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Week 12 is over. Our lectures are over. The module Sustainable Development is over. We studied this module over 12 weeks, 12 weeks of a broad range of topics. At the start of each week many of us students wondered what some of the topics had to do with Sustainable Development or even with our Energy Degree. We quickly and repeatedly learned that no matter what topic was being looked at it affected and will continue to affect us and the world we live in. Each topic is connected and each topic connects to our lives and to Energy. I started with questions and I now have even more questions Each topic raised questions, anything I thought I knew is now open to question and it seems to me there are no right or wrong answers, but there are questions that need asking and thinking about. This questioning I found good because I was forced to think about the many sides to every topic and to challenge answers- my own and others. There is a lot to wonder about.

Questioning leads to thinking about taking action. The one thing I am sure of, at the end of these twelve weeks, is that we all depend on each other and on the one planet- earth! The earth’s resources are finite and we each have a responsibility to care of this planet which sustains us. We are waking up to realise that we can do a much better job of caring for each other and for planet earth.

There is hope – Building Sustainable Communities. “Sustainable communities are communities planned, built, or modified to promote sustainable living”- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable communities (17-4-11). Sustainable Communities start out through the action of one or two individuals. The ripples from these actions spread out like the ripples from a stone thrown into a pond and others liking what they see happening start to ask questions and follow the example.

For me a sustainable community is Cloughjordan. I went expecting to find a village set in the past. I came back hopeful and surprised- modern homes, pooled resources that make use of the best of modern technology and ideas. It is a living village that seems to bring together all that is good from the past, present and is looking to the future. As we went through the weeks I was constantly reminded of Cloughjordon Village as it seems to me that they have managed to create this sustainable community that everyone else now wants. The ripples from Cloughjordan are spreading to the local community and beyond with the Community farm.

In lectures this week we talked a lot about who should be blamed for all the damage that has been done. I believe that too much time has been wasted blaming and discussing how serious or not the problem is. Living in a sustainable way brings benefits to all- it is a win, win way of living. I believe now is the time to do something to try to solve the problems we are living with. There has been enough blaming. I believe that the need to build sustainable communities comes from within each one of us.

When a few individuals come together and take action we have the beginnings of a sustainable community where people realize we all depend on each other and on a common planet-earth!

Sustainable development can actually be divided into 4 areas represented by North, South, East and West. North represents natural world, South is social, East is environment and West is who decides what happens and why? Together this makes a whole way of thinking about sustainability.

A lot of what we do we do because we are influenced by media, corporate business, government policies and our want of more and more money. When we look at the happiness index it does not follow that richer nations are happier nations but I did find out that each one of us have the same basic needs. These needs are best met in strong, sustainable communities.

Awareness of the driving force behind our actions can help us assess why we act in certain ways and also help us to question the need for our action and inaction. Awareness can also help us come to realise the effect our way of living has on others- peak oil, climate change, hunger, food miles, pollution, global warming …….

We are consuming resources at an unacceptable pace and facing a global population that is heading for nine billion by 2040, so we must change or face a crisis that we will not be able to fix within decades. Leading Australian environmentalist Tim Flannery speaking in the Irish Times recently said “I am not saying that we haven’t got an enormous job ahead of us, but you would have to say that we are slowly starting to make headway with some of the biggest challenges that are facing humanity….. but if you look back 10 years I think you will see that there has been some enduring progress made.” http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/magazine/2011/0402/1224293326182.html (21-4-11)

Flannery mentions the Montreal Protocol of September 1987 which saw nations coming together to ban CFC gases that had been in use in refrigerators and deodorants for decades and were eating a hole in the ozone layer. This protocol was very successful but was helped by the use of colourful images on Telly showing the ozone hole growing larger every year over the Antarctic. Climate change is harder to identify and CO2 is an invisible gas. This success however is a good example of the ability of people to instigate change.

Lucy Trench writing in the Irish Times on Saturday 19th March ’11 reminds us that when Michelle Obama digs up the lawn of The White House for a garden she is giving a very powerful message. “The first lady tackles present-day concerns about obesity, healthy eating and food sourcing…. would define the identity of their new country.” http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2011/0319/1224292565679.html (21-4-11) Michelle Obama also involves local children in her gardening project, images of which are broadcast across the world, giving a very powerful message. “ “My hope,” the first lady said in an interview in her East Wing office, “is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.” “ http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/20/dining/20garden.html

Our planet is ill and we need to act together to do something about it before it is terminal.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi.

I really enjoyed this module as we learned about a broad range of topic. I believe all that we have learned will help us with our Energy course but also in our own lives. We have been given the knowledge to help lead the way to a more sustainable Ireland.

What is the difference between Law and Policy? Who decides what a law becomes? Who drafts the policies? Why do we need laws and policies? “A law is a rule or body of rules of conduct inherent in human nature and essential to or binding upon human society”- wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn (15-4-11). A policy is defined as “a plan of action adopted by an individual or social group”- wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn (15-4-11). It is evident that policies and laws differ at local, national and European level depending on circumstances. EU law dictates the way the fishermen fish. Before Ireland joined the EU all the water surrounding Ireland belonged to Ireland but once we joined the EU we no longer owned all the fishing rights. Local fishermen were not happy with this ruling but EU law is looking at a bigger picture and the long term good.

Are all laws and policies good?

It seems that, whether it’s at local, national or European level, laws come about because of a problem and sometimes seem to be drawn up because policies are not working. In Ireland an example of this would be the smoking ban. We struggled with policies to reduce the number of people smoking in public areas but as soon as it became an offence to smoke in public the problem was virtually solved.

Laws that are enforced work whether for good or bad. Sometimes it is necessary to draft and enforce laws to make things that are necessary but unpleasant happen. The Smoking Ban in Ireland and Charging for the use of plastic shopping bags are excellent examples of laws that were painful but work. Ireland demonstrated leadership at EU level in theses areas.

Some Public Policies pose ‘wicked’ problems because there is no single solution and all the stakeholders have different views on what the solution should be and how it should come about. An example of a ‘wicked’ problem for policy and law at local, national and European level is Sustainable Development. This is one problem that everyone wants to solve but the solutions are numerous. When we visited Cloughjordon we saw that the local community have devised their own policy which is a viable Sustainable Development Policy. It did not require a law but the community saw it as a necessary step to Sustainable living and now others are following this local model.

The EU started out in 1958 with 6 member countries this has now increased to 27 countries. Ireland has being a member of the EU since 1973 and in that time has had a big influence on Irish law and policies. In the early days of the EU there was no mention of the environment. It was not a problem back then….

The first mention of the environment came in an EU treaty in 1987. The start of sustainable development policies and laws was in “1987 The Brundtland Report was published by the World Commission on Environment and Development. It draws social, economic, cultural and environmental issues together and sets out the ….. definition for sustainable development”- http://www.comharsdc.ie/sustainable_development/index.aspx (6-4-11). The Brundtland Commission was formed because of growing concern about the rapid deterioration in the environment and natural resources and the effect this was having and would have on economic and social development.

It is difficult and time consuming to draft laws and policies concerning Sustainable Development because all the stakeholders have to have input. It takes a long time for policies and laws to come into being and we do not have time, the world is in crisis.
“This crisis is very real. If the global temperature increases and the sea level rises, there will be massive changes in the weather which will cause migrations across the world as well as wide spread flooding. In this kind of environment, new and rapidly spreading diseases could wipe out large numbers of people and the food supply could be threatened. These kinds of disruptions could also lead to wars.” http://www.rickdoble.net/world_culture/CrisisToday.html (16-4-11)

Assignment and Poster

Changing Global Population Affects All These Things In

Assignment

Sustainability Metrics are a new concept to me and appears to be about measuring the benefits, if any, of sustainability, not an easy thing to do I imagine. “Sustainability Metrics are tools that measure the benefits achieved through the implementation of sustainability. Measuring sustainability involves tracking indicators, or “bits of information which, added together, provide an overview of what is happening in a community and to a community””-http://www.centerforsustainability.org/resources.php?category=89&root=176 (2-4-11). It is very difficult to measure the sustainability of an area and its community, as the indicators used are and must be very broad and often intangible. Sustainability is often measured by comparing two regions using specific indicators but these indicators may not suit the two regions to the same degree. The difficulty in measuring the sustainability of two regions-Annacotty and Limerick City- was easy to see in Bernadette O’Regan’s lecture. Annacotty and Limerick City differed greatly in population and as a result the availability of services and access to amenities were very different. As population was one of the indicators used in this metric, it would seem that more information could be gathered by choosing a region with a similar population. The population of Limerick City is about “82,743” http://www.trueknowledge.com/q/population_of_limerick_city_in_2010 (2-4-11) while Annacotty has a population of about “1839” http://www.towns-ireland.com/annacotty-4th-best-town-in-ireland/ (2-4-11). Having said all that, I learned that both Limerick City and Annacotty are regarded as similar in terms of measured sustainability, which is not what I expected given the difference in population. It is clear that there is immense difficulty in calculating the sustainability of regions as it is difficult to find two exactly similar regions and there is no standard global sustainability metric to use at present.

While it is difficult to measure sustainability because of the enormity of its social, environmental and economic impact and the difficulty with choosing indicators:
“Much of the measurement of indicators has, at the end of the day, largely resulted just in the measurement of indicators. The actual operationalisation of indicators to influence or change for instance, policy is still in its infancy.”- http://www.cyprus.gov.cy/moa/Agriculture.nsf/0/61EF14864E9C2131C225726000351387/$file/Imagine%20sustainability-Simon%20Bell.pdf (3-4-11).

It is however important to measure sustainability in order to provide evidence that positive change can and is happening. Metrics are also an important way of influencing government and corporate policy development and opening debate on the whole area of Sustainable Development in order to lead to awareness and change.

The only sustainable metric I was aware of was the carbon footprint calculator. This calculator has a big impact on people because it puts a real figure on individual actions and is easily accessed on the internet and is easy to use. It is an example of a strong metric and it is easy to see why, as people see it as a Scientific measurement that gives a real result. When calculating our global footprint, Richard Moles, pointed out that a lot of science is based on theories as a lot of science is uncertain so there is always a possibility that serious underestimating and overestimating occur in these calculations. That said I believe that even if we get an overestimation, it is good that we are able to measure how we are affecting the world. It is a thought provoking exercise and can only have a positive impact on raising awareness. We can all go along happily thinking we are not doing too badly but using this measure raises awareness of our global impact. Even if it over estimates our global footprint, by for example giving a total flight calculation rather than individual results, this may have a positive outcome by having a bigger impact on some of our actions. The focus must I think be on individuals and the impact each of us as individuals can have when it is all added together. The Natural Steps framework uses the example of a football team to explain how individual actions can influence team results and make a difference “The Natural Step (TNS) Framework is based on ‘systems thinking’; recognizing that what happens in one part of a system affects every other part. Think of a soccer team. We can’t understand why the team lost the game until we look at how each player – the goal keeper, defenders and forwards – all worked together on the field. We won’t learn much if we just study one member of the team. The TNS Framework gives an organisation the tools to look at the whole team, understand the rules of the game, define success, and move towards it together.” http://www.naturalstep.org/en/our-approach#quick-overview (3-4-11). This kind of strategy is what I think should influence our approach to sustainable development metrics in order for them to be of benefit, we all must feel part of the team and realise we all have a part to play.

What comes up continually, for me, is that in every way our needs and our wants are far exceeding our planet’s capacity to meet these needs. It comes up again and again that the planet can not sustain us if we continue to do as we are doing now. In 2008 here in Ireland we became unsustainable and now that we have this information we need to do something about it, something that would shock us into adjusting. We need to be convinced that there are benefits in this for us and that we can make a difference. The ecological footprint is a good starting point as it focuses our thinking and gives each of us a measure to work towards. While each of us individually need to adjust so too do governments and corporations “as many governments and corporations still do not see that sustainable development can occur without impeding progress”- http://www.oecdobserver.org/news/fullstory.php/aid/453/decoupling_environment_from_economic_growth_.html (2-4-11). Sustainable Metrics can help to convince us all together of this and will in the end lead to happier people and a better society for all.

Why not measure your carbon footprint and find out the area needed to absorb carbon emissions generated by your home energy use and transportation?

http://myfootprint.org/en/your_carbon_footprint/

A new week and another new topic, this time it’s Corporate Social Responsibility. This weeks topic seems broader and more complex than anything we have touched on up to this. Corporate Social Responsibility sounds like such a good thing but how would it work in reality or could it ever work in reality? Corporations would not appear to me to be very interested in social responsibility except when it would bring some financial reward. Of course there are those corporate bodies that wish to ‘appear’ socially responsible in order to enhance their image and improve their selling power but are not in fact interested in social responsibility in any real sense. Are there really corporate bodies that take social responsibility seriously and act for the right reasons?

What is Corporate Social Responsibility and who would it benefit? More importantly how would those people who are the leaders and managers in business ever be convinced that there is some benefit to be had for the business… “Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a commitment to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of our workforce and their families as well as the local community at large” http://www.nexeninc.com/Sustainability/glossary.asp (25-3-11). There are many definitions but this one best conveys what I think Corporate Social Responsibility should be about it must also be of benefit to the business otherwise it will not work. This definition is almost equivalent to Triple Bottom Line’: people, planet, profit. While the ideas are abstract and very hard to grasp, it is something I think we need to consider. Even the wording ‘the local community at large’ is hard to define, how local and how large? It’s hard to define and comprehend, in a concrete way, where ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ begins and ends it is therefore difficult to have a workable policy or regulations that work. It is good that businesses would have a social responsibility and even better if this were set out in law but laws alone are not enough to ensure social responsibility, it seems to be concerned with something much deeper and more complex and must also be of benefit to the corporations, they must believe that “.. it is profitable to behave well”. http://ulsd.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/roleofcommunitysouthafrica.pdf (25-3-11).

“The goal of CSR is to embrace responsibility for the company’s actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_social_responsibility (24-3-11).

“Today, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is widely accepted as an essential component of business ethics – and a key management strategy in most big companies. CSR has become linked with the pressing need to conserve the planet’s diminishing resources “because the future of mankind everywhere is threatened by the degradation of the environment in which we all live and work”, as one commentator put it.” http://www.rasgas.com/files/articles/RG23_28_29%20CSR%20vF3.pdf (25-3-11).
In the developed world most people agree that the corporate leaders have obligations to society that reach wider than optimizing shareholder values but a lot of corporate leaders, who actually make the decisions, tend to disagree. One reason for this disagreement is that the businesses are generally owned by shareholders so any money spent on these wider responsibilities will be taken away from shareholders income. Personally I believe as these shareholders had the financial capability to buy into these businesses they wouldn’t mind the business doing something for its workers or the community that it’s part of. This would involve changing the way investors think and providing education around the positive advantages to be gained from moving towards becoming more socially responsible. This is happening as businesses are becoming more concerned with their reputations and Corporate Social Responsibility is seen more and more as taking positive action. Some companies adopt the Corporate Social Responsibility image because of the gains to be had from appearing to be green or ‘green washing’ as it has become known. “Green-wash– verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.” http://sinsofgreenwashing.org/ (25-3-11). This green washing is for economic gain and as we know only too well in Ireland in the world of business money is power and money rules. The situation has and is improving as can be seen from the graph:

The impact of Corporate Social Responsibility has been very much embraced by Mc Donald’s and shows in a concrete way the impact of such responsibility. McDonald’s is the world’s largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants.

According to the McDonald’s Corporate Social Responsibility website, McDonalds is all about taking action in order to achieve results. They believe that it is vital to always keep open lines of communication with customers and other key stakeholders. In 2007 McDonald’s began a sustainability project with the aim of improving conditions for farm workers in the Florida tomato industry, they realized that these workers and the land they till were all a vital part of the Mc Donald’s industry, even though they were far removed from the actual burger outlets. This in turn promotes good environmental practices in the land-based agricultural supply chain and makes the farm a sustainable business, which in the long term is of benefit to Mc Donald’s. McDonald’s purchase only 1.5% of Florida’s tomatoes annually, but their actions spread out like the ripples from the stone thrown into a pond and have lead to industry-leading grower standards that improved working conditions in other farms in Florida and have made the farms a sustainable business. There are other corporate bodies who were not involved in social responsibility and are now becoming involved perhaps because of “corporate accountability strategies by civil society groupings…can play a role in altering the context, facilitating improvements in the way corporate activities affect local workers/communities.” http://ulsd.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/roleofcommunitysouthafrica.pdf (25-3-11)

One such example is to be found in Durban, South Africa where there is a long history of poor relations between locals and oil refiners involving health and environmental issues. In 1998 a five-year environmental improvement plan for the refinery was put in place and is known as a good neighbourhood agreement (GNA). “The GNA had a number of significant outcomes in reductions in SO2 emissions, internal technology changes and improvements in management systems at the company. Whereas stakeholder perceptions of the effectiveness of the agreement varied, it was generally seen as ‘a step in the right direction’” http://ulsd.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/roleofcommunitysouthafrica.pdf (25-3-11) and shows some of the benefits of CSR initiatives.

This leads to the question of a global policy on CSR- should we aim for a global policy for the global village the world has become or should we leave it up to each country to regulate its own policy on CSR?

This is, again, a very complex question to answer. Initially when I heard the question I believed it should be a global policy but as we discussed the idea in class I came to agree with the person who suggested that it should be a national policy. The global policy seemed like the way to go as I believe, like many others, that everyone deserves to be treated equally regardless of their circumstances. When we discussed having a National Policy, however, I began to realize that every country is different, and one size would not fit all. Would people be able to work ten hour shifts in the blazing heat of 42 degrees as effectively as people working in conditions of 15 degrees, for example, not to mention nutrition and living conditions in different parts of the world? I am unable therefore to answer the question of who should regulate a policy on CSR, it is not as simple as it appeared at first, like a lot of the questions around sustainable development.

International companies, I believe, should have a policy that is common to all the countries that the company has operations in and it must be a very difficult job to develop a CSR policy that can accommodate and balance all the different needs and wants. “Consumers expect goods and services to reflect socially and environmentally responsible business behaviour at competitive prices. Shareholders also search for enhanced financial performance that integrates social and environmental considerations.” http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/csr-rse.nsf/eng/rs00128.html (25-3-11).

The Main issue with Corporate Social responsibility:
The biggest problem and question in the CSR debate is the same today as it was during the Industrial Revolution- does the firm exist solely to maximise the profits it returns to its owners or do firms and managers have a broader responsibility to society at large? Large and small businesses are faced with this same complex dilemma. It appears that smaller businesses are better at implementing socially responsible policies, even in some cases without any awareness of the official terminology. This may seem like a contradiction as many large corporate bodies have designated personnel whose sole responsibility is to develop CSR policies. On reflection it is not a contradiction as smaller businesses are in many cases part of their community with a natural sense of Social Responsibility, which a lot of the time needs no policy, the business is just a part of the community and have an inbuilt sense of interdependence. This whole idea of CSR was less complex when put into context in Shelia Killian’s lecture. W e heard about the shop on Achill Island which is a working example of Corporate Social Responsibility and made me think of other such businesses, which I would not have associated with CSR. This shop, on Achill Island, is owned by the Sweeney family who may not have a CSR policy or may not even be aware of CSR terminology but their business is a good example of CSR in action. This business provides almost everything the community wants. They will provide any goods or services that the people on Achill Island want. Sweeney’s Business is, it could be said, is the heart of the community as they bring the whole community together and provide the goods and services needed by the community. They also have a long term connection with this community, are part of the community, provide employment in the community and give back to the community in many ways in return the community supports the business. This is sustainable development and CSR at its best. Big International Companies can learn from smaller companies who have this sense of social responsibility and provide working models for them. Unfortunately we lost a lot of these smaller corporate bodies during the boom years in Ireland and are now reeling from the effects. It is harder, I think, to develop a real social responsibility policy in big business, as there is the feeling of being a community within a community instead of the reality of being part of a wider community with all the responsibility that entails. When businesses get very big they sometimes loose the sense of connectedness and interdependence.

Corporations are made up of people and communities and have a responsibility to the people and the environment that are connected to them. In the long term, the more socially responsible the business is the happier the people connected to it. The happier people are the more they are willing to contribute and the better for us all and for our environment. As Michael Sabia, President and Chief Executive Officer of BCE Inc., has said, “Corporations are also social institutions. What they do and how they act and the role they play in the community they operate in is important. … We can build better communities, stronger communities and, frankly, better places to operate business. The opportunity we have is compelling.” http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/csr-rse.nsf/eng/rs00128.html (25-3-11).

“Corporate social responsibility activities that integrate broader societal concerns into business strategy and performance are evidence of good management. In addition to building trust with the community and giving firms an edge in attracting good customers and employees, acting responsibly towards workers and others in society can be in the long-term interest of firms and their shareholders.” http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/csr-rse.nsf/eng/rs00128.html (25-3-11).

Households now contain over 1,000 products (compared to 50, 25 years ago!” (http://ulsd.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/mcmahon-week-8-2011.pdf).

We hear again how low cost energy is the main driving force behind production – both Responsible and Mass Production. In order for production to occur there must be Consumption and consumption is driven by our needs and wants. Without us the consumer there would be no need for products and production. Lecture 1 began with a fact I found to be startling; regular households now contain over 1000 products. I find this totally amazing, it takes a while for me to count to 1000 never mind find 1000 products in my home I ponder. Yet when I begin to think this through I start to grasp the reality of the statement. The kitchen cleaning cupboard alone contains an endless array of products from Fairy Liquid for washing up, to Mr Muscle for every conceivable job and of course Window Shine and the obligatory Air Freshener. So, responsible production and consumption are alien to the world we live in. From the day we are born we require products, the number of products differs according to our social circumstance. We all, no matter where we live or who we are, have the same basic needs but this is not reflected in the way we use and share our resources and it is not reflected in our happiness levels. Strange as it may seem people in the developed world, that’s us, are less happy than people in developing countries!

We in the developed world are exposed to advertisements for products and it seems to me that as the world of advertising has developed so has our want of more and more products. This endless choice and supply of products do not it seems, from research, make us happy. We just believe that the more we have the more we want!

Production on the scale we now know it began back with the Industrial Revolution. Cheap and available fossil fuels, cheap labour and the development of technology fed this production. Not everyone in the world is benefiting from all this choice of products, as these choices and products are only available to those who can afford them! And maybe those of us who can afford the products are not benefiting from having them either if we could take a look into the future. There are still large numbers of people in the world who do not have their most basic human rights met because of our greed and our over use of the earth’s resources.

“Production is the processes and methods employed to transform tangible inputs (raw materials, semi finished goods, or subassemblies) and intangible inputs (ideas, information, knowledge) into goods or services.” http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/production.html (18-3-11).
As we have seen in previous weeks the actions of people here in the developed world cause consequences for people and for the planet far from us. The fossil fuels that fed this mass production of goods have now started to run out with Peak Oil and goods are becoming more and more expensive. We now need to look at Responsible Production and Consumption before it is too late. We need to look at the consequences of our behaviour and take action. The effects of our behaviour are all too clear to us at the current time with the nuclear fall out in Japan spreading far beyond Japanese shores and having an enormous cost in human suffering. The piles of waste building up in landfills and oceans here in Ireland and all over the world which we know “can release harmful chemicals into the soil and water when dumped, or into the air when burned. It is the source of almost 4% of the world’s greenhouse gases”. http://thegoldenspiral.org/tag/waste/ (12-3-11). Gases which are causing climate change and all the destruction that brings.

The Celtic tiger brought positives and negatives into our lives and we need to face both now. A definite negative, I believe, is that we had so much money and such choice of products that we began to think we needed everything and did not stop to count the cost to ourselves or others. I believe this trend started as a result of having too many products and was fed by the producers and the media and unfortunately governments too. It seems to me that once one company/person discovered or invented a new product someone else had to improve it and create a newer version. This gives us the ripple effect again with a wide variety of choice and the ripples spreading out wide and people having little or no sense of responsibility.
Having a wide variety of choice is good for the consumer but we need to make choices in a responsible and sustainable way. We need to consider the cost of production and balance that with our need for the product. The choice is ours as consumers and we must become more aware of the power we have.
Consider the phases in a plastic water bottle lifestyle:

1. Let’s begin with raw Material Extraction- A common plastic used is Polyethylene Terephthalate. It is produced from oil which is extracted from the ground and is then transported to the refinery. This is not sustainable due to the current worries about the depletion of fossil fuels including oil.
2. Material Processing is next when Chemicals are added to the raw materials to form plastic.
3. Component Manufacturing- The plastic is manufactured by either blow molding or injection molding.
4. The bottle is assembled and Packaged- Labels from paper or plastic are made for each bottle. Paper is a raw material of wood. The bottles are not usually individually packaged but boxed in large quantities for transportation. The labeling and packaging is done in big factories which are powered by energy which is harmful to the planet and in most cases is not a sustainable form of energy.
5. Distribution and Purchase- The water bottles are distributed in bulk usually by trucks run on diesel. The water bottles reach the shops and the consumer and the packaging becomes waste.
6. Installation and Use- The bottle requires no installation and is easy to use.
7. Maintenance and Upgrade- The bottle is usually replaced but it can be recycled numerous times.
8. End of Life- Most bottles are put in the bin and end in the land fill and occasionally are incinerated. Plastic is not biodegradable so it just rots away but not for thousands of years. If the plastic is incinerated chemicals are released into the atmosphere. Plastic bottles can be recyclable but not as easily as glass bottles.

In lectures we consider other ways of doing things. The thing that stood out the most for me was the Gumdrop bin, it was designed for second life. It is the most disgusting option but I believe it works extremely well. It is responsible production provides a solution to an everyday problem. It is tidying up our towns/cities while also allowing for gum to be recycled and made into a new product.

I also was extremely impressed by the idea of ‘Designing for the other 90%’ as the products are helping the developing world. New ideas are developed that are making life better and making water recyclable which leads to sustainability.

It seems to me that we need to try to produce as much as possible locally and we saw an example of this in Cloughjordon. Their local farm produces food for the local community is not overproduced and therefore there is less waste and packaging and food is fresh for consumption. “With climate change, oil depletion, biodiversity loss, and even food security among the potential shocks, it is clear that we are facing a systemic crisis for which we are completely unprepared for. We have now reached the long predicted ‘limits to growth’ and find ourselves facing a convergence of challenges which are inextricably connected. We now urgently need to rethink the way we do things and to design systems and processes from the bottom up, in ways that fit this planets carrying capacity and we need to learn do this together, as communities.” http://www.thevillage.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=35&Itemid=7 (20-3-11)
The community of Cloughjordan is setting a model for us all and it looks good too.

Week 7- University

1. What is a University and what does it do?

A University is a huge building; at least University College Limerick looked enormous last September. It is also a place I had looked forward to attending without much thought for anything other than the social life and it would be a bonus to study a Science subject. University for me has turned out to be so much more raising so many questions about life and the way I live. A University is a centre of and for learning and it has been a steep learning curve for me. It is a place where students like me are set free for the first time and have to come to terms with freedom and the responsibility it brings. For the first time the whole day comprises of a series of choices that are mine alone to make and it takes a while to realize the consequences of these choices! Universities are made up of “the assemblage of strangers from all parts in one spot” (The Idea of a University. I. What Is a University? John Henry Newman). A University is a place where people from all over the world gather, with different backgrounds, cultures, religions and personalities. It is a place of communication and self-development and a place where people work, live, learn and spend time together. It is about people, lots of people. It is also a social centre!

A University is a place where people can be educated for life and for a profession and where students get degrees. A University Newman says “is a school of knowledge of every kind, consisting of teachers and learners from every quarter”. Many things take place in a university; universities are, I believe, a microcosm of life. The word university is derived from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium, roughly meaning “community of teachers and scholars”. Newman believes that “The general principles of any study you may learn by books at home; but the detail, the colour, the tone, the air, the life which makes it live in us, you must catch all these from those in whom it lives already”. A University should be a place where students get to meet and interact with those who know and love their subject and those like themselves who are getting to know their subject. In some countries the university is controlled by political or religious authorities. It is a place where information can be exchanged and explored and where students begin to ask questions after the rote learning of our Leaving Certificate. It’s a place where I discovered learning was for me and I had to be independent and self-motivated! “It is a seat of wisdom, a light of the world …… an Alma Mater of the rising generation”. (http://www.bartleby.com/28/2.html (12-3-2011). It is also good fun.

There are many different types of energy in universities. There is the initial physical energy- the heat, space, light and sound. There is also the energy within the university body. The energy generated by the university community, the mindset of people and their attitude. There is a pride attached to the University we students attend. The ethos, though unspoken can be felt and comes from the many policies within the university. These policies are a standard statement adopted by the authorities who run each university. Some policies many be seen as positives and others as negative, by the students, depending on the persons own out look.
Universities are an economy within an economy, just as they are a community within a larger community with the ripples, positive and negative, spreading far beyond the University gates. It is a place where goods are exchanged, distributed and consumed and where services are required.
There are many different cultures within the university- music, sports, clubs and societies. The best learning occurs when people experience positive aspects to university and university life. And when people feel supported, which is difficult given the size and variety of people and needs. Failure is experienced when people feel that the university has not lived up to their expectations or they have not performed to their abilities. Universities are centres of hope and opportunity. They provide opportunities for growth, development and technological advances. There are threats to Universities also from negative public image, budget crisis and the decrease in general achievements of the university.

2. What should a University do?

A University should provide people with a sense of community, where they feel they belong and are valued. It should be a place that is concerned with people firstly and then with education. It should be a place where people learn how to continue to learn because people never stop learning. A University should engage students in research and learning as students will go on to develop new ideas. Humboldt believed that “The university is reserved for what the human being can find by and within himself: insight into pure science. For this self-activity in the fullest sense, freedom is necessary, and solitude is helpful; from these two requirements flows the entire external organization of the universities. Lecture courses are only a secondary aspect; the essential thing is that people live for a number of years for themselves and for science, closely alongside like-minded individuals of the same age, conscious that this same place has a number of already fully developed intellects who are solely dedicated to the elevation and promulgation of science. http://www.schillerinstitute.org/fid_91-96/962_humboldt_education.html (12-3-11). While I agree that University students should have the opportunity and time to look in-depth at a subject I do not think that solitude would be good. There is I think a lot to be learned from interacting with others and the sharing of ideas. I also do not think it would be good if Universities were full only of people of similar age and interests as Humboldt suggests. Universities should promote lifelong learning where each person might seek to realize their unique human potential. Universities should be free from pressure from individuals and selective groups who might overwhelm the common good that the education system is meant to support. A University should promote critical thinking among its students and should not be concerned with “The economic justification for education – equipping students with marketable skills to help countries compete in a global, information-based workplace” (http://lass.calumet.purdue.edu/cca/jgcg/downloads/WhatIsAUniversity.pdf (12-3-11). Learning should be presented as a whole and not as separate subject areas which only serves to encourage a fragmented view of learning. Universities should also be concerned with the development of the whole person not just the intellect. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education”.

3. What will a University look like 2050?

By 2050 universities will have changed greatly from what we know. Universities as we know them have not changed much over the last hundred years, they have just developed. The world is in a time of enormous change and this change will have a huge effect on the future of universities. Population growth is forecast to be 9.07 billion in 2050.This population growth will increase the demand for university places. Ireland’s government is currently cutting financial support to universities and this will affect the physical organization of campus, the personnel available and the budget available for research in 2050. Technological progress has changed the way students are taught with information easily available on the web in any location. Peak oil means that transport, the structure of buildings, goods and services available will all have an impact on universities in the future.
“Changes are occurring every day on a national and world scale – we are faced with economic globalisation, the revolutions in information technology and biotechnology, growing inequality and social exclusion (leading to a renewed struggle for citizens’ rights), violence of all kinds, environmental pollution and climate change. All of these things are increasing the need for new knowledge and skills, for new scenarios for our global society”. http://lass.calumet.purdue.edu/cca/jgcg/downloads/WhatIsAUniversity.pdf (12-3-11)
Universities too are faced with the need for change. I think universities will be smaller with more virtual universities and distance learning which presents the challenge of retaining a sense of community. Distance learning may be an add-on or the whole course and will allow flexible study and lifelong learning. Academic semesters will probably disappear, as is already happening, and students will start their courses when and where they wish. With distance learning the restrictions on places will not be an issue, as it is now. With distance learning failure will not be such a costly event and will be seen as an incitement to try again, not a reason to drop out of the system as happens now. Most information will be held electronically and the need for print on paper will be reduced. Face-to-face teaching may be lost and this would mean losing the chance to provide students with the whole feel for a lecture and the enthusiasm of the lecturer, loosing what Newman described as “the colour, the tone, the air, the life which makes it live in us, you must catch all these from those in whom it lives already”. With the development of the virtual university, students may lose the independence developed with the University experience and the life skills gained with independent living. One of the challenges that face universities of the future is to find a way to retain the opportunities for developing social skills and mixing with people from different backgrounds, cultures, religions and personalities. Universities in 2050 should, but may not, provide for the development of the whole person. One of the fears would be that Universities of the future would produce only social network graduates. University, I believe, will be about assessing knowledge learned elsewhere and awarding degrees based on this assessment. Universities will become centers of research more than places where things are learned. They will be places where people return many times to up skill. They will infuse sustainable thinking into campus life, drive innovation and be centres of in-depth research.
“Education should consist of a series of enchantments, each raising the individual to a higher level of awareness, understanding, and kinship with all living things.” AUTHOR UNKNOWN

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