I was reminded the other day of an interesting passage in Fritjof Capra’s book Hidden Connections:
Although mycoplasm are minimal cells in terms of their internal simplicity, they can only survive in a precise and rather complex chemical environment. As biologist Harold Morowitz points out, this means that that we need to distinguish between two kinds of cellular simiplicity. Internal simplicity means that the biochemistry of the organism’s internal environment is simple, while ecological simplicity means that the organism makes few chemical demands upon its internal environment.
Now, here’s an example of environmental simplicity, (N.Y. Times article):
Welcome to Walden Pond, Fifth Avenue style. Isabella’s parents, Colin Beavan, 43, a writer of historical nonfiction, and Michelle Conlin, 39, a senior writer at Business Week, are four months into a yearlong lifestyle experiment they call No Impact. Its rules are evolving, as Mr. Beavan will tell you, but to date include eating only food (organically) grown within a 250-mile radius of Manhattan; (mostly) no shopping for anything except said food; producing no trash (except compost, see above); using no paper; and, most intriguingly, using no carbon-fueled transportation.
Mr. Beavan, who has written one book about the origins of forensic detective work and another about D-Day, said he was ready for a new subject, hoping to tread more lightly on the planet and maybe be an inspiration to others in the process.
But this environmental simplicity, of course, brings internal complexity, as noted in an earlier article:
We’ve faced a million problems — how to make a meal without creating a mountain of plastic; how to bike through the city streets without ending up with a crushed skull; what to do about diapers — but we’re reaping some unexpected benefits.
But, what’s even a bit more interesting is the motivation behind this is more complex than you’d think:
Also, he needed a new book project and the No Impact year was the only one of four possibilities his agent thought would sell. This being 2007, Mr. Beavan is showcasing No Impact in a blog (noimpactman.com) laced with links and testimonials from New Environmentalist authorities like treehugger.com. His agent did indeed secure him a book deal, with Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and he and his family are being tailed by Laura Gabbert, a documentary filmmaker and Ms. Conlin’s best friend.
I say interesting because it relates directly to the new topology of globalization: the vegetables come from within 250 miles of Manhatten, but the IP (the book copyright) travels (or will travel) quickly around the world. I had first discussed this topology in my following post over at Global Guerillas:
It would seem that the types of global organizations that will arise from this effect will be massively decentralized, with the flow of information dramatically increasing, while the flows of manufactured objects reducing, and commodities becoming more dear, rapidly and temporarily in some cases.
The really interesting thing, once we get past the immediate and obvious effects on the price of commodities is the effects on Science and Technology, as replacements for certain commodities are sought, and the R&D funding for replacements becomes economically sound.
The re-localization of manufacturing seems to be another developing trend here, with the only necessary global flows being of IP.
EF. You are exactly right. Resilient decentralization is the inevitable long-term answer. Unfortunately, it’s not something that most people want to hear.
Despite this, in the meantime, there is LOTs of money to be made during this correction. I generate billions (no joke) in the 90s during the last big global trend, and I think this one has a similar opportunity.