Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Thinking Forward

I've landed a job with Landcare Research, a top NZ environmental research organization. Much of the work that they do is scientific in nature, studying the natural environment (plants, animals, soils, etc), but they also think about how we as humans could be living our lives more sustainably. I'm working in their Sustainability and Society group.

This is all quite exciting for me because I've been spending quite a lot of time during our travels trying to explore different aspects of sustainability through reading books, interviewing people, taking courses, and just keeping my eyes wide open. My hope is to figure out a bunch of different ways of how I might be able to focus my work more into this area.

But maybe I should back up a little. The word sustainability gets thrown around a lot these days, but what does it mean? First of all, it's more than just 'environmentally friendly'. When we think about sustainability, we think about what it will take for us to live in a way that meets the needs of today's people and environment without jeopardizing that of future generations. This takes into consideration the environment, yes, but also economic and social factors.

In any case, trying to make our society more sustainable pretty much always requires change of some sort. Change in the way we think, change in the way we act, change in the systems we build... it all depends. So, my job is to help think about the best way to bring this change about. In order to do this, you need to understand the people that it would impact. By doing this, you can design ways to bring them along instead of causing more problems or contention.

The particular project I'm looking at is in the commercial building sector. How to encourage and spread the uptake of sustainable building practices. If you have ideas, or examples of people doing this well, let me know.

Here's a few photos since it's always fun to have photos in a post. They're from the Earth From Above exhibit, which was on display in cities across NZ. Check out more of Yann Arthus-Bertrand's work on his website ( )