Governance for “Full Spaceship Earth”

Club of Rome publishes a major new report on the governance of “Spaceship Earth”

New book Come On!  proposes an overhaul in the way that governments, businesses, financial systems, innovators and families interact with our planet.  Heidelberg | Winterthur, 05 December 2017

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Anders Wijkman
Come On! 

Capitalism, Short-termism, Population and the Destruction of the Planet
1st ed. 2018, XIV, 220 p. 46 illus., 42 illus. in color.
Hardcover $29.99, € 24,99, £19.99  ISBN 978-1-4939-7418-4
Also available as an eBook ISBN 978-1-4939-7419-1

The human footprint is increasing fast and will – if not reversed – eventually lead to a collapse of the global economy. So say the authors of the new book Come On! which proposes an overhaul in the way that governments, businesses, financial systems, innovators and families interact with our planet.

Now, in cooperation with more than 30 members from the Club of Rome, authors Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and Anders Wijkman, the sitting co-presidents of the Club, suggest possible solutions to the global ecological and social crises. At the core is the suggestion to develop a new Enlightenment for a „Full World”: we can no longer depend on a societal model that was developed for a world of less than one billion people.

Humans and farm animals constitute 97 percent of the bodyweight of all living land vertebrates on earth so it’s not surprising that the remaining 3 percent of wildlife struggles to compete for land and for survival. Alongside an environmental crisis are social, political and moral crises. Billions of people no longer put trust in their governments, poverty has deepened in many countries, in the US the middle-class is rapidly shrinking.

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker argues: “Our shared wellbeing on a healthy planet demands a rethinking of reigning philosophies and a new Enlightenment that could seek inspiration from old traditions.”

Measuring our success on GDP growth has proven inadequate to the task and it also masks a growth in inequality between rich and poor. New indicators such as a Genuine Progress Indicator could more accurately measure economic welfare.

The present model of development is seriously flawed. Profit maximization – under the principle of shareholder value first – and saving the planet are inherently in conflict. The new Enlightenment must be characterized by a vastly improved balance between humans and nature, between markets and the law, between private consumption and public goods, between short-term and long term thinking, between social justice and incentives for excellence.

Advances in technology will be crucial. We need technology disruption in many sectors, not least to curb greenhouse gas emissions. But disruption must be balanced by efforts to support the losers, both among companies and employees.

This book comprises many practical examples, success stories and opportunities for the “Full World”. A move towards a circular economy can help overcome mineral scarcity, significantly lower carbon emissions and increase the number of jobs. Regenerative agriculture will help stop soil erosion, enhance yields and build carbon in the soil. Efforts have to be made to rein in the financial sector by increasing capital reserves and control of money creation. Some insights can come from the Hopi tradition in North America, which developed sustainable agriculture and maintained a stable population size while avoiding wars.

“This book is hard stuff. Politically, it is very uncomfortable. But the fresh and original thought within it should be seen as an invitation to ‘come on’ and join on a fascinating journey of testing new ways to make the full world a sustainable and prospering one,” says co-author Anders Wijkman.

Civil society, the communities of investors, and the research and education communities should become strong players in the necessary transformation.

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and Anders Wijkman are co-presidents of the Club of Rome.

The Club of Rome is an organization of individuals who share a common concern for the future of humanity and strive to make a difference. It is made up of notable scientists, economists, representatives from business, high level civil servants and former heads of state from around the world. In 2018 the Club of Rome will celebrate 50 years since it was founded.

Is London Sustainable?

Since 2002 a Commission for Sustainable Development (LSDC)  has been working on this question and Mayor Sadiq Kahn has just revamped it to:

“focus on promoting good economic growth, improving the quality of life for all Londoners while respecting the environment and promoting social cohesion and inclusion. The commission will strive to ensure sustainability is at the core of policies and strategies impacting on London, and will help make sustainability a meaningful concept for Londoners”.

The concept of ‘good economic  growth’ could relate to features of the circular economy such as renewable energy and ways of lowering demand for consumer goods and carbon-producing emissions, for example. Kate Raworth’s ‘Doughnut economy’ takes an agnostic stance on the notion of growth for the very reason that one needs investment in sustainable processes while downsizing the most profligate activities that threaten long-term survival.

Development is usually equated with expansion, as opposed to the maintenance of equilibrium which is clearly the only way that a sustainable future for cities. nations and the human population as a whole can be assured. One would hope that this perspective is part of the intention of the LSDC’s attempt to ‘make sustainability a meaningful concept’.

Demographic deafness

In 1970 when I was a teacher and professional tutor at Knox Grammar School, an elite private academy for well-heeled secondary-sage pupils in Sydney, Australia, I was involved in PYE – Protect Your Environment (Australia) Schools’ Branch. Apart from organising a ‘teach-in’ for ten schools held at Knox, a highlight of my contribution to PYE almost half a century ago was an appearance on ABC TV of some of my concerned pupils with Paul Ehrlich, author of “The Population Bomb”, a best-seller at the time that was predicting social breakdown due to demographic pressures from an expanding human population that was pressing upon limits of resources, especially food supplies.

This MAHB blog today “A call to arms” is from Stanford University where nonagenarian Ehrlich is still actively trying to spread his dire demographic warning, postponed by the Green Revolution and the rise of industrial, chemically based agriculture that has allowed the human population to almost triple since he wrote his scary blockbuster.  Ehrlich’s call is still going unheeded despite the slowing down of population growth to just above 1% per annum, a doubling rate of less than 70 years and the new concerns about human impact on the planet and other species in the natural world. The blog points out the failure of the UN to give a high priority to broadcasting the consequences of ‘the infestation of Gaia’ by our fecund technologically-sustained species. Sadly, those in the demographic research community, like Ehrlich (and case4all,org), who do point to the imminent consequences of overshooting planetary boundaries are still met with deafness to news that few wish to hear.

The UN is today addressing the problems of pollution as this BBC report outlines. But the underlying  formula I = P x A x T proposed by Ehrlich (Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology) reminds us that it is increasing numbers of people (228000 extra per day) that produced the dead weight of indestructible plastics now beginning to dominate the oceans to the detriment of wildlife.

Small families; Small planet – this short video tries to overcome the taboo on discussing demographics and shows alarming projections of population growth and impact.