Canadian start-up CarbonCure developed a system that injects CO2 into the concrete when it’s being mixed, sequestering it when it hardens while also reducing the need for cement.

Concrete is the most abundant artificial material on earth, but the production of its main ingredient, cement, has a huge carbon footprint. Cement functions as a glue to hold the other ingredients of concrete together. To make cement, calcium carbonate, also known as limestone, is heated, which releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Cement is responsible for 7 per cent of global greenhouse emissions, the second largest industrial source.

CarbonCure came up with a method to trap CO2 emission forever, while also reducing the need for cement to make strong concrete. The system takes captured CO2 and injects it into concrete during the mixing phase. The carbon dioxide reacts with the concrete, turning into a mineral. When the concrete hardens, the carbon is sequestered forever, even if the building is torn down.

The main advantage of this method is of course that since the CO2 is trapped, it can’t be released into the atmosphere, adding to global warming. In addition, the carbon makes the concrete stronger, reducing the need for cement.

CO2, when released, can be captured. Companies that use the CarbonCure system can buy it from, for instance, fertiliser plants, but because the concrete needs less cement, the costs even out

The method is currently being used its largest project as of yet, to construct a building in Atlanta, US, which will be opened in 2019. The 33,500 sq metre (360,000 sq ft) office building will save 0.6 million kilograms (1.5 million pound) of CO2 from being released into the air, the same amount 800 acres of forest would sequester in a year.

Other companies that use CO2 to make greener concrete include Carbicrete, which doesn’t use cement at all, and Carbon Upcycling with their CO2NCRETE, about which you can read more here.

Everyone around the world that has retirement savings is interested in how their money is invested

In July, a landmark trial will take place in a Sydney courtroom that could potentially change the way superannuation funds invest Australians’ almost $3 trillion in retirement savings.

Key points:

  • The McVeigh v REST case could set a precedent for the way global pension funds manage climate change
  • Experts warn litigation against listed companies relating to climate change will rise in Australia this year
  • The private sector may be forced to lead action on climate change ahead of governments

The case, which could set a worldwide legal precedent as to how pension funds manage climate-change-related financial risks, is thanks to a 24-year-old Brisbane-based council worker with an ecology degree.

Mark McVeigh can’t access his super money until 2055 but says climate change impacts are already materialising and, therefore, investors should be acting.

It is this belief that led to his case against $57 billion superannuation fund Retail Employees Superannuation Trust (REST).

Mr McVeigh has alleged that REST has failed to protect his retirement savings from the financial devastation that will flow from climate change.

The case, first brought in 2017, followed Mr McVeigh asking his super fund to provide him with disclosure about what it was doing to mitigate climate-change-related risks.

“Since we launched the case, it’s really snowballed and changed,” Mr McVeigh told ABC News.

“It got way bigger than I ever imagined in 2017.

“Originally the case was about disclosure … but then it brought up further questions about are [REST] taking into account any climate change risks in their assessments?”

The Federal Court will now also have to determine whether the super fund is in breach of its fiduciary duties — that is, its duty to act in the best interests of its members — by not taking enough action to mitigate climate-change-related risks.

“It’s not just the experts who are interested,” Mr McVeigh said.

“Everyone around the world that has retirement savings is interested in how their money is invested, and the way their fund is managing the [climate-change-related] risk.”

If the court agrees that REST has breached its fiduciary duties, it will not only change the way super funds invest people’s retirement savings.

Experts warn it could pave the way for further litigation.

‘World first’ test case for climate risks

Jonathan Steffanoni, partner at superannuation law firm QMV Legal, thinks the case could have ramifications for global pension funds but believes it is unlikely to set a precedent for similar action against company directors.

“It is an important case for super fund trustees as it will focus on their responsibilities when managing investments,” he said.

But Jacqueline Peel, a professor and environmental law expert from Melbourne University, said the case will influence how companies broadly think about how they address climate change risks.

“It’s really the first test case on this issue in the world,” she said.

“If these funds are not thinking about climate change, the assets they are investing in — for example, fossil fuels — could become stranded assets and could put at risk the investment returns of superannuation fund members.”

Professor Peel said since the conclusion of the Paris climate agreement in 2015, litigation had steadily ramped up.

“2020 could be a big year for climate-change-related litigation,” she said, adding that philanthropic groups in Europe were now also backing such litigation globally.

The McVeigh case also comes in the context of greater shareholder action against company directors at AGMs on climate change, and the giants of the financial sector themselves highlighting that climate change is a financial risk.

This week the CEO of the world’s largest funds manager, BlackRock’s Larry Fink, announced the $US1.8 trillion ($2.6 trillion) in assets the fund actively manages will no longer be invested in companies that generate more than 25 per cent of their revenue from thermal coal production.

Mr Fink, who has faced much pressure from climate change activists over the years, told US media that he made the decision not because he was an “environmentalist” but because he was a “capitalist”.

“And my job is, as a capitalist, to help prepare our clients for the redistribution of capital,” Mr Fink said.

McVeigh case could have global implications

Elisa de Wit, a partner at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright specialising in environmental law, believes the legal precedent set in the McVeigh case will potentially have relevance for pension funds, and possibly companies, worldwide.

“Even if McVeigh wasn’t to be successful, there may be commentary [from judges] in the case that could be used by other judges in Australia as well as other jurisdictions overseas,” she said.

Emma Herd is the chief executive of Investor Group on Climate Change, which represents institutional investors with total funds under management of more than $2 trillion.

“When climate change became a financial risk, it became a legal risk,” Ms Herd said.

She thinks the McVeigh case will at least establish the parameters for how others pursue litigation against the private sector.

“I think quite a few people didn’t think that case would get as far as it has,” she said.

The parties in the case are required to attend mediation by April 10 and the case is set for a three-day trial starting on July 20.

Mr McVeigh’s lawyer, Equity Generation Lawyers’ David Barnden, said if McVeigh wins, it may change the way super funds manage Australians’ $3 trillion worth of assets.

“The implications will be felt by pension funds worldwide as investors jostle to sell-down holdings in companies that aggravate climate change or are prone to physical impacts caused by a warming planet,” he said.

REST was also limited in comments it could make but a company spokesman said that as the custodian of almost $60 billion in retirement savings, “managing climate change risks is an important part of REST’s focus on delivering long-term investment returns for our 1.7 million members”.

He said climate change risks are factored into REST’s investment strategy and decision-making process.

“The specific climate-related issues we engage with our investment managers on include carbon foot-printing (in equities), stranded assets, climate-related scenario analysis and exposure to lower-carbon assets,” he explained.

REST also worked with its investment managers and the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors “to engage with the companies and entities we invest in, and to improve disclosure of climate change risks and opportunities”, he added.

Australia is moving towards US-style class actions

To date, climate-change-related litigation in Australia has been focused on the planning and environment space: for example, whether a coal mine should be allowed.

Now it could shift to actions specifically against companies.

Ms de Wit said Australia was at a “tipping point” in the debate about climate change.

“Obviously, the bushfires are going to mobilise peoples’ thinking on this issue and whether the Australian government is doing enough to address climate change,” she said.

“There’s also the potential for community groups and others to take the view that the Australian government isn’t doing enough and look at how they can litigate off the back of that.”

The New York Attorney-General’s office recently tried to sue ExxonMobil, which it accused of defrauding investors by misleading them about the financial risks the company faced from climate change regulations.

While it lost that case, Ms de Wit said there would be more litigation coming from others and this time the claimants may be able to pinpoint exactly who is to blame, with the help of climate attribution science.

“Proving that link has been tricky to date,” she said.

Mills Oakley financial services partner Mark Bland said if McVeigh succeeds, it will set a new benchmark and could see the tide of funds managers dipping out of fossil fuel investments ramping up.

“This could have a shocking impact on ASX companies that have not managed climate change risks and/or have material exposures to the risks,” Mr Bland said.

“It could impact on company share prices and see shareholders exit from those investments.”

Regulators could increase pressure on companies to act

A judicial determination in McVeigh could also give regulators a stronger platform to enforce standards on industry.

Both Australia’s superannuation fund regulator, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), and the corporate watchdog, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), have repeatedly spoken out about the threats of climate change and the risks to companies.

APRA executive Geoff Summerhayes told ABC News this year there would be further scrutiny of how APRA-regulated entities manage climate change risks.

“It’s nearly three years since APRA first publicly stated that climate change presented financial risks that were foreseeable, material and actionable now, and that banks, insurers and superannuation funds needed to consider and respond to climate change as a financial risk,” Mr Summerhayes said.

“Since then, the weight of money has only tilted further in the direction of the low-carbon economy, as evidenced by Blackrock’s decision [on Monday].”

“The major economic transition underway presents substantial risks to businesses that are not adequately prepared but it also offers opportunities for forward-thinking economies and businesses.”

ASIC meanwhile has been conducting surveillance on how companies manage climate change risks, but as yet has not released those findings.

If governments don’t act, the private sector may have to

If McVeigh succeeds in the courts, the private sector may have to leap ahead of government action on climate change.

MinterEllison’s special counsel Sarah Barker, an expert in corporate law and climate change, said companies could no longer wait for the Federal Government to introduce a carbon tax.

“We need to look at the issue holistically, and not just the absence of a carbon tax, which is often pointed to as the determinative risk factor,” she said

For Mr McVeigh, this case is not about getting compensated for any losses (and regardless of which side wins, both parties have privately agreed to cap costs against the other).

It is about ensuring super funds think about how they invest their members’ funds in the long-term.

“I really want to see a full comprehensive disclosure of information; something along the lines of the [G20] Taskforce on Climate Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations,” he said.

“Super funds sustainably investing people’s money will make everyone better off,” Mr McVeigh said.

He said any changes beyond that “would be a bonus”.

ABC News


UN calls for 30 per cent of oceans and land to be protected by 2030

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity has published a draft proposal for its post-2020 biodiversity framework, setting out a commitment for 30 per cent of the world’s oceans and land to be granted protected status by 2030.

Imogen BensonWed 15 Jan 2020

Ahead of October’s biodiversity summit in Kunming, China, the ‘zero draft’ proposal for the UN’s post-2020 biodiversity framework has set out a ten-year strategy to reverse the deterioration of ecosystems and wildlife, proposing that 30 per cent of the world’s oceans and land should be protected by 2030.

The draft proposal, published on Monday (13 January) by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), outlines 20 action-oriented targets to halt mass extinction and restore biodiversity by 2030. In addition to protecting 30 per cent of the planet, with at least 10 per cent granted strict protection status, the draft proposal includes plans to ensure that all harvesting, trade and use of wild species is legal and at sustainable levels, and for pollution from excess nutrients, biocides and plastic waste to be cut by 50 per cent by 2030.

Several of the targets are centred around human health and wellbeing, with the draft proposal calling for enhanced nutrition, food security and livelihoods, especially for the most vulnerable, and to increase the proportion of people with access to green spaces. 

The text proposes that economic sectors should be reformed towards sustainable practices, achieving a reduction of at least 50 per cent in negative impacts on biodiversity by 2030. The draft plan also calls for biodiversity values to be mainstreamed and integrated into both national and local planning, development processes and poverty reduction strategies, encouraging indigenous people and local communities to participate in decision-making.

Commenting on the news, Amelia Womack, Deputy Leader of the Green Party, said: “It is good to see the UN setting an ambitious target to avoid the ecological destruction of our planet.

“It is important though to see this target only as the starting point of a global effort for the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and wildlife.

“When it comes to preserving our planet no target is ambitious enough. We need to keep building the international coalitions necessary to make these targets effective.

“As part of this we need to introduce an international law on ecocide – making it a crime for business or governments to destroy our planet.”

Calling for further action, Paul de Zylva, Nature Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, explained: “30 per cent of the planet might be eye-catching, but it’s just not enough. There’s a delicate link between species, habitats and ecosystems across the world – failing to protect one can cause a wider collapse of life.”

The proposed framework, which is expected to be adopted at the Kunming Summit, comes after countries failed to meet most of the UN’s previous biodiversity targets set in Aichi, Japan in 2010.

With a goal of 2020, the Aichi Targets had called for the safeguarding of biodiversity, including by halving the rate of loss of all natural habitats, preventing the extinction of known threatened species and bringing pollution to levels that are not detrimental to the ecosystem function and biodiversity.

You can read the ‘zero draft’ text on the UN CBD website.

We Need an Ecological Civilization Before It’s Too Late

In the face of climate breakdown and ecological overshoot, alluring promises of “green growth” are no more than magical thinking. We need to restructure the fundamentals of our global cultural/economic system to cultivate an “ecological civilization”: one that prioritizes the health of living systems over short-term wealth production. 

We’ve now been warned by the world’s leading climate scientists that we have just twelve years to limit climate catastrophe. The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has put the world on notice that going from a 1.5° to 2.0° C rise in temperature above preindustrial levels would have disastrous consequences across the board, with unprecedented flooding, drought, ocean devastation, and famine.

A global crisis of famine and mass starvation looms unless we can turn around the trajectory of our civilization

Meanwhile, the world’s current policies have us on track for more than 3° increase by the end of this century, and climate scientists publish dire warnings that amplifying feedbacks could make things far worse than even these projections, and thus place at risk the very continuation of our civilization. We need, according to the IPCC, “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” But what exactly does that mean?

Last month, at the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco, luminaries such as Governor Jerry Brown, Michael Bloomberg, and Al Gore gave their version of what’s needed with an ambitious report entitled “Unlocking the Inclusive Growth Story of the 21st Century by the New Climate Economy.” It trumpets a New Growth Agenda: through enlightened strategic initiatives, they claim, it’s possible to transition to a low-carbon economy that could generate millions more jobs, raise trillions of dollars for green investment, and lead to higher global GDP growth.

But these buoyant projections by mainstream leaders, while overwhelmingly preferable to the Republican Party’s malfeasance, are utterly insufficient to respond to the crisis facing our civilization. In promising that the current system can fix itself with a few adjustments, they are turning a blind eye to the fundamental driverspropelling civilization toward collapse. By offering false hope, they deflect attention from the profound structural changes that our global economic system must make if we hope to bequeath a flourishing society to future generations.

Ecological overshoot

That’s because even the climate emergency is merely a harbinger of other existential threats looming over humanity as a result of ecological overshoot—the fact that we’re depleting the earth’s natural resources at a faster rate than they can be replenished. As long as government policies emphasize growing GDP as a national priority, and as long as transnational corporations relentlessly pursue greater shareholder returns by ransacking the earth, we will continue accelerating toward global catastrophe.

Currently, our civilization is running at 40% above its sustainable capacity. We’re rapidly depleting the earth’s forestsanimalsinsectsfishfreshwater, even the topsoil we require to grow our crops. We’ve already transgressed three of the nine planetary boundaries that define humanity’s safe operating space, and yet global GDP is expected to more than double by mid-century, with potentially irreversible and devastating consequences. By 2050, it’s estimated, there will be more plastic in the world’s oceans than fish. Last year, over fifteen thousand scientists from 184 countries issued an ominous warning to humanity that time is running out: “Soon it will be too late,” they wrote, “to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”

By 2050, there is projected to be more plastic than fish in the ocean.

Techno-optimists, including many of the GCAS dignitaries, like to dismiss these warnings with talk of “green growth”—essentially decoupling GDP growth from increased use of resources. While that would be a laudable goal, a number of studies have shown that it’s simply not feasible. Even the most wildly aggressive assumptions for greater efficiency would still result in consuming global resources at double the sustainable capacity by mid-century.

A desperate situation indeed, but one that need not lead to despair. In fact, there is a scenario where we can turn around this rush to the precipice and redirect humanity to a thriving future on a regenerated earth. It would, however, require us to rethink some of the sacrosanct beliefs of our modern world, beginning with the unquestioning reliance on perpetual economic growthwithin a global capitalist system directed by transnational corporations driven exclusively by the need to increase shareholder value for their investors.

In short, we need to change the basis of our global civilization. We must move from a civilization based on wealth production to one based on the health of living systems: an ecological civilization.

An ecological civilization

The crucial idea behind an ecological civilization is that our society needs to change at a level far deeper than most people realize. It’s not just a matter of investing in renewables, eating less meat, and driving an electric car. The intrinsic framework of our global social and economic organization needs to be transformed. And this will only happen when enough people recognize the destructive nature of our current mainstream culture and reject it for one that is life-affirming—embracing values that emphasize growth in the quality of life rather than in the consumption of goods and services.

A change of such magnitude would be an epochal event. There have been only two occasions in history when radical dislocations led to a transformation of virtually every aspect of the human experience: the Agricultural Revolution that began about twelve thousand years ago, and the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century. If our civilization is to survive and prosper through the looming crises of this century, we will need a transformation of our values, goals, and collective behavior on a similar scale.

An ecological civilization would be based on the core principles that sustain living systems coexisting stably in natural ecologies. Insights into how ecologies self-organize offer a model for how we could organize human society in ways that could permit sustainable abundance. Organisms prosper when they develop multiple symbiotic relationships, wherein each party to a relationship both takes and gives reciprocally. In an ecology, energy flows are balanced and one species’ waste matter becomes nourishment for another. Entities within an ecology scale fractally, with microsystems existing as integral parts of larger systems to form a coherent whole. In a well-functioning ecosystem, each organism thrives by optimizing for its own existence within a network of relationships that enhances the common good. The inherent resilience caused by these dynamics means that—without human disruption—ecosystems can maintain their integrity for many thousands, and sometimes millions, of years.

An ecological civilization would be based on the principles that sustain all living systems

In practice, transitioning to an ecological civilization would mean restructuring some of the fundamental institutions driving our current civilization to destruction. In place of an economy based on perpetual growth in GDP, it would institute one that emphasized quality of life, using alternative measures such as a Genuine Progress Indicator to gauge success. Economic systems would be based on respect for individual dignity and fairly rewarding each person’s contribution to the greater good, while ensuring that nutritional, housing, healthcare, and educational needs were fully met for everyone. Transnational corporations would be fundamentally reorganized and made accountable to the communities they purportedly serve, to optimize human and environmental wellbeing rather than shareholder profits. Locally owned cooperatives would become the default organizational structure. Food systems would be designed to emphasize local production using state-of-the-art agroecologypractices in place of fossil fuel-based fertilizer and pesticides, while manufacturing would prioritize circular flows where efficient re-use of waste products is built into the process from the outset.

In an ecological civilization, the local community would be the basic building block of society. Face-to-face interaction would regain ascendance as a crucial part of human flourishing, and each community’s relationship with others would be based on principles of mutual respect, learning, and reciprocity. Technological innovation would still be encouraged, but would be prized for its effectiveness in enhancing the vitality of living systems rather than minting billionaires. The driving principle of enterprise would be that we are all interconnected in the web of life—and long-term human prosperity is therefore founded on a healthy Earth.

Cultivating a flourishing future

While this vision may seem a distant dream to those who are transfixed by the daily frenzy of current events, innumerable pioneering organizations around the world are already planting the seeds for this cultural metamorphosis.

In China, President Xi Jinping has declared an ecological civilization to be a central part of his long-term vision for the country. In Bolivia and Ecuador, the related values of buen vivir and sumak kawsay (“good living’) are written into the constitution, and in Africa the concept of ubuntu (“I am because we are”) is a widely-discussed principle of human relations. In Europe, hundreds of scientists, politicians, and policy-makers recently co-authored a call for the EU to plan for a sustainable future in which human and ecological wellbeing is prioritized over GDP.

Examples of large-scale thriving cooperatives, such as Mondragon in Spain, demonstrate that it’s possible for companies to provide effectively for human needs without utilizing a shareholder-based profit model. Think tanks such as The Next System ProjectThe Global Citizens Initiative, and the P2P Foundation are laying down parameters for the political, economic, and social organization of an ecological civilization. And the core principles of an ecological civilization have already been set out in the Earth Charter—an ethical framework launched in The Hague in 2000 and endorsed by over 6,000 organizations worldwide, including many governments. Meanwhile, visionary authors such as Kate Raworth and David Korten have written extensively on how to reframe the way we think about our economic and political path forward.

As the mainstream juggernaut drives our current civilization inexorably toward breaking point, it’s easy to dismiss these steps toward a new form of civilization as too insignificant to make a difference. However, as the current system begins to break down in the coming years, increasing numbers of people around the world will come to realize that a fundamentally different alternative is needed. Whether they turn to movements based on prejudice and fear or join in a vision for a better future for humanity depends, to a large extent, on the ideas available to them.

One way or another, humanity is headed for the third great transformation in its history: either in the form of global collapse or a metamorphosis to a new foundation for sustainable flourishing. An ecological civilization offers a path forward that may be the only true hope for our descendants to thrive on Earth into the distant future.

Jeremy Lent is author of The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning, which investigates how different cultures have made sense of the universe and how their underlying values have changed the course of history. He is founder of the nonprofit Liology Institute, dedicated to fostering a sustainable worldview. For more information visit

Food waste causing more greenhouse gas than plastic

Food waste is a bigger cause of climate change than plastics, according to Zero Waste Scotland.

The government-funded body has urged people to cut down the amount of unwanted food they put in the bin.

When food waste ends up in landfill it rots, producing methane gas, one of the most damaging greenhouse gases driving climate change.

Research by Zero Waste Scotland found that 456,000 tonnes of food waste was collected in Scotland in 2016.

About 224,000 tonnes of plastic waste was collected that year.

Zero Waste Scotland has launched a Food Waste Reduction Action Plan with the Scottish government in an attempt to reduce food waste across Scotland by a third by 2025.

‘Seriously damaging’

Chief executive Iain Gulland said: “It might seem bizarre but scraping that leftover lasagne, mince or salad from your plate into the bin is seriously damaging the planet, because when those scraps of pasta and lettuce which you never got around to eating end up in landfill, they rot.

“As they break down, they emit methane, which is many times more harmful in the short-term to our climate than carbon dioxide (CO2).

“Food waste is actually a bigger cause of climate change than plastics.”

However, he added it was still vital to reduce plastic waste, which remains an “extremely serious issue”. It also causes damage to the environment and wildlife when discarded inappropriately.

Zero Waste Scotland has estimated that every Scottish household could save an average of £440 a year by reducing the food it wastes through steps such as planning meals, making better use of storage such as freezers and being inventive with using up leftovers.

‘Shared responsibilities’

Only 93,000 tonnes of the food waste collected in Scotland in 2016 was sent to dedicated food waste recycling collections, with most of the remainder sent to landfill, while around 150,000 tonnes went to home composting or ended up in sewage works after going down the drain from kitchen sinks.

Zero Waste Scotland calculated that the carbon footprint of food waste collected from Scottish households that year was nearly three times that of plastic waste collected from people’s homes, at roughly 1.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) compared to 0.73MtCO2e.

The Scottish government has also launched a new advertising campaign, entitled Food Gone Bad, to help raise awareness of the impact food waste has on climate change and how to reduce it.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “Following the first minister’s declaration of a global climate emergency, we are reviewing a range of policies across government to ensure we do all we can to support the public sector, businesses, communities and individuals to meet our shared climate responsibilities.

“We would encourage everyone to consider what more we can all do to help reduce food waste.”

The Small Water Cycle & Global Warming

By Christopher Haines

WHEN JIMMY CARTER ASKED scientist Charles Keeling for advice in 1978 on what the government should do about climate change, Keeling said that the problem was far too complicated for people to understand, so focus on greenhouse emissions. Since then, reducing greenhouse emissions has been the principal focus for those interested in reducing their environmental impact. While greenhouse emissions must be reduced, new science is showing us that expanding our focus to restoring natural ecosystems could ameliorate the effects of rising greenhouse gases on global temperature increases.

While greenhouse emissions do increase the planet’s energy load, that energy does not need to cause temperature rise (sensible heat). When solar energy falls on moist surfaces or living plants, it produces evaporation or evapotranspiration (latent heat), increasing humidity, not temperature. 

It is this hydrologic cooling that forests and other living plants create that prompted David Ellison and 22 other researchers to state, “Forests and trees must be recognized as prime regulators within the water, energy and carbon cycles….” They call for a “reversal of paradigms, from a carbon-centric (greenhouse) model to one that treats the hydrologic and climate-cooling effects of trees and forests as the first order of priority.”  

The earth’s rotation creates a lateral circulation of moisture known as the “large water cycle.” Evaporation from the oceans accounts for 86% of the atmospheric moisture, but 26% of that falls onto the land. Therefore, the land contributes 14% of the evaporation but receives nearly twice that much back as rain or snow. Thus, the world’s rivers run to the sea, yet the sea level did not rise as it is rising now.   

A “small water cycle,” a vertical generator of mild, local weather, operates within each watershed. The critical term here is vertical.  Small water cycles need to recycle water within the watershed in order to maintain the local ecology, as moist environments attract more moisture and dry environments repel it. Humans violate this law of nature by draining away “waste-water.” Each turn in the affected water cycle slightly decreases the amount of water that cycles within it.

But unnatural drainage is not the only problem. Soil naturally holds water in relation to the amount of organic matter it contains. An increase of one percent of carbon in soil will increase the water-holding capacity by 20,000 gallons per acre. As industrial agriculture, with tillage and chemicals, degrades the soil we inherited to “dirt,” water drains from the land, no longer able to hold it. Studies have documented whole countries drying out over decades due to this man-made manipulation.Besides holding-capacity, soil health also has dramatic impacts on percolation rates, determining how much rainwater soaks into the ground, affecting flooding and how quickly it runs off, causing erosion. 

Desertification shifts rain patterns, decreasing rainfall on lower elevations and increasing it in higher elevations.  This breaks the small water cycle and allows the more violent large water cycle to predominate, leading to more severe storms with flooding and associated damage, but blinds residents to the fact that their country is undergoing desertification.

The human settlements that date back to the dawn of the agricultural era, such as those in the Middle East, northern Africa, India, and China, are now largely deserts due to deforestation, agriculture and urbanization. Despite the evidence, we have not rethought our impact on climate systems. These common practices decrease evapotranspiration, which causes increased temperatures (sensible heat) and increased temperature divergence. 

Human actions have created deserts, but we must look beyond greenhouse emissions to a systemic understanding of biological systems to begin the healing. 

Brown, G, (2018). The Farm as an Ecosystem. Worcester MA: Worcester State University:.

Ellison D, Morris C, Locatelli B et al. (2017). Trees, Forests and Water: Cool Insights for a Hot World. Global Environmental Change 43: 51-61.

Griffith, B, (2001). The Gardens of their Dreams: Desertification and Culture in World History. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Fernwood Publishing. 

Jehne W, (2015). The Natural History of Water on Earth. Medford, MA: Tufts University:.

Kravcik M, Pokorny J, Kohutiar J et al. (2008) Water for the Recovery of the Climate: A New Water Paradigm. Typopress-publishing House. 

Lamborghini’s electric supercar won’t contain batteries; it will be one

Lamborghini and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) introduced the Terzo Millennio, an ultra-futuristic design study powered by electricity, last year to show what the eco-friendly sports car of tomorrow could look like. While the whole package tells a tale set in the relatively distant future, Digital Trends learned from Maurizio Reggiani, the head of Lamborghini’s research and development department, that it might not be as science fiction-esque as it appears.

Lamborghini often discusses what a full electric car could look like and when it might realistically arrive. His team always comes to the same conclusion: the present-day technology used in cars built by the likes of TeslaNissan, and Jaguar is not suitable to power a super sports car like the Aventador S. The main problems are the weight and the packaging of the battery pack.

“[Our cars] must have a top speed superior to 186 mph, they must be able to run three full laps at full speed on the Nordschleife, and they must have state-of-the-art handling. You cannot do this with the current battery technology,” he explained.

As it stands, a majority of existing and upcoming electric vehicles destined for volume production use a skateboard-like chassis that places a lithium-ion battery pack roughly as big as a queen-size mattress between the axles. This solution works particularly well for crossovers and SUVs, but it doesn’t cut it for Lamborghini because it creates packaging constraints and adds far too much weight. The answer, according to Reggiani, likely lies in state-of-the-art rechargeable body panels.


Lamborghini’s electric supercar won’t contain batteries; it will be one

By Ronan Glon May 26, 2018 1:00PM PST

Lamborghini and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) introduced the Terzo Millennio, an ultra-futuristic design study powered by electricity, last year to show what the eco-friendly sports car of tomorrow could look like. While the whole package tells a tale set in the relatively distant future, Digital Trends learned from Maurizio Reggiani, the head of Lamborghini’s research and development department, that it might not be as science fiction-esque as it appears.

Reggiani told us Lamborghini often discusses what a full electric car could look like and when it might realistically arrive. His team always comes to the same conclusion: the present-day technology used in cars built by the likes of TeslaNissan, and Jaguar is not suitable to power a super sports car like the Aventador S. The main problems are the weight and the packaging of the battery pack.

Maurizio Reggiani

“[Our cars] must have a top speed superior to 186 mph, they must be able to run three full laps at full speed on the Nordschleife, and they must have state-of-the-art handling. You cannot do this with the current battery technology,” he explained.

As it stands, a majority of existing and upcoming electric vehicles destined for volume production use a skateboard-like chassis that places a lithium-ion battery pack roughly as big as a queen-size mattress between the axles. This solution works particularly well for crossovers and SUVs, but it doesn’t cut it for Lamborghini because it creates packaging constraints and adds far too much weight. The answer, according to Reggiani, likely lies in state-of-the-art rechargeable body panels.

The Terzo Millennio illustrates it’s technically possible to store energy in parts made out of carbon fiber; body panels, in this case, but even suspension components and the seat backs. Anything made with the lightweight composite material is fair game. It’s a future ground-breaking technology the brightest minds from Lamborghini and MIT are working to turn into a reality. Reggiani stresses that, in his opinion, offsetting the weight of an electric drivetrain by storing energy in the body panels is the only way to make a super sports car – not a sports car – electric.

So, what does the future hold for the Terzo Millennio and the technology it demonstrates? It ultimately depends on a variety of factors, including some outside of the brand’s control.

“I can tell you the research project [with MIT] will finish in three years. When we arrive at the end of the project we’ll decide whether it’s yes or no. Assuming it’s a yes, you need about two years for industrialization. Plus, you need another five years to put a car in production. That means, theoretically, in 2030 you could have a full electric Lamborghini. If something fails we’ll say no,” Reggiani clarified.

Reading between the lines, his comments all but confirm the Aventador’s successor won’t arrive as a battery-electric vehicle. The brand recently confirmed the yet-unnamed model will adopt a plug-in hybrid powertrain, a solution which reins in the weight gain inevitably associated with electrification while adding performance and giving fuel economy an appreciable boost. And, as an added bonus, going hybrid means the car will continue to use the naturally-aspirated V12 engine which has characterized Lamborghini’s flagship models for decades.

Don’t expect to find a pair of turbochargers strapped to the side of a super sports car’s engine anytime soon, though. The new Urusrelies on forced induction but it’s the exception, not the rule.

“It’s not a question of what kind of engine you put in a car. It’s a question of finding the right profile for the car. If it’s a car that goes off-road, a turbo engine is the best one because you have huge torque at low engine rpm. If you have a super sports car, you need to have responsiveness, good sound, and you don’t need to have a high level of torque at low rpm. You need to move the torque as high as possible,” Reggiani explained.

Cradle To Cradle

Cradle to Cradle is one of the pioneering ideas of Circular Economy. What is Cradle To Cradle? Cradle To Cradle is a particular set of ideas and design practices for creating products that aim to reduce negative impact while striving to create a positive impact.

Cradle to Cradle was created by William McDonough and Michael Braungart and popularized by a book they wrote outlining the concept. The basic concept is that every material in product design and manufacturing should be chosen so that the material can be put right back into the world. Materials are either biodegradable or recyclable to create new products over and over again. Additionally, the cradle to cradle way of thinking encourages us to power all of our manufacturing, service companies and customer facing parts of our business with renewable energy. Why is that a big shift in thinking?

Product Development In Todays World

Depending on the company, products tend to be brought to the market maximizing and/or minimizing certain objectives. Companies aim to design market leading products and manufacture them for as cheaply as possible in order maximize their profit margins.  I’m obviously simplifying, but from my experience this covers the bare basics. Let’s use an example of the basic desktop printer to think about the current product design process and how we could change it with a shift in thinking towards cradle to cradle. If we are working on a new printer model for the coming year we will have certain objectives driven by marketing, company goals and financials. Let’s say that marketing has told us the new model has to have a certain look/styling and work faster. At the same time, the company has a goal of reducing the cost of each printer by 10%. So this printer needs to look different have new electronic hardware. To reach the cost reduction we may try to reduce material weight or negotiate with suppliers, which will force them to cut costs somewhere. All the while we want to have quality and customer satisfaction as high as possible. Overall we will likely focus on the objectives given from marketing and the company goals (new look and cost reduction), as things like warranty/quality and customer satisfaction tend to discovered after the product has launched. True to the standard printer business model, we still want customers buying new ink every 2 months and printers are notorious for planned obsolescence.

One Small Concern

The cradle to cradle philosophy asks for designers and companies to add one additional objective and in my opinion it doesn’t so much become about maximizing or minimizing something, in my opinion it approaches an absolute in product design. The concern is what happens to the product after it’s life is over. How is the product, disposed of, reclaimed, recycled or whatever the plan is, WHAT IS THE PLAN. Cradle to cradle at it’s heart asks us as product designers to have a plan for the end of life of a product. Additionally it demands that as designers and engineers we refuse to allow the product to simply be disposed of, it demands that we plan a new life for the materials of the product. This one small concern changes the entire structure of the product development process. So in addition to making great products that customers will love, maximizing profit, and maximizing the quality, every single materials within a product must be reclaimed in some way.

Back to our desktop printer example, what happens to it at the end of life. Best case scenario we take it to a big box store that recycles electronics or some other electronics recycling company, most likely scenario we put it in the trash. What if we had to care, or strived to care about the end of life of the printer. Several parts of our example would change apart from the materials we would use. Immediately the idea of planned obsolescence has to disappear. Printer technology is amazing, but it doesn’t change that much in 3-5 years. If we cared about end of life, we would give our products more life. Our printer might be designed to last over 10 years and maybe even be repairable instead of a throw-away device. Our choice of ink cartridges would also change, this consumable item would have value for what it is and we would refill these or reclaim them for creating remanufactured ink cartridges. We wouldn’t just hope that other companies do that to fill the void, but we would promote it and make it part of the plan.

Material Choice

A major component of product development is understanding the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), essentially the cost that it takes to make a product. This concept is important in understanding what drives the material choices. If you are a developing a product and you have a plastic case, do you choose plastic that is a proprietary blend made to be cheap and maximize the profit margin or do you choose a plastic that when recycled correctly is virtually infinitely recyclable? In the traditional process if both materials yield similar quality, the cheaper one is the choice. When you add in the “one small concern”, you choose the plastic that can be recycled and put right back into a new products at end of life. This puts the ownership on the designer and the company producing the product, which is an important aspect of the paradigm shift: Taking responsibility or ownership of the end of life plan.

Industrial Cycles

A key component of Cradle To Cradle is the idea of cycles. Materials can be categorized as being either in the biological cycle or technical cycle. The products and services we use should fall into one of these two cycles and the products make for a cycle should be able to continuously flow mimicking natures ability to follow cycles, think Lion King’s “The Circle of Life”. The Technical cycle is the easiest to understand in traditional product design, it is easy to think about the materials currently use and how they would circulate through the industrial cycle, metals, plastics, glass. Designers may not think about the biological cycle, but up until recent history the majority of products made were made with a naturally occurring materials, wood namely. Products made from wood and other natural materials can cycle through the biological cycle, these materials are biodegradable and break down into nutrients at the end of life, those nutrients help grow new plants that can be utilized in the process. For more in depth discussion on the biological and technical cycles please visit the posts on the Technical or Biologicalcycles.

Ownership of the Whole Process

Companies that care deeply about their customers and their customers experience with their product aim to control the product life cycle from design, manufacture and within the selling stage they carefully craft the customer experience with their sales and marketing team. During the use stage of the product the user experience is also extremely important as well as the customer service experience. For each of these touch points companies have departments and teams of people dedicated to maximizing the customer’s perception of the company and the product. Easy examples can be thought of with the major companies that we know and love. When we go into the Apple store, it is an amusement park of technology with clean lines and it drips in cool. Even Microsoft crafts a utilitarian image that highlights how useful their products are for businesses. The products these companies make are crafted to be quality products that bring the owners a sense of pride and joy in owning and using these companies products. However, companies tend to care little about the product when it is a few years old and out of warranty. These products get sold on the used market (which is certainly great, getting a second life use out of products extends there usefulness and minimizes certain negative impacts), they get sent to electronics recyclers and/or they get thrown away. In a cradle to cradle world, these companies will have a plan and even organize the reclamation of products and the materials they are made from.


Since the industrial revolution technical advancement has exploded and humans have reshaped the world and progressed to create the world we live in today. It is a world of plenty. However, there are many who believe that this progress has come at a cost. The things we consume and many of the products we use are single use or limited use items and when they are done they are disposed of never to be used again and the material they are made of will sit in a dump, useless, but present for many thousands of years. That is poor design and poor utilization of resources. Cradle to Cradle at it’s core is about good design, believing that utilization of resources is part of good design.  Design is at the heart of what humans do in the world, whether purposely or accidentally. Traditional design is all about form and function and little else. Good design is about form, function and how that product, the company that made it and the materials it is made from fit into the world.

In nature there is no such thing as “waste.”

In nature waste equals food.

“Nature doesn’t have a design problem. People do.”

Our mental models, store our internal assumptions about the way the world works, determine how we see and behave in the world. We accept unexamined assumptions as the way things are, the way things work. As physicist David Bohm put it: “[We practice] the almost universal habit of taking the content of our thought for a description of the world as it is.”

The problem is that the unexamined content of our thought can blind us. Our worldviews and perceptions can keep us locked in patterns of behavior that perpetuate the status quo and prevent us from perceiving new, clearer ways of thinking and acting that are more in line with the way the world actually works.

A good example of that is how we think about the concept of “waste.” Actually, we usually don’t think about it and that’s the point. We accept “waste” as a legitimate thing, a normal part of life, a consequence of doing stuff. We make stuff, there is waste. We use stuff, there is waste. We throw stuff away, it is waste.

When we do give thought to something other than throwing stuff away, like recycling or “waste diversion” by another name, we are reducing the waste stream somewhat and that’s a good thing. But it doesn’t call into question the very concept of waste.

Waste is a market failure. Waste is a design flaw. Waste is, well, waste.

In nature there is no such thing as “waste.” In nature waste equals food. Always. Even “waste” discharged by humans and other animals is food for other organisms. They break this material down into benign, usable nutrients. In nature a “waste” stream is really a nutrient stream.

What if we eliminated the concept of waste? It’s a task that needs to be on the human to-do list. The first system condition of a sustainable world is to live in accord with the laws of nature. That means rethinking waste so that the leftovers of our activities become food for another purpose. It becomes a nature-mimicking nutrient stream.

Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart are paradigm-shifting thought leaders in the sustainability movement. McDonough is an American architect and Braungart a German chemist. In 1992 they drafted the Hannover Principles, Design for Sustainability. This document was created for planning Expo 2000, a World’s Fair in Hannover, Germany in the year 2000.

There are nine Hannover Principles. Number six states:

Eliminate the concept of waste. Evaluate and optimize the full life-cycle of products and processes, to approach the state of natural systems, in which there is no waste.”

We can design things in ways to accomplish this. As McDonough puts it, the metabolism of the technosphere (the way we make, use, and dispose of stuff) can mimic the metabolism of the biosphere.

A look at how cradle to cradle concepts might work within human production systems.

That’s the message of McDonough and Braungart’s book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, which appeared two years after Expo 2000. Rather than a linear, cradle to grave/take-make-waste approach to production, we can design industrial processes to cycle nutrients the way nature does.

“We see a world of abundance, not limits. In the midst of a great deal of talk about reducing the human ecological footprint we offer a different vision. What if humans designed products and systems that celebrate an abundance of human creativity, culture, and productivity? That are so intelligent and safe, our species leaves an ecological footprint to delight in, not lament?”

A new cultural narrative is emerging

One that unites humanity in our interdependence with the wider community of life. This new and ancient story of interbeing with life and as life is driving people and communities around the world to create diverse, locally adapted, thriving cultures in global collaboration. Regenerative cultural patterns are beginning to emerge as an “expression of life in the process of transforming itself”. Václav Havel saw the need for such a societal transformation when he wrote in The Power of the Powerless:

“A genuine, profound and lasting change for the better […] can no longer result from the victory […] of any particular traditional political conception, which can ultimately be only external, that is, a structural or systemic conception. More than ever before, such a change will have to derive from human existence, from the fundamental reconstitution of the position of people in the world, their relationships to each other, and to the universe. If a better economic and political model is to be created, then perhaps […] it must derive from profound existential and moral changes in society. This is not something that can be designed and introduced like a new car. If it is to be more than just a new variation on the old degeneration, it must above all be an expression of life in the process of transforming itself. A better system will not automatically ensure a better life. In fact the opposite is true: only by creating a better life can a better system be developed.”

  • Václav Havel