Month: July 2009

Has the SD Commission ever ‘got it’?

Sir Jonathon Porritt stands down as Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission today and he blasts government, with a small ‘g’ as  having not ‘got it’.

The reality, however, is the SD movement has never ‘got it’. That our ‘Quality of Life’ is a quality issue. That sustainability is a journey of continual improvement and not a destination.

Of doing the right thing, right by enabling process learning, something that our democratic institutions have failed to evolve to do and we have failed to educate ourselves to understand.

My past letters in Green futures illustrate this


Letter published in Green Futures May/June 2001

I noted with interest your reporting of the EU Environmental Awards and the comment by Environmental Commissioner, Margot Wallstrom that “sustainable development and greater competitiveness go hand in hand” [GF 27, p10]. These awards were appropriately made to companies that have or manage significant environmental impacts.

Most small or medium-sized companies, however, do relatively little to address their environmental impact, despite the effort of projects like SIGMA [see GF 23, p 21]. We need to do more to engage such companies. I am convinced the best way to do so is by integrating sustainability management into quality management – since most businesses have at least some system for the latter, however informal.

But it’s becoming increasingly evident that the traditional, customer-focused definition of quality as ‘fitness for purpose’ is inadequate. We need a new definition. Here are two possible ones that I advance for debate:

1. Quality minimises the ‘loss to society’ resulting from the creation, use and disposal of products, processes and services.

2. Quality maximises the life cycle efficiency of products, processes and services.

Viewed in this way, less than perfect quality creates unsustainable systems, which are the basis of the problems being addressed by the SIGMA Project and other initiatives.

An additional benefit of this redefinition of quality will be to re-examine the ways in which the quality and environmental ‘industries’ have become so ‘standards-based’. My definition of quality implies a ‘synergy’ between the supplier and customer rather than compliance. My hope is that the SIGMA Project will become a means to do precisely that.

Derek Deighton


Letter published in Green Futures 2004

Reading with interest Jonathon Porritt’s article in the current edition of Green Futures brings to mind my letter you were kind enough to publish in edition 28.

  The view I expressed then and I feel is evident from this article is that Sustainable development is seen as an unaffordable luxury and not a central business imperative.

  The environmental community has admirably driven SD but will only gain credence in business if it is expressed in terms of Quality based financial metrics; a concept that has a resonance within all businesses, large and small.

 Reprising my previous letter, SD advocates must work to redefine Quality a

“Minimising the loss to society resulting from the creation, use, and disposal of products, processes and services.

 If losses are minimised, sustainability is brought nearer. Quality and sustainability are the two sides of the same coin, toss it and you can only win.


Derek Deighton


Can we adapt to an energy impoverished planet?

Energy Impoverished Planet?

Over the weekend, I came across an excellent set of videos from the Art Center Summit 2009 held last January in Pasadena. The title of the conference is “Expanding the Vision of Sustainable Mobility,” and features a wonderful set of presenters from Jim Woolsey and Andy Karsner to Amory Lovins and Cal Tech’s Nathan Lewis.

While I found all of the talks and panel discussions excellent — and I highly recommend you watch them — it was Dr. Lewis’ presentationthat struck a resonant chord with me, largely for its pessimism, underscored by his challenge that in the future — if we are to have an energy-equitable world — the population of the planet is going to have to learn to live on the equivalent of just 2kW per person per day, half of which will come from our food. On average, we Americans consume ten times that number, while the vast majority of the planet’s poor aren’t even at a kiloWatt.

It got me to thinking about the choices ahead of us and the thought that unless we find new ways of producing energy that can be affordable by all and still, at the same time, not degrade the planet, my fear is that by 2100, not only will Earth be an unpleasant place to live, it will be a cold and dark one. Granted, the earth enjoys abundant amounts of renewable energy that can be tapped, but how do we continue to be a species of explorers that send probes to other planets and searches the heavens for other signs of life, if our descendants become the equivalent of Hobbits?

Maybe that’s why I continue to hold out the hope that phenomena like cold fusion or Nikola Tesla’s earth energy or, yes, even extra-terrestial technologies (a.k.a., UFOs) might someday prove a reality that can be equitably shared among our fellow citizens of Planet Earth. But before that happens, we will have to mature to the point where we really do care for our fellow man as much as we care for ourselves. As long as we fear what others might do with such powerful technologies, we will never want them to have it and it will forever remain cloaked in a conspiracy of silence… assuming, of course, it even exists.



A Transition take on the UK ‘Low Carbon Transition Plan’

A Transition Take on the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan


…………….Overall, I think this is as bold and brave a plan as could be expected given the circumstances under which it was no doubt written.  Here is a government approaching an election, having been in charge during a spectacular economic unravelling, with Milliband having to fit within and keep on board a Cabinet obsessed with economic growth (the Mandelson/Brown effect).  The brief set for it was to create a low carbon economy in the context of economic growth, in complete contradiction to all the indications to the contrary.  I think Milliband is a dynamic young politician who wanted to do something very far-reaching here, but he has had to do so in a very difficult context.  Within the context of what he can actually do, I think it is very good.  In terms of being a plan that will enable and underpin this country’s inevitable energy descent and relocalisation, it is inadequate.

Praise where it’s due; on the positive side, the Plan takes many decisive steps forward and puts mechanisms in place to ensure that the various Government departments actually carry them through.  It is nothing if not ambitious, although its starting assumptions are such that it is designing for a world that will almost certainly not be possible.  However, it is, of course, the victim of a degree of inevitable compromises (especially in the farming area) which hamper the effectiveness of such a wide ranging proposal.  I do think that as a plan produced by government it is as good as we are likely to get, indeed some parts of it are much better than one might have expected.

From my perspective, it throws the challenge back to Transition groups and others.  The Government has set out an unprecedented dedication to the low carbon agenda, and thrown considerable weight behind it.  The role of communities is seen as being vital, and encouraged, but the ball is in our court. We often say communities can’t do this on their own, they need Government working to support the low carbon agenda.  Now they have gone some way towards that.  What is missing from this Plan is the local detail, the stuff that central Government can’t do;  the locally owned energy companies, the local food networks, the groundswell of desire for change, what Jeremy Leggett calls the ’scaleable microcosms of hope’.  This is what Transition can do, and I feel, having read this report, and having heard Milliband’s endorsements of the Transition Network, that the door to real and deep change feels significantly more open than it did last week.

Full article at

The CO2 Intensity of Society

 The question arises for a society like the UK, as to what a reduction in CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 actually means for the society and its citizens.

We delude ourselves and ignore the fact that the one planet equation is immutable, but we are failing ourselves and future generations.

The calculation is quite straight forward and is as below. We will be forced to follow the curve the equation creates over time, but ignoring it means inaction now will lead to chaos later.


         If we take the one planet(society) equation 1 = P x C x I then assume by 2050 CO2 must reduce by 80%, then 1 becomes 0.2 in respect of CO2, if population is then 70m  P = 1.16 and if we could get growth at 2% then C = 2.2

So 0.2 = 1.16 x 2.2 x I or I = 0.08 or a factor of 1/0.08 = 13

This means we have to reduce the CO2 intensity of every UK citizen by 13 times by 2050 with the projected population and economic growth at 2%

Even with no growth we are faced with a factor of around 7

 Talking in terms of building wind turbines and installing smart meters is a nonsense, change on this magnitude means a reordering of society, how we organize ourselves to reduce the CO2 intensity in all we do.

Agreeing and eliminating the products and services that do not add CO2 value to society.

It will mean very few new ‘green’ jobs but the recreation of many old skills as we replace fossil fuel energy in processes by people.

As we reinsert, creativity and ingenuity back into processes.

Pecha Kucha presentation The CO2 Intensity of Society PK


If zero carbon is the answer then just what was the question?

 My friend Martin Brown describes the situation with regard to our predicament excellently on his Blog which contains the posting below.

Through the lens of this Blog, Keeping Ahead of the Oil Curve, the question is clear and unaquivical and is “how do we continually reduce the Resource Intensity of the Build Environment to help balance the one planet equation”

The background to this formulation can be found at and I would like, with Martin’s help, and others if you would like to join in, to explore the avenues this question opens to view in a world driven, immutably, whether we ignore it or not, by the One Planet Equation. 1 = P x C x I

Unfortunately the one planet side of the equation is shrinking as we consume its non-renewable resources and sinks.


If zero carbon is the answer then just what was the question?

July 6, 2009 by fairsnape

If zero carbon is the answer then just what was the question

Is it ‘just because’ I am currently  seeing things from a different perspective as I re-read Cradle to Cradle, (which I feel  has more resonance with where we are now)  but a number of recent issues and events  have left me questioning our approach to zero, and that going to zero is not enough.   Indeed it may even be dangerous ‘just’ going to zero.

Lets consider the built environment in its widest sense, not just from design to FM but from winning raw materials through construction to end users, and consider the opening premise from Cradle to Cradle, and ask who today would allow a sector to :

Put billions of pounds of toxic materials in the air water and ground every year

Produces materials so dangerous they require constant vigilance by future generations

See Complete article at

Youth leadership and the resource intensity of society

 The scheme below is another example of failure to understand the need to continually reduce the resource intensity of society and the way to achieve this.

There are at the present time many organisations in the community giving young people the opportunity to be creative, and develop leadership skills, Scouts, Service Cadet organisations, churchs etc.

What is sadly and fatally lacking in our society is the opportunity to exercise those skills. Some form of national service or ‘service for the nation’.

Not necessarily military service, but within all sectors, education, health, police etc.

The key criteria are that it should have some element of compulsion and a considerable element that is not local to the individual’s home. These elements will

  • show individuals that they have a duty to support and maintain the society they are part of
  • break down failure of aspiration within communities as members are faced with other realities and opportunities.

My 2002 comment on the UK Northwest Framework for Employability and Skills Action, FRESA can be downloaded here Comment on the North West Region FRESA290802


Youth leadership scheme launches £1m third sector fund

By Charlotte Goddard
Children & Young People Now
3 July 2009

A consortium of youth organisations has launched a £1m fund to boost youth leadership opportunities as it unveiled details of leadership body The Youth of Today.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown attended the body’s launch in Wolverhampton today.

The £1m Leadership Fund will be managed by the Young Foundation, part of the consortium which is led by the National Youth Agency. The fund will invest in third sector organisations delivering leadership programmes for 13- to 19-year-olds across England over a two-year period.

Full article at