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Sense and Sustainability

Thoughts from Ken Webster, author of Sense and Sustainability (shared in all schools in the Netherlands).

I don't think that we're serious yet about sustainability - there are 10 jobs in Asia for every job in design - 250,000 people making iPods, iPads - a $62bn years business and we don't even know their name. There are the same number of people - about 160,000, as there were when computers started being made in the US in year 1 of computers.

 We need to get better at understanding the non-linear economy; we only keep 1-2% of the material that we extract - the rest is in landfill within a year. Even if oil demand were to remain flat, at 45mb/d - we'd need roughly four times the capacity of Saudi just to offset the demands from existing fields.

End of the line? Climate Change, Peal Oil, Systemic Stress - biodiversity etc, Money created as debt driving growth.

Principles of a sustainable economy? As found in China's 5 year plan; as criteria for a 40bn Euro procurement in Holland; as an aspiratin of a state of California. If we can't describe what it looks like, how can we achieve it?

If the machine inspired the industrial age, the imag of the living system may inspire a genuine postindustrial age - Peter Senge, Sloan Mgt Review

You don't change things by fighting against the new reality. You create a new one that makes the old one look obsolete. Buckminster Fuller.

We need to turn everything into food - ants don't use laptops and jellyfish don't use iPhones - so we need to separate everything into biological and technical nutrients of the highest quality possible - and bringing them back into use at the highest use possible. Do you want a refrigerator? Not really - shift towards a service based economy.

Ken picked up on biomimcry too:

  • Nature as model
  • Nature as mentor
  • Nature as measure

Bring a biologist to the design table - if the only advantage we have is of intellectual property, then we'd better start building it.

Learning (Steven Sterling's ideas)

First order - adaptive - within accepted boundaes

Second order - critically reflective learning when we examine the assumptions according to which we proceed in first-order learning

Third order - when reflective examination leads to a transformative perspective shift

We need to be basing our education on rethinking and redesigning - sustainability is not about cleaning up. What other job is there for education other than help young people rethink their world?

We need to go from this:

1. Developing learner's insights into how nature works


2. Developing insights into how things like Cradle to Cradle work


3. Developing insight into thinking by using a particpatory and innovative learning process.

Wish list for all students

  1. Understand how non-linear systems work - understanding exponential curves, tha maths of finance - and know that mechanical thinking is only for a special case.
  2. To be good at asking questions

Eco-action star Carys Davies from Yale College talked today of the importance of moving on from single story to a new discovery. I guess that's something we all need to do.




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