Scope-4 impact measures add up the total environmental inputs resulting from business, personal, or policy choices. That’s so we can compare different choices, and make the better one. Sounds like what sustainability metrics should do!
Standard sustainability metrics, however, collect impact information by where they occur,
not by what choices cause them…
So our whole metric system needs to be rethought. Today if a business decision involves employing six new machines and six new people, all that is counted are the impacts of the machines. The impacts of hiring the people or paying the investors or the government… aren’t counted. Nature sees all the kinds of impacts incurred by business decisions exactly the same way, though! It was our accounting community, going back centuries it actually seems, that decided to count one and not the other.
The omitted impacts are actually not hard to scientifically estimate for scale. That’s what Scope-4 accounting does. As you work with it you find more and more ways having the numbers right results in big changes the terms of discussion. The core scientific issue then, is having a metric that does not associate environmental impacts of business with the choices that cause them, but with the locations where the information is collected. That inconsistency may be as fundamental to economic accounting as to have originated in how business records were kept in ancient times on clay tablets.
The [ e = mc^2 ] LAW OF SUSTAINABILITY
ln(e) / ln($) = c
It says our growing earth impacts and growing earth economy are directly coupled.
The natural constant observed, [c], is the coupling of GDP and Energy use, as a measure of everything physical the economy does. It’s expressed as a ratio of their growth rates (here as a ratio of their natural logs). That coupling has been a constant [0.6] for a long time. You see it clearly in the figure below, showing a 40 year official world record for the economy’s growing Energy use and GDP.
It says that our increasing use of energy for altering the planet to make money grows only a little slower than GDP, at 0.6 times the growth rate of GDP, AND that this direct coupling has not shown any tendency to change over time! People imagine that ‘efficiency’ changes the coupling, but even with growing efficiency the ratio has actually quite constant. You’d need global efficiency in energy use to double every ~20 years like GDP generally has to really make a difference, so having growing value in a steady GDP is far more possible.
Of course, like e=mc^2, it’s not possible to tell quite where the natural constant observed comes from. That’s a big part of the scientific interest. Natural constants are emergent properties of the system, seemingly here a natural rate of societal innovation and adaptation, like a “natural learning speed”. The benefit of the constant is giving us a better way to measure inclusive sustainability, using the mathematical implication that:
— average shares of GDP pay for and are responsible for causing
average shares of GDP earth impacts —
The power of this rule the direct coupling between responsibility for shares of Earth Impacts and shares of Earth GDP. It’s a measure that combines all the impacts of extracting energy and all the impacts caused by using energy, i.e. everything the economy does, with financial earnings from the economy. When the data is aggregated correctly, it allows a complete accounting of the GDP impacts, and “closed accounting” for shares of responsibility for them. So that for whole supply chains, one can measure their share of exhausting all our resources, forest and species loss, paving over productive land, etc. Delivering goods for an average dollar of GDP causes an average share of the whole economy’s impacts.
Scope 4 CO2 assessment
The science for applying this constant natural coupling of money and GDP impacts was published in 2011 in a research paper “Systems Energy Assessment” found at the SEA resource site. More detailed research notes are in the article What’s “Scope 4″. The physics is sufficiently general and inclusive that the same technique can be comfortably use globally, to assign responsibility for all impacts of GDP on the earth, and have a way to “internalize all externalities” that can start and remain valid as it is incrementally improved, as in “A World SDG“.
The real tragedy is that this bias in our business impact metrics assigns TOTAL responsibility for environmental impacts to the people who are paid to do them, who would not do them unless they were requested and paid for by someone else.
So then ZERO responsibility is assigned to the people choosing to request and pay for the impacts, communicating their requests for them by the transfer of money.
In criminal law, as when paying to have a crime committed, requesting and paying for it is considered the principle direct cause of the crime. The person paid to do it may be penalized equally or not. As far as physically causing economic externalities, in the court of environmental responsibility, it really should be decided the same sophisticated way.
What Scope-4 accounting does, then, is start from the complete list of things a decision pays for. It could become a tremendously long list, with lots of things only known from the money spent rather than from exactly how the service was provided. So for those you need to do research on what default assumption to make in case in case more detailed information does not become available. I’m still waiting for people to study it themselves and compare results, but I think the proof is completely convincing that absent other information the necessary default assumption is not “zero” but “average”.
If you get stuck in deciding what to count, just remember, businesses don’t pay for things except for business reasons, so you need to count *everything*.
You then think about the different categories of spending, and what their “direct” (material) and “indirect” (economic demand) impacts are.
The initial rough estimate rule for economic impacts is to count them at 90% of the world average per $GDP, like around 7000BTU/$.
Make sure you use inflation adjusted $’s and state the index year.
That’s easy to do, and lets you reserve your time for estimating the direct impacts, according to the added information you can collect.
So for the energy content of purchased fuels, for example, you’d count BOTH the direct energy content of the fuel, AND the economic energy impact of the spending, at 90% the world average. The reason is that the fuels come from nature, and the spending goes to people, paying them for the consumption they do to bring you the fuel.
If done correctly, the bottom line is a unique pie slice share of the world’s impacts
for delivering your share of GDP.
Another one to think through is how to estimate the impacts of retained earnings, used for either financial or business expansion investment. The economic impacts of that spending needs to be estimated with a multiplier over time… The whole purpose is to truthfully estimate the types and scale of consequences for our economic decisions.
More discussions can be found searching the journal or the web for “Scope-4” or “SEA-LCA” as interchangeable names for the same group of accounting methods.
Today our measures of business environmental impacts address the size and efficiency of business technology use, traceable from local business records. We’re not even trying to measure what’s traceable from what a business pays for throughout the whole economy. So in effect, the global impact is counted within a narrow local boundary, making the measures scientifically undefined, and highly misleading. Why it matters is that business, investor and policy decision makers then don’t know what impacts their decisions really have, and the research says most of any business’s real impacts are global. So we need to understand why the world economy seems to work so smoothly.
What’s counter intuitive for solving it is that the world economy not only LOOKS like a whole system, it also WORKS as a whole system. What you know is 1) all parts of the economy are supposed to be and 2) seem to act as if 3) they are competitively efficient. Otherwise 4) they lose their access to energy use, and the energy goes to someone else. Smooth working competition like that is 5) needed for a world system to work as smoothly as global data shows, and 6) making there no better assumption than that differences from global average efficiency are temporary. So unless someone can say why not, I think we have to treat energy use as being predictably proportional to GDP. That’s been peer reviewed as a general principle, that one can rely on the range of local or international variations being likely to be relatively small (maybe +/- 10%) for any globally connected part.
so…. there’s a LARGE miss-match
between the effects we see and the ones our money really causes
the scientific basis for the SEA-LCA “SCOPE 4” accounting principle,
That: Every dollar spent can be shown likely to pay for such widely distributed services throughout the world economy, that at least as a first assumption, it also pays for an equal shareper dollar of the whole world’s economic activity and impacts.
In principle, shares of GDP seem to carry equal shares of responsibility for what the economy does to produce GDP
I had found a cozy place to work on sustainability from inside the UN, but discovered the words holding the discussion together there had accumulated meanings that were deeply dishonest… so I’m back on the outside.
Over the past year I developed two rather wonderful scientific learning methods, as if school courses in “Niche Making 101, 102”, for people searching for how to work with nature. One is the 3Step method for learning how your economic commons works and the other the World SDG for making the totality of our growing impacts on the earth transparent to each other. Both were very unexpectedly attacked rather than discussed in the organization I was part of, though, and I’m understanding the offense.
After much suffering, puzzlement and close observation, the harsh reaction to learning by a scientific approach now seems due to it not being sufficiently ideological. Unfortunately… letting up on the ideologies we may use to stamp the world with is the very first rule for learning from nature. Finding that people both didn’t seem to know that, or to be willing to try, is an important lesson I wasn’t prepared to learn, especially that my own social network would respond as if attacked by my suggesting good creative ways to do it .
Ideology is an artificial and inflexible but handy social substitute for reality. By definition ideologies are self-defined, built up as social affirmations in well connected networks. It makes them strong but also largely unable to adapt and respond. For people they provide mental comfort, useful knowledge of group habits, and a private coded language only understood in the network.
How ideologies can open up and become adaptive we often fail to notice, though, how often we naturally change from one to another in the course of a day or week as we engage with different networks. We change ideologies much as if putting on and taking off clothes, often using a change of clothing to do it in fact. So,… it seems sensitive, but need not offend, to notice that ideologies need to be suited to situations and to grow and change with them, letting us try on different ones for fit. Ideologies can be temporarily considered as “nice outfits to wear”, and need not be treated as contracts required of others for whom they don’t fit.
Sadly, the dishonest words this viewpoint helps us understand are some of the favorites in the discussion of sustainability. They’re ways of mixing honorific images of ever accumulating wealth and reducing our footprints on the earth: “sustainable growth”, “decoupling”, “circular economy”, even “sustainable development”. They’re frequently used to compare “apples and oranges” and coming up with “ever increasing consumption without consumption”. With that usage our goal and purpose becomes to accelerate the “tragedy of the commons”, that is our whole discussion is about how to avoid.
How you can tell that for yourself is by observing that putting the contradictory meanings of “development” together requires switching back and forth from one ideology to the other, with that switch not being mentioned. It shows that people, in conversation, are adopting an ideology of hiding when they switch ideologies. Sadly that seems what we have socialized around doing, unaware of the consequence. At present nearly anywhere in the global sustainability movement you go (and I’ve really looked around!), you get strong pushback for even trying to bring it up.
Nature doesn’t respond to artful ideology in the least, though. Not one little bit. What nature responds to is the growth of new organisms that change from expanding their conquests to then making their niches. That succession is their (and our) door to joining the commons by making their (and our) homes in it. Feel good euphemisms for the opposite, stitching together our true ideals into fig leaves for endless conquest philosophies like BAU, actually don’t work.
No need to take off our clothes in public… but dropping ideological fig leaves at times
seems required for how we learn.
Offering a true measure of economic sustainability, internalizing the costs of externalities caused by delivering world GDP, initially using shares of GDP to measure shares of GDP impact responsibility; potentially making the world economy 100% accountable.
It’s the “right way to make money”, taking responsibility for the true shares of our costs to the future.
Investing and doing business in the common interest,
…calls for balancing costs and benefits, no longer just counting operational impacts locallyas before, adding up only the impacts over which we have direct control (and can’t hide). Now we need to do impact accounting inclusively, combining in one account both direct operational impacts and direct economic demand impactsestimated as our global shares of the GDP impacts we pay for. That’s the essential step to inclusive accounting, and balancing our benefits from GDP with our real shares of responsibility for the whole economy’s accumulating GDP impacts. It’s needed to guide our choices for moving toward a sustainable future.
To apply it we need to recognize that the supply-chain and service-chain impacts are a *shared responsibility* of the those managing the operations the result from, and the economic demand caused by paying for them. Now the World SDG offers a scientific method for measuring the responsibility of economic demand. Businesses and investors need to make sound sustainable decisions about supply chains reaching around the world, and need accurate information on what is being paid for and profited from to do that. Consumers, shareholders and regulators can then also make sound decisions about what the markets are profiting from. For the glaring cases, regulators could variably tax the profits from dangerous impacts, funds to be transferred to subsidizing the profits for scaling up alternatives, making the investor and buyer jointly responsible with the seller for the important side-effects of their economic services. In principle both buyer and seller are co-equally responsible, liable for long term costs of short term profits, and for being transparent. This way of doing the accounting would help pave a clear path ahead for the economy of the future. 06/26/17, 11/5/18
Updated Preamble to the 2014 UN Proposal
Following these notes is the original text of the World SDG proposal, to the UN Ministerial “Open Working Group 7” and the UN NGO Major Group and its Commons Cluster, for negotiating the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). It offers a “whole system accounting” method to give all stakeholders the same transparent information on measurable Environmental, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) impacts of the economy, to help guide economic choices for our future. What makes it work is a new scientific method for much more accurately distributing real responsibility of economic decision makers for their decisions. That new science, for how the world economy works as a whole, is what allows all stakeholders to see their own and each other’s real scale of impacts on the whole caused by their economic decisions. It becomes a learning tool for then guiding our choices for the benefit of the whole, creating a holistic awareness of what’s at stake for consumers, business, investors and governance, and guide efforts for achieving the SDG’s.
Latest 2016 research statements, The links below are to recent UN Statements regarding how our standard ways of measuring sustainability are very selective, and leave the great majority of economic impacts on our future uncounted[1,]. My recent video comment to the UN [2,] on this grand accounting problem is in the webcast of its high level political policy forum for sustainable development (HLPF), its July 11 Session 4: Fostering equitable growth and sustainability . Watching the hour of statements from many experts, countries and organizations will show you how the UN works, and avoids discussion of our ever expanding impacts. My statement is at minute 0:40:40, and others by Youth, Women & Indigenous Major Groups are at minute 1:09:00 to 1:21:00, and quite excellent too.
Our modern environmental accounting standards were based on ancient habits of not counting things we can now measure the effects of. The is largely limiting the information given decision makers to LOCAL impacts, and leaving uncounted their real shares of the GLOBAL impacts. These categorical omissions from what is counted assure that businesses, investors, government and consumers will make sustainability decisions quite unaware of most of the impacts their decisions will cause. What is excluded also tends to be the more neglected and disruptive of our accumulating economic impacts on the earth and society, and so excluding consideration of them in making the decisions that cause them. So sustainability decisions to maximize profits can also be maximizing neglected impacts too!!!
We’ve never had a meaningful balance sheet for the earth, but new science and technology now makes it possible. Our accounting methods started from doing local accounting of impacts, and so didn’t take a whole system view, and that’s still the case. So leaving them out of consideration means it’s only slowing the whole economy that slows its increasing whole effects that are continuing to destroy the earth.
I) The standard way ‘sustainability’ is now measured uses “selective accounting” rules, for addressing ESG impacts, for people, businesses, cities or countries or policies. It’s to count things almost entirely only for what each one directly manages. That counts what each planning group would immediately care about, but it ignores the often much larger remote effects of their commerce on others and the planet, a very deceptive one sided view. For businesses energy use, for example, what is counted is only the energy within its operations, for its equipment and the material uses it manages, or directly traced to them. Even though doing that takes a great deal of effort, it arrives at a total that is highly inaccurate and misleading, due to the more dispersed categories of impacts uncounted.
II) The most general exclusion is of all impacts of financial choices, all treated as ‘zero’, though also very clearly resulting in what is paid for and profited from, by consuming all the services of the economy remotely. The largest part of that exclusion is the financial choice made by businesses to pay their own people, and so economically causing the consumption. Business use of public and private services, and paying investors are also excluded. Also excluded are all those categories of paid services impact for business supply chains. So given that we are now relying on environmental accounts for saving the earth, it’s evident that no one before had been checking what decision makers would be told they were making decisions about.
III) To make real decisions on sustainability decision makers would need to accept co-equal responsibility for their choices to request, pay for and profit from their share of impacts for delivering their share of GDP. Because our responsibility for what we see happening around the world is not traceable you need to count it statistically, and the new research makes that relatively easy. It gives co-equal responsibly for directing the work of a business supply chain with the operations of the supply chain.
The original research (3, 4) found the whole supply chain energy consumption and CO2 pollution of 5 times what the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) or GreenHouse Gas (GHG) “Scope 1&2” metrics would count, using a wind farm business with heavy technology as model. For less for businesses using less heavy technology, the true impact might be 10 times what is counted, with the more disruptive remote impacts going completely uncounted. The old rules were inherited from practices for simplifying accounting and ignoring things that were hard to count. It reflect the oldest of old habits of thinking, of economies working with separate parts, when since Adam Smith everyone has known they work as a whole.
IV) The World SDG proposes a data network giving access to a transparent inclusive accounting of measurable ESG impacts, a data platform. The starting point is a scientific method of dividing up shares of known impacts of the whole economy, for which any part would be responsibility. The baseline for estimating a share of economic responsibility is the decision maker’s share of the economy, initially counting every share as “average”, and then differentiating if more information is available. So as an impact calculator, any person, business, or country would enter their “income” and first see a display of the known global impacts for that share of world GDP. It would be for helping them choose how to invest their time and money, and guide policy. As research develops, ways to depart from average and take credit for lessening or compensating for impacts would develop.
The principle strategy for the World SDG is to improve the decision making regarding investments, thinking of “investment” more holistically, as both “cultural development” and trying “new directions for the economy”. For operating businesses its ESG balance sheet report would be published along side its annual financial balance sheet report. All stakeholders could view the same “best available information” on all impact factors. When a new investment proposals want public recognition and perhaps qualify for support, they’d go through public reviews. First would for general scientific and economic feasibility, then financial, and then for cultural acceptance and political commitment. From initial to final reviews it would proceed as a “learning practice” going from early concept to final implementation stages. More successful proposals might be seen as “transformational” and become a teamwork of all the stakeholders, not just the initiators.
Our main sustainability impact metrics (2)
LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) accounts for the impacts of recorded uses of technology and materials by individuals and businesses
but not the impacts of OTHER spending and economic choices
EF (ecological footprint) measures our traceable use and flows natural and renewable resources
also not the impacts of OTHER spending and economic choices
The World SDG method combining the omitted economic impacts with scientific measures (3)
EI (economic impact) measures accumulative responsibility of participants in the economy for shares of global ESG impacts of GDP, assumed to be proportional to shares of GDP until improved information is available.
Share of GDP is a reliable measure of our use of the economy, on the currently reliable assumption that the measured economy works as a whole, based on the highly regular relationship seen in the first figure below, of a constant ratio of constant whole system growth rates for GDP, Energy & Energy Efficiency. Also see the Addendum – Background on the Science and references (4, 5a,b)
Why a World SDG is both possible and needed is because our world economy works as a whole. We need a truly global way of understanding the impacts of our decisions, to crate a “Knowledge Commons for Sustainability”. We recognize that every part contributes to the whole and no part can operate without the whole. The surprising result of the research is how reliably any share of GDP is likely to be “average” and pay for about the same share of world GDP impacts (4). 1) It first comes from how widely distributed consumption spending is, then 2) how widely money from any expense is distributed in the global economy, to all income levels within all kinds of businesses, as it is passed down a supply chain(5a,b). It then also relies 3) on how truly global and competitive economic markets and services are, with all parts being disciplined by the same competitive standards for profiting from the resources everyone has access to. So the baseline assumption that shares of GDP pay for the same average share of GDP impacts is both necessary as a default choice and likely to be accurate. Making decisions on how individuals and the world can depart from average would then become the focus.
Everyone could then understand their own benefits from the economy and how they compare with the global impacts of delivering them, seeing the simple facts in a broad context. For example, a 6 oz (180 cc) glass of wine for $10 seems like a small impact. As an average share of GDP what we find is $10 is quite likely to have an “average climate impact” of .45kgCO2/$ = 4.5kg for $10 = ~10lb x 16oz = 160 ozCO2 [2006 data] (4). So the weight of CO2 consumed would be ~27 times the weight of wine. The catch is that spending $10 on anything else would be the same. How we use any part of our incomes would be close to having an average share of CO2 AND other global impacts of the economy as a whole, soil loss, deforestation, environmental and cultural disruptions etc. [for 2016 data due to inflation and efficiencies impacts per $ are ~66%]
So the World SDG accounting model lets you:
Compare our shares of World GDP benefits with our shares of its measurable Ecological Societal and Governance (ESG) impacts.
Using “shares of the whole” as a common unit of measure for responsibility for the whole
by aggregating reliable measures of human impacts and risks to our future, including direct financial liability if there are good estimates
using the sound initial baseline assumption of “average responsibility per share” pending more complete accounting.
It would provide an accurate accounting for the modern world’s survival on earth. [ed 8/23/16]
… a scientifically combined balance sheet for financial and ESG factors, so people can better understand our economic choices.
A World SDG
A World SDG is a “commons approach”
Full accountability for the rising economic costs of an unsustainable future
Finance motivated to invest in the SDG’s close to our hearts.
An integrated balance sheet of local and global responsibilities for integrated implementing of SDG’s.
New science makes it possible to give those who profit from growing our costly economic impacts the information they’d need to understand their growing global liability. What would be more profitable choices for all can then reverse that. It’s shocking, really, when one finds what a $1 dollar share of GDP (where the averages apply) is responsible for, as a $1 share of today’s economy’s fast growing impacts. Every average $1 of GDP is responsible for close to 1lb of CO2 put in the atmosphere! So in a sentence you just replace “dollar” with “pounds of CO2” to speak about the climate impact of normal earning and spending. For a consumer with a $50k income, the climate impact is 50k pounds of CO2 per year!
This journal entry if for the preliminary presentation of The World SDG to the UN’s Open Working Group on the SDG’s. See also the final World SDG proposal on the global application of the general principle, that we all are responsible for our shares of the abuses of the economy as a whole … in proportion to our owning, investing in and using it.
The World SDG uses a method of calculation for any person’s or business’s share of world GDP, for estimating their total share of responsibility for world economic impacts as “users” called “Scope-4 Accounting“. The legal view of responsibility is different from “cause and effect” in that, legally, both the people paying for, benefiting from or authorizing a tort harm may all be held as equally responsible as the person actually doing the harm, as familiar for hiring others to commit a crime.
Below is the version circulated in 08 to 10 Jan, Statement of Jessie Henshaw, Working with IPS & NGO Commons Cluster at the UN OWG sessions.
Statement to UN “Open Working Group” (OWG) sessions, on: “Sustainable Consumption and Production” &”Disaster Risk Reduction”, for the NGO Major Group: Commons Cluster
A “World SDG”
guiding decision maker choices for the Sustainable Development Goals
We have always needed an SDG for reducing our global footprint by a method that thoughtfully manages the global systems, many of which behave so independently as to have “minds of their own”. We now have two good scientific methods of measuring our local responsibilities for global footprints, in broad spectrum. That information will FAR more rationally steer the decision making of global markets, and give regulators and consumers a FAR better understanding of what their decisions mean, than the scanty and mostly quite subjective information on how our world works we now have. So defining the SDG for reducing our global footprints in general, as a way to let every part know how to steer their part of the whole … becomes possible.
LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) accounts for the impacts of recorded uses of technology and materials by individuals and businesses
but not the impacts of any our OTHER spending and economic choices
EF (ecological footprint) measures our traceable exchange of natural and renewable resources
also not the impacts of our OTHER economic choices
EI (economic impact) fills that gap, measuring our global shares of measurable or socially prioritized economic ESG impacts, assumed to be proportional to shares of GDP until improved information is available. So… shares of GDP as a good measure of our benefits from the economy, are used as a measure of our share of responsibility for the whole economy’s impacts. [and the science shows that “average” is a quite reliable first estimate for the real impact of shares of GDP] [clarification of descriptions 5/27/15]
It allows us to “internalize all externalities” and define the SDG simply, to slow or reverse all accumulating economic impacts, with their goal being to approach their own limits, safely, within all recognized cultural, economic and planetary boundaries.
Doesn’t disaster risk reduction need to include Assessment of
Disaster Risk Costs??
and informing people profiting from the causes
who could be held responsible?
There are now better scientific ways using EF and EI to accurately measure global and local disaster costs and now there are better ways to assign responsibility for them, means of accurately and honestly associate responsibility for them with the people creating the market demand for and taking profits from the economic causes. There are societal costs attributable to industrial farming, both for pollution and resource depletion that harms our present and future economic wellbeing. There is also the responsibility that can be proportioned to industrial farming for the societal costs of displacing rural communities with more competitive farming methods, and triggering unplanned migrations to cities of people who lose their livelihoods and are unprepared to thrive where they are going, as well. In the case of climate change, climate hazard costs can be included with other costs, and assessed proportionately to the production of GHG’s, and the responsibility for them being equitably distributed to the people creating the market demands for and taking profits from the economic products and services producing them. As a systemic approach it is part of what is called “The Ideal Model: “New Architecture” for Economic Self-regulation”. It is widely recognized that humanity is still far from living sustainable on our planet home. Even the Secretary-General’s Rio+20 Gap Report recognized that humanity has already exceeded a number of planetary boundaries and is living well beyond the carrying capacity of the earth. We are polluting the natural environment and rapidly depleting our natural resource base. Clearly we need a well-defined SDG to reduce our global footprint.
This is a serious effort to describe in natural language a well thought out way for a market economy to follow organic systems principles, and decouple from conquering the earth to reorient its development toward finding its secure place on earth. It would be driven by our goal seeking social and economic communities developing new markets and partnerships for mutual benefit as markets always serve to steer the economy, but having much better information on what’s profitable, and recognizing the true cost of inaction. As we find how to do it the economy would also change from building itself up internally to making itself at home externally.
By redirecting our resources from pressing ever harder on the limits of the earth, and instead aim for relieving the strain on ourselves and the earth, the economy would become relatively more profitable than before as it heals. A great many of the key goals of sustainability (SDG’s) being stated again and again at the UN, would be achieved naturally this way. Other critical goals would still take concerted planning and government action, but would become more practical to accomplish.
Incentives to Sustainably Lower Our Global Footprint
Holistic and accurate measures of ESG costs of production and consumption
An Information System Everyone can understand, for a Self-managing World
Turning the economic pursuit from “conquest” to “homemaking”
“Nature’s Capitalism”, first profiting from building things, then by caring for them
Steering Capitalism with a purpose: giving us a good home on Earth
A. The idea
The natural way economies determine their futures is by “market choices”, as financial, business and consumer markets look for how to get what they want from each other and the earth. Then governments, the press, professions and open societies watch out for the common interest. That’s what designs of the economy of our future, telling developers what new parts to add or old ones replace.
Those market choices often don’t reflect common interests just for our natural lack of information. What was done around the world to deliver goods or services is not collected and passed along as they are paid for, What’s becoming possible is like that, ways to identify future societal costs that business may be held responsible for in the future, practices like adding to global inequities or harming our economic future.
Comparing comprehensive sustainability balance sheets, for finding development proposals with financially and culturally acceptable risks and benefits. Global benefits/People centered, Homemaking
Just one new fact about money can release a great wealth of information on that. It’s that the “hidden consequences” of using money we don’t immediately see have been scientifically shown to most often be close to “average”. In information terms, that serves to “internalize all externalities”, opening the door to what has eluded us, a way to make sound decisions for the world as a whole.
It would let us build an information system making the choices responsible for impacts transparent for all to see. For example, spending one dollar generally adds about 1 pound of CO2 to the atmosphere. We might select the least cost engineering option for ending our addition of CO2 to the atmosphere as a standard measure, possibly bio-char, estimated to cost $.20 per pound of CO2. That would be equal to an impressive “tax” on GDP, of $.20/$1, an indicator of how poorly the earth’s profits are being used.
People would then clearly see, for example, that as we build more and more for the future economy to take care of, a natural turning point approaches for investors and everyone else, of diminishing total returns. So as growth becomes seen as a drain on future profits, the most profitable use of profits becomes caring for the environments creating the profits, not compounding our demands on them.
Henshaw, J. 2011 Systems Energy Assessment. Sustainability MDPI. http://synapse9.com/SEA – People are “end users” of the consumption economy AND “end servers” of the production economy. The “end producers” for any dollar of goods or services are SO wide spread one must first assume, every dollar is distributed as an average share of GDP and reflects the average impacts of the whole, good and bad.
Science is also about asking particular kinds of questions, so you’d be missing a lot if you didn’t also ask “What kinds of questions is that?”… and end up getting to the “big picture” by asking “But then,… doesn’t any question both open your mind to one thing and close it to another?”
So that more precisely defines science is a kind of “open territory” of all the kinds of questions one might ask, hoping to find ones that are particularly “informative” and give us unexpected “insight”, while keeping us clear of “jumping to conclusions” and other pitfalls. It’s a long process of bending our minds to fit the world we seem to be part of, finding ways to both “get along” and to bend the world to suite us, guided by the landscapes, pathways, open skies and hidden traps of “understanding” and “misunderstanding”,talking to “busybodies” and “not so busy bodies”, that one finds traveling beyond “The Phantom Tollbooth” (ref the Juster & Pfeiffer masterpiece).
What have you been wondering about…?
One of the very most informative and useful questions I ever asked is “What is nature hiding from us?”. That question came to me about 25 years after my first highly productive question of the kind. which was “what makes life so lively?” I’ve had SO much fun with both those questions I really cannot tell you! I don’t feel compelled to “look under every leaf and stone”, but having asked those two questions, using them as a kind of “lens” for studying what’s happening around us, it has made it quite likely that in any natural hiding place I look I’ll find traces of things “making life lively” as a way to study what they’re doing and how, along with leading questions about where they’re headed. Continue reading In two words… what defines “science”?→
How Natural Systems Work… is by forming processes that produce a profit, used to grow it, in a burst of creative self-organization, to become sustainable ONLY IF the profits that built it get used to maintain what was built; the essential road map.
That general model of nature’s “facts of life” is your “quick start”. Following is a foreword and then a compact introduction to a scientific method. Anyone can observe the details of how developmental systems work by just learning to study the development of individual systems in nature. You start with learning how to identify natural “living systems” as what fills our environments from watching how they develop. Then you can recognize them as cells of organization that produce resources for their own development. Easier reading descriptions are found in:
How Natural Systems Fail… A growth system that can’t change to maintaining itself after building itself, becomes disabled. As for our modern world economy, at the limits of the earth, keeps devoting more and more effort to expanding, it drains resources from maintaining itself. What’s wrong is the essential road map for sustainability is missing. It is absent from our great cultural conversations, absent from the models of the professions and groups trying to stabilize the economy or seek “sustainability”.
An Organizational Stages Model (OSM)
– the science –
Foreword: Understanding natural systems involves learning how to first recognize them as individually developing systems, and then discover some of the hidden organization within them. You can find them where you see events have “lives of their own”. The real learning is a “learning by doing” process, as the key is discovering how to define your words by referring to self-defining objects of the natural world, not defining words with other words or use abstract models.
Abstract languages are “self-referential” and what a science of natural systems needs is words defined by nature. To understand system models, then, you then need to consider them as questions about the real world subjects that are NOT in the model… but referred to by the words associated with the natural subject, a new way of scientific thinking.
Most any history of events will have periods of accumulating change that speed up and then slow down. That becomes the main subject, the key that unlocks the basket of productive questions about “what’s happening”. It’s the question that identifies a systematic process of change as a sign of a developmental process and evidence of a self-organizing system doing it.
When some local system of change is “taking off” or later “fading away”, you notice where it and begin piecing together what is doing it, by watching for regularly changing rates of change. It could be anything from the history of your own career choices, to the stages of organization for “the big prom”, the founding of your own business or the dramatic global shifts in economies and societies that “history” is itself a record of.
[This is a sample graph showing a real systemic transformation. Only the data is shown to focus your attention on the changing rates of change](i)
It definitely helps to have some kind of “data” to indicate when locally developing changes are speeding up or slowing down, and notice the turning point from one to the other. The different periods of behavior display different states of organization, and are used for “building a narrative ” for how one transitions into the next. The traditional scientific. For systems with hidden organization, it’s the continuity of change that is the direct evidence, of organization you can’t actually see, but can expect to find if you look there for it.
Jessie Henshaw– UN representative of IPS & scientific adviser to the NGO Commons Cluster on natural systems, in response to the UN Major Groups call for: “Crowd sourcing ideas for thematic areas and modalities of engagement for the one day intercessional with the Co-Chairs of the OWG and MGs and other Stakeholders”
– “Experiential Learning” and “Transformative Education”,
– For building bridges from deterministic, linear and Cartesian thought and word use, by exploring our observations of the environments and their living systems affecting our ideals.
1. As a Break-out Group Activity2. Outline of the process3. Other Formats 4. Purpose & Theory behind it 5. Why we rely on social networks to define our reality
Foreword: Here I propose a meeting technique for small diverse groups of people to help enrich each other’s awareness of how their environments work and see what they have and need to work with to “work with nature”. Looking for the working parts the world around them, for how their own cultures work as systems that create their own economies, it might first seem they don’t know any more about that than they do about the weather. The trick is to shift attention from what’s hard to explain in our minds to noticing what’s going on and working all around us. PDF copy
1. Learning to Work with Nature: – as a break-out group activity –
A diverse work group of 6 to 20 people would be assembled, helped by a facilitator, needing about an hour to just go through the basic 3Step process. It’s NOT a discussion group, of people offering opinions, but a learning group of people offering connecting observations. During the session they’d need to be able to write as they talk, building on each other’s observations, starting from being given or choosing an ideal goal to work with.
They’d use that ideal to lead them on an exploration of what people in the group already know from observing their cultural, economic & ecological environments, sharing with each other things they’ve seen are happening that could affect achieving the ideal. The product is a large collection of freshly shared observations on what’s happening and how it connects; they’d need to work with to proceed to planning for investments in changing their environment.
1 The false duality of mind & nature is clear, in how events for each begin with bursts of self-organization and energy use, “eventfully”. ;-)
2 More revealing is how the eventfulness of mind and nature doesn’t occur in theories, relying on defined relationships not discovered ones.
3 Operating the earth as an equation, by our rules rather than natures, we go mad hoping our bursts of self-organization can be made infinite.
4 We misplace reality as what’s in our models, missing the eventful world still undefined they point to, not what we see but what we look at.
5 First language was created to express feeling, then split by using facts, needing models with controlled relationships, and unfeeling.
6 That’s why we are destroying the earth, and see but don’t feel it, relying on models that blind us to the meaning of what they help us do.
7 3Step Process of Learning to Work With Nature (not a theory, but a method of finding meaning in the facts of life). http://www.synapse9.com/signals/2013/07/03/a-3step-process-for-working-with-nature/ …
8 So, since models inherently can’t tell us the meaning of change, we now need our hearts to learn how environments work, to find what to do.
New object oriented natural science for working with natural systems.