I ventured out on a ‘school night’ a few weeks ago to see Yolande Kakabadse, the president of WWF International present in Sydney with the theme being whether there is a clash of civilizations so to speak related to the environment vs economic growth.
The night presented the opportunity to meet and greet with senior WWF staff. I arrived late having gone to the wrong museum (Australian Museum) when I should have gone to the Museum of Sydney, so I arrived somewhat flustered and straight into a very tightly packed foyer. After a quick drink we were ushered in.
The night began with a beautiful welcome to country from an Aboriginal elder. Yolande herself was very eloquent in her speech and clearly she is a passionate but also pragmatic person.
During her presentation she highlighted that climate change is the biggest issue facing the world and that it has the potential to impact the whole structure of the world. The haves and have nots, the developed and developing etc. Water is the next major commodity in the world and it is becoming scarcer and scarcer.
She put challenges forward, like why do we measure the development of a country based on their GDP?
After the interesting presentation, there was a panel discussion where questions that had come from WWF supporters were asked of the panel. The panel was made up of John Hewson of NSW Premier fame, Dermot O’Gorman (CEO WWF Australia), Sam Mastyn (Corporate Sustainability Advisor) and Tim Jarvis (adventurer).
While the night was great and it was good to get out, I couldn’t help feeling that it was all overly optimistic. The fact that there was no major conflict between the environment and economics was established early on and while Yolande was lovely and great, there were a few instances where I was uncomfortable with what she was saying.
For instance, she stated how great desalination was because it has addressed water scarcity. Well…I beg to differ. While it seems easy – turn sea water into potable water, having lived somewhere where they use this source of water readily, I have a few things to say about desalination. 1. it is expensive, 2. it is energy intensive (hello – climate change!) 3. it feels different. Anyone living in Abu Dhabi will tell you – your hair falls out and your skin just feels different 4. I don’t think pumping brine and the ‘waste’ from desalination back in the ocean can be a good thing and 5. it doesn’t promote resource efficiency. There was so much wastage in the UAE with water.
The other instance where I was a little like ‘hmmm…really?’ was when she was talking about how WWF works with Coca Cola and that they helped Coca Cola reduce water needed to make coke! well we should all applaud efficiencies in processes, and while I say ‘good on you coke’ for your efforts, at the same time, I’m not sure how I feel about an NGO that works with a big corporation like Coca Cola. Issues like obesity and diabetes are problems around the world, not to mention tooth decay etc. While I am not saying Coca Cola is to blame for it all, but they do contribute and I wonder if an NGO like WWF has a policy on who they will and won’t work with.
John Hewson was interesting actually. He was the one that surprised me the most. The rest of the panel, really didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know, but John Hewson proved himself to be a bit of a greenie. His project of naming and shaming wealth management companies into investing more into sustainability ventures. I never did catch the project’s name, but apparently there is a big launch is November, so stay tuned!
Leaving the big names behind, I took my son to the Lane Cove Sustainability Lane event. I thought it would be a few stalls, but it turned out to be a big community event with rides, food, plant giveaways, concerts and all sorts of other family fun.
It was great to see the community out, the kid shaving fun. Though I wasn’t there long last time, I hope to spend more time there next year.