Sustainability Archives

September 23, 2007

Jose M. Ramos on Anticipatory Innovation

Futuristics contributor Jose M. Ramos has published a 7-part series called Anticipatory Innovation which spans many dimensions:

• A reflection on Ramos' personal journey and evolution as a futurist.

Genetically Modified Organisms as one example of collective innovation.

• The effects of debates on nuclear deterrence and sustainability on Ramos' values and worldviews.

• Innovation as the coevolution of sociotechnical systems.

• The personal influence of crises and normative futures as a form of radical awareness.

• The multiple dimensions of self: cultural, ecological, ethical, normative . . .

• The foundations of Anticipatory Innovation as a mode of inquiry, a heuristic method and a change process in different contexts (e.g. individual, firm, community, industry, national, global).

Ramos' reflections cohere around a pattern that I've seen over the past 15 years in other co-journeyers: large-scale crises (structure) triggers the transutation of the individual (self agency) through the willful creation and application of methodologies (symbol-creating agency) which becomes a "strange attractor" for a small group (collective agency) to influence sociopolitical and civilisational trajectories (deep structure). This pattern is diachronic: it is observable through individuals, groups and societies over an extended timeframe. For individuals, it's a stratagem to achieve Dreams and overcome Hazard.

July 2, 2007

From Blog to Broadsheet

Two of our writers here at Futuristics have had opinion pieces published recently in Victoria's Age newspaper. Josh Floyd today draws an adroit and principle based line to argue for a social morality foundation to developing Australia's carbon trading system, while Stephen McGrail (following up January, February and April opinion pieces) leveraged comments made by Dalai Lama in his recent visit to explore the implications of 'enlightened self-interest' for business strategies appropriate to the 21st Century.

Both articles are worth noting for the progressive yet pragmatic approach they take to address the complexity of responding to humanity's sustainability challenge. From my vantage point, albeit a biased one for several reasons, it's great to see the fruits of Swinburne's strategic foresight program beginning to be more publicly displayed. Whether it’s the course or the people it attracts, or a combination of both, there's hope in them there hills;)

June 18, 2007

Take a break from Enviro-Economic 'doom and gloom'

The Age today carries a truly inspiring story of what many might now consider "getting it right" with balancing the economy, the environment and society generally. Or in a word, a viable sustainability.

Vaxjo in Sweden started heading for fossil fuel independence in 1996. They hope to finally be free from oil by 2020 (they have no real fossil fuel resources themselves to speak of). And, while there are challenges ahead, they seem basically on track. The interesting lesson for other Western countries (although the article emphasises the interest that China is showing in their success) is that they have done it while keeping growth at 5%, unemployment at 4% and they've also been phasing out nuclear energy along the way.

Admittedly the Swedish culture is quite different from other nations of the world – its communal, progressive, nature loving features are hard to find so deeply embedded in other countries. But while their collective value system may be playing a huge role in their success with transitioning to sustainability, it isn’t something that can't be compensated for to some degree by novel approaches in other areas . Innovation being something that most Western countries pride themselves on.

So, instead of the doom and gloom, take a break, and be refreshed by the arctic fresh air of one viable pathway to a desirable, sustainable and prosperous future.

April 30, 2007

Futures On Your Tele

SBS TV is currently airing an interesting grab bag of documentaries under the rubric of "Future Focus." As a futurist, I'm interested to watch, of course. I suspect, however, that many professional futurists would have sighed, and changed channels. Why is that?

Continue reading "Futures On Your Tele" »

April 20, 2007

Is the revolution near? Free, Clean Energy

The Arlington Institute is a great clearing house of interesting signals in the field of humanity's development of materials and their manipulation. The most interesting item to arrive in my inbox for several weeks is this special alert from the institute's President John L. Petersen:

It appears that we may be on the verge of an extraordinary breakthrough in energy production.

The Irish company Steorn, (, in a brilliant strategic move, took out a full page ad in The Economist to tout their new energy technology – now called Orbo – which they say uses no input energy and produces usable output. They were soliciting for candidates for a jury of scientists to publically evaluate their claims. They got 5000 responses, 1000 of which were from scientists. Although initially looking for 12 jury members, they settled on 22 who are in the process of evaluating the technology and will issue a report in the fall.

Of course, the jury is still out, (and traditional science says it is impossible) but take a look at this five minute quarterly report by Steorn’s CEO and tell me if you don’t sense that these guys probably really have something and are proceeding in a very sophisticated way to bring it to fruition.

I had lunch with my friend Eddie Mahe today and we discussed this. Eddie said, “If this is true, it changes all scenarios of potential futures.” He’s right. We may be about to witness the birth of a new energy source that rivals the discovery of fire.

Indeed, I scoured every page of Steron's website and listened carefully to the videos. These seem like cluey, considered, and well intentioned people who just might have disproved in the most brilliant way a fundamental law of thermodynamics. And they're going about proving it and presumably dispersing their technology in a very astute and respectable way. Not educated in such technical things, and without enough information to call it a hoax, I'll wait eagerly for their public demonstration mid-year and the outcomes of their independent scientific assessment.

Every futurist needs to go back to the drawing board with their clients, now!

April 17, 2007

Forget Global Warming: The Bees Are Dying

Um, this one hasn't really created the stir in the public that perhaps it should. Bees in both Europe and the US are dying at unprecedented rates. Some reports between 30%-90% of bees in particular states in the US for example have died in the past year (billions and billions of bees). So what's the problem? Well, lets go back to an Albert Einstein quote:

If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.

Now, I'm light on in the knowledge of bees, so here are two short articles that give the picture about Europe and the US.

Love to hear your thoughts about this important signal amongst the noise…Perhaps it has something to do with the toxic unintended consequences of GM crops, like the new evidence against GMO corn.

Gulp. Boy could our human-hubris be about to catch up with us.

April 10, 2007

Planning for the Aftermath of Climate Change

I recently watched the latest episode of the BBC's Spooks (the last episode in Season 5 downloaded courtesy of uTorrent and ISOHunt). The episode's main plot, besides the obligatory end-of-season cross-over emotional subplot, was about environmental terrorists threatening to blow up the Thames Barrier that serves to reduce the impact of flood waters on the low lying London. Their one demand before everyone involved became manifestly irrational was that the British Government publish in full a planning document code named 'Aftermath.'

The premise of the fictional Aftermath plan? Accept that climate change is not only inevitable, but already too progressed to be corrected, altered or mitigated in any way, and simply get on with adapting to the tectonic like changes by securing existing energy supplies, key infrastructure that will survive and generally capitalising on the ensuing chaos while squashing any trouble at home or with those pesky EU neighbours. The plan's co-authors were, of course the United States.

Stepping back into reality, this far-fetched plan isn't such a stretch.

Continue reading "Planning for the Aftermath of Climate Change" »

April 2, 2007

Our Political Leaders Are Really Followers

Australian Policy Online brought my attention to a new publication from The Climate Institute debunking Five Carbon Trading Myths (PDF). The APO comments:

Economic analysis by CSIRO, ABARE and the Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change shows that the early introduction of carbon price is affordable and will not make electricity more expensive. It will also be a billion-dollar international industry. This fact sheet refutes some arguments about the potential problems of carbon trading.

This was released before the recent article from The Age providing its background and highlighting the carbon trading scheme of Origin Energy, the Business Council of Australia's publication of a Strategic Framework for Emissions Reduction (PDF), and the Business Roundtable on Climate Change's recent report arguing that "early action to reduce emissions would add $2 trillion to GDP by 2050 and create more than 250,000 jobs."

Continue reading "Our Political Leaders Are Really Followers" »

February 20, 2007

Urgency turns into emergency

I'm pleased to say that article I wrote on the Victorian Convergence on the Global Sustainability Emergency was published in Monday's edition of The Age. Have a read...

It includes a nod to Dr Joseph Voros, who was the main lecturer when I completed the Master of Science in Strategic Foresight course stating:

After all, as my strategic foresight lecturer, Joseph Voros, said, if you want to view the future outside "business as usual" you need to pay attention to dissenters. Voros encourages people to ask "Who are the Bedouins at the gate?" and, rather than suggest they're out of their minds, explore what it is that they want and why.

February 14, 2007

Have you got anything to declare...?

I attended a small conference/meeting on Monday entitled "The Victorian Convergence on the Global Sustainability Emergency." Sounds like heavy stuff. And it was - co-hosted by Philip Sutton, Friends of the Earth (FoE), Beyond Zero Emissions, The Australian Centre for Science Innovation and Society (ACSIS) et al. The major thrust of the event was to discuss whether a formal "State of emergency" should be declared... and whether our political leaders should be lobbied to come clean, review the science and trends and make the declaration. I imagined our PM coming back into the country and a member of staff at the airport asking him if he has anything to declare before entering.....! ;-p

It was rather interesting sitting with Philip Sutton, Cam Walker (from FoE), and Frank Fisher (for part of the time), trying to write a press release, when it came to me: "An Inconvenient Emergency" as the headline, with the lead in sentence:

There are many inconvenient truths – climate change is only one of them. They all add up to a global sustainability emergency.

I don't think it was picked up by any media outlets though... :-(

On reflection, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to imagine that the Declaration was actually made and to explore what the consequences might be. I've made this the topic of another op-ed piece that I sent off to The Age newspaper this morning. Fingers crossed on getting it published... it also tries to highlight the benefits of conducting 'wild card' analysis - to try and entice business into imagining this possibility, even if they don't think it's plausible.

When Water Futures Don't Trickle Down

There's something inherently frustrating about good futures work in a corporate environment. Early 2006 several Melbourne based futurists including Peter Hayward (Swinburne Masters of Strategic Foresight program director), Rowena Morrow (teacher in the course), Susan Oliver and I facilitated the development of a set of scenarios for South East Water.

Working with a cross-section of SEW staff and a wide array of stakeholder representatives – so as to include the 'whole system' in the process – the three key scenarios that emerged brought clarity to how different value systems and thinking styles could drive social responses to water. In Spiral Dynamics terms, we explored the possible responses of mythic, individualist and pluralistic worldviews and their signature preferences for a regulatory/rules based approach, a market forces economisation approach and a community 'values leadership' approach respectively, to the increasing water crisis.

Continue reading "When Water Futures Don't Trickle Down" »

January 26, 2007

Scientific Renaissance Man on Future Generations & Sustainability

The Australian biologist and author Tim Flannery has been awarded Australian of the Year on 26 January 2007 for his contributions to environmental issues and the biosciences. Journalists and policymakers credit Flannery's book The Weather Makers (2005) with reviving the debate on global climate change.

Nassim Kaddim's profile for Melbourne's Age newspaper includes this quote:

"What distinguishes Tim is his ability to see through time," says Peter Cosier, fellow member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists. "He is able to see across generations and future generations will be thankful that Tim is on their side."

Continue reading "Scientific Renaissance Man on Future Generations & Sustainability" »

Stephen McGrail on Climate Change

Swinburne MSSF alumnus Stephen McGrail---who runs the Fore-sight and Members Circle programs for Melbourne-based consultancy Futureye---has written an Age article on how the "three L's"---legislation, litigation and liability---have cross-impacted to make a "low-carbon future" a priority for forward-looking businesses and legislators.

Continue reading "Stephen McGrail on Climate Change" »

About Sustainability

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Futuristics in the Sustainability category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Strategic Foresight is the previous category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.