A Global Marshall Plan For a New Economy?

Leslie Back

I have to thank Al Gore for the inspiration for this post. His ideas, discussed here, are worth repeating. They are not new ideas, but rather old when you consider the quickening pace of our society and our environmental crisis, but we did not seem to hear the comments the first time ‘round. Let’s try this again. Do Gore’s suggestions hold in 2010?

As I mentioned in a recent post, in 1992 Gore wrote Earth in Balance. Years before the truth became inconvenient, Gore outlined the environmental crisis and, thankfully, itemized large-scale steps to help get us out of this ecological mess. Inspired by the Marshall Plan, the post World War II European recovery program, Gore outlines an internationally cooperative agenda to bring our ecology back into balance.

I have previously discussed the first step of this plan: stabilizing the world population. Obviously, this is one of the most critical components, a hotly discussed conundrum. But, the others steps, whole in and of themselves, are full of merit.

The second strategic goal involves technologies and the rapid development and distribution of these environmentally friendly tools. Gore calls this part of the plan the Strategic Environment Initiative and steps in this area would include tax incentives for new technologies (disincentives for old); government purchasing programs in favor of eco-friendly tools; establishment of network training centers around the world and much more. The discussions would be led by industrial nations, but critical to the success of this part of the plan would be the guaranteed distribution of advanced technologies to the developing world.

Now we move on to step three: changes to the economy. In Gore’s version of the Marshall Plan, we establish, through global agreement, a system of economic accounting that gives monetary value to ecological consequences. Steps in this area include, but are not limited to: inclusion of environmental costs and benefits in GNP; elimination of subsidies for environmentally destructive activities and change of definition of productivity to reflect environmental calculations.  Perhaps the ecosystem valuation approach, applying dollars to ecosystems, would be a good place to start?

In the fourth step of his plan, Gore calls for a new generation of treaties and agreements aimed at protecting the environment. The author sites the Montreal Protocol as the prototype. I confess to slight pessimism on this one, living as I do in a post-Kyoto, post-Copenhagen world.

In the final step, Gore calls for a new global environmental consensus. Stated differently, this part of the process would focus on the establishment of a cooperative plan for educating the world’s population about environmental issues. First, a program for research and measurement of environmental changes should be in place followed by an effort to disseminate such information. The goal here, of course, would be to inspire new patterns of thinking about human relations to the environment. Indeed, this might be the most challenging and important part of the plan: changing minds through increased and cooperative education. A high and worthy goal, but attainable?

My glass is almost always half-full. I tend towards optimism and hope: I know of no other way to live. I am not naïve, and I know these goals are lofty, but let’s think about them anyway. Let’s talk about them anyway. Let’s raise a full glass and toast the possibility of it. With these steps or perhaps others not yet thought of the tide can be turned. Cheers!

Leslie is a first-year Sustainable MBA student at Green Mountain College. Study interests include environmental conservation, social responsibility and the power of corporate and non-profit partnerships to bring about positive change. Other areas of interest include social media in sustainable marketing and public policy. She holds an MA in Organizational Management and a BS in Leisure Management. On the rare occasions when she is not studying, she enjoys writing, reading, running, nature walks and yoga.  She hopes to use her skills, talents and education to make a positive impact with an environmentally and socially conscious organization.

Leslie is a Sustainable MBA student at Green Mountain College. Study interests include sustainability, social responsibility and the power of corporate and non-profit partnerships to bring about positive change. Other areas of interest include social media, fundraising and public policy. She holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management and is certified in the Global Reporting initiative for Sustainability Reporting. Additionally, she holds an MA in Organizational Management and a BS in Leisure Management. On the rare occasions when she is not studying, she enjoys writing, reading, running, nature walks and yoga. She hopes to use her skills, talents and education to make a positive impact with an environmentally and socially conscious organization. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.