Will it really be "The End" like The Doors were telling us back in the seventies or will it not?
Today we have enough data about our ecosystems to make sound decisions that could potentially shift the needle slightly towards the better end. In a world where most of us do not have time to read studies explaining that 2030 is the year of a major shift in our planetary systems we have to question ourselves as to what comes next?
For the past forty two years Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows spent their time explaining that 2030 was the expected year for a planetary system collapse in their book and study called The Limits to Growth. Not another dot com bubble or financial crisis. No, a system collapse. Not enough food to feed us all due to depleted soil, no more fish to catch due to ocean acidification and overfishing activities, not enough drinkable water for all due to pollution, climate change and over population, no more raw materials to keep the pace of our throughput based industrial systems and so on. Thanks to their World 3 computerized model the authors of The Limits to Growth explained countless times that we cannot go on beyond the earth carrying capacity without heading towards a major cliff, the one that will see a tragic and endless decline in world population. And we are talking about three to four billions of people dying here (!), and most certainly the weakest and the poorest (again!) first.
Who has reacted to that strong warning call? Other highly regarded institutes in the world such as American Scientist, The Club of Rome or the Australian Governmental Scientific Research Agency have all confirmed that the numbers and projections are not only right but extremely accurate since 1972! The thing is that we are not programmed to address long term challenge, be it disastrous for our specie. We are too optimistic about stories that always end well. According to our level of understanding of what a sustainable world should or could look like we have only recently realized that most answers have been in front of us ever since: mimicking nature, its key principles and that complexity of systems is the norm, not the exception. But yet a world as described in Natural Capital: The Next Industrial Revolution by Paul Hawken, Amory B. Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins -- where cities have become peaceful through careful green design is great in principle but does not always take into consideration the many divergent views at several levels and groups -- societal & cultural, political & financial, etc. -- that do not see their interests in this new kind of world. 2030 is tomorrow and we have not been able to commonly react for the past forty two years. Why would we react quicker within the remaining sixteen years? Why will it be different this time?
We have had enough signs of warning of a soon-to-come collapse of our systems. The convergence of the end of oil, the resource scarcity, the explosion of the population, the climate change and the planetary boundaries are just too large and too wide in sizes to be stopped so easily and in a coordinated fashion. We also know where the climate change tipping points are: the Arctic ice cap melting no longer playing its mirroring role keeping us within the cooler temperature zones, the methane release menace should the ice caps be gone and the ocean acidification threatening the entire fish food chain from the extinction -- due to the disappearance of plankton, at the base of the food chain. Yet we are still in a business-as-usual mode, still waiting for governments to act, still consuming as if we knew nothing. And we know nothing. Most of the people questioned around us are not aware of any of such major collapse. They know that climate change seems real, so what? Until when shall we stay in this status quo? Shall we pray and count for "the" technology that would be saving us? We also know that technology only is far from being enough...
There are breakthrough concepts out there known for several decades but recently made visible and implemented at a wider scale: Biomimicry, Cradle-to-Cradle, Natural Capital, etc. and the overarching concept of the Circular Economy that is taking off in many countries from China, Japan to Germany, the Netherlands, France and the UK. Circular Economy is an industrial economy that is restorative by intention and design. This means that every concerted efforts aim at designing waste out from the early conception of a product to its never ending subsequent lives, therefore many cash-flows too. This model attracts lots of attention as this is about economics and profit maximisation. We have just realized that the longer the life of a product the more money we can make (the lesser the impact on the environment too by the way!). New business models and innovative ideas abound. This is great and all very positive. We should pursue down that track at fast speed but is profit maximisation the only other alternative we found to shift from one capitalist model to another other one? How about focusing on value creation and collective actions instead? Also will Circular Economy be enough to answer our big question: Quid of 2030?
According to the World 3 Model we are ahead of the projections in food output per capita, this is bad news. Predictions for 2030 see the population reaching a peak at 8.5 to 9.5 billion people and then drop radically below 4 billion. Even if we try to delay the cliff few decades down the line the decline will be even sharper. Man is a Wolf to Man. This saying has never been so true... Are you still doubting? Take a look at Paul Chefurka's website where he defined what he called "Climbing the Ladder of Awareness." Check your level of awareness, and find out whether you are "Dead asleep" or if you have reached the depressing stage five "Awareness that the predicament are encompasses all aspects of life"?
In a world where we spend time and money issuing corporate reports -- that are the best tools to protect companies' image and reputation from their highly damaging externalities -- one can only fear that none of these great concepts will fly high enough to divert the curves of "tomorrow." Besides these breakthrough concepts many others need to be implemented in parallel addressing all fields of our economic systems: our financial systems require a dramatic shift, like for instance the one as suggested in Sacred Economy from Charles Eisenstein, but also "Changing the Way We Tend to Think" as explained by Stephen Sterling, changing our political systems, our social systems and all others frameworks that govern our way of living. Will we be able to revolutionize our many worlds in time?
Similar to the debate on whether we have entered the Anthropocene era -- where humans have overthrown other species -- should we also be looking at how Homo Sapiens will evolve and adapt itself to post-2030 many clashes that will last until the 22nd century and beyond? Will we become that specie able to repair our ecosystem while developing survival features i.e. sustaining itself with far less resources than available today? And obviously including a self-correcting system that do not allow one specie to overthrow others? This could be a better end. One thing is for sure, we will not be here to see it.