Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Natural Step Canada - 2011 Sustainability Courses

For all of our Canadian friends, check-out the upcoming courses being offered by The Natural Step Canada:

Sustainability for Leaders Course - Level 1: Foundations

Sustainability for Leaders Course - Level 2: Practitioners

  • Banff, AB July 11-13, 2011 (in-person session)

Integrated Community Sustainability Planning Course

All the information can be found here.

Of particular interest, the Level 2 course will be offered for the first time!  This will be led by Chad Park and Pong Leung, two principal advisors and two of the founders of TNS Canada.  They each have a wealth of experience applying the framework in various settings, and I recommend checking it out if you’re looking for professional development specifically linked to application of the Framework.

For more information, please contact Kim Larocque at or 613.748.3001 x228.

Stay going. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wal-Mart & the Green Death Star

People often think sustainability is just about the environment.  The picture below is probably one of the best illustrations of why social sustainability is really at the heart of the matter.  It's not about "saving the planet" - it's about saving the humans, and recognizing that a healthy, vibrant, resilient biosphere is a prerequisite for a thriving human society.

We need to ensure ecological sustainability if we are to achieve social sustainability; but if we if systematically undermine our social sustainability, it doesn't really matter if we achieve ecological sustainability  (in terms of creating a sustainable human society; I'd argue it still matters given the inherent value living systems, human or not).  Running the Death Star on solar power doesn't do much to help the light side.

Renewable Power of Destruction
Photo credit: Stéfan Le Dû 
Wal-Mart is again running into this conundrum in the real world.  A class action lawsuit, Dukes v. Walmart goes to the Supreme Court today to see if the class certification stands, which would make it the largest in history - 1.6 million women claiming gender discrimination.  Regardless of the outcome, the damage has been done (for both the employees and the WMT brand).  It's another example of Wal-Mart hitting the funnel walls - like it has time and again due to its labor practices and community impacts.

Wal-Mart has great "sustainability" goals - and due to its sheer size and influence, has done an incredible amount to drive positive ecological solutions - but their sustainability goals are environmental, and don't sufficiently integrate social impacts.  A concerted effort on social sustainability by Wal-Mart - supporting fair labor practices, fair trade practices, healthy living products, and local economies - could have a huge positive impact globally, much the same way their environmental goals are.  I'm not convinced the big-box business model could ever be truly sustainable without a radical rethinking, but I certainly commend their efforts to move that direction.  I hope they continue to do so, and focus more on social sustainability.  Hopefully this class action suit will help make that happen.

Stay going.

Monday, March 28, 2011

7 Billion

National Geographic is running a series on population this year, as we're expected to top 7 billion by the end of 2011.  Clearly population is a big factor in sustainability.  Population growth, and the increased consumption, demand, and stress on natural systems that comes with it is a fundamental driver of the funnel metaphor.  Some people get too caught up on population and want to treat it as the only driver.  It's not - for some of the reasons highlighted in the video below.

In sustainability-academia, one of the classic formulas for representing the interplay of major drivers is the IPAT equation: Impact = Population * Affluence * Technology.  (this equation has some limitations, but is a helpful way of conceptualizing the interplay between some of these major drivers).

I'm looking forward to National Geographic's coverage on this - and think these two videos do a great job relaying some sense of the scale of our population, and some of the expected demographic trends:

Stay going.