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Friday, October 29, 2010

Chasing the wrong energy villain

Here we go again – boom and bust in the clean-tech sector. NSW Premier Kristina Keneally declared herself to be judge and jury in the case of rising energy prices and, urged on by a baying mob from the tabloid media and talkback radio, promptly shot the wrong villain.

See full article at

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Difference Between Caring And Prioritising

"People care about a lot of things. Family, friends, health, the environment, having fun. If we were to ask just about anyone if they place importance on any one of those things, the answer is likely to be a resounding “yes”. Therefore, when it comes to the environment, it is easy to say “yes, environmental issues are important to me”. And we probably mean it. However, the reason that many voluntary environmental behaviours appear to have such slow uptake, compared to the concern expressed by the public, is that they often require sustainability to be prioritised over some other consideration.
Every decision requires, by definition, some kind of prioritisation process. Do we stay home and study, or go out and party? Do we choose the quick route or the scenic one? Decisions concerning the environment are no different. Do we buy the cheap one or the local one? Do we choose the speed of a car or the eco benefits of the train? The benefits represented by the various choices are all valid to us at some level. Nobody likes to waste time or money. Hence, the futility of gauging the importance of environmental issues by asking people to “rate how concerned you are about the environment”.
Several studies have done just that, and by and large the results show that people do care about the environment. A 2008 McKinsey survey found that “87 percent of consumers worry about the environmental and social impact of the products they buy”. In 2010, the Australian Food & Grocery Council (AFGC) found “80% report that they are actually thinking about environmental issues when shopping”. Taken on their own, these numbers suggest that people are overwhelmingly in support of environmental initiatives. However, when it comes to actually doing something about it, people are reluctant to go out of their way. The McKinsey study found that no more than 33% of the consumers in the survey say they are ready to buy green products or have already done so. In the AFGC research, 13% of shoppers reported that they had purchased a product “just now” because of its environmental features.
So, what goes wrong? What explains the gap between 80%-plus concern and action as low as 13%. The answer could well lie in the realm of priorities and values. Although the AGFC survey found that 80% of people were thinking of green issues, we would probably find at least as many were thinking of price, quality, convenience etc. In other words, thinking about an issue is different to making a decision based on that issue above all others.
The gap between overall concern and priority is demonstrated by the findings of research into Americans views of the top priorities for the federal government. Almost half (44%) of those surveyed believed that environmental protection should be a “top priority” for 2010. However, this ranks the issue as 16th out of 21 issues surveyed, well below the economy, military and terrorism. The issue of global warming came dead last.
So, what do people value? Analysis of 500 responses to the MVQ, a values questionnaire created by Awake, shows that on average people allocate 66 points to the environmental value, out of a potential total of 100 points. This places environment as 19th out of 22 values measured. The top 5 values people report are insight, integrity, independence, family and fairness. So, while people would probably say the environment is important to them, there are 18 other more important things competing for their attention.
Back to the AGFC survey mentioned above. When it comes to prioritising environmental factors, only 14% of respondents said they are willing to compromise on cost, while a mere 6% will compromise on convenience. However you look at it, that makes it a tall order to convince people to pay a bit more for locally sourced, less processed products.
It is for this reason that our job as sustainability promoters is not to get people to care more, it is to get them to act more. It is unlikely that we will have much impact if we set out to change peoples values, by moving environment up the values ranking. For a start, we would have to consider the question of which values would we like to see moved down the priority list. Family? Integrity? It seems more promising to demonstrate how the eco-friendly option can meet the values people do hold strongly, so they are not forced to compromise on things dear to their heart. So it is worth considering, for instance, how can the green option meet the Family value (a cleaner, greener future?), or the Integrity value (match my actions to my environmental concerns?).
The more we can demonstrate to people that green choice will benefit them, not just the environment, the more likely it is that they will be prepared to make it a priority".

"Exercise of the Month – The Art Of Prioritise

We often talk about our intention to make something our priority in the future. Unless we are able to increase the overall time and resources we have available to us, any increase in priority in one area of our lives needs to be accompanied by a reduction in the priority given to another area.
1. List 3 things that you are planning to make a priority in the next 12 month (e.g., getting fit, saving money, getting into nature more)
2. For each of those priorities, what do you need to place a lower priority on? (e.g. Partying, watching TV, working extra hours at the office)
Deciding what we are going to make a priority is only half the job – we also need to be explicit about what we are going to invest less of our personal resources in. Next time you hear someone (especially a politician) talk about making something a priority, try asking them what they are going to de-prioritise!"

Source: Awake
Awake provides psychology-based services to support the development of sustainable behaviour in individuals, groups and organisations. Visit for more info

To find more articles in this blog from Awake click on the 'Behaviour Change for Sustainability' tab.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Quote of the Day

A quote from my Sustainable Consumption research:

"if in our personal lives we are unsustainable, then we cannot be resilient as a community or a society,let alone globally. Too many people are under major stress these days, with depression, diabetes, obesity, retrenchment, bankruptcy, rug and alcohol abuse and various forms of rage (air rage, phone rage, road rage etc.) growing exponentially. We also have few positive role models to help us lately. The environment, the actual place within which we live, is itself being degraded and/or changed rapidly too often. These are signs of a socio-ecological system under siege. Many choose denial as well as withdrawal for temporary mental respite, according to ecopyschologists (see Glendinning, 1994). In our separation from nature (and each other), a decline in a more personal and spiritual relationship with the Earth, as well as a loving relationship with others, both of which can nurture us, is occurring (see Glacken, 1967; Hamilton, 2008)."

Source: Hay, Robert (2010) The Relevance of Ecocentrism, Personal Development and Transformational Leadership to Sustainability and Identity, Sustainable Development 18:169.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Quote of the Day

A quote from my sustainable consumption research:

"The vulnerability of voluntary changes is a key problem. In the case of both green and ethical consumption, most corporations only responded to public pressure when their reputations or sales were at stake, thanks to activist groups such as Corporate Watch and Ethical Consumer. While consumer demand may be the carrot, it is high-profile and potentially damaging media reports into the less palatable aspects of firms’ activities which provide the very necessary stick to prompt changes in corporate behaviour (Pearson & Seyfang, 2001). Even these voluntary changes are vulnerable to erosion and shifting trends. In the UK, Littlewoods clothing stores were a major participant in the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), but a change of management led to its withdrawal from the ETI and its ethical trading team being closed down, as corporate responsibility was not seen as an important issue to consumers (ETI, 2003). Green consumerism was a trend during the
early 1990s, but as a result of changes in consumer preference during the 1990s,
sales of ‘green’ ranges of products fell and many supermarket own-brand ranges of ‘green’ cleaning products, for example, were discontinued (Childs & Whiting, 1998). These examples suggest that the social or environmental improvements made as a response to consumer pressure have been rescinded as attention shifted, rather than taken up as new minimum standards, and that ‘left to their own devices, transnational corporations] are likely to fulfil their responsibilities in a minimalist and fragmentary fashion . . . they still need strong and effective regulation and a coherent response from civil society’(UNRISD, 2000: 90)."

Source: Seyfang, Gill(2005) 'Shopping for Sustainability: Can Sustainable Consumption Promote Ecological Citizenship?', Environmental Politics, 14(2): 296

Friday, October 8, 2010

Events and workshops

S.O.L.E fair (Sustainable, Organic, Local, Ethical) & launch for Ecovenient, ethical concept store 30th October 30, 9am – 1pm, Murrumbeena, Vic. Find out more here
Fair@Square (fairtrade & ethical festival)
11-12th December 2010, 11am-6pm, Federation Square, Melbourne, Vic. Find out more here

Upcoming workshops ...
Saturday 30th October, 10.30am-1.00pm >> Flemington Library Supermarket tour
Thursday 28th October, 6pm >> Public workshop & Supermarket tour, Footscray
Tuesday 16th November, 6pm – 8.30pm >>'Greener Chirstmas' , Balwyn
Saturday 20th November, 10.30am - 1.00pm >> Altona Library Supermarket tour
Saturday 27 November >> Buy Nothing Day - stunts & fun!
Find out more or register online here

Zoo launch their 'WIpe for Wildlife' campaign

Australians currently flush more than 6 million trees down the toilet each year. This doesn't make sense, especially when toilet paper can be made from waste products such as recycled paper. So what type of toilet paper is wildlife friendly? Look for 100% post-consumer waste, made within Australia, using non-toxic chemicals. Get your school workplace, neighbourhood involved! Find out more at

No Impact November - Ethical Consumer Group

As part of our annual Household Action Challenge, we are taking on a 'No Impact November', and invite you and your household or community to be a part. It's a collaborative community experiment to explore alternatives ways of living with an emphasis on consuming less, sharing more and moving to a life with less oil dependency. It's a whole month of fun, but our specific challenge week will be from Thursday 11th to 18th November.
Interested in being a part? Come to our initial preparation meeting on Thursday October 14th as part of the ECG movie night. RSVP for details, or checkout the website No Impact November.

ECOS Magazine - Towards A Sustainable Future - When Predator Becomes Prey - Sharks in Trouble

ECOS Magazine - Towards A Sustainable Future

ECOS Magazine - Towards A Sustainable Future - Towards More Sustainable Supply Chains

ECOS Magazine - Towards A Sustainable Future

ECOS Magazine - Towards A Sustainable Future - What's in a Label?

ECOS Magazine - Towards A Sustainable Future

ECOS Magazine - Towards A Sustainable Future - Communicating Climate Change Effectively

ECOS Magazine - Towards A Sustainable Future

How to deviate from climate change destruction – the case of the Great Barrier Reef

An interesting article:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Can hierarchical thinking fix climate change?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New study: Religion a faint cultural memory for Generation Y

A challenge for the future of the church

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

BP Oil Spill – why we care

Looking at pollution

Monday, October 4, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Be A Christian Environmentalist

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Green Seminary Initiative

Great Project

Important Lessons from the Bible

Why Jesus came:
"that the world might be saved through him"
John 3:17

Who Jesus is going to use to save the world:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."
Romans 8:19

Our role on earth:
"The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it."
Genesis 2:15

The Five Pillars of A Christian Theology of Sustainability

1. God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of creation.

2. Covenantal Stewardship (we have a covenant with God as stewards of the earth).

3. The creation-fall-redemption paradigm (God made a good world; human failure broke the relationships between god, man and creation; Christ provides hope for all creation).

4.Bodily resurrection(we will rise with bodies, not as spirits)

5.New Creation (a new Heaven and new Earth refers to a renewal and an earthing of heaven, not starting over).

Adapted from When Enough is Enough: A Christian Framework for Environmental Sustainability, Edited by R.J. Berry, Published by Inter-Varsity Press, 2007, Nottingham p43+