Monthly Archives: August 2016

Books that have shaped our thinking … Parts 1 and 2

Driving back from Andrew Platten’s funeral with Anne Parker, conversation was centred on how Andrew had inspired us, and others, in numerous ways; (for me, sustainability, academia/industry collaboration and cycling)

And as is common when discussing inspiration, our conversation picked up on books that have shaped our thinking. As we travelled over the M62, I rattled off a few of my all time favourites:

Linked to travels and expat work postings (India, Trinidad and S America) way back in my 20’s, novels  such as Fireflies, V S Naipaul / Midnights Children, Salman Rushdie / Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez were influential on my choice of reading for quite a while. I did, and still do enjoy reading books, novels or travelogues that are located in the area I happened to be traveling or working. One travelogue in particular  In Patagonia Bruce Chatwin, stands out as a brilliant read, highly recognised as a literary classic.

Let My People Go Surfing is on my list as a shining example of how an individual (Yvon Chouinard) and an organisation (Patagonia) rooted in the great outdoors can become environmental, sustainability  ‘cool’ and in doing so both shape corporate responsibility thinking and inspire so many.

Image 8.1a Book Shelf

The final book I mentioned on that journey was Nan Shepherds meditation on the Scottish landscape, The Living Mountain, written during the second world war but only recently published. It is a great autobiographic account of life in the Cairngorms and a celebration of the mountains there that touches on current themes such as mindfulness, biophilia and rewilding. Her descriptions and insights, (going into the mountain, rather ‘up the mountain’) has certainly made me think of mountain and natural landscapes in a whole new light.

Part 2 – Anne’s Books 

It feels strange to say that I enjoyed the journey with Martin back from Andrew’s funeral but so it is.‘Death is the great re-organiser’ I read the other day and have reflected on how true this is – how paths then take new turns, how events are changed or adapted or gain new meanings, how people are further drawn together or sent further apart. Even more than that it is astonishing how much you learn about people and yourself from the death of a close friend.

Like many people I knew Andrew Platten firstly in a professional context and then he became a friend. This feels to me like a very joyful process and I personally love the interaction between friendships and professional contacts – why not? Do we need walls around different areas of our lives?

So it was with this conversation about books….My memory is that we discussed our ‘favourite’ books and so I was fascinated to read in Martin’s blog about books that shaped our thinking. I had a wonderful moment of reflection on this – is my list one and the same? Are my favourite books the ones that have most shaped my thinking? Largely, my answer is ‘no’! This amused me. Whilst I love books that give me new angles and new perspectives on things, my most favourite books are ones that somehow feel musical or poetic in some way – feel soulful or even romantic. So again, I learn something about myself!

So here we go Martin, my top 5 ‘favourite’ books and my top 5 ‘books that have shaped my thinking’ list. I can compare and contrast and develop further insights no doubt! Andrew would be amused too – he loved a fun take on working life. This is his most powerful legacy to me and for which I am truly grateful. It is the capacity to love work and have fun with it which paradoxically gives it the most enduring and deepest impact. In my experience all endeavours that are done with love are the most sustainable. Actions driven by fear or grasping of some kind somehow just don’t do it….

Here’s to you Andrew and to Fairsnape and enduring connections!

Top 5 ‘favourite’ Books

1. ‘Dracula’ Bram Stoker

2. ‘About Love and Other Stories’ Anton Chekhov

3. The Poems of Rumi

4. ‘Little House on The Prairie’ Laura Ingalls Wilder

5. ‘True Love’ Thich Nhat Hanh

Top 5 ‘Shaped my Thinking’ Books

1. ‘A New Earth’ Eckhart Tolle

2. ‘A Course in Miracles’

3. ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’ Marcus Buckingham

4. ‘The Way We’re Working isn’t Working’ Tony Schwartz

5. ‘Here Comes Everybody’ Clay Shirky

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Sustainability, Sharing and Success

Below is my keynote presentation given to the UCLan Teaching and Learning conference recently, where the theme of the conference was Sustainability, Sharing and Success.

My keynote covered development of sustainability thinking, from the throwaway dreams and society  of the 1950’s to the circular economy, from the ubiquitous Brundtland definition to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, from sustainable buildings to healthy, biophilic and salutogenic buildings that heal. The keynote explored sharing through social media, and successful, ‘just’ sustainability leadership.

All themes covered  in detail within FutuREstorative published end of August 2016.

Advocacy and Activism: Patagonia ‘Tools’ Book Review

Patagonia Tools for Grassroots Activists.Edited by Nora Gallagher and Lisa Myers; introduction by Yvon Chouinard. Book Review

ToolsAdvocacy or activism. Advocacy has become a common descriptor for many sustainability folk, and one I’ve used for many years. Maybe now is the time for the activist description to become as popular as the advocate, moving from advocating for change to doing and driving change.

Advocate: a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.

Activist: a person who campaigns for some kind of social change.

Patagonia Tools for Grassroots Activists, the latest from Patagonia Books, captures the best wisdom and advice of 20 years of the Patagonia Tools Conference, ‘where experts provide practical training to help activists be more effective in their fight” 

Whether its scaling damns, (Damnation) protecting wildness (see the stunning Jumbo trailer)), circular economy thinking, (Wornwear), using clothing catalogues and promoting environment awareness through social media (dirt bag diaries and the Cleanest Line blog) or promoting family business, Patagonia continue to follow their mission – ‘using business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis’

Tools, has created a resource “for any organisation hoping to hone core skills like campaign and communication strategy, grassroots organising, and lobbying as well as working with business, fundraising in uncertain times and using new technologies

Each chapter, written by a respected expert in the field, covers essential principles as well as best practices is accompanied by a hands-on case study that demonstrates the principles in action.

And in the world of sustainability, including built environment sustainability we can learn a lot here. Within Tools, there are many stories to inspire strategic thinking, tools to adopt and employ, and tips to help, for example;

  • Using social media within organisations and externally
  • Leadership to insure that every decision made on a project or within an organisation contributes to the overall mission

There are many contributors those in sustainability will be very familiar with for example Bill McKibben (350.org) and Annie Leonard (Story of Stuff) and those in the built environment sustainability space will recognise Denis Hayes, the driver behind the Bullitt Centre, the worlds greenest commercial building. I was particular interested to see Wade Davis, author of Into the Silence, a 2012 Boardman Tasker award shortlist, included here.

Patagonia hopes the book will be dog-eared and scribbled in and always at hand, an insightful resource and reliable companion to the environmental movement, I am sure it will be.