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Archive for the ‘industrial ecology’ Category

Before human beings are capable of correcting the dysfunctionality and the damages of the unsustainable socio-technical environment we have developed, we need to see the reality we have created in all its ugliness. However we must not stop there. Our efforts, discomfort and sacrifice unveiling the truth would futile if we do not move beyond that point. We must be as passionate and creative about generating solutions as we have been denouncing the problems. We must reach a balance between both roles if we wanna make it.

Ocean cleaup array able to remove 7,250,000 Tons of plastic from the sea. Source: Boyanslat.com)

Ocean cleaup array able to remove 7,250,000 Tons of plastic from the sea. Source: Boyanslat.com

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Industrial Ecology is one of the main tools in my approach to sustainability. It is essentially shaping our industrial human made systems like natural ecosystems. This video is a very basic and quick lesson in this discipline. Enjoy.

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Source: Transfuture.net

If you have ever felt in awe about nature, if you have ever wondered how nature moves, builds or communicates, if you have ever felt tempted to copy nature’s design we are both partner’s in crime. But it is not just us.  Great minds throughout history have purposely looked at Nature as a teacher and a source of inspiration for art, science and human values. Now more than ever before we must embark the human race on a one way trip back to nature.

Over the last three decades our greatest talent and entrepreneurial strength has been transferred from the productive economy to the speculative economy of the financial sector. Some of the most advanced knowledge in mathematics and computing has been utilized to create incredibly sophisticated financial products like Credit Default Swaps (CDS) or Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO). Such products have become the equivalent of an invasive species wreaking havoc in our economic environment driven by a lethal combination of compulsive greed, irresponsibility and a complete lack of the disregard for the impact they could create not just in the US but the global economy and its people.

We need to restore our economic environment by re-investing in the reality-based productive economy. Government stimulus and subsidies on emerging clean technologies have had some positive effects but they are not enough. We need a fundamental change of mindset, a cultural shift that can allow us to break away from the blinding dogma of unlimited growth and exploitation spread by the aging speculative corporatism. Wall Street has a legitimate function in the market but unfortunately that function of creating credit and markets for companies has been forgotten in the feeding frenzy of compulsive speculation. The romanticized mantra ‘Greed is Good’ has its days numbered. It reflects a mental condition that perpetuates the unsustainable global economic and industrial system which is literally devouring the resources of the planet and endangering every living being on earth.

Given the current limitations of governments and other institutions to recover the control of what has become a runaway global financial system prone to bringing more and more instability to the world economy, we must take personal and collective responsibility looking for alternative ways to save our economies and ultimately our planet.  Given the increasingly complex adaptive nature of our world, it is risky to make hard predictions of what lies ahead. Proof of it is the extreme difference in opinions from the most prominent economists. This is not surprising when one realizes the non-deterministic, for all practical purposes unpredictable nature of our economy, our society and the world we have created.  To get an idea of what we are dealing with, the weather is another example of complex adaptive system.

In my opinion we must not lose precious time striving for accurate predictions before moving into action. On the contrary, we must use our immense creative potential to restore the sustainability our socio-technical human environment, what in turn will restore the fragile life-sustaining system on the Biosphere.  This makes sustainability no longer a mere hip trend, ideology or a market sector. We must thus embrace sustainability as a set of life-saving secular principles which we no longer can afford to compromise or negotiate for any other interest.  Protecting and restoring life has become the first and only priority we can forever conceive. Individual or collective comfort and all other interests will need to accommodate to this absolute priority, the only one that offers a chance to our survival. The time of self-interest and bargaining is long gone and it is not coming back.

Many people are consciously or subconsciously far more aware of the global systemic risk we face than they can take emotionally. Denial and evasion from reality are therefore expected human reactions to such overwhelming predicament. But this is in my opinion the greatest risk we face. Winston Churchill acknowledged such human risk in his famous quote ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself’.

Global Warming and pollution theme with cracked land and the cityscapeFor the first time in history we are at the brink of a global collapse or a global renewal. Never before in history have we had the power to destroy and to restore a complete planet. So the moral of the story is quite obvious. We must embrace creation over destruction, life over death, the emerging sustainable paradigm over the poisonous and aging industrial paradigm.

So how do we take individual and collective responsibility to stop this runaway train which is the dysfunctional global financial system derailing the world’s economy? Each of us must become engaged in the restoration of the real, productive economy. We must re-grow a sustainable economy backed up by solid assets and ultimately by a finite natural capital.  We must make sustainable first and foremost our perception of the world realizing that the natural world is a life-sustaining extension of us in the same way that our heart or our lungs are. From that realization we must move to action with a sustainable awareness that will ensure everything we do is life-preserving and life centered. The critical place where we must apply such consciousness is ‘what makes the world go around’, our economy.

We must upgrade our economic and industrial systems with sustainable models that have been designed and evaluated to assure a life-enhancing impact in our human and the natural systems. Our human infrastructure must become and function as a natural ecosystem so that we can reintegrate ourselves into Nature. Subsequently we must make a transition to a circular or closed loop economy system (eco-systemic) where we decrease waste, resource use, pollution while creating a nourishing, symbiotic and ultimately restoring relationship between the economy, society and the natural world.

There is a myriad of alleged green technological and organizational models that have already been implemented or promoted. In fact there are so many so-called green solutions out there that unfortunately a large sector of the public is confused, intimidated and worse of all, turned off.  My first answer to this situation is not to reinvent the wheel. I call for finding the wheel. I am referring to the best resource we could ever turn to for solution models and strategies,  Nature. In the next posts I will elaborate on how nature can help us design all the models we need to reestablish the sustainability of our human infrastructure and the planet.

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When someone becomes successful at what they do in life, particularly financially successful, almost always criticism, controversy and myth folows. Those in the incumbent positions resent having to share with or loosing their success to someone else, to a competitor. Sustainability policies, cleantech and green products are subject to the same unfair human emotion and the resulting myths and misinformation. I invite you to read my Examiner.com article split in two parts with their respective links below.

How green are green products? A life cycle perspective (part 1)

How green are green products? A life cycle perspective (part 2)

Source: Proctor & Gamble

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brownanemones1In order to transcend the current state of unsustainability without giving up quality of life we humans need to transform our industrial infrastructure reshaping it as a living system and integrating it into the larger natural life-sustaining ecosystem. This means our actions and technical developments need to operate as elements of a living ecosystem, capitalizing and thriving in the abundance of symbiotic relationships.
The goal is then to emulate ecosystems which generate a myriad of symbiotic relationships that enable maximization of resources and minimization of waste and any other disturbances to the natural ecosystem. In nature waste from one element must be used as food by another one creating a waste-less closed loop of nutrients in the form of energy and materials. In fact ecosystems use such closed loops to manage zero waste generation.
We can then infer the way to create a completely efficient human development and economy will require us to operate in a waste-less closed-loop harmony with the Environment. The translation of symbiosis, more generally known as mutualism, from the natural world to the socio-technical human world is industrial symbiosis, a synergistic state where multiple industries utilize one another’s waste or by-products yielding environmental and commercial benefits greater than the sum of the individual benefits that would yield acting alone…
Would you like to see the complete illustrated report? Visit my Emergent Horizons site.

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File:Deepwater Horizon oil spill - May 24, 2010.jpg“…researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory estimate the combined economic costs of U.S. oil dependence to be more than $5 trillion (2008 dollars) since 1970. In 2008 alone, the combined cost was nearly $600 billion. In 2009, a year in which oil prices averaged just $62 per barrel and U.S. oil consumption was significantly reduced compared to 2005-2007 levels; the United States still ran a $200 billion trade deficit in crude oil and petroleum products. In that context, the government spending of $120 billion over 8 years—particularly as it is directly tied to high penetration rates of grid-enabled vehicles—can be thought of as a relatively affordable down payment on future economic stability.” (Economic Impact of the Electrification Roadmap by the Electrification Coalition. April 2010).

So the roadblock to get off oil is NOT the lack of business case. Neither is it the technical barriers. We have the technical capacity to make a viable transition away from oil. So let’s not have any more tolerance for that obsolete political and special interest group rhetoric that is threatening our very own life sustaining eco-system, let alone our economies in the Gulf of Mexico, in the US and by default at the Global level.

On a more philosophical level, unlike the natural world we humans have an incredible resistance to change. We fail to understand the natural law of “adapt to the environment or die” which every organism knows about and obeys. Those organisms, who have dared to defy such law such as the dinosaurs, have become extinct. That is essentially what we are facing as human beings, the risk of extinction for defiant stupidity driven by a sense of attachment to the unsustainable industrial and economic model. For example, resisting oil companies and gas engine part makers and are blindly and emotionally resisting such change because they are dependent (attached) to the money and familiarity comfort they have with those products. They do not want to face the reality of change which cannot be defied. They succumb to the powerful and detrimental emotions of GREED and FEAR which cloud any potential for judgment and sense of opportunity.

There are many scientific third party studies showing our full potential to a much quicker transition from oil than the one we are supposed to be embarked on. We could have gotten off oil decades ago, but the technology to do so is said to be 10 years ago every ten years! That could make any one suspicious. That has been my experience with Fuel Cell Vehicles. One of my favorite studies showing our overall capacity (except for will) to expedite our transition from oil is “Winning the Oil Game” by Amory Lovins, founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, an institution with which I am collaborating now.

Therefore every time I hear our leaders or so they call them, stating technological barriers prevent us from getting off oil, and the dirty aging industrial paradigm, including the US President this morning, my intelligence and whole persona feel insulted.

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