Nearly twenty years ago, the world came together in Rio and recognized the urgency of changing our destructive patterns of consumption and production. George H.W. Bush famously declared (or didn’t, there’s some debate about that) that “The American way of life is not up for negotiation.” But he was forced to attend Rio, after months of stonewalling. And the formulation that came out of Rio remains relevant today–the South will reduce its population growth and the North will reduce its consumption impact. The latter hasn’t happened, for the most part. The footprint of the North has continued to increase, with the United States being the most profligate with the earth’s precious resources and in terms of carbon footprint.
Now we’re approaching Rio + 20. It’s an important opportunity to revisit the failures of these twenty years, and to re-direct this debate in productive ways. The global North must get its act together. As the wealthy countries we can afford to stop de-stabilizing the climate, destroying habitat and de-fouling the oceans. A group of (mostly) economists came together in May to work on an intervention to influence the preparatory meetings and the conversation in the run up to Rio. There were about 20 of us, including some very distinguished and influential people (These include Ashok Khosla, Ernst von Weiszacker, Stephen Marglin, Robert Costanza, Gus Speth, and many others). The first consensus statement we produced is now available for general consumption, and I wanted to share it with you. A key breakthrough here is that a group of economists are questioning the feasibility and wisdom of further growth in the wealthy countries.
It’s not too long, so please take a look. Your reactions will be most appreciated. If you do like it, please circulate widely.