On the day that the IPCC have released a report warning there’s only a short time to act before the life of millions of people will become significantly more difficult, a quick and short note on how to avoid human suffering on a mass scale: cut back on consumption of material goods, replace with consumption of education and culture. Cut back on steel- and concrete buildings, replace with wood-structured buildings. Cut back on flying and driving, replace with remote access meetings. Demand political change. Act to reduce inequality. Replace growth-oriented economic thinking with sustainable ideas. Leave coal, oil and gas in the ground, replace with renewables. Reform the money system. Introduce a lifetime cap on individual resource usage. Install universal basic income globally.
Martin Parker writes in the Guardian about “Why we should bulldoze the business school”.
This is an important idea, and recommended way of action. The business case, or the philosophy case, rather, for scrapping all business schools is clear. In their present form, they are (a very big) part of the problem, and not part of the solution any longer. To replace them, a new type of business school is needed: The business of sustenance school. These schools will train people to master the business of sustenance (that is living within limits, in other words). We need MoBoSs instead of MBAs.
“The sort of world that is being produced by the market managerialism that the business school sells is not a pleasant one. It’s a sort of utopia for the wealthy and powerful, a group that the students are encouraged to imagine themselves joining, but such privilege is bought at a very high cost, resulting in environmental catastrophe, resource wars and forced migration, inequality within and between countries, the encouragement of hyper-consumption as well as persistently anti-democratic practices at work.”
Some of us still talk about ‘business sustainability’ as an answer to the limits we’re hitting everywhere, in energy, in clean air and water, in natural resources, in purchasing power of the middle class, in debt-based material growth etc. It’s a useful idea to forget about sustainability. If something can’t be sustained, it won’t be sustained, no matter how hard we hope. If the true costs for diminishing and permanently used-up resources was charged to business beneficiaries of those resources, these businesses would close their doors tomorrow.
If we, as individuals, were forced to live within the boundaries of one planet, instead of four planets or twenty planets, our lifestyle, as we know it, would be finished today. The fact is, many of our current activities can’t be maintained for much longer, even if we continued to ignore the moral problem of global inequality, or the problem of 1% of the people grabbing and using up wealth and resources on behalf of the rest of us, and even on behalf of their own grandchildren. For both businesses and individuals, it’s more than just a question of sustainability of operations. It’s about sustenance as a business, about existence.
What to do, if you are a business owner? Firstly, make sure your company has understood the situation. Secondly, make sure you have hired the best thinking available to help decide the right course of action. Thirdly, don’t waste any more time hoping that a solution appears out of thin air and bails you out at the last minute.
It seems to me, that there are three top priority goals for any organization, that wants to do something worthwhile on a global scale. They are: 1. eliminating inequality, 2. stopping overpopulation and 3. moving energy out of harmful uses, and directing it into purposes that help reach the first two goals.
Now ready to try to answer the question posed in this posting https://hellomaintenancegoodbyegrowth.com/2012/04/04/to-infinity-and-beyond/, “what kind of solutions should we be promoting and selling to people”. The answer is: the kind of solutions that improve the efficient use of resources GREATLY ENOUGH to more than offset the one-time and irreversible damage done by using non-renewable resources.
For example, a new building that uses up 100 units of non-renewables, should not be built UNLESS its life-cycle operating costs will be more than 100 units LOWER than in any existing alternative buildings. In addition, the savings should NOT be used to further consume non-renewables but to develop further solutions, that meet the same criteria.
So these are very tough terms under which businesses can operate at all, and it’s clear most if not all current infrastructure projects and other investments do not meet them. It’s equally clear, that the promotion and sales of most solutions and investment projects today should stop until they are re-designed to meet the tough sustainability criteria. Not to mention any overconsumption of non-critical consumer items.
As an exception to the rule, a small amount of unsustainable experimental projects and R&D should be allowed each year to keep the possibilities open for finding breakthrough technologies that, if and when implemented, would radically change the economic and ecologic boundaries within which we must live.
A very short note at the end of the year (having recently survived yet another end of the world): There must be something very wrong with incentives in our economic systems. As the limits to material growth are approaching, we should have in place strong incentives for using less physical resources. Instead, many – if not most – incentives systems reward people for using more resources. We reward our best and brightest for getting better at using more resources every year. Don’t we?
The math: If one person uses up a number X amount of non-renewable resources while alive, and we are now 7 billion, calculate X so that the current level of aspired consumption can be maintained for all 7 billion and their children and grandchildren. For our great grandchildren, we’ll just have to find a great excuse.