General Readings from Blackboard

The following quotes are from doors of perception it’s a long piece so I copied what I felt was most relevant.

“Nature provides human society with a vast diversity of benefits such as food, fibres fuel, clean water, healthy soil, protection from floods, protection from soil erosion, medicines, storing carbon (important in the fight against climate change) and many more” begins the TEEB report. Though our wellbeing is totally dependent upon these ecosystem services, they are predominantly ‘public goods’ with no markets and no prices, “they often are not detected by our current economic compass”.

This terrifying rate of loss is due to pressures from population growth, changing diets, urbanisation and also climate change. Biodiversity is declining, our ecosystems are being continuously degraded and we, in turn, are suffering the consequences. As Sukhdev explains it, “we are trying to navigate uncharted and turbulent waters with an old and defective economic compass and that this was affecting our ability to forge a sustainable economy in harmony with nature.”

Companies face not just regulation but indirect pressure, too, from investors, insurers, activists, employees or neighbourhood communities.

Measures to deal with the greenwashing problem are in development. In the UK, for example, the Carbon Trust and the government are working with BSI British Standards to co-sponsor the development of a Publicly Available Specification (PAS). This will be a standard method for measuring the embodied green house gas (GHG) emissions in products and services across a wide range of product categories and their supply chains.

The aim is to enable companies to measure the GHG related impacts of their products, understand the life-cycle climate change impacts of their products, and highlight significant emissions reduction opportunities.

In an adjacent development, a methodology for evaluating social capital is also being developed. The notion of a Social Return on Investment (SROI) has been developed to help social enterprises put a monetary value on the future social benefits of their activities. It allows discussion of how (and where) they create social value with their stakeholders in a more compelling way than saying ‘invest in us – we’re a good thing’.
http://www.sroi-uk.org/
http://www.socialcapitalpartnerships.com/pdf/Kroger_Presentation_051707.pdf
http://www.hbs.edu/centennial/conversation/futureofsocialenterprise/

In his book Collapse, Jarred Diamond explains that societies fail when their elites are insulated from the negative impact of their own actions. Diamond focuses on Easter Island, where the overuse of wood products eventually destroyed its inhabitants’ survival prospects.

The lesson applies equally to us, today. We are bewitched, as a culture, by a high entropy concept of quality and performance that drives us to waste astronomical amounts of energy and material resources. We lust for speed, perfection, control – but are blind to their true cost.

Big D economic development tends to view human, cultural and territorial assets – the people and ways of life that are already there – as impediments to progress and modernisation. A huge development industry measures progress in terms of economic growth, and increased consumption, and assumes without question that urbanisation and transport intensity are signs of progress. Development tends to devalue human agency and replace people with technology automation and “self service.”

Aesthetics creates the need. Metrics provides the measure of change required. Design provides the means.

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