Are Short Term Financial Gains Killing Our Planet?

13749358jpgThe polar ice caps are melting, species are facing extinction and our climate has become more erratic than ever before.  It is impossible to deny the need for intense change in the face of today’s gathering ecological crises.  Now that scientific facts support the theories behind global warming, why aren’t more people paying attention—and how do we stop the damage?

Jonathon Porritt, adviser to the UK Prime Minister and author of the new book, “Capitalism as if the World Matters,” (Earthscan 2007) says the first step towards implementing change is to alter the approach to conventional environmentalism. To win people over and get them on board, he suggests focusing on the positive.  “Change will not come by threatening people with yet more ecological doom and gloom,” says Porritt.  “The necessary changes have to be seen as good for people, their health and their quality of life – and not just good for future generations.”

As the book title suggests, the biggest players in the game- businesses and politicians- must undergo a paradigm shift. “Anything vaguely resembling ‘business-as-usual’ is no less than a death warrant for the highest ideals of contemporary civilization,” says Porritt.  “And that means we have to dig a lot deeper than today’s superficial, febrile political debates seem inclined to do.”

While Porritt acknowledges the big picture can be very threatening, he believes positive and profound change is possible.  Through his work with Forum for the Future, an organization that works with a very wide range of some of the world’s biggest international companies, Porritt acts as an adviser to a number of chief executives.  Porritt says the message that capitalism can be a change-agent for our future is starting to resonate.  “Like it or not (and the vast majority of people do), capitalism is now the only economic game in town,” says Porritt.  “And that, of course, means that the emerging solutions have to be fashioned with the embrace of capitalism.”

Porritt suggests that today’s model of capitalism is more and more dependent upon liquidating our necessary natural resources.  This in turn has a ripple effect of magnifying divides between the rich and the poor worldwide.

Porritt suggests that there are three ways we can transform capitalism in order to stop this from getting worse:

  • Pay real prices for the things that we take out of nature
  • Get the balance right between the short and long term
  • Promote responsible consumption (energy, food, travel, etc)

“This combination is the most likely to provide a serious political alternative to today’s economic and political beliefs,” say Porritt.  “Sustainable growth is understood as answering the inescapable challenge of living within our “natural limits,” providing unique opportunities for responsible and innovative capital creators, and offering people a more equitable and more rewarding way of life.”

Capitalism as if the World Matters” offers real-world solutions to the ‘destruction of the world’ problems that our global society faces. Porritt has put his experience to work, outlining frameworks for sustainable capitalism and pointing to the initiatives some governments and businesses are already beginning to follow.  As Porritt so adroitly points out, unless conventional environmentalism throws its weight behind this type of progressive political agenda, the planet will continue to face steep decline.