The Blue Economy

The Blue Economy

Author: Gunter Pauli

Pub: Paradigm Publications

Price: $29.95 / 24.95 (not available in the UK)


Blue EconomyMost of us are familiar with Gaia. We might be messing up the planet, but in the long run the planet will be ok. The same might not be true for us.

The Blue Economy illustrates the way the planet is showing us how to be sustainable. Its underlying premise is that the natural world can provide efficient solutions to many of our problems. Balanced ecosystems mean that nothing is wasted – the byproduct from one living organism provides vital sustenance for another.

Reference to the ‘Blue Economy’ is made as a contrast with two other approaches. First, and most prevalent, is what Gunter Pauli terms the ‘Red Economy’: society that is building up debt, borrowing from banks, from nature, from each other, with little prospect of balancing the books. Then there is what the author refers to as the ‘Green Economy’, and here environmentalists take note, there is a danger of making environmental solutions more expensive than the status quo. It means that in a time of economic downturn, this approach is often shelved. 

This article was taken from Issue 71

This book, subtitled ‘10 years, 100 innovations, 100 million jobs’, provides us with real-world examples, deconstructing the links in each cycle to show the underlying principles. All of these are thoroughly engrossing, such as how zebra stripes cool the animal by creating differential air pressure above the dark and light parts of the animal’s hide; this principle has been applied to the exterior surfaces of tall buildings in hot places, dramatically bringing down the internal temperature, and consequently reducing the need for energy-intensive air conditioning.

The Blue Economy provides a colourful mix of innovations from around the world, lyrically conveyed by the author (who’s interviewed in Resource 71). We learn how using a fungus has helped to return worthless savannah back to rainforest in Columbia; how maggots farmed from abattoir waste in Benin are used for medicinal benefits. In each instance, taking a nature-led approach has benefitted the environment and the local economy.

Pauli challenges us to challenge the logic of our current systems. Why, he asks, do we add pernicious chemicals to our water supply to make it drinkable, or push cold air upwards to cool buildings? In the case of the former, this problem can be solved naturally by a vortex. In rivers this phenomena removes impurities, but it can be applied to remove air from water, dramatically reducing the amount of energy required to make ice. A typically bizarre application, which the book excels at illustrating, is that this practice drastically reduces the cost of maintaining indoor ice rinks. But that’s not the limit: the ice is much clearer, creating the opportunity for sponsors’ logos to be placed visibly below the surface. 

The Blue Economy is easy to read and well referenced. Already recognised as a report to the Club of Rome, anyone interested in sustainability should dive in. 

Charles Newman