Beyond ‘business as usual’: Ideas for moving toward a globally sustainable economy and future
In the last few months, a number of heavyweights on the world stage have spoken out about the fundamentally unsustainable nature of our current economic system.
In a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon boldly stated that:
For most of the last century, economic growth was fuelled by what seemed to be a certain truth: the abundance of natural resources.
We mined our way to growth. We burned our way to prosperity. We believed in consumption without consequences.
Those days are gone.
In the 21st century, supplies are running short and the global thermostat is running high.
Climate change is also showing us that the old model is more than obsolete. It has rendered it extremely dangerous.
Over time, that model is a recipe for national disaster. It is a global suicide pact.
In February, the UK’s Prince Charles wrote an article advancing that:
There is, surely, no way round the fact that we have to move away from our conventional model of growth based, as it is, on the production and consumption of high carbon intensity goods. It seems the current economic system, characterised by a catastrophic decline in biodiversity, increased water scarcity and food insecurity, has little hope of securing our prosperity. The challenge is all the more urgent if, as predicted, the world’s population grows to some 9 billion by 2050. We need to meet the challenge of decoupling economic growth from increased consumption in such a way that both the wellbeing of Nature’s ecology and our own economic needs benefit simultaneously.
And in May, Jochen Zeitz, CEO of Puma shoes and clothing, wrote an article of his own acknowledging that:
The world has changed and sustainability in business can no longer be assumed or assured unless something changes in our economic model, and radically so. It is as simple as that.
In knowing that the current paradigm does not take businesses’ unintended collateral effects on society and the environment into consideration, we need to adapt our thinking to see sustainability not only as a responsibility but also as an opportunity.
Their pronouncements follow similarly themed statements and reports over recent decades from a number of groups including the Union of Concerned Scientists, the board of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the team conducting a study of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, and a group of experts preparing for the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20).
One of the “experts” in the Rio +20 group is Tim Jackson, Economics Commissioner on the UK Sustainable Development Commission, professor (University of Surrey, UK) and author of ‘Prosperity without Growth - Economics for a Finite Planet’. In the TED Talks video above, Jackson:
delivers a piercing challenge to established economic principles, explaining how we might stop feeding the crises and start investing in our future.
It’s funny, provocative and definitely worth a look if you’re interested in exploring routes to globally sustainable future. Enjoy!