Gillian Martin Mehers

Managing Director and Head of Learning, Bright Green Learning@Atadore SARL

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I want to see the adult equivalent to Girl Scout badges. After sufficiency, how can personal development replace capital development?

How can we change the way people look at growth and consumption issues? How can we generate enthusiasm and creativity around notions of sufficiency in material goods, yet drive growth in areas like personal development, learning, and community engagement? I believe that people have a genuine desire to better themselves. And I think that in the past betterment has been primarily defined in economic terms. For many of our global citizens, this is an absolutely valid interpretation. However, for others, those with better access to resources,for those who have achieved sufficiency, there are opportunities to broaden this definition of betterment. I would like to champion "learning" as an option for attaining those feelings of satisfaction/achievement/competition. In the final chapter of Limits to Growth "Tools for the Transition to Sustainability" the authors talk about visioning, networking, truth-telling, learning and loving - and perhaps in these areas there are no limits to growth. A challenge: Stuff is visible, we need to make what we know and what we can do more visible - what's the adult equivalent to Girl Scout Badges?

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    Jun 25 2011: I think one has to start fixing societal problems by eliminating poverty. The first step is to create a society where people can live off of their labour. People boast about job creating economies but it's a fact that most of the jobs which are created are not sufficient so one can comfortably live off of them. So it's not much of a job if you can't live off of it.

    Once people have basic necessities, then they can start a process of education. They can start thinking critically about themselves and utilize common sense, education is the key to preventing many of the diseases which the health care system cannot cure.

    Education is also the key to maintaining psychological well being, for instance knowing the risks of gambling or alcoholism will weigh in differently while you are making the decision to drink and gamble than if you had no education on the subject at all. Knowing healthy parenting methods might help parents steer their kids in a direction where they can develop in a healthy way and so on.
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    Jun 24 2011: This idea is just greate.

    I think one can look at the "adult-badges" oure society has today, to value personal developement and achievements to see, how to impliment this system .
    There are diploma, bachelors, masters, medals, prizes, and PhD´s and maybee some more.
    But they exist only in certain areas and there they are very rare and hard to get.
    A problem could be, that a system, with many more steps, for wich people get credit is in danger, to inflate the worth of the "badges" people get today.
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      Jun 28 2011: You're right Philipp that we do have some adult-badges today, and people do put the ones you mention above in various places (business cards, name tags/plates, CVs) and indeed they are hard to come by for many people. In some cases, these badges give people an idea of what you "know" and perhaps not always what you can "do" (except for some technical/medical fields). They do exclude people who have qualifications, skills or knowledge derived from informal learning, and more service-related abilities. I guess the origins of some people's names, way back when, were a kind of badge which indicated what they could do - Weaver, Smith, Gardener, etc., and today it would be interesting to see how many different things people could do, as we get better and better at multi-tasking, changing our jobs, and learning and relearning things all our lives. Making all that visible and something that would incentivise learning (instead of getting a new boat) would be very interesting.
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    Jun 24 2011: I think you are right, Scott, with the nod to diversity of ways to engage in this issue (effectively about consumption). It is interesting to think about why people buy things. Some people might not be as concerned with materials possessions, but someone must be (if you go into one of these enormous big box stores you see floor to ceiling goods - and then realise that this is just one of hundreds/thousands of stores like this.)

    Probably there are many individual answers to this question. Just to go back to Tim Jackson (since I linked to his talk) in another presentation he made where I asked this, he questioned greed as the primary driver. People may instead buy things to gain a place in the community. Tim drew on Adam Smith's linen shirt example and spoke about the life without shame and the symbolic function of materials good and the importance of these commodities in our lives. So if buying is linked to participation and placement in the community (like keeping up with the Jones') then individual learning may not be as good a replacement as, say, community learning.

    Could this help people find their place (and minimize their need for stuff?) There are many examples of social "experiments" in intentional communities, local currencies, community agriculture schemes, which may better connect individual learning, through community learning, with sustainable development goals. In small communities, people might know what you know (although it is often surprising how little you can still know about your neighbours) and can do to contribute to the overall well being of the community. However, I still like the badges idea, or something like that, as anyone could merit them - children, youth, adults. And if you were a newcomer it would immediately help people understand your contribution, and you to see the resources available around your new home. Just a thought.
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      Jun 24 2011: Okay, now I get a clearer picture of what you're getting at.

      I think the responsibility for rampant consumerism largely lies on the shoulders of the producers - it's not just a reflection of the individual consumer. ( Although, luxuries are nice to have regardless of your moral standing. Even a hypocritical oaf like me can recognise that.)

      I always will remember an ante-natal class I attended with a heavily pregnant partner and an argument that sprang up around nappies - cloth vs disposable - and the effects on the environment.

      I opined that perhaps the nappy companies should be held (at least) partly responsible for the disposal of these products. (I actually believe all companies should be responsible for all the waste created by their products - not the buyer). No-one seemed able to comprehend my point, which I found vaguely disturbing.

      There are a lot of mental-shifts that need to be made by a lot of people if we are to save this beautiful planet and I think your suggestion is a good idea, regardless of my previous statement..
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    Jun 23 2011: I'm not sure this is something that can be directed and sustained at a society-level.

    Personal growth comes from living life, rather than doctrine or rewards systems. Doing so would lend it the same material-based focus that we give to money and things.

    I've never been too concerned with money other than what I needed to get by. I'm definitely more interested in ideas and words.

    Different strokes for different folks is one of the issues at the heart of this matter.