Tweet
                                               

Martin Blake: into the blue economy

Is it time for a more holistic approach to sustainability?

By Cameron Jewell

1 April 2014 — Extended interview: The Fifth Estate often hears that sustainability is a naff term, people have green fatigue and business needs to find new language for these concepts.

So when we were presented with an email saying green and sustainability had become taboo words with corporates and we needed to move to “blue”, it was met with an extended eye roll.

Should it matter what we call the concept? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and all of that. But, according to Dr Martin Blake, former head of sustainability for UK Royal Mail and founder of Blue Australasia, a company that aims to promote “the blue economy” being launched in Sydney tonight [Tuesday], it’s not just a rebranding of the same concepts; the blue economy is a completely different, more complex, better functioning and much needed replacement for green, which he says is well past its used-by-date.

Why green needs to go

Dr Martin Blake

“If you look at the history of the green agenda, it started back in the ’60s, and prior to that if someone accused you – and I use the word in the pejorative sense – of being green, the only interpretation you could make from that statement is that you were naive, as in green behind the ears,” Dr Blake told The Fifth Estate.

“The emergence of the green movement came along and it was in response to big corporations doing bad things to the planet. And quite rightly at that point in time, the activists – and they were mainly activists – were highlighting the issues and putting pressure on corporates to ‘do less damage’.”

This is the important discriminator of the green paradigm, Dr Blake says: to make things “less bad”.

“So it’s linear, it’s transactional, and when you can no longer make things less bad – because diminishing returns set in – you end up with it being, simply, ‘less bad’.

“Even from an investment perspective, people will invest in environmental solutions such as energy savings programs until the payback periods are not short enough, or the return on investment isn’t big enough, then they’ll say, ‘That’s as far as we’re going,’ and you end up being less bad.”

Dr Blake says we’re now hitting the buffers of how far the green economy can take us.

For the built environment, once we do our lighting upgrades and implement energy saving technology with an attractive enough payback period we’ll stop. The result will be a better performing building, but is it anywhere near the dream of the net positive buildings we’d like to imagine for our future?

This is why we need a new approach, Dr Blake says, one that isn’t predicated on only making things less bad.

“Even the activists will say, ‘We can’t get traction any more,’ because people generally have what I’ve heard described as ‘green fatigue’. So that’s not me saying anything. That’s coming from people working in charities and NGOs – that there’s a malaise, that this green fatigue has come about because people are actually disappointed in the green agenda being able to do anything other than make things less bad. And as we’ve seen with climate change, there are those who would say that it hasn’t been made less bad quickly enough, or in a magnitude that is going to have any significant order of impact.

The blue economy

The term “blue economy” was coined by entrepreneur and founder of Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives Gunter Pauli. His 2010 book The Blue Economy: 10 Years, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs, was originally intended as a report to the Club of Rome, the think tank responsible for The Limits to Growth report.

It works by designing or restructuring business processes so waste from one product can become an input into a process that can create revenue. Based on 21 principles, Dr Blake says the blue economy is a “win-win-win” approach that leads to jobs, increased social capital and a society more in balance with the natural environment.

Some sources in the sustainability domain, however, have told The Fifth Estate they see little difference between the blue economy and concepts such as the circular economy, and because there is more awareness around the circular economy, it will probably be a concept corporate Australia will be more amenable to.

Dr Blake sees the blue economy as an all-embracing term, however.

“The blue economy is capable of embracing the circular economy, concepts like cradle-to-cradle; all of those would fit under its overarching umbrella.

“So the philosophy is systems thinking, so something in the manufacturing arena – something like circular economy, industrial ecology is another term often used, cradle-to-cradle – all of those can have their place and add value to a blue economy overview.”

Like a butterfly – same, but different

The blue economy, Dr Blake says, is a metamorphosis of the green agenda. He uses the term metamorphosis deliberately. Taking the example of a butterfly, it goes from egg, to larvae, to pupae, to butterfly: “the DNA remains the same, but it actually evolves through that lifecycle into more sophisticated levels of being”.

“So I think the metaphor of metamorphosis is a very good one to describe how the green agenda has metamorphosed and emerged with the DNA of wanting to do things to improve our planetary lifestyle and wellbeing, but it’s a more sophisticated approach,” he says.

“But it stands on the shoulders of the green economy, the green agenda. And one isn’t on the blue side denigrating the green. It’s just the next generation; it’s the next version.”

The two are fundamentally different, however.

“The reason being that the overarching paradigm is not Newtonian science,” Dr Blake says. “It’s systems thinking. So it’s based on non-linear approaches. It’s based on a holistic view of appreciating systems, understanding their interaction then deriving system interventions that do not then deliver unexpected outcomes.

“You can actually transform the systems in ways that you wouldn’t with a single linear approach. Because when you take a linear approach in a complex, adaptive system – which is what we live in, even if you talk about the economy, that’s a complex, adaptive system – you will almost without exception have unintended consequences. Some of which you might be lucky; you might go, ‘Oh, that’s good! How did that happen?’ but very often it’s a bit like introducing cane toads to deal with cane beetles.

Green can lead to poor built environment outcomes

The Fifth Estate has heard many examples of this within the green building industry: a range of technologies put into buildings that are then given high green certification, and even higher praise, only for us to later hear from the owner that nothing works as intended and the actual performance is, well, subpar.

Green buildings, Dr Blake agrees, are a classic example of linear approaches applied to complex systems, with associated unintended outcomes.

With tools like BREEAM and LEED, he says, people tick the boxes and say, “I want a platinum building,” and they will put in the technology “without considering the fact that the technologies, while individually might do some useful contribution, but when you mix them and blend them, some of them will be antagonistic and deliver very suboptimal outcomes at a high price”.

“There are buildings in the UK – very, very expensive buildings to build with all of the gizmos and technology – but when you look at the actual lifecycle assessment of how efficient that building is, they’re bloody appalling,” Dr Blake says.

“And there are many, many examples of where that linear approach brings suboptimal outcomes.”

There are, however, certification standards that attempt to employ more integrated, holistic approaches to building design, such as the Living Building Challenge.

The green economy has had its day

What’s the catalyst for moving to the blue economy?

Dr Blake says the movement has gained traction through “disappointment with the green economy”.

“The green economy has had its day. It served a purpose and served a very valuable purpose. And I grew up as an advocate of the green agenda, and I also, like the NGOs and the charities and many others, now say, ‘Well it’s not fit for purpose anymore.’ There’s got to be a better way. Our knowledge and understanding of complexity, and the interaction of complexity, requires a more sophisticated approach.

“In some ways it doesn’t surprise me that the openly stated enemies of the green movement would be able to highlight its impoverished outcomes, because the model is tired.”

But wouldn’t the same critics of a green economy be critics of a blue one?

“I think where people have railed against the green movement often is where it either has the unintended outcomes, or is more expensive, or it’s being driven by the wrong agenda,” Dr Blake says.

“Let’s face it: some of the things we’ve done in the past in the name of green haven’t been particularly brilliant, and have had disappointing, suboptimal result. If it’s carefully thought through and you construct ‘win-win-win’ scenarios, which is what a blue outcome should be, where people are rewarded in terms of jobs, the economy does well, the environment does well, communities do well, and it doesn’t harm anyone, it would be difficult to know where they would come from.

“I suppose the vested interests, who may say this disrupts the status quo, may have some issues, but for me that’s just Darwinian theory at work. If their time has come and their vested interests are no longer viable, then it’s time to adapt or die, really.

“For me, I’m a very firm advocate that the next level has to be based on holistic thinking and systems rather than linear systems and incrementalism. Transactional approaches to [sustainability challenges] don’t work. Every time you look at this linear approach in a complex system you’re going to be disappointed.”

Case study: Bulmers

A concrete example of how blue economy thinking can transform business is Bulmers Cider.

“You know this story has a happy ending because it’s around and available,” Dr Blake says.

Back in the mid-’90s, Bulmers was facing liquidation; they were insolvent. Diageo, a multinational drinks company, was pumping out alcopop drinks at low cost, creating a challenge for Bulmers and their artisan cider.

Bulmers was going bankrupt, so it called together a group of experts to transform the business.

“There was not much to do in a transactional way, because the business process was so simple. They’d already done anything they had,” Dr Blake said.

The had orchards, picked apples, took them to be pressed in a cart, pressed them, fermented them then bottled to sell.

One of the people Bulmers invited to help was Gunter Pauli.

Another guest was Amory Lovins, an American physicist, environmental scientist, writer and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, which works to foster efficient and sustainable use of resources.

They started going through the business process step by step.

They started with planting trees and growing apples. The next step was picking the apples. Then following was pruning the trees. They then paid a contractor to prune the trees. Next they piled up the prunings between the trees. Then they set fire to them.

“So immediately, there was, ‘Ah! You have a waste product that you’re ascribing negative value to because you’re actually paying to have this destroyed.’ So Amory Lovins, who is probably one of the world’s best known energy conservation engineers, looked at that in a fairly linear way and said, ‘Oh, you could shred the prunings, turn it into biomass and the biomass could be used to heat the liquid in the fermentation vessels and that would offset some of your energy from other sources and fossil fuels.’

And so the accountants did the arithmetic and found they would still be bankrupt.

“So Gunter Pauli, said, ‘Engineers! Every time we have a waste product you either want to set fire to it or bury it!’”

Dr Pauli informed the group that apple wood was the most suitable material in the world for growing mushrooms.

The UK at the time was experiencing growth in the number of Asian immigrants, and with it an increased demand for shiitake and oyster mushrooms.

He told Bulmers that they had the best substrate to grow mushrooms, so they started growing mushrooms.

A few years later the mushroom business was four times the revenue of the original cider process.

“It absolutely transformed their business,” Dr Blake says.

Around the same time, mad cow disease hit the UK, which had been caused by using animal protein in feed for herbivores. Luckily for Bulmers, the mycelium of the mushrooms broke down the apple wood into a high-protein organic vegetable product, so they also had another in-demand revenue stream.

“So you now see how taking a non-linear, non-transactional approach can transform businesses.”

But is there a use for every waste product?

“I think there probably is,” Dr Blake says. “And if you end up with something that is so intractable, it begs the question of why are you doing the process in the first place, and isn’t there a better way?

“If you look at waste, and give it a different name, it’s actually inefficiency. So what you’re admitting is, is that what you are undertaking is an inherently inefficient process. So getting down to maximum efficiency and zero waste is where you should be headed.

“Under Blue Economy, we don’t go for, ‘Can we reduce our CO2 by five per cent next year?’ What we would do is say, ‘Well, why do you have any CO2? How do you get rid of it? How do you become zero emissions? Using restorative processes, how do you turn a business into being net positive impact?’”

The blue economy in Australia

Dr Blake has founded a company, Blue Australasia, to promote blue economy thinking in the region. He says its purpose is to raise awareness of a different way of conducting business.

“We’d very much like to work on projects in Australia where we can help create outcomes for the common good, where communities are benefitted, where abundance is created in those communities by jobs, social enterprise and this approach to using industrial ecology, creating perhaps cottage industries out of what were previously waste streams; making businesses more competitive and more prosperous and more profitable by turning waste into wealth.

“So, what we’re looking to do is make a difference, both in the awareness and consciousness areas: ‘Let’s use a blue economy solution for that’, and then having been made aware of it and making that choice, then we’ve convened a really potent group of people who are like-minded and able to help turn those solutions into deployable interventions.

Dr Blake says the reception in Australia has already been extremely positive.

“It’s been received as a breath of fresh air; it’s been, ‘Thank god! this is a new way of doing stuff that makes sense.’ And it transcends political debate, because if it’s a win-win-win scenario it’s difficult for it to become a political punching bag.

He says the organisation is now in the process of creating a “blue paper”, which will be a “blueprint for a blue nation”.

“It aims to show how in Australia, areas – not in silos – such as manufacturing, resources, energy, logistics, water, and agriculture, can be dealt with using blue economy solutions to provide an alternative future for Australia that can provide benefits to all stakeholders.

“We will be producing something that you can measure; you can give it to accountants, actuaries, analysts and say, check the maths, check the assumptions, and over a period of time that blue paper will then be published as an alternative to the status quo.”

Isn’t a blue economy, particularly for the built environment, predicated on further technological innovation?

“Future technologies are going to be great but actually we have everything we need now,”Dr Blake says. “We don’t need any silver bullets. What we need to do is stop procrastinating.

“There’s more than enough technology out there. What it needs to do is for it to be woven together in ways that bring solutions that are sustainable.”

However, he admits that future technology obviously has a place in blue economy solutions. As thin film solar becomes cheaper, Australia will have whole buildings acting as solar energy generators, he says, with battery technology enabling smart grids and more decentralised energy production.

The crux of the matter for Dr Blake is getting rid of the notion that making things less bad is acceptable for the sustainability movement.

“If we continue to only make things less bad then we can only accept mediocre outcomes,” he says. “Is less bad what we want?”

Comments

10 Responses to “Martin Blake: into the blue economy”

  • Green, blue or red – the central objective of all of these “movements” is, or should be, sustainability and sustainable development. Although the concept is rooted in ecological scientific theories dating back to the 19th century and even earlier, our modern concept of sustainability is often traced to the 1987 publication of the report titled Our Common Future by the UN-sponsored World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) . That report defined “Sustainable Development” as:

    “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:

    1. the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and

    2. the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.”

    Although I agree with Dr. Blake that certain aspects of the “green movement” towards sustainability may appear to be running out of steam, this is not because the simple concepts of “reduce, re-use and recycle” or “think globally, act locally” or even “triple bottom line sustainability: environmental, social and economic” have lost their relevance. They become more relevant with each passing day. They appear to be stalling due to a combination of our human tendencies to have short attention spans, to be short term thinkers and for us to generally be more concerned with our individual welfare and quality of life than for that of our neighbors, those living in other parts of the world and other species – let alone future generations of our own species.

    Those who believe in the key concepts of sustainability have become frustrated at the lack of real progress and at the often superficial application of actions aimed at achieving real sustainability. Others, who perhaps have not been fully committed to the concept, may have jumped on the bandwagon and through many of the sustainability hoops due to the broad surge of public opinion and government policies that came to fore during the 1990s and 2000s. Often these types of players – including corporate industry, land developers and the average person – may have implemented the bare minimum of actions required to gain a good feeling about things (myself not excluded). Commercially, it has been good, to be seen to be a sustainable or “green thinking” company, and, in turn, to be regarded in society as being responsible and ethical company. Many companies have relied on winning awards and accolades for being “sustainable” as a positive element of their overall marketing strategy. And, despite having well-intentioned government and corporate sustainability policies in place, the capabilities of our institutions to effectively implement and enforce such policies has fallen short and our unabated dependence on economic growth is evident all around us.

    To a certain extent, our realisation that we are not achieving, or cannot achieve, true sustainability within the context of the world’s current socio-economic framework has led to this sense of stagnation and futility. In another sense, the world’s attachment to the production-jobs cycle, built-in obsolescence and commercial marketing has led to such terms as “sustainability” and “green” being considered as naff or outdated. Sustainability has largely been replaced by the terms “resilience”, “risk minimisation” and “adaptive management”, which are less demanding and more achievable concepts. “Climate change” is replaced by “climate variability” in many quarters. And, hence, the “green economy” is now said to be replaced by the “blue economy”. Is it possible that this may lead “less bad” to become “even more less bad”?

    Although I agree that Dr. Blake’s stated aims for “the blue economy”, including better integrated and systematic, complex approaches are admirable and even needed, such “systems dynamics” thinking has been around in the ecological, natural resource and social-economic science fields for quite some time – it is not new thinking. What is relatively new is marketing this type of thinking as a “the blue economy” to gain the attention of people who have become either bored or frustrated with “the green economy”.

    I am sure Dr. Blake and his colleagues are quite sincere and perhaps represent the level of intellect found in progressive think tanks such as The Wentworth Group. If so, they are likely make some very positive contributions using “the blue economy” philosophy. I may be incorrect, but there are indications in this article that “the blue economy” concept places greater emphasis on making a reasonable financial profit at every phase of the commercial production process than it does on addressing the two key concepts that the WCED originally identified as essential to “Sustainable Development”.

  • Simon Wild says:

    How could I not weigh in on this one. So many great comments so far.

    Do we need a new name? Well, if we look at the meaning of ‘sustainable development’ the answer would be no we don’t need a new name as we haven’t achieved what we set out to do yet. But unfortunately ‘sustainable development’ or ‘green building’ have become synonymous with our current level of performance which isn’t enough or is just less bad as others have already said. I surveyed a group of people at green cities and at simonwild.me and of the people I surveyed, 65% agreed that what we are currently doing is not going to achieve ‘sustainable development’. But only 2% said we would achieve true sustainable development with ‘more rating systems’.

    So to me the answer is no we don’t need a new name we just haven’t got anywhere close to the goal yet of sustainable development yet. Will a new name inspire us to get there? As Huston said it’s LEED BREEAM Green Star are recognised brands and measures of green success in the investor and developer circles so we should be using these tools to continue to push us to true sustainable development not create more of them. The green apathy is coming from a recognition that what we are currently doing is not enough, so lets change our current tools to move us closer to the end goal more quickly.

    There’s an often used African proverb that says “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We need to go far quickly, with speed of competition and integrity of collaboration, which to me says collaborate with your competitors.

  • So now it’s coming down to quibbling over angels dancing on the head of the pin. I suppose that’s a good thing because it means that more people are tuned in to the conversation and getting onboard the climate express.

    As Phillip points out, however, green practitioners have always understood the principles of whole systems thinking – closed loops, zero waste, restorative interventions – that’s the difference between green thinking and business as usual. Not only Amory Lovins and Gunter Pauli, but every one of the hundreds of early leaders in green building understood these fundamental principles. No one can claim exclusive provenance over these ideas – they are the foundation.

    But out on the ball field where people are struggling with the incredibly difficult day-to-day task of changing business-as-usual, it all comes down to our level of understanding and commitment. LEED and BREEAM are far from perfect. When practiced by people who do not understand whole-systems thinking or who are just gaming the system, yes, it can produce some very inefficient buildings. (In the case of the UK buildings Martin mentions, often the problems arose when non-green people intervened in cost cutting exercises that ignored and negated the whole-systems design solutions.) But LEED and BREEAM are incredibly broad and powerful tools. They have opened the door for the conversation about sustainability at many levels, and focused people’s attention on the issues – at whatever level they understand them – like nothing else in history has. How many practitioners can remember a conversation about whole systems design before them? Precious few, I’m sure. And how many can deny that we are working on things today that were never a serious design consideration 20 years ago? None.

    Discovering all the nuances to true sustainability has been a long learning process, even for the people on the cutting edge, and we’re only on the cusp of it today. But we’re moving in the right direction. The question is, can enough of us move quickly enough to make the difference that’s needed? The wonderful thing about making our human activities truly sustainable is that solutions can and do come from every single one of us who cares, and systems like LEED and BREEAM have opened many thousands of possibilities for that process to happen that never existed before them. So there’s reason to hope we can win this horserace.

    Unfortunately it’s incredibly difficult to change human nature, and that is the root of the problem with making human activities on this planet sustainable. We will always have a few grandstanders who want to divert energy from the primary focus and claim the limelight to focus attention on themselves rather than the problem and its solutions. I suppose we must have a few bandleaders who are out in front beating the drum, raising awareness and convincing the unwashed to “give sustainability a try!” In a truly sustainable model, however, they are an integral part of the process, not one that wastes energy, trying to pull it off in different directions and stamp it with their own brand. I couldn’t agree more with Nigel Howard; “Confusing the agenda like this plays right into the hands of those who want to frustrate change.”

    The tent is big enough – all-encompassing in reality– that we don’t need to drive wedges between people over silly things like fancy, colorful names – brands, really. Let’s all get on board and pull in the same direction. Then we might have a fighting chance. If we continue to splinter into small self-interest groups, we might as well give up and go party until the lights go out.

    P.S. 13 years ago I was project manager at RMI for the Bulmer Charrette Martin mentions, and I can assure you that hundreds of excellent ideas for truly sustainable solutions can out of that effort, including Gunter’s truly wonderful contribution. Had they been implemented, the world would be a better place today.

  • ecojag says:

    Bob Dylan famously prescribed in his 60’s proclomation;
    “The Times They Are a-Changin” through first and last verses.

    These verses really highlight our present global condition but also suggest that some 50 years later, we’ve failed to heed his prophetic call!

    We’re also out of time and collective resources to really stop the tsunami of environmental change. Greenwashers and narrow related commercial interests continue to promote otherwise but they will also be judged and discarded in time.

    I like non ownership concepts, prescribed over 2000 years ago.
    As we come and we go, the least impactful footprint the better!

    In the meantime, why not share natural and human resources!

  • Sarah Fox says:

    Yes Nigel. Totally agree!

    What’s important to note is that there are some fantastic RMI, green, circular economy and industrial ecology solutions out there. Gunter Pauli, who coined the term Blue Economy, says it doesn’t matter what you call it, call it Green Economy 2.0 if you like, it just needs a name to be identified by. Blue Economy takes all of those great solutions, applies systems thinking and ensures they work efficiently. Most importantly it plans ahead to avoid unintended consequences.

    Pauli was working for green cleaning product company, Ecover, when he realised that, even though Ecover’s products were better for the environment, the palm oil they were using was destroying the habitat of the orang-utan. He knew then that we needed to plan better, to think higher up the chain to ensure we weren’t doing damage elsewhere in the system. He founded The Blue Economy movement to address this.

    The difference really, is that it is holistic and every aspect of the business is considered, including inefficiencies in employee resources, which ultimately lead to higher energy consumption. Once the business is operating at 100% efficiency and creating zero damage to the environment and communities it operates in you can call it Blue – according to Pauli.

    In a Blue Economy world, nothing goes to landfill and we have no carbon footprint. Similarly, in nature nothing is wasted and only value is added to ecosystems. That is the goal we need to be working towards collectively if we have a hope of saving our planet.

  • Max says:

    Reminds me of a book published back in 2005, Blue Ocean Strategy – great read, pick it up if you haven’t!!

    Quite similar rhetoric it seems to me… in a goal to drive new profit and growth opportunities, companies are required to create blue oceans of new market space.

    Not to put words in Dr. Blake’s mouth but his focus seems to be more about driving continual change and innovation to a point that it becomes systemic.

    Maybe I’m wrong and its just a reference to the same color?! Worth a shot if it reinvigorates our focus on sustainability.

  • ecojag says:

    Its timely to reach for holistic and cyclical ‘up cycling’ outcomes for our finite human and natural resources?. Let’s try reaching for blue sky days as well as promoting best natural cycles. ‘Green’ has become diluted by so much commercial and industry wash that it’s now reduced to a secondary status, just like the colour.

    Blue sky days refers to clean and natural environments as a #1 priority for both our built and natural environments, in supporting a future that’s worth living for.

  • Nigel Howard says:

    Phillip,

    I know RMI pretty well too, agree with your points and share your concern.

    What we need to do is make existing things (Like BREEAM, LEED, The Sustainability Consortium, Green Building Councils, Investors Sustainability Indeces…) that are making change happen work even better, not invent new things to make allegiance to. Confusing the agenda like this plays right into the hands of those who want to frustrate change.

    The best starting point for me is investors – lets show them just how stranded their investment will soon become as fossil fuels deplete, as renewable energy sources become ever more cost competitive and as the public become increasingly aware of the humanity threatening consequences of our reckless exploitation of fossil fuels forcing 80% to stay in the ground.

    And I don’t care what colour we call it – I’m on board – brown is the new black.

  • John brodie says:

    While I find this an interesting concept and like, the idea of less bad as a description of the current state of play in ESD, I believe it’s time to move away from more concepts or noses or ideology and look at how we actually influence the decision makers and the nay Sayers and poo pooers.
    Approaching them with a blue or yellow or ESD or green or whatever concept.. Those days are gone. We need to look st how we get through on a deeper level… On a level that will drive change. Drive understanding , drive acceptance that what is obviously right matters.. Not sure what that level is yet but we have to get past the ‘pushback ‘ and tiredness currently being experienced in green or sustainability world wide. Having a sceptical and cynical government who hates the environment doesn’t help.
    Luckily I see a sliver of hope in the recent story of the Australian forester who has convinced the owners of the large palm oil plantations to stop the clearing. Now he’s on to something in his methodology and maybe that’s giving us an indication of where we need to go looking in the built environment to create change.

  • My goodness. If we have “green fatigue” already, what are we going to have when things start getting really (and obviously) serious?

    Having spent some time with Amory Lovins, and quite a bit of time with other researchers from the RMI, some of whom were involved in a charrette with Bulmers which sounds very much like the one cited, I feel obliged to make a few observations. Firstly, as I was reading the article, I was thinking this sounds very much like Natural Capitalism – which Amory Lovins literally wrote the book on. Amory is anything but linear in his thinking, and very much in favour of closed loop systems, incurring zero waste and a net positive outputs in energy. That was and is the ethos of the RMI.

    The researcher I spoke to, who cited the Bulmers charrette he contributed to, said the recommendations were not taken up because the company was taken over before it had the opportunity of implementing the recommendations, and went back to business as usual under the new administration.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Dr Blake that we have to encourage business to fully embrace sustainability, the “blue economy” or whatever we choose to call it. Indeed I think our best hope is for business to enthusiastically adopt the changes needed to take up the challenges we collectively face.

    Indeed, the smart businesses are already doing just that. Maybe “the blue economy” is a pitch that will draw more businesses in – which would certainly be good. But if we have to spend copious amounts of energy re-branding because of perceived “fatigue” I suspect there may be unforeseen consequences. The first is that it appears to “diss” sustainability and the green economy unnecessarily. Second, it reduces something very important indeed to something that could be too readily seen as “spin”. The latter risks ever shorter cycles of green fatigue, blue fatigue etc. Pretty soon we’ll be out of primary colours.
    I think I have brown fatigue already (alright – I do know brown isn’t a PRIMARY colour)…

Comments are closed.

More Articles on this Topic