In 1968, then Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich and his wife, Anne, published The Population Bomb. The book sounded the alarm about the growing population of humans around the globe and the impact rising population numbers would have on our planet.
The book predicted mass starvation in the 1970s, a subsequent breakdown of society, and the degradation of the natural world. Paul and Anne Ehrlich offered a singular prescription – to save the planet and humanity people should stop having children.
Although The Population Bomb galvanized activists and policy makers, the widespread famine that was predicted never materialized and Ehrlich’s claims have largely been debunked. In my view Ehrlich was only partly wrong, a growing population does indeed stress the natural world. The typical middle school study of food webs and habitats makes this quite clear. However, the idea that there is a single solution to creating a sustainable world was and is still erroneous. The climate movement has since been plagued by one-hit-wonder solutions for government and large industries.
We are in a critical phase of a climate crisis that threatens the future of civilization and the survival of the human species. As is the case with most big problems, there are multiple solutions. As impact business leaders, even if we don’t lead traditionally “green” businesses, we all have an important role to play. Sustainability is everybody’s business.
But it’s easy to understand why many business leaders are just waking up to this idea. Instead of helping us to think of the earth as a system with interconnected organs of which humans and human run business are one part, climate communicators have tried to simplify climate response into ONE BIG ACTION that everyone should focus on. But in fact, there is a kaleidoscope of climate solutions that intersect with each other and the way we all do business. And to better understand those intersections, we all need to communicate more effectively about the complex problem and the both expected and unexpected solutions.
According to Project Drawdown’s research, reducing food waste (10.3-18.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions avoided) and educating girls (as much as 85.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions avoided), are just as impactful as driving electric vehicles 11.9-15.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions avoided). The choice to use smart thermostats can have 50% of the impact created by restoring tropical forests. And it is increasingly clear that these choices aren’t just good for the planet. Sustainable business is good for the bottom line, with Drawdown estimating the potential for the business sector to save trillions of dollars.
An incredibly exciting finding is that equity and sustainability are mutually reinforcing. Making sure that girls and women have full access to education and can obtain healthcare that allows them to plan the size and timing of their families can have an outsized impact on our collective future. Project Drawdown estimates that related reductions in carbon dioxide emissions could reach 85.4 gigatons. And what’s more, investments in health and education for girls and women compound over time. It is a gift that keeps on giving. As impact business leaders we know that often it’s not what we do, but how we do it. Building a sustainable business will benefit the planet and our pockets, but can also have enormously positive impacts on the lives of people. At PCI Media we’re proud to partner with organizations like UNEP to bring greater visibility to programs like Switch Africa Green that support eco entrepreneurism.
Our Livable Planet portfolio is dedicated to educating and inspiring audiences about how they can develop a sustainable solution set that makes sense for them, their communities, and businesses.
With every seemingly small decision we make from meal plans, to office maintenance, to employee health and education funds, we have the power to create a more sustainable and equitable world.