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Towards a sustainable world by Black Swans

December 5, 2010

In December 1999, I went to an agency (providing information for start-ups) to get  to get some feedback on my idea of creating a company based on the production of marine phytoplankton. The reaction was more than positive, and the following three months did not leave any free minute to sit or relax, resulting in the realization of a start-up company in March 2000. A great event, but, too early, as it turned out later.


Many times in those days, where ever I went to present the business idea, I had to introduce the concept and meaning of ‘sustainability‘ and ‘renewable‘. Those were the days, where the world at large was still conceived as plentiful and as an almost endless source of goods and materials. Hard to believe…

How remarkable has been the change on a global scale so that now, just 10 years later, it is even difficult to find more than a handful of persons who would not know about the need to be sustainable, both in an ecological and in an economical way. I would like to get to know the individual and the place he/she resided, who does not know today what renewable resources are.

The paradigm that we can continue doing what we did yesterday in the way we consume resources such as common goods, capital, and if I may say, also of human resources, has now made place for a new paradigm.

I do not understand how such a change in mentality, on a global scale, could take place in such a relatively short period. But, well noted, it is a change in mentality much more than it  is a change in action.

The biggest and most daunting challenge that a person, company, state or any organization can face, is: change of habits and actions. Even non-living systems re-act to forces by developing an opposite force to mitigate the changes of a system from its current state into another one.

Anybody who looks his/her own habits and reaction when you try to change them, anyone who observes how someone else reacts, when they try (or are being enforced)  to make a change in their lives (even if that change leads to one or the other measurable improvement)….will understand the inherent extremely difficulty of realizing a change.

It is therefore remarkable when big organizations, like multinational companies, indeed engage on a pathway that aims to change their current habits. It is totally to be expected that such changes can only take place as a low percentage of what can theoretically be defined as a 100% change.

Our world needs a very big change soon if we want to prevent or at least minimize further human tragedies, that is what I understand and that is what so many others understand as well. So, by all practical means, is our ability to change too slow to successfully face the existing and upcoming challenges?

No. There is one force in a society that can bring about change in a way which is not hindered by resistance against it: innovation.

Innovation, in the sense as defined by the economist Schumpeter, is the purest form of change. Since no pre-existing “mass” is available (and if there is, they are destroyed), no existing sentiments, no existing habits, innovations can easily create a change on a large scale in the order of 90% or more, in a very short time span.

I believe that we need innovations to create sustainable businesses, to create a sustainable world, to create a just world. Innovation which can only be ‘seen’ by a few, innovation that most likely will classify as “Black Swans” (defined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb).

A world, in which the products can be made from marine phytoplankton, would be truly sustainable – and socially fair. To add some color, phytoplankton can be the raw substrate for feed, food, nutritional additives, bio-plastics, fine chemicals, in short; anything that is currently made by agriculture or by derivatives of the oil industry. It can be the basis for a new global paradigm, an engine of change without much resistance, embracing existing entities rather than creatively destroying them.

The future will learn if Marine Agriculture incorporates the potential to be such a  Black Swan, and, more importantly, when it will hatch.

In the meantime, any other kind of change, any other effort to make this world more sustainable should be welcomed with open arms, critically evaluated for sure, but be examined for their merits first, however small they may be.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 1, 2011 3:01 PM

    A highly valuable blog post. I have added to go through it afterwards and subscribed to your feed. Many thanks for sharing with us.

  2. January 3, 2011 4:02 PM

    There are times that i dont read more than two lines but i think you have a unique blog. Bravo !

    • Bernd Kroon permalink
      January 3, 2011 4:56 PM

      Dear Shalonda,
      thank you…..I hope you keep reading!

  3. Bernd Kroon permalink
    December 19, 2010 6:59 PM

    Thanks! …really not much website developing from my side, I just used a template, from there it is easy to customize. Just give it a try & you’ll see how easy it is.

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