Introduction: the problem
Innovation and ecological transition in complex systems: the example of energy transition
As a positive and optimistic introduction to the Transition Workshop, this intervention will demonstrate the capacity of the design disciplines both to understand the climatic urgency and to respond to via technical, conceptual and organizational innovation.
Slow things first: The built environment as a key to one=planet prosperity
Our economies are running Bernie Madoff-style pyramid schemes with the planet (we take resources from the future to pay for the present). As a result, humanity’s demand on nature now exceeds what Earth can replenish, eroding our natural capital and compromising future resource regeneration. Like any such scheme, this one, if unattended, is bound to lead to a crash. Such a crash would unravel much of humanity’s progress.
Avoiding pyramid schemes and managing assets requires robust accounting. This has been the focus for Mathis and Global Footprint Network, which he founded. They respond to reverse these trends by exposing the ecological pyramid scheme. Since today’s decisions, particularly around infrastructure, shape our future, their work focuses on changing decision making towards creating a world where all can thrive within the means of our planet (“one-planet prosperity”). The challenge is to help decision-makers recognize that decisions in sync with our planet’s physical reality produce better outcomes for themselves (and the world).
Their comprehensive resource-accounting approach allows countries, cities, and companies to assess how much demand they put on nature against how much Earth’s ecosystems, or those of their own territory, can regenerate. Results show how resource deficits are undermining success and how resource security is becoming a critical, enabling factor for prosperity. Core to the work is also developing empowering psychological approaches and effective narratives designed to shape the common understanding that advancing sustainability is necessary for one’s own success. In other words, decision-makers actually have “skin in the game”. Motivating and actionable case examples of entities gaining in effectiveness by embracing the one-planet reality produce a sense of possibility and generate measurable outcomes.
The urgency of ecological transition
The idea is to provide an overview of global challenges with three main entries: climate change, the collapse of biodiversity, especially arthropods, and a state of resources with some key benchmarks. We will also address the democratic, social and cultural context within which responses to the challenges must be constructed.
We will then sketch out some possible solutions by focusing on three main axes: the economy with the idea of permacircularity, democratic institutions, and finally the cultural shift that is currently taking place.
The urgency of ecological transition
This afternoon, we will present some of the main types of response, the main postures, that can be found in the international literature: sustainable development and green growth, the technological headlong rush with Plan B to escape to Mars, the Drawdown project, collapsology, a Bruno Latour landing, and the North American figures of Degrowth.
Habitat for Habitability
The design of architecture, neighbourhoods, cities and regions is wired wrong today. Ostensibly designed to be our habitat, ironically, it serves to destroy the habitability of this planet. Once providing shelter, protection, time management and cultural meaning – its role has now shrunk into a small segment in the global resource exploitation and economic value adding’ chain. Worse, it was and largely still is at once result and source of the massive fossil fuel dependency that grips our planet and weakens its very ability to support life.