Maybe you have already heard the term externalities in economics: Externalities are defined as harmful or useful side-effects of economic activities… For example pollution is a harmful side-effect of many industrial production activities.
Most economy books explain the harmful externalities as if they were unintended, unplanned and undesired side-effects. Corporations would certainly avoid these harmful effects if this were technically cheap and easy.
Unfortunately, this is not the whole story. Deliberately or not, many companies profit from the harmful side-effects of past business activities.
For example, industrial pollution creates new profit opportunities for industries like water purification, air purification and pharmaceuticals. Ruthless and unplanned urbanization create new revenue opportunities for many industries, including the toy sector (recreational widgets & gadgets), by simply limiting the outdoor playing grounds of children.
The expansion of the intrinsically unsustainable monocultures in agriculture creates new profit opportunities for global agrochemical corporations like Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta, that sell tons of agrochemicals like chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides.
How could we explain this relationship between destruction and profit? What is the big picture?
Until October 2012 I was a CFA charter holder and regular member of the Swiss CFA Society. After reading an article about Indonesia (as booming economy!!!) in a CFA magazine I definitely decided to resign from the society and informed the society accordingly. I won’t use the CFA designation any more.
My reasons can be summarized as follows:
Irresponsible attitude of the CFA institute and its community for social and environmental concerns in global investment practices with a deliberate don’t know – don’t question – don’t care policy.
Did you know that great Indian civilizations like Maya and Anasazi went down primarily due to environmental disasters like erosion and aridity?
Did you know that the Sumerians in Mesopotamia, such a creative and influential society, collapsed due to the salinization of the soil?
Did you know that improper irrigation practices brought at least one third of all agricultural land in Australia into an unusable state for at least 100 years, again due to salinization?
Do you know why the biggest island of the world Greenland is named “green land” at all? Is there anything green about this island of ice and snow? But it was quite green with lush forests and pastures; a paradise-like place until the 13. century before the Norse people with Scandinavian origins decimated its forests and transformed the island into a desert of ice. The Norse people were initially not aware of the fragility of Greenland’s ecology with extremely slow growing trees. They expected the same robustness and recovery power of Norway from their new environment. Continue reading →
Impressions from my Bolivia journey in January 2007, organized by the retired Swiss biologist Robert Guggenbühl. Our travel group consisted of botanists, nature lovers and some passionate aquarium hobbyists. Passing from places like St Cruz, Robore, Trinidad, Magdalena and Bella Vista the primary purpose of this journey was observing, filming and photographing the rich habitats of Bolivia alongside some lakes and rivers.
To my surprise, some aquarium keepers in the group used this opportunity for catching lots of fish. I was surprized because I could not reconcile this activity (bio-piracy) with love for nature. Actually, I should know very well that many aquarium keepers are not truly nature lovers. They are simply seasoned fish keepers with the attitude of a stamp collector. Many of them does not care about biodiversity, ecology or evolution at all. I would understand collecting some interesting specimens for scientific purposes, but catching hundreds of wild fish (without paying anything to local people) to keep them in private aquariums is another matter.
Bolivia is the most beautiful country I have ever seen. It has such a rich diversity of natural resources; rain forests, savannah, mountains… But the pace of the destruction of rain forests is depressing. Some locals in Magdalena told us that the consequences of this habitat distruction can already be seen everywhere. The dry seasons get longer (nowadays almost five months; it was three months before) and the water level drops further in the dry seasons. Some farmers complain about aridity and water deficiency in the dry season; a problem, which was never heard before.
Tunç Ali Kütükçüoğlu, 30. April 2010, Zürich
You can download all of the 19 original photos presented above from www.tradebit.com. Size of original photos: 3072×2304 pixel, 3.5-5.9 MegaBytes (Canon PowerShot A710IS). Feel free to print or publish them as long as you keep my name stamp on the photos.
What is cleantech? Cleantech in the narrow sense includes green technologies like:
Renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels)
Energy efficient and low emission transportation
Biomaterials like bioplastic
With cleantech in the narrow sense one still means manmade technologies. For example solar panels, photovoltaic (PV) modules, high efficiency heat pumps and so on. The forerunners of cleantech industries are as always industrialized countries like Germany, Japan, China, Denmark and USA.
There is no real paradigm change in the narrow sense meaning of cleantech; some older technologies are replaced by their more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly counterparts. It could also be regarded as general improvement in technology.
Luckily, especially for people living in less industrialized countries, there is a wide-sense meaning of cleantech which also covers the technologies of nature. Cleantech in the wide sense means all kinds of solutions, manmade or natural, that improve the quality of life, save energy and protect nature. In that wide sense, cleantech is a real paradigm shift because one is not looking for only manmade equipment and machinery for a better life. This paradigm shift reminds me the transition from the classical economy to ecological economy.
Take water purification issue in an aquarium (biological filtration of the fish waste) as an example. A manmade cleantech (narrow sense) solution to this problem is an energy efficient water filter. A better solution would be using marginal plants for water purification, the technology of nature (cleantech in the wide sense). You see, cleantech in the narrow sense often means hightech, whereas in the wide sense it often means lowtech. Continue reading →