Nature Knows

When all the world seems upside down
The fool’s on the hill
The king is a clown
When headline news loud-speaks the views
Of puppeteers of fears
And naysayers of the truth
When leaders’ voices are hollow choices
Of dumb-down beats of tweets
And two-fingers to the youth
Take a step back from the black
And white, the stereotype
The media hype, the Trumptown blues
And choose a world of hues
From greens to greys, and reds to browns
The rounds of seasons, synchro-reasons
Of sun and moon, the tune
Of vitality that sprouts and grows
The harmony, the symphony, the flows
That nature knows

When all the roads seem nowhere bound
The signs contradict
The noise has no sound
When every maze just adds to the craze
Of shallow aims in games
And hamster wheels for jobs
When Wall Street belies, in suits and ties
Their ugly creed of greed
And clever ways to rob
Take a deep breath, defy the death
Of hope, the hangman’s rope
The doomsday dope, the victim’s shoes
And choose a forest of clues
Of roots and shoots
From seeds to stems, and buds to leaves
The trees of jungles, the rumbles
Of beast and storm, the dawn
Of light and flight and lucent bows
The illumination, the revelation, the glows
That nature shows

When all that’s lost can scarce be found
The love swept away
The faith nearly drowned
When silent strings, like broken wings
Leave empty spaces in places
Where music once soared
When prophets’ words sound more absurd
Than the Mad Hatter’s patter
And the Jabberwocky’s chord
Take a great leap, take time to reap
What you have sown, from flesh and bone
From mind clone and idea muse
And choose an earthscape of dos
Not don’ts and won’ts
But cans and wills, and better stills
The thrills of striving, life thriving
Through trial and error, through terror
To yellow dreams and scarlet rose
The magnificence, the intelligence, the prose
That nature knows

Wayne Visser © 2017

Book

Wishing Leaves: Favourite Nature Poems

This creative collection, now in its 3rd edition, brings together nature poems by Wayne Visser, celebrating the diversity, beauty and ever-changing moods of our planet. The anthology includes many old favourites like “I Think I Was a Tree Once” and “A Bug’s Life”, as well as brand new poems like “Monet’s Dream” and “The Environmentalist”. Then as we turned our faces to the moon / Our hands entwined, our hearts in sync, in tune / We felt the fingers of the silken breeze / And made our wishes on the falling leaves / A gust of wind set off a whispered sigh / Among the trees that leaned against the sky.  Buy the paper book / Buy the e-book.

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Eco-innovation: going beyond creating technology for technology’s sake

Eco-innovation: going beyond creating technology for technology’s sake

Article by Wayne Visser

Part of the Sustainable Innovation & Technology series for The Guardian.

Sustainable innovations often arise from combining and understanding existing technologies.

Slowly but surely, sustainable technologies are challenging business and transforming our outdated industrial model which is no longer fit for purpose. As examples from the agri-food, chemicals and metals sectors have shown, removing barriers to the sharing of existing technologies is just as important as coming up with new and better tools. So how does this work in practice?

When working with sustainable technologies, companies must decide whether to collaborate or go it alone. This decision should be based on an assessment of a company’s in-house competencies, technical readiness and capacity.

BeniSweif is a small engineering company in Egypt that produces coloured pigments for the metals industry. With the support of the Egyptian National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC), the company invented a new yellow iron oxide-derived pigment in a process that allowed them to recover hydrochloric acid with a concentration of 25%, which can be used again.

The new product sells for almost five times the production cost. This development has created a new business model, with clear financial and environmental benefits.

Similarly, Jiangsu Redbud Textile Technology entered into a technology transfer agreement with the governments of Benin, Mali and others to promote jute fibre-green technology. The Chinese company developed and tested new varieties of jute, which are 100% recyclable and well adapted to wastelands, saline ground, low-lying wetlands and drought conditions. Now a collaborative platform, SS-GATE, is introducing this technology into Africa. The product was created to fit environmental conditions, and the institution created a collaborative space for innovation.

Another example is the series of XPRIZE awards, which help teams from across the world to compete for funding by solving a specific social, technical or environmental challenge. The $2m Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE promises to improve our understanding of how CO2 emissions are affecting ocean acidification, encouraging teams to design sensors that can help us begin the process of healing our oceans. Similarly, a Carbon XPRIZE has been proposed with the goal to develop radical new technologies and products that make capturing CO2 from power plants a source of profit rather than a liability. This is typical of open innovation for sustainability.

These are the kinds of cases being studied in a European Commission-funded research programme on eco-innovation. The programme is looking at methods for the identification, development, transfer and adaptation of technologies to further sustainable development. The aim is to develop local capacity and resources for eco-innovation in developing and emerging economies, especially through supporting intermediaries such as the National Cleaner Production Centres.

The Unep (United Nations Environment Programme) report on the business case for eco-innovation is an example of the results of the programme. Eco-innovation – as distinct from eco-efficiency – has emerged from the realisation that without innovation we are unlikely to solve many of our global social and environmental challenges, from poverty to climate change.

According to the Philips Meaningful Innovation Index, “There is an appetite for future innovations to go beyond creating technology for technology’s sake, instead aiming to make a difference in people’s everyday lives.” Hence technology is an enabler for eco-innovation, not only in terms of physical equipment and tools but also in the knowledge, techniques and skills that surround its deployment and use.

Technology can enable different aspects of the eco-innovation process, as well as being a marketable product or outcome of eco-innovation itself.

Eco-innovators push the boundaries of their companies. By modifying products, processes and organisational structures, eco-innovation improves sustainability performance and competitiveness.

Eco-innovation is the next evolution beyond eco-efficiency. Whereas eco-efficiency tends to be focused on productivity and the impact of single technologies or individual steps in the business process, eco-innovation looks to strategically transform the whole business model. When it comes to reinventing capitalism, eco-innovation is one of the next waves business will want to surf if it is to survive and thrive.

 

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/article_sustech11_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Eco-innovation: going beyond creating technology for technology’s sake (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Link[/button] The Quest for Sustainable Business (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.kaleidoscopefutures.com”]Link[/button] Kaleidoscope Futures (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (2014) Eco-innovation: going beyond creating technology for technology’s sake. The Guardian, 4 December 2014.

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Iron ore and rare earth metals mining: an industry under siege?

Iron ore and rare earth metals mining: an industry under siege?

Article by Wayne Visser

Part of the Sustainable Innovation & Technology series for The Guardian.

Resource scarcity and human rights issues surrounding metals extraction, coupled with unrelenting global demand mean the industry is facing some tough realities.

The good news: the number of people living in extreme poverty could drop from 1.2 billion in 2010 to under 100 million by 2050, according to UN projections. The bad news is that the flotilla of hope currently rising on the tide of economic growth in emerging countries is at serious risk of being dragged down under the waves. The reason is growing resource scarcity and the environmental disasters that could ensue.

As always, the poorest will be worst affected. The UNDP projects that, under an environmental disaster scenario, instead of reducing the population living in extreme poverty in south Asia from over half a billion to less than 100m by 2050, it could rise to 1.2bn. In sub-Saharan Africa, the numbers may rise from under 400m to over a billion. For the world as a whole, an environmental disaster scenario could mean 3.1 billion more people living in extreme poverty in 2050, as compared with an accelerated development scenario.

The message is simple: unless these booming economies – and the high-income countries they churn out ‘widgets’ for – can lighten the weighty anchor of resource consumption, we will all, sooner or later, get that sinking feeling. To illustrate the point, demand for steel – driven in no small part by a global car fleet doubling to 1.7bn by 2030 – is expected to increase by about 80% from 1.3bn tonnes in 2010 to 2.3bn tonnes in 2030. These trends raise red flags about material shortages of many metals in the future.

Besides steel, rare earth metals are cause for concern, as they comprise 17 chemical elements that are critical in the automotive, electronics and renewables sectors. Not only is demand for these metals rising, China is responsible for about 97% of global production. The United States, Japan and Germany are making big investments to secure their own supplies, but these new mining projects may take a decade to come on stream. As a result, supply shortages are predicted. Yet rare earth metal recycling rates remain very low – only 1% in Germany, for example.

Add the challenge of ‘conflict minerals’ – and the metals sector starts to look like the Titanic. The metals of most concern right now are tantalum (or coltan), tin, tungsten and gold – collectively known as 3TG – which are used extensively in the electronics industry. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and adjoining countries have been the hot spots – and the target of legislation like the Frank Dodd Act in the US – but other conflict minerals can (and probably will) arise for other metals in other parts of the world in future.

Besides resource scarcity and human rights issues, the mining and metals industry has significant environmental impacts, especially on land, energy and water. Trucost estimated that the largest metals and mining companies of the world have environmental external costs of around $220bn, 77% of which relate to greenhouse gases.

For iron ore, if carbon prices would rise to a level of $30 per tonne, iron ore costs would increase by 3.3% across the industry. An adequate incorporation of the water costs of iron ore mining would result in a 2.5% cost increase. Combining carbon and water costs, this could mean increased costs of up to 16% for some operators in water-scarce regions. These land, energy and water impacts also appear to be increasing, as about three times as much material needs to be moved for the same ore extraction as a century ago.

The picture that emerges is of a metals sector under siege, an industry that is soon to be the victim of its own success. And yet it is also one of the sectors that has the most potential for innovation and technological solutions. McKinsey and Co estimate that iron and steel energy efficiency and end-use steel efficiency could deliver $278bn in resource savings by 2030 and go some way towards addressing the metals scarcity crisis. The metals sector may still be in danger, but sustainable technologies could make the situation better.

 

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[button size=”small” color=”blue” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/article_sustech8_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Iron ore and rare earth metals mining: an industry under siege? (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-quest-for-sustainable-business”]Link[/button] The Quest for Sustainable Business (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.kaleidoscopefutures.com”]Link[/button] Kaleidoscope Futures (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (2014) Iron ore and rare earth metals mining: an industry under siege? The Guardian, 24 October 2014.

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