Tuesday, November 27, 2007

ICEE: A Feast of Wisdom

Unless you change the direction you are going, you may end up where you were going in the first place. –Chinese Proverb

Yesterday was the fourth day at the ICEE conference and we have heard from several eloquent speakers and leaders urging everyone to take action and change our direction. Below are some selected observations from the sessions I have attended so far:

Learning Systems for Sustainable Development by Prof. Gunter Pauli

Gunter is the founder and director of the Zero Emissions Research Initiative (ZERI) of the United Nations and his working session started with learning how to first heal our own body before venturing out to heal the planet. He talked about the work ZERI does with education systems across the globe where he works with children and educators in looking at the way we live differently. His organization uses fables to educate children on radical ideas of sustainability through four areas: science, art, eco-literacy and building an emotional connection. He stressed how we need to offer the youth the right tools and knowledge today so they can be empowered to make and create things better tomorrow. He shared actual models of sustainable architecture that ZERI has helped implement in developing countries as he believes we can learn from nature (bio-mimicry: termite hills and zebras) and turn those lessons into action.

The ZERI fables passes on the knowledge from nature and biology to children through story-telling as he believes it’s been one of the most successful ways of passing on knowledge through the ages.

Gunter Pauli will be visiting San Francisco in the second week of December and was very keen to drop by the Crissy Field Center and spend some time with the kids sharing his ZERI fables.

Addressing Climate Change Concerns by Sunita Narain

Director of the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi, Sunita delivered an impassioned speech about climate injustice in the world. She termed all the rhetoric on climate change as the “dialogue of the deaf” and urged everyone to make the effort to reinvent this world so we can all survive. She reiterated that climate change will only be possible if there is a joint effort by all the countries in the world as we all have only one planet and everything is linked now. Her main message was how world citizens and leaders need to share the ecological and economic space in the world. She also brought up the point that she doesn’t believe technology will solve all the environment problems entirely—“efficiency is not the answer, sufficiency is.” Her words complemented the thoughts of Jaime Cloud, president of The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education in New York, who talked about how we need to avoid falling into the "confidence trap" where everyone believes that someone else or technology will solve the problems and we don’t need to get involved.

I spoke to Sunita very briefly after her talk and mentioned that our team will be traveling to New Delhi in a week and we would love to visit her organization and she encouraged us to drop by if we can match our schedules.

Cheryl Charles, president of Children & Nature Network has worked with Richard Louv (author of Last Child in the Woods) and presented her model of The Ecology of Hope, which consists of four parts:
1. Reconnect or connect to nature
2. Care for communities
3. Design for life
4. Nourish a planetary perspective

She is visiting San Francisco in January and was very keen to drop by the Conservancy and Crissy Field Center.

Natarajan Ishwaran, Director of the Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences, UNESCO talked about his work with biosphere reserves and world heritage sites. He urged everyone to think of restructuring our traditional spaces to become future learning areas and take the ancient knowledge from our cultures to the modern world. He said some of the things the UN looks for in their designated biosphere reserve sites are efforts to prevent the loss of biodiversity, connect people to the land and be a green laboratory.

After his presentation, I spoke to him at length about the Institute at the Golden Gate and he was very excited about our efforts and asked us to contact him with more information.

Overall thoughts:
• We need to focus on the four Es:
i. Ecology
ii. Economy
iii. Energy and
iv. Ethics.
• We have run out of time to talk about things and we all need to make drastic changes to be able to save the planet.
• Regional Centers of Expertise: We need to create a network of institutes that will promote global learning.
• The intersection of economic, social and environmental justice all have to work together now.
• “If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. If you teach him how to fish…he will over fish.” We need to teach in harmony with nature now.
• Let us educate ourselves through practice.
• “Learn to put the last first.”—Mahatma Gandhi
• We are all a part of the problem so we all need to work to demonstrate that we are all part of the solution.
• It is NOT enough just to protect the environment any more; we have to regenerate as well.
• How the developed and developing world shares resources is at the heart of how world economics will develop in the future.
• We are at a critical point in our efforts to stall the effects of climate change and have a window of five to seven years to make meaningful change.—R.K. Pachauri, director-general, The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 2007 with Al Gore.
• To bring about the change everyone is talking about we have to start educating children and communities at the local level and keep expanding our efforts till we reach the international level.
• Don’t tell people what to do as people react negatively to dictated ideas. Learn from one of the greatest teachers in history, Socrates, and answer questions with questions.
• To use Gandhi’s model of generating strong brand ambassadors in every community in India that helped take India’s freedom struggle against the British to critical mass, we too need to create venues and opportunities that will allow people to network and join hands before fanning out in their communities to spread the word.
• Organize learning and cross-sector dialogue around a common vision instead of focusing on all the problems the Earth faces today. Let’s focus on the optimistic instead of the pessimistic.
• We need to look at traditional environmental knowledge sources present in different cultures across the world to start framing our sustainable development plans for the future. For centuries, humans had lived in harmony with nature without destabilizing the ecological balance of the planet. Let us combine the traditional with the modern, the artistic with the scientific.
• Almost 95 percent of our learning happens outside formal education systems and we need to ask organizations and companies to open up their resources and become learning zones so both children and adults can learn from the school of life.
• We need to be the change we want to be by living our sustainable lifestyle visions.

I would like to end with a quote Gunter Pauli made after his working session, “If at the end of this conference you have no dreams, you must have been asleep.”

No comments: