The 13th Living Future Unconference did not fail to provide its annual re-charge with this year’s theme of Collaboration and Abundance. As always, there was a plethora of inspiration from every Plenary, “15 Minutes of Brilliance,” the many interactive sessions and the tours and workshops.
Climate Change and Social Justice
Climate change and social justice were a common thread in all presentations this year, as this group is clear that #timeisrunningout and that action from every sector is the only option. The Living Future Institute and many seasoned green warriors have been working tirelessly for years to get the message out about the reality and urgency of climate change (or whatever term works for you). This year’s conference was focused on how we can continue to collaborate on our trajectory. We are at risk for more imminent and dramatic global crises. Inequities to disadvantaged populations continue unchecked – intensifying issues of poverty, poor health, inadequate education, housing, and harmful biases.
Hope in the Midst of Trying Times
The unconference provided a respite and an abundance of spirit. We were wowed by @jamie_margolin, one of the youngest presenters for “15 Minutes of Brilliance” on the first day. At 17, Jamie is the co-founder of the #ThisIsZeroHour movement for students. She has been taking time off school each week to strike on behalf of climate change, and every weekend, she goes to a different community to talk about her vision for a better future. In her future world, climate change is not something she, her friends and their children want to have to worry about. She talks about it, writes about it, lobbies for appropriate policies, gets other students involved in it and fully expects to be successful. With her inspiring passion and confidence, she will be. She and her friends are organizing a youth climate action summit in Miami Florida on July 12 – 14. If you are nearby, you should go. Learn more at: www.thisiszerohour.org.
We had another 15 Minutes of Brilliance with Mark Chambers, Director of Sustainability for New York City (@growacity). Mark kicked off our last day describing some of the initiatives in the #GreenNewDeal announced by Mayor De Blasio to address climate change. One of these policies, now in place in New York City, mandates that buildings over 25,000 square feet cut their carbon emissions by 40% by 2030; and curtail them by 80% by 2050. While the requirement is controversial, buildings in New York City are responsible for 70% of the city’s carbon emissions. Nationally, buildings represent nearly 40% of total carbon emissions. These emissions must be reduced if we are going to prevent global temperature rise from exceeding 1.5°C (2.7°F).
There are a host of other policies in the OneNYC2050 plan that cross every aspect of life in the City. Mark said that, in developing their plan, one of the most important lessons was that “If you want people to fight alongside you, you have to fight alongside them.” In the spirit of the unconference theme of collaboration, this was a powerful message. The OneNYC2050plan is a massive undertaking, and could only have been accomplished through community engagement, collaboration and communication. It will certainly bring abundance to the city in time. If you have been to NYC recently, you can feel a new energy related to this plan and can feel their sustainability and equity efforts taking root. The strategy to “building a strong and fair city” weaves a set of actions to address climate, equity and social issues into an extraordinarily comprehensive strategic plan. The topics within the plan range from housing to jobs to education, health care and voting rights. Take the time to look at it to appreciate the effort and thoughtfulness that went into its development and creation.
The Power of Collaboration
Author and green warrior Bill McKibben gave an amazing opening plenary about his experience with the power of collaboration. Bill described the history of his organization, 350.org. The term “350” means 350 parts per million — the safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In 2008, CO2 levels were already 358 ppm. We are currently around 410 ppm. Bill and his colleagues decided that they had to do something about the climate crisis, and they had to do it immediately! He and a group of interns and university friends divided up the seven continents, one per person, and began to “get the word out.” They emailed individuals on each continent and asked if they would help them promote the problem with “350.” They were told that they could do it however they chose. Visit the website to see the results! After that simple task, he and his friends wrote a book on global warming, and now there are several in print.
Outstanding Leadership in Environmental Causes
On the second day of the unconference, former Irish President, Mary Robinson did not fail to impress or keep us inspired. Ms. Robinson has been a green warrior for decades, and has been a member of the global Council of Elders, founded by Nelson Mandela, since 2007. This groupprovides guidance on peacemaking and human rights. Ms. Robinson said all countries must be committed to doing what they can to sustain the planet – and countries whose use of fossil fuels is impacting other countries must do what is right to change their dependence; and maintain the agreements to keep the world below 2°C of warming (remember our magic number?). This is the temperature considered ‘safe’ by scientists. We are nearing that mark today, so we are not safe. Learn more about her work now at the Mary Robinson Climate Justice foundation. Also, read this report on cities that are doing the most to address climate issues here: Cities doing the most to combat global warming.
During the Q&A, former President Robinson was asked by a young high school student in the audience how to respond to friends who did not believe him when he talked about climate change, and how not to be discouraged in the face of doubt. She challenged him to keep going by reminding him of the life, hardship and work of Archbishop Tutu. Sharing a story, she told of when Archbishop Tutu was asked by a reporter why he was such an optimist, he responded, “I am not an optimist, I’m a prisoner of hope.” As a prisoner of hope, you have no choice but to work for a better future. After her presentation, Ms. Robinson, leaving the hall, came specifically to the young man who had asked the question and shook his hand. It was a beautiful and touching gesture, and one I know he will not soon forget.
Moving Forward to a Better Future Together
Many sessions were specifically focused on collaboration exercises and showcased different strategies for working with diverse communities to take on elusive challenges – whether a particular part of a project, a design issue, or a big topic, such as housing the homeless in a community. These techniques were helpful in focusing on shared foundational ideals first, clarifying needs, sharing ideas, asking questions, and formulating solutions together. This is the kind of activity that makes the Living Future unconference so unique and special – engaging with a diverse group of people who are focused on making positive, constructive change in and for our larger environment.
At Doo Consulting, we remain prisoners of hope. We recognize that there are financial imperatives for every project. But, there are also opportunities. Through collaboration, we seek to find beneficial solutions for our clients and owners.