“Ideas For A Cooler World” – Covering climate protection and possible solutions

Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum

Melting ice caps, catastrophic hurricanes, floods and drought plunging entire regions into crisis: these are the drastic images usually conveyed by the media. What we hardly hear about is what is actually being done to halt and adapt to global warming.

Media representatives from around the world, high-profile experts of governmental and non-governmental organisations, politicians, artists, entrepreneurs and scientists will sit around the same table at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum. A simple philosophy drives this initiative: Those working on the future have to think in networks – and in global dimensions.

Deutsche Welle GLOBAL IDEAS will host a Workshop at the Global Media Forum about the best practices and solutions from around the world how to adapt with climate change. As part of the United Nation University we are very much delighted to represent the Our World 2.0 webzine in this workshop.

The Workshop will be held on 23 June 2010 – 11.00 a.m. in Room Aeltestenrat

Manuela Kasper-Claridge, head of the Business Department and responsible for the special coverage of climate issues at DW-TV, and Brendan Barrett, Head of United Nations University Media Studio will explore the challenges facing the media in covering climate protection and raise the following questions:

* Why does current media coverage focus mainly on the negative impacts of climate change rather than on ways to deal with it?
* Is it difficult to report on climate change in a pro-active manner?
* What role should the media play in the future?
* To what extent can this influence public opinion and motivate people to become involved?
* How can a global network be built to promote collaboration on the climate front?

Find more information on the site of the  Global Media Forum.

by Stephan Schmidt on June 3, 2010 - Comments (00)  

The (limited) power of consumers

Today’s forum on ‘Green Lifestyles and the Powers of Consumers’ was the most engaging of the 2-day conference: The Great Transformation – Greening the Economy. The panel, including the Executive Director of the Forest Stewardship Council Andre de Freitas and a well-known member of the German parliament, discussed the extent to which people’s buying habits can change unsustainable production.

As soon as you talk about what we eat, wear and use, and where it comes from, people tend to take notice and want to have their say. The audience was keen to know how they could change their buying habits in the name of a better world.

Yet, consumers’ (or citizens’ as many prefer) preferences to be green are undermined by an over-supply of information and an under-supply of time. There are several surveys out there that indicate that people would like to buy products that are more sustainable, organic or fair-trade. But, as illustrated by this recent one in Britain for sustainable seafood cleverly entitled ‘The Which?‘, people are bombarded by confusing labels.

Furthermore, every type of product e.g. seafood, coffee, timber has different certification and labeling standards meaning that you need to recognise many organisations and ratings systems.

“People don’t want to deal with these issues 24 hours a day” said German Greens and Bundestag member Bärbel Höhn.

“Consumers are too busy with their lives and their kids”.

What is the true value of a label?

What is the true value of a label?

The session, however, did not provide simple answers – in fact, to the contrary, the panel illustrated that shades of gray and contradictions pepper the debate on ‘ethical consumer’ issues. Simplistic slogans that say ‘boycott this’ or ‘only buy that’, although appealing, may not always make a positive difference on the ground.

One audience member suggested that we could reduce our environmental impacts by avoiding favoured products like coffee, chocolate and bananas,  rather than trusting long and poorly governed supply chains to deliver fair trade and organic products.

But de Freitas cautioned against complete boycotts of product which are known to have negative impacts.

“The boycott of tropical rainforest products in the early 1980s resulted in more deforestation because the timber became less valuable and people switched to raising cattle”.

“The world is far too complex to make those assumptions,” he said.

It seems impossible to know with 100% certainty that you are supporting sustainable primary producers in the developing world obtain a fair price for their work. de Freitas and others working to encourage large companies to be socially responsible don’t have any illusions about the shortcomings of voluntary standards. Although far from a great transformation, maybe there is value in labeling as a first step in the evolution of a better system.


Here are some thoughts and observations I took away from the conference, in no particular order:

- Credibility counts: it helps to have conference organisers who are green in name and deed, not to mention professional. Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung provided a green building and seasonal, local, vegetarian food (although the provision of bottled water instead of tap water seemed unnecessary).

- Bigger is not always better: it might seem obvious but usually representatives of current governments and executive members of organisations make the least original contributions to the debate, either because they have more at stake or less time to prepare something new to say.

- Global green: if a global movement for climate change is needed, as several speakers like Jerome Ringo called for, then surely language matters. Global climate advocacy seems to be so Anglo-American centric and some ideas don’t translate well, even into a related language like German. Still, Avaaz and others do their best to provide different terminologies, but without volunteers this can be costly.

- Growth pains: even the experts had trouble articulating what sustainable or progressive growth is. There seem to be many competing ideas our there and this has made it easier for societies to preference the economic devil we know.

Check out Our World 2.0 in the next couple of weeks for more detailed stories on innovative solutions presented at the conference.

by Mark Notaras on May 31, 2010 - Comments (00)  

Buildings speak louder than words

On the first morning of The Great Transformation – Greening the Economy conference, Alliance 90/Greens Bundestag member Renate Künast was passionately calling for reduced electricity use when she was rudely interrupted.

However, she was not cut short mid-sentence by her fellow panelist, an impatient chairperson or an overexcited audience.

Rather, ironically, it was a few seconds of noise from the Heinrich Böll Stiftung’s (HBS) new open-plan office building itself. A remotely controlled curtain was released in order to allow the full morning light to enter the large auditorium through a long glass-paneled wall. No doubt deliberately timed with the curtain, specially located windows also opened to let the fresh outside air into the room.

According to HBS, the concept behind the building follows three basic principles:
• Intelligent systems with as little equipment as possible that save resources and keep down installation and operating costs.
• Energy is not lost until it leaves the building. Waste heat is recycled in an innovative manner.
• Ventilation and cooling are as natural as possible and give users maximum control.

In quantitative terms, the building consumes 55.7 kilowatt hours of energy/metre squared while the solar system on the roof generates 53 000 kWh of energy every year which is fed into the heating system.

The large auditorium at the new Heinrich Böll Stiftung building

The large auditorium at the new Heinrich Böll Stiftung building

Something harder to measure, but equally important, is how building design can enhance people’s quality of life. Nobody likes to be stuck inside on a nice day, let alone for a conference. But this conference has been all the more enjoyable because of the natural light and air coming in.

Of course it helps to have a view of a beautiful city like Berlin. Still, the principle of limiting our separation from the natural environment through building design can be universal. Furthermore, money can easily be saved in the long term through energy savings.

(Photo by Stephan Röhl).

Renewable returns

The same principle applies for the renewable energy industry where the earlier you invest, the more you will make in return.

In the ‘Towards 100% Renewables’ forum, Martin Rocholl, Policy Director for the European Climate Foundation spoke enthusiastically about ‘Roadmap 2050’.

Using modeling projections for future energy use and pricing, this new study claims that the European Union can plausibly achieve an 80% emissions reduction target by 2050.

According to Rocholl, a former director of Friends of the Earth Europe, some of the typical arguments against renewables are debunked by the research. These include claims that renewables are not cost effective or a reliable and continuing source of energy. Rocholl and supporters on the panel stressed the study’s backing by several large European energy providers.

Values must change

It may be just one building but HBS is walking the walk and setting an example for other organizations still talking the talk. Real change has to begin at home.

This was a theme echoed by many speakers and audience members throughout the day including Künast. Her approach is that a real transformation is needed in the West, where “people are living off the cost of others”.

She was unapologetic in saying that for most of the people in room, predominantly from Germany and other European countries, climate change is not yet an existential threat.

“People are doing add-on green elements but this is not a transformation.”

“The EU has to determine what it wants to be in 20 years time, not just economically but also socially…whether or not financial markets should be primary policy or whether 100% energy renewable should be the target,” says Künast.

For a truly great green transformation to take place “the values we live with have to change.”

by Mark Notaras on May 29, 2010 - Comments (01)  

Our World 2.0 videobriefs screening in Moscow

To follow on from the previous post… an invite has been extended for 3 of the Our World 2.0 Indigenous climate films to screen in Moscow at the H20 film festival from the 27-30th May, 2010. I think our traditional knowledge films will be screening on the Friday night (28th May) around 7:30pm. For more information check out the festival’s site: http://www.kino35mm.ru/

I also found a short Moscow times article listing the 4 day program. After finally finishing the Russian subtitles for these beauties, oh, how I wish we could be there to cheer everybody’s stories along! Raaaaa!!!!!

by Citt Williams on May 25, 2010 - Comments (00)  

Our World 2.0 selected to blog “The Great Transformation”

United Nations University’s Our World 2.0 web-magazine has been selected as the official blog site for a major international conference on a global green new deal.

“The Great Transformation – Greening the Economy”, brings together German and world leaders from government, industry and civil society and will be held in Berlin, Germany, on May 28 & 29. The conference is a joint initiative of German political foundations the Heinrich Böll Stiftung and Stiftung Mercator, as well as the Center for American Progress.

The aim of the conference, in the wake of the failure of last year’s COP15, is to discuss how the world can transition away from unsustainable fossil fuels and towards a ‘low carbon society’. Two vital topics will be focused on by the participants: firstly, ’smart policies’ that guide and regulate changes in economic and energy policy; and secondly, ’smart technologies’ that can kick-start an ecological turnaround for a declining planet.

Of particular interest to the Our World 2.0 community will be the session on Social Media and Climate Change. While development of technology to mitigate and adapt to climate change is important, the real challenge is to communicate the benefits of environmental change to greennewdeal_logo290the public, especially through the internet.

More information on “The Great Transformation” including the conference programme can be found here. Keep an eye on Our World 2.0 for reports and interviews from the event.

by Mark Notaras on May 14, 2010 - Comments (01)  

A new documentary on biodiversity in Kanazawa city

UNU Media Studio is working on a new documentary to portray 4 seasons in Kanazawa city.  The documentary theme is biodiversity in city environement. People do not usually connect city and biodiversity, and that’s very natural.   Therefore, it’s a challenging theme for a documentary.  However, Kanazawa is a city with diverse landscape.  It has deep mountains to ocean in the small city boundary. That help the residents to enjoy diverse plants and insects, birds and animals to live around them and shows up depending on the season.

It is a Kanazawa city’s project to make this documentary to celebrate UN International year of biodiversity, especially because the closing event will be held in Kanazawa this December.

Media Studio usually use HDV cameras, which is good for documentary shoots with small crew travels all over the world.  However, for this project, we decided to use Red One camera, partly because we are working with a cinematographer who is experienced in Red shoot and owns one.

To illustrate the quality of the camera it can bring, I put together a short video.  David from Media Studio did a Quick color correction, but not too much has done yet.  I’m not sure if this is a good example of Red footage, but since there hasn’t many documentary shot on Red in Japan(I think) it might be a good example.

by Kaori Brand on May 10, 2010 - Comments (00)  

3 traditional knowledge climate films selected for Australian human rights festival

The Media Studio recently received news that three Our World 2.0 short documentaries “Land has Breath”, “The Forbidden Forest of the Dayak”, and “Fighting Carbon with Fire” have been selected to screen in 5 cities across Australia, as a part of the Human Rights and Arts Film Festival 2010.

These community collaborations which carry important Indigenous climate change perspectives, will be screening in the festival’s “Reel Change – Climate Change shorts” program.  Other films in the line-up include the resounding short film “The Water Diary” directed by Jane Campion (The Piano), which premiered at Cannes Film festival 2006.

Check festival website for full program with specific venue dates/times.

PERTH 15 MAY – 23 MAY.

by Citt Williams on April 26, 2010 - Comments (03)  

Earth Day presenation at the Apple Store

Kaori and I present at the Apple Store in Shibuya

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, Kaori Brand and
I presented the Our World 2.0 webmagazine at the Apple Store in
We guided the audience on an hour tour of the Our World 2.0
manual for the new world operating system and presented four of our video briefs.

We also described our filmmaking process—from initial research to the
challenges of producing in the field, and finally to how we work on
Mac computers and Apple’s Final Cut Studio for our post-production
By the end of the presentation, a sizable crowd had gathered and all
in all we felt the presentation was a success.  Afterward, the team
took a leisurely stroll through the Earth Day celebrations happening
at the nearby Yoyogi Koen.


Team UNU Media Studio at the Apple Store

Team UNU Media Studio at the Apple Store

by Megumi on April 22, 2010 - Comments (00)  

Our World 2.0 at Pecha Kucha Night Tokyo

Pecha Kucha, pronounced ”pe-chak-cha”,is the Japanese word for the sound of
conversation. The equivalent term in English is “chit-chat”. 7 years ago, Astrid Klein
and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham Architecture created the event “Pecha Kucha” as a
place where young designerscan network and present their work for the public for free.

Now a global phenomenon, these Pechakucha events are held in nearly 300 cities worldwide.

Wednesday last week, Megumi Nishikura and Stephan Schmidt from the UNU Media Studio
presented the OurWorld 2.0 web magazine at Pecha Kucha Night Vol.71
at Roppongi’s Super Deluxe.


The rules for Pecha Kucha are simple: Present your idea, work or thoughts visually
in a 20×20 format. This means you have present your ideas in 20 slides, each lasting
for 20 seconds.

As the first presenters of the evening, Megumi and Stephan captivated the attention
of the 300 plus attendants. We’d like share the presentation with you, please enjoy
including the original sound.

by Stephan Schmidt on April 5, 2010 - Comments (01)  

Transition to a low carbon, post-fossil fuel future

This is a presentation that I made to researchers at the UNU-Institute on Sustainability and Peace. It reflects the rationale behind the Our World 2.0 webzine – i.e. we need to upgrade the operating system for this world of ours.

The presentation is very much work in progress and focuses on how we can solve the two pressing global challenges of climate change and peak oil. It is a positive presentation, pointing to the work of people who believe that we can overcome these challenges and who argue that the resulting world would be a better place. However, the transformation is massive and some may feel that politically these changes are infeasible.

Please take a look at the slideshow below.

by Brendan Barrett on March 28, 2010 - Comments (00)  

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