A Finer Future: creating an economy in service to life

By L. Hunter Lovins, Stewart Wallis, Anders Wijkman and John Fullerton.  New Society Publishers, 2018

Last fall my e-feed brought me Second Nature’s invitation for an upcoming webinar with L Hunter Lovins about this new book. I was fresh from attending the Global Climate Action Summit and eager to learn more from the leadership of a sector supporting We Are Still In. I also wanted to understand more about some of the natural capitalism ideas I’d heard at the Summit. During the interview her energy, dependable data, clear thinking, and optimism made me hungry to read A Finer Future.

The book is starts with an introduction to the Anthropocene and ends with vision of A Finer Future. In between, four parts that make up the body of this work:

  • A lesson in economics and how resource extraction, emphasis on personal gain, and the focus on a growing GDP helped create the present-day economies of the United States’ and the World
  • How and what society can do first while we’re getting ready for transformations
  • How those transformations are the foundation for a flourishing planet
  • How to help make sure those changes stick

These four authors, working at the intersection of capitalism and nature, have prepared a marvelous narrative about where we are and how we got here, and how we can solve our climate problems in ways that are much more beneficial to all and lead to a continuously flourishing planet. As international leaders in this thinking, with access to current practice and emerging ideas, they are best-placed to share practical yet inspirational approaches to solving the problems of diminishing resources and natural benefits and increasing demands and distress on our planet.

The authors establish everyone’s responsibility with an opening salvo: You are the result of 4 billion years of evolutionary history. Act like it.”

So, whether you respond to stories of ranchers raising cattle in ways that regenerate soli and entire ecosystems,  examples of the circular economy creating jobs and greater financial stability in a community, or an excellent explanation of neoliberalism, you will find an excellent case for doing business differently, for thinking differently, for taking all that we know and realigning toward a new goal – a flourishing planet. In the process our wider wealth will expand.

 “As a result of human activity” we have already exceeded four of the nine Planetary Boundaries, the limits of sustainability for life on Earth as we know it, as described by Johan Rockstrom and the Stockholm Resilience Center (version 2015). Exceeding any boundary makes it more likely that we will push the “Earth System into a much less hospitable state”. If people and the planet are not thriving, business won’t either (Andrew Winston, The Big Pivot). We are fully capable of continuing that trajectory – AND of changing it.  So why not choose instead to push it back?

Remember, we are evolved and evolving. Those flares of courage you see around the globe for carbon pricing, solar investments, locally-focused agriculture – even any that peter out – are glimpses of how to reach a finer future. The incremental progress we make, and the people who build that progress, are rungs on what the authors call the “Ladder to a Better World.” By establishing ways to measure and apply carbon budgets; by creating the LEED, Living Building, and WELL building standards; through the conservation science at zoos and aquariums; when entrepreneurs develop more efficient and cheaper storage batteries; and all the work to design and now pursue the UN Sustainable Development Goals – that is how we move from a mess to sufficiency and beyond.

The number, variety and scope of the forces out there working on this is stunning and encouraging. The solutions they’re developing need not be nearly as complex as we let ourselves think. By using the basic concepts of nature, and by privileging values over cash, cooperation over individual success and, what I describe as empathy for others – enough so that you include them in your design solutions, we can

  • “achieve a flourishing life within ecological limits,
  • delivery universal well-being as we meet the basic needs of all humans; and
  • deliver sufficient equality to maintain social stability and provide the basis or genuine security.”

This is not Pollyanna or wishful thinking. It is creative, thoughtful, compassionate, and visionary. Treat yourself to it.

Lovins is Time Magazine’s “Millennium Hero for the Planet.” In a media market with an extraordinary appetite for superheroes, I am hoping her kind of heroism gains more traction. So, what #climatehero work will you do with your 4 billion years of evolutionary history?

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