Circular economy: educational resources

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has created this educational resource on the Circular Economy.


Why the military must(n’t) invade our schools

In yesterday’s Telegraph there was an article titled ‘Why the Military must invade our schools’ and whilst this might have a simplistic attraction in the situation we find ourselves in as a society, it fails to address the reality we are now in. Fragmented as society of’ individuals’ in a future where the Common Good must be placed centre stage as the energy and resource intensity of our society, SystemUK, inevitably falls.

Radio and Television programmes abound, Panorama last night for instance, but none recognise this fundamental reality. The Seventies were the beginning of the future we are now in, only with outcomes differed was a result of the exploitation of North Sea Oil. Which we squandered on Business as Usual, creating no reserve for the transition to the future we are in.

As a consequence, neither did we educate for this reality and the common purpose and action this future requires. The ‘Service for the Nation’ required of us all.

We are now in a world of fire-fighting failure demand and looking for End of Pipe solutions to Society’s Failure Demand. Such is the reasoning behind ResPublica’s genuine concern. Failing schools, send in the military to sort out the problems.

But we are all in this together for the Common Good, and whilst it is eminently sensible to encourage military personnel to take up the work mentioned in the article, dealing with the issues in separate boxes does not solve the problems at system level, SystemUK.

We thought resources were plentiful, to squander as we thought fit as individuals, rather than the reality; limited and needing to be marshalled for the Common Good.

In this future we must all be expected to act for the Common Good, bankers included!. This can only be achieved by educating for and implementing, universal and compulsory ‘Service for the Nation’ , not military discipline in a forlorn attempt to contain the Failure Demand created by not doing the right thing right as a Society.

There are difficult times ahead but we must start now if we are to ensure a coherent and competitive society rather than a failing one. There are scenarios out there we do not   need to let happen.


Service for the Nation

The financial crisis and the current Banking furore illustrates our failure to educate for ‘Service for the Nation’. An understanding inbuilt in citizens of the benefits they receive from society and their responsibility for it, together with an appreciation of how this impacts global societies.

We seem to have lost this quality in ourselves and it is increasingly degrading our Quality of Life.

On it depends our survival as a coherent society with an acceptable Quality of Life for all.

Here are some of my thoughts


A 21st Century National Service

The UK Government has introduced a requirement for 11 year olds, starting secondary education in September 2009 to stay in Education or training until they are 18.

There is currently much debate about how this translates into positive outcomes and Sir Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity, which is the outcome least required as we shift paradigms into the OPW. A 2005 OFSTED report finding that only 12% of 19 to 30 year olds interviewed thought that school had enabled them to be creative or understand risk.

In addition the change to fee paying in Further and Higher Education has led to most learners deciding to stay local to complete their education.

Similarly, with no form of National Service, young people not in continuing education experience no other input than their local area and as a result, in most cases, have no expectations beyond their limited boundaries. There is clear evidence that this is causing a dependency culture and an underclass, as is being widely reported.

So where do we stand at the start of a new decade and halfway through the UN Decade for sustainable Development 2005-2014?

It can be stated

◦       There is a wide spread of achievement output from the UK’s Education System

◦       This is aimed at satisfying a paradigm that no longer exists.

◦       This results in high youth unemployment.

◦       Leading to disaffection and continuing underachievement.

◦       And withdrawal from involvement in the wider society

◦       Causing violence and crime, fuelled in many cases by drugs.

Clearly, increasing the age of compulsory education will have no effect on this vicious circle unless we recognise the paradigm we need to educate for is shifting rapidly as we move into the One Planet World.

We have to recognise, as stated throughout this article that education has to liberate the creativity that will enable citizens to help create the OPW within the UK. This can only be achieved through ‘service above self’.

This is not the politically correct thing to say at this time, but it is central to any future that can be envisaged in a UK of around 70 million citizens.


Our conception of National Service is coloured by its compulsory and in many cases arbitrary nature, where outcomes were not tailored to the needs of individuals, or even society.

This is not the aim of Service for the Nation; the aim is to provide rounded citizens with a range of knowledge and skills appropriate to their talents and the creativity to use them effectively and efficiently in helping create the One Planet World.

This does not mean that military service will not be part of the mix for those attracted to such service and we need to acknowledge the part played in current conflicts by our young people.

We do not need to reinvent the wheel as there are service organizations, Scouts etc. who know how to create future citizens and leaders that we can use as templates.

These things are critical

◦       There must be an element of compulsion for all to contribute in their own way.

◦       There must be a controlled but significant element of risk.

◦       Service should be away from home for realistic periods

◦       Learning and work undertaken must result in value added to society.

◦       All must have access to achieve to laid down standards

◦       Rank must be available for significant leadership ability.

Many will argue that this cannot be afforded but the real question is “can we afford, not to be able to afford it?” – if the alterative is societal collapse.

The Circular Economy and Product Lifecycle

I placed this comment on the Interface Blog at

There seems to be a fundamental error in the interpretation of the Circular Economy as propounded by Michael Braungart.

The assumption is that we try to make products last longer. Braungart says that if we maintain the integrity of the technical and nutrient cycles and use Cradle to Cradle design, then the shorter the life cycle, the faster learning and improvement will take place.

Braungart also reprises the core tenet of Quality; that it is about doing the ‘Right Thing Right, every time’

This highlights the reality that must drive the Circular Economy, that it must only create the ‘Essential Value’ needed by society. It cannot be used as an excuse for vicariously tying up constrained resources for non-essential use.

The greatest task facing us is for societies to define and create this essential value whilst maintaining freedom and democracy.


‘Essential Value’ and Resource Intensity

It is now widely acknowledged that global resources are increasingly constrained, most recently on the 16th March by the US, where the president signed the National Resource Preparedness  Order

As resources become more constrained, we, as societies, organisations and individuals will decide what is the ‘essential value’ that gives us a satisfactory ‘Quality of Life’, within the affordable resources available to us. Spending on ‘non-essential value’ will of necessity fall; although in the real world it will not completely disappear as incomes will always be unequal. (luxury car sales to China for example)

We can see at that Resource Intensity decides the Consumption (Value) creatable for a given consuming population. Past circumstances that allowed a disproportional level of consumption in the West for given availability of resources no longer apply.

In the limit, most available resources will be used creating ‘essential value’ and we can thus define Resource Intensity as ‘the resource use per person per unit of ‘essential value’ created’.

Although there will always be transient niche markets; in this One Planet World, only organisations that create ‘essential value’ can hope to survive and grow over time.

What we can say is, tomorrow’s successful, sustainable organisations will help maintain the Essential Value Created on Energy Invested by

  • Satisfying emotional and spiritual need rather than gratuitous wants – self-actualisation
  • Satisfying the essential needs in the lower orders of Maslow’s Pyramid
  • Employing people rather than energy
  • Creating or using renewable energy and other resources
  • Minimising water use or creating the technologies that do
  • Creating/deploying climate stabilising and mitigation technologies
  • Being increasingly local
  • Providing a service rather than a product
  • Practising life-cycle stewardship of their resources
  • Managing value rather than cost
  • Being able to operate at continually reducing resource intensity
Defining the ‘essential value’ you and your organisation add to society is the first step in deciding a viable business strategy and this is best seen as an organisational ‘Quality’ issue


The Magic and Misery of Exponential Growth

Exponential Growth is what we see all around us, it is what maintains life but spells the end of an individual ‘system’ unless a balance, steady state can be maintained.

Over the short run, in geological terms the Earth does this and mankind’s ability to influence this has been  minimal. We have now reached the near vertical part of the Exponential Curve in many areas of human activity.

Look at these two resources and decide for yourself if our ‘multi-planet world’ way of life is sustainable


The magic and misery of exponential growth 97-03 v2

Arithmetic, Population and Energy- abridged)

Reducing the ‘Resource Intensity of Society’ ~ the critical driver for HE and FE

“In the #oneplanetworld how do we continually reduce the #resourceintensity of society? Do we rethink everything, or do we let the Earth do it for us?”

Resource Intensity of Society – “the resource used per person per unit of ‘essential goods and services’ created”.

Two things flow from this

  1. Non-essential processes add no value to society in a resource constrained world, their RI is effectively infinite
  2. The least resource intense process is the one that doesn’t exist.

The Oil Drum 30th July

It has been a constant theme in these columns that the global oil supply is under real threat. The facts to confirm this are everywhere if one were interested in pursuing the topic. (Google “Peak Oil” and see what comes up). A clear indication of a shift in supply is that Saudi Arabia, while it increased its output by 700,000 barrels per day, has kept more of its oil at home to benefit its own citizens with air-conditioning and desalinization projects.

So how do we confront a shrinking economy at work and at home? Brutal assessments will be the order of the day. Even though the top 10 percent of the population will manage to keep luxury businesses going for a time, the economy must shift away from businesses that feed the public’s desires to those that address what people need to survive.

Small enterprises will fare better. All businesses should start wondering whether their employees could get to work if they couldn’t afford to fill the gas tank. Is your business near a transit network? These are tough questions”.

“So how do we confront [and avoid] a shrinking economy at work and at home?” We do it by decoupling ‘service availability’ from ‘resource use’ as viewed from a ‘SystemUK’ perspective, by rethinking FE and HE to enable the creative reduction in the processes ’essential ’ to maximising our Quality of Life with the resources competitively available to us. We become continually more ‘effective’ as a society.

We don’t do it by trying to do what we are doing now more ‘efficiently’

Competitively winning constrained resources requires us to evolve and create organisations that can innovate as expressed in the presentation. Enabling the Future v1

Let’s not change a Challenging Adventure into an Impossible Challenge