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This week’s essential reading December 27th through January 2nd

by mel starrs on January 2, 2009

in News

These are my links for December 27th through January 2nd:

  • Life With Alacrity: Community by the Numbers, Part One: Group Thresholds – Excellent post explaining Dunbar's number and group sizes.
  • Masdar plan: Abu Dhabi has embarked upon an ambitious plan to build a zero-emission clean-tech centre in the desert. Will it work? – Great article on Masdar from the Economist: "Mr al-Jaber says that Masdar has studied successful technology clusters around the world in an effort to recreate the same conditions in Abu Dhabi. He is particularly keen to mimic the welcoming regulatory environment and efficient infrastructure of places such as Singapore and Ireland. Foreign firms setting up shop in Masdar city will, he points out, be able to work without local partners if they want, and to move capital freely in and out of the country. There will be strong protection of intellectual property and little in the way of paperwork. Most alluringly, they will not pay any taxes."
  • A PR Guy’s Musings – Stuart Bruce: The best of social media over the holiday season – Always a sucker for a cool flowchart – how to respond to blogs by USAF via Stuart Bruce.
  • Gaian Economics: Is this the year of the steady state? – Best (and most simple) definition of capitalism I've seen in a while: "The problem with interest and other forms of using money to make money is that it is mortgaging the future. Since money is expanding, goods will need to be increased so that they are available when the people who have that money come to demand them. And all those goods need resources and energy to make them. This is an unsustainable way of running an economy."
  • Nice but nasty: ‘sustainability’ in 2018? | Forum For The Future – Perhaps if we ever get to scenario A, engineering firms can stop have seperate 'sustainability' departments and we can all go back to our day jobs? Sustainability is *not* a discipline:
    "Scenario A – The global interest – this is a ‘best case’ scenario, where an effective globalised response to global challenges prompts increased resource productivity, closed loop production processes and low-carbon growth. In this scenario, successful companies have embedded sustainability management throughout their organisations, and separate CSR departments are a thing of the past. "
  • Gardening for food security | Forum For The Future – Intriguing numbers, but I'm still concerned about distribution, supply and demand (having been witness to various friends gluts of eggs and apples). By taking averages across the country, peaks and troughs are totally discounted:
    "To begin with, it’s important to investigate whether it’s possible to create a sustainable food supply sourced from the UK alone. There are 60.6 million UK inhabitants, each estimated to eat 0.5 kg or 150 kcal of fruit and vegetables every day. To supply this population would require 450,000 ha of land.
    The equivalent of 150,000 ha could come from gardens and allotments (calculated by the average household size being 2.4 people and 82% of households having a garden with an average area of 186m2). The remainder could come from 200,000 ha of commercial vegetable production on arable land and 100,000 ha of orchard land including agroforestry. So, it is possible for us to feed ourselves, but do we have the will and the expertise? "
  • A record year for carbon-cutting BREEAM – Over 2,000 buildings have been assessed in 2008, a 40% increase on 2007 and the highest number in any one year since BREEAM's inception.
  • EU directive recognises air source heat pumps – The European parliament has expanded the definition of renewable energy sources to include aerothermal and hydrothermal energy sources, effectively recognising air-source and water source heat pumps.
  • Towards my new progressivism – part one | Matthew Taylor’s blog – Loving this series from Matthew Taylor. As a slightly left of centre libertarian, this makes perfect sense to me: "To be sure, freedom and fairness are likely to be important components of the objective conditions for, and subjective experience of, well-being. But the way we experience and express freedom, and the translation of objectively fair rules into a society in which people both feel equally valued and committed to reciprocity depend upon the development of individuals as social actors and the creation of the contexts which encourage individually fulfilling and socially benevolent preferences and actions."
  • Towards a new progressivism | Matthew Taylor’s blog – "Using the categories of cultural theory, I have argued in earlier posts that roughly between rearmament in the 1930s and the oil shocks of the 1970s hierarchical solutions were predominant. This was a time of large corporations, national planning, a relatively structured global politics and a faith in technological expertise.
    This period was superseded by the long era of dominant individualism which may finally have come to an end with the credit crunch and subsequent downturn. Individualism fostered a remarkable era of innovation and freedom but was already subject to powerful critiques, especially from egalitarians emphasising growing inequality, high levels of social and individual pathology and, most of all, the dangers of climate change."
  • Creative destruction: Interview with Richard Foster – The McKinsey Quarterly – Creative destruction Interview Richard Foster – Strategy – Growth – "The essence of capitalism is capitalizing—bringing forward the future value of cash to the present so that society can grow more quickly by taking risks. It goes back to the Dutchmen in the 16th century, sitting at their coffeehouses in Amsterdam and Leiden, loaning each other money for a guaranteed return. Someone said, “I’ll give you a little higher return if you give me a piece of the action”—and equity was invented. That had the effect of bringing forward, into real cash today, the net present value of future earnings. That levered society and allowed it to grow at a much higher rate than it would otherwise have. Equity was a very clever invention, and we are not going to give it up. This is the way people are. This is the way commerce works and will continue to work unless capitalism ends. And that won’t happen, regardless of what you read in the press"
  • www.les-ter.org – Landlord’s Energy Statement, Tenants Energy Review – home – LES-TER is an industry initiative led by the British Property Federation, with technical assistance from the Usable Buildings Trust and financial support from the Carbon Trust.
    It is a set of tools and a process designed to enable landlords and tenants to measure, understand and reduce their emissions from their ownership and occupancy of commercial buildings.
  • Britain from Above on Youtube – Missed "Britain from above"? Loads of clips uploaded onto Youtube – some great visualisations.
  • The Atlantic Online | December 2008 | “Be Nice to the Countries That Lend You Money” | James Fallows – Another riff on engineering vs. accountants/bankers, this time from China: "Individually, everyone needs to be compensated. But collectively, this directs the resources of the country. It distorts the talents of the country. The best and brightest minds go to lawyering, go to M.B.A.s. And that affects our country, too! Many of the brightest youngsters come to me and say, “Okay, I want to go to the U.S. and get into business school, or law school.” I say, “Why? Why not science and engineering?” They say, “Look at some of my primary-school classmates. Their IQ is half of mine, but they’re in finance and now they’re making all this money.” So you have all these clever people going into financial engineering, where they come up with all these complicated products to sell to people."
  • Op-Ed Columnist – Time to Reboot America – NYTimes.com – In my blackest moods at work, I've often threatened to run off and become an accountant. I'm glad now I didn't – perhaps the impending doom and gloom spells good news for engineering and science? From Thomas Friedman on the US: "we’ve fallen into a trend of diverting and rewarding the best of our collective I.Q. to people doing financial engineering rather than real engineering. These rocket scientists and engineers were designing complex financial instruments to make money out of money — rather than designing cars, phones, computers, teaching tools, Internet programs and medical equipment that could improve the lives and productivity of millions."
  • Bits Of Destruction – From Fred Wilson: "This downturn will be marked in history as the time where many of the business models built in the industrial era finally collapsed as a result of being undermined by the information age. Its creative destruction at work. It's painful and many jobs will be lost permanently. But let's also remember that its inevitable and we can't fight it. Technology and information forces are unstoppable and they will reshape the world as we know it regardless of whether or not we want them to."
  • Not Exactly Rocket Science : Lacking control drives false conclusions, conspiracy theories and superstitions – "Even spotting false patterns could have psychological benefits if it restores a person's sense of control, increases their confidence or even reduces their risk of depression. Scientists, fond as we are of truth and fact, would typically argue that it's better to get an accurate picture of the world around you. Whitson and Galinsky agree but they also take a pragmatic stance, saying that "it may be at times adaptive [to allow] an individual to psychologically engage with rather than withdraw from their environment." "
  • Derek Deighton

    January 3, 2009

    A Steady State Solution to the One Planet Equation?

    The reality of the ‘One Planet Equation’ is irrefutable but the possibility of a ’steady state solution’ is questionable in human terms as we have found, even in the possibility of creating ’steady state growth’ in the existing economic paradigm.

    Better to recognise the dynamic relationship between the variables of the ‘one planet equation’, Population, Consumption and Resource Intensity, and work towards a dynamic solution to the equation, a fundamental engineering concept that, for example, keeps the Eurofighter flying.

    That’s why I prefer to state the First Law of Sustainability as ‘In a resource constrained environment, goods and services can only grow at the rate at which they can be dematerialised.’ Positively and dynamically.

    dd

    Gaian Economics: Is this the year of the steady state? – Best (and most simple) definition of capitalism I’ve seen in a while: “The problem with interest and other forms of using money to make money is that it is mortgaging the future. Since money is expanding, goods will need to be increased so that they are available when the people who have that money come to demand them. And all those goods need resources and energy to make them. This is an unsustainable way of running an economy.”

    This is linked to the Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy http://www.steadystate.org/CASSEFeaturesSSE.html

  • Derek Deighton

    January 3, 2009

    A Steady State Solution to the One Planet Equation?

    The reality of the ‘One Planet Equation’ is irrefutable but the possibility of a ’steady state solution’ is questionable in human terms as we have found, even in the possibility of creating ’steady state growth’ in the existing economic paradigm.

    Better to recognise the dynamic relationship between the variables of the ‘one planet equation’, Population, Consumption and Resource Intensity, and work towards a dynamic solution to the equation, a fundamental engineering concept that, for example, keeps the Eurofighter flying.

    That’s why I prefer to state the First Law of Sustainability as ‘In a resource constrained environment, goods and services can only grow at the rate at which they can be dematerialised.’ Positively and dynamically.

    dd

    Gaian Economics: Is this the year of the steady state? – Best (and most simple) definition of capitalism I’ve seen in a while: “The problem with interest and other forms of using money to make money is that it is mortgaging the future. Since money is expanding, goods will need to be increased so that they are available when the people who have that money come to demand them. And all those goods need resources and energy to make them. This is an unsustainable way of running an economy.”

    This is linked to the Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy http://www.steadystate.org/CASSEFeaturesSSE.html

  • http://www.melstarrs.com mel starrs

    I like the idea of growth by dematerialisation a lot. It very much appeals to the need desire to reduce waste, of resources, time and effort. Thanks!

  • http://www.melstarrs.com mel starrs

    I like the idea of growth by dematerialisation a lot. It very much appeals to the need desire to reduce waste, of resources, time and effort. Thanks!

  • http://www.terrainfirma.co.uk/blog.html Gareth Kane

    If you want to exercise your brain, try Sustainability by Design by John Ehrenfeld. It left me exhausted, but with a whole new viewpoint on sustainability. I review it here:

    http://www.terrainfirma.co.uk/2009/01/book-review-sustainability-by-design.html

  • http://www.terrainfirma.co.uk/blog.html Gareth Kane

    If you want to exercise your brain, try Sustainability by Design by John Ehrenfeld. It left me exhausted, but with a whole new viewpoint on sustainability. I review it here:

    http://www.terrainfirma.co.uk/2009/01/book-review-sustainability-by-design.html