[permaculture] ODE MAGAZINE Building the Blue Economy Gunter Pauli Issue 65 Dec 2009

Wesley Roe and Santa Barbara Permaculture Network lakinroe at silcom.com
Thu Apr 1 08:40:30 EDT 2010

Building the Blue Economy, with Gunter Pauli
   ~ April 23, 24, 25, 2010 ~
Santa Barbara City College Campus, Santa Barbara, California
Event  information, (805) 962-2571; margie at sbpermaculture.org, 

Building the Blue Economy Gunter Pauli
Nature itself shows us how to innovate, generate wealth and create jobs

Sustainability requires more than buildings with a green feature or a 
recycling program for a single waste stream. We will achieve 
sustainability when we design our systems the way ecosystems function 
and evolve. Ecosystems connect, creating networks of networks, where 
each contributes to the best of its ability, operates with clearly 
defined boundaries and endlessly cascades nutrients and energy using 
the enduring laws of physics. The same management principles apply in 
deserts, alpine mountain ranges, wetlands or tropical rainforests.

Traditional business thinks that only shedding jobs can increase 
productivity. Nature knows better. At a time of crisis, with millions 
out of work and hundreds of millions facing bleak futures, we need to 
put the blue job machine to work. Natural systems unleash local 

They show us the ways of right livelihood, what is right for the 
planet, right for the commons and right for a generation of youth 
seeking useful, rewarding work.

Today's business models have failed. The path to success through 
mergers and acquisitions, leveraged assets, permanent debt and exotic 
financial tools was really a path to collapse. This generation and 
future ones are threatened with trillions in debt, with no promise or 
hope of increased well-being.

Today's green business model has also failed to achieve its vision 
and goals. The idea that business would provide more capital and 
consumers would pay more to reduce our carbon footprint languished 
even when everyone believed the economy would grow forever. When 
governments are sinking into debt and millions are unsure they will 
have a job tomorrow, how can paying more motivate anyone?

This model, rooted in romanticism, can only succeed for those who are 
wealthy enough to equate a cleaner conscience with a cleaner planet.

Replacing a toxic process with a less toxic alternative is "doing 
less bad." This is exactly the approach that sees billions of dollars 
invested in less toxic and longer lasting batteries. Yet, even less 
toxic batteries rely on mining, smelting and toxic
chemistry. Even less toxic batteries will be dumped into the 
environment and landfills, poisoning our ecosystem and posing long 
term health hazards. Is it enough to do less bad? A thief is a thief 
even if today's theft is less than the last. Companies receive 
environmental awards for polluting less even as they continue 

The Blue Economy replaces bad with good. For example, fire- and 
flame-retardants produced from food-grade ingredients protect without 
endangering our food supply or poisoning our homes. Blue transcends 
green because it does not depend on wealth or capital to afford 
economic or ecological savings. Instead, it orders and joins 
processes through the wisdom of nature.

It works in the First World; it works in the Third World. It produces 
revenue rather than promises of something good downstream. It 
produces jobs. Biomimicry has shown us the wonders nature can teach 
us. Yet, these ideas have had no appreciable effect on even First 
World economies with capital, much less Third Word economies without. 
Blue transcends green because it does not simply marvel at nature but 
follows nature's systems and considers the whole. In a blue economy, 
sustainable efficiency is achieved by substituting what is not needed 
with what is functional and by combining several innovative 
technologies into an integrated whole, just as habitats and 
ecosystems do.

Every people, every nation needs pragmatic means to achieve 
sustainability and resource efficiency. The principles of the Blue 
Economy will work because they can be, and have already been, adopted 
in commerce, large and small. Cheerleading people to do the right 
thing or incremental improvements in energy efficiency will never 
accomplish what can be achieved by producing income, cutting costs or 
improving marketability.

The Blue Economy seeks sustainability by creating economic value. 
Business can use these principles to become more efficient, to 
provide jobs and to earn income while reducing the risks and social 
costs of pollution. Young entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs young at 
heart, can develop sustainable enterprises that offer meaningful 
work, valuable products and social equity.

The Blue Economy articulates a set of principles. One central 
principle is to cascade nutrients and energy the way ecosystems do. A 
cascade is a waterfall. It requires no power; it 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 becoming 
nourishment for another. Cascading energy and nutrients leads to 
sustainability by reducing or eliminating inputs such as energy and
eliminating waste and its costs, not just as pollution but also as 
inefficient use of materials. In ecosystems there is no waste because 
the byproducts of one process are inputs to another process.

These principles closely align with the ways ecosystems thrive: All 
aspects are sustainable; toxins are contained; use what is locally 
available, such as naturally recurring energy resources that depend 
on the laws of physics; respond to all environmental and human needs; 
always evolve to higher levels of efficiency, from efficiency to 
sufficiency to abundance; always cascade energy and nutrients, 
leverage multiple revenue streams to create a geometric return on 
investment; leave nothing to waste, everything generates value; 
everyone plays a unique role-full employment; use a bundle of 
innovations to solve a systemic problem.

One example to light our way forward and exemplify the principles is 
the case of the silk worm: its nontoxic, natural biopolymer and its 
ecosystem. Millennia ago, when the Chinese faced a growing demand for 
food and limited land, they embarked on a quest for additional arable 
farmland. They learned that the wild  moth's caterpillar, known as 
the "silkworm"- even though it is not a worm-  converts leaves to 
nutrients, which easily blend with soil bacteria, quickly attracting 
micro-organisms. They hypothesized that this natural symbiosis of 
caterpillars and trees could regenerate and maintain soil fertility, 
thus guaranteeing food security for an expanding population.

When, according to Chinese legend, the Chinese Empress Si-Ling-Chi 
("lady of the silkworm") discovered the manufacture of silk, the 
experiment that had begun to regenerate topsoil led to the production 
of silk cloth. Thus, when synthetic polymers made from petrochemicals 
replaced a renewable (silk) with a non-renewable (petroleum), 
farmlands were deprived of millions of tons of fertilizer. The 
millennial experience of regenerating topsoil fell into oblivion 
since it's byproduct could not compete in the modern market. Worse, 
while plastics and polymers made their inroads into every segment of 
society, the land now required fertilizers for continued production. 
This increased the energy input for fertilizers, furthering our 
dependency on fossil fuels and increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Silk Group in Oxford University's Department of Zoology, directed 
by Professor Fritz Vollrath, is a creative resource for biocompatible 
polymers. While working in Panama, Vollrath encountered the "golden 
silk orb weaver" spider. By studying how this spider composed and 
recycled its silk, and its three-dimensional spinning techniques, the 
Silk Group is able to produce equipment and processes to manufacture 
silk tubes and filaments as conduits for nerve regeneration, medical 
sutures and medical devices to regenerate damaged cartilage and bone 
tissues, as well as replacing titanium in products as varied as 
airplane parts and razors. If we compare a the life cycle of titanium 
with the simplicity of converting mulberry leaves to silk, or to 
manufacturing processes that control pressure and moisture at 
more-or-less ambient temperatures, we quickly understand how we can 
move toward sustainability with the outcome of greenhouse gas 

Likewise, if you only sequester the CO2 produced by carbon-based 
electrical generation, you only reduce the load. If you use a 
generation station's existing water retention basins and produce 
algae with the exhaust CO2, you eliminate the CO2 and produce 
biofuel. Ninety percent of the infrastructuren is already in place 
and financed. Therefore, fixing carbon requires only a small 
additional investment and the new revenue stream from biofuel more 
than compensates for the cost. Compare this with pumping CO2 into oil 
wells or the deep under the
ocean. In Brazil, applying this approach produces four cash flows: 
carbon credits, spirulina for nutrition, fuels made from the algae 
lipids and esters from the algae remains, which are ideal for 

The conversion of this massive waste, especially agro-waste, finds 
profound inspiration in ecosystems. Take the case of sugar mainly 
sourced from cane. The sugar content of cane is limited to 10 to 15 
percent. Thus, each ton of sugar produced accounts for only 10 to 15 
percent of the biomass. The rest is waste known bagasse."

Bagasse is typically incinerated and provides a cheap source of 
energy. Where natural systems seldom use fire as a source of energy, 
we humans use fire all the time. To us, it so often seems the best 
way forward that we ignore better options.
The only component of bagasse that really provides energy is lignin. 
The rest, hemicellulose and cellulose, creates massive carbon 
emissions because these substances burn without contributing useful 
heat. It makes ecological sense to use bagasse to produce paper and 
cardboard. Of course, paper industry officials will argue that it is 
not the right type of fiber. Given current production systems and the 
one-and-only myopia derived from decades of research and development, 
they are right. This tropical fiber does not fit their supply chain 
management, which is based on pines and eucalyptus, which are planted 
massively around the world. However, a quick calculation produces 
some astonishing figures. At a rate of 15 to 30 tons per acre 
annually, bagasse provides 100 to 200 tons of fiber during the seven 
years required to grow the fastest-growing pine trees to maturity. In 
terms of fiber, sugar cane beats the best genetically modified trees 
from temperate climates. Paper or pollution? Solar power 
concentration is already an emerging and proven industry in Spain. 
Concentrating solar energy using optical principles inspired by the 
dragonfly can power a generator, a technology that is well developed 
and easily implemented. By 2050, annual investments in concentrated 
solar power could exceed $100 billion, creating almost two million 
jobs and saving 2.1 billion tons of CO2.

A vortex can remove air, salt and other impurities using only the 
force of gravity. Vortex technology allows the water that flushes 
toilets on the 10th floor to be reused just one or two floors below, 
thus reducing by a factor of 10 the water wasted flushing toilets.

By employing gravity powered vortex devices to replace the toxic 
chemistry used to purifying water, or the energy required to make 
potable water from the sea, we move a bit closer to a sustainable 
world. If you produce ice, you freeze both water
and air. Air is an insulator and the energy needed to freeze and 
maintain the ice in hockey rinks and ice arenas is dependent on the 
amount of air the water contains. Many cities around the world find 
that the energy costs of ice rinks are one of their highest 
expenditures. When a vortex eliminates the air, the energy savings 
are a positive contribution, reducing costs and decreasing the effect 
on climate change by eliminating the greenhouse gases from 100,000 kW 
hours per year of electrical generation.

An initiative by Carmenza Jaramillo in cooperation with the Colombian 
Coffee Growers Association demonstrates the possibility of converting 
biomass wasted on coffee farms to food, providing proof that a cash 
crop's waste can provide food security. The research started in 1994 
and built on the pioneering work of Professor Shuting Chang of the 
Chinese University of Hong Kong, who generated as many shiitake 
mushrooms on coffee waste substrate as on oak trees that were logged 
and shredded to dust. Ivanka Milenkovic of the University of Belgrade 
contributed scientific research establishing that, after harvesting 
the mushrooms, the spent substrate is a quality animal feed. The 
supply of mushroom and
animal protein increases disposable income while providing cash from 
exports. This system positively impacts the provision of food and 
creates local employment. As a result, today an estimated 10,000 
people have direct and indirect jobs, including distribution and 

An extension of the program in Zimbabwe headed by Chido Govero lifts 
orphans out of poverty. The employment potential exceeds 50 million 
jobs if all the coffee farms around the world were to apply this 
cascading of nutrients. If this
program were extended to tea farms and apple orchards, the employment 
potential doubles to 100 million. The potential food generating 
capacity will exceed the present tonnage of all fish farming.

Such projects will usher in the Blue Economy. Innovators and 
entrepreneurs around the world are finding ways to use natural 
physics and biochemistry to cascade  matter and energy in fully 
harmonious and renewable flows. They are accumulating wealth, 
generating value and providing jobs using what is readily available. 
In a Blue Economy, the current unsustainable models of production and 
consumption will be outdated and eliminated. A vicious cycle of 
over-exploitation of labor and the Earth, with an ever-increasing 
burden of carbon emissions, will cease. It will become a virtuous 
cycle of using what is available, increasing social capital 
incrementally and bringing innovations to the marketplace that help 
meet the basic needs of all. The Blue Economy can enhance our 
lifestyles, benefit our planet and use and conserve materials and 
energy in remarkable ways.
Let us cease to demand more of the Earth and those who toil. Let us 
do more with what we have, and with what nature generates unceasingly.

Special offer for Ode readers:
To order Gunter Pauli's book, The Blue Economy: 10 Years, 100 
Innovations, 100,000,000 Jobs, please send an email to 
blueeconomy at paradigm-n pubs.com. You will receive notification when 
the book is available
in early 2010

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