… It is probably a bit presumptuous to think that everybody, will live a life equal to all in Every aspect – it is possibly not even a desirable scenario…
What we should aim for is to get everybody closer to a Sustainable Average – an Average that is securely anchored on the positive side of the Sustainable Bottomline.
Today’s Role models are almost always based on the lifestyles among the wealthy – the highest income, the fanciest cars, the biggest boats, the grandest houses, the most frivolous parties and so on – with little or no consideration of the consequences of such abundance.
Let’s look at what a Sustainable Role Model could look like…
First a simple “unscientific” matching of two different indexes, to illustrate the current “Role Model dilemma”.
Social Progress Index is an Index measuring the multiple dimensions of social progress in countries. In the table below is the total index and also a more specific part of the index focusing only on “Ecosystem sustainability”. The third index in the table is from Global Footprint Network. This index shows the ecological footprint per capita expressed in Global Hectares. (All indexes are the country average – large national variations do occur.)
When you combine these indexes it is quite clear that ALL countries with a high ranking in Social Progress simultaneously have an Ecological footprint way above the total available biocapacity, 1.7 GHA/capita.
In fact the current total global “average” ecological footprint is at 2.6 GHA/capita – we are running the planet at approx. 150% of its capacity. And these are the Renewable resources, not including finite resources such as fossil fuels, minerals etc.
Indexes like the Social Progress Index defines and rates some kind of “Role-model” which is virtually “unattainable” for all that haven’t already reached it and not sustainable over time for the ones that have reached it, considering that we are already over-consuming resources…
The only “fixed variable” in the table above is our planets renewable capacity!
Shouldn’t that be the starting point, when we rate progress?
Shouldn’t the highest ranking – The Role Model – be the one with the highest Social Progress while simultaneously living within our planetary boundaries?
Human Rights and Average…
Conditions for living on this planet varies a lot depending on many things – some natural and some caused by Humanity. The same applies to our society, it has evolved over time and has adopted various formats depending on many things.
…but in recent decades we have managed our impact, on the Nature and our Society, so poorly that we are now at or beyond a number of critical boundaries for a continued good life on this planet. (… And there is no planet “B”! )
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
Basics for our Society;
- A continued life on this planet means a life within the Sustainable Boundaries – all other ideas are Utopia – If our planet cannot supply us with the essential resources we need for our existence, no one else can! This means that we need to be good Stewards of our planet.
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that; “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. It also states (Article 30) that; “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.” – in brief: You have rights, but also an obligation not to violate other peoples equal rights.
“A Society with the ‘Average’ within the budget…”
This is not a society where no-one is allowed to excel in their respective capacity, it is a society where different skills and capacities are valued and compared in a more balanced way, a society where different competences complement each other and are valued according to the benefits they bring to our society and the planet.
( As opposed to the current egoistic mantra; “What’s in it for me?” )
...This is not some political or religious “-ism” – it is Common sense and Survival tactics!
What about the “Average”?
We must make sure that the continued depletion of resources is stopped – the total “average” consumption must be balanced with the available capacity. This means that the “over-users” in our society must reduce their consumption, while simultaneously “under-users” must be given the opportunity to achieve a better life.
This is what equality is about – equal rights for ALL!
Key-Issue – the Goal is to achieve the Average, not some “Utopian Role Model“.
Diversity and Average…
Yesterday I read a true story about a first grade schoolteacher. Before her “first-graders” where to start school, she sent them each a letter containing a piece of a jigsaw-puzzle, telling them that they where all equally important to be able to put together the puzzle…
(a fantastic pedagogue)
The most successful teams are built with competences that complement each other. Each member brings to the team his or her special set of knowledge and skills – together they form an Average* team-capacity at a level much higher than any single team member could manage on his/her own. The more diverse the better the “collective Average” will be to adress complex and difficult problems.
*// Yes an average, because one persons skill or knowledge in a specific area can outweigh, but not “erase” another persons deficiency in that same area. This is a simple explanation to why diversity is vital when building a great team – except for the sheer joy of being part of a diverse team. //
Sometimes when I explain this at a lecture or speech, some people comment that a team consisting of only specialist in a specific field certainly will do better than a more diverse team…
This is probably correct, in the short run or in a very specific situation, but in our very complex society and with a very complex task, such as Sustainability, it is very doubtful.
i.e. Would a soccer team with only forwards be more successful than a team consisting of forwards, mid-fielders, defenders and a goal-keeper…?
“If you want to go fast, go Alone – If you want to go far, go Together”African proverb
Economic Inequality and Average…
Inequality is the total opposite of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially “Article 30” – but it’s not only that, it is also devastating to our society in so many other ways.
I suppose most of you have already watched some of the below YouTube-clips on “Wealth Inequality in America”, “Global Wealth Inequality”, “Wealth Inequality in Canada” or “Wealth Inequality in the UK” – they demonstrate a quite uniform picture of where the (flawed) economic theories and politics during more than 30 years have brought us.
It is quite clear that huge difference in wealth distribution exists and is growing rapidly.
Read more about “Trickle-down Economics” here:
- Wikipedia (Trickle-down Economics)
- the Guardian (Wealth doesn’t trickle down – it just floods offshore, research reveals)
- CNN Money (The ‘trickle down theory’ is dead wrong)
- Joseph Stiglitz, CNN Money Opinion (Land of shrinking opportunity, Video-clip)
Inequality and average are the absolute opposites. Mathematically a very high value can be compensated by a very low value resulting in a “good” average, but in this case it is as ridiculous as saying that if you put one hand in boiling water and the other in the fridge you should experience an average temperature that is comfortable…
Some previous posts related to our current “somewhat flawed” economic system:
- Money Talks… but what are they saying?
- A free market – Free at “ANY” price…?
- Increased Debt and decreased GDP – Is that some new “smart” economic logic…?
- Fiat-Currency and Climate Change are competing to the cliff – The “winner” takes it all…
- NIMBY – the ”convenient” approach to Sustainability…
- An economy without Debt and Banks – is that reality or fiction…
And it’s not only the poor that are worse-off in an unequal society – take a look at Prof. Emeritus, Richard Wilkinsons TED-speech, explaining the hard data on economic inequality and how it really effects on health, lifespan and even such basic values as trust.
Recent studies show clearly that our society and our total economy benefits largely from a more equal wealth-distribution – a more “Average” wealth-distribution.
Carbon dioxide and Average…
Our planet doesn’t care all that much if we emit more CO2 in one location than another, though locally high concentrations can be dangerous in many ways. Our atmosphere and planet is so cleverly “arranged” that, over time, the emissions will be leveled out and spread around the globe – We get an “average”.
To keep the agreed 2°C goal, the average level of CO2 in the atmosphere need to be below 350 ppm.
The latest representative level, measured at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, can be found HERE!
This means that, “Pointing fingers” at who is actually emitting and how much is a pretty lame exercise – we need to focus much more on the reason emissions are taking place, such as consumption of goods and energy, car-use etc.
(Emissions in a country is easy to reduce – outsource the production somewhere else…)
We need a “balanced global carbon budget” (…or some similar set-up) allowing for the continued development in the least developed regions, and also including the projected population growth. An absolute budget that fits our planetary boundaries – not some kind of “fluffy benchmark budget” establishing who is “better or worse” – while collectively overstepping planetary boundaries. (More on this in this previous article LINK)
Until such a budget exists (or a system with a similar function) the only way for a country or a corporation to be Sustainable is to really make sure that their entire operation (including upstream and downstream) has a Positive impact – that it is positive compared to the Sustainable bottom line.
The Many people and Average…
We are more than 7 billion people on this planet and projections (UN) tell us that we probably will reach 9.7 billion by 2050 and “peak” somewhere around 11 billion by 2100.
…”if the planet can cope with the stress”…
We are already running the planet in “over-drive” – to large extent driven by the insatiable hunger for more and more money, and it is pretty clear that “the wealthy” show very little interest in changing the current setup that have brought them so much “joy”…
Political systems in most countries seem almost gridlocked in the belief that increased and infinite growth, of the sort that brought us here, is the only way to a solution and our “Perpetuum Mobile type” of systems are to great extent only designed to incrementally upgrade “What we already have”.
But – most of the people, 5 billion or so, on this planet belong to the “Average” – and if we only quickly can find paths to social progress not exceeding our planetary limits…
…No one explains it better than Prof./Data wiz. Hans Rosling in this TED-Talk:
This means that our current Role Models, often based on the unsustainable lifestyles among the wealthy have to be re-vamped to fit within our planetary boundaries or replaced by more “Average” Role Models.
And change is underway – there are many companies and countries gradually changing their business-models and processes towards Sustainability – But we need to speed up the Transformation.
As a Swede it is impossible to write about “The many people and Average” without picking one example from a company with the vision “To create a better everyday life for the many people” – IKEA:
Our current Role models often emphasize on top performance in specific areas, without ever looking at the consequences in other areas. In a world with scarcity of resources and capacities such Role Models are grossly misleading – We need to Re-think!
But don’t forget.
“Everyone can do beautiful things and deeds…
…to do them beautiful and Sustainable is just a different task!”