By Victoria Wee
What are some key elements of “new economies”?
1. Education for sustainable development integrated at all levels of education.
There is a lot I am grateful to the public education system for. However it’s clear that currently there is a lack of education for sustainable development in the classroom. Concepts of what constitutes sustainable development, its history, its issues and challenges, and its applications to real life have to be made common knowledge. How else can we have the skills and attitudes required to choose sustainable lifestyles? Looking back at my years in the Canadian provincial system, sustainable development was commonly reduced to flat ideas about the environment and conservation. Though important concepts, these are not enough to empower and motivate large-scale behavioral change.
An important component is also looking to new, non-traditional ways of teaching. I am a big proponent of experiential education and have been lucky to have learned about issues like consumption and production, climate change, and the state of policy through independent participatory learning programs. We need to have government and citizens both committed to the idea that sustainable development should no longer be seen as an “interest” developed in a few enterprising students, but as a necessary part of life, and a necessary component to shaping an informed society.
2. Holding true to the Principle of Non-Regression
We need forward movement on stakeholder participation and engagement in all arenas. The non-regression principle is an international law principle which requires that norms that have been adopted by States cannot be changed, if changing them means moving backward on the protection of collective and individual rights. In practice, it means that we need to continue to bash and batter at the institutional constructs that hold citizens and decision-makers at arms-length of each other. We need to break down the glass wall between negotiating bodies and the people they are negotiating for, and we need to be vigilant watchdogs on any attempt to lessen the presence and input of stakeholders. I am using the Principle of Non-Regression particularly to refer to meaningful and effective citizen participation, but it is certainly something that applies horizontally to other, even all, concepts.
3. Empowering the next generation
Including young people in meaningful conversation is an emerging practice that bodies such as the United Nations and certain governments are beginning to implement. That’s certainly a good step! But let’s also jump forward and make sure that conversations aren’t all that we are having. I’ll let you in on a secret: young people are the ingredient X to really carving out the future that we want. Polling youth and engaging the social media generation on Twitter or Google Hangout is a solid start – but it’s really just a baby step and one that does not leverage the massive, massive latent power that a group comprising almost half of the world’s population naturally has. If we can engineer a behavioral shift in demographic of under-25 year olds, the consequences are enough to change the direction of our collective futures.
Real wealth is understanding that we need nature to be the reflection of our best selves. It is living the good life, but not necessarily the same “good life” that some of us are living now. Real wealth is living in a way that is fulfilling and free, certain in our knowledge that we are making choices that do not compromise the ability of future generations to live their lives in the same way. As a computer science major, I am reminded of the concept of recursion – the process of repeating items in a self-similar way. Our generation needs to be the base-case, the leaders who define the new, long-term values of the good life, and serve as the standard by which the succeeding generation borrows from. Then, our succeeding generation serves as the standard for the following, who pass on inherited values to the next, and so on. So buckle up! It’s all dominoes from here.
Victoria Wee is completing her bachelor's degree in Computer Science at Stanford University. As the Youth Engagement Director of We Canada, she led the organization of a national mobilization tour to consult Canadians across the country in preparation for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, Rio+20). On the tour, "Dialogues and Action for Earth Summit 2012," Victoria hosted presentations and workshops at schools universities in sixteen cities. The results of these consultations were compiled into a report submitted as stakeholder input into UNCSD, and published in a paper co-authored in Earth Common Journal. After spending the summer studying climate change in the Arctic, Victoria coordinated an international youth declaration to the Arctic Council in 2011, and founded an initiative to widen youth representation opportunities in the Arctic Council. Victoria was a workshop facilitator at the 2011 UNEP Tunza Children and Youth Conference in Bandung, Indonesia, and the 2013 UNEP Tunza Youth Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. The Starfish Canada named Victoria 2012's Top Canadian Environmentalist Under 25. At Stanford, you can find Victoria coordinating events for the Stanford Society of Women Engineers, coding up a storm, or learning about technology design and policy.
This blog is part of the 'Voices of New Economies' series within Cities for People - an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks.
This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need - ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.