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          SLOW LIFE Symposium Ends on a High Note

          The 4th SLOW LIFE Symposium took place at Soneva Kiri, Thailand, 7-10th November.  The symposium, an event of the SLOW LIFE Foundation, was sponsored by Long Run Alliance Member Soneva Resorts saw business leaders, scientists, NGOs, renowned thinkers and policy makers convene to help accelerate progress towards environmental sustainability. 

          The SLOW LIFE Symposium differs from other conferences in that each of the 30 delegates participates actively in all the three days of the event. Powerpoint presentations were discouraged and time for group discussions was maximised.

          David de Rothschild, adventurer and environmentalist, said he was particularly excited about the format. “Normally we sit around as so-called experts, speak on stage for two minutes, answer questions and leave. We are not getting off this planet, so we all need to untap our potential, share our own personal triggers and see what we can do together. Our fate is common after all.”

          Jonathon Porritt, the event’s chair, adds the following about the power of collaboration: “People will leave the Symposium with new insights, new companions, and new opportunities to bring their personal genius to bear on creating a more sustainable world.”

          Laboratory of Intent

          “When the intent is there, the rest will follow. These three days have been a laboratory of intent.” These were the thoughts of Leo Johnson at the close of the SLOW LIFE Symposium, reflecting the importance of outcomes and plans of action.

          But how exactly is this achieved?
“We brought a group of people together who are primarily solution-makers, people who know how to change things and get transformation,” explained event chair Jonathan Porritt. “We started very broad, narrowed down, and in this final session we got to a set of outcomes that people can continue to act on for the next year.”

          Big Ten Initiative

          One of these results is in the area of marine conservation. Johan Rockström, Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, proposed what he called the Big Ten Initiative. “The global fishing industry operates as roving bandits. But they are controlled by just ten companies.”

          In partnership with economist Pavan Sukhdev, Rockström pledged to “invite these companies to a Soneva-style dialogue under the banner of CEOs for a sustainable world. Companies demanding a lion’s share will work far better as a club.”

          Sustainable Model for Tourism

          Even closer to home is how to make the travel and tourism industry more sustainable. Pioneers in this field include Sonu Shivdasani, CEO of luxury resort company Soneva, and business leader Jochen Zeitz, founder of the Long Run Initiative and co-founder with Richard Branson of The B Team. They discussed plans to bring more CEOs to the table through targeted events, with Zeitz setting a target of “proving by 2020 that the sustainable model of tourism has a net positive impact on businesses.”

          This would provide models for scaling up. Participants agreed that such efforts can only reach a global level by tapping the huge potential of China. Peggy Liu, chairperson of Chinese NGO JUCCCE, told participants: “Many of you have issues that need to be amplified in China, and I’m offering an environmental gateway.”

          With the support of Leo Johnson and Daryl Hannah, plans were made to lead up to the 2015 UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris in a way that ensures China is at the table.

          Bomb Disposal Squad

          Daryl Hannah raised the question of messaging. “We need to catalyse global consciousness through a shift in communication,” she said, “and I want to offer myself as an active enabler.”

          On day two, Pavan Sukhdev had talked of “time bombs” waiting to happen if global sustainability is not achieved. Following this up today, Adam and Jessica Sweidan of Synchronicity Earth pledged to facilitate the creation of a “bomb disposal timeline plan” – a “wire map” of Rockström’s nine planetary boundaries that will captivate broader audiences, identify the deadlines and concentrate minds.

          Follow up

          Each participant left committed to at least one new initiative. The working groups will reconvene virtually to make these initiatives a reality.  The Symposium organising committee will continue to provide support to the participants to see these projects to fruition.

          To read more about the SLOW LIFE Symposium and watch videos from the event please visit www.slowlifesymposium.com and follow twitter @SLOWLIFEsym.

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