13 September 2009

84 Days Left and Our Economic Paradigm Still Doesn't Get It

Headline on the front of the Report on Business in the Globe and Mail (Canada's national newspaper), 11 September 2009:

"Either you grow or you die"

No, wrong, false. When are economists and businesspeople going to get it? We can't keep growing. Continuous growth = obesity or, worse, cancer. Children grow, trees grow, young businesses grow. The rest of us have to turn to development that is sustainable. (Gee, that sounds familiar. 1987? Brundtland Report? 1992? Rio Summit? Hmmm.)

The Western (and increasingly globalized) economic paradigm must change.

Green design guru, Bill McDonough, puts it another way. The question, he suggests, isn't growth-no growth. The question is, What do we want to grow? Sickness, or health? Poverty, or prosperity? We wouldn't tell a tree not to grow, he points out. But trees don't suck up natural resources, destroying them forever in the process. When trees suck up natural resources, they transform them into beauty, oxygen, food (seeds/fruit/nuts), biomass, erosion control ... and then everything gets recycled again.

The other part of the Globe and Mail story that hurts is that it's about growing an auto parts company into an automaking company. Why, in the midst of a global climate change emergency created mainly because of fossil fuel burning in internal combustion engines, do we still live in a society that allows businesses to do suicidal things like this? Where is Roosevelt when we need him? Someone to tell the automakers that they ain't makin' autos anymore. Nope, they're all going to turn their attention — and their facilities — to the manufacture of renewable energy technologies and infrastructure. Now.

Lester Brown, of the Earth Policy Institute and Plan B 3.0 (now 4.0) fame, is an agricultural economist who understands ecology. In the two videos below, he explains that we need a restructuring of the economy and a war-time mobilization to stabilize climate, stabilize population, eradicate poverty and restore damaged ecosystems. In this first video, watch especially from 4:45.

In the second video, listen especially for the story starting at 4:20. It's sheer inspiration!

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?