Travelling – Copenhagen and Naples

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2 September 2012 So, having left home on 26 August, I seem to have spent a week untangling some knotted threads on my way in this extraordinary trip. Great to have done the first leg in Copenhagen – how different is this city to anything I’ve experienced! Little bit like Freiburg in some ways, I guess. Highly organised, efficient, fantastic public transport and the best of all, loads and loads of space for pedestrians and bikes. Cycle and pedestrian tracks everywhere – they even disallow cars parking in many of the roads, where the cyclists and pedestrians take precedence. The city is building an underground circular metro, which will have 17 stops. which will make cars even more unnecessary. So easy to get around – people helpful, trains and buses on time, and a real sense of public space. Lots of cultural stuff happening all the time in the streets too. Cool to see what an organised, northern city can do with resources and will. The conference we attended focused on transitions. Highly academic, disciplined researchers – interesting for me to note how tied up researchers seem to get in ‘proving’ a theory… as if the theory comes first, then exploring cases and practice to see whether this checks in with that theory. Made me think Mark and I should have put the Lynedoch case first when we wrote Just Transitions – because all the work we’ve done in the past 14 years has emerged from what we have done in practice. I guess the stuff I wrestle with is much more about how to express in academic writing the ‘chicken and egg-ness’ of practice, linking it to a couple of theories, critically reflecting and moving on. Being a little more natural about academic discipline – little less tied up in analysis and a little more able to express in refined and simply elegant ways the real world and its messy tensions and gritty  agonistics. I wondered continuously about inner transitions – little in this conference (probably correctly?) about our journeys of the interior. The dark nightmares, transient fabrics and frightening illusions that make up daily life in amongst the joys and glories of a generous universe — and how much skill I am often shown by those I work with in their exceptional ways of finding wiser ways in coming unstuck. Arrived yesterday in Naples – an entirely different set of stories! Vibey, ancient buildings, cars have taken over everywhere and our taxi rides compare easily with the skill and speed of those we had in Nigeria. Here to attend the World Urban Forum, I am befuddled by this aged kind of beauty mixed up with smells of rotting waste in a city seemingly screwed by its leadership in their inability to get a story going amongst local authorities, unions and politicians. Big focus of the WUF is on youth in cities…there are 3 billion people on Earth under the age of 25, and over half the global population is between the ages of 12 and 24. The average age of all people in Africa is 23! And the median age in Africa is 18…. (that’s what they said, have to check this out) but what fantastic opportunities to have. Many established northern countries have aging populations – a whole different set of challenges. The Norwegian minister of environment, Arvinn Eikeland Gadgil, talked briefly on the same panel as Mark – Green jobs for youth. Mark talked about infrastructure, mobility and food security. What struck me was that we seem to see the connections and possibilities, but there are few stories of how to actually do this. The SI, with our focus at Lynedoch on babies, preschoolers, primary school, teens and youth – not to mention our university students – all in an attempt to experience simple ways of living sustainably (with all its challenges) is really an example of taking the potential of youth seriously. Extraordinary to include in this our Further Education and Training College, Learning for Sustainability, and its whole notion of building capability in youth sustainability skills, sustainable community development, ecological farming, early childhood development. This is not from some sentimental attachment to children, but building futures through following the energy that children bring – learning from children and their ways of being and seeing that many adults have simply lost. Spaces that connect children to nature are taking care of the future – right now, in the present. Arvinn Eikeland Gadgil has been to the SI – cool that what he remembers absolutely clearly is the ‘best food he has even eaten’! I kid you not. From Norway, so far north, to Farm to Fork, in our tiny local Lynedoch space – with its countless daily challenges where we stumble regularly and have to yank ourselves up by our bootstraps again, and again, and again…. perhaps it is true, there is no separation between local and international – that is just our silo’d, fragmented minds playing unskilful tricks.