It has been fashionable to “hang” any network of relationships with the ecosystem tag; it has become the de jour or trendy label to suggest this announced initiative indicates it is complicated and highly valuable.
Well, in all honesty, most ecosystem “tags” are only an extension of building out a more significant community than the one previously, looking to deal with increasing complexity and expecting commercial gain, well that alone is not an ecosystem approach.
Ecosystems fascinate me; they do have a significant opportunity to change what is existing for something new. The need is to balance the healthy interactions and the conditions for that environment to flourish. Of course, many people might argue, “so what is wrong with what we have got?” Often I can’t disagree with this view, we do replace what works seemingly well because of our need to leave our own “footprint” in the world.
In Business we have “stolen” this ecosystem concept from its original meaning: “An ecosystem is a geographic area where plants, animals, and other organisms, as well as weather and landscape, work together to form a bubble of life.”
In business terms, we have taken this into these larger communities that interact through their network connections; they are dynamic or aim to be better than the previous structure.
The more inputs and relationships, the higher the diversity and possibilities to generate something different, more valuable and newer to keep our insatiable growth going. Often this is more than often, in search of competitive difference, extending the view of creative destruction or is that destructive creation?
In business, the quest is for growth, for building out solutions that gain advantage and utilize discoveries, techniques or technology benefits, to make the increasing connection and realization into better outcomes that customers relate too; as this is getting more complicated, we are turning to the theory of ecosystems to help organize this.
The key for any ecosystem is to be healthy, and ensure all within it can thrive and evolve. So after my ‘potted definition’ this brings me to a significant amount of my recent work, studies, research and thinking, all about the current Energy Transition the world is undertaking. A world that is in real need to radically change, to reduce the effects of global warming, through the greenhouse effects and the rising levels of carbonization.
The Global Energy Transition
Now the energy transition is highly complex, and it is multiple ecosystems interacting and building up. It is embedded as deeply as you can get into the socio-economic system. We are facing the world where our planet is getting progressively warmer; we are seeing disasters, crisis, flooding, droughts and living conditions that will become highly challenging in the next ten to twenty years for most of us. These issues have become challenging to many already, and this ecosystem of ours, our planet, is growing increasingly unhealthy.
The enormous impact of fossil fuel-based reliance requires a profound restricting within any future energy system. The new energy system does need to be based on clean energies, or renewables, as we know them. Most of the existing solutions currently being offered to replace existing energy sources are wind and solar solutions; these are expected to replace the fossil-related ones.
Understanding a complete energy transformation requires us to urgently find other solutions, based on the conversion of minerals that might still be carbon-based into new energy solutions as they extract the carbonization. One such solution is hydrogen conversions.
If we are going to complete the energy transition, the future energy systems must be all about “deep decarbonization” solutions must come from new solutions and technological innovation breakthroughs but at a pace of unprecedented speed and scale. To achieve carbon capture at a global level is presently regarded as today’s hunt for a holy grail. Planting trees will only take us so far; we need a technological breakthrough that captures, contains, and reduces carbonization.
The energy transition is as big as you can get in managing the change in its complexity.
Get it wrong, ignore it or not be effective enough in reducing carbon, and we will pay the price, and our living systems begin to breakdown. To accomplish this energy transition well needs all involved in the change to play their part. That means from Governments, though suppliers and consumers, to the likes of you and me. The very nature of the energy system is it is embedded, and we are dependent on it.
The big hope is the consistent push for replacing fossil-fuel will be with renewables, called clean energy to reduce the carbonization. The conversion to clean energy solutions is presently accelerating, but the massive one to crack is the need for substantial decarbonization of our existing energy system. We must stop any new carbon emitted into the atmosphere and capture the carbon that currently is “layering” our world with a choking blanket. A carbon blanket that is not allowing nature to take its natural course.
We, as humans, have so influenced the planet ecosystem that it is going rapidly out of balance. We urgently need to attempt to re-order it before it has an unstoppable momentum. I have read that the next ten to twenty years is critical to try and bring it back into a balance, to reverse a tipping point. That is an incredibly short period to undertake such a transformation, and our energy systems are crucial to this.
Correcting parts is not good enough for the whole.
If we continue to attempt to correct one part of this energy transition, in isolation, we will trigger somewhere else a knock-on effect. To enable the energy system to change and bring back a healthy energy ecosystem, it will have such consequences throughout the global economy. Today we focus on the good news, the changes needed will lead us to a higher GDP, job creation, and human welfare, well maybe.
Reality is perhaps very different. To get through any energy transition and out into the new carbon-free sunshine is going to be at a high adjustment price for many, reliant on the existing energy system. Actually many, if not us all, will face an upheaval of significant proportions to our lives.
We talk of the industrial revolutions we have undertaken (mechanization, electrification, automation and presently the digitalization) one to four, well this one we are in, the fourth industrial revolution of digitalization, is fast becoming one based on the energy transformation.
The battle of the energy ecosystems
We are currently locked into a ‘battle of ecosystems.’ This ecosystem battle is between those that are highly vested in the fossil-based system of today and those that are forcing change into a more renewable reliant energy system as quickly as possible. We are pushing so much of the principles and theories of ecosystems to the maximum test in the outcomes achieved, and so far we do not have any organized and coordinated orchestration, just parts of it. We are determining our future planet and what defines a healthy ecosystem in a very ad-hoc, self-determining way.
The ambitions of so many vested interests need fresh evaluations in any new socio-economic structure. To drive change, we must challenge and reevaluate so many industrial and national policies, to be integrated into a new world order. Who is capable of bringing this new order, I presently can’t see our existing global institutions are equipped or even mandated to enact this.
Today we are reading about synergistic interactions, in bringing new economic diversification and balanced outcomes as these two ecosystems go through highly painful and costly adjustments, but they are not co-ordinated in any real global order. Can we afford this to continue?
This energy transition is genuinely an ecosystem of epic proportions.
The energy (eco) system is not impacting many; it is affecting us all; we are all impacted. We do need to recognize that the energy transition, as power is what we all are highly dependent on, is linking into each of our economies, into our social well being and the most important is leaving us with a stark choice for our earth. We allow energy to continue on its current system, reliant on fossil fuels, old, inadequate energy systems and infrastructure solutions, or we finally recognize, power solutions need to change radically.
Of course, we all want to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” but it means one of the biggest challenges we need to face up to in this century, or perhaps when you to look back in any century, this is as big as it can get. The prize is a return to a planet we can live upon in healthy ways.
Ecosystems have not been as crucial as they are today in our understanding
When you hear or read about people talk of ecosystems, you do need to think about the one that is critical to us all — having a healthy ecosystem that needs to come from making this energy transition.
In our original recognitions of ecosystems, the recognition is the reliance on all the dependencies; where our water, air, soil, plants, living creatures are all interlinked, all needed, where our sources of energy, mineral nutrients, water, oxygen, and living organisms, so reliant on the sun and a healthy environment, can be put back into a balance.
Today we are witnessing the degradation of this one vital ecosystem we are all utterly dependant upon, our planet.
We are moving towards a crisis due to the over influence we as a human has imposed. We are facing such far-reaching change and well-being, in industrial and rural regions, in the way we live. If we do not tackle our energy system by replacing the current carbon-driven economy that continues to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and replace it, in large part, by combining clean energy renewables and technologically innovative solutions, we will pay the price beyond recognition.
Does that sound dramatic?
Well, we are messing with the ultimate ecosystem we have; the world we live in, and it is continuing to move in a very unhealthy direction. Managing the energy transition is critical, believe me, it is one ecosystem that needs global coordination and handling; it is way beyond selected parties determining their own needs.
The energy transition is in all our best interests, and I would suggest we need a new world order, a United Nations for Energy Transition, and it needs organizing fast. I would argue that this climate crisis is bigger than the one that came as a result of the catastrophic effect of the World War Two, where the United Nations was created to prevent a World War three. We don’t have the options here; we only have this one planet.
Our energy reliance has such a powerful effect on the most important ecosystem we have, planet earth. We need to focus on making this energy transition fast and effective.