The Next Generation of Sustainability

Koerner Library (NOT CIRS) at UBC / Spicks & Specks on Flickr

Sustainability: the Next Generation. That’s what will be on the agenda at UBC’s Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) on Saturday, May 26. If you are passionate about building and maintaining sustainable communities then I highly recommend you check out this opportunity for provocative dialogue within North America’s greenest building.

Here’s the pitch:

What if there was a new way of approaching sustainability? What if the old environmental agenda of doing things “less bad”—using less energy, taking shorter showers, sacrificing our Western lifestyle—wasn’t the best way forward? What if instead we built buildings and neighbourhoods that actually contributed to the wellbeing of the planet and those that live on it?

Explore these provocative ideas with a leading UBC researcher, staff and strategic partner at the May 26th panel discussion “Next Generation Sustainability,” to be held at CIRS at 10:45 a.m.  This free event is an opportunity for the public to learn about how UBC is integrating operations, research and learning to accelerate sustainability, and what this means for our communities.

The panel discussion features Professor John Robinson, Executive Director of the UBC Sustainability Initiative, Kera McArthur, Director of Public Engagement for Campus and Community Planning and Robbie Zhang, Managing Director of Modern Green Development (Canada).

The panel discussion takes place in the Modern Green Development Auditorium within CIRS, a world-class showcase of green construction that celebrates its location and setting, has minimal impact on the environment and maximizes every inch of interior space to create functional and inspiring spaces for teaching, learning, research and community building. “CIRS is a place for big ideas that have global impacts,” says Prof. Robinson. “It serves as a living laboratory to test, learn, teach, apply and share the outcomes of sustainability focused inquiries.”

Sustainability defines UBC as a global university. In 1997, UBC was the first university in Canada to adopt a sustainability development policy opening a campus sustainability office the next year. In 2010, UBC established the UBC Sustainability Initiative integrating UBC’s academic and operational efforts on sustainability.  Campus and Community Planning ensures choices about UBC lands, buildings, infrastructure and transportation meet the goals of UBC’s strategic plan, Place and Promise, including sustainability. Modern Green Development Co. Ltd., one of China’s largest property developers, together with UBC has entered into its first North American strategic partnership to advance green building research and development.

The panel discussion will be held on May 26th from 10:45-11:45 in the Modern Green Development Auditorium at the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (2260 West Mall, UBC Vancouver Campus).

English Bay’s Bulk Carriers Revealed

Ever notice that Vancouver’s English Bay skyline is constantly littered with those, squat, red-hulled ships? Or maybe not. They’re  such an omnipresent feature of our surroundings, that we pay them little heed despite their importance.  Each of these modern-day merchant ships, or “Bulk Carriers”, doggedly cross the Pacific laden with Canadian commodities. In recent years, they amount to a ceaseless conveyor belt ferrying coal, potash, grain and softwood lumber to hungry markets in China.  So hungry in fact, that softwood lumber imports to China exceeded those bound for the U.S. this spring. Exports to China were up 157 per cent by volume over the same month last year.  Each of those sticks of wood was carefully stowed in English Bay’s bulk carriers.

While their economic usefulness to Canada and B.C. is undeniable, I am more interested in how the technology of these ships have evolved into the monsters we see today. Before the advent of steel, steam-powered ships longshoremen loaded the cargo into sacks, stacked the sacks onto pallets, and put the pallets into the cargo hold with a crane.

A lot has changed since then.Today, bulkers make up 40% of the world’s merchant fleets and range in size from single-hold mini-bulkers to mammoth ore ships able to carry 400,000 tons of deadweight tons.  A number of specialized designs exist: some can unload their own cargo, some depend on port facilities for unloading, and some even package the cargo as it is loaded. Most the ships loitering outside of Stanley Park are in the “Handymax” class capable of carrying 10,000 tons. They are part of a fleet of over 6,000 similar vessels worldwide.

I’m not sure what their direct contribution to community building is other than that, as we stroll the Seawall, we all enjoy looking out at them. To me and to so many others, they consistently evoke the romance of the high seas and of exotic destinations. No amount of sheer size and technological sophistication can change that.

The White Tiger

CLJ Reviews The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

What We Read

For my second book, I choice The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. My choice this time was simple – It had recently won the Booker, it had a colourful book jacket and, well, let’s face it books set in India, full of sensual delights always seem to be a hit. The White Tiger didn’t disappoint, sparking some fiery debate regarding the moral fibre of the protagonist, and musings on how the path from poverty to riches can change someone forever. The story is of how Balram, the son of a richshaw puller  in the darkness of rural India, learns to drive and begins working as a chauffeur for  a rich family in Dehli, “The Light”. From the air-conditioned confines of his spacious Honda City which he shuttles daily from Shopping Mall to luxury condo tower – Balram gains increasing exposure to a world of wealth and privilege which remains firmly closed to him. Near the end of the book he decides to make his move and build an entrepreneurial empire – not without making some serious moral compromise. I won’t give all of it away, but suffice it to say that Balram’s odyssey against the rollicking world of an India beset by social, economic and technological change is a great read and was a hit with the CLJ.

What We Did (and How We Did It)

The White Tiger features a periodic running correspondence between two high ranking officials in India and China. After all, this is the age of China and India’s global ascendancy. In honour of this historic rise, I staged a simple trivia game based on the geography, history and natural history of the two countries. I had been strongly critiqued for a much, much too complicated challenge on my last choice, the Zanzibar Chest, so I decided to keep this one simple. One contestant was still pretty challenged, answering “Mountain” for every question. He didn’t win the trophy.

What We Thought

The book was generally well received by the group who appreciated its lively depictions of India on the rise and the protagonist’s (mis) adventures. Our converstation became pretty much stuck on debating the moral integrity of the protagonist and whether the actions he took to rise to wealth were justifiable or morally wrong. There was some pretty deep division on this issue which made for a really energetic conversation.

As told by Godfrey von Bismarck…

Powerful People

Courtesy Marvel Comics - Two of the Most Powerful People on Earth: Barack Obama and Spider-man (The Ghost of Abe Lincoln, unfortunately, didn't crack Forbes's Top 100)

Courtesy Marvel Comics - Two of the Most Powerful People on Earth: Barack Obama and Spider-man (The Ghost of Abe Lincoln, unfortunately, didn't crack Forbes's Top 100)

Last week Forbes magazine released its list of “The World’s 67 Most Powerful People.” I know what you’re thinking (because I thought the same thing): why 67 people? Why not 100 or 50? What’s with such a random number? Here’s my theory. Budget cuts. Originally Forbes struck out to list the world’s 100 most powerful people, but a sudden drop in ad revenue forced them to curtail the list and stop it at 67. Do you know why this sucks? It sucks because a factual and comprehensive study from The Recent Findings Institute showed that Daily Gumboot Editor-in-Controversy, Kurt Heinrich, was slated to be listed at number 72. Tough break, Kurt Buddy. We still think you’re terrifically powerful.

Moving on…

You can review the entire list by following this link. Some interesting and “fun facts” about the list include, but are not limited to, the following observations:

  • Barack Obama is, in Forbes Magazine’s opinion, the most powerful person on Earth; this is probably the first time a non-white person has been given this title, which is kinda-sorta reflective of hope and change for a planet that desperately needs it.
  • Women are in short supply on this list, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel coming in at number 15 and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton coming in at number 17. Oprah Winfrey ranks number 45 on the list.
  • Educators, writers and thinkers are scarce to say the least. Luckily, Forbes thought of such a problem – for the record, this isn’t the first time that Forbes outwitted the editorial staff of The Daily Gumboot. Check out their “one in a billion” list to find powerful thinkers, teachers, medical folks, and even Hollywood. The idea of “one in a billion” comes from the fact that the global population will soon reach seven billion people, so it will be important to distinguish the fantastamazing people from the 6,999,999,860 other folks on the planet. I haven’t checked the media category, but I’m pretty sure The Daily Gumboot, Callum Ng and/or Margaret Hanson are on the list. And if we’re not, I challenge the ver foundation of realism  “voting” and Liberal Democratic Logic that made up Forbes’s selection process.
  • Of notable absence is George H.W. Bush. I mean, I know that his son and Puppet Master Dick Cheney have recently joined the ranks of America’s unemployed, but, give me a break – George Bush Sr. might be the single most connected fellow on the planet. His resume is beyond impressive, including stints as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Chief of the US Liaison Office to the People’s Republic of China, Director of the CIA, Vice President to Ronald Reagan, and President of the United States of America. Throw in a fairly intimate relationship with Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud (who is number 9 on Forbes’s list) and some outstanding, non-partisan philanthropic work and, well, in my humble opinion you’ve got a recipe for a pretty powerful person. Renaissance Man Justin Timberlake and the comedic tag-team of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were left off the list, too. Finally, speaking of comedians, I’d like to make a case for Canadian Mark Henry Roswell to be on the list, too. Mr. Roswell is perhaps the biggest foreign influencer in China (RIP Michael Jackson and way to spiral out of control, Tom Cruise), as his comedic persona, Dashan, entertains millions of folks in  a country that yields almost as many “powerful figures” on Forbes’s list as America does. In the opinions of Hu Jintao (number 2), Li Changchun (number 19), Li Ka-shing (number 23),  Lou Jiwei (number 34), and Li Rongrong (number 61), this video might very well be hilarious! And that’s a lot of power for a Canadian to have…

In conclusion, what is power? And why do we think nobody from Vancouver, let alone Merville, BC, graced the list with their presence? According to Forbes, power seems to be measured by political might, business, money, and influence through media. But what do you think? Is power truly global, or can it me more effectively wielded on regional and/or local levels? For example, in the city of Vancouver who is more powerful, Stephen Harper, Gregor Robertson, Russell Peters, Miss 604,  or Gordon Campbell? And, last but not least, how do you wield power in your community?

I gotta say, I’m pretty excited to hear your thoughts on Forbes’s list and how our communities from here to Toronto and back again relate to it.

Have fun with it!


Learning from Pirate Communities – Building Relationships

Welcome to Learning from Pirate Communities, one of the best-selling series here at The Daily Gumboot. Here’s the deal: we participants in humanity operate within a paradigm or framework of themes and ideas (gender, race and culture, environmental stewardship, ideology, weapons, business, entrepreneurship, art, tasty drinks, and fashion). Many people from many academic disciplines explore such themes from a myriad of perspectives. The Editor-in-Chief of this publication discusses such ideas through a lens of Piratology, because, hey, pirates represent an edutaining and approachable subject that interests people. Consequently, we can learn a lot from pirates. Just read more to find out!

Cowboys don't suck, but this is a great conversation starter!

Cowboys don't suck, but this is a great conversation starter!

Today we will be talking about building relationships. And we will also talk about funny tshirts. Let’s start with an amazing quote:

“Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.” And this fantastic bit of unpretentious and collaborative wisdom is brought to us by Maragret Wheatley.

In a gesture of wisdom, charisma and unpretentiousness, my boss recently handed me a copy of Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone and it’s been a bit of an inspiration. Spoiler alert: there is going to be an ongoing series about this topic here at The Gumboot, as there is just so much to explore when it comes to building relationships that build community.

Now, let’s get back to pirates for a minute and discuss why relationship-building is so important for success. The greatest pirate in the history of the world was named Madame Cheng. And one of the reasons she became the greatest was because of the relationships she built throughout her career. Let’s time travel back to 1807, where hundreds of Chinese pirates were looking for a leader. An opportunity presented itself. As she cajoled and negotiated and charmed her way to prominence in China’s pirate community, Madame Cheng took on a young lover; the adopted son of a fisherman named Cheng Pao. And here’s the kicker: she made the kid head of the Red Sea fleet, which was the biggest and most important in the Confederation. Certainly, she did something that was very, very generous for the young man and, perhaps, even a bit risky. But, once the door was open, the kid was simply dynamite; he knew tides and currents and tactics and weather and pretty much everything there was to know about robbing people on the high seas. By 1810, Madame Cheng’s pirate fleet was larger than those of most countries navies. She commanded between 600-800 coastal vessels, hundreds of small, river junks, and tens of thousands of pirates.  From a position of power, she negotiated a peace treaty with Britain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Chinese authorities and, following the agreement, sought an early retirement with her husband, Cheng Pao. Through organization, relationship-building and recognizing top talent, Madame Cheng created a pirate fleet the likes of which no one has ever seen (or well ever again see). And for three years she ran the shipping lanes of the China Sea and Strait of Malacca for decades.

Build a reputation (ie. fearsome pirate) to build relationships!

Build a reputation (ie. fearsome pirate) to build relationships!

The takeaway from this story: it’s an easy one; be generous and give’r! Connect people from different parts of your life who can help each other out. Provide opportunities. Also, be willing to receive generosity – in our entrepreneurial, individualistic, John Wayne-worshipping, American Dream culture, this can be tough to do. Furthermore, when you have positive relationships with people, they will be excited and eager to spread the word – the good word – about you. Sure, when we help others the entire community is raised to a new and better level; the fact that you’re the one doing the building and connecting, well, such things do not go unnoticed.

Over the next few months, we will explore several aspects of building relationships. Here is a brief list of topics to be covered:

  1. Making a first impression.
  2. Listening and doing homework.
  3. Adding value (unexpectedly, even).
  4. Hugs and random acts of kindness.
  5. Risk taking and giant balls.
  6. “Trading up and Giving Back.”
  7. Mentors and Mentees.
  8. Twitblogging the Interscape.
  9. The intersection of talent and passion.
  10. “Never Eat Alone.”

Are you excited? Here’s a sneak preview about making a first impression.

First thing’s first. Decide who you want to make an impression with and why you want to do it (the why is important; for example, if you want to build a relationship with a gang, well, maybe think twice about such things).

Second. Learn about who they are, what they do, how they do it, and what style they exude while they’re doing it. You don’t need to mimic or replicate their behaviour, but know what the “touch points” of a conversation should look like.

Kym is full of witticisms like this; it's kinda like Russell Peters meets Roots...but cooler!

Kym is full of witticisms like this; it's kinda like Russell Peters meets Roots...but cooler!

Third. Dress the part. If you want to give to the Grandview-Woodlands community, well, you might not want to show up in a suit and tie. This one time, I was rocking a corduroy blazer with a tie on my way home from work and got called a “douchebag” by a group of twentysomethings as I sauntered northward on The Drive. In my ‘hood. Towards my home. What can I say? People are superficial creatures.

Fourth. Smile. Be nice. This is common sense, but it is not common practice. Just ask the people who judged and heckled me when they could’ve been smiling and saying, “s’up, man?” Fun fact: when you meet someone at a networking event on a date or walking up Commercial Drive (perhaps you would like to build a relationship with them) people form judgments about you in less than 90 seconds. Like it or not, how you look counts for a lot.

Fifth. Be more interested than interesting. Don’t just ask questions. Ask great questions. We’ll get into active listening in the next section!

One of my favourite ways to make a first impression is with funny tshirts. No, I don’t usually do this when I go to work at Business School – when I put on my business socks, after all, it’s business time. But, yes, funny tshirts. I mean, they’re great conversation starters. I have a variety of shirts I’ve made, had commissioned and bought online over the years. Nearly all of them turn heads. One says “Johnism” and another acknowledges that “Nerds are Awesome” and I even have one that suggests that “Ninjas and Pirates Agree: Cowboys Suck.” In their own special way, they create moments of conversation. Even with cowboys! (Editor’s note: I usually defuse a potentially angry conversation with some points about Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses; it’s one of my favourite books and is full of cowboys; bam, before you know it I’m talking about literature with a cowboy-loving stranger!). After all, everybody has a sense of humour.

Speaking of senses of humour and building relationships, I’d like to connect generosity, pirates and funny tshirts. Kymela Banguis used to work with me, but she’s striking out on her own because her burgeoning tshirt business is demanding more of her time (Engrish pictured). Kym will be profiled on the Get to Know Your Community segment this Sunday and, well, I just have to say that I wish Kym the absolute best as, like any good pirate, she has left our ship for one that she will have a chance to steer herself. Check out her website and tell your friends about it. After all, no great thing in history (like funny tshirt making) was ever done by just one person. Only by connecting with each other can we truly achieve greatness.

Thanks. Now get out there and make a great first impression.