Clearly, with an exploding population, rapidly accelerating fossil fuel-based consumption and climate catastrophe all looming, the current “net negative” state – whereby we extract more than we return – needs to change. The radically opposite concept – giving more than taking – is ideal.
On Tuesday afternoon, day one of New Metrics ’15, Bill Baue (Sustainability Context Group) led a lively discussion among a diverse group of change agents about the desired “net positive” future state. Panelists Zoe Le Grand (Forum for the Future), Claudine Blamey (The Crown Estate), Craig Norris (Harvard School of Public Health), Asheen Phansey (Dassault Systemes), John Pflueger (Dell), and Ralph Thurm (A Readers Guide to Thriveability) discussed the goal of “gross net positive,” which is achieved when individual net positive efforts collectively tip the scales toward an aggregated total that sets civilization on a path toward prosperity.
As the panelists pointed out, what’s troubling is the degree of fragmented multiplicity among the current sustainability frameworks and solutions, combined with uncertainty about which might be best. That said, the panelists and the audience agreed that BAU (business as usual) is not an option, nor is waiting for clarity and consensus.
In the end, Le Grand advocated for transparency, inclusiveness, and a whole systems approach; Norris argued that to capture people’s imagination, a new way of describing sustainability is needed - a word that combines the concepts of benefit and efficiency, perhaps “beneficence”; and Pflueger asserted that he didn’t care if the effort is called “George,” as long as it remains an open system and it yields results.