Friday, October 16, 2020

Green Homes: Warm Homes

  

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Green Homes: Warm Homes


Hello and welcome to the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday, the 16th of October. I’m Anthony Day. This week I'm talking about green homes and warm homes: specifically the government’s Green Homes Grant. In a moment there’s an interview with Simon Ayers, CEO of TrustMark. To qualify for the grant, homeowners must use a TrustMark registered business to carry out the work. Now of course I realise that at first sight this will be relevant only to people in England, but stay with me, because warm and energy-efficient homes and quality installation must be of interest to us all. 

Welcome

Also today I’ll be introducing Alex Brown, our latest gold patron. I’ll be talking about what the expert said when he came to look at the energy efficiency of our home. And finally, people in a remote area of Scotland are preparing something out of this world.

First let me welcome Alexander Brown our new Gold Patron. He tells me that he’s in line for president of the gardening club at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and has plans to build a vertical farm on the premises. We’ve looked at vertical farms in the past. Do please keep us in touch with your progress, Alex. And if anyone has experience of this to share please do get in touch. mail@anthony-day.com 

Whole House Survey

Andy Walker of Sure Insulation came round this week to assess how energy-efficient our home is. You know how builders go tssss? You know something’s going to be expensive. I was quite confident, because we had extensive renovations done to the property in 2004 and 2008 and so everything was up to the current standards at the time. Standards have moved on a lot since then. 

Insulation not heating

What we learnt was that before looking at ways of improving the heating system the priority must be stopping the heat from leaking out of the house. A house built or retrofitted to the Passivhaus house standard typically uses less than £100 worth of energy p.a. for all heating, lighting and cooking, because it is highly insulated. Houses can be retrofitted to that standard, although it’s expensive and usually very disruptive. 

We learnt that the most cost-effective measures are insulating the walls, floors and ceilings, but they are also the most disruptive. Cladding the walls and filling voids below floors means you will usually have to re-plaster and redecorate and you may have to replace floorboards. The project must be expertly designed, because imperfect installation can lead to cold bridging or the ingress of water. Ventilation is also crucial. Ventilation units with heat recovery keep the air fresh without cold draughts. 

In our case we have solid floors, so difficult to insulate. We also have a large area of glass and a large single-glazed bay window. Argon-filled double or even triple glazing will be the solution here. We’ll also look at curtains and blinds. Walls will be for another day.

If I can get a grant for these improvements I’ll need to employ a TrustMark registered business.

I was very pleased to have the opportunity to talk to Simon Ayers, CEO of TrustMark, earlier this week. Here’s what we discussed.

Interview text to follow


Many thanks to Simon Ayers, CEO of TrustMark. You’ll find TrustMark at trustmark.org.uk and links to the Grant Scheme and the simple energy advice site are below/on the blog at www.sustainablefutures.report . That, incidentally, is the link to my new website which will go live in the next few days to provide blog and podcast in one location.


And Finally…

Highlands and Islands Enterprise is backing the construction of a missile launch site in the far north of Scotland. There are many planning hurdles to cross and environmentalists to placate before this can become a reality but it appears that the plan is to use the site to put small satellites into Geo-stationary polar orbit. This comes at a time when the government admits that its plans for a homegrown alternative to the European Galileo GPS system, from which the UK will be excluded post Brexit, has failed after the expenditure of £64 million. Undeterred, Alok Sharma the business secretary has authorised expenditure of £400 million on the purchase of OneWeb, a satellite firm which entered bankruptcy earlier this year, despite warnings from his most senior civil servant that it may not represent good value for public money. OneWeb has no navigational capabilities. It’s been compared by the i-newspaper to a ferry company with no ships.

The UK’s share of the Galileo investment, from which we will not now benefit although it’s been paid, is estimated at £1.2 billion. 

Are we all living in the same world? Let’s hope that Sharma makes a better job as chair of COP26, although as I write there’s a rumour that former UK prime minister Theresa May will take over the role. Let’s hope that….well let’s just hope.


And that’s it…

Well I think that's about enough for this week. Thank you once again for listening - especially my patrons both new and long-standing. If you’d like to join them all the details are at www.patreon.com/sfr. Links to all these stories are below.

The will of course be another Sustainable Futures Report next week. I already have masses of items stored up. I believe that the IMF and the World Bank are having big meetings so they will probably feature.

While I firmly believe that the climate crisis is the greatest crisis facing humanity, I don't underestimate the extreme stresses and strains which many people are experiencing as a result of the present pandemic. I sincerely hope that you are safe and well and will continue to be so.

I’m Anthony Day.

That was the Sustainable Futures Report.

Until next time.

Sources

Green Homes

https://www.trustmark.org.uk

https://greenhomesgrant.campaign.gov.uk/

https://www.simpleenergyadvice.org.uk/green-homes-grant/questionnaire

Green Homes Grant: homeowners frustrated by lack of installers

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/09/green-homes-grant-installers-scheme-government



And Finally…

Residents of remote peninsula face up to its future as spaceport

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/oct/09/remote-scottish-peninsula-could-be-host-to-spaceport-two-years-mhoine-peninsula-in-sutherland

https://orbex.space/vehicle

https://inews.co.uk/news/brexit/ministers-post-brexit-british-gps-scheme-explained-abandoned-714960 

https://www.endsreport.com/article/1696998/theresa-may-rumoured-chair-cop26 


Friday, October 09, 2020

Absolute Zero

  

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Absolute Zero

Hello, I’m Anthony Day.


It’s Friday 9th October and in this week’s Sustainable Futures Report I’m looking at Project Drawdown, mentioned by Blair Sheppard of PwC in last week’s report. The UK prime minister this week set out his view of a green future and laid great emphasis on offshore wind. There’s good news and bad news on waste, and there are carbon-saving claims which may not be all they seem to be. The UK aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but also plans to open a new coal mine. Bill Gates is pessimistic about tackling climate change, Greenpeace is dropping rocks and the Earthshot Prize is announced.

Meanwhile, as weeks of wildfires come to an end in California there are forests still ablaze as far apart as Brazil and Ukraine and Storm Alex brings floods and fatalities to Italy and France. Last year Australia suffered its worst wildfires. Their 2020 wildfire season is just beginning.

Drawdown

Last week we mentioned a book called Drawdown. In fact there’s much more than a book. Founded in 2014, Project Drawdown is a nonprofit organisation that seeks to help the world reach “Drawdown”— the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline. The Drawdown Review, just published, defines drawdown as a critical turning point. The review is the first major update since the original book was published in 2017.

The authors believe that drawdown, a far more demanding target than net zero, can be achieved by 2050 or even by the mid 2040s. They summarise 10 aspects of the project.

  1. We can do it. While governments and corporations are taking action, it’s nowhere near the speed or the scale required and emissions are continuing to rise. Nevertheless, many of the means to achieve the objective already exist.
  2. There’s no silver bullet. There’s no one simple solution. Success depends on coordinating the interdependencies between communities, industries, organisations and nations.
  3. Climate solutions have other benefits. For example clean air improves public health and green investment creates jobs.
  4. There is financial justification. The savings from doing things differently will outweigh the costs. This may involve the abolition or scaling back of existing industries. Unlike the UK coal communities in the 1980s, there must be a just transition.
  5. We must cut the use of fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas, which account for two thirds of global emissions. We must stop the subsidies to these industries.
  6. At the same time as reducing the sources of emissions we must reinforce the natural carbon sinks like wetlands, peat bogs and forests.
  7. We’re missing opportunities. For example to cut food waste, to move towards a plant-rich diet, to better to control refrigerants - some of the most powerful greenhouse gases - to spread reproductive healthcare and education more widely.
  8. The deployment of capital and policy will accelerate the process.
  9. The project involves many millions of leaders at all levels. Just as there is no single silver bullet, no single leader can make this happen. People in all levels in all organisations across the world must be informed and inspired to work towards the common purpose.
  10. Finally the aim must be to make possibility reality. When Greta Thunberg addressed the US Congress she said, “You must unite behind the science. You must take action. You must do the impossible. Because giving up can never ever be an option.”

Sources and Sinks

The review then moves into detailed solutions which will reduce sources and support sinks. It starts by defining sources of emissions and existing sinks.

The big three for emissions are electricity generation (25%), food production (24%) and industry (21%), followed by Transport at 14%, Buildings (6%) and everything else(10%).

On the other side, 59% of emissions remain in the atmosphere, 24% are absorbed by plants and 17% by the oceans. 

The review looks at each of these categories in turn and in detail, and explains the actions that must be taken. The final section looks at social change and considers how climate change measures can improve society, with particular emphasis on health and education. 

In the closing pages they say, “…what may be politically unrealistic at present is physically and economically realistic, according to our analysis. There is a path forward for the world. The question is how to bring physical, economic, and political possibility into alignment.”

Boris Johnson

UK prime minister this week addressed his party conference with the slogan “Build Back Greener”. 

How far will his government go towards making the changes required for Drawdown? Let me quote from his speech:

I can today announce that the UK government has decided to become the world leader in low cost clean power generation – cheaper than coal, cheaper than gas; and we believe that in ten years time offshore wind will be powering every home in the country, with our target rising from 30 gigawatts to 40 gigawatts. 

“We will invest £160m in ports and factories across the country, to manufacture the next generation of turbines.

“And we will not only build fixed arrays in the sea; we will build windmills that float on the sea – enough to deliver one gigawatt of energy by 2030, 15 times floating windmills, fifteen times as much as the rest of the world put together.

“Far out in the deepest waters we will harvest the gusts, and by upgrading infrastructure in such places as Teesside and Humber and Scotland and Wales we will increase an offshore wind capacity that is already the biggest in the world. 

“As Saudi Arabia is to oil, the UK is to wind…

“This investment in offshore wind alone will help to create 60,000 jobs in this country – and help us to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

“Imagine that future – with high-skilled, green-collar jobs in wind, in solar, in nuclear, in hydrogen and in carbon capture and storage. Retrofitting homes, ground source heat pumps. 

“…this government will lead that green industrial revolution.”

Short on Detail

The general comments to the whole of Mr Johnson's speech were that it was broad on vision but short on details. Beyond offshore wind power, virtually nothing was said about achieving climate goals. Of course the installation of the wind turbines he described would be a substantial step towards net zero. 

Aurora Energy Research calculates an investment of £50 billion would be needed to get to the point of powering the whole nation from wind by 2030. Quite a lot more than the £160 million that the Prime Minister mentioned. Of course it is not intended that the public sector should fund this development, so that amount can be seen as a catalyst invested in improvements to infrastructure. Although we lead the world in offshore wind, we do not manufacture the turbines. They have to be imported. To achieve the targets it will be necessary for the equivalent of one turbine to be installed every weekday for the whole of the next ten years. An important role of government will be to ensure that new seabed licences are rapidly delivered, as well as contracts to purchase the power that will make the turbines viable.

Sizewell Controversy

Writing in Private Eye magazine, Old Sparky reports that there is controversy in Suffolk over plans by Scottish Power Renewables to build infrastructure to bring ashore the power from a new offshore windfarm. There will be a 6 mile cable corridor and two large new substations. These works would cut across a stretch of Heritage Coast, an area of outstanding natural beauty, a special protection area and a site of special scientific interest. Close to the site is Sizewell where the existing nuclear power station already has a massive grid connection. Locals do not understand why Scottish Power Renewables does not use this as its connection point. A large increase in the number of offshore windfarms can only make problems like this more common.

NIMBY

The Conservative party is of course politically opposed to onshore wind power. While winds may be stronger out at sea, the construction of windfarms on land is cheaper, maintenance is easier and grid connection is generally simpler. But not politically acceptable.

Waste

Plastic-eating enzyme

Yes, there’s news about waste. First, The Guardian reports that a super-enzyme that degrades plastic bottles six times faster than before has been created by scientists and could be used for recycling within a year or two. They are also developing a version which could deal with cotton and combining the capabilities of both in a single organism could permit the recycling of multi-fibre fabrics containing both cotton and polyester. 

Hazardous waste returned

The bad news on the waste front comes from Sri Lanka, which returned 21 containers of hazardous waste to the UK last week. The shipment had been described as mattresses, carpets and rugs for recycling but was found to contain plastic and polythene waste. This is not the first time that waste has been returned to the UK. The whole issue is problematic, with local councils short of space for landfill and with limited recycling facilities receiving a constant stream of refuse for disposal. Brokers offer to ship the material abroad, insisting that everything meets the relevant regulations. Councils have no money to send inspectors to these remote locations to verify this and all too often organised crime takes the money, takes the waste and dumps it. 

Circular Economy

Reduce, reuse, recycle. We can tackle this problem if we can redirect consumer spending to services rather than goods and if we can redesign products so that they can be absorbed into the circular economy and be repaired, refurbished, remanufactured, repurposed and eventually reduced to their component materials for recycling.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation continues to promote the circular economy. After Brexit the UK will presumably no longer be involved in the European Circular Economy Action Plan. It will be interesting to see what the government puts in its place.

Fires across the world

36 people died in California’s wildfires which burned some 2 million hectares. President Trump blamed it all on poor forest management and said he didn’t think that science knew about global warming.

More than 17,000 wildfires have been recorded since the start of the year in the Pantanal, Brazil’s tropical wetlands. Thousands of animals, from jaguars to crocodiles have died. The Amazon, too, has seen an exceptional year for fires. The Pantanal is home to 656 species of birds, 159 species of mammals and 98 species of reptiles. After the fires, those animals that survived found there was nothing to eat. Volunteers are trying to bring them food and to rescue and treat injured animals. One volunteer said, “Some people have been saying that there are fires in the Pantanal every year. Yes, it’s true that every year, there are a few isolated fires. But they are controllable. This year, the fires were out of control. We’ve never seen so many animals die. The worst-affected were the reptiles and the amphibians. They usually seek refuge in holes in the ground. And then when the fire comes, they end up trapped.” An international disaster, but surprisingly little media coverage.

The New York Times reports an added dimension to wildfires raging in Ukraine. Because the area is a war zone the flames are setting off abandoned ordnance. Firefighters are at risk from landmines set off by the heat and they cannot use aircraft to douse the flames for fear that they will be shot down.

At the other extreme, parts of Italy and France have suffered  Storm Alex, with severe floods causing death and destruction to property. A macabre twist to the story came when floodwaters washed corpses from their graves.


And In Other News…

Inequality

Inequality is a growing problem. According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report the top 1% of the world’s population own 44% of the world’s capital. A report from the Stockholm Environmental Institute and Oxfam shows that over the 25 years to 2015 that 1% have been responsible for 15% of global emissions while the poorer 50% of global population accounted for only 7%. That’s 74 tonnes per head per annum for the rich and just 0.69 for the poor. Oxfam’s conclusion is that while there is clearly a limited carbon budget, a limit to the total emissions that can be released without causing irreparable damage to the planet, such emissions as remain should come from activities helping the poor and not indulging the rich.

Going Green

A company that produces meatless products has been running television commercials with the tagline:

 “If you care about climate change, take a step in the right direction with new Quorn…” 

The implication was that by using the product consumers were reducing their carbon footprint.

Complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Agency who ruled that the advertisement should be withdrawn because it was misleading consumers - although it had been on screens for at least four months. No basis was given to justify the claim in the advertisements that consumers would reduce their carbon footprint by using the product. The manufacturers were naturally unhappy because they had received carbon footprint certification from the Carbon Trust and they said they were consequently obliged to continually reduce their carbon footprint. Good intentions, but they overstated the case. There’s a narrow line between truth and greenwash. 

Greenpeace dropping rocks

Greenpeace has been dropping large boulders on to Dogger Bank in the North Sea. The area is nominally protected, but Greenpeace are taking this action to prevent trawlers from fishing there illegally. Bottom trawlers scour everything from the seabed and cause massive destruction. While this is permitted in some places, Greenpeace are laying these rocks to prevent trawling in what is designated a protected area. They undertake to remove these rocks if the government enforces the regulations. The response from the Ministry is that they will be better able to take action after Brexit. To emphasise their point, this week Greenpeace delivered a sculpture to the office of the Department for Food and Rural Affairs. It takes the form of a 1.5 ton rock and it will take a crane to remove it.

New Coalmine

News from Cumbria this week that the council has approved the development of a new deep coalmine. I’ve reported on this in the past and I thought it was refused and all over, but apparently not. The mine will produce metallurgical coal for use in steel mills and chemical plants, and not for power stations. In any case almost no electricity is now generated from coal.

The mine’s output will displace imported coal and a strong argument from the operating company is that if we need this coal, better that it comes from British mines and supports British jobs. Is there any way of making steel without coal? Can the CO2 be captured from the steelmaking process? Get in touch if you know the answer.

The project still has to receive government approval, and according to the Guardian that will come from the Housing Minister, Robert Jenrick. Seems odd that the housing minister has that responsibility.

Bill Gates

In an interview this week with Bloomberg Bill Gates said “The pandemic illustrates that government didn’t look out for us despite the warnings that were out there. Climate fits that same paradigm. Sadly, the problem gets worse and worse, and there isn’t a solution like a vaccine where you can spend tens of billions of dollars and bring it to a close. No, climate change is much harder. The damage that will be done every year will be greater than what we’ve seen during this pandemic.” 

And Finally, some are more optimistic.

EarthShot Prize

Prince William has launched The Earthshot Prize to incentivise change and help to repair our planet over the next ten years.

The announcement says, “Taking inspiration from President John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot which united millions of people around an organising goal to put man on the moon and catalysed the development of new technology in the 1960s, The Earthshot Prize is centred around five ‘Earthshots’ – simple but ambitious goals for our planet which if achieved by 2030 will improve life for us all, for generations to come.

“The five Earthshots unveiled today are:

  • Protect and restore nature
  • Clean our air
  • Revive our oceans
  • Build a waste-free world
  • Fix our climate

“Each Earthshot is underpinned by scientifically agreed targets including the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other internationally recognised measures to help repair our planet.”

You can see videos explaining each Earthshot on the website.

Every year from 2021 until 2030, Prince William, alongside The Earthshot Prize Council which covers six continents, will award The Earthshot Prize to five winners, one per Earthshot. The £1 million in prize money will support environmental and conservation projects that are agreed with the winners. 

If it does nothing else, Earthshot will help to keep the climate and environmental challenges in the public eye.

And that’s it…

…for another week.

I’m Anthony Day and that was the Sustainable Futures Report. Thank you for listening, and if you are, thank you for being a patron.

There will be another Sustainable Futures Report next week.

 Sources




New super-enzyme eats plastic bottles six times faster

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/28/new-super-enzyme-eats-plastic-bottles-six-times-faster

Rubbish sent back

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-54314778


Wildfires

https://abcnews.go.com/International/wildfire-burns-brazils-largest-wetlands-killing-thousands-wild/story?id=73007294

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/03/world/europe/ukraine-wildfires-landmines.html

Corpses washed from cemeteries in France-Italy floods

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/06/corpses-washed-from-cemeteries-in-france-italy-floods

 

US West Coast fires: Trump fans flames of climate row in California

https://observers.france24.com/en/20201005-brazil-pantanal-volunteers-help-animals-injured-wildfires 

Stockholm Environment Institute

https://www.sei.org/publications/the-carbon-inequality-era/ 

World's richest 1% cause double CO2 emissions of poorest 50%

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/21/worlds-richest-1-cause-double-co2-emissions-of-poorest-50-says-oxfam

Circular Economy

https://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/pdf/new_circular_economy_action_plan.pdf

https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org 

Greenwash?

https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2020/09/30/Quorn-advert-banned-over-carbon-footprint-claim-It-was-never-our-intention-to-mislead-consumers?utm_source=copyright&utm_medium=OnSite&utm_campaign=copyright 


https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/quorn-repositions-sustainable-choice-focus-carbon-footprint/1670406 


Bill Gates

https://medium.com/bloomberg-businessweek/bill-gates-warns-climate-change-is-an-even-harder-problem-than-the-pandemic-218224f9557e 


Greenpeace Fishing

Artist's 1.5-tonne protest over illegal fishing

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/05/greenpeace-drops-rock-scultpure-outside-defra-hq-fishing-protest

https://www.channel4.com/news/greenpeace-criticised-by-uk-fishing-industry-for-dumping-giant-boulders-in-north-sea-to-prevent-illegal-fishing 


PM Outlook

PM to unveil plan to power all UK homes with wind by 2030

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/oct/05/boris-johnson-to-unveil-plan-to-power-all-uk-homes-with-wind-by-2030


Climate: The week Boris Johnson turned green, or did he?


PM pledges millions for wind power revolution 

What did Boris Johnson's speech really mean?

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/oct/06/what-did-boris-johnsons-conference-speech-really-mean


https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/06/powering-all-uk-homes-via-offshore-wind-by-2030-would-cost-50bn



Coal Mine

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/oct/02/first-new-deep-coalmine-in-uk-for-30-years-gets-green-light 



https://influencemap.org/report/Climate-Change-and-Digital-Advertising-86222daed29c6f49ab2da76b0df15f76




https://earthshotprize.org/?gclid=CjwKCAjwzvX7BRAeEiwAsXExo3kTH9fBnVIVctOO0GDDcFpfYhpLs2h38TibVDWOp4F47k7Nb2ht0RoC6m4QAvD_BwE


Friday, October 02, 2020

Ten Years to Midnight

 


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Ten Years to Midnight


Hello and welcome to the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday, 2nd October. I’m Anthony Day.

As you know, I had a break in August and during that time Rachel Maurice became a patron and Silver Supporter. Sorry you’ve had to wait so long for your shout-out Rachel. Welcome to the Sustainable Futures Report.

We live in challenging times which is rather an unhelpful cliche. Nevertheless it's true as challenges, like uncertainty, need to be faced and if not eliminated, to be reduced and managed. At least if we identify the problems we are on the way to defining solutions.

There are fundamental changes to industrial, social and political structures across the world which we have to face up to and control. I spoke to the author of a new book, Ten Years to Midnight.

 

 

Anthony:       Right, well, my guest for today on The Sustainable Futures Report is Blair Sheppard. He is the Global Leader for Strategy and Leadership at PwC, which many of you will have heard of. It's a network of professional services firms committed to building trust in society and solving important problems.

 

                    Blair is also the dean emeritus and professor emeritus of Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, where he taught for 33 years. He was the principal force behind opening Duke's campus in China. He's a regular speaker at international forums, including the Global Solutions Summit and the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

 

                    Blair, welcome, thank you for joining us.

 

Blair:            Thank you. I'm delighted to be here.

 

Anthony:       Now we're going to frame this interview around your book, "Ten Years to Midnight: Four Urgent Global Crises and Their Strategic Solutions." So could we start off with an overview of what these four crises are, and why they are crises?

 

Blair:            Yeah, actually, we came to that begrudgingly, by the way. So, first, I'm an optimist and second, our job is to persuade people how the world could be better. But I don't think it can be until we recognise the crises. So they form an interdependent system.

 

                    But the first one is essentially, there's enough people being left behind that they feel like their future is not going to be as good as their current state and therefore they stopped dreaming, hoping, aspiring. And the result is we stop being prosperous. The important point that we point out in the book is across the entire lifespan, from people entering the workforce to people leaving the workforce.

 

                    The second one, let me save it. The third one we call a crisis of institutions, which is that people are losing faith in the institutions that make civilisation work -- the legal system, the tech system, the education system, the political system. And the problem with that, with lost trust in institutions, is that institutions are for people what water is for fish. It's sort of the things that let us just get on with things. Because there there, we can move in life.

 

                    The really sort of scary data point in this one is that only 18% of people in a recent global survey done by Edelman think the system is working for them. The rest are unsure, but nearly half think it's working against them. That is awful. All over the world, right.

 

                    The fourth one is that actually our leaders actually are sort of not up to the task because they were prepared for a world that no longer exists in a way. It's not their fault, it's essentially we changed the world on us, so they changed the world on us, so we did it together. And now we need a new kind of leader, and if we don't get it, we won't solve the crisis.

 

                    Then the second one we've called the crisis of technology. And the point we're getting at in this is there are two kinds of technology worlds we live in. One of them is the Industrial Revolution, and the second one is kind of the technology revolution. And in both cases, the ubiquitous. They're everywhere in our lives, right.

 

                    So because they're ubiquitous, the problem is when they do something wrong, it's a big problem. So with platform technology, examples are, society is polarising. Adolescents are having suicidal thoughts much more than they used to. And actually, in some ways we're getting dumber because we don't have same attention span we used to have or short term memory.

 

Anthony:       When you say platform technology, are you're talking about social media?

 

Blair:            No, I mean all of the platforms, sort of. Alibaba, Tencent, Google, Amazon, Apple, all of them. What I mean by platform is essentially something that is ubiquitous, it's everywhere. It's part of how we engage and you just layer things on top of it. That's why it's called a platform.

 

                    So Apple is successful because of all the apps that are sold, not just because of the base phone. Google's successful because of all the things layered on top of it. Amazon sold books, but now they sell everything.

 

                    That's what makes them platforms. And it's their ubiquity that's the problem actually, because they're everywhere, if they do something wrong, it really hurts. Social media is obviously platform as well.

 

                    And then, the final one is actually this issue of Industrial Revolution, which is the designers of the industrial pollution, never anticipated that their energy source would create carbon equivalence in the atmosphere that risk human existence. So, it's an unintended consequence, but because they're everywhere, it's really hard to change. Really hard to change.

 

                    So they're crises for two reasons. The first is if they sustain in their present form, they will get much worse in a decade. And the second is they are big and tough and naughty, and therefore fixing them would typically for humanity take longer than a decade to solve. So the question is, how do we change the way we adapt in order to solve things that are pretty darn thorny?

 

Anthony:       Now, before we get to solutions, I just want to skip forward to Chapter 11 in your book and I just want to read the first few lines opening that chapter, which is headed "Massive and Fast, Problems that Cannot Wait."

 

                    And you say -- with our institutions in disarray and mired in dysfunction, only a few of them, led by extraordinary individuals with unique leadership skills, will be able to address the global, national and local challenges that must be remedied quickly. These problems are so big and so urgent that we cannot wait for our institutions to catch up. Our institutions as we know them today are not up to that task. But while all of the crises covered in this book cannot be seen as anything but acute, a few enormous problems emerging stand out as more dire and pressing than the others, and I call these problems massive fast challenges. Time is of the essence.

 

                    Now you then you go on to identify two global crises, these massive fast crises. The one is the issue of jobs and unemployment, particularly amongst the young. And the other one is, of course, climate change.

 

                    Now my question, my first question, which applies equally to both of them, is where are we going to get the leaders we need, and more importantly, how are they going to be able to take power?

 

Blair:            So, I think the interesting issue is so that the first part, which kind of begins to answer your question, which is, if we try to change everything, we'll change nothing, especially in a world that's as polarised ours, and as fractured as ours.

 

                    So I think there's only a few things we can agree on.

 

                    So the first point is, it may be the two identified are wrong or my co authors and I identified are wrong. I think they're pretty important. But let's focus on one or two things only at a global level and let's agree with each other and go after it.

 

                    So one part of the answer to your question is -- narrow the field to the absolutely most critical things, and then maybe we can agree where we all share views in common I think. The second is, I think, because it's so big, we're going to need leaders in a lot of places. It's not like we're going to need a president to step up or a prime minister to step up. We're going to need leaders in lots of places because it's all parts of our life.

 

                    So take climate as an example. It's how we grow things. It's how we transport things. It's how we build things. It's how we manufacture things. It's even how we take vacations.

 

                    And so if you take that entire sort of life experience chain, we have to rethink the whole thing. And if you said, so, who's going to lead that? I think the answer is maybe about 100 million people are going to lead that right.

 

                    And, so the first thing is, I think we have to call for anyone who's in a position of responsibility from some aspect of that lifestyle, they have to rethink their core business.

 

                    Then as customers of that, or as investors in that we have to demand that they rethink their business. So there's two kinds of leadership here. First is leadership by the recipient, or you can think it of as a citizen, the customer, the shareholder. And leadership by the people who actually hold responsible for the entity that has to adapt.

 

                    So it's pretty pervasive, back to my point, which is, let's all agree, there's one or two things and then go for it. Create a moon shot for the next decade.

 

Anthony:       But I'm just wondering whether we can actually create international consensus on anything, because at the moment we are in a crisis which is not even in the book. Well, I think there is a footnote about the COVID problem. And yes we see countries rushing to develop a vaccine and saying, and it's going to be for us, we are not going to share it.

 

Blair:            I agree, so Anthony, I agree that in a sense, one of the elements behind some of the crises that we describe is actually the global fracture. And it's getting worse, and actually, COVID has made it worse.

 

                    To your point, we actually thought about stalling the book. It went to press in January, before COVID happened, and we realised the four crises were even more relevant. So we stayed with it instead of rewriting it.

 

                    But think to me it comes back to, let's  drive it through, probably business and NGOs first, or business and civil society first, and then let government catch up. We're going to need the government. We're going to need policy. We're going to need carbon credits. We're going to need all that.

 

                    But let's drive it. And so there's this odd kind of thing, which is -- I think the most important place for us to get agreement is among shareholders. So if people who hold the wealth say I want it to be done differently, a lot of people will fall in line.

 

                    It turns out that that company leaders will, because it's the shareholder asking for it. Many governments will, because of the source of capital that countries need to recover from COVID. And so I think I'd go there first, and I think I'd go to the citizen and get us many people around the world to agree.

 

                    Think about the power that the mayors are having because they're agreeing with each other, and so you can do a lot bottom up and you can do a lot top down where top is capital rather than the political power.

 

                    Then I think, again, to the global multilateral kind of question. I think we can agree on the two things we describe in the book. I think we can agree that jobs and work or small business is massively important. I think we can agree that climate's massively important and then leave the rest alone, in a way. We have a competition that's going to take a lot of work to fix, but I think we can agree on those two things.

 

Anthony:       Okay, Okay, Now you talk about social media, you talk about your experience of social media as the facilitator of the Arab Spring quite a long time ago, and yet well, people, of course, have used that as a vehicle for protest ever since. But we're not getting an awful long way with protest, and governments are turning their faces against the facts and they're trying to outlaw protesters who are merely putting forward the science, they're putting forward reasonable solutions.

 

                    So, yeah, as you just said, we need to engage governments. But how are we going to do that? Because they don't seem to look very far ahead and they don't seem to look beyond a very narrow focus. So I think that's our difficulty.

 

Blair:            So you know, I have a lot of sympathy for political leaders, actually, in a way. So we just describe in the book for awful, awful, difficult problems right, that are virtually impossible to solve, that will take more than one term of an office to solve. And we didn't really prepare them for the kind of problem we're dealing with now. They have these cognitive models in their head that are from the last 70 years of success. So we have to rethink the way they think about the world and actually don't trust them very much. So God bless the political leader who tries.

 

                    That said, it's clear that we have to get to some agreement. I think a couple of pieces on that, if I can. First is, citizens get the leaders they ask for. And so you can't just look at the political leaders and say they're the problem, because we vote for them, we pick them as candidates, we allow the system to sustain as it is. So I think we need to look at ourselves, not just our leaders.

 

                    Second, I think that if we can get consensus among the other communities... If you think about society lives on a kind of three legged stool --- Governments, civil society and business. If you can get business and civil society to agree, it will be harder for government not to come along.

 

                    And then again, I think the final piece is, there are too many agendas we are trying to push it one time, and because of that it allows fracturing to exist. If the majority of us say, let's just solve this and make it cause everything else that happened behind it, I think we have a better shot, Anthony. Which is why we focus on two versus... You know, if you think about all the SEGs, they're all important, but frankly, it's so many, it's hard to figure out, just can't get consensus around.

 

Anthony:       Yes, yes. Now a couple of places in the book you talk about the Marshall Plan, which was an aid program led by the United States immediately after the Second World War to help to rebuild Europe. And you're suggesting that we should have some sort of single minded project in much the same way to deal with the major crises which are facing us now. And interestingly enough, the Prince of Wales used the same phrase this week. Can you just expand on that a little bit? Are we talking about the military taking over?

 

Blair:            No, absolutely not. There's some characteristics of the Marshall Plan that are really important. One of them is there was a source of money or there was a pool of money that was aggregated, and then a set of simple rules that sort of said that you have to have an initiative you're trying to drive in your country. you have to have commitment to that and you have to make a case for why you need it. And then we'll distribute the money.

 

                    So it was a global effort to create local solutions. That's what I think we need. We need a global pool of money to actually direct solutions locally because the solution to sort of energy in Calcutta is very different from the solution to energy in London, is very different from the solution to energy in Durham, North Carolina where I live.

 

                    And so we're going to be very different answers from place to place to place. But you want kind of an overarching structure that says this matters, here's the pot of money we have and here's how you get it. The UN is actually doing the same thing, with New Development Initiative, where they've got a framework to try to influence investment locally. And so a lot of people are coming up with a similar kind of premise. We just have to make one work.

 

Anthony:       I talked about tipping points in a recent episode, tipping point in one direction, which could lead us irretrievably to catastrophe, a tipping point in the other direction where suddenly governments and world leaders get it and we all pull back from the brink.

 

                    I don't know which way we're going to tip, I really don't. But that's the question. And your book is called "Ten Years Years to Midnight." This clock, I believe, in the centre of New York, which is counting those years down. I think it's ahead of you actually thinks it's less than 10 years. How realistic is it? Are we going to actually? Are we going to get there in the time that's left?

 

Blair:            So I think you're right about the tipping point, which is if we do what we're presently doing, even if we accelerate a little bit, we go off a cliff that's really pretty unattractive. It may be 10 years, it may be eight years, it depends on the biological feedback loops that we haven't really come to understand how soon it will occur. But I think 10 years is kind of the outside limit, frankly.

 

                    Or the alternative is actually an amazing path. You could tell a story about how the future is unbelievable, if actually the world agrees on a few things, which is, let's create a sustainable economic model, and let's make it inclusive. If we could agree on just those couple of things, then actually I can tell a picture that is amazing and doesn't have a clock in the middle, has this beautiful forest and houses and all the things you would want in life in the middle.

 

                    So I'm hoping. The next book is Finding Dawn. But I agree with you, we're going to need people with power, money, capability to make the change to agree collectively that we need to make the change. But I think that's going to have to come from all of us to insist they do.

 

Anthony:       So perhaps the most important thing we can do is to keep people's mind on the issues to continue to promote the message.

 

Blair:            Exactly. Yeah, Anthony, I think two things that if you sort of say what could any individual do, right? The first one is get really informed and call the question of anyone who they meet, they interact with and they vote for or they talk to. Just be a good citizen, a good employee, a good consumer, in that sense of good intent, worrying about the sustainability of it.

 

                    And then the second one is find a place you love and make it better. Because essentially, I think this is going to be 10 million cities at a time kind of, that do it a little bit, villages or cities or counties that do it little bit at a time. And it adds up to something that's really pretty massive. Because it's more than industrial scale problem, it's a complete lifestyle issue, that way I'll have to rethink.

 

                    Actually, if you look at all this, if you read Paul Hawkins book, for example, the life you live if you go to the solutions is actually way nicer, actually way better. And so it's not like we're asking people to give something up. We're asking people to move to kind of a much nicer place.

 

Anthony:       That book you're referring to I think is "Drawdown," is that right?

 

Blair:            Yes, it is "Drawdown."

 

Anthony:       Drawdown. Yes, I recommend people have a look at it. As we draw to the end of this conversation, I'd just like to quote the very last sentence in your book where you say – “No one is exempt from the need to act. Please decide what role you will play and get to it.”

 

Blair:            There's nothing more to say than that I think actually, that is the perfect summary of what we're trying to articulate in the book. So I'm glad you read that sentence.

 

Anthony:       Blair Sheppard, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to The Sustainable Futures Report.

 

Blair:            Thanks, Anthony. I enjoyed it a lot. And good luck with your mission, and I hope you're successful.

 

Blair Sheppard, global leader for strategy and leadership at PwC. Ten Years to Midnight: Four Urgent Global Crises and their Strategic Solutionsis available now from all good bookshops and probably Amazon as well. It’s published by Penguin Random House.

I mentioned some weeks ago that I was reading Thomas Picketty’s Capital and Ideology. I’m pretty much halfway through on about page 540. By contrast, Ten Years to Midnight is very much shorter and a much easier read.

And finally,

I leave you with the news that honey is better for you than you might have thought. A study, published in the journal BMJ Evidence Based Medicine, found that honey was a more effective treatment for coughs, blocked noses and sore throats than many remedies more conventionally prescribed.

Well, as a beekeeper I knew that. 

Beekeeping is suddenly getting the celebrity treatment. David Beckham was pictured in the press this week with all his family wearing bee-suits. He’d built his own hives as well.  Apparently Ed Sheeran has installed hives on his Suffolk estate. Good news for bees and good news for us as bees are an important pollinator of food crops, particularly fruit. If you have land, time, and a few hundred pounds to spare you too can join them in protecting the bees. If not, grow some bee-friendly plants next year. In fact if you plant crocuses now they will provide an early food source for bees. I’m just off to give mine some winter feed.

Before I go,

Let me thank you all for listening and especially those of you who support the Sustainable Futures Report by being patrons. Thanks to Rachel Maurice for being the very latest Silver Supporter. If you’d like to be a patron you’ll find all the details at patreon.com/sfr

We’re not going viral yet, but listener numbers are at record levels. Please share!

I publish the full text of every episode on the blog at www.sustainablefutures.report, with extensive links to all my sources. There’s been a bit of a problem with Blogger recently, in that it’s stripping out all my formatting and making things difficult to read. A new website, which will incorporate the blog and links to this podcast will be live later this month.

In the meantime I’ll have more interviews for you, more news for you, more ideas for you. And do let me have your ideas, your comments, your criticism. Let me know what you want me to report on.

Thanks again for listening.

That was the Sustainable Futures Report.

I’m Anthony Day.

Until next time.


 

Sources

 

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/636245/ten-years-to-midnight-by-blair-sheppard-with-ceri-ann-droog-alexis-jenkins-thomas-minet-daria-zarubina-and-susannah-anfield/

 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/aug/21/british-apiarists-knew-it-all-along-honey-is-the-bees-knees