Sustainability Bites

There is no such thing as a free lunch

David Salt

Have we learnt nothing? Don’t put all your (biodiversity) ‘eggs’ into a single (market) ‘basket’!

Have we learnt nothing? Don’t put all your (biodiversity) ‘eggs’ into a single (market) ‘basket’!

Before we commit all our ‘biodiversity eggs’ to the ‘market basket’ and leave saving Nature to the market traders, could we quickly reflect on what’s been done in the past to save biodiversity? How did we attempt to protect Nature before markets were put forward as our road to salvation? What are the lessons? Those lessons would include attention to governance, resourcing, inclusion and justice. Ignore these dimensions and there’s little prospect that a market-driven approach is going to achieve anything better.

Don’t look up! Don’t talk up! Don’t rock the status quo. Attenborough’s message upsets vested interests.

Don’t look up! Don’t talk up! Don’t rock the status quo. Attenborough’s message upsets vested interests.

Over time, vested interests and elites distort the system to maximise their wealth while simultaneously playing the system to protect their perceived entitlement. They do this through denial, obfuscation, denigration and applying the levers of power to prevent change and stop any talk about the redistribution of power.

The first casualty – do we really want a war with Mother Nature?

The first casualty – do we really want a war with Mother Nature?

Our world is sinking; climate disruption is unpicking the very fabric of humanity’s identity; our belief in a future with certainty is withering. In response, people are calling for action, big action, revolutionary responses as only occur in a time of war, and the calls are growing more strident and desperate. But be careful about what you wish for. In war, society’s norms are thrown out the window. Truth is no longer regulated by our institutions, chaos reigns.

Fusion energy, if you look too close… you’ll go blind – miracle technology or miserable mirage?

Fusion energy, if you look too close… you’ll go blind – miracle technology or miserable mirage?

Even if fusion power was a reality in 20 years, it is not a solution we should be prioritizing. Climate disruption is with us today and already tearing apart the fabric of our society. We don’t have 20 years; we need to transition away from carbon-intensive energy now. To prioritize the ultra-expensive, highly risky idea of fusion energy as our salvation is really just one more form of climate denialism – we don’t need to change our ways because tomorrow’s technology will save us, so keep on consuming and polluting.

A connection with tomorrow’s citizens – calling for a Ministry for the Future

A connection with tomorrow’s citizens – calling for a Ministry for the Future

The boldest and most fundamental change being proposed in the book The Ministry for the Future is a combination of economics, technology and innovations in governance that, when combined, gave reason for people to invest in their future. For surely, that is the real challenge of our times. It seems unprecedented climate disruption, with the certain prospect of greater disruption with every passing year, is not enough for us to make this important shift.

To be or not to be? It’s really a question about whether we adapt or transform

To be or not to be? It’s really a question about whether we adapt or transform

Transformation is about creating a new and different system. Transformation is enormously challenging as the existing system has a lot of inertia and sunk investment. Transformation is one of the most overused and abused terms in the realm of sustainability. For transformation to occur, resilience thinking says there are three important factors needed: to get beyond denial, to have optional systems to move towards, and to have the capacity to normalize these options.

Losing it – the consequences of stepping over the threshold

Losing it – the consequences of stepping over the threshold

There are limits to how much a complex system can be changed and still recover. Beyond those limits the system functions differently because some critical feedback process has changed. These limits are known as thresholds. Sometimes it’s easy to cross back over to the identity you want, sometimes it’s difficult and sometimes it’s impossible. The concept of ‘thresholds’ is central to understanding the resilience of your system.

On identity, complexity and a ‘little’ fossil fuel project off the West Australian coast

On identity, complexity and a ‘little’ fossil fuel project off the West Australian coast

We are all complex units operating in complex groups within a complex Earth System. ‘Simply’ pointing out why the opposite side is wrong may score points with our side but does little to fix the problem. For that to happen we need a deeper engagement with the complexity in which we find ourselves, and more reflection on what gives us (our tribe and our planet) our identity.

The perils of command and control and the pathology of Natural Resource Management

The perils of command and control and the pathology of Natural Resource Management

The initial successes of command and control of natural resources come with a costs that are usually never acknowledged. Over time, the composite result is increasingly less resilient and more vulnerable ecosystems, more myopic and rigid institutions, and more dependent and selfish economic interests all attempting to maintain short-term success. We need to work with the complexity of nature, not subjugate it.

The myth of the optimal state: adaptive cycles and the birth of resilience thinking

The myth of the optimal state: adaptive cycles and the birth of resilience thinking

The key to sustainability is a systems capacity to recover after a disturbance, not the ability to hold it in a notional optimal state. Complex systems are constantly moving through adaptive cycles of rapid growth, conservation, release and reorganisation. You can’t ‘hold’ it in one condition of ‘optimal sustainable yield’ because the system continually self organises. The myth of the optimal state stems from our mistaken belief that we are in control and the systems we are managing are simple systems.