Innovations and Value Adding Programme for Resource Effectivity
Politics of the Fire Department
Fukushima has induced a change in German energy politics. Intensive efforts to save energy and to dampen CO2 emissions have been initiated. The question is; using these and other measures, can we succeed in sustaining a civil welfare society and the future viability of industry? Still, however, the wise men of today’s economics push us towards destroying the basis of our existence in order to be economically successful. So long as our economy has no ecological crash barriers, our chances in the future do not appear heartening.
Unfortunately, up until now it appears that environmental and financial policies are treated like big individual potholes. Damages and crises are always treated singularly, and as being separate from one another; floodings, the loss of species, climate change, unemployment, the bank scandals, or the “bailing out” of Greece . And so this is done, often pumped with the money of future taxpayers. No politician and no political party have yet dared to come up with a strategic and system compatible provision for a sustainable future.
Seriously future-orientated politics are precautionary politics which correct the economic and ecological roots of maldevelopments in time, knowing as they do that once the functions and services of nature have been destroyed, they can never be repaired or replaced by any modern technology.
Growth and the Value of our Environment
We lead a life that is in this form, on this finite planet only a limited time possible. The future viability of our society and the sustainability of our economy will only be possible if we learn how to create more welfare for a growing number of people with fewer natural resources. For twenty years, realisation has grown that the biggest physical threat to ecological reliability is the enormous and unnecessary waste of natural resources [EU 1.]. Around 30kg of natural products are consumed to create 1kg of technical products, not including water. And without the help of this technology services are also not possible. Over 90% of the creation of material prosperity thus does nothing for the fulfilment of human needs and dreams.
Maximum achievable resource productivity is the ecological currency for the creation of sustainable welfare. Material growth is the opposite. Today basically anyone can remove from, spend and utilise nature to the best possible effect , without having to pay the appropriate price for it.
Humanity today moves expending an enormous amount of energy-almost 100 billion tonnes of material per annum, without calculating water and ploughed earth. This is more than twice what nature itself creates. We learn that the amount of resources deployed per welfare benefit worldwide is a globally measurable indicator for the potential environmental degradation of all goods and services – the so-called “material footprint”. Ecologically, this means that we must accelerate all those developments that reduce the use of natural resources.
We could quickly get to grips with this in a technical sense, without reducing welfare . With the aimed improvement of resource productivity, manufacturers today could save a lot of money. Economists have been promulgating this idea since 2004. Small and medium sized German enterprises could save 20% on average on resource costs without compromising the quality of outputs. This amounts to more than €150 billion per annum.
So saving on nature is worth it – however, until now very few businesses have recognised the advantages of increased resource efficiency. In this regard, there must be a (temporary) incentive given from the political side. It is not scientifically possible to determine the necessary details of the ecologically-toxic effects of our economy, or to calculate them in advance in order to create a precautionary environmental policy. As any indicator, resource productivity and intensity can only reflect an approximation for the potential capacity of environmental damage from any item. Therefore, bans are not very productive.
Instead, the price for the use of nature ought to adjust to the real costs thereof. A possible example is the (cost-neutral) shift of the financial burden of work onto natural resources. This seems appropriate for us, because natural capital has increasingly become the key to solving humanity’s shortage. Only when the principle of “full-cost pricing matches the input of natural resources in the metabolism of our economy, only then will we be more cautious in handling our environment. Labelling for environmental reasons will then be largely redundant, only the ‘toxicity’ of a thing would have to be displayed.
New Business Models
But we should not only be rediscovering saving. More generally, it is equally as important to generate greater added value with the resources available. The common business model of today is focussed on growth, economies of scale, core business and core competence. It favours the specialisation and the concentration on selected markets. Business success is measured in cash and market share and not simply for its suitability in creating a lasting benefit for the consumer.
It is obvious that we urgently need a new business model, one that can sustainably support future viability. A central precondition for this is that the basic needs of people must be satisfied, for example food, services and resources, insofar as possible in their locality.
In comparison to the usual habits of today, hundreds of times more value can be drawn from available resources, as is explained in an example from Gunter Pauli’s collection “The Blue Economy”.
From the bean to a good cup of coffee only 0.2% of the plant contributes. In other words, 99.8% of the plant must be disposed of. The potential for this waste to be used as compost or as a solid burnable fuel is not particularly high. Instead, gourmet mushrooms could be grown on this hardwood. After harvesting, the remains can be used as worm food, the worms in turn being used as fish food and the remaining humus used as patch earth. So no waste remains that must be disposed of, instead three new products and with them streams of income, and jobs have emerged. This example has already been followed by firms in Berlin, San Francisco, Mexico City and Madrid – while coffee companies leave the resource, efficiency and sales potential unused, but still spend huge amounts of money on “Greenwashing”.
The business models published by Blue Economy illustrate how nature is the most efficient economy on the planet. For every problem there are already solutions that not only create no waste, but also result in no collateral damage. This will allow many highly toxic components of our products that are already in production with tremendous physical footprints to be replaced simply by “nothing”. An example of this is to eliminate batteries by using natural electrical impulses through temperature differentials. The focus on the physical laws of nature as a guiding principle enables an almost unimaginable potential, for example when water is purified using gravitational force alone (replacing chlorine and expensive filters).
In sum, the resulting products are cheaper as well as better – better for everyone, including nature. We hope that soon politics, economics and consumers will realise that it is already possible today to live a sustainable life. All that is needed for this is a rethink, not a conscious foregoing of wealth and the satisfaction of needs.
InnVal: Programme for a Right to a Future
In order to implement the already known possibilities, there is a need for politics that creates incentives. An inclusive innovations and added resource programme for resource effectivity should include, for example:
· The early, precautionary enforcement of system compatible solutions, [EU 6.1] 
· The specific improvement of resource productivity, [EU1., 6.1]
· The enforcement of candid market pricing (“full cost pricing”) [EU 3.4.2]
· The effective assuming of liability in politics and in the economy, (Homburg)
· The declaration of ecological, social and economic goals for a stable future, [EU 6.1]
· The regulation of indicators referring to the environment in all political areas [EU 1.,2.6.1]
· The abolition of consumption-promoting subsidies, [EU 3.4.1]
· The prohibition of short-term profit maximising,
· The prohibition of ‘toxic products’ (Stiglitz) [EU 3.1.2]
· The establishment of early warning systems,
· The fixating of reliable accounting, reporting and labelling methods. [EU 4.1]
We hope for a speedy, cross-party dialogue with politicians, because time is running out. In July 2010 already, a study from the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) came to the conclusion that ‘there exists a very serious risk, that through sustained shortages of raw materials, a global transformation phase could be triggered. As a result of this, current societal and economic restrictions could not continue to function without security policy friction occurring. The disintegration of complex economic systems [...] has direct, sometimes serious effects on many areas of life, but also and especially in industrialised countries’. And so on: the foreseeable ‘paradigm shift contradicts economic logic, and can, therefore, be left to the market forces only to a limited extent’.
Without the eco-systemic services and functions from which humanity arises, we could not survive life on Planet Earth. We must all act immediately to protect our collective entitlement to a future, as well as the right of the future.
FACTOR 10 INSTITUTE
BLUE ECONOMY INSTITUTE
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