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Mikhail Gorbachev: “We need a new economic model, the planet is overburdened”


Mikhail Gorbachev, founder of Green Cross International, on the need for urgent economic and social change to promote true sustainable development that does not over-consume and waste natural resources, while at the same time ensures opportunities and peace for humanity. This 2012 interview with the former USSR President and Nobel-winner remains just as relevant today.

Creative Systems Thinking blog

“We badly need a new economic model… We cannot continue living by ignoring environmental problems. The planet is overburdened… We do not have enough fresh water for the people.. Billions of people are subject to hunger today. So the new model must consider all these needs. This model must be more human and more nature oriented… We are all interconnected but we keep acting as though we are completely autonomous.” ~Mikhail Gorbachev

The following is a partial transcript for a recent video interview with former Soviet president and Nobel Prize winner Mikhail Gorbachev on “The urgent need to save the planet,” presented by his non-profit organization Green Cross.

“The most important point is to ensure that our complex, quickly changing and developing world lives in peace. Otherwise we won’t be able to deal with any other problem. We must block any revival of the arms race, new militarization… Without peace there will be nothing.

In terms of the international community, we have gone through a very difficult period, with the financial crisis that struck the world in 2008-2009, and I feel we have not yet come out of this global crisis.

It has been described as a financial crisis, but in my [view] its been a comprehensive global crisis, and it demonstrates that the economic model that has been underlying all systems in practically every nation, but specifically the biggest countries like the United States… has failed.

This model has essentially brought us to the current crisis, so therefore, we need to change this economic model. We badly need a new economic model… that is not based on hyper profits and hyper consumption, but a model that takes into account the depletion of natural resources. It should not ignore the problems of social development, poverty and the social contradictions that exist in the world…

The main point is this model will fail if it does not consider the demands of the environment. This is not a requirement for tomorrow. It is a must for today. We cannot continue living by ignoring environmental problems. The planet is overburdened.

In 2011 the global population [reached] 7 billion. At the beginning of the 20th Century we were just 1.9 billion people on the planet, and now we are 7 billion and by 2050 there will be 9 billion. The planet’s capacity is already over extended.

We do not have enough fresh water for the people. Water shortages will give rise to various military conflicts, which I am sure will happen if we do not resolve the water problems. Same for energy and other challenges, including food security.

Billions of people are subject to hunger today. So the new model must consider all these needs. This model must be more human and more nature oriented, so the relationship between man and nature can respond to the challenges of the modern world.

Last but not least, we have not learned how to live with globalization. We are all interconnected but we keep acting as though we are completely autonomous… We need this new model. We must consolidate all our resources to create such a new model. And we need to finance research into all these problems. We must consolidate all the resources that human kind has to answer these questions.”

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As Gorbachev realized that the fall of the Soviet system was imminent, he strove — and succeeded — to ensure that there was a peaceful, nonviolent transition of the closed and totalitarian Soviet society to democracy and openness. This is Gorbachev’s historical achievement. Once he embarked on that quest, greater ecological awareness of how the state was managed inevitably followed. Along with it came a new openness with regard to ecological data, together with popular participation in decision-making that affected the environment.

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