But the era of abundant cheap resources is drawing to an end, for reasons equally straightforward. […] And while demand for resources from an exploding and wealthier population soars, finding and extracting new sources of supply is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive.
Business has to plan for resource depletion of course, just as many are planning for climate change. And for many that resource scarcity is already upon them.
Water scarcity affects one in three people on every continent of the globe. Forty-four million people were driven into poverty by rising food prices in the second half of 2010.
Urbanisation displaces millions of hectares of high-quality agricultural land each year – McKinsey estimates that prime land equivalent in size to Italy could be sacrificed to expanding cities in less than 20 years.
At the same time, tens of thousands of square kilometres of pristine forest are cut down to grow crops needed for food, of which we will need 70% more by 2050 to feed the world’s massively expanding population, according to the United Nations.
With 3 billion more middle class consumers by 2030, and the fact that we’re already using more than this planet can provide, we need to find a new way of living – one without our head in the sand.
Rio+20 next week is meant to be the opportunity for the world’s governments to change course and ensure both that the developing world can access the clean water and other resources they’re currently missing out on, while also committing themselves to living within the planet’s limits.
Early indications don’t look good however.
With three days of negotiations left, only 20% had been agreed. Large chunks of The Future We Want have been deleted – mostly by the US or China and the G77 (developing nations).
I feel bitter when I look at the cavernous gulf between rich and poor, the irresponsibility that caused the global financial crisis, the weak and divided responses to climate change, and the failure to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The opportunity to build a safer, fairer and more united world has been largely squandered.
In New Zealand, National “aspire” for us to be fast followers. This despite what the excellent Pure Advantage report earlier this week points out:
No country in the world promotes its clean, green image as much as New Zealand, or is as reliant on its clean, green image for its exports and tourism. So in the green growth race, and it is a race, New Zealand should be out in front, leading, but we are not. There are a number of reasons why this is the case, not least of which is the view that New Zealand can have its cake and eat it too. Despite our steadfast promotion of New Zealand’s clean, green image, we continue to lag behind a number of countries in environmental indices and we continue to look for economic solutions from extractive industries such as coal and oil. We do this in spite of the significant opportunities available from the global shift to green growth and the fact that we have considerable competitive advantages to access these markets.
So what role will we play at Rio+20? We are but a small country, but will we lead the way? 25 years ago a Labour Government showed what we can do.
The world needs action, it needs leaders. Will we stand up?