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La Pietra Dialogues On the World On-Line
The Necessity of Sustainable Change
Gavin Holbrook

The world needs to change paradigms from a petrol based economy to a bio-based economy because the world is on an unsustainable path of development, Piergiuseppe Morone, professor at University of Rome, said in his dialogue Changing Paradigms- Food and the Environment: A Transatlantic Divide on October 5th at Villa Sassetti. He explained, our economic history is characterized by five long waves: since the first industrial revolution in the early 1800’s to the 1990’s information and technology era. In each wave, there is an up-swing, rise in prosperity, and a down-swing, fall to recession or depression. Morone believes that the world is heading toward the end of the 5th wave due to demographic overpopulation, natural resource depletion, and environmental fallout.

Since 2008 the world GDP has been declining. Morone attributes this to the global rise in population, global food demand, and CO2 emissions. Every 25 years the human population will grow by 2 billion people, and mainly in low and middle income countries. Meaning there will be a rise in global food demand (35% of the global population won’t have easy access to food by 2050). Morone cites this as the “biggest issue we will face.” Currently, 900 million people in the world are malnourished or starving.

As the world population is increasing, so is the middle class population. It is projected that half of the global population will be in this bracket by 2050. This means an increase in demand for processed and manufactured food, wealth, and technologies. Morone says there is a correlation between the rise in global population and CO2 emissions because of the increase in demands to produce unsustainable technologies such as phones or computers. Critical raw materials will be depleted over the next 50 to 100 years if production of unsustainable resources continue the way they are now.

Morone says the world is heading towards a 6th long wave, and it needs to be a sustainability wave. The world’s fossil fuel economy will need to change to a bio-economy, shifting away from petrol produce to bio-products. One obstacle to global change on this issue, Morone said, is that the United States and Europe, two of the largest producers of the emissions that cause global warming, do not work in a coordinated manner to address the problem. Different perceptions of the urgency of acting on climate change - 70% of Europeans think climate change is a serious problem, opposed to 33% of Americans - and different assessments of the opportunities and costs of making changes - the U.S. sees global warming as an economic threat that reduces growth, costs jobs, and limits industry, and Europeans tend to see global warming as an economic opportunity that will open new doors for trade and industry - means that Europeans are more likely than Americans to embrace the change necessary to make the transition from a fossil fuel economy. We’ll see if future developments bring the United States closer to Europe’s position and allow for more coordinated action that can really make a difference in ushering in Morone’s 6th wave.

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