Shop your way to fossil freedom

Sixteen-year old Greta Thunberg is asking good questions like “why are we doing nothing about climate change?” She tells it like it is as we stand unmoving – no group wanting to give anything away. Unions rightly take the stance that workers should not pay with lowered standards. Some want to play with small tax adjustments to see the poor OK.

The New Green Deal says “never mind the economics of it – we’ll just invest in the planet we want.” That is good, but you need to make sure people have the money to pay for those new high speed rail services and electric buses.

So. No easy solution? Perhaps there is.

Continue reading “Shop your way to fossil freedom”
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The three cycles of the circular economy

Renting out your car, selling second stuff etc. is part of the circular economy but there is more. Firstly, things from nature need to circulate – food waste goes to compost goes to soil goes to food- for example. And trees go to wood to waste wood to fibre board to fuel maybe. And things come from the earth, like metals and they are made into, say, raw iron, then steel, then a product, then scrap, then more steel, and so on.

The biological, monetary and technical cycles of the circular economy

Most people take a narrow view of the circular economy, seeing it as renting out your car, selling second stuff etc. All true, but there is more to it. Firstly, things from nature need to circulate – food waste goes to compost goes to soil goes to food- for example. And trees go to wood to waste wood to fibre board to fuel maybe. And things come from the earth, like metals and they are made into, say, raw iron, then steel, then a product, then scrap, then more steel, and so on.

But money needs to go round too. Forget government hoarding surplus – that only removes money from the economy. We need the workers to get good wages so they buy stuff from factories that make good profits that pay good taxes and wages and so it goes round.

Many people react to the idea of people spending more because they think business will extract some stuff and dump others and leave the earth exhausted and polluted. They will. Unless there are either strict laws or stiff fees to stop them. So the circular economy will make it very expensive to extract or dump. And that is where the first and last invoice come in. In the life of a material, be it iron or sand, for example, the first invoice (paying for extraction) is the start of a long chain of invoices that the circular economy continues as long as possible. It puts dumping or burning off – the last invoice – and delays it in time. And the economy is rigged to reward them.

So, there are the basics. If you want to learn more about the three cycles, do look up the relevant course in our online school: https://circleeconomy.teachable.com

We are a long way off from the true art of the deal

Everyone knows, don’t they, a good deal is where a cake is sliced up evenly. If the other gets too much we get too little. Wise leaders and experienced negotiators think differently. If are to come out of this Brexit situation in a good way we need to give our trust to these wisest leaders and sharpest negotiators. And we need to think differently. Radically.

Stephen Hinton 2016, photo Maj-Lis Koivisto

Everyone knows, don’t they, that we we Brits need a good deal from Brexit – one that is good for us and does not give the EU an advantage over us? A bad deal will mean everyone in the UK gets a drop in standard and the EU will rise, doesn’t it? Well, not everyone thinks that. Continue reading “We are a long way off from the true art of the deal”

Case Study: Bringing citizens closer to sustainability in creative ways

trianglePLACE: Stockholm, Sweden, the office dealing with Cultural Affairs

SITUATION:  Stockholm is a forward-thinking city when it comes to sustainability. Helene Mårtenson from the office of cultural development explains the challenge;

to inspire citizens to a sustainable life-style by communicating substantially in new, creative forms.

FRAMING QUESTION: How can cultural institutions like libraries and theatres engage citizens in sustainable development?

See the Video below of the follow-up at the end of this post.


SOLUTION:  Engaging Stephen Hinton as environmental “creative consultant” the suburb of Farsta, Stockholm installed in the lobby outside the library and theatre a “sustainability kiosk” and embarked on filling the kiosk with ideas, events and other creative approaches.


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A first sketch of the sustainability kiosk

DETAILS:

  • Suggestions box  for ideas and questions
  • Brochures from local organisations with environmental focus
  • A round Farsta environmental walk – get to know your suburb’s environmental assets and concerns first hand
  • A social network connected to the kiosk – sign in and join the debate
  • A environmental story telling  corner for the younger ones
  • A set of “what’s its all about” cards – with environmental information relevant to the suburb for groups to use to get discussions going
  • Planned sessions and activities include
    • “Doctor Environment” who will sit and listen to symptoms and dish out “prescriptions”
    • A giant plastic foot that represents fossil emissions of C=2 from the city
    • A request for  early retirement written in a letter from “Mr Oil”
  • A mini- lecture corner for local organisations to invite people in to present their environmental activities


FOLLOW UP:

Trees help bring the conditions of peace – if you know how

Guest Post by Rishabh Khanna.
This year’s Right Livelihood Award carries an important message: if farmers using simple techniques can restore hundreds and thousands of hectares of degraded land in Africa then there is hope we can feed the world. We may, however, need to ditch some deep-rooted ideas. At Vi I Skogen ‘s Award Seminar in November, recipients Tony Rinaudo and Yacouba Sawadogo presented Agro-foresty to an enthralled and enthusiastic audience.

The standard practice of clearing trees to make fields for farming brings unintended consequences. The 1980 drought left Niger in a serious food crisis that led to some farmers encouraging tree growth to retain water in the soil. Tony Rinaudo, started by sharing the startling fact, that an increase in 1 percent of organic matter in an hectare of land increases the water holding capacity of the land by 144,000 liters. In Niger he said they were able to double the crop yield by simply adding trees in the landscapes. He explained to the audience that rather than planting trees, the focus is on pruning, selecting and protecting the trees that are already trying to grow.

He demonstrated to the audience how he prunes trees to encourage them to grow better, be healthier and all the dead roots and shoots can be used as a fuel by the local community.

Quick demonstration of pruning to invigorate tree growth (and get firewood)

Tony said that the key to successful agroforestry movements is to give them the permission to use their forests with education on how manage their land in a sustainable manner. Farmer managed natural regeneration (FMNR) is not owned by Tony or any other organization; it needs to be owned by the farming communities.

When he was asked by his own deeper purpose, and why he moved to Niger, he shared his story of his childhood from Australia. As a young boy, he was burdened by enormous inequality between the rich and the poor. He prayed to God to be put in a place where he would be useful. In the early 80s, he had the calling to go and work in Niger. He started encouraging and supporting bringing tree growth back. At first there was an enormous push-back from the village, as the assumption in those days was that trees and crops don’t go together. The famine of 1984, made things personal for Tony.

At first 10 people from 10 villages to start planting 40 trees per hectare, this grew to 500,000 hectares as it came under the food for work program. Later, when the government incentive was removed 25 percent continued with the practice.  Those farmers who did this practice noticed bumper yields in their land. Thanks to organizations like World Vision andWorld Resources Institute, there are now more than 24 countries where farmers practice FMNR. In 2012, at meeting in World Agro-foresty  Centre in Kenya, they shared that such a movement would spread across the Sahel.

The government in Niger realized their mistakes and has now integrated Agroforestry in their national strategy. The division between forestry and agriculture is artificial and can be at the root of drought and poor productivity. Niger understands that it is incumbent on government to create an enabling environment. And it does not take a massive investment in technology: with few resources Tony and his team in Niger have managed to restore 5 million hectares of land in 20 years.

Yacouba Sawadogo discovered theAgroforestry model of farming 45 years back and had similar success to Tony’s in restoring the land. In the follow-up panel discussion, Yacouba’s son said that tenure and user rights are essential as this is a very long-term process. Gender too, is big challenge in Burkina as most of the land is owned by men, so women can be in a very difficult position. This practice of Zai is spread all over west Africa including in Niger, Mali, Burkina and Guinea.

The potential is huge: trees are not only water retainers. When it comes to ecosystem services, some trees recycle nutrients and some trees can be used in the management of pests. They all sequester carbon. This area of Agro-foresty as provider of ecosystem services is inadequately studied.  

A lot of work waits to be done; according to World Bank there are two billion degraded hectares of land in the world. In terms of soil carbon, Agro-foresty is said to reduce 2.14 tons of CO2 per year per hectare.  There is a lot more research needed on the socio-economic benefits of Agroforestry, too. In terms of building resilience, there is one study that showed that FMNR practices have already reduced the risk of flooding in 2,783 hectares. This workshop truly inspired me to learn more about Agro-foresty methods, FMNR and how it can be applied in other contexts.

Rishabh Khanna, Initiatives of Change, (IofC)  focuses on the individual and the connection of personal transformation and global change. IofC looks for the synergies of change; encourages people to find their purpose, their connection to the world and to be a changemaker.

Opinion: The problems in Sweden are the problems in the world

With the coalition of the left’s 144 seats in parliament and the right-wing block’s 143, and with the ultra-right wing Sweden Democrats left out of the block, many might be wondering whatever happened to the cozy social democratic, progressive Sweden held up as a model of a modern welfare state. You need to look back in histoty to see why this is a watershed moment.

Stephen Hinton 2016, photo Maj-Lis Koivisto

With the coalition of the left’s 144 seats in parliament and the right-wing block’s 143, and with the ultra-right wing Sweden Democrats left out of the block, many might be wondering whatever happened to the cozy social democratic, progressive Sweden held up as a model of a modern welfare state. Continue reading “Opinion: The problems in Sweden are the problems in the world”

The future is circular! And training is free – mostly

Stephen Hinton Consulting, together with the Swedish Sustainable Economy Foundation are pleased to announce the launch of a new training site:

http://circleeconomy.tssef.se

Together we aim to help you in your role as business leader, policy maker or entrepreneur to understand the basics of the circular economy to be ahead of coming legislation and to prepare your organisation to thrive in this new situation.

The new site offers short lessons in a wide range of circle-economy related subjects such as:

  • understanding the role of nutrients
  • the three key elements of the circular economy
  • seven points of intersection
  • putting circularity into the balance sheet
  • policy makers: matching market based instruments and the demands of the circular economy

We need peace not growth. Just do a search and replace.

We did the following thought experiment: we replaced the word growth  or economic growth with peace in excerpts from statutes and statements from some main global organisations. Take a look. Is it in improvement? Maybe you agree with us that Peace is the thing we need to focus on!

Continue reading “We need peace not growth. Just do a search and replace.”

OPINION: Business as usual destroys more capital than it creates.

The problem with Business schools is that they teach what has been learned from two centuries experience based on the availability of increasingly vast quantities of energy and cheap raw materials, along with licence to basically release waste straight out into the environment. An out-of-date mindset. We have moved on.

Stephen Hinton, photo Maj-Lis Koivisto

Business schools purvey the amassed experience of successful entrepreneurs from the last few hundred years. The problem with that is this experience is based on the availability of increasingly vast quantities of energy and cheap raw materials, along with licence to basically release waste straight out into the environment. This two century’s worth of “business” experience treats nature as an unlimited resource store and waste dump. An out-of-date mindset. We have moved on. There is a need for a new way of doing business: a system that takes into account the limitations of the planet and needs to maintain human well-being. That system is called circular economy. Continue reading “OPINION: Business as usual destroys more capital than it creates.”

Can we save the Baltic and improve our economy?

 

Stephen Hinton is a member of the board of the Swedish Sustainable Economy Foundation and specializes in aligning environmental concerns with fiscal systems. He has been involved in several projects, including with the Nordic Council of Ministers, to explore the possibility of using market forces to drive a circular economy for nutrients. One of the Foundation’s recent initiatives is a role-play/business game that explores the assumptions behind fiscal instrument application and sustainable technology investment decisions. These simulations reveal a wealth of insight into possibilities to change economic paradigms.

Stephen’s presentation focuses on the fiscal approaches to overcoming barriers including:

  • Behaviour: How to make doing right cheaper
  • Information:Opportunities arising from the digitalised economy
  • Efficacy:Where to apply instruments to encourage circularity
  • Investment:Using money collected from fees to overcome investment barriers
  • Political resistance: Ways to gaining political acceptance for extra charges
  • Public Opinion: Different effects on public opinion and behaviour.