Our World 2.0 trailer

At the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum on Wednesday, we will be screening this 1 minute Our World 2.0 trailer, together with some stories from Our World 2.0. This year’s forum is focusing on the role of the media towards climate change issues.

by Citt Williams on June 19, 2010 - Comments (01)  

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)  

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)  

Videobriefs in Central Asia

Powering the Pamir Mountains - still from documentary video
In the last months the Media Studio team has been exploring the mountains and valleys of Central Asia to produce a series of videobriefs dealing with energy, land management and climate change issues.

Two of the videobriefs are part of the activities of the Sustainable Land Management in the High Pamir and Pamir-Alai Mountains (PALM) project, a United Nations initiative to support the communities of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in the conservation of their environment during their  difficult transition from the Soviet Union into the globalized economy.

The videobrief on Tajikistan traces the problems people face to access energy on the Eastern Pamir mountains after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The high cost of heating and cooking fuel has prompted people here to massively uproot the few shrubs that grow in this high altitude environment, severely degrading the land and drastically reducing its capacity to feed domestic and wild animals.

The videobrief on Kyrgyzstan show the changes in the use of land of Kyrgyz herders after Independence in 1991, which have led to increasing numbers of livestock which in turn is degrading the land, threatening its ability to feed the animals the people here depends on.
It also shows Kyrgyz, Tajik and UN experts and officials  as they try to bring in solutions to the situation.

The videobriefs were shown on October 5 in a PALM project meeting to a group of Kyrgyz, Tajik and UN researchers and officials in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where they were well received. The videobrief on Tajikistan was particularly shocking to participants, as although they were aware of the situation they did not know to what extent the lives of people were being affected by lack of access to energy sources.

The two videobriefs will be soon published in UNU’s webmagazine Our World 2.0

by luis on October 14, 2009 - Comments (01)  

Need to know about biodiversity

” We cannot think of having a stable society on this planet, if the biological matrix that sustains us is broken.”

Last week, we had a visit from distinguished Mexican Professor José Sarukhán Kermez from the Institute of Ecology, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and also the Co-ordinator of the National Committee on the Study and Conservation of Biodiversity [Mexico].

In a down-to-earth manner, the professor helped us understand the incredible importance of biodiversity regarding sustenance, climate change, current agricultural systems and the future. After our interview, Professor Sarukhan visited GEIC where he met with several of our specialist researchers and then later delivered a lecture at the UNU entitled “Mexico: The Privileges and Challenges of a Megadiverse Country.”

For more information, please visit UNU’s biodiversity page.

by Citt Williams on May 26, 2009 - Comments (00)  

Leading visions on Climate Change

Over the last couple of months we have been doing quite a lot of work on Climate Change. A recent UNU symposium “Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Time of Climate Change” brought together some of the world’s leading scientists and writers on environmental issues, including ground breaking thinkers whose work and research are at the intersection of science, policy making and communications. The symposium invited them to examine how our thinking needs to change if we are to collectively take on the myriad challenges presented by global warming.

The Media Studio was lucky enough to interview several of the speakers throughout the day and the resulting videos offer an insightful, and at times confronting, perspective on current Climate Change dialogues.
The below interviews embedded in the neat new vimeo gallery player include:

Dr. James E. Hansen from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, USA
Prof. Gwyn Prins, Director of the Mackinder Centre at the London Schools of Economic and Political Science, UK
Prof David Sanborn Scott, from the University of Victoria, Canada
Dr. Alex Evans, Centre on International Cooperation, New York University, USA
Ted Nordhaus, Chairman, Breakthrough Institute, USA
Prof. Shuzo Nishioka, Senior Advisor, National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan
David Steven, Managing Director, River Path Associates, UK

by Citt Williams on October 10, 2008 - Comments (01)  

psstt….350….spread it on

With global warming and climate change currently generating one of the most vigourous of global debates, there are a lot of mixed messages and information out there to digest.

Somehow cutting through the clutter, we came across this simple non-verbal animation from 350.org. We hope you’ll agree 350 is a number really worth spreading.






by Citt Williams on September 3, 2008 - Comments (00)  

Podcast Series

There have been some big developments over the past couple of weeks. First of all, we have set up a YouTube Channel that can be used by anyone in the UNU to share their video content. Second, we have set up an account with Tube Mogul that enable the UNU to distribute videos to a number of video portals. The idea is to place UNU videos where the audience actually is, rather than hoping people will discover them on our websites.

Third, Citt and Koari have just completed a series of seven podcasts for the UNU Priority Africa project. You can see them on the UNU Youtube Channel and they will be accessible via the UNU main website. An sample video, hosted on Vimoe, is included below to give you a better idea of the themes covered.


PRIORITY AFRICA – Climate Change from UNUChannel on Vimeo.

by Brendan Barrett on July 9, 2008 - Comments (00)  

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