Published on November 27, 2008
Love, longevity and locality: the future of sustainability : Love, longevity and locality: the future of sustainability Dr Peter Wells Senior Research Fellow CAIR and BRASS Cardiff University The storyline : The storyline This is the story of the relationship between things and thoughts: the twin sisters of innovation Things: innovation as objects Thoughts: innovation as ideas It is a turbulent and torrid tale It is up to us to give it a happy ending! A key question: is innovation sustainable? : A key question: is innovation sustainable? YES, everybody seems to think so: Enriches our lives Reduces our workload Makes new things possible Creates markets; generates wealth AND Makes things more resource-efficient, hence more sustainable (the ‘Factor X’ argument) For example… A key question: is innovation sustainable? : A key question: is innovation sustainable? NO, not necessarily: Consumes scarce social resources Creates product redundancy and hence waste Creates the ‘efficiency trap’ and hence greater consumption (rebound effect) Generates social turbulence Reinforces the cult of the new Often ‘spurious’ innovation Is innovation sustainable? An eco-velocity perspective : Is innovation sustainable? An eco-velocity perspective Measure CO2 impact of an industry from manufacture to consumption: Take away mitigation efforts that reduce CO2 burden If ratio is over 1, then the industry is eco-speeding In Japan, 1995 to 2000, rate of consumption growth exceeded rate of technology advance e.g: Eco-velocity of personal computers went up from 2.97 (1995) to 3.95 (2000) IT sector had eco-velocity of 25.1 (in 2000) due to growth in internet usage Is innovation sustainable? : Is innovation sustainable? Rebound effect: Average energy consumption of EU household appliances (dishwashers, etc.) fell by 21% 1990 to 2002 Total energy consumption fell by just 2% due to increase in number of appliances and their use (Source: European Environment Agency) Actually, the problems are: : Actually, the problems are: At the household level the big categories of impact are: Transport Housing Food Accounts for 75-80% of environmental burden Measures all impacts, including global warming / greenhouse gas potential; often use footprint concept BUT perhaps we need to take a look at lifestyles Household consumption : Household consumption We get richer, while innovation makes things cheaper…so we consume more! US international departure flight costs (US$ 1978 constant) 25 cents / mile in 1947 5 cents / mile in 2002 Air travel therefore growing faster than net economic growth in most advanced economies A key question: is innovation sustainable? : A key question: is innovation sustainable? A key issue: the focus on object innovation rather than ideas innovation: Technology leaps forward We accelerate the world at huge environmental cost Social structures and ideas do not Cultures, practices, organisations, governments, regulatory frameworks, ideologies, religions, mindsets, etc. much slower to change. A case study: CO2 emissions from cars : A case study: CO2 emissions from cars Contemporary cars hopelessly inefficient…of the total energy content in the fuel tank: 60% lost due to thermal inefficiency of the engine 15% lost during engine idling More energy lost in drivetrain, power to accessories etc. Say 15% Most of delivered energy to the wheels a) accelerates the car itself; b) moves the air to one side c) overcomes rolling resistance Less than 1% of energy content in the fuel actually moves the driver!! A case study: CO2 emissions from cars : A case study: CO2 emissions from cars Compare with… A case study: CO2 emissions from cars : A case study: CO2 emissions from cars Compare with the Land Rover Discovery 3 Engine 4.4 litre V8 petrol Transmission 6-speed automatic 354 g/km CO2 18.8 mpg (combined) £2,612 fuel cost for 12,000 miles Four times the cost of Prius Approx £30,000 of fuel over vehicle lifetime (2007 prices) See www.carfueldata.org.uk Slide 16: Likely proportion of the 140 g/km target to be reached by the top 20 brands by 2008/09 if current trends continue. EU agreement not working so far…Source: E&T lobby group Slide 17: Toyota Prius uses hybrid drive system and smart engine management…but not radical or difficult to do Slide 18: Acceleration… Cruising… Deceleration.. A case study: CO2 emissions from cars : A case study: CO2 emissions from cars RMI Hypercar concept for a zero CO2 emissions vehicle: CFRP body shell 70-80 kg Aerodynamic shape 0.20 drag coefficient Hub motors with regenerative braking Hydrogen fuel cell Or plug-in battery / series hybrid with small engine A case study: CO2 emissions from cars : A case study: CO2 emissions from cars OR… Walk Cycle Get a horse Don’t travel at all Even a bicycle has an environmental burden A case study: CO2 emissions from cars : A case study: CO2 emissions from cars But just as shocking is the economic performance: Less than 3% of lifetime profit generated by a car goes to vehicle manufacturer for making it Chronic depreciation in car value Industry has huge turnover (GM $180 billion) Barely and rarely profitable Massive capital intensity Chronic serial restructuring Industry (and consumers) locked into traditional patterns : Industry (and consumers) locked into traditional patterns Fire and forget production Purchase cost rather than lifetime cost Financial cost rather than environmental cost Brands and emotional values rather than functionality More stuff makes you happier! The triumph of centralisation : The triumph of centralisation Traditional business logic and consumption norms: Economies of scale Mass production Standardisation Cost reduction Market expansion Globalisation The triumph of centralisation : The triumph of centralisation Traditional business organisation and strategy: Consolidation and rationalisation The tendency to monopoly Illusion of choice Primacy of capital flows Jobs and places sacrificed to this cost perspective The triumph of centralisation : The triumph of centralisation Discourses of development: Primacy of free trade and market forces WTO, World Bank, Davos Ignores many non-business dimensions Non profit-maximizing business Social business Charity Gift economy and voluntarism A key conclusion : A key conclusion In the context of global warming, the challenge is to change social practices fast enough to prevent self-destruction: Can this be done? How? By whom? In what ways? Read Jarad Diamond ‘Collapse’ Re-thinking object innovation : Re-thinking object innovation Objects used to be treasured and loved: There were very few of them They had a high (relative) financial value They had a high emotional value They were personal They had embedded stories and meaning They were worth preserving Re-thinking object innovation : Re-thinking object innovation Objects used to be understandable: We could repair them We could know how they were made, and often by whom We could know how they worked We could feel their personality We could sense that they were appropriate to our circumstances and conditions Re-thinking object innovation : Re-thinking object innovation Object innovation needs to recapture some of those values: The problem is not the lack of technology per se, but the application Core technologies (objects) to challenge global warming exist: The problem is to find ways to apply those technologies… And that demands innovative ideas about society New patterns of consumption and production : New patterns of consumption and production We need to love our products, and keep them a long time: Durability / longevity data hard to be definite about: Things often kept but not used Or sold on E-Bay! Technological redundancy may occur e.g. digital TV Aesthetic redundancy may occur e.g. mobile phones Economic redundancy may occur where it is too expensive to repair a low-value product e.g. cars, washing machines System redundancy may occur where there is no support service available New patterns of consumption and production : New patterns of consumption and production We need products that are appropriate to our circumstances: Solar power in Wales? We need drizzle power! Wood chip biofuel in Somalia? Maybe not, but local biodiesel production could be huge benefit to rural poor in many countries Food miles and the Braeburn apple problem New patterns of consumption and production : New patterns of consumption and production The key word here is DIVERSITY Diverse technologies Diverse ways of producing and consuming Diverse ways of living Implies a return to LOCALITY New patterns of consumption and production : New patterns of consumption and production Take the example of lawn mowers for technological diversity… This is a basic lawnmower…rotating cylinder of blades, hand-pushed, pressed steel plus tubular steel sections, cast-iron blades OR you could have… Conclusions : Conclusions We need to find the technical solutions, but also the social and organisational innovations: Latest IPCC report underlines urgency Non admitted data makes it even more vital that we change A LOT and SOON Our greatest resource is 6 billion brains…we need to use them all!!