11.01. People who believe we can change the world

Alex Steffen, “designing optimist” and author of the book Worldchanging spoke last night at the Melbourne Library courtesy of the great folk at the Melbourne Collaboratory.

His talk was called “How to Change Absolutely Everything without Leaving Town”- a big remit, and he delivered- he was absolutely inspiring and made me like the world all afresh, believing that it can be saved.  Hallelujah.

But this wasn’t just pep-talk mumbo jumbo, lets all recycle bottles and cycle to work etc. 

This was about macro, big picture stuff with alot of focus on urban planning, thoughts on how to reinvigorate the civic sphere and most importantly the need to radically re-engineer the way we think about sustainability and how we tell the story of what is happening and what needs to change.

He covered off a hell of alot of concepts in the 90 minutes that absolutely flew by.

Starting with a bit of “why” we think so wrongly- things like:

Then listing off a few of the reasons that our expectations of normal are in for a rude shock.  Things like population growth, urbanisation, depletion of non-renewables, destruction of renewables etc.

That said, he then explored some ot the things that are already happening or could happen to create larger scale change.

Things like Compact Communities that provide access by proximity (the idea being, the most sustainable trip is the one you don’t take) or leveraging Surplus Capacities (things we own but rarely use).

But for me, the 2 key messages were around the need for a CIVIC REBOOT and STORYTELLING.

His point around civics was the fact that the only people who input, are those who are paid to be there (admittedly as he said, bureaucracies use boredom the way a skunk uses smell).  This is absolutely fundamental- how do we reinvigorate the civic sphere?

And how do we tell the story?  We are a young planet, with a media age of 24 and as he says, our economy is essentially an intergenerational Ponzi scheme.  The young are being screwed.  But how do we tell them the story?

As he said, we need to put the future back in the room.

So, he didn’t have all the answers- especially around the storytelling, which is something I’d like to think about some more.  But he did have some great ideas.  I can thoroughly recommend his book, Worldchanging, which is fullof great ideas for individuals (there is also a website http://www.worldchanging.com/)

If you want to see him speak, there is a 2006 TED talk where you can see what an inspiring speaker he is!

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