Archive for March, 2009

don’t bet on stimulus working: the prospects for unrest

social unrest

We may have serious reason to doubt the Panglossian spin most analysts put on the global economic outlook.

Virtually alone in publishing dire forecasts is the Economist Intelligence Unit, which sees only a 60% chance the stimulus initiatives by developed countries will work.

The EIU puts the odds of global depression with massive social unheaval at 10%.

Sadly, due to what John Robb calls "legacy thinking", this may also be too rosy, especially because we don't know how unrest will play out (via globalguerrillas).

We know there's a tipping point where folks simply wig-out and things spin out of control.

Published by Ken on March 31st, 2009 tagged Island Vulnerabilities, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

collapse can’t happen here: on doctrinal rigidity


Are we so stuck in our beliefs that we simply cannot see the catastrophe of crony capitalism roiling around us?

John Robb calls this "a failure of decision making due to doctrinal or ideological rigidity" (via globalguerrillas).

We're well into "parasitic predation of oligarchs", says Robb, just like other "emerging markets", yet we still think this won't and can't happen here.

Uh, "trillions of $$ given away to bank/hedge funds/etc. without the slightest reform or accountability"...after “two generations of American wealth was squandered by capital markets in a frenzy of excess”…that's not predation? And, yes, we’ve seen this movie.

Published by Ken on March 27th, 2009 tagged Island Vulnerabilities, Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

of grandots and gifts: sustainability stories not told

grampken and grandots

Something there is about successor generations that wants them protected. That wants their world fixed.

So, nothing is tougher than looking into the eyes of my grandots and...blinking. And NOT telling them what's coming.

I saw tears in their dads' eyes as I told them (off-camera) of my sense of responsibility and apprehension for what we have done to this planet. And what their world will probably look like.

Still, I couldn't find the humor in the ooops stories intended for the grandot generation, and I return to Kauai with a heavy heart. I guess these stories need more work.

Published by Ken on March 27th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

where’s the beef? on moving wall street to main street


Main Street is 'ground zero' in the financial meltdown, says Dave Korten, and the "Wall Street casino" should be replaced by an economic engine that supports local economies (via huffingtonpost).

This is crucial because sustainability is a place-based science, and sustainability will be achieved place by place.

So, Main Street is also the frontline in our efforts to transition toward sustainability. This is where we'll need all the financial and social resources we can muster.

Instead of "phantom wealth" that doesn't create anything of value, let's prioritize the real economy, says Korten. And, he’s got specific proposals for doing this.

Published by Ken on March 26th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

give it up for sustainability: where’s the sacrifice?

sacrificing overconsumption

Think we'll have to sacrifice to break our addiction to fossil fuels?

That's exactly backwards, says Robert Costanza: "It is a sacrifice not to".

Costanza writes about moving toward a new sustainable economy as the only viable option (via commondreams).

Why? Because quality of life is vastly more important than quantity of consumption...and our vaunted market orientation omits "the full range of resources that contribute to human well-being", says Costanza.

In so doing, the market disconnects from reality so that we don’t know what our assets really are and their true value…as we are now learning from the stock market.

Published by Ken on March 26th, 2009 tagged Island Vulnerabilities, Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

starting over: the green deal we can’t refuse


Too often we blunder, plunging forward along familiar paths to collapse, while claiming we don't have time to do things right, let alone do the right things.

Our governments are so busy spending the stimulus they don't have time to think about green stuff, so "shovel-ready" projects can promote economic grave-digging.

Do we even have a process for developing green projects, just in case there's another round of funding coming with more focus on sustainability?

Fact is, those "shovel-ready" projects that float to the top of the "priority" funding list are most often focused on what was important in the old economy,

Published by Ken on March 19th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

next up: a bailout for the eco-bubble?

bubble fever

Not just market signals are saying "No more!" Mother Nature is, too, says Thomas Friedman (via nytimes).

"What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall," wonders Friedman.

Oh, and, as Jeff Hollender points out, "Mother Nature doesn't do bailouts" (via 7thgen)

"There is no returning to normal," says Hollender (paraphrasing Herman Daly), because “the planet works in a ‘steady state’.”

Published by Ken on March 18th, 2009 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

from wireless for utilities to wireless utilities

sky wires

It would be tragic if we kept on trying to solve our sustainability challenges one by one, instead of all together, as Amory Lovins urges.

Take smart grid solutions, for example. Should our electric utilities add a wireless network just for "smart" meters, or might they jump into the wireless business as a utility?

At least ATT thinks we should use existing wireless networks for this purpose (via treehugger).

With machine to machine communication via the wireless network, each meter will communicate with the utility.

Yet, why not make wireless service part of the utility’s new business model?

Published by Ken on March 18th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

what does sustainability look like? on visualization

computing for sustainability

One of the leading Kiwi sustainability advisers has compiled a kewl collection of images called "visualizing sustainability" that explores how to convey the essence of sustainability in a few sketched lines (via compsus).

Sure, there're myriad ways to depict the sustainability concept, yet virtually all of them have something to do with what I call the "3 spheres"-- economy, ecology, and community.

So, guess who's number 17 on Samuel Mann's list? Righto: moi! Triple kewl!

Mann shows my animated version of "sustainability = wholeness" that ends with the new governance arena where our co-management of financial, natural and social capital overlap.

Published by Ken on March 17th, 2009 tagged Best Practices, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

re-inventing the downhill: on different rules for collapse

econ collapse

We all know the rules of growth, especially the one about how we must keep growing.

Now we know how dramatically the game changes when these growth rules are broken.

What we most need now is new ways of dealing with contraction.

IMHO, it is a criminal omission to not talk about the flawed assumptions of perpetual growth, and to pretend that all we have to do is figure out how to get growing again.

This rant is prompted by morning news of another nation ignoring the need to anticipate sharp declines in air travel (via oildrum)...but not just that.

Published by Ken on March 15th, 2009 tagged Adaptation, Best Practices | Comments Off

dude, where’s yer tribe? on cementing ties

ohana on tapa

With Dave Pollard in one ear, talking about "walking away", and John Robb in the other talking about "finding your tribe", I'm burdened today by the certainty of collapse.

Plus, I'm going visiting with my grandots next week, and I'm agonizing over my obligation to tell them what we've done and what's coming.

Says Pollard, "It is not in me to struggle for years to try to make hopelessly broken and dysfunctional systems work a little better."

Says Robb, "tribal organization is the organizational cockroach of human history...proven (to) withstand the onslaught of the harshest of environments."

Published by Ken on March 13th, 2009 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities | 1 Comment »

more yield, less nourishing: on perversity in our food system


Whether or not you like the look or taste of broccoli, what we most need is the nutrients ostensibly contained therein.

Yet, our inherited food system elevates quantity above quality, and the nutrient content of our food is falling fast as a consequence, says Donald Davis (via grist).

Worse, the industrial process for boosting the yield per acre simultaneously diminishes the plants' ability to take up nutrients and depletes the soil from which these nutrients arise. Yikes!

So, if we restored the nutrient quality, we'd need less gross quantity, and a sustainable food system might be cheaper by this measure.

Published by Ken on March 12th, 2009 tagged Food, HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

a model TDT for thee: don’t think of faster horses

model TDT

Henry Ford knew the carriage trade just wanted faster horses, so he didn't ask them. Instead, he bedded down with the builders of new forms of mobility and production, and within 10 years, the carriage builders were out of business...and the US economy never looked back.

Now, our best thinkers are betting on the builders of new forms of social networking and enterprise, and our best hope for sustainability lies with those who seek to "reboot" the whole business.

...which is why we need a "Model TDT" (for "Think & Do Tank"). And, by “we” I mean every community.

Published by Ken on March 10th, 2009 tagged Best Practices, HI-specific | 1 Comment »