Green (or blue) solutions must be scalable

6 Apr 2011 - 16:38

Well done to three of the UCT student bodies, SAWomEng, Engineers without Borders and the Green Campus Initiative on hosting Gunter Pauli for a jam-packed lecture on Friday 1 April! No April fools jokes, Gunter captivated the audience for one and half hours with his stories of innovative projects that serve people and the environment, emulating nature. My only reservation is that many of the described innovations are not scalable. The entrepreneur knows that pharma-type products (such as spirulina as nutritional supplement) and luxury foods (such as Shitake) carry large value for small value. You can even subsidise low-value energy products such as biodiesel to a small extent at their margin. But it is wrong to therefore infer that the environmental polycrisis resulting from the "brown" industrial economy can be solved purely through the innovations of an inspired new generation of eco-entrepreneurs. At the heart of the problem lies the scale of our current day energy industries, which churn out waste (e.g. CO2) quantities that are probably a million times higher than all the high-value products we could ever hope to make. So I'll put my backing into the "green economy" (version 2.0, if you wish) as promoted as of 2010 by UNEP - it correctly has identified very large investments into renewable energy as a non-negotiable part of the necessary change. Entrepreneurial opportunities,"blue economy style" (whereever that colour choice came from) will remain there for the designer and entrepreneur to add value - but let's not pretend they're sufficient to solve the immense problems of climate change and unemployment. We'll also need systemic thinkers in planning and management.