The Occupy Wall Street movement – is it an indicator of a coming Great Disruption, a la Paul Gilding, or just a visible manifestation of the more optimistic Big Shift espoused by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown in Thomas Friedman’s recent column?
Gilding says our “growth-obsessed capitalist system is reaching its financial and ecological limits,” while Hagel and Seely Brown propose a Big Shift is happening – when globalization and the IT revolution merge to unleash a huge new global flow of ideas and opportunities.
Maybe they are both right. So what are the protestors, poised on that thin line between the yin and the yang of it all, hoping not to get arrested, supposed to do?
Agitate for carbon cap and trade. Yeah, it may seem like a funny thing to ask for when you can’t afford car insurance and a lousy bag of groceries cost $50 bucks.
However, if we really are globally connected and unavoidably linked together, we need a piece of positive change that’s going to work for everyone from Manhattan to Mongolia.
That’s where Gernot Wagner comes in. He’s writing a book called “But Will the Planet Notice?” that, among other things, tells the greenies among us that composting and going car-free is all well and good but isn’t worth a dime or a renminbi to Mother Nature.
Policy change, Wagner is quick to note, is the only thing worth fighting for, and the only way to align the values of old Mama Nature with the self-interest of each and every one of us. Wagner, an environmental economist, details policy changes – on acid rain, and lead in gasoline – that let markets continue to work and solve problems.
Perhaps that approach can work for both controlling climate change and leading us forward to a sustainable model of growth.
If carbon has a price, and everyone, capitalist and composter, banker and bungee jumper, has to pay the price as they go about their business, the world becomes a different place. Everything changes, and it all boils down to this: If you pollute carbon, you pay.
Of course it’s not that simple, is it. People have their grievances, their inequalities, their past injustices. Carbon cap and trade won’t recoup the money Wall Street ‘stole’ and redistribute it to me and the other 98.999%.
However, it will make us stop blindly using and abusing our planet’s resources in continually chasing endless growth. All parents know kids need us to set limits, or they run amok, like the 9 billion-pound hamster. Setting up global carbon cap and trade seems like a logical first limit, doesn’t it?