Darwin monkeyYou only have to see the repercussions of the 'Arab Spring' to see that revolutions are inherently unstable. Yet we constantly call for a 'revolution' in sustainability.

Evolution is stable, but slow. Nature itself took over a billion years to come up with a stable, sustainable environment which could support a diversity of life.

The internet 'revolution' of the mid nineties was over 20 years in the making - waiting for a number of key technologies to mature.

Far too many big green ideas seem to involve trying to 'redesign' chunks of the economy - cf the Hydrogen economy. And like the hydrogen economy they tend to fail.

On the other hand, evolution is slow, and in terms of climate and biodiversity in particular we don't have much time to waste.

So how do you accelerate evolution?

In economic terms, anything that boosts demand which produce change much more quickly than any other intervention - see how the costs of solar PV plummeted as Feed-In Tariffs produced a domestic market for a technology which was previously a specialist niche. Marks & Spencer boosted demand for recovered polyester fibre by using low grade material in bulk in cushion filling etc which brought down the price of high grade fibre for clothing.

That's not to say that business and Governments shouldn't intervene in supply chains when there is a key sticking point. But they shouldn't try to 'design' a whole green economy as one thing is sure - they'll get it wrong.

 

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