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20 questions with… Rob Hopkins

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Rob Hopkins answers 20 questions on life, sustainability and everything.

He is the man behind the Transition Towns movement, which was launched in Totnes, Devon, in 2005, in response to environmental and economic pressures. Offshoot initiatives initially spread elsewhere in the UK. Now, there are Transition Towns in communities across the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Brazil and more.

Hopkins has written three books: Transition: The Transition Handbook (2008), The Transition Companion (2011) and, most recently, The Power of Just Doing Stuff (2013).

We want the world to be as blue and green tomorrow as it was yesterday. What’s your mission?

To inspire and catalyse communities around the world to begin the process of making themselves more resilient, seeing that as a historic opportunity.  We set Transition Network up in 2007 to do that, and there are now Transition groups in 44 countries around the world, doing remarkable things, and increasingly seeing community resilience as a form of economic development.  It’s inspirational, and increasingly gaining traction.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Sterling Morrison from the Velvet Underground.

How would your friends describe you?

Loyal, a good keeper of secrets, a good shoulder to cry on, fun.

What was your ‘road to Damascus moment’ in terms of sustainability?

Standing on Solsbury Hill near Bath in a beautiful English landscape that Turner might have painted being told that in order to take two minutes off the journey into Bath, the side of the hill was due to be cut away, the ancient forests cleared, streams rerouted into concrete pipes and the hedgerows cleared. I couldn’t believe it. Yet over the following three years I watched it gradually happen. I don’t think I have yet recovered from the heartbreak of it.

Who or what inspires you?

Urban rooftop gardening activists, the locksmiths of Pamlona who refused to change to locks on homes whose tenants had been evicted, The Fall, the Agroforestry Research Trust, permaculture, the craft brewing revolution, my kids, the Transition groups I visit, the man in Bangalore promoting rice production on the city’s roofs, Dartmoor, Jonathan Richman, people who get on and do things that makes the world a better place, Van Gogh’s pen and ink drawings.

What really grinds your gears?

Rude people. Climate sceptics. The people who leapt straight from saying, “Climate change isn’t an issue” to saying, “It’s too late to do anything” – what happened to that bit in the middle where we actually do something? Facebook.

Describe your perfect day.

Planting out seedlings in my garden with the sun on my back, playing cribbage and eating a meal with my kids, a bike ride, perhaps going to the cinema with my wife. Or a day sketching in a forest somewhere.

What do you see when you look out your window at home?

My garden, raised beds running down a hill with fruit trees and a small greenhouse.  It was all lawn when we arrived.

What do you like spending your money on?

Raising four kids means there’s not much spare money around, but on a rare occasion a treat is in order I might pop into the excellent Drift Record Shop in Totnes and buy myself a little something.

What’s your favourite holiday destination?

I always wanted to visit Mount Kailash in Tibet, but I gave up flying seven years ago, so that’s not going to happen. So Venice. I went there last year by train to speak at the DeGrowth conference and it absolutely blew me away. Venice that is, the conference itself was a bit ropey.

What’s your favourite book?

A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander. A work of genius. Or Possession by AS Byatt.

What’s your favourite film?

Little Miss Sunshine.

You’re made prime minister. What’s the first thing you do?

Introduce Tradeable Energy Quotas, David Fleming’s brilliant idea for managing the carbon/energy descent. And give families with young children the support to mean that they get to spend a healthy amount of time with their kids.

If you were stuck on a desert island, which famous person would you like to be stuck with and why?

Sterling Morrison. He could give me guitar lessons.

What was the best piece of advice you have ever been given? And the worst?

When my first son was born, a friend said, “There are three things you can have, a happy relationship, a happy, loved child, and a tidy house.  But you can only have two of those three.”  Brilliant advice, and I give it to any friends who have kids. Worst advice? “Transition?  That’ll never work. People are too selfish.

What would you like to be doing five years from now?

Living in a town that is a showcase of Transition in practice. Seeing the idea that local communities have a vital role to play in the creation of a truly low-carbon society as a given, as such a commonplace idea that it isn’t even talked about that much.

What’s your biggest regret?

I don’t have any regrets.

What one thing would you encourage readers to do to make their life more sustainable?

Get rid of your television.

What’s the one idea that you think could change the world for the better?

Transition. I would say that though wouldn’t I? If I can’t have that, an annual carbon cap which reduces every year.

What’s your favourite quote?

It is best to think of this as a revolution, not of guns, but of consciousness, which will be won by seizing the key myths, archetypes, eschatologies and ecstacies so that life won’t seem worth living unless one is on the transforming energy’s side” – Gary Snyder, the American poet.

Photo: Jim Wileman

Further reading:

Rob Hopkins: Transition Towns is the only ethically defensible thing to do

TED talks: Transition to a world without oil – Rob Hopkins

We salute capitalism’s disruptive insurgents

Harnessing the power of a community

Manifesto published to accelerate ‘community energy revolution’

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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