Theoretically, the reforms needed to transform our inherently unsustainable Ponzi scheme economy into a sustainable system that can ensure a long and comfortable life for countless future generations are laughably simple. Unfortunately, as the next (and final) page will show, the fact is that we have painted ourselves into a corner to such a large degree that making these reforms will be incredibly difficult. We will therefore need some very special people to step up and take some very brave initiative if we are to make this happen.
In essence, we need to do only four things to heal our broken economic system:
1) Shift our consumption towards products and services which are especially designed to reduce future resource consumption
2) Eliminate the massive economic inefficiencies we currently take for granted
3) Massively deleverage the economy (pay off our humungous debts) and build individual financial resilience
4) Developed nations will have to embrace some austerity and developing nations will have to get very serious about family planning
Each of these steps will be briefly described below together with a few basic practical actions through which they can be implemented.
This step simply implies that we buy things like solar water heaters, highly efficient cars and organic vegetables instead of oversized houses, urban SUVs and junk food. Our economy does not need to shrink for this to happen, but it does need to transform. We will need a massive shift in the labor force away from producing useless resource and energy intensive consumer goods and services and towards producing green products which are especially designed for sustainability. This will force a large shift in GDP from consumption to investment, but, as all studies on consumption and happiness indicate, we will lose absolutely no life satisfaction in doing this.
The best action step to implement here is to impose a revenue-neutral carbon tax (a system where all taxes levied on CO2 are paid back through reductions in other forms of taxation). A lot of effort must be invested to make the public understand that taxes will not increase, but only be redistributed from sustainable goods and services to unsustainable goods and services. If this shift is large enough, consumers will be strongly incentivized to start consuming sustainably.
We need our health practitioners to actively start focusing on prevention rather than cure. Healers need to prescribe and actively follow up on nutrition and exercise instead of waiting for people to self-destruct and then trying to patch them up again. In addition, expensive and unnatural synthetic drugs should be gradually replaced by affordable natural medicines wherever possible, especially since drugs (primarily prescription drugs) are now killing more people than traffic accidents.
This step can be made a lot easier by significantly shrinking government and thereby giving people back responsibility for their own lives. The total welfare state should be seen as the failed social experiment that it is and buried in the annals of history. By doing this, the size of the public sector will be substantially reduced and a lot of inefficiently and red tape will be dropped.
When it comes to the military, the world must simply realize a very simple truth: global environmental, economic and societal collapse poses a million times greater threat to our civilization than some terrorist organization. We will never be able to convince each other to destroy each and every nuclear weapon on earth, but we have to realize that the best way to keep all of these missiles from flying is to keep our global society healthy and secure. And in order to do that, we will have to stop wasting massive resources fighting each other; either by political and economic means or through actual war. The problems we face today are global and make national borders totally irrelevant. It is time that we put our petty differences aside and face the real threat. This initiative will have to start from the USA; the nation responsible for almost half of global military spending.
With regard to planned obsolescence, we will require a public mindset shift to value the piece of mind brought by quality and longevity over the short-lived thrill of getting new stuff all the time. In practice, this has to be realized by consumers being willing to pay a little more for long-lasting products so that consumer demand forces business to abandon planned obsolescence. The production of long-lasting products of very high quality will not be a problem at all for industry, implying that an informed shift in consumer demand will lead to very rapid improvements.
The amount of debt within our society has to be massively reduced. Yes, this might not be that much fun in the short to medium term, but the fact is that we have lived way beyond our means for a very long time and now have to face the music. In practice, government spending must be slashed substantially across the board (to eliminate massive state deficits) and interest rates must be restored to normal levels (to discourage completely unsustainable private borrowing and encourage saving to build financial resilience).
In addition, the power of speculators must be curtailed by law. Our legal system should not allow for the legal accumulation of wealth without adding any value to society whatsoever. This is theft and should be treated as such. Laws must be passed to make speculation extremely unattractive relative to production, thereby putting almost all speculators back to earning an honest living.
Austerity and family planning
Since our global Ponzi scheme economy is now starting to unravel, developed nations will have to swallow some austerity. But hey, even with some substantial austerity, people in developed nations will still have more than enough to live very comfortably. For example, the ecological footprint (measure of the quantity of resources and energy consumed) of Americans is 13 times greater than that of Afghanis. So, if a massive 25% government spending cut forces a 10% reduction in resource consumption, Americans will still be a whopping 11.7 times better off than Afghanis.
It is common knowledge that cutting spending is a lot better than increasing taxes because it shrinks the size of government and allows for increased private sector efficiency. We really need to see a global movement away from big government and total welfare states that we have been devolving into over the past couple of decades.
Moving on to the developing world, people really have to get very serious about family planning because the massive predicted Asian and African population growth is simply not sustainable. While developed nations are killing the planet through over-consumption, developing nations are killing the planet through over-population. For example, the USA and China have very similar land areas and biological carrying capacity and, even though China has 4 times more people than the USA, they both are exceeding their biological carrying capacity by about a factor of two. Per capita, Chinese people still consume sustainably, but because there are so many of them, their country’s footprint is highly unsustainable.
Practically this can best be done by a truly humungous effort to educate girls and women – both academically and specifically about family planning. Studies have shown that poor women who are educated marry later, have fewer children, are less likely to be HIV-positive, are more likely to also ensure an education for their children and have a very positive influence on their communities. Developing countries really need to make this their top-most priority.
So, that’s it: a full plan to save the world communicated in just over 1000 words. Unfortunately, as discussed on the next page, the solutions might be theoretically very simple, but they will be practically very difficult to implement.