In the absence of radical economic change, it would not be hard to assume that there aren’t any significant environmental or social problems worth worrying about.
Surely the powers-that-be would take the necessary action if disaster was impending.
Surely the greenies are alarmist. The humanitarian mob are bleeding hearts. And the future is just as it’s meant to be – someone else’s problem.
But where’s the logic in that? Doesn’t it make more sense to be at least a little bit cautious, to think of the future health and prosperity of the planet and its people as everyone’s problem? After all, what if there are some downsides to business as usual?
One thing is certain. Mother Nature never loses her mojo. The natural environment never really goes “wrong”. It merely adapts and changes according to the principles of one thing – nature.
As Paul Hawken, Amory Lovings and L.Hunter Lovings assert in their book, Natural Capitalism: Creating the next industrial revolution:
“The most unlikely environmental scenario is that nothing unlikely happens. The biggest surprise would be no surprises. While it is unwise to believe in any one environmental projection of the future, it is important to bear in mind that nature bats last and owns the stadium” (2000, p. 316).
The problem, of course, is that the modern industrial economy that enables over-consumption, gross waste, the mis-use and abuse of natural and human capital now leaves us in a precarious situation. We are depleting both people and planet with little thought for the consequences.
Whilst we do indeed face increasing environmental challenges, we need to also recognise the often overlooked social dimensions of a global economy gone haywire. Just as the modern industrial economy rapes and pillages the natural world, so too does it turn a blind eye to the social challenges that include child labour, sex discrimination, neglect of the elderly, corrupt governments, corporate greed, not to mention the countless emerging issues we are creating for our youth and future generations.
Of course, it’s hard to grapple with seemingly unrelated issues. I mean, what do the rights, health, education and economic opportunities available to women have to do with global environmental degradation?
What indeed! The central tenet of ecological studies (whether environmental or social) is that everything is connected. It is only through integrating our solutions – from the economic and technological, to the environmental and cultural – that we have any hope to meet the challenges we now face as a result of the modern industrial economy with which we are so enamoured.
The Green Economy offers some hope. It offers the potential for us to rewrite our future that is less about the accumulation of material possessions and instead about the creation of genuine wealth that recognises the value of people and planet alike. May we be thoughtful and successful in not only how we produce efficient products and quality services, but in our deliberations about what is worth producing, what will make us better human beings. May we grow to become fair and equitable custodians of the natural world and good neighbours to each other. And may we – one day really soon – know when to say “enough is enough”.
For many people, the prospect of a Green Economy is so utopian that its economic viability is questioned. But one way to answer that question is to reverse it.
As Hawken el al (2000) suggest,
“How is it that we have created an economic system that tells us it is cheaper to destroy the earth and exhaust its people than to nurture them both? Is it rational to have a pricing system that discounts the future and sells off the past? How did we create an economic system that confuses capital liquidation with income? Wasting resources to achieve profits is far from fair, wasting people to achieve higher GDP doesn’t raise standards of living, and wasting the environment to achieve economic growth is neither economic nor growth” (p. 321).
And whilst there may be no right way to value the natural world and the people in it, the wrong way is to give these forms of capital no value at all. Instead, we must ask ourselves what kind of future we envision for our children and grandchildren. Chances are, irrespective of where we are on the planet, we likely want the same things:
“…better schools, a better environment, safer communities, family-wage jobs, more economic security, stronger family support, lower taxes, more effective governments, and more local control. In this, we are like all people and they are like us” (Hawken et al, 2000, p.322).
Transforming the economy need not start at the top with government and corporations. Chances are, they will be the laggards in this race. It is up to us, average people on the street, to get the ball rolling.
So next time you’re at the supermarket, watching television, driving your car, having a conversation, working in the office, going for a bushwalk, listening to music, writing a letter, playing a game of cards, dancing with friends, eating a tasty meal, drinking water from a fountain, or simply lying in the sun…remember this:
Everything is connected. Every choice matters. And it is our right as human beings to live and work and play and DECIDE to be green. In its own quiet way, the planet will thank you. And more than a few people on this Earth will be thankful too.
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