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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Envisioning a world without work

Posted by steve on January 7, 2013

We are getting closer to 1984 and Brave New World, where people work but that has nothing to do with the cost of living, rather something they just have to do. In this article in the Guardian,   analyses the disparity between the value add workers bring, to the amount of wages they take home.

The theory has been that if companies retain a higher percentage of profits, investment will grow. Looking at the data gives another picture: as wages plummet, partly thanks to the influx of workers from Easter Europe, firms take on more staff to do menial jobs rather than automate.

And the gap between wages for workers and the top-end salaries widens.

Sadly, this is a very negative preparation for peak oil. Reduce wages as far as possible so that workers can become cheap replacements for automation.

In a related post by Guardian’s Economic Editor,  LARRY ELLIOT,  he explains why more jobs may be bad for British workers.  Low wage and falling investment are symptoms of a failing economy.

Sustainable investment

Posted by steve on August 17, 2011

Sustainable investment is for investors who believe economic growth is close to being curtailed by lack of raw materials, energy shortfalls, restriction on greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of a sustained economic downturn .

The challenges that face many business operations will come from:

  • Rising prices or supply shortfalls of fossil fuels in their supply chains
  • Increasing pressure to eliminate greenhouse gasses from their supply chains
  • Lack of access to capital

Transforming operations towards sustainability, then, means creating resilience by:

  • Reducing reliance on fossil fuels in the supply chain
  • Reducing greenhouse gasses in the supply chain
  • Ensuring energy security from renewable sources.
  • Increasing stability of money supply even when economic downturn persists
  • Concentrating on supplying necessities that will always be in demand even in hard times: chains supplying food and shelter, including woodland and arable land.
  • Increasing social capital: when financial capital fails, communities helping each other solves problems otherwise left to markets in times of booming activity.

How do sustainable investments benefit investors?
If business operations are likely to shrink generally, sustainable investments can provide the investor with things they need that they would otherwise buy. Again, food and shelter are such returns.
Sustainable investments will continue to produce dividend from sustainable food and energy production at a reasonable price whilst operations with a percentage of fossil fuel dependency in its supply lines will meet rising prices. Sustainable operations become more and more competitive as fuel prices rise.

What are the specific returns to investors from Open World Villages?
As open world villages support community development and provide food and housing in a sustainable way, they will increase in value compared to living arrangements dependant on fossil fuel. If you expect massive fossil fuel hikes or shortages, then you can expect higher dividends from investing in Open World Villages and for their value to increase many-fold.
The share –swap scheme. All shareholders are invited to participate in the services for dividends plan: shareholders are. Depending on the size of their investment, may be entitled to up to 50% discount on purchase of homes in an Open world Village.
Share sales. Open world villages start off as letters of intent to purchase land, and mature as highly efficient living arrangements for many families. Your shares have the ability to increase in value as villages mature. And as shareholders get massive discounts, should you not wish to swap shares for homes you will be able to sell your shares to potential homebuyers.

Certain restrictions apply. Please contact Open World Villages for details

We are in dire need of a paradigm shift to bring us into sustainability

Posted by steve on June 16, 2010

We are in dire need of a paradigm shift. One that brings us into sustainability. Before I explain what this shift could entail I need to spend a short time talking about paradigms.

The word first entered more general use in 1962, when Thomas Kuhn released the book The Structure of the Scientific Revolution. For him a shift of paradigm was a change of one way of thinking to another when “one conceptual world view is replaced by another”.

In business, the concept has been used to explore ways of thinking and working that are so common and ingrained in the organization that staff probably do not know they are using them. In this respect, a paradigm gives a HOW often phrased in everyday terms as “the best way to…… is to ….”.

Consultants work to identify the paradigm and bring it to the surface, to examine how functional is it given the new business reality.

So a paradigm shift occurs when there is a major change in circumstances or attitudes.

Take the paradigm “The best way to calculate sums is to use one of our mechanical adding machines”. This paradigm became obsolete when they invented electrical calculators.

Here are some other paradigms that have shifted

  • The best way to discourage murder is to hang murderers. (Changes when taking human life is valued differently and research into prevention reveals other possibilities.)
  • The best way to keep in contact electronically is by e-mail. (Changes when social networking sites blossom.)

What situation do we have today that is different from say, ten years ago? Well, we have a growing awareness of the downsides of environmental depletion and destruction caused by our way of life. Emission of carbon dioxide are over the 350 safe limit and oil production has probably peaked. For more on this see my “back of the envelope” explanation of the end of the oil age. We have to explore the paradigms underlying the set-up.

The following text borrows from work done by SURE on the Krakow declaration, soon to be released.

The current paradigm holds that the best way to provide daily needs is via a system that stimulates global human attachment to consumption and to economic growth (as measured by GDP and other indicators). We are convinced that this paradigm is essentially unsustainable and counterproductive.

The system involves human actions that contribute to climate change and to the drawdown of the world’s limited resources. This further limits the capability of ecosystems to provide valuable services for future generations and reduces their access to mineral and biological resources as well.

The application of this paradigm results in:

• Unlimited emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases

• Unrestricted depletion of non-renewable (fossil and nuclear) fuels

• Deforestation

• Reckless management of water resources with scarcity of drinking water on one hand and accumulations and flooding on the other

• An economic system that invests in operations with high amount of external burden on the environment

If this paradigm continues to be the main driver of human activity, it will lead to continuing acceleration of climate change, to devastation through flooding, weather extremes, rises in sea level, loss of biodiversity and desertification; to the drawdown of natural resources of all kinds. Furthermore, and equally important, it will not deliver that which it is set up to do, failing ultimately to tackle widespread poverty and human suffering.

Moving towards a sustainable Europe in a sustainable world

We offer a new paradigm: the best approach to providing daily needs to citizens is to configure the system so its capacity to provide services increases whilst at the same time biological and mineral resources stay available, and ecosystems that provide essential services remain intact.

This paradigm is characterised by

• High and visible degree of social equitability

• Limiting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases

• Limiting depletion of non-renewable (fossil and nuclear) fuels

• Forest cover preservation and regrowth particularly of tropical forests

• Sustainable management of water resources throughout the world

• An economic system that enables investment in creation of daily needs services that work without unsustainable external effects

The Units of Trust scheme investing in local, sustainable enterprises

Posted by steve on June 7, 2010

Units of trust are simple investment devices based on preferential debentures. Put simply, you invest money in a company you purchase from regularly. You do not get back money primarily from the company, but you get what money can buy – goods, services, or use of physical assets. When you wish, you can get the original investment back.

Of course, any company can issue an investment instrument like this, but we believe a local scheme has several advantages.

1) Education: the effort needed to explain to the public and to entrepreneurs is shared amongst those companies participating

2) Recognition. Local consumers will recognise the scheme and a shared scheme carries more credibility

3) Comparison. If units are valued similarly across the board, investors will be able to compare and contrast offerings from local companies.


Vouchers are one way for business owners to clarify and concretize the benefits of investing in a unit. The vouchers can illustrate usufruct benefits like the use of premises at cost, or a share in the normal production of the company at reduced costs. It can be a good idea to show vouchers to prospective investors so they can quickly grasp how their investment will affect their economy.

The voucher design can vary between companies, but the logotype for the scheme shows how the offering is part of a local business development initiative. As units are initially all for a standard sum, vouchers help investors compare opportunities.

Example #1: investors in sheep get one free meat delivery a year and free sausage making courses

Example #2: investors in a Market Garden get 30% off purchases

Example #3: investors get free help with setting up a local Unit of Trust scheme as well as marketing help

The following is a voucher from Austria. Investors in a solar power project get a certain free allowance of electricity.

Read more here. See the film here. Read the white paper.

Connecting people to sustainability: the uncomfortable truths

Posted by steve on January 11, 2010

Attending  a recent workshop on sustainable development and regional development, I got involved in a working group looking at the challenge of connecting people and sustainability. The whole exercise gave food for thought so I thought I would share my notes here on my blog.

Suppose you were on the management team of an organization that was failing to live up to the expectations of its owners and, more worrying, showed even less prospects of doing it in the future. What would you do? How would you approach the challenge?

One approach is to use six sigma tools and the process called SIX SIGMA RDMAIC. Here is an overview:

  • Recognize what is most important for your organization, and identify the key initiatives that will have the most impact to your organization.
  • Define the problem, the voice of the customer, and the project goals, specifically.
  • Measure key aspects of the current process and collect relevant data.
  • Analyze the data to investigate and verify cause-and-effect relationships. Determine what the relationships are, and attempt to ensure that all factors have been considered. Seek out root cause of the defect under investigation.
  • Improve or optimize the current process based upon data analysis using techniques such as design of experiments, poka yoke or mistake proofing, and standard work to create a new, future state process. Set up pilot runs to establish process capability.
  • Control the future state process to ensure that any deviations from target are corrected before they result in defects. Control systems are implemented such as statistical process control, production boards, and visual workplaces and the process is continuously monitored.

Each of these steps has a whole tool-kit associated with them. you can choose tools from the tool-kit and use them separately, or choose to run the whole RDMAIC process using several tools for each step.

Suppose the organization was Europe. And the management team recognises that Europe is well on the path of coutner sustainabiltiy and will face major problems related to resource and envrinmental depletion, and that more economic gowth will not guarantee better living.

Our group took a couple of the tools of six sigma and applied them to defining the problem.  The first tool is called asking why five times. You can read more on this tool here.

Here are the results of our group’s  work which was given the issue: People in Europe not connected to sustainability

  1. Why? Because they do not know about it or ways to support it
  2. Why not? Because they have not come into contact with it in their lives
  3. Why not? Because none of the major contact points include it or are set up to encompass it
  4. Why not? Because they would become politically unpopular or economically non-viable if they did
  5. Why is that? Their organisations find themselves in such a context for historical reasons

To analyse the root causes further, we applied the tool called an (Ishikawa Diagram) or a (Cause-and-Effect Diagram) or a (Fishbone Diagram)

(Click on the diagram to enlarge it.) This exercise was extremely uncomfortable to do.  The more we discussed, the more we could see how the very fabric of society is imbued with counter sustainability, from deepest held beliefs to physical infrastructure. As an individual, even with years of working with sustainability behind you, you live in a world that is talking and acting as if action on sustainability is not urgent, indeed it is under discussion if it is needed at all. And well inside any conference room in a gathering of sustainability- oriented individuals, the way forward is often still something for discussion.

These findings were given the title “the uncomfortable truths”.

Standard practice is to study which areas to prioritize, and to create an improvement or remediation plan.

In our case, the aims of the conference host CURE, the Convention for Urban and Rural Europe are:

  • to offer – at the time of the Mid-Term Reviews of EU programmes in 2008-9 – recommendation on policy frameworks and measures which will assist a sustainable approach to the future of urban and rural areas in Europe, achieved through effective partnership between governments and civil society
  • to build a partnership of organisations who are committed to building sustainable urban-rural relations throughout Europe

Studying the diagram, we felt the root causes we could influence were

  1. Indicators
  2. Information and education
  3. Paradigms
  4. Policies

To get started on working with these root causes the deepest held beliefs – our paradigms – is an obvious place to start.

To return to the Management Team analogy for one second: corporations often face this problem, that deep–seated beliefs that have been at the root of the very success of the organization no longer apply in a changed business environment. The process of addressing them is one of the cornerstones of the work of management guru Peter Senge, which he terms “mental models”.

The discipline of mental models starts with turning the mirror inward; learning to unearth our internal pictures of the world, to bring them to the surface and hold them rigorously to scrutiny. It also includes the ability to carry on ‘learningful’ conversations that balance inquiry and advocacy, where people expose their own thinking effectively and make that thinking open to the influence of others. (Senge 1990: 9)

One simple exercise is to have a two column list. On the left, the paradigm or mental model. On the right, reasons why it is counter productive given the current or future expected environment.

The notes below show how far we came in our session.

We need to reach a level of economic growth in order to be able to clean up our society Drives economic growth further, and more counter.sustainable investment
Green means putting back progress People become negative to change
People NEED cars Sustainability becomes “what can we put in our fuel tanks”

Free e-book: Get ahead of the curve

Posted by steve on December 24, 2009

Download now

Download now

I wrote this book, and am giving it away, because I am concerned that we citizens of Earth are heading for a crisis caused by the way we run things. Not just an economic crisis but a humanitarian crisis .

This e-book will explain the five major reasons I see why you need to start re-thinking your business and your way of life.
You might be thinking: “ Why haven’t I heard of this before?” Well, you have. It’s just that it has been a long time coming and you are probably like most people, bound up in daily life, with your own causes and issues and distractions. And the situation is complicated. That’s why I have tried to boil it all down to five aspects you can monitor and work out for yourself.

You might be thinking: “Why now?” Well, it’s been coming a long time. In 2005 the peak of oil production, or production of easy oil, was reached. Three years for the effects to work their way through supply chains and the World sees the first shocks – rapid rise of prices followed by economic instability.

Understanding these five simple things will get you started on rearranging and rethinking the way you do things in your work, in your business and in your daily life. Specifically you will need to think about where you are investing your time and money as an employee, investor, business owner and consumer.

Whatever you do, don’t just believe me, think about it and find out for yourself. Download here 5_guide

Updates to Units of Trust with Slow money

Posted by steve on November 6, 2009

One thing I just realised about the UNITS OF TRUST scheme that I have been promoting, and am working on here in Sweden, is that is promotes the idea of slow money.

One way of thinking about resilience in the local economy is to consider the Permaculture approach where the idea is to slow down the flow of energy and nutrients through the system you are managing. A resilient local economy is one that slows down the flow of money away from the area – to keep it in circulation as long as possible.

One aim of a UOT scheme is to support the development of a local economy resilient, among other things, to hikes in energy costs. To understand how UOT schemes could do this, it helps to have an overview of household expenditure. As shown in the graph below (from UK national Statistics online, data for 2008) household economies are perilously dependent on fossil fuels. For non-tax expenditure, 42% is on transport, housing, fuel and power and food. All three are highly energy intensive. If the price of energy goes up, so will the proportion of the household budget taken by these essentials. Less money will be available for other purchases sending the overall consumer economy down.

Household expenditure UK

The localised economy (stimulated by local investment in essentials) will be more resilient in this case. Firstly, because less transport is involved, and secondly because there are more organizations providing these essential services. To take a negative example; if local firms are focused on manufacturing consumer goods, and food is being brought into the area, any downturn in consumer spending from increased fuel costs will put these jobs at risk and raise food prices.

As fuel costs rise, so does the amount of money “leaking” out of the local economy into the fuel supply chains. This leakage may even mean that bank loans are hard to get and moving house will be more difficult. It makes sense to improve the house you have, retrofit it with renewable technology and insulation as well as shorten local supply chains. This work creates business for local entrepreneurs. So again, by stimulating the development of these local enterprises the local economy becomes more resilient.

Units of trust are created at the end of the supply chain, that is to say consumers invest in the organization providing them with their basics. This does not mean that money will be unavailable further up the chain. The companies that supply these essentials, like food provision and housing in turn will themselves need to invest. For example, an organic farmer may want to invest in wind power to serve increases in customers. In this case, the farmer can use some of the investment from her own UOT offering to invest in wind power. The wind power entrepreneur can offer investments to local farmers who want to use renewables. In this way, investment is stimulated all around the local community.

More reading: See the updated white paper on Units of Trust

See the video about SLOW MONEY

Mr Oil is already making a long, slow exit. You might not be seeing it though…

Posted by steve on July 5, 2009

slow-exit2Since the end of the First World War, oil has been flowing into almost every aspect of our daily lives: as fuel, as basis for chemicals, as plastic, fabrics etc. In fact today, it is hard to think of a product that does NOT contain a large portion of oil or oil energy.

Oil is such a compact source or energy – one cup is enough to pull a small car up the Eiffel tower. Compare that to a chunk of wood the same size – it is mostly water! As I write this there is no known source of energy that is so convenient, compact and easy to transport, that can power the millions of vehicles and machines all over the world.

If you think that oil will be available to drive business indefinitely, think again. The fact is, oil is just not being found any more in large quantities. And we are using more than is being found.


The long exit was first announced in 1956 by petroleum geologist M King Hubbert. He calculated the US would peak in 1970 and the world around 2000. The long exit started in 1964 when world oil discoveries peaked. Since then, year on year, less oil has been discovered. There have been no significant discoveries of new oil since 2002. In 2001 there were 8 large scale discoveries, and in 2002 there were 3 such discoveries. In 2003 there were no large scale discoveries of oil. For every year since the mid 1980s, annual production has been greater than annual discoveries.

Since 2005, there has been no real increase in world oil production, remaining at around 85 million barrels a day. But it gets worse. The oil remaining in the ground is harder to get. The easy stuff was extracted long ago. At the beginning of the oil age the equivalent of one barrel of oil invested would bring you 100. Nowadays, depending on the oil field, it is between one and 18 you get back.

Many argue I am overstating the case. But many, most even, are heavily invested in Business As Usual and would be hit negatively if people started to change their ways.


When planning your business, daily life and investments, factor in decreasing availability and increasing price of oil. Oil prices dictate energy prices so this applies to all energy sources, even renewable ones.

Things to look for:

Where am I or my business vulnerable? To what extent is my business or my daily life reliant on uninterrupted supplies of oil based products? What alternatives are available now? What services do I rely on that might be increasing in price soon?

White paper on Powerdown

Posted by steve on May 16, 2009



… the main business challenge of the 2010’s.  What organizations need to know about the impact of liquid fuels on communities as oil prices hike and availability wanes. For officers in the public and private sector alike, this paper describes 16 main aspects of the coming energy situation. Organisations need to consider these 16 in order to begin to craft energy depletion management strategies.


Video envisioning: Units of Trust

Posted by steve on May 15, 2009

Imagine it were possible to, instead of just consuming, invest your money in local sustainable enterprises. As long as your money is with these enterprises, they provide you with your daily needs at a lower cost. You would need to work less and less as time goes on, with more time over to do what you love doing. If you like the video, do download the White Paper.