The future needs a global economic architecture that focuses on the conditions for life on our planet. While the pathways to implementation may differ, the broad direction is clear: creating life economies will require a fundamental shift in the global operating system. The change will be radical because only a new North Star for new economics will engender the necessary behavioral changes.
While we are still trying to overcome the COVID 19 pandemic, we experience forest fires of frightening magnitude, floods and storms that scare many people to evacuate their homes, and recently a level of inflation that is reason for concern. For many decades to come, a stable climate will be a memory of the past. Hence, back to normal is not an option. The new normality is called “transformations”. This means pro-actively rebuilding our global economic operating system while we are subject to its faults and shortcomings.
Between threating scenarios and the willingness to change
The recent IPCC report says we are running out of time, and many scientists have been warning of “Hothouse Earth” scenarios since years. The fact that we collectively endanger our ecological life support systems has been known since 50 years. The Club of Rome’ s famous report “Limits to Growth” has been acclaimed and ridiculed at the same time, but its scenarios are frighteningly realistic. A recent survey of the Global Commons Alliance shows that overall, 83% of global respondents are ready to become planetary stewards that safe the global commons. So, here we are: many more people than we think are prepared to take transformations seriously. If we joined forces, the future could look exciting.
From planetary boundaries to a fundamental shift in the economic operating system
This exciting future needs a global economic architecture that focuses on the conditions for
life on our planet. This may be ancient knowledge, but it has reached reational science, most prominently declared in the the term ‘safe operating space’ . It is a way of describing that even scientifically we can identify planetary boundaries that humankind as a whole, with its economic activities, should not transgress. But we did. Halting the negative trajectories is everybody’s business. While the pathways to implementation may differ, the broad direction is clear: creating life economies will require a fundamental shift in the global operating system. The change
will be radical, because only a new North Star for economics will engender the necessary behavioural changes. This means, first of all, that we must understand the basic principles of such
architecture: economies must be life-serving. Individual and collective wellbeing must be thought of together, as must be the interplay between people and nature.
Recognizing the conditions for vitality
The core task for the future, then, is to recognize the conditions for interwoven social, economic, and ecological patterns and to continually and collaboratively ensure that these patterns enhance the vitality of local and global systems. Transformations as the new normal will require the willingness to embark on adventurous journeys, for which not all landmarks and maps are known. This may at time be overly technical, e.g. in the attempt to take bold decisions towards getting on track towards climate neutrality, as is currently the case for the new German Government. While acknowledging the interconnectedness of approaches, we need to steward life in a troubled Earth system and take this responsibility seriously.
Can we, together, dismantle the destructive elements of our economies, and rebuild those that take us into the future?
This requires three fundamental reorientations:
- Moving from seeing the economy as dynamic market-driven process that requires little steering to ensuring economic activities serve Life, and subsequently people on this planet: People’s and planetary health require strong and trusted governments and reliable political participation.
- Moving from mindsets of extraction to mindsets of contribution: A new narrative is emerging around governing the global commons. What actually belongs to all of us (water, air, ecosystems, natural resources, etc.) should not be appropriated by a few for their own gain. Indications are the demands for establishing ecocide as a crime against humanity , which has been so strongly promoted by Polly Higgins or increasing attention how to actually govern the commons as Elinor Ostroms explained.
- Moving from the ego-centeredness of a proclaimed homo economicus (link to blogpost 01 Kühn) to an attitude of collective stewardship: Not doing harm and following legal obligations is no longer enough, not for corporations, not for governments and not for citizens. Instead, the new orientation asks for how economic activities can be embedded in societies and the natural environment in a way that fosters the vitality of small and large systems. With no exception. Stewarding such transformations will become our daily job.
Very practically Life economies can become the strategic driver of an attitude of care and contribution. Scaling these practices will shift the entire system towards a future we can reasonably hand over to the next generation.
Back to normal is not an option. The new normality is called “transformations”.
The core task for the future is to recognize the conditions for interwoven social, economic, and ecological patterns that enhance the vitality of local and global systems