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September 25th, 2020

Time for a New Economic Model Based on Cradle to Cradle

topic:Sustainable Development
by:Nora Sophie Griefahn, Tim Janßen
org:Cradle to Cradle

On 25 September, the global climate strike organised by the Fridays for Future movement will set several things in motion - politics, the media, and the minds; most of them, however, will be set in only one of two directions: love or hate. It seems as though, in our age of outrage, there is not much in between. However, as an NGO dedicated to a new and improved system of economics that protects the environment and its resources, we generally refrain from categorising matters into ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and therefore observe the climate protests with mixed feelings. 

Currently, a look at the wildfires in California makes the urgency of the need for climate protection evident, so of course we are elated by the great success of the climate movement. We can't go on like we have been for the past few centuries! At the same time, we are keeping an eye on Earth Overshoot Day, which was delayed by 24 days due to this year’s corona lockdown, but was tragically still observed in August. 

The self-sacrifice strategy, which is continually demanded at climate demonstrations and is being gradually implemented by politicians, is therefore just a drop in the ocean. In order to actually solve ecological problems, we must do much more than just damage control.

We are in complete agreement with the Fridays for Future movement that we, humans, are harming our environment with our current economic methods: the overexploitation of nature, the endless production of merchandise that is bound to become waste, and the systematic exploitation of entire parts of the earth's population. But instead of focusing on the negative, which is what the banners at the climate demonstrations and the draft laws of our government do (“Do less harm”; “Make fewer mistakes”; and “Reduce your ecological footprint, you pests!”), we encourage you to look into the future and say, “Let’s do more good!” and “Let’s be useful beings who leave the largest possible ecological footprint behind – but a beneficial one.”

This is not only an important change of perspective, but also the decisive one, and it can be demonstrated by using the example of climate protection. The central, and sometimes slightly panicky, demand made by climate activists to slow down global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions corresponds with pretty much the only political solution in existence. This premise is now being used to launch many initiatives that will bring us closer to this goal, but which are not thought through, such as the use of thermal insulation materials that are impervious and great at containing energy, but at the same time trap toxic substances released by materials that were never designed for indoor use. Another example is the utilisation of solar cells that produce heaps of electricity for very little money, but are designed solely for efficiency, not for effective circularity, eventually making them hazardous waste. 

It appears that many decision makers in politics and the economy have taken the call to panic to heart. Nowadays, far-sighted, well-balanced and holistic ecological decisions hardly stand a chance due to the tremendous pressure on politicians to act. But if the political establishment continues to succumb to panic and pursue its dogmatic course of reduction and renunciation, we will exacerbate a completely different crisis that is talked about less but is by no means less dangerous: the resource crisis. And so, we remain caught in the hamster wheel of crisis- hopping.

Our current action plan, which consists of big words, good will, high costs, and numerous bans, has yet to produce any substantial results in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Instead, we should finally treat C02 - carbon - for what it is: a raw material that can be utilised in infinite cycles. With smart carbon management, we can positively define the climate that we want to live in, instead of having the climate blow up in our faces again and again. 

Instead of imposing high taxes on emissions and on human labor, we should impose taxes on all resources. Because only once their consumption is priced in, will we truly be paying fair market prices for food, clothing, mobility and various other things – and only then do we have a real shot at achieving comprehensive environmental protection. 

Our contribution to the Global Climate Strike is therefore a constructive addition to the conservative demand for renunciation: less bad is far from good! 

With the right management, CO2 will not constitute a harmful but a helpful material. And in the long term, we can only solve ecological problems by taking a step forward. We don't need less consumption or less business - we need other, better forms of them. Only then will we be able to supply ten billion people without having to constantly fear the end of the world. Because with the right ideas, we are by no means too many. And if we truly try, we can make a real contribution to enriching our planet.

Image: Vedran Ristic

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