Economic Growth Version 1.0 is Finished: The great disruption has begun

An Institute of Sustainable Solutions 2009 Future Focus Lecture


Paul Gilding
29 April 2009

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Why you should listen

Paul Gilding argues that we have entered a period of global ecological crisis and economic stagnation that will last for decades. This will lead to an economic and social transformation of significance in the history of humanity.

This crisis is now inevitable because the fundamental drivers are not opinion or politics but the established momentum of changes in the ecosystem. This is not philosophy, it’s physics and biology.

As a result our current model of economic growth is finished. Buying more stuff we don’t need, with money we haven’t got, in the pursuit of distraction from lives that lack meaning was never a really good idea, but now we’ve hit the wall. As Pulitzer prize winning journalist Tom Friedman wrote in the New York Times recently

One of those who has been warning me of this for a long time is Paul Gilding, the Australian environmental business expert. He has a name for this moment - when both Mother Nature and Father Greed have hit the wall at once - “The Great Disruption.”

The crisis we are now entering will present humanity with a clear choice between civilisations’ collapse or economic and social transformation. We will choose the latter, because there is no other way around the wall. This will lead to the complete transformation of our cities, our transport system and our energy sector in order to achieve a net zero CO2 economy. Whole sectors of the economy and many businesses will simply be replaced. All this will occur within a few decades.

Of even greater significance, we will put human values of happiness and satisfaction at the centre of our economic and social system, rather than shallow financial wealth. Happiness comes from service, from human relationships and from belonging to a community. That sounds like an economy based on a good idea.

Paul Gilding has been an activist and social entrepreneur for 35 years, his personal mission is to lead, inspire and motivate action globally on the transition of society and the economy to sustainability. He pursues this mission around the world with individuals, businesses, NGOs, entrepreneurs, academia and government. His speaking and advisory work has taken him to over 30 countries and he has worked with the CEO’s of many Australian and global companies.

He has served as CEO of a range of innovative NGO’s and companies including Greenpeace International, Ecos Corporation and Easy Being Green. He has also helped to establish and served on the board of a number of innovative new NGOs including Inspire Foundation, the Australian Business Community Network and Climate Coolers. He has received various awards and recognition for his work including from the World Economic Forum in Davos.

He is on the Global Core Faculty of the Prince of Wales’s Business and the Environment Program run by Cambridge University and Chairman of the Australian program.

He has published extensively and is credited with substantially shifting the global debate. His major papers have including co-authoring “Single Bottom Line Sustainability” (2001) and “Scream Crash Boom” (2005) which predicted the world would soon face a major ecological breakdown, a tipping point on climate change and a dramatic clean tech boom in response. His latest major thought piece “The Great Disruption” on the inevitable economic and ecological system crash was published in July 2008. This work has been widely referred to including by Tom Friedman in the New York Times who called the Great Disruption “the moment when Mother Nature and Father Greed hit the wall at once”. This paper was also the subject of an hour-long NPR radio program in the USA.

Paul Gilding's website

Intsitute for Sustainable Solutions