A leading advocate for action on climate change asserts that the world is already in the midst of a global emergency that will mark not the collapse of civilization, but a positive transformation of society.
Gilding, former chief of Greenpeace International, argues that our planet cannot sustain the present rate of economic growth and that the crash of the global ecosystem is now underway. While the coming social and economic stresses will be enormous, the author sees the disruption as an exciting opportunity for humanity to make a great leap forward. Updating his 2005 paper “Scream Crash Boom,” in which he predicted that economic and social crises would drive an investment boom in a new industrial revolution and economic transformation, Gilding here expands the scream, sounded first in the early ’60s by Rachel Carson in Silent Spring; the crash, which became apparent in 2008; and the boom, which must be the response. He states that the end of economic growth and the threat of climate change will provoke both massive technological changes and profound sociological changes, and that while some people will act selfishly out of fear, many will act positively. The author foresees a society “built on the quality of life, a more equitable sharing of the world’s wealth, and learning to operate in harmony with the ecosystem’s capacity to support us.” He cites dozens of examples of positive changes that are already underway, such as Recycle Bank, an American business that has increased recycling by rewarding recyclers; Ocado, a British supermarket that has reduced its carbon footprint; Sodra, a sustainable-forestry company in Sweden; and E+Co, a nonprofit organization bringing clean energy to developing countries around the globe. Gilding acknowledges that these are small changes, but they demonstrate the capacity of humans to find cooperative and innovative solutions to tough problems.
A remarkably optimistic view of the brave new world in our future—certain to be widely and strongly challenged.