9th Global Conference on Ageing

Next week Montreal will host the 9th Global Conference on Ageing . The focus of this year’s conference is on ageing and design. The conference has been organized by the International Federation on Ageing. IFA’s President and Co-Chair of the Conference, Irene Hoskins, has said about this year’s programme that “it reflects the importance of ensuring enabling and supportive environments, a key priority set out in the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA)”.

The three-day conference will also include an exposition on ageing featuring some of the latest products and services being developed in the area of enabling environments. Arup’s Director for Global Foresight & Innovation, Chris Luebkeman, will be speaking at the pre-conference event with senior government officials as well as at the Conference’s Opening Plenary session entitled “The New Paradigm: Ageing and Design” on the evening of September 4th.

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Survival 2050

The Science Museum in London currently has on display The Science of Survival . The exhibition provides visitors with a glimpse of the world in 2050 and “explores how we will all survive on a changing planet. “ Four characters from the future – Buz, Eco, Tek and Dug guide participants through the interactive exhibition and give advice on how to tackle the challenges of 2050. The exhibition is divided into five sections: Eating, Drinking, Moving, Enjoying and Building, which take a look at what we need to do to survive climate change and resource shortages. All of the decisions visitors make along the journey are included at the end in the Future City so that people can see how their priorities and choices have a major impact on our world of tomorrow.

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Eco-Resorts of the Future in Tanzania

Tomorrow some of the Foresight team heads to Tanzania for a workshop on ECO-RESORTS OF THE FUTURE with our sustainable host Habitaem. Participants will be joining us from as far as San Francisco and as near as down the road in Tanzania. Through the course of our few days in Arusha we will review some of the previous eco-models for resorts and attempt to define a vision for a new sustainable model for resort and tourism in developing regions of the world like Tanzania.

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Vanity Fair Green Issue Number 3

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Another year, another Vanity Fair ‘green’ issue. This time, the cover features rock-amazon-godess-like Madonna as she balances a boulder on her back. Looking strong never looked so sweet. And if you subscribe to Vanity Fair this month, you’ll even receive the ‘Green Guide To Life’. It sounds a little American-centric, but it is amazing to see how fast everyone is turning to green-lighting. A ‘green beat’ blog entry by Vanity Fair correspondent Evgenia Peretz features an editorial on the phenomenon of ‘Eco-Stroking’, and can we please get over ourselves for our minor contributions in trying to save the environment. Touche.

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Food Security is Threatened

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The latest Guardian features a warning from the UN that rising food prices could spark worldwide unrest and threaten political stability. At a conference in Dubai, Sir John Holmes, undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and UN emergency relief coordinator, announced that escalating prices would trigger protests and riots in vulnerable nations, and that food scarcity and soaring fuel prices would compound the damaging effects of global warming. Sir John Holmes also observed:

- On average, the price of food has risen 40% since last summer

- Climate change has doubled the number of disasters from an average of 200 a year to 400 a year in the past two decades

And examples of the violence which has erupted as a result of food scarcity include:

- Riots in Haiti

- Violent protests in the Ivory Coast

- Price riots in Cameroon in February

- Heated demonstrations in Mauritania, Mozambique and Senegal

- Protests in Uzbekistan, Yemen, Bolivia and Indonesia

In Jordan UN staff went on strike for a day this week to demand a pay raise in response to the 50% hike in prices, and rice producing countries such as Cambodia, China, Vietnam, India and Pakistan have curbed their rice exports to guarantee enough supplies for their residents.

The World Bank’s president, Robert Zoellick, has announced that unless the US, Europe, Japan and other wealthy countries provide funds, “many more people will suffer and starve”. Others, such as UK Professor and new chief scientific adviser to the government, John Beddington, warn that the damaging effects of the food crisis will make itself more quickly felt than climate change.

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Consumers and Climate Change

“In a global survey, consumers say that a corporation’s performance in addressing the problems of the environment and climate change affects not only how much they trust the company but also whether they would buy its products.”

A recent study by McKinsey on consumer attitudes towards climate change reveals that consumers are making purchase decisions based on a company’s performance in addressing environmental issues such as climate change. Consumers also expect and want companies to promote the public good by providing healthier and safer products, good pension schemes, and more. According to a survey McKinsey conducted, 90% of consumers and 85% of executives believe that large corporations should play a broader role in society. More revealing is the fact that majorities responded that companies and governments should actually play an equal role in handling sociopolitical issues. There is also a disparity between executives and consumers perceptions on how large of a contribution executives are making. While 7 out of 10 North American executives describe their contribution as mostly or somewhat positive, only 4 out of 10 consumers agree. And in Europe the gap is even wider.

It looks like major CSR departments have a lot more work to do, and fast, if companies want to retain the trust and share of their consumers wallets. Perhaps it’s time for companies to start thinking about acquiring share of trust by being more pro-active in their environmental stewardship.

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Social Design

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“The majority of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10% of the world’s customers. Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90%.”

—Dr. Paul Polak, International Development Enterprises

I came across this design book during a critique session with a few design students from Central St. Martin who are working with us to imagine the future of eco-resorts. From May to September 2007 the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design in New York held an exhibition called Design for the other 90%. Products were developed in particular for the 4 billion people on the planet who live on less than $1 a day. The designers came from leading universities, design consultancies and non-profit organisations in the developed world. Design for the other 90% explores several projects which reflect the growing movement and desire among designers, engineers, students and professors, architects, and social entrepreneurs to design low-cost solutions for the other 90% of our population.

Perhaps further proof that sometimes design can really matter.

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