Earth for All: This new report presents a program to repair a troubled world – economy and ecology

In 1972, the first United Nations World Conference on the Environment was held in Stockholm. In preparation for the summit, a group of researchers from the Club of Rome wrote a report Limits of growthwhich unexpectedly became a bestseller. The authors warn that if the world fails to recognize the environmental costs of human activity, proliferating consumption will eventually exceed the Earth’s limited natural resources, leading to an ecological deficit and the collapse of our society. Without a course shift, there were dangers of food and energy problems, rising pollution, falling living standards, and perhaps a dramatic decline in population in the mid-21st century.

In the decades that followed, the chilling conclusions of the report were perhaps more criticized than taken seriously. Many have dismissed it as a disaster scenario that would make human ingenuity and technological progress obsolete. However included Limits of growth more than forecast. The authors described several alternative development options based on different human strategies, and a recent study by Gaya Herrington found that three of the four scenarios outlined in the report reflect the empirical data fairly well.

This is extremely worrying as two of the three scenarios predict a complete collapse by the middle of the century, and the third still predicts some decline. According to Herrington, “humanity is on a path where it does not freely set limits to its development, but where these limits are imposed on it.”

But all is not lost: in the fourth scenario, which involves significant economic and social changes, a better life is possible for all people within the earth’s natural boundaries. This is the motivation Land for everyonea new report by the Committee on Economic Transformation of the Club of Rome (of which I am a member) and a team of computer modeling experts.

The authors show that a good life for everyone is still possible on a (relatively) stable planet, but only if we thoroughly reform our economic organization.

The authors show that a good life for everyone is still possible on a (relatively) stable planet, but only if we thoroughly reform our economic organization. In particular, they call for five initiatives to eradicate poverty, combat inequality, equal opportunities for women, transform food systems and a comprehensive energy transition through “full electrification”.

The report supports these goals with specific and related strategies in all five areas of action. Of course, all of this requires huge investments and a huge increase in public spending. Higher taxation, especially for extremely wealthy and large corporations, is an indispensable part of this agenda. Around the CO2Reducing emissions and unnecessarily wasteful consumption also requires regulating the wealth and consumption of the super-rich.

Creating global liquidity, for example by issuing special drawing rights, the reserve balance of the International Monetary Fund and reducing the national debt overhang, would give developing country governments greater financial flexibility.

It is now clear that the world’s food systems are no longer functioning. They are now promoting unhealthy and unsustainable production and consumption patterns and massive amounts of waste and must be reformed accordingly. The most important step in this direction would be to regulate the markets for public goods. However, not only food needs to be regulated systematically and effectively, but also the markets for (financial) goods and services, labor and land, and all markets that have an impact on the environment and nature.

For meaningful regulation, we need the democratization of knowledge, universal access to new technologies, and the recognition and dissemination of traditional knowledge. Greater power for women and workers would not only make our societies happier, healthier and fairer, but also stabilize populations.

Hell on Earth awaits many people already living in poverty and in countless animal species.

Report Land for everyone contains the results of global modeling that focuses in particular on two scenarios. The first – “Too Little, Too Late” – corresponds to our current development where governments and international institutions talk a lot about sustainability and climate change but do little to really make a difference.

In this scenario, the struggle between sections of the population and entire countries for scarce resources leads to growing inequalities and loss of trust in society. Without a collective effort to reduce the enormous pressures on nature, Earth’s life support systems (climate, water, soil and forests) will continue to degrade and some regions will approach or even exceed irreversible tipping points. Hell on Earth awaits many people already living in poverty and in countless animal species.

In the second scenario – “The Big Leap” – politicians are trying to make five decisive changes and actually improve everyone’s life. This means that it protects dignity (so that everyone is safe and healthy), nature (a restored and safe environment for all forms of life) and cohesion (a sense of bonds and institutions serving the common good). And it advocates justice (justice in all its dimensions, with a much smaller gap between the richest and the poorest) and empowerment (active involvement of citizens in deeply entrenched communities and economies).

Of course, achieving all of this will not be easy. The overall and sustained growth of the common good requires active governments to reform markets and pursue a long-term social vision. This, in turn, will require political will and a fundamentally new attitude from governments – which is unlikely without strong social pressure and massive mobilization. Since we are dangerously close to so many tipping points, the zero option would have dire consequences: environmental degradation, extreme inequality and economic vulnerability, and potentially unsustainable social and political tensions.

Therefore Land for everyone more than a report – it’s a lighthouse. The necessary changes are serious and therefore require decisive social movements with wide participation. History shows that inaction and defeatism often lead to ruin. But it also teaches us that governments must either submit to pressure from society or be replaced.

© Project Syndicate

Leave a Comment