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Sustainability 2.0: The Ethos of Common Sense

| Wednesday May 27th, 2009 | 0 Comments

bookcover.gif The start of Sustainability 2.0 picks up where Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth leaves off: Climate change and sustainability are realities, not just the obsessions or paranoia of a few scientists or activitsts. Sustainability is, rather, the urging to live within our means, to take a much more common sensical approach to the way we live our lives and interact with the world around us. It is the common sense that “impels us to turn off the lights when we leave home and to not leave the tap running while we brush our teeth.”
Sustainability 2.0 is a 205-page compendium of the sustainability movement. It is the recent effort by Ernesto van Peborgh and El Viaje de Odiseo (Odyssey’s Journey), a sustainabilty and new media consultancy group based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
It starts with establishing the framework laid down at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, through the nascency of the current iteration of the sustainability movement in the 1990s, to the current trends and issues we face today, including the intersection of sustainability and “participative” media.
Sustainability 2.0 is a very linear, logical look at the trends of the past generation and how they affect the challenges we face as a society. It summarizes the theories of major green influencers, such as Malcolm Gladwell, John Elkington, Ray Anderson, Paul Hawken, Yvon Chouinard, Anita Roddick, and the minds behind the The Cluetrain Manifesto, as well as includes lesser-known anecdotes such as a case study of a mine in Argentine Patagonia.


The Backstory
Van Peborgh’s story is not to dissimilar from many others. A successful Wall Street man, a Harvard MBA, and later a principal at a venture firm, van Peborgh now calls himself a “privileged observer of the times.”
He calls his eye-opening moment the “value revolution.” His revolution came after watching Spirals of Stone, a documentary about an expedition to the glaciered Southern-reaches of Patagonia. At its premiere, the film sparked a debate on human values amongst its viewers, and caused Van Peborgh to wonder what would happen if we started telling the stories of other people who are changing the world?
Van Peborgh summarily left the finance world and started Odiseo. Last year, they made news with their No uso bolsas plasticas (I don’t use plastic bags) campaign, an effort to reduce the use of plastic bags in Buenos Aires. In some parts of Argentina, plastic bags are already banned, but in a place like Buenos Aires, plastic bags are used with wanton disregard. It can make someone from such progressive places like San Francisco to reel speechlessly upon getting a blank stare from a grocery store checker when saying they don’t need a bag. In most grocery stores there, you have to bag produce to weigh before you check out and get that bag, and the many others with it, placed into other, larger bags. So, to see people walking around with canvas bags proclaiming that they didn’t want to use plastic bags has been an inspiration, and a clue that those behind Odiseo were on to something.
Highlights
Celebrity participation; the ramifications of inaction; case studies of companies that are sustainable, changing the way they do business, and pioneering the way for other companies–the book is a comprehensive look at practically all aspects of the sustainability movement.
As the book attempts to steer us towards what comes next, it characterizes a battle that will be carried out on the digital sphere. The internet is the battleground of the fight for sustainability, and we are fighting to reach the Net Gen, “a generation of networked individuals who learn, think, buy, believe, and relate” in ways different than previous generations.
It lays out the major trends (viral marketing, open sourcing, blogging, etc.) and players (everywhere from Craigslist, Facebook, and Wikipedia to TED and Do the Right Thing, a project by our very own Ryan Mickle and our good friend Rod Ebrahimi) to catalog the transformative impact the internet has had on society.
Referring to the transformation from “Me Media” to a deeper-reaching “We Media,” the book posits that as a community, we will become more empowered to effect meaningful change. For example, this can start from raising awareness about conscious consumerism, fair-trade, organics, etc., and in shifting the way we consume, it will shift the way companies bring products to market. Van Peborgh calls it the evolution from Web 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0.
At times, it seems as if some of the ideas discussed are a little old-hat, but then again, I/we tend to be more informed on these issues than the vast majority of people out there. What stands out, however, is the book’s ability to synthesize so many ideas from so many different people into a clear thesis on the state of the world and where we need to be going. And ultimately, that’s the point of the book, and the spirit behind its genesis: to create a large community, inspired and informed around a common vision.
The book ends with a parable:

A Cherokee elder once told his grandchildren who were gathered with him around the Ô¨Åre: “In every life, there is a terrible fight, a fight between two wolves. One is all evil, fear, rage, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, and deceit. The other is all good, happiness, serenity, humility, trust, generosity, truth, gentleness, and compassion.” After a long silence, one of the children asked: “But Grandpa, which of the wolves will win?” The Cherokee elder looked at the child and said: “Whichever one you feed.”

To download the e-book, get involved, or find out more about van Peborgh and El Viaje de Odiseo, check out the book’s website here.


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