An economic case for protecting the planet | Naoko Ishii

An economic case for protecting the planet | Naoko Ishii


Good evening, everyone. I am from Japan, so I’d like to start with a story
about Japanese fishing villages. In the past, every fisherman was tempted
to catch as many as fish as possible, but if everybody did that, the fish, common shared resource
in the community, would disappear. The result would be hardship
and poverty for everyone. This happened in some cases, but it did not happen in other cases. In these communities, the fishermen developed
a kind of social contract that told each one of them
to hold back a bit to prevent overfishing. The fisherman would keep
an eye on each other. There would be a penalty
if you were caught cheating. But once the benefit of a social contract
became clear to everyone, the incentive to cheat
dramatically dropped. We find the same story around the world. This is how villagers in medieval Europe managed pasture and forests. This is how communities in Asia
managed water, and this is how indigenous peoples
in the Amazon managed wildlife. These communities realized
they relied on a finite, shared resource. They developed rules and practices
on how to manage those resources, and they changed their behavior so that they could continue
to rely on those shared resources tomorrow by not overfishing, not overgrazing, not polluting or depleting
water streams today. This is a story of the commons, and also how to avoid
the so-called tragedy of the commons. But this is also a story of an economy that was mainly local, where everybody had
a very strong sense of belonging. Our economies are no longer local. When we moved away from being local, we started to lose
our connection to the commons. We carried economic objectives,
goals and systems beyond the local, but we did not carry the notion
of taking care of the commons. So our oceans, forests, once very close to us
as our local commons, moved very far away from us. So today, we pump millions of tons
of greenhouse gases into the air, we dump plastics, fertilizers
and industrial waste into the rivers and oceans, and we cut down forests that absorb CO2. We make the wild biodiversity
much more fragile. We seem to have totally forgotten that there is such a thing
as global commons: air, water, forests and biodiversity. Now, it is modern science that reminds us how vital
the global commons are. In 2009, a group of scientists proposed how to assess the health
of the global commons. They defined nine planetary boundaries
vital to our survival, then they measured how far we could go before we cross over
the tipping points or thresholds that would lead us to the irreversible
or even catastrophic change. This is where we were in the 1950s. We broadly remained
within safe operating space, marked by the green line. But look at where we are now. We have crossed four of those boundaries, and we will be crossing others
in the future. How did we end up in this situation? Well, my personal story
may tell us something. Five years ago, I was appointed as CEO of the GEF,
Global Environment Facility, but I am not a conservationist or an environmental activist. I am an economist, and for the last 30 years, I had worked for public finance
in my home country and around the world. I can tell you one thing for sure: during these 30 years, the notion of the global commons
never crossed my mind. I didn’t have a single conversation
about the global commons with my colleagues. This tells me that the notion
of the global commons was not really entering
into the big money decisions like state budgets or investment plans. And I’m wondering,
why do we have this sheer ignorance about the global commons, including me, myself? One possible explanation might be that until recently,
it didn’t really matter too much. Even if we mess up
some part of the environment, we were not fundamentally changing
the functions of the earth system. The global commons
had still enough capacity to take the punches we gave them. In fact, the fish were still plentiful, the fields for grazing were still vast. Our mistake was to assume that the capacity
of the earth for self-repair had no limits. It does have limits. The message from
the science is very clear: we humans have become
an overwhelming force to determine the future
living conditions on earth, and what’s more,
we are running out of time. If we don’t act on them, we will be losing the global commons. It’s only our generation
who are able to preserve it — preserve the commons as we know them. Now is the time we start managing
the global commons as our parents or our grandparents
managed their local commons. The first thing we need to do is to simply recognize
that we do have the global commons and they are very, very important. Then we need to build
the stewardship of the global commons into all of our thinking, our business, our economy, our policy-making — in all of our actions. We need to recreate the social contract
of the fishing villages on the global scale. But what does it mean in practice? Where to start with? I see there are four key economic systems that fundamentally need to change. First, we need to change our cities. By 2050, two thirds of our population
will live in cities. We need green cities. Second, we need to change
our energy system. The world economy
must sharply decarbonize, essentially in one generation. Third, we need to change
our production-consumption system. We need to break away from current
take-make-waste consumption patterns. And finally, we need
to change our food system, what to eat and how to produce it. And all of those four systems are putting enormous pressure
on the global commons, and it’s also very difficult to flip them. They are extremely complex, with many decision-makers,
actors involved. Let’s take the example of the food system. Food production is currently responsible for one quarter
of greenhouse gas emissions. It is also a main user
of the world’s water resources. In fact, 70 percent of today’s water
is used to grow crops. Vast areas of tropical forest
are used for agriculture. This deforestation drives extinction. In fact, we are losing species
1,000 times faster than the natural rate. And on top of all of that bad news, one third of food produced today globally is not eaten. It’s wasted. But there is the good news, good signs. Coalitions of stakeholders are now coming together
to try to transform the food system with one shared goal: how to produce enough
healthy food for everyone, at the same time, to try to cut, to sharply reduce, the footprint from the food system
on the global commons. I had an opportunity to fly over the Indonesian
island of Sumatra, and I saw with my own eyes the massive deforestation to make room for palm oil plantations. By the way, palm oil is included
in thousands of food products we eat every day. The global demand for palm oil
is just increasing. In Sumatra, I met smallholder farmers who need to make a day-to-day living
from growing oil palm. I met global food companies, financial institutions and local government officials. All of them told me that they can’t
make the change by themselves, and only by working together
under a kind of new contract, or a new practice, do they have a chance
to protect tropical forests. So it’s so encouraging to see,
at least for the last few years, this new coalition among these committed
actors along the supply chain come together to try
to transform the food system. In fact, what they are trying to do is to create a new kind of social contract
to manage the global commons. All changes start at home, at your place and at my place. At GEF, Global Environment Facility, we have now a new strategy, and we put the global commons
at its center. I hope we won’t be the only ones. If everybody stays on the sidelines,
waiting for others to step in, the global commons
will continue to deteriorate, and everybody will be much worse off. We need to save ourselves
from the tragedy of the commons. So, I invite all of you
to embrace the global commons. Please do remember
that global commons do exist and are waiting for your stewardship. We all share one planet in common. We breathe the same air, we drink the same water, we depend on the same oceans,
forests, and biodiversity. There is no space
left on earth for egoism. The global commons must be kept
within their safe operating space, and we can only do it together. Thank you so much. (Applause)

44 Replies to “An economic case for protecting the planet | Naoko Ishii”

  1. Stop animal agriculture and fishing. Around 90% of deforestation is produced to feed livestock and specialist predict that by 2050 there will be no more fish in the oceans. Going plant based is the only real way to save the planet.

  2. I can hardly understand her…but since she's asian, maybe she can talk about how much pollution China and India dump in our oceans and put into our air? A seriously large amount of dirty pollution is coming from these 2 countries which have over 1/4 of the entire worlds population, and which have some of the most corrupt leaders on the planet.

  3. Come to true.
    In normal circumstances, human being is busy with either good deeds or bad deeds in the absence of anybody around him or when he thinks he is seen by nobody. We cannot know what he does is good or bad.
    However, when a sufi or darweesh thinks that there is somebody who always monitors him, he would behave differently as it is in double split experiment, and he would fix himself to do always the one which is good.
    The saying or hadith of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that “Even you cannot see Allah, He always sees you” has a lot of meaning in this sense in our philosophy of life.
    In conclusion, if human being knows that Allah always sees him does not do wrong things.
    Daha az göster
    YANITLA

  4. Her intentions are just and her vision is probably not far from correct, but other than spreading general awareness there was no real point to this tak, the things she said have been known by everybody for decades. There is no fault in repeating a dogma, but a more concrete message is due.

  5. why would a family choose an alternative for the greater good if the greater good leads to them loosing their jobs or at the very least soem income? Greater good is not the best motivator

  6. We have done a lot to our mother earth. And we still do. But I'm optimistic. More and more people all around the world start to scrutinize their lifestyles and are willing to make a change. I'm absolutely sure, we will stand together and and save our home.

  7. AT AN INDIVIDUAL LEVEL UNFORTUNATELY NO ONE CARES……Empowering and thought provoking message……It's too late now……STRICT LEGISLATION & ENFORCEMENT & PENALTIES is the only way out….Awesome and Many thanks Naoko

  8. That was absolutely amazing, everything she said rang truth and I learned. This women is so intelligent and strong, her English is so eloquent as well. I absolutely loved this.

  9. What hope do we have when coporate greed creates planned obsolescence?

    We need quality not quantity.

    Too much of what we buy is rubbish.

    Throw away society that fills tips full over rubbish.

    Corporations dictate what they want not what we want.

    Greed puts us into coffin cubicles and small housing lots.

    How can we grow anything without land.

    Housing lots need to be bigger.

    More trees and park lands.

    Japan has started a recycling revolution which everbody must adopt.

    We need to stop all fishing globally for at least 5 years to allow fish stocks to thrive again.

    People in the West need to stop the obesity epidemics.
    There are changes happening but a lot more needs to be done.

  10. I don't know if I didn't understand because of her accent or because she couldn't express her idea correctly… Either way, I didn't understand.

  11. It's scary how so few people knows how serious of a problem this is. We are looking at a possible human extinction by 2200. We are living in the fastest animal extinction this planet has ever faced. If the world became Vegan, then A LOT of problems would be fixed. People would also be more healthier.

  12. consumption philosophy and consumption society is a key of pollution and killing trees and animals.
    watch documentary HUMAN.

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