mfioretti: sustainable development*

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  1. Meno energia, meno lavoro, meno materiali

    “I have a dream” disse Grillo nel 2008. Con l’articolo «Tre meno - Perché non voto» (Internazionale dell’11 aprile), sognava tre principi strategici. Meno energia: da una società a 6000 watt pro capite a una società a 2000 watt, come deciso in referendum dal popolo svizzero, approvando la strategia dei Politecnici e del governo elvetici. Meno lavoro: subito 30 ore, più tardi 20 ore in media alla settimana, come sostenne nel 1930 J. M. Keynes, e nel 1985 l’eminenza grigia del miracolo economico tedesco Oswald von Nell-Breuning S.J. nel suo libro L’uomo lavora troppo? Meno materiali: da 40 a 20 tonnellate pro capite – grazie alla economia circolare, il cui primo pioniere è l’architetto svizzero Walter Stahel, che già tenne conferenze ai festival 5-stelle.

    “Quasi tutti i peggioramenti della nostra vita – scriveva Grillo - hanno una causa comune: troppa economia. Troppa energia, troppo petrolio, troppi materiali, troppo inquinamento, troppi rifiuti, troppi chilometri, troppa pubblicità, troppa corruzione, troppo stress, troppo lavoro. Contro ognuno di questi "troppi" servono molte iniziative. Ma il risultato deve essere facilmente misurabile: meno economia, più vita. (…) Oggi invece facciamo il contrario: consumiamo per poter vendere, vendiamo per poter produrre, produciamo per poter lavorare. È il contrario di come hanno funzionato tutte le civiltà. (…) Un parlamentare che avesse capito queste cose dovrebbe cominciare a lavorare subito per tre obiettivi: meno energia, meno lavoro, meno materiali”.

    Nel 2018 il programma di governo del 5-stelle dice tra l’altro: dimezzare l’uso di energia, ridurre il tempo di lavoro, dimezzare l’uso dei materiali attraverso un’economia circolare - e molti altri obiettivi social-ecologici. Nella grillosfera non mancano personalità di alto profilo. Consigliere economico e candidato 5-stelle al parlamento è Lorenzo Fioramonti, professore di economia politica, autore di Economia del benessere – Il successo in un mondo senza crescita e del best-seller GDP - Gross Domestic Problem (in Italia: Presi per il PIL). Il grillino Dario Tamburrano è il quinto eurodeputato più influente sulle politiche energetiche. Fu lui, inoltre, l’artefice della video-conversazione tra il Presidente del Parlamento europeo e l’eco-pioniere Bertrand Piccard durante il primo volo solare intorno al mondo dell’aereo fotovoltaico Solar impulse.
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  2. There has been a lot of debate about the real benefits of local production, especially that last-mile delivery is more harmful to the environment than the benefits it brings. In your experience, what is the ecological footprint of a product that has been globally designed and locally manufactured?

    Any production that is not hyperlocal ie. from materials sourced within a very short supply chain, has to find its way to the consumer somehow. With respect to environmental concern, the ‘last mile’ is a question of the existing production paradigm finding the most efficient and low carbon way to achieve its objective. I’m not sure that the last mile debate concerning the most carbon-efficient delivery by a globalised supply system can be compared to local production. Local production will have ‘last miles’ (and more energy used in transportation, depending on where the materials were sourced for the production), but in general, I’d be less worried about lots of last miles from local production, than many more tens of thousands of miles of transportation required with ‘remote’ production.

    It’s also worth noting that shipping is responsible for 17% of global emissions, but neither shipping and aviation are accounted for in international climate change negotiations due to the difficulty in allocating emissions ie. do they belong to the producing or consuming country? In general, local has many benefits, but it’s simplistic to assume local always equals ‘good’. It depends on so many things, for example, is the activity occurring in a water-scarce environment? How intensive is the production? Is the power source for the products generated from renewable energy?

    Life-cycle analysis (LCA) is one way of assessing the ecological cost-benefit of different methods of production, but it can get quite complicated. Descriptions can offer a sense of the impacts, however, measuring these and making the trade-offs is less clear and requires not only a lot of data but a lot of consideration and interpretation.

    Before even considering ecological footprints of production, one of the first things cities could do is look into ‘boomerang trade’ – the new economics foundation produced a report on this activity in the UK, where similar goods are being traded and transported across continents, or across the globe. There are also ridiculous examples, such as what I have dubbed ‘frequent flyer prawns’ – shrimp being flown to Thailand from Scotland, and then back because the labour needed to shell them is cheaper in Thailand.

    Trade used to be about genuine comparative advantage. If economics is supposed to be about the efficient allocation of resources, and this is what our systems of economics are incentivising, then we need new economics.

    Cosmo localism, or ‘design global, manufacture local’, certainly has some overlap with ‘glocalisation’, or the adaptation of globally marketed products to local culture, in that a shared global design can be replicated (or adapted then produced) locally. But by whom, and how?

    Glocalisation is about the top-down marketing of consumer products designed remotely, in a centralised way and then tweaked for local culture. Cosmolocalism, or Design Global Manufacture Local (DG-ML) is based on a different production logic, as explained by Jose Ramos and Chris Giotitsas in ‘A New Model of Production for a New Economy’:

    Traditionally corporate enterprises have solely owned the intellectual property (IP) they employ in the production of goods. They source the materials for the goods through national or global supply chains. They manufacture those goods using economies of scale in a set number of manufacturing centres, whereupon those finished goods are delivered nationally or globally.

    DG-ML is an inversion of this production logic. First of all, the IP is open, whether open source or creative commons or copy fair, so it can be used by anyone. Secondly, manufacturing and production can be done independently of the IP, by any community or enterprise around the world that wants to.
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  3. How much longer can we sustain the high-consumption lifestyle we are used to?
    Who’s consuming? And what happens to the waste?

    To get the full picture on consumerism we need to understand inter-connected global systems of production and consumption.

    Globally, consumption patterns are unequal and wasteful. It has just 5% of the world’s population, but the US consumes 30% of the world’s resources and creates 30% of the world’s waste. It is not alone in wastefulness: a small slice of the world’s population consumes most of the resources and produces most of the greenhouse gas emissions.

    Material resources are depleting at such a rate that we are likely to soon face shortages in materials we currently dump in landfill - lead, copper, cadmium, wolfram (tungsten) and zinc, to name a few.

    In this context, plastic waste and toxic e-waste are another ticking time bomb. Why are electronics breaking so fast and why are they cheaper to replace than repair?

    In 1960, cultural critic and consumerism theorist, Vance Packard, published in his pioneering book The Waste Makers, a critique of planned obsolescence.

    He pointed out that consumers who learn that the manufacturer invested money to make the product obsolete faster might turn to a producer (if any exists) that offers a more durable alternative. We need to support a move towards more single-material, recyclable components in all industry sectors.
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  4. When sharing platforms enable new relationships between people, goods, equipment, and spaces, the notion of mobility as a discrete economic sector no longer makes sense.

    The bigger story now unfolding (above) seems to be one of system transformation – a peak-car tipping point – that’s been slowly ‘brewing’ for a very long time.

    (I don’t believe the concept of “Personal Era” is a timely one – but I’ll come to that in my next post).

    For the physicist Ugo Bardi, the decline of a complex system can be faster than its growth – an insight he attributes to the Stoic philosopher Seneca, who wrote: “Fortune is of sluggish growth, but ruin is rapid”.

    This could surely be true for a global mobility ecosystem based the private car.

    After 100 years of spectacular growth, the Mobility Industrial Complex now confronts three potholes in the road ahead that could each on its own, prove fatal.

    The first is energy. Americans now use as much energy on one month as their grandparents did in their entire lifetime – and that rate of increase is accelerating with the advent of ‘cloud commuting’ and ‘smart mobility’. The Stack now runs on about seventeen terrawatts a day.

    (The chart above is from The Cloud Begins With Coal, by Mark P. Mills)

    The second un-driver of mobility is cost. It now costs 91c to travel one kilometre to travel in your own car, but less than half that (30c/km) if you share. In some Chinese cities, where dockless bike systems are marketed like an app, you can use one for free.

    The third pothole awaiting modern mobility – and it’s a big one – is complexity.

    There are more lines of code in a high-end Audi than in a Boeing dreamliner – a costly feature will feel more like a bug if the coming software apocalypse turns out to be real.

    Because neither the ‘need’ for perpetually growing mobility is questioned – let alone its biophysical possibility – the road on the downside of Seneca’s Cliff will be a bumpy one if a new story
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  5. How far do you have to go to get water? If you simply have to walk into the bathroom or kitchen, you’re one of the luckiest people in the world. In developing countries, getting water involves walking an average of three miles round trip, carrying a jug weighing about 40 pounds on the way back. In areas suffering from drought, the walk can be 15 miles or more. That’s hard to imagine, but for people living in these regions, there’s no other way. The job of collecting water often falls to women and children, taking up large portions of their time and keeping them away from other pursuits, like education.
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  6. Jamadda è diventato una delle più rilevanti avanguardie del cambiamento di tutta l’isola, al punto che è stato scelto dall’ONU per rappresentare la Giamaica alla prossima Conferenza Mondiale del Turismo Sostenibile.
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  7. The sustainability movement has been charged with being elitist—and it most certainly is. You need a fair amount of disposable income to afford ethical and sustainable consumption options, the leisure time to research the purchasing decisions you make, the luxury to turn up your nose at 95% of what you’re offered, and, arguably, a post-graduate degree in chemistry to understand the true meaning behind ingredient labels.
    Choosing fashion made from hemp, grilling the waiter about how your fish was caught, and researching whether your city can recycle bottle caps might make you feel good, reward a few social entrepreneurs, and perhaps protect you from charges of hypocrisy. But it’s no substitute for systematic change.

    Beyond making big lifestyle decisions such as choosing to live in a dense urban area with public transportation, cutting red meat out of your diet, and having fewer children (or none at all), there are diminishing returns to the energy you put into avoiding plastic or making sure your old AAs end up in the appropriate receptacle. Globally, we’re projected to spend $9.32 billion in 2017 on green cleaning products. If we had directed even a third of that pot of money (the typical markup on green cleaning products) toward lobbying our governments to ban the toxic chemicals we’re so afraid of, we might have made a lot more progress by now.
    “It’s a gesture,” Brown says of fretting over these small decisions. “Well-meaning signals that you care about the environment. But the action itself makes no difference.“

    Instead of buying expensive organic sheets, donate that money to organizations that are fighting to keep agricultural runoff out of our rivers.
    Instead of driving to an organic apple orchard to pick your own fruit, use that time to volunteer for an organization that combats food deserts (and skip the fuel emissions, too).
    Instead of buying a $200 air purifier, donate to politicians who support policies that keep our air and water clean.
    Instead of signing a petition demanding that Subway remove one obscure chemical from its sandwich bread, call your local representatives to demand they overhaul the approval process for the estimated 80,000 untested chemicals in our products.
    Instead of taking yourself out to dinner at a farm-to-table restaurant, you could take an interest in the Farm Bill and how it incentivizes unhealthy eating.

    On its face, conscious consumerism is a morally righteous, bold movement. But it’s actually taking away our power as citizens. It drains our bank accounts and our political will, diverts our attention away from the true powerbrokers, and focuses our energy instead on petty corporate scandals and fights over the moral superiority of vegans.
    So if you really care about the environment, climb on out of your upcycled wooden chair and get yourself to a town hall meeting. If there’s one silver lining to the environmental crisis facing us, it’s that we now understand exactly the kind of work we need to do to save the planet—and it doesn’t involve a credit card.
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  8. How Relocalising Production With Not-For-Profit Business Models Helps Build Resilient and Prosperous Societies

    This Commons Transition Special Report was written by Sharon Ede, a sustainability ideas transmitter, writer and activist working in Adelaide, Australia. Ede is also a co-founder of the Post-Growth Institute, one of Commons Transition’s most esteemed Partner Projects. We feel that the Post-Growth Institute’s work, specially their exploration of not-for profit business models, aligns with our own work on Open Cooperativism. These projects forge resilient livelihood strategies for commoners, a trend which is explored in this report. Going beyond issues of labor organisation, “The Real Circular Economy” also explores how and why we produce, paying special attention to prosperity, societal resilience, and the possibilities offered by relocalized production and desktop/benchtop manufacturing. This parallels the P2P Foundation and P2P Lab’s work on “Building the Open Source Circular Economy”, where we research and build upon global, open-access design repositories working in conjunction with on-demand, locally grounded and community-oriented micro-factories. This approach, known as “Design Global, Manufacture Local” is also explored in this report, making it one of the most complete, accessible overviews of P2P and Post-Growth economics.

    As always, we’ve indexed the report. You can read it sequentially or jump to any of the sections below. You can also read the original in PDF format or consult the different sections and comment on the document in the Commons Transition Wiki.

    Table of Contents
    Ecological Footprint and Overshoot
    Ecological Cities and Ecological Deficits
    Fab Cities, Relocalisation of Production and The Future of Work
    Post Growth, Circular Business Models and Not-For-Profit Business
    The Real Circular Economy
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  9. There will also be unique, equally significant, entrepreneurial opportunities that are not exclusively economic, he adds. “Young men and women will have opportunities to be socially entrepreneurial, to understand and experience innovation in an expansive sense. Inventing a livable, sustainable future will not only require technology and science, but also entail reinterpreting how we want to live and adapt ourselves in constructive ways to rapidly evolving global circumstances.”
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  10. Showers are great, but pouring hot and almost drinkable water down the drain is not. Besides the obvious costs to the environment and your bills, there is also a conscious on unconscious psychological cost anytime you create waste.

    To solve this problem we created Showerloop. It's a shower that collects cleans and reuses the water in real time while you are showering. So now you can shower for as long as you like without wasting precious resources.
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