Mobilizing Human Graph for Climate Action –  Karlskrona, Sweden

For International Climate Action on October 24th, 2009 our Masters in Strategic Leadership Towards Sustainability (MSLS) class coordinated a powerful action in Karlskrona, Sweden. From speaking in highschools, to talking with strangers on surrounding streets we mobilized a group of 200 people to gather and participate in a human graph to illuminate the level that carbon dioxide must be brought down to in our global atmosphere to have a safe climate – 350 parts per million.

From grass roots organizing Kati Thompson, May Givon, Maurita Prato, and Jonathon took the leadership with dozens of others supporting the logistics, offerring tea, biscuits, and coffee to keep warm and engaging citizens on climate change issues on the street we entered the public square to manifest the human graph. Within hours of Spud Marshall and Stephanie  Peterka capturing the images from the overlooking church tower and on the street interviews the demo was transmitted and projected around the world with the thousands of other communtiies actions.

This video shows the 350 Human Graph our Masters in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability coordinated in Karlskrona’s Stortorget. The event ran simultaneously to 5200 other events in 181 countries around the globe to unite our voice in demanding a global climate agreement that is ambitious, binding, fair and science-based.

Planning & Design Centre – Halifax, NS, Canada

The idea of a better city is not a far away imagined future but a goal that takes believing in and working hands on together day by day. While planning and design has begun to own up to its past failures from over zoning to creating endless suburbs and roads without considering human communities as living it is still far away from remedying it in practice. Municipalities are attempting “engagement strategies” but few are moving from the rhetoric and actualizing these intentions letting go of the centralised power structures and the addiction to engineering car infrastructure heavy focus. We have a long way to go for governments to learn how to engage citizens in true dialogue and  open process for input.

In response I worked with a team of young planners and designers in Halifax to establish a Planning & Design Centre. We were inspired by similar initiatives in Paris, NYC, Scotland, and Amsterdam.

Storefront for Art and Architecture. NYC

The project began with seed funding and support from the Cities & Environment Unit. We felt there was a hunger for city issues and a major gap for a ground zero neutral space which was accessible, inclusive, and ongoing.   The idea was to create a third-party platform for engagement earlier on in the process to strengthen the overall vitality and health of the city. A place to showcase local and global planning, architecture, and design, creating and hosting unconventional  forms of engagement, harvesting inherent wisdom, ideas, and innovations citizens of Halifax were craving to offer and providing a stronger and more ongoing and open  communication with municipal planning staff and the development industry.

Through the street front space the Centre will host an array of creative programmes, such as discussion forums, exhibitions, installations, curriculum, SEEK newsletter, design competitions and collaborations and a resource library.

While this project was eventually stalled, the team of “plan-archists” who were developing the project created some waves including the installation of a Cardboard City (pre-cursor to this year’s cardboard city at 4 Days Festival) for the Nocturne Public Art Festival 2008.

Photography: Eli Gordon

Building Our Cardboard City

As part of the first Nocturne all of Halifax awoke to wander the streets and check out the various exhibitions.  A group of us (designer, philosopher, architect, community development organizer, a filmmaker, a photographer) organized an interactive construction of a Cardboard City.  In a six-hour period one Saturday evening, we started with a 10m x 12m map of Halifax’s downtown which covered the floor and piled mounds of thrown away cardboard.

Along either wall was projections of  stop motion photography of movement from buses, to pedestrians, bikers, and boats to create an ambiance of a bustling evolving city. Throughout the evening 700 citizens walked through the doors. Participants were encouraged to build the city as it was, as it is, or as they want it to be in the future. Oriented by Directions hanging from dangling Cardboard  people came and collaborated in teams creating an eclectic, utopian and dystopian model of the city that meshed the past with the future. It became an interactive dialogue for people’s critiques and dreams, a chess board of city making. Most impressive was the patience and dedication of groups of individuals who spent hours assembling their vision and placing it on the board while people watched, commented, and built around it.  Many wild and practical ideas emerged such as bike lanes and farm land downtown. Some of the broader ideas that surfaced were  harvested for future discussions as they were deemed  too complex to complete in a six hour time frame such as light rail, public services, ferry systems, waste water treatment plants.. Participants begged “Can this happen every week?”.  The feeling in the air was poignant and clear – change begins with playing! What had been put into motion this evening would require future discussions and collaboration projects in order to manifest the seeds of hope – civic pride and engagement fostering city change is possible one strip of cardboard at a time.

Outside Public Art Boey Interaction. Nocturne 2008. Halifax By: Eli Gordon

Carboard City. Nocturne 2008. Halifax By: Eli Gordon

Cardboard City. Nocturne 2008. Halifax by: Katie McKay

Carboard Artifacts. Nocturne 2008. Halifax

Birds Eye Cardboard City. Nocturne 2008. Halifax By: Eli Gordon

Side View Cardboard City. Nocturne 2008. Halifax