Crowdsourcing the future in Canada
wisdom of crowds is reconnecting people and government in British Columbia
Morton: "When ancient art is acid etched on solar panels, when the
community says "we own our energy" the world heals".
Photograph: MARK GAUTI
Rio+20 Conference taught us again a lesson that we should have learned by
now: big governments working with large corporations are incapable of
delivering what matters most – healthy children, safe food, air and
water, community, fairness, happiness. If we are to master global poverty
and climate change, then we must look beyond the institutions that have
failed us and tap into Indigenous wisdom – to the insights and practices
of people with 10,000-year track record of living sustainability.
words, in a "crowdsourcing" era, it's time to tap into the
wisdom of crowds – the kind that are ousting old dictators and choosing
new leaders, many of them women and Indigenous people. It's time not for
talking, but for building communities and economies. It's time for
creating jobs and community-owned, clean-energy projects, even while
restoring the role of culture and artists in the decision-making process.
– so clearly unresolved in Rio – is one of disconnection between
crowds and their governments. "Most governments are stuck in the 20th
century ... top down, stable, predictable and all about execution,"
says Andrea Reimer, councillor, leader of the Green City Action Team in
the West coast city of Vancouver.
the other hand, are closer to the people. They work well "as a
proving ground for resilience and innovation," Reimer says. That's
why Vancouver borrows so freely from social innovators, people who she
describes ad: "nimble, innovative, creating the future we want,
sharing power with the people ... tolerating risks, and supporting
Columbia (BC) is complicated, there is an historic disconnect between
government and people. In fully 80% of BC, one of Canada's larger
provinces, there are no treaties with Indigenous Nations, no paperwork at
all. This political mess is also an opportunity; map Indigenous
populations globally and you will find the places with most biodiversity.
Culture and nature dance; killing one, destroys the other.
This is not
peculiar to Canada. The UK also has rich ecosystems of such social
innovation. For example, the Hebridean Isle of Eigg, has a diverse and
effective leadership of women and men, young and old. No individual
appears to claim ultimate authority over the Eigg story. On a recent
visit, a crowd of 30 locals helped tell of a people who bought an island
from a nasty landlord and built one of the world's cleanest
community-owned energy systems. Crowds financed the buyout. Through
networks and hard work, they raised £1.5m from 10,000 people, and that
was in the 1990's before crowd funding platforms existed.
many parallels to Canada's Indigenous communities, including that the
Scots measure success by counting young people. Unlike most of the
Highlands and Islands that have seen their youth decamp to the cities,
Eigg is growing. Lucy Conway of the leaders in the community said that,
"Since the buyout, the island population has increased by 25% ...
there is now a critical mass under 30 ... broadband allows them to scan
the world and put the world of Eigg out there."
globally, indigenous people have been pummelled, first by colonisation and
now globalisation – forces that transformed dignified subsistence to
dependent impoverishment. Take the Xeni Gwet'in, a First Nations people
who live in the unspoiled mountains only a few hundred kilometres north of
Vancouver. Xeni Chief Marilyn Baptiste's ancestors have fought corporate
and government invasions for hundreds of years and she leads a fight now
against a gold mine that would harm a sacred and environmentally important
Fish Lake. They are being offered payment, but Baptiste says: "We
don't want money, we want our land . . . We have never ceded rights or
title to our land … we will not."
people are unconquered, like the wild horses that still run on traditional
Xeni territory. They survived being beaten for speaking their language,
and still half the elders only speak their native T'silqotin. And now,
while fighting Taseko Mine and its supporters – including the BC
government – they are also pursuing their own, sustainable path,
transitioning to 100% clean energy. It is here that crowds can help –
that others can help protect one of the last places filled with Grizzly
bears, eagles and wolves.
few, often damaging oil-and-gas sector investments in sustainable energy,
success is usually far greater when communities co-develop clean energy,
using the crowd's wisdom and resources and the artists' vision to support
the engineers and the bankers.
We all have
ties to older worlds where art and culture were "operating
instructions." Our ancestors created stories, cave art, totem poles
and standing stones to guide us. They told us not to take too much, to
live in harmony with animals and plants, and to honour the abundance of
the sun. When ancient art is acid etched on solar panels, when the
community says we own our energy, the world heals.
This is our
moment; recent ancestors ended slavery and brought the vote to women. We
can align ancient parts of us with the future; when elected people listen
to elders and crowds.
is chief executive of First Power – a B Corporation inspired by Paul
Hawken's Blessed Unrest – that co-develops clean technology, jobs,
economy with indigenous communities. She is an Ashoka, Unreasonable and
Ogunte fellow, recently winner of the Women's Social Leadership Awards.
You can listen to her TEDx talks here. She tweets @First_Power