The lively debate in the US on a Green New Deal shows that rich countries are not yet ready for a ‘war economy’ footing on climate change. But the extreme threat of the climate emergency mean that the time has come for innovation policies that prepare us for that shift in the near future.
The Young Foundation have recently released an anthology, celebrating the 60th anniversary of Michael Young’s classic ‘The Rise of Meritocracy’. I had a go at answering their question – what lies beyond meritocracy? – and my piece was published. This post expands a bit more on some of the themes and thinking.
When reflecting on a recent piece on the physics of eternal growth, I was struck that the fundamental challenge is not about physics but biology. Specifically, unless nature can cope with human activity, then it will collapse, taking civilisation with it. But conversely, if we can find a more of human activity which we value more and more that co-evolves with nature, then in principle we could have eternal growth.
Earlier this week I spoke at on Industrial Strategies and a Stakeholder Economy at an event on ‘Redesigning Capitalism: From shareholder to stakeholder capitalism’.
The event was run by Promoting Economic Pluralism, which is creating and supporting spaces for diverse voices, perspectives and approaches to understanding our economies to help co-create truly sustainable, resilient and inclusive ones. PEP is run by the inimitable Henry Leveson-Gower, who deserves great praise for pushing for requisite variety in economics.
Some people from the session were asking for the slides. Here they are. In a perfect world I would write a blog post of my talk, but the perfect is the enemy of the good. So, better than nothing, here are the key points from the talk:
We’re in a profound mess.
Industrial strategy is ‘back’ because new approaches are needed.
There is a spectrum of industrial strategies, reflecting different political preferences.
Addressing transformation failure probably requires a ‘participative’ approach.
That makes a ‘stakeholder economy’ both a means and an end.
Orientating everything in an economy to address the profound mess means we have to experiment everywhere.
There are hints of an emerging practice of transformative, participatory industrial strategy.
We need many global ‘social learning cycles’ to get better at using participative approaches in industrial strategies to deliver a sustainable footing.
A short post to salute an initiative of Vigeo Eiris (where I am a non-executive director), which I hope will have a big contribution to shifting the finance system by making ESG information the norm in investment decisions.
At the end of November, I had the honour of giving the Keynote speech at the Ceylon Chamber of CommerceBest Corporate Citizen Sustainability Awards 2017. I was there as an affiliate of Good Karma, a Sri Lankan consultancy I’ve had the pleasure of working with this year. You can read my speech below on why economic transformation is inevitable, the best way to win the future is to invent it; and, that Sri Lanka can choose to grow towards a sustainable future.
“Rather than burden our children with our mistakes, we can inspire them with our example.”
What do we mean when we talk of ‘sustainability leadership’? This is addressed by Jem Bendell et al in a new paper, who use critical theory to unpack both ‘leadership’ and ’sustainability’. After reading it, I find myself framing sustainability as about shared dilemmas (not problems), regretting managerialist capture, and pursing a restoration approach (rather than reform or revolution). I also suspect we need to find a pragmatic, fundamental approach to change, though I’m not sure what that will be.
Below is the current draft of a chapter for Fast Future’s ’50:50 – Scenarios for the Next 50 Years’. They’ve given me permission to test my thinking so far. I’d love your thoughts – positive or negative – and connections to other, better thinking.
It is an attempt to imagine the world in 2050 as if what we do now matters. The speculative vision below will be wrong, but hopefully it will be useful. It is one path I can imagine to a sustainable footing. I don’t like all of it, and I don’t necessarily think it’s the most likely future. There’s so much more I’d like to add (links to culture or knowledge production, for instance) – but I’m already twice the word count! It applies some of the analysis from my work on industrial strategy, which you can watch here or see a rough cut here.
Please do let me know what reactions, comments below or via email!
Here in 2050 we ask: given how uncertain the world looked in 2020, how is it that most people are thriving? How did we deliberately and rapidly reduce our impacts on the Earth so nature to thrive? (Gaffney and Steffen, 2017) And, how did that lead to us becoming a two-speed world?
The short answer: back in the 2020s one group of countries tried ‘good growth’ as an open and future-facing strategy – and were able to renew as crises happened. These countries are now the Primary World, where people are thriving in ways that work in synergy with nature. Another group wanted security by preserving the past – and, when the crises came, weren’t able to adapt. This Secondary World is not in sync with nature, but at a much reduced pace and scale that nature can cope with.
Now for the long answer.
Late 2010s: Many eras ending
Early 2020s: ‘Good Growth’ vs ‘Security For Us’
Late 2020s: ‘Renew For Climate Safety’ vs ‘Protect What We Have’
2050: the thriving Primary World and the struggling Secondary World
Last week I was at Transformations 2017, the biennial academic conference on transformations towards sustainability, hosted by Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience (CECHR), University of Dundee. I had an excellent time, including presenting my paper on industrial strategy (rough cut here). In this post, I reflect on the importance of people power in knowledge production that is in the service of transformation to a just and sustainable world.