What Does the Marion Institute and Tamara Giltsoff Have in Common? Callum Grieve is a Hero to Both of Us....
Meet Tamara Giltsoff of Abundancy Partners From transport service innovation to redesigning the economy, sustainability strategist Tamara Giltsoff always looks at the big picture.
Interview By Leonora Oppenheim
Tamara Giltsoff is a highly respected sustainability strategist who has worked for brilliantly innovative companies such as live|work in London and OzoLabs in New York. Now Tamara has teamed up with two other pioneering sustainability thinkers John Grant and Jules Peck to form Abundancy Partners, a consultancy that aims to "radically innovate and evolve our communities, businesses and other institutions... to deliver a more prosperous and sustainable way of life for all." Tamara Giltsoff will be a familiar name to many readers of Planet Green's sister site TreeHugger, as she has, in the past, been a regular contributor to the site. Tamara's writing focuses on the importance of product service systems and design systems thinking to address the critical environmental issues we all face. Tamara also contributes to PSFK. Let's find out how Tamara became a Change Maker.
How did you get into this line of work?
Undertaking a management Masters Degree in Sustainability, Responsibility and Business Practice and working at live|work , a service innovation consulting firm. There we used strategy thinking to challenge the current (product-focused) paradigm of business, and influenced early sustainable innovation pioneers such as Streetcar and UK's Dept for Transport. Sputnik was also responsible for exporting me to the US and incubating and elevating my work in this area.
When did the green bug strike?
In 2001 I was in a house fire. I was rescued from the roof by firemen, inches from death and I lost all my belongings. It was both frightening and liberating; it brought me much closer to life on earth because I nearly left it (it's a shame it takes that). It made me realize how much 'stuff' we have in our lives when actually, it's not stuff keeping us feeling alive and in love with life. I was working as a brand strategist at the time; it changed my lens on marketing and consumption. So amongst other things, I took the step to undertake the ground-breaking Masters in Sustainability program, now at Ashridge Business School.
Who is your green hero?
Can there possibly be one? Sec. of Interior, Ken Salazar, is a recent. He spoke eloquently, with a whole systems view on climate change, environment and economics at the We Can Lead event in DC. It was probably the first Senator I've heard connect the dots. The CEO's of all the companies currently leaving the Chamber of Commerce right now. Other heroes include: Rob Hopkins of Transition Towns and Transition Network for enabling a citizen role in the agenda, and driving transformation. Alex Steffen for his whole systems views on issues and radical ways of shaping the world. Callum Grieve of The Climate Group for making Climate Week NYC happen. Jordan Harris, of OZOcar and Global Green, for his continued support of my work. And John Grant and Jules Peck, my partners in Abundancy Partners.
What is your ultimate green goal?
Economics decoupled from material growth. A small one!
What is your motivation?
A deep connection to my/our planet; I can't help it. I mean don't you love the feeling of wind in your hair, sun on your back, soft river water on your naked body, and extraordinary sounds in the air? A desire to catalyze human-brilliance and radical transformation, so our generation can look back not in anger over decisions we've made in early 21st century, but with pride. I have a gut feeling I'm the girl to drive some of this in a big way. Um, there's no Plan B.
What is most important to you, ecologically speaking?
That's the point, there's no single-issue approach to this. The environment is an entire connected system; a whole ecosystem that the economy and society is dependent on, but no one part of it. It so happens climate change has star status at this point. Climate change impacts and 'Adaptation' is likely to force my point. In other words, collapsing systems (such as the bees) or changing natural resource supply (such as depleting water).
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Working within the current model of economic growth, when the reality is, in Gaylord Nelson's words, "The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around." We are a world headed towards nine billion people. What is needed is nothing short of an industrial revolution and change of worldview to rethink the perversity of limitless growth, on finite planet. After all, "What's the business case for ending life on earth?," as Ray Anderson has said.
What is the most rewarding?
The very challenge I describe above. It's the most interesting global, philosophical and economic discussion in my history. It's being part of the discussion, learning and leading that is the rewarding part, for me.
Of the people you have worked with, who impresses you most?
Anyone who can think and make or affect decisions with a connected, whole-systems approach to challenges; people prepared to rethink the system not just tinker with a part of it. Dan Barber of the Blue Hill Restaurant at Stone Barns, and many other food leaders such as Michael Pollan, have impressed me. They work with a systems view. Lately, anyone prepared to be radical, to speak the environmental and economic truth, and to move policy and the market. Though I haven't yet, I'd like to work with Pollan for exactly this reason. There is so much value to create in the transformation of sectors.
What green thing do you do everyday?
Notice, things going on in the world and around me. I cycle everywhere; it forces you to notice. It was Gill Coleman who advised me to, "Just notice, the small things going on in the world. And things will change."
What is your biggest eco-sin?
"Eco" is dead. The word put next to anything with a hyphen undermines the intent and challenge of the industrial revolution required, as I described above, because it typically indulges business as usual. It is a sin, looking back, that yes I have used that word (quite a lot actually) to describe any kind of solution to climate change, peak resources and a failing economic system. You can't eco your way out of market drivers that require revolution, not reform.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
GDP. Can you imagine; we measure ill health and environmental damage as measures of positive economic activity. President Sarkozy is on to something.
What is your best green advice?
Join the revolution. And notice.
By Callum Grieve at Greener World Media Mon Sep 20, 2010 1:00am EDT
Climate Week NYºC 2010 opened today with more than 2,000 people expected to attend the events and presentations that are focused on bringing together the world's most influential government and business leaders to discuss what it will take to unlock the financing needed to ignite a clean industrial revolution.
The Climate Group and partners that include the United Nations, the city of New York and founding sponsor Swiss Re kicked off Climate Week with an opening ceremony at the New York Public Library that drew about 300 people. (Analyses, reports and other Climate Week coverage is available at GreenBiz.com/ClimateWeek2010.)
Throughout the week international leaders in government, business and the nonprofit world will headline discussions on how best to capitalize on the progress made by cities, states, regions and corporations around the world since Climate Week NYC last year.
Participants include Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco; George Soros, chairman of Soros Fund Management LLC; and Alan Salzman, CEO and managing partner of VantagePoint Venture Partners.
Topics will include risk transfer and adaptation in developing economies, the launch of the EV20 alliance -- a group focused on speeding the deployment of electric vehicles -- and policies to stimulate the growth of emerging clean technologies.
"Climate Week NYºC 2010 provides an essential global platform to discuss the fundamental changes needed in the way we produce and consume energy," said Steve Howard, CEO of The Climate Group. "Cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050 will require investment of US$45 trillion. Financing of this magnitude will require the biggest public-private partnership of all time but will unlock a clean industrial revolution that will be good for the economy, good for jobs and good for the environment."
Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger emphasized that it was important for government to lead this dialogue with business on clean energy partnerships. "Government and business everywhere need to work together in public-private partnerships to cut emissions and be on the forefront of clean energy and clean air," Schwarzenegger said. "Much like we in California did by passing the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32), those taking part in Climate Week NYC are also taking this vital step to help unlock the critical finances, technologies and policies we need to secure new jobs and future economic growth."
The backdrop for Climate Week NYºC is once again the annual UN General Assembly, where the focus will be on progress made towards the Millennium Development Goals. Not surprisingly, addressing climate change underscores several of the most important MDG goals including global partnership, ending poverty, environmental sustainability and clean energy access for all.
This year's Climate Week NYºC activities, anchored by a series of high-level meetings, panel discussions and cultural events, will establish a context for discussions at the 2010 UN Climate Change Conference (COP16) in Cancun, Mexico later this year.
For more information, please visit: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUS335666684520100920
Tiny prayer-wheel sized wind mills, thousands of them, along our valleys, all connected to a turbine to produce electricity that can charge batteries used in electric cars. Villages along the Thimphu-Trashigang highway replace the petrol and diesel stations to supply wind-energy-powered-batteries for cars. Like replacing gas cylinders, batteries are replaced after every 100 kilometers. This can be the future village industry, where farmers produce rice, maize and energy.
This is not science fiction. The tiny wind mill idea for Bhutan is the brain child of sustainable management guru and innovator, Gunter Pauli. His ideas formed the backbone of the five-day World Congress for Zero Initiatives that ended at Honolulu, Hawaii, yesterday.
The Congress, which had CT&T, the world’s biggest producer of electric cars as a main sponsor, saw business leaders and policy makers exchanging sustainable business ideas that produce zero carbon. Education Minister Lyonpo Thakur Singh Powdyel was a key speaker at the conference. Along with Gunter Pauli, other presenters included a Swedish green architect and a voyager who uses 14th century navigation techniques.
While the conference discussed ideas that can be applied in Bhutan and gels with Gross National Happiness, it is up to local business houses to take up projects, remodel in into the local context and make it work. When Gunter Pauli was in the country earlier this year, he met with local business people. A person who observed the interaction said though many appreciated the environment-friendly ideas, they were worried about the returns from the projects.
Gunter Pauli’s ideas are unconventional, which may not readily ring a bell with the ordinary Bhutanese entrepreneur. His proposals for Bhutan included Made-in-Bhutan engine oil from pine resin; locally certified and graded mushrooms for export; fog harvesting to fight water shortage; and building materials from waste glass bottles.
But these ideas need entrepreneurs who are daring to go beyond usual business practices and have a deep ethical concern for the environment. Lyonpo Thakur Singh Powdyel’s address also reflected on the general reluctance to creatively engage with new ideas.
“I am sure, even as you explore the unlimited possibilities of wind energy, for instance, you will create room for will energy. In your search for alternative sources of energy, please allow enough space for moral energy to flow and animate your many innovations. This is the secret to sustainability,” he said yesterday.
Gunter Pauli’s ideas, elaborated in his book, Blue Economy, inspires entrepreneurs to become ‘sustain-o-preneurs’.
Despite having a unique development philosophy in GNH, Bhutan’s economic future plans have been pretty conventional. Strict environmental policies, in its focus of conservation, stifle innovative ideas. Now we pride in our conservation ideals. But prosaic policies can lead us to being branded as eco-fanatics. There is where innovation comes in.
For example, Bhutan has enough pine forests. The resin tapped from the trees without cutting it down produces turpentine, which once purified is an ideal fuel for combustion engines. This has already been experimented in Columbia and New York Times featured the innovation as a cover story last year. Resin is inflammable and makes forest fires more dangerous. So the tapping of it reduces such risks. But such a business can be helped only with policy change.
Another area of concern for Bhutan is the super-sonic speed in which the country is pursuing economic growth, the steel frame of which is standard MBA lessons.
Blinkered by modern management gimmicks, our development policy may gets caught in “inside the box” thinking. Gunter Pauli, in Blue Economy, suggests an alternative to the conventional MBA method.
He calls it Nature’s MBA: Mastery of Brilliant Adaptations. What does it mean?
Normally, if a company significantly reduces pollution, it is considered an achievement. But this “doing less bad” model is not sustainable. Blue Economy comes in here. It is about not just going green but using innovative technology to substitute what is bad for the environment.
A much publicized narrative about Bhutan’s conservation policy is the “we are sacrificing for the world”. We are punishing our industries and pushing our farmers into low-income organic methods, another argument goes. But a Blue Economy approach is different. It finds opportunities everywhere.
When we think of a resort, the image of an expensive, elite structure comes to our mind which is inaccessible to the common man. Interestingly, such high-end resort chains present themselves as the vanguards of live-close-to-nature ideals. With Bhutan pursuing its 100,000 tourists target a lot of entrepreneurs have joined the high-end resort rat race. But Blue Economy suggests an eco-cultural resort that is build in a low cost model, with competitive tariff, and reflecting the local culture of the place it is situated.
Bhutan is the right place to start sustainable innovations. Lyonpo Thakur Singh Powdyel put it in perspective when he described how students here are accepting the ‘Green Schools For Green Bhutan’ idea.
“They are looking at green schools in more than the natural sense of color,” he said.
But when it comes to fresh business practices the lead should be taken by the entrepreneur. And the biggest hurdle is the herd mentality in Bhutanese business. An idea may have worked elsewhere, but unless someone else has tested in locally, people do not dare to venture into it.
“Change is difficult. But it has to begin with an idea,” said Thinley Choden, the country director of Read Bhutan, which has associated with Gunter Pauli’s Zero Emissions Research & Initiatives.
To learn more, please visit: http://www.businessbhutan.bt/?p=2756
NCCC Atlantic Region Quarterly Newsletter - 11
October, November, December 2010
Desa Van Laarhoven served as a Corps Member in Class 8 at the Charleston campus. She is currently the Executive Director of the Marion Institute, a nonprofit organization that cultivates positive change from Marion, Massachusetts.
What experiences with NCCC impacted your life after AmeriCorps?
I think that one of the biggest things I learned was to get involved wherever you are – you can be part of the solution, you can work in any capacity, in any community. I was volunteering for a small organization in my area after NCCC, and that’s how I found the Marion Institute, where I currently work. I started volunteering for MI, helped them put on the first Bioneers by the Bay conference in 2005. Because I volunteered and they saw how I worked, they offered me a job. I definitely got the job because of the attitude instilled in me that your service is not over when you graduate NCCC. NCCC cultivates that attitude. I also found Ameri-love – my boyfriend of 8 years now. That’s one thing I wasn’t expecting!
Can you tell us about your current organization, The Marion Institute?
The Marion Institute is a member-based nonprofit that acts as an incubator to create positive change. We have about 20 projects around the world. They are very diverse, and they are all solutions to a root caused issue such as building schools, educating people around the world in HIV AIDS or computer skills, or preserving traditional, indigenous knowledge. We also have a couple of projects where we’re based in Massachusetts, including the Bioneers by the Bay conference. I am the executive director of the entire organization, so I oversee the program leaders for all these different programs.
All curriculum materials here are suitable for use in grades 9-12. Much of what is listed is free and downloadable.
Based on artist Robert Shetterly’s book, Americans Who Tell the Truth, which contains portraits and biographies of American activists. Offers curricula for middle and high school students on topics including environmental justice, political justice, and economic justice.
A non-profit group that promotes sustainable science. Provides resources, lesson plans, and experiments based on the “12 Principles of Green Chemistry.”
Website of the Center for Ecoliteracy, which looks at ecological topics such as school gardens, school lunches, and sustainability. Offers instructional resources including a high-school-level discussion guide for the documentary film, Food Inc.
Designed by and for teachers, this site offers many tools including a Global Sustainability Curriculum Finder that can be sorted by grade, subject and topic. Provides a substantial collection of free curricula, including Buy, Use, Toss?, a ten-lesson unit on producing and consuming goods that references the Annie Leonard book, The Story of Stuff.
An interfaith group that promotes environmental leadership. Offers a six-session curriculum for teenagers based on The Story of Stuff.
The Website of the Green Schools Initiative, offers curricula and activity ideas, including steps for doing environmental audits on schools. Also makes available a comprehensive Sustainability Curricula Directory.
This project is derived from the book and documentary film, No Impact Man, about one family’s efforts to live a zero-waste lifestyle in New York City. Provides five lessons on consumption, energy, food, transportation, and water.
Offers a curriculum, developed by the Pearson Foundation, based on Greg Mortensen’s book, Three Cups of Tea. Lessons are targeted for content standards in Social Studies, Language Arts, and Mathematics.
When Annie Leonard and her friends at Free Range Studios set out in 2007 to share what she’d learned about the way we make, use and throw away Stuff, they thought 50,000 views would be a good result for her ‘20-minute cartoon about trash.’ Today, with over 15 million views and counting, The Story of Stuff is one of the most watched environmental-themed online movies of all time.
Features information about a wide range of world issues such as education, human rights and sustainable food. Profiles changemakers and offers opportunities to take action.
A global community of changemakers. Provides links to form or join a group and share stories about making change. Also hosts competitions to find solutions for specific problems.
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