IIf you want to understand why we are not moving faster towards creating a more equitable society that operates within ecological limits, then it is worth understanding the importance of the vacuum.
One of the central fears of our industrialized society, which we largely refuse to face, is the belief that there is no credible alternative to the current global economic system, which now undermines our prosperity and can even threaten our civilization.
The current economic system has created great wealth and lifted hundreds of millions of people out of abject poverty, but in its pursuit of continued growth it is increasingly becoming a destructive force that drives climate change, scarcity of resources, growing inequalities and loss of biodiversity on an epic scale.
As famed fund manager Jeremy Grantham said: “People just don’t understand that there can’t be sustainable growth forever. You can have durability forever, or growth for a few years. Capitalism does millions of things better than the alternatives. However, he’s totally ill-equipped to deal with a small handful of issues. Unfortunately, these are the issues that are absolutely critical to our long-term well-being and even our survival. “
The collective failure to reinvent another path leads to focusing our intellectual power on trying to sustain the existing system, even if it is akin to putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. This is the kind of thinking that led President Bush to urge Americans to “do more shopping” to help pull the country out of recession – by doing more of what helped spark the crisis in the first place.
In fact, our very addiction to consumerism, like all other addictions, is designed to avoid having to look into the abyss of our own lives. But if we are to restore some balance to the world, it is vital that we move away from the actions of the famous quote: “spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need in order to impress.” people you don’t like. “
With all of this in mind, Guardian Sustainable Business is launching a new section called Rethinking Prosperity.
The aim is to present the vibrant community of academics, thought leaders and practitioners from around the world who are exploring systems change. These range from new initiatives such as John Fullerton’s Regenerative Capitalism to organizations that have worked diligently on these issues for decades, such as the New Economics Foundation. While our eyes are on the future, we also recognize the need to continue to critique the current system and seek out key intervention points that can be harnessed for change.
We have specifically avoided using the words “economy” or “capitalism” in the title of the section because we want to take a broad approach to the idea of prosperity and recognize that economic notions of prosperity can compete with or negatively interact with it. broader societal goals such as health and happiness. In addition to engaging experts in business and finance, we will also see what we can learn from the arts as well as psychological and spiritual approaches to overcoming the issues we face.
We want to make sure that we don’t just focus on the industrialized north, but also see what lessons we can learn from the south, and we want to make the voices of young economists and activists heard who rarely have a voice in mainstream media.
New stories are especially needed in the business world. When we launched Guardian Sustainable Business over four years ago, we wanted to show how businesses can once again become a force for positive change in the world. Although modest progress has been made, companies remain constrained by the shackles of profit maximization and short-termism and are therefore forced to only tinker around on the edges of change.
Even the most enlightened companies are locked into a pattern of ever increasing growth. Peter Bakker, chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainability, said that if all the sustainability initiatives of every company in the world were combined, they wouldn’t be a row of beans compared to the scale of the challenges facing we are facing.
While Rethinking Prosperity will look at theories of change, it will also focus on action. It would be foolish to underestimate the scale of the challenge and the likely turbulence of any transition to a new system. But it is vital that we stay positive and look for realistic alternatives. Is economic growth necessary or contrary to human prosperity, and when we take it all away, what does human flourishing really look like on a finite planet?
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