2021 – Welcome to the Green Tipping Point
Late last year Kirsty Campbell, from sustainable social enterprise publishers Arkbound, wrote:
“The pandemic provides the potential to act as a turning point in the fight against climate change. The widespread collapse of the global economy will call for a reconstruction of economies around the world. If this reconstruction is shaped around environmental aims, with investments in green energy and green sectors of the economy, we could achieve two goals often falsely understood as being antagonistic. A green economical re-construction would build a world prepared for the future, crafting both a sustainable economy and crucial first steps in the fight against climate change.”
It’s an argument that’s recently been repeated 1000s of times, in various ways, across all media. Indeed, pre-pandemic, it was an argument that environmental campaigners had been making for decades: sustainability, economic development, and individual ‘wealth’ do not need to be at odds with each other. In fact, they reasoned, the reverse is true: a green revolution could provide a massive stimulus to the economy, and improve people’s lives, just when the world needs it most.
Green is the new black
The difference between even a few years ago and right now is that suddenly this view is no longer seen as ‘radical’ or ‘fringe’ or the preserve of enthusiasts. It’s reached the mainstream. Green thinking has become the norm, and it’s being taken seriously, and acted upon, regardless of political belief.
The theory of tipping points argues that adoption of new ideas, products, or trends, follows very distinct phases…
First you have the innovators, the people who come up with the initial idea, who create the new technology etc.
Second come the early adopters, the enthusiasts who embrace the radical new idea, or gadget and keep telling their skeptical audience how amazing it is.
Stages one and two can last for many years, slowly building, or flatlining. Crucially, most trends fizzle out somewhere along this line. But the few that take hold suddenly begin to accelerate. To the public it seems like they come out of nowhere…
Third comes the early majority. This is where a significant but still a minority chunk of society accepts the new idea or uses the new product. And it is in this phase, that the tipping point is reached. Once a ‘critical mass’ has been hit the momentum rises exponentially and rapidly into mainstream thinking.
Fourth comes the late majority – the cautious who need a lot of convincing, but still see merit.
Finally, you have the skeptics, who can’t be convinced. Because you’ll never get 100% acceptance on anything – that’s human nature, democracy, and difference – and that’s great, because it could well be the section of society where the next big new idea comes from.
We are now in the early stages of phase three, right at the tipping point.
2020 focussed our minds – at individual, community and international levels. On a personal level, the ideas of self-reliance and preservation of resources never seemed more relevant. Locally, communities regardless of difference rallied round to help those who needed it. Internationally, vaccines that many experts thought would take years to develop, were created, tested and rolled out within 12 months – because huge resources and effort were thrown at the problem. Existential threats have a way of doing that.
From Desirable to Essential
Sustainable living was already beginning to be accepted as a ‘desirable aim’ before 2020. But there were caveats, ‘if possible’, ‘if we can afford it’. 2020 showed us that we can’t afford not to.
Big tech, big oil, governments and individuals are all shifting investments into sustainable energy and initiatives. A few recent examples…
Amazon invests $2 billion in green start ups
Has the pandemic made us more ethical consumers?
The momentum is building rapidly. (See our energy trends 2021 update.) Against its will, the world in 2020 was reset by the systemic shock to its system. 2021 will see the beginnings of essential economic rebuilding. It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put sustainability at the heart of how we do things going forward.
Given current public sentiment, government initiatives and global investment trends, it finally looks like it’s an opportunity we might actually grasp.