Sustainability: Where Private And Public Interests Meet

Allotments (Sudley) 06.7.15 004.jpg Sustainability is a huge challenge. Solutions won’t come cheap, but come they must. The imperative for meeting the huge challenge of global warming is now recognised by people across the economic and political spectrum, from Al Gore to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
A66 road (dramatic clouds) 06.1.5  044.jpg Sometimes there is a commonality of interest between sectors of the economy which is probably larger than the differences. The active involvement of no less a person than former US Vice President Al Gore at the 2006 Cannes film festival suggests that one place where this commonality now applies is sustainability. An Inconvenient Truth in some ways says it all.
It seems now everyone is agreed that sustainability is The Issue, and that Something Must Be Done. From the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) to the various ‘Green’ not-for-profits, via vast organisations such as the National Health Service (NHS), there is a determination to address the issues – or at least some of them.
Same problem, different perspectives
There’s certainly no denying that the issue is pressing. Politicians of all the major parties have been keen to present their green credentials, and they even sometimes offer similar ‘solutions’; and the same applies across the private – public sectos of the economy. Everyone knows they must conserve energy, look for more sustainable ways to travel, reduce manufacturing and distribution transport requirements, save water and the like.
But there’s another way too in which these problems are often shared. To paraphrase a poltician who was recently challenged about his local authoritiy’s poor record on sustainabilty, that’s OK as long as no-one has to put up the rates or local taxes. Just as it does for commercial business people, increased expenditure frightens the politicos.
Where business meets politics
So here’s the crux of the matter. We know we need to change, as even some politicians such as Arnold Schwarzenegger who are far to the right the politics of Al Gore acknowledge, but for some the change may happen only if there are few or no costs involved. The temptation to ignore the longer term is sometimes great. It won’t be the same people in charge then; it will be someone else’s problem.
But we also all know in our hearts that’s balony. Sustainability and environmental challenges are increasing by the day. Tomorrow will be here all too soon.
And that’s where business comes in. Large amounts of money will accrue to anyone who can crack these enormous challenges in commercially and / or publicly ‘acceptable’ ways, so there’s a great deal of interest now in energy futures and sustainabilty. The nuclear energy debate continues, but there’s gold in them there tidal waves, wind turbines, biomasses and all the rest, if they can be exploited quickly enough.
Sometimes Adam Smith’s invisible hand is hovering right where it needs to be, ready to guide the market as soon as the political and public climate makes this possible. Sustainability is an issue bigger than any special interest or perspective.

Posted on June 4, 2006, in Knowledge Ecology And Economy, Politics, Policies And Process, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, Science Politics And Policy, Sustainability As If People Mattered. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hilary
    I enjoyed reading your comments on sustainability. I was at the Haye Festival last week and was lucky enough to both listen to and actually meet (very briefly) Al Gore. The film – and Gore – is fascinating and relentless.
    I have been telling my friends and colleagues – “you owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have or go on to have, grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to.”

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