Category Archives: 4 Energy

Global systems in transition – accountants seeing the light.

Dr Hazel Henderson has released a summary of her upcoming book Mapping the global transition to the solar age – From ‘economism’ to earth systems science.

Drawing on over 40 years of data and experience, it offers a comprehensive summary of the issues faced by global systems and indicates ways forward.  It is sponsored by people and organisations from a traditional mindset, such as the ICAEW,  which endorses its validity to conventional businesses.

It is worth downloading the free version and reading it while on train or plane going to your next meeting as it could stimulate new thinking that will help your business thrive.

Ethical Markets



The price of oil is under pressure – high stocks and soft demand

The oil price has been a focus of attention for half a year or so since it dropped rapidly last year when Saudi Arabia stopped restricting supply.  The immediate effect was to put pressure on marginal sources, like fracking, and to give consumers a break.

This report by The Economist offers valuable insight, saying that the industry believes that the decline in prices will be long term. While a recent bump in prices has been driven by production going to restocking rather than sales, inventory is nearly at full capacity and so restocking will not provide relief from the steady supply.

Large oil firms have cut capital spending budgets by 20% and see new discoveries falling.  That would suggest a rise in prices, but inventory is high, production is stable and demand is not growing.  As big business, government policy and consumer behaviour increasingly turns to sustainable energy alternatives, the demand for burning oil may decline.  Let us hope so.

The Economist: The Saudi Project, part two


“The Facts” about sustainability, the environment and your future.

Below are the facts stated in the film Cowspiracy and their references.  Which ever side you’re on it’s good to know them.   For example, one takeaway from the ideas presented is that we can resolve environmental problems, reform economic systems and still keep our cars, if we change our diet.  If you take that with a pinch of salt (ha ha) it actually sounds quite interesting.  Anyway that’s a conversation for another day.  Here are the facts:

Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than all transportation combined. [i] Spotlight: Livestock impacts on the environment.

Transportation is responsible for 13% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gas emissions from this sector primarily involve fossil fuels burned for road, rail, air, and marine transportation.

Environmental Protection Agency. “Global Emissions.”

Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

Goodland, R Anhang, J. “Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change were pigs, chickens and cows?”

WorldWatch, November/December 2009. Worldwatch Institute, Washington, DC, USA. Pp. 10–19.

Methane is 25-100 times more destructive than CO2.

“Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions.” Science Magazine.

Methane has a global warming power 86 times that of CO2.

NASA. “Methane: Its Role as a Greenhouse Gas.” Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Continue reading “The Facts” about sustainability, the environment and your future.

Asset prices down, money chasing security. What’s the problem?

While there has been enthusiasm for a recovering global economy, optimism is being dampened by market movements.

There are some fundamental concerns about projected consumption levels and production costs.

There are a number of geopolitical risks festering around the world:

The strife in Hong Kong is being calmed by force.  That will be re-assuring now, but has shown the inability of Xi to lead a new path and China to manage the inevitable progression to maturity.  Hong Kong is China’s best testing ground for political innovation, which must manifest in China soon otherwise social tension will disrupt economic strength.

The middle east …!  Syria and IS are immediate and top of the list, but they are set to be a decades long drama of death.  Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran., Libya, and more.  Israel/Palestine … so sad.  These are are drain on the consciousness, but are inconsequential as long as the oil flows.  Phew.

Ebola is gaining momentum rather than being contained.  That might change.  But it’s scary to imagine a wierd disease like that becoming a global epidemic.  Managing a cataclysm like that might bring people together.

Everything’s going to be fine, in the short term.  But the underlying systemic risks, economic, social and ethical,  remain.

A holonic prescription for success without growth beckons.  Will our leaders lean in that direction?

BBC: Global shares slide on growth fears

BloombergBusinessWeek:  U.S. Oil Producers May Drill Themselves Into Oblivion

 IMF: World Economic Outlook (WEO) Legacies, Clouds, Uncertainties




Why Naomi Klein Must Not Blame Capitalism

I haven’t finished reading the book; I don’t want to know who wins, capitalism or the climate, but I assume it’s capitalism because the book costs $30 and it’s printed on dead trees.”
–Stephen Colbert, interviewing Naomi Klein (23 Sept 2014)

colbertandkleinKlein’s new book This Changes Everything sets out the urgency of climate change and how Big Capitalism works. Much of her argument chimes perfectly with Astraea’s view – that climate change is happening; that it’s extremely urgent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; that our relationships with nature must change; and that globalisation is giving multinationals unprecedented access to cheap labour, and monetising other people’s disadvantages. That’s the negative side of capitalism.

But she misses the point. Capitalism is a tool. Just a tool. It can be used for good and for evil. No better means of exchanging value has appeared. In fact, when Klein describes the globalisation and free trade zones as deals between Big Business and government to get easy access to cheap labour and similar advantates, she’s not describing capitalism. She’s describing collusion, corruption, cronyism. Business and government have failed us in policies and priorities, but it would be misleading to pretend that capitalism is broken – as Colbert’s remark underlines, it worked perfectly to get Klein’s book into many people’s hands, quickly.

Capitalism gives us power, and with power comes responsibility. If we don’t like the world, we must change it. Educate ourselves as to how things are produced, choose products with no or recycle-able packaging, choose local holidays instead of flying abroad, choose organic foods, choose ethical labels.

We use capitalism every day to promote our beliefs and choices. Everything we buy is recorded and analysed, and retailers make their purchasing decisions based on what we buy today. They market to us based on our prior purchases (and even “views”, online). That’s why, for example, when I was pregnant, my purchasing patterns signaled to stores that I would soon need baby goods, and began to receive promotional material months before the baby arrived.

Unfortunately, people who ‘value goals such as achievement, money, power, status and image’ tend to behave in unsustainable ways and hold more negative attitudes toward the environment (Klein quoting Kasser & Crompton 2009). Those are the very same people who tend to run those powerful multinationals.

Individuals know that their decisions always impact others – whether at high levels or in the local shop. That’s where the paradigm shift must happen: we must care, individually and collectively, enough to change our own behaviour. Fast.

So don’t blame capitalism – just make it your weapon of mass improvement.

It might already be too little too late. But do you really want to wait any longer to start trying?

Read our book about a personal story of change – from venture capitalist to organic farmer

Demand for action on climate change is getting loud.

Today’s UN climate change summit has provoked peaceful demonstrations around the world and drew significant media attention.

The number of people changing their own behaviour and demanding change from leaders is growing.  This is what is required to change the culture of permissiveness that pervades the worlds of money and politics.

Some leaders appear committed because they consistently call for change and show up for meetings.  Others do not care so much.  In both cases hands are tied by their populations.  Until we all change our shopping habits and investment prortfolios (well done Rockerfeller Fund), the culture will remain primitive.

It looks like enlightenment is dawning, but it’s far from evident that it’s quick enough.  So don’t be complacent and make a change in your energy consumption habits now.

BBC:  World leaders gather for ‘crucial’ UN climate meeting

BBC: World leaders flock to UN General Assembly

BBC: UN chief on streets for climate deal

BBC: Climate change summit: Global rallies demand action

BBC: Climate impacts ‘overwhelming’ – UN

BBC: Video DiCaprio handed UN climate role


The end of fossil fuels.

The Rockerfeller Foundation plans to divest fossil fuel assets in its portfolio.

The Fund will first focus on limiting its exposure to coal and tar sands, with a goal to reduce these investments to less than one percent of the total portfolio by the end of 2014. It is planning for further divestment as quickly as is prudent over the next few years.

Rockefeller Brothers Fund director Stephen Heintz said the move to divest from fossil fuels would be in line with oil tycoon John D Rockefeller’s wishes,

“We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy,” Mr Heintz said in a statement.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund advances social change that contributes to a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world.

This is part of a growing movement to divest from the fossil fuels causing climate change and invest instead in clean, sustainable energy.  DivestInvest Philanthropy  reached an historic milestone today of $ 50 billion in pledges.  Over 800 global investors have now committed to divest their holdings in fossil fuels.

Need I say more?  This has been a long time coming, but it is the start of a sea change in opinion and investment behaviour.  This is not just talk, actual money will be divested from fossil fuel businesses and reinvested in alternative energy businesses.  And yes, the timing was influenced by the UN climate change meeting tomorrow, but the plan was set in motion earlier and will continue to be rolled out and built upon over the coming months.  The energy sector is going to be volatile for a while.

Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s Divestment Statement

Press release on Divest-Invest Philanthropy’s website

BBC: Rockefellers to divest fossil fuels

Waste hemp for cradle-to-cradle and biomimicry

Research shows that “Hemp fibres ‘better than graphene'”.    Scientists have made graphene-like materials for a thousandth of the price – and with waste.   They “cooked” cannabis bark into carbon nanosheets and built supercapacitors, high-performance energy storage devices, which are “on a par with or better than graphene” – the industry gold standard.  Graphene is too expensive to produce, but “hempene” will not be.  A great illustration of cradleto-cradle design and looking to nature for answers.

Scientists presented their work at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco and have described the device in the journal ACS Nano.

The hemp is perfectly legal to grow. It has no THC in it at all, so there’s no overlap with any medical or recreational activities.

BBC: Hemp fibres ‘better than graphene’


Biosphere destruction is being ignored but happening fast and time is running out.

In Dangerous Global Warming Closer Than You Think, Climate Scientists Say, Scientific American outlines two reports encouraging immediate and extensive action, before it’s too late.

The message of the reports is that climate volatility is already here, species extinction is close to a critical level, as are levels of toxic concentrates.  They are now talking in terms of only decades to repair the problems.

Sadly there remain climate deniers who resist the science, using the moderate language of scientific data interpretation to claim that inconclusiveness equates to fallacy.  These few climate deniers influence millions who support their claims, many doing so on religious grounds (which is doubly sad because no god would be pleased with the way the planet is polluted even by faithful climate deniers).

We are getting deeper in to a situation requiring radical change in behaviour, especially with respect to energy consumption and sources.  Everyone  has to change behaviour now.  Use less energy.  Eliminate combustion of fossil fuels.  Everyone.  Now.

PlosOne: Assessing ‘Dangerous Climate Change

National Academy of Sciences: Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises