Our civilization has reached the point where it is destroying the environment it depends on to thrive. The root cause of this problem is that modern civilization depends on exploiting finite resources, turning them into harmful waste products and doing it better and faster. This is called growth by economists and decline by environmentalists.
If we continue to grow our economy without changing the way we do it, we will reach a point where nature can no longer support us. Our civilization will run its course. It will come to an end exactly in the way all civilizations in history have. It will become a lesson to those living in the future. If only we could learn from the past.
For example: If we deplete the soil to the point where it can no longer produce our food, we will starve and our civilization will collapse.
These are simple problems with simple answers. Stop depleting the soil. Use regenerative agriculture practices. So why are we still doing these things when they are obviously detrimental to our very existence? The problem is that have the wrong incentives in place.
The solution: we have to put the right incentives in place to get people/companies/governments (entities) to behave in a way that does not make things worse. Entities should make more money the less damage they do and the more they do that benefits the environment.
At present we pay taxes according to how much money we make. It has nothing to do with how sustainable we are. It does not matter how much we destroy in the making of that money. In fact, the way it works now is, the more garbage we throw into the environment the more money we make.
How much garbage an entity creates should be the defining factor in how much money it makes.
An entity that produces the most waste should pay the highest tax and an entity that produces no waste should pay the lowest tax. If we make entities that help clean the environment more profitable, all entities will eventually become good stewards of the environment. Everything can and will be fixed. No more externalities.
To keep it simple, like LEED certification for buildings, let’s establish a 5-tier rating system for entities. Those at level 1 pay a lot of tax. Those at level 5 pay almost no tax. For example:
- Level 1: 50% tax
- Level 2: 40% tax
- Level 3: 30% tax
- Level 4: 20% tax
- Level 5: 10% tax
These are just examples. I’m not an economist so I can’t say much about what the actual numbers should be. These numbers should be adjusted to match the speed at which we want the world to be regenerated.
The system should collect more total tax than the system collects now. The extra money collected should go to collecting and processing the garbage created by entities.
This system will achieve two things:
- Lower-level entities will change their behavior and go up levels to become more profitable.
- Civilization will be able to mitigate the damage it does to the environment.
People will reduce their ecological footprint. They will eat healthy and ride more bicycles.
Companies will find ways to turn their waste product into feedstock for other companies (like a circular or blue economy).
Goods, services, money moved between countries will be subject to tariffs depending on the levels countries have achieved. Eco-friendly destinations will become affordable.
All of this is a simple way of putting the necessary incentives in place to fix the environment. All of it.
We must create a world in which humanity and nature live in harmony.