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Porritt: ‘Last chance’ for sustainable future

jonathan-porrittWriter-environmentalist Jonathon Porritt argues in a new pamphlet released today — “Living Within Our Means” — that today’s economic and environmental crises both have their roots in the same flawed model of capitalism.

Unless politicians act immediately to address the root cause of both crises, Porritt says, society faces a “perfect storm” of economic collapse and accelerating climate change.

“Unless we put the imperative of living within our means, both financially and environmentally, absolutely at the heart of everything we do to dig ourselves out of this recession, then any economic reprieve that we enjoy at the end of that time will be as bittersweet as it will be short-lived,” writes Porritt, a founder director of the sustainable development charity Forum for the Future and chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission.

He adds that politicians seeking to cure today’s economic ills must also take into account whether their proposals also benefit the planet environmentally.

“Do we really want to be remembered as the generation that managed to rescue the global banking system even as we allowed the natural world to collapse around us?” Porritt asks.

“Living Within Our Means” follows Porritt’s acclaimed book, “Capitalism As If The World Matters.” He calls for a “root-and-branch transformation of capitalism,” and identifies these key priorities for politicians:

  • Global programmes to restore the natural systems on which we depend, such as schemes to pay tropical countries for maintaining their rainforests;
  • A “Green New Deal” with massive investments in energy efficiency and renewables, creating “green-collar jobs” in a low-carbon economy;
  • Reform of the economy, with greater regulation of capital markets, green taxes, and an end to the unsustainable pursuit of economic growth as an end in itself.

While the message might sound near-apocalyptic, Porritt sees room for optimism. The scale of the financial system collapse and the subsequent government interventions, he argues, have destroyed old dogmas.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity,” he says. “It may even be the last chance for capitalism to stake any kind of claim as the system best placed to help us navigate our way through to a sustainable future for nine billion people by 2050.”

1 Comment

  • Phil
    Posted March 21, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Shame it is formatted in a way which guarantees paper waste when printed. One page per page please, Jonathon, so we can use the booklet-printing features of our printer drivers to save paper when printing. Only way to print that doc out is as one page per sheet of paper (two logical pages), and then cut down the middle and staple, wasting 30-something sheets of paper. The current format makes it difficult to read on screen, so more people are going to be tempted to print it.

    Reformat it as one page per page, please!

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