Tag Archives: book review

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.

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Cowed: A Book Review

imagesCowed:  The Hidden Impact of 93 million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture and Environment, 

Denis Hayes and Gail Boyer Hayes

Do Cows hibernate Dad? asked one of my sons a decade or so ago when we moved into rural Lancashire, noticing that cows were absent in the fields during winter months and as then not aware of the noisy, steamy and rather smelly over wintering cow sheds. One of the rural spring treats which we will witness soon, is when the cows are let out into the spring green fields, where they literally can jump for joy like spring lambs. the word cavorting* would seem invited for just this occasion.

Cowed is an entertaining and educating insight into the American relationship with its cattle, triggered by the authors visit in the UK and noticing how very different cattle in UK fields appeared to that seen or indeed out of sight in the US.

From Cowboys through to intelligent, mechanised milking, Denis and Gail provide real insights from their environmentalism knowledge, (Denis was cofounder of Earthday in the 70’s, now founder /CEO of the Bullitt Foundation in Seattle and a recent guest on our #sustldrconv series,  Gail is an Environmental lawyer, health writer and editor)

Throughout, I was reminded of John Muir’s comment that ‘when we tug on one part of nature we find it joined to everything else”, This may be as on the day I started reading Cowed, I visited a botanical garden in Vancouver where this quote was engraved into the floor and entrance screens.

Nevertheless, for me it summed up one of Cowed’s core themes. That the Cow, which we have removed from natural habituation and domesticated or rather industricated, is now so intrinsically linked to so many aspects of our lives from food to furniture and in doing so, uncoupled from its natural connections and bio-relationship with soil, air and water.

Cowed provided, for me a straightforward  explanation of the recent research, debate and controversy on natural cattle grazing patterns and impact for soil carbon sequestration based around the work of Allan Savory. This is something I had come across before on a TED talk but poorly understood.

Living in rural Lancashire I easily recognised the description of dairy farming within the first few pages, but I struggled to recognise the US description of cattle management in the remainder of the book, perhaps with the exception of the cattle ranching images from old Westerns!. Yet Cowed does highlight issues we here in the UK need to be aware of and guard against as concepts of mega farms are proposed and debated here.

*to jump or move around in a playful way, sometimes noisily, and often in a sexual way

Green Revolutionary Engineering

Integral_cover_9x7_FINAL_webIntegral Revolutionary Engineering – a review.

Every now and again you come across a book that is both simple and profound, full of ah ha moments, of innovative ideas and yet seemingly familiar. One such book I have mentioned often on this blog (and gifted to many) is Yvon Chouinard’s “Let my people go surfing”  to which Integral Revolutionary Engineering book published by Ecotone has a similar feel.

I had the opportunity to meet and chat with Kevin Hydes at an Inetgral reception at EcoBuild this week, and picked up a copy of Revolutionary Engineering. Kevin served as the Chair of the USGBC  2005-2006, was a founder and director of CanadaGBC and a former Chair of the WorldGBC and is Founder and CEO of the Integral Group.

Integral are a global network of design professionals collaborating under a single deep green engineering umbrella, providing building system design and energy analysis services, trading as Elementa in the UK

Revolutionary Engineering is a ‘treatise of innovation in deep green building design, featuring stories and ideas from some of the worlds leading engineers and designers’

And it does what it says on the lid, providing a portfolio of the Integral Groups experience of design on deep green buildings, an insight not only into what is possible today but what is highly achievable in the future.

That the forward is written by Jason McLellan (see bio) gives the clue that this a treatise of building services design on Living Building Challenge projects.

And there is a nice affinity here. Leeds, where we founded the UK Collaborative for Living Building Challenge is also Kevin Hydes’ home town.  Now residing in San Francisco, Kevin reminisces in his preface letter on a post industrial Leeds, with belching coal fired power plants and coal from Yorkshire burning in his very home. Times have changed, in Leeds and in sustainable construction since then.

Molly Miller (@miller_mm), author, is Integrals story teller with a background in sustainability writing at Rocky Mountain Institute and Mother Earth News. And what a great title – why doesn’t every company have someone with the story teller title, official or otherwise?.

In conversational tone, Molly includes many Kevin Hydes insights scattered and emphasised throughout, alongside quotes and comments from many other green build thinkers and project team members.

As I read Revolutionary Engineering, I was looking for hints as to how BIM would fit in, yet,  found it refreshing that BIM doesn’t feature. Although I am sure it must have been used to some degree on the large Hospital projects and Empire State Building refurbishment case studies.

… refreshing to read a book with Revolutionary in the title that doesn’t try to sell BIM as the panacea for all things design and construction, even green construction.

Revolutionary Engineering sees other drivers across its fours chapters Imagine, Perform, Sustain and Accelerate. For example, creative leadership and collaboration (there are echoes here of our collective leadership tweetchat from Tuesday evening), innovation and diversity

One of the barriers to innovative thinking and collaboration across the construction sector is acknowledged as lack of diversity – of age and gender. This is indeed something I’ve seen evident in my own work in the sustainability leadership and social media world. Revolutionary Engineering, sees that the processes and policies of an organisation need to be appropriate to women,  consciously arranging hierarchies and teams to be collaborative

The character of innovation relies on different ways of thinking and a homogenous group is just not going to provide that.

Addressing the Cost v Value issue, Revolutionary Engineering reminds me of the 1:5:200 and Be Valuable thinking of a decade ago, brought bang up to date in line with deep green buildings. What must be of interest to every client and contractor seeking sustainable buildings is how Integral brought the Living Building project at Simon Frasier University in on ‘standard budget’

Whilst an reviting read it is also challenging, for eg on the higher cost for going green issue –  to cite cost as an argument against energy efficiency or innovative practices in design is often an excuse to do something the same comfortable way it has always been done”

The book’s case study on the new Clif Bar headquarters is fascinating, illustrating the importance of putting the user first. “The occupant is the star of high performance buildings”  I must say I find Clif Bar an interesting organization for personal reasons, from a CSR and cycling perspective, so this case study added much to my understanding

A small criticism, a lack of page numbers and possibly too many images of one project in particular – the Vancouver VanDusen Botanical Gardens – it is a great Living Building Challenge project that I had the chance to visit in Vancouver a few years back – but perhaps too many images here that you get the feeling of ‘space filling’

In summary we can, as the UK construction industry learn much from the experiences and insights in Revolutionary Engineering as we start to embrace deep green and Living Building Challenge thinking it should be on the reading list of all sustainability professionals, services engineers and a text for construction and building services students … to further the ‘collaborative commitment to relentless momentum’

Integral are participating (exhibiting and talking) at the Construction21 Green Build Virtual Expo in May, prior to then, I will be in conversation with Integral as part of our EXPOC21chat tweetchat series.