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Is It Utopia Or A Mirage?

Imagine a future in which people and their communities live together peacefully.

Imagine a world where every bustling metropolis is now a place of serenity, undisturbed by road rage, traffic noise and stinking fumes.

Cars and buses and rail are whisper quiet. The only emissions from moving vehicles are harmless vapours of H2O. Parklands and green spaces have replaced the tangled knots of urban motorways.

Oil is barely $5 a barrel but is rarely purchased; producers and consumers have now discovered cheaper, cleaner and more efficient ways to meet their needs in a post-petroleum world.

Imagine a world in which all humans enjoy a standard of living that demonstrates health and prosperity. This is a world in which people eat locally produced food and share clean water for all.

It is a world where housing is affordable and efficient, where communities produce their own energy, and where people are no longer victims to outrageous repayments on escalating mortgages and personal loans.

This is a new world in which poverty is but a bad dream from an old world gone wrong. This is a world in which every person who wants a job has a job and actively engages in meaningful and rewarding work. This is a world in which family-wage jobs are common, where the demand for welfare payments is the lowest in history.

Imagine a world in which society has phased out our reliance on coal, nuclear energy and oil. It is a world in which unions – once maligned by governments and corporations alike – have taken an active and progressive role to create “just transitions” for workers moving from the old industries into the new (Hawken et al, 2000).

And yes, imagine too a world in which income tax has been all but eliminated, a world where people no longer feel gagged and bound by government ineptitude and corporate greed.

As Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins (2000) highlight in their book, Natural Capitalism: Creating the next industrial revolution, this new world is rich in possibilities for social and environmental health. Landfills are few and far between. The world’s forests are growing. And the creatures – the birds and mammals and fish – return in their droves. Dams are being dismantled. Atmospheric CO2 levels are decreasing. Water pollution is non-existent. And the world’s industrialised countries now use 80% less resources while still improving people’s quality of life.

This new world has witnessed the reparation of social systems, once frayed and dysfunctional. Now, our communities and towns are built upon the preservation and value of social capital. People and culture are valued as much as (if not moreso than) the mighty dollar. Ours is a world that recognises the importance of human effort, energy, intellect, and well-being. We live together, work together, strive together to create a world in which the pursuit of health and prosperity for all underpins everything we do.

A utopian vision?

Perhaps. But utopian or otherwise, this vision is already being realised (in part) in communities around the globe. This is a vision that values all forms of wealth and capital. The vision of a Green Economy, it now rises from an emerging awareness amongst people across the planet. We are now witnessing the birth of a new way of seeing and being in the world.

The Green Economy differs radically from the mainstream status quo. It is different in its philosophy, its goals and the fundamental processes that enable its realisation.

Over the next hundred years, the human population is estimated to double. Simultaneous with this, the resources available to humankind will diminish by one-half to three-fourths per person! (Hawken et al, 2000). Willingly or otherwise, we will be compelled to transform industry and commerce alike. As a transformation of the modern industrial complex, the Green Economy offers society a valuable opportunity: the chance to create a vital and diversified economy that uses significantly less material and energy, an economy that supports a just and sympathetic existence for the human and nonhuman worlds.

The Green Economy can “free up resources, reduce taxes on personal income, increase per-capita spending on social ills (while simultaneously reducing those ills), and begin to restore the damaged environment of the earth” (Hawken et al, 2000, p. 2). Such changes are necessary and unavoidable.

If handled properly – recognising that true wealth comes in many forms – the vision of a Green Economy can be realised. In doing so, we can create a new world order that delivers economic efficiency, ecological conservation and social equity for the benefit of all.

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