Thursday, 31 July 2014

7 Reasons Why We Should Stop Praising Excess

by J, Becoming Minimalist: http://www.becomingminimalist.com/unpraise-excess/
unpraise-excess
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer” - Jim Carrey

Our world applauds success. And well it should. It is entirely appropriate to champion those who develop their talents, work hard, and overcome obstacles. There are many successful people I admire in my own life.

But our world is also fixated on praising excess. We are not the first society to worship conspicuous consumption, but we do continue the practice.

Magazines overexpose the details of the rich and famous. News publications rank those with the greatest net worth. Reality television applauds the lifestyle of those who live in luxury. And the Internet attracts readers with countless stories about them.

Even in our own lives, we do the same. We comment on the size of the houses in the neighborhood down the street. We point out the luxury car in the lane next to us. We envy fashionable clothes and designer handbags.

We desire to live the life of those who seem to have it all. In our hearts and in our affections, we praise those who live with excess.

But we are making a big mistake. Success and excess are not the same. 

7 Reasons Why We Should Stop Praising Excess

1. Excess is often arbitrary

Sometimes, financial gain is achieved through hard work, dedication, and devoted discipline. But not always. Often times, wealth is only a result of heritage, dishonesty, or just plain luck. In those cases, no praise has been earned. And telling the difference is often more difficult than we realize. 

2. Excess is rarely the wisest use of our money

Harvey Mackay once said, “If you can afford a fancy car, you can make more of an impact driving an ordinary one.” His statement is true. There are better things to do with our money than spend it on ourselves. This advice stands as wisdom when purchasing cars, houses, clothes, or technology. Just because you have the financial resources to afford excess, that does not mean it is the best option for your life. We should stop praising those who use it exclusively to that end. 

3. Excess adds stress and anxiety to our lives

Not only is there a greater good that could be accomplished with our money, but increased possessions add burden and weight to our lives. Every increased possession adds increased worry. It becomes one more thing to manage, store, repair, and remove. Adding extra burden to our already short lives seems like a foolish thing to admire. 

4. Excess is harming the environment around us

It is difficult to ignore the impact our praise of excess has meant on the earth. Perhaps Gandhi said it best, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” Holding up those who flaunt their excess as an example to follow is hardly a wise decision for anyone’s future. 

5. Excess causes us to praise the wrong things

Our world keeps checking the wrong scoreboard. Those who live in excess are not necessarily the ones who live the most fulfilled lives. Often times, it is those who live quietly, humbly, and in the service of others who are the happiest. Those are the choices we should be praising and those are the lives we should be emulating. 

6. Excess causes us to lose sight of the things we already have

It is impossible to find peace, gratitude, and contentment while holding on to envy of those who have more. Unfortunately, we do it all the time. Admiration is a healthy emotion, but envy is not. And choosing to exalt those who flaunt their excess results only in greater discontent. 

7. Excess is not the answer

Everyone is looking for answers to the most important questions we are asking: What is the purpose of this life? Where can I find fulfillment? And what does it mean to live an abundant life? These are difficult questions with difficult answers. But surely, “owning as much stuff as possible” is not the answer to any of them. There are greater pursuits available to us than excess. But they can be difficult to discover when all our energies are being directed at the wrong things.

Admire success. But do not praise excess. Our society is longing for people who can tell the difference. (tweet that)

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less. Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Why Banning Uber Makes Seoul Even More of a Sharing City

by Neal Gorenflo, Shareable: http://www.shareable.net/blog/why-banning-uber-makes-seoul-even-more-of-a-sharing-city

This past Monday Seoul City said it planned to ban Uber, the smartphone car-hailing service, and launch its own app for official taxis. 

Some reacted by calling Seoul’s sharing cred into question because, after all, Seoul is the self-proclaimed Sharing City with arguably the most ambitious sharing economy agenda of any city in the world. 

Shouldn’t Seoul support Uber?

On July 7th at the FAB 10 conference in Barcelona, futurist Bruce Sterling gave an impassioned speech explaining why cities should reject Uber, their collaborative economy ilk, and the horde of multinational corporations selling “Smart Cities” technology - technology which will likely further concentrate control and wealth into fewer hands.

The video of his speech is a must watch:



I say bravo Seoul. Develop a local solution for taxi hailing. Keep control and wealth local. Keep it weird. Disconnect in intelligent ways from the brittle, banal, and destructive global economy.

Independence, self-sufficiency, diversity, resilience, and equity characterize the developmental path of Sharing Cities. This is what Shareable works toward with the Sharing Cities Network, its joint actions, and our policy guide. Other cities should follow Seoul's (and Hamburg, Brussels and Berlin's) common sense lead.

Moreover, cities should not let themselves be bulldozed by the aura of inevitability that companies like Uber and Airbnb create with a tidal wave of capital and press.

This tactic is lifted directly from a shopworn Silicon Valley playbook (which epitomizes technological determinism in its most crass and virulent form), but brought to a new, even more disturbing level. This is "Shock Entrepreneurship," as in using “shock and awe” to stun enemies into submission.

Here’s a statement from Uber in reaction to Seoul’s decision that typifies Silicon Valley propaganda and hubris (and perhaps laziness - this might just be the cut and paste public relations of a company too busy taking over the world to be in tune with local realities):

“… Seoul is in danger of remaining trapped in the past and getting left behind by the global 'sharing economy' movement."

This is laughable! Seoul is one of the most modern cities in the world. And Uber must not have gotten the memo about Seoul’s Sharing Cities initiative. Seoul is leading the urban wing of the sharing movement. It's Uber that represents the past.

One nation, one solution, one app uber alles is a failed 20th century dream, not the 21st century reality we need.

The future belongs to enterprises that distribute control and wealth rather than concentrating it, and that's not a utopian dream, it's an increasingly practical necessity in order to attact and keep customers in a zero marginal cost world.

Venture Capitalist Brad Burnham said as much at the SHARE conference in May as reported by the Wall Street Journal in an article entitled, "Why Uber and Airbnb Might be in Big Trouble."

Yet, Seoul could do better. Why not open source the local cab-hailing solution they create so other cities can use it?

And, since the city government is backing local sharing startups with public money and resources, why not give the public more than just the privilege to use these startups' services?

At a conference in June, venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya suggested a 1% equity tax for the city of San Francisco as a way to combat gentrification. I think that’s a great idea, but 1% isn’t nearly enough and citizens deserve a say in public supported businesses too. Mere advisors sometimes get 1% or more.

Cities should demand a stake equal to their contribution and use their influence to democratize local businesses.

In other words, good on Seoul for opting for a local solution over the app-style globalization of Uber and for its Sharing Cities initiative. These are steps in the right direction, yet there's a lot more to do to spread the wealth in cities.
##
Disclosure: I'm a member of Seoul's Sharing Economy International Advisory Group.

Putting Down Local Food Roots in Louth

by , Transition Free Press: http://transitionfreepress.org/2014/07/29/putting-down-local-food-roots-in-louth/

If you are in any doubt as to the benefits of sourcing locally produced food (and have exhausted the brilliant Food pages in Transition Free Press of course!), look no further than ‘Local Food Roots’,  a short film celebrating the wide-ranging benefits of the UK’s local food movement.



We were delighted to hear from Steve Mansfield from Transition Town Louth not long ago, whose Transition Initiative recently put on a film showing of ‘Local Food Roots’ at the Louth community centre one Saturday night, before serving up a three-course vegan meal using as much local produce as possible.

Steve writes:
Why not try this in your town or city? Combining the film with a meal is a way of putting theory into practice, getting people to talk about the issues, making new friends in the community, and eating delicious food.
For those without easy access to local food, such as through a market, local buying group or Transition food project, why not check out FarmDrop and The Food Assembly, two excellent organisations helping connect customers directly with local producers, cutting out the middlemen and ensuring farmers get paid a fair price for their produce while customers access fresh, delicious food - wonky veg and all!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

In Crete, a Naval Protest to Stop the Chemicals of War

Matala
Matala (Photo credit: Rudi Heim)
by Leonidas Oikonomakis, ROAR Magazine: http://roarmag.org/2014/07/crete-chemical-weapons-syria/

As NATO prepares to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons on board a warship in the Mediterranean Sea, a local movement in Crete stages a big naval protest.

I grew up in Crete.

You may have been there on holidays, or you may have heard about the island, its Minoan palaces and Venetian fortifications, or its stunning coastline. 

To be honest, while I still find Crete to be one of the most beautiful and hospitable places I’ve been to, the northern part of the island has been rather spoiled by the irreversible effects of mass tourism, with its enormous monstrous hotels, the noisy nightclubs, and the crowded beaches with their paid-for umbrellas. 

You know … the kind of development that the Greek government and the Troika are imposing for the rest of the island and the country with their latest bill that aims to commodify and privatize the country’s seashore.

But let me tell you a secret: for me and many of my generation, the most beautiful part of Crete lies in the South, where mass tourism has not yet managed to destroy the coastline by building hotels and nightclubs for the rich. 

There lies the Cretan sea - or Libyan Sea, as we call it - blue and wide, with its open horizon. We used to escape there in the summer imagining the Egyptian or Libyan coasts with their legendary cities that lie across it. 

We still do, spending our days and nights in the south’s virgin coast with its mysterious caves or under its salt cedars that always honor us with their shadow. In the past, the hippies had discovered this part of the island which became a hippie paradise some decades ago.

However, it seems that the island, and together with it the whole of the Mediterranean Sea, is now facing the risk of an enormous irreversible environmental disaster. 

Under a NATO decision, the chemical weapons of the Syrian civil war will be destroyed on-board, in the Mediterranean Sea somewhere between Crete and Malta, with the method of hydrolysis. 

It is the first time this method is being applied on-board, and while NATO assures that no substance will be thrown into the sea, access to international observers has been blocked, which makes the whole thing at least suspicious. 

At the same time, the ship that has been selected to carry out the mission, Cape Ray, an old American battleship, does not fulfill the security conditions for such a mission. Considering the fact that the Mediterranean is a closed sea, almost an enormous lake, the dangers of a possible accident are not easy to ignore.

After the hydrolysis that will take place on-board, two private multinationals have been subcontracted to destroy - bury, I guess - the chemicals on land, under highly profitable contracts, of course. This is the first time that such a process is being used, setting a precedent for a future highly risky - and profitable - business.

Against the hydrolysis of the chemicals in the Mediterranean Sea, a very dynamic movement has evolved. 

It has its own horizontal assembly, its coordinating body, its blog, and its own Facebook group. Its actions have also been impressive. 

The movement has already blocked the NATO naval base of Souda for a couple of days, and is now starting a … naval protest. On Friday July 25, 2014 a number of ships will sail from the Venetian harbor of Chania, hoping to reach close to Cape Ray to protest against the on-board hydrolysis in the Mediterranean Sea.

I don’t know whether we’ll manage to stop this disastrous experiment. I don’t know whether NATO, the Greek government, or other governments of other Mediterranean countries are willing to even bother trying to stop this process. I don’t know whether they even care about a possible disastrous accident in the Mediterranean. You may also find the Cretan movement and its efforts to stop the hydrolysis hopeless. 

However, what I know is that we won’t stay silent watching with our fingers crossed and our breath held while such a dangerous mission is being carried out, ignoring the huge environmental risks it involves, and the will of the people that face the risk. 

Let’s do anything we can, whatever that is, to stop them. Let’s stop the chemicals of war!

Leonidas Oikonomakis is a PhD researcher in Social Movement Studies at the European University Institute, a member of the Greek hip hop formation Social Waste, and an editor of ROAR Magazine.

From 8 to 80: Designing Adaptive Spaces For an Ageing Population

"Community" (2001) by Kirk Newman at...
"Community" (2001) by Kirk Newman, Toronto (Wikipedia)
by Lorraine Farrelly, Deakin University

Important challenges are facing our society as the population globally ages thanks to higher life expectancy, better housing and living conditions and improved healthcare.

For individuals this is of course good news, but for communities it will place pressure on services to support the ageing population as it becomes more dependent.

Architects and urban designers like me need to take responsibility and consider designing cities, neighbourhoods, places and spaces that can adapt to these changing needs.

Cities need to be inclusive, accommodating people with disabilities but also limited mobility.

Ageing at home

Communities need to be designed to be interdependent - to provide environments that encourage people to support one another as our life circumstances change.

Housing needs to be adaptive over our lifetimes. This means we need to design spaces that could house a society with changing needs from “8-80” - housing and cities should accommodate changing generational needs and lifestyles, from a child to a couple, to elderly people possibly living on their own or needing support or care.

There are many examples internationally of the 8-80 concept, in Toronto, Canada 8-80 cities are supporting sustainable neighbourhoods.

In the UK, the Barker Review of Land Use Planning, commissioned by the government in 2005, consulted widely across the construction industry and professional bodies to consider how housing supply should meet demand.

From the Barker Review came initiatives to create “age responsive housing” and ideas of “lifetime homes”, houses that are designed so they can change as the housing needs change, with movable partitions and easily accessible bathrooms.

This means people can “age in place” and stay in their own homes as they get older, rather than move to a new adapted home. According to a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare last year, ageing at home is something that older Australians prefer.

The Commons, Brunswick. Lorraine Farrelly

‘The Commons’ in Brunswick

Adaptive housing is also an important part of the sustainability agenda. Sustainability involves sustaining the community, not just preserving energy and recycling materials. A sustainable community can continue, evolve, and develop over time.

The Commons, a residential complex in Melbourne, is an interesting example of this and was open to the public to explore on Sunday as part of Open House Melbourne.

The Commons is a small project, completed last year, along the railway line next to Anstey station on Florence Street, Brunswick. Designed with no parking, residents all have bicycles. The project is located along a purpose designed cycle route into the city.

From a design perspective, the architects Breathe Architecture have designed simple spaces, with a utilitarian approach, an industrial aesthetic and honest practical materials - concrete countertops and floors.

The Commons, Brunswick. Lorraine Farrelly

More interesting, however, is the approach to community. There are spaces that encourage people to meet through everyday activities. The ground floor has a shared cycle store and cafe where residents meet on the way in and out - but the rooftop is where the real community space exists.

With fantastic views to Melbourne in the south, there is a rooftop garden in which residents each have a “grow box” to grow and share vegetables.

A laundry space is where everyone meets over everyday tasks and a rooftop drying space takes advantage of the natural windy spot. This project also has a carefully considered approach to energy use with photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate electricity.

The approach to building a community where residents across all generations are building a community gives a great deal of optimism for the future of inter-generational living in the middle of the city.

As our population changes and the needs of our society shift, we all need to take part in the discussion about creating a more supportive community.

The city offers support systems such as social services and healthcare, but as communities we also need to adapt our buildings to encourage new social attitudes.

And we all need to engage and participate to create these adaptive environments.

Professor Lorraine Farrelly is giving a public lecture at 6pm tonight, Tuesday July 29, on Designing for the Third Age in the Percy Baxter Lecture Theatre at Deakin’s Geelong Campus.
The Conversation

Lorraine Farrelly is Professor of Architecture at the University of Portsmouth in England. She is currently 'Thinker in Residence' at Deakin University for six weeks.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Our Cities Need More Green Spaces for Rest and Play - Here's How

On the green roof of the Mountain Equipment Co...
Green roof, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Toronto (Wikipedia)
by Jason Byrne, Griffith University and Christoph Rupprecht, Griffith University

Your local park is likely playing a vital role in your city’s health, and probably your own too.

Parks and other “green spaces” help keep cities cool, and as places of recreation, can help with health issues such as obesity.

Even looking at greenery can make you feel better.

But in increasingly crowded cities, it can be difficult to find room for parks.

Fortunately, there are other green spaces, or potential green spaces that can provide the same benefits.

In recent research, we found that these spaces are more common than we thought. And innovative green spaces overseas show how we might use them.

Cities are getting crowded

In the next thirty years, almost three quarters of the global population will live in cities. Underpinning this glib statistic is an astounding wave of migration driven by changing livelihoods, global economic changes and environmental change, which is unprecedented in human history.

This presents a number of challenges for urban planning - more housing, schools and hospitals, better infrastructure such as transportation, water, sanitation and electricity.

Parks in this competition for space are often an afterthought. This can lead to some big problems, especially in higher-density cities.

Such problems include urban heat (from concrete, bitumen and glass), storm water run-off, and fewer parks to play and relax. Fewer parks can in turn lead to health impacts such as obesity, anxiety and depression.

Worse still, in some cities parks and other green-spaces are regarded as a luxury, not a necessity. In a climate of fiscal austerity, some city managers and elected officials are making decisions that will potentially harm the quality of life of urban residents, now and into the future.

Some local governments regard under-utilised parks as surplus assets, which might be sold to bolster strained coffers.

Other cities, like Melbourne, have sacrificed some park spaces for new road and tunnel projects. But the short-term financial gain from selling parks or converting them to other purposes could very well lead to long term pain.

Making real urban jungles

Around the world, city planners and design professionals have begun to respond to the problem of park shortages by finding innovative solutions to add more green-spaces to cities. These include green roofs, green walls and pocket-parks.

Some unconventional solutions are emerging too. Parking lots, former industrial sites (brown fields) and even abandoned infrastructure like old railway lines are being converted into new green spaces.

Some cities like Seoul in Korea for instance, have torn down freeways to make room for new green spaces for people, plants and animals, with big financial and social dividends.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government has seen billion-dollar returns from its Cheonggyecheon stream restoration project, and has realised other benefits too such as cooler temperatures, increased use of public transport, adaptive re-use of buildings, increased tourism, and a return of plants and animals to the “concrete jungle”.

One of San Francisco’s “parklets” Paul Krueger/Flickr, CC BY-NC

The parklets of San Francisco are reinvigorating urban spaces, improving street life and encouraging more people into active lifestyles.

And in Hangzhou, China, the removal of old factories and conversion of grey space into linear parks, as well as park-making on “wasteland”, has opened up spaces for recreation and relaxation to millions of residents.

More parks aren’t always the solution

But making new parks can be expensive, especially in the urban core. Park-making projects can also increase the value of surrounding properties.

If these projects are undertaken in poorer neighbourhoods, they can harm marginalised and vulnerable residents, by forcing them out of their homes as rents and property values rise and wealthier residents move in (gentrification).

With our colleagues, we have noted that planners must take steps to prevent this from occurring, such as rent control or park-making on a more “informal” scale, making neighbourhoods “just green enough”.

If we can’t get city officials to buy land for more parks, then maybe we can convert grey spaces - roads, rooftops and storm-water drains - into functional, yet affordable, green-spaces that people can use for active and passive recreation.

In New York for example, the High Line Trail along a disused railway line has become a major attraction, and breathed life back to a blighted space.

New York’s Highline: a park on an old railway. David Berkowitz/Flickr, CC BY

In Mexico, an oil pipeline easement has been converted into a beautiful and functional park - La Línea Verde - in socially vulnerable neighbourhoods. There would appear to be similar opportunities in other cities.

Under-utilised and abandoned spaces such as railway corridors, vacant lots, street verges or even power line easements could make excellent parks.

How much green space?

Until recently, it has been hard for city planners to know how many of these spaces exist, what they are designated for, and whether people can easily access them.

Recent research on “informal green-space” that we have published in PLoS One seeks to answer this question.

We have designed a rapid assessment technique to identify how much “left-over” land exists in cities, which could be used for green-space.

Distribution of ‘informal green space’ across Brisbane Christoph Rupprecht

Surprisingly, informal green-space made up around 5% of the urban core in Brisbane (Australia) and Sapporo (Japan), the two cities we surveyed. This means it contributes 14% to the city centres' total green space - that’s almost 900 soccer fields in Brisbane’s core alone.

We also found that over 80% are at least partly accessible for people to use them. Have a look around on your next walk - maybe a verge or vacant lot near you is just the place for a community garden? 

Jason Byrne is a member of the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Better Parks Alliance. He does not receive funding from these organisations, but he is an active advocate for parks and green-space.

Christoph Rupprecht received funding from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and Griffith University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

VIDEO: "Utopia on the Horizon" - A Documentary on the Greek Debt Crisis

by ROAR Magazine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAnGxynPxL4



Published on Nov 17, 2012

ROARMAG.org presents: 'Utopia on the Horizon', a documentary for those who chose to struggle.

In May 2011, hundreds of thousands of Greeks swarmed into Syntagma Square in Athens to protest against the firesale of their country, their labor rights and their livelihoods to corrupt domestic elites and foreign financial interests.

In a matter of days, a protest camp was set up - organized on the principles of direct democracy, leaderless self-management and mutual aid - providing a glimpse of utopia in the midst of a devastating financial, political and social crisis.

On June 28-29, during a Parliamentary vote on further austerity measures, the state finally responded with brutal force, eventually evicting the protesters from the square and crushing the radical potential of their social experiment.

A year later, Leonidas Oikonomakis and Jérôme Roos - PhD researchers at the European University Institute and co-authors of the activist blog ROARMAG.org - returned to Athens to speak to activists involved in the movement and the occupation of Syntagma Square, as well as WWII resistance hero Manolis Glezos.

What follows is this dramatic portrait of a country veering on the brink of collapse; and the people who chose to struggle in order to build a new world on the ruins of the old.

"UTOPIA ON THE HORIZON" MADE POSSIBLE BY:

Syntagma Multimedia Team

CAST: Maria Kanellopoulou, Dimitris Timpilis, Niki Dimitriadi, Manolis Glezos
DIRECTED BY: Jérôme Roos, Leonidas Oikonomakis
PRODUCED BY: Jérôme Roos, Andrés Cornejo
EDITED BY: Andrés Cornejo
SOUND DESIGN BY: Benjamin Schimpke
MIX AND ADDITIONAL MUSIC: OddOne Studio
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: Tamara Van Der Putten
ARCHIVE FOOTAGE BY: Syntagma Multimedia Team
SCREENPLAY BY: Jérôme Roos, Andrés Cornejo, Leonidas Oikonomakis
TRANSLATIONS BY: Leonidas Oikonomakis, Yorgos Goumas, Maria Pafili, Tamara Van Der Putten, Santiago Carrión, Pedro Noel
MUSIC BY: Maria Kanellopoulou (soprano) - 'Astron Ouranion', Maria Kanellopoulou (soprano) - 'Pace Pace Mio Dio', Nikolas Asimos - 'Den Pa Ma Nas Xrypan'
SPECIAL THANKS TO: Christos Staikos, Manos Cizek, Geoff Arbourne, Manolis Foinikianakis, Nikolas Leventakis, Boumba Dimitrokali, Felipe Maqui, Gorka Molero, Stavris Chatzivasiliou, Tamara Van Der Putten, Ike Krijnen

A Struggle to Save Europe’s Soul From Privatization

Post image for A struggle to save Europe’s soul from privatization
Stoa of Attalos, recently rented out for a private event

As the EU sells its soul by pushing Greece to privatize its natural and cultural heritage, ordinary citizens are mobilizing to save their common wealth. 

When news of the Greek debt crisis first broke in 2010, a number of German tabloids called on the country to pawn its cultural and natural heritage to pay off its debts. 

“Sell your islands, you bankrupt Greeks!” ran a headline of the ever tasteless Bild. “And sell the Acropolis too!” 

With the bailout of May 2010 in the making, the populist editors of the right-wing magazine, apparently oblivious to the historical sensitivities around the German annexation of foreign territories, stubbornly insisted: “We give you cash, you give us Corfu.”

Today, more than four years since the signing of the first memorandum of understanding, it seems that Germany’s nationalist media - along with the European investor class and the oligarchic Greek elite - are finally getting their way. 

Greece’s subservient government is now pushing hard to open up new frontiers for privatization, with some 77,000 state assets slated for sale, including a host of historic marinas and idyllic islands, a number of ancient palaces, and large stretches of the country’s spectacular and unspoilt coastline.

Pawning Greece’s Heritage

Earlier this year, the government announced that it would move ahead with its plans to sell off a number of beautiful buildings of great historic value at the foot of the Acropolis.

The Guardian reported that “among the properties are refugee tenement blocks built to put up Greeks fleeing the Asia Minor disaster in 1922 and culture ministry offices housed in neo-classical buildings in the picturesque Plaka district … that were erected shortly after the establishment of the modern Greek state. Both are widely viewed as architectural gems.”

The announcement came on the heels of a controversial decision to rent out two of the most important archeological sites in Athens - the Stoa of Attalos, which sits in the Ancient Agora, and the Panathenaic Stadium - to companies for private events. 

Earlier, similar plans had been mooted by leading politicians of the ruling conservative party to lease out the Acropolis for photoshoots and other commercial and promotional activities.

Then, in May, the government upped the ante by proposing a bill that would effectively overturn decades-old constitutional protections of the country’s coastline that restrict development and guarantee open access to the beach. 

The Greek privatization fund TAIPED subsequently marked 110 beaches for privatization, including such gems as Elafonisos, home to the valuable marine archeological site Pavlopetri. 

Under the coastal bill, ownership of the seashore - along with any architectural structures and the surrounding natural environment - will fall exclusively unto the buyer, who will be able to “develop” their property and restrict access to non-owners.

The consequences of this privatization drive would be disastrous and largely irreversible. Thanks to its constitutional protections, the Greek coastline has so far managed to avoid the kind of mass development that has befallen the Spanish coastline - leaving it intact as one of Europe’s last-remaining unspoilt seashores. 

As The Press Project points out, however, the proposed coastal bill “would make it possible for even large beaches in Greece to be carpeted from end to end with umbrellas and beach bars,” while the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned of a Spanish-style construction boom of holiday apartments that could cover the Greek coastline in concrete.

Needless to say, the privatization drive goes hand-in-hand with the strangulation of Greece’s public sector - under direct orders of the Troika of foreign lenders - which renders the crisis of the country’s archeological heritage all the more acute. 

The budget of the Culture Ministry has been slashed by a savage 52% since 2010, putting at risk some of Europe’s most valuable cultural treasures by greatly reducing the available funds to maintain and protect archeological sites and run public museums. 

Meanwhile, the Environment Ministry has overtly shifted its attention from preserving the country’s natural heritage to opening up new spaces for oil exploration.

A Scandalous Logic of Dispossession

While the sheer size of the privatization program and the aggressiveness with which it is being pursued are unprecedented in European history - eclipsing even the disastrous fire-sale privatizations in Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union - the moves follow a well-established ideological script that has long been tested and perfected in the developing world, under the guise of the infamous Washington Consensus. 

As Harvard economist Dani Rodrik put it, in the 1980s and 1990s, “‘stabilize, privatize, and liberalize’ became the mantra of a generation of technocrats who cut their teeth in the developing world and of the political leaders they counseled.”

The script is not merely ideological, however: it has long since become the very modus operandi of the neoliberal state and the globalized world economy. 

The influential Marxist geographer David Harvey has referred to these processes as “accumulation by dispossession,” emphasizing how the “primitive” practices of enclosure that expropriated smallholder farmers and commodified the commons of pre-industrial England do not only continue today but constitute the very logic of the system. 

In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein furthermore showed how economic and political elites often strategically exploit the temporary paralysis wrought by natural disasters and economic crises in order to privatize public property and common wealth that would otherwise be impossible to expropriate.

With the brutalities of disaster capitalism on full display in Greece today, and with the European Union and the IMF resorting to outright expropriation in order to claw back their own irresponsible loans to the Greek state, it is perhaps no surprise that the privatization process itself has been marred by scandals throughout. 

It recently emerged that the government secretly granted total tax exemption to the consortium that bought up the rights to exploit the old Hellenikon airport, one of the most valuable pieces of land in the Mediterranean. 

Even as a Kafkaesque array of fees and taxes is being imposed on ordinary Greeks surviving off less than 500 euros per month, the owners of Lamda Development, as sole bidder for the site, “shall be exempt from any tax, duty or fee, including income tax in respect of any form of income derived from its business, of transfer tax for any reason, [or] capital accumulation tax.”

To make matters worse, it soon emerged that Lamda Development, which is owned by the Latsis family of shipping and banking tycoons, paid a mere $1.2 billion for the old airport, even though independent pre-crisis valuations estimated it to be worth at least $6.8 billion. 

Calculations by the Greek newspaper To Vima furthermore show that the state will have to make at least another $3.4 billion in administrative and infrastructural expenses before it can deliver the property to its new owner - thus effectively subsidizing the multi-billionnaire Latsis family for its “purchase.” In the process, the public debt accumulates even further.

In fact, the corruption of public officials and the collusion between state and capital is so extreme and so deeply entrenched that it has inevitably infected the top echelons of both government and business. 

Last year, Stelios Stavridis, head of the TAIPED privatization fund, himself a former construction mogul who made a fortune building swimming pools for Greece’s tax-evading business elite, was fired after a newspaper revealed that he had been offered a trip to the island of Kefalonia on the private jet of the infamous Greek oligarch and shipowner Dimitris Melissanidis, to whom he had - just hours before - sold a 33% share of the recently privatized state gambling monopoly OPAP. 

Stavridis was the second TAIPED head to be dismissed on allegations of improper conduct within a year. Of course, the deals themselves have not been in the least affected by any of these scandals. Whatever the cost, the fire-sale must go on.

Europe, Selling its Soul

Ultimately, however, we need to face up to the real powers behind these endless scandals - the ones who have so far managed to keep their hands clean of any overt cases of corruption but who are nevertheless ultimately responsible for the expropriation and exploitation of Greece’s immense natural and cultural wealth, not to mention the unspeakable humanitarian tragedy that has been inflicted upon its ailing society in the past four years.

It should be clear by now that the privatization process, in all its scandalous ugliness, is little more than an attempt to enclose the commons and extract as much value as possible from a country whose population has already been sucked dry by the European banking elite amidst a catastrophic four-year-old depression. 

Completing the privatizations is a prerequisite for the release of Greece’s bailout funds, and it is common knowledge that Troika officials have been playing a leading role in drafting up many of the plans in great detail. 

This, also, is no surprise, as European investors stand to benefit lavishly from future sell-offs, with the Germans already eying the waste disposal industry and the healthcare sector (which their austerity measures have already reduced to shambles), and the French set on Greece’s public water utilities.

It is safe to say, then, that Europe has now fallen to the lowest of lows: having already abolished Greek democracy (insofar as such a thing could still be said to exist), European leaders and EU institutions are now selling off Greece’s invaluable natural and cultural heritage at cut-throat prices in order to “reduce” the country’s debt, which only ends up growing in the process. 

If Greece is indeed the cradle of European civilization, as the EU’s Hellenophile leaders - European Commision President Jean-Claude Juncker first among them - still like to maintain, then Europe obviously stands accused of selling its own soul, for a nickel and dime, to redeem a debt that everyone knows cannot be repaid.

The Resistance Builds Up

Still, if recent years have shown anything, it is that wherever there is great injustice and indignity, there will be resistance - and even the paralysis wrought by the neoliberal shock doctrine cannot last forever. 

In fact, the social and political opposition to the Troika’s privatization drive has been so fierce that the Greek government has already had to scale back its projected proceeds from 50 billion euros by 2015 to a “mere” 11 billion euros by 2016. 

While this hardly constitutes a victory, it does reveal the hostile social and political terrain on which the Troika and the Greek government currently have to navigate.

In fact, some early signs of hope are already starting to emerge. In recent months, the grassroots campaign against the privatization of the public water utilities in Athens and Thessaloniki, spearheaded by veteran activists from the 2011 Movement of the Squares, has made major strides in rousing public opinion. 

In late May, the movement was aided by a favorable court ruling that blocked the privatization of the Athens water utility. The ruling marks the first significant victory in a collective push-back - operating on multiple fronts, both institutional and extra-institutional - that may yet set a precedent and make the EU/IMF-enforced privatization drive come undone at the seams.

Meanwhile, as the government prepares to relaunch its deeply unpopular coastal bill - which had been briefly shelved ahead of the European elections in late May and which it now hopes to push through during summer recess, when only 100 out of 300 MPs will be in session - the resistance to the enclosure of Greece’s ecological commons is also taking off anew

While the outcome of this struggle remains uncertain, it is clear that the government’s room for maneuver is rapidly closing down.

SYRIZA, the left opposition party which actively resists the bill and openly commits itself to re-nationalizing all privatized assets, now leads the polls - further increasing pressure on the last-remaining “Socialist” MPs of PASOK to defect from the government in future privatization votes.

At the same time, it is clear that simply re-nationalizing privatized state assets and returning to the status quo ante will not suffice. With the direct democratic legacy of 2011 still freshly in mind, ordinary citizens are increasingly pushing for Greece’s immense natural and cultural wealth to be democratically self-managed and held in common. 

Beyond a sclerotic and capitalist-controlled state apparatus and a thoroughly polarized and depressed economy, Greece’s dynamic grassroots movements provide a vision of what a truly radicalized society could look like - reclaiming the common from the rapacious claws of an elite gone mad and helping Europe redeem its privatized soul in the process.

Jerome Roos is a PhD researcher in International Political Economy at the European University Institute, and founding editor of ROAR Magazine. This article was written as part of his weekly column for TeleSUR English.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Should We Measure Resilience?

English: Resilience in different ecosystems
Resilience in different ecosystems (Photo: Wikipedia)
by , Resilience Alliance: http://rs.resalliance.org/2014/06/16/should-we-measure-resilience/

I’ve been reflecting on the idea of measuring resilience since the conference in Montpellier last month where @vgalaz quipped “Resilience metrics is the new black @resilience2014”.

Efforts to measure resilience are well underway while at the same time there are concerns about what exactly is being measured and whether this shift in focus misses the point of what resilience thinking has to offer.

My own thinking on this is that it depends on what you are trying to achieve but a deeper understanding of both perspectives is likely to benefit both approaches in the long-term.

Approaching the dialogue from two perspectives

The Resilience 2014 conference aimed to facilitate dialogue among researchers and practitioners from the resilience research community and the development community.

To date, resilience has been conceptualized and applied in a variety of ways. Research along the lines of Holling, Gunderson, Folke, and Walker as well as many others in the Resilience Alliance network and beyond, has emerged from a complex adaptive systems’ perspective and in particular, a focus on ecosystems and integrated social-ecological systems.

By contrast, development communities tend to approach resilience from a more human-centered perspective with a focus on livelihoods, risk reduction, and human well-being.

What both communities hold in common is a desire to operationalize resilience by applying theoretical insights to real world problems and changing the way we manage and interact with the environment for more sustainable and equitable outcomes.

The demand side of resilience in development

The rapid uptake of resilience thinking by development agencies and foundations has forced the issue of resilience implementation and challenged the research community to make the leap from theory to practice to metrics.

While resilience practice is not entirely new (see Walker & Salt 2012) and case studies have informed theoretical advances over the years the wide-ranging application of resilience thinking to development issues, is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Development programs and projects operate within a different realm and have their own established frameworks, protocols, and practices. Notably, development programs require well-defined mechanisms for evaluating interventions and more specifically, metrics for quantifying and judging the success of their actions and investments.

Thus the challenge that presents itself is how to measure resilience, if indeed it can or should be measured? This is a nuanced question, and much like the concept it addresses, there are multiple dimensions and no easy answers but it remains a worthy pursuit.

To measure or not to measure?

There is a concern shared by many that resilience may not live up to its promise for a variety of reasons including the potential for narrow interpretations and a selective or limited understanding of what can be a relatively abstract concept, but also because of a what some have identified as a lack of quantifiable metrics for evaluation purposes.

In Luca Alinova’s plenary presentation he spoke of the very real threat of resilience being adopted and applied in name only, whereby others capitalize on the current trendiness of the concept while much of the same ineffective practices continue under the guise of a new name.

In his words “there is a big risk of labeling some bad habits with a new name”. Any failures of course, will have a handy scapegoat and an enormous opportunity will have been lost.

Similarly, there is a real risk that in the rush to measure resilience and develop quantitative metrics for comparative purposes, what is actually measured may represent the same things that have long been monitored and measured but are now being packaged in the language of resilience to meet the demand.

The fact remains however, that resilience will and already is, being measured.

What exactly is being measured?

If resilience must be measured to be meaningful to the development community, then how best to measure it?

Luca Alinovi suggests we need to measure resilience at the household level rather than at an individual level because it is the interactions that are important. He also cautioned though that we are still far away from the dynamic analysis that is needed as well as a general approach for different types of systems.

Much of the discussion at Resilience 2014 around the topic of metrics tended to focus on food security and crisis impacts.

Alexis Hoskins presented on the progress being made by the Food and Nutrition Security Resilience Measurement Technical Working Group that has produced a framing paper outlining the challenges in measuring resilience.

They have also produced a set of resilience measurement principles that echo Alinovi’s call for dynamic analysis and reflect both systems-based requirements (multi-level interactions, rates of change, inherent volatility) as well as human dimensions (e.g., desirability of system states, people’s perceptions, vulnerability connections).

The recommendations and next steps that follow from the measurement principles appear promising because they account for the underlying concepts of complex systems dynamics and cross-scale interactions, while recognizing the need for both quantitative and qualitative data to understand causal mechanisms.

Other presenters similarly advocated for a mixed method approach to measuring resilience, combining qualitative and quantitative data, as well as steps for interpreting data and providing the necessary contextualization that metrics alone cannot fully capture.

Yet another type of approach offered by Christophe Bene, was a resilience proxy based on the cost of impacts calculated from the sum of anticipation costs + impact costs + recovery costs.

Bene’s postulate being “the more resilient an individual the lower the costs it takes to get through a specific shock”. Assigning monetary values as a means of measuring resilience has many parallels in the ecosystem services literature, which increasingly recognizes the need to also consider non-monetary values.

What is missing?

There is clearly something to be gained by measuring resilience, but any formula attempting to capture a dynamic system property will inevitably involve tradeoffs for simplifying purposes and something will be lost.

Understanding exactly what is missing from resilience metrics or what is potentially lost with a shift in focus from understanding the resilience of a system to measuring the resilience of a system remains to be clearly articulated.

In resilience assessment, a main objective of the exercise is to re-conceptualize a system, place, or issue from an alternative perspective, i.e., through a resilience lens and focusing on interactions such that new insights emerge and interventions can be better informed.

How a system behaves is not a function of the sum of its parts so it follows that measuring component parts cannot capture what is meaningful about resilience.

To date, most metrics being proposed focus on social variables and the human dimensions of resilience, as opposed to taking an integrated social-ecological systems (SES) approach.

Conceptualizing humans as part of nature and placing people within ecosystems, instead of keeping them separate, represents an important advance in resilience research and sustainability science more broadly. Metrics for resilience and more generally, the application of the concept in practice also stands to benefit from taking an SES approach.

Some considerations for developing resilience metrics

It has been said before that resilience is an overarching concept that encompasses many other core concepts. Biggs and colleagues (2012) identify seven principles for building resilience of ecosystem services.

Assuming a given bundle of ES is desirable (and knowing for whom it matters), these seven facets can be managed to strengthen and enhance the resilience of the system.

They include: maintaining diversity and redundancy, managing connectivity, managing slow variables and feedbacks, fostering complex adaptive systems thinking, encouraging learning, broadening participation, and promoting polycentric governance systems.

To the extent resilience metrics can effectively address these seven principles, they would provide valuable information to anyone wanting to characterize and monitor the capacity of the system to maintain a desired set of ecosystem services in the face of continued change or disturbance.

A final consideration is that resilience is not always a good thing. As Brian Walker stated in his plenary presentation, part of the understanding required is knowing where we need to build resilience, and where we need to reduce it to enable transformation.

A range of different types of traps characterized by rigid social and ecological processes that are tied to environmental degradation and livelihood impoverishment make change a real challenge (Boonstra and de Boer, 2014).

Where traps exist, the goal may be to reduce the resilience of the current state of the system and build transformative capacity, which may require monitoring and measuring a different set of variables.

Measuring resilience should be possible but finding suitable indicators and metrics that retain key attributes of the concept will also need to reflect the fact that resilience is a means and not an end.

REFS:

Biggs et al. 2012. Towards Principles for Enhancing the Resilience of Ecosystem Services. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 37:421-48.

Walker, B. & D. Salt. 2012. Resilience Practice: Building capacity to absorb disturbance and maintain function. Island Press, Washington, D.C.

Creating Resilient Communities: Putting Power in the Hands of Local People

English: The Co-operative Tilehurst, run by th...
Co-operative Tilehurst, run by the Co-op Group (Wikipedia)
by  
 
Co-operative Group members are taking part in Let’s Talk this month - an online discussion panel to shape the future of the organisation. 
 
This week it is talking about resilient communities, and here the Low Carbon Hub’s Barbara Hammond sets out what the Group can achieve …

Communities face many challenges today, not least cuts to local services, closing amenities, falling living standards and, in many areas, greater isolation, with people feeling less connected to the community around them.

One solution to enhance the resilience of communities against challenges such as these is community energy.

This involves neighbourhoods coming together to take control of the energy they use, either through community-owned clean energy generation, joining forces to make their homes more energy efficient or sharing energy-saving advice.

Our experience at the Low Carbon Hub, a social enterprise championing community energy in Oxfordshire, is that the benefits from a community resilience perspective are huge.

Having already facilitated a wave of community benefit solar PV and hydro schemes, our ambition is for the whole of Oxfordshire to be powered by smart grids centred around small scale, community-controlled renewable energy schemes.

This transformation of our energy system would bring not only environmental, but also social and economic benefits. The Oxfordshire Low Carbon Economy Report we are currently working on with Oxford University has identified some surprising data that shows how much this shift is to our economic advantage:
  • As a county we spend £1.5bn on energy every year, all of which flows out of the local economy;
  • But we also already make £1.2bn every year out of low carbon business sectors and these already support over 8,000 jobs, over twice the number of jobs supported by the BMW car plant at Cowley in Oxford, the largest local employer;
  • A combination of business development and infrastructure investment could generate an extra £800m per year and an extra 10,000 jobs by 2030.
This vision could have a major impact on the resilience of our 300+ geographic communities:
  • They will spend less on heating and powering their houses and businesses, reducing local fuel poverty and improving economic competitiveness;
  • They will make money from the renewable energy projects they own, creating a much needed income stream to be redistributed and reinvested locally for the community’s benefit;
  • By coming together to run local microgrids and renewable energy projects, communities will build their capacity as well as being much more socially connected;
  • Local businesses and jobs will increasingly be secured by the growth of decentralised energy; and
  • Ownership of locally led projects will provide a huge boost to community pride, becoming a source of inspiration and a focal point for community activity.
This is a big, hairy, long-term vision which needs community innovation and collaboration for success. We think that the technical and financial innovation required to achieve it is already well under way and we know how to find it. More difficult is the social, regulatory, legal and political innovation necessary to change the way we do things.

The first steps along the road have already been taken by a number of pioneering community projects in Oxfordshire.

These include the Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative and Solar Co-operative, community benefit societies funding solar projects in both west and north Oxford, the Osney Lock Hydro community benefit society, and the Hook Norton Low Carbon retrofitting fund.

All of these projects contribute to Oxfordshire leading nationally in terms of ‘local run’ enterprises according to a recent Co-operatives UK report: 10 enterprises in total have 9,000 shareholders who have invested £5m to date.

Between 2012 and 2015, the Low Carbon Hub hopes to have helped four hydro schemes, a solar park and numerous rooftop schemes to be developed on schools and local businesses across the county.

Twenty schools have already signed up and will receive cheaper, green electricity for 20 years, while creating an income to support other community projects. Our share offer for these will be launched in September.

We can’t think of anything better than community owned energy to help boost community resilience. I hope the Co-operative Group adopts ‘Resilient Communities’ as one of its causes and champions community energy’s pivotal role in helping them become a reality.

Take part in the Co-operative Group’s discussion on Let’s Talk.

• Barbara Hammond is chief executive of the Low Carbon Hub, to find out more about their work, including how you can invest and get involved with various community energy projects, go to: www.lowcarbonhub.org.

The Case of Nature in Cities

by Marika Haeggman, Stockhom Resilience Centre: http://www.stockholmresilience.org/21/research/research-news/7-23-2014-the-case-of-nature-in-cities.html

View from the northern CBD towards Table Mount...
Cape Town, South Africa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As urbanisation continues at a rapid pace, cities provide the daily living environment for a growing majority of the world’s population.

In Asia and Africa, people are moving to the cities at an unprecedented pace and the expansion of urban land is more extensive than ever before, a pattern also seen in South America.

"While these rapid and extensive changes lead to considerable challenges for biodiversity, they also create new opportunities to protect nature in cities and beyond, and enhance the values that nature in cities generates for people," say Stockholm Resilience Centre researchers Maria Schewenius and Maria Tengö in the editor’s note in the special issue, published online by the journal Current Conservation.


Development brings opportunities

The message that the world is currently undergoing an urbanization process unprecedented in rate and extent, but that this brings unprecedented opportunities to support a global sustainable development, is also the foundation for the Cities and Biodiversity Outlook (CBO) project, to which the Special Issue connects. 

The project concluded that for cities to sustainably support human wellbeing, they need to promote biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.

The special issue has a special focus on India and cities in other countries in the southern hemisphere. For example, Maria Tengö, together with colleagues Divya Gopal and Harini Nagendra, describes the sacred trees in urban environments in Bangalore in India:

"In India, sacred ecosystems are immensely valued in a way that is deeply etched in the cultural and spiritual realm of society," explains Tengö.

"In urban systems this kind of cultural protection has been less acknowledged, but in Bangalore we have found that the sacred sites act as pockets of greenery in the city landscape."

The special issue further tells the story of heritage trees in Cape Town, South Africa; discusses emerging planning and management frameworks in Colombia; and highlights tools for assessing urban biodiversity.

Drawing upon examples from Bangalore and Rio de Janeiro, it presents some examples of the meaning of nature in cities, and the challenges and opportunities associated with urban nature conservation. A historical narrative from Madras, India, gives readers the chance to reflect upon the changes in the natural landscape in one of the world's largest cities over the last five decades.

Beyond asphalt and concrete 

Urban development can have devastating consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem services, in turn affecting human wellbeing and resilience. Madhusudan Katti from California State University, together with Maria Schewenius, emphasizes the importance of good ecological governance in cities:

"Good governance of urban systems requires the involvement of actors on many levels in the system, from governments to local urban planners. Ensuring knowledge sharing between groups, implementing regulations and maintaining people’s engagement are crucial parts in successful governance," says Katti.

The special issue adds weight to the findings of the Cities and Biodiversity Outlook project, which argues that it is high time to start thinking of cities as more than grey patches of asphalt and concrete.

"Rich nature already exists in cities, and is an important part of our culture as well as our environment," conclude Schewenius and Tengö in their editorial. 




"An Urbanizing Planet" takes viewers on a stunning satellite-viewed tour around our planet. By combining more than 10 datasets, and using GIS processing software and 3D graphic applications, the video shows not only where urbanization will be most extensive, but also how the majority of the expansion will occur in areas adjacent to biodiversity hotspots.

Community Resilience by Guest Blogger Chris Skellett

Unknown2by Chris Skellett, Exisle Publishing: http://exislepublishing.com.au/blog/community-resilience-by-guest-blogger-chris-skellett/

Resilience, in the face of adversity, is seen in two parts.

Firstly, it requires us to maximise our capacity to live in the moment and to accept life’s twists and turns, but it also requires us to take stock and re-commit determinedly to valued goals.

Following trauma, some individuals will tend to grieve for the affront to their prior sense of contentment. The world will now seem unpleasantly challenging and they will be prone to depression. They may self-soothe inappropriately with excessively indulgent activities.

Conversely, individuals  with an achievement orientation may feel flattened and overwhelmed by the setback to their ambitions. They will be prone to frustration and anger at the futility of their previous efforts and the sudden lack of momentum to their lives.

Of course, we all carry aspects of both orientations, and we can learn to recognise these emotional markers as cues to prompt a change in perspective.

The depressive response requires us to set goals and expect ourselves to drive forward. An angry response requires us to slow down and be more accepting of events. Resilience requires us to move calmly yet purposefully through the minefield that our lives have become.

As a native New Zealander, I am privileged to be able to comment on the community resilience shown by the people of Christchurch following the tragic earthquake in February 2011. One hundred and eighty five people died and the heart was ripped out of the country’s second largest city. The trauma and devastation to people’s lives continues to play out as we speak.

Many businesses were destroyed. A lifetime’s work lost overnight. The iconic cathedral lay in ruins. The social fabric of many suburbs was in tatters as whole areas were ’red-zoned’ and deemed uninhabitable.

The on-going aftershocks required a particularly robust commitment to resilience, with every tremor challenging ones sense of well-being.

So, how did the people react? Two distinct themes emerged. Firstly, there was a huge sense of relief at having survived, which in turn generated a huge sense of gratitude about the privilege of being alive.

People valued holding each other. They sought out the company of family and friends. Music suddenly became more poignant to them, and poetry thrived. People re-defined what they felt was important in their lives.

As with other traumatic events, many tales of compassion and human kindness emerged over the subsequent months. The tragedy had allowed the community access to a very special experience of ‘being human’. Being resilient rested on a sense of knowing who we were, and valuing ourselves and each other.

This somewhat mellow, reflective state is not easily sustained however, and it was soon swept away by a different perspective on the crisis. Community leaders were charged with getting the city ‘back on its feet’, and economic demands required that trading resumed as soon as possible.

The emergency response had also swung into effect, and a student volunteer army emerged, evoking admiration for their commitment to help residents in a practical way.

Everyone with an achievement orientation now rolled up their sleeves and ‘got stuck in’. This was their moment to apply their enthusiasm for digging deep, grinding it out, and determinedly striving towards tangible goals.

There was now a different kind of resilience afoot. It was predicated on pride in the community’s ability to move on and to bounce back. Resilience now required individuals to be energised in response to adversity.

Christchurch has shown us that community resilience has two parts. Firstly, we see the need to accept set-backs in life, and to always look for the silver lining to a cloud. And when the goalposts shift, or when we draw an unkind hand from a deck of cards, we need to stay calm and embrace the experience without judgement.

Every minute of every day is to be savoured. We must never forget to celebrate and appreciate life for what it is, rather than feel regret that it was not how we had wanted it to be.

But acceptance in itself is not enough. We also need to respond positively to the challenge, and to look for what we can do to move forward. The ultimate reward for setting and achieving demanding goals is the sense of pride and satisfaction that can only be experienced through purposeful and meaningful effort.

The people of Christchurch are clearly resilient. They are quietly bonded in their response to common adversity, and the internal community cohesion has been strengthened by the trauma. Life feels good, and it is experienced more appreciatively than before.

They have learned to live more ‘in the moment’, and some of the petty ambitions that were held before the earthquake now seem pointless. Residents now take each day a step at a time. Resilience requires them to remember that every moment is to be savoured.

But also, there is a huge potential for community pride in the re-build. People are getting on with their lives, and moving forward. A creative new shopping complex constructed from shipping containers sprang up, and a new cathedral spire is on the way.

To be human is to search out opportunity and to be curious about how to regain momentum in life. To feel pride in one’s endeavours, and to effect change. Resilience also requires us to respond positively to adversity.

These two components of resilience apply to us all. To find our inner resilience, we must firstly know who we are, and celebrate life for what it is and whatever challenges it throws at us. We must always feel confident in ourselves. But also, we need to respond adaptively, and to look at what we can do to move forward with confidence and pride.

‘Resilience’ is one of the most admirable qualities of the human spirit. By nature, we can be either flexible and accepting of adversity, or else be determined and unrelentingly driven to achieve.

Our individual tendencies will draw us towards one set of resilience values or the other. To build an optimum inner resilience, we need to ensure that we carry characteristics from both sides of the continuum. There is clearly a balance to be struck.

Chris Skellett is a clinical psychologist, executive coach and author of When Happiness is Not Enough and The Power of Second Question. He will be guest speaker at the 2015 Happiness and Its Causes Conference.