Tribute well deserved

To HomepageIn our hectic daily lives, we get caught up in the priorities of the day, meeting deadlines, arguing with bosses or colleagues, just trying to cope.  One day this week offered a wonderful opportunity to leave all that aside to listen and to think, and in a rare treat, to reflect along with many of the world’s energy and ecology giants.

The event was a tribute to Robert U Ayres. Even if you haven’t heard of him – and you can find out quickly by doing a Google search on his many achievements and intellectual collaborations – you have undoubtedly been influenced by him. And if you haven’t, you should be.

Professor Ayres is Emeritus Professor of Economics and Political Science and Technology Management at the INSEAD business school in Fontainebleau, France. He became the first Novartis Chair of Management and the Environment, as well as the founder of the Centre for the Management of Environmental Resources.  With a PhD in Mathematical Physics, Bob is an unusually eminent scientist for the faculty of a business school and had an outstanding career before joining INSEAD. He has been a “thought leader” for decades, as was obvious at the event this week.

The inter-weaving of the scientific, economic and social sciences was a theme throughout the day.  Under his intellectual guidance, everything is challenged:  the enigma of economic growth, decoupling growth from resource use, peak oil, the true cost of power generation, whether the “invisible hand” does create wealth, whether greed is good, whether energy is a factor of production, challenging neo-classical theories on whether the productivity of energy is much greater than its cost share, challenging economists who link productivity with access to labour and capital, and whether there really is more involved (e.g. useful energy or food), exergy (useful energy) efficiency instead of energy efficiency, dematerialisation, whether growth is needed for job creation, etc., etc.  The list of topics from the discussions seemed endless.

Participants agreed on the need to engage the wider public on issues of economics, energy, society and politics.  There is a need to get the academic community more involved, and for society as a whole to have a deeper understanding that is more complex than today’s superficial view of resource use. How we use and waste resources simply cannot continue.  Whether we are at the point of peak oil or near the tipping point on climate change, we need new thinking, new and more sophisticated economic models and the willingness to push the boundaries of thought and action.

Bob Ayres helps us all to think, and is a true and valuable inspiration to us all.

If and when INSEAD puts the papers on a website, EiD will keep you informed.

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