I just read a tweet by someone who follows me on Twitter, via Solitaire Townsend, on a piece by New Scientist’s environment correspondent Fred Pearce which suggests that greed will save us from the impending perfect storm.
I disagree with the piece for two main reasons, one about values and one about growth. My first disagreement is because in my view it is extrinsic values like greed which are the cause of our unsustainable lifestyles, and reduce our wellbeing and that of those around us. This is well documented by Dr Tom Crompton’s genius work.
Solitaire takes a very different view from Tom and they have had a long standing difference of opinion on these issues. My money – and George Monbiot’s is on Tom’s work. In fact I would say that if you read anything in the ’sustainability’ world you should read Tom’s work and that of Professor Tim Jackson with whom I work closely.
The second reason I think the piece is wrong is that it misses a key fact in the growth dilemma. That is that BOTH intensity AND scale are crucial. If you look at the scary IPAT figures in Tim’s Prosperity Without Growth work you will see that we need to reduce the carbon intensity of every dollar of economic activity globally from 770g CO2 to 6g CO2. That means that EVERY dollar of global economic activity needs to get 11% less carbon intensive EVERY year from now till 2050. This despite the best we have ever been able to do in the last 17 years has been 0.7% reductions in carbon intensity.
Yes China is looking like making some good intensity reduction commitments but even if it meets them it also has massive scale ambitions. And the current trajectory of global economic output is still very much in the wrong direction.
Unless we discover the perpetual motion machine I just can’t see how we are going to make these leaps in efficiency and so what we need most of all are significant values shifts in society away from ‘consumer’ values to ‘citizen values’. These are the kinds of values shifts we wrote about in our wiki book Citizen Renaissance and which Tom Crompton and Tim Jackson have written so convincingly about.