Greece and Essential Value, a letter to a friend

To Catarina Tully at From over Here

Hi Cat

Sir David King has just made the following statement: Sir David King lambasts Treasury for preventing green economic recovery

How do we get the message across that it is not about ‘resource efficiency’ but about the ‘effective’ use of resources creating ‘essential value’. This is not an easy discussion to have, but if we don’t face up to this as a society we will end up in the situation in the book just released.

If we continue to muddle along on the basis that completely free enterprise can find a way forward when the marginal cost of producing a barrel of oil is over $90 and the useful energy remaining is on a downward trajectory, we are deluded.

We see in Greece the effects of the reducing Energy and Resource Intensity of a Society and Economic Block that does not recognise what is really happening.

Chandran Nair does recognise this and is doing his best to make Asia aware of the situation: as Asia tries to grow using the multi-planet paradigm this contagion can only spread.

These are Global issues but we must act as SystemUK if we are to be competitive and provide inspiration to others on the art of the possible. Are we the innately ingenious people we think we are, or was our prosperity purely a result of the Energy and Resource Intensity we were able to exploit?

The answer is probably a lot of both and we need to recognise this if we are not to squander this innate creatively and ingenuity as the Energy and Resource Intensity of SystemUK inevitably falls.



My letter in the Professional Engineering Journal 2007

Engineers are supposed to be mathematically literate but a simple understanding of compound interest is all that is needed to see that the current predictions of growth are the pipe dreams of economists.

Take a chess board and put one unit on the first square, 2 on the second and 4 on the third and continue doubling up. The time to each doubling is 70 divided by the rate of growth i.e. 7%/annum is equal to 10 years.

Add the squares together 1+2+4 = 7 i.e. the sum of all previous doublings is less than the value on the next square – 8

Oil was first commercially exploited in 1859 and we are now at around 30 billion barrels/year and on the 32nd square. At the present rate of growth we will need more oil in the next 20+ years than in the previous 150!

Even if this amount of oil exists, finding, extracting and applying unknown technologies to turn the poor quality, heavy, and polluted crude we obtain into useable product is clearly not possible on this time scale.

And that’s without the climate crisis and the fact that we need a fair amount of the remaining oil to create a low carbon future.


Derek Deighton MIQA AIEMA AMIMechE

Coordinator, Northwest Engineering Institutions, Sustainability Joint Venture

Northwest Energy Forum

Trailblazer Business Futures, Business and Built Environment Systems Integration

Helping create the One Planet World through creative partnerships


Thinking Aloud ~ Meeting the exponential demand for creativity, ingenuity and Tacit Skills in the #oneplanetworld

An email to a friend

Hi Andrea

 It good to catch up again last night at the Lancashire Construction Best Practice Club event; This was a really interesting meeting and after  I mentioned Sugata Mitra’s new experiments in self-teaching. Here is the link to the TED Talk he gave last year.

He has virtually proved that learning is an emergent property when small groups of students have access to information they can share.

I feel we are failing our learners if we do not lever the potential of social media and the internet to liberate the creativity all children possess and largely lose as they grow up with the educational model we have used since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution  . Ken Robinson makes this point in probably the most watched TED Talk at

Alison’s ideas and work with her Classofyourown Project  is similarly inspirational and a vital tool in engaging children in the STEM subjects.

The problem, of course, as Alison has pointed out, is not with the children, it is with the Teachers and the industry, simply because they were not exposed to this concept of ‘emergent learning’ and the unlimited expectations of their mentors as they grew up.

In reality this educational model never served, but in this time of exponential change, where more children will be passing through education in the next fifty years than have ever done, we cannot create inspirational teachers fast enough to liberate the necessary creativity that will enable us to solve the problems presented in the One Planet World we now inhabit.

The other key issue of course is the necessity we have to reduce the resource and carbon intensity of the built environment by considerable amounts. We must liberate the creativity to do this by design, or resource availability at a price we can afford to pay as a society, will do it for us.

In all this a key point is being missed and this is the need to maintain and generate the ‘tacit’ skills our society requires as my generation passes from the scene. These are not created by this ‘Mitra’ process, powerful and vital though it is. Initiatives like Classofyourown are key to liberating these tacit skills as well.

These thoughts apply to all sectors of society of course not just construction, but the built environment does consume 50% of our resources.

Attached are two articles  that were in the Professional Engineers’ Handbook in 2005 and 2006. There is no point in my being unduly modest at this critical time and I feel they are both prescient and could have been written last week.

The third article attached is from the May 2008 edition of the CIBSE Journal and addresses the other key issue, our need to understand, as an industry the concept that the sustainability journey is just one of continual improvement towards perfect quality.

Kind regards



Sustainability and the Energy Gap sustainability-and-the-energy-gap2005

Building Towards the Future Sustainability, Building Towards the Future 2006

The Double-headed Coin Double Headed Coin – unformatted – BS

Heathcare and Resource Intensity

Public purchasers are positioned to lead, having a hold on 33 percent of the insurance market

Diane Lund-Muzikant

The Lund Report

March 10, 2010 — As the largest purchaser of healthcare — next to Medicare – public purchasers are positioned to transform the delivery system under the leadership of Barney Speight.

Together, state employees, schoolteachers, Oregon Health Plan members and local government officials comprise 33 percent of the insured population in Oregon, according to a recent analysis.
“We can have a major footprint,” said Speight, director of healthcare purchasing for the Oregon Health Authority.
Initially, he intends to focus on the two largest purchasing pools in the state – the Public Employees’ Benefit Board, which has 126,437 members (state employees and their dependents) and the Oregon Educators Benefit Board with 142,966 members (school teachers and dependents) – by focusing on pay for performance, patient-centered medical homes, evidence-based care practices and new payment methodologies.
“Our goal is to impact the transformation of the delivery system, but not through any pool consolidation,” he said. “Consolidating pools is incredibly political and people worry about this. If local governments find these standards attractive and useful, then they can adopt them.” 
Transformation inevitably leads to bending the cost curve, and Speight is drawing on his expertise as a health insurance executive to engage the purchasing community. He intends to encourage hospitals, for example, to re-tailor their reimbursement system.
Instead of being paid for inpatient costs on a formula known as “discounts on billed charges,” he suggests that hospitals use a prospective payment system known as DRGs, which bundle charges. Such a payment system is widely used by Medicare and was once the mainstay by commercial insurers, particularly HMOs……….   
 ………………. Speight also wants to take a serious look at outpatient hospital costs, which have grown quickly with technology advances, giving providers the ability to treat people in a single day. Medicare has grouped such procedures by resource intensity and affixed a price, which could be used by public purchasers. “But not by paying at Medicare rates,” Speight insisted……………….

Novel syringe demonstrates cost benefits of sustainable product design

Novel syringe demonstrates cost benefits of sustainable product design

Cambridge Consultants has unveiled an innovative concept for a high-quality prefilled syringe, cutting the volume of a typical pack in half.


Cambridge Consultants, a leading technology product design and development firm, today announced its novel pre-filled syringe concept ‘Syreen.’ A revolutionary ‘green’ syringe design, Syreen is a highly effective, safe, and easy-to-use drug delivery device for self administration use, designed to ease the resource intensity and material wastage associated with traditional syringe development and manufacture.

Instead of glass, Syreen syringes are made with COP (cyclic olefin polymer) plastic, which has enabled Cambridge Consultants to shed the need for secondary packaging altogether, a first in this medical device arena. The makeup of the Syreen allows syringes to clip together, nesting in a pack while the COP design doubles as the outer shell of the packaging itself. The Syreen therefore eliminates the need for wasteful fillers such as cardboard and styrofoam, reducing the packaging weight by 30 percent and volume by 50 percent from today’s standard packaging. The United States alone produces 6,600 tons of medical waste per day, equalling well over two million tons per year—approximately 85 percent of which goes to landfills throughout the country.

“What makes Syreen so exciting is that while it is a sustainable alternative to the status quo, it can truly introduce a paradigm shift in the existing supply chain,” said Phil Lever, Commercial Director, Drug Delivery Devices for Cambridge Consultants.

“We found that typical glass syringes use many materials from all over the world and that shipping costs are egregious due to inefficiencies in packaging. This marriage of economy and ecology shows that medical device companies will likely see competitive benefits by taking sustainability seriously.”……………….

Full story at

Today’s leadership challenges demand innovative thinking


Today’s leadership challenges demand innovative thinking

By Jim Hunt

March 7, 2010

Working in today’s unstable economy, leaders are facing new challenges filled with uncertainty and increasing complexity. Competition is intense, and the workforce is struggling to do more with less.

Leaders and managers face problems that are rarely simple with clear-cut solutions. Success now demands that decision makers incorporate targeted innovation and new thinking about their organizations and the challenges they face.

Historically, managerial training has encouraged us to believe that for every problem there is a simple solution. Such a quick remedy, however, may not prove to solve the problem at all. In a world where the slightest mistakes become viral media sensations, it is no wonder we routinely hear Dr. Phil’s mantra, “What were you thinking?” In reality the better question may be “How are you thinking?”

One of Leadership Tallahassee’s 10 guiding principles of leadership is “systems thinking” — recognizing and analyzing the complex interaction of structural, technical, political and personnel issues. Systems thinking integrates new perspective to give leaders the ability to see and understand the big picture. In reality, systems thinking encourages smart design and lasting solutions.

Our fast-paced workplaces are filled with information overload and the expectation of immediate response. Col. George E. Reed, a former director of command and leadership studies at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., speaking on systems thinking said, “While it may be important to orient on values, goals and objectives, the urgent often displaces the important.”

One of the major impediments to systems thinking is the problem of busy-ness, Col. Reed explains. “Immersed in the myriad details of daily existence, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.” Leaders must temper a demand for simplicity and certainty in a volatile and complex environment………………

Full story at

Dr. Deming and the One Planet World

Watch, listen, learn and go back to the future – Dr W Edwards Deming tells us how to create the ‘One Planet World’ by a  journey of integrated continual improvement towards sustainability and perfect quality. (my semantics)

Dr Deming would have recognised that what we consider separate in our reductionist societies, the risks and costs of environmental and social failures, are just part of the costs of poor quality that prevent process and system sustainability and organizational transformation


The Real Dr. Deming – “Prophet Unheard” Video


Mark Graban on May 9, 2009

If you’re not familiar with Dr. W. Edwards Deming, check out this 30 minute special, put on YouTube in three pieces. Look at the 1980’s videos of American smashing Japanese import cars with sledgehammers. That was a mature response to global competition. Look where that got us. It’s too bad the energy expended there wasn’t put into learning and practicing Dr. Deming’s teaching on quality, management, and business.

Videos at

Keeping ahead of the oil curve in the One Planet World


 Why ‘peak oil’ collision provides opportunity for bold invention


David Le Page Published: 2010/01/08

ONE day, oil production will begin declining. The world’s drivers and transport operators and airlines, not to mention fertiliser, plastics and pharmaceutical manufacturers, will file their usual orders — only to be met by suppliers saying: “Um, sorry, we can only meet part of that order.”

Imagine the panic. Imagine the shock to markets. And imagine if that moment were to come not in 2130, or even 2030, but in 2013?

The economic uncertainty would eclipse the current recession, the potential for global conflict would shoot upwards, and some predict that we’d face the dark prospect of global oil apartheid, where rich countries might corner supplies — and poor countries would be left lurching, their very survival as states possibly at risk.

For years, those who have raised the spectre of “peak oil” have been derided as cranks and alarmists. But their ranks now include some remarkably conventional figures, and the statistics they use have the most respectable origins.

Often misunderstood, “peak oil” does not refer to oil running out. That won’t happen for a long time. Peak oil simply refers to the time at which overall production peaks and, most likely, demand begins to outstrip supply.

The world consumes 85-million barrels per day. The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects demand to hit 105-million barrels per day by 2030. But it’s not clear how this 20-million barrel-per-day gap will be filled.

Some extremely influential figures doubt it can be: the head of Total Oil, Christophe de Margerie, doesn’t see global oil production ever exceeding 89-million barrels per day.

Ever since 1965, oil discoveries have been declining. While new, unconventional sources of oil, such as the Canadian tar sands, are coming online, they are costly to develop, and demand far more energy to mine, so the net energy return on investment declines…………….

…………………Whitehorn is clearly trying not to paint governments as blind and obdurate. “I do see government starting to take oil-supply warnings seriously,” he says. “We’re not a group that believes we’re running out of oil. We’re a group that believes the price of oil is going to become permanently high within a decade as cheap sources of oil cease to exist.

“We’ve got to be ready for a world with permanent 100-a-barrel oil. Oil is going to become too precious just to burn in cars. Oil is the source of our fertiliser, of our pesticides and pharmaceuticals, of most of our furnishings. It is the lifeblood of civilisation.”

Right now, he says, “the first priority for national economies is energy saving…. Efficiency should become the watchword.”

Nor does he wish to alienate any part of the energy sector: “I believe that there is a nuclear solution, there is a solar solution, a wind solution, a tidal power solution, a hydro solution.

“Anyone who lobbies one of those as being better than the others is very biased. The combination of them with much better energy efficiency should see us through this period of transition from an oil-based economy to a much broader source of energy supply.”

The UK task force will release an updated report this month.

But, in the meantime, are governments starting to listen?

“I think the British government has been advised by its public servants that peak oil is not so much of an issue, because their understanding of what ‘peak oil’ means is based on the alarmism of the 1970s,” says Whitehorn

“The problem is quite a lot of public servants ‘cried wolf’ about this in the past … but eventually the wolf usually does come to the door.

“I’m not a doom-and-gloom merchant, I’m for doing things. If we can build a carbon-composite spaceship that is a 1000 times more efficient than current ground-based rocketry, I think we can solve the problem of peak oil.”

full story at