The G20 Summit : This time we are all on the same side and we will put the planet first.

March 18, 2009

The G20, the Presidents and Prime Ministers will meet in London on 2 April. This meeting is both short-term urgent and long-term important as the world is facing challenges as great as any faced by humanity since the end of World War 2. The transfer of action from the narrowly based Eurocentric G8 -which consists of the USA, Canada, , Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia , Japan – to the more multicultural G20 is immensely important . Not only does this transfer decision making power to what is now 85% of world GDP, but it also draws participation from a wide diversity of cultures with countries such as South Africa, Argentina, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Brazil, China, South Korea, India, The European Union, Turkey and Australia being added to the G8 group of collaborative participators who will meet in London. The official web page succinctly outlines the challenges before the G20:

First, to take whatever action is necessary to stabilise financial markets and enable families and businesses to get through the recession.

Second, to reform and strengthen the global financial and economic system to restore confidence and trust.

Third, to put the global economy on track for sustainable growth.

The third item of sustainable growth is broken down to further three components
Trade, jobs and skills – This includes kick restarting and completing the Doha Round of trade negotiations by the end of this year to ensure that trade becomes even more open and free and nationalist retreats to increased protectionism are avoided.
A low carbon recovery. This involves meeting the threats and taking the opportunities posed by global warming and commit the world to reach an agreement for post 2012 in Copenhagen also by the end of 2009, and
Providing for the poorest . This includes assisting the world’s poor to utilise this increased global trade and investment to lift themselves out of poverty so that the 21st century is not characterized by what Nelson Mandela describes as ‘islands of plenty in seas of poverty’. This also involves the globalisation of responsibility as well as of trade and investment.

So the year 2009 will become a year for collaborative purposeful action to realise some very significant shared global goals. The reason for this is because this meeting will be characterised by another feature which is genuinely new. In all of these critical agendas humanity faces danger as a single global entity, it is perhaps equivalent to the planet collaborating to face an invasion of the Earth from outer space. We must collaborate and not let our differences undermine our work. In this case there will be no option for some to win and some to lose: we all will win or we all will lose. Now we must collaborate as if we are members of a single planetary tribe.

Indeed the current global suite of interconnected crises, could be the very thing to remind us that we are living on a planetary spaceship, and that we must collaborate like members of its cosmonaut crew rather than as cowboys who can do as they like on the range, and settle our differences by competition and confrontation. Our capacity to do great collateral damage to each other has reached the point that we have no choice other than to accept our collective responsibility to reach agreements which Garret Hardin described as ‘mutual coercion mutually agreed upon’.

The positive value of such diversity and purposeful collaboration will be immense. The first result is likely to be a global economic recovery which will be much more rapid than many people fear. We have never before experienced such a broadly based purposeful collaborative effort before, and as a result of this collective effort economic recovery by the end of 2009 is likely to be substantial. The meeting will achieve a result to eliminate the threat caused by trillions of dollars of toxic assets because the costs of not doing so in terms of stimulating banks to lend more is unacceptable.

For the first time in human history we are starting to recognise that we are not only nationalists but planetists as well. When John Howard said that signing the Kyoto protocol was not in the national interest, many of us disagreed because we regarded that signing this protocol was in the planetary interest, and that now the planet must have priority over the nation. The first allegiance of 1.5 billion people, including the rapidly growing global educated middle class, increasingly goes to planet first and nation second. Nations and corporations are now very aware that permitting corporate, national or individual greed and self interest to run riot has created much of the current planetary mess we now collectively face. In a world of growing interdependence and interconnectedness adherence to planetism- putting the needs of the planet first – is growing. One of the key transformation which is occurring with the birth of planetism is that the world is becoming less individualistic and more communitarian Just as we no longer tolerate individual smokers who smoke in a café and cause collateral damage to the rest of us, we will, within 20 years, treat those whose individual countries and corporations who release climate changing smoke into the planetary atmosphere as pariahs similar to a smoker in a café in 2009. And we will similarly treat as pariahs those who endanger us all through individual or corporate greed

We are now recognising that the planet and its peoples must come first, thereby affirming John Donne who said 400 hundred years ago that ‘no man is an island entire of itself, everyone is part of the continent part of the main‘ and that ‘we are involved in mankind’.

While regulation will have its place, these historic challenges being faced by the G20 will mostly be achieved by market based processes and the arrival into the global market place of innovations to facilitate a global transformation which eliminates the dangers which face the world and the G20. There will be a huge global market demand for new innovations , new products and services to realise the new transformed world we must create out of agreements reached in London. Most of the social, political and technological innovations needed to create a sustainably prosperous planetary society in the 21st century have yet to be invented. The birth of planetism as a global set of values will inform what new products and services will enter world markets in the next few decades. If we understand the dominant values in the year 2029, we will then know what people will value and find valuable in the year 2029. What they value and find to be valuable they will want more of and therefore create global market demands for more of what is valuable. There are nine value shifts associated with the emergence of planetism as a global paradigm and these values are the very values which are needed to deal which the challenges faced by the G20 in on 2 April.

When we consider what innovations which will be needed in the next few decades, it is useful to define two types of innovations. I call these ‘ways’ and ‘wares’. ‘Ways’ are those innovations which involve changes to beliefs and behaviours- changes to what we do. ‘Wares’ are innovations, new things we use – new tools and technologies. A simple example: a water conservation ‘way’ is shortening your shower time to 3 minutes : a water conservation ‘ware’ is a new low volume shower head. By combining these ways and the wares we conserve water. In terms of the huge global ecological challenges we face in the 21st century we need ways and wares for four different purposes : to live within perpetual solar income, to turn waste into food, to achieve outcomes with zero net collateral damage, and to protect biodiversity. There are hundreds of similar categories of ways and wares which will be needed to realise a sustainably prosperous global society which will enter global markets in the next two decades.

So as the G20 faces up to its huge task we should recognise the emerging opportunities for the creation of new ways and wares to transform the world between now and the year 2050, as well and the shorter term threats inherent in the challenges the G20 and the world is facing. The world faces challenges of great magnitude even more threatening than when the world was divided into two armed camps and facing the threat of global nuclear war and a nuclear winter 30 years ago. But this time we are all on the same side, and the enemy is the darker side of ourselves, so the chances of a rapid turnabout of our fortunes are excellent.

On 2 April these G20 Presidents and Prime Ministers will intuitively recognise that the time has come for them to recognise the they must now work as planetists and that the time for continued adherence to national interests has gone. They will accept their global responsibility and this meeting will become a key historic and transformative moment in the 21st century.

Dr Peter Ellyard is a Melbourne based futurist and strategist. His latest book Designing 2050 :Pathways to sustainable prosperity on Spaceship Earth was launched by the Governor of Victoria Professor David de Krester on 20 February .

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