Those who do not believe in the future, might be advised not to go there at all. All too often I have heard readers of our book ‘Groene Groei’ (Green Growth) tell us: ‘what you want cannot be done, much too optimistic, you would not suppose companies like Shell to give up their positions just like that, would you.’ Recently, as oil prices fell, my brother: ‘Well, goodbye to your book now.’
But one has to start somewhere, and the green economy has started already. Both in the innovative industry and with the well-informed citizen. In our book we show that there are major industrial opportunities in sustainable technology, ‘doing more with less’, in many areas. But there is a lot of resistance. Just two weeks ago, when a ban was announced on the cheapest plastic bags, people got berserk. Market salesmen: ‘Would we have to put everything in paper bags again, or would people have to take their own bags with them?’ Sales might fall, and that is all that counts. The right-wing political party: ‘A very bad idea’, but comfortably they just forgot that those billions of plastic bags can be found in fishes’ and birds’ stomachs for many years in the future. Today I took a walk through the outskirts of Rotterdam, in the shrubs there were a lot of those loose, once-through bags. Again, nothing will happen if we do not start somewhere. So far mankind could redress its mistakes, but as problems have become Global now, that will not be that easy any more.
Recently we received a review of Green Growth, written by one Klaas de Jong for the Dutch libraries. His entire short review was devoted to his opinion that we were way too optimistic, even ‘unbalanced’, much worse. But, dear Klaas, what else, how would you envisage the future? Would you just prefer to go on doing business as usual? And if not, which industrial activity would you suppose to set the pace in the next three decades? Did you see Unilever’s recent press release: their ‘sustainable’ activities grow twice as fast as their other products? Most unbalanced as always, Unilever.
Or would internet and robotics do the trick? Those will continue, but those were the sectors that fuelled the last growth wave of the economy. We and many other authors hold the opinion that economic growth will (have to) come from the combination of sustainable technology, renewable resources (i.e. agricultural products), sustainable energy sources and recycling. Done with very smart technologies and much new applied scientific knowledge. In short, a well-devised circular economy. Clearly, for that to be a success we will need an entirely different attitude of both business and the citizen-consumer. And a major technological renewal. But why would not we be able to do that? As long as we are convinced that this is the road we will have to travel. World-wide. In our book, we showed that our home country the Netherlands is very well positioned in this game if the world, maybe led in this by China, would choose to become cleaner and more productive. Optimistic? Yes, but I would rather not consider the opposite.