Our future – Beauty or Beast?

Posted on Jun 16, 2011

A few weeks ago I went to the London launch of Paul Gilding’s book “The Great Disruption – How the climate crisis will transform the global economy”. Paul is a respected, straight talking, Aussie environmental entrepreneurand business consultant with a helicopter view of human activity.

His bad news : massive climate change disruption is now inevitable. Worse, it’s just the advance guard for the rest of the troops – including global water shortages, seas emptied of fish, failure to feed the growing population of the planet, global insecurity, mass migrations and wars. A confluence of factors based around, but not limited to, climate change.

Quantitative economic growth is the elephant in the room. Source of massive standard of living benefits, it has a finite life. As we hit the planets’ resource and eco-system sustainability limits it will simply grind to a halt. We are using 140% of available resources, and that’s before the billions of people who aspire to the standard of living we enjoy have claimed their share, taking us to 500%-700% by 2050. This is not possible. The 2008 financial crisis, food shortages and melting of the ice caps are early signs of the big crisis kick off in 5-10 years time.

Paul’s good news is that positive solutions result from this calamitous process. We won’t act until the economics give us no option, then a global version of second world war style collective and urgent response will result. Humans are “slow but not stupid”. New solutions will rapidly slow climate change and transform how we live. The future is sustainable, not consumable.

The systemic crisis seems certain, our response not. Global inferno or a new Eden? Every day, every meeting, every business decision the words of US Senator Gaylord Nelson stalk: ’The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment and not the other way round”. We decide.

This article first appeared in Harpers Magazine

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