2018 A YEAR IN LITERATURE

This article provides a short comment on all the books I read in 2018. It begins in January and runs chronologically until the end of December 2018.

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1. Seth Godin – The Icarus Deception

This is a great book that explores the phenomenon that in today’s industrial economy, schools’ universities and companies are encouraging people to aim to low and to play life safely. He explores this idea through the Greek myth of Icarus, who as we all know flew too high and encountered problems. The second and less well taught part of the myth, was that if he flew too low, his wings would also encounter problems from the salty air.

Seth is right on the money with his thesis that the dangers of flying too low are easily as pronounced as the dangers of flying too high.

I was inspired after reading Seth’s book to create my own article on the Science Based Targets initiative and whether sustainability has a similar thinking blunder. You can find this via the link below.

SUSTAINABILITY – ARE WE FLYING HIGH ENOUGH?

2. Elliot Aronson – The Social Animal

This is one of the more disappointing books I have read. Not because it was necessarily bad, but because I read it based on its supposed likeness to Influence by Robert Cialdini. They are however completely different books. The Social Animal is clearly pitched at university audiences. Up to date second hand editions retail for around £40-£50 online. Whereas Influence is pitched at a non-fiction audience, eager to understand why some are able to influence, whist others aren’t. Unless you really want to understand the minutiae of social psychology, I would not recommend this book.

3. Bob Willard – The Sustainability Champion’s Guidebook

Bob Willard is a class act and one of his other books The Sustainability Advantage was one of my favourite books that I read in 2017. This book was much shorter, coming in at only 114 pages. But that can mean a tighter and more focussed offering, which is certainly the case with this book. There are lots of flow charts and references to other people’s work. Whether you know a lot about sustainability or would like to know more I would definitely recommend this book.

4. Harvard Review on Business and the Environment

This collection of short works was a real surprise. It didn’t flow as well as a book would, but it was packed full of chapters from top writers on business and the environment. Some highlights were the chapter A Road Map for Natural Capitalism by Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken. The chapter Growth through Global Sustainability which was an interview with Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro was really eye opening and displayed how this company had developed a reputation for environmental excellence. The Chapter Recycling for Profit was also extremely interesting given the incredible attention given to plastics and recycling in 2018. Overall, this book comes highly recommended from me.

5. Seth Godin – Poke the Box

I read quite a few Seth Godin books in 2018. I like them because they are short, to the point and intended to deliver one powerful message. This offering from Seth Godin is all about pushing yourself and doing things for the first time. This is certainly good advice from Seth.

6. Hawken, A Lovins and H Lovins – Natural Capitalism

This book is an absolute sustainability tour de force. It is the book that everybody who thinks and writes about sustainability wishes they could write. It comes packed full of information which questions the usefulness of GDP as a measure of progress. As one would expect, there is a lot of information on Natural Capital in the book. This book contains information on everything that is necessary to make capitalism sustainable. It comes highly recommended from me.

7. Rudolph Flesch – The Art of Plain Talk

This was one of the best books that I read in 2018. I liked it so much that I wrote a review of it, which you can find via the link below.

THE ART OF PLAIN TALK – RUDOLF FLESCH

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Anyone can make their communication style more complicated, that is easy. It takes skill to be an effective communicator that is understood by the masses. Rudolf Flesch teaches you how to communicate effectively in this book.

8. Grayson and Hodges – Corporate Social Opportunity

I am a huge fan of Grayson and Hodge’s other book Everybody’s Business, so getting hold of and reading this work of theirs was a priority of mine. There is lots of good content in here to help businesses with their corporate responsibility efforts. It definitely comes highly recommended from me.

9. Seth Godin – All Marketers are Liars

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In this book, Seth Godin uses all of his marketing experience to explain to readers how marketing really works. Despite the provocative title, on the copy I bought, the words ‘are liars’ are crossed out and replaced with ‘tell stories.’

Seth’s analysis is that great marketers tell stories and capture their audiences that way. Whereas average marketers obsess over features and benefits. Follow Seth’s advice and be the story teller.

 

10. Seth Godin – Purple Cow

In this book Seth Godin provides advice on how to transform your business by being remarkable. Many countryside landscapes are covered with mile after mile of similar looking cows. If you passed a purple cow, it would definitely grab your attention. This is the essence of this book. Listen to Seth, always try to be remarkable and abhor average.

11. Erving Goffman – Behaviour in Public Places

I bought this book based on a recommendation from someone who said that it was great. I found the writing style to be quite boring and after reading there was not much that I was left with as key takeaways. Unless you are really interested in psychology, I would probably avoid this book.

12. Nassim Taleb – Fooled by Randomness

This was the first Nassim Taleb book that I read. I was so impressed with it that I went on to read all of his books in 2018. That being said if I could go back and do it again, I would read them in order as they make up a series called Incerto. His writing style makes the otherwise dull world of probability illuminating.

13. William Cohen – The Art of the Strategist

This was one of the best books that I read in 2018. Alongside being a retired Major General of the US Air Force, William Cohen also has a PhD. It contains dozens of examples from business, the military, politics as well as other arenas to explain to the reader what strategy is and how it works. He distils 7,000 years of strategy so that you don’t have to. He distils this history down into 10 principles, with the fundamental principle being to commit fully to a definite objective. It comes highly recommended from me.

14. Giselle Weybrecht – The Future MBA

I really liked this book by Giselle Weybrecht. I am a huge fan of her other book The Sustainable MBA, so it was natural for me to buy this.

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I liked it so much that I wrote a review of it, which you can find via the link below.

THE FUTURE MBA – GISELLE WEYBRECHT

Even though it was aimed at reforming business schools, I think her analysis could be applied much broader and be used to reform all sorts of university courses.

15. Nassim Taleb – Antifragile

I really enjoyed this book. I jumped the gun reading this and with hindsight it would have been better to read the books he had released earlier before reading this. But overall, his writing is brilliant and his analysis is sound. I would definitely recommend this book.

16. Miles Young – Ogilvy on Advertising in the Digital Age

This book by Miles young is a homage to the original 1983 book Ogilvy on Advertising. I am a huge fan of the original, so I made sure that I bought this when it came out. A lot has changed in the years since 1983 and digital technology has changed advertising and mass communications enormously. Miles Young is the Non-Executive Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather and he has done an excellent job with this book.

Reading it inspired me to write the article, which you can find via the link below.

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY ONLINE

17. Nassim Taleb – The Bed of Procrustes

This is a very short book, coming in at only 112 pages. It is also not so much a book, but a collection of philosophical and practical aphorisms. The story of Procrustes in Greek mythology is an interesting one and despite its short length, this offering by Nassim Taleb packs in a lot of interesting ideas.

18. David Meerman Scott – The New Rules of Marketing and PR

I had bought an earlier edition of this book back in 2016 and thought it was great. But as with the need to update Ogilvy on Advertising, social media is a fast-changing landscape so I got hold of a copy of the 2017 edition and read that this year. There is lots of good information in here which will help the reader with their marketing exploits.

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As you can tell from the picture, I made lots of notes whilst reading it and I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about social media marketing.

19. Seth Godin – Permission Marketing

This is probably my favourite Seth Godin book. His tagline of “turning strangers into friends, and friends into customers” sums up nicely what this book is about. So many companies waste their customers attention with boring one-way messages. But a select group of companies who practice permission marketing create content and information that is so good that they have permission to send it to their prospects. This is the pinnacle of marketing that all companies should aspire to.

20. George Orwell – The Road to Wigan Pier

This was the first George Orwell book that I had read for quite a while. It did not disappoint; his writing is stunning and sets the standard that all writers should aspire to achieve. Some of the conditions that he encounters on his travels are simply unbelievable. It’s hard to imagine conditions like that existing in the UK, but not that long ago, they did. Thanks to Orwell, we can learn about this slice of history in vivid detail.

21. Tim Marshall – Divided

I have read all of Tim Marshall’s books, so when this book came out in 2018, I bought it straight away. It is an obvious trend, that despite the progress in knocking down walls since the end of the cold war, recent years have seen the re-emergence of walls between nations. Tim takes the reader on a journey across walls in China, the USA, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Europe and the UK. I found it to be a really interesting read and I would definitely recommend it.

22. Bertrand Russell – Sceptical Essays

This is one of the best books that I have ever read. I like a lot of Bertrand Russell’s books and this is the best of his that I have come across. Bertrand Russell explores science, psychology, philosophy and a range of other ideas with his sceptical outlook. You have to read this book at least once in your lifetime.

23. Debra Meyerson – Tempered Radicals

I bought this book as I had seen it referenced a number of times in books on sustainability. It is about how everyday leaders inspire change at work. Compared to how good I had hoped this book would be, I would have to say that it did not meet those expectations. That being said, it is still an impressive book on how to effect change in organisations and I would recommend it.

24. Carmine Gallo – The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

This was probably the most useful book that I read in 2018. I watched the video which you can find via the link below and then went on to buy the book.

Present Like Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was an incredible presenter and this book nicely distils what made him stand out. The main piece of advice is to have very little on each slide. Have pictures and then talk about the theme in the picture. Don’t cram slides full of bullet points, you will put your audience to sleep.

25. Sadler, et al – The Little Book of Ecosystem Services in the City

I was handed this book as a free copy by Nick Grayson when I went to see him speak at Future Fest in July. It may be a short book, but it is packed full of useful information on ecosystem services. This book inspired my article on trees in urban areas, which you can find via the link below

HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE CAN ONE TREE MAKE?

26. Timothy Ferriss – The 4-Hour Work Week

This is probably the book that I owned for the longest amount of time before reading. There is lots of good advice in here for how you could build a simpler life, either by running your own business or by working for someone else. I would recommend this book.

27. Amory Lovins – Reinventing Fire

This book is a powerful treatise about how through two things, many pressing sustainability problems can be solved. Those two things are energy efficiency and renewable energy. This book contains chapters on transportation, buildings, industry and electricity. It is a phenomenal book and anyone working in sustainability should buy and read it immediately.

28. Manning and Haddock – Office Management

I saw this book for sale in my local library for 20p and I definitely got that amount of information from this. It is really easy to read with space for notes inside so that you can use it for reference. If you can find this anywhere, buy it.

29. George Friedman – The Next Decade

I have read many of George Friedman’s books and they have all been excellent. This one is also very good, if you are interested in geopolitics, then I would definitely recommend reading this book.

30. The Trapese Collective – Do it Yourself: A handbook for changing our world

This is a book about how individuals can organise and take action to solve the many and interconnected challenges that need to be addressed. There are chapters on how to get off the grid, how to grow your own food, why we need autonomous spaces and why direct action is important. This book is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I certainly enjoyed it.

31. George Orwell – Animal Farm

2018 was the first time that I had read Animal Farm. I had heard a lot about it and I believe I have seen a TV adaptation of the book a number of years back. I thought it lived up to all the hype and I read it from cover to cover in no time at all.

32. Nassim Taleb – The Black Swan

This book and the ideas behind it are what I most closely associate Nassim Taleb with. This is a great book about random events. They are almost impossible to predict but their impact is huge. Released in 2007 many people credit Nassim with predicting the oncoming financial crisis. Whilst it is true that there are elements of the book that talk about a coming financial crisis, there are other authors who wrote in more detail about exactly what was to come and why and what the governments reaction would be. Overall, this is still a great book and I highly recommend it.

33. Seneca – Letters from a Stoic

There is lots of good advice in this book. Whether you like philosophy a lot or you would like to learn more about it, I would recommend this book to anyone.

34. Mike Berners-Lee – How Bad are Bananas?

This book has to win the biggest surprise category for 2018. I bought it not expecting much, but then after reading it, it is now one of my favourite books on sustainability. Carbon footprinting is more of an art than a science and Mike does well to explain this to the reader. I highly recommend that you buy and read this book.

35. Patrick Schwerdtfeger – Keynote Mastery

This is an excellent book which chronicles Patrick’s journey from aspiring speaker to a professional keynote speaker who gets booked for speaking gigs all around the world. If you are interested in potentially making a career as a speaker, I would definitely recommend that you get this book.

36. Bob Doppelt – The Power of Sustainable Thinking

This was a really enjoyable book to read. Part 1 dealt with the imperatives for change, whilst part 2 dealt with the path forward. It is clear to me that one of the biggest problems to do with sustainability has little to do with the environment or technology, but to do with how we think about it. Bob Doppelt goes into depth about these sustainability thinking blunders and how they can be overcome. If you work in sustainability, read this book.

37. Heath and Potter – The Rebel Sell

This book is all about how counterculture became the consumer culture. I really enjoyed reading it and they make some very good points. A lot of people who claim to be “fighting against the system” once you dig a little deeper, you find that they are supported by the very system that they are fighting against.

38. Peters and Waterman – In Search of Excellence

I had high hopes for this book, but it did not live up to my expectations. Despite this, there were two things that I picked out that I liked. One was the section on companies being led by values. Successful companies have values that are bigger than themselves. The next was the section on profits where the authors write: “the idea that profit is a natural by-product of doing something well, not an end in itself, is also almost universal.” In successful companies, money alone is not the biggest driver.

39. Norman Vincent Peale – The Power of Positive Thinking

I bought this in January 2018 shortly after the company I worked for went into compulsory liquidation, but I did not read it until much later in the year. There is more religious references in here than I expected and had I known that, I would probably not have bought it. That being said, there is some sound advice about avoiding negative self talk and about how positive affirmations of yourself can help you to become successful. I can see why this is mentioned as a favourite book by a number of extraordinarily successful people.

40. Fussler and James – Driving Eco Innovation

I bought this book based on its title thinking it would be great and I was quite disappointed by it. Some of the content inside was useful, but the writing throughout was quite boring which made it a struggle to read. Overall, I would not recommend this book.

41. George Orwell – Down and out in Paris and London

I thought this George Orwell book was great. He has an interesting tale to tell about how he survived in Paris, living on such a small amount of money for so long. It is a fantastic book and everybody should read it.

42. Bertrand Russell – The Conquest of Happiness

Based on the title alone, this should be a terrible book, but it was actually great. It was full of useful examples to live a happy life and things to avoid if you don’t want to lead an unhappy life. I recommend this book.

43. Nassim Taleb – Skin in the Game

This is the most recent book that Nassim Taleb has released and it is also my favourite of his. Skin in the game may be an old phrase, but Nassim breathes new life into it with this book. There is lots of good information in here on the types of people who don’t have skin in the game for their decisions and those that do. It is a great book and I highly recommend it.

44. George Orwell – Homage to Catalonia

No one could deny that George Orwell lived an incredible life. I have to admit that I didn’t know that much about the Spanish Civil War before reading this book. But I certainly learned a lot by reading this. Again, as with all George Orwell books, the writing is stunning an everyone should read it.

45. Kim and Mauborgne – Blue Ocean Strategy

This book was one of the biggest surprises in 2018. I bought it thinking that it would be another over hyped book that has sold millions of copies.

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But I was pleasantly surprised with the book. It has loads of useful information in it about strategy as well as good takeaways so that you can implement the Blue Ocean principles yourself.

I was so impressed that I wrote a book review, which you can find via the link below.

BLUE OCEAN STRATEGY – KIM & MAUBORGNE

46. Seth Godin – Linchpin

This was the last Seth Godin book that I read in 2018. I like his books for their focus. There is not a lot of waffle, he just picks his message and sticks to it. It is extremely motivational and it is about how you can make yourself indispensable, should you choose to do that.

47. Al Ries – Focus

This was a book that I bought because it was recommended in The Art of Strategy. There is a lot of good advice in here. It does seem to be a common phenomenon that businesses try to constantly do more things to expand their revenue. However, this causes distractions and actually affects profitability in the long term. His advice to businesses is to offer the same service, but expand internationally rather than offer a complex range of services domestically. That sounds like sound advice to me.

48. Lynne Truss – Eats, Shoots & Leaves

This book also provided a big surprise in 2018. I read it thinking that it would be useful and help me with my writing but it would not be that interesting. In the end I found it to be both interesting and informative. I can now see why it won so many book of the year awards when it was first published in 2004.

49. Bailey and Gates – Bike Repair & Maintenance for Dummies

Anyone who know me knows that I love cycling. I have been changing my own flat tyres for the last couple of years, but apart from that, for most other maintenance jobs I leave them to the trained professionals at my local bike shop. But my aim for 2019 is to begin to do more of my own bike maintenance myself. This book was a good primer on how to do that in very straightforward steps.

50. Ray Dalio – Principles

This was the last book that I read in 2018. It is quite long at 544 pages and I still have some more to read before the end of the year. But it is definitely worth buying and reading. Ray Dalio has led a pretty remarkable life and this came across as part autobiography and part non-fiction guide. Even if you don’t like the financial services industry, I would say that this book is still relevant as his principles could be applied to anyone’s life and any industry.

What you need to know

This article provided a short commentary on all of the books that I read in 2018. For anyone who read the whole thing, thank you at 4 thousand words, this is always my longest article of the year.

Reading changed my life and it can change your life too. If there is something that has piqued your interest from this list, you should buy it and read it immediately.

This is my last article of 2018. Thank you to everyone who has been reading my work this year. I look forward to continuing the conversation in 2019.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What is your favourite book that you read in 2018?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

BLUE OCEAN STRATEGY – KIM & MAUBORGNE

This book review  looks into Blue Ocean Strategy by Kim & Mauborgne. I had known about this book for some time. I was aware of the many copies it had sold and that it was responsible for coining the term Blue Ocean Strategy. Sometimes I think non-fiction books that have sold millions of copies can be over hyped, but this book is not in that category.

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This book is a treasure trove of good ideas and insights for how businesses can think differently about strategy and ultimately, be more effective.

They begin with the observation that:

What consistently separated winners from losers in creating blue oceans was their approach to strategy.

The companies caught in the red ocean followed a conventional approach, racing to beat the competition by building a defensible position within the existing industry order.

The creators of blue oceans, surprisingly, didn’t use the competition as their benchmark. Instead, they followed a different strategic logic that we call value innovation.

This really sets the scene for the central theme that the book is about.

For more information  on value innovation, the authors had this to say:

Because buyer value comes from the utility and price that the company offers to buyers and because the value to the company is generated from price and its cost structure, value innovation is achieved only when the system of the company’s utility, price, and cost activities is properly aligned.”

The diagram below is useful for showing how value innovation is created in the space between costs and buyer value.

value innovation

Effective frameworks are important during the strategy formulation process. This book has a number of excellent frameworks, but there was one in particular that stood out for me. It was the Eliminate-Reduce-Raise-Create Grid. This grid forces businesses to scrutinise every factor that the industry competes on. The inclusion of the eliminate quadrant forces businesses to not over-engineer solutions to problems. Deciding to not do something can be as important as deciding to do something. You can find more information in the grid below.

ERRC

Later on, in a chapter titled ‘focus on the big picture, not the numbers’ the authors have this advice:

“The strategic profile with high blue ocean potential has three complementary qualities: focus, divergence, and a compelling tagline. If a company’s strategic profile does not does not clearly reveal those qualities, it’s strategy will likely be muddled, undifferentiated, and hard to communicate. It is also likely to be costly to execute.”

The quotation above sums up the overarching theme of the book. Effective strategy cannot become all about doing new things. It should be about doing things that a company already does but doing them better and about eliminating things that don’t create value.

Later on, there is a great section on technology and how it applies to Blue Ocean Strategy. The authors had the following to say:

Unless the technology makes buyers’ lives dramatically simpler, more convenient, more productive, less risky, or more fun and fashionable, it will not attract the masses no matter how many awards it wins. Value innovation is not the same as technology innovation.”

I thought this quotation was great. Too often technology is thought of a panacea where more is always better. In reality it is only effective technology that we need more of, not technology for technology’s sake.

The price that a company decides to charge for its product or service is a key component of the strategy formulation process. The authors issue the following guidance:

The key here is not to pursue pricing against the competition within an industry but rather to pursue pricing against substitutes and alternatives across industries and nonindustrues.

Towards the end of the book, the authors offer the following advice for how to create a successful strategy:

At the highest level, there are three propositions essential to the success of strategy: the value proposition, the profit proposition, and the people proposition. For any strategy to be successful and sustainable, an organisation must develop an offering that attracts buyers; it must create a business model that enables the company to make money out of its offering; and it must motivate the people working for or with the company to execute the strategy.

This is great advice, which if taken onboard will help companies with the strategy and execution process enormously.

If companies do manage to transition away from a red ocean into a blue ocean, they may find that others try to copy them. The authors set out a number of barriers that limit this imitation.

One is the alignment barrier. Aligning value, profit and people into an integrated system is not easy. This limits imitation.

The cognitive and organisational barrier. Imitation often requires competitors make substantial changes to their existing business practices. Organisational politics prevents this from happening.

The brand barrier. Brand image conflict can prevent companies from imitating a blue ocean strategy.

The economic and legal barrier. Natural monopoly blocks imitation when the size of a market cannot support another player.

What you need to know

This book review looked at Blue Ocean Strategy by Kim & Mauborgne. Some books really force you to think differently and leave a lasting impression. This book certainly had that effect on me.

Even if you consider yourself to be astute at strategy formulation, by reading this book you can learn something.

Strategy when used incorrectly can be dangerous and can lead organisations to pursue lost causes. But when used correctly, it can be a potent force for change.

I would definitely recommend this book.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What is your favourite book on strategy?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

THE FUTURE MBA – GISELLE WEYBRECHT

This book review looks into The Future MBA: 100 ideas for making sustainability the business of business education by Giselle Weybrecht. I followed the ideas closely when Giselle was releasing them daily via social media and it is great to see how it has turned into a physical book.

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I came across Giselle through her other book The Sustainable MBA. I thought that book was absolutely outstanding, you can read my short review of that book by clicking the link below.

2017 A YEAR IN LITERATURE

The book opens with some really impressive recommendations by Paul Polman, Richard Lyons and others. The introduction sets the scene and lets readers know about the basis of the book, which was 100 ideas posted online over 100 days to explore what the business degree of the future should look like.

Giselle opines that “Each idea brings with it multiple potential benefits, for the school, the students and, in particular, sustainability in its broadest sense.”

I think that the criticisms and suggestions that Giselle makes are certainly relevant to other degree choices in higher education.

My intention is to pick out what I consider to be the best ideas and the ones that I found most relevant for improving the situation outside of business education.

1.    Suits

I really liked this opening idea and the arguments that Giselle constructed around it. I liked her point below.

Creating a more casual dress environment (within reason) may provide a better setting for the sharing of information and insights, drawn both from successes and failures. It may give students the opportunity to focus on being what they are and not what the sector wants them to be.

13. Risk taking and failure

This was the next idea that really stood out for me. It is important that universities focus on turning out the right kind of candidates and not just candidates who can memorise information and write essays. A healthy relationship with risk and failure is one such skill set.

Giselle writes that “businesses increasingly need graduates who aren’t afraid of questioning assumptions or testing new ideas, graduates that can help create a culture and environment in business that supports risk taking in a constructive way.

23. Influence

I found this idea to be very relevant. I have a big interest in the psychology of persuasion and it is definitely something that needs to be touched upon at university.

26. Plug and play

This idea definitely chimed with my own beliefs on how university courses should be run. It is now a few years since I finished university and with only abstract memories of the main lectures, my memories of the guest lectures remain largely intact because of how engaging they were.

Giselle writes that “in the future, a variety of organisations in particular fields will create regularly updated mini-lectures on the subject on which they specialize, which can be used within business school programmes globally.”

30. Labs

I liked this idea as it emphasises the importance of doing things and not just talking about things. Giselle’s idea is that “rather than bringing together groups of individual researchers publishing papers, labs will be much more action-oriented and involve a wider range of individuals.”

40. Turning off

This was an idea that made a lot of sense to me as I am someone who did not get a smart phone until January 2014. I find these devices to be useful, but extremely distracting, when for quality work concentration is required. I now have my phone on aeroplane mode for a lot of the time, so that I can receive notifications at my time of choosing.

Giselle’s idea is that “students will be asked to leave their cell phones, computers and all other devices at the door for courses where they are not necessary.”

71. Easily accessible

I found this idea very interesting. Ultimately, research is nice, but if it does not influence the real world then it has not been useful.

Giselle writes that “the challenge is not only that many of the publications in this space are not readily accessible to business practitioners, but that they are often not written in a way that is useful or relevant to the actual challenges that businesses are dealing with.”

90. Collaborative action

In this idea Giselle makes a good point about the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). While in the sustainability space, they have made a huge impact, in wider society I think people would be shocked about how little the general public know and understand about these ambitious goals.

On this subject Giselle writes that “few business students or faculty have heard of these but, due to their increasing influence over business practice, should be more widely discussed in business education.”

100. A change in language

I really enjoyed this point as I am very passionate about language and its ability to shape perceptions.

Giselle writes that “for many students, ‘sustainability’ and ‘business’ are two completely different concepts.”

What you need to know

This book review looked into The Future MBA by Giselle Weybrecht.

This book proved to be an interesting and impressive read even as someone who has not sat through a business education course.

I found the ideas within the book to be relevant for other university degree courses and society more broadly.

I would definitely recommend this book.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be changed about university education to improve sustainability?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

THE ART OF PLAIN TALK – RUDOLF FLESCH

This book review looks into The Art of Plain Talk by Rudolf Flesch.  Sometimes books grab you. Sometimes you come across the right book at the right time and it moves you. My experience of reading this 1946 work by Rudolf Flesch was one of those moments.

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Introduction

Rudolf Flesch was born in Austria but moved to America and later became a citizen of that country. His life’s work revolved around being a readability expert, a writing consultant and an author. He was a vigorous proponent of plain English and this alongside his readability tests is what he is best known for.

As has happened on many occasions I believe I was directed to this book by a David Ogilvy memo. The ability to write clearly so that the masses understand is a skill that is needed by everyone, not just advertisers.

About the Book

The book begins in wonderfully simple language and continues from there.

This is a book on plain talk. It tells you how to speak and write so that people understand what you mean.”

The first section that grabbed me was the section on sentences. There was a particularly good line that I will copy in full below.

You may wonder why you find so many long sentences in books, magazines, and newspapers. The explanation, to the best of my knowledge, is simply that those sentences are written, not to make it easy for the reader, but to ensnare him like a fly on flypaper, or buttonhole him to attention.”

As someone who has always naturally gravitated towards short sentences this line pleased me. But I think is speaks to a broader importance to make sure that when you write, you write to educate and inspire people, not to confuse them.

Also, in the sentences section there was a breakdown of sentence length and how easy various sentence lengths are to read. It goes as follows.

  • Very easy 8 or less
  • Easy 11
  • Fairly Easy 14
  • Standard 17
  • Fairly Difficult 21
  • Difficult 25
  • Very Difficult 29 or more

This sort of information is really important, because it allows writers to pitch their work to the correct audience. There is nothing wrong with a sentence length of 25 or more. But it is important to realise that this will be more difficult to read because of this. It is also true to say that if you are pitching your work at a mass audience that a sentence length of 17 or less is advised.

The next section that really grabbed me was the section on short cuts. I had always preferred a short and concise style of writing myself, but I found this chapter particularly stirring.

Flesch had an excellent paragraph where he succinctly gets to the bottom of what plain talk is and how brevity helps to get there.

Plain and simple speech appeals to everyone because it indicates clear thought and honest motives. Here is the point: Anyone who is thinking clearly and honestly can express his thoughts in words which are understandable, and in very few of them. Let’s write for the reader and not for ourselves. Make the writing do what it is intended to do.

There was one line in particular which stood out to me and it was on why some writers would fail to heed this advice.

What is it that brings on this long-winded, heartbreaking wordiness? I have a hunch that a writer, feeling defeated in advance, gets lengthy and vague in self-defence. Then, if defeat comes, he can ascribe it to the ignorance of the people addressed.”

It is important not to give up before you have even begun. By writing in plain English you can reach more people and win more people over to your way of thinking.

Towards the end of the paragraph on short cuts Flesch makes one of his boldest statements that: “our present language must be rescued from the curse of confusion.”

What you need to know

This book review looked into The Art of Plain Talk by Rudolf Flesch. For me, this is one of the best books on writing that I have ever come across.

It includes many different ways writers can produce work in plain English. Mastering the art of plain talk necessitates doing more of some things and less of others. Short sentences and short words are the order of the day.

There is no shame in writing for mass audiences. If you are writing about something which you are passionate about you should want to reach and touch as many people as possible with your work.

I have never done this before, but it does seem fitting. My words per sentence for this article was 16.2 and my Flesch Kincaid Grade Level was 7.3.

It is easy to make things complicated, it takes greater skill to make things simple and easy to understand.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of the importance of simple English?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

2017 A YEAR IN LITERATURE

This article looks into and provides comment on all of the books I read in 2017. It begins in January and runs chronologically until the end of December 2017.

book pile

1.     Peter Senge – The Necessary Revolution

2017 got off to a great start with this book. I was first nudged towards reading Peter Senge books because of a video series created by Jennifer Woofter, who recommended another Peter Senge book The Fifth Discipline. Peter Senge delivers a brilliantly well written and instructive offering with The Necessary Revolution. Definitely a must read.

2.   David Ogilvy – The Unpublished David Ogilvy

There has been many times in my life where I have picked up and read books purely on the basis of their cover. So I am afraid that I just don’t agree with the saying that you should never judge a book by its cover. In 2016, I picked up and read Ogilvy on Advertising and immediately I was enthralled by David Ogilvy’s wit, charm and business acumen. The Unpublished David Ogilvy is an excellent book and includes lots of notes, memos and letters that shed light on this great man’s life. It is also packed full of life and business advice, so I would recommend buying rather than renting a copy, as if you are like me you will find yourself returning to it frequently.

3.   Joel Raphaelson and Kenneth Roman – Writing That Works

This was a book that I picked up from a David Ogilvy memo titled How To Write. His first point of a 10 point memo was: “Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.” That recommendation was definitely enough to persuade me. There is great advice in here on how to write everything from business letters to memos. This is definitely a useful book to have in your house.

4.   James Lovelock – The Revenge of Gaia

Full disclosure, I am an enormous James Lovelock fan. Unsurprisingly then, I really enjoyed this book. I was particularly moved by the chapter “A personal View of Environmentalism.” James Lovelock’s books should be a staple on anyone who works in sustainability or environmental management’s book shelves.

5.    Tim Marshall – Worth Dying For

Who would have ever though that a book on flags would be interesting? Well Tim Marshall obviously did and the end product is remarkable. I was a huge fan of another Tim Marshall book Prisoners of Geography and I also really enjoyed Worth Dying For. The power and politics which lies behind national flags is exceptionally interesting if at times totally irrational. There is lots of information in here that helps you to understand the modern world.

6.   John Elkington and Jochen Zeitz – The Breakthrough Challenge

I personally found this to be one of the most fist pumpingly excellent books on sustainability that I have ever read. This is part management book, part sustainability treatise and part motivational keynote speech. This book will have you flipping and turning pages until you get to the end. Definitely a must read.

7.    Andy Maslen – The Copywriting Sourcebook

This is another book that I bought in a charity shop based purely off of the title and the cover. This book is a great reference tool for all different types of content writing. There is lots of good advice in here for headlines, emails, articles and websites. You don’t have to read it all in one go, although I prefer to read books that way. But I highly recommend that you source a copy of this book to dip into when you need help getting words down on paper.

8.   John Elkington and Peter Knight -The Green Business Guide

This book provided the biggest surprise of all in 2017. I assumed that a business guide produced in 1992 would be interesting, but that by 2017 lots of the information contained within it would be out of date. I was shocked to find this book pressingly relevant as I read it. This should really not have been any surprise as John Elkington is one of my all-time favourite authors and Peter Knight co-founded the always impressive Context sustainability consultancy. If you can get hold of a copy, I definitely recommend this book.

9.   Robert Cialdini – Pre-Suasion

I bought Pre-Suasion as soon as it came out because I am a huge fan of Cialdini’s other work Influence, which is a classic amongst sales and marketing professionals. I really liked the content of his latest book and I would definitely recommend all of Robert Cialdini’s work to anyone working in sustainability or environmental management. Being able to influence is a skill. This is a particularly important skill in a field like sustainability where you need to effect change in areas where people may feel that change is not needed. Pre-Suasion was very interesting in highlighting why some people are able to persuade where others are not.

10.  Giselle Weybrecht  – The Sustainable MBA

I really enjoyed this book. It is certainly a tour de force coming in at almost 500 pages. The attention to detail is simply phenomenal. Whether you know a lot about sustainability or you would like to know more, this is an excellent guide to help make your organisation more sustainable.

11.  David Holmgren – Future Scenarios

I first became interested in permaculture whilst studying at the University of Leeds and the Permaculture Association national office is also based in Leeds. David Holmgren who is the co-originator of the permaculture concept has written a really approachable guide on how communities can adapt to peak oil and climate change with this offering.

12.  Malcom Gladwell – Outliers

I was introduced to Malcom Gladwell’s work by way of recommendation. It did not disappoint. His writing style and his way of writing non-fiction with such stunning prose was really impressive. I was immediately converted to being a fan of his after reading this classic.

13.  Michael Braungart and William McDonough – Cradle to Cradle

This book contains within it many powerful insights that are necessary in order to build a better world. Even the production value of the book is highlighted as having been undertaken to the highest levels of sustainability possible. It is a regular bugbear of mine when books on sustainability are printed in an ostentatious manner and not on FSC or PEFC certified paper. We need to create a more circular economy and this book contains within it the ideas to make that happen. Definitely a must read.

14.  Paul Hawken – The Ecology Of Commerce

I had heard a great deal about this book before reading it. I had heard it was responsible for converting Ray Anderson of Interface and countless others to join the sustainability cause. The content and the writing style are simply phenomenal. The message is also critically important. Businesses are the only institutions capable of destroying the planet and they are the only institutions capable of preventing that destruction.

 

15.  Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein – Nudge

This was a great book and after reading it, I could see why Richard Thaler would win the Nobel Prize for Economics later in the year. There is a powerful section in the book on how you can nudge people towards more sustainable behaviours which I found very interesting. I definitely think there is a lot that sustainability could learn from the behavioural economics.

16.  Bertrand Russell – The Problems of Philosophy

I found this to be a very interesting if quite challenging read. But I guess that is why I find myself coming back to Bertrand Russell’s huge catalogue time and time again because he challenges you to think differently.

 

17. Andrew Savitz – The Triple Bottom Line

I had a very enjoyable time reading this book. The strapline that accompanies it is: “how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social, and environmental success — and how you can too.” This book does exactly what it sets out to do. It is full of useful and helpful examples of sustainability in action. As a side note, there is always something that I like about books which are written by authors who have spent a long time in consulting. The writing is always crisp and to the point.

18. Tim Smit – Eden

This book was simply phenomenal. I saw Tim deliver a keynote speech in November 2016 and that prompted me to buy his book in 2017. In creating The Eden Project, he has reframed what is possible. The key takeaway from the book is that you only get one life, you only get once chance. Dream big, dream bold and try and make great things happen during your short stay on planet earth. Definitely a must read.

19. Seth Godin – Tribes

I had listened to Seth Godin audiobooks before, but this was the first physical book of his that I read. I thought it was really interesting, I loved the writing style and I was immediately converted to a super fan of his. It crystallised my belief that creating average products for average people is no longer a winning strategy. Rather, because of the internet you can now target far more niche audiences who will love rather than just like your product or service.

20.  John Elkington and Julia Hailes – The Green Consumer Guide

I read the original 1988 version and I thought it was full of useful information to make shopping habits more sustainable. I will look to read the 2007 updated edition in 2018, but even that was released in 2007 so perhaps a second update is required from John Elkington and Julia Hailes.

21. George Marshall – Don’t Even Think About It

This was a book that I picked up because of a recommendation by Tim Smit in his keynote speech that I mentioned about previously.

cover

This book contains within it some powerful insights on why there are many psychological barriers preventing us from tackling climate change appropriately. I was so moved by reading this book that I was motivated to produce my very first book review, which you can find by clicking the link below.

DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT – GEORGE MARSHALL

Overall, this is a fantastic book that sets out information on a key problem and finishes solutions to how we can solve that problem. Definitely a must read.

22. John Elkington – A Year In The Greenhouse

This was another book that I read this year that I did not have the highest expectations of that ended up blowing me away. It was great to be able to spend a year looking over John’s shoulder in 1989, which was a critical year for the environment. I was impressed with the amount of work that John packs into each working day. His work ethic is truly remarkable.

23. Alan Andreasen  – Marketing Social Change

For me, this book provided the biggest disappointment of 2017. I was drawn in by the strapline of: “changing behaviour to promote health, social development, and the environment.” But I thought that the writing style was not particularly captivating and I finished reading it without many key takeaways or principles to keep hold of.

24. Jack Beatty – The World According to Peter Drucker

I love Peter Drucker so I was pleased when I came across this book on him. It did not disappoint at all. Peter Drucker has a great management philosophy that all businesses should use and internalise in order to be successful.

25. Bob Willard – The Sustainability Advantage

This book was another highlight of 2017. I did not have sky high expectations, but I did know that Bob had worked at IBM and was well thought of in the sustainability community. I was seriously impressed by Bob’s ability to quantify the business case for sustainability. You can tell Bob is a numbers guy and the quantitative work that has gone into this was simply incredible. Money talks and if you want to influence influential diction makers it is imperative that you go in armed with facts and figures.

Too often in sustainability we think that doing the right thing will be enough. But Bob has really done a fantastic thing with this book and the accompanying online resources to help organisations quantify the business benefits of sustainability. There is an updated version which I look forward to reading in 2018.

26. Malcom Gladwell – Blink

I bought this because of a keynote speech that I saw delivered online by Patrick Schwerdtfeger. Again, I was amazed by Malcom Gladwell’s writing style and I found the insights and presentation of information in this book really interesting.

27. John Elkington with Tom Burke – The Green Capitalists

This was another exceptionally well written book by John Elkington. For me, the main takeaway was what I learned about the oil and gas supermajors and the environmental experts that they hire to help make their operations more sustainable. That being said, I do still believe there is a flaw in their business model and unless they make a 180 degree turn they still have to be considered as a threat. This book was published in 1987 and the core business operations of these companies are still rooted in the extraction and sale of petroleum products.

28.  David Grayson and Adrian Hodges – Everybody’s Business

This book was one I picked up because of a recommendation that I saw in Steve Hilton’s More Human which is one of my all-time favourites. This is definitely a powerful book on corporate responsibility and how it will shape expectations of businesses in the 21st century.

29.  Judi Marshall, Gill Coleman and Peter Reason – Leadership for Sustainability

This was a book that I picked up from a charity shop based purely off of the title. It provides a very interesting insight into the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice that they run at the University of Bath. I really enjoyed the chapters that were written by alumni of the course and how they are putting the principles they learned on the course into practice in the real world. More universities should produce books like this.

30.  Steve Keen – Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis

book cover

I really liked Steve Keen’s other work Debunking Economics so I was pleased when I saw that Steve Keen was producing another book for 2017.I was really impressed by this work and for a more thorough review, please click the link below as I produced a full book review with my thoughts.

CAN WE AVOID ANOTHER FINANCIAL CRISIS – STEVE KEEN

31. George Friedman – The Next 100 years

I have been a fan of George Friedman’s political forecasting company Stratfor for some time. They put out a lot of free content in audio, video and written formats and they have a tendency to be right. This was the first George Friedman book that I read and I was really impressed with the writing style. His vision for the future is captivating and it definitely made for an interesting read.

32.  Gary Firth – Salt and Saltaire

sir titus salt mayor of bradford.  nov. 1848 - nov. 1849

I was first introduced to Titus Salt and his utopian model village whilst studying at the University of Leeds. This was a book that I bought at the gift shop at Saltire and that I read whilst preparing for a project that I did on the area. I re-read the book in 2017 as I prepared for an article that I did looking at corporate responsibility through the lens of the life and work of Titus Salt. You can find out more about this article by clicking the link below.

CAPITALISM LIKE YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE

This is a great book and it provides you with everything you need to know about the legend of Titus Salt.

33. Malcom Gladwell – The Tipping Point

Discovering Malcom Gladwell was a big highlight of 2017 for me. I thought the content of this book was really important for sustainability professionals and anyone who wants to make change happen. The writing style is phenomenal as Malcom weaves a story together out of a number of narratives. This is definitely a must read.

34. George Friedman – Flashpoints

This was another George Friedman book that I read because of how much I enjoyed The Next 100 Years. The content of this book is focussed on Europe. I really enjoyed reading the perspectives contained within this book and I would definitely recommend it.

35. Paul Hawken – Drawdown

cover

I was really excited when I saw the news that Paul Hawken was editing a new book on solutions to climate change. I bought this as soon as it came out and it was every bit as impressive as I expected it to be. The detail is incredible and these solutions are important if climate change is going to be tackled sufficiently. I was so impressed that I produced a full book review which you can read by clicking the link below.

DRAWDOWN EDITED BY PAUL HAWKEN

 

36.  Frank Westell and Simon Martin – The Cyclist’s Body Book

I love cycling. But during 2017 I felt that the mileage I was undertaking was beginning to take its toll on my body. I decided to invest in this book and I was very pleased with its content. There is lots of good advice in here for pre and post workout stretches, nutrition and everything else you need to know to keep you moving on two wheels.

37.  Niccolò Machiavelli – The Prince

This book provided a big surprise in 2017. I saw it recommended on a best business book list on LinkedIn so I decided to buy and read it. I was really impressed with the content and I can see why it is a classic that has survived for so long. Perhaps sustainability needs a more Machiavellian streak if it is to breakthrough?

38.  John Elkington – The Chrysalis Economy

This was another excellent John Elkington book that I read in 2017. The content was really good with lots of great examples of how companies can develop a recognised position on sustainability even if they have not historically excelled in this area. This is something I think is really important as globally we all move at the pace of the slowest mover. It is great to have sustainability leaders, but we need to ensure there is a pathway for sustainability laggards to become the sustainability leaders of tomorrow.

39.  Mitch Meyerson – Success Secrets of the Social Media Marketing Superstars

I read this book in advance of a talk that I was giving on social media. You can always learn something new by reading a book and there was lots of great advice in here. Whether you are a solo entrepreneur, a blogger or a business owner, the online world is a great place to market yourself and to develop leads. This book is full of advice on how to do that.

40.  Bertrand Russell – What I Believe

I really enjoyed this book by Bertrand Russell. It provides the sort of guidance that you would expect from an esteemed philosopher of his calibre. I would definitely recommend getting hold of a copy and reading this book.

41.  David Holmgren – Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability

permaculture

I read this book whilst at university and the content really struck me. I am always impressed by the vision of a sustainable future that you get from permaculture activists. Sometimes I can be disappointed by the modern sustainability movement, so I read this book to reenergise myself. Reading this book provided the inspiration for two articles, the links for which can be found below.

PERMACULTURE & SUSTAINABILITY

A BIGGER VISION FOR SUSTAINABILITY

 

42.  Geert Mak – Amsterdam

I was gifted this book as a present and I did not read it for some time. I was visiting Amsterdam in November and I took this book to read on the train there and back. I found it to be enormously interesting and I finished reading it with even more of an admiration for the city than I did before I started it. What struck me was the distinct personality that Amsterdamers have and that cities, whilst often thought of as being about buildings and infrastructure are really about the people that live there. They are what make cities special.

43.  WCED – Our Common Future

Our_Common_Future_book_cover

In 2017 I decided to read Our Common Future, which was prepared by the World Commission on Environment and Development as I realised that I had only read extracts of the book and not the whole thing from cover to cover. This is an enormously important book and I had an enjoyable time reading it. I enjoyed it so much that I created a 4 part book review which you can find links for below.

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 1

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 2

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 3

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 4

 

44.  Seth Godin – The Dip

I thought that this Seth Godin book was great. It contained some powerful insights into why some people fail and other succeed.

45.  Seth Godin – We are all Weird

I am a big fan of Seth Godin and I had an enjoyable time reading this book. Seth Godin hammers home his consistent message about how the game has changed and that marketers politicians and anyone else looking to influence should target a niche audience and not the general masses.

46. John Elkington and Julia Hailes – Holidays That Don’t Cost the Earth

This was the last John Elkington book that I read in 2017. I had a great time working my way through his back catalogue this year. I read this before going on holiday and I did think the book contained a lot of useful information to help people plan holidays that take less from the earth socially and environmentally. As with some of the other guides, this was published in 1992 and I think that a modern update would be a good thing.

47.  Hunter S Thompson – The Great Shark Hunt

I read this whilst on holiday and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time reading it.

hunter s thompson

I have read a lot of Hunter S Thompson books and thought I knew quite a bit about him but this book was full of information about him that I did not know before. I would not recommend it as the first book of his to read, but for anyone looking for an interesting read that has read a few of his books, this is an absolute page turner.

As a side note, one of the main reasons that I became interested in reading books and eventually writing was because of Hunter S Thompson. One quotation of his was stuck in my mind throughout reading this book, it was his line about his companion Oscar Zeta Acosta being “Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

Whilst the film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has done much to popularise Hunter S Thompson and his cult alias Raoul Duke. At bottom, he remains in my opinion one of the greatest writers of all time.

48. Rolf Potts – Vagabonding

I bought this book for my holiday after I saw it recommended by Tim Ferris. It was really enjoyable and for anyone who has never been travelling I would definitely recommend you get a copy of this book and then start planning your first adventure. Or for even the seasoned traveler this book has lots of great insights into how you can have a memorable trip.

49. William Burroughs – Naked Lunch

This was another book that I read whilst on holiday. I had heard it was a cult classic and so I had high expectations. My preconceptions of what the book would be like were totally shattered after the first ten pages. The book is simply stunning with the imagination shown by William Burroughs being simply incredible. I can now see why this book has carved out its own place in history as a literary classic.

50.  Bertrand Russell – Icarus

This was the last book that I read in 2017. It was another by Bertrand Russell who I turn to for guidance and inspiration. This book contains some powerful information and I definitely recommend it to anyone.

What you need to know

This article looked into and provided comment on all of the books I read in 2017. It began in January and ran chronologically until the end of December 2017.

I had a really enjoyable time picking out and selecting the books that I read in 2017. I was very lucky in that they almost all turned out to be brilliant.

Reading is something that has helped me enormously in life and I definitely recommend that everyone tries to read at least one book a week.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. What books did you read and enjoy in 2017?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 4

This article is the last in a series of articles which look into the 1987 report Our Common Future, prepared by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED).

Our_Common_Future_book_cover

For more information on parts 1 & 2, please visit the link below.

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 1

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 2

This article focusses of the final part of the report called Common Endeavours.

Managing the commons

Managing the commons begins with the brilliant realisation that: “traditional forms of national sovereignty are increasingly challenged by the realities of ecological and economic independence.

Within this chapter there is a stunning piece on Antarctica. The authors include their vision that: “Antarctica has been an agreed zone of peace for nearly 30 years, free of all military activities, nuclear tests, and radioactive wastes. This is a foundation on which humanity must build.” When put in that context, the success of Antarctica’s common management is truly remarkable.

Peace, Security, Development and the Environment

The next chapter on peace and security begins with the stark viewpoint that: “among the dangers facing the environment, the possibility of nuclear war, or military conflict of a lesser scale involving weapons of mass destruction, is undoubtedly the gravest.” It is ironic that 30 years on from its publication, we find ourselves trapped in another game of nuclear brinkmanship.

This chapter was one of my personal favourites, especially the sub chapter The Costs of the ‘Arms Culture,’ which was stunningly well written.

This sub-chapter began with the words that: “the absence of war is not peach, nor does it necessarily provide the conditions for sustainable development.”

This chapter also included a quotation from President Eisenhower from the end of his term in office, which I had not seen before but that I thought was brilliant. I will include it in full below.

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed”

Shortly after, the authors include a line of their own, which reads: “The true cost of the arms race is the loss of what could have been produced instead with scarce capital, labour skills, and raw materials.” The authors raise an interesting viewpoint.

Towards Common Action

This chapter begins with what I believe to be my favourite line of the entire book.

“In the middle of the 20th century, we saw our planet from space for the first time. Historians may eventually find that this vision had a greater impact on thought than did the Copernican revolution of the 16th century.”

I thought the quotation was marvellous and it is perhaps one of my all-time favourites.

On the next page, the authors include a message about how they want the book to be used. It reads: “We have tried to point some pathways to the future. But there is no substitute for the journey itself, and there is no alternative to the process by which we retain a capacity to the experience it provides.”

Later on, there is an unfortunate example about how the report’s vision has gone unmet. The authors state that: “environmental protection and sustainable development must be an integral part of the mandates of all agencies of governments, of international organisations, and of major private-sector institutions.” This is something which has clearly not happened, and sustainability and environmental management have become silos of their own. We can only hope this is something that the Sustainable Development Goals can address.

Later on, the report brings the reader to grips with reality, with the statement that: “the transition to sustainable development will require a range of public policy choices that are inherently complex and politically difficult.

The book closes with a sub-chapter called A Call For Action. They include a well written statement that: “to keep options open for future generations, the present generation must begin now, and begin together, nationally and internationally.” In the end, this is what sustainability is all about.

What you need to know

Our Common Future was a report published by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 at the behest of the UN General Assembly.

This article dealt with the chapters that make up the part of the book titled Common Endeavours.

There are not many books which have impacted the trajectory of mankind in the way that Our Common Future has. The key takeaway, is will we build on the bold vision for a sustainable future that the authors set out in 1987 or will we let the challenge of creating a more sustainable form of development pass like a ship in the night? This is the challenge that lies ahead.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. What do you think about Our Common Future, how has the book impacted you?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 3

This article is the third in a series of articles which look into the 1987 report Our Common Future, prepared by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED).

Our_Common_Future_book_cover

For more information on parts 1 & 2 please visit the links below.

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 1

OUR COMMON FUTURE +30 PART 2

This article focusses of the part of the report called Common Challenges.

Population and Human Resources

I personally felt that this was perhaps the most instructive chapter in the entire book.

There was a brilliant point that: “Almost any activity that increases well-being and security lessens people’s desires to have more children than they and national ecosystems can support.”

There was also a very interesting point about education. It is in full below.

Environmental education should be included in and should run throughout the other disciplines of the formal education curriculum at all levels – to foster a sense of responsibility for the state of the environment and to teach students how to monitor, protect, and improve it.

This is quite a vision put forward by the report’s authors; we have a long way to go to make this a reality.

Food Security: Sustaining the Potential

This chapter had a lot of cold and uncomfortable truths about industrial farming and the industrial scale of subsidies that support this industry.

The authors begin with the following situation below.

It has become politically more attractive, and usually cheaper, to export surpluses – often as food aid – rather than to store them. These heavily subsidised surpluses depress the international market prices of commodities such as sugar and have created severe problems for several developing countries whose economies are based on agriculture. Non-emergency food aid and low-priced imports also keep down prices received by Third World farmers and reduce the incentive to improve domestic food production.

They make it clear that: “it is in the interests of all, including the farmers, that the policies be changed.

Species and Ecosystems: Resources for Development

This chapter contains a poignant reminder of the importance of biodiversity with the statement that: “it would be grim irony indeed if just as new genetic engineering techniques begin to let us peer into life’s diversity and use genes more effectively to better the human condition, we looked and found this treasure sadly depleted.”

Energy: Choices for Environment and Development

This chapter has a particularly interesting sub-chapter on reducing urban industrial air pollution. This is a problem we have known about for 30 years and failed to act appropriately.

There was also a very interesting sub-chapter on wood fuel. The authors made the stunning rebuke that: “forestry must enlarge its horizons: beyond trees – to the people who just exploit them.” This is something I certainly agree with.

There was also a very enlightening sub-chapter on energy conservation, where the authors make the bold suggestion that: “within the next 50 years, nations have the opportunity to produce the same levels of energy-services with as little as half the primary supply currently consumed.

Industry Producing More With Less

The chapter begins with the pro-business statement that: “Industry is central to the economies of modern societies and an indispensable motor of growth.

The authors bring forward an ominous belief on the nature of pollution with the statement that: “It is becoming increasingly clear that the sources and causes of pollution are far more diffuse, complex and interrelated – and the effects of pollution more widespread, cumulative, and chronic – than hitherto believed.” Achieving sustainable development is a complex task.

The Urban Challenge

This chapter begins with the prediction that: “by the turn of the century, almost half the world will live in urban areas – from small towns to huge megacities.”

Later on in the chapter, they link this prediction back to the challenge of sustainable development. The authors belief is that: “the future will be predominantly urban, and the most immediate environmental concerns of most people will be urban ones.

What you need to know

Our Common Future was a report published by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 at the behest of the UN General Assembly.

This article dealt with the chapters that make up the part of the book titled Common Challenges.

A Subsequent article will deal with the final part of the book, Common Endeavours.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. What do you think about Our Common Future, how has the book impacted you?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby