How to reopen our economies to work for people and the planet | The Optimist Daily
Today’s Solutions: July 16, 2024

A few weeks ago we shared a story about how Amsterdam is adopting a more sustainable doughnut model economy. Restarting our economies after COVID-19 gives us the unique opportunity to institute more sustainable and equitable economic policies. Here are some economic changes we can implement to help fight climate change.

  1. Move beyond GDP. This measurement has been championed as the indicator of societal and economic well being, but it really doesn’t take into account factors such as equality, environmental health, and happiness. Many countries, like Portugal and South Korea, have lower GDPs than the US, but a much higher quality of life indicators. Expanding our assessment of societal well being beyond GDP will allow us to truly evaluate citizen satisfaction and economic sustainability, rather than simply the quantity of goods produced and sold. 
  2. Rethink infrastructure. Energy production for electricity and heat is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Employing innovative and sustainable building strategies is key for making our future cities more eco-friendly. Additionally, widespread implementation of renewable energy generation will substitute energy previously sourced from dirty fossil fuels and create an estimated 42 million jobs worldwide.
  3. Invest in transportation. Efficient and accessible public transportation reduces emissions, improves air quality, and makes cities more human-friendly. Expanding pedestrian and cycling zones, reducing parking for private cars, and expanding public transportation to be more affordable and widespread will make our cities more enjoyable, equitable, and environmentally-friendly.
  4. Transform agriculture. Last week we talked about the benefits of agriculture microgrids. Supporting the transition to sustainable and regenerative farming practices will not only reduce deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution; It will also create more nutritious and resilient food sources for the world’s growing population. 
  5. Support circular economies. Increasing repurposing and recycling while limiting the use of raw materials will address the rising plastic pollution crisis and save our precious natural spaces from being turned into landfills. Loop is a great initiative, which operates on circular principles, that we have written about before in The Optimist Daily. They offer many everyday products we depend on in reusable, returnable, containers. When you’re done with that canister of ice cream, just ship it back to be refilled with zero waste!
  6. Improve healthcare systems. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that our healthcare infrastructure needs serious support. Climate change will only exacerbate natural disasters and spur the creation of new pandemics. Revolutionizing global health systems to be accessible and well prepared will ensure they are ready for the next crisis and able to mitigate its effects on our world more quickly. 
  7. End conflict. Conflict is one of the leading causes of environmental destruction. The U.S. military is one of the country’s largest greenhouse gas emitters. Ceasefires will reduce the energy expended on violence and also give countries the security, stability, and resources needed to reform their economies for the better. 

COVID-19 has reduced pollution, boosted animal populations, and decreased greenhouse gas emissions. These changes are great, but they are not enough to save us from the inevitable consequences of climate change. We need to implement real sustainable changes in our reopened economics to safeguard the health of our planet of generations to come.

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