Move beyond sustainability to a regenerative, green economy
We are living in an era of unprecedented prosperity, technological advancement, and global influence. In terms of financial wealth, global GDP has increased significantly over the past few decades, resulting in rising living standards for millions of people worldwide. In addition, technological advancements in medicine, communication, transportation, and energy have significantly improved quality of life and greater convenience and efficiency.
Humans have achieved unprecedented political and economic power, with global superpowers wielding significant influence over world affairs. All these advancements have contributed to optimism and progress as people seek a brighter future filled with even more possibilities.
However, it is essential to acknowledge that not all humanity has benefited equally from this progress. Significant challenges remain to be addressed, including poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation.
We need to create regenerative businesses
Despite progress in many areas of human development, the rapid pace of climate change has become an overwhelming challenge affecting the entire planet.
Here are some of the significant reasons we need to create green growth and a green economy.
- Rising temperatures: The Earth's average temperature has risen by 1.1C over the past century, causing heat waves, droughts, and increased frequency and intensity of wildfires.
- Extreme weather events: Climate change has led to more frequent and severe weather events, such as hurricanes, typhoons, and flooding, which can cause widespread damage and displacement.
- Sea level rise: As global temperatures rise, sea levels are also increasing due to the melting of polar ice caps and thermal expansion of the oceans which can lead to coastal flooding and erosion. Global sea levels have risen by some 10cm since 1993, according to NASA
- Ocean acidification: The absorption of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by the ocean is causing the pH of the ocean to increase by 30% , which can significantly impact marine life.
- Loss of biodiversity: Climate change is causing ecosystem changes, resulting in biodiversity loss and many species extinction.
- Public health impacts: Rising temperatures can lead to increased heat-related illnesses and the spread of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.
- Economic impacts: Climate change can have significant financial consequences, such as increased costs for disaster response and recovery, loss of productivity due to extreme weather events, and damage to infrastructure.
Climate change has numerous impacts that pose significant threats to the environment, human health, and the global economy.
Understanding the climate change debate
Most of us think we are helping save our planet by eating the odd meat-free meal, turning lights off and driving electric cars. Is this enough?
Four climate change facts
- Manufacturing a car creates the equivalent emissions of laying two metres of roads.
- We emit more CO2 from our homes than all the cars combined!
- During the covid pandemic when our consumption and travel was significantly reduced as we all stayed at home, emissions only reduced by 7%.
- 8% of CO2 emissions are released by the concrete manufacturing industry.
Personal responsibility is quoted frequently. Going vegetarian, using a bike and putting solar panels on our homes is NOT ENOUGH. Plus people are hesitant or resistant to changing their daily lives or making sacrifices to slow global warming.
The more affluent in our society create more greenhouse gas emissions than those with lower incomes. This is because wealthier individuals tend to have higher consumption levels, which often involves more energy-intensive lifestyles, such as larger homes, more frequent travel, and greater consumption of energy-intensive goods and services.
According to research, the top 10% of income earners globally are responsible for approximately 50% of global carbon emissions. In contrast, the bottom 50% of income earners contribute to only around 10% of global emissions.
However, it is important to recognise that taking action to address rapid climate change does not necessarily mean a drastic reduction in our quality of life or a complete overhaul of our daily routines.
The public debate on climate change
The Earth's climate is changing at an unprecedented rate and that urgent action is needed to mitigate its impact. Many scientists agree that the Earth is experiencing rapid climate change, primarily due to human activities, including burning fossil fuels and deforestation.
However, some still dispute the existence or severity of climate change or argue that it is a natural phenomenon that cannot be mitigated through human intervention.
The debate is often polarised, with some advocating for immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to renewable energy sources.
In contrast, others argue that such measures would be too costly and disruptive. The public debate on rapid climate change has significant implications for the future of the planet and human societies, and all voices must be heard and considered in the discussion.
People are reluctant to have their comfortable lifestyles disrupted to save the planet.
The political debate on climate change
The political debate on rapid climate change is complex and often contentious. While some political leaders and parties acknowledge the need for urgent action to mitigate the impact of climate change, others either dispute its existence or downplay its significance.
The debate is often driven by competing economic interests, with some arguing that reducing greenhouse gas emissions would harm industries and lead to job losses.
In contrast, others point to the economic benefits of investing in renewable energy and transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
Political debates also centre on social justice and equity, with some arguing that developed countries bear a greater responsibility for reducing emissions, given their historical contribution to climate change.
In contrast, others point out that developing countries are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. Ultimately, the political debate on rapid climate change has significant global policy and action implications. Therefore, political leaders must prioritise the urgent need for coordinated action to address this issue.
The truth is no political system is doing an impressive job at becoming truly sustainable.
Understanding the bigger picture of climate change
Modern industrial society has indeed had a destructive impact on the planet. Rapid global warming is primarily caused by the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere. The rapid growth of industries and technologies since the Industrial Revolution has led to increased pollution, deforestation, and depletion of natural resources, among other environmental problems.
The increasing use of fossil fuels, for example, has led to a rise in global temperatures and climate change, which is causing severe weather events, sea level rise, and other negative impacts.
Concrete, for example, is a cheap and easy building material, and it has been widely used in developing countries to build affordable housing. Concrete has several advantages, including its durability and ability to withstand natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. It's also readily available and easy to work with.
However, using concrete in construction also has negative environmental impacts, such as high carbon emissions from cement production and destroying natural habitats to extract raw materials. This has resulted in the loss of many species of plants and animals.
While it's essential to provide affordable housing for growing populations in developing countries, it's also crucial to do so in a way that minimises environmental impacts and promotes regeneration. Many alternatives to traditional concrete construction can be more sustainable, such as using locally sourced and renewable materials like bamboo or straw bales or innovative building technologies like compressed earth blocks or recycled plastic bricks.
The development of industrial agriculture, which relies heavily on chemical fertilisers and pesticides, has also led to soil degradation, water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.
Feeding a growing global population will be a significant challenge. We will soon need to provide for 10 billion people, and food production will likely continue to emit greenhouse gases, and we need to figure out how to do that without emitting greenhouse gases. But, unfortunately, the nature of modern food production that requires fertilisers or manure, it is impossible to have zero-emissions food.
Reducing meat consumption alone won't be enough to stop climate change. However, reducing meat consumption can help reduce emissions from livestock production and reduce the demand for land and resources required for animal feed production.
The consumption of natural resources, such as timber, minerals, and freshwater, has also put a strain on the planet's ecosystems, and the waste generated by industrial societies has led to significant pollution of the air, water, and soil.
Unfortunately, many conveniences and advancements that have made modern life easier, safer, and more comfortable have also negatively impacted the biosphere. More than fixing one small part of the industrial system is needed to address our complex and interconnected issues.
Some barriers to implementing sustainable solutions include economic, political, and cultural factors. For example, powerful industries may resist changes threatening their profits, while governments may prioritise short-term economic growth over long-term regeneration.
There may also be cultural barriers, such as a lack of awareness or understanding of the importance of, or a resistance to support regeneration. In some cases, people may not have the resources or infrastructure needed to implement sustainable solutions, such as access to renewable energy or public transportation.
So, what can we do to address climate warming?
Is it necessary for us to relinquish all the conveniences that provide us with comfortable living? People want change but not a drastic one!
Is it impossible for less affluent nations to progress?
Should we eliminate coal, gas, and oil from our energy sources?
Should we put an end to construction involving concrete?
Although some people reject nuclear energy, they are also opposed to wind or solar infrastructure. It will be impossible to create solutions without causing some unhappiness…….
Create Regenerative Ethical Mindful (REM) Businesses
“The Earth is a fine place and worth fighting for.” – Ernest Hemingway
The most efficient approach to reduce CO2 emissions would be for affluent populations worldwide to abandon their current lifestyles, while those who are aspiring for a better standard of living refrain from pursuing it.
Regeneratives businesses prioritise the welfare of the planet over personal comfort and recognise that financial prosperity is necessary to achieve this.
While personal efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are commendable, they pale in comparison to the systemic reality of global emissions.
Even the most motivated individuals can hardly make a significant impact. When we consider the dangers of rapid climate change, the vast scale of emissions, and the lack of consensus on how to address the issue, the challenge appears insurmountable.
This can lead to decision fatigue and moral licensing, where individuals no longer feel guilty about engaging in counterproductive behaviours. Even if you were to eliminate 100% of your emissions for the rest of your life, it would only save one second's worth of emissions from the global energy sector.
Holding Politicians to account for climate warming mitigating actions
To effect systemic changes in technology, politics, and the economy at the scale required to address rapid climate change, it is imperative that we implement regenerative business execution and influence those who hold power.
Politicians must recognise and appreciate the fact that people are concerned about this issue and that their success as leaders hinges on their ability to tackle climate change.
When governments and local politicians are reluctant to alter laws that impact their major tax contributors or campaign donors, we must vote them out and replace them with individuals who value scientific evidence.
Regenerative businesses can hold our leaders accountable for implementing the most effective climate change strategies, and focus on larger levers such as food, transportation, and energy, while also considering smaller ones like cement or construction.
When industries resist changing their ways due to fear of losses or a genuine desire to protect their interests, it falls on politicians to amend laws and encourage the adoption of existing technologies.
Massive investments in research and innovation are also required for fields that lack effective solutions.
Profit interests and reducing carbon emissions are not mutually exclusive, and industries should prioritise the latter.
However, if cooperation is not forthcoming, strict regulation and penalties may be necessary to compel change.
It is unrealistic to expect quick global changes given the cost and time requirements of low-carbon technologies, but a clear and growing demand for them will drive innovation and efficiency, ultimately driving prices down.
Affluent individuals can contribute to this by investing in these technologies now, while they remain expensive.
The best approach to promote change is to vote with both your ballot and your wallet, recognising that some solutions may have negative impacts on our lives.
It is important to accept that everyone will be a little unhappy, but that it is necessary to achieve progress.
Everyone can contribute by altering their behaviour, such as eating less meat, reducing air travel, or driving an electric car, not out of guilt or the belief that they can solve climate change alone, but to play a small part in the necessary systemic change.
Governments and individuals can play a crucial role in slowing down rapid climate change.
Climate change is a global problem that requires a collective effort to address.
Governments can enact policies and regulations to reduce carbon emissions, encourage the use of renewable energy sources, and promote energy efficiency.
They can also invest in research and development of new technologies that can help mitigate the effects of climate change.
Individuals can also make a difference by reducing their carbon footprint by using public transportation, reducing energy consumption in their homes, and making environmentally conscious choices in their daily lives.
It is only through a joint effort that we can slow down rapid climate change and ensure a sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.