I get a couple of pages (8-9) in the latest issue of Novo Nordisk’s TBL Quarterly.
Quite a week. Apart from anything else, there have been the chemical and cruise missile attacks in Syria. Meanwhile, the skies have been blue and my social calendar has been in overdrive.
Monday involved a trip across to Oxford and the Skoll World Forum, for an evening in celebration of the Pamela Hartigan. Tuesday, after a seminar by Adrian Gault (Chief Economist, Committee on Climate Change) at UCL on the UK Carbon Budget, involved a delightful dinner with Paul Ekins. Then Friday evening took us to Zédel with two cousins. And last night was a much quieter evening (including padded walls) at the new Keeper’s House restaurant under the Royal Academy of Arts, this time with Debra Dunn.
And through it all I have been reading an astonishing novel, Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End. Remarkable use of language – and existentially unsettling insights into the horror of the wresting of the Old West from the tribes that had made them home.
Then, on our way home on the Sunday, we decided to drop off at Chanctonbury Ring. Weirdly, as we climbed up through the hangings towards the top and the South Down Way, I keep having a profound sense of déjà vu. It was only when we reached to very top that it suddenly struck me that I had been here before, some eight years ago, when speaking at nearby Wilton Park.
Here are some images from this time around:
After chairing a session of the Social Stock Exchange Admissions Panel, I raced home and then we drove south – for a dinner in Lewes with Carlota Perez. Recently LSE Centennial Professor, she is an authority on long-wave economic cycles of the sort studied by Nikolai Kondratiev.
A delightful evening at a nearby Thai restaurant, providing an insight on why Carlota and I seemed to differ in terms of the periodicity of the fading and building waves – but are simply using slightly different lenses to view the same phenomena.
En route to the restaurant, as we were trying to find somewhere to pay for parking by the train station, someone called my name – and it turned out to be Oliver Dudok van Heel, who used to work with SustainAbility, with his 7-year-old barefoot daughter.
We had dropped off our luggage on the way to Lewes at Old Whyly, a delightful boutique B&B that Hania and Jake had stayed at last year. Very taken with it all, particularly our hostess, Sarah Burgoyne.
Among places we visited over the next couple of days was Charleston, country home of the Bloomsbury Set, and somewhere often frequented by Molly March, who I grew up with in Cyprus – and would later marry Nick, son of Peggy Ashcroft and Jeremy Hutchinson.
I had always thought I didn’t like Bloomsbury art, but viewed in context and in an ensemble, I think I could begin to see what they were aiming for …
2017 has been fairly frenetic, but despite – or perhaps because of – Brexit and Trumpism, work has been going like gangbusters. Marches included my annual lectures at Imperial College (where I was accompanied by Lauren Cervino, who is anchoring our Carbon Productivity work) and UCL (ditto Florence Isaacs, who has been a member of the team before heading off to do her PhD in Antarctica).
I’m travelling a bit less at the moment, albeit with a burst of trips to places like Israel and India now in immediate prospect. But I did fly to Norway (Oslo, then Kristiansand), with Geoff Kendall of the Future Fit Foundation, to speak at a conference organised by the Strømme Foundation.
The event was chaired by John G. Bernander, a former CEO of Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and of NHO, the main organisation for Norwegian employers. He has also been an MP for the Conservative Party. he was on the same flight in – indeed helped me get my luggage out of the overhead bin. A good start!
Philosopher Henrik Syse, who is a member of the Nobel Committee and former head of the Ethical Board for the Norwegian Pension Fund, also spoke. We had met when I was in Oslo last year. Fascinating to hear a truly philosophical view on business responsibility.
Other speakers included Christian Thommessen of ResponsAbility. He works closely with Stephen Brenninkmeijer, as do I at the Social Stock Exchange. And, as I was coming back through Heathrow later in the day, who should take my arm but Thomas Brenninkmeijer.
Yesterday, having seen the film Hidden Figures (staggeringly good, profoundly moving) at the Olympic Cinema in Barnes, we wandered across to Barnes Books, where I bought a copy of Lincoln In The Bardo. Anything to distract me from the continuing antics of the weasel in the White House.
Like January, February zoomed past, with a huge amount of work cranking through the Volans realm – all in the context of the rise of new forms of populism, covered in our latest Volans Salon, held on 31 January. Martin Wright, formerly of Forum for the Future, co-hosted an evening with some 25 people from the wider London ecosystem.
On 2 February Gaia, Paul, Hania, Jake and I celebrated Elaine’s 70th birthday at Brasserie Zédel: a wonderful evening. And a very welcome distraction from the continuing saga of the kitchen floor, where first hot water pipes have forces us to have the floor taken up. Over a month now of being reduced to a concrete floor.
Other highlights of the month included: chairing a Crowd event on our ‘Social X‘ agenda on the 6th; a lunch with Nicolai Tangen of AKO Capital on the 7th, followed by the launch event for the Science Museum’s Robots exhibition; attending the IntelligenceSquared/Nature Conservancy event called ‘Nature, Our Best Climate Technology‘ on the 9th;
On the 10th we drove across to Little Rissington to see the Hill House ecosystem, then back to a blizzard of events. These included meetings with people like Interface VP Erin Meezan, chairing a session at a WWF event on the Government’s Industrial Strategy in the ICAEW Great Hall on the 21st, followed by an Ecosequestration Trust Board meeting across at Imperial College; a Chilean day on the 23rd, with a visit from Angelica Cortes, followed by lunch with Maria Jesús Nilo at the British Museum Great Court restaurant; then Richard Roberts and I did a 2-hour Leaders’ Quest session for senior Cemex executives at the Building Centre on the 24th; and I was back in the ICAEW Great Hall on 1 March to chair another session, this time for the UKSSD (UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development) annual conference.
And then we’re in March already, with a Hüman After All party on the evening of the 2nd and a fascinating lunch at the Gilbert Scott restaurant in the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel with Patrick Thomas of Covestro.
Brought my bike and bunch of pictures back home from the office in a taxi on the 3rd. End of an era with the bike, but after six serious accidents since 1974 it’s probably time to hang up my helmet, at least for central London cycling.
This jumble of images gives some sense of the blur that has been our January to date. The first one I took as I walked to a lunch with Iqbal Wahhab and Charmian Love on 4 January, at the restaurant he co-founded, Roast. Really great food and ambience. And he gave me a copy of his beautifully produced book, Charity Sucks.
I had almost gone to Covent Garden, seeing that the restaurant was in The Floral Hall – not realising that the old Floral Hall had been moved from Covent Garden (where I had been left unconscious by an Indonesian driver back in 1975 as I cycled to get papers from King’s College, ahead of a flight to Cairo), stored in a Welsh cavern, then bought for £1 and installed here in Borough Market.
So, slightly weirdly, I was sitting on the other side of the facade in front of which I nearly departed this life 40 years ago, but now on the other side of the Thames.
On 9 January, I took Molly March (who I grew up with in Cyprus in the 1950s) to lunch at the Great Court Restaurant in the British Museum, followed by a dinner that same evening hosted by Ambassador David lane, who now runs the Annenberg Trust at Sunnylands.
The second image was taken unsteadily from the apartment window of Lorraine Smith’s home in Manhattan, during a party she and her husband Christopher kindly hosted for me – with some fascinating people.
She and I had been in Washington, DC, where Volans co-hosted an event on 11 January with the World Resources Institute (WRI and the UN Global Compact (UNGC) on how to push towards breakthrough outcomes (our focus with the UNGC) in tomorrow’s markets (WRI’s focus) in the era of President Trump. Will post more details once the summary is cleared by the participants, but very timely and productive.
The event coincided with the Senate’s grilling of former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for Secretary of State.
We then went by Amtrak to NYC, to see a range of people, including the UNGC, Citi (whose tower block is the blazing lump seen across the river from Lorraine’s window), the Harvard Business Review and Pearson. The next image is from the plane window as we came in to land at Heathrow. There was snow outside and DC and now snow here, too.
The next five images are from Düsseldorf, where we spent several days (in my case, 17-19 January) with Covestro – with teams converging from Futerra, the Future Fit Foundation, Innovation Arts, SystemIQ and Volans. Focus was on carbon productivity, and the spirit is captured in the final image of the sequence of five.
On the last day, I had been meant to travel to Davos for a dinner co-hosted by the World Economic Forum and the UN Global Compact. Them thank god, Klaus Schwab said he didn’t want me there, so I could spend some sensible time with people doing things rather than simply talking about them : )
Then this week, Sam and I spent a couple of days in Lausanne, with a somewhat controversial company that is planning a major transformation. Fascinating, but the ethical dilemmas had me in a spin at one point.
Then the final image shows Tim Peake speaking at the Science Museum, at the launch event for a new exhibition featuring the Soyuz spacecraft he used to travel to the International Space Station. Went with Richard Johnson.
Volans is really building momentum now, which is immensely exciting, though it’s taxing at times, for all of us. Am on statins now, too, which I hadn’t expected. But always ready to experiment …
Keep thinking I should get back on my bike, which has stood forlornly in the office since my sixth accident, in Oxford Street, a couple of years ago – and which left me with a damaged elbow that took fully a year to heal properly. It’s some sort of toss-up between exercise and extinction, it seems.
The “Doomsday Clock“, which has hovered ticking over my entire life, moving to 3 minutes to midnight in 1949, the year I was born, because of the advent of there Cold War, has now moved closer to midnight. Two and a half minutes, to be precise. I sense both the squeeze and the opportunity.
I began this blog with an entry reporting on a visit to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, on 30 September 2003. The blog element of the website has gone through several iterations since, with older material still available on this site.
Like so many things in my life, blog entries blur the boundaries between the personal and the professional. As explained on the Home Page, the website and the blog are part platform for ongoing projects, part autobiography, and part accountability mechanism.
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