Jonathon Porritt tells Robert Llewellyn Jones why it's time to create a new model for wealth creation SUSTAINABLE development is the only big idea for the 21st century. People know now about global change and the degree to which it is going to threaten everything we hold dear.
The problems are not invisible. They are there in our media on a daily basis and everybody knows the business-as-usual approach just cannot come up with the answers.
I think it was Einstein who said, "You can't look to solve problems using the mindset that created those problems in the first place."
Over the last 25 to 30 years we have done a good job identifying and analysing those problems. What we have not done is to move on to explore the need for a very different model for wealth creation and distribution.
We still need economic development. We still have to enable people to improve their quality of life and in the Third World to improve their material standard of living.
But we have to do it in ways that will not destroy the physical environment and the prospects of future generations.
The book I wrote last year, called Capitalism - As If The World Mattered, looks at what it is that stops world and business leaders putting this analysis into practice and implementing measures for a more sustainable economy.
Politicians, I think, are frightened at the prospect. It means they have to challenge some of the strong messages about economic growth. If economic growth is good, then more economic growth is deemed to be automatically better.
Politicians don't really know how to talk about progress without promising more economic growth, even though they know that growth is now destroying many of the things people hold dear.
It's easier to deny the reality than to try and change the political system at its heart, by offering a different model of progress that isn't based on economic growth. Business leaders, being in a slightly different position, say it's up to the politicians to reframe markets so we can respond accordingly.
If society wants to put a higher value on protecting the environment, preventing runaway climate change by putting a price on every ton of carbon we emit, then that's government's job not business.
There is evidence to show individuals are prepared to do more, but how much can they do and what is the full extent of what their actions can achieve?
There are understandable reasons why people pass the buck when it comes to accepting responsibility for transforming their lives. …