Becoming future proof – how do you do that? Points of attention.

Author: Manu Steens

Inspired by ‘Ready or not’ by Tom Palmaerts.

‘Future proof’ also means being antifragile and resilient. Does resilience start with becoming future proof or is that just one of the entrances? I think it’s the latter.

What can we learn for Business Continuity Management (BCM), Risk Management (RM) and Crisis Management (CM) and on a personal level to become future proof?

The first thing, of course, is that we look into the future. We have to make time for that. If we don’t, we get too focused on what we already can. That produces a daily grind that stays present, giving rise to inefficiency. So variety is the key to adaptation. Further, variety of topics we focus on is also necessary because then we give our subconscious the chance to let a few 10,000ths of brain cells grind through on each of the problems.

However, care should be taken that it does not become too much so that you no longer dwell on a friend’s or acquaintance’s birthday than to send an emoji. The golden advice of Augustus (Ancient Rome) therefore remains valid: “festina lente” or make haste slowly. In fact, that was already an opinion that was close to Kahneman’s when he spoke about “Thinking Fast and Slow”: you have to go slower now and then, because quick decisions often do not survive a long-term vision.

So a right attitude is to embrace changes with slow thinking, which has everything to do with a first step: exploring those changes and the next step: anticipating changes, partly from gut feeling, partly from reason.

That’s why the advice is to stay focused, but in the right way: start with small things.

–         Check your e-mail only twice a day at fixed times.

–         Turn off your sound on your cell phone when you’re not on call. Don’t let yourself be disturbed, use the airplane mode of your smartphone if necessary.

–         Focus on one subject at a time in blocks of time, so that you can get into a ‘concentration flow’.

–         Change subjects regularly, so that your brain knows rest and continues to work subconsciously.

–         Decline meetings if they are not important.

–         Do creative brainstorms and group sessions regularly, at the time of the day when you are at your best.

In order to bring yourself to the best of your ability, there are also a few things you should take into account: you should explore the future from the best possible known and, above all, lived-through present. So:

–         Read a lot and regularly, and gain knowledge.

–         Love yourself.

–         Treat yourself to something tasty.

–         Use the gentle stimulus of calm music (for myself at least, for others it may be a bit rougher).

–         Use technology to support you.

–         Walk during the meetings.

–         Less coffee, more water, avoid sugar.

Second, we see that the masses choose a simple way out, even if it is wrong. Few choose to delve into the longer path that requires more discipline and patience. The masses know they are going wrong, but they don’t know either, because they don’t want to know. And before you know it, you’ll come across a Gray Rhino that is unavoidable. And that will happen again and again. In this way one learns more not from mistakes of the past than one does learn. And that has to do with brain economy. A one-off experience without great factual knowledge thus becomes a rule of thumb that one uses as a law of nature with absolute certainty. And the reason behind this is often ‘awareness of time’. Or the economical use of their personal time. As a result, many Americans stop by a store on their way to work to pick up a snack for breakfast, fueling obesity. And they know it.

From a time economy, we often choose the easy path at work. That feels safer, because it is familiar territory. It is not untrodden ground. And that goes well, until change is required. Then, of course, an unknown territory takes over, and it becomes more difficult for everybody to see, decide and act. This creates psychological resistance. One must therefore learn to experience overcoming a challenge as something delicious.

The reason why one should learn to enjoy being challenged is that one often gets into original situations, and therefore needs a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. This is the only way to push boundaries by alternately exerting and relaxing.

A realization that must penetrate to the core of the gut feeling is that what has previously been tried and failed, may now succeed if the system with which one works changes. After all, complex systems are systems that are time-dependent, in an unprecedented way. As a result, the system’s response to external influences cannot be predicted. Therefore, keep the sensors of your soul open for anticipation of changes in the situation, which is a complex system. Therefore, exploring futures is also useful. Adapt with further training, and think differently, for example from the point of view of scarcity. That could be sooner than you think. See also the UK after Brexit.

Subsequently, it is important to look for a tailor-made approach and solutions in an inspired way in crisis management and resilience management. A copy-paste of a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) from another organization does not work for your own organization and therefore does not add anything to your own resilience. The environment changes and everyone and everything is chasing the facts. So continuous adaptation and evolution is required. For organizations this means that the plans, the risk registers, the objectives must change. For people, this means sharpening skills and developing talents and competencies. For both, a vision of the future that is somehow correct is a must. Because one has to go to the core of the questions, the ‘5 x why technique’ is important to find the original causes.

Although it makes no sense to copy a plan from elsewhere, it is possible that inspired design makes sense. It can provide insights into one’s own situation from the situation of the other. That way an inspired version will be better than the original for your situation, even if it fails, because this is part of evolving.

In this way too, creating your own BCP, giving your own interpretation to the crisis teams, setting up your own risk management is innovation. Because it creates or contributes to value. But that cannot be done efficiently without learning from others

In addition, networking is also important because doing all that work without the internal and external customer and knowing the other stakeholders yields nothing useful. Or almost nothing.

So start from your sources, which you mix with the knowledge about your own current and future situations. Write down your own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and help build insight into your own situation from there. But always mention your sources, otherwise you will be stealing.

Reverse engineer your sources: see why they work for them, and apply similar reasoning to your own situation.

That way you build your own flexibility. You get it back in no time, because you already had it as a child. Ultimately, agility is innate. Some lose that and become dinos in the business. Others sometimes adapt. Still others are constantly adapting. The latter is what you need. That can go so far that you also have to change dreams and goals. However, that does not mean that you should unlearn acquired skills. Because many things come back cyclically in history and you don’t know which ones in advance. But ‘panta rei’, and so the needs of everything and everyone are constantly changing.

A point of attention here is that experts sometimes try to be able to do everything. That does not work. You have to be able to let go of things. Others can do some things better than you can. However, these are external factors on which you should let nothing depend, but to which you must adapt yourself and your organization. Preparation is therefore ‘key’ and also your own flexibility. Learn to adjust your wishes. Among other things, by continuously learning, or by being curious and by daring to change your opinion in a well-founded and motivated way. A ‘worst case scenario’ in a BCP can thus better become a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’. By adapting in a reasonable way to what you and your organization can handle. What is needed is:

–         Using an open attitude.

–         Trying to be ‘reasonably all-round’.

–         Use fast and slow thinking.

Extremely important are:

–         The use of a cultural empathy and being in / creating a multi-cultural environment.

–         Think about whether you can do it yourself before going to a consultant, because you always know your own needs better than they do.

This makes you more independent, self-steering and more flexible.

Most importantly, even if you evolve well to become future proof, you must always remain a freshman. In the sense that you regularly still practice. Otherwise ideas turn into sterile theory that everyone eventually distrusts, except those who are concerned with ‘conspiracy theories’. So take your time for theory, but also for practice. Take pleasure in both, come up with original things, and before you know it there will be another evolution. This requires interest, as the engine of lifelong learning. When is the best time to do that? When you feel the passion for it. For the content. Note: you don’t have to have a passion to do “something”, but to do “that”.

To further steer that in the right direction, you have to break through the bubble that you were taught in your upbringing. To see your blind spots in what you want to develop. Therefore: travel, do conferences, imagine your dreams, start a ‘secret’ talk club for extreme thoughts.

So: as said: passion comes first. You have to dream big, but start small. Step by step you move forward. Provide content first, look and feel after. Collaborate with competitors and see what you can create together. Go hang out with them. And put your passion to the test.

Besides all this that is based on good will, saying that there is a threat is usually meaningless. One must feel it. So creativity is needed to make this feel. This creativity must be stimulated from the youth years. A STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education should therefore also contain art. (Then it becomes STEAM) After all, design is necessary to establish a link between people and technology.

Thinking about the future should always be based on today’s reality. Otherwise it will not be accepted. That is why working step by step is also important here. A challenge for crisis teams is therefore the fact that risks sometimes seem to make leaps and bounds, because events can sometimes occur suddenly.

To think about the future from the present, with a multi-cultural and technical and scientific background, you should also visit other entities and other governments. Discuss with them their approach and point of view and your own.

However, to think diversely in a group, inclusion is needed. A good Cultural Quotient (CQ) (and culture-based empathy) and adaptability are required for this. Together you have more depth and therefore better insights into your own situation. A better 360° view. Without inclusion, it is just a check-the-box exercise for diversity policy. With a good CQ, look not only inwardly, into your own organization, but also at world developments, far and near from you. Look to the future and the past, to be and remain successful. A strong element in this can be creating your own knowledge-sharing network for people with common interests. A mindset to dare to take risks is essential here.

What must, as an example of daring, is to regularly (dare to) raise the bar. The crisis teams must be informed about the world. In addition, risk leadership is a means to this end. Everything must be openly discussed, hard for the results but with a heart for the people.

In line with this, it makes sense for each of the employees in the crisis teams to look daily at what they are grateful for that day, every day. This focuses on the positive, which increases resilience. Because gratitude, just like being flexible, leads to more happiness. And happiness is one of the most essential conditions for being future-proof.

Is a Growth Mindset always better than a Fixed Mindset in Crisis Management ?

Author: Manu Steens

A very good friend of mine recently took a course on growth mindset and fixed mindset in preschoolers. It turns out that gifted preschoolers are more likely to simply jump over the problems than normally gifted preschoolers, who struggle with the same problems. You would say “good!” but is it? As a result, they do not fall into the pit of the problem and do not learn to climb out of it. As a result, they only take on problems that they can jump over without any problems. They don’t take on challenges. And that can cause for a fixed mindset later in life. People now see this and are trying to change this mindset of these toddlers into a growth mindset.

For me as a crisis manager, that actually first raises the question: “What is a growth mindset and what is a fixed mindset?” and since crisis management has a lot to do with struggling with problems and climbing out of potholes: “What’s important about it for my organization? Where can I place who?”

The phenomenon of “Growth Mindset ” versus “ Fixed Mindset” therefore seems important .

A good explanation of the difference between the two can be found at

(It is in Dutch, but you can use an on-line translator device, right?)

The author of that article, Lodewijk Gimberg , gives the following explanation:

What is a fixed mindset?

“The people who stand behind the fixed mindset, or who walk around with it, are convinced that capacities, for example the talent to be able to analyze well, are fixed. If you are successful at something, you have a talent for it. It is therefore better to avoid things that you can do less well. This way there are no errors and you will not receive negative feedback about these matters. When people have a fixed mindset, they generally give up more quickly and put less or no effort into learning new things.

People with a fixed mindset often also believe that there is virtually no development possible about yourself, your qualities and skills. The persons with a fixed mindset are convinced that their behavior is immutable. A fixed mindset therefore hinders growth and development because ‘we do things the way we always did them’.”

What is a growth mindset?

“That is exactly the case with growth mindset. There is opportunity for development. You are open to improving your qualities, personality and work to be performed. People or persons who have a growth mindset will not give up easily and resign themselves to the fact that the things they want to achieve will have to go step by step. Learning from the situation and how best to approach it is part of the process of a growth mindset. The growth mindset is therefore an important catalyst behind performance improvements and changes.”

These differences, he writes, are vital in an organization. He therefore argues in favor of converting a fixed mindset into a growth mindset.

If I interpret what it says here succinctly, people with a fixed mindset are not suitable for acquiring a competence outside of their talents. But I think there are also opportunities within talents. There is even a booklet about: “I choose for my talent” by Luk Dewulf .

Are fixed mindsetters therefore lost to society? I do not think so. After all, working within your talents is much more fun than outside. Working within talents gives more energy than it costs. Beyond that, it mainly costs energy. That’s why I think it’s careless to define fixed mindsetters in that way. There should be a definition that applies gray zones. And what is missing on the websites I refer to are examples.

In my opinion, interest is an important factor in this. I am trying to give an example of a fixed mindset . Mea culpa if I hit the ball wrong.

People who systematically learn a lot are ICT specialists . Every now and then a new type of system comes out, be it servers or operating systems, and ICT security is already completely driven to the top: the rogue world does not stand still. The security of an organization must therefore always adapt to a changing world.

This brings us to crisis management: this is a strategic world par excellence that must arm itself against new forms and types of threats.

Let’s move on to more tactical stuff.

Fixed mindsetters believe they should stick to their talent ? A talent can be that you enjoy juggling with servers and operating systems. That you enjoy analyzing the customer’s situation and parameterizing those servers and operating systems with ease, so that you install the ideal working environment for your internal customers, namely the business. You are a “miracle kid”. And then you put everything in clear procedures of how you did it, with the necessary screen prints. A child can then do the job the next time. While you indulge in exploring new business needs. Because that falls within your talents.

With your procedures you have been an enormous help to the BC manager, who plans a large part of his ICT continuity, together with the ICT security manager .

On a certain day, the testing of the ICT continuity plans will be discussed. The procedures of the fixed mindsetter work smoothly. That’s how it should be. And he does it with pleasure. After all, it is his “dada”. It is something which is good to do for him. Analyzing and applying. And keep applying.

Then a crisis happens. A nearby river bursts its banks and overflows the server park of the organization. The water is high. An ICT world is thus confronted with a problem from a non-ICT world. The havoc is enormous. Not just for the organization. What has to happen? The fixed mindsetter does not know that at that moment. This is not his job, is his reasoning. Is that good or bad? He chooses to stay in his comfort zone , because otherwise the challenge becomes too much, and threatens to enter the panic zone.

Then the Crisis Management team takes action. Together with the BC Manager, they determine the priorities and determine a strategic solution. And they do it thoroughly: relocation of the company, so that this crisis cannot happen again. And modernize: we are going to build a new server park from the ground up. With the latest technology. But first, the disaster recovery site must be set in motion. That is a cold site, the fixed mindsetter knows. And those servers, right, let’s think, how do we go about that? This is a known issue. The principles are the same as when setting up the primary server park. The procedures are on a spare laptop. The backups work, because they were regularly checked to fix minor system errors. “My dada” the fixed mindsetter thinks again. And the work is moving forward.

A few days later, the disaster recovery site is up and running.

That was possible, because his team leader let him continue to work from his comfort zone: known solutions for experienced problems.

The strategic decisions of the CMT ignore the fixed mindsetter. Their own work comes first.

The CMT is now having heated discussions: where should we relocate ? What threats are there? What is there we don’t know yet? And above all: is that opportune for the employees of the organization? Now maybe no one has drowned, but what are the threats to the staff in which place? How fast can we find a building again? And if we were to work hybrid, could we get by with a smaller building, let alone with a renovated mansion? All questions we were not aware of before. The questions are solved step by step. And that will make it all right, they want to believe. They can believe that, because they come from their comfort zone into a wide dare zone. They dare to experiment.

So far an example of a collaboration between fixed and growth mindset. Both groups in this example may be endowed with a more than decent IQ, and with interests in their field.

If I see a Growth Mind setting CMT in this way working together with a Fixed Mind setter, here as an example a specialist in ICT who only follows his talents and can make perfect analyzes with them, then I think that a fixed mindsetter, through his work for the purpose of disaster recovery, to the BC Manager and CMT are a good added value.

Some will not agree with this example, because the fixed mindsetter in the example has developed into an ITer. I wish to disprove this statement, because by entering an organization as a “unexperienced person” he ends up in a culture where he can be given the opportunity to learn the trade in ICT himself, where “we always did it like this: buy a server, find the instructions from the OS, and install according to good principles” builds in some degree of flexibility.

Some will say that I am ignoring the principle that a fixed mindsetter stops developing. I also want to contradict that, in the sense that it is very black and white. There may also be gray areas here. God must have his number.

However, there are also those that have indeed come to a standstill in terms of development. They will benefit more from a mind switch.

Let’s go back to the children with whom everything starts: “everyone is born with a growth mindset” you can read on the website of Charlotte Labee : -mindset-and-fixed-mindset/

However, along their life path, people are confronted with situations that teach them a fixed mindset.

Indeed, there is much to be said for tackling the situation from the very beginning. An enormous responsibility for schools, and also for pre-school education. Our crisis management can depend on it. Challenge those gifted children! Adapted education also for those who can do more than the average !

However, one thing has been debunked : fixed mindsets are not worthless. As you progress in your talents, you can become an expert in your field. And that can be a dream come true. That is possible with many, because I do not believe that the situation of people is either black or white. Doing something or doing nothing with your talents is much more black and white in my opinion. That is why interest is an important factor. It does allow development, albeit for a fixed mindsetter within his talents.

But a growth mindset can also be active within a field of a talent. These are often the people who work on original problems in their field. Putting together original solutions for new challenges step by step in order to arrive at a solution.

When I think about it, back related to ICT, I fear that the rogue world, hackers for example, is in the advantage. They look for solutions to steal where, for example, banks raise obstacles with security, in order to protect their customers’ money. And their successes are in the newspapers every day. They easily spend 70% of their stolen revenues in R&D. Among the “good guys” there are well-known anti-malware companies at the top of ICT Security. But they are always lagging behind. The new malware actually comes first.

Companies that develop new technology, thanks to their growth mindsets, can help an entire army of fixed mindsets find work.

“Do we all have to invent a new kind of bread to be bakers?” seems like a fair question to me. Many difficult problems can still be solved by fixed mindsetters, within their talents. And this situation is very common. Very many top doctors don’t come up with new remedies for unresolved medical problems, very many top engineers don’t bring new types of technologies to the market.

In my opinion, both can work together perfectly , as long as one can keep the fixed mindsetter within the comfort zone. Both can realize dreams. But I do think that both dream differently.

Are seaweed farms on oceans realistic as a solution for the climate ?

Author: Manu Steens

In the previous article I wrote down a wild idea about growing seaweed in oceans as a solution for the climate.

The actual origin of the idea was that I had seen seaweed in a shop in Antwerp in their range and the fact that I had read Bill Gates’ book, where I had my reservations about his idea of ​​​​capturing CO2 with technical solutions from the atmosphere. A basic chemistry course did the rest. But also the question whether Business Continuity Management could save the world from climate change. The idea came quickly that it will only be realized if there can be made a lot of money. And for that, industries have to be created. Possibly with creative destruction.

Today, however, I read some articles about seaweed, and oh wonder, the world has not stood still. It appears that a lot is already being done with seaweed. Time has not stood still in Belgium either. Techniques already exist, there is already a lot of knowledge and experience with cultivating seaweed, albeit on a small scale compared to what I deem necessary. But it gives courage. My first idea is certainly not contradicted. My idea is however somewhat different: let’s do that on the oceans, in ethically responsible places of course. Still the wild dream.

Suppose someone wants to draw up a project about it, what does he or she need to know, and where can they obtain information? For example, there is now talk of exploiting large seaweed breeding basins on land.

Things that need to be known are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to and from the world, which consists of each of us, but also of the environment.

Let’s focus on a SWOT here.

What are some opportunities?

  • A more than exponential increase and leap in food production, which will be necessary to continue feeding the many billions of people. Alleviate hunger in the world. In some countries in the world there are populations that (can) eat little or no meat. I am thinking of Buddhists in India, but also in Asian countries, where rice is currently often a main part of the diet, which makes the diet quite one-sided for large parts of the population. The benefits of this additional food source is an argument for its widespread adoption.
  • In addition to vegetable food, it is also possible to combine with the cultivation of shellfish.
  • Animal nutrition and fish nutrition, so that meat production does not have to be compromised, but also can increase the fish stock in the oceans.
  • Overproduction is virtually impossible, and even welcome, if handled properly.
  • A climate neutral way of producing fuel, which is already being worked on in the fuel sector. This provides an opportunity for creative destruction. A lot of money can be made in this sector, and that is an argument for developing this technology on a large scale.
  • The incredible mass of phosphates and other fertilizers that run off annually to the seas, is captured in the seaweed, so that using fertilizer might not be necessary. Which is also good for the fish stock. This also provides an opportunity for creative destruction.
  • Depending on the characteristics of the seaweeds used, fertilizers can be produced for the agricultural sector on land, because a cycle is created of the lost phosphates and other fertilizers that become available cyclically.
  • Scientific challenges and fun developing
    • logistics on oceans and on land
    • seaweed farms on a large scale as a kind of floating islands as well as
    • seaweed processing techniques that must be done immediately after harvesting. Seaweed does not store very well. This is accompanied by developments in machine construction in combination with shipbuilding
  • Political reinforcement of the countries of the OECD, but also politically unstable countries can benefit from this, such as some African countries, where the seas have been fished empty, and the water is otherwise only used for piracy.
  • Countries that invest early in these applications will quickly benefit financially.
  • Since the climate approach has to be done very quickly, these floating seaweed companies and all sectors around them must do everything they can to develop these technologies. This provides work in various sectors in addition to scientific research: job creation with regard to
    • Operating the farms
    • Logistics at sea and on land
    • The Shipment: passing food factories that produce food need hand on board
    • The trade of finished and partly finished products
    • Justice in international disputes
    • Creating legislation on exploiting the seas
    • Technology and specialized labor for shipbuilding, machine building, but also for building floating farms that must be storm-resistant.
  • As a bonus, we also get a more oxygen-rich atmosphere: trapping and binding the incredible amount of CO2 in the seas, allowing the seas to capture CO2 from the atmosphere, and even be able to deliver a fraction of 02. (This is the reverse of what is happening now.) The climate advantage thanks to this extra O2 source is an argument for applying it on a large scale.
  • As a second bonus, by growing on a large scale, the price of the finished products will be very low, while a large turnover can guarantee very large profits.

So far a number of opportunities that I can think of.

What are possible threats?

  • Seas and oceans are a hostile, an often unknown environment. There are gigantic storms. This complicates working in the logistics chain, the development and exploitation and the inhabitation of seaweed farms. Because in order to withstand the storms, the sea farms must be flexible to give in to the swells, but must contain rigid parts for “cabins”. For the benefit of the crew, stability of the sea farms is also necessary, so that the crew does not become deathly ill. Or to be able to drop them off and pick them up.
  • Hurricane areas will have to be actively avoided. 
  • Such islands may need to be able to dive like a submarine.
  • The safe, shallow, known coastlines may be suggested first to deploy these types of farms. However, that will be too small.
  • In my gut feeling, so many farms will be needed on the oceans that they could hinder international shipping, but also pleasure shipping with private yachts.
  • Shipping must be able to recognize and avoid the sea farms in time.
  • The sea farms must be known to all players, where they are located, who the owners are and who is present on them and when. This is partly to prevent or settle legal or political disputes.
  • Possible implicit political and military interests of the owners countries of this food production in relation to each other if “great powers” ​​arise in this production.
  • Vulnerable places in the oceans with great biodiversity must be respected.

Some possible strengths of “our” world.

  • There is already experience on a smaller scale with the cultivation of seaweed.
  • Seaweed grows very quickly.
  • The polytechnic engineers, mechanical engineers, shipping engineers and others can bring their knowledge together to develop a design of a prototype of a sea farm. Dr Brian von Hertzen of “the Climate Foundation” has already elaborated ideas on this. Some required specifications of such a sea farm are:
    • It must be virtually unsinkable but may need to be able to dive to avoid severe weather e.g..
    • Have a flexible enough structure
    • To be able to have a smooth crew embark and desembark
  • There is already some knowledge and practice on how to use seaweed
    • in the energy sector (this is a potential source of creative destruction) (biodiesel and combustible gases)
    • in the food sector
  • There is more awareness about the climate, and the urgency is slowly but surely better sensed.
  • Votes are raised for various reasons to start exploiting seaweed on a massive scale.
  • My experience is that if people want to realize something, they usually succeed.
  • Politics can very strongly “nudge” the private sectors through tax and other benefits for investors to make investors invest. This can be done both in terms of investments and returns.
  • Provided the right investments are made, parallel work can be done on knowledge and skills to cultivate seaweed under different circumstances: along the coastlines, on the wide oceans…
  • The OECD can play a prominent role because of its international role.
  • Political stability in the world could improve, because there could be less dependence on fossil fuels.
  • The lack of internationally agreed rules for setting up seaweed farms in international waters is more of a convenience than an inconvenience for entrepreneurs.

Some possible weaknesses of “our” world.

  • It takes a mind shift to use seaweed as a vegetable on a large scale. This takes time, which is scarce, so other derivative products must be created “en masse”.
  • The weather predictions at sea should perhaps be better known.
  • Potential political unwillingness to cooperate at an international level.
  • Possible disinterest of the economic world to invest in the development of the necessary techniques or not convinced about the possibilities.
  • The necessary sum of venture capital will be huge.
  • Too many politicians who do not yet believe in the climate problem, have too little will and priority for it and too much influence.
  • Science is not convincingly clear about the state of the climate and its causes: there is too much internal disagreement.
  • There is too little cooperation between the knowledge domains (technical, economic, political) for such a project and to succeed in the short term.
  • There are no international rules and laws in order to be able to operate these types of seaweed farms or sea farms without political entanglements. For example, what if a farm drifts into the territorial waters of a politically unstable country.
  • The techniques to be developed only partially exist. It takes time to develop these things at a normal pace. And time is running out. To make it go faster, politicians and the global economy must take the matter seriously, and be prepared to pump money into it at a fast pace, and with priority. Politicians can give a financial or other push to the potential investors.
  • Politically or monetarily unstable countries will be able to profit minimally from these achievements, unless international politics is used to provide insight into the benefits of participating politically in this.
  • Decomposition of dead seaweed can consume oxygen. Therefore, regular harvesting and processing is also necessary.

The answer is not yet given, whether seaweed farms on oceans are realistic.

To do this, the strengths and weaknesses should be linked to the opportunities and threats in a confrontation matrix that thereby defines projects and activities for each factor of a SWOT, for which this list above can be a first approach. This already shows that technical problems are not the only ones.

To this end, for an answer to the question of realism of development and a vision of cooperation over the feasibility of such an idea, there should be several fields of science and industrial sectors and the political world involved. A first idea for this is an organizational network of several communities of practice at each node of the network. They can then organize activities, partnerships, etc. to define feasible projects for issues in that confrontation matrix, once it has been established. If successful, it can be demonstrated whether the idea is feasible. After that, the super project has to start, on all fronts at once to save time and with a major advertising campaign for entrepreneurs . But those are all different ideas.

The interested reader can find more information here:

The IPCC : Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate

Are the oceans one of the solutions for the climate problem? A wild fantasy.

Author: Manu Steens

In my search for solutions to all kinds of problems, I came across a chemical principle. Namely, the gases in the atmosphere and the gases in the water of the oceans are in equilibrium. This means that the ratio of CO2, O2, N2, noble gases , etc. in the atmosphere is identical to the ratio of them, dissolved in the water.

This has a negative effect on planting trees as a solution to the rising CO2 problem. Because according to the idea, if we capture CO2 from the atmosphere with trees, whatever they do, then the ocean-atmosphere system will seek a new equilibrium and thereby, to equalize the partial pressures again, emit CO2 into the atmosphere, and absorb O2. That wouldn’t be a big deal, if it weren’t for the fact that every M3 of seawater absorbed several M3 of gas throughout history, making the amount of CO2 accumulated in the water vastly more than that accumulated in its entirety in the atmosphere. That is the difference between the proportions and amounts of CO2 in the water and in the atmosphere of our planet. And it is to our disadvantage with trees as a solution. In his book, Bill Gates describes that just planting trees is not the quick fix. Moreover, the area of ​​forestable earth surface is much less than the amount of water surface, so that the new equilibrium will be established very quickly, and it will take a very long time before trees have sufficiently absorbed of the CO2 at hand. Besides the fact that forests also have other uses, there is then the question of what we should do with all that wood, and where we could still grow food…

Here’s a sketch of the problem. I also have little faith in any technology that extracts the CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it somewhere underground. How quickly will such technology be ready, and how can we also recover the O2 from the CO2 ? Which we also need. And here too, with this solution, the water will create a new equilibrium. Then the amount of O2 may be compromised, as energy production continues. So I find this suggestion even less gallant as a solution.

So the problem is that we have to reduce CO2, recover O2 from it, like trees do, but trees are not the only solution. Then there is the problem of overfishing, dying oceans, world hunger which can become one of the next problems … a lot of problems in a row. And the extraction of O2 from CO2 must be done on a large scale and fast.

And maybe that can be done at sea.

The oceans cover about 2/3 to ¾ of the surface of the earth. Part of this could be used to cultivate seaweed. The idea is that seaweed could be grown in large farms at sea, to prevent it from sinking to great depths, where sunshine diminishes. In addition to growing massive amounts of seaweed to convert CO2 to O2 both in the oceans and in the atmosphere that is in equilibrium with it, it can be used to:

  • produce hydrocarbons as fuels (which, by the way, is already being researched),
  • produce food for humans (which is already happening) and animals,
  • create employment on these sea farms,
  • maybe it may even be possible to create fertilizers from it for existing agriculture.

That would be a multiple gain, provided that good seaweed types can be selected that meet the preconditions for useful use.

However, there are questions that can arise, such as, how do we secure a farm so that it does not sink in a storm? How do we place the farms in the oceans so that there is a minimum burden on shipping? How do we bring people from the farm to the shore and vice versa, from the shore to the farm to work or inspect, etc.? In which legal system does one include farms located on international waters? How can efficient harvesting and processing be done, and how can the harvest be efficiently brought to the shore? Which country gets which rights to the proceeds? Can these farms function fully mechanically, or is one or another form of energy (electricity with solar panels, wind energy) required? Does the marine flora breeding farm also need marine fauna ?

People you need are people with enthusiasm like Elon Musk to achieve a lot in a short time, the views of scientists to make it realistic in terms of using seaweeds and in terms of operation on a large scale and a global politics with the will to make it work.

And if it turns out to be technically or politically unfeasible, then it was still a great idea.

How to avoid a climate disaster

Author: Bill Gates

“The solutions we have and the breakthroughs we need”. That is the subtitle of the book about which a lot of advertising was made on all kinds of media. And the author quotes in his work a number of interesting comments. What touched with me initially is that we need to think more quantified: yes, planting trees is good, but is that enough? And why?

That is the great added value for society: it creates awareness in numbers (numbers of billions of tons of CO2 equivalents per year) of the problem. All these numbers are so big for me that I can hardly imagine them.

The major classes of problems the author cites and discusses are:

  • Power generation         
  • Making stuff
  • Food Production
  • Mobility
  • Heating and cooling off

Towards the end, he cites a number of technological and non-technological recommendations.

  1. Multiply investments in research and development in the field of clean energy and climate by five over the next ten years.
  2. Focus more on high-risk, high-reward research and development projects.
  3. Link research and development to what we need most.
  4. Involve business from the start.
  5. Harness the power of tenders.
  6. Create incentives that lower the costs and reduce risk.
  7. Build the infrastructure that allows new technologies to enter the market.
  8. Change the rules so that new technologies can compete.
  9. Link CO2 to a price.
  10. Create clean electricity standards.
  11. Create clean fuel standards.
  12. Create standards for clean products.
  13. Get rid of what is old.

I regard his “plan” as a source of inspiration, which governments all over the world must (quickly) consider and follow up if we want to stand a chance.

Besides this, as an exercise in scenario planning, I see the following uncertainties with an important impact on a global level:

  1. Are all countries going to fight this challenge in closed ranks, or are governments going to act in scattered order?
  2. Will the technology be able to innovate quickly enough and will the solutions be accepted by society? These seem to be two criteria, but there is really only one: will the technology be successful soon enough or not?

If we put these things against each other, I come to the following possible four futures , provided that the governments comply :

What do these possible futures look like?

Some freewheeling in the scenarios gives the following: (Numbers are indicative.)

Scenario 1: Nature survives : the current generations understand the importance of fighting global warming together. Science provides alternative energy sources that are CO2 neutral. Politics provides measures that can compete with conventional energy sources like fossil fuels. Politicians speak intensively with science. Youth is encouraged to continue on these paths. More global cooperation in the fields of energy, medicine and food supply is being made, through targeted scientific research. Humanity is developing a broader framework for mutual cultural understanding across borders. The loss of biodiversity is more limited than the other scenarios. (E.g. ‘only’ 5%) Forestry is being done. Birth control is imposed worldwide.

Scenario 2: Started too late : The steps taken by politics and science are analogous to those of Scenario 1, but the technical solutions come too late. Global warming is spinning out of control and there is a major destruction of biodiversity by 80%. Global population shrinks by 80% due to the further spread of tropical diseases, food shortages and drought. Migration is to be expected. War for the last resources is very likely during the evolution of this scenario. A major economic crisis follows in which the stock markets collapse. The world market collapsed. People try to get by with local initiatives.

Scenario 3: It could have worked : Science is coming up with technical and non-technical solutions fast enough, but politicians and business don’t think it’s necessary to work together in concerted efforts. Measures to use the climate-friendly solutions and make them competitive differ too much from country to country and give multinationals loopholes to work elsewhere than in their home country with solutions that are cheaper and climate-unfriendly, all to satisfy stakeholders. In some countries protests break out against these differences in measures. The approach to climate change is inconsistent and inefficient. This gives rise to a huge rise of global warming of more than 4°C by 2060 as it can in scenario 2. Famine threatens through poor political coordination and drought. As a result, here too is a large decline in biodiversity of 80% .

Scenario 4: The doomsday scenario : We don’t have to say many words about that. The idea that things are better elsewhere will cause large groups of people to make desperate attempts to migrate away from the arid places on Earth. The drought will greatly reduce biodiversity (more than 80%). Due to the need for energy and food, there is a threat of global hybrid conflicts. These conflicts lead to a decimation of humanity. The global economy enters into an unsustainable crisis along the way and economy is reduced to 5% of current activity.

Conclusion :

What this breakdown shows to possible future scenarios is that the measures proposed by the author make sense, but only if two conditions are met:

  • Politicians will to work together across borders and cultures to give climate solutions a competitive advantage when they present themselves, by all countries simultaneously.
  • There is an effort made by companies, universities, governments and citizens alike to generate ideas and work on potential solutions together, again and again, even when an initial design does not seem to work.

The author offers a range of ideas for this. Governments can offer the platform on which these problems are tackled. However, it does not have to be strictly these scenarios that guide such work. But they do give a clear picture of what might be coming our way.