So many people to meet - such a wealth of knowledge, energy, passion and resources. So many interesting initiatives, educational programmes, companies. So many questions, ideas and issues. What to do with it all? How does it all connect? How do I fit in?
In the last week the scale of what I’m trying to do hit me.
Last Monday I was lucky enough to share a three-course fancy pants lunch with some of the winners of the 350.org Logan Brown Competition (http://www.350.org.nz/news/media).; I sat with KiwiRail’s new Corporate Responsibility Manager who is currently investigating the switch to biofuels for the entire fleet. He spoke about the difficulties of finding a consistent source of high quality and cost-effective biofuel in New Zealand. The conversation made me realise what a challenge it is to turn an innovative concept, such as making biofuel from wood pulp, into a reliable product fit for large-scale commercial use.
On Thursday, I attended the annual conference of the New Zealand Association of Scientists. The talks were so stimulating that my mental activity reached a fever pitch and on Friday morning my system crashed. When I woke up I couldn’t move. My back had seized up and even a wiggle of my fingers sent it into surges of pain. My body obviously thought it was time for a rest!
After four days lying on my back, sleeping and going for gentle strolls I’m back at my desk, sitting bolt upright tentatively preparing to let the ideas in again. I want to share some of the ideas and questions I’ve been thinking about – one by one this time – so as not to overload.
I have three inspiring meetings waiting to share with you:
The first was with Al Morrison, the Director general of DOC along with Rob Fenwick, DOC’s new Commercial Relations Adviser, their Chief Scientist and Communications Advice Manager. DOC’s mission is to change the culture of New Zealand and persuade businesses, landowners, farmers, government and the New Zealand public that biodiversity is a “MUST HAVE” rather than a “nice to have”. They asked me how I thought this change could be made – a huge question, which I’ll carry with me on my travels.
The second meeting was with mechanical engineer and youth leader Carl Chenery from Auckland. “Can you help me tell the story of how humans can be a positive influence on the environment?” he asked. The book he gifted us – Cradle to Cradle (http://www.mcdonough.com/cradle_to_cradle.htm) has undone my understanding of ‘recycling and reuse’. We spoke about design principles used to construct materials that can be infinitely kept ‘in the loop’. Plastics as food for the environment. I’m intrigued to find out if there is any science research in New Zealand that could contribute to this concept.
Thirdly, I met with computational physicist and Deputy Director of the MacDiarmid Institute Shaun Hendy. His research into innovation networks here and overseas has shown that the more people collaborate, the more productive they become. Shaun is my old physics lecturer and a constant source of new ideas. His work has been a major inspiration for my journey and he has offered to provide support and mentoring along the way. His research assistant Catriona Sissons has offered to help me analyse and visually represent the data I collect.
That’s just a little taste of some of the meetings and questions I want to explore in the next couple of weeks. I also want to share with you some thoughts from the conference last Thursday - the ones that caused my brain to explode. It was all about fostering innovation in New Zealand. I'll be back with that soon. :)