Building a Green Economy after the Great Leap Sideways

The twentieth-century economic approach is a train headed for derailment. Now’s the time to create a sustainable economy in order to survive and thrive.


| January 2013



The Leap

“The Leap: How to Survive and Thrive in the Sustainable Economy” details what author Chris Turner believes to be the coming green industrial revolution—a major paradigm shift in the developed world. Turner draws on recent breakthroughs in state-of-the-art renewable energy, clean tech, and urban design to paint a picture of viable, sustainable economies that are already up and running, from Europe's "green belt" to America's "rust belt."

Cover Courtesy University of New Hampshire Press

The crises in our economic system, our energy supply and our climate are converging. Solving these crises requires a fundamental change in our frame of reference—a decisive shift not so much in technology as in technique. In The Leap: How to Survive and Thrive in the Sustainable Economy (University of New Hampshire Press, 2012), award-winning journalist Chris Turner presents a field guide to making the jump from our current system of energy supply and consumption to a sustainable model that succeeds across the socioeconomic spectrum. It is an integrated approach, one that he calls a "great leap sideways," because the goal of building a green economy is a lateral leap that anyone can make. In this excerpt from the book’s introduction, Turner explains the meaning of “The Leap” and how it can be maintained. 

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The norms of twentieth century prosperity have become the instruments of twenty-first century collapse. The track that brought us to this place, functional and stable as it might seem from certain vantage points, cannot lead us any further. Moreover, the engine of our success to date—that great, roaring internal combustion engine that powered the Industrial Revolution—is fast becoming obsolete. The best evidence from energy analysts, economists and climate scientists alike all indicates the necessity of a wholesale transformation, a complete redesign and rebuilding of the socioeconomic foundations of our societies.

There are any number of pronouncements on the urgent need for this shift. Maybe the most succinct and unequivocal one appeared in a recent International Energy Agency report.

“Current global trends in energy supply and consumption,” it read, “are patently unsustainable environmentally, economically, socially.”

Here’s the American sustainability pioneer Paul Hawken, speaking to the graduating class of the University of Portland in 2009: “Civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.”

graham kaye-eddie
1/17/2013 9:48:08 PM

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