Archive for July, 2016

What is solutions journalism? Excerpts from an interview with David Bornstein


Laurence Blog Author_ENDavid Bornstein, author, New York Times columnist (The Opinionator) and co-founder of the US-based Solutions Journalism Network, took part in a Foundation-sponsored retreat in early June, on the topic “Can 21st Century Journalism Solve 21st Century Challenges?”

The following is an edited transcript of an interview with Bornstein in which he explains how journalism can help society to self-correct, by helping people understand where the deficiencies are.

What is the difference between journalism and solutions journalism?

BORNSTEIN: By and large journalism helps society to self-correct, by helping people understand where the deficiencies are. The theory of change is that we need to shine a light on the dark corners of society, to bring attention and, if necessary, outrage to those areas so that change takes place.

SOJUBut what we’re seeing today is that we need to re-invent many institutions designed for the nineteenth or twentieth centuries that are ill-suited for twenty-first century challenges, because of limits on planetary carrying capacity, in terms of global warming; and because the pace of change is so much faster today.

Journalism’s role now is not just to keep institutions honest but also to help people understand that in the twenty-first century, we need to reshape some of these institutions, or create whole new ones. And so the questions we need to ask are not just ‘what’s going wrong and who is responsible?’ but also, ‘what are the ideas that are emerging?, where is the knowledge; where are new models being born?’. That’s what solutions journalism does. (more…)

Catching seafood up with the local and sustainable food movement

Justin Cantafio_Blog Author_En Susanna Fuller_Blog Author_ENGuest post by Justin Cantafio, Sustainable Fisheries Campaigner and Susanna Fuller, Marine Conservation Coordinator at Ecology Action Centre.

Consumer preferences and buying habits can be instrumental in sharping food systems. Over the past two decades, two seemingly deviating consumer trends have taken hold. On one hand, our growing on-demand society seeks convenient and easily identifiable foods, with discerning consumers looking to third-party certifications and eco-labels to inform them on health and sustainability claims. On the other hand, consumers are increasingly turning to food to slow down and reconnect to family and friends, community, and food producers.

Luckily, the latter trend of whole foods direct from producer has begun to inform the desire for convenient and quick food. Gradually, trends that start off in local chalkboard menu restaurants and farmers markets have been finding their way into institutions and supermarkets. And while an erosion of values often occurs in the globalized commodity marketplace of big box stores, broadline food service providers, and restaurant chains, the result of both trends is that consumers are increasingly scrutinizing where their food came from, who produced it, and how it was produced.

Two young fishers working a weir—an ancient low-impact fishing method—on the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.

Two young fishers working a weir—an ancient low-impact fishing method—on the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.

From the silver platter to the hospital dinner tray, local and sustainable foods are growing in popularity. Yet while universities and elementary school cafeterias are proclaiming their menus replete with local poultry or organic salad greens, more often than not, outside of catch of the day labels – a fish is still a fish— and a wild protein luxury we often take for granted.


Cities in Transformation


Guest blog by Gorka Espiau, Director of Places and International Affairs, The Young Foundation. This blog originally appears on the Amplifier Montréal website. It is republished here with their permission.

Whilst there are huge amounts of innovative and creative work within urban areas, many of society’s most complex problems also manifest themselves here – unemployment, poverty, pollution and social mobility to name but a few. These problems, often described as ‘wicked’ problems for their complex, entrenched, and interconnected nature are too often addressed in a short-term or fragmented way.

Traditional interventions may often only address the symptoms rather than the root, or structural causes of the problem. They demand a comprehensive and interconnected series of interventions. A more holistic and large-scale transformation needs to take place. Even the most successful ones have always acknowledged that the challenges we are tackling are too complex and interrelated to be transformed applying a technical “project delivery” mentality.

Cities are also becoming the natural ecosystem for inequality. The wealthiest, the “squeezed middle” and the growing poorest couldn’t live physically closer to each other. In this context, many city leaders share the aspiration of launching new reform movements with the potential to incubate disruptive social innovations that will tackle the structural and institutional causes of inequality.

bike share

For this purpose, interconnected and larger scale interventions need to be co-created until a genuine movement of transformation is generated at the city/region level. Projects need to be incorporated as necessary tools of the “transformation movement” but always integrated within a deeper aspirational goal.


Three Thresholds from Worse to Better

Hal Hamilton_Blog Author_EN


Someone told me the other day that everything is getting better and better, worse and worse, faster and faster. There’s no such thing as “business as usual” anymore. Even the fast food companies are incorporating sustainability goals into their businesses. Local and organic are growing fast. Consumer research shows that concern about sustainable production of food influences shoppers more in Brazil and China than in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.


Better food is available in the niches and in the mainstream, but soil and fertilizer is still killing off the marine life where rivers meet seas all around the world. Small farmers have to become much more productive or exit for the cities. Aquifers are disappearing under some of the most fertile agricultural regions in the world.

We do-gooders try and sort out the heroes and villains in this story, but the actors don’t divide out that way. On the small farm where I live, we cool vegetables with air conditioners stuck in the walls of wooden coolers in the barn. Even though horses till the fields, the carbon footprint of the vegetables is probably pretty high because of the air conditioners, and because customers drive cars to the farm on pick-up days.

I want grass-fed beef to be MUCH better for the world than feedlot beef, but the science is mixed up.