History: Congress Summary 2004

Summary of the 10th Anniversary World congress on Zero Emissions

Tokyo, 15-17 September 2004

The 10th Anniversary World Congress on Zero Emissions was held in Tokyo, Japan as a collaborative effort between the International ZERI Foundation, ZERI Japan, the Future 500 and E-Square Inc. and a team from ZERI Education Japan efficiently organized the secretariat.

The participants in the meeting, who participated by invitation only, came from Africa, Latin America, Europe, USA, Japan, India and China. The audience was most diverse, reflecting the broad appeal of the zero emissions concept. Policy makers, business leaders, students, NGOs as well as leading scientists shared the podium starting with reflections on how Zero Emissions got started, to where it should aim for in the years to come. The Japanese government reserved the great honor to broadly endorse the conference through the Ministries of Economics, Trade and Industry (METI); Environment, Foreign Affairs and the Education, Science, Culture and Sports. HE. Mr. Shoichi Nakagawa, the Minister of METI outlined in his introductory message that:

The revolutionary concept of "zero emissions," has great potential as one contribution to resolving social, economic and environmental challenges of the 21st century. There are rising expectations that the possible applications of zero emissions in society will increase as the concept is discussed more and more.

Prof. Dr. Carl-Goran Heden, author of the feasibility indicated that the biggest problem society is facing is the shortage of creativity. At a time when we have to rethink our way of life, especially in the wake of so much violence, he sees that Zero Emissions will be complemented over time with the concept of zero conflicts. This does not mean that there is no more conflict, but rather that conflicts are converted into dialogues, which will bring us to a better level of understanding. Prof. Dr. Heitor Gurgulino de Souza, former rector of the UNU (1987-1997) highlighted the key importance of educational initiatives and requested the ZERI Foundation to reserve time and effort to start inspiring the young at a very early age.

The Chinese delegation, headed by Prof. Dr. Li Wenhua, Member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the organizer of the first workshop on integrated biosystems in Beijing a decade ago, brought the latest Chinese edition of the UpSizing book, and offered a broad cooperation to implement the latest project concepts in the Southern Provinces. Mr. Kay Nishi, a leading Internet entrepreneur had undertaken a Google search on ZERI, the acronym of zero emissions research and initiatives and found approximately 120,000 references in English only. He concluded that zero emissions has already become more popular and broadly known than perhaps imagined by the initiators themselves.

The morning session brought the presentation by Paolo Lugari who argued that the world is not facing any shortage in energy. He very much joined the line of thought of Heden that there is a lack of creativity, especially creativity to use the wealth of the tropics. He presented his new biodiesel plant in Bogotá. Lugari calculated that less than half a million HA of land is sufficient to make Colombia totally independent from fossil diesel fuels. He insisted that the age of monoculture is over and the multicultures driven by regenerated biodiversity will permit a region known as the "middle of nowhere" will be able to respond to the basic needs of millions who live in poverty today.

HE Carlos Gustavo Cano, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development made the first presentation by the Colombian Government of its decision to convert some 6.3 million HA of savannah back to the rainforest it once used to be. The Minister argued that Las Gaviotas made a dream come true, and that this permits all of us to dream again. Now that Las Gaviotas has succeeded in reforestating some 8,000 HA, there is solid scientific proof that this system works. The systems approach that prescribes that one addresses multiple agendas permits Colombia to respond to the basic needs of its people, while at the same time respond to the needs of the Earth, especially in terms of climate stabilization based on the Kyoto Protocol and Millennium Goals. The minister highlighted the need to move from research and pilot projects to mega projects and to continue with the scientific approach of trial and error. HE Shoichi Nakagawa immediately offered a meeting to the delegation at the congress in order to discuss collaborative schemes with Japan.

Dr. H. Fujimura, the chairman of UNU/ZEF and honorary chairman of EBARA outlined a broad range of engineering projects that are all inspired by zero emissions concept. Japan is translating the concept of clustering into practical schemes, and it is only the beginning. There is a need to undertake collaborative efforts amongst industries to succeed in this innovative approach. Håkan Ahlsten, banking director from Sweden, showed how a creative look at a carrot could change the economy on the island. He argued in favor a local economic development with what the ecosystem is generating. Whereas many had argued that there was no future for carrots, he demonstrated that a search for value added, using available technologies generates jobs. The driving force was his hope to create a living for his children. All energy needed for the project is generated through windmills. Francisco Fleck applied the same logic as Håkan Ahlsten did to the rice farming in Brazil. Starting from the available resources the project team succeeded in generating additional food, especially spirulina algae (Spirulina platensis), fish protein, and mushrooms. Brandon Pitcher, a young entrepreneur showed with a series of inner-city development projects that the same logic applied to agriculture could apply to construction engineering taking old buildings apart and secure on site the recovery of the valuable pieces into buildings which have an attractive look while being functional and reviving the city center. Finally Nirmala Nair, the president of ZERI Southern Africa showed how the same logic could be applied to ecoregions like the Coastal Zone of Africa. The selection of projects demonstrated that technology and economy couldn’t be separated from the social context and the ecosystem in which we operate. It is to be a guideline for the years to come.

The Rt. Hon. Anders Wijkman, member of the European Parliament, and member of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Sweden, outlined how the projects of zero emissions inspire policymaking. He is the reporter on the Integrated Product Policy, which will shape in the years to come the logic behind product design, process engineering and the integration of both into the social and ecological context in which we produce and consume. Anders insisted that zero emissions teams around the world maintain their dialogue with policy makers who need to see the concrete results of these innovative ideas. Dr. Ashok Khosla, founder and director of Development Alternatives, showed how his organization started from technologies based on physics and engineering and how the zero emissions concept can blend these core skills with biology and biochemistry. He urged the zero emissions teams to enter into dialogue with the engineers and motivate them to complement their skills with the wisdom of nature.

When the concept of Zero Emissions was first introduced, it only referred to the fact that waste of one becomes food for another. Over the years, this simple principle was further enhanced thanks to observations of natural systems and thanks to projects implemented throughout the ZERI networks. The four design principles are now evolving into five and over the years we can identify and recognize more principles that will become guidelines for human society. Janine Banyu’s argued that the human species is a recent arrival. Since it lacks the millions of years of co-evolutionary experience, it is bound to make mistakes and learn to "behave" in a symbiotic manner. She offered a broad review of how we can observe nature and find great ideas: how to use shape and form in our product design, how to use the recipes nature uses to assemble and disassemble and how nature has efficient systems that are capable of generating all that is needed. The three levels of biomimicry can serve as guidelines for achieving real systems of production and consumption.

Prof. Luigi Bistagnino proposed the creation of the Graduate School for Systems Design. Students have to have the opportunity to learn science in systems and then to design in systems. Their graduate thesis is an integration of all they learn and not an exercise in narrowing knowledge in a very limited area. The students Luca Bar and Louisa demonstrated their capacity to think differently about engineering challenges such as the construction of a tunnel or the recycling of aseptic packaging. Prof. Bistagnino believes that a three year program will offer such an enlightment to the students that this approach will become indispensable for the academic world. Once the first school is started in Torino, opening in September 2005 with the first graduates in May 2008, ZERI should make certain that other schools are established in a network.

The research and development, and the related engineering in traditional and mature businesses such as road construction and construction engineering have a new renaissance using the systems approach. Mr. H Hosokawa, former vice-minister of METI and president of Green-ARM outlined how a new standard for asphalt, making it porous and 100% recyclable permits the redesign of all equipment and thus also the replacement of inefficient equipment, the elimination of landfills and the improvement of road safety. This project, in cooperation with ANAS, the Italian road and Freeway Company from Italy, aims at redefining the business, making it an icon of modern industrialization, reducing and in some cases eliminating the adverse effects.

In the message of Mr. Vincenzo Pozzi, the president of ANAS, the cooperation went from local on the basis of local needs and local ecosystems to global in search for new standards for the market. It was agreed that if Europe and Japan were to agree on the basis of scientific research on a new standard for asphalt, that this standard would be adopted in no time by the rest of the world. But Mr. Pozzi went beyond the mere road cover, he also felt that road construction engineering needs to think beyond the mere functional role of a road, tunnel or bridge. That is why he announced three major construction engineering programs that will demonstrate the opportunity and the need to combine science, technology, engineering, environmental, societal and business needs. The creation of a bridge over the Arno River in Florence which will be embedded into the Tuscan Hills, the digging of a new tunnel connecting the mainland with Venice and the redesign of the freeway in Calabria through the Iron Age archeological zone of Italy demonstrates that if the will is there, the systems approach can be implemented.

The demonstration of so many projects, and the science supporting these innovations lead to the creation of new economic axioms. These are slowly becoming guiding principles for innovators who create new business models that are able to respond to the needs of all, including the needs of the ecosystem and other species. This new approach was amply demonstrated by Prof. Shirai of the Science University of Kyoto where plastics are manufactured through a fermentation process with mushroom enzymes converting the starch in kitchen waste into plastics for business or packaging needs. The same logic is applied to the production of ink and color pigments from squid ink, the making of fibers from crab shells. The combination of all this allows to imagine a revolutionary approach to textiles: it is functional, beautiful, has a good feeling, and is competitive. This is the next business model that goes out of the box.

While a detailed report is being prepared on both the conference, its speakers and the content of their experience and suggestions, this all serves as an input to the design of an agenda for the next 10 years.

For more information please feel free to contact: info@zeri.org


  2. December 15, 2004 - Presentation of the ZERI vision for the next 10 years

  3. September 16-17, 2004 - ZERI 10th Anniversary World Congress at UNU International Conference Hall, Congress, Tokyo. Click here for a summary

  4. July 2000 - ZERI at World EXPO in Hannover, Germany.

  5. 1994-2004

  6. Development of extensive network of scientists, businesspeople, bureaucrats, and educators

  7. Implementation of dozens of projects worldwide

  8. Development of the ZERI fairytales and education initiative worldwide

  9. Refinement of the theory and practice of ZERI concepts

  10. April 6, 1994 - Creation of the Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives by Gunter Pauli under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Heitor Gurgulino de Souza, then Rector of the UNU, in response to the need to translate ideas, visions and scientific knowledge into concrete projects.


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