Great idea – terrible font

Don’t spoil your idea with a terrible font.

The environmental movement seems to be particularly prone this affliction. Once upon a time, people with the mindset that was willing to challenge mainstream military-industrial thinking also challenged the strictures of modern fonts. Gone sans serif, in its place, curly whirly.

Thankfully, the times are indeed a-changin. And what were once wacky ideas are increasingly appealing to the mainstream: renewable energy; whole-system design; zero-waste systems.

I just don’t think the mainstream is ready for curly-whirly fonts yet.

Revaluing weeds in the biodiversity emergency

Yesterday a council contractor rode up and down our street spraying weed killer on the pavements, grass and tree pits. I was dumbstruck. This is the biodiversity crisis manifesting literally on my doorstep. And at the same time double standards. Here you have a council that has led the way in the UK in declaring both climate and ecological emergencies. All the while its contractors are spraying weedkiller on its streets. For me this encapsulates the fundamental challenge of the ecological crisis: we understand at some high level that something must be done but we can’t translate that into what a thriving ecosystem looks like.

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Human-scale chalk stream restoration.

Image of Letcombe brook chalk steam

On this afternoon’s walk we had the joy of arriving at a chalk stream. We had started high on the Ridgeway and descended quickly down through the Devil’s Punchbowl, a dry valley. And it was at the lowest point on our walk that we came upon Letcombe Brook. At this site, conservationist are working to recreate the natural conditions of a chalk stream to enable wildlife to thrive.

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Connection with nature through drawing

Pencil sketch of an ash tree at Hazel Hill wood to illustrate a post about connection with nature through drawing

I drew this ash tree at Hazel Hill Wood last weekend. Though it rises opposite a bench where I like to have a morning coffee, I have never paid it much attention. But doing a twenty-minute sketch I am discovering the tree. Climbing the trunk that rises without foothold for a third of its height. Noticing for the first time its rhythm – the trees spatial ordering. How one trunk becomes a thousand twigs, like a trachea transitioning to countless alveoli.

As I draw I see a space in the canopy to the left, one that I would not have noticed otherwise. I presume it is a space left by another tree that is now fallen, on the ground but leaving its imprint in the sky.

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Planting parking spaces is a dismal affair

Oliver Broadbent holding a watering can in a carpark to illustrate his post Planting Parking Spaces

Planting parking spaces is a dismal affair.

When you water them, the water just drains away.

The rich soil underneath is capped.

Parking spaces don’t flower; don’t make nectar, don’t produce fruit that we can eat.

Insects stay away; birds fly over.

Never do they grow, rise up from the ground, spread their branches to oxygenate the air.

No one returns in 30 years time and says I planted that parking space.

No generation thanked the last for planting more.

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Questions to ask your colleagues in the biodiversity emergency

The biodiversity emergency requires us to change how we value and relate to the ecosystems that support us.

Values shift when we change our habits. Habits are the rituals and routines that form part of an organisation’s culture. Work the habits to shift the culture.

We see it in Toyota’s Improvement Kata, which uses habit to reinforce behaviours around improvement, adaptation and innovation. We see it in the ‘safe-start’ procedure used for meetings in safety-critical industries.

And so I’m wondering what might be questions that we might routinely ask each other of our projects in organisations that have declared a biodiversity emergency?

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Will you always own a car?

Oliver Broadbent holding a small model of a bubble car to illustrate a post asking will you always own a car

By asking this question I make a choice about where the centre ground is. By framing the question I put the position ‘I will always own a car’ at the extreme. At the other extreme is ‘I will never own a car’.

The middle ground becomes some partial version of car ownership. I will own a car for a bit. I’ll think about selling it in a few years. Maybe, I will own my car with other people . I will join a car club.

Given what we know about air pollution, the contribution private transport makes to carbon emissions, the number of people killed each year by cars, and the damage caused to our communities by busy roads, why is private car ownership still considered the norm?

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