Humans are consuming the world’s capability to support all species on the planet. Climate change, in addition, is diminishing humans’ capacity to produce as weather patterns are altered across the globe.
So, how do we change the way humans measure progress?
There is an urgent need to relook the way we create goods and services in order to ensure the survival of mankind.
At a recent meeting of the Club of Rome in Stellenbosch, the first time this think tank met outside of Europe, Dr David Korten shared his views on structural change.
Korten is an American author, critic of corporate globalisation and former professor at the Harvard Business School.
The meeting, held in conjunction with the Stellenbosch University Business School’s Institute for Futures Research, heard from Korten that eight principles need to be laid down and implemented to ensure human survival.
First, economic performance should be measured by indicators that evaluate what humans want to accomplish.
The wellbeing of people and the planet is paramount. The custom measurement of economic growth, measured through increases in gross domestic product, only measures consumption.
Only those resources and labour which benefit life should be used.
This second principle means that humans would eliminate war – which is usually a scramble for power over limited resources – dependence on automobiles, financial speculation, planned obsolescence, chemical agriculture and advertising.
These are the drivers of consumerism.
In the third instance, honour, reward and power should be put in the hands of those who provide beneficial labour, which serves the community interest.
Thus, businesses should be converted to worker and community ownership. This entails eliminating trans-national companies and other forms of absentee ownership. These are not modest changes and humans’ fundamental survival is at stake.
Fourthly, societies should be created where the money supply takes place through an accountable and transparent public process serving the community interest.
In societies that are dependent on money, those controlling the money creation and allocation control the lives of every human. Such enormous control should be reserved for transparent and accountable community cooperative banks which should be established.
Education should, in the fifth instance, be focused on developing skills of rapid learning and adaptation.
The only future certainty is that it will be time for rapid and dramatic change. All humans should be skilled in creating and adapting to rapid change.
That means that any education that is geared towards learning to succeed in the current system, is not in tune with what we need to have if we want to have a future together.
Technologies should be created and supplied to serve life, as a sixth principle.
That will include technologies that reduce destructive environmental impacts, restore the regenerative capacity of earth’s natural systems and facilitate global understanding, cooperation and rapid learning.
The seventh principle foresees communities organised as interlinked, cooperative, self-reliant, regenerative and bioregional.
Rural and urban communities should be linked through circular flows of energy and materials that meet the needs of each with local labour and materials. This all while freely sharing beneficial knowledge and technology with all those who might benefit from it.
Multinational companies, which enslave life and the planet in order to grow money, should be broken up. Money is in any instance just numbers on a hard drive.
The final principle holds that humans should seek a mutually beneficial balance between the population of people and earth’s other species.
This should be done by providing educational and occupational opportunities for women, making fertility management methods freely available to all whom seek them and by facilitating voluntary resettlement between over and under populated bioregions.
These are simple concepts, but a very complicated application.
By applying these principles, we will reduce our dependence on money, break up the structures of corporate control, rebuild communities and the structures of the environment consistent with contemporary needs and the potentials of modern knowledge and technology, said Korten.
One of the principle reasons why humans are in trouble is because they deprived indigenous people of their land and made them dependent on money for labour that international corporations use to accumulate profits, explained Korten.
“We currently consume 1.7 times more than what the earth can sustain. The 27 richest individuals own more than that of 3.5bn of the poorest people,” said Korten.
“The self-destruction of humankind is possible if we don’t change. The reality is that the neoliberal economic thinking has failed and that we must think new.”