Future of Globalization

Part II: Rethinking the World Economy: From Push to Pull

If we changed our throw-away society, there would be enough resources for everyone.

Credit: puwanai Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • Today, inhabitants of the industrialized world produce about 50 tons of waste in a lifetime.
  • The world’s supply chains must be organized in a completely different way.
  • Rather than today’s “push economy,” we need an economy driven by demands, i.e. a “pull economy.”
  • In order to bring about a better future for mankind, we need to reinvent about half of our economy.

The world’s supply chains must be organized in a completely different way. What we need is a combined circular and sharing economy, as many have pointed out.

Presently, however, because it’s often cheaper, we have many “linear” supply chains. In these, fresh resources are used to produce large numbers of products for the sake of economies of scale, which are then sold (“pushed”) to as many customers as possible using massive marketing campaigns.

The customers will then consume the products — and eventually throw them away. Supply chains must hence be organized in a better way.

From push to pull

Rather than today’s “push economy,” we need an economy driven by demands, i.e. a “pull economy.” The world’s resources would be enough for everyone, if we reused and shared them.

Today, inhabitants of the industrialized world produce about 50 tons of waste in a lifetime. This includes several cars, computers, smartphones, a lot of furniture and other things that are probably enough for, say, five people.

In principle, our planet could offer a higher quality of life for more people, with less resources.

Reusing and recycling these resources would need renewable energy. Such energy has gained increasing market shares in many places, but the focus has been on big solutions.

For example, power stations that would produce energy for hundreds of thousands of people, as this implies the most attractive business models.

There is an increasing amount of evidence that more energy-efficient or environmentally-friendly solutions have often been suppressed by established industries in attempts to maintain their “cash cows.”

A better future

In order to bring about a better future for mankind, we need to reinvent about half of our economy within a few decades. This is possible, but the process needs to start now.

It is obvious that the current governance system of the world has failed to deliver the needed solutions on time. Therefore, a new social contract should be urgently made.

The United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2017 is the right place for this to take place. Decisions in accordance with these proposals should be implemented in the seven years following this date.

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About Dirk Helbing

Dirk Helbing is Professor of Computational Social Science at the Department of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences and affiliate of the Computer Science Department at ETH Zurich.

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