Please Spare Manitoba!

 

Manitoba in the early days
Manitoba in the early days

 

What now?

 

I never thought I’d see the day! One of the best examples of medium-density housing in Australia is up for redevelopment! How can this be?

 

Where is our memory?

 

Is new always better?

 

Don’t we know what’s good when we see it?

 

 

One of my fears about the redevelopment of this site is that the shared open space will be lost.

It’s the heart and soul of Manitoba and it’s its best feature.

Removing shared open space: a fashion we’d be best to forget!

A fashion in the development nowadays, promoted by New Urbanists seeking to maximize developers’ profits, is to remove shared space from higher density housing. This is such a massive social error that it defies understanding.

The hierarchy of open space

It is generally accepted by social designers that there is a hierarchy of open space in any urban or residential area.

 

First, there is private open space (the balconies, yards, courtyards, terraces, decks, patios and other private outdoor spaces that are associated with a private dwelling).

 

Second is shared open space, the territory of a group of dwellings and the primary play space for pre-schoolers.

 

Finally, we have public open space, which can be accessed by anyone: parks, plazas, community gardens and any other pace that does not belong to a specific dwelling or group of dwellings.

 

For many years — decades, actually, New Urbanist designers and developers, bent on “neo-traditionalist” designs and grid road patterns, have sought to remove the central level of the hierarchy: shared open space. They argue that the function of shared open space can easily be taken up by neighbourhood parks. The reasons are clearly about profit maximisation, as there are not legitimate other reasons fro removing this space or violating the integrity of a hierarchy that has stood the test of time.

 

All the recent research on natural pay, child development and “Nature-Deficit Disorder” focuses on the importance of “near nature” in the early years fo a child’s life. And, with the increase in single-parent families and many parents experiencing post-partum depression and feeling uncomfortable about venturing into the the wider urban domain, this piece of nature is all the more important.

Ian Hannaford

One of the best examples of shared open space is the beautiful public housing estate designed in the 1970s by South Australian architect, Ian Hannaford: the Manitoba development. The care and sensitivity of this design have made it a popular site for visits by overseas planners and architects for decades.

 

Ian Hannaford
Ian Hannaford

 

The care with with Hannaford (and the Housing Trust planners and architects who assisted him) provided for natural surveillance (“eyes on the street”) from the neighboring  dwellings while allowing residents to maximise their privacy, spoke to a sensitivity that we rarely see in current housing designs.

The subtle but sensitive approaches to “cut-out” fencing allowed residents to add to their fencing and/or provide landscaping if they sought greater privacy chose not to participate in the chidlrne’s play in the central shared space.

 

Cut-out fencing allows views out or privacy
Cut-out fencing allows views out or privacy

 

Qualities of shared open space

Clare Cooper Marcus, a specialist in this field and now an Emerita Professor, argues that shared open space must have specific qualities. It   can be a highly significant component of the neighborhood landscape if it meets the following criteria:

 

(1)                 It is bounded by the dwellings it serves and is clearly not a public park;

 

(2)         Entry points into this space from a public street or sidewalk are designed so that it is clear that one is entering a setting which is not public space;

 

(3)         Its dimensions and the height-to-width ratio of buildings to outdoor space create a human-scaled setting;

 

(4)         Each dwelling unit bounding the shared outdoor space has access to an adequately sized private outdoor space (patio, yard, balcony) which forms a buffer between the residence and the common area;

 

(5)         There are clear boundaries and easy access between what is private (dwelling unit, patio, yard) and what is shared;

 

(6)         As much care is focused on the layout, circulation patterns, planting plan, furnishings, lighting, etc., of the shared outdoor space as is normally focused on the dwelling interiors. In particular, the design needs to focus on children (play equipment, paths for wheeled vehicles, areas for exploratory play, etc.) since research shows that children will comprise more than 80% of the users of such spaces if they are designed with the above criteria in mind.

 

(7)         The scale of such a space can vary from the urban, rectilinear courtyards of St. Francis Square to the more rambling suburban greenways of Village Homes as long as all the above six guidelines are followed, thus ensuring that the space is perceived as unambiguously neither private nor public, but shared.

 

The arguments in favour of shared open space can be summarised as follows:

 

Arguments for shared open space

 

  1. CPTED (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design): Capable guardianship possible within territory controlled by residents
  • Children are vulnerable users of residential environment

 

  • Do not always understand which places are safe for them to use

 

  • Can be victims of predatory practices

 

  • Parental fears can inhibit children’s use of the environment (Paul Tranter)

 

  • Attention to CPTED principles will reduce potential for limiting children’s independent mobility

 

 

  1. Education for sustainability: Microcosm of the wider environmental world: essential for child’s environmental literacy and ethical development

 

  • Diversity of urban environment: learning ground for children’s ecological values

 

  • Environments that communicate   sustainability are important

 

  • Educate children (and adults) to value sustainability

 

  • Valuing sustainability and intergenerational equity communicates that we value children and their futures

 

  • Children grow into ecologically literate and responsible adults

 

  • The environment is a communicating medium.

 

  • It communicates what we value.

 

  1. Child development and safety: Microcosm of the wider social world: necessary for child’s social and physical development

 

    • Shared space is microcosm of the wider social world: necessary for child’s physical and social development

 

  1. Equity and cultural diversity: Young children in some households (and some young girls) not permitted to go alone beyond sight and calling distance of home

 

Young children in some households (and some young girls) not permitted beyond sight and calling distance of home without an adult

  • Males tend to dominate outdoor play

 

  • Older boys and teenagers will dominate most attractive play areas

 

  • Girls play less often in parks than boys do

 

  • Girls tend to play significantly closer         to home

 

Children (especially girls) need opportunities for private social play

 

Summary:

 

CPTED:

  • Clear sense of territory: what is private or shared (reduces excuse-making)
  • Recognising (and confronting) strangers
  • Expressing capable guardianship
  • Building a sense of community

Sustainability:

  • Nature-deficit disorder
  • Learning and practicing ecology at home
  • Near nature
  • Personal health and ecosystem health linked
  • Cooler neighbourhoods (reduce heat islands)

 

Equity:

  • Low-income people can’t travel far for outdoor recreation
  • Some cultures won’t let women and girl children go far for recreation
  • Without shared space, some young girls will not be permitted to leave the dwelling or the yard

 

We remove shared open space from medium-density housing at our peril.

Let’s keep the Manitoba development as it is.

The brilliant example of shared open space in the Manitoba development in the South-East corner of Adelaide needs to be preserved.

Let’s keep it for its architectural value, for its housing quality and for its residents, as well as an example of how to get it right in terms of design and sensitive provision of shared open space that can benefit all residents.

 

Access to "near nature" supports child development
Access to “near nature” supports child development

PLEASE SPARE MANITOBA!!!

 

NIMBY psychology at Harvard University February 2013

 

NIMBY psychology comes to Harvard — from Australia!

 

February was an exciting month for me. I spent it teaching in the Graduate School of Design (GSD) at Harvard University and giving lectures and classes at MIT and Tufts University.

 

It was exceptionally cold for a person who lives in the sub-tropics. A huge blizzard dumped 20 inches of show on Boston days after I arrived.

 

 
Harvard in February. Brrr!

 

The highlight of my month-long visit was a   lunch-time lecture for the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University on 22 February.

 

I spoke about the relationships between environmental psychology and community resistance to housing density increases to an audience in the iconic Gund Hall, which houses the Graduate School of Design.

 

See: https://www.gsd.harvard.edu/#/events/what-s-psychology-got-to-do-with-nimby-with-wendy-sarkissian.html

 

Gund Hall, Harvard University

 

NIMBY

 

Throughout the Western world and especially in Australia, we are seeing strong initiatives to increase housing density to achieve sustainability initiatives. Paralleling these types of initiatives are concerns about the social impacts of higher density housing, confirmed by a widespread Australian research and a recent visit to Canada. Even in Hong Kong, there are community concerns about housing density increases. Where governments have mandated housing density increases, the results have not always been positive.

 

The much-lauded CityPlan community engagement process in Vancouver, Canada, resulted in a strong support for housing density in the late 1990s and early years of this century, (with planners believing that they had converted NIMBY to YIMBY (“Yes in My Back Yard”). However, currently a strong community backlash in Vancouver reveals that these gains were short-lived. After tens of millions of dollars spent on community engagement about density increases, residents and others are strongly opposing further housing density increases.

 

In many Western cities, the early optimism of what community engagement could deliver with respect to housing density increases has faded. The irony is that success in this arena is much more important that it was in earlier decades as the pressures of Peak Oil and climate change begin to be felt more powerfully by communities and governments.

 

So, if density increases are needed and resistance is increasing, what is the answer? What really is at the core of peoples’ concerns? Which approaches might work to engage communities with the issues of housing density?

 

What if we could achieve our sustainability and housing density goals without causing community unrest, dissatisfaction – even uproar?

 

Could communities respond positively to density increases under the appropriate conditions?

 

I believe that all of that is possible. But we must understand more about the psychology of housing to be effective.

 

We need to appreciate why governments must continue to campaign for increased housing density. It’s as though these two initiatives are at opposite ends of a spectrum. Yet they are connected by the very concerns that seem to place proponents of density increases at loggerheads with community members.

 

Caring

 

The issue that unites them is caring. Governments who care about the future of communities are alert to the many signs that automobile dependence and urban sprawl are expensive and ecologically unsustainable artefacts of a bygone era. We can no longer afford low-density suburbs. (Actually, we never could but we thought we could.)

 

Similarly, community members who care about the future of their communities are concerned that clumsy and ill-considered initiatives will make neighbourhoods unliveable cauldrons of noise, traffic congestion, parking problems. They will have no environmental quality. Some even say: `the slums of the future’.

So, if everyone cares, where’s the problem and what is the secret?

 

A key to understanding these conflicts (occurring in our communities today) is to understand more about housing. It’s not merely `product’, as some developers say. It’s more than a `commodity’ as economists would say. For some, it’s everything: a haven, a nest, protection, security”¦ many qualities that have little or nothing to do with density, tenure or whether one’s name is on the mortgage document”¦

 

Home is a deeply archetypal concept. Humans aer animals and, like other animals, we are hard-wired to protect our territory, the “territorial core” of our home. It’s complicated and that’s partly why people’s responses to a threat to their housing often get so very `complicated’. Our Homing Instinct is a deep-seated desire to protect what is personal, precious and `home’.

 

The psychology of place and housing

 

 

Here’s a link to the Harvard lecture and the PowerPoint presentation:

 

https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/event/what%E2%80%99s-psychology-got-do-nimby-exploring-deeper-meanings-community-resistance-proposed-housing

 

Social planning was having a good month!   The lecture was also picked up by the real estate blog, The Fifth Estate: Our Planet, Our Real Estate:

 

https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/archives/45397/

 

Here’s the lecture in a Word document:

 

Sarkissian Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies lecture 22 February 2013_revised for web

 

Many sincere thanks to Eric Belsky and his colleagues of the Joint Center for generous support and hospitality and to Professor Ann Forsyth of the GSD.

 

Emotions Count in Community Engagement

Emotions Count 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




There’s lots of discussion about emotion in community engagement these days.

 

Maybe that’s because we’ve ignored this important component for decades.

 

Adelaide’s independent newspaper, InDaily, recommends, following an interview with me last week, that we “consider emotion in community engagement.”

 

The difficulty is that in many community engagement circles, and especially among those practitioners in the “risk-aversion” category (and their colleagues and clients), emotion is seen as a negative thing, often associated with “outrage” and something to be avoided.

 

But emotion is not always outrage. Or outrageous. Sometimes it’s soft and sweet. Sometimes it’s passionate and daring. Sometimes it’s hopeful.

 

And sometimes it’s untrusting.

 

Emotion is only energy.

 

It’s natural and instinctive, like the human desire for territorial control. And if you find energy in a community engagement context, you don’t have to drum it up.

You have something — something energetic — to work with!   Emotions count in community engagement

 

See: https://iaf-oceania.org/emotion-and-outrage-when-facilitating-community-engagement/

 

The Energy Wheel

 

In my work, I use a diagnostic tool called the “Energy Wheel” to assess the emotional state of people in a community, a community group or an organisation.   It gives me a way of working out what’s necessary. What might work.   In a “cool negative”   community, for example, you might have literally   to”light a fire” under people to get them going — to get them involved.

 

Stories in a Park in Eagleby, Queensland

 

We’ve done that in a now-famous project in Eagleby in southeastern Queensland. And the results were transformational!

 

Here is a summary of some aspects of that creative approach to community engagement and community development:

Stories in a Park final journal article 2005   Please email me for more details about the Eagleby project.

 

The Energy Wheel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can read more about the Energy Wheel in my book, Kitchen Table Sustainability.

 

See:  https://www.amazon.com/Kitchen-Table-Sustainability-Practical-Engagement/dp/1844076148

Better Together? Let’s Get Practical!

 

Better together senior mgmt

 

 

 

 

 

 



Better Together

 

Last week, an Adelaide-based colleague gave me a copy of Better Together: Principles of Engagement, just published by the South Australian Government.

 

 

You can read about it at:

 

https://saplan.org.au/yoursay and

https://saplan.org.au/better_together

 

You can also comment. I tried to do that but could not understand how to do it.

 

A good idea

Still, a good idea and a tick for trying.

 

As I was  preparing a public lecture on community engagement in South Australia, I opened it with great enthusiasm and read it with care. In it, the Premier spoke about breaking down barriers to genuine engagement and that public servants feel that they don’t have permission to engage. They need to try new ways. My shoulders relaxed: a very promising start.

 

I needed to remind myself, as a person who hasn’t lived in Adelaide for many years, that this is an initiative of a state government eager to remedy many of the community engagement weaknesses of the previous state government. And yes, there is a lot of catching up to do. All my South Australian planning and engagement colleagues admit that. And there’s considerable embarrassment − verging on shame −in the planning profession and in government circles about some of the high-profile debacles of recent years.

 

It’s like a Leviathan

Gustav Dore, 1865

Gustav Dore, 1865

It’s also easy to attack a large target. Bringing the Leviathan of state government in line with leading practice of community engagement is a formidable talk.

 

But it’s not rocket science, either.

 

We must remember that it’s 2013 now and community engagement is a well-established field internationally, with its leading practice, methods, principles, discourses, territories, philosophies and gurus. Australia leads the way in much of this professional work. There is also a lot of expert help around, especially in South Australia. In my view, most of our best engagement practitioners are in South Australia.

 

It’s important to be up-to-date with community engagement. Policies and approaches no longer need to be brainstormed or invented from first principles. That’s sort of a waste of time and suggests that there may be nothing local or relevant to build on…

 

There is a frontier. We know where it is.

 

 

It’s long and many of us — and many excellent people in South Australia — are working at the growing edge.

 

Back to Better Together

 

I read with satisfaction that lots of people have been involved in the workshopping and design of this publication. Big tick.

 

However, as I read on, I wondered where the engagement specialists in South Australia were when this work was being undertaken”¦ Were they consulted? I doubt it, from the somewhat simplistic approaches in the document, contrasting markedly with the sophistication of much of the on-the-ground work being undertaken in South Australia.

 

Members of the Senior Management Council (pictured: one lone woman) spoke of their desire to foster a debate-and-decide approach, which, I guess, is a step up from the ever present “DAD” (“Decide-Announce-Defend”) approach that characterised much of previous state government engagement. They want to ensure that the public service has the skills to undertake high-quality engagement processes. Tick.

 

It was encouraging to see a distinction between communities and stakeholders, as many people confuse the two terms.

 

IAP2 Spectrum

 

This document aims to assist in engagement with those who are directly affected and who have personal and professional interests in an issue. The model uses is the IAP2 Spectrum. Again, a tick for a respectable, respected and commonly used model.

 

The aim is continuous improvement. Unfortunately, some old-fashioned words (such as “audience” and “expectation management”) slipped though the editing net. Perhaps, in the next version, “audience” will become “partners”?

 

I heard a hopeful tone to the emphasis on reaching community leaders and influencers. And a plea not to “forget local government”. (As if we’d dare!)

 

Importantly, one should know the history and backgrounds of any engagement situation before starting out. Be wary of over engagement and engagement fatigue. Another big tick, even if it’s somewhat stating the obvious.

 

Being genuine

 

Being genuine is one of the guiding principles. Personally, I think it’s safer to specify behaviour than character traits. As an ethicist, I find that virtue ethics is hard to evaluate. And being genuine is very hard to do in some situations. But it’s an admirable aspiration nonetheless. Another tick.

 

Being creative also gained a guernsey although it was hard to say how that might occur. The literature on creativity in community engagement is clearly yet to be mined by the authors. Next step, I guess.

 

But a tick for effort. I am looking forward to examples of creativity in the next edition.

 

For some guidance on what to read, see: https://sarkissian.com.au/publications/community-engagement-books-by-wendy-sarkissian/creative-community-planning/

 

Social media gained a look-in as it should, as did evaluation, but with little mention of the complex and ongoing discourses regarding evaluation in community engagement. Still, it’s good advice to get in touch with people and be part of a regular mailing list. Medium-sized tick.

 

Even Better”¦

 

I was hungry for more when I came to the last page, relishing the stylish graphics and lots of white space.

 

Maybe in the next version of this promising publication, we could hear something about what’s missing.

 

Children and young people

 

pk camera darlene 2

I could find not a single word about engagement with children and/or young people.

 

Cultural diversity did not get a look-in.

 

 

 

 

Influence

 

Matters high on the agendas of communities and practitioners (and dominating professional journals and conversations of practitioners like me, as well as in local government), such as inclusion, influence and representativeness, were missing entirely.

 

The path-breaking, evidence-based work by Roz Lasker and John Guidry on influence by marginalised groups in community engagement (Engaging the Community in Decision Making, 2010) deserves a mention.

See: https://www.amazon.com/Engaging-Community-Decision-Making-Participation/dp/078644312X

 

There was no consideration of governance issues, including accountability and the structures needed to incorporate communities and their precious local information and local knowledges into decision making. People want more than having their “input” taken “on board”.

 

National and international polices with which the contents of this publication might align are yet to be identified. Sophisticated approaches to evaluation are yet to come, including the simple (but powerful) notion of using formative as well as summative evaluation.

 

Resources

 

Community planning.net

It’d be good in the next edition to have links to some leading-practice websites, such as Nick Wates’s generous community planning handbook and website, community planning net:

https://www.communityplanning.net/

 

Another great source is People and Participation.net:

See: https://www.involve.org.uk/people-and-participation-5-years-on/

It’s changed after five years and is now www.participationcompass.org

 

 

 

peopleandparticipation.net

 

And where to go for help?

 

That’s yet to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As is advice about tying this approach to local government plans and polices.

 

So, from a practitioner looking for guidance: some middle-sized ticks for beautiful graphics, a smashing video and clear, plain language.

 

And a deep sigh of disappointment that in this day and age − with such urgent planning problems facing us − the wisdom of practice appears to be ignored. Not consulted.

 

The community of practice

 

If you’d like to join the community of practice, you can email David Speirs: [email protected]

 

I’ve done that already.

 

A modest proposal

 

In the next edition, I’d like to see more respect paid to the existing community of community engagement practice in Australia and especially in South Australia. I’d like to see the next edition acknowledge the wide community engagement literature from practice and theory and the range of professional discourses. A wise approach would be to embed this work in leading practice and align it with the work of community engagement professionals. And it’d be helpful to offer more practical advice. A bit less spin and a bit more substance could work well.

 

I can think of dozens of people who’d be willing to help get it right, me included.


Postscript: a bouquet

After an excellent discussion with the Deputy Premier, Minister for Planning, John Rau, about this matter in late May and a meeting with Department staff, I am encouraged. I feel as though the Government is now listening — and especially listening to the voices of engagement specialists in South Australia.

I promised no more brickbats.

Oil Painting tulips



Consider this a bouquet!

Wendy Sarkissian on Nimby Psychology at The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, Adelaide, 29 May 2013

HawkeCntr_Ownlogo_col_12_01-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NIMBY psychology is coming to Adelaide!

 

On 29th May at 6 pm, I will be presenting on NIMBY psychology at a free public lecture at the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre at the University of South Australia.

The lecture is free but seating is lmited so you must register to attend.

 

Details

 

Please click here for details:

 

https://w3.unisa.edu.au/hawkecentre/events/2013events/Wendy_Sarkissian.asp

Allan Scott Auditorium,  UniSA City West campus, Hawke Building level 3, 55 North Terrace, Adelaide

5.30pm for a 6pm start

 

To register

To register for this free lecture, please follow the links above.



Abstract


Here is the abstract of the presentation:

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

NIMBY responses to higher density housing: It’s all in your mind

Why is there such strong community resistance to proposals for higher density housing in Adelaide’s neighbourhoods?

Aren’t people just being unreasonable and ignoring the need to make our cities more sustainable?  

Isn’t Adelaide’s 30-Year Plan what we must have to be sustainable – despite community resistance?

 

Australian social planner and ethicist Dr Wendy Sarkissian, who has lived and worked in Adelaide for many years, believes that so-called NIMBY responses to housing density increases are both reasonable and helpful. And she’s been testing her theories in workshops in Canada, the USA and Australia. Recently, she spoke about this topic to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

 

Dr Sarkissian argues that neighbours are resisting proposed higher density housing because humans, like all animals, are hard-wired to protect our territories. Further, the `core territory’ of home is one to which we have the strongest place attachment. It has strong symbolic as well as psychological importance.

 

Naturally, instinctively, we will defend our homes and neighbourhoods at all cost.

 

That means that unless planners, designers, governments and developers understand and respect this `instinctive’ response, the battles will continue. And unless community engagement approaches are sensitive to the deeply emotional nature of these responses, those processes will fail to support sustainability initiatives.

 

Proposing her “Homing Instinct” approach to housing design and community engagement, Wendy argues that two things need to change. We need housing that is more `home-like’.   And we need community engagement processes that reflect greater emotional intelligence than the processes we currently employ.

 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

For further details, please contact me at 0402 966 284 or at [email protected]

 

Media coverage:

https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/social-planning-expert-wendy-sarkissian-to-speak-on-state-governments-30-year-plan-at-hawke-institute-forum/story-e6frea83-1226622388277?from=public_rss

 

NIMBY psychology image

Criticisms of community engagement

Ach, du Schreck!

 

It’s a worry!

 

I’ve explained before that community engagement – especially with sustainability – is not an easy task.

 

Many people argue that it is problematic and can actually hurt those it most intends to benefit.

 

So let’s just have a quick look at some of the major criticisms. I’d love to hear comments back and maybe we can prepare a good list of responses.

 

And then figure out how to make better processes happen in our communities.

 

Please make a comment in the box below or contact me at [email protected]

 

Thanks!

Valid criticisms of community engagement include:

  • Lack of political and technical prowess among community groups makes them easy prey for co-optation by politicians or bureaucrats;
  • In engagement situations, a non-representative interest group may be able to manipulate the decision-making process towards its own ends;
  • Lack of expertise, inertia and fear of the results of new or novel ideas may induce opposition to whatever is proposed and only preserve the status quo;
  • Interest groups may veto each other’s proposals because it is always easier to organise resistance than to reach agreement;
  • The short-sightedness of local groups may prevent or delay formulation or implementation of broader plans; and
  • Non-participants will always form the bulk of the population. On these grounds, radical planners suggest that engagement is a diversion from the primary goal, that of changing society’s institutions.

 

What do YOU think of this list?

Officeworks and Reflex Paper: “I have to pay my mortgage and feed my dogs”

September 12, 2011 – 5:34 pm

 

Officeworks Lismore: a Bulletin

 

 

On Saturday I drove 72 kms. round-trip to my local Officeworks store in Lismore, NSW in the vain hope that they might have stopped stocking Reflex paper. I signed the pledge and the petition (with 11,000 others!) months ago and so far my boycott has meant that I have taken my business to others.

 

But operating a small business in a tiny village means I am reliant on some companies. And Officeworks until recently has been one of them.

 

Why is this boycott important?

 

Officeworks buys paper that is made from native forest timber. Simple as that! is well aware of the environmental costs of native forest logging – and that ready alternatives exist – but they continue to support this by stocking the Reflex range. They do this despite their own Corporate Social Responsibility policy, which states that Our goal is to fully integrate environmental responsibility into every facet of our operations by select[ing] better products for the environment.

 

Hmmm.

 

Greenwash? I wonder?

 

With the Wilderness Society, I believe that it is well past time for Officeworks to start taking their own policies seriously and to refuse to stock Reflex Paper until its producer, Australian Paper, no longer sources wood fibre from the logging of native forests.

 

So this matter was in my mind when I went into the store.

 

I was told by an embarrassed young man (who told me that he had to pay his mortgage and feed his dogs and therefore could not speak out against a policy he clearly did not agree with) that the stock of Reflex paper was new and that they were still stocking it.

 

So I asked to speak to the Duty Manager.

 

I think that Richard, who arrived after some time, had probably had enough of North Coast activists by the time I arrived.

 

But if he traced my stationery purchases over the past ten years, he’d see that not listening is not going to be good for business.

 

“Officeworks: Clean up your act” National Day of Action, 13 September 2011

 

Hopefully the day of action tomorrow (www.ethicalpaper.com.au) will help him see the error of his ways. Richard has no point of view. native forests from becoming copy paper.

 

To give Officeworks the extra motivation it needs to continue its role as a leader in paper retailing, the Wilderness Society, in partnership with environment groups across the country, are holding a National Day of Action to name and shame Reflex and Officeworks for their hand in forest destruction in Australia.

 

On the morning of 13 September, stores across the nation will be visited by troops of “janitors” telling Officeworks to clean up its act! Armed with vacuums, dustpans, sponges, and rubber gloves, volunteers will descend on Officeworks, scrubbing Reflex from their shelves. On the day, the TWS aim is to show Australian Paper and Officeworks that Australians will not stand for our precious forests being turned into office paper.

 

The “Company Man”

 

As I looked into Richard’s face, his cold eyes and unsmiling, trembling lips and listened to his hard `company’ line, I was reminded of a comic character, Twimble, “The Company Man” in a movie of my young adulthood: How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (1961):

 

Twimble: I play it the company way;
Wherever the company puts me
There I stay.

Finch: But what is your point of view?

Twimble: I have no point of view.

Finch: Supposing the company thinks . . .

Twimble: I think so too.

Finch: Now, what would you say . . .?

Twimble: I wouldn’t say.

Finch: Your face is a company face.

Twimble: It smiles at executives
Then goes back in place. “¦

Finch: So you play it the company way?

Twimble: All company policy is by me OK.
“¦

Whoever the company fires,

I will still be here.

Finch: You will still be here.

Both: Year after year after fiscal,

Never take a risk-al year!

 

Shame, Richard. You can do better than that: But what is your point of view? I have no point of view.

 

Officeworks has already shown us they are willing to take action in this important issue when it comes to paper from overseas. Now is the time for Officeworks to keep this high standard they have set for themselves and suspend the sale of Reflex paper while it is made from the critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum Habitat.

 

Day of Action!

 

If you believe that in this International Year of the Forests that it is simply unacceptable to woodchip and sell our native forests as Reflex paper, please join us.

 

To RSVP and for more action details please contact TWS Community Campaigner, Tri�r Murphy, on 0433010390 or by email [email protected]

 

For more information

 

https://www.wilderness.org.au/campaigns/forests/officeworks-clean-up-your-act

 

Do you need to buy office copy paper and do you also care about Australia’s forests?

 

Don’t buy any Reflex copy paper and don’t buy any copy paper from Officeworks.

 

Buy these copy paper brands (recommended by the Wilderness Society):

  • Evolve
  • Vision
  • Fuji Xerox Recycled

 

And try, as a supplier, EcoOffice (great Australian-owned company who does care about Australia’s native forests)

 

Local Wisdom about Apartment Storage

transport cardboard boxes, relocation concept

 

When I lived in Vancouver in 2007, teaching and managing a housing research project at the University of British Columbia, I had several interesting accommodation experiences.

 

The first one was terrible: a chronically ill middle-aged couple with a dog who was dying of cancer. They slept with the dog and spent all day in their pyjamas with the curtains drawn. In Vancouver’s dark winter, that was too depressing. I had to escape.

 



Living with Tessie

Then I had a couple of months living with Tessie. What a change that was! A brilliant and bubbly Phillipina women who worked in the insurance industry as a senior manager. She was searching for an apartment and had a gaggle of female friends who worked in the real estate industry. Tessie was, herself, a qualified realtor.

 

So our conversations over dinner and glasses of wine always turned to the design of apartments. She and her friends knew everything about what was on offer in Vancouver and the weaknesses of different developers’ designs. Tessie said that lack of interior storage was a widespread problem. Especially in some of the housing we were about to study.

 

It might seem like a small thing..

How right she was! It might seem like a small thing but people moving to inner city apartments from houses in the suburbs always have problems with storage! Seasonal items (like fans and blankets, space heaters, blankets and quilts) take up a lot of space. (I know because I’ve spent the day sorting just those items in our new storage room as winter tightens its grip on our mountain locale.)

 

Bulky items

Residents also need places to store bicycles, exercise equipment, toys, ski equipment, golf clubs and all the paraphernalia that goes with a home office. That new printer may be compact but it still needs somewhere to sit. And that paper needs to be stored somewhere. Those tax files you need to keep for at least five years… I could go on.

 

And the modern Vancouver kitchen has lots of gadgets that need to be packed away: bread makers, blenders, grills, toaster ovens. Not all of them can stay on the counter top.

 

 

So the humble storage question was asked in our POE study and responded to with strong comments by apartment residents. Tessie was right. Her friends knew what they were talking about. In-suite storage certainly WAS a problem.

 

Window privacy

 

Floor-to-ceiling windows are all the rage in Vancouver apartments. But what about the things that have to be stored under the BED? Ikea makes those nifty boxes for just that purpose. But do we want the whole neighbourhood to see what’s stored there?

 

Bedroom Privacy?

 

After a long search, Tessie found a new apartment with adequate storage and the other amenities she sought. And I had to move again. And this time it was to the location of my dreams: Southwest False Creek. But that’s another story.

 

For more information

 

For detailed information about the False Creek North post-occupancy study, please go to another part of this website:

 

https://sarkissian.com.au/housing-services-by-wendy-sarkissian-phd/evaluating-vancouvers-high-rise-housing

Silencing Dissent: charity begins at home

April 29, 2011 – 4:07 pm



In an eco-village, there is more to life than managing weeds and water quality in the dams.

 

What we have learned about social reform and social change in Western countries over many decades is that burning books and silencing dissent are very dangerous practices.

What is my dissenting voice really saying?

I am saying that exclusionary practices in the Jarlanbah Permaculture Hamlet make me and many of my neighbours feel excluded and unhappy.

 

At a higher level, they are inequitable, unfair and destabilising of community strength, solidarity and, ultimately, sustainability.

 

It’s not fun being the focus of sustained attacks.

 

But I am willing to wear that discomfort to have my voice – my small single voice – heard.

 

I come from a long line of people who spoke out against injustice. As a Canadian-Armenian, I know what happened to my father’s family and his father’s family. The blood of the martyrs runs in my veins.

 

Social exclusion and bullying in Jarlanbah are hardly genocide. But they are definitely ways of killing community.

 

I guess I just have to be unpopular. Tearing off the gag.

Speaking the unspeakable.

 

And I am going to fight for the rights of the disenfranchised and silenced members of communities with my dying breath.

 

So when I think of silencing dissent charity begins at home!

 

 

Why bother with community engagement, anyway?

question
April 11, 2010 – 9:43 pm

 

In the past couple of weeks I have been confronted by many aspects of the community engagement debate. Angry residents questioning my integrity as I try to help them with a local environmental problem I’d say qualifies as a “wicked problem” in their neighbourhood.

 

Then I experience my own neighbours resisting the changes that dual occupancy (or accessory units) might bring to their subdivision of half-acre lots.

 

And then, finally, a wealthy developer with a large site asking why we needed to bother with community engagement at all – when there are (apparently) no activists or “greenies” in this (a large country town) community and there are no frogs or anything that could be considered endangered.

 

Or that anyone would get in a lather about or go to the press about”¦

 

In a (somewhat) small voice I was muttering to myself about an “engaged citizenry” being a value in its own right.

 

Who would do community engagement for a living?

 

I would.

 

I keep at it, trying to help where I can, accepting that to some I am a “mercenary”, or the hired gun of the developers who are paving over paradise.

 

And to others, I am a hopeless, naive optimist who does not understand the “bottom line”.

 

All these personae.

 

The same me.

 

The best part of this very challenging period was an unexpected phone call last night from an old friend – a prominent developer – encouraging me and bolstering my spirits. We’ve been friends for nearly thirty years. He had the same thing to say about his profession, recounting a conversation over lunch last week with a fellow developer: who could be a developer?

 

Vale Arne Naess

 

 

Last year we mourned the death of the great Norwegian environmental philosopher, Arne Naess, father of Deep Ecology and the first Chairman of Greenpeace Norway when it was founded in 1988.

 

See: https://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jan/15/obituary-arne-naess

 

I was blessed to have heard him speak on two occasions: once in Melbourne and once in Killarney, Ireland.

 

The frontier is long

 

Naess, who was 96 when he died in January, 2009, reminded us that “the frontier is long”.

 

The community engagement frontier is long, too. There’s a place for all of us working for reform and seeking to empower communities.

 

Naess’s birthday was the day before mine. He was my hero.

 

I want to be working for reform when I am 96, too.

 

I may not have the wealth of the greedy developer with his cynical and opportunistic views of community engagement.

 

Hopefully, my ethical self will be alive.

 

And hopefully, I will still be having provocative weeks like the last few – to remind me what my life is for.

 

And why, like Arne, I am here on Earth!

 

Why bother with community engagement, anyway? Because it’s important!