Bankrupting Nature: Denying our Planetary Boundaries

The report "Bankrupting Nature: Denying our Planetary Boundaries" to the Club of Rome, by Anders Wijkman and Johan Rockström, lays out a blue-print for a radically changed economic system that links economics with ecology, arguing that this is the only way to generate growth in the future. The report suggests measures that could prevent the current depletion of the earth’s finite resources and enable us to enjoy an enhanced quality of life.

Brussels, 17 December 2012: "The challenges of sustainability cannot be met by simply tinkering with the current economic system”, say the authors. We need a ‘circular economy' that decouples wealth and welfare from resource consumption, and assigns a value to natural capital, so the depreciation of the earth's resources and the loss of biodiversity are taken into account in national budgets.
This economic model should reform the tax system: raising taxes on resource use and reducing those on labour. It should be based on business models where revenue is earned through performance and high-quality service - extending product-life - while also creating more work opportunities. A key element of a circular economy is to design industrial systems that recycle and reuse materials wherever possible and phase-out fossil fuels. A pre-condition would be to introduce mandatory reporting by major companies, in particular bank and financial institutions, on how their activities affect the environment, in particular the risks associated with high-carbon investments.
The scientific evidence is overwhelming that, without taking these measures, human pressure on the planet is at a level where it poses a major risk for the future prosperity of society as we know it,say the authors. We have already overstepped the ‘planetary boundaries', thus destabilising the earth's ‘operating system', as evidenced by the recent spate of devastating storms.
In the book, the authors take a fairly upbeat view on possible short-term measures to stem the overuse of resources – such as reforms on land use, and the development of renewables - but say that this is not enough to solve long-term resource depletion. A recent review of the book in Nature says "Bankrupting Nature deserves our attention…. The book's arguments are familiar but rarely have they been gathered together in one place to clarify the links between politics, economics and ecology”.
Daphne Davies (Club of Rome)
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