We Apologise for This Momentary Disruption

Our CEO, Phil Diver, has shared his thoughts on the term “disrupter” and how it relates to CTC’s “Name your Price” promotion for January.

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If I hear the word ‘disruptor‘ again I’m going to scream. If you hear me using it …slap me! I have never been a great fad surfer or believer in the ‘magic bullet’ approach to management. Hell I don’t even like most management speak which I find is techno babble most of the times. I fielded a call at work the other day while having my lunch al desko from a women spruiking a conference to me all about being a disruptor. When I was at school (and I’m showing my age here) the nuns beat the disruption out of you which is why many shy away from anything that directly clashes with the status quo. To do otherwise was to bring down the wrath of Sister Cecily and her thick leather belt tucked inside her burqa (aka habit). Or the modern-day equivalent thereof – a re-programming and re-alignment

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The Democratisation of the VIPExperience

 

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I know I am going to reveal my age when I tell you that I was booking some Eagles tickets online last week. I got them in the pre-sale (thanks Jackie). I don’t get the notion of pre-sale. The tickets are either on sale or not – surely? Herein lies the rub. There is now a group who can get in before the rest of us, who can get first try at the seats. This used to be for the privileged few. Now it is available to those who hold say a Visa Card or an Amex card. (C’mon Mastercard I want my own crack at a pre-sale ticket).  What annoyed me was the number of seating categories. There used to be something like Gold, Silver and Bronze. Gold the best obviously and then silver if you have a good set of binoculars. Bronze – well only if you want to tell your grandkids you were there.

In the last year or so, a new über-category has emerged. There are now Platinum and Diamond and Printer Ink categories. These of course are just the best of the Gold seats. The question the white-board brigade (marketers) have had to grapple with on a quiet Thursday afternoon is how to charge more but give the impression you are getting much more for your money. This is where the VIP experience comes in. Now the more expensive seats have what marketeers call a ‘value add’. Remember value add is equivalent to cost add. The key question is whether the additional experience, or merchandise is worth paying that premium for. So now for concerts you can hang around in an exclusive area. I think I noticed it first with Prince but it has featured with the Rolling Stones as well and now the Eagles. In the past, the VIP experience was not one that was wealth-linked. It was whether you were in the know – part of the privileged few.  Your ‘up close and personal’ experience with the artists can now be purchased. In a way you can call this more democratic. The only thing between you and Keith Richard now is your wallet (or purse). Personally I find this a bit offensive and I feel duped. It doesn’t apply to all at this stage, at least Bruce Springsteen kept it real.

Saying that, a few months ago I found myself backstage at the Rocky Horror Picture Show and having my own ‘up close and personal’ with Frankenfurter (Craig McLachlan). You see I had inadvertently purchased two VIP seats. I wasn’t aware they were, I just thought they were nice and close to the front and in the middle; pretty much where I sit for any show at QPAC. Turns out I paid quite a lot extra for a pair of fishnet stockings, garish red lipstick, free program and photo opportunity with some of the cast. I kicked myself because I realised that I had paid over the top for what was otherwise the same experience as someone sitting a few seats away, save for a few cheap titbits. I had been on-sold without realising. ‘Caveat emptor’ I hear you say and point taken.

While I did get the photo and proudly displayed it on my computer wallpaper at work, I couldn’t help thinking that it was a very sanitised experience. Because money had got me the VIP gig I was fairly heavily chaperoned. After all when the VIP is someone ‘in the know’, then reputation and ‘he’s a friend of a friend’ allows the guard to be dropped much more so. There were no dressing room drinkies with the cast for us, just a strictly managed photo with three cast members who got rotated on a nightly basis. So this got me wondering…what’s happened to the ‘genuine’ VIPs of yesteryear? They were no-where to be seen. I can only surmise that they have stepped up a category and have joined the newly formed body known as the VVIP. They still get the unfettered access. It’s ‘old money’. No riff raff (pun intended) in that group. Despite how much money you have and how willing you are to shell it out, that kind of access is still as elusive as it ever was.

All this reflection, as always, pulls me back to work matters. At CTC we treat everyone as equally as we can. No-one is a VIP; they should just be treated as such. However if you want to come Hot Leasing with us (sounds like a racy song from Rocky Horror) we will do that little bit extra to make your time with us special. Who knows you may even get a backstage pass!

The Budget – You’re Having a Laugh

 

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I don’t want to get political here. Plenty of others have done that in recent days when discussing  the budget. Instead I want to talk about humour. A couple of weekends ago I had the privilege of seeing Patricia Routlege in a show at QPAC called Admission One Schilling which was about Dame Judith Hess who did lunchtime concerts in London during World War II to raise morale. Patricia Routledge will be known to some as Mrs Bucket in the British comedy series Keeping Up Appearances. She did a wonderful job narrating the thoughts and letters of Hess. In it she quoted Hess as saying that one of the most necessary attributes in life and as a concert pianist was to have a sense of humour. That resonated with me. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously and just need a good laugh; especially at our own expense.

What has this got to do with the budget you might ask – surely that is no laughing matter.  Budgets always have implications for people and there are winners and losers so I wouldn’t be that insensitive. But it did strike me that there was a social policy component to the recent budget that hasn’t really been commented on by the journalists and pundits. And that is about where we should be heading as a nation as a result of the new direction the Government has set for us. What is known in ‘poli-speak’ as the policy settings. That’s enough about the budget. Now onto the serious matter of humour.

I often find that peoples’ sense of humour fall into one of two categories. Without putting too fine a point on it people either like UK comedy shows or American. You either like Extras and Life’s Too Short (UK), or you like 3rd Rock and Big Bang Theory (US). It is really a toss-up between liking the underdog who always seems to get dumped on and who never quite seems to make it (UK comedy) or the US variant – wise-cracking larger than life characters, above their peers who always come out on top (think Joey in Friends, think the characters in Golden Girls).

Come to think of it, social policy is a bit like that. You either want us to be like the British or the Americans. Britain has been the country of great social reformation e.g. Bevan and Beveridge the architects of the social welfare system for example. The American model on the other hand is based much more on individuals and personal responsibility, with community supporting those less well off. The concept of small government and philanthropy is much more mature in the US. It’s got a lot to do with the religious underpinnings of each nation.

For the US it is the austere written word of the early Pilgrims convinced in the belief of something better and the redemptive opportunity in life – where self-improvement is possible for all. Contrast this with the UK/European approach based on a more high-Church submissive and doctrinal under-pinning.  There are flaws in both models without a doubt but it does hold up as a theory when applied to social policy. The movement towards a more US model perhaps happened subtly in the recent budget but to me it seemed quite obvious. The Protestant foundation of the US has, at its core, that you can be lectured at, or sermonised to the point that improvement is not only possible but actually occurs. Look at the increasing proportion of Black America’s representation in the middle class.  That also explains why so many self-help books are written by Americans.

The pulling one up by one’s own bootstraps is a firmly held belief. For those with a social reformation perspective, there is a feeling that self-redemption isn’t always within reach for all. When this situation occurs there needs to be a safety net. The removal of certain safeguards of welfare appears to put more burden of families and communities to look after their own. When at first glance this might appear unfeeling or unjust, when taking an American perspective on it, it actually is an acknowledgement that the afflicted just need a helpful nudge in the right direction. Either way no-one really suffers.

The move towards a more US-styled healthcare system and a more US-styled educational system is a prime example of the axis with the US impacting not only our military and foreign policy but also social policy as well. In the US the debate around the role of government is quite polarised. At one end of the spectrum you have those who advocate Hayek economics where individuals are omnipotent shoppers capable of determining best price and able to spend vouchers wisely in their best interests.

At the other end of the spectrum those with a welfare (paternalistic) bent can regard the individual as an idiot child requiring a rational and even-handed Government to act always in the best interest of the individual on the basis that the individual doesn’t really know what is best for themselves. It would appear that our policy settings are becoming more Boolean – either the US free market approach, or the UK social reformation approach. It’s funny how we might be looking fondly at the US and pining for their approach to welfare (education is regarded as a basic right under the Constitution but universal healthcare is not) while many in the US look enviously in our direction pining for what we have.

So what sort of comedy do I like?  For me it’s the darker, more cynical and better written humour of the British sitcom. That is not to say that I don’t like the occasional American comedian and I’ve seen a few in stand-up.  I enjoy Kimmel, Stewart, et al. and their quips and sassiness can be entertaining at times, but ultimately I think a bit tiresome.

So to lighten the tone on what has been a fairly downbeat blog there are a few comedians and comedy shows that might be worth ferreting out on You Tube.

In no particular order.

 

The Office (UK). Painful, funny, tragic and sadly true to life. Avoid The Office (US) as it’s a pale imitation. You could do an MBA, or just watch the complete Office Series! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkYUDQCYGHA

Extras. As with anything by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, it is a finely observed comment on life and has layers of pathos. Self-deprecation and hubris in equal measure. I defy you not to find this funny. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwJoNSuFCC0

Life’s Too Short. More  from the Gervais-Merchant team http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lldrizLu_d8

Alan Partridge starring Steve Coogan http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=alan+partridge%ee%80%81+norwich+fm+%ee%80%80youtube&qpvt=alan+partride+norwich+fm+you+tube&FORM=VDRE#view=detail&mid=28BDDBD073AF826ED50428BDDBD073AF826ED504

Fawlty Towers Watch re-runs and get RPL’d for a Cert IV in hotel management http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6EaoPMANQM

Blackadder A complete history lesson without opening a book

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01R_lP51Pw0

Comedy is the microcosm that enables us to examine the difference between the two pervasive influences on Australian culture – Britain and America. It really is important to decide which comedy path we prefer and for that matter which social policy suits our national character.

Making a Fist of It

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This week in the lunch room we were discussing the short list of DVDs you could give your son to watch to make up for the time you haven’t spent with them and to help them develop a strong moral compass. Us blokes are good at lists so it was a lively discussion. In fact we are probably better at lists than we are at handling that difficult parenting challenge which is the father-son relationship. We never quite reached a consensus but we did agree that the following were good safe choices. In no particular order then:

  • Top Gun;
  • Roadhouse (the Swayze one);
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off;
  • Karate Kid (the first one);
  • Point Break;
  • Scent of a Woman;
  • Vanishing Point;
  • Sean of the Dead;
  • American Hustle;
  • Taken (the first one); and
  • Pretty much anything with Jason Statham in it.

Violence is a fairly common element in all of these. For men the primal urge to resolve differences through exertion of one’s physicality still runs strong. And here lies the dilemma. To what degree do we instil in our young men the concept of ‘don’t back down’ or ‘no backward step’? It was just a few weeks ago we were celebrating this attitude on ANZAC Day. There it was referred to as strength of resolve. More recently we celebrated the underdog heavyweight boxer Alex Leapai and gave him the keys to Logan City. Here was a celebration of what ostensibly is a match of violence between two men. I say ostensibly because Leapai threw just 10 punches in one of the most embarrassing displays of the ancient art of pugilism in recent years.

As men we have evolved. We no longer need to resort to the Darwinian notion of the strongest genes will survive. But have we really evolved that far? Plautus in 195BC coined the phrase homo homini lupus est (man is a wolf to man). This is very true. Our biological urges sometimes simmer just below the skin. What is happening in Syria, the Ukraine, South Sudan and Nigeria attests to that. We can’t always control the primal urges anyway. Research into reproductive evolution has shown that women will find more androgynous men attractive outside of the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle. At the peak of their fertility each month you stand the best chance of being chosen as a partner if you look more like Tom Selleck than say Justin Beiber or any of the boys from One Direction. Some anthropologists say we should be able to rise above our base instincts and our educational system with its emphasis on a more feminised curriculum delivering skills in communication, negotiation and empathy is doing its bit.

How is it then that two of our most sophisticated businessmen were caught this week brawling on the streets of Bondi? Surely these two have done the Harvard business school course in negotiating skills? Surely they have developed a vernacular that can calm an aggressive or wily adversary? Well apparently not. When tensions reached breaking point in Sydney this week it was Jason Statham and not Max Bazerman that presented himself for all the world to see.

Reflecting on this I think that maybe we should see it as a bit of a stoush and move on. The frenzied media interest has hyped what was really just two blokes using an old-school form of negotiation when neither appeared likely to win using the more sophisticated tools at their disposal. Of all the commentary on the brawl, and there has been much, am I the only one to wonder why somebody of Packer’s size and weight was not able to prevail? I think I know the answer. When he was growing up his relationship with his Dad (media Mogul Kerry Packer) is reputed to have been a difficult one. Had it have been better I am sure it would have been David Gyngell sporting the black eye and not James Packer. After all, a responsible Dad equips his son with some basic life skills like how to conduct yourself in a fight and the best of us also follow that up with a collection of helpful DVDs!

 

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES – LOOK AT MY FOOTPRINT

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Those who know me know I have a bit of a sustainability bent. I offset my flights, I drive an efficient diesel vehicle, I have solar electricity and energy efficient pool pump and I barely ever heat or cool my house. I have a Diploma in Environmental Sustainability and am an Accredited Green Star Professional. So when faced with the prospect of doing the WWF Footprint Calculator recently I did so with more than a smidgeon of smugness. Bring it on I thought. The aim is to get to a position where I consume one world’s worth of resources. My daughter encouraged me to take part in it because she likewise has environmental sensitivities and was aghast to find she consumes around two planets worth of resources. She’s a student, so I figured they are always leaving the bathroom light on all night so I’d be OK. You know by now where this is heading…My chart is below.

That’s right, the upper left quadrant scores a 2.3. If everyone lived like me we would need 2.3 Planet Earths to provide enough resource. Hubris is a wonderful thing! To tell the truth I’m still in shock and will need to spend a bit of time in the bottom right quadrant to see how I can improve. I thought the fact that I drive 35km round trip per day might be the issue but as the graph shows the real issue would appear to be food with the distance that food is travelling to get on my plate.

I’m committed to getting my resource use down, especially around the amount of food that is wasted in our house and the concept of ‘salad as a meal’ that is now widely embraced at CTC is certainly helping. The beauty of a salad for lunch is any old leftover food pretty much qualifies to go into it. Fruit, veges and any protein you might choose; they all qualify. It’s cheap, it’s good for you, it reduces landfill and it assuages your conscience.

The amount of food we throw away each day across the world is believed to be enough to feed all the world’s starving. In the Muslim world there is a wonderful custom that if they throw food away, which they do reluctantly, they kiss it before disposing of it. It is a gift from Allah so not to be discarded lightly.

We need to take this approach and extrapolate it to the world’s other resources. We have been wasteful for too long and we need to address this. Given we spend so much time actually at work, rather than at home, if we are really serious about reducing our resource use we need to think about where we spend the majority of our day.

Thankfully CTC is a sustainability focused organisation. We do what we can, mainly at a micro-level to address climate change and reduce waste. Did you know for example that we have:

  • Waterless urinals;
  • A water efficiency plan that reduces water consumption;
  • A solar array;
  • Introduced the use of heat reflectant paint;
  • Offset the carbon footprint of our website;
  • Offset all business flights;
  • A fully diesel company fleet;
  • A carbon neutral office and CTC Café as a result of sustained tree planting;
  • Toner cartridge and paper recycling;
  • Light sensors in variable traffic hallways; and
  • A major collaborative consumption initiative about to launch.

Our Hot Leasing project is a major new initiative which came about as a result of our focus on sustainability. The notion of having assets lying idle is one which is wasteful. By CTC making them available for all to use negates the need for more to be purchased that will lie idle a good deal of the time.

The embodied energy of our steel structures and the concrete of our wonderfully named flexible training platform, the MMAP (Multi-modal assessment platform), will be made available for many (maybe over 30) Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) to use.

Were we not bringing Hot Leasing to the market (thank you Rachel Botsman) then this could mean up to 30 such structures all being fabricated and installed only to spend much of their time idle.

Hot Leasing by this equation is an energy divider by a factor of 30. We can’t afford to sit on our laurels however. After our Ministerial launch on 29th April 2014 (email pam.anderson@ctc.qld.edu.au if you want an invite) we will be working hard on making the Hot Leasing area a carbon neutral training facility.

It may be Hot but it doesn’t need artificial cooling!

Those wanting to check their own footprint should visit http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/people_and_the_environment/human_footprint/footprint_calculator/?gclid=CMv507yY1b0CFUgAvAodGqQAZw

Money can’t buy happiness

HappinessIt’s an oft said expression – wisdom from bygone years, and yet we all find ourselves, from time to time, not following this advice. I’ve often joked that I’d like to be able to say this in hindsight but alas wealth on say a Packer scale, or even more modestly has eluded me. Or is it really alas? It’s also often said that ‘You can’t take it with you’, a phrase I think fine-tuned by the spendthrift to justify their outrageous spending patterns. Who said you can’t take it with you? According to my research no-one has returned from the other side and given a definitive answer one way or the other. Those who have died but returned never give much definition to the bright light. For all we know it could be the glow from a bank ‘meet and greet’ person from up there, or down there (I note these are one of the new jobs that weren’t around a few years ago…kinda like social media managers) opening the door waiting for a generous deposit.

So it was with interest that I read Deepak Chopra this week exploring the notion of happiness. He quite rightly points to our fascination across many decades with unhappiness. Psycho analysis and medication has been the focus for many scientists to address issues of sadness, depression and other blockages to our happiness. Just now there is a trend to try and work out what will make us happy. It is proving to be an elusive goal.

I recall a discussion with one of Brisbane’s respected indigenous elders who had a very interesting view on the worst thing that the ‘white man’ brought to Australia. Far from it being the obvious e.g. disease for which First Australians had no immunity, or having children stolen from parents, or even the racist undertones of phrenology. In fact she said that it was the White Man’s view of life itself. It’s one we are familiar with – the White Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP) notion of you work hard and then you die. Not much space in there for happiness, love and community and that was her essential point and one I think Chopra is grappling with.

There is the counter point which is that all this focus on happiness is the domain of those middle class over 50s who have both time and money on their hands to be able to afford the naval gazing that leads them to ponder the very notion of happiness in the first-place. There is some truth in this. My team members who are bringing up young families don’t have the luxury of time to commit to such musings. You can see their eyes glaze over when such topics are raised, but then again that could just be them catching some much needed forty winks as a result of being up half the night with a sick child.

That said there is a pull in some around middle-age where this concept of happiness bubbles to the surface. It’s similar to your annual superannuation return. Post 50 you tend to take it out of the envelope and actually read it and dare I say it on occasions bring the old calculator out and work out how much you will have when you retire. The suggestion by the superannuation companies is that there is this magic figure and if this isn’t achieved you aren’t going to be happy. And so it is with happiness. You tend to muse over whether you are happy or not and what could make you more so.

There are a series of adverts running in print and on TV at the moment by MLC which show a grandad taking his grandson to the museum and looking at exhibits of presumably his parents’ generation (captured in museum cases) enjoying themselves in a carefree manner. It’s both subtle and obvious, but once again we are directed to thinking about money and its association with happiness.

According to Chopra, the truth is that happiness is an inner pursuit that is very different from the pursuit of pleasure or the amassment of a fortune. No one should accept this as a given; it needs to be tested out personally. In the end, the message of the world’s wisdom traditions is a call to find out the truth for yourself. It just helps to clear away the underbrush of untruths, and “money buys happiness” is just that. Chopra believes that at no other time in history have we been able to grapple so readily with the happiness conundrum. For many in the world the absence of poverty and war is such that it creates the space for us to work on happiness. He also subscribes to the view that lasting happiness depends on our state of awareness, and to find the highest state of happiness, you must reach a higher state of consciousness. The same view has been held for centuries by all the world’s wisdom traditions. Our indigenous elders, my Irish ancestors, my wife’s Scottish ancestors – there lies some truth and wisdom.

Happiness can also be derived from a feeling of achievement (although this may be transitory) and as we draw ever closer to the opening of Hot Leasing the mood is one of expectation. We are happy with what we are bringing to market and trust that in turn the market will be happy with what we are providing. There is no doubt that much effort has gone into getting it right and all in the industry will ultimately benefit. Most of all, those students fortunate enough to use the facilities, will get a training experience par excellence. That should make everyone happy! And just to assure Dr Chopra Hot Leasing isn’t about the money….

READ ALL ABOUT IT

I’ve been reflecting on the news a lot lately. Like many the fate of Malaysian Flight MH370 has held me in its thrall. There is a lot going on aside from the personal tragedy which should be everyone’s first concern. There is the ‘race’ to who finds it first. Australia, New Zealand and the US were all in there competing when our colonial forebears the Brits came in over the top and proved beyond doubt that the plane had indeed crashed in the southern Indian Ocean. Clever scientists using theories developed in the 1800s put the pieces together aided by sophisticated computer modelling to draw their conclusions; still to be actually proven at the writing of this blog.

What is interesting is that all the spy technology in the world couldn’t apparently find the plane either while in flight or after it had crashed. There are more than a few people scratching their heads on this and a few others going sceptically – ‘really’? Then there has been the inept handling of the information flow from the Malaysian authorities.

What is surprising about this is the fact that there is so much precedent about how to and how not to handle similar situations. Still fresh in our collective memories is the handling of the nuclear reactor disaster in Fukushima. It is hard to fathom that a similarly inept performance could be repeated within such a short space of time. Here the issue strikes me as one of face. It can be hard to understand this in Australia without a more developed understanding of the Asian region in which we are located but still seem somewhat disengaged from.

So this brought me to a more philosophical consideration of news. As a result of 24 hour TV news and digital platforms, we have access to news more than ever before. It is everywhere and we can’t keep checking it constantly. We have, it seems, an almost unquenchable thirst for news and developments of a news story as it unfolds.

The MH370 story has been a fascinating example of this because it has been a drip, drip of developments over such a protracted period. Almost, I hate to say, a godsend to a 24 hour TV news editor. It has been a story that has kept on giving.

I had the pleasure of listening to philosopher Alain de Botton (http://alaindebotton.com/news-users-manual/) the other day. His latest thinking has been around this very topic of news. It seems strange in the midst of a news event that has focused on technology and its failure and success (e.g. the crashing of the plane and locating it) that we turn to a philosopher to give us some perspective on these things.

He raises questions like: How come disaster stories are often so uplifting? What makes the love lives of celebrities so interesting? Why do we enjoy politicians being brought down? Why are upheavals in far off lands often so… boring? It is reassuring that not only our great science minds can be helpful in such trying times but our thinkers as well.

In a digital age it is all too tempting to dismiss the role of philosophers and ethicists when we probably need them now more than ever. Just to show that he doesn’t take himself too seriously he has his own news site, “The Philosophers’ Mail”. Great laugh if you get a chance http://www.philosophersmail.com/.

And because our news is coming more and more from digital platforms, having reliable news sources where we know the editorial policies and intents is becoming increasingly important. One I favour is The Conversation. Perhaps not so much an immediate news feeder, it gives you more background to the issues as well as commentary. As a not for profit you can be reasonably assured that big business or other vested interests are not pushing a certain editorial line. Of course I also like the ABC and that bastion of editorial independence the BBC. They set the standard and I think are seldom surpassed.

OK here’s the segue to CTC. It’s clumsy but none more so than Andrew Lofthouse to the King on Channel Nine most week nights! At CTC we are about to make our own news.CTC Hot Lease 08

Hot Leasing is rapidly becoming a known phenomenon as our marketing (spreading our news) is starting to take effect. With the Ministerial opening scheduled for the 29th of April this has to be news worthy event. Not only is it the launch of Hot Leasing, a ground breaking example of collaborative consumption, but it also sees us celebrating 20 years in business. Someone wise once said to me ‘don’t be the best, be the longest’ and there is a lot of truth in that. Twenty years in business is no mean feat and one worth celebrating. It is worthy of shouting about; a bit like the town criers of old who, after all, were the original purveyors of the news.

Beyond the Baseline – The Green Cities Conference 2014

Kent-LI was at the Green Cities Conference this week and it, along with my attendance of Total Facilities Live expo, has firmed up my belief that green issues and sustainability are gradually fading from the headlines.

I don’t think it is intentional on the most part, but there may be an aggregation of events that is pushing it down the political agenda and public consciousness. There are probably a number of reasons for this, but to a real extent I think it is due to the 24 hour news cycle and our current penchant for getting our news digitally or in tabloid format.

The tabloid, and to a degree the tablet, have barely enough space for any detail. So when we get news that the ice in the Antarctic, for example, is growing not shrinking, we absorb that headline and a few other facts before moving on to the next story e.g. Russia annexing the Crimea.

What we are failing to pick up are the nuances and the detail which on further reading leads one, once again, to the conclusion that global warming is indeed a fact. The old days of the broadsheets would have headlines and analysis. It seems our busy lives (which presumably technology was meant to make easier and more relaxing) afford us little time beyond headline grabbing as we head off to work. Hands up whose eating breakfast at work!

Coupled with a harsh cold winter in North America, it is no wonder that the population starved of proper news is jumping, in a number of cases, to the wrong conclusions. Global warming is real and we need to act now to ensure it is not irreversible.

With specific reference to Green Cities 2014, it would appear that the low hanging fruit has been plucked. We have built the 6 Green Star buildings to much fanfare and now all that is left is retrofitting existing building stock; not nearly so glamorous.

The built environment is responsible for such a large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions; it is incumbent on those who work in this space to start providing some redress.

At CTC we have been doing our bit through our carbon offsets (and yes I offset my airfares to Melbourne and back) for the office and even our website is carbon neutral. CTC runs the precinct from a carbon negative office. That said the whole complex is some way off carbon neutrality, to a large degree because of the low level of public transportation used by those who attend each day.

So it was to the experts that I was looking for inspiration to get my green sensibilities juiced up and inspired again.

The biggest impact for me was the keynote by Kent Larson from MIT. He advocates looking beyond the buildings themselves and adopting a grander scale – that of the city. While cities are not likely to go backwards in terms of size, Larson draws inspiration from the medieval settlements that were the precursors to our current great cities before they became the unwieldy metropolises that they are today.

The rule of thumb then, and what he calls for now, is linked communities all within a 20 minute walk. He points to Paris as a shining example of this and also Melbourne to some degree. In other words a series of linked villages which, when combined, make a city.

He points to three big challenges.

The first is transportation and he and his team are designing an electric car scheme that works like the current bike system in many major cities including the under-used Brisbane City Bicycle system.

The beauty of his car is that it is able to fold to a third of its size, meaning that five can fit into the space of one conventional US motor vehicle. At a cost of $30k per underground car park in New York this is a big saving on space and money, freeing up much needed real estate for affordable housing. In Brisbane an overground multi-story car park is around $15k per car park to build, let alone the opportunity cost of having that sitting idle much of the time.

The second aspect concerning Larson and his team is the need for affordable housing on a much smaller footprint. They are busy designing base-plate apartments based on the New York loft model and then by using mechanisation the space is transformed for different purposes at different times.

This is collaborative consumption brought right home to one’s domestic life. Once you are finished with the evening meal you don’t need the dining room so it gets changed into some other function. The bedroom, for example, is only the bedroom when one needs to sleep. This has meant a liveable footprint that is only 17% the size of a traditional small New York apartment. Already Ikea is exploring how they might make a range of furniture units available to make this a reality.

The other challenge that his team are confronting is the need for food security within the city itself. Those Medieval villages that grew to become our great cities had food production close to them which improved their chances of survival. Larson suggests that we need to become food self-sufficient within the Cities ourselves e.g. within each 20 minute arrondissement, as it were, for those who have wandered the streets of Paris.

Large scale hydroponics is the key, according to Larson and he envisages the facades of buildings being covered in plants in the not too distant future. By this calculation the heat signature of our major cities will reduce by around four degrees Centigrade and our carbon footprint much reduced as a result.

The challenge now resides in converting this vision into a reality.

It has taken less effort than many thought it might for developers to embrace Green Star for both bottom-line and environmental benefit. Lend Lease for example has developed over 122,000m² of green star space accounting for 44 new certified green buildings across the globe.

One hopes that similar vigour is brought to bear in up-scaling this thinking to a city level.

At CTC we are trying to do our bit. Once again the Hot Leasing concept at CTC fares well with its underlying principle of sweating assets to reduce unwanted idling time. Let’s hope for the sake of the environment that it gets well utilised and drives similar initiatives elsewhere.

Now if we only get all those tradies to ride a bike to work…..

http://www.greencities.org.au/

 

PHIL’S LIST OF 20 WOMEN WHO HAVE INSPIRED HIM

In recognition of International Women’s Day I thought I would list twenty or so women, still living, who inspire or have inspired me over the years – in no particular order:

1)      Angela Merkel – German Chancellor and most powerful woman in the world

2)      Germaine Greer – older statesperson now of the feminist movement and still likes to poke fun at things

3)      Mary Robinson – former President of the Irish Republic and UN Commissioner for Human Rights. Wisdom and humility a great mix

4)      Helen Clarke – Former NZ Prime Minister – often poked fun at but the PM most Australians wished they had

5)      Jane Campion – Film maker extraordinaire

6)      Kathryn Bigelow (see 6 above)

7)      Dame Judi Dench – 79, partially blind but still best actress on the planet. The world felt safer when she was M.

8)      Catherine Deneuve – 70, fully sighted second best actress (French) on the planet and about to do a lingerie shoot for New York Magazine out March 24.

9)      Michelle Obama – OK so he’s the President we all know she can hold her end up just as well

10)   Susan Tedeschi – singer/songwriter and a half of the Tedeschi-Trucks band. True 50:50 they even have two drummers.

11)   Posh Spice (Victoria Beckham) – yes really. Educators should sit up and take note – motivational quotient (MQ) much better endowment to have than IQ.

12)   Olivia De Havilland – retired British/American actress – took on the male dominated studios and eventually won.

13)   Aretha Franklin – Quite possibly the greatest female voice of all time. Hint to Australian promoters – she would pull a huge audience.

14)   Madeleine Albright – First ever female Secretary of State in US. Almost met her once – long story

15)   Gehad Al Khaldi – My Finance Director in Saudi Arabia – the first ever in the Kingdom smart, funny, brave and still remembers my birthday. The nation’s future.

16)   My female staff over the years – punching way above their weight – no more said!

17)   Kate Adie – BBC foreign correspondent. From Lockerbie to Rwanda, the best of her generation.

18)   Jan Manton – Brisbane’s Queen of contemporary art – confident, assured and dynamic

19)   Lizzy Paplinger – One half of MS MR an indie pop duo. Worth checking out – very on trend.

20)   Andrej Pejic – Australian born ‘beauty’ for blurring the lines and reminding us that this focus on gender isn’t that meaningful after all.