Starfish completes workshop series for UNE student organisations

Gowing engagement student workshop

Starfish has successfully completed the research, design and delivery of a series of workshops to strengthen UNE student organisations. The overall purpose of the series was to enable office-bearers to create more dynamic, resilient, and enjoyable clubs, groups and societies ~ which in turn aimed to further enrich the student experience and amenity at UNE. The workshop series was commissioned by UNESA.

The workshops covered the below areas and were attended by some 52 students from around 45 organisations.

  1. Governance Essentials
  2. Efficient, effective & enjoyable: the well-run club
  3. Financial & money matters
  4. Growing Engagement

It became clear during the course of preparing the workshops that there is a distinct lack of publicly available and relevant resources for student organisations. Despite considerable desktop research there were no libraries of common manuals, templates, guides or check-lists for student organisations found. This is despite the fact that there are hundreds of universities globally and thousands of student organisations.

As a result, Starfish has now created and collated a range of relevant materials, including:

  • Reference materials including manuals, videos and research
  • Lists of relevant organisations
  • Workshop Presentations, including the recordings of each workshop
  • Student organisation health-checks
  • References for template policies, procedures, tools and systems

Electronic copies of the workshop presentations and above materials are available on request via Adam Blakester (see Starfish Associates for contact details).

Australians can be sustainable without sacrificing lifestyle or economy

Sustainability diagram

A sustainable Australia is possible ‚Äď but we have to choose it. That‚Äôs the finding of a¬†paper¬†published today in Nature. The paper is the result of a larger project to deliver the first Australian¬†National Outlook report, which has been more than two years in the making.

CSIRO found that collective policy choices are crucial, and that Australia could make great progress to sustainability without any changes in social values. In fact, the authors found that collective choices explain around 50-90% of differences in environmental performance and resource use across the scenarios that are modeled.

Few topics generate more heat, and less light, than debates over economic growth and sustainability.

At one end of the¬†spectrum, ‚Äútechnological optimists‚ÄĚ suggest that the marvelous invisible hand will take care of everything, with market-driven improvements in technology automatically protecting essential natural resources while also improving living standards.

Unfortunately, there is little evidence to back this worldview, particularly in protecting un-priced natural resources such as ocean fisheries, or the services provided by a stable climate. Instead the evidence suggests we are already crossing important planetary boundaries.

Other the other end of the spectrum, people argue that achieving sustainability will require a¬†rejection of economic growth, or a shift in values away from consumerism and towards a more ecologically attuned lifestyles. CSIRO refer to this group as advocating ‚Äúcommunitarian limits‚ÄĚ.

A third ‚Äúinstitutional reform‚ÄĚ approach argues that policy reform can reconcile economic and ecological goals ‚Äď and is attacked from one side as anti-business alarmism, and from the other as indulging in pro-growth greenwash.

CSIRO used nine linked models to assess interactions between energy, water and food (and links to ecosystem services) in the context of climate change, with projections for more than 20 scenarios, exploring different potential trends for consumption and working hours; energy and resource efficiency; agricultural productivity; new land-sector markets for energy feedstocks and ecosystem services; national and global abatement efforts, climate, and global economic growth.

They find economic growth and environmental impacts can be decoupled ~ in the right circumstances. National income per person increases by 12-15% per decade from now to 2050, while the value of economic activity almost triples.

But here is the real crunch: CSIRO finds that these substantial steps toward sustainability could build on policy approaches that are already in place in Australia or other countries. This implies Australia could make enormous progress towards a more sustainable future without a major change in what we value. We can be confident that a values shift is not required to achieve these outcomes ~ at least before 2050 ~ because none of the scenarios modelled assume change in values or a new social or environmental ethic.

Instead, this shows that people will make choices to change their behaviour to make the best of particular policy settings. These choices shape production and consumption. Collective choices are often, but not always implemented through changes in government policy, legislation, and programs. Further, bottom-up individual choices play a greater role when private and public benefits are aligned.

Repost ~ Study:Australians can be sustainable without sacrificing lifestyle or economy | The Conversation

See more:
Australia is’ free to choose’economic growth and falling environmental pressures¬†|
Australian National Outlook 2015 | CSIRO
Making sense of contrasting views on climate change | The Conversation
An ecomodernist’s manifesto: save wildlife by embracing new technology¬†| The Conversation
Planetary Boundaries |Stockholm Resilience Centre
Life in a ‘degrowth’ economy and why you might actually enjoy it |¬†The Conversation

Starfish going global as it welcomes Ruy Anaya de la Rosa

RuyStarfish is pleased to welcome Dr Ruy Anaya de la Rosa as Project Director for our global Biochar for Sustainable Soils (B4SS) initiative.

Ruy is passionate about the potential of biochar to improve soil fertility and sustainability. Ruy’s experience includes biochar, carbon markets, life cycle analysis and the uptake of appropriate technology in less developed countries. Ruy has a Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Science, a Masters of Science in Sustainable Energy Technology and Bachelor of Science in Mechanical with Electrical Engineering.

While born in Mexico, Ruy’s life and work have taken him around the globe and he is fluent in Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, Dutch, German and Swedish.

The purpose of B4SS is to share knowledge and build capacity regarding the use of innovative biochar-based organic amendments for sustainable soils and land management. In this way the project aims to support rural livelihoods for small landholders, enhance productivity, improve the capture and efficient use of nutrients, address declining soil fertility, contribute to watershed management and strengthen resilience to climate change.

Funding of USD2m has been secured from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for this purpose. The project will leverage an additional USD1¬ľm of value through collaboration with existing biochar projects from six countries. These projects span a range of different soils, climates and cultures with the core focus being:

  • Vietnam ~ rice straw biochar to improve soil fertility and sequester carbon
  • Ethiopia & Kenya ~ use of biochar to aid the return of nutrients to depleted cropping soils
  • Indonesia ~ working with an existing network of 1,750 small-scale women farmers with dryland cropping systems to improve soils affected by the 2004 tsunami
  • China ~ testing biochar for immobilising heavy metals
  • Peru ~ biochar to reduce deforestation and improve crop productivity.

The Top 100 documentaries we can use to change the world

100 documentaries for change

Documentaries have an incredible power to raise awareness and create transformative changes in consciousness both at the personal and global levels.

Over the last 8 years, Films for Action have watched hundreds of social change documentaries and cataloged the best of them on their site.

There’s now¬†so many¬†that they realised there was a need to filter the list down even further.

So what follows is their list of the very best 100 ~ hand-picked for their quality, insight and potential to inspire positive change.

All of the films have been selected because they are either free to watch online, or can be rented online. There are several films which will be added when they too become accessible.

Enjoy! And turn them into ACTION!!

Web Link ~ The Top  100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World | Films for Action

Is even humanity now an endangered species?

Species endangered

The planet is entering a new period of extinction with top scientists warning that species all over the world are ‚Äúessentially the walking dead‚ÄĚ ~ including our own.

The report, authored by scientists at Stanford, Princeton and Berkeley universities, found that vertebrates were vanishing at a rate 114 times faster than normal.

The damning report was published in the Science Advances journal.

Gerardo Ceballos, lead author of the research, added: “If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover and our species itself would likely disappear early on”.

The research, which cites climate change, pollution and deforestation as causes for the rapid change, notes that a knock-on effect of the loss of entire ecosystems could be dire.

You may wonder to what extent does this matter? Why should we worry if the natural process of extinction is amplified by humans and our expanding industrialised civilisation?

One response to this question essentially points out what the natural world does for us. Whether it’s pollinating our crops, purifying our water, providing fish to eat or fibres to weave, we are dependent upon biodiveristy.

Ecosystems can only continue to provide things for us if they continue to function in approximately the same way. There may be gradual and reversible decreases in function with decreased biodiversity. There may be effectively no change until a tipping point occurs.

The analogy here is popping out rivets from a plane’s wing. The aircraft will fly unimpaired if a few rivets are removed here or there, but to continue to remove rivets is to move the system closer to catastrophic failure.

The report, which builds on findings published by Duke University last year, does note that averting this loss is ‚Äústill possible through intensified conservation effects,‚ÄĚ but that ‚Äúwindow of opportunity is rapid closing.‚ÄĚ

Read more ~

PCYC making a big move for youth

PCYC Cessnock is a “state of the art” facility. The skate park is unreal and for all ages. #getactive #skate #awesome SRC

As PCYC NSW approaches its 80th birthday it is embarking on a step-change process to redesign its role and service for young people and the wider community. In so doing PCYC will redefine itself and significantly shift its strategic position in the youth and community sector.

Starfish has been engaged to support this significant change process, building upon our work with¬†The Youthie¬†as part of the Tamworth Youth Strategy. Starfish is to create a strategic positioning paper to inform and underpin PCYC’s review and refresh of their services and facilities.

Significant social change has taken place in the last 80 years. In recent decades, the youth and community sectors have begun step-changing as well ~ reflecting both changing social needs and aspirations as well as innovation and developments in service delivery and support. PCYC ~ like many other institutions of its era such as Scouts or Rotary ~ risks losing relevance and importance in the face of such substantial social changes.

As a result, PCYC is now reviewing and redesigning its network of 60 clubs across NSW with a view to re-defining its leadership position as a facilitator and provider of integrated support, services, sport and recreation activities for youth. PCYC has considerable strengths, assets, history and reputation to leverage in this regard.

Change of such a scale is bold, courageous and not without risks. Robust evidence is one of the keys to well-informed and effective discussions and decisions to successfully lead the change process and so realise PCYC’s compelling contemporary vision.

Starfish’s role is to identify and build a strong, shared understanding of contemporary leading and best practice in youth services, and in turn enable more effective discussions and decision-making by PCYC and its key stakeholders through this step-change. This will draw upon contemporary leading best practice and evidence base, existing models and practices as well as the research literature.

Starfish is truly honoured to be of service with such important work.

First PCYC club opened in 1937

The first PCYC club opened in 1937. Woolloomooloo, Sydney

Find out more ~ PCYC NSW

The Great, or not so great, Acceleration

Humanity has become the dominant force of change on Earth, surpassing in importance the geophysical forces that up until now have shaped the biosphere.

In this new geological epoch ~ often called the Anthropocene ~ a profound new risk has been added to the conventional concerns of dwindling resources and local pollution: human action could push the Earth system to abrupt and irreversible shifts of the planetary ecosphere. The repercussions could prove calamitous at local, regional, and global levels.

The Great Acceleration

If humanity continues on its current trajectory, it will likely be unable to meet the needs of a world population that is expected to reach at least nine billion by 2050.

Building on decades of advancements in Earth system science, the planetary boundary (PB) approach offers a framework for keeping world development within a safe operating space. PB analysis relies on the latest research to define tolerance levels of environmental processes that regulate the stability of the Earth system. The first PB analysis was published in 2009 after a two-year research and consultation exchange among global change scientists.

In the latest findings, the original nine PBs remain germane. At the same time, the revised analysis includes several improvements. Chemical pollution has been renamed ‚Äúintroduction of novel entities‚ÄĚ to include the release of radioactive materials and nanomaterials. The biodiversity boundary (referred to now as ‚Äúbiosphere integrity‚ÄĚ) now has two dimensions: genetic diversity (as before) and functional diversity (using the ‚Äúbiosphere intactness index,‚ÄĚ a measure of species abundance). The land use change boundary now considers minima for rainforests, temperate forests, and boreal forest cover, instead of the original proxy of maximum cropland. The nitrogen boundary has been extended to include human-induced reactive nitrogen from modern cultivation. The phosphorous boundary now has two definitions: one for oceans (the original boundary), the other for freshwater systems. Finally, the uncertainty range for the climate change boundary has been narrowed to 350 to 450 ppm CO2 (from 350 to 550 ppm CO2). The new analysis, furthermore, treats climate change and biosphere integrity as ‚Äúcore boundaries‚ÄĚ, high-order manifestations of how breaching the other boundaries by can disrupt the Earth system.

With these refined metrics, the analysis concludes that four out of nine boundaries have been transgressed (depicted below). Two are in the high risk zone (biosphere integrity and interference with the nitrogen and phosphorous cycles), while the other two are in the danger zone (climate change and land use change).

Read more

Furusato nozei ~ Japanese citizens direct taxes to rural areas

Hometown dues

Many Japanese city-dwellers still harbour strong feelings towards their furusato ~ their home town or rural area which their forebears may have left many decades ago during the country’s rapid urbanisation.

For some rural towns, the unexpected popularity of a scheme called furusato nozei, or hometown tax, is proving a windfall.

Seven years ago the central government began allowing city residents to divert a proportion of their income-tax payments to a furusato of their choice. The response has been overwhelming. In the last fiscal year rural towns earned ¥14 billion ($1.2 billion) from such contributions.

And some people choose a furusato not on the basis of any family ties, but simply because they like the area. Many select towns on Japan’s north-eastern coast that were devastated by the tsunami of March 2011. Sonoe Hasegawa, a 47-year-old accountant from Tokyo, says she wants to help revive the countryside. She has decided to give tax to Ishinomaki, a town in Miyagi prefecture where 3,700 residents drowned in the disaster, as well as five other places.

Furusato longings are a force the government cannot ignore. It has just expanded the scheme. A household with an income of ¥8m, for example, may now donate up to ¥142,000 in return for about 7% off its tax bill, up from 3.5% before.

Re~Post: Hometown dues | The Economist

Starfish completes Youth Centre Policy & Procedure Manual resource

The Youthie Logo

Starfish has completed six months work researching and writing an open source policy and procedure manual for the Tamworth Youthie.

The overall purpose of the Manual is to detail policies which enable the Youthie to operate effectively and efficiently as well as comply with all relevant legislation and regulation.

Starfish has created the Manual as an open source resource for the youth sector as a whole, under a creative commons licence. While Starfish prepared the Manual under engagement by Tamworth Regional Council, more than $30,000 worth of pro-bono work was done over-and-above this engagement to create a valuable resource for the youth sector.

The Youthie is a drop-in facility for young people aged 12‚Äď24 years from across the Tamworth region which has recently moved to a new multi-million-dollar facility in Coledale. This is one of the all too few purpose-designed-and-built youth facilities in Australia at this time.

A copy of the 220-page Manual can be downloaded here.

Read more about Starfish’s work on the Tamworth Youth Strategy here.

Rebooting Democracy ~ it’s time for an upgrade


Credit ~ jvoves

If forms of government can be likened to operating systems, current variants of democracy are a bit like early, primitive versions of Windows. They are neither optimally functional nor user-friendly. Rather, they are buggy, susceptible to malware, and lack desired features.

While our democratic systems have brought us far, they appear incapable of solving complex modern problems like recurring global financial crises, rising inequality, climate change, and various forms of resource depletion. Even the most established democracies are failing to deliver public goods.

The versions of democracy attempted by newly democratising nations have been even less effective. The democratic system imported by the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in 2003-4, for example. Several years later, in response to the Arab Spring, democracy transfer failed again.

The failings were not due to a “clash of civilizations” as Huntington famously argued. There is nothing inherent to democracy that makes it incompatible with the Arab or any other culture. Rather, the failings resulted from promotion of form over substance ~ replicating an image of democracy rather than a functional, inclusive, accountable decision-making system that is adapted to local needs.

Political systems are decision-making systems. But societal decision-making is not limited to the political realm. Economic systems, too, make decisions ~ and are ripe for deeper democratic mechanisms. Indeed, decisions made through an economic system can at times have greater impact on a society than those made through political systems. A democratic system limited to the political arena is severely and artificially restricted.

Recently, stinging criticisms of contemporary capitalism have appeared by economists, religious leaders, activists, and ordinary citizens. Clearly, both political and economic systems are failing to keep up with citizens’ demands for function, participation, and accountability. What would the next generation of political and economic systems looks like, if these demands were to be met?

Fortunately, nature shows a path forward. Complex systems exist in biology, too, where they have been tuned for robustness and function by eons of evolution. These systems share common characteristics such as decentralised power, redundancy, inclusion, and diversity that could inspire the creation of robust and functional human-made systems.

Some changes along these lines are already happening.

Civil society groups, cities, organisations, and government agencies have begun to experiment with a host of innovations that promote decentralisation, redundancy, inclusion, and diversity. These include participatory budgeting, where residents of a city democratically choose how public monies are spent. They also include local currency systems, open-source development, open-design, open-data and open-government, public banking, buy local campaigns, crowdfunding, and socially responsible business models.

While these innovations represent potentially important parts of new political and economic systems, they are only the tip of the iceberg.

Future practitioners of democracy will invest more time and resources to understand what communities want and need ~ helping them adapt designs to make them fit for their purpose ~ and to build networked systems that beneficially connect diverse groups into larger political and economic structures. In time, when the updates to next-generation political and economic near completion, we might find ourselves more fully embracing the notion ‚Äúengage local, think global.‚ÄĚ

Re~Post: Rebooting Democracy | Foreign Policy