Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

June 23, 2020 by  
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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan Tom Baruch Tue, 06/23/2020 – 01:30 The global COVID-19 pandemic is a historic Black Swan event that offers a Green Swan of opportunities to harvest innovation from 50 years of converging exponential technologies. We are presented with a rare opportunity to invest in new innovations, rebuild our data and power infrastructures and supply chains to restore and strengthen the economy while healing the environment. According to author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Black Swans are unexpected, hard-to-predict events that result in extreme, unintended consequences. The coronavirus pandemic is a classic Black Swan. Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed countries and states scrambling for personal protective equipment and ventilators. Oil tankers are carrying millions of tons of oil with nowhere to go. Farmers are destroying food and supermarket shelves are missing essential items across the nation. These events, made visible by the COVID-19 virus, have shown us the fragility of systems pushed to their breaking point by design constraints to maximize return on investment in the absence of resiliency.  Green Swans, according to John Elkington , are positive market developments once deemed highly unlikely, if not impossible. They can have a profound positive impact across economic, social and environmental value creation. To lessen the impact of current and future Black Swan events, we have Green Swan solutions that are ready to deploy on behalf of preparedness and resilience. Entrepreneurial innovation, new investment and regulatory models must be promoted and accelerated to prepare for future pandemics, climate change and to restore the environment. Back to normal is not an option To rebuild the economy, the United States government so far seems to choose to deploy the same playbook it did in 2008: funding legacy companies in industries such as oil and gas.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. This old playbook will not return us to a pre-COVID-19 “normal.” The price of oil plunged below zero on some days, and customer demand remains at an all-time low. Bailouts paper over the fossil fuel industry’s weaknesses and “will create a zombie industry forever dependent on state aid for survival,” according to Jason Quay, director of the Global Climate Strategy Sunrise Project.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. In the United States, examples include the Transcontinental Railroad, the Manhattan Project, the Interstate Highway System and the Apollo program.  What if the government were to integrate support for clean energy into its COVID-19 economic recovery program? Renewables would emerge more robust than ever. Utilities already have found wind and solar power are less costly sources of energy. The economics of solar and wind including storage costs are quickly undercutting the economics of oil as a prime mover. According to MIT Tech Review , prices for solar energy have declined by 97 percent since 1980. Government policies that stimulated the growth of solar accounted for 60 percent of that price decline. Even without those policies — they soon expire — renewables are more than competitive against fossil fuels. The national strategy for re-opening the economy needs to focus on resilience projects and creating an infrastructure that will absorb future shocks. Government must provide the regulatory support to amplify transformative innovation from the intersections of converging exponential technologies. We already have demonstrated the efficacy of investments directed to electrical distribution, water, transportation and renewable energy. Green Swan solutions are already at work Entrepreneurs are on the verge of creating an era that will be marked by abundance, sustainability and resilience. The world that emerges from COVID-19 could offer plentiful, zero marginal cost electricity, ubiquitous computing and cheap bio-manufacturing of high-purity drugs and environmentally friendly plastics directly from DNA.  As another example, the digitization of the electrical grid, is changing the way power is delivered and consumed. Cheap electricity drives electrons across the electrical grid where they become more accessible and offer a more affordable, cleaner and more resilient way to charge electric batteries. Among other benefits, that will increase EV adoption, leading to cleaner air. Cheap electricity will increase access to clean water. One ingenious company, Zero Mass Water , has repurposed the same solar panels helping create cheap electricity to squeeze potable water from the air — even in desert conditions. Cheap electricity also will drive synthetic biology — the intersection of information and biotechnologies, where Moore’s Law meets Mendel , the father of genetics. Synthetic biology already has delivered safe, more economical, cleaner fuels, hardier crops and proteins that are brewed locally to fertilize crops and feed animals — including us humans. Futuristic, sustainable, brewed, high-performance materials already are manufactured locally, disrupting traditional supply chains. Among the many companies demonstrating the breadth of this industry are Calysta (proteins for food production), Codexis (enzymes for multiple applications) and Geltor (proteins for nutrition and personal care products). These companies are demonstrating their products can be more effective than those developed from petroleum products or requiring the slaughter of animals. Emerging digital and biological tools for traceability and reliability are helping build supply-chain resilience now when it is most needed. With digital and biological tools, entrepreneurs are mapping supply chains to increase traceability while offering new levels of transparency following goods as they make their ways from manufacturer to consumer.  Resilience, despite resistance Entrepreneurs, new business models and investors will show us the way forward. Entrepreneurs have demonstrated time and time again that they can compress a century of progress into a decade. With the support of a community of enlightened venture capital investors, corporate strategic partners, financial institutions and governmental regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can create exponential change and generate substantial value in short periods of time. With community inputs from technology, financial and regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can generate greater returns on investment, and their efforts can create a template for the rest of the world. We need to encourage and fund new business models that leverage converging exponential technologies. In the 1990s, business models were focused almost exclusively on share of wallet. For the past 20 years, digital technology has enabled the emergence of the business models that have driven the circular and sharing economies with their positive benefits. New business models are quickly emerging based on cloud computing, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, blockchain, data analytics, augmented/virtual reality and combinations thereof. No doubt, they will bring countless benefits. Regulatory barriers for new business models should be eliminated or eased. Don’t bet against America We know this current crisis is a preview or warm-up act for a climate-changing world. The pandemic demands that business and government leaders be ready, willing and able to respond while building secure and resilient supply chains and infrastructure. The post-pandemic world requires that business and government leaders encourage creativity in preparing for the next crisis.  As we try to anticipate a resilient, reliable, secure, sustainable and prosperous future, we also have the chance to incubate and create that future. We can apply what we have learned from the past 50 years of entrepreneurial innovation, from Moore’s Law (semiconductors, information technologies and the Internet) and the mapping of the human genome, and their positive impact on global GNP. It is up to us to innovate and advocate to make the right choices. In a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, investor Warren Buffett wrote, “America’s economy will continue to grow and prosper for generations to come.” He finished by saying, “For 240 years, it’s been a terrible mistake to bet against America.”  Applying our know-how and ingenuity to prepare for the next crisis is the right place to start. Pull Quote History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. Topics Innovation VERGE Cleantech Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

June 23, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan Tom Baruch Tue, 06/23/2020 – 01:30 The global COVID-19 pandemic is a historic Black Swan event that offers a Green Swan of opportunities to harvest innovation from 50 years of converging exponential technologies. We are presented with a rare opportunity to invest in new innovations, rebuild our data and power infrastructures and supply chains to restore and strengthen the economy while healing the environment. According to author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Black Swans are unexpected, hard-to-predict events that result in extreme, unintended consequences. The coronavirus pandemic is a classic Black Swan. Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed countries and states scrambling for personal protective equipment and ventilators. Oil tankers are carrying millions of tons of oil with nowhere to go. Farmers are destroying food and supermarket shelves are missing essential items across the nation. These events, made visible by the COVID-19 virus, have shown us the fragility of systems pushed to their breaking point by design constraints to maximize return on investment in the absence of resiliency.  Green Swans, according to John Elkington , are positive market developments once deemed highly unlikely, if not impossible. They can have a profound positive impact across economic, social and environmental value creation. To lessen the impact of current and future Black Swan events, we have Green Swan solutions that are ready to deploy on behalf of preparedness and resilience. Entrepreneurial innovation, new investment and regulatory models must be promoted and accelerated to prepare for future pandemics, climate change and to restore the environment. Back to normal is not an option To rebuild the economy, the United States government so far seems to choose to deploy the same playbook it did in 2008: funding legacy companies in industries such as oil and gas.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. This old playbook will not return us to a pre-COVID-19 “normal.” The price of oil plunged below zero on some days, and customer demand remains at an all-time low. Bailouts paper over the fossil fuel industry’s weaknesses and “will create a zombie industry forever dependent on state aid for survival,” according to Jason Quay, director of the Global Climate Strategy Sunrise Project.  History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. In the United States, examples include the Transcontinental Railroad, the Manhattan Project, the Interstate Highway System and the Apollo program.  What if the government were to integrate support for clean energy into its COVID-19 economic recovery program? Renewables would emerge more robust than ever. Utilities already have found wind and solar power are less costly sources of energy. The economics of solar and wind including storage costs are quickly undercutting the economics of oil as a prime mover. According to MIT Tech Review , prices for solar energy have declined by 97 percent since 1980. Government policies that stimulated the growth of solar accounted for 60 percent of that price decline. Even without those policies — they soon expire — renewables are more than competitive against fossil fuels. The national strategy for re-opening the economy needs to focus on resilience projects and creating an infrastructure that will absorb future shocks. Government must provide the regulatory support to amplify transformative innovation from the intersections of converging exponential technologies. We already have demonstrated the efficacy of investments directed to electrical distribution, water, transportation and renewable energy. Green Swan solutions are already at work Entrepreneurs are on the verge of creating an era that will be marked by abundance, sustainability and resilience. The world that emerges from COVID-19 could offer plentiful, zero marginal cost electricity, ubiquitous computing and cheap bio-manufacturing of high-purity drugs and environmentally friendly plastics directly from DNA.  As another example, the digitization of the electrical grid, is changing the way power is delivered and consumed. Cheap electricity drives electrons across the electrical grid where they become more accessible and offer a more affordable, cleaner and more resilient way to charge electric batteries. Among other benefits, that will increase EV adoption, leading to cleaner air. Cheap electricity will increase access to clean water. One ingenious company, Zero Mass Water , has repurposed the same solar panels helping create cheap electricity to squeeze potable water from the air — even in desert conditions. Cheap electricity also will drive synthetic biology — the intersection of information and biotechnologies, where Moore’s Law meets Mendel , the father of genetics. Synthetic biology already has delivered safe, more economical, cleaner fuels, hardier crops and proteins that are brewed locally to fertilize crops and feed animals — including us humans. Futuristic, sustainable, brewed, high-performance materials already are manufactured locally, disrupting traditional supply chains. Among the many companies demonstrating the breadth of this industry are Calysta (proteins for food production), Codexis (enzymes for multiple applications) and Geltor (proteins for nutrition and personal care products). These companies are demonstrating their products can be more effective than those developed from petroleum products or requiring the slaughter of animals. Emerging digital and biological tools for traceability and reliability are helping build supply-chain resilience now when it is most needed. With digital and biological tools, entrepreneurs are mapping supply chains to increase traceability while offering new levels of transparency following goods as they make their ways from manufacturer to consumer.  Resilience, despite resistance Entrepreneurs, new business models and investors will show us the way forward. Entrepreneurs have demonstrated time and time again that they can compress a century of progress into a decade. With the support of a community of enlightened venture capital investors, corporate strategic partners, financial institutions and governmental regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can create exponential change and generate substantial value in short periods of time. With community inputs from technology, financial and regulatory bodies, entrepreneurs can generate greater returns on investment, and their efforts can create a template for the rest of the world. We need to encourage and fund new business models that leverage converging exponential technologies. In the 1990s, business models were focused almost exclusively on share of wallet. For the past 20 years, digital technology has enabled the emergence of the business models that have driven the circular and sharing economies with their positive benefits. New business models are quickly emerging based on cloud computing, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, blockchain, data analytics, augmented/virtual reality and combinations thereof. No doubt, they will bring countless benefits. Regulatory barriers for new business models should be eliminated or eased. Don’t bet against America We know this current crisis is a preview or warm-up act for a climate-changing world. The pandemic demands that business and government leaders be ready, willing and able to respond while building secure and resilient supply chains and infrastructure. The post-pandemic world requires that business and government leaders encourage creativity in preparing for the next crisis.  As we try to anticipate a resilient, reliable, secure, sustainable and prosperous future, we also have the chance to incubate and create that future. We can apply what we have learned from the past 50 years of entrepreneurial innovation, from Moore’s Law (semiconductors, information technologies and the Internet) and the mapping of the human genome, and their positive impact on global GNP. It is up to us to innovate and advocate to make the right choices. In a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, investor Warren Buffett wrote, “America’s economy will continue to grow and prosper for generations to come.” He finished by saying, “For 240 years, it’s been a terrible mistake to bet against America.”  Applying our know-how and ingenuity to prepare for the next crisis is the right place to start. Pull Quote History has shown us that government funding of visionary projects can have enormous positive outcomes. Topics Innovation VERGE Cleantech Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Let’s incubate the Green Swans hatched by the COVID-19 Black Swan

It’s urgent to reshape our economy towards justice and sustainability

June 15, 2020 by  
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It’s urgent to reshape our economy towards justice and sustainability Diane Osgood Mon, 06/15/2020 – 00:30 Right now, talking about shopping can seem trite. Yet, to address systemic racism, we need a more just economy. An economy slanted towards white ownership plus discriminatory labor practices perpetuate systemic racism. As discussed in earlier columns ( here and here ), consumer demand drives 70 percent of the economy. Consumers and citizens have significant influence over the shape of the economy because we — in aggregate — ultimately control almost 70 percent of it. As sustainability professionals, we need to ensure our companies do more than take a stand against racism and unfair labor practices. We must urgently guide the economy now because: In the face of worldwide protests against systemic racism and the coronavirus pandemic, many people became more conscious of what they value. How do we draw clear links between the action of shopping and what we value? So much about shopping is reflexive yet shopping and consumption patterns have been deeply altered during the pandemic. People everywhere have had to learn new behaviors. In this moment, can we introduce new behaviors to support a more just and sustainable economy? What can we do to reinforce changes and create lasting habits? Governments are making huge capital investments in their economies. Those trillions of dollars will not be readily available again for at least the next 10 years. Thus, this capital injection will define the shape of the economy for the next decade. Climate scientists say these are the exact 10 years that we have to reduce greenhouse gases. The climate horizon and COVID horizon are merging. We can’t wait 10 years to advance economic change on both fronts. If we want a more just economic system, we have two levers, voting and shopping: Vote for local, state and national leaders and policies that support minority-owned businesses and require fair and safe labor standards. Shop at minority-owned businesses and buy products from companies with a verified track record of fair and safe labor standards, just hiring practices and diverse leadership. Today we have a unique opportunity to reimagine and reshape the 70 percent of the economy that is consumer-driven. By doing so, we can shift the economy towards justice and environmental sustainability. As sustainability professionals, we need to ensure our companies do more than take a stand against racism and unfair labor practices. We need to help our companies operationalize true equality and fair labor practices throughout all its activities from board and executive representation down to supply-chain partners. Then we can guide consumers and help drive the changes our economy needs. Join me in the conversation, in the comments below or at diane@osgood.com . Pull Quote As sustainability professionals, we need to ensure our companies do more than take a stand against racism and unfair labor practices. Topics Consumer Trends Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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It’s urgent to reshape our economy towards justice and sustainability

Rebuilding recycling to go circular

May 19, 2020 by  
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Rebuilding recycling to go circular Keefe Harrison Mon, 05/18/2020 – 18:18 This article is part of our Paradigm Shift series, produced by nonprofit PYXERA Global, on the diverse solutions driving the transition to a circular economy. See the full collection of stories and upcoming webinars with the authors  here . After the coronavirus pandemic has passed, the world will need solutions to repair our economy in a way that protects both the planet and its people. The circular economy is a solution for our future health and wellness and recycling has a vital role to play. A circular economy is not possible without recycling, yet it can’t happen through recycling alone. As companies ramp up their circular economy goals, they’re often based on the concept that recycling will be the workhorse and catch-net of a bigger system. The truth is, that system is not yet a reality. Recycling isn’t just a thing you do when you’re done drinking your bottle of water or reading the morning paper. It’s a system supported by hundreds of thousands of employees, generating billions of dollars in economic activity, and conserving precious natural resources. However, while it can feel as though it’s a singular service, in fact it represents a loosely connected, highly interdependent network of public and private interests. The U.S. census tells us there are about 20,000 local governments, each independently responsible for deciding what to recycle, how to recycle, or whether to offer recycling services at all. This collection of disaggregated waste management decisions is a challenging start of the “reverse supply chain” that is recycling. The Recycling Partnership’s 2020 State of U.S. Curbside Recycling Report addresses a system that is causing some communities to abandon their programs, but also shows an overwhelming majority of communities across the country still committed to providing household recycling services. Americans continue to value and demand recycling as an essential public service according to The Recycling Partnership’s 2019 Earth Day survey. A circular economy is not possible without recycling, yet it can’t happen through recycling alone. The time to transform the way we think about and manage waste is now. Conceptually, recycling is and has been the “gateway” for a circular economy worldview to take hold in our society. In this transition, it’s critically important to seize on the cultural momentum that recycling has inspired, because behavior change takes so much longer than many other solvable challenges in the transition from linear to circular. Citizens can feel disheartened by the realization that our efforts to recycle are often in vain. Consider the following statistics: More than 20 million tons of curbside recyclable materials are sent to landfills annually Curbside recycling in the United States currently recovers only 32 percent of available recyclables in single-family homes If the remaining 20 million tons were recycled, it would generate 370,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs It also would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 96 million metric tons of CO2  equivalent AND conserve an annual energy equivalent of 154 million barrels of oil OR the equivalent of taking more than 20 million cars off U.S. highways While recycling feels universal, only half of the American population has access to curbside recycling . Before we can implore a public to recycle, they need to be guaranteed the ability to do so. Many communities increasingly pay more to recycle , sometimes double the cost of landfilling  — and many more programs lack critical operating funds. Policy can and should help community recycling programs to improve by addressing challenging market conditions, providing substantial funding support and resolving cheap landfill tipping fees that make disposal options significantly less expensive than recycling. A truly circular economy — one that takes us off the perilous take-make-waste path — can’t be built on the shaky foundation of the current U.S. recycling system just described. It needs to be shored up, supported, rebuilt and reinvigorated. Most important, it cannot work properly without the aligned efforts from all members of industrial supply chains. Recycling is not just something that citizens do to feel good about buying something — it also provides a circular manufacturing feedstock that displaces newly extracted materials. It is needed by manufacturing to make new products, reduce environmental impact and achieve a more positive economic result. This is true for mature industries such as paper mills and aluminum smelters and for developing end markets such as chemical recycling. The fate of current and not-yet-recyclable materials rests in the hands of a broad set of private sector actors who must adapt to support the transition. Strong, coordinated action is needed in areas including package design and labeling, capital investments, scaled adoption of best management practices, policy interventions, and consumer engagement. The fate of current and not-yet-recyclable materials rests in the hands of a broad set of private sector actors who must adapt to support the transition. A three-step plan to ensure recycling supports the circular economy 1. Support for local recycling programs with policies and capital Local political support for recycling needs to be strengthened, such that municipalities are meeting the expectations of most Americans: recycling bins alongside trash cans, the contents of which are being recycled. All this needs to be supported at the federal level with policies that incentivize adoption and reduce confusion around recycling. It also means continued innovation in the collection, sorting and general recyclability of materials, including the building of flexibility and resiliency to add new materials into the system. 2. Significant investment in domestic infrastructure and end markets An extensive series of targeted investments is needed to deliver a deeper integration of circular manufacturing feedstock into the supply chain. This will help provide the carts to collect the recyclables, the trucks to pick them up and the facilities to sort it all out. There also needs to be a deepened commitment to support both existing end markets such as cardboard, bottles and cans, and new end markets, such as chemical recycling, to keep more packaging and materials in the economy and more molecules in motion. As published in The Recycling Partnership’s 2019 Bridge to Circularity Report, $250 million over the next five years could launch an innovation fund to design and implement the recycling system of the future using advanced technology, building more robust data systems and enhancing consumer participation. 3. Broad stakeholder engagement We need more than the involvement of dozens of the biggest companies in the world. When you go to the store, it is not a monolithic experience. We don’t buy all our stuff from one brand, one company or one packaging material. Those leading companies shouldn’t be the only ones taking part in this transition. Every aspect of the recycling system that feeds into the circular economy needs to be involved — from the design of the materials on store shelves for efficient recovery and recyclability to the community, infrastructure and end market components mentioned in the previous two steps. It’s clear that unless stakeholders from across the value chain align and conform to the circular economy, we will not be able to drive the change necessary to move recycling in the United States to that place where no more waste is going to the landfill. It will take bold public-private partnerships and leadership to make lasting improvements. Recycling cannot solve for the circular economy, but the circular economy could solve recycling. Now is the time for action. To learn more from the leaders of the circular economy transition, visit  PYXERA Global . Pull Quote A circular economy is not possible without recycling, yet it can’t happen through recycling alone. The fate of current and not-yet-recyclable materials rests in the hands of a broad set of private sector actors who must adapt to support the transition. Contributors Dylan de Thomas Topics Circular Economy Recycling Paradigm Shift Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock franz12 Close Authorship

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Rebuilding recycling to go circular

How To Avoid ‘Revenge Pollution’ While Reviving the Economy

May 15, 2020 by  
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As the economy reopens and we venture out into the … The post How To Avoid ‘Revenge Pollution’ While Reviving the Economy appeared first on Earth911.com.

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How To Avoid ‘Revenge Pollution’ While Reviving the Economy

The global economy depends on clean air

April 28, 2020 by  
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To repair our economy and ensure its resilience, we can — and we must — solve for public and planetary health at the same time.

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The global economy depends on clean air

The global economy depends on clean air

April 28, 2020 by  
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To repair our economy and ensure its resilience, we can — and we must — solve for public and planetary health at the same time.

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The global economy depends on clean air

As COVID-19 and nature are linked, so should be the recovery

April 28, 2020 by  
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It’s no coincidence that new diseases have risen as more ecosystems have vanished.

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As COVID-19 and nature are linked, so should be the recovery

As COVID-19 and nature are linked, so should be the recovery

April 28, 2020 by  
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It’s no coincidence that new diseases have risen as more ecosystems have vanished.

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As COVID-19 and nature are linked, so should be the recovery

Rethinking the Trillion Trees Act could help the US economy

April 28, 2020 by  
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Coronavirus has caused unemployment to skyrocket. Tree restoration could be a cost-effective way to put Americans back to work.

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Rethinking the Trillion Trees Act could help the US economy

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