Page 59



Goethe s Sorceror s Apprentice Revisited: Why We Need to Reformat Ourselves and Turn Instead to a Lifeline Economy by Han Vandevyvere Dr. Eng.-arch. Project Manager, Unit Smart Energy & Built environment, VITO, Belgium


ecently the Citibank group has come up with a report concluding that lack of climate action will potentially lead

to $72 trillion of costs to society by 2060, whereas swift action would avoid much of this damage and ultimately lead to economic savings 1. This message is not new. In 2006, Lord Nicholas Stern voiced a similar message, concluding that the concept of strong and early action far outweigh the economic costs of not acting.


It is, in other words, wholly irrational not to swiftly

embark on a pathway of deep carbon emission cuts. Another important conclusion to consider from both the Stern and Citi reports is that redistributive actions would be needed to share the costs and bene ts of climate action in a fair way among countries and sectors globally an important aspect to keep in mind hereafter. If by now the multiple advantages of radically changing our economy and the way it operates its resource basis have become crystal clear, why then do we continue on an overall trend of increasing carbon emissions and resource exhaustion? A fortiori, why do we do so while knowing that business as usual will lead to unprecedented problems? If we seem not to be able to quit our current path despite the rational insight that it is harmful to go further in this direction, there should be very strong irrational forces that prevent us from doing so. It would be wrong to state here that there is no climate action and that there are no societal forces working towards more sustainable development. The core problem lies rather in the fact that, as overall trends indicate, such action is currently too little, too late. It rather seems then that we are not able to react in proportion to the scale and the speed of the emerging problem. 1 2 3

Let us therefore re ect on some essential drivers of human behaviour. In this context Garrett Hardin has famously researched our behaviour regarding resource management and the commons that is, the planet with its free air, water and nature. One of his bitter conclusions is that Throughout history, human exploitation of the earth has produced this progression: colonize-destroy-move on. 3 As long as we were a few thousands or millions on this planet, such a strategy of survival was acceptable because the available resources could be labelled as, proportionally viewed, in nite. And in this way indeed we have taken the habit to treat the planet s ecosystems both as an in nite resource and as an in nite dump. But with 7 billion of us, and our numbers still on the rise, such collective behaviour becomes lethal. All of a sudden taking into account the proper historical time frame - we need to quit this model of linear progression and switch to a mode of functioning that respects a circular metabolism as can be found in natural ecosystems. In terms of energy use, probably our main headache at present, we need to switch to living from net solar income rather than from what we dig up from the earth. Already in 1931, Thomas Edison pointed out that here we are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using nature s inexhaustible sources of energy - sun, wind and tide. I d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don t have to wait until oil and coal run out 4 before we tackle that. All of this, meanwhile, is known to be indeed environmentally, technically and economically feasible. However, the problem with this switch from dwarf mode to light elf mode seems thus - we have, over thousands of years, programmed ourselves in order to function in the old dwarf s fashion. This paradigm has been deeply embedded in our biological and mental structures, and most of us are moreover wholly unconscious to it. The same logic has permeated our social and political systems to Hardin, G. (1993), Living Within Limits - Ecology, Economics and Population Taboos, Oxford University Press, p. 17 November 2015


Social Value and Intangibles Review - November 2015  

NOVEMBER 2015: Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise and Governance journal on Social Innovation and Social Impact Analysis SUPPLEMENTS: EU Sei...

Social Value and Intangibles Review - November 2015  

NOVEMBER 2015: Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise and Governance journal on Social Innovation and Social Impact Analysis SUPPLEMENTS: EU Sei...