A random collection of things that inspire, interest and trouble me
from the world of design, politics, art and culture.

Selling the sizzle

Posted: December 9th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: behaviour, environment, future | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »


Have just read Futerra’s report Selling the Sizzle. It is a basic outline of how, through positive framing, climate change activists can radically change people’s behaviour toward climate change. It’s all about making the actions desirable so that people actually take them. For, “without public support the Cynics win by default. All they need is inaction”

The basic problem, Futerra says, is that “most climate friendly behaviours, especially the big hard ones (travel, diet, etc) are not aspirational or desirable. One factor that tars them is their association with a problem. You’re asked to make a sacrifice for the greater good, which has rarely in human history been a high status pastime.”

But Futerra believes that if we frame these actions positively then they could become desirable. They list the process that communicators should use as:


This step-by-step process feels a bit like a quit smoking programme. First, envision the glorious future without cigarettes. Then once the patient can see the positive future, give them a choice between this, and the hell of a lifetime of smoking. Then you and the patient start planning on how you will tackle quitting smoking. And finally the patient takes action and quits smoking, and you keep reinforcing the positive future they have chosen.

The question is, will it work? Can we make desirable the behaviour and lifestyle changes that are necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change? If you are in the business of communicating climate change, I suggest you read the report.

Rob Hopkins introduces the Transition Movement

Posted: December 7th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: environment, future | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

In this TED presentation, Rob Hopkins introduces the concept of the Transition Movement: where people come to terms with a low-carbon future and teach and prepare their community for it. I really like that he says is thankful for what an oil-rich life has given him, but that it is time to move on from this and take a new path.

News from Copenhagen: Transport policy for a low-carbon future

Posted: December 7th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: environment | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

A colleague, client, and friend of mine, Sean Kidney, is in Copenhagen at the moment working toward a low-carbon future. He is part of the Climate Bonds Initiative which is looking to gather large-scale investment in clean energy and low carbon technologies through the deployment of government-secured bonds.

This morning he has sent the email below regarding the move to low-emissions transport. Many of these seem achievable to me (given that I ride a bike and don’t own a car), but how about for you? Would you reduce your car use by 60% and stop flying for some of the time?


I’ve just come from a sobering presentation in Copenhagen by Yuki Tanaka of the Japanese Institution of Transport Policy Studies. They have done detailed modeling of global transport emissions and how we can reduce them by 2050.

They’ve done different scenarios, and have settled on pushing for keeping emissions at 2000 levels because they believe the lower scenarios are not likely to be achieved. I started off sceptically, thinking “we’ll need to figure out how to do better than that”. But by the end of the presentation, overwhelmed by the robustness of their research, I can see why they made that decision.

Bear in mind this is in the context of rapidly growing economies in Asia and Latin America.

Key points: Read the rest of this entry »

Videos for the climate sceptics

Posted: November 27th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: environment | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

If we ignore it, will it go away? I am not talking about climate change, I am talking about the scepticism surrounding the issue. It amazes me that people can still be holding onto the belief that anthropogenic climate change is not happening. I was hoping that if I ignored them they would go away, but they keep coming back more powerful than ever.

After last week’s hacked email fiasco, it seems as though the sceptics are rattling their cages a little too loudly and I would like them to stop, thank you.

Perhaps it is time to send this video around again. It is the best and most logical reasoning IMO for why we need to do something now about climate change.


If you would like to arm yourself with some good arguments to counter any sceptics in your life, head to Ecotube where there are a collection of videos made especially for this. Thanks to Futerra for the tip on this.

A dematerialized society is a clean society

Posted: November 17th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: behaviour, environment | Tags: , | No Comments »

I was watching a video podcast from Pop Tech tonight from Alex Steffen from the environmental site WorldChanging.com. In the talk he outlined the positive impacts that dematerializing our society could have on the environment. For example, a particular pet peeve of mine is the ownership of small appliances like lawnmowers. Why is it that every household has to own a lawnmower? Couldn’t we just share and save on carbon emissions?

Imagine, if you will, a street on which there are 44 houses. Each house has a small lawn and therefore a small electric mower that costs on average £50. Similarly, each of these 44 houses has a vacuum cleaner of an average cost of £100. Taking into consideration the embodied energy in each appliance throughout the entire lifecycle, the total carbon emissions from both vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers on this average UK street is almost 12 tonnes (click on the link to view a PDF with the vague sources of this data).

If we shared one vacuum cleaner and one lawnmower between four households (based on the amount of people I know in my street), then the average street could save about 9 tonnes of carbon which is the equivalent of taking 2.5 small cars off the road. Multiply that by the some 22 million households in the UK and you have a staggering amount of carbon that could be stopped from going into the atmosphere.

My figures are incredibly inaccurate, but it is just to demonstrate that a small change of behaviour could yield a very large return in favour of the environment. All we have to do is to alter the way that we view the ownership of stuff. If we remove the cultural and social caché that is currently attached to the ownership of certain goods, then we can work out new systems to accommodate their partial deletion from our lives. As James Howard Kunstler has recently said at TED, we need to stop referring to ourselves as consumers because consumers have no responsibility toward their fellow human beings.

Only consumers “need” to own ridiculous amounts of stuff and consumers are like SO 20th century.

The Bigger Picture

Posted: October 27th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: activism, environment, events, food, future | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

I was lucky enough to attend the morning sessions of The Bigger Picture Festival of Interdependence in London over the weekend. Unfortunately we couldn’t get back in for the afternoon sessions as the queue for the event was, by this time, around the block. A great pity, but at least that meant that other people got to see it, not just the early birds like us!


The queue

The festival was put on (for free) by the New Economics Foundation. The festival was part conference, part workshop, part skill-share, and part exhibition all devoted to exploring the future of sustainability.

NEF’s choice of venue was inspired. Bargehouse is an 4-storey, gritty old warehouse space at the OXO Tower on the south side of the river. It was so lovely to be inside such a ‘human’ building instead of the usual polished concrete conference venue. It lent a really DIY activist vibe to the day.

I saw three talks. The first was a presentation from three speakers on the topic of food security and was introduced by NEF’s Andrew Simms. Of note was Tim Lang questioning what a sustainable diet looks like and how this fits in with our desire for a healthy diet. Lang asked can we have both? Lang says that it’s a fantasy that we have the right to choose what we eat, especially when it involves unsustainable transport and production processes (strawberries in winter, tropical fruit in the UK, etc).

Lang also introduced the audience to a new word deracination, which means lacking roots, to describe how the west has become so urbanized that we have lost touch with how to independently sustain ourselves through growing our own food. Another new term of Lang’s was the BINGO, that is a business that creates an NGO (non-government organisation).

Lang kept talking about a book by Tim Jackson called Prosperity without Growth that I will have to try and find at a library.


Tim Lang

Next up was the very interesting Professor Richard Wilkinson from Nottingham University talking about inequality. I could have listened to more of what he had to say, but unfortunately his presentation was brief. He showed by way of data graphics how countries that have a larger gap between the rich and  poor have more social problems than countries where there is a more equality. Loss of trust, increased crime, and larger incarceration levels are some of the indicators of an unhappy and unequal society.

Wilkinson says that without trust a community loses the social cohesion that is fundamental to solving the problems of climate change. For, if we have no trust and no empathy for our fellow citizens, why would we bother doing something for them? The UK and Australia are at the top of the unequal scale so we have the most work to do in order to bring back the common good and stand any chance of solving the problem of climate change.

The last talk I saw was a discussion about the value of storytelling. My favourite speaker from this session was Lucy Neil, a theatre producer and an initiator of the Transition Town Tooting project. Neil told the story of her great great aunt Mary Neil. Mary started the Espérance Club in the late nineteenth-century for poor girls from the dressmaking trade. At the club she taught traditional English dances such as Morris dancing which were popular at the time. The girls were then able to travel throughout England teaching these dances and thereby earn a new income. Mary Neil saw dancing as an inclusive rather than exclusive past time. Lucy quoted her great great (and wise) aunt to finish the talk: “isolation is death, only in union is there life”, a great mantra for a sustainable future.

More photos on Flickr


Lucy Neil

Shipping News

Posted: October 14th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: environment, infographics, mapping | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Where does our stuff come from and what impact does that have on the planet? This is the basic premise to a new open source project called Sourcemap which allows users to trace the supply chain for all the products (and their components) they use in their daily lives. It’s worth watching this video to see how it works:


You can search for the components that go to make up certain products, locate their manufacturing point, and then add them to a map which visualises the entire supply chain of that product. The ‘receipt’ summarises the carbon emissions and energy used in manufacture and transport of the product from initial source to final destination. Each component description can also include photos, videos and text.


This is a dynamic project which is in complete contrast to the rather static project being conducted by the BBC on their news site. Called The Box, it involves the BBC tracking a container around the world for a year with updates on a live map as well as videos and photos posted by the BBC and by readers (photo below from Alastair Blackwood).


What makes Sourcemap a better project, in my opinion, is that it is based on open source data collection and collaboration. Some may see the source material as less trustworthy than that from the BBC, but I think despite this it is a much more successful use of online media. It’s collaborative aspect is just the thing that the big media giants are hopelessly behind in harnessing.

Sourcemap also allows users to create their own travel maps, which would be just the thing if you were like Ed Gillespie from Futerra. In 2007 he and his partner travelled the world without flying and instead savouring the benefits of slow travel. You can read about it on their blog.

Thanks to Visual Complexity for the initial tip off on Sourcemap.

Keep Britain Tidy

Posted: October 6th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: Uncategorized, behaviour, environment | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

I was recently taking a walk to town via the Thames Valley University when I saw a teenage girl drop a half-finished pack of chips on the ground in front of a bin. More disturbing than the fact that she was eating deep-fried chips at 10am was that she seemed to be littering to impress her friend. Now I know that littering is probably fairly low on the list of priorities for the modern-day school, what with the current ASBO culture here in Britain, but if we can’t rely on teenagers to respect their immediate environment, what hope do we have of teaching them to respect the global environment?

I called the University and had a pleasant conversation with the officer in charge of security and student behaviour. He said that it was difficult to control the behaviour of a student body which comes from “all walks of life” and that there were insufficient security staff to police the problem. Why their students, no matter what their background, cannot be taught to be tidy is beyond me. To add to this, it is regrettable that they need to use security to deal with this behavioural problem.

It might instead be more prudent to use more collaborative exercise to affect behaviour change. For example, the Big Tidy Up is a campaign organised by the Keep Britain Tidy folks. Similar to the Clean Up Australia Day programme, the Big Tidy Up encourages people to respect their environment and take a more active part in making their community a better place to live. Perhaps I will suggest to the school that they conduct something similar with their students.

Red sails in the sunset

Posted: October 4th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: activism, environment, music | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »


Red Sails in the Sunset is a seminal album from Australian band Midnight Oil. It was their first Australian number one and I think represents the best period of the band. The album was recorded in Tokyo and was released in 1984.

Australians will know only too well that the lead singer of the band, Peter Garrett, is now a member of the Australian Labor Party. The decision by Garrett in 2004 to join a coal-loving political party is one which provoked deep disappointment. Left-wing Australians had hoped that Garrett—politically vocal and a staunch environmentalist—would join a more socially and environmentally-concerned party. Alas that was not to be.

The cover image by Tsunehisa Kimura depicts what Sydney would look like after a nuclear strike (or a dust storm as some have already noted). If you know Sydney geography then you’ll recognise the places that have been hit directly: The Rocks (location of a particularly fierce anti-development demonstration in the 70s), Woolloomoooloo (close to the naval base), and Kirribilli (official Sydney residence of the Australian Prime Minister). Whether these locations were chosen intentionally is unknown.

Tsunehisa Kimura was born in 1928. His photomontages, according to the ABC, were popular in magazines of the 70s and 80s and were critical of the Liberal pro-development party of Japan. Kimura was no doubt chosen to create the art for this album because of his strong political beliefs, it is therefore a shame that Peter Garrett was prepared to water down his beliefs for the sake of a career. Perhaps now the more appropriate cover image would be something like the Kimura image below:


Terrible as it might seem to some fans of the band, there is one song on the album that until now I had not heard. It’s called “Helps me Helps You” and contains lyrics that are the bitter reminder of a political hero turned bad:

Hypocrisy helps me helps you
Democracy helps me helps you
Ideology helps me helps you
Put your trust in me
I’ll help you through

Hypocrisy indeed. Now that Australia is in a full death spiral environmentally (Garrett’s Labor party support the expansion of the coal industry), perhaps we need someone like Buckminster Fuller to design us some escape pods. I found the image below on greg.org. The photomontage was created by Bucky and his business partner Shoji Sadao in the 60s. The spheres are “self-contained communities of several thousand people living inside enclosed geodesic spheres a mile wide, which float over the earth’s surface” Just what we might need in the near future.


Kevin *#*%! Rudd

Posted: September 22nd, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: activism, environment | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Greenpeace launch a campaign ‘Dirty Kev‘ in Australia telling the prime minister that his name will be used in vain if he does a dirty deal on climate change at Copenhagen. Kevin Rudd will become the new swear word of choice. via Oscoio