For several centuries, Western countries have unwound a cycle of boom and bust that never really compromised underlying growth. Heading into the current recession, and even taking into account predictions that this will be worse than the Great Depression, is there a chance that this economic crisis will be somehow qualitatively different to previous recessions and depressions – and qualitatively worse?
The UK’s government chief scientific adviser, John Beddington, anticipates a “perfect storm” of “food shortages, scarce water and high-cost energy” adding to the pounding of the global economy before 2030.
Jonathan Porritt, the founding director of Forum for the Future and chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission, agrees — but thinks the storm will hit before 2020.
The language of denial is English
Unfortunately, in the English-speaking countries, homes to what Oliver James calls Selfish Capitalism, there’s a broad gap between government rhetoric on these subjects, and actual action. Despite lots of earnest rhetoric about climate change, the Brits are putting just 7% of their current economic recovery package into sustainable development — as opposed to 80% in South Korea. Here in South Africa, we need to be very careful that we look beyond this kind of sophisticated denial for our developmental cues. What does Porritt recommend?
- Green recovery packages of the kind proposed and now underway in countries like the US, South Korea and many European countries
- ”Prosperity without growth”: Giving up blind faith in economic growth, and looking to new, more nuanced measures of social and economic well-being to guide our development