Do we need to move past sustainability?

Open State guest Dr Tia Kansara is a sustainability expert who doesn’t like sustainability. It’s not that she thinks pursuing sustainable practices is pointless or ineffectual, instead, Kansara thinks we need to go further, and that we should ‘replenish’ the world rather than just ‘sustaining’ the environments we live in.

The author, speaker and adviser on sustainable practices has formed an aptly named economic philosophy to do just that; Replenish. Simply put, it says that humanity should strive to exist in harmony with nature and see itself as another part of the world’s ecosystem, instead of an outside actor.

“It’s really nice to learn about sustainability and how important it is but you need to give extremely concrete examples of what people do with that,” she tells The Adelaide Review. “It’s a bit like the Occupy movement. You have lots of people going out and making it known that they stand against what the government is doing, but there are no tangible examples of what people can do afterwards.”

In Adelaide, a State Government-City of Adelaide partnership continues to pursue goals of sustainability. Recent announcements in the realm of sustainable energy sources, and pronouncements about the intention to make Adelaide a Carbon Neutral Smart City are testament to this push.

Kansara will speak here on her own Replenish philosophy and that vaunted task of making Adelaide a low-emission, carbon neutral city. These lofty goals require determination to accomplish. But does that determination need to come from on high, in announcements and initiatives from government, or from the bottom, in the form of community action? A pragmatist, Kansara thinks it can come from either, just so long as we’re doing something about it.

“I think it’s a multi-stakeholder approach,” she says. “And, the initiative must come from those that are curious about it. So, where is the curiosity? If it is it currently in the government, well, there’s no judgement on it and it’s great that it’s coming from there.” Much of the legwork must come from the marketplace, in Kansara’s estimation. Entrepreneurs need to see market opportunities to move into sustainable industries, and if those opportunities aren’t evident, incentives will help bring them to fruition. Likewise, those entrepreneurs must have easy access to new research from the field.

“What I’m quite curious to know is how the research that is currently being done be made more available as well,” she says. “I came across a few really interesting researchers, but they don’t actually know each other, even in Adelaide.”

moving-past-sustainability-tia-kansara-open-state-adelaide-review

Kansara says these challenges can be overcome with some targeted questions.

“Which methods could we use to build the bridges between the research that is being done in universities? What kind of opportunities can we give entrepreneurs to give them platforms to find out about that research and the issues Adelaide is currently facing?”

Back onto the subject of giving people examples of how change can be made in order to replenish the planet and lower emissions here in Adelaide, Kansara encourages us to learn from cities around the world.

“I find that there are pockets of different things happening,” she says. “In London, I really like the green spaces and respect for the commons. I find that in Copenhagen the transport system is really good. In India, surprisingly, there’s a variety of examples, and that comes from a very grass roots level of what to do when the government’s not involved, and innovation coming from poverty-stricken areas.”

moving-past-sustainability-tia-kansara-open-state-adelaide-reviewDr Tia Kansara

So, will it be necessary that a city like Adelaide sacrifice its creature comforts and celebrated ‘world’s fifth most liveable city’ title to achieve these goals?

“Not at all,” Kansara says. “It’s like ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’. Our lives are comparative, and part of what we do as humans is to have a relative comparison of whatever we’re using and have in our lives… How would it be if the next television that Samsung brought out, that was bigger and brighter and whatever else, was biodegradable? What would happen if all the parts inside the TV could be sold back to Samsung? What would happen if that TV had really strong research behind it about how it could have less environmental impact?

“The question is, can luxury be connected to sustainability? At the moment it’s not. Sustainability evokes a pretty grey existence. You’re sustaining the status quo, you’re sustaining the planet, therefore you can’t afford to have luxuries. I’d like to challenge that, and that being sustainable won’t mean that we lose track of what it means to have a good life.”

Inspiring Action: Working together to make Adelaide carbon neutral
Thursday, September 28, 2.30-4.30pm
Open State Dome

Flinders Investigator Lecture: ‘Replenish: A philosophy, a cause and action’ presented by Dr Tia Kansara
Thursday, September 28, 5.30pm
Hilton Adelaide

openstate.com.au