Sustainability

Open Source hardware – The start of something big?

Posted by | Entrepreneurship, Personal, Sustainability, The Big Picture | One Comment

Imagine a future where anyone in the world could build their own everyday items… along with the plans for a machine to build them out of accessible materials. Every single bit of R&D would be done by someone who was passionate about the subject, and all their work would be documented online daily, available for re-use by anyone. From kids in an struggling African school, to the biggest corporations around the world.

Sound far fetched? It is happening now! hackerspaces.org is an emerging online community of professional and auteur tinkerers, working together to make open source designs for many high tech fields, perhaps the most notable of which is 3D printing. The machine below has been developed by enthusiasts around the world, and can be built for around $1000. A commercial version would be in the order of $30,000. It can print almost any shape in 3D out of plastic.

I am a member of the Melbourne chapter, called hackmelbourne.org. We meet every meet every Tuesday evening in Camberwell.

The power of this collaboration is in it’s scalability. I don’t know where this movement is headed, but I like it!

Accelerating Change?

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There are several views out there regarding the concept of accelerating change. The most pressing question for futurists and entrepreneaurs is accelerating towards what? Some suggest the only answer (looking at the trends so far) is that we are headed toward a singularity of some kind. The primary problem with this argument is that is based soley on past trends, whereas the future is by definition, unpredictable. A game changer (like an environmentally triggered social change toward technogical regression for example) could break this model at any time.

Fifteen views of evolution: When plotted on a logarithmic graph, 15 separate lists of key events in history and prehistory show an exponential trend

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ParadigmShiftsFrr15Events.svg

The graph above represents 15 abstract measures of change, plotted on a logarithmic graph. If this can be considered an accurate and reliable measure of the rate of change in society, then perhaps the key message to take away is that an entrepreneur or company who thrives amongst significant change with be well placed for the coming exciting years!

Greenwashing in the Energy Industry

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In this blog I hope to point out a few organisations who I think present a misleadingly “Green” image. There are remarkable similarities in the imagery used between the sites, and the wording used to explain their purpose. Check out their websites and tell me what you think!

Environmental Clean Technologies” is an Australian company who specialises in reducing the impact of the coal industry on the environment. It allows coal companies to spend money positioning themselves against more traditional sustainable energy alternatives. The truth is that coal can never be truly sustainable simply because it relies on massive amounts of rainforest to be compressed over millennia under the ground, only to be mined and burnt. Clearly this can never compete with a wind turbine or solar panel that collects it’s energy directly from the sun. No coal is clean coal.

The Natural Choice is a brand launched by Jemena Gas Networks Ltd and Natural Gas appliance manufacturers, retailers and installers to promote Natural Gas as an environmentally-friendly, cost-effective and powerful energy choice. This site, www.thenaturalchoice.com.au, was developed to aid with Australians’ decision-making regarding Natural Gas. On the site you can find information about Natural Gas, how to get connected and how to purchase and install Natural Gas appliances.” (from http://www.thenaturalchoice.com.au/UpperContent.aspx?ParentId=25)

Natural gas is actually a fossil fuel just like coal or petrol… in unburnt form it is a much worse greenhouse gas than straight carbon dioxide. Apart from the greenhouse gasses, natural gas sports a lot of other nasties which have to be disposed of somehow. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_Gas#Environmental_effects)

Hydrogen.org.au is an organisation designed to promote hydrogen as a green alternative fuel. To anyone with some physics background, using hydrogen as a replacement for petroleum fuels has never been a realistic idea, especially in the automotive industry. It is simply too volatile, physically hard to contain, and requires too much new infrastructure. Not only that, but commercial hydrogen is currently extracted from crude oil, making the whole exercise futile anyway. The whole fuel chain is tremendously inefficient, even if the hydrogen was produced by renewable energy driving a water based electrolysis process.

I find that when an industry needs a whole organisation dedicated to presenting an environmentally sound image, it is usually for a good reason…

Third Wave – The Organically Grown Company?

Posted by | Entrepreneurship, Sustainability | One Comment

After examining the concept of First, Second and Third Wave corporations in my Organisational Foresight class as Swinburne University, I have come to the conclusion that Third Wave means more than just a completely sustainable corporation. I think it also means “adept at change”. These companies will be more fluid, able to absorb obstacles rather than fight them. This flexibility concept allows a corporation to be sustainable on two levels; From a business perspective, it allows a company to survive very rough changes, that would de-stabilise and possibly destroy even a second wave company. In the context of ecological sustainability, a third wave company can quickly modify its practices to eliminate certain chemicals from its production process, or adapt quickly to changing environmental conditions.

The third wave of companies will be most productive through collaboration, dealing primarily with knowledge transfer. I would cite Wikipedia as an example of the type of organisation that is able to achieve a lot with a little, and provide disproportionate benefits for its size and resource consumption.

Of course a third wave company will be sustainable, but it won’t necessarily be sustainable on its own. If you examine a rainforest, each element of the eco-system is unsustainable in its own right, using up resources and expelling waste. It is only when all the elements of a rainforest are put together that the magic happens, many linear processes combining to close the loop.

I believe that this analogy is close to the concept of a third wave company – sustainability through adaptability and collaboration.

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