Editor’s Note: This post is comprised of a couple dozen excerpts from the Introduction and Chapter One of the book. I selected them to provide a quick and easy way for the reader to get a good idea of our premise… the reinvention of capitalism and the evolution of consumerism, in order to avoid catastrophe and to increase the well-being of humanity and nature.
We live in a growth economy that has provided well. It’s just that the planet can no longer support additional growth. The Circular Economy is a great idea, and it is an intrinsic component of the Finite Earth Economy, but by itself it isn’t enough to overcome the crisis we find ourselves in.
Are you ready to move to, work for and demand an economy that gets at the root of the problem? Are you ready to stop being a passive passenger on Spaceship Earth and take on the responsibility of being an active crew member? If you accept that climate change is an existential threat, this book will provide you with the ideas, metrics, milestones, technologies and policies at all levels to do your part in saving humanity. We are not “saving the planet”, we are saving ourselves from ourselves.
The magnitude of the effort required may shock you. So be it. It’s time to quit talking about it and go to work. If we don’t, we won’t have a second chance. The operative word in confronting climate change is URGENCY.
Humans are not wired to assertively respond to a potential future threat. We respond with urgency when the threat is immediate and apparent. Climate change in 2019 is an immediate and apparent threat.
Almost every scientific paper published forecasts a climate crisis. All of them have had to amend their prior reports as being… TOO CONSERVATIVE! In every case the reason is that the pending calamity is not moving in a linear fashion, but on more of a geometric acceleration.
The reality of living on Earth is that everything is interconnected. Our siloed thinking has created a disconnected view of cause and effect, where the actions we take are separated from the consequences they cause.
We must start with forgiveness. We must forgive ourselves as we were all born into a Growth Economy/fossil fuel reality. We didn’t have any real choice. We do now and we must make the right one.
The magnitude of our situation is larger than any other challenge that humanity has ever faced. And the scope of potential actions is almost beyond comprehension. We must make changes in practically every area of human endeavor. How we live as individuals, and in our neighborhoods, towns and cities, states and provinces, nations and as a species must all evolve beyond the status quo.
A huge part of shaping our collective future will be how we change the global economy and all our respective nation state economies. Driven by the Carbon Combustion Complex, the growth economies of today must cede to a new economic model.
Our consumer society urges us to shop, buy, consume, buy more. Keep up with the Joneses. Your self-worth is determined by how much stuff you accumulate. When a product begins to wear… throw it out. Buy another one.
If there were only one billion people on Earth, it could support our consumer lifestyle… but there are close to eight billion people with more being born every minute.
We must all step out of ‘that’s just the way it is’ to uncover our collective agreement regarding our current economy. If we want there to be some remnant of civilization in the year 2100, we must transition away from our growth economy model.
Until the second half of the 20th century, Growth Economies expanded and accelerated, without any perceived negative planetary consequences. There was no discernible realization in capitalist countries that growth was anything but good.
The automotive industry and the fossil fuel industry were happily making money hand over fist, and had no viable competition, so had no reason to change.
Post-WWII, the United States (especially Hollywood and Madison Ave.) did a wonderful job marketing “the American Dream and the American Way of Life” around the world. The rest of the world saw the quality of life Americans enjoyed in our consumer culture, and they wanted to enjoy the same lifestyle.
In a Finite Earth Economy, GDP will give way to new economic metrics that include carbon footprints and offsets, lower consumption levels, and a wellness index.
Our planetary spaceship has limited resources and we must work within them to avoid aborting the mission.
Growth economies are largely linear: they take, make, sell, use, discard. The “discard” becomes waste, often after just a single use. Waste is intentionally built into the linear/growth economy.
Disposal often leads to the need to repurchase. Growth economies are measured on output. The growth of production and consumption is what linear/growth economies do. GDP does not measure economic efficiency or well-being.
There is one big problem with the state of the Circular Economy in 2019: it only constitutes 9% of the global economy. It is the most efficient, planet-friendly segment of the global economy, but it is not significant enough to alter the apocalyptic situation we now find ourselves in.
The Circular movement had the power of the installed global growth economy plus the carbon combustion complex working against them. They did not have the support of a basic human motivator – the fight or flight response. We have that today.
In both Circular and Finite Earth Economies, ‘used’ is a positive term. Used means that something can be purchased without causing depletion of Finite Earth resources.
The concept of a Circular Economy fits entirely inside the Finite Earth Economy. It is a bridge of practice, opinion and advocacy that we must cross to successfully face the challenge of catastrophic climate change.