Tag Archives: ideas

Wind power. Not my image.

The Environmentalist/Energy Tycoon Alliance?

Not my image.

Beautiful wind turbines. Not my image.

I personally really don’t like the big energy companies. I’d quite like to see them crash and burn. Individual satisfaction aside, it turns out that’s not particularly likely nor as good as it sounds. This is because:

  • They will fight tooth and claw against carbon regulations, and are in fact already doing this. And they have a lot of political sway. 
  • If they did collapse, due to not being able to burn their reserves, this would trigger a huge economic crash, plunging us into an international depression. The recession that began in 2008 will look like a hiccup in comparison.

So as much as I’d love to see ExxonMobil, BP and the rest go bust, the consequences would be awful.
This fact has caused me to think of an idea that could arguably be described as environmental treason.

Teaming up with the bad guys.

Yes, I did just say that. I think we need to persuade the CEOs of the big energy companies that they can make as much, f*ck it, more – money from investing in clean renewable energy. An energy revolution is already brewing and bubbling, but if they got involved it’d be done and dusted in like half a decade.

The down side is loads of ethically-void, selfish, undeserving millionaires would carry on being rich.

The up side is these guys have the funds to roll out renewable energy systems throughout the whole world really quickly. This would sort out our unsustainable energy insecurity, mitigate climate change massively, create millions of green jobs and prevent an unfathomable amount of pollution. And avert an economic crash. In fact, it’d be great for the economy.

Sounds pretty good, huh?

Unfortunately though, another issue is this could quash small ethical companies like Ecotricity and Good Energy. That’d be rubbish. I mean, they’re vision would be realised but the wrong people would be profiting from it. I wonder if there’s any way around that?

And what do you think, am I crazy to suggest such an alliance?

Sun farm. Not my image.

Sun farm. Not my image.

Tax It Up?!

Tax.

Isn’t that a horrible word? I’m sure it fills you with that indignant feeling – oh great, there the government goes again, taking loads of my hard earned wages to spend on their 5 star holidays and second homes. Great.

But what if it could be a solution to the problematic discrepancy between environmental action and the profit-hungry market? Basically I think the tax system should be completely reworked so that companies are heavily taxed for any environmentally damaging behaviour. The money from these taxes should be put into a governmental fund and used for public spending on environmental protection, education, health care, community investments etc. This would mean pollution would be taxed, short-lived  poor quality designs would be taxed (encouraging high quality, long-lasting, adaptable products) and use of virgin non-renewable materials would be taxed (encouraging recycling and reuse). And they shouldn’t be the kind of sums that are crippling for small businesses but can easily be shook off my multinationals – they should be percentage based so big companies would need to avoid them to be viable. I feel this is a rather controversial idea and of course many business leaders would hate it. They would probably protest against such a scheme.

But… Tough? For as long as our world is based around buying and selling and making money, businesses will do what is most profitable and individuals will do what they can afford. Goodwill alone will not be enough if the entire economic system discourages it. A business is admirable if it uses renewable energy and pays extra for pollution to be cleaned up. Definitely it should be commended. But a lot of the time it won’t be, it’ll be punished with lower profit margins than if it had not been so responsible. This is an awful system – and the system needs to change in such a way as for ‘green’ practises to be the most financially viable way of operating.

People opposing such a scheme would probably argue that it’d be devastating to the economy. That most businesses would be unable to cope and would instantly go bust. Well, I think this is not necessarily true. It would favour different types of business perhaps, but this would be favourable to us as they’d be the types that aren’t trashing our’s and our children’s futures. It would open up huge opportunities for innovation and enterprise. And I’m not suggesting this should happen with no warning. If something like this was to be introduced, the government should issue a formal warning outlining all of the terms, and a big media hoo-ha should be ensured so that every business leader knows about it say one or two years in advance and has time to adapt her/his business to the changes before they occur. No only would this mean the environmental benefits from the changes would take effect sooner rather than later, it’d also prevent mass bankruptcy.

Companies that are currently incredibly environmentally damaging (Shell, McDonald’s, Esso, Monsanto etc etc) would obviously have the most work cut out here. But they should be cut no slack at all. If Shell can’t switch to generating renewables quick enough, if McDonald’s can’t switch to producing sustainable food quick enough, then let them fall by the wayside. They need to keep up with the times. If you think this is harsh, let me just say that killing off companies for the ‘greater good’ is not like killing people. Or even animals or ecosystems. Companies are economic/social constructs that might be allocated equal rights to actual individuals in America, but they shouldn’t. Of course they are important for the security of the people that work for them. But in the nicest way possible, these people could find other jobs if the company went down for this reason. And the ‘green collar jobs’ that we keep being promised would be springing up everywhere like weeds after rainfall. Greener companies would be flourishing with their non-tax-paying advantage and new ones that weren’t viable before would come into action. In fact, if grants and starter packs were supplied for new green businesses, I wouldn’t be surprised if this scheme would create a more prosperous economy than the one we currently have.

As you can see, I think the theory that has been around since the Thatcher government that things will be best if we just allow the market absolute freedom – getting out of the way as capitalism takes it’s course, only occasionally throwing money at the system if it’s not working quick enough – is pretty rubbish really. It’s concentrating wealth in the ‘top 1%’ while everyone else gets poorer, and is degrading the global ecosystem we all rely on in the process. I suggest that rather than acting as pawns in the chess game of money, we take the reins and use money as a tool for achieving a better world for the 100%.

I know this is all a bit controversial, and it’s just my opinion at the moment. I don’t even know if this is a good idea, not being able to tell the future. I just had this idea and wanted to communicate it to you.  So what do you think? Have you got a better theory? I’d love to hear about it.

A ”Closed Loop Economy”

I’ve been giving some serious thought to what kind of economy/society we could have to replace our current model of waste and exploitation that will soon be breaking down. (Please see earlier posts about why and how. In this post I want to focus on what could be next).

I think what we should have is a closed loop economy. This means that it will consist of closed loop systems which produce no waste because every output acts as an input to another system, creating a complex and interconnected web – much like a natural ecosystem. So for example, you would use the inputs of paper, wood, time and energy with a wood-burning stove to get the outputs of heat, light, ambience, smoke and ash. The first three are the desired products – but smoke and ash are not necessarily desired. However to close those loops you would need to find useful things to do with them. Ash could be added to a composting system (heap) to create highly useful compost. Wood smoke could perhaps be used to smoke foodstuffs in the chimney? This is only a basic example, and it would take more effect when applied to some thing like a manufacturing system. Every output is linked to a position where it can be a useful input, not just left in an inappropriate place to be a pollutant. Think of every by-product as an opportunity. Consider the most useful by-product in the world: Oxygen. It’s a side-effect of green plants’ photosynthesis, but does it go to waste? Hell no! Not only do the plants use it themselves in aerobic respiration, it makes the entire animal kingdom possible with this same essential function. I doubt we have any other things that have quite that much potential, but I guess you never know! The general principles of permaculture are highly relevant to this. The main idea is to let nothing go to waste, and to create as many links and relationships as possible.

And it’s not just connections between systems that we want, it’s social connections as well. Communities should be designed for as many positive social links as possible, making them more resilient. Lastly, diversity is paramount. In an ecosystem, the higher the biodiversity is the stronger the ecosystem is. This is the case pretty much across the board… Farms are more productive per acre if they have a wide diversity of crops and products, communities are more interesting and have a larger communal skill set if they have a diverse variety of types of people living in them.

My thinking behind all this is that wouldn’t it be good to base our human socio-ecosystems on  natural ecosystems? Nature has had billions of years to get good at design – much longer than us. Natural systems are cohesive, resilient and productive, and are obviously not hugely damaging to the whole planet like ours are. Please don’t confuse this for me saying we should all go back to being hunter-gather-ers or something. I’m all for civilisation! Like, real civilisation, where we create healthy and meaningful lives for everyone in the world (not just the top fraction), where we work with and in harmony with nature and act as stewards for the Earth, where we are bathed in rich and vibrant culture and have made peace among nations – focusing instead on developing our full potential. Civilisation which we are yet to know and enjoy, basically. So yes, I think it would be great to design our human systems to be as similar to wild ecosystems as possible. But of course we’re going to design them to suit our needs. Hopefully, in a way that meets them more fully than what we have now. We are a part of nature, but at the same time we can hardly ignore the fact that we’re different to any other creature, and so obviously have different needs. We need to just take the principles of design from wild nature and adapt them in ways that suit us. Our cities are not going to look quite like forests, although a lot more green spaces wouldn’t go a miss. We should celebrate our place in nature, and then also celebrate what makes us human. I mean, animals haven’t caused climate change, but they do kill each other’s babies on a frequent basis. We don’t go a bundle on that. So let’s take the framework of natural ecosystems, and then build on that with our positive human elements… Empathy, ethics, consciousness, art, music, culture, science, technology, curiosity…

Sooooooo… Your thoughts on my thoughts?

The Big Bumper Book of Solutions

In my last post, I talked about the importance of looking at the positive. On that note, I sat down and tried to scribble in my notebook as many solutions for implementing a sustainable human society as I could. These are solutions that have already been invented, are being practised or researched, and which I feel have some place in a positive future. Notice the sheer diversity in solutions to single problems – for example at the beginning of the list there are many solutions for sustainable and ethical food production. I think it is incredibly important that we employ a diverse array of solutions for every one issue – just as in wild nature biodiversity makes an ecosystem more resilient, the same is true of our own socio-eco systems. No one tool is sufficient, we must go at things from all angles. With international and national legislation, community projects, green business endeavours, family habits and personal values ALL shifting together.

So here’s the list I came up with. Naturally, it’s not exhaustive.

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Permaculture, Transition Towns, community gardens and orchards, community supported agriculture schemes, allotments, productive gardens, small holdings, organic farming, pollytunnels, free-range, localisation, urban trees and green spaces, gorilla gardening, green roofs and roof farms, window-box gardening, hydroponics, vertical farms, veg box schemes, farmer’s markets, town markets, independent shops, forest gardens, edible landscapes, plant-based diets, WOOFing, home preserving, seed-saving, seed swaps, hedge-laying, nature reserves, conservation, habitat-restoration, protected sites and species, biodiversity indicators, ecologists, nature-stewards, re-forestation, coppicing, sustainable woodland management, FSC, natural materials, natural paints, dyes and inks, green chemistry, industrial ecology, recycling, re-using, upcycling, cradle-to-cradle design, replaceable parts, modular design, extended producer responsibility, made-to-last, high energy efficiency, smart metres and grids, localised energy production, off-shore wind farms, wind farms, domestic solar panels, sun farms, hydro-electric power, tidal power, wave power, geothermal heating, efficient wood stoves, passive-houses, strawbale building, cob building, low impact dwellings, eco-houses, eco-villages, eco-cities, composting toilets, community composting, rainwater harvesting and use, reed-bed water purification systems, carbon sequestration, landfill methane collection, hydrogen cars, electric cars, car-share clubs, rentable cars, high-speed rail networks, waste-oil fuels, cheaper buses, internet-conferencing, boat and ship travel, staycations, community volunteering, apprenticeships, internships, place-based learning, holistic education, home education, free education, alternative schools, sustainability literacy, The Great Reskilling, sustainability education, life-long learning, Permaculture design courses, community teaching, Centre of Alternative Technology, ecological research, ethics-based science, natural law, international summits and conferences, international legislation, The Earth Charter, the Green Party, NGOs, true democracy, transparency in government, transparency in business, green businesses, community enterprise, social enterprise, pollution taxes, shorter work-weeks, carbon rationing, litter-picking, local currencies, time-share groups, LETS, Freeconomy, resource-based economy, happiness-based economy, gifting, pass-it-on, ethical banking and investment, credit unions, co-operatives, Fair Trade, international aid for sustainable development, positive media, truthful media, peaceful protests, activism, animal rights, human rights,  eco-fashion, swishing, make-do-and-mend, hand-made clothes, slow-fashion, upcycled fashion, organic fibres, ethical production, natural beauty, herbalism, ayurveda, meditation, tai chi, yoga, nature-spirituality, self-awareness, World Cafes, Open Space technology, political art, petitions, campaigning, celebrating.

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And that’s just stuff we’ve already come up with! There’s so much scope for innovation in the near future that these solutions are probably just the tip of the iceberg.

Let’s be inspired.