Defy the rules and change the world

“Don’t accept no for an answer. Defy the rules! It’s the only way we’re going to make the change.” This was the opening statement by Prof Gunter Pauli, Blue Economy  entrepreneur from Belgium, who …


I may be biased, and certainly I am, but I can tell you:

Gunter Pauli is the only one that I know of that has dared to espouse disruptive thinking and acting, proving the value of his ideas.


It all started with editing "Steering Business Toward Sustainability" with Fritjof Capra, in 1995, where both stated in their joint introduction:

"The Company of the 21rst century will have different responsibilities to assume in society from those generally accepted today … Industry will endanger its own future if it does NOT take this Route … The companies which achieve it will be the winners, while those that neglect it will be" the dinosaurs of tomorrow"


This book was followed in 1998 by "Upsizing, The Road to Zero Emissions: More Jobs, More Income and NO POLLUTION. The introduction expressed his vision and his challenge very clearly:

"I concluded that i could only be a real pioneer if I found a way of using all the biomass, not just 5% of immediate interest my industry, but also the 95% waste, which, as I later found outr, is in fact, not waste at all, and therefore should not have been discarded"

The ideas of ZERI (Zeri Emissions Research and Initiatives" were developed in this book.


The last book for adults (for the moment) came out in 2010, as a Report to the Club of Rome, with the title  "The Blue Economy: 10 years, 100 Innovations, 100 million jobs. This book described at least 30 cases where the ideas in Upsizing and ZERI were proven, beyond imagination.

With this proof that his ideas were realizable, Gunter concluded:

" … A new economic model that is not only capable of responding to the needs of all but converts the artificial construct called "scarcity" into a sense of sufficiency and even abundance…

And he added,

"While the waste of material resources exemplified by modern landfills and incinerators is to be deplored, the waste of human resources is absolutely unacceptable. When the numbers of unemployed youth oscillate between 25% in industrialized countries and over 50% in the developing world, it is easy to imagine what it means to our global society if its leaders consider the next generation useless – or even worse, if the young and disadvantaged consider themselves useless. It is indicative of a system in severe decline, a society in extreme crisis, underscored by mounting statistics of violence, criminality, terrorism, drug abuse, illegal immigration, relinquished education, and the deplorable treatment of populations or communities already at-risk or underserved"


When I see what Gunter has allowed to be achieved, 180 projects today, on all continents, I don’t think I am biased.

Certainly not when I look at it knowing the fierce opposition Gunter has been facing. Nicolo Machiavelly could have written to Gunter, instead of writing to his Prince, when he warned:

"It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them."


Gunter never fears his enemies, never cares about the coolness of people who did well due to his action and has no attention for the incredulity of men who remain struck in old thinking and doing…


He rather follows the path Goethe traced:

“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way."

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it”


Yes Gunter is an Entrepreneur, a doer, a man driven by pragmatism.

It is wonderful to work with him, I am so privileged. I know what drives him. It is fantasy, freedom,  passion, and deep sense of respect for people. Above all though a concern for the future of the children to whom we will pass on this World.


Let me end on the theme of ETHICS.

Without Ethics no Blue Economy, no GOOD, it is thus central in Gunter’s and our network’s thinking and acting.


On this subject, let me issue here a "hommage" to one of the towering scientists who has so fundamentally influenced science (and spirituality) by allowing "The Unifying Vision of the Systems View of Life" to become the new paradigm for science.


We know from Einstein, that only new thinking can get us out of the problems we’ve created with the Cartesian/Newtonian fundamental theory of natural phenomena.


This towering scientist is Francesco Varela, the inventor, with Humberto Maturana, of the theory of autopoïesis as the answer to the question "What is Life".  


But my aim is to evoke here the three extraordinary lectures he gave in Bologna, in 1992, the transcript and translation of which were published by Stanford University Press is a booklet entitled  "Ethical Know-How – Action, Wisdom and Cognition"


His concluding remarks read as follows:

"My presentation is, more than anything, a plea for a re-enchantement of wisdom, understood as non-intentional action. This skillful approach to living is based on a pragmatics of transformation that demands nothing less than a moment-to-moment awareness of the virtual nature of our selves. In its full unfolding it opens up openness as authentic caring. These are radical ideas and strong measures for the troubled times we have at hand, and the even more troubled ones we are likely to have.."


I dedicate these words to my friend Gunter.

See on Scoop.itThe future of food health and agriculture


About charlesvanderhaegen

I am a grandfather of an immensely inspiring family, thanks to the most incredible wife. To satisfy my family's needs, I was for 30 years business entrepreneur, roller coasting between success and failure. 17 years ago I was forced to stop and reflect. I dug into theory and discovered the World out there, that my involvement in Business had kept hidden to me. I feared that I will not escape remaining amidst my trans-disciplinary quest forever, bouncing back and forth from action to theory, always puzzled by Europe's apparent incapacity to free itself from its Institutional/Technological Lock-ins. My horizon opened up when Gunter Pauly, my intimate friend of 35 years, asked me to join him and take charge ZERI's development in Europe. I am now fully engaged alongside Gunter Pauli in the and the @myblueeconomy Networks as CEO of ZERI.EU vzw (Non for Profit association)
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