Today I cancelled my Amazon Prime subscription — £6.99 per month. I was asked whether I wanted to cancel, then did I know I’d saved on average £8.99 since 2016 in delivery costs? Then a list of ‘benefits’ I receive. Then two shiny buttons: one saying I wanted to keep my benefits and one saying I wanted to give them up. Talk about nudging in action. And could I feel anxiety in my body while deciding whether I was losing out, yes. But I did it anyway.
So why? Increasing inequality and the consolidation of wealth; because it creates an ability for me to spend more time in front of a screen, ordering from the internet, reducing my physical and mental health and saving me £2 per month. I value my health.
We currently live in a world where the target of endless GDP growth is pushing us into ecological collapse. It is one where we are neither meeting the needs of people nor living within the planetary boundaries. We have already overshot the limits of some earth’s most critical life support systems resulting in climate change and biodiversity loss.
The social foundation is also not being met with 11% of the world’s people being undernourished. The Millenium Development goals were not met, but then they were loosely defined. They can at least be commended for encouraging multilateral cooperation on poverty, education, gender equality, environmental sustainability, which has evolved into the Sustainable Development Goals. While these international fora, constituted of the willing, unwilling, and opportunists, feel the burden of responsibility to make some decision, they edge further forward because of the sheer cost of being there. Progress is not quick: it’s nearly 50 years since the UN conference on Human Environment and the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth report. We’d not long landed someone on the moon and TV’s were mostly black and white. Technology hasn’t been so slow by comparison, mass business efficiency processes like six sigma paved the way for high manufacturing productivity and niche skunk works for digital innovation today. Can something be learned from the maverick innovation processes?
I think we need to innovate both where we are going and how we get there.
Kate Raworth’s thesis is that this century’s challenge is to replace the endless growth target with one of thriving in balance within this doughnut, which is a figurative safe and just space for humanity. Because, what we do in the next 50 years will shape the next 10,000, and the potential for a 4 degree celsius temperature rise isn’t a world many of us want or could live in.
Isn’t this just sustainable development? No, at present sustainable development is based on the idea of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future people to meet their needs. It is considered that economic growth provides the means for more people around the world to meet their needs. But most business models do not internalise the effects (costs) of the waste produced by the act of adding or creating value. This means policies such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme have been developed as a big stick, or more accurately a melting iceberg, to gradually shift business to internalise cost. Are we confident that our present economic model will keep us within the planetary limits, and raise our social foundation with such measures?
What if new ways of thinking are needed to transcend the idea of innovating within an ever-tightening limit? What if we wanted to think and behave differently because it was beneficial to us? I’ll leave you with this video to help prompt your thinking:
I’m walking to the local shop with a lighter step knowing I’m valuing what matters to me.