For 69 years, May 8th has been my parents’ wedding anniversary – and here we are again. Now aged 94 and 96, they are a model to us all on how to manage the long run.
Finished Philip Kerr’s wonderful Prussian Blue novel today. Of the twelve in the series to date, one of the very best. Also bought a number of books this afternoon at Barnes Books, including Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny and volume 2 of James Holland’s The War in the West historical series.
And ordered a copy of Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, And The Pace Of Life In Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies by Geoffrey West of the Santa Fe Institute. Here’s a note I wrote on his work back in 2011. He visited us at Volans on 8 February last year.
Spent a couple of days in Leverkusen earlier in the week, with members of the Carbon Productivity Consortium, in this case drawn from Volans, SYSTEMIQ and the Future-Fit Foundation. Extremely helpful discussions with Patrick Thomas, Richard Northcote and Markus Steilemann.
Earlier in the week, we did another Salon at Volans, this time co-hosted with Atlas of the Future. Great fun – as demonstrated in this photo taken, I think, by Lisa Goldapple of Atlas.
Otherwise, have been busily responding to feedback on the Harvard Business Review blog and preparing slide decks for Paris, Oslo and Vevey – where I’m headed in the next couple of weeks.
Nice contrast this evening, as the news of Macron’s win in France came in, was to watch the latest programme in the ITV series, The Durrells. Joyous. Only met Gerry Durrell (and his wife Lee, at a private preview of Phil Agland’s film Korup) once, but always adored his writing and attitude to the natural world.
Got back from Germany this evening to find Harvard Business Review had posted my Breakthrough blog. Details here: https://hbr.org/2017/05/saving-the-planet-from-ecological-disaster-is-a-12-trillion-opportunity. Please take a look and, if you like it, share.
Fascinating few days (24-27 April) in New Delhi with the UN Global Compact, at their Making Global Goals Local Business conference. I moderated a panel session on Breakthrough Innovation and then did a short keynote in the final plenary session on Breakthrough Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals – alongside Zenia Tata of The Prize Foundation and Shaibal Roy of PA Consulting.
A profoundly encouraging response to both sessions – and delightful dinner afterwards with Lise Kingo, who heads the UNGC, before I had to race off to chair a session of the Social Stock Exchange Admissions Panel, by telephone.
Wonderful conversation on the plane back to London with someone who had heard me speak in Delhi and wanted me to speak at a conference of theirs in London in June.
On the flight I finished off Ari Shavit’s stunning book, My Promised Land. Can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone wanting to understand the history of Israel.
Uplifting and depressing in almost equal measure. On page 419, Shavit concludes, “We are a ragtag cast in an epic motion picture whose plot we do not understand and cannot grasp. The scrip writer went mad. The director ran away. The producer went bankrupt. But we are still here, on this biblical set. The camera is still rolling …”
Then a really delightful surprise when I got home. I received an email from British Airways which started as follows:
Congratulations, we’re delighted to let you know that you have earned a lifetime Gold membership from the Executive Club. This means that you will continue to enjoy all of the fantastic benefits of Gold for life.
Blimey! Though I have to say that the immediate delight was quickly tempered by a sense of guilt, in terms of the amount of aircraft emissions and noise generated in the decades of flying I have devoted to the environmental and sustainability causes.
That said, we have offset all flights since way back in SustainAbility days, and also often asked clients to offset the emissions, too, doubling up.
My first flight with BA, at least that I remember, was in 1975, to Cairo – the year after the company was founded through a merger of BOAC and BEA. Well before Air Miles existed, I think. (Checking Wikipedia, it seems they were first introduced in 1992.)
My main memories of that particular trip to Egypt were of the crew lining up at the foot of the gangplank to see us off the plane, and the intense pain I experienced when I lay down to sleep in the Cairo hotel.
It turned out that I had cracked three ribs in a cycle accident in Covent Garden earlier in the day, where I was hit by an Indonesian driver (first day out on British roads) by the Floral Hall. There was a line of hundreds of people waiting outside the Hall to get into a Real Ale event, and not a single person moved to help me as I lay unconscious.
On the upside, I wrote a feature article on the work I had been doing in Egypt for New Scientist, called ‘Beware the Wrath of Osiris‘. Thanks to the magazine’s then Editor, Dr Bernard Dixon, this led on to quite a number of other pieces – which, in turn, led to my being invited by Max Nicholson to help set up Environmental Data Services (ENDS) in 1978. It’s amazing how serendipity sometimes works.
Last night, while sampling the delights of Chakra, recommended by Tato Bigio of UBQ and booked by Chris, we drank a bottle of Oded Shoseyov’s Bravdo wine, mentioned in the previous entry. And that encouraged us to switch plans and decide on the Dead Sea in the morning.
(My main memory of the Dead Sea from 1959 was flying over it in a Dakota – and, if memory serves, being invited into the cockpit by the pilot to help steer.)
We went the whole hog this time, swimming in blistering sunshine (though the water was surprisingly cold) and enjoying the smooth sandpapering of the black mud. God only knows how many skins the mud I used had helped abrade over the millennia. But a cold beer tasted surprisingly wonderful afterwards.
As we were about to leave, we were asked for a lift by a young Dutch couple, Erik and Kim (who was suffering from early heat stroke), and took them as far as Ben Gurion airport in the rented, air-conditioned Mercedes. Seeing the West Bank wall – or barrier – was a painful reminder of the ongoing tensions that continue to roil this extraordinary land.
Am determined to finish off Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land on flights to and from Delhi next week.
Rather than write a long travelogue, I will simply run a series of images to indicate the extraordinary diversity of sights we saw today in Jerusalem. Guided around by Chris (Sveen) and by Lauren Shachar, whose father was a Holocaust survivor. A wonderful combination of talents.
So much has changed since we were in Israel in 1959, but here in Jerusalem so much hasn’t – and so much, like the Western wall tunnels, has come to light since. As we drove east from Tel Aviv in the morning, I was expecting to see burned out vehicles from the 1948 war, where migrants arriving on the coast were rushed straight into battle. I remember being forcefully struck by the wreckage as a child. Nowadays it has been cleaned up and is more symbolic.
Sam and I flew in last night (Tuesday), direct from Heathrow. I spent much of the flight reading Ari Shavit’s astonishing book, My Promised Land, lent to me by Richard Roberts. Greeted at the airport and steered through immigration, we were driven across to the Dan Tel Aviv. Remarkably insightful account of the world I briefly touched on when we took a brief family holiday from Cyprus in 1958.
We were soon taken under the wing of Chris Sveen, Chief Sustainability Officer of UBQ Materials – and, apparently, the first CSO in Israel. He has lived in many countries, from Colombia to Denmark where he now lives, but his knowledge of the country’s history and of Hebrew proved tremendously helpful as Israel unrolled its beauties, mysteries and horrors.
Our first full day involved a fascinating session with the top team of UBQ Materials. We are subject to a non-disclosure agreement, but I can report that the collective intelligence and humour was very striking. In the evening we were taken to the restaurant on top of the Azreali Towers, with a fine view of an extraordinary computer game being played out on the facade of City Hall. On our way back, we stopped off to watch – and Sam soon took control of the keyboard and had things in overdrive.
Sad to have missed out on meeting Professor Oded Shoseyov, whose father just died. He chairs the UBQ Scientific Advisory Board – and has a mind-boggling science CV. Take a look at his TEDxJerusalem talk here. One thing I learned was that his PhD was on the flavours and aromas associated with wines. He also has his own winery, Bravdo.
Afterwards, we were taken around Jaffa at night, which was a stunning contrast to Tel Aviv proper. The main port of entry, apparently, for the cedars of Lebanon bound for Solomon’s temple. I could almost see Richard the Lionheart cruising by in search of safe landing grounds, though the main historical figure seemed to be a statue (or at least large figurine) of Napoleon. Who probably had similar interests.
Today we were driven 90 minutes either way to the kibbutz where UBQ’s factory is located, in the Negev. We were challenged to spot where the desert began and the cultivated land ended – almost impossible without a trained eye. Much discussion of how the need for irrigation – and for micro-irrigation in particular- drove the development of the country’s plastics industry.
UBQ is still in stealth mode, but I can’t wait for the wraps to come off – a gloriously cutting edge clean technology story, in the most unlikely of sectors.
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.
In this new iteration of the site, the ‘Comments’ function has been reanimated. Please do make use of it.