Forwarded Biothinker 50- Of particular interest to Permaculture People?

Graham Burnett gburnett at
Sun Jan 16 14:38:03 EST 2000

THE BIOTHINKER     Free weekly email -- Pass it on!
By Edwin Datschefski  (       ISSUE #50
January 16th 2000 Published By: BioThinking International 


In the past few days I have put "The Story of a Sustainable Day?" on 
the site at: 

It has pictures of 38 products in use through a typical day and I think 
you will all enjoy it. The idea is to show how mainstream, everyday 
products can have a good environmental performance. 

Anyway, following on from last issue, there are a few other
learning and behaviour theories relevant to sustainable design. 

The first is the "Conscious Competence" model: Most people start
of being unconsciously incompetent - they don't the they don't know. 

Then they become aware of their lack of skill and are consciously

After some learning, they can become consciously competent, perhaps
having been doing it for six months or so. 

There might be some unconscious competents, but that depends on 
the field. The Marx brothers dialogue: "Can you play the piano?"  "I 
don't know, I've never tried", shows that for piano playing at least, 
unconscious competence would not exist. 

However, many of the skills and aptitudes required by a good agent
for sustainable change might be possessed by someone unconscious
of their potential role. These include tenacity, systems thinking, 
and ability to take a lateral approach. Let's find these people! It may
well be that these skills are more important and harder to learn
than basic environmental understanding. 

As you know, environment roles within a business are often given to 
the "keen greens", not necessarily the people with the best change skills. 

Which brings me to my second point. "Ludecy" is a term coined
by Edward de Bono to describe the tendency to "play the game" -- this
means taking the social or organisational structure as an unchangeable
and making moves to maximise your own potential within it. For 
example, working to get promoted or to get status amongst your peers in 
conventional ways. There is nothing wrong with this, it's only natural. 

However, many environmentally-conscious people are not ludecists, 
and they may not do so well in terms of gaining status and influence
as the people who are working within the system to maintain the 
status quo. 

This has two implications. Firstly, that environmentalists should become
more ludecist -- more mainstream, and we have seen this happening, 
especially with business and environmental issues. 

Secondly, environmentalists should use this mainstream influence to
.change. .the. .rules.   Then the focus is not on trying to change
individuals and try to make them less ludecist -- but instead the rules
have changed and people do what they are best at -- working to maximise
their potential within a system. 

The sort of rules this could encompass  are things like economic
instruments -- a tax on materials will mean that all the clever people
in industry will throw their resources towards resource efficiency. 

There must also be other kinds of rules, less formal ones than regulations. 
I'm thinking of cultural rules like "you must become successful". The
growing interest and social acceptability of donwshifting is an example
of how these rules are changing as well. 


Some feedback from BioThinkers on last issue:

Hugo Crombie works at the Health Education Authority and he mentions 
that they use a Stages of Change model.  This identifies a range of stages 
that people can be in - 

         Pre-contemplation - there is no intention to change the behaviour 
         in the foreseeable future (usually taken as six months); 

         Contemplation - people seriously intend to change;

         Preparation - intention to take action is high, have taken some 
         steps towards the action and tend to perceive the benefits of 
         change as greater than the disbenefits; 

         Action - overt behaviour change within the last six months; 

        Maintenance - behaviour change for over six months.

A key element of the model is that individuals do not progress smoothly and
seamlessly from one stage to another but move forward and relapse.  People
"spiral" up or down the model and repeat some or all of the earlier stages.

Thanks, Hugo!


Jacqui Shaw at Toronto University also mentioned the idea of 

I was thinking that in addition to the 'conversion'
and 'development'aspects of such 'preached' messages, there is also
definitely a kind of 'maintenance' function served by preaching as well.
By this I mean that over and above the development aspect, preaching can
help keep the "already-converteds" inspired to continue with (and attain
further development) along the path, rather than burning out, or feeling
isolated, outnumbered, overwhelmed, that 'resisting the status quo is
futile'...and perhaps leaving the converted route altogether. It helps to
know you are part of a community, or a movement, however small or

Thanks, Jacqui


Duncan Noble warns us against being too simplistic in our
mental model of how learning works: 

As usual, you have brought forward some interesting ideas. One 
thing that struck me is that one must always be cautious about 
thinking of the learning process using a production model. By a 
production model, I mean assuming standard inputs, using a standard 
process for all inputs, and expecting a standard output. We tend to 
think this way about many things.

The production model clearly does not apply to learning and 
many other processes which are better described as growth 

Thanks, Duncan!

/thanks for reading
/be cyclic, solar and safe!

If you have enjoyed The Biothinker, please tell somebody else about it, 
or forward this issue to your colleagues, members and email pals.

BioThinking International is a non-profit organisation that promotes 
the idea that sustainability can be achieved by modelling industrial 
systems on nature -- making them more cyclic, solar and safe, 
as well as more eco-efficient. We aim to train a million people in 
sustainable product development. 

There are four design requirements for sustainable products. The first 
three mimick the protocols used by plant and animal ecosystems:

CYCLIC: The product is made from organic materials, and is recyclable 
or compostable, or is made from minerals that are continuously cycled 
in a closed loop. 

SOLAR: The product uses solar energy or other forms of renewable 
energy that are cyclic and safe, both during use and manufacture.  

SAFE: The product is non-toxic in use and disposal, and its manufacture 
does not involve toxic releases or the disruption of ecosystems.

The fourth requirement is based on the need to maximise the 
utility of resources in a finite world:

EFFICIENT: The product in manufacture and use requires 90% less 
materials, energy and water than products providing equivalent 
utility did in 1990.


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