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Adaptation – Lessons from Planet Vermes

plantvermes“’Oh, my goodness me!’ gasped Mr Wonka. ‘Oh, my sainted pants! Oh, my painted ants! Oh, my crawling cats! I hope never to see anything like that again!’ He floated over to the white button and pressed it. The booster-rockets fired. The Elevator shot forward at such a speed that soon the Space Hotel was out of sight far behind.”

I am not too sure how many of you remember who or what Mr Wonka is talking about here (although most of you are probably sitting there thinking where on Planet Vermes is this going?)? The answer to the former question is ‘VERMICIOUS KNIDS!’ And where I am going with this: Planet Earth.

But before I get there let’s stick with the Knids (you pronounce the ‘K’) for a little longer. The Knid, from the Planet Vermes (eighteen thousand four hundred and twenty-seven million miles away) “can turn itself into any shape it wants. It has no bones. Its body is really one huge muscle, enormously strong, but very stretchy and squishy, like a mixture of rubber and putty with steel wires inside. Normally it is egg-shaped, but it can just as easily give itself two legs like a human or four legs like a horse. It can become as round as a ball or as long as a kite-string. From fifty yards away, a fully grown Vermicious Knid could stretch out its neck and bite your head off without even getting up!”

Apart from biting people’s heads off – and we all know a few of those to whom we would like to introduce a nearby Vermicious Knid – they were good at adaptation. Actually, they were brilliant at it. They could change into almost anything in order to get what they needed to survive. They understood their current environment, adjusted to its changes and then came up with suitable adaptations which enabled them to thrive. Sounds fairly straightforward really but the truth is it isn’t all that simple – I k(n)id you not.

Companies and businesses need to bring out their inner Knids (perhaps without the “bite you head off” bit) when it comes to addressing the challenges of a changing climate. The costs from climate impacts are rising fast with natural disasters being the number one trigger for supply-chain disruptions (Allianz Insurance).  Thailand’s floods in 2011, for example, caused supply chain and business disruption losses of an estimated US$ 46 billion (World Bank). Natural catastrophes cost the insurance industry approximately US$ 56 billion in 2013 but averaged US$ 184 billion per annum between 2003 and 2012 (Munich Re, 2014).

These impacts are predicted to increase. The science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (a real mouthful and which sounds more like one of Mr Wonka’s chocolate bars than a scientific body) is unequivocal. Things are getting warmer (unlike my tea so this article will end soon) and with the warmth comes a series of unfortunate, costly events. In order to prepare for these events, one needs to put into place the KNID action plan:

K:              Knowledge of your industry and its role in adaptation

N:             Note and replicate the best practice in your industry

I:               Identify the risks facing the organisation as well as potential opportunities and

D:             Do something about it

The climate impacts are here and are going to continue to increase in frequency and severity. Everyone and every organisation is going to need to adapt. Adaptation is designed to increase resilience and reduce vulnerability. It also supports business continuity and reduces disruption.

Adapting to change is not going to be easy. It requires courage. It demands resilience. It is the only constant. Get used to it – and get on with it. The sooner you begin the more chance you have of never using the following words in the office or boardroom when presented with the costs or implications of a climate change impact: “Oh, my goodness me! Oh, my sainted pants! Oh, my painted ants! Oh, my crawling cats! I hope never to see anything like that again!”

Blog by: Geoff Perrott (with a little ‘help’ from Roald Dahl)

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