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Ecocivilisation: the need for decoupling between the growth in human well-being and the use of planetary resources

Ecocivilisation as an innovative approach and relatively new concept in our society tells a story about general market failure that creates the need for decoupling between the growth in human well-being and the use of planetary resources, says Jurij Giacomelli, founder and managing Director of Giacomelli Media and founder of Circular Business Academy.

 

Ecocivilisation is an innovative approach and a relatively new concept in our society – what does it mean?

 

“General market failure creates the need for decoupling between the growth in human well-being and the use of planetary resources.

 

The shift to a new development paradigm derives from a general market failure, widely recognised in environmental economics: global production and consumption system at a given set of technologies as deployed in early 21st century, results in over-extraction of resources, driving the humanity beyond the sustainability threshold. The need for decoupling of human well-being from the use of resources is immanent. This changing course exposes all market participants to increasing uncertainty, deriving from negative externalities and leading to changing regulation. A comprehensive redesign of the regulatory framework essentially follows the concept of the Piguvian tax, while considering all three dimensions of sustainability, often termed as “planet, people and profit”.

 

In this context the circular transition of our current economic and social system continuously expands the opportunities to firms adopting sustainability principles and undergoing processes of the circular transformation. The latter should be distinguished from firms’ practices falling under a narrow understanding of their corporate social responsibility, responding to a trend induced by mere “corrective” measures or short-term regulatory compliance, typically resulting in incremental costs under linear business models.

 

A new development paradigm foresees a different concept of industrial organisation, which can contribute to dissociating growth in resource consumption from increasing prosperity. At the firm level, decision-makers are required to make a shift in the understanding of how value is created under conditions, in which, in the extreme, no good is free and available without limits, and relative scarcity of resources is substituted by their absolute limits. In such circumstances, in which waste is theoretically reduced to a minimum, incremental wealth is not created by the accumulation of – or control over – resources, but through the capability to increase the efficiency of their use in such ways that create economic benefits.

 

At the societal level we consider the new paradigm to evolve into a new „Ecocivilisation“.

 

Thinking in terms of the Ecocivilisation as a social construct provides two important consequences. First, it helps imagining our desired destination of a comprehensive socioeconomic and cultural transition. Many times pledges for change actually evoke uneasy feelings of going into the unknown. So, it is more likely that we will get to the destination if we share a common vision instead of sharing only the struggle od departing from where we are. Second, the term clearly determines the civilisational dimension of the paradigm shift. It is not only about technologies or economic policies. It is an overwhelming civilisational shift.”

 

How can technology – and communication – contribute to a “new” world order in terms of eco-civilization?

 

“Above all, if we want to preserve our civilisational achievements for next generations and even more widely share it, that is, the degree of freedom, health and economic wellbeing that humans can enjoy in many developed countries, we need do drastically innovate. That requires the adoption of new, radically better technologies than those requiring the consumption of fossil fuels or the extraction of virgin materials in a take-make-waste consumption model. The transition requires an engaging process, where the media play a crucial role. More than ever, the media should provide learning and collaboration, transparency and social cohesion in such a process.”

 

What does look like implementation of ecocivilisation in business and how in the media?

 

“The dynamics of the sustainable transition to the “Ecocivilisation” requires a multi-level discourse. While businesses and investors increasingly recognise the sustainable and circular business models as opportunities and not pure suggestions or even additional costs and risks, this represents only one angle to the overall change. We all as consumers, citizens, parents and learning individuals participate at this transition in many other ways. Today, in the times of connectedness and social media, every organisation and even every conscious individual has become a medium. The rise of collaborative and engagement platforms is another such phenomenon. The debate is inherently global and local at the same time, any political or other boundaries may get easily blurred.”

 

How does the current corona crisis affect the implementation of this idea?

 

“The current covid pandemic acts a global accelerator of the paradigm shift. Even though in a short term the pandemic apparently dictates a health agenda, it has contributed to a global rise of consciousness of interdependence and vulnerability of our social systems an individuals as such. Right through the second wave of the pandemic we bitterly recognise that there is no trade off possible between the economy and the preservation of health and human lives. In the end, we had to severely limit our public lives across Europe if we wanted to combat the pandemic, at the cost of the economic slowdown. This shows that we need to change many things, from prevention and investments into the public health, to innovation in a form of vaccines, medications and treatments. Moreover, we can realize what is the value of healthy environment and cohabitation with nature. Therefore, the way out of the pandemic leads through significant public and private investments into sustainable solutions at all levels. This era has already begun, symbolically with the Joe Biden’s victory at the US presidential elections. This will allow for the global governance of some sort of a “global green deal”. And Europe here can take the leading role.”