System description – where are the disconnects? #2

Three overwhelming global disasters are facing us – climate change, the Coronavirus pandemic, and unknown, transformative socio- economic changes in the Coronavirus aftermath.  Some of these socio-economic changes, like the reduction in air travel, if sustained, will have positive effects in support of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Time to take a step back and look at what is not working before making any changes.

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System description – where are the disconnects? #1

The COVID crisis is exposing many ways in which society isn’t working. We need to get to the root cause. What better way than to start by mapping the system as-is? My recent post system description gave a high-level description of the system we live in. We identified six entities and twenty-one flows. All but two of the entities are man-made, so if we can make something and it doesn’t work work well we can surely improve it? Once we have mapped the system we need to look for disconnects. Disconnects are where things don’t work as they should.

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System description

Overview of the current economic system

In order to change something you need to see how it is from the start. We identify 21 vital flows in the system representing economic transactions and relationships to natural capital. The three main types of flow are:

  • Material flows, for example minerals, products, waste (in BLUE)
  • Flows of money representing economic transactions (in GREEN)
  • Work – selling of citizens’ time to firms and authorities (in RED)
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Circular Economy manufacturing the Porena way

This article comes from the book “Inventing for the Sustainable Planet” a novel which asks the question “if you were to visit a city that was sustainable- what would it look like?” The novel about the city of Porena contains several far-reaching ideas including the idea of global design with local assembly. In this section we meet an article written by the book’s hero, Max Wahlter, after a visit to “the future” to investigate sustainable logistics and manufacturing.

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Pivot Projects seeks to inform post-covid strategy for net zero carbon

Understanding that as a species humans cannot go on as we were, 140 experts, academics and volunteers across the world are coming together to engage with policy agenda of the G20, COP26, EU and UK Government. The group will provide post-COVID19 stimulus policies that are socially fair; stimulate economic growth; and accelerate our transformation to a sustainable planet.

Worryingly, the outlook as we emerge from the restrictions is bleak. If we are to reach Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 and have any hope of limiting the rise in global average temperatures to a level that will not cause a societal catastrophe, we have to achieve 15% of reduction in carbon emissions *every year*.

Stephen Hinton volunteered to work in the area of sustainable infrastructure. If you would like to join the project, please visit the Pivot Projects Website.

Citizen-centric circular business modelling

The EU from its perspective, and likewise many of its member countries with their own efforts, are backing the idea of the circular economy. The urgency of a looming materials shortage is getting a lot of policy makers into thinking materials should circulate rather than be used up. More bang for fewer materials is the idea. The strategy is to use all available means to educate, goad, tax, regulate and otherwise “nudge” companies into going circular. At the center of this is the idea of a circular business model.

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Story of Noah: are we back there?

This is not really about the Bible story of Noah, but it takes the story as its starting point. I can’t help but think that in old stories there are nuggets of wisdom that get lost as the story gets told and re-told by different people. The thing that got my attention in the Noah story was that before the flood came, the earth was corrupt. Apologies in advance to those who take the Old Testament as absolute truth.

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AI machine to help policy makers post-Covid

The behavior of complex systems such as the global environment, economy, and society are notoriously difficult to predict, especially when relying solely upon human cognition. Experts always see things from their perspective and can rarely factor in the whole picture. One organisation is looking to by-pass this human cognitive bias with AI. International AI firm SparkBeyond has set itself the task of saving the world by proposing ways forward post-Covid. Spark Beyond’s ideation Machine integrates the world’s largest collection of algorithms, and bypasses human cognitive bias to produce millions of hypotheses in minutes. It expands the scope of unique insights by auto-augmenting data with a rich network of data sources, including – but not limited to – news sources, scientific research, patents, and clinical trials, as well as geographic, census and financial data.

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Why regional authorities are the key to a circular economy

A circular economy is vastly different from a linear economy. When it comes to the resources that drive the economy, a linear economy is extractive whereas the circular economy is regenerative of its material source. The current way we run our economy is using resources up at an ever-expanding rate. Before resource shortages overturn the economy we need to transition to the circular use of materials. But how do we get to the circular model? This article takes a high-level systems analysis approach to explore possible pathways, and hones in on the role of local authorities.

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