Sustainable Village Life

A two hour drive from Wote in the Makueni district of Kenya lies the village of Ngomano.  The last 9 miles of the trip to the village center takes a four-wheel drive vehicle and nerves of steel.  Not only are you sharing the single lane road with goats, sheep, cattle and people heading to get water, but what is used as a road is often deeply rutted and washed out.  Hold on to your stomach for this bumpy ride.

Just before you arrive at the village center of Ngomano a small side road to the left takes you a hundred yards to The Clay International School.  This school was developed by PEI Kenya as an innovative way to teach, and in order to create a sustainable community. Continue reading “Sustainable Village Life”

Italian Food Part 1: Sorrento

I’m sitting in a kitchen in Caprese Michelangelo in the hills of Tuscany with a glass of a local white wine.  There s a fire going to keep the room toasty warm.  Jay is busy in our hostess’ kitchen preparing a tomato and fennel fish stew with ingredients that we picked up from the market that day, all of which were locally grown or brought in from the coast.

Is ‘local’ a theme here?  So far, it is and not just because it is a passion of mine.

Let’s start from the beginning:

In Sorrento, where I spent my first few days, the streets are lined with orange trees.  Small orchards of a few trees, herbs, and grape vines seemed to occupy all available space in backyards and on balconies.

Limoncello, a lemon based liquor, is not only regionally unique but also varies by producer.  One variety I tasted on a whim was far better, in my opinion, than others to the point that I might have though it was a different drink all together.

At night while enjoying a stroll down Sorrento’s small side streets, I caught a glimpses of the day’s catch – frutta di mare – in display cases visible from the outside of the restaurants.  No doubt this is meant to entice you in, and also to let you know what the fresh catch is for the day.  Fresh meaning that it was caught that day and brought up from the harbour.

Once seated at the restaurant for the evening I was pleasantly surprised with a local and superior in quality bottle of vino rosso – red wine.  This left no need to spend money on the otherwise pricey wine list, a pleasant occurrence which repeated itself throughout the trip until Rome.

Sorrento’s ability to not only feed me, but to do so locally and with great flavor was definitely appreciated.  I appreciated knowing that the locally produced and harvested foods comprised the entire menu.

Would this be repeated?  Find out about Tuscany in Italian Food Part 2: Tuscany.

Leveraging Technology to Change the World

Randy Paynter of Care 2 brings up a good point when he says that businesses no longer controls their brand or marketing. This is because of the increasing interactions and communications in the digital world which are not controllable by an organization. He points out that today’s purchasing habits allow consumers to access reviews and alternative products with just a few clicks. In the past glossy advertising guided the public perception of a product, but today consumers are no longer limited to canned marketing campaigns medium to inform their opinions.

Leveraging Technology

Randy maintains that this massive shift in power from the seller to the buyer comes in part from the plethora of choices, thereby creating a commodity of any product. In order to achieve brand success he touts the importance of differentiating a product as well as influencing the conversations surrounding it. He suggests that we need to create and engage ‘fanatical evangelists’ to build and communicate brands online.
Listen to the full session here

Steve Newcomb has high aspirations. His company, “Virgance, is a startup incubator that finds great ideas and turns them into companies that change the world. Steve wondered if he could “break the rules and build companies that do good.” His commitment to 100% transparency puts him in front of the public so that they can ask any question about how business is conducted.

Steve has approached the idea of sustainability as he would any market sector and he sees the market opportunity as enormous. The change needed will require not a single Apollo-sized project by hundreds. Seeking to change the very nature of capitalism, Virgance companies adhere to five tenets:

  1. “Cause as much direct and measurable change as possible.”
  2. “Always use the carrot and never use the stick.”
  3. “Use technology and the powers of social networks to get the job done.”
  4. “Have business models that allow these businesses to be self-sustaining.”
  5. “Try to involve and empower people to make the change.”

But the plenary wouldn’t have been complete without Malika Chopra, who began the session by guiding the SVN community in a beautiful mediation of gratitude, showing her heritage as the daughter of internationally renowned, Deepak Chopra. While her childhood exposure to the self-help arena and her presence around people who were on a journey of self-exploration, Malika’s early interests steered her to work for MTV initially. But it was while in Bombay that she had a change of heart after seeing a group of barefoot children huddled around a TV watching MTV. “Oh my God, what am I doing?” was all she could think and she decided to quit MTV the next day.

Today, Malika spends her time building a community on Intent, a sanctuary on the web for users to share their intentions and dreams with each other. Malika, a self-proclaimed “social media maven,” has a unique perspective on things because she is coming at it from the perspective of a mother and a woman.

Both Malika and Steve remind us that powerful movements and changes have been created through the use of blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Activities like ‘flash mobs,’ ‘tweet storms,’ and ‘carrot mobs’ can or have been used to create positive social change. The energy generated by this group’s discussion seemed to electrify the air, and that crackling interest will likely lead many of the participants to delve further into their own use of social media in order to create change.

What’s Peak Oil?

Out to dinner with my friend the other night I casually referred to Peak Oil in a discussion. We were talking about topics that might be potential articles on Earth Thrives. As it turns out he didn’t know what Peak Oil was. Hadn’t heard about it and didn’t mention the fact until I had rolled on to another topic.

This friend had spent at least the past two years running a company whose focus sales demographic was the triple bottom line business, and so I assumed that he of all people would know what peak oil was. Turns out I was wrong.

Over the next week I asked another ten colleagues and friends if they knew what Peak oil was. I expected that they would know when I asked and was not prepared to find that all but one of them didn’t.

I shouldn’t have assumed that my friend or anyone else, for that matter, has the same knowledge that I have. This is not to say that I am amazing, but more to show that my foci are unique to my interests. We all have our own interests which lead to what we read, look up and study in depth. The topics that I have spent more time with include (but are certainly not limited to):
Urban gardens, Peak Oil, sustainable communities, organization development; leadership development, GMO’s (genetically modified organisms), socially responsible business, alternative economies, and local living economies.

While I have spent that last two years immersed in the world of green and sustainable while working on my Masters degree from Goddard College in Socially Responsible Business and Sustainable Communities, not everyone else has gone as in depth in the same topics, even industry professionals.

Let’s face it, many people still think of sustainability as a topic that stands on its own, when it is really a lens through which you see the world.

So, don’t assume that if you bring up something like the Andersonville Study in a conversation about why buying local is important that the person you are talking to has a clue to what you just referred. Ask if they have heard about terms, studies, and topics that you otherwise might take for granted that they know. It will help you to educate yourself as well as others and that is what we need to have happen in order to build the breadth and depth of our information.