So this afternoon I found myself sitting on a panel with three others, defined as "Future Leaders", with the President of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, Peter Bakker, as our Chair. This was part of a kick-off panel - to an afternoon session of experts and prominent business leaders as part of the Business and Ecosystems Think Tank at the IUCN World Congress in Jeju, South Korea. So each of us had two minutes to give our statements, followed by a panel discussion. I had to start. This is a gist of what I said:
I believe that, while great efforts have been initiated over the years, we are still on an extremely destructive path for all of biodiversity on Earth, and this includes our own species.
And this doom and gloom picture is the product of our entire system, especially in terms of economy, which has been based on valuing commodities which actually have no value, like Gold, and putting absolutely no value on things that are intrinsic to our own survival – such as clean air, fresh water. This “undervalue”, or “no value”, as a result, has completely disconnected us from nature and our dependency on it!
For instance, we add the price of a bushel of wheat harvested, but we forget to subtract the topsoil lost forever in its mass production. And we are changing too slowly to come back from the MAJOR global losses of ecosystem services and biodiversity as a result of this system.
We are already getting feedback telling us that our current system is not working, peak oil, peak metal - and the end of the golden age! This seems like we are moving toward a dooms day picture if we carry on the same path.
However, there is also hope and excitement in this picture – one with many opportunities combined with the challenges. If a critical mass can realise, understand and want to change, we can use these opportunities to move towards a very bright future in which we value human well-being over material wealth – where a successful person is not a rich person, but a happy, healthy person.
Poverty is eradicated, nature is harmonized with development, and we connect again with our roots. I don’t have the answers to get there – but I know that with like-minded people we can come up with new, brilliant, innovative ways towards this paradigm shift in our society – for the betterment of all living beings in Earth, and especially our human society.
Business, in this sense, can play a key role toward finding these innovations.
My fellow panelists had their say. And then Peter Bakker, eternally pushing the edge of controversy, pushed us deeper. I decided to speak my mind and screw the diplomacy. So here I spoke about how we really need to make major changes in our own thinking - we should think about the system that we have created - I used the Niger Delta and what oil has done to it as an example - ruining lives and ecosystem services and at the cost of making just a few people rich. Among other things. Anyway - I had my platform; I said my piece.
I only realised later, when the business leaders panel came up to speak, that the Shell President was one of the panelists (oops). He had obviously taken on some of my oil statements and made some of his own - basically backtracking and talking about that "we cannot go back to scratch and redefine our value systems" - we must instead do things such duplicating best practices. Great. No complaints. But this coming from a corporation which has not made any attempts at research and development for renewables. This coming from a corporation still looking for more fossil fuels when we all know that we have reached peak. This coming from a corporation which has been put in front of the International Court of Justice for human rights violations - a company that has made strides in ruining vital ecosystem services. And for what? A resource which we really don't need anymore - we have the capacity to create energy without it If we could just spend as much time and energy researching for alternatives as we do drilling for oil offshore. In a much more innovative, off-the-grid manner. Why do we insist on continuing to destroy the Earth and its livingbeings, and of course our own human society, for a resource that we quite happily and easily can live without?
I can tell you why. Because of rich powerful people who have been brainwashed to think that power and money is the be-all and end-all.
So I question those people: What are you fighting humanity for? Richdom? Why? Why can't you instead enjoy life for what it is - and let everyone else enjoy life too?
I do not want to delve into detail of these questions. Instead I leave it at that - with you to ponder and think about these a little longer.