Sustainable development : Going beyond the room

Yesterday I went along to the Sustainable Development Commission conference at which 19 ‘breakthrough ideas’ were selected to be taken forward over the next 3-5 years by the Commission.

The types of idea showcased were suitably varied in terms of their scope and entry point into acheiving sustainability. They included a real range of ideas from more community focused projects such as;

Incredible Edible Communities – a project pioneered in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, to increase the amount of local food grown and eaten within the community.

Making cycling mainstream – Making the bike the normal choice for journeys of up to five miles

as well as some inspiring economic ideas such as;

The Royal Bank of Sustainability – Transforming the bank most closely associated with the oil and gas industry – now publicly owned – into one which invest in projects to halt the effects of climate change

Cap and Share –Suppliers of fossil fuels to buy permits for their greenhouse gas emissions before selling the fuel, with the proceeds shared between all citizens, who have the choice of whether or not to sell their permits.

But the ‘breakthrough’ I’m most interested in was the one which Maria Adebowale of Capacity Global touched upon on in the first discussion session, namely how do we go beyond engaging the already engaged in order to mainstream sustainable thinking, and sustainable behaviour? 

I have been working on this question through my work at Involve and am now taking it forward as a trustee of the youth-led sustainability charity Otesha UK with the launch of a series of community focused projects looking at sustainability and empowerment.

There may be some hope for upscaling engagement and bringing more diverse people in through initiatives, active networks and organisations for change including the Transition Towns network, Green Voice, and South London’s Project Dirt which are supported by the SDC.

However, I believe that involving people from a more diverse range of backgrounds and life experiences as key actors, leaders and mobilisers in the sustainability movement is an important part of reaching beyond the ‘usual suspects of sustainablity’. Until sustainability becomes something that ‘we’ are doing together rather than being ‘done to’, and until the ‘green silo’ is broken out of, a sustainable and just society for all is not possible.

And as Tim Jackson pointed out in his clear and compelling presntation on the economics of the matter, we must all now act with a greater sense of urgency. Listen to a podcast here.

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