Robert Davis: A whole systems approach…in bite sized pieces?
22 October 2020
Solving the Net Zero challenge seems too big of a problem to tackle in anything but bite-sized chunks. But most people involved in thinking about how to deliver net zero appreciate that to solve it in bite-sizes will result in chaos and massive cost. Too hard, or too expensive…not a great choice.
Let’s see if we can find a middle ground.
My first thought is that ‘whole system’ and ‘bite-sized’ aren’t necessarily contraries. Every cell in our body is a highly complex individual system, but they are all compatible and function effectively in one human body. This highlights that good design is key. Whilst our cells have taken millions of years to evolve, we have but a handful of years to design our net zero systems. And although we have many different types of cell in our body, the basic design is common, whilst unique functions are specific to the role of each cell in its locus.
So, here’s the start of the solution. A net zero system design template for a given area should be made available as soon as possible. It should comprise core, compatible functionality whilst being able to adapt to the specific functional requirements of different local environments.
For each cell to thrive, the ecosystem around it needs to be supportive and so there needs to be co-ordination, indeed close linkage between different ‘whole systems’ to ensure complementarity and to provide the potential operating flexibility and redundancy to be consistently reliable.
Our cells needs ‘lifeblood’, the raw materials to feed and clean them. Brilliantly designed net zero systems will wither without the lifeblood of engagement. By that I mean the relevant authorities, the communities and the motivated individuals who will go the extra mile to make it happen. The challenge is as much about communication and persuasion as it is design, if not more.
So maybe we should take our inspiration from cellular systems that have evolved through adaption to form complex but highly effective modular systems through design, through integration and through engagement. Small, bite-sized even, but bespoke and perfectly aligned with each other.