The forgotten solution

When you purchase an airline ticket for less than $35, or a piece of chicken for $1, you know that most likely that’s not the true price. Environmental responsibility and humanely raised foods are not free. And yet, for many that’s no reason to stop buying these products. This constrains sustainability, says Eric Broekhuizen, engineer and entrepreneur. Broekhuizen sees only one way to tackle the problem: change the global market system. As a first step toward this goal he wrote the book ‘De Vergeten Oplossing’ (The Forgotten Solution, only available, for now, in Dutch). In it Broekhuizen offers a practical solution for the problem of the ‘eco price’.

The Intelligent Optimist: What is the forgotten solution?

Eric Broekhuizen: ‘Pollution, depletion and destruction of nature can no longer be free of charge. We need an economy with real prices. Deep down we know that the low price for that chicken or T-shirt isn’t right, but we buy them anyway. In this way the market works against sustainability, because polluting is free. That’s why I’m turning the existing economy around: let everyone who buys something from now on also pay for the hidden environmental costs. This forces you to keep those costs at a minimum and we develop an economy that works hand in hand with sustainability.’

TIO: Wont everything get much more expensive that way?

EB: ‘Yes, but I propose phasing in the eco price over a period of ten years. During that time the prices will increase gradually. And in reality it won’t be so bad, because many companies will adapt to the change. They will start to work more sustainably and will bring sustainable products to the marketplace. We as consumers will start to make increasingly more sustainable choices, which leads to lower environmental costs, which in turn means that the price increases will be lower too. After ten years we will start to see a lowering of the price because products are increasingly more sustainable.’

TIO: And you want to implement this on a global scale?

EB: ‘I admit it’s an ambitious plan, but this type of change has to be made. We can’t just stand back and watch our economy destroy nature and future potential. This is why I want to get a critical mass of people behind this plan so that governments can’t avoid it any longer. That mass will first build in the Western countries. When you live in poverty sustainability is not a priority, but even in developing countries you see that they get hopelessly tangled up in their own pollution. Just look at China as an example. The call to change will grow louder in the developing countries.’

TIO: Who will guide this worldwide change?

EB: ‘That will have to be done by an independent international body. They will be responsible for calculating the eco price. That price must be the same the world over otherwise you create unfair competition. I imagine the United Nations would take this on, though a completely new organization is also a possibility.’

TIO: Why do you call it the forgotten solution? There are others who are campaigning for fairer prices.

EB: ‘Of course I’m not the first person to think that we should pay an honest price, the difference is that I don’t get stuck in the hemming and hawing about. Companies can see the solution I’m offering too, but prefer to forget about it. In particular polluting industries such as the oil industry. But those too can change course to such an extent that they stand a chance. But they must start that change now.’

Solution News Source

The forgotten solution

When you purchase an airline ticket for less than $35, or a piece of chicken for $1, you know that most likely that’s not the true price. Environmental responsibility and humanely raised foods are not free. And yet, for many that’s no reason to stop buying these products. This constrains sustainability, says Eric Broekhuizen, engineer and entrepreneur. Broekhuizen sees only one way to tackle the problem: change the global market system. As a first step toward this goal he wrote the book ‘De Vergeten Oplossing’ (The Forgotten Solution, only available, for now, in Dutch). In it Broekhuizen offers a practical solution for the problem of the ‘eco price’.

The Intelligent Optimist: What is the forgotten solution?

Eric Broekhuizen: ‘Pollution, depletion and destruction of nature can no longer be free of charge. We need an economy with real prices. Deep down we know that the low price for that chicken or T-shirt isn’t right, but we buy them anyway. In this way the market works against sustainability, because polluting is free. That’s why I’m turning the existing economy around: let everyone who buys something from now on also pay for the hidden environmental costs. This forces you to keep those costs at a minimum and we develop an economy that works hand in hand with sustainability.’

TIO: Wont everything get much more expensive that way?

EB: ‘Yes, but I propose phasing in the eco price over a period of ten years. During that time the prices will increase gradually. And in reality it won’t be so bad, because many companies will adapt to the change. They will start to work more sustainably and will bring sustainable products to the marketplace. We as consumers will start to make increasingly more sustainable choices, which leads to lower environmental costs, which in turn means that the price increases will be lower too. After ten years we will start to see a lowering of the price because products are increasingly more sustainable.’

TIO: And you want to implement this on a global scale?

EB: ‘I admit it’s an ambitious plan, but this type of change has to be made. We can’t just stand back and watch our economy destroy nature and future potential. This is why I want to get a critical mass of people behind this plan so that governments can’t avoid it any longer. That mass will first build in the Western countries. When you live in poverty sustainability is not a priority, but even in developing countries you see that they get hopelessly tangled up in their own pollution. Just look at China as an example. The call to change will grow louder in the developing countries.’

TIO: Who will guide this worldwide change?

EB: ‘That will have to be done by an independent international body. They will be responsible for calculating the eco price. That price must be the same the world over otherwise you create unfair competition. I imagine the United Nations would take this on, though a completely new organization is also a possibility.’

TIO: Why do you call it the forgotten solution? There are others who are campaigning for fairer prices.

EB: ‘Of course I’m not the first person to think that we should pay an honest price, the difference is that I don’t get stuck in the hemming and hawing about. Companies can see the solution I’m offering too, but prefer to forget about it. In particular polluting industries such as the oil industry. But those too can change course to such an extent that they stand a chance. But they must start that change now.’

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