Get ready for a new global crisis, warns author

Thu Jul 21, 2011 7:28am EDT
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By Ed Davies

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Soaring food and energy prices, the global financial crisis, Greece's debt woes. One-off events? Not according to environmental business consultant Paul Gilding, who believes these are mere ripples before a major crisis hits the world.

Gilding, author of a new book "The Great Disruption," has a simple message: We have left it too late to avoid serious impact from climate change and ecological damage after trying to drive global economic growth far beyond system and resource capacity.

As a consequence, we risk an environmental crash, triggering a sudden collapse in the global economy, and need to be ready to respond to the ensuing "social and economic hurricane," he says.

"If you thought the financial situation in 2008 was a crisis, and if you thought climate change was a cultural, economic and political challenge, then hold on for the ride," writes Gilding, a former head of Greenpeace International.

"We are about to witness humanity deal with its biggest crisis ever, something that will shake it to the core -- the end of economic growth," added the 52-year-old Australian, who as an activist was arrested five times during protests.

After frustration over how the mainstream environmental movement was struggling to get its message heard, Gilding founded his own consultancy that went on to advise businesses from BHP Billiton to DuPont on sustainability

Scientific study indicates we are reaching the limits of driving up growth, he argues, and spiking oil and food prices seen in 2008, followed by a financial crisis partly driven by a desperate bid to drive growth, were the canaries in the mine.

He cites modeling by a group of scientists -- the Global Footprint Network -- showing that in 2009 we were already running the global economy at 140 percent of capacity, and plans to run it faster and harder as populations soar will hit a wall.   Continued...

<p>Smoke rises from a chemical company's stacks in Hamilton, approximately 50 km (31 miles) south of Toronto, February 1, 2007. REUTERS/J.P. Moczulski</p>