After the Rio+20 convention left most people disheartened about the possibility of turning humans away from their profligate consumption, and most activists and analysts shouting, ‘this is a whitewash,’ there does seem to be a kernel of hope from the meeting’s outcome. The Guardian newspaper has profiled an interesting side to the seemingly stalled environmental discussions – the idea of “Green Economics” was, apparently, much discussed but was left off of the main agenda.
What is this nebulous term, you ask? It’s a vague title for something that many economists and environmentalists have known for a long time: if saving the planet comes down to human conscience, we’re doomed. But, if sustainability becomes integrated into the fabric of nation’s economies, there is hope. In short, make going green profitable. Fred Pearce, writing for Yale Environment 360, encapsulates the idea as thus: “The theory goes that once natural capital turns up on balance sheets in the same way as man-made capital, then CEOs and policy makers will adopt greener ways.”
It isn’t a panacea for over-consumption and an exploding and aging population, but the idea is that we can’t wait for governments to adapt to new energy policies, or even remotely expect them to lead them. It is the notion of a ‘public-private partnership’ that had many in Rio excited and many corporations seeing the advantage of new sustainable investments; the article continues with a healthy example in the Far East: “the Asian Development Bank announced here that it had launched a consortium of banks and corporations aiming to spend $175 billion over the next decade on “sustainable” transportation systems across the developing world, including rapid-transit bus networks, railways, and fuel-efficient vehicles.” The corporate world needs to see the monetary advantages and leave the politicking behind (we all know that doesn’t achieve anything).
Nonetheless, there also needs to be a green ideology in place. It can’t just be rooted in profiteering, otherwise sustainability becomes tethered only to money being made, and that is dangerous. The hardest thing to achieve, always, is equilibrium. But, this is a start.