We are the new Copernicans
Changing a society’s governing paradigm is no easy undertaking.
Take Copernicus and Galileo, who dedicated their lives to the unenviable task of debunking the notion that the sun revolved around the earth just because the medieval church proclaimed it. Today, we no longer question that theory, or whether democracy is a better form of government than plutocracy.
Now, in the early years of a new millennium, we find ourselves in the midst of another renaissance — a pivotal inflection point in the history of civilization. This time, however, the belief system we need to overcome is the idea that perpetual economic growth is the key to prosperity — or even possible.
There’s a new paradigm emerging. A fundamental shift away from the extractive brand of capitalism that has put the nine planetary boundaries on which humanity and life on earth as we know it depend in grave jeopardy. Emerging in its place is a more regenerative economy — one that restores those systems, while demonstrating that economic prosperity, security and sustainability go hand in hand.
That’s why I found myself especially fired up by the interview we just published with Hunter Lovins about her new book, “A Finer Future,” and the in-depth paper it references, by John Fullerton, on regenerative capitalism (PDF). Specifically, the compelling case they make that regenerative businesses are more successful businesses, and that we’re ultimately headed in the right direction, albeit not as quickly as we need.
The idea of business as a force that regenerates rather than degenerates ecological and human systems is by no means new. Visionaries such as Ray Anderson, Carol Sanford, Bill Reedand many others have been championing, and implementing, it for decades — including Lovins (a la “Natural Capitalism,” circa 1999).
Lovins recounts in the interview her experience sitting with Anderson back in 2001, at which time his bold vision — to redesign Interface’s core business to eliminate any negative impact on the environment by 2020 — was unprecedented, even outlandish (here’s a GreenBiz Reads, our weekly book excerpt, from Lovins on the subject). Even then, however, it was as much about building a better company as it was about social and environmental responsibility. “Everything I’m doing to make Interface a more sustainable company is enhancing shareholder value,” Anderson told Lovins at the time.