Sustaining our ecosystem in the face of climate change is a key cornerstone to preserving our global economy, says a leading proponent of the concept of regenerative capitalism.
Hunter Lovins, president and founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions and worldwide advocate for sustainable economic development, said “the world is on the edge of ruin” unless global economic models developed over the last century are changed.
“There is no substitute for clean air. You can’t replicate it and we rely on preserving our ecosystem to provide it to us,” said Lovins, speaking at the Building SustainABLE Communities conference in Kelowna this week.
“Look around us. Coral reefs are dying, biodiversity is being lost, the Amazon basin is drying up, our oceans are turning acidic. We are seeing environmental impact from global warming that sees the earth’s temperature increase in the range of 1.3 to 1.4 degrees. If that increase reaches six degrees as some predict, what will happen then if we are seeing an impact already?”
Holding back the debate on these issues, at least in the U.S., is the fossil fuel political lobby, which spends $150 million to buy support from politicians and is heavily subsidized by governments to make gas cheaper than it looks, says Lovins.
“There is something wrong with an economic system that allows the richest eight people on the planet to have more accumulated wealth than the bottom 3.5 billion. That’s 3.5 billion people. We are eroding our economic health in a way our environment can’t continually sustain.”
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Lovins is an advocate for resource management sustainability, that industrial growth and jobs are not the sole value systems that equate to economic prosperity, that environment protection, quality of life, resource management and food production sustainability are important ingredients of an economy that deserve a value creditation.
She added companies that embrace environmental sustainability solutions show 18 per cent more revenue growth than other corporate “laggards” who try to deflect or ignore those concerns.
“Either we get together on this or we lose it,” Lovins said. “The economy should be there to benefit 100 per cent of the population, not just a small percentage.”
Kurt Schwabe, environment economics professor with the University of California, said countries are learning that by applying a value to environment degradation and the impact that has on its people, that some resource-based development projects become a net loss to society.
Logging a sensitive watershed, for example, falls short of the cost left behind to repair the ecological damage left behind, he says.
“The pollution costs and other environmental impacts often end up costing more than the short-term benefit,” he said.
John Janmaat, associate professor of economics at UBCO, said his exercise of applying environmental economics measurements to the proposed Gable Beach lakefront property sale reflects that discrepancy.
Janmaat said with calculated assumptions such as long-term replacement value, property value increases and increased population growth will increase demand for a lakefront beach, saying Lake Country would make a bad choice by selling the land.
In Janmaat’s tabulations, selling it would mean an economic loss of $196,839.07, keeping it would create an economic benefit of $388,504.49. Conversely, if property values were to remain the same over the next 15 years, the number analytics for selling the property would shift to positive net gain of $452,018.90.
“In the latter case, there is a benefit to sell if you make the assumption that property values are not going to change over the next 15 years, but that is unlikely to hold true given the recent history of real estate value increases in the Okanagan,” Janmaat said.
“What I keep reading is councilors saying they made a promise to not raise taxes to pay for the CN Rail Trail during the (referendum campaign), and is looking at the beach property sale as a means to live up to that promise, but it’s a promise that (environment economics) shows is ultimately detrimental to the community in the long-term.”
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