Baby Boomers in the Next Economy:
From Saving Lives to Saving Livelihoods
Woodrow W. Clark II and Wayne W. Clark (*)
It is estimated that fifty to eighty percent of the US population is staying and/or working at
home, this is normal now. When shelter in place is no longer a policy there will be a percentage of routine behavior continuing at home, not the workplace, not the schools, not large meeting places, nor through mass transportation that involves risk of spreading a new disease.
The US and world economy have come to that proverbial fork in the road where decisions need to be made about what direction we take in how we live our lives, educate and re-educate ourselves, work where and when we want, and create leisure activities that allow us to be together in old and new ways. We as writers about Baby Boomers, think we should be bold, experimental, and seek what will sustain our planet for generations to come.
The reason we connect this pandemic to the future of our planet was articulated in an opinion piece (N.Y. Times) about the next world crisis as we exit the Covid-19 pandemic, namely climate change becoming worse. The author identifies the challenges we as inhabitants of this earth will face if we continue to use up our scarce resources, pollute our water, spew poison into our air, and fail to live harmoniously with our fellow creatures and the environment. Just as a virus can bring us to our knees and close our businesses, so too can the all too frequent climate changes events such as hurricanes, floods, heatwaves, blizzards, earthquakes. These climate crises have already taken a toll, if we do not create something different to prevent and respond to these crises then the pandemic we have today will be remembered as a precursor of what is to become.
The Mayor of San Jose has put it nicely when he says we need to go from “saving lives to saving livelihoods” (SF Chronicle). Paul Krugman has recently stated that although we are currently controlling high contact economic activities (workplace activities, sporting events, school activities, etc.), we have not brought to scale the testing and tracking needed to assure that high person to person contact activities will be safely in place, see Paul Krugman Newsletter 4.21.2020.
The next few months are crucial to the flattening out of the pandemic and the return to work, education, and leisure activities. Yet there is an important piece still missing and this too has been brought up by those who have some sense of time and place in our historical development. The piece is not more of the same, instead the piece is too realize that if we are at war now, it is not with traditional enemies like previous wars but the new wars are with molecules in the air and a climate that is whirling out of control. The US has recently come together with the actions of individuals, communities, businesses, governments, in a way that would have been totally unexpected just months ago. The crisis has created a government (at the state, local and national level) that no longer is the invisible hand of Adam Smith, but the necessary partner with entrepreneurs, businesses, and industry to work together to find ways to combat this new enemy.
Another author stated very nicely that if we consider ourselves at war, then we need to fight the new enemy not the old, we in essence will be needing to spend trillions on science, research, and health care and less on bullets, tanks, and warships. As France realized after world war I they did not need a Maginot line to prevent invasion, that was to combat the old enemy. Their walls and trenches did no good against an enemy that could drive over or around the barriers. Today we have an enemy that is in the air (SF Chronicle). We need to prepare and learn to fight the next enemy not the last one.
Governments, scientists, academia, and the media need to work together with our private sector to finance, research, inform, and create a dynamic that identifies problems early, has the resources to fight the problems when they occur, mobilizes the trained staff to handle the issues, and acts with unified purpose to achieve common goals. Identifying, expecting, confronting, and exiting the pandemics will take all the elements of our society to work together. Moreover this effort needs to be worldwide because we all live on a planet that has diseases, climates, and creatures that affect us all, Multilateral efforts are essential, national pride needs to transcend borders, we are all inhabitants of a globe, we breath the air, we eat the crops, we interact whether there is a border or not.
Emphasis on this more global approach fits well with the vision of regenerative sustainable economics due to the need have solutions combine Climate Change and Economies . Today I (Woody) will begin to draw the roadmap down the path toward what some have called circular economics or the next economy. Let us start with the conceptual framework called Circular Economics (CE) from the principles and guidance that have been adopted by the European Union (EU). For those not familiar with Circular Economics, let me briefly introduce you to this paradigm shift in thinking about viewing our work, our education, our business values, and ways to keep planet earth alive and well for centuries.
Commission Staff Working Document:
Report on Critical Raw Materials and the Circular Economy
Conceptual diagram illustrating the Circular Economy in a simplified way
(Source: European Union Commission, 2015)
On January 15, 2015, the European Union (EU) Commission Policy adopted a draft policy for enacting Circular Economics which had already started in some nations (http://www.repic.co.uk/) and became the Economic Policy for all nations in the EU. In July 2018, the EU and China signed a MOU to work together on financial, manufactured, human, social and logistical strategies to reduce and reverse climate change. The whole idea of recycling is an early example circular economics, but the new thinking is that virtually all industry and production can think circularly while creating tremendous benefits to the planet. Above is the conceptual diagram that illustrates Circular Economics in a simplified way as displayed by the EU Commission.
There are many contemporary examples of the use of circular economics as practiced by entrepreneurs and industry leaders. The Tesla company is leading the world in electric vehicle production, the ultimate goal is a for an electric vehicle being charged by a solar powered outlet strategically located in homes, offices, and in a network infrastructure of supercharging stations. The alternative to internal combustion engine vehicles has fewer moving parts, less repairs, smaller carbon footprint and a dramatic change in our reliance on scarce resources like fossil fuels. The potential for all transportation to be electric or non-combustion engine powered is enormous whether it is trains, planes, or trucks of all sizes.
The connections of CE and sustainability are evident in more than a few 21st century business. Another example is the approach that Starbucks has taken with its paper, plastics and products in ways that recycles and regenerates their business. Starbucks Coffee that started over four decades in the US State of Washington and now has over 31,000 in six continents. The creator and owner of the franchises started recycling for its cafes that grew larger. They wanted to “save” the environment from climate changes so started reusing paper at the turn of the 21stCentury. Next were plastic straws and other container material. Then in 2017 to 2019 the new President and CEO Kevin Johnson announced they would ban single use plastic straws on all cold drinks, “the initiative was the first time that recycled material had been used in a product that came into direct contact with a food or beverage” a start to make all the stores sustainable through CE.
Another great case of CE in action, but less familiar, is a cutting-edge example for reusable clothes made out of plastic. For instance, there is Good Fashion (GF) located in Netherlands that started four years ago. GF is a great case of the reuse of plastics not only possible but also within reach. The conventual fashion industry lacks resources, tools, and incentives to put such changes into practice. GF helps people see a world where all fashions are good. The key is the implementation of CE as an actual Experience: for “an innovative, one-of-a-kind site designed to educate, empower and equip visitors to embrace Good Fashion thinking into their lives which helps spreads people globally.”
The world needs to know what solutions can be done through CE. There are many more areas of business that can show what happens in one part of the world, that can improve what happens in other parts. Just as a virus can travel and disrupt so too can a new economy significantly change the way we live, work, enjoy and thrive in this world we inhabit. CE creates opportunities for social integration and a sustainable healthy world.