"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

BUILDING A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE: A Planet Earth-friendly Essay from Dilip Mukerjea


A boy was crossing the road one day when a frog called out to him and said, “If you kiss me, I’ll turn into a beautiful princess.” He bent over, picked up the frog and put it in his pocket.

The frog spoke up again and said, “If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful Princess, I will stay with you for one week.” The boy took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it and returned it to his pocket.

The frog then cried out, “If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful Princess, I’ll stay with you and do *Anything* you want.” Again the boy took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket.

Finally the frog asked, “What is it? I’ve told you I’m a beautiful Princess, that I’ll stay with you for a week and do *Anything* you want. Why won’t you kiss me?”

The boy said, “Look, I’m a major. I don’t have time for girlfriends, but a talking frog is really cool.”

So what do we understand from this anecdote? A few suggestions:

• temptations are always present

• being ugly has its uses

• having a fresh perspective stimulates opportunity-spotting

The boy had a fresh perspective. We too need a fresh perspective on serious issues. (Humour is serious business, ergo the anecdote with a purpose).

The major driver of economic growth in the twenty-first century will be REdeveloping our nations, REvitalising our cities, and REhabilitating and expanding our ecosystems.

The “RE” economy is here: pay attention to it, or become obsolete!

Restorative development is the key to becoming future-ready. It is the only wellspring of wealth and the fountainhead that can fuel our future towards continual economic growth without limit.

The ‘Restoration Domain’ comprises the largest new economic growth cycle since the
beginning of the Industrial Revolution (18th – 19th centuries).

We must focus not just on the successful management of urban infrastructure projects and power generation, but on restoring what we have already allowed to degrade!

Management is a side issue; what we need is LEADERSHIP, at all levels, to REsurrect the possibilities that are already within our grasp.

The Past: economic growth based primarily on the exploitation of new resources and territories must give way to:

THE PRESENT: economic growth based on expanding our resources and revitalising the domain we already occupy.

Our tendency to keep “piling on” rather than on ‘restoring’, can only end in collapse. This has been in the name of “new development” … all very good, to a point, but destined to end in the throes of THREE GLOBAL CRISES:

(1) The Constraint Crisis ~ The universe may be expanding but our planet isn’t. If we keep expanding our population on a planet of finite size, simple logic plots a clear path to Armageddon.

(2) The Corrosion Crisis ~ Most of our built (“developed” hah!) environments are antiquated and decrepit, dangerously decayed, and often based on irrelevant, dysfunctional designs. No ROI, but ROT (Returns on Thoughtlessness).

(3) The Contamination Crisis ~ (AA) the fragile immune systems of human beings and wildlife, and (BB) the ecosystems that produce our soil, air, food, and water, are victims of industrial, military, and agricultural pollution assaults on our lives.
Societies that are aware of, and are acting on, the precepts of “REstoration,” will contribute to the vast majority of harmonious development on our planet.

This is a new frontier of opportunity. The foremost leaders of this Millennium will be those who guide their nations and organizations towards REstoration.

If you think you can’t make money in ‘restoration’ just take your car into a workshop or your body to a doctor…or your face to the cosmetic surgeon.

We can use a Tripod Metaphor to depict the three modes (legs) of the development life cycle:

(1) New Development: whilst it launches most communities and civilizations, it turns virgin land into farms, highways, and buildings¬ ~ and irreplaceable virgin resources into products and waste. This process is reaching its natural terminus. It cannot go on ad infinitum.

(2) Maintenance & Conservation: This is a less turbulent mode; it is ever present, but seldom dominant.

(3) Restorative Development: This is an enterprising, dynamic, high-energy initiative that restores, redeems, and re-enchants our relationship with the existing built and natural environments…in construction, ecology, government, and business.

RENEW has dethroned NEW.

CONSIDER: almost every acre of arable land on our planet is either being farmed or has been paved into highways or homes. Meanwhile, the earth’s inventory of real estate is actually shrinking in real terms, due to rising sea levels. And much of the remaining land is losing its value due to

* desertification
* salinisation
* contamination, and other ailments.

What worked before is becoming irrelevant: the solutions of the past are becoming the problems of the present…unless we redesign our systems.

What systems? We are living in the ICE Age (Information, Communication, Entertainment).

Each of these three domains offers immense business opportunities, … and problems.

Redesigning with a restoration consciousness is needed…for every incarnation of architecture, in our travel systems, our habitats, and in the way we produce and consume energy.

We live in a hyperconnected world. Teenagers have become screenagers. Physical has become metaphysical. Visual has become virtual. Technology offers short-term novelties (we may call them “solutions”) with long-term costs.

We must REthink the architecture of travel, and the design and development of our ecosystems.


Energy is the raw resource behind “power generation.” We have focused primarily on fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas)…but at a high cost! Be it global warming, greenhouse gases, genetically modified foods, or geopolitical tensions, the problems and the solutions all point to energy…and ‘power generation’.

“Power Generation” cannot be “managed” without understanding ‘the flow of energy’ … and the logic of ecosystems:

BEWARE, AND BE AWARE: ecosystem services include “energy management” (that is, ‘power
generation’ and the uses of generated power) via:

• considerations towards air and water purification,

• genetic resource development and storage

• healthful aesthetics and

• carbon sequestration (turning atmospheric carbon dioxide into oxygen and non-gaseous forms of carbon, such as wood, in order to mitigate global climate change).


Science and technology are advancing at an exponentially rapid rate. Today, despite the pollution and waste created from the use of fossil fuel power generation, there is still hope in this area if we marshall our resources to (aa) use fossil fuels wisely (bb) create clean fuels that will be renewable and reusable.

The resources that are actually disappearing at a catastrophic pace are not our ‘power generation’ systems but what we have always taken for granted as being inexhaustible:

* topsoil
* fisheries
* fresh water
* clean air, and
* genetic wealth such as crop diversity

We are losing those elements that are produced only by complex living systems!!!

The Stone Age did not run out because we ran out of stones, but because we came up with better ways of doing things.

Thus, we need to switch to renewable, nontoxic sources of energy, raw materials, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals. Only then can we be assured of living healthier, more
enjoyable lives.

This topic is immense, but worth pursuing: it offers a new realm of unlimited economic growth, social revitalization, and planetary health.

Here is some wisdom from one of my role models, Anne Frank:

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

(Anne Frank, 'The Diary of Anne Frank')

A concluding anecdote:

The child comes home from his first day at school.

Mother asks, “What did you learn today?”
The kid replies, “Not enough. I have to go back tomorrow.”

And WE have to go back ….until we have the solutions to how we can move ahead, from harm to harmony!

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