5 Ways to Usher in the New Green Age
To pass on to our grandchildren healthy, thriving communities, instead of a desperate world, we need to accelerate the transition to the green economy: one that works for people and planet, social and economic justice, community and environmental health.
Here are five steps we need to take now, to ensure our planet, and our species, is around to see the fruits of our labor.
First, we need to change the story. How do we recruit more people to the triple-bottom-line economic model (integrating social justice, environmental restoration, and financial sustainability) that is steadily replacing the outdated profit-maximizing economic model?
Second, we need to push capital into this triple-bottom-line type of investing -- for people and the planet. We have to get away from the short-term perspective of the current investment system, which seeks to maximize profits on a quarterly, even daily and sometimes minute-by-minute basis. We have to move from this "short-termism," which is at the root of the current crisis, to one that takes a long-term view of how current policies will impact our great grandchildren.
We are now seeing a growing competition between a single-bottom line economy that is all about money and a triple-bottom line economy that balances social equity, environmental restoration, and financial sustainability. Our prediction is that the triple-bottom-line economy is the stronger model and will eventually prevail, but we need to accelerate that transition.
Third, we need to redefine free enterprise from "the freedom of big corporations" to go anywhere and do anything to people and planet, to "the freedom of everyone to be enterprising." The current system concentrates wealth and power; we want to have thriving prosperity and empowerment everywhere.
The old political model -- of the Republicans, Democrats, Marxist-Leninists, and so on -- was to create a political party that could somehow gain state power and then change the economy from the national government level downward. The green economy movement is reversing that entire process, saying, "Get control of the economy at the local level and build up from there, so you have a truly empowered democracy from the grassroots up."
Fourth, we need to design everything with a cradle-to-cradle perspective. Think of the honeybee. Does the honeybee hurt the flower when it makes honey, or does it help the flower? Nature operates on a totally closed loop. In nature, there is no waste. People say, "Throw it away." There is no "away."
Fifth, we need to spread green measurement of growth. What is the ideology of the cancer cell? Grow, grow, grow. The cells of a metastasizing tumor have no concern for their impact on neighboring cells. What is suburban sprawl? What is the mindset of the traditional property developer? They don’t care about their impact on the environment. It is grow, grow, grow: the ideology of the cancer cell.
We need a new way to grow – by growing value and well-being, not the destructive growth of a cancer cell. Health, education, sustainably-grown food, renewable energy technology – that's what you'll see in the green economy "market basket" of goods and services. In the green economy, you'll see thrifty, cooperative activity as economic basics: from planting gardens, to conserving energy, to neighborhood tool lending libraries, to holding clothing swaps, to giving the gift of your time at the holidays.
We need to favor life values over money values. The world has two systems in conflict: the money cycle and the life cycle. Our species needs to answer this question: Should we have money values dominate the life cycle, or should life values rule over the money cycle?
The task before us is nothing less than how to save humanity from itself. Yes, that sounds like a big project, but I. F. Stone used to say, "If you expect an answer to your question during your lifetime, you are not asking a big enough question."
The masons who laid the foundation layer of European cathedrals that took centuries to build knew they would not see the final product of their work, but they knew they had to do very solid, precise work because of all the weight that was going to come on top of their work. That is the consciousness we need now.
We need to become good ancestors. We need to rediscover our spines and get up on our hind legs and struggle against the obstacles that we confront, so we can accelerate the transition to the green economy and not leave a burnt cinder of a planet for our great grandchildren.