Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Positive Deviance continued

Having wrapped up the biography of Petra Kelly this week and started on her posthumously published, Thinking Green, I was drawn back into the work of her biographer, Sara Parkin, whose last book, The Positive Deviant: Sustainability leadership in a Perverse World (Earthscan, 2010) has been too overlooked. Nearing the half-way point of this  easy to read 260 page tome, the following observations are worthy of sharing.

Parkin, as I knew before as a speaker I have heard twice and in informal conversations, is the real deal. Like her friend, Petra Kelly, she evolved around the confluence of feminism, ecology, justice and sustainability. After her long involvement with the Green movement, mostly centered in the UK, she co-founded with Jonathan Porritt, Forum for the Future. Forum is a leading UK/European think-and-do tank focused on sustainability, principally aiming it's energies at the business and higher education sectors. Parkin is responsible for creating their highly regarded sustainability leadership program.

As one reads this thoughtful and wise guide to building a better future, the tone of her writing as well as the flow of her language woven with many keen insights and examples empowers the reader to roll up their sleeves and work from where you are, no matter where that might be in place, time, experience, position,...

Parkin is a genuine, compassionate, funny, and wise elder too often neglected by those in the sustainability trenches, but with so much to teach us about how to move forward.  She is a scholar and  seasoned activist who has blended the two strains with her own spice for life and possibilities.There is nothing preachy here. She lays out what she sees as the problems and the evidence, what she calls "The Anatomy and Physiology of UnSustainable Development" followed by her critique of the "Lost Leadership" and moving towards what she names "Sustainability-Literate leadership" while finishing up with "The Global Sustainability to do List". A powerpoint presentation of the work behind this with some graphics is available here.

As one who has spent a good chunk of his life wrestling with these issues, I wish I had had some of this wisdom with me earlier. More to share I'm sure as I move through the remainder of this worthy read.