Sustainability Bites

There is no such thing as a free lunch

complexity

Trump and the crazy ants – focus on the system, not the symptom

Trump and the crazy ants – focus on the system, not the symptom

‘Trumpism’ is a bit like crazy ants? Both require certain system conditions for them to become super pests. Throwing Trump in jail won’t remove the threat. The conditions for Trump’s ascendency are still present and will enable the next ‘crazy man’ to do just as much damage. We need to remediate the craziness and address the gaps in society that let so many people believe the system isn’t working for them.

Don’t think this is rational – it’s a mad, mad world. The revelations of bowing to BAU.

Don’t think this is rational – it’s a mad, mad world. The revelations of bowing to BAU.

Climate scientists of all types have been forecasting these consequences for decades but we’ve done nothing. Now we’re reeling as the water laps at our doors and the smoke chokes our air. In the world we have, a complex world, today’s decisions are driven by past investments, vested interests, political compromises, and an overwhelming inertia not to buck the status quo. BAU (business as usual) rules, it’s our society’s identity. Maybe we should stop kidding ourselves we live in a rational world.

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.

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.

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.

Disaster follows failures in integrity. Don’t think the Earth System is too big to fail.

Disaster follows failures in integrity. Don’t think the Earth System is too big to fail.

Disaster follows failures in integrity. Don’t think the earth system is too big to fail.
Good governance, transparency and accountability would have prevented Chernobyl, Challenger and Deepwater Horizon from ever becoming disasters.
Now we have climate change and we’re ignoring all the warnings.