Race4Good at the EarthShift Global Community Meeting At the LCA XVIII conference in Fort Collins, CO
EarthShift Global had the honor to host a mini-Race4Good at the recent LCA XVIII conference. The event picked up on a challenge I presented at last year’s conference to develop Cascading Non-Linear Solutions to today’s Cascading Non-Linear Problems - and through this blog, you will have a chance to participate in the problem-solving process in the coming weeks.
First off, what is a Cascading Non-Linear Problem? Climate Change is one example: as the planet warms, the ice caps melt and reflect less sunlight back to space. Instead, the darker oceans absorb the heat, warming the planet even faster. In addition, methane, a gas with high global warming potential, is released from the tundra, further exacerbating the problem. The worse it gets, the worse it gets.
Another instance is poverty in the US. When someone loses their job, they are in danger of losing their home because they can’t pay the rent or mortgage. If they lose their home, they lose their ability to cook food, so eating becomes more expensive. Loosing a fixed address,- makes it even harder to get a job. The worse it gets, the worse it gets.
But there are Cascading Non-Linear Solutions to these problems. One of my favorites is to support artists. The more art we buy, performances we go to, and classes we take, the more people can make a living being artists. Art usually consumes fewer resources and emits fewer greenhouse gases per dollar spent than other stuff we spend our money on, so a fairly direct impact is that we reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions. But when we support artists, more people can afford to be full-time artists. At least at first, people following their passion (like art) are willing to take a cut in pay to do so, so they have less money to spend on stuff. That reduces their greenhouse gas emissions. And both art and following your passion make us happier. When we’re happier, we have less stress so we’re healthier and use less of the greenhouse-gas intensive healthcare system. The better it gets, the better it gets.
To begin our pursuit of this type of solution at our community meeting, Beth Shafer, a strong supporter and coordinator of Race4Good events, separated folks into four groups, each including representatives from industry, government, academia and “fresh young minds.” Including different perspectives has been shown to help the problem-solving skills of groups in prior Race4Good events.
Each group then chose a Cascading Non-Linear problem to solve and spent 30-45 minutes coming up with a solution. They then worked on how they could personally begin to implement the solution.
In the end, each group presented their problem and solutions to the entire community. In every case, there were people outside the group willing to commit to one or more actions to help move the solution forward—beginning the cascade even before we left the room.
Over the next few weeks, we plan to present each of the solutions and enlist you in this process. In the meantime, you can start thinking of your own Cascading Non-Linear solutions to these problems:
- Ever-increasing consumption of meat products
- Declining bee populations
- Ethnic repression
- Poverty in Wilmington, Delaware
Many thanks to Linda Cruse for creating the Race4Good and inspiring us to host this event and to Paul Anastas for getting me started on this challenge.
About the Author: Lise Laurin, CEO and Founder of EarthShift Global
Lise Laurin, a pioneer in Sustainable Return on Investment (S-ROI) and Life Cycle Assessment, founded EarthShift in 2000, adopting these methodologies to support North American industries’ early efforts at sustainability. She continues to develop and leverage EarthShift Global’s training, simplified LCA tools and S-ROI tools to build organizational capacity and drive large-scale change. Lise received the 2017 Rita Schenck Lifetime Individual LCA Leadership Award from the ACLCA, and is currently the driving force behind the LCA Roadmap, working with the SETAC North America Life Cycle Assessment Advisory Group. She was a member of the UNEP SETAC Life Cycle Initiative team working on Organizational LCA (O-LCA) and advocates for a balanced, holistic approach to LCA within the International Standards Organization (ISO) Technical Advisory Groups for LCA and Ecolabeling.
Email Lise if you’re interested in a sustainability speaker for your next event.