On May 6, the Santa Fe-based Permaculture Credit Union celebrated their 10th anniversary at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. Global eco-entrepreneur Gunter Pauli, founder of the Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives (ZERI) Network, was the special guest speaker.
Pauli introduced his new book, The Blue Economy: 10 Years, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs,” which has just been published by Taos-based Paradigm Publications. The book explains how a new generation of entrepreneurs can bring innovations to the marketplace and make sustainable businesses competitive. Over one hundred such innovations, including many that have been brought to fruition and integrated into real world economies, are profiled in the book. Based on industry studies, Pauli estimates the jobs that could be created and the cash flow potentials. His insights provide a positive outlook to the future.
Pauli’s “blue” business model redesigns production and consumption into clusters of industries inspired by natural systems, and works with what is locally available to generate multiple revenues and respond to a community’s basic needs. The central principle of The Blue Economy is the idea of cascading nutrients and energy as ecosystems do. A cascade is a waterfall. It requires no power and flows with the force of gravity. It transports nutrients between biological kingdoms; absorbed minerals feed microorganisms, microorganisms feed plants, plants feed other species, with the waste of one being nourishment for another. Cascading energy and nutrients leads to sustainability by reducing or eliminating inputs such as energy and eliminating waste and its cost, not just as pollution but also as an inefficient use of materials. In ecosystems there is no waste because the byproducts of one process are inputs to another process.
A project at Picuris Pueblo in Northern New Mexico is cited in Pauli’s book as an example of true economic sustainability. Cascading nutrients and energy produce income while preventing forest fires. “Slash” (the small diameter wood that intensifies fires) is usually removed with machines that do their own ecological damage. Instead, fire prevention is integrated into a whole systems model compatible with Native culture. The slash in not burned but chipped into mulch. Some of the mulch is used as a growth substrate and inoculated with local, native mushrooms and spread on the tracks left by the equipment used to harvest the slash. In as little as two years, the forest floor is restored. The bulk of the wood is dried and preserved. The fumes created by incomplete combustion of charcoal production are used to preserve construction-grade lumber. The chips that remain after the process of collection, charcoal, and carpentry are inoculated with native mushrooms obtained from a tissue culture. After harvesting the very marketable mushrooms, the spent chips are fed to a bison herd. Something is replaced with nothing and produces sustainable forests, wood for construction, food for people and animals. There is no waste.
Pauli also explains how “MBA” analysis makes it impossible for large companies to innovate because of the “inside the box” thinking demanded by corporate systems and the many, sometime conflicting interests of management and shareholders. In essence, corporations are locked out of sustainable advances by the logic of their decision making process.
An interesting example is cited of how a company’s efforts to control the supply, cost and timing of the materials it needs for the items it produces, can integrate a sustainable technology. Natural enzymes can sequester carbon dioxide, making it available for other processes that require it such as the carbonic gases used in the production of construction materials. Industry has resisted conventional scrubbing technologies because of their cost. However, when Canadian entrepreneurs devised a means of using enzyme sequestration directly in the existing scrubbing systems of coal fired power plants and cement factories, even the least progressive management can be inspired to invest. The fact that the sequestered carbon dioxide can create additional revenue may be inspiration enough.
The non-profit Sustainable Communities/ZERI-New Mexico, Inc., in its 15-year history, has brought Gunter Pauli to Northern New Mexico many times for trainings and lectures. They have initiated two major projects in the last decade: the Picuris Pueblo Integrated Waste Management Project, which is winding down, and the Waste-As-Value Links (WAV-Links) Project, which is now starting up. WAV-Links is looking to provide matchmaking between local producers of waste with local (potential/new) consumers of waste in a way that provides economic development based on zero waste design and ZERI principles. For more information, to participate or make donations, e-mail Margo Covington, executive director, SCI/ZERI-NM: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.scizeri-nm.org.
For more information on Gunter Pauli’s book The Blue Economy, visit www.TheBlueEconomy.com. To learn more about the ZERI Network, visit www.ZERI.org.