Accelerating Ecosystem-inspired Global Change

Accelerating Ecosystem-inspired Global Change

Frustrated, Belgian economist looks to youth

Belgian economist and entrepreneur Gunter Pauli has been highlighting the potential in emulating natural systems to unleash entrepreneurship for more than 10 years now, but frustrated by the slow uptake he recently turned to bringing his message to youth.

Many of the adults he’s been trying to reach haven’t gotten involved in a way that provokes the rapid and broad-scale change he sees as needed, Gunter tells Axiom News.

Gunter Pauli on an economy inspired by whales

The disturbing trend of youth employment worldwide is another reason to look to them. In the European Union, 30 per cent of the young, under 26, are unemployed. In South Africa, there’s an 80 per cent youth unemployment rate; in Palestine more than 90 per cent, and in Spain 65 per cent of all young women under 26 are without a job.

Even if the economy had a five per cent growth for the next 10 years, it wouldn’t be capable of absorbing that level of joblessness.

This in itself speaks to the immensity of the need for a new way to do business, says Gunter, who’s a strong advocate of the perspective that creating more jobs is at the heart of ensuring societal thriving. In doing so, we make it more possible to meet everyone’s basic needs — food, water, energy, housing and health — and open up the way, he says, to more happiness and less violence and frustration.

But creating that many jobs today demands a significant economic shift,  and this is where biomimicry has something to offer.

While nature can instruct the design of a product, and/or the design of a process to make a product, Gunter says he believes its most significant potential is still to be fully tapped as an innovator of how systems work.

The key lessons an “ecosystem” brings an “economic system”, according to Gunter, include constant “cascading” of energy or, essentially, re-use of waste, multiple energy sources, use of local materials and inclination to keep things simple.

The problem is that we are ignorant of these lessons, says Gunter.

Determined to enlighten, for the past two years, Gunter and a research team have culled through thousands of real-life nature-inspired business models. Their goal was to come up with top examples of ways to do business that are not only new and innovative but also generate jobs and contribute to the environment’s sustainability.

They released one of these cases a week for 50 weeks.

With these 200 cases now in hand, for Gunter at least, proving the point is no longer necessary.

“Now it’s a matter of gathering the intelligence and the enthusiasm and the passion in order to implement,” he says.

A summit is now slated for April 2013 to showcase these and other examples, bring in new players and amplify and accelerate the use of these and similar nature-inspired business models.

Gunter has also published a book describing the models, The Blue Economy: 10 Years, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs, with a similar intention.

“When kids get inspired about biomimicry and say, where have the 100,000 jobs been generated for this, let’s make certain they can find them,” says Gunter.

Related: Gunter’s theory in action.

This story is part of a news feature on biomimicry as an economic game-changer.

Calls to Action

1. Biomimicry can show us how to build resilience and cultures of innovation throughout our various systems. What's such a notion spark for you? If you want to learn more, check out Biomimicry 3.8. You could also add a thought or question below, and we'll do our best to add clarity or other ideas that might be helpful.

2. But there’s biomimicry, and then there’s the idea of an economic and social transition. What’s it all about? What are other features, tools, fields of action? Axiom News is committed to further journalistic exploration of these and related questions. If you want to become of this somehow, send us a note and we can set up a chat to discuss co-creation possibilities.

3. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. We will be using these hashtags for the biomimicry news feature: #NewEconomy, #Biomimicry, #BlueEconomy, #Resilience, #Innovation, #Biophilic


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Michelle Strutzenberger's picture
Michelle Strutzenberger

Michelle Strutzenberger has been a Generative Journalist and curator with Axiom News for more than 15 years.

She's most grateful for the incredible people she gets to work with every day at Axiom News, as well as the many other amazing folks she's encountered through this work.

"I have always seen the opportunity to do this work as a gift," she says.

Michelle's writing has also been published by a wide variety of other organizations and publications, including the following:
- Abundant Community, an initiative of authors John McKnight and Peter Block to awaken the power of families and neighbourhoods
- PLAN Institute, a network dedicated to enabling families to create a good life for people with disabilities
-.New Scoop YYC, Calgary's news co-op practicing Generative Journalism
- The Canadian Community Economic Development Network
- Nieuwmakers, a Belgian news agency
- Restore Commons, an initiative of Peter Block and friends
- Academy for Systemic Change

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