Global Green Shift: When Ceres Meets Gaia
Western industrialism has achieved miracles, promoting unprecedented levels of prosperity and raising millions around the world out of poverty. Industrial capitalism is now diffusing throughout the East. Japan, the four Tigers (Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong) and China are all incorporating themselves into the global industrial world. India, Brazil and many others are expected to follow the same course. But as China, India and other industrializing giants grow, they confront an inconvenient truth: they cannot rely on the Western industrial development model of fossil-fueled energy systems (resource throughput rather than circularity and generic finance) because these methods cause extreme spoliation of the environment and raise energy security, resource security and global warming concerns.
By necessity, a new approach to environmentally conscious development is already emerging in the East, with China leading the way in building a green industry at scale. As opposed to Western zero-growth advocates and free-market environmentalists, it can be argued that a more sustainable capitalism is being developed in China – to counter black developmental model based on coal. This new ‘green growth’ model of development, being perfected in China and now being emulated in India, Brazil, South Africa (and eventually by industrializing countries elsewhere), as well as by advanced industrial countries such as Germany, looks to become the new norm in the twenty-first century. Its core advantages are the energy security and resource security that are generated.
The British scientist James Lovelock has done the world an enormous service by formulating the theory of a ‘living earth’ named Gaia, where life self-regulates itself and the planet by keeping the atmospheric environment more or less constant, and likewise the environment of the oceans. In China’s Green Shift, Global Green Shift, Mathews proposes a way in which Gaia (a product of the processes of the earth) can be complemented by Ceres (our own creation of a renewable energy and circular economy system). Can these two concepts of how the earth works, represented by two powerful deities, be reconciled? While Lovelock is pessimistic, asserting that Gaia will look after herself and that if we survive at all it is likely to be as a greatly diminished industrial civilization, numbering no more than one billion people, Mathews argues in this book why he believes this prognosis to be mistaken. Mathews maintains that the changes that ‘we’ are driving, as a species, represent a viable way forward. They give us a chance of reconciling economy with ecology – or Ceres with Gaia.
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In Global Green Shift: When Ceres Meets Gaia, John Mathews makes a fresh and compelling case for increasing use of renewables and other green initiatives: what he calls a “green shift”. Mathews’ twist on previous arguments is that a global green shift is being driven by the need for energy security and new sources of economic revitalization – the fact that the shift can prevent future environmental degradation and limit greenhouse gas emissions is just an added bonus.
Global Green Shift: When Ceres Meets Gaia is a highly recommend read. It is indispensable for anyone, of any background, interested in gleaning important insights into one of the most pressing issues of our time.
- Dan Prud’homme, PhD, Visiting Research Fellow, University of Oxford (UK) & Senior
Researcher, Global Center for Global R&D and Innovation, Tongji University (China)
Professor Mathews' latest book sends a powerful message, not just to rapidly industrialising nations India and China but also to the hitherto industrialised economies, to take affirmative action towards the greening of industrial growth. The extremely relevant, but often complex, discussion of the two critical pillars and their impacts (as well as opportunities) has been projected with strong evidence in the areas of:
i) Materials use efficiency via the adoption of circular economy techniques, urban mining and the planned transformation of industrial districts into eco-industrial parks.
ii) Energy efficiency and security via the surge in renewable power and a strong domestic manufacturing environment for renewable technology.
The author's arguments drive home the oft inconspicuous geopolitical limits to resources access, which may in fact be more immediate and serious than the widely contested environmental limits. Debugging myths surrounding an irrefutable renewables future, the book offers solid evidence on the imminent displacement of traditional energy systems. Current development models lack robust finance mechanisms to sustain ambitious "green" projects. Conventional patterns will lead to conventional outcomes, and a 'global green shift' necessitates the creation of fitting sources and metrics for financial viability, bearing in mind the long-term investments and benefits.
What is thought provoking for those of us not glued into this space, is the revelation that China is leading with concrete action on green industrialisation at scale. Not all prevalent accounts depict the world's factory bypassing conventional pathways to sustain its future growth. The author’s take on China’s case for renewables manufacturing and its global domination present unmistakable lessons for India – currently on an intensive manufacturing growth path and simultaneously motivated to accomplish aggressive expansion of renewable power infrastructure. China’s learning curve for renewable capabilities benefits from strong renewables manufacturing (technology, hardware, parts), as well as improved cost efficiency (production at scale; lowered cost of installation and price to industrial users; tariff reduction).
The above accomplishments offer solid footing for India’s future based on grid connectivity and remote power access on the one hand, and balanced socio-environmental economic growth on the other. While lowering of solar tariffs, which for the first time surpassed coal earlier this year, is a feather in India’s cap, it in no way undermines the strong fillip needed to make local producers internationally competitive. And with the latest projections that incentives for the sector will be gradually removed, it remains to be seen how and when commercial viability will make India’s power sector a formidable global force.
Lastly, I agree with the author's position that a global green shift needs disruptive strategies at scale; only then will a circular transformation from current linear models be widespread and profitable. Significant action both in the form of policy and industry implementation will make the transformation lasting. This book is a must read for anyone interested in geopolitics, sustainability, green growth and emerging markets.
- Simran Talwar, Doctoral Candidate, Macquarie Graduate School of Management