Posted by steve on June 27, 2010
Posted by steve on June 24, 2010
Yesterday, the Swedish National Institute of Economic Research issued a forecast of growth of 3.7% to 2012. In a manner rather atypical for the newspaper, SVD today slams into the Institute with an article heavily criticising them for measuring the wrong things. “They measure the trees but forget to assess the woods” says reporter Jacob Bursell. (my translation).
The article goes on to state how the clinical, detailed and lifeless analysis diverts attention from people and the real problems facing us.
He goes on: “Economic thinking is putting the whole world into debt. The cheques being written today cannot be paid either by coming generations or in Earth resources. We go running towards the abyss hoping someone will invent a parachute, not pausing once to consider if we are measuring the right things”.
We choose to measure our society against one single axiom -the indisputable good of economic growth.
I agree, and applaud the newspaper SVD in speaking up against the work of the Institute – accepting of course that the Institute is only doing its job. It is assigned to measure and forecast using GNP by a government who should know better. Furthermore, its assignment does not include discerning between good growth (i.e. sales of food ) and “bad growth” (i.e. economic activities that that harm humans or the environment – for example by churning out massive amounts of carbon dioxide ).
More critical thinking is needed if we are to develop society to be able to show resilience to the challenges ahead – including our climate, energy depletion and economic difficulties.
Posted by steve on June 21, 2010
For more information on CO2 go to the site CO2 now.
Posted by steve on June 16, 2010
Transition Conference Day Three Day three was rather diminished as I had to get to London to catch the last flight back to Sweden the same day. I did manage however to attend the Web meeting with Ed Mitchell.
What Transition are doing is truly revolutionary, While most charities would aim to set up websites that mirror the look and feel of the central organization, Transition in the UK are taking a strictly “hands off” approach. Countries, continents, cities, districts and neighbourhoods may set up their webs as best they will. On the other hand, every transitioner in the world is welcome to sign up on their site, (and post links to their own) as is every initiative and project. This way, the central site will connect people, initiatives and projects without having to host them.
The same applies for International subject groups and discussions, which the new site will host. I love the open, hands-off, yet coordinating and networking role Ed and Transition have been able to create. I wish them luck with getting funding for the next project, which will pill all these things together real time via a giant RSS aggregator. In the meantime, I will be carrying on with the Transition Sweden site on the NING platform, hoping to take some inspiration from the UK site and linking in where I can.
Posted by steve on
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 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
• 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
Posted by steve on June 15, 2010
It’s nine o’clock in the morning at the Transition Conference and time for Pattern Language. This is what I came here for. The new Transition Handbook will be based around pattern language, and as a member of the steering group in Sweden I feel it is imperative I get a handle on it.
Although I must admit it got off to a strange start. Sitting in a circle, we were all asked to express our feelings about how it feels to be a man/woman and how in my case, being a man can contribute positively to Transition. I get overwhelmed by my experience of living in Sweden where you get the feeling from many a woman that your manly attitudes, ways of thinking, predilection to follow your hormones rather than feelings and inability to put the toilet lid down are the root cause of all of Sweden’s troubles today and that if we would just get out of the way and let women show us how to do it all would be well.
I open my mouth to blurt out my inferiority complex and realise I have come to the wrong meeting. I am in the one about gender issues. I mumble something apologetic and start to leave, being followed by a couple of others. So I am relieved at least I am not the only one. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by steve on June 12, 2010
The end of the oil age is nigh, and politicians are working on their austerity measures and speeches about crisis. Everyone seems to have a good idea about how things should be done, but the illusion that it is working is fading as oil leaks decimate three US states, politicians are caught with their fingers in the till and the effects of global warming surprise even the most updated weathermen.
Enter the Transition Towns Conference. A huge undertaking, and mostly self organising. Three hundred and fifty people in one room organising themselves into 30 groups, follow up groups, expert groups etc. And then organising field trips and lectures and even an evening of impromptu entertainment. You just don’t do this, get people to travel thousands of miles to talk about that which they need to talk about without any prepared agenda. Or do you? Maybe this is a taste where we need to go. We know we have a problem, we know we want to solve it. We have some ideas maybe, but we need to get together. I guess it’s rather like the way doctors treat a patient lying like a lifeless package in intensive care. The surgeon, the internal medicine specialist, the anaesthetist, the neurologist, the oncologist all have to decide on the way forward in conference.
Most of us have never met before, but with some clever warming up exercises and formation of “buddy groups” we are all raring to go. The power of the open space technique never fails to amaze and astound me as before my eyes people rush up from their seats to start topics for discussion.
Later, in a theme session on national hubs I meet people from six countries who are going through the same process we are in Sweden, forming a national organisation to support local transition groups. Each shares their experiences succinctly, and the discussion moves effectively around the topics of our interest: the hub’s roles and way of working.
(I’ll be posting more on the national hub work from subsequent system.)
My open space group was to discuss local food supply systems. Again, we managed to produces a pretty good overview of the various options and group members were able to provide examples of most of them. (I’ll post on this group later.)
Follow up activities fell out of the group work, and the Transition network website will provide the discussion and information sharing platform after the conference is over.
And that is just day one. It really is a wonderfully positive experience to be a conference like this, with a bunch of diverse but very switched on and sincere people. And to be under the care of the Transition Network people, who have been meticulously developing the techniques behind the deceptively simple and smooth workshop methodology. Just like the doctors, they want the patient to live and want to do their bit. In this case the patient is the life support system we rely on and the social infrastructure placed on it. And getting the patient off intensive care is prizing society off the addiction to the oil that is flowing through every vein of the precarious set up that comprises up out living arrangements.
More on day two later!
Posted by steve on June 10, 2010
The moment we started tapping the vast reservoirs of oil that the Earth is endowed with, we started coming closer to the end of the oil age. I am sure the question was raised: how many generations away would the end be?
We who are alive today in the early 2000s can also ask ourselves “how many more generations can enjoy the benefits of oil?”
Will our children or our grandchildren witness scarcity of oil and the inevitable spiralling prices that come from demand exceeding supply? When the oil age started, how long did they think it could last?
The answers to these questions are a lot simpler than one could imagine if you take a wide view. Way back in the 1950s, scientists working for Shell published academic papers on world fossil fuel use, time frames and consequences. In fact, one of their predictions – that US production would peak in 1970 – came true that exact year.
So the end has been in sight since the 50’s. In fact, oil discoveries peaked in 1963. Since them less and less oil has been discovered. So much analysis says the end of the oil age, the end of business plans relying on cheap, abundant supplies of this fossil fuel is about…… this generation…. YOUR lifetime.
Why are we carrying on as if our modus operandi can be applied indefinately? Maybe planning for an equitable, eco-system preserving end would be more sensible?
I’d like to hear you views. If you are unsure of how or if the whole oil story is unravelling before our eyes do take a look at a brief history of the oil age, my article published on SOCYBERTY
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
The following is a voucher from Austria. Investors in a solar power project get a certain free allowance of electricity.