies, Monica Graaff and Mpumelelo Ncwadi were directly involved, Leonie Mervis and I attended the whole conference, and Candice Pelser and Hin Wah Lin attended the third day.
A bold collective goal was proposed: Enough. For All. Forever.
Richard Halsey, Financial Coordinator