Paradigm change rather than climate change (part 2)

 A new, more dynamic Systemic Greening through Ecoplazas

“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis.' One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger--but recognize the opportunity.”   John F. Kennedy 

Paradigm change rather than climate change to evolve new forms of Systemic Greening through Ecoplazas

We shifted our thinking as a society, and now what? Can financialisation of the economy be used to generate eco funding for projects? Can it induce a shift in our current paradigm that will lead to a new pro-humanity and pro nature paradigm that is closely aligned with natural laws and all its protective systems? Or, do we require something bold, at scales, and not tried before that can mobilise populations and create 80/20 shift, for good? Inspired pledges of imminent funding and international willingness to deal with economy-driven climate problems expressed at crucial political gatherings and green events need financial backing. Anything other than that and they remain just short-lived, high-pitched empty promises.

Generational crisis or opportunity?

According to the latest IPCC report, 70 million of American (mostly wealthy baby boomers and silent generation) own major financial assets and therefore, they are the main demographics with real spending and decision driving power. This also matches the financial landscape of more buoyant European economies, that of France or Germany.

This means that youth, together with other social groups (generation X to which I belong and generation Y and coming up generation Z), is largely left on the margins and struggle to have any say in the way the economic game cards are dealt. And, yet the latter generations have most to offer and gain from a new social contract that positive models of community regeneration, such as ecoplazas, can bring. In these spaces, we match projects to funding – to people – to projects – to solutions –to organisations -and so on. Thus, we then close the loop of circular economy for the maximum benefit of everyone.

Breathing soul back into the heart of our towns and cities

If I were to paint a vision of what cities with ecoplazas could look like, they would resemble ‘blue zone’ type environments with enhanced leisure-wellbeing facilities, biophylic design, lush food-giving gardens and creative zones linked by ecological transport and filled with locally (community) owned facilities and services for residents to enjoy. This material spatial design would have another, most important, inherent mechanism built into the design. And that is – a new matrix of complex cooperation – with enhanced dynamics. A wealth of socio-cultural and green economics’ partnerships and benefits that currently do not exist in our present socio-ecological configuration. We would then see how the integrated sustainability and regeneration model could work in practice, allowing each country to align itself with climate action agreements whilst tackling domestic issues at the same time.

Building more altruistic, nature-oriented regenerative social structures

Multifaceted benefits of ecoplazas would precipitate far beyond them, resulting in a new age of renewal projects and initiatives, with its many positive spinoffs that can holistically enhance every human settlement and its periphery. So, we would have a wellness effect of ‘blue zones’ but this is where the similarity ends. As, unlike blue zones, ecoplazas are inclusive and open to everyone through making them an ongoing focal point of our communities where all residents including families on low incomes being able to access affordable leisure daily. How ? Each community can inspirationally design and conceive such spaces with a support of local governance and in absence of institutional overreach and corporate ideologies.

Furthermore, each such space has a sustainable funding base allowing it to operate permanently, thus creating green jobs as well as inspirational volunteering opportunities for its supporters. Let’s take an example – an infamous process of gentrification. This specific form of social and economic blight afflicts so many cities today by disrupting their socio-economic development, through negatively altering demographics and resource flows. As a result of that, tourism cash flows in but only to satisfy the speculative sale and rental property markets; it does not trickle down to benefit residents. This negative societal shift and other crises can find fairer, ethically-inspired alternatives and adjustments within ecoplazas.

So what are Ecoplazas and why we need them?

In a nutshell, Ecoplazas are community-owned learning and action spaces. They are ecological lifestyle incubators where we all envision answers, solve issues and experience the greening of our communities and the planet at the same time, in person and hands on. Moreover, such spaces provide us with a platform for social repair – reducing tensions whilst growing stronger emotional resilience – to engage with challenges both at home and globally. It is the Internet-like network of people, activities, ideas, resources, and funding -all focused on one task – regeneration. And there is a serious fun element to them. After all, who said that going green needs to be ascetic and joy free?!

And whilst small is beautiful, the big is necessary. By big I mean here the profoundness of change itself. The interlinking potential of such spaces, once operational and interacting with one another across the globe, as we transition towards the greener and thus more ethical world. It is like creating a bigger and more intelligent rival to the Internet, but physically in our communities.

Ecoplazas create an ongoing cycle of regeneration thinkers and problem solvers

In these reimagined spaces, free from distraction, we re-learn how to be in the world again. How to co-exist in peace with diversity of our fellow humans, animals and plants that also become our teachers. What’s more, with these effective tools, we can access the lost knowledge and shortcut our way to solving many problems in shorter timeframes than we have set ourselves at present.

On one hand, we can draw from a fountain of knowledge that our ancestors, both recent and distant, have amassed over centuries. On the other hand, we benefit from new perspectives brought by immigrants who come to our shores with rich folklore and traditional ecological knowledge that we no longer possess in highly industrialised nations. To illustrate this, I can think of one good example of how one culture can enrich another and that is an indigenous way of teaching and learning among the Native Americans. The Apache call it Coyote Teaching.

This indigenous way of teaching-learning is a specific group dynamic that aims at creating the best teacher and learner, simultaneously. Two are a part of the same equation. In fact, a coyote teacher is a man or woman who has mastered their subject and then invites a young member of a group to learn. Mastery of a subject appears symbolic because, according to this philosophy, a coyote teacher learns more from their students than the way round. That way, a resulting carefully designed set of tools that’s in place creates a more inviting open-minded environment that spontaneously cajoles one towards learning. My belief is that we can emulate this and thus create optimal learning/teaching environments in our localities if we have green learning spaces like ecoplazas. 

Ecoplazas – optimal environments of peace and directed collective focus

* We envisioned (* see notes on this work’s origin below) the design of such new collective resource spaces so that they can provide a safe refuge where a constructive democratic conversation, free of political bias, anti-people and anti-environment agendas and spin, is possible. With this higher principle in mind, such spaces can be a healing outlet and a safe container where we capture the energy of our collective frustration, just like we capture the unwanted carbon emissions. Converting it into a green growth of ideas, projects and jobs that serve our collective good.

In other words, these eco hubs apply this altruistic layer to every transaction and interaction that takes place, creating tangible transformation that we can see and measure, and most importantly, experience with our emotions in a healthy way as nature intended. So, not second handedly always through others, on the screens and touchpads of our devices, but viscerally with our own bodies and hearts.

Integration and bridging of knowledge – what I call a collective conscious attunement

Whilst ecoplazas are no panacea to all social problems, they can offer a more intelligent way of achieving desired outcomes that we cannot reach through political means. Furthermore, inclusive community zones can have speakers corners like the ones that still exist today in England. This is where we can share know-how openly with the receptive public. This will certainly contribute to shifting the focus from reactionary politics and unconscious social behaviours towards more coherently channelled cooperation and positive local action. How? Because having positive role models i.e. projects and peers in our own communities that we can interact with daily is bound to create happier, more self-assured communities ready to face all kinds of social and environmental challenges. What’s more, we will note the progress and see its relevance to our own lives, which will perpetuate this process and its positive feedback loop further.

This article, presenting the original award-winning concepts, is the work of the Earthvoice editor, Kinga Monica. She is available for consulting on practical instigation of these concepts, sustainability, and ecotourism consulting, internationally. 

* We envisioned…few facts about this work

This original transitional strategy that is powering many European green cities’ transition shifts today, for the first time, linked all the seemingly disconnected strands of city work and life dynamics within an all-encompassing thinking and action framework.

We named it a greening template. With such a template, cities could, at the same time, tackle many areas that city planning departments have traditionally looked at in isolation or simply ignored. We incorporated, also for the first time, an element of harnessing creativity of the public in the problem-solving. Benefits: a blue-green sector becomes more altruistic and climate action focussed, and the third sector becomes more effective. Social and community resource spaces advance and speed up the greening and climate action efforts through everyone’s inclusion in this.

It all started in the UK with many ‘copycats.’ Notably, with the then London’s Mayor’s office introducing around 70 concepts from our consultancy’s proposal and leaving out a new green method of solving disputes and our integrated approach for tackling climate change. We demonstrated the significance of the World War 2 effort for our effort of tackling global warming/climate change. The governmental think tanks picked up this new language and used it as slogans, including a better known concept: ‘using everyone’s creativity and solving many seemingly disconnected problems at the same time.’ Entire lines were being cited from our strategy synthesised into a 200-page proposal, called Integrated Transport document, ETN. This included a short demo video of some practical solutions.

How this original thinking has gone viral and played out in the world to date…

A lot of these original solutions and concepts make up today’s similar city regeneration models adopted by some progressive municipalities. However, many years of disconnecting various concepts that make up the original methodology, has resulted in a widespread uptake of its many practical and conceptual elements and the introduction of some. For example, Green Lifestyle (Life) Centres, Bike-Share (changed into ‘Boris bikes’); Ecological grading scheme for cars being sold in show rooms; Developing method of adding renewable energy to existing public transport;

Creation of The Funding Agency feeding into Big Strategy (changed under the Conservatives much later, in 2012, into Green investment bank feeding into Big Society); Using incremental solutions, as a part of an integrated web-like structure to solve many problems at the same time; Creating a solution-oriented society and many others. Some of this work has also been echoed in more recent concepts, including green hubs and the Paris 15-minute program. It is important to mention that the main objective of this work has always been its practical instigation. Instead, however, many have recycled it back into theory.

Because, once vocalised, you cannot unthink an (original) idea!  

In early 2000, our integrated thinking approach for solving climate change at an international level and integrated sustainability models, including the creation of social and ecological spaces, has certainly evolved a new paradigm of thinking and acting green. This thinking paradigm was then, and still is today, ahead of its time. We drew upon a decade of producing case studies through our own self-funded socio-eco projects and businesses. They helped us prove our long-held hypothesis that purposefully designed inspirational environments accelerate environmental awareness far more efficiently than anything on film or on paper can achieve.

Thus, our eco social infrastructure, we named, A Plan B to save the planet innovation evolved from the need to answer a question: ‘How we could create an unprecedented shift in collective behaviour and what stimuli could be helpful in creating this new exponential awareness?’ Already, back in the 1990s,this question was imperative to answer as decades of traditional green method have not produced the outcomes we all hoped for. Also, trying to reach agreements on mitigation and adaptation targets alone had failed. This led to us to proposing a more effective approach for addressing climate change at the IIED Conference, COP15 in Copenhagen.

Since the introduction of our methodology, the environmental thinking and dealing with climate change has seen slow shifts. It is my belief that our findings, which provided a lot of innovative content for others to engage with and innovate further, have had a major influence on this. However, no one has yet put forward a solution that can mobilise a critical mass of people to decisive climate action. Neither have we seen a creation of a truly green economy, nor millions of new green jobs and an international Funding Agency for climate projects being established. I believe that ecoplazas, combined with other mechanisms of a big strategy we proposed, can do that.

As it is often the case with independent innovation, mimicry is rife. A big strategy’s many schemes and initiatives continue to make London greener and nicer to live in while saving lots of CO² daily. On the other hand, Big Idea for community suffered a huge setback because of the incompetent launch of A Big Society in the UK. It’s important to mention at this point that it had nothing to do with our original work, which had been adulterated, wrecking the chances of instigating the original big idea for community.   

Team – Together Everyone Achieves More -green spaces where we can talk about ecological renewal whilst solving issues together

Because, once vocalised, you cannot unthink an (original) idea!  

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Ecoplaza – a practical solution of bringing everyone on board of systemic greening through active eco-social citizenship (our concept of Ecoplazas) and a lifestyle enhancement strategy. This, together with many other synergistic elements, had aimed to leverage and enhance the effectiveness and speed of socio-economic, ecologically focussed, reforms to enable the green and just transition long before the Paris Agreement came into force in 2016. Image: Ecoplaza, original drawing by K. Monica, 2000.

A Big Strategy book, which is now out of print, could become a timely guide for countries to assist them in their green transition through mechanisms and a comprehensive integrated strategy that we presented in early 2000 in the UK and later internationally.

So, if you are a progressive state leader or entrepreneur, a green publisher, or someone with a philanthropic interest and capability, there can be an opportunity for collaboration that could bring this cohesive methodology to light and help manifest it properly for the first time in the environmental history.

To read more on this topic and the solutions that have helped shift some gears of the climate change action to date, please follow my work on Earthvoice blog and on Medium. And dear reader, please help me spread the word and talk about it so that this work can garner wide support with a view to instigating it.


A Big Strategy: In times of Crisis. A Model to Help Regenerate The Environment, Community And Sustainable Economy. Published in 2012. Authors and innovators of this advanced methodology: Peter Hughes & Kinga Monica

Featured image: Coyote Teaching method.

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