Sustainability economist and author of the book Prosperity without Growth, Tim Jackson thoroughly addressed the problem of the ecological limits of a finite planet in one of his recorded conference speeches that I happened to find a couple of days ago online. I was fascinated by this public speech and will definitely put his book on my must-read list as number one. Below is a quote from the speech.
”Our consumer society […] It’s the story of us being couraged, persuaded perhaps, to spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to create impressions that won’t last on people we don’t care about or, worse still, who don’t care about us.” – Tim Jackson on the recent rise of consumerism.
Consumer behavior was one of the points he made. Corporate responsibility was another. I’m not saying that Jackson is right in all of his visions but, at least he is calling out consumers and corporations, which both play key roles in future sustainability investigations. In the US and in Europe, we’ve already seen a significant change in how big multinational corporations change their core business values to include environmental and corporate responsibility. This is, in fact, a mandatory approach to meet today’s environmentally aware customer expectations. Corporations, big or small, riding “the green wave” find substantial competitive edge over their business sectors by driving structural change – both in markets and legislation that is more resilient and environmentally friendly. This has to be done in the face of analyzing and defining our planet’s true limits and future risks.
It is hard to foretell if this will ultimately be enough to change the course of this overburdened planet. In a way, it has some similarities to the Kalu Yala initiative, which also calls people within the corporate world, governments and universities for a radical shake-up. Opening one’s eyes to see the future ideal of a community being built and managed according to the principles of sustainability is a vital part in Kalu Yala’s mission. The idea of a good community is about citizen participation in development and an equal chance of having a meaningful life.
There are a lot of genuine, good people behind our distant economic systems and corporations, just as there are people behind the enormous infrastructure to cradle almost six billion unique lives on this planet. The time has come to unify people with different backgrounds, no matter where they come from. We need to stop being just consumers only interested in new products, spending money and giving up our free time and freedom to something we can’t control – but instead start living together as full citizens. The recent collapse of our western economic system is a call for people to participate, question and start making an influence. As Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France, expressed publicly in 2009:
“The crisis doesn’t only make us free to imagine other models, another future, another world. It obliges us to do so.” – Nicolas Sarkozy on remodeling our economic indicators to include the health of a nation.
We will always have big cities, we will always have some sort of corporations, but will we also have the right environments to properly provide for our people? People are ultimately the only ones able to take action and create change. Kalu Yala is striving towards commonwealth in healthy surroundings in Panama to show the world that we can do this. We can live according to the rules of a finite planet and actually enjoy it while it’s happening.