Category Archives: Research & Measures

notes on scientific data and analysis techniques

Our curious missmeasure of impacts (and silver linings)

This is a companion article to the proposed commons based institutions: A new economic paradigm: The next big challenge and Budgeting for “the commons” needs business “ecobalance” sheets.

To transform the economy to become self-regulating will require our learning how to make accurate physical measurements of our environmental impacts, and associate them with the dollars spent that paid for them.  That’s not yet being done, far from it.

Nature builds economies with whole working parts: people, businesses, independent service providers, etc.,.  They only deliver their products if all their parts work together, like machines and operators making a working unit. Our traditional measurement methods have just ignored that arrangement of the natural world. Understand our impacts we need our units of measure to match nature’s units of organization, otherwise our errors of measurement become extreme.

The following short article was submitted for the June 1 “Energy” issue of the UNCSD Rio Outreach Forum, but too technical for those discussions.


It would seem odd, wouldn’t it,… to not count the charcoal used for a family barbeque in its energy use, because a neighbor brought the grilled burgers and vegetables over from their yard…?  That’s almost exactly what happens when businesses don’t count the energy used by their outsourced services.

They’re treated as having no demand on nature, according to the ISO 14000 and LCA rules. The real error is evident comparing estimates by the normal rules with the global average and finding nearly all of them far below average, a sign of missing data.

The true totals show dramatically higher levels of real impacts for business
compared with estimates using the standard method people are using

My recent scientifically recognized paper, Systems Energy Assessment (SEA) (1) shows a corrected method, but making sense of such a big error is still a problem.    It’s evidently exposing some enormous blind spot(s).   The new method used my work on how economies naturally work, with businesses and their services working as individual self- organized units.  That’s the critical insight that allowed making a closed account with the parts adding up to the total. Continue reading Our curious missmeasure of impacts (and silver linings)

“The next big challenge” a biomimicry for a self-regulating financial commons

Using a new paradigm of biomimicry
to create a global self-regulating financial commons.

This proposal was submitted to the Rio+20 Dialogues for comment and voting. See “News of the Commons” for introductions to the vision and the systems thinking needed. It’s part of the foundation of collaborative free markets needed for the health of the competitive free markets, as an element of Helene Finidori’s “Commons-Sense“.  In this case to recognize that the profitability of the whole is threatened by a continued common investment strategy for growth, and needs a way to change to a common investment strategy for well being.

It works for us

Nature systems initially develop using a “bootstrap” mechanism, growth, that continually expands their control of their environment.  For any system’s own internal as well as external needs that self-investment strategy needs to become responsive instead ever more controlling to survive.

See UN Proposal to guide the UN SDG’s by this principle for OWG 7 & 8
Early version: Jan 2014 –
A World SDG- and way to thoughtfully manage global systems
This and the earlier versions contain a lot of good thinking…
the Most polished final version is a Feb 2014 proposal to the UN:  
A World SDG



A new economic paradigm: The next big challenge

The proposal is followed by a discussion of some of the systems thinking
on “the commons” that developed with a group of contributors to a Systems Thinking World discussion group. It is intended as a sample of the kind of “commons based economic models”proposed in the 2012 RioDialogues, by Helene’s Finidori, to solve the global economic crisis by making the commons work for the whole, as a replacement for the paradigm of “prosperity” with ever expanding development. Below is the original article (with references) for the UNCSD Rio+20 Outreach Forum Continue reading “The next big challenge” a biomimicry for a self-regulating financial commons

All time Top 22

Top page Requests for:

 Reading  Nature’s  Signals   &

All time Top:    1. 22 of May/11,    2. 30 of Aug/11,    3. 39 of Jan/12


Top 85 Jun 2013 Top Blog PostsTop Archive Pages
Top 67 Dec 2012 Top Blog Posts & Top Archive Pages




# Reads                   Page/Post Title

3. Top 39  in Jan 2012

557           2007/08/18    Whether successfully averted for the moment or not/

328           2011/07/18    My most disturbing finding/

322                                 Phpub.htm (publications list)

302                                 Systems Energy Assessment (SEA)/

186           2011/07/27    Urges arousal and keynes animal spirits/

162                                 Design/dollarshadow.htm ($’s = btu’s)

118                                 Cartoons/ (mostly New Yorker’s)

115           2011/08/05    Its the leeches that make us strong/

101                                 Pub/EffMultiplies.htm (natural effects of efficiency)

100                                 Chapters.htm (“S” curve reading templates) Continue reading All time Top 22

SEA – energy accounting “far more holes than cheese”

Emmeline, at was looking for recent innovation is sustainability to review for recognition.  In a short email exchange she persuaded me to try to find a simple explanation again, for my recent radical discovery.  It’s that our information on the scale of energy demands that business place on the economy is “far more holes than cheese“.    See also

Are the holes in your map helping you read the territory?
Self-organization as “niche making”

On 3/7/12 I replied,

Thanks very much for your nice reply.    If you care to consider it for recognition, last fall I published a long paper on the evidence of a true 80% hole in our information on business energy use, that is sorely needing attention.

We don’t have information on what self-managing service providers are doing, because they don’t record or report it.

The study identifies a deep structural problem in what we know about complex business service networks.   We don’t have information on what self-managing service providers are doing, because they don’t record or report it.

In a contrarian way that large gap in our information is exactly what gets missed by a “focus on transparency and clarity and measurement, being more accurate”.   It has to do with estimating known kinds of impacts that go unmeasured for lack of information.  It’s only due to the nature of outsourced business services having evident impacts that are individually untraceable, and so provide no data to count. Continue reading SEA – energy accounting “far more holes than cheese”

Is “Sustainable Capitalism” a half step too few?

In “Beyond Firm-Level Sustainable Capitalism” John Fullerton reviews “Sustainable Capitalism” by Generation Investment Management LLP, as still not respecting our finite world.   Maximizing long term gain doesn’t make it sustainable, for example, given the difficulty people have had identifying future liabilities for currently profitable plans.   I add a graphic example, of how defining the world as what we know about it is deceiving, and results in:

simply enormous omissions from the information set we usually think of as needed for making good decisions


It’s great to see such a solid critique of Generation’s “Sustainable Capitalism”, that on the surface seems like remarkably responsive to environmental issues as an investment strategy, far more than than ANY sustainable investment plan of ten years ago.   The whole attitude toward avoiding environmental conflict, as a business strategy, may be applied inconstantly today but seems to have really swept the corporate world too.

It’s nice to see you’re thinking is still a few steps ahead, too, and seeing their approach as somewhat of a half-way measure. Continue reading Is “Sustainable Capitalism” a half step too few?

Transition to New Blog Site

Posts on this site preceding this one were transferred from my oldest blog, I called “Alongshot“, from its site.   My main archive of blog posts is still at my original “Reading Nature’s Signals” blog, perhaps to be transferred at some point, and quite worth site searching for key words like this one for mentions of Keynes.

The move is really from one directory to another, on, needed to upgrad the format to WordPress 3.1.3.  The old blog site just got to be a problem.

My original systems physics research is still at The physics of happening, and scattered around, along with my collections of images, reference libraries, introductions and writing .

My subjects and writing style, of course, will remain just as “primitive” (whether you saw that as a liability or benefit I leave to you) so the software upgrade won’t really change anything but the look and feel.   ;-)

Three Wider Scientific and Economic Implications

The new scientific method presented in Systems Energy Assessment (SEA) allows economic systems to be studied by physical science methods,

so that our accounting method can match nature’s.

The first major practical finding is that the total energy demands of businesses have been undercounted, with the standard LCA method commonly fining only ~80%.   It does not count the outsourced energy uses for the scattered services businesses hire to operate, or their environmental impacts.

  1. Realistic Life Cycle Financial Accounting & business balance sheets
  2. Discovering how much of nature’s systems are hidden from view
  3. Study of complex systems as both natural objects and abstract concepts

These three main wider scientific implications of the method are found on the SEA resource page with other notes and resources. Each of which would take more explaining, but might also be helpful for suggest the intriguing challenges for learning how to apply science to the task of making the earth work for us, and us to work for the earth at the same time.

Continue reading Three Wider Scientific and Economic Implications

Competing Dashboard Options: Measures for saving the Earth & Economy

Designing a “dashboard” of “Outcomes and Metrics” for guiding worldwide efforts for our pulling back from the brink of of environmental catastrophe, to begin healing our relationship with the earth, is of some considerable importance, and a fascinating task. Below is one email exchange and links.

Applying the transformational vision of Four Years Go a work group developed a draft plan and resources for a comprehensive transformational approach you can find linked to our draft 4YG Dashboard (image below). We wanted to use a wiki to develop key indicators of essential changes in direction, of material, political and spiritual transformation, within 4 years.

Our starting points had been other models, like the Ursula Project’s metrics of sustainability and the European Commission’s MDG Goals Dashboard. We also looked at different PES (Payment for Environmental Services) approaches, and found them objectionable, and CSR (comprehensive sustainability reporting) models, but found them nebulous for our purpose, of defining concrete achievement goals. We ended up having difficulty deciding what to include, not understanding each other’s definitions, and with other 4YG work groups getting more attention.   We seem to have accomplished a lot in terms of the conceptual design, though.

The draft 4YG World Transformational Dashboard


You’re right, there still is a need for a more ethical ‘dashboard’ than the approach the financial community seems to be taking with “Payment for Environmental Services” (PES) instruments, and “Sustainable Performance Indicators” seemingly for monetizing all of nature for trading in new commodities markets, like repackaged mortgages are!

The Ursula Project model does show considerable effort in constructing a holistic measurement system.   Their metrics are interesting too.   They seem to rely on consensus value judgments, though, and not to identify physical boundaries or thresholds.

key indicators of essential changes in direction, of material, political and spiritual transformation, within 4 years.    Continue reading Competing Dashboard Options: Measures for saving the Earth & Economy