subscribe to the RSS Feed

Monday, May 29, 2017

An introduction to the Flexible Pollutant Mechanism

Posted by steve on December 17, 2013

This short video explains the mechanism put forward by the Swedish Sustainable Economy Foundation for solving pollution with financial incentives.

A dialogue in Future Perfect

Posted by steve on August 21, 2013

Reflections on my experiences at this year’s Future Perfect festival that brings does and thinkers of sustainability together

Group

Arriving on the island

The Future Perfect Festival, held on the Stockholm archipelago Island of Grinda, wrapped up recently. The event, now in its third year, is designed to provide a space for those engaged emotionally and professionally in sustainability; a space where they can gather, engage in dialogue and co-create.

Future Perfect, the brainchild of John Manoochehri, is a unique kind of festival, and it is badly needed. Even if, like myself, you are engaged in sustainability on an almost daily basis, the topic is far too wide for any one mind to take in. We need to listen to each others perspective. If we as a species are going to successfully transition away from the present counter-sustainable culture we live in we need to do it together. This means talking, listening to each other, sparking ideas off each other, trying ideas out, coming up with ideas together, and developing our perspective by reflecting in the company of those who both agree and disagree with us.

To me it means engaging in double -loop learning. Single loop learning assesses the strategies being used by looking at outcome and trying corrections and then assessing the outcome, trying new corrections and so on. Double-loop learning is to look at outcomes and assess assumptions behind strategies and the values of the outcomes. Just now there is, for example, a huge debate about economic growth. Instead of using the single loop mode of changing taxes, negative incentives to get off unemployment and tax breaks for corporations, the double-loop mode questions (for example) whether economic growth is desirable at all, and if there should not be a minimum wage paid to all regardless of if they work or not.

A fascinating comment on this topic came up in one of the evening debates: one speaker suggested that the transfer of money from one person to another is an expression of that person’s appreciation of the other, and that we did not want to see a reduction in economic transactions as that would mean a reduction in the love and appreciation each of us share.

Anyway, if we are going to have dialogues that move deeper into double loop mode, we need to get to know who we can talk to, and we need a space, even if it is just once a year, that facilitates that. The Future Perfect set-up manages to do just that always in a comfortable, open setting surrounded by the Swedish countryside looking its summer best.

Just a few moments after arriving I was plunged into a fascinating dialogue experience What do young people want? With Kim Jakobsson, Magnus Åkerlind who have toured Swedish Schools to engage youth in sustainability. The session was expertly facilitated by Per Hörberg from http://www.navigatororganisation.se/ and Gustav Elmberger http://www.samutveckling.se/ who got us to sit in a circle, and reflect on the idea that if we were all-powerful, what would we do to connect youth to sustainability.

The breadth and depth of ideas was impressive. It was great to be reminded that it’s is not the lack of solutions, tools or ideas that is stopping us creating the future we want, but the lack of concerted action.

Tom

JAK’s Tom Strömberg

After lunch it was my turn to participate in a panel meeting with representatives from JAK bank, including the bank’s ethics representative, Tom Strömberg. I represented the Swedish Transition movement. Transition is a network of people working locally to make their communities resilient to energy shortages, climate change and economic downturn. For me, when asked about local production and consumption I identified three good sustainable reasons to do it:

  1. The money stays in the community and goes around again, and jobs stay in the community. As money leaks out for the community, for example when you buy fossil fuel, jobs leak with them.
  2. Producing locally requires less transport and therefore the transport footprint is less
  3. Doing business with people you know is far different from doing business with strangers from far away: it builds community and community means resilience.

The other things is it is easier to get away from being just a consumer. We all need to be owners, producers and consumers.

It is in the dialogue that you develop your own arguments, and it is fascinating when you think something is self evident and you find yourself finding new ways to explain them. Take the issue of us always having traded with each other. We have had global trade for thousands of years. Would it not be better just create an app that trades everything all over the world? Not so fast. The heavy things in your life are also the basics: a roof over your head and food on the table and social cohesion: a community of 100 or more. The heavy things require fossil-fuel (and cooled) transport. The lighter things that you do not need everyday can of course much easier come from afar. Or heavy things that you only purchase seldom.

FuturePerfect convo

Space to book conversations

In my consulting I help with framing strategy that gives real value back to people and the environment while ensuring financial stability. I see how it is getting harder and harder to take on the leadership role, as the challenges mount. I think that the Future Perfect set-up is a good one for leaders. There are several things that Future Perfect does well.

  • It creates a space for dialogue. Not just the “mental space” but also the way the programme is organised and the physical meeting spaces encourage dialogue, structured and spontaneous.
  • It gets people excited about working on solutions together. Of course we live in a competitive business environment, but true cooperation between government, civic society and business is needed if we are to find ways forward.
  • It hosts dialogues well, bringing out the best in its speakers. Future Perfect has knack of identifying just the right speaker and combination of speakers to quickly get to the heart of the matter. And the dialogue forms they have been using and developing – including the quick presentation in the panel and the probing follow-up questions – are enlightening and stimulating to follow.
  • It brings people together. As guest speaker Internet Philosopher Alexander Bard said in an interview for the Web-TV channel that broadcast from the festival “I like to see other people involved in the ecological to movement to discuss how we can avoid disaster”.

In grammar, Future Perfect is the name of the tense that I usually explain as “standing in the future looking back”. In English it is expressed in the form of (point in time) + (actor) will have +(event expressed in past tense). This is my “future perfect statement”: In 2030, society will no longer use fossil fuels or emit greenhouse gasses. Future Perfect will have made a pivotal contribution; it will have brought us together and will have helped us have those difficult reflections and conversations that gave us insight and resolve to make the change. What Future Perfect statement would YOU like to make?

Links:

Future Perfect

JAK Bank

Transition Movement

FuturePerfect convo

 

New book shows the Power of Just Doing Stuff

Posted by steve on June 23, 2013

Recently published by Transition Towns founder Rob Hopkins, this new book “The Power of Doing Stuff” encourages everyone to engage with the food security challenge as well as resilience in general.

You can be a part of the change by engaging locally wherever you live. Around the world, people are seeing the limits – of carbon dioxide, energy availability and economic growth – as opportunities. They are not waiting for permission. They are coming together to create more stronger, more resilient communities.

The power of just doing stuff is one of the big ideas of our time. See the video, buy the book! Click on this link The Power of Just Doing Stuff: How Local Action Can Change the World.

Swedish Foundation sees fees on raw materials can create circular economy

Posted by steve on June 16, 2013

Product_matrixJust released, the latest version of the Swedish Sustainable Economy Foundation’s White paper presents in detail how nations can usher in the zero emission, no waste society using a special fee mechanism on raw materials. Download the paper from the Foundation’s web site

 People get worried that we should reduce consumerism, as our way of life is driving resource use and emissions. Just reducing will collapse the economy. Instead, the Foundation proposes fees on introduction of raw materials into the economy.  These fees are raised until the consumption and emission of materials ceases. But the money is redirected into  the economy – paid out equally to all taxpayers. This ensures people have money to buy what they need.

The paper is the result of several years’ work, including projects with the Nordic Council of Ministers on Carbon fees and fees on phosphorous and nitrogen.

It is essential reading for those working with the transition of society away from the resource-hungry to the equitable, sustainable future many long for. It provides a sound basis for practical approaches to pricing and managing pollution.

The paper, along with other versions and  the short summary can be downloaded here.

http://tssef.se/?p=605

The circular economy can be ushered this way: substances that are not biological of origin ( iron, other metals,  mined substances etc) cost to enter the system, and the price is raised until they do not leave it. Biological nutrients circulate too, but enter and leave the economy without burdening recipient or reducing ecological maturity of the source. At the same time, money to enable these transactions circulates freely in the opposite direction.

 

Stephen Hinton speaks at Copenhagen Business School on how business can address food security

Posted by steve on June 13, 2013

Stephen Hinton will address students and guests at Copenhagen Business School on the 19th June. A fellow of the ISSS, Stephen has been supporting the Humanitarian Water and Food Award (WAF) with selecting applicants.

In collaboration with WAF, Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship is inviting to CSR 2.0 conference: “Water and food for all – A challenge of business thinking and the general assembly of the humanitarian food and water award.”

Stephen will speak from his experience of selecting applicants for the awards from the 100s of leading –edge initiatives from around the world. And he will present what he sees as the opportunities for businesses to play their part in creating a new, resilient and sustainable prosperity that feeds everyone, takes care of the planet and houses thriving businesses.

Find out more about the event here.

Find out more about the Water and Food Award here.

Based in Stockholm, Sweden The Institute of Swedish Safety & Security (ISSS), is a registered non-profit institution. Founded in 2010 by individuals committed to working towards a peaceful, safe and secure environment, members have significant and diverse backgrounds from security risk management consultancy, law enforcement, intelligence, military, government, Counter Terrorism Units and ‘Special Forces’.

The institute provides both research and an advisory capacity in risk management and crisis preparedness to stimulate sustainable living, resilience and ensure the well-being of communities. The mandate aims to bring awareness to lead to the development of enhanced processes to ensure the integrity of critical and second tier assets during the event of natural / man-made crisis, disasters or act of terrorism in addition to potential ripple effects from conflicts in the global arena and, therefore, promote resilience through preparedness.

Visit to the eco-centre, Ipema, Brazil

Posted by steve on April 6, 2013

http://ipea.com.br

 

We visited IPEMA – Institute of Permaculture and Eco-village of the Atlantic Rainforest. The center is an example of the growing energy and insight that is manifesting itself as practical projects and organisations working towards sustainability in Brazil. Combining permaculture and eco-village thinking, the center has made huge headway in creating housing of 100% natural materials powered by renewable energy, and at the same time inspired hundreds of course participants.
We were guided around by Marcelo, who started 12 years ago after visiting the permaculture institute in Australia. He bought this parcel of land with about half a dozen friends and started building and teaching permaculture on the site. The land is 50 hectares, but lies within the state park. Regulations require they can only use 10 hectares of the 50 to build on and cultivate.
The site houses both the offices and teaching rooms of the Institute and the residential village.

One of the houses in progress

One of the houses in progress, Marcelo left

A lot of the buildings are works in progress, improved each time a natural building course is held on the property. The main activities are courses in natural building and permaculture. They have about 30 participants at any one time and run one or two courses a month.

Housing
The extreme climate (100% humidity and more rain than the Amazon) explains much of the design and construction of the buildings. Most of the houses have steep roofs to handle the rainfall.

A sheet of the material made from recycled toothpaste tubes

A sheet of the material made from recycled toothpaste tubes

Roofs are covered in corrugated sheeting made from recycled toothpaste tubes, a material which is used quite extensively as sheets in in other parts of the buildings.
Says Marecello “We always get the roof up first. Then we can build out of the rain”
“We don’t use adobe as the climate, extremely humid as it is, means it just crumbles.”

2013-03-20 14.36.28

This machine presses rammed earth bricks into shape.  These bricks are easy to build with and withstand the humid climate better than Adobe.

 

Bricks from rammed earth.

Bricks from rammed earth.

Food
A lot of food is available just by picking what is growing naturally: bananas, pineapple, cacao, jucara, and several types of nuts. Just now the food production has not been fully developed. They are trying two approaches, one of composting and creating food beds, the other is food forestry.
The food forest area close to the communal meeting room has been going several years. The trees provide shade that prevents the grass from growing (which otherwise in this country smothers everything). They have been cutting the forest back frequently because of the speed of growth. This area is amazingly productive: masses of sunshine, heat and water create the ideal growing conditions, explaining some of the appeal of the Atlantic Rainforest area as a place to establish an eco-village. (The sub-tropical Atlantic rainforest is not to be confused with the tropical rainforest of the Amazon).

Rain water is led from the gutter to a nearby cistern.

Rain water is led from the gutter to a nearby cistern.

Water
The main source of water is the two rivers above the property, but they are avid collectors of rainwater, after running off the gutter the water passes a simple net filter and goes into the holding cistern. The river water is purified in a simple filter before drinking.

This pit receives the grey waste water from the communal kitchen

This pit receives the grey waste water from the communal kitchen

Waste water.
The main source of waste water is from the communal kitchen. The grey water is led over a bed of stones that acts as a biological filter. From there, the water goes into a small pond before being led from the property back into the river.

Electricity

water from the stream above the settlement is led in pipes to this simple turbine.

Water from the stream above the settlement is led in pipes to this simple turbine.

A pipe runs from a waterfall above the property in 3cm pipes down to a generator housed in a plastic drum. The generator is connected to several batteries via a converter. The batteries supply 12 volt dc to the property.
Says Marcello ”people wanted us to bring mains electricity to the site and I resisted, even being called extremist at one point.”
But Marcello points out that people are happy with the arrangement and the whole system works well, they have more electricity than they need.

Energy for cooking
The communal kitchen is well-equipped with running water, a rational wood-fired stove and a gas stove.
Toilets
The site is served by simple dry toilets, which collect the waste in buckets and the buckets are emptied at regular intervals.
“We don’t use urine separation as in this climate the urine collecting basin starts to smell badly after only a short time,” says Marcello.

General impressions

I loved the creativity of the buildings, the natural feel of the rounded cob walls and the effects of putting glass bottles in the walls.

Wonderful patterns in the cob walls  made by inserting bottles

Wonderful patterns in the cob walls made by inserting bottles

Having a totally productive site has its drawbacks of course, trees grow so fast the village is easily encroached by the forest which can feel overpowering. And then there are the snakes…
But generally you have to admire Marcelo, who has two small children living on the site, in pressing on with developing the village and centre and inspiring many others with courses and by just getting on with it.

Visit the website at http://ipea.com.br

Posters of transition

Posted by steve on

A recent collection of posters from the 2nd world war, adapted for the message of Transition.

Digon churchill3 fightnow2 KEEP CALMCOMMUNITY KEEP CALMTRANSITION

Transition to biomass society with a complementary currency

Posted by steve on April 4, 2013

Cover_biomass_currency This white paper discusses the challenge of replacing fossil-fueled supply chains with less energy-intense renewable solutions whilst rapidly reducing the carbon in the atmosphere. It suggests that a complimentary currency, backed by carbon fees and pledges from landowners to sequester carbon using soil and biochar, could be the answer.

Read the paper here. A complementary currency R4

Brazilian town shows way to sustainable culture with arts and crafts

Posted by steve on March 19, 2013

Tradentes’ well-preserved colonial buildings and streets

They started to interact with the local community to design and manufacture decorative artworks almost entirely from recyclable materials such as used wood, wood reclaimed from old houses, cans, paper, etc. Toti trained a group of craftsmen, getting them to produce pieces of art according to his designs as they learned each technique. No design was exact; each craftsman gave to the pieces a little of their own identity. Locals who only had agriculture and cattle breeding as a living saw their lives change through art.

Then they started a program to teach youngsters arts and craftsmanship to ensure new craftsmen come in to revitalize their production. The whole area is bubbling over with arts and crafts as people learn from and inspire each other, try new things and develop new techniques. And the tourist trade they attract from the Sao Paolo area means they can make a living at it. Today, some 150 craftsmen work directly or indirectly in this project attracting thousands of tourists to the town and its surrounding villages each year.

Just one of the many shops along the way

All along the road you meet shop after shop selling their own variants of the local handiwork, and throughout the area, hotels, shops and boarding houses as well as private houses are adorned with this local, colourful art.

These carvings greeted me in my room at the B&B

Toti is a visionary but not without a sense of humour and play. Throughout the prolific production you see a love of life and nature, a reverence for living things, a ”don’t take yourself too seriously” playfulness and flourishes of colour.

 

And he is a visionary in the sustainability sense too. Oficina de Agosto won the prize Prêmio Planeta Casa 2004, the award from Editora Abril and Casa Claudia for the companies that best promote the conservation of nature and sustainable development.

Just visiting the area, the first temptation is to buy a lot of artworks for your wall at home, and the second temptation is to get going to create some for yourself. The whole area exudes contagious creativity and entrepreneurship. But it goes deeper. My visit to the area got me reflecting on eco-village communities and communities in general. Involving the community in producing art to adorn the homes of inhabitants and tourists is not just an economic exercise. It has a deeper, cultural meaning. Vibrant, ingenious, playful, insightful art is a cultural expression. It states “here in this place we have time to appreciate life, our situation allows us time to create beauty. There is no lack of the basics here”.
The art, in reflecting what is appreciated and enjoyed even acts to express aspiration. It says “we aspire to happiness, to abundance, to happy, dancing, harmonious people”.
In fact, Toti has given us a clue to how we can be part of creating a healthy, healing culture: to set up workshops and involve the community in producing art. Invite people who would otherwise not have the opportunity to learn handicraft techniques and to try their creativity.
The objects and themes you choose can reflect your community’s appreciation of what you have, and your aspiration to what you see would be healthy and healing.
Toti gives us another clue to developing a sustainable, resilient culture: once you start producing things by hand, be it crafts or houses, people learn from each other, and the young people learn too. Just as the techniques of arts and crafts spread to a whole region, so too could the techniques of natural building and organic food production spread.
Start saving materials, gather your tools and go get some paint and visit Totis website to get into a playful, creative mood. The transition to a creative, sustainable and resilient world awaits you.

The citizen pays all, whilst what she wants is taxed and doesn’t want is allowed free.

Posted by steve on February 19, 2013

The engine of the economy is the consumer citizen.

The engine of the economy is the consumer citizen.

Preparing a project to explore the finer art of taxation I created this diagram to illustrate the various fee and tax relationships that exist between the entities in the political economy.

Some rather striking things emerge from this simple diagram: there are a lot of transactions going on, separating them all out from each other is going to be a major task.

Another thing that strikes me is that the consumer, whilst being in the centre of the economy, is actually surrounded by the corporate-state economy that she is actually fuelling.

Let us consider what the average citizen wants:

To live in a society where everyone has a job.
Situation: work is taxed heavily in most countries

To give coming generations the opportunity to enjoy the same cheap energy they do

Situation: whilst work is taxed heavily, it is much cheaper for corporations to replace work with automated, fossil-fuel powered machines. In general, it is more profitable to sell things newly made than services or repaired goods.

To have a thriving economy where people buy and sell from each other in abundance

Situation: most transactions are taxed with VAT or sales tax, in Sweden 2o% of what individuals pay is tax.

To live in a clean environment

Situation: companies supplied by long supply chains leave behind  massive pollution for every kg of product they sell or every unit of service they provide. The fees paid by companies for recycling and waste are only a tiny fraction of all the other taxes.

To use natural resources like metals sparingly

Situation: the tax framework makes it more profitable to mine iron and other metals anew than to recycle existing materials

To have politicians deliver on promises

Situation: there are no bonuses or taxes on politicians beyond those for normal citizens. Regardless of performance, politicians get paid. The politician role comes with generous pension rights, too.

The political economic system is something we inherited from the the century before last. It is well due for an overhaul. A good start would be to collect revenue to run public services by putting fees on things we want less of.

Read more in Capitalism: a hobby