Above, I’ve tried to demonstrate the main ideas of a series of posts I’ve recently worked on (references 1-5). For genuine human prosperity we require activities that foster protection, if not improvement of all things green in the above flow chart. An even shorter version could be:
Solar energy > Conversion > Human Use.
Excluding geothermal and radioactive energy, all other forms should be seen for what they are – solar derived energy sources.
The main point here though is to demonstrate how many of the pathways are negative. Even improving energy security can in fact lead to negative pathways (for example, while it mainly focuses on fossil fuel use or where it leads to further reductions of biodiversity in such forms as urban sprawl, which was harder to include in detail in such a simplified diagram). What the flow chart highlights is areas of focus for innovation and improvement. Such as;
How can we improve energy security while reducing the impact on climate?
How can we improve food and water security while reducing biodiversity degradation?
How can human activity improve the regenerative process with our spent material (ie. rather than landfill, waste products that enter back into useful decomposition-composition pathways)?
How can our economic models be shifted so as they foster these activities – providing real financial value for improving the regenerative qualities of resource sources?
It should be blatantly obvious, after all, that to generate economic value, you first must generate the resources on which it relies. We are not free for the need of supportive ecosystems, nor show we hope to be (6). Our prosperity is inherently tied to the prosperity of biodiversity (although it might not be as evident currently, largely because our wealth currently depends on undermining the wealth of natural resources) and energy requirements (whether it’s supply or efficient use).
Improving the green while reducing the red of the above flow chart must be our primary focus if we truly want sustainable and prosperous societies. It’s that simple.
Why such a small arrow to the “ultimate goal”?
If asked, the vast majority of us would prefer societies that are comfortable and safe with reliable goods and services close at hand, at a reasonable price. We could all concede that in such a place the incentive to commit a crime would be diminished – especially because access to goods and services are increased.
“A new book highly recommended, by the emeritus professor of social epidemiology at Nottingham University, Richard Wilkinson, call The Spirit Level, presents again the strong correlative evidence that inequality is dysfunctional. Countries that are more equal are happier, more trusting, more productive. Stress, obesity, crime, fear, are all inversely connected to material inequality.” – David Walker (7).
Where the Gross Domestic Product [GDP] favours poor health (requiring medical attention) or a car accident over personal fitness or that we think of ourselves as consumers, buying apparently “fresh produce” that, in reality, can be left in storage over many months and have traveled further in that time than most individuals will travel in several years, rather than citizens capable of growing some of our own food: this system doesn’t work for the society.
Likewise, in many of the richer developed countries, disparity can still be so great that it creates a separation from vital goods and services – a void for the lower socio-economic community (8) – while the richer still worried about not having enough to get by (7), the economic model is not reflecting the real drivers for a happy and healthy society.
In this way, the economy is not working for humanistic values, but merely mindless growth. Growth for growth’s sake rather than for the health and well being of the local community.
Reminding ourselves of what the economy should be working for – that is, the local community – and that it is suppose to be little more than a regenerative source for social health and wellbeing should reaffirm why strengthening the resource cycle is so important and demand a rethink of the defining principles of our economic models.
- Efficiency is Truly Virtuous: Planning Prosperity
- You Know What They Say About a Man with a Big Footprint
- How Greenwashing Really Can Make a Difference
- Sustainable Growth Not as We Know it
- The Price of Sustainable Cities
- The Human Island
- Unjust Rewards: Exposing Greed and Inequality in Britain Today
- Lifeboat Cities by Brendan Gleeson