Jack Sim is a funny man with a serious, yet unexpected mission: to revolutionize toilets for the base of the pyramid and to ensure worldwide sustainable sanitation. Often referred to as “Mr. Toilet” – a title he takes great pride in – he has worked tirelessly for fifteen years to make the availability of clean toilets a political priority and an economically feasible reality for the world’s ‘poor’. The need is big: 2.6 billion people currently lack access to a clean private toilet. When I met Jack Sim at a pre-WEF event at the HUB Zürich I couldn’t help but wonder about this curious man on stage. He was humming with energy, excited to share his story about the many issues concerning poop, making the audience laugh and yet providing relevant information about his cause.
What happened to the “paperless office”? Despite being surrounded by smartphones and computers, the myth seems not to have become reality. The Economist reports that, since 1980, global paper consumption has increased by half, leading to many of the world’s vast ancient forests being chopped down. The World Resource Institute (WRI) has estimated that only one-fifth of the earth’s original forest remains untouched in relatively natural ecosystems, which WRI calls frontier forests. These forests are necessary to regulate the earth’s climate, storing over 430 billion metric tons of carbon.
I’ll be honest. I was one of those that didn’t have high expectations for Rio+20. If trying to agree with your partner can sometimes be challenging and requires good negotiation skills and patience, I can’t even imagine which kind of super-powers decision-makers and negotiators would need to reach a satisfactory outcome. How can people from all over the world, with completely different backgrounds and capabilities, needs and interests, ideals and understanding of reality agree upon something that might go against their countries’ short-term development and interests? I don’t think there are too many brave leaders that would be willing to sacrifice their political lives for long-term development and progress, whatever that really means.
Dominika Czyz reports from the oikos FutureLab 2011, 14-15 November, St Gallen Switzerland. Have you ever seen the Great Pyramid of Giza? Impressive, isn’t it? Would you believe it consists of almost 2,5 mln blocks? Striking though the number is, the 2,5 million pales by the comparison with 2,5 billion.
Champagne glasses, cats, frogs, pigs and horses : One of the most visually enticing keynote addresses in the Forum creatively links natural resource consumption and conservation, policy directives, economics, dematerialization and sustainable living with images of the animal world. Creating powerful imagery, Professor Ashok Khosla persuaded his audience of the pressing need to change our entrenched value systems, our perceptions and prejudices of our present surroundings. Through the sessions of the WRF 2011, I have heard politicians, academics, students and the youth spreading ideas on economic growth with resource management but Khosla for a change, shows through example what he has been able to achieve. His office building is one such example. Built out of ash, recycled waste and recycled construction material, it fosters the message of green building, as it consumes 40% less energy and at 50% less construction costs.
WRF 2011 has started and I am currently listening to the opening session. The goal of the conference has become clear: Delivering the immediately needed impact on resources management. The reason for this: change towards a more efficient use of resources and towards a closed circles economy is going to be a lot more difficult once shortness of resources has reached an even more alarming level than today. Some key facts of the opening speaches:
Commissioner Janez Potocnik mentioned the necessity of dematerializing Europe which is not the same thing as deindustrializing. According to him, shift towards efficient and sustainable resource management can only be achieved by using our industrial intelligence, engineering skills and intelligent policies. In contrast to the past: using them not only for material growth but for sustainable resources management.
Dr. Alice Kaudia, Environment Secretary at the Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources Kenya believes in the bottom of the pyramid approach towards sustainable development. In a imperfect world where per capita incomes decide the future of the environment, it is very interesting to know that Dr. Kaudia’s approach integrates issues of food and nutritional security, energy, water, waste management, information and knowledge management for the grass-roots population. I am seeking answers to the question of how can the poor lead a sustainable life when their economic challenges impact their socio-economic growth and development? What are the methods through which efficient use of resources can be ensured? How do you educate people cannot afford or do not have access to basic health care, sanitation and water.