<a href="https://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/blogs/leon#">The Business of Green</a>

The Business of Green

Money matters in the green world, by Leon Gettler.

The end of shopping


Credit: sxc.hu

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Does the state of the planet tell us that we are about to enter a new world? Think about it. Oil and food prices are spiking, floods and droughts are devastating economies, populations are being displaced and governments like the ones in Egypt and Tunisia have been thrown out because of rising food prices. We are seeing political instability in the Middle East, floods in Australia destroying crops and droughts in Russia causing grain shortages. Think of China facing a food shortage. With all that money in the bank, it can go on a global shopping spree to feed its 1.3 billion mouths. The question is where that leaves the rest of the world.

Does it mean the end of shopping and consumerism? Are we witnessing end of the economic order and the beginning of a new one? Will business models have to change?

Most definitely, according to a new book The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World, written by Australian environmentalist and former head of Greenpeace International Paul Gilding. He says we are undergoing a profound shift and that is going to change business and economies forever.

According to Gilding, we are operating the global economy at about 150 per cent of capacity. In other words, we are using the earth’s resources at a rate that would take 1-1½ planets to sustain. And that is an economic problem. It means the quality of our soil will not be sufficient to provide the diets we are used to, water supplies are degrading and oil production is peaking while consumption is increasing. The mess we’re in, he says, is not as simple as fossil fuels and carbon footprints. We have come to the end of Economic Growth Version 1.0. That was a world economy based on consumption and waste, where we lived beyond the means of our planet’s resources. That is now finished.

It’s a point raised by noted economist Paul Krugman in the New York Times recently. “The evidence does, in fact, suggest that what we’re getting now is a first taste of the disruption, economic and political, that we’ll face in a warming world. And given our failure to act on greenhouse gases, there will be much more, and much worse, to come.”

Gilding says there is hope. We can change to a low impact economy and we have to do it. As humans, we have a history of being good in a crisis. We ignore our health issues until we have a heart attack, we ignore the badly designed global financial system until there is a global financial meltdown and we ignore Hitler until there is a war. But we do tackle the problem. We might be slow but we’re not stupid. As a result, we’re already seeing electric cars rolling off production lines, organic food production outstripping conventional food production, solar prices falling and more investment in renewable energy.

In his critique of Gilding's book, Thomas Friedman says we are now at the cross-roads. “You really do have to wonder whether a few years from now we’ll look back at the first decade of the 21st century — when food prices spiked, energy prices soared, world population surged, tornados plowed through cities, floods and droughts set records, populations were displaced and governments were threatened by the confluence of it all — and ask ourselves: What were we thinking? How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we’d crossed some growth/climate/natural resource/population redlines all at once?”

The choice is ours.