Archive: October 2012

October 20th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Cities | Comments Off

The city, the future, and you – beyond greed

This is Part 3 of Chapter 5 of our book on the future of cities, being written with  Dennis Walsh. Our plan is to publish a new book blog nearly every day for the next couple of months. We will publish them both here on futurist.com and on dothefuture.com. Later we will compile the blogs into an e-book.

We are debating the eventual title. We started with two choices: “Downtown” and “Shine…The Rebirth of American Cities.” Which do you like? We hope you will find the subject of interest and follow this book in serial form. A reader has suggested, “City Transformation?” So far, “Downtown” with a subtitle How Cities and Millennials will Shape the Future is leading. What do you think?

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CHAPTER FIVE – Part 3
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

Great cities anticipate risk, limit impact, and bounce back in the face of turbulent change. If that’s true of cities, its true of businesses as well.

It’s time to get real. There is only so much water in the world; only so much topsoil; only one atmosphere; and only so much CO2 that can be stuffed into that atmosphere. The carbon challenge is real and deep change is inevitable. The world is not going to end any time soon. But, to do too little or nothing now is unthinkable. We have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren. So stop looking for an exit strategy. Sustainability of natural resources is everybody’s problem. But of course you already know that. The question is, where do we go from here?

The real problem is not the lack of alternatives, but a lack of understanding of the problem itself. Understanding is a far more valuable skill than problem solving. Asking the right question is only half the answer. If possible solutions present unattractive alternatives the problem has not been explored deeply enough. We like to solve problems quickly don’t we? That’s part of our multitasking mentality. Slowing the decision making process down can actually accelerate the possibility of finding an effective and lasting solution. It might even produce a solution that solves more than one issue.

The consequences of a decision can last a long time. Unless you explore the question and project the impact of your solution through multiple scenarios, you cannot make a responsible decision. When it comes to cities, ideas are bargaining chips for the future. They reveal options. Without them, cities are handcuffed by the past and vulnerable to the possibilities defined by their competitors.

Asking the right question is only half the answer. We have yet to admit the dangers and destructive effects of mental pollutants that continue to degrade the quality of our mental fitness and undermine the progress of our culture. It’s time to recognize the damage caused by our toxic culture. Some say advertising is a kind of pollution; that the commercial media are to the mental environment what factories are to the physical environment. We’re suffering from over half a century of unrestrained greed, a daily diet of advertising and rampant over-consumption.

Talk about change, the iPhone, iPod or iPad you buy today will be obsolete next year. Marketers sell style, status and the confidence of knowing that we are not missing out on anything. Should manufacturers slow down the stream of new technologies coming out? That’s unlikely. The market demands it.

Look at the auto market. Audi can’t get cars out the door fast enough. Their factories are running at full capacity to meet record demand for the A6 sedan and A3 hatchback. On the demand side, first-time buyers from Tier 3 and lower cities play a vital role in driving future market growth. As income levels rise, demand is shifting toward vehicles that offer more styling design, function and energy economy. On the supply side, automakers face a challenging business environment, hyper competition, a continued credit crunch and rising costs. They too are forced to ‘anticipate risk, limit impact, and bounce back in the face of turbulent change’.

Markets are changing. Less is more is a growing trend. Ecouterre, the eco-fashion magazine, predicts an emerging frugality trend “slow fashion”. Like fast food, we’ve been victims of fast fashion. A few years ago, sustainable super star Kate Fletcher was an advertising executive in an uninspired career. She invented a creative challenge for herself; wearing the same dress for an entire year. Seriously. The catch was, obviously, she had to look different every single day. She had to come up with unique outfits to accessorise around this dress without buying anything new. Raising the stakes, she turned her personal challenge into a fundraiser to send underprivileged kids to school.

Life is not always as black and white as this. The perfect solution is for everyone to live a green lifestyle. If more people were willing to do whatever it takes, we could look forward to a better world.

Smart companies and some smart cities have figured it out. The economy is going to have to get smaller in terms of physical impact. The problem is improved productivity means fewer people are needed in each factory to produce more stuff. If we want more jobs, we need more factories. We must take action that goes beyond commissioning studies to ensure economic revitalization and develop a new model for future growth. If we want a robust growing economy, we need a robust manufacturing sector. The critical focus must be on incentivizing innovation. And manufacturing innovation clusters are already in place. But more factories making more stuff means more global warming and more waste, unless we get serious about doing it differently, sustainably.

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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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October 19th, 2012 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Business & Economy, Innovation | Comments Off

The future of marketing starts with cross-disciplinary thinking

20-somethings are getting recognized as clever innovators in the marketing industry, customization and user interactivity are becoming important considerations in advertising; the future of the marketing industry is currently inundated with awesome possibilities.  With the growing popularity of crowdsourcing, how will marketing adapt to the influx of personal projects and initiatives people are trying to promote? Exponential advances in technology and subsequent ever-changing forms of media are forcing the industry to adapt or innovate.  With the industry on the verge of a new age, it’s important to get ideas from as many sources as possible on how to harness the power we have and create an industry we want.

Keeping in mind that we are in charge of developing the industry into whatever we wish, there become endless possibilities and numerous avenues to be at the forefront of the exciting changes taking place right now.  One such method that proves extremely handy, in almost every industry actually, is to become a hybrid. Whether that means being a hybrid company that offers several services across different industries, or if that means being a person with diverse skills that are advantageous to multiple industries, the bottom line is that it can really only help to get different perspectives while creating something new or solving a problem.

It seems that especially in marketing it would be useful to use cross-disciplinary thinking. How useful would it be to advertise telescopes with the help of someone who is both an astronomer and a marketer? That sort of user experience gives the person unique product insight while still working within the framework of a marketing strategy mentality. How valuable would it be to find the answer to an  unsolvable  technical problem by simply asking an artist to attack the issue from their different standpoint? To be on the edge of change in this industry we must acknowledge the extreme value of diverse collaboration, especially since marketing is an especially far-reaching industry that constantly crosses boundaries into almost all the others.

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October 15th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Cities | Comments Off

The city, the future and you – water under the bridge

This is Part 2 of Chapter 5 of our book on the future of cities, being written with  Dennis Walsh. Our plan is to publish a new book blog nearly every day for the next couple of months. We will publish them both here on futurist.com and on dothefuture.com. Later we will compile the blogs into an e-book.

We are debating the eventual title. We started with two choices: “Downtown” and “Shine…The Rebirth of American Cities.” Which do you like? We hope you will find the subject of interest and follow this book in serial form. A reader has suggested, “City Transformation?” So far, “Downtown” with a subtitle is leading. What do you think?

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CHAPTER FiVE – Part 2
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

BLOG TWO CHAPTER FIVE

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. It’s easy to start taking things for granted; important things like water. When it comes to urban climate change, water is one of the most complex issues cities face.

Changing climate patterns have already compromised water sources, and forced communities to address a host of challenges. Some regions experience more extremes in heat than others. They get flooding and drought. But the most serious impact of climate change is its affect on water resources.

Water is abundant. It covers 75% of the earth’s surface: The total amount of water on earth remains about the same from one year to the next. It circulates between the oceans, land and atmosphere in a cycle of evaporation and precipitation.

The hit song “Surfin’ USA” spread the names of a handful of beaches around the world. Of all the great beaches in America, Hampton Beach State Park in New Hampshire is the “superstar”. But who knows what is lurking in the water. Sharks and jellyfish are not the only things to worry about. Beaches are a summer rite of passage that can unfortunately make you sick. Beach water pollution causes stomach flu, pink eye, dysentery and other serious health problems. Pollution from storm water runoff and sewage overflows plagues the country’s beaches. The Natural Resources Defense Council says more than 3,000 beaches countrywide have enough bacterial contamination to put swimmers at risk. That’s just one example.

You can’t discuss climate change or much about anything else to do with cities without addressing water. It can bring stability and prosperity, or it can lead to crisis. Urban water issues go as far back as the rise of the American city. Water made expansion possible. Since then, growth and over development have been central issues to the quality of our water supply.

Around the world, people kill each other over diamonds. Countries go to war over oil. But these most expensive commodities are worth nothing in the absence of water. A child dies every three and a half seconds from drinking dirty water. Bad water kills more people than wars or earthquakes. Without water, there would be no plants, no
animals, and no people. The need for water trumps every human principle. The challenge is to ensure that everyone has equal access to safe water. But the water industry is in trouble.

America’s water problems come from a lack of respect for water. We need to develop  a water ethic that values and conserves water, keeps it local, avoids over tapping of aquifers and massive water projects. The world is running out of fresh water. Climate change, over consumption and the alarmingly inefficient use of this most basic raw material are all to blame.

Our cities’ industrial infrastructures on the whole lose trillions of gallons of water every year. A recent international report by the Carbon Disclosure Project investigated the impact of water scarcity and water-related issues on some of the world’s largest  companies in water-intensive industries. Nearly 40 per cent of companies surveyed were experiencing water problems and most have developed water strategies and plans.

The situation is serious but companies are becoming more aware of business opportunities in water. Water is an economic driver for strengthening the economy and keeping our communities vibrant and healthy. Business water management is fast becoming a key strategic tool.

You get the point. But remember, what goes on around you shouldn’t limit you. This is not the end. It’s only the beginning. You are limited only by your thinking. You won’t
(no one will) solve problems by relying on what went on in the past. Innovation is possible, and breakthroughs will occur if and when we realize that the problems we face are the result of a way of thinking whose time has passed.

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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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October 12th, 2012 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Environment & Energy, Innovation, Science & Tech | Comments Off

State of the Arts 2012 update

I had previously mentioned that you would be able to watch the State of the Arts 2012 event online and here it is! I’ll include my favorite segments below, which include an introduction of Hollywood, Health & Society by Sandra de Castro Buffington, and an early look at the philanthropic video game Cyber Hero League with Dana Klisanin.

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October 8th, 2012 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Environment & Energy | Comments Off

Building with the eco-brick

As population increases, more homes need to be built. As population and consumption increase, so will our piles of garbage. So, it’s safe to say that in the future we need to build more homes and efficiently dispose of more garbage. How can we build more homes while putting less garbage into landfills? If you skeptically answered “build homes with garbage?” you are correct. The eco-brick is Susanne Heisse’s brilliant answer to alternative trash management. As  founder of Pura Vida, Heisse designed the eco-brick out of a  plastic bottle stuffed with inorganic trash that, when sufficiently stuffed, can be used as a building block for homes and schools. As of today eco-bricks have been used to build more than 200 schools and several homes throughout Central America. Watch this video and learn more about the super simple, super effective eco-brick.

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