Manifesto for a Moral Revolution - book review

Manifesto for a Moral Revolution: A book for change makers

If the beginning of the 21st century has seemed tumultuous so far, 2020 has shown that things can always get worse. In Australia, the year began with catastrophic bushfires that burned through 18.6 million hectares of land and wiped out over 1.25 billion of native animals.

The fires were not yet extinguished when a global pandemic put a complete hold on life. So far, COVID-19 took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and counting. Millions lost their jobs and we’re now — in the best-case scenario —  facing a recession.

While we’re still working to contain the virus and find a vaccine, the violent killing of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer caused millions of people to take to streets in protest and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The event drew attention to widespread systemic injustice and racism that is by no means limited to the US.

As we try to wrap our heads around event after event, 2020 is increasingly looking like a turning point in human history. If it is for better or worse will depend on how we choose to respond.

What is Manifesto for a Moral Revolution?

Among the chaos arrives a handbook for those who are determined to become leaders for positive change. In her Manifesto for a Moral Revolution, Jacqueline Novogratz outlines practices to build a better world.

“I wrote this book because I believe that our fragile, unequal, divided, yet still beautiful, world deserves radical moral rejuvenation. This revolution will ask all of us to shift our way of thinking to connection rather than consumerism, to purpose rather than profits, to sustainability rather than selfishness.”

Jacqueline Novogratz

The Founder and CEO of Acumen, a non-profit global venture capital fund addressing global poverty through entrepreneurship, describes the qualities and character traits we need to develop to drive change in even the most adverse conditions. And yet, her stories hold a more universal truth.

Adopting an entrepreneurial attitude

We don’t have any experience. We might have to sacrifice some of the comforts and conveniences we have grown fond of. It’s not even exactly clear what we’re hoping to achieve. Once we start looking for reasons why now is not the right time to act, we are sure to find many.

Ideas Thinkers
Sustainability reading and watching in June

Sustainability read and watch list: June 2020

I read and watch quite a lot of sustainability related content. There’s an incredible amount of really great information and thinking out there once you start looking. But I figured there’s not much point keeping all this to myself. That’s why I have decided to occasionally share some of the articles, videos and podcasts I have found the most interesting, insightful or entertaining.

How language shapes our approach to farming

I recently stumbled across American indigenous regenerative farmer, Chris Newman, on Medium. I love his direct writing style and realism about regenerative farming.

The idea of running a small sustainable farm can seem quaint and romantic, but tough if you have to make a living from it. Let alone feeding large populations. His writing is thought provoking, especially when it comes to matters of stewardship of the land and scale.

One of his articles from earlier this year goes into the relationship of language and how it shapes our worldviews and sense of place.

People ask with the best of intentions for book recommendations on indigenous agriculture, failing to realize that the nucleus of our sustainability ethic is in how we look at the world, not in specific planting or husbandry techniques A person can take indigenous methods and with the wrong worldview, destroy the whole world.

Chris Newman, Indigenous Agriculture: It’s Not the How, It’s the Why

So, instead of giving recommendations about indigenous agriculture, he recommends books that teach how to speak the language of sustainability instead.

Ideas Snippets
Voting with our wallets is only part of the solution

Voting with our wallets: why the approach has limits

Switch to solar energy. Refuse products packaged with excessive plastic packaging. Buy from companies that produce ethically and sustainably.

As consumers we’re constantly told to vote with our wallets to stir our planet from the brink of collapse toward a more sustainable future.

There’s no denying that how and what we buy can have a big impact. And we’re starting to see some changes in the marketplace. Big brands such as Adidas have introduced product lines made from ocean plastics. Fast food chains are offering meat-free burger alternatives on their menus (even though clumsily).

What’s more, there are the countless small business owners and regenerative farmers who are doing things differently. They are working hard to provide consumers with sustainable alternatives to the standard wares on supermarket shelves and retail racks.

And in principal, I agree that we should make purchases that are aligned with our values. But I also believe that the concept of voting with our wallets has some big limitations. We can’t rely on market mechanisms alone to fix the climate crisis.

Ideas
Thoughts on food and sustainability

Food and sustainability – a few thoughts

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about food and sustainability. And I have talked to many amazing people who are making a difference in this space. Some are adopting regenerative farming practices. Others are developing plant-based meat alternatives or are connecting communities to fight food waste.

But the more I learn, the more complicated it all seems. Here are a couple of problems I have been mulling over.

1. Lack of connection with the origin of our food

In the little bubble that I inhabit, it seems like we’re making incredible progress in terms of people making more informed choices about the provenance of their food.

Many people I know are very aware of the issues surrounding food and sustainability. They aim to buy produce that has been grown responsibly. Many are eating less meat, but of much higher quality. And some have given it up altogether.

But I am under no illusion that I am mostly surrounded by people who are very similar to me.

Ideas

From drab to fab: this marketplace shows that ethical and sustainable fashion can be fun

Making ethical and sustainable fashion choices can be a minefield. 

There is the issue of the fabrics themselves. Which chemicals are used to process and dye them? Will the material they are made from flush microplastics into our oceans whenever we wash them? What happens to the garment at the end of its life? 

And then there are the conditions under which the clothes are sewn. Is the factory providing a safe working environment? Are the employees being paid a living wage? 

The team behind ethical and sustainable fashion marketplace, Thread Harvest.
The Thread Harvest team celebrating their Good Design Award.

The good news is that awareness around many of these issues in the fast fashion industry is growing. And there are many new labels popping up online who vouch for more sustainable and ethical practices. But that doesn’t necessarily make things easier for consumers.

Many of these brands are selling online only. These small independent designers often have limited market reach, meaning they can be harder to find. But even if fashion labels claim to be eco-friendly and treat their workers fairly, it can often still take a fair amount of research from the buyer to ensure that these claims are in fact true and not just an effort to make a quick buck from a growing trend. 

Enter Thread Harvest. The Australian Certified B Corporation is an online marketplace for ethical and sustainable fashion. I recently had the chance to catch up with its Managing Director, Davyn de Bruyn, to chat about the company’s approach and the challenges of bootstrapping a business while juggling a full-time job and family life at the same time.

A curated hub for sustainable fashion

“We’re on mission to make it a lot easier for people to buy ethical and sustainable fashion,” says Davyn. “And we want to break with some of the most common and persistent stereotypes in this category.”

Entrepreneurs

Cows and carbon: could sustainable beef farming help solve the climate crisis?

In our current debate on the impact of our eating habits on the planet, beef is getting a pretty bad rap. 

From the water required to raise livestock, the land degradation and biodiversity loss caused by overgrazing and deforestation to the direct emissions from the sector and chemical pollution from fertilisers. The list of environmental impacts caused by some farmers in the beef and livestock industry is long. 

But to Tasmanian farmers Sam and Steph Trethewey the cows are not really the issue. To them, and a growing number of regenerative agriculturalists, the problems we have come to associate with meat consumption are the result of industrial agricultural practices, not the meat and dairy producing animals themselves. 

Or as Steph puts it: “It’s not about the cow, but the how.”

Regenerative farmers Sam and Steph Trethewey
Regenerative farmers Sam and Steph Trethewey.

In 2019, Sam and Steph gave up their corporate careers in Melbourne and bought some land near Deloraine in Central North Tasmania to found the Tasmanian Agricultural Company (Tas Ag Co). The pair is now on a mission to prove that it’s not only possible to farm beef sustainably, but also to make beef farming part of the solution to fight the climate crisis.

Entrepreneurs
Jess Harwood Art bushfire cartoon

Art as activism: bright cartoons with punchy messages

Jess Harwood is a Sydney-based artist, cartoonist and communications professional who is passionate about protecting the natural world, wildlife and combating climate change. She has long been involved in community groups and the not-for-profit sector and has recently started using her art to support her activism.

Jess loves telling important stories to highlight campaign moments and shedding light on the underhand methods that big mining companies, developers and lobby groups use to profit at the expense of people and the planet.

Sydney-based artist, cartoonist and activist Jess Harwood.
Sydney-based artist, cartoonist and activist Jess Harwood.

Jess recently took the time to chat about her art and campaign work.

I read in one of your Instagram posts that you used to work as a lawyer briefly. Why did you decide to stop? Is your art now your full-time vocation?

I have always been keen to change our environmental laws, so they protect and preserve our precious environment, our wildlife and our heritage.

Art with a clear message.
Art with a clear message. Copyright: Jess Harwood Art.

However, once I graduated I saw that the changes I could make as a lawyer would be incremental. I also realised that I was actually more interested in building social movements to generate the change we need. That’s why I left the law and then started working in the NGO sector.

Activists Creatives

Aussie start-up convinces Michelin star chefs with their plant-based meat alternative

The rich flavours of a bolognese sauce. The melt-in-your-mouth texture of slow-cooked meat. There are some dishes that are irresistibly delicious and comforting. So much so that they are making it difficult for many people to adopt a more plant-based diet. Even if they are otherwise convinced that it’s a better choice. 

It’s a conundrum that is all too familiar to Sunshine Coast entrepreneur Michal Fox. After becoming vegetarian four and a half years ago for ethical, health and environmental reasons, he sometimes still found himself craving his favourite dishes that were difficult to recreate without meat. 

And the former CEO of now closed shoe retailer Shoes of Prey kept hearing similar stories in his network. People wanted to reduce their meat consumption, but were struggling with the practicalities. 

The brains behind Fable's plant-based meat creations: Jim Fuller, Michael Fox and Chris McLoghlin (LTR).
Jim Fuller, Michael Fox and Chris McLoghlin (LTR) are the team behind Fable’s plant-based meat creations.

 “I’m a terrible activist, but have some entrepreneurial experience” says Michael. So, after a six months sabbatical during which he kept diving deeper in the complex issues of industrial animal agriculture, he decided to use his skills to help people reduce their meat consumption and launched Fable Food Co.

The plant-based meat company is promising to make it easier for people to create meat-free versions of their favorite recipes without having to compromise on flavour or texture. 

A plant-based meat that harnesses the natural goodness of mushrooms

“When I started to explore the plant-based meat category, two things became really important to me. Firstly, I didn’t want to create another burger or minced beef alternative. There were already quite a few very good products in the market,” explains the self-taught food entrepreneur. “And secondly, I wanted to use only natural ingredients that required minimal processing.” 

Entrepreneurs
Jane Goodall's masterclass teaches valuable lessons in conservation

Jane Goodall’s masterclass: 3 lessons on driving change

Since starting this blog a little less than a year ago, I’ve been lucky enough to speak to some incredibly inspiring people that live a life with impact and have learned a lot from them. But I am also keen to understand if there are general rules that I (and others) can apply to drive meaningful change.

One recent experience that has pushed my thinking in this direction, was taking Dr. Jane Goodall’s masterclass on conservation.

A scientist turned activist

Jane Goodall is probably most well-known for her work with chimpanzees, starting in the 1960s. While observing chimps in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park, she discovered – amongst other things – that the animals were picking leaves of sticks and used those modified sticks to fish termites from a nest.

Goodall’s discovery was ground-breaking since scientists up until then thought that only humans were capable of toolmaking. Her insights re-shaped the definition of man and our perception of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom.

In the 1970s Goodall realised that to protect chimpanzees and their habitat from increasing deforestation and destruction, she needed to get out of the forest and spread her message. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute and since then has been working as a tireless advocate for the environment, social justice, poverty alleviation and peace.

Activists Conservationist

Returnr wants to make single-use packaging a thing of the past

The lunchtime trip to the local cafe or takeaway shop is a ritual for many professionals of all collar colors. A nice diversion in the middle of the day. Even if it’s only for a few minutes and the lunch is actually eaten at the desk or on the road.

But our daily habits come at a price – both literally (Australians spend $8.3 billion per year on buying lunch) and metaphorically in terms of the impact our routines have on the environment. The majority of take-out plastic containers are in use for less than 30 minutes before they end up in landfill where they’ll continue to live forever

The good news is that reducing single-use packaging might soon be a lot easier – thanks to initiatives like Melbourne-foobased co-op startup Returnr

A closed-loop reusable container network

“The idea behind Returnr is to completely get rid of single-use packaging,” says Founder and CEO, Jamie Forsyth, about the company’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

To achieve this Jamie is building a closed-loop network of cafes, restaurants, take-away stores, businesses and individuals that uncouples packaging and containers from the idea of ownership.

Jamie Forsyth is looking to reduce single-use packaging
Jamie Forsyth is the Founder & CEO of Returnr. Image credit: Returnr

“One of the problems with owning a reusable container is that it’s so easy to forget at home or it hasn’t yet been cleaned to be able to use them again,” says Jamie. “This friction completely disappears if ownership is taken out of the equation.”

Entrepreneurs