Will We Ever Learn?

Any fool can add, the genius eliminates, substitutes, minimises or simplifies.

Doctor Jane Goodall, famed conservationist, describes the COVID-19 pandemic as inevitable given human disregard for nature.

HIV, SARS and MERS were warning signs, yet we made no major effort to address the danger of virus jumps between species and were unprepared when the pandemic hit.

Politicians will try and apportion blame away from themselves, but blame does not address our collective responsibility for each other and our companion species.

For the first time in the age of technology, we have a major impact that is not limited to non OECD countries or another species. We are forced to take notice of the consequence of our collective activities.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of digital technology is increased enlightenment. It is no longer possible to hide from the impact the human species has on the planet. Jane Goodall is perfectly correct as she points to the pandemic as an example of our impact.

Subsequent global calls for an inquiry seem a little late, when the opportunity to decrease the chances of inter species transmission was missed.

The highlight of the response to the pandemic has been the collective action to change  behaviour in order to protect the vulnerable.

Yes, there has been an entitled minority that believe their self interest trumps the interests of the vulnerable, but that is a comment on those people not humanity in general.

For once, the common refrain was ‘we are all in this together’.

Warning Signs

Rather than add to the media noise about the pandemic; what other warning signs should we be responding to?

Climate change is the obvious candidate.

Whilst many people would say we are not responding fast enough, we are responding. Growth in renewable energy continues and we are increasingly efficient in the way we use energy.

However, growth in demand for energy means the growth in renewable energy and increasing efficiency is insufficient to reverse the trend of increasing global emissions.

It is naïve to expect to limit growth, even if the truth of the matter is that the growth of the human race is the greatest existential threat of all. Similarly, there is an alternative path that grows nuclear power alongside renewable power to decarbonise power generation, but that path is not socially acceptable either.

The infinite consumption of finite resources is not sustainable. We have to transition our sources of energy and we have to increase efficiency.

We must therefore do all we can to accelerate renewable energy and increased efficiency. Electric cars and autonomous driving are a part of this efficiency drive.

Renewable energy growth is in hand, and despite resistance from self interest will only accelerate in coming years as there is now a corporate and increasing political imperative to transition our energy sources whilst reducing emissions.

Reading the annual statements of energy companies demonstrates they are alive to the challenge of decarbonising our consumption of energy. Self interest in heavy fossil fuels without emissions reduction is in rapid decline, whilst interest in electrification, carbon sequestration and transition is in the ascendency.

Increased Efficiency

We can decouple our growth from finite resources if we transition enough of our energy consumption to renewable sources and above all we improve our efficiency. We learn to use less as we do more.

Efficiency is an attitude. It is a state of mind. The infinite consumption of finite resources is not a political problem, it is a problem that each of us is responsible for.

How much do you recycle today compared to earlier years of your life? Which bin has the most waste in it? So, we can make a personal difference.

If we apply the same approach to our use of resources in general the world will be a more efficient place. An efficient world is a cleaner world. A cleaner world is a healthier world.

There are four key words that help us be more efficient in everything we do. They are the four key words that are involved in doing more with less. We first came across the key words in the realm of safety. The concept was that wasn’t isn’t there can’t hurt you. R.I.P. Trevor Kletz.


Another way of saying the same thing is ‘Any fool can add, the genius eliminates, substitutes, minimises or simplifies’.

Life, and our impact on the planet, will only get more complicated if we continue to add. If our solution to every problem is to add something we will inevitably run out of resources to do everything we want to do.

If we respond to problems by eliminating, substituting, minimising or simplifying we won’t run out of resources because our demands will reduce even though we are achieving more.

These principles apply in all aspects of life. They apply at a domestic level and they apply in the work environment. You can’t be two people. If you are wasteful at home you will be wasteful at work. Every improvement and self development credo in the world is based on the principles of efficiency. Getting more by doing less.

There will be times when we have to add. If we have to add it usually indicates opportunity. Other people who want the same thing will also need the answer if there is no other way (eliminate, substitute, minimise or simplify) to achieve it.

Doing more with less footprint must become our credo as a species.

Author: howardkthomas

I try to make the complex simple for my clients and audiences. I have a deep technical background, a wide ranging business experience and I'm well known for my conversational (and sometimes controversial) style of presentation. This seems to lead to an ever increasing demand for speaking engagements. I've started, developed, bought into and sold a number of businesses, but my main passion and message is the importance of generating value in everything we do. Finally, I believe that advantaged people have a duty to help those less advantaged than themselves. I founded Carnegie Spirit and the Eddie and Elizabeth Thomas Scholarship to promote these ideals.

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