By Roxana Bucata // Tim Shanks leads the Institute for a New Economic Future and is presently co-authoring “Beyond the Euro Crisis: Rebuilding the World Economy from Bottom Up”, which will be published next year. Roxana Bucata caught a glimpse into Shanks’ yet unpublished ideas on consumerism and pressure on ecosystems.

Environmental problems

We are dealing with four major problems: debt crisis, inequality, the pressure on natural resources, and the fourth, is destroying the ecosystems that give us life supporting free services. This latter is the most important because, while financial systems, austerity and inequality are man made. So if people agree, there can be solutions, but we are too greedy or too stupid to solve them. The bottom line is that hey can be solved today. Natural resources, on the other hand, are a different story because they have a limit. Maybe we don’t run completely out of oil, but oil becomes more and more expensive to obtain and the environmental impact is devastating. We are destroying life-supporting systems of the Earth.
Environmental problems are still considered marginal, unimportant in the economy. A study from a few years ago showed that the value of free environmental services is three times the global GDP. So if something is three times everything the man makes is not marginal, it is utterly primary. Now in Europe all we do is chasing the short-term profits, but we destroy the life supporting systems on Earth.

Consumerism

We won’t have to convince people to stop buying because they will be forced to do it. It is difficult to change people, if something is available, they will buy it. But our resources have a limit, so they will have no other choice but to change. We have to focus on what is important. The sooner we realize that the resources are limited and we cannot waste them foolishly, the easier and the less painful the transition will be. The longer we insist to behave like there is no tomorrow and we can do whatever we want with the world resources, the more painful the transition will be. We shouldn’t underestimate the human stupidity, so the transition will be later then sooner.

Energy & politics

We have to look into other energy sources. Data shows that the costs for obtaining the energy are 5% of GDP. Fracking uses more energy than it produces, for ethanol production we use more energy than we get and oil will be more and more expensive to obtain and we will consume more energy to get it.

I think it is a good idea that someone is thinking about green entrepreneurship, it shouldn’t be discouraged, but in itself green entrepreneurship is marginal for the moment until structural changes will be made. Today’s system promotes maximizing profit, but we have to encourage green entrepreneurs because they are the models for tomorrow.
Power is where the money is and the system is structured so people are manipulated in their perceptions to contribute voluntary to the system. The capitalist system is based on the human voluntary cooperation and to make people collaborate you need subtle tools. If we make enough people to see things clearly, people will influence the society so the future would be better.

The Institute for New Economic Futures (INEF) is a research institute which focuses on developing new economic models to help solve our growing economic and environmental imbalances, particularly within the fields of socio-economic inequality, financial speculation, resource scarcity and environmental security. Through research, analysis and advocacy, INEF produces solutions-oriented material that seeks to enhance balanced development in society and to increase economic prosperity without compromising social development and environmental sustainability.

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