IT IS NO SECRET THAT university auditoriums are frequently stopovers and stages for distinguished dignitaries—academics, statesmen, literati, laureates, masters and mavericks of every persuasion and description.
Gunter Pauli, variously dubbed by the media as a serial entrepreneur and the Steve Jobs of Sustainability, was Sir Run Run Shaw Distinguished Visiting Scholar of Shaw College and delivered an eye-opening and mind-blowing whirlwind of a lecture on Shaw College campus on 18 January.
Among other achievements, Professor Pauli initiated the Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives (ZERI) which is a conglomerate of organizations that amasses the efforts of 3,000 scientists and entrepreneurs around the world to implement innovative ideas that are highly disruptive to existing business models but which ultimately contribute to the common good.
From the outset Professor Pauli emphasized that one does not have to look beyond nature to draw inspiration for the next big thing. Tap some common plants on earth and energy from the sun and the wind, and you can satisfy the daily necessities of modern civilizations, from food and drink to travel and clothing, without posing serious threats of pollution. Genetics, robotics or AI has little or no place in his scheme.
One of his projects is a very successful farm in Europe that raises pigs and chickens under one roof, contrary to the common practice of segregation. The results are that the livestocks thus raised are healthier and more productive in terms of their nutritional value.
Another project is to make use of light sources commonly available for internet and telecommunication purposes. He has termed this technology ‘Li-Fi’ which enjoys tremendous advantages over current Wi-Fi in technical terms as well as benefits to the users.
Professor Pauli’s brand of sustainability is refreshingly positive. It doesn’t equate development with destruction of the Earth, or implore us to turn back the clock. All we need to do is to look closely in nature and discover solutions for ourselves. But he did advise not to go down the path that someone else has gone down before. This encounter with Professor Pauli has surely inspired many in the audience and may change the lives of some.
This article was originally published in No. 512, Newsletter.