“In the past, every fisherman was tempted to catch as many fish as possible, but if everybody did that, fish – a common shared resource in the community – would disappear,” says Naoko Ishii, CEO of the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
“The result would be hardship and poverty for everyone.”
It’s a simple, but hard-hitting opening to Ishii’s talk, ‘An economic case for protecting the planet’. The solution, she says, was discovered by fishermen in her native Japan, who developed a social contract that prevented overfishing by imposing penalties on those who did so.
Similar social contracts were developed in medieval Europe to manage pastures and forests, and in Asia for water supply. These agreements protected the finite shared resources they relied on.
Ishii calls it the “story of the commons” where the economy was local, and everyone had a sense of belonging.
But the modern economy is not local. We have lost our connection to commons, and as a result we’re pumping millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the air, dumping industrial waste into our oceans and destroying carbon dioxide-absorbing forests.
Ishii’s talk appeals to businesses, economists and policy-makers to recognise and become stewards of a new “global commons”, and details four key economic systems that need to fundamentally change. Otherwise the world as we know it – the air, the water, the forests, the biodiversity – will catastrophically change forever.
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