Sustainability is the balance between Efficiency & Resilience (Bernard Lietaer) – part 1

Earlier I rather reviled on Aalt Dijkhuizen (and a bit less on Louise Fresco) because both keep preaching the old WUR-mantra of bigger and more efficient (the Rabbinge school). However, the ‘belief’ on the other side (everything should be organic, local and small scaled, vegetarian and diverse) says nothing either. Both extremes are too black & white. Bernard Lietaer recognizes those extremes and held a great lecture about the subject.

(I myself have written a lot about sustainability as a technological selection process.)

But what is relevant concerning sustainability:

  1. I am all in for discussing and delaying the growth of the world population. Tricky theme, and partially weakening of this growth takes care of itself. Less people means less load.
  2. I support putting a “prize” on bad behavior and products; specifically taxing non-sustainable products like meat and milk. And maybe we should raise tax on sugar containing beverages. But this subject is difficult to put into practice. That’s why taxing fertilizers and fossil fuels is a smarter way.
  3. I definitely support less and even more so consuming less (raise the VAT). But especially closing cycles in which the bio cascade pyramid is the guideline. That’s why I say: no bio fuels from food.
  4. I support animal-friendly stock farming systems, but that doesn’t necessarily mean free range or pasturing. Indoor animal-friendly I think is a good compromise between animal welfare and environment. In short, I support modern ‘mega stables’ with 2 or 3 stars.
  5. I support import-export tax per continent aimed at mapping of phosphate/fertilizer streams. The phosphate cycle is almost more critical than the fossil fluids challenge.
  6. I accept that we live in a complex adaptive society (CAS), in which large designs and simple solutions don’t work. And precisely in a CAS diversity and a form of inefficiency are a way of guaranteeing sufficient resilience. It is my opinion that we should reinvent inefficiency and resilience.
  7. I accept we only have one earth, in which a certain amount of elements seem to have a finitude. Sustainability therefor is first of all a selection process and a distribution issue. Tough, very tough. But foremost part of regular politics and democratic processes.
  8. I think part of healthy nutrition is also ‘less food consumption’, but I am also a soft-paleo supporter. Less wheat and grain. Sufficient meat and fish are part of that, but that would make it environmentally unsound …

This list is by far complete, but it does indicate my personal mind-set. But here it comes. These are also just sketches. Not yet balanced. That’s why in this video I talk about the ‘third road’ (pardon my language). In my opinion there is an optimum somewhere between large-larger-largest plus monoculture on the one hand (let’s call this the WUR-mantra) and small scale, organic and back to basics on the other hand. Along this ‘third road’ we can combine efficiency with animal-friendliness (using clean tech) . And we can combine ‘sufficient’ scale with sufficient ‘diverse’. I think we will get the meaning intuitively. Only then we as a society can be sustainable. Until then we need to keep searching. DO in practice …

This view on sustainability was first clearly explained to me in a TEDx lecture of Bernard Lietaer. Please take a close look at the pictures. My next piece will be about Louise Fresco, about ‘analyzing’ versus daring to picture ‘a vision/future’.

Addition 24 December 2012:

What are these five challenges concerning sustainability of our food system? In this presentation I’ve tried to list them.

Original published in Dutch on 7th October 2012 geplaatst door Wouter De Heij

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