In This Issue
Welcome to Issue 14 of the Community Research Connections Newsletter
We’ve had a busy quarter, with the launch of our vitality tool for communities, Vt, and a preparatory workshop on de-growth that I led on March 30th in Victoria, as part of the Robert Bateman Conversations at Royal Roads. The event was a model of degrowth in and of itself; we brought together people in a face-to-face workshop in Victoria, with four virtual round tables led from Winnipeg, the International Institute in Sustainable Development; Haverford College in the States led by Peter Brown; the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto and in Montreal, by Rebecca Foon. Our expert panel was also virtual, as were our two keynote speakers, Dr. Robert Costanza, one of North America’s leading experts in ecological economics and Professor of Sustainability in the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland and Stephen Huddart, President and CEO of The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.
RRU Associate Vice-President of Research, Mary Bernard, opened the workshop and the Dean of our Faculty of Management, Pedro Marquez made the closing remarks. This collaboration between such a diverse group of researchers, community practitioners, and academics contributed to a far richer dialogue than would have been possible in just a face-to-face meeting. We will be publishing a regenerative economy action agenda for Canadian decision-makers in September and at that time, also launching a series of videos on HEADTalks, to continue the dialogue about degrowth in Canada.
We would like to remind you of the International Degrowth Conference, led by Dr. Peter Brown from McGill University, May 13-19, 2012, Montreal, Quebec.
I am also pleased to announce the addition of a new team member, a post-doctoral scholar, Dr. Aliette Frank.
Degrowth Preparatory Workshop
Clearly, we are at a moment of punctuated equilibrium — and we need to develop new economic models that reflect a wider concept of human development than simply material wealth. The 2012 UN High Level Panel on Global Sustainability discusses the need for “the international community [to] measure development beyond gross domestic product (GDP) and develop a new sustainable development index or set of indicators." Even Britain’s Conservative-led government is compiling a national happiness index, and Nicolas Sarkozy wants to replace the traditional GDP count with a measure that takes in subjective happiness levels and environmental sustainability (The Economist, 12 May 2011). The system is broken and tinkering at the edges no longer fits the needs of modern society to develop sustainably in a highly globalized world.
Other development models and methods do exist, such as Holling’s panarchy model, Britain’s Robin Hood Tax, Brazil’s emphasis on addressing inequality, Japan’s job sharing, open source, open design, the gift economy, Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, Austria’s recent measurement of subjective well-being, quality of life and time-prosperity of that country’s population, the Maritimes’ Genuine Progress Indicators, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and co-operative capitalism. One of the questions we asked ourselves is why has GDP become the dominant and indeed, the only story in North America?
In the four BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), fifteen per cent of their population are member-owners of co-operative enterprises, compared to less than four per cent who are shareholders. Moreover, a recent Canadian government study concluded that co-operative businesses tend to last approximately two times longer than other businesses in the private sector (Herz, nd). Another question we asked the policy round tables to address is should we see co-operative models spreading into other spheres, for example, taking over the running of public utilities?
Some highlights from our expert panel. Peter Victor, York University and Founding President of the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics, “sustainable well-being is what really counts and where growth remains important. We need de-growth in throughput and rich countries should take the lead. High levels of employment, reducing poverty and reducing our environmental impact is possible in a new scenario." Kathy Bardswick, CEO, Co-operators Group Limited, stated happiness is what should be driving our economic models of ‘growth’. Collaboration is the mechanism to move forward. Mike Harcourt, Chair of QUEST, Associate Director, UBC Continuing Studies Centre for Sustainability, spoke about the need for change in cities. If China and India decided to copy the North American version of a city (a dead inner city with sprawling urban suburbs), we’d need four planets using the eco-footprint analysis. The global population is projected to be 8.5 billion in 2015, and 9 billion by 2050. This growth is happening in the cities— we need to change the urban model. Seth Klein, Director of the BC Centre for Policy Alternatives, spoke about the need to focus on what we want; we need to focus on ecological limits, decreasing GHG emissions, de-consumption, social justice and reducing material throughput. And Pedro Marquez concluded, we should reframe growth issues in terms of concepts like ‘prosperity’, ‘quality of life’, ‘holism’, and ‘happiness’. We need to teach business as part of the social sciences.
We have just released Creativity, a video featuring an interview with Leanne Cadden, a noted Vancouver Island artist, blended with images and animations of her artwork. Leanne discusses the role creativity has in sustainable community development and in adopting sustainable lifestyles. She explains how expressing creativity is vital for becoming engaged in and connected to one’s environment and community, and she poignantly notes if “we can’t be sustainable on the inside, then how can we create sustainable communities on the outside?”
Related to this exploration on the relationship between creativity and sustainability, a recent presentation from Ezio Manzini, renowned leader on sustainable design, on the topic of 'Social Innovation for Sustainability' is now available in a video series and can be accessed from our Robert Bateman Critical Conversations page. Organized by Dr. Catherine Etmanski, Professor of Leadership Studies at RRU, and Paul Gilbert and Madelaine Hjermstad of the Robert Bateman Centre, this presentation provides insight on the importance of fostering creativity in communities when working toward developing sustainable communities.
Another recent video was created through partnership with Royal Roads University's Masters of Intercultural and International Communications program and was released this last March. Environmental Education in Our Backyard shows how wherever green space exists, or wherever we can connect with an aspect of nature, the kind of ecological literacy we need for a viable human and ecological future can happen — Environmental Education in Our Backyard demonstrates how we can learn about our place in the larger ecosystem by simply looking in our own backyards.
(Thanks to the collaboration of Victoria-based World Fisheries Trust, the Wilderness Committee, the Goldstream Nature House, and the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society for their participation in Environmental Education in Our Backyard). .
TIPS TO SUCCESS
Continuing the conversation on degrowth, we would like you to think about the difference between development and growth. Living systems and creatures develop but cannot continually grow ad infinitium. So, why the disconnect between ecological limits and economic systems? For many, it is becoming clear that 'stuff' does not equal happiness, above meeting our basic needs as defined by Maslow's scale. Take a moment to consider what enriches your life and your own personal development.
For further food for thought on this idea, take a look at this animation featuring a discussion by Jeremy Rifkin on "the empathic civilization".
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU
Share your community's story of sustainability with us.
You can share your story with on the CRC Blog or you can find us YouTube, Facebook and Twitter
Please tell us what is working and how you are overcoming barriers to make a sustainable plan a reality.
We encourage you to explore our Vitality Project and engage in our survey. Through the survey, we aim to gather your perspectives about your own community. As more users of this tool contribute information, we will be able to gain a better understanding of how communities across Canada are performing. Your contributions to the project will help us as a nation to develop a greater appreciation what makes a community thrive rather than simply survive.
Community Research Connections Newsletter
Editor: Robert Newell
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