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The roots of the next technology revolution

February 28, 2018

If you only listen to mainstream radio, TV or online media stories on climate change, ocean plastics or deforestation then you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing’s happening. You could also be forgiven for taking away the message that “some government somewhere” has to do something that they’re not.

If this is the case, what you could well be missing is an emerging business shift to clean technology. You might not know things like:

  • Climate change could be reversed within 30 years, just using our current technology and knowledge base.
  • Google has launched a clean technology startup doing domestic heating and cooling using geothermal energy.
  • Harley Davidson is working on an electric motorcycle (that sounds like a jet plane).

You might also not be aware that this shift toward regenerative business (a business that’s good for communities and ecosystems) has over 30 years of design, development, and commercialisation behind it.

The inventors, innovators and early adopters of the world have been worrying about climate change and environmental damage for decades (some would say centuries, since the potential for climate change problems was identified back in the 19th century).

So while the majority of the population has been struck by a global attach of Bystander Syndrome (the authorities should do something), change makers have been working on:

  • Innovative new paradigms for delivering business value sustainably, including The Natural Step, Natural Capitalism, The Circular Economy and The Blue Economy.
  • Smart, super-efficient models for doing better product design, better service delivery, better food production, including Permaculture, Ocean Permaculture, Cradle to Cradle Product Design and Systemic Design.

Are you missing out on a wealth of opportunity?

The acceleration of information technology is enabling the next generation of clean technology, driving a new wave of business development that could leave you struggling to make up lost ground.

So take a speed date with the roots of the clean technology revolution and the regenerative business paradigm of “doing well BY doing good” that could well drive the next decade of economic innovation.

Permaculture (1978)

Bill Mollison developed the word “permaculture” to reflect the need for permanent systems of both agriculture and culture, based on the work he and his team did on permanent agriculture.  Permaculture challenges us to consciously design and maintain food production ecosystems with the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. To be sustainable for the long term, it requires us to design and build sustainable social systems as well as productive agricultural systems.

The Natural Step (1989)

Karl-Henrik Robert was a medical doctor, challenged by the massive rise of cancer in the modern world. He founded The Natural Step in Sweden and put into words the fundamental system conditions required to make human activities on earth sustainable. He applied basic laws of physics including the Laws of Thermodynamics to develop The Natural Step’s systems conditions.

Zero Emissions Research Initiative / The Blue Economy (1996)

Belgian entrepreneur Gunter Pauli launched the Zero Emissions Research Initiative (ZERI) Foundation to understand the strategic levers necessary to develop true sustainability.  ZERI’s research and curation of leading-edge innovations resulted in the book “The Blue Economy”, published as a report to The Club of Rome in 2010.

The Blue Economy goes beyond 20th century “green” approaches to sustainable business – the perfective and efficiency-oriented approaches that attempt to improve environmental outcomes without addressing mine/make/use/dump design and top-down, globalised supply chain models.

Why Blue?  “Because the sky is blue, the sea is blue, the Earth from space is blue” – Gunter Pauli The Blue Economy has the goal of keeping things that way.

Many know The Blue Economy for its detailed listing of 100 entrepreneurial innovations with the extreme potential to deliver regenerative solutions “that emulate ecosystems and cascade energy and resources to add value and generate multiple exchange benefits, translating them into income and employment.”

However, the real core of The Blue Economy is focused on “meeting local needs from local resources while creating local jobs” by using Systems Thinking, the best global technology design and next-generation biomimicry-based technology solutions to deliver enterprises that regenerate communities and ecosystems.

Biomimicry (1997)

“Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature“ was published in 1997 by Janine Benyus. It describes how we can leverage Nature’s “3.8 billion years of design brilliance” to develop innovative, sustainable systems innovation.

The Biomimcry Guild was the formed in 1998, evolving to become the Biomimicry Institute in 2006.

Industrial Era thinking is inherently dominated by the use of resource-intensive mechanical and chemical engineering to make products and deliver services.  Biomimcry investigates the way Nature use physics, biology, and biochemistry to create safe, resource-efficient, recyclable products and materials.

Natural Capitalism (1999)

Sustainability thought leaders Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L Hunter Lovins collaborated to write the foundational book “Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution”. In it, they described the fundamental mindsets, practices, and principles that will enable a sustainable, clean technology economy – one designed to regenerate the ecosystems that deliver clean food, clean water, and clean air.

They identified that Natural Capitalism demands :

1) Radical resource productivity;

2) Biomimicry-based design;

3) An economy focused on value and material flow rather than product sales.

4) Investing in natural capital –recognising and funding the valuable ecosystem services that keep us alive

(See a summary paper here: Translating Natural Capitalism)


Cradle to Cradle (2002)

Design chemist Michael Braungart and architect William McDonough published “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” in 2002.

Their book proposed a fundamental shift in our economic, industrial and social frameworks to one that creates sustainable systems – systems that are not only labour and machine-efficient but also intentionally waste free.

McDonough and Braungart proposed that we can design, develop and deliver products that are totally safe to make, to use and to dispose of. Their experience as they worked on such systems was that they also radically reduced production costs.

From the initial concept and book, the Cradle to Cradle approach has progressed to full certification through a Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.


The Ellen Macarthur Foundation and The Circular Economy (2010)

After her experiences as a solo yachtswoman, environmentalist Ellen Macarthur established a foundation to promote a paradigm shift called The Circular Economy. Her Foundation brought together major industrial collaborators B&Q, BT/Cisco, National Grid & Renault to develop new business and product designs.

Leveraging the design thinking and development of other regenerative business thought leaders, the Foundation’s brief is to “accelerate the takeup of new design principles for an economy where materials flow around an endless loop”. They see this new approach replacing the Industrial Economy’s one-way mine/make/use/dump paradigm, delivering business benefits as well as a secure environmental future

Project Drawdown (2013)

Long-time sustainability entrepreneur Paul Hawken led the creation of Project Drawdown – the first evidence-based research into quantifying solutions to global warming. Their research is focussed on building a “shopping list” of the most powerful available actions for reversing climate change.

Applying Stephen Covey’s fundamental habit of “beginning with the end in mind”, Hawken created a team of 70 advanced researchers from 22 countries. Their initial brief was to quantify what it would take to get to the point of “drawdown” – so that we are taking more GHG out of the atmosphere than we are releasing.

Drawdown’s first-round results were published in 2017. They have surprised a lot of people – including the researchers.  What their modeling demonstrated was that the 80 most powerful solutions for reversing climate change aren’t just about preventing or replacing well-known, high volume causes.

Alongside “Onshore Wind Turbines” at #2 in the top 10 (of 80 actions) were unexpected solutions like “Better Refrigerant Management” at #1, “Reduced Food Waste” at #3 and “Educating Girls” at #6.

We live in interesting times – times that are full of sustainable OPPORTUNITY

We face ongoing, severe, immediate environmental challenges – challenges that have been building since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. What we inherited was:

An industrial system fundamentally designed when the global population was less than 1 billion – one-way, resource intensive and toxic in its effluents and emissions.

So far, we’ve taken this inheritance and multiplied it, without understanding or addressing a deeper challenge:

The human social systems behind our supply chain that evolved to actively preserve the status quo. These systems are already under enormous stress from an unprecedented level of technology innovation – so resistance has multiplied in recent decades

However, when you look beyond the mass media messages of “government policy” and “consumer frugality” there’s a new world of opportunity. “We have the technology” – we have the designs AND the practices and the evidence. We can rebuild our economy and the entrepreneurs are already in action.

You don’t need to ask “Can we fix it?” anymore – because the answer is “Yes – if we choose to…”

Now there’s a more immediate question: “What are we missing out on?” “What opportunities do we have to be part of the solution  – and what threats don’t we even know we’re facing.

Whether you’re a car mechanic, an air conditioning engineer, a data analyst or an entrepreneur – if you’re assuming that “this environment thing” is an expensive obligation, a government responsibility or a scientific uncertainty, you could easily be missing out on:

“The biggest opportunity since the invention of money” – Alan AtKisson

(Adapted from: http://balance3.com.au/key-concepts-driving-the-regenerative-business-space/ )

Sustainability Strategist & Writer at Balance 3
Leigh is a business sustainability strategist committed to helping her customers leverage “the biggest opportunity since the invention of money.” Her pragmatic, straightforward approach makes it easy to find the wealth of business growth opportunities available in solving a range environmental issue, from global warming to plastics pollution.

She coaches and trains entrepreneurial thinkers to see beyond 20th century business practice to the wealth of “deep green” profit opportunities emerging. As well as teaching her clients how to find leading edge regenerative business strategies, Leigh helps them develop the skills to convert good ideas into great business results.
Leigh Baker
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