By Kevin Danaher
Think of your worst nightmare of the future. Heat waves and drought devastate food production, causing millions of the poorest to die of hunger. The melting glaciers and polar ice caps raise ocean levels, inundating coastal cities such as Miami and Houston. Freak storms cause so much property damage it collapses national economies.
Now here’s the positive side of this (quite likely) scenario. As resource depletion and global climate chaos get more severe, people will move toward economic policies and enterprises that focus on repairing our relationship with Mother Nature. However bad the future becomes, what we will end up with is bio-regional sustainability: the local green economy is the future, of necessity.
We are witnessing the birth of a new economic model—a triple-bottom-line model that puts social equity and environmental restoration on an equal footing with financial sustainability (profit). This nature-friendly economic model will steadily replace the old profit-centric model as the impacts of environmental destruction and inequality become impossible to ignore.
The new economic model sees sharing as the new buying, and Bay Area companies are leading the way. AirBnB allows people to share living space. Getaround allows people to share their motor vehicles. LiquidSpace allows people to share work spaces. Everywhere you look, people are coming together to strengthen the local, resource-sharing economy.
This new economic model undermines the old myth that saving the environment will destroy jobs and slow economic growth. The data are showing us that the eco-enterprise model—making money by saving resources rather than destroying them—creates more and better jobs than the old model.
A study by the Pew Charitable Trust found that green jobs in the U.S. grew more than twice as fast as the overall job market between 1998 and 2008, and suffered fewer setbacks. The private sector has invested over $2.4 trillion in green companies and technologies since 2007, and the projection is for future investments of $1 trillion annually – an amount necessary to accelerate a global transition to sustainability.
This trend has been especially true in the San Francisco Bay Area. Last year the 415 area code pulled in $3 billion in new venture capital.
As the natural resource base gets depleted, it becomes more profitable to conserve resources and develop renewable substitutes. There are buildings in San Francisco that are saving tens of thousands of dollars per year in operating costs due to efficiencies promoted by the SF Department of Environment. We are proving that sustainability can be profitable.
One of the key institutions shifting our political culture away from protesting what we are against, to instead building the world we want to see, is the Green Festival (coming to San Francisco for the 12th year November 10-11 at the San Francisco Concourse). By uniting the diversity of the green economy with 300 exhibits, 150 dynamic speakers, and more than 30,000 participants, the Green Festival mimics the core operating principle of Mother Nature: Unity of Diversity.
Our species is at a crossroads: we can either keep following the wealthy elites who are insulated from the negative impacts of their policies, or we can embrace the triple-bottom-line economic model and save humanity from itself.
The masons who built the foundation layers of the cathedrals in Europe that took centuries to build knew that they would not see the final product of their work. But they also knew that they had to do very solid, precise work because of all the weight that would eventually rest on the foundations they were putting in place.
We are the modern equivalent of those masons. We are creating a solutionary culture, laying the foundations of a future sustainable world that will have no starving children, no clear-cut forests, no wars for oil, and no endangered species. The only questions revolve around how long that will take and how we will muster the courage to avoid ecocide and create ecotopia.
The 11th annual Green Festival, the nation’s premier sustainability event, features renowned authors, leaders, educators, eco-friendly businesses, workshops, social justice films and kids’ activities to celebrate sustainable topics and ideas at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center November 10-11. The 2nd annual Los Angeles Green Festival takes place in Los Angeles at the LA Convention Center November 17–18, 2012. A project of Global Exchange and Green America, Green Festival hosts over 300 local, regional and national green businesses who model their products, services and practices on an ethical responsibility of sustainability, minimal environmental impact, and Fair Trade. Green Festival also provides hundreds of speakers with a platform for education, debate and conversation featuring many presentations on living a healthier, more impactful and sustainable life, and making a difference in one’s community.